Central America, part2

Nicaragua turned out to be everything we hoped to find in Costa Rica: cheap food and accommodations, kind and open locals, and beautiful terrain. Our first stop was the beach town of San Juan del Sur. Perhaps the most touristy stop in Nicaragua, it still wasn’t half as bad as everywhere we were in Costa Rica. We spent 3 awesome days chilling out on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and eating huge, cheap plates of rice and beans. We were in San Juan for the anniversary of the revolution (July 19th) and expected a giant celebration, but found it to be surprisingly quiet. The party turned out to be in the capital.

From the coast we went inland to the city of Granada on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. Our hostel there conveniently had bikes we could use to tour the city, free of charge, so we went on a bike ride along the water’s edge. That’s about all Granada had to offer, besides a couple of beautiful sunsets and delicious bakeries.

The next stop was the capital. Daniela had family friends who said their door was open to us and we took advantage. We spent one night there and left most of our stuff as we headed back out to the beach for one more night. It wasn’t quite my birthday, but it started looking like my actual birthday would be spent on a bus so we celebrated early. Our hosts in Managua recommended a small beach town called Pochomil. It was absolutely perfect. We swam in the ocean for hours, ate delicious food and drank giant cheap beers under the star filled sky. Not a bad way to celebrate a birthday.

Back in Managua we said our goodbyes to Daniela and our hosts, packed up our things, and made our way to the famous Tica Bus around 4 am. Tica Bus runs long distance buses all throughout Central America. We had tickets all the way to Tapachula, Mexico. The ride was about 12 hours one day, a night in San Salvador, and then 12 hours the next day, with a brief stop in Guatemala City. Regrettably, we skipped over loads of amazing things to see, but we had recently realized that our money had started running low and our desire to be back in the states running high. Plus, Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are supposed to be the more dangerous areas of Central America, so we didn’t feel as badly.

Although we didn’t get off the bus much, we still got to see everything we passed. I can tell you that Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala are absolutely beautiful countries- so green, mountainous and lush. We tell ourselves that we are certainly likely to come back to the areas we skipped over to see what we missed. Hold us to it Central America.

We were back in hard trekking mode. After 2 days busing we slept in the border town of Tapachulu, then took an overnight bus to Mexico City. From there we bused all day out to Guadalajara and then took a local bus out to Lake Chapala. Karl’s grandmother, Lorraine, lives with her husband Johnny on the coast of Lake Chapala in the town of Ajijic. We finally made it there by the evening of the 28th and were definitely ready to kick back.

Kick back is exactly what we did. For 5 days we did nothing but sleep in, nap in hammocks, go out for amazing meals with groups of retired ex-pats, and just generally get spoiled by Lorraine and Johnny. We were in the largest ex-pat community in the world and I dare say we got a bit of culture shock going from staying in the cheapest possible hostels to touring multimillion dollar homes and eating gourmet meals to the ambiance of live violin and a stunning view of the lake. Needless to say, we got in plenty of R & R in the few days we visited.

It wasn’t all good. In touring one of those million dollar homes I dropped my camera into an infinity pool. It seemed ironic to see the harsh end of a $200 material object (which has been a huge part of my life for the last 8 months) in a place where $200 is a cheap price tag on dinner for two. But yes, despite my diving in after it as quickly as possible and us drying it out for days, it is still unable to take pictures or videos. A tragedy, I know. Hopefully we will be able to find some alternative to help us document the end of this trip like we have documented the rest. For now, the pictures and videos may be lacking.

Ajijic was our last planned stop and when we left we really set our sights on home- or at least on California. We bused back to Guadalajara and from there all day to Mazatlan. With no overnight ferries out of Mazatlan we had to spend the night. The guards at the ferry terminal were kind enough to let us just sleep on the benches there for free. The heat and bugs made it miserable, but we couldn’t beat the price.

We spent a day lounging on the beach in Mazatlan while we waited for a 4pm ferry across the mouth of the Gulf of California. There was sort of a strange vibe on the boat as it was full of truck drivers and we were the only gringos, but we made friends nonetheless. We got into La Paz, Mexico, the next morning around 10:30 am and the first thing we did was look for a bus out. We were happy to find spots on a 24 hour bus to Tijuana- straight to the border with California.

We explored La Paz a bit, finding food to carry on our bus ride and an internet shop to get in touch with friends we would meet once we got there. The bus ride was long. I think it seemed longer because it was at the very end of such a long trip and we were getting so close to home. The scenery wasn’t bad: deserts filled with cacti on one side and beautiful blue ocean on the other. We passed a few seemingly out of place resorts from time to time- that was strange.

When we reached Tijuana we expected to be facing heavy drug-lord gunfire based on what we’d heard from American warnings. But, of course, like every other place that was supposed to be dangerous, we found it quite peaceful and relaxed. We got a cab to the border crossing and got in an extremely long line to cross.

Crossing over land was the way to go. The whole time in line we were wondering if we’d have to fill out customs forms and list all the countries we’d been to and answer for them and submit to a search through all our things. We didn’t. It was maybe the easiest border crossing of the whole trip. The guy swiped our passports, asked us what we were carrying, and said “okay, welcome back”. That was is. Just like that, back in the states.

Thanks for reading.

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