Thursday, 2 October 2014

0109 Stuck in No-Man's Land between Countries !!

We found our French friends Greg and Estelle camping outside when we came out of our room to pack up the car so had a chat with them about our adventures over the last few days, and then we set off down the beautiful road towards the border, about 30 kms away to the south.  We thought we would get there about 9.30 am so that even though it was Sunday, we would get through in plenty of time to get down to San Jose, well into Costa Rica.  We anticipated no problems at the border – After all, this was Costa Rica, the country where many expats live comfortably and easily, so they would be more worldly and sensible down here than in more northern Central American countries.     W-R-O-N-G !!!!   In fact, how wrong can one be ?!!!

Getting out of Nicaragua was easy – We picked a man to help us, and we were finished within about half an hour.  Just the usual filling out of forms and going to a multitude of windows.  Total cost was about $6 in municipal taxes.   This was going to be a breeze.  We have done enough border crossings now that we understand the system and what to do.

Having exited Honduras and cancelled our car permit so we cannot return to Honduras, it was off into no mans land between the two countries – First item being the obligatory fumigation with a spray of disinfectant – This time no charge !  Things are looking up !  Then we wandered through the maze of turnings, all un signposted of course, searching for the next clue – Ah, there it is – A tiny blue sign half hidden by a tree, saying “Aduane” (customs).  Parked the car and joined a line of passengers off a big bus, but within 10 minutes or so we were though, and our passports stamped to enter Costa Rica for 90 days.  Back outside to arrange car insurance and a vehicle inspection.  Gave all the required copies etc to the man in the window, and waited.  And waited. And waited.  “Uno momento” he said.  No problem, said I.  And we waited.

Finally (like an hour or more later), he advised us that there was a problem with the Insurance – They did not want to cover a right hand drive vehicle as it was FAR too dangerous to drive on the roads of Costa Rica. But it was probable that the manager would approve it, but as it was Sunday the Manager was not working, so we would have to wait until Monday morning when he came to work.  As you might imagine, there was considerable discussion about the number of other right hand drive vehicles that we know personally that have come through Costa Rica, but it was as if we were the first RH drive vehicle they had ever seen.  Brick wall, was what we were up against.  They told us we could go off to a hotel in the next village for the night – But we couldn’t take the car !!   Very long story short, after Greg and Estelle had arrived and got through, and Ravi on his motorcycle had got through, we were setting up in the car park, adamant that our car was our casa, and that we would just camp there until 6 am tomorrow.  The deck chairs came out, we made a cup of tea, and sat in the rough dirt car park in front of Troopie, and read our books !  With lots of buses and people walking past us as they went in and out of the customs offices, you can imagine we stood out just a little, sitting on deck chairs in the car park !!  No skin off our nose – We have no plans for the next couple of days anyway !!

By about 4 pm or so, a man came along and started talking to us in Spanish, saying he was the Manager and taking photos of not only my documents but also of the steering wheel in the car on his mobile phone.  Then he went off and a few times others came to tell us “How serious our problem was – It is just not possible to drive a RH drive car in Costa Rica”  - apparently !!  As it got dark, we set the van up for the night, and I cooked our supper – A delish Spag Bol.  And just as it was almost ready on the stove, hot and steaming, and it was getting dark, the boss man came back and said they had decided to give us a special pass to proceed directly through Costa Rica, giving us 2 days to get to Panama.  I accepted this, and then he said “But you must leave NOW”.    He had previously said we could leave in the morning as I had told him I did not want to drive in the dark as that really would be dangerous !  But now, with hot spaghetti bubbling in the saucepan, he told us to pack up and leave NOW !!  What a joke.  Anyway, he gave us 20 minutes, and so we packed up quickly, tied a towel round the hot saucepan of spaghetti, and after a bunch more paperwork, we set off in the darkness to ………… We weren’t quite sure !  There were no real towns nearby – All we knew of was a place called La Cruz.

Driving in the dark over here is just NOT ON.  Too many potholes, cows, dogs, people on the road, and some cars even drive with their lights OFF because they think it enables them to see other cars better !! (And these people are worried about a RH drive car ???!!!)  Anyway, we reached La Cruz, no hotels, tiny little place – Saw a Police station and went to ask them, and they pointed over the road to a fairly run down gas station – So over the road we went.  The guy there didn’t seem to excited to see us, but pointed up the back and said Si, so we went and parked up the back.  We ate some of our spaghetti which was not only still piping hot, but also very tasty, and then we went to bed in the gas station !!  It had been a long and frustrating day, but at least we were in Costa Rica.
Pics here :

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