I travel in pink

How NOT to cross the border at night – Nicaragua to Costa Rica

This is a memory I wish I didn’t have.

As I was flying out of Liberia, Costa Rica, I had to make my way over the border so that I could catch an early-morning flight. I had decided, after two weeks of hostels, cold showers and little or no sleep, to take a shuttle over early, and spend the night in a decent hotel. Ah, well that didn’t happen.

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I have no pictures from this day but here’s one of San Juan from the Christ statue

After waking up to a humiliating call from my mother, convinced that I had died, disappeared or god-knows what else, James and I made plans to take a motorcycle around the city. I said goodbye to my new Australian friends, with promises of visits and exchanges of contact information. I bought souvenirs. I then made my way to the Hostel Pacha Mama, where they called me a cab to take to the border. The guy at the front desk promised me it was safe. I must have asked him a hundred times. He told me to just walk over the border and hop on a bus. I made sure my phone and iPod was charged and that I had everything. The cab arrived.

It was maybe 5:00 p.m. Which means it had just started to get dark. Within twenty minutes, it was pitch-black. Not to worry, I thought. I’m sure it was fine. First scary thing: halfway through our ride, the cab driver pulled over, grabbed his belongings and a new driver hopped in. I clutched my stuff, my passport in my purse, and repeated to myself it was fine. We get to the border. It’s around 5:45-6:00. Suddenly two others show up. They told me they would walk with me across the border. I told them no, that I would ask one of the police officers to. They insisted, following me to the border control. They tried to take my passport to fill out a sheet. I said I would do it on my own. They told me that there was no buses on the other side, that it would cost me 100$ to take a taxi to Liberia. I told them no, I would take the bus.

They would not listen. I went to the immigration office, filled out my own sheets, paid the fee and was allowed to leave Nicaragua. I took my stuff and started walking towards the Costa Rican immigration office. The men, now three of them, had called their friend, handed me a phone and an English-speaking person told me it would cost me a 100$ to Liberia and there were no buses. I was getting annoyed and scared. I finally said ok, I will take a taxi if there is no bus. We took off to the Costa Rican office. I went through immigration and managed to speak to one of the officials who told me there was a bus. This woman was so sweet. I put my bags through the x-ray machine and went outside where they were waiting.

At this precise moment, the bus at the end of the street flashed its destination. It said Liberia. I told the three men that I was going to take the bus and pointed towards it. They told me it wasn’t leaving for a while. The super nice official I had just been chatting with inside came out the door. Her shift was finished. I walked towards her, asked her when the bus was coming. She said it would leave at 7:00 p.m. It was 6:45 p.m. This whole ordeal of being terrified had only been about an hour but it felt like days. I felt like crying. My fingers were numbed from holding onto my stuff so tightly. The three men were getting angry, that I had wasted their time. I gave them 20$ and asked the lady to let them know it was for me bringing me across the border and skipped to the line waiting for the bus. Finally, the bus left its parking spot and started towards the group of us. I paid 1000 coronas (almost 2$) and made me way to a seat. And then, I finally exhaled. I was safe. I was fine. I was on my way home.

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And here’s one of a cute monkey from Monkey Island in Granada.

Thankfully, I had been in Liberia and knew exactly where to go. I walked to one of the hotels that I had seen earlier, a mere block from the bus station. They had one more bed available in a shared dorm room. The guy gave me a towel, told me to bring it back in the morning and gave me a key. There was an American girl in the room and we chatted about our trips for a bit. And finally she said the most magical words: “yes, there is hot water in this shower.” I didn’t need to be told twice. I showered, laid out my stuff for the morning and slept soundly until 5:00 a.m. I was almost home.

The rest of the trip wasn’t without incident. I somehow took a bus that only stopped about 100 feet from the airport so I had to walk about 20 minutes. I paid my exit fee. I made it through security. I hopped on the plane. Landing in Houston was chaotic and I barely had enough time to make it through customs, run towards my plane and get in. (While running, someone yelled out Sunday Funday! I realized I was wearing my pool crawl shirt. Hey, it was the only thing clean!) I was the last person in and we left two minutes later. My connection in New York was delayed. It was freezing. My flip flops were quickly replaced and I put on two extra layers. I arrived home to one of the coldest days of the year. My puppy was waiting in the car for me. I took another hot shower that night.

And then I missed Nicaragua.

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