|The beach at San Juan del Sur|
Early the next morning we headed out to cross the border into Costa Rica. This is rumored to be one of the longer crossings, so we left San Juan with plenty of time to spare. It was a good thing we did, because it ended up taking about four hours. First, check out of Nicaragua by going through passport control, finding a police officer to stamp our bike permit (she was in front of the abandoned bus station, 100yards from immigration), finding the customs office (a small, unmarked building under a clump of trees about 50 yards from the bus station), and going through the checkpoint and 500 yards to the Costa Rican side.
On the Costa Rican side, you wait in line at the customs office, where they tell you that you need to go to immigration first, then buy insurance, then make copies of your immigration stamp and insurance paperwork, then come back to their office, get the bike serial numbers checked, then go to another office to get the permit approved and printed out. Where's the insurance office? 250 yards back toward Nicaragua, of course. Where's the copy shop? Next to the insurance office, but there's no sign, and they won't say anything as they watch you walk all the way back to the Costa Rican border, where they will tell you to walk back to the copy shop, which is by the insurance office! Everyone knows that! Once you have completed the trek you can ask the surly man in the original office to please look at your paperwork and check the numbers on your bike, but he will only do so if he is allowed to act like it isn't his job and he hates you. As a personal favor he decides to have a look at your bike, realizes, regretfully, that your paperwork is in order, and lets you pass on to the next ring of the circus. At this final stage, a young, smiling man in an air conditioned office promptly types up the permit with a smile on his face, and you're off...to the FINAL CHECKPOINT! At the final checkpoint everything is finally checked, and if your license plate number on the permit is one number off, as ours was, you can go back to the insurance office and start again.
These things take so long that when we're actually done, I have often forgotten that there was going to be an end at all, so it's an exciting surprise to be in a new country.We headed into Costa Rica, unsure of where we wanted to stay for the night, but relieved that it wouldn't be at the border. We were getting close to the capital, San Jose, and weren't too excited about looking for a place to sleep there with it being so late in the day. The fog was getting more and more dense, so by default we decided on San Ramon, an hour west of San Jose. We could only find one hotel, and despite being out of our budget, we weren't about to keep riding, and we weren't complaining about the king sized bed, big screen tv, hot water, a/c and wifi in the room. It was definitely one of the nicer hotels we have stayed on the trip, so we went to the convenience store to grab some snacks, turned on a good movie and stayed in for the night.
|The TV is too big to fit in the entertainment center!|
The first order of business, though, was to meet up with Leo, a friend of Ty's from the Japan days. Leo is a modern renaissance man, and when he's not tracking wire fraud at the Costa Rican Central Bank, he might be studying acting, or dancing - in Spanish, English, French or Japanese. On this particular Tuesday he was at work though, so we made plans to him there on his lunch break. Traffic was a bit crazy in the city and we weren't sure where we were going, but we finally figured it out and found a secure parking lot near the bank. Leo took us to a really great restaurant that serves local Costa Rican fare and helped us figure out what to order. We enjoyed our food and reminisced about Japan, but Leo had to get back to work, and in the frenzy of the San Jose streets we forgot to take a picture together...next time! Who knows where we'll be?
We said our goodbyes to Leo and headed off to meet up with Alexis and Andres in Providencia.