Knowing that we were going to be heading toward a country that was not as developed as Costa Rica or Panama did nothing to prepare us for the utter incompetence of the Nicaraguan border authorities. Note: the ones we encountered were not corrupt. They were simply not up to the task of running a border crossing.
Costa Rican immigration was polished and efficient. We then walked for a few minutes to get to the Nicaraguan side. We were instructed to walk through a chain link fence lined walkway, only to emerge right next to the road we were alongside before entering. No officials to guide us. We found out we had to walk further to get to the place were they process passports. Once we got there, before we could get our passport stamps, we were required to fill out a different form in order to get our medical clearance. They had medical staff at the border to look for people with a fever. Which could be difficult, as it was a very hot day and everybody looked like they may have a fever. Also, the children of the medical staff were selling immigration forms. The form you fill out
with your passport number etc, you know, that has been free in every single other country I have been to? Yep, that one. We had to buy ours. Granted, it was only 100 Colones, or around 15 cents. But the most interesting part came when we discovered that they were screwing up the stamping process. Since they did not have different lines for arriving / leaving, the same passport officials were handling both departing and arriving travelers. As you may have guessed, people arriving were getting departure stamps and people departing arrival stamps. Brilliant! You might be a country run by a former communist guerilla if...
Justin now has two stamps from Nicaragua (and we have not left yet), one that is crossed out and signed by a rising star in the immigration unit. Once we got all this sorted out, and it did take the better part of two hours between the two posts, we were able to continue on to the Isle de Ometepe....right after we paid the border town's "municipal immigration tax". The municipality has a booth set up along the road right outside of immigration. Should you desire to pass through the border town (AKA
go into the country), then an additional $1 is required. This after one has purchased the immigration form and paid $7 entry. You think they might grow bananas here and call themselves a republic?
Once we had paid out to anyone with the means to build a structure or procure government forms, we were actually on our way into the country. We went straight to the ferry terminal, and from there took a small passenger ferry to the island (1 hour), a old school bus to a crossroad (1 hour), waited an hour and half for the next bus, then took a bus to the small village of El Encanto (1 hour), and then walked up the village road to the start of our guesthouses driveway and then walked the half a kilometer to the guesthouse during a lightning storm and tropical downpour. Shockingly, El Porvenir was not full. Nor were they serving dinner any longer (it was now 8PM). We were rather tired since we spent over 12 hours in transit. It was early to bed for us.
By the time I woke up, things were starting to get better. For starters, the people in Nicaragua were
really great. Seriously, nice people. The staff at Albergue Ecologico El Porvenir
proved to be some of the best of this trip. The guesthouse was located on a hill overlooking a volcano, with nice territorial views on a working farm. There were not that many other guests staying there. Justin and I met a well connected women named Sue who gave us all kinds of recommendations for the northern part of the country. I decided to take the day as a day of rest, while Justin headed out and enjoyed some of the hiking. By 11am, anther thunder storm rolled through and dumped rain on the island. This time, I was under a roof.
Nicaragua is currently going through rolling brownouts in the afternoons. When I tried to order lunch, they were having a hard time trying to figure out what they could actually serve without power. I, with my limited Spanish, was trying to figure out what they were trying to tell me. In the end, I got what I ordered (hamburger) but they had to do everything over an open fire, so it took a while. Tasted good though.
Because their guesthouse is also a working farm, there were
lots of cows, pigs, chickens and the like roaming around. My favorite were the piglets, which would go around the property with their snouts under the dirt looking for whatever it is that piglets look for. Clearly my studies in Muslim countries did not educate me well enough in this matter. While I was lying in a hammock, one came right next to me, completely oblivious to my being there (it was focused on its mission of objects in the dirt). I pet the back of it a little. Judging by its reaction (a laud squeal and running off) it was not a big fan of subbing for a dog. No worries, one of the local canines curled up next to me for a few hours that afternoon. Which must be one of the reasons why dogs are not eaten as often.
Speaking of which, they feed the pigs mangos here, and the mango fed pork is really tasty. I had it for dinner. Justin got two whole fish on his plate, which elicited the reaction of "oh dear god". My reaction to the plate in front of me was considerably more optimistic.
The next morning, we headed
over to Granada, the tourist mecca of the country. Wouldn't mind coming back to this place sometime later though.
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