Monday 10th October
Nicaragua has been a surprise. We all remember the Contra wars in the 80’s and expected there to be some legacy of those times. What we found were some of the best roads and an infrastructure at least as good as anywhere else so far in Central America. The people are friendly and we have been through some great places. Apparently many American ex-pats are moving from Costa Rica to Nicaragua because it is considered safer and cheaper!
We left San Juan bright and early (for us anyway) and rode the 20 miles to the border. We had been advised that the quickest you could hope to get through would be 2 hours but with our track record we were expecting four hours minimum.
At the Nicaraguan side we were besieged by fixers offering their services. We had spoken to a couple of ex-pats who crossed the border regularly and they suggested the use of a fixer was well worth the small cost. They know who to find to get the necessary forms and signatures and plenty are needed at this crossing. So with a little trepidation after our previous experience that’s what we decided to do.
Our fixer on the Costa Rica side.
By the time we completed the process we had been to at least ten different offices, only a couple of which were clearly marked and some others we wouldn’t have found at all without help. In addition signatures had to be obtained from several officials who had no office but just worked in the carparks. 2 ½ hours later we were on the road again. Result.
It went downhill from there on. The rain started as we rode away from the border and it was still bucketing it down when we got to the first sizeable town on our route, Liberia, about 50 miles along highway one (I know we keep talking about the weather but we’re English, so you shouldn't be surprised).
It was tropical rainstorm stuff again and although it wasn’t much fun for us riding, some seemed to be enjoying it.
Enough was enough so we decided to hang up our keys and search for a hotel. We were slowly drowning in the middle of a junction when a car stopped, the window unwound and the driver asked in English if he could help. Amazingly he owned a hotel a couple of blocks away and offered us a room at a very reasonable rate. A stupid or desperate man offering a room to three soggy heaps.
Luck was with us as we walked into a sumptuously furnished hotel that was decorated with modern art and sculptures by his sister Karen Clachar, the Tracey Emin of Costa Rica.
Even the outside of the hotel had been decorated with newspaper cuttings and photos by the artist.
Once again the umbrellas proved our most useful bit of kit as the rain continued to fall monsoon like until well after we put the lights out.