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Published: March 31st 2016
To enter Costa Rica, you need to show proof that you're leaving the country again before your visa expires. We had heard about that before we left Panama, but ignored it then, so at check-in, we quickly had to buy two random cheap bus tickets for 2,5 weeks later and were allowed on board. When our trip in Costa Rica came to an end, we thought we might want to use those bus tickets after all, as we already payed for them and we thought it would be an easy way to cross the border while not flying. What a misconception that turned out to be!
Our taxi driver in San Jose didn't know the bus company, nor did the concierge of our hotel. Not a good sign! Once we arrived at the bus station using Google Maps, the bus turned out to be very old and the bus driver very new on this route. Another bad sign! The border crossing is quite busy, so it took us 3 hours to drive the 100 km to the border, 2 hours to get all the paperwork signed and stamped and our bags checked and then another hour to go to our
final destination Rivas, where we had to take a taxi to San Jorge, from where the ferry to Isla de Ometepe leaves. As we were a few hours late, the last boat had already left and we had to spend the night on the mainland. 20-25 Years ago, we would've categorised this trip as funny and quite an adventure. Now, we mostly felt it was quite a waste of time (yet also an adventure).
The following day, we took the ferry to Ometepe, which is an island formed by two volcanos in Lake Nicaragua (if Costa Rica is all about nature in general, Nicaragua is all about volcanos). Maderas is dormant, has a crater lake and supports a diverse rainforest environment. Concepcion is considered the most perfectly formed volcano cone in Central America and still quite active. The island is beautiful, although very dry this time of year. The atmosphere is quite relaxed and the people very friendly, although it seems they don't understand why tourists would want to visit their island.
Mark Twain once wrote about Ometepe:
"Out of the midst of the beautiful Lake Nicaragua spring two magnificent pyramids, clad in the softest and richest
green, all flecked with shadow and sunshine, whose summits pierce the billowy clouds. They look so isolated from the world and its turmoil - so tranquil, so dreamy, so steeped in slumber and eternal repose. What a home one might make among their shady forests, their sunny slopes, their breezy dells, after he had grown weary of the toil, anxiety and unrest of the bustling, driving world."
We took it slow on the island, hiking up Maderas with a guide, swimming in Ojo de Agua, exploring a few of the small villages, lots of reading in hammocks, and driving around Concepcion on a rental scooter. The latter being quite challenging, almost as much so as on Osa Peninsula. Maybe even more so when you're on a scooter (and over 40!), but we survived without a scratch and had a lot of fun!
So far, we've found that Nicaragua is a lot less touristy and much more authentic than Panama and Costa Rica. It's also very hot and poor. One of the ' 'positives' of this is that it's also much cheaper and lodging, travel and food is at least half of what it costs in the other countries.
Even though the food it's cheaper though, it's the same arroz y frijoles everywhere. For breakfast, lunch and dinner! We're often reflecting on the great food we had in Lima...
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