At the beginning of June we visited Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. We had already established that there wasn’t much sightseeing to do as you can read in this post. But big cities have lots of shops and services that you can’t find elsewhere. So we bought a new water filter and picked up the new radiator. We hadn’t been able to find the right radiator in both Guatemala and Honduras. It took 2.5 hours to get the parcel out of customs! Nicaragua is really the most over-organized, bureaucratic country we have ever been to. Here 4 people do the work of 1 and several times we have seen people doing jobs that don’t need doing in the first place. Once we drove on to a parking lot near a mall. We had to get a parking ticket at the barrier. When we wanted to leave we went to the same machine everyone else was using. There we found out the ticket was only stamped. After asking, it turned out parking was free?? Nevertheless when we drove of the parking lot there was another barrier where one person checked if you had actually stamped the parking ticket before raising the barrier. Completely useless of course and in the mean time the barriers and the ticket machines have been bought and have to be maintained and the person doing the useless job has to be paid. I honestly feel that the level of bureaucracy and over-organisation (leading to time consuming chaos) are an important reason that countries like these are poor and stay poor. Any money coming in for a one person job has to be shared by 4 people.
Anyway after Managua we drove to Apoyo lake. A beautiful and clean lake with water that was being heated from the nearby volcanoes so it was luke warm. We stayed here several days and Kilian went on a bikeride.
(In case you didn’t know yet; if you double click on a photo (except for the big one atop this page), a slide show of the enlarged photo’s starts! Enjoy)
After Apoyo we went to visit the colonial town of Granada. We stayed in the area for several days and also visited a butterfly resort and the volcano Masaya. This is a national park where you can drive right up to the crater, park and see inside the crater, where you can see actual lava! It was an amazing sight! To see this bubbling, fiery mass flowing just 230 meters below you, and realize that this is on the same planet as the icecaps, green meadows, rainforests and the oceans, is almost incomprehensible! We finally left when the park was closing. Seeing something so beautiful and amazing, makes us wanting to see so much more;
But in order to see much more, the car has to be maintained. Now for some time it was making a really weird noise. 3 Garages couldn’t figure out the cause and neither could Kilian who spend days taking things apart and cleaning or replacing them. But the noise was getting worse and finally it was so bad that it could also be reproduced while standing still. Which obviously made it a lot easier to investigate. So we drove back to Managua to go to the garage again. It turned out to be the suspension damper so that was replaced and finally after several months. We never expected so much noise from a simple damper… No more weird noise, hurray! While in Managua we checked-in to a nice hotel with air-conditioning, a pool and a nice garden for Binkie. Finally we were able to sleep in a dry, cool bed instead of a bed of sweat! And there were no mosquitoes (those were really bad in Granada) or flies (way too many near Apoyo lake) either. Travelling during the rainy season can be tiring and annoying because of the humid heat and the many bugs. So the hotel was a welcome break. We also did a little sightseeing.
From Managua we drove south and took the ferry to the island Ometepe. A beautiful and relaxed island. Getting on the ferry meant navigating the Nicaragua bureaucracy again. At one building we had to buy tickets to be allowed in the port. At another building we had to buy the tickets for the car and ourselves. And at yet another building we had to pay some kind of road tax for taking the van to the island and we also had to pay for the bikes! Of course this could all have been done at one and the same building by the same person. Well anyway we made it on to the ferry and at least leaving the port at Ometepe island was free, although the whole process was repeated three days later as we left the island. We thoroughly enjoyed Ometepe. We found a great camp spot near the lake and the weather was nice too. The locals were really friendly. The island is actually composed from two volcanoes and is situated in the great lake of Nicaragua. We visited Ojo de agua for a swim in the pool that gets filled with very clear water from a natural source. We also went to a hostel with a small restaurant directly situated at the lake, but also right in the jungle, where they make and sell chocolate goodies. There we relaxed and enjoyed the food.
After three days we had to leave. The temporary import permit for the van was only valid for a month and although we wanted to stay longer in Nicaragua, renewing it meant a two day bureaucratic process, so no thank you. Our last few days were spend at the beach near San Juan del Sur. We had wanted to visit a national park at the beach where a lot of turtles return each yearl. But when we came there we were told we were a few weeks to early.
At the 21st of June we drove to the border. Getting out of Nicaraga was a bit of a hassle. But getting in to Costa Rica was easy. When we were dealing with the whole border process we realised it was the 21st and therefore our wedding day! Crossing a border is not a good way to spend your wedding day. But without a job and everything, we don’t really keep track of what day it is or important dates. Next year will be our tenth anniversary so we’ll make up for it then.
In Costa Rica we drove straight to the peninsula Nicoya where there are some beautiful places to wild camp at the beach. We found a nice place to stay for a day or 2 and then drove on to another spot, where we arrived early in the evening. We didn’t like this place as much as expected but decided to spend the night. The next morning around 5.30 am, we heard a lot of loud voices. It turned out to be local fisherman and people putting up stalls to sell stuff. At 6 am the first tourists arrived, hiking a trail. With this much noise and no privacy we decided to leave early, go to another spot and have breakfast there. The road was pretty bad and it took a lot longer than thought. The next spot wasn’t great and by now we were a bit stressed and tired and still hadn’t had breakfast. so we were a little less on high alert than usual… After some discussion we locked the van and walked up the beach maybe 200 metres away for 5 minutes. Kilian’s phone was empty so he left it charging, mine didn’t have any reception and we only wanted to check out a spot further up the beach…. When we came back the van was broken in to! Gone were our phones and ipad and with it our drivers licenses, bankcards, credit card and the car registration. As well as a bit of cash. We still had our passports and laptop as they were hidden in the van. There was no one around of course. We drove off to the police. They contacted the Dutch embassy but the embassy was useless. As long as you don’t need a new passport they don’t help you. We managed to block the cards. And eventually also managed to transfer money from our bank account to Western Union, so the next day we could pick up cash (really expensive to get money like this, 10% goes to WU). For several days we were upset and angry. We even thought about returning to Europe asap, straight from Costa Rica. Eventually we decided to keep on travelling. Shit happens and we don’t want to let the assholes stop us from living our lives the way we want to. We bought a cheap new phone so we could start the digital process of getting new drivers licences and the car registration. Fortunately good friends in the Netherlands are helping us out with this process. And with some help of the family and fellow overlanders, our bankcards and credit cards are slowly on their way to Costa Rica. Fingers crossed until they arrive. With our phones gone so were the latest photo’s, so you’ll just have to imagine the tropical beaches, the jungle, etc, although on our Instagram page you can find what we had already uploaded. We spend the rest of June hanging around places going through the digital processes needed. Not exactly how we wanted to spend our time here.