By time we had made it through our hellish day of Honduras, it was pretty late at night. At the Nicaraguan border they told us there was a hotel just a few miles down the road, so we drove on with our one headlamp, and pulled into the first hotel that we found. When we pulled in we saw two other cars of travelers that we had met at the Honduran border were there as well. One car belongs to a cool group of guys from Argentina. The five of them are driving from the US back to Argentina, surfing and sightseeing along the way. The other car belonged to two girls from the US who were driving to Panama.
At the hotel, we sat around talking about our border experiences and our traveling experiences in general. After our day with the corrupt Hondurans, it was nice to see other travellers with similar experiences. On a funny side note, Luis was kind enough to lock the keys in our hotel room. He went to the manager and asked if she had a spare, in a very friendly way she said “No, but don’t worry.” She walked to the room, proceeded to remove the air conditioning unit from the wall, stuck her hand in and opened the door. We all looked at each other and in our exhaustion laughed heartily for a few minutes.
The next morning we all went our separate ways. We were the last to get on the road, and after driving for about an hour and half, we came upon two traffic cops who immediately waved us to the side of the road. As we were pulling over, we were surprised to see our Argentinean friends already pulled over, and they seemed to be in the middle of a heated argument with one of the cops. The other cop immediately came to our window and informed us that we had passed on a double line which is illegal and that we had to pay a fine. We got out of the car to see what was going on, and after talking with the other guys we soon found out that they were in the same boat. They had argued with the cop for a while before we had arrived over the same violation, and had insisted that the cop write them a ticket if they had to pay a fine rather than paying on the spot. The harassed cop was just then writing the ticket. Seeing that we knew the guys that were the object of his ire, the cop didn’t even bother talking to us about our situation, he just wrote us the same ticket and informed us that we would have to drive back to the town we had passed (about 20 minutes back the way we had come), go to the bank and pay the fine, then turn around and bring the receipt back to him, at which time he would return the drivers licenses which he was holding on to. It all made for a pretty hilarious situation, because after our experience at the border the day before we weren’t in the most lenient frame of mind towards cops, and as the cop was writing the tickets we all continued to harass him a bit, taking out our cameras and taking photos of them and pointing out to him every time a car passed on the double lane (which happens often). I don’t think the cops were very happy to be dealing with us.
Once Luis and one of the Argentinians returned from paying the fine, we continued as a convoy to Granada. We made it there by early afternoon after only having one more run in with Nicaragua’s finest (this time we weren’t doing anything illegal, the cop just wanted money and we refused to give it so he let us go). We were on a tight schedule due to the fact that we had to meet friends in Costa Rica so we didn’t have time linger in this beautiful city. Granada is a very quaint city, located on Lake Nicaragua. There is a beautiful big park in the center of town, full of trees and plenty of benches to sit and take in the scene, which is surrounded by the old church and other colonial buildings. We walked around a bit in the evening and enjoyed the atmosphere of the old town. The next morning before we left we walked down to the lake. The lake is so big it looks more like the ocean and even has small waves like the ocean.
That day we headed south and out to the coast to the town of San Juan del Sur. We had read that this was a nice beach town and a popular surf spot. When we arrived in San Juan del Sur, we weren’t all that impressed. The town looked like it had been too developed for tourist standards and expat residences. We decided to head north along the coast to find a place to camp. We ended up driving about 15 miles or so north to Playa Matilda. It is a tiny area with no stores or big fancy hotels, but it has a beautiful beach and coastline, and around the point is a good surf break. We were able to camp across from a hostel right on the beach. That night was nature night at the beach, as we were treated to the sight of different size and kinds of crabs running around the beach and cicadas molting everywhere. The cicadas look like little aliens being born as they molt out of their skins, a little freaky looking. Apparently that night was cicada molting fest, because the next morning we found there discarded skins hanging everywhere, including the tires of the Landcruiser.
After only a couple of days in this beautiful country, we had to make a break for Costa Rica to meet our friends. So we found ourselves at yet another border crossing the next morning. The paper work for getting out of Nicaragua turned out to be pretty easy, but getting to the border in the first place was quite a challenge. Starting about 5 miles (yes you read that right, 5 miles) from the border, there were semis lined up and parked on the road blocking the lane to the border. We ended up driving the last 5 miles on the wrong lane, constantly diving in and out of the parked trucks to avoid oncoming traffic. I couldn’t believe how long the line of trucks was. Those poor truck drivers must have to sit there for days before they finally make it across the border. And we thought our 9 hours at the Honduran border was bad!