A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: hayden111

Costa Rica to Panama City

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Check out www.haydencarlyonphotography.com for more photos from the trip.

Bridge over the Panama Cannel
After researching the car shipping side of things before we left the US, we decided that it would probably be cheaper and easier to ship out of Costa Rica. But after a week of emails and phone calls, we were getting no where. The best price we could find was $850 for a 20 foot container to Cartagena in Colombia.

The company only provided the container and the ship and we would have to do the rest: get the container to the port, load the car tie it down inside the container with chains etc (god only know how we would have done that) and unload it on the other side. A logistical and paperwork nightmare, that would take days at the ports on either side and would have ended up costing us over $1300 in total.

Finally after 5 days of phone calls, we found a shipping company in Panama City that did RoRo (roll on roll off), which is as easy as it sounds. You drive your car onto the boat, they tie it down to the deck, then you fly to the destination a few days later and pick it up. Of coarse there is still a mountain of paper work but it’s 10 times easier than using a container and a lot cheaper.

The ship was scheduled to leave the following Thursday, so we spent or last night drinking heavily at the local beach bar in Cahuita, before driving the 1000km to Panama City (with a few stops along the way for Alex to puke… what can I say Brazilians just cant hold there alcohol).

As I mentioned Costa Rica really is a beautiful country and not only the scenery, the women are stunning too. By far the most beautiful in Central America and they don’t mind showing it. Cleavage is definitely in fashion in Costa Rica. We spent the night in a small town, where we watched the local Christmas parade, then headed to the Border early Sunday morning.

Ah Panama, finally a country with freeways and a decent speed limit. After crawling through most of Costa Rica at an average of about 50km per hour we flew through panama at well over twice the speed. We made it to Panama City early Monday, found a hotel and started the paper work. It’s a really cool city; busy but a lot more organized and a lot safer than the other capitals in Central America.

We dropped the car off today at the port and it sails to Ecuador tomorrow at 6am. On Friday we will fly to Colombia for the weekend before meeting up with the ship in Ecuador on Tuesday. So we get to spend the weekend in Bogotá... should be interesting… i wish it could be longer..

Posted by hayden111 15:17 Archived in Panama Comments (0)

The six week mark: 5000 miles down 15,000 more to go…

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Before we started the trip we divided it into 3 parts. Mexico and Central America part 1, Columbia to Argentina part 2 and Brazil part 3.

Well part one is slowly coming to an end. We are in Puerto Limon, on the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica, organizing the shipping of the car across the Darien Gap ( 80 miles of impassable jungle controlled by the Columbian drug lords) to Columbia.

I hate to get all sentimental but so far the trip has been everything I expected and so much more. It feels like we have been on the road for a year now and it has been an absolute blur, but I have to admit I absolutely love traveling like this. To be able to go where ever you want when ever you want, in the safety and comfort of your own car really is fantastic. Driving through the beautiful countryside with the sunroof open, wind in your face, avoiding thousands of potholes and random animals on the road. I cant think of a better way to spend a day.

To be honest though, before we left Austin we were incredibly nervous, and the magnitude of the trip itself was hard for us to even comprehend. 15 countries 20,000 miles, 6 months on the road; it is a huge undertaking. I still remember how nervous I was crossing the Mexican border by myself on the first day.

But since then we have been to so many amazing places and met so many nice people along the way, that have been willing to help us with what ever we have needed. Even the border officials who are notorious hard asses have been really cool. One lady at the Honduran Border was feeding us cookies while we filled out the forms for the car, others were shaking our hands or giving us high fives and pulling out maps to show us the best spots for us to check out in their country.

The highlights so far:
• Driving through the Mexican deserts all alone in the middle of nowhere, having the road to myself; no one else around for miles.
• Puerto Escondido’s and the huge waves of the Mexican pacific coast.
• The beautiful colonial town of Antigua and the Pacaya Volcano in Guatemala. I had no expectations of Guatemala but it has been the most surprising country so far. A beautiful place, incredibly friendly people and lots to see and do. Hiking the volcano was definitely one of the best experiences of my life.
• Incredible scuba diving in Rotan Honduras, beautiful white sand beaches and great food.
• Playa Hermosa in Costa Rica, the peaceful beaches and amazing sunsets. In fact every place we have been to here has been great. Costa Rica really is stunning; beautiful country side and lots of strange wild animals, birds, iguana etc. We even get to wake up at 5am every morning to the sound of Howler monkeys screaming at the top of there lungs.

I have to say there is something so fun and beautiful about the randomness of life. You don’t always end up exactly where you intended but its often those unplanned situations and places that are the most rewarding and that you remember the most.

Posted by hayden111 17:44 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (1)

Nicaragua to Costa Rica

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To be fair Nicaragua wasn’t all bad, but with the recommendations from other travelers we had met and our not so trusty guide book; I think our expectations were a little too high. It was a nice enough place to spend a couple of days but nowhere that you go out of your way to see.

A few nice cafes and restaurants, some decent inexpensive food, a scattering of nice churches and old colonial buildings etc, a big dirty polluted lake, a few corrupt police officers to bribe (anyone interested on the official rules of how to bribe police officers in Central America let me know, I am almost an expert) and some of the worst roads I have ever seen.

We spent 2 nights in Granada and 1 night in a town by the beach, close to the border. Early Monday morning we headed to the Costa Rican border, but first we had to exit Nicaragua. As a rule most borders take 1-2 hours to enter with a car and around 10 minutes to exit. Normally its simply a matter of getting an exit stamp in your passport, canceling the car permit and your done, but in Nicaragua it goes a little something like this...

Drive to the immigration office and get a small white piece of paper (an exit permit for the car). Get it stamped 5 times and signed five times by five different people, hidden around the border crossing. Sound easy enough. So who do we get to sign it first?

Border Official: "Go find the guy wearing a white t-shirt with the letters DGA on it”. Tiny letters I might add, a needle in a haystack at a crowded border crossing.

Alex: "Sorry, a guy with a white t-shirt, with what on it? Doesn’t he have an office or something?"

Border Official: "No he’s out there some where, just look around and you will find him."

After wandering around for ten minutes we finally found our guy sitting on a wall in the car park reading a newspaper and smoking a cigarette. He looks at the paper and our passports, stamps the piece of paper signs it.

Alex: "so what next"

Guy with the white t shirt: “find the guy with a blue t-shirt and a gun”

After checking 3 different offices we eventually spotted him in the distance walking across a car park, we chased him down and got our second stamp.

I will spare you the rest of the details but lets just say that this went on for about an hour, when we finally got our 5th stamp and signature and could head to the pit stop where the last team will be eliminated. I’m sure you have all seen the amazing race, it definitely feels like it at times. Definitely an entertaining morning.

After exiting Nicaragua, entering Costa Rica was a breeze. Apart from the 1 hour we had to wait when everything was closed for lunch. Costa Rica is as beautiful as you could imagine, it really is. Its very chilled, there is a lot less poverty, its clean and has a great infrastructure. It's a lot more touristy than the rest of Central America but it makes for a nice change. We drove straight to Playa Hermosa, a beautiful, relatively undeveloped beach on the pacific coast, about 2 hours south of the border.

We spent 4 days in Playa Hermosa to take a much needed break from the road and on Friday drove to Arenal, "the most active volcano in central america" yeah right... We spent a night by a beautiful lake overlooking the volcano and the next day drove to a town at the base of it. That night we went to the backside of the volcano to watch the spectacular fireworks and lava show, which wasn’t so spectacular. I couldn’t even get a picture of it. It was a nice drive though.

Now we are in Limón on the Caribbean coast. Yesterday I went for a hike through the jungle by the beach. The wild life here is incredible. All kinds of monkeys, birds, lizards and some very serious looking snakes, including a yellow tree snake with venom takes less than 5 hours to kill you.
Alex and his new girlfriend
Playa Hermosa, Pacific Coast Costa rica

Posted by hayden111 16:30 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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