TuesdayWe drove onto the van onto the ferry with much less hassle this time—between the more competent workers on the Rey del Cocibolca and the fact that we were the last vehicle in a row, so we didn’t have to make more room for any others. The Rey del Cocibolca is the largest, nicest vehicle ferry that they have. I had also heard that it was the most expensive. But, they charged us much less than the Milton Arcia. I can’t remember the exact totals between the tickets and the taxes and everything, but it was like US$25 or less as compared to the US$30 on the other boat. Additionally, inside they had booths everywhere and a bakery/convenience shop downstairs. Very nice. I definitely recommend this boat over the others if it is convenient, especially since its port on the island is closer to where tourists go.
Only once turning the wrong way down a one-way, we made it safely back onto the Pan-American highway, where we proceeded to the Nicaragua/Costa Rica border. This border was a bit in disarray. You could tell that they were working on putting a nice, new drive and checkpoint, but it was still in progress. As a result, there were fences and “detours” up everywhere. We didn’t know where to go. The road went off to the right where there seemed to be some shops, but there wasn’t any customs or immigration buildings there, and it didn’t sound like what was described in our guide. So we pulled over to discuss our options. As always, the guys desiring to be guides flocked to swamped our vehicle. They told us the way we were going was for taxis, but we managed to offend them with Jonathan telling them off and closing the window. So we went to the fenced off area. There wasn’t a booth or anything and there wasn’t anyone standing there looking official. A semi pulled up through it from the other direction, though, and a guy went out to meet him. So we thought we would give it a shot.
We pulled up and we were waved to stop by guys in official-looking shirts. They did the customary ask for passports and vehicle permit. We then asked them where we needed to go next. He directed us past the buildings to the other side of the duty-free shopping area. We pulled into a parking spot and immediately a custom’s agent inspected our vehicle and signed our vehicle permit. Next up was a policeman’s signature. This one was interesting to find as there were tons of people milling around and the policemen didn’t have a booth. We did spot him relatively quickly though. When we asked where to go next, he pointed inside the building next to him. It was filled with all kinds of touristy-things like vehicle insurance and a information booth and one lady with a computer with someone in the seat in front of her. We weren’t sure where to go, but the lady at the information booth said we needed to go around the building and get our passports stamped, so we went that way. After paying our exit fees and taxes (total $3pp), we didn’t know where else to go, so we thought we would try leaving. As we started driving towards Costa Rica, we found another customs agent. We decided to ask the agent if we were missing any signatures. He looked it over and informed us we were missing the one at the window and sent us back.
We parked and as I opened the door, I managed to break the door handle. Well, not really break, but I didn’t know at the time. The handle released and went perpendicular to the door (not a normal position) and the door wouldn’t open. Oh joy… I have skills. Jonathan had to come over and open the door for me and after that he was distracted by fixing it. So I went and found the other customs agent we had seen here and asked him to show me where I needed to go for the last signature. He kindly walked me back into the room with the touristy-stuff and pointed to the lady with the computer. I should have known. Of course, this time, she had a line of about 3 people and they were coming into Nicaragua, which meant longer processes. In fact, I waited there long enough for Jonathan to come find me after he had already taken apart the door and reassembled it. That was probably good timing as I don’t know if they would have given me the exit stamp without Jonathan (the driver) being there as well.
Loaded down with all our stamps, we were finally able to go to the Costa Rica’s side. As we crossed the line, a police officer took our canceled permit. Then we followed the signs for Costa Rica and fumigation. After fumigation was supposed to be someone to collect money, but no one was there, so we kept going forward. We found the immigration and customs area and parked. At the immigration booth, the ladies there asked for a copy of our cancelled Nicaraguan vehicle permit (apparently we were supposed to make a copy, but I didn’t as I had promised myself I wouldn’t until asked). Well, we didn’t have a copy. They looked at each other with the “eye” and I was concerned we would be in trouble. They asked if we had any other evidence of the direction we came, so I provided them the Nicaraguan insurance. They accepted that (and returned it) and let us go. We always try to verify what we have been told in our guides and such, and we asked the immigration ladies where we go next for our vehicle permit. They said the customs agent across the street, our guide said that was incorrect. Well, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to ask since there wasn’t anyone in line there. He verified what was in our guide. So, we walked over to the other customs area.
At first we weren’t sure where to go, but semi drivers were kind enough to point us in the right direction. We finally arrived in the right area, but we weren’t sure which window or do to go to. One lady selling things said to go around and inside, but when we went there, they directed us back out to the window with a lady sitting at it. She was selling the insurance. It was now US$35 instead of the US$17 we had heard. We had also heard they accepted córdobas (Nicaraguan money), dollars, and colones (Costa Rican money), but they only accepted the last two. I didn’t have enough dollars and Jonathan couldn’t find his wallet, so we had to walk all the way (300m) back to the van to either find Jonathan’s wallet or find a bank. We didn’t see where the bank was, but we did find some emergency money we could use. So we walked all the way back. We paid for the insurance and then the lady directed us to where we could get the required copies. We got the copies then walked back over to the first customs area. The guy reviewed the paperwork, put it in order, then walked out to the van with us to inspect it. Along the way, he complimented me on my Spanish, the fact that I could conjugate and such. Yay for me! Although I know half the time I communicate with less sense than a two-year-old when I get flustered, which is often with these border crossings.
But, we weren’t done yet. He gave us the ok to go back to the 2nd customs area. This time we got to go to the inside area we tried to go earlier and we drove this time. We managed to be first in line and shortly after, we were clear to go.
As we drove along the highway, we were pulled over at a police checkpoint. They asked for our passports. Apparently they try to add all tourists into their systems, so the brought a form over for Jonathan to sign and we helped them understand our first and last names on our passports. They filled out a form and then let us go. I think they also radioed the next station along the route to let them know they had already gotten us.
Finally free to go, we pulled back on the road to find our campsite.
To be continued on “A Hop, A Skip, and a Jump” (coming soon).