Costa Rica was a great long weekend break for us back in November when we needed to renew our Nicaraguan visas. The border was vague to say the least, as there’s literally nothing to stop you bypassing passport control by strolling past the building on the the busy road next to it. What we saw of Costa Rica was really beautiful, though it felt super touristy in comparison to Nicaragua. The buses are big, run on time and have a seat for every person, people have a healthy diet, there was PROPER TEA WITH MILK and everything just sort of…worked! After 3 months in Nicaragua it felt weirdly like being back in Europe.
We visited the cloud forests of Monteverde and hung out with hummingbirds, which came so close they sounded like tiny motorbikes whizzing past our ears. I spent a massive amount of time standing very still pretending to be a tree in the vague hope that a tired hummingbird would come and sit on me. Eventually a local man took pity and explained I should hold my fingers next to the feeder, at which point all the different species took it in turns to perch on me. It was amazing to see them up that close – who knew some humming birds had hairy legs?!
We spent the rest of our time larking around on cloud forest walkways, and did some hikes up to viewpoints looking out over the volcano-filled landscape to the sea. Our favourite slang we heard out there was ‘Pura Vida’ (‘Pure Life’, meaning ‘Cool’) and ‘Hijo de puta!’ (‘Son of a wh**e’), which is used affectionately between friends, and surprisingly often by little old ladies. It doesn’t seem to be insulting as far as we could tell…
Security was way tighter on the border travelling back northwards into Nicaragua, as on the Costa Rican side there are Red Cross camps filled with hundreds of African migrant workers trying to get to the USA. Seeing news stories hadn’t quite prepared us for the strangeness of seeing the camps right in front of us, with people filling the roadsides and patiently waiting for an opportunity to head northward, one border at a time.
El Salvador was recently christened the world’s most deadly country outside of a war zone, but it was so beautiful and the people so unbelievably friendly that we were sorry we hadn’t planned more time there. We only went to 2 spots as we tore through before Christmas; the surfer beach of El Tunco (named after a rock called ‘the pig’ in local language, which looks nothing remotely like a pig) and the mountain villages near Juayua. In El Salvador we saw a huge increase in gun presence compared to further south; they have guards with shotguns on every street and even to guard the fried chicken shops.
As we tend to arrange most of our lives around food, we made sure we arrived in Juayua in time for their famous weekend food festival. The main square turns into an enormous BBQ of mystery meat served on enormous platters alongside various spiced vegetables, salads, and stealthy jalepenos that kept sneaking up on Nick. We inexplicably but brilliantly drank a pineapple ground up and put back inside a pineapple, tried riguas (sweet dish of maiz and banana with, randomly, cheese) and accidentally ordered a pile of chilli sauce in a cup of ice due to general confusion and fascination with the man’s ancient ice grinding machine.
Also, on the subject of food (for a change), we are completely enamoured with Salvadorian pupusas; delicious corn patties stuffed with various fillings, fried, and served with cabbage salad and spicy picante. We don’t have any photos of these as we always get too excited about eating them to remember to take any. We didn’t see any trace of violence during our visit as we kept to the centre in the villages and only took buses during the day, although while we were there several tourists were robbed at machete point after wandering off into the countryside without a guide.
Honduras is supposed to be beautiful, but unfortunately we slept through almost all of it! In our defense it was very early in the morning and we did wake up briefly to agree the mountains were very pretty before crashing out again. The Honduran borders win the informality prize for our journey so far. We managed to go through passport control on both sides of the country without having to face a customs official or set foot on Honduran soil. It seems that for the princely sum of $2 extra, our bus driver had greased the bureaucracy wheels and essentially smuggled us through without anyone checking we weren’t infamous criminals. If you ever find yourself on the run, you may want to swing by…
Hasta la proxima!
P.S. More of both of our photos: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nickd1984/albums