Wowsers, in one day: three countries, two border crossings, 11 hours on the road, 450 kilometers, 857 potholes, 4 happy travelers and the one and only Mopelia! We are back home in our favorite El Tunco, El Salvador!
Granada is a colonial town pouring over with color and beauty. Kyler snapped a few photos as we checked it out. Enjoy!
The border crossing from Costa Rica was fairly straight-forward, we are getting pretty good at the game! Our first stop in Nicaragua on our drive North, was stunning Popoyo on the Pacific Coast. The drive along lake Nicaragua to Rivas was pretty, and as we got closer to Popoyo, the road became smaller – and smaller.
We woke up at our homestay in San Juan del Sur ready for another adventure. As we were walking out to get some breakfast, before hitting the road, we bumped into the family from Quebec that we got to know in Antigua more than a month ago! What a fun reunion! As it turned out, they were on their way to the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border as well. It’s a small world!
We made a right turn out of San Juan del Sur to go South instead of going left to go North, like we did in 2007. New territory!
We met up with our fellow traveling friends at the border and helped each other out. It is a lot more fun crossing borders together with somebody else! We figured out where to get your passports stamped on one side. They helped us out with what to bring to one of the officials on the other side. Win-Win!
In order to get our vehicle import permit cancelled on the Nicaraguan side the vehicle was inspected by a border patrol, then another border patrol, a police officer, a border patrol behind a desk and then another police officer. The permit looked like this when they were done with it:
We were out of Nicaragua and drove through to the Costa Rican side of the border. This entire border crossing was quite time consuming (3 hours in total,) but pretty straight-forward. Fumigation of our vehicle, some more copies, a couple visits to the bathroom, a cold Coca Cola, chats with the border patrol, some more paperwork and we were through.
We are now in Costa Rica!
When we strolled around Granada we came across a religious festival honoring a saint. We found it fairly entertaining that the entire parade decided to make their way through the busiest street in town, where all the chicken buses park.
The artisan market in town have much to offer, just like Nicaragua.
After two nights in Granada we drove to Rivas/San Jorge on Lake Nicaragua. This is the port for the boats and ferries going out to Isla de Ometepe, an island consisting of two volcanoes. We had planned to go across with the van on a ferry, or leave the van on the mainland if we could find secure parking. We were advised to bring the van across. It all started sounding really expensive. It was also really windy and the volcanoes were covered in clouds. In the end we decided to save it for another time and went to the beach…
We drove from Rivas/San Jorge to San Juan del Sur in the very Southern part of Nicaragua. San Juan del Sur was the turning point of our Central American roadtrip in 2007. Anywhere further South than this will be new territory!
We thought of going swimming with our clothes on, but we are not that local.
After entering Nicaragua, we spent a couple days in the colonial town of León. In addition to rushing down the side of a volcano, we also visited the town’s Museo de Revolucion. Relatively unaware of the fairly recent and violent history of Nicaragua we were educated by a former Sandinista fighter.
Our guide, Roberto, provided us with an interesting insight into the events, before and after the revolution, that have shaped Nicaragua into the country it is today.
León was known as a liberal city, whereas it’s counterpart was the more conservative Granada. The two cities rivaled to be the country’s capital for years. In 1852 it was decided that Managua, conveniently located between the two, served as a middle ground and was made capitol.
Roberto brought us up on the roof of the building of the museum. It is located on one side of the city’s Central Park with a great view of the active volcano San Cristobal. What looks like a cloud is actually smoke from the volcano.
Plans to meet friends in Granada got us back on the road after a couple days in León.
Granada is a colorful, colonial town. In some ways it is much like León, but it’s location on Lake Nicaragua gives it a breezy feel and cooler nights.
Granada is well set up around tourism, but one does not have to walk far to find a more local side of the town. Just a few blocks from the touristy walking street by the central park was a soccer game on and down by the water we witnessed baptisms and general frolicking. Observation: Central Americans go swimming with their clothes on! Does anybody know why?
Later in the day we met up with our friends Ashari (Aussie) and Guy (English) whom we got to know in El Salvador. They are extensive honeymooners like ourselves. We had a great time exploring the Granada markets, and later, Granada-by-night.
Easy? – No!
Logical? – No!
Straightforward? – No!
Quick? – No!
Did we get through? – Yes!
Border crossings in Central America are complete gong shows!
We woke up early with the turkeys in El Salvador and hit the road. We had a big day ahead of us, as we were to cross two borders in one day.
In order to leave El Salvador and enter Honduras with a vehicle the following events had to take place:
– Recognize which unmarked building on the El Salvadoran side you must go to to get the registered to leave the country.
– Find another unmarked building to have vehicle importation permit cancelled.
– Drive through no-man’s land and wonder which country the people you see belong to.
– Approach Honduras’ border, get stopped by border patrol, hand over passports and title of vehicle. Vehicle VIN is checked.
– Be lead to unmarked office number one. Get our passports and title of vehicle back.
– Be told to go to unmarked office number two. Have our passports stamped.
– Return to office number one. Be told to go get copy of passport stamp, passport and vehicle title.
– Return to office one with copies.
– Fill out form outside office.
– Return with form to office one. Be told to go to the bank to pay vehicle importation fee.
– Walk across border area and over a pile of rubble to enter bank. Bank only accept local currency and only cash.
– Go outside to shady guys with big wads of cash to exchange money.
– Go back to bank. Pay vehicle importation permit fee. Get change from different teller before getting the receipt from teller one.
– Return to office one. Be told to get copy of form and receipt of payment.
– Go to copy shop (again!)
– Have passport stamped with car importation permit (two pages!)
– Two hours and a lot of head scratching later: Good to go!
We drove through Honduras in three hours. The road was horrible, at best. Deep, crater like pot holes covered the road in both directions.
The border crossing between Honduras and Nicaragua went by in a similar fashion. In addition to the time consuming, illogical events of entering Honduras, we had to buy a specific third party insurance, fumigate the vehicle and have a curious, non-thourough vehicle inspection by a chatty police officer.
We are in Nicaragua!