September 12, 2006 GMT
Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Dog sitting in Costa Rica


Leon, Nicaragua, was one of the strongholds of the Sandinistas, throughout the 80's and into the 90's, and it and Esteli were the only cities that Ortega carried the last time he ran for president. I had stayed in Esteli on my previous trip here, the other city known for left wing politics, so I figured I might as well complete the tour. I found a nice little hotel off one of the plazas for $18 with private bath and wireless internet, the first time I have had that luxury on this trip. I only stayed here the one night, but was able to walk around town and see most of the old colonial era buildings anyway. There are several backpacker hostels here, but they didn't have a place to leave my bike I was happy with. There seems to be a lot of volunteer workers here as well, most that I saw were European of some sort.

I had been in email contact with another Horizons Unlimited member, Lorraine Chittock, about possibly looking after her house and dogs, on the beach in Costa Rica, while she went to England for a couple of weeks. We firmed up our plans while I was here, and I decided to head form here to San Juan del Sur, near the Costa Rican border with Nicaragua, from here. I took the more direct, but unpaved route from Leon towards the Costa Rica border, bypassing Managua, which as usual, was a mixed blessing. Nicaragua has so much contrast in the way people live. On this route I saw several Ox drawn carts, with solid wood wheels, that looked like something I picture in medival Europe or somewhere, and then when you hit the main highway, there will be a Texaco that looks like it was just dropped in from California, complete with American brands of junk food and an ATM machine.

When I got close to San Juan, a guy pulled up next to me at a gas staion on an Aprilia Caponord, and asked where I was headed. It turned out he was from Ecuador, and was on his way to Managua to try and get a visa for Costa Rica, but would be coming back to San Juan. I told him I was going to be staying there too, and he could try to find me there. I got to San Juan and got set up in a little hotel, with courtyard parking for the bike an free internet. Sure enough, a littl later Fausto, the Ecuadoran guy, saw my bike there and got a room there too. He had not been successful in his attempt to get his visa, but was waiting for word from the Costa Rica embassy in Managua. He had bought the bike in the US and was riding it home to Ecuador. Nothing had happened by the time I left 2 days later, and for all I know he may still be there. His only other option seemed to by flying or shipping around CR and Panama.

So, One of the bars in SJ had posters up all over advertising Carlos Santana in concert the following night. You have to realize San Juan is just a sleepy little beach town, so I was skeptical, but thought maybe he had a house here and was going to do an acoustic set or something. So, I walked over to the bar and asked if Santana was really going to be there. Yes. Carlos Santana? Yes. Carlos Sanatna live? Yes. In San Juan del Sur? Yes. In this place? Yes. I asked every way I could think of. Naturally, it turned out to be a DVD of some old show, but I had to try. So Fausto and I watched it anyway. I should mention that Guatemala had the cheapest room prices, but beer in a bar there was almost American prices close to $2 a bottle. Honduras and Nicaragua hotels are more expensive, but beer is about half that. Pick your poison.

After a couple days in San Juan it was time to head for Costa Rica. I made the short ride to the border, and found 2 Canadian guys there on BMW GS twins. We hooked up together for the crossing, and it sure made things a lot easier to always have someone to stay with the bikes. We did use a helper to point us at the right offices, but it only cost us a few dollars each, and was well worth it. We stuck together untill the first big town, where we were able to get some money from an ATM, and go to a Burger King (YES!) for lunch. After all the chicken and rice shacks I have eaten at on this trip, I am not apologizing to anyone for an American fast food hit. Stainless steel countertops, purified water in the ice maker, toilet paper in the bathrooms, that's what makes America great. The Canadians were planning on being to the tip of S. America, and back to work in Canada by the middle of October. I wish them luck, but that was way too many miles in too short a time for me, so I didn't even suggest staying together for any more of ours trips, besides, I had my house sitting gig lined up.

Lorraine's directions to her place included phrases like "badly potholed", "worst road in Central AMerica", " pray it doesn't rain", and "you might have to wait for the tide to go out", all the kind of things that made it sound like my kind of place. I got there without much trouble at all, really, on Friday afternoon. Her flight was on Monday morning, so that gave me a couple days to bond with the dogs, and have Lorraine show me around the area. The area is really interesting, her house is in a little working fishing village of about a dozen houses, but a few (rough) miles away is a gringofied town, with restaraunts, massage and yoga studios, and like any beach town, bars. The fisherman go out in the afternoon and set nets, then at dawn the next morning they go out to haul them in. One day they gave us a filet off a shark they caught, and another time we got to try some raw oyster, fresh out of the water. With my track record on seafood, I was a little worried about eating this stuff, but no ill effects so far. Fingers crossed.

On Sunday we took the dogs up to a high peneinsula that looks over the ocean for 180 degrees or more. Like a lot of this area, someone bulldozed roads in with the idea of subdividing the property for vacation homes. For some reason it didn't fly, and now it is for sale, $22 million for 150 acres or so. It does have as good a view as I've ever seen, so if you have some spare cash laying around, remember, you heard it here first. While walkin home, Lorraine said she knew a sort cut we could take. We all know how that usually turns out. An hour of shoe sucking mud, lifting
a bicycle over fences, creek crossings and slithering under barbed wire we were back at the house. Went to a restaurant for the first decent steak I've had since leaving the US, so you know this is gringo territory.

This (monday) morning after Lorraine said a tearful goodbye to the dogs, I gave her a ride on the motorcycle, to the bus stop for the ride to the airport. Scheduling a flight on September 11th was either a very good or very bad idea. I haven't heard yet how it worked out. These dogs are treated like kings, so naturally they are traumatized by being seperated from their human mother and I could barely get them to go for a walk this aftenoon. I think they will perk up in a day or 2. So anyway, I am on my own for the next 2 weeks, hopefully I can keep the dogs alive that long. I should be able to study my spanish, and get a little work done on my computer. I do have (slow) internet access here, so if you have any burning questions for me this would be a good time to email me, I doubt if I'll be putting any pictures up from here, but you never know.

Posted by Andy Tiegs at September 12, 2006 02:32 AM GMT

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