Thursday, March 31, 2016

Home is where the heart is...

I met up with some friends to go to a flamenco show? yup, I avoided flamenco my entire stay in Granada (Andalusia is its birthplace) and I ended up going to a show in my native country... oh well. I was impressed one bit, I don't like this kind of music but then he sang about Albayzín... my old neighborhood when I lived in Graná. Hearing the words about Albayzín brought a smile to my ugly face. Happy days.

Since the "lovely" people at the Mexican embassy didn't want to give me the stupid visa to fly from Cancún and since I was not going to book another connecting flight I had to come up with a plan B. Come up because like most plan Bs, they don't exist until you need them. 

I left JH more than a month before and had been working three times a week in a super nice and cozy pub that goes by the name of Whiskey Den. But the time had come. I had to leave. I needed to leave. It was not all fun and games in these 5 months in Guatemala. Had ups and downs but overall was nice. Met nice people. Met not so nice people, unfortunately.

My aim for the day was to get to either El Tunco or San Salvador. I was leaning towards the beach as it would be easier to leave from there than from the city. 

I probably wrote about this before but I cannot remember 100%. Even if I did, it was most likely in 2012. Hitchhiking in Latin America is super different to HHing in Europe. In LatAm you just need to look like a foreigner and put your stuff in front of you and that's it. My level or paranoia grew quite a bit during my times in Guatemala to the point that I was refusing many rides because I didn't feel confident enough to get inside the car. Surprisingly enough, I felt very confident in Nicaragua but I'll get to that soon.

I had to routes to choose from: the Panamarican Highway that would get me to San Salvador but I would have to cross Guate City with all my shit so... no.  The other route was to leave Antigua towards Escuintla and take highway CA2 towards El Salvador. It was a bit longer but nicer views and it would take me through El Tunco where a friend of mine was waiting for me. 

I chose the latter route.

It was 8 in the morning. I stopped at McRubbish for a coffee to go. By 8:30 I was already on my way. First and second rides came easy. By noon I was about 50 Km from the border. Unlike other times that I don't have a time frame I wanted to be in Nicaragua for the weekend meaning that I had to sleep that night in El Salvador. I was quite in a hurry given I had to take a stupid flight that would take me from Costa Rica to El Salvador to Colombia to the Dominican Republic. Success! By early afternoon I was in El Tunco. Next day's destination: León, Nicaragua.

León was not that far away, less than 500Km but that included two borders. Hitchhiking in El Salvador was a breeze. While I was in the queue for the passport check in the Honduras side of the border, someone offered me a shuttle bus, straight to the Nicaraguan border for 6$. "What time are we leaving?". "Now". That guy had a different concept of time than me. That now was almost two hours later. He was waiting for the bus to fill up. All the passengers agreed to paid 8$ so we could leave straight away. Yay, I was on the way to Nicaragua. The van was overheating so we stopped in some town in the middle to fix it. Yay, we lost almost another hour.

I knew that my tattoos would get me questions asked. Everything was fine until I said I was from Guatemala. Before: "gringo", "traveler", "welcome to Nicaragua". But everything changed the second after I said where I was coming from: "do you have more tattoos?", "what do they mean?", "are you in a gang?".

Finally I was in lovely Nicaragua. I stayed in a nice little hotel owned by an Andalusian guy, the name: Hostal Flamenco's...! León was nice. It was not like I remembered it but nice still. Nicaragua is quite cheap. I was craving for Gallo Pinto. I wanted to spend the most time in Nicaragua and the least in Costa Rica. There is a nice beach close to León, Las Peñitas. Then it was Granada. Not quite my Graná but still as nice as I remembered it. León was exactly the middle point between El Tunco and San José, Costa Rica. 

All good things have to come to an end. I needed to leave Nicaragua and somehow get to Costa Rica to take the flight to the DR. The flight was in the afternoon but I wanted to make it to San José the day before so I could check, double check and triple check everything.

A friend of mine arrived to Costa Rica the day before me. I wanted to meet with him so I went to the hostel that he was staying only to find out that he checked out in the morning. The hostel was overpriced (like everything in Costa Rica), not the nicest. It offered free coffee but it was only free if you ordered the, you guessed it: overpriced breakfast! The staff was far from being friendly: I was not shown the room, bathrooms, bar, anything! I found out what time was check out time through another guest. Horrible and expensive experience. I would've slept at the airport if only my flight was in the morning. 

Ahead of me were 18 hours of traveling, between flights and layovers.  I had to spend my last Colones in some overpriced coffee (3$!) because I couldn't change them into Dollars because they "don't have 1$ notes". First stop: El Salvador... where I was just a few days before! Two hour layover and a flight to Bogotá where I would spend the night at the airport. No point in going outside. Flight arrived at midnight and the flight to Santo Domingo was at 8 something.

 I had never been to the Caribbean. I didn't know what to expect. I had no idea about anything on the island. I knew it had amazing beaches and expensive all inclusives on those beaches. I arrived to Santo Domingo but the flight to Madrid was from Punta Cana, some 200 Km from the Capital of the Domincan Republic.

I had to no idea where to stay in DR. I completely forgot that it was Semana Santa so CS was a no no. Everybody was on holidays or already hosting other people. My older brother used to travel quite often to Santo Domingo a few years back so I asked him if he had contacts.

The DR has a lot of tourism, tourism made for rich people. There is no public transport to and from the airport. The taxi is about 30$ I've read somewhere that you could jump in inside a guagua (Dominican bus) and pay 1-2$ but lucky me, my brother still had some contacts in SD. That's how I had a driver waiting for me at the airport. The guy even held a sign with my name written in it! Never had that before happened in my life. I think it was the first time in the history of human kind that a driver was waiting for a sweaty and smelly backpacker. These people who I'm super grateful not only paid for the taxi but also for a small hotel in the old town part of the city. The hotel was really nice. Fancy, at least for me. I mean, for now. I've stayed in fancier hotels when I was younger and I was traveling with my parents but that was ages ago. I don't even remember when was this. I think I was still in high school...

I only had one night in DR. Or so I thought. I went out for dinner to a fancy restaurant and had a massive meal consisting in pasta. The restaurant was overlooking a very pretty square, everything was colonial, inside and out. DR was expensive, at least for me. Not for the flock of tourists that were drinking and eating everywhere.

The time to leave had arrived. I needed to take a bus to Punta Cana Airport. One thing caught my attention: From Santo Domingo to Punta Cana/Bávaro the bus stopped only at the Punta Cana airport, not the Santo Domingo. The same, coming back from Punta Cana, the bus would stop at the SD airport but not PC airport. What if you needed to get from one airport to the other? You either pay a taxi of you're fucked. I would've been fucked.

At this point I was not impressed at all about the DR. Well, at least not in good way. In Santo Domingo most of the people were rude and not nice. If I was standing in a queue someone would try to cut in the queue. When I was about to board the bus and was waiting for the driver to take my backpack someone try do cut the line!? for fuck's sake man, wait for your fucking turn, the bus won't leave without you stupid motherfucker...

I made to Punta Cana airport with plenty of time to spare. I had everything in order: I had the printed ticket to Madrid. I had a printer ticket out of Europe. I had my passport. I had everything... at leat I thought I had everything in order.

Dominicans are super racists: they had a queue for Latin Americans and one for non-Latin Americans. Finally I made it to the check-in counter:
- Where is your visa?
- I don't need a visa.
- Dominicans need a visa to get to Europe.
- I'm not Dominican.
- You will have to wait until the supervisor (decides to) comes here.
Ok, no worries. I don't need a visa, this will be solved quickly. Flight was at 21:15 and it was still not even 17:00. I still have time.

Well, supervisor showed up more than an hour later and confirmed what I was telling the ground personnel for the past hour: Guatemalans DON'T need a visa! Ok, with that out of the way she began the check-in. I have to say that I had already paid the 20$ in exit tax. "This is a one way ticket, where is your return ticket?". I showed a ticket from Belgium to Turkey. Let me talk to the supervisor (again). I talked to the arrogant and ignorant supervisor and she ignores me. She instead, take many people at a time to some room to ask them question because they suspected that their passports were fake! It was humiliating, I was sitting by a column while all the people were getting their boarding passes. I have to say that were a shitload of Spaniards on holidays taking that stupid plane. After about three hours and just before the plane was about to take off, that bitch tells me that they cannot let board the plane because the ticket is not valid. I try to reason with her that Schengen rules states that one need a return or onward ticket out of the Schengen area, not a particular country, that I could fly into Spain and fly out of Estonia if I wanted to. She doesn't know what Estonia is. Her ignorance is amazing. I mean, the level of ignorance she possesses is just unbelievable. She thought (and probably still thinks) that if a person flies to Spain, the return/onward ticket has to be from Spain because "Spain won't let out to go to another country to take another flight". I missed the flight. I tried one last time to reason with those idiots but there was another woman that was super upset. She was partially checked in but was not let board the plane. Her luggage was on the way to Madrid, she wasn't. FUCK YOU EVELOP. YOU SUCK! YOUR GROUND PERSONNEL SUCK! YOU ARE THE WORST AIRLINE! FUCK YOU AND GO TO HELL STUPID CUNTS!

I had to spend the night at the airport, obviously. I was too upset to even think about what I was going to do. I was stuck in the stupid Dominican Republic. I tried to get some sleep. I'll think of something tomorrow.

Morning came. I asked where I could eat something as there was only ONE restaurant in the fucking international airport! There is a shopping center about 10 minute walk from the terminal. I found a café to sit a loiter the internet. I ended up staying there until closing time. The ladies that work there were super nice. Specially one, Chavela. She gave me water without asking.  I was supposed to be in Spain Sunday morning, instead I was having a coffee still in the DR. Yeah, yeah I know. Why are you complaining, you're in the Caribbean, you're in paradise. Paradise? yeah, for rich people! I sent some couch requests to people near by but it was Semana Santa: every body was out or hosting someone already.

That whole Sunday I thought about what do do. I even thought to go back to Guatemala and send Europe to fuck itself. I was worn out. I was tired. I needed a shower. I changed tshirt because the other one probably (most likely) stunk. Went to the café again. Found another ticket, leaving Monday evening. I booked the ticket with the help of a good friend of mine. Fuck the ticket from Belgium, this time I had a return ticket to Guatemala. I was to leave the stupid island Monday evening at 22:10.

The time came. I showed up at the counter. Again, a queue for Latin Americans and a queue for non-Latin Americans... da fuq DR!? What's wrong with you? I gave my passport. The guy scanned it with some X-Ray/UV/IR device but that is not enough so he asks me for my ID. According to international law, the ONLY valid form of ID for a person in a foreign country is their passport. But I agree and gave my ID.  He scans it with the X-Ray/UV/IR device and finally give the OK. All's good. I've flown Wamos Air before and have no complaints of any kind before, why would I start now. Gave my passport and then I'm not in the fucking system!!! What the hell is going on for fuck's sake!!!??? Come on Wamos, don't let me down. I have high hopes for you, don't let me down.  Supervisor goes to two different terminal but this one is not a bitch, like the Evelop one. Everything's good. False alarm. I'm given the boarding pass. Everything is alright. I'm headed to the X-Ray machines and then to passport control. See you later suckers!!!

Not quite.

The police guy passport control man askes me were I was before. I'm confused and don't know the exact dates. He's testing me, he's looking at the stamps in the passport. He asks me where is my visa. For the millionth fucking time: I DON'T NEED A VISA!!! He then takes my passport to his supervisor. All this is happening when I'm trying to board out of the country, not getting in. The uniformed cunt says out loud, in front of me and other people: "I've always thought of Guatemalan passport as fake, I mean, look at them! they seem very fake to me". I said to myself: idiot. Then he asked me for my ID, which he liked more. While all this is happening the police guy passport control man is always looking angry and serious. Then another guy joins and ask where is the visa to what the uniformed guy says that Guatemalan don't need a visa. I'm nervous. He says that everything is OK. When we're about 1 meter from the control booth he called us back. "How much money do you need to get into Europe?". How the fuck should I know, a shitload that I don't have? I said 500€ minimum between cash and card, while showing my debit card. "OK, cool. I was just asking because not long ago there was a Colombian guy that wanted to go to Europe and didn't have any cash or card with him. I sent him back to Colombia". Hmm, I thought that at least I would get a free flight back to Guatemala instead of getting stuck on the island. Now, the police guy passport control man changed completely his attitude. Now he was smiling and even apologized for all that shit! I made it. Now I only needed to wait for a couple of hours more to board the plane and then 8 hours later I would landing in Madrid.

8 hours later I was landing in Spain but there was something that kept bothering me. I was in plane where half of the seats were occupied by Dominicans. There was probably a valid (and annoying) reason why DR is super tough in letting people board planes. Got to Spanish passport control. I gave my passport. Woman asked me if I had a return ticket to which I showed the ticket I was not asked to show leaving DR. Asked me where I was going to stay. I said hostels but the booking were in my mobile and the battery died. Stamped in. FUCK YEAH! I WAS IN!!

I didn't want to book the bus ticket to Lisboa just in case. I had to rush to the bus station. When I got there I bought the last ticket to Lisboa! It wasn't because during the whole ride no one sat beside me. More space for me.

I celebrated going to a café and bough tostada de tomate y café con leche. It was not the best that I had but I couldn't care less. I was back in Spain and by that time the next day I would be in Portugal, but that's for a different post.

That was the story of how I got back to Europe.

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