Day 419: Adios Nicaragua! Hola Costa Rica, Country 21
Rivas, Nicaragua to La Cruz, Costa Rica
Distance: 55 km
Time: 9.45 am to 5.18 pm
Cumulative distance: 15,035 km
Took a taxi to Rivas since I couldn’t find a bus to Gigante at the rivas bus station. The driver first quoted me $15, but during the ride, he begged for another $5 USD, I then bargained down to $3. I hate people who agreed with initial price then increased the price afterwards. They should quote me that price, I still would have taken it. At Gigante, Marge’s host was already hosting 10 surfers at his place, couldn’t accommodate me anymore. I went over to Warmshower host John where Yves and Fed were there. John works for Camino Hostel beside it. His boss gave the house to accommodate John and other volunteers at the hostel. For us skate tourer and Cyclotravellers, we can stay there for 2 nights. Together, we celebrated Marge”Magic Hair” 27th birthday the next day. I bought her a led hair band with Minnie mouse on it as her present. I made Piña Cola with Alana as contribution to potluck birthday dinner.
Gigante lived to its namesake. Gigante refers to the Gigantic waves. No wonder so many surfers settled here to surf their hearts out. From a tiny village, it rose to surfer’s Paradise. Still unknown to outside world yet. On 5th April, after Marge’s birthday, I headed back to Rivas on a chicken bus that was way cheaper than taxi. Less than 2 USD. The road to Rivas was built on tiles making my skate difficult, hence I opted for a bus back. I stayed in Hospedeje Coco for 8 USD. Planned to stay a night, before waiting for Laura, Marge and Alana to set off from Gigante the next day. So that we can travel together once more as a group to Panama city. 3 ladies riding with me. I could be a lucky guy or worse off tortured by the ladies. The burger King I ate for dinner was the worst ever. The entire menu was unavailable, only Whopper and Whopper jr meal. The whole restaurant was sparse and hardly any customer. I patronised for its Wifi but it was not working. That Rivas Burger King by the far, was the worst.
The next morning, I heard from Marge that they too were taking the chicken bus back to Rivas. I figured that they would arrive 9-ish am. I set off from my Hospedeje at 8.30 am and skated to the outskirt on the main road to wait for them. By 9.40 am, Marge first arrived, followed by Alana and Laura. Yeah, the gang was formed. We will ride together all the way to Panama city for next 2 weeks, except for Alana. She has to fly off from San Jose, Coastal Rica back to California, home.
Naturally, being on bicycle, they rode faster than me. Laura and Marge sped off. Except Alana, she rode behind me. For the first time, I got someone to accompany me during the ride. The wind and hills made it tough for me to really go fast. Especially, when I see rows of Wind turbines along Playa Virgen, generating renewable energy. That meant there was significant intensity of wind in this area, that is why Nicaraguans placed them here. Either I got strong tailwind working for me or headwind working against me. Unfortunately, it was the latter. Along the way, a polish couple in tandem bike sped past me. Shortly, they stopped on the road with Marge on the road for a chat. Joined by Argentinian cyclist traveling on the opposite direction. He is heading to Mexico before heading to Europe and cycle to Russia for the World Cup. Left 10 km to Costa Rica border, they went ahead of me, waiting for me at Penas Blanca, the border town. Before the town, I stopped to buy a drink, spending my last Nicaragua Corboda.
At the border, polish couple and my trio ladies waited for me. I went straight to money changer to change my USD to Costa Rica Colon. 1 USD for 550 colon. I changed $100, in turn I got huge denomination of colones. Had our last meal in Nicaragua before entering the expensive Costa Rica. Spending all my Cordoban, Alana offered to treat me for lunch. After lunch, polish couple had to break away from us, as they have a large distance to cover today. We only have 20 km remaining. We entered the border control, there I saw the most beautiful Nicaraguan lady. She was the border guard. In my mind, please arrest me, I am an illegal immigrant. Please detain me for life. Haha of course I didn’t say that to her. I shared this with Alana. Even she agreed with me that she was so hot. At the immigration office, we couldn’t bring my pushcart and their bikes in. Therefore we leave them outside and split into pairs to guard our stuff. Alana and I entered the immigration first. I simply couldn’t comprehend the process involved in exiting Nicaragua. First I have to pay 1 USD to a counter and go over to the actual custom and pay another 4 USD for my exit stamp. Can’t they just set it for us to pay 5 USD all together at the custom. Then it was Marge and Laura’s turn. The immigration only wanted USD dollars, not their local currency. I lent them my USD to pay the immigration. Finally we are out of Nicaragua.
We rode to Costa Rica customs, but not before taking group pictures of Welcome to Costa Rica sign. Marge carried the Petite Alana on her shoulders. To complement the pose, Laura carried me on her shoulders since obviously I was the lighter one. That is Gender Equality. At Costa Rica customs, it was straightforward affair, no entrance fee or whatever. Just ask us fee questions and we were off. Once crossed the border, immediately the terrain changed as we crossed the imaginary line. Costa Rica was filled with greenery and lush thick forest greeted us. A stark contrast to the barren Nicaragua farm lands. Costa Rica was one of the most biodiversed nature environment in the world and they sought to protect the nature. Almost 40% of the land was designated as nature reserve. Way to go, Costa Rica. Being that said, it was one of the more affluent nation in central America beside Panama. We could expect living cost to be much expensive here. Luckily I stock up on my food supply before leaving Nicaragua.
Shortly, the road was under construction. One lane was closed and another lane was left to accommodate traffic from both directions. I have to walk on gravel side to avoid getting hit from traffic coming towards me. As usual, Marge and Laura sped off while I rode together with Alana, who is the same age as me. No wonder we can click so well. Caught up with Marge and Laura as they sat by the roadside to fix Marge’s punctured tyre. Good time to have a break. We rested for 40 minutes till Marge fixed her punctures. Last 8 km to go. We rode together as a group cos only I have the online map of Costa Rica and knew the location of fire station in La Cruz. Last big hill to climb, I resorted to running and walking briskly. Running and walking briskly seemed to be a faster option than skating up. I somehow managed to keep pace with Alana’s climbing speed. In the end, she too gave in and pushed her bike with me.
At La Cruz, we saw the bomberos or fire station. You can tell Costa Rica is really a developed country. The fire station was the most modern that I have ever seen so far in Central America. However, it was closed for unknown reasons. We further rode to the Red Cross in city centre to try our luck. However, they had to turn us down as well. Third time lucky, we found a church willing to accommodate us for the night. We camped behind their backyard. While shopping at nearby supermarket, I was shocked to see astronomical prices in the supermarket. My 6 litre of water cost me 5 USD and my loaf of bread cost 2 USD. In all, just 2 items cost me 7 USD. Laura from Spain gruntled that it was more expensive than in spain. It was close to Northern Europe cost of living. Indeed, Costa Rica and Panama will burn a hole in my budget. No more cheap central America way of living. No more eating out or sleeping in Hostels like I used to in Central America. Here it was back to Europe way of touring.