Crossed the border into Costa Rica

Trip Start Jan 04, 2008
Trip End Dec 17, 2008

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Crossed the border from Nicaragua into Costa Rica and Iīm excited to be in yet another new country ... they are coming thick & fast now ... however, I think probably actually too fast and this is now starting to give me some second thoughts about whether Iīm doing the right thing trying to whizz through the highlights of many countries in a pretty short time or maybe it would be better to slow down and see less countries in somewhat more depth. For example, when I was in Mexico and Guatemala I stayed there for six weeks each and felt like I had really got to know the country and itīs people and culture. As I spend only two weeks in each of Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Panama itīs just not possible to have such a rich depth of experience. At this stage Iīm not now going to change any of the plans for Central America but certainly this is something Iīm starting to contemplate when it comes to the South American part of my trip - ten countries in seven months for South America has always been ambitious bordering on unrealistic and my current experience is supporting that notion ... so it maybe that I decide to pick fewer countries. Itīs just really hard to prioritise because they are all such exciting destinations and I want to see them all ... I can honestly say I havenīt heard a bad word about any South American country from fellow travellers whoīve been down there - everyone simply seems to love and sing the praises of everywhere theyīve been. Anyway , back to the here-and-now of Nicaragua to Costa Rica. It was a relatively smooth if quite long journey to get across the border, starting with a two-hour bus ride from Merida to Moyogalpa on Ometepe and the ferry to San Jorge. Then I shared a taxi with an Aussie couple I had met in Merida from San Jorge port right down to the Nicaragua - Costa Rica border at Penas Blancas as it saved a bit of time and didnt work out much more expensive than the couple of buses needed. They went on to San Jose whereas I caught the bus for the short one-hour journey to Liberia. So then time for some closing thoughts on Nicaragua and as per my above comments, two weeks seemed to really whizz by fast and I actually managed only four stopover points - Leon, Managua, Granada and Ometepe. One immediately apparent (even if somewhat obvious) thing you notice about Nicaragua is that itīs a really poor country, even by comparison to other Central American republics, but still that the local people are for the most part very friendly, fun-loving and humourous. Granada certainly lived up to itīs expectations as one of the fave backpacker haunts in Central America and I enjoyed itīs colonial architecture, happening travellers scene/nightlife, the Lake Nicaragua setting and the nearby attractions of Masaya & the Laguna de Apoya. Granada is clearly one of the places that seem to be making Nicaragua cool and popular - whilst naturally this brings the much needed tourist income, it also brings the paradox that ultimately the character of the place is changed and I think Granada is on its way towards being like Antigua Guatemala ... not sure this is necessarily a good thing. Ometepe island was wonderful with its amazing volcano scenery and I enjoyed making the effort to get out of my lakeside hammock for the trekking, mountain biking and the hard-won conquest of another volcano. Managua was just, well, weird for want of a better word, with itīs eerie quiet and lack of people - of all the capital cities I have been to that many people say to avoid (Mexico City, Guatemala City, Tegucigalpa and Managua) this is the one that I find myself in agreement ... avoid it and you wont miss much. Finally, Leon in the North was mainly memorable for its number of colonial churches and the references to the 1979 revolution , being the place where Nicaraguaīs politics and recent history was most in evidence (naturally not surprisingly as it was a fierce Sandinista stronghold) such as in the revolutionary museum , the university, the various statues/buildings/monuments and the murals painted around the city ... elsewhere in Nicaragua there seem to be surprisingly few cues to itīs recent political history. So that was Nicaragua and I would have liked to have spent more time there to get more beneath the surface but looking forward to my adventures in Costa Rica.
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