Let me just start by saying that we did not partake in the two excursions that topped our to-do list in Ecuador: Galapagos and Amazon. That being said, when planning this trip I also
imagined myself reading oodles of books, working my way to enlightenment through daily meditation practices, writing religiously in my journal, and sculpting my body with morning yoga and workout
sessions. So far I have read one book, am just as far away from enlightenment as I was before departure, have a collection of scribbled notes outlining how my days were spent, and have lost
a good amount of the fitness I once had to white starches and cheap beer. Just as reality has made a mockery of my pre-trip naïveté, so did it with our Ecuadorian plans.
You know those experiences you have that you just wish you could bottle up and save for later? Maybe you'd keep it in a small jar in your cubbard and add a pinch to your soup when you're
feeling down. Or maybe you'd keep it in your medicine cabinet, ready to sprinkle into the hot bathwater when you're feeling tense. Our time in Colombia has been filled with such
experiences. If we could preserve it, it would provide years worth of uplifting, tranquil, and beautiful extract.
When I think back on our time in Costa Rica and Panama, I shutter. This reaction is not exactly fair to these beautiful countries and is not indicative of the actual experiences we had IN
them. The feeling instead stems from the ridiculous experiences we had at the border crossings entering into and exiting these southernmost Central American countries. Below I invite
you onto the rollercoaster. I will begin with our headache inducing day crossing from Nicaragua to Costa Rica, sandwich in some uplifting photos and stories of our highlights traveling
through, and end with our two day debacle getting onto the ferry over to Colombia. Enjoy the ride!
One would think that by our seventh border crossing we would have the process down, but our attempt to exit Nicaragua and enter Costa Rica proved that theory to be incorrect. We arrived at
the border on the morning of January 27th, excited to return to the country where we had honeymooned three years ago. We were immediately stopped by officials who inspected our passports
and Nicaraguan bike permits. They gave us a form partially filled out with our licence plate numbers and a signature and waved us forward. "Estamos terminado con las motos?" I asked,
wondering if we had just experienced the easiest exit process for our vehicles. "Si", he replied, and sent us off to get our passports stamped.
We rode 100 meters down the road to the immigration building feeling pretty good about how this was going so far. As Jay stayed with the bikes, I threw myself into the hoard of people
packed into a waiting area grossly undersized for the amount of people waiting to get permission to leave the country. I started to fight my way into the preschoolers version of a line,
until I realized I had to pay the exit fee before getting the stamp. I scrambled back through the crowd to the bullet proof booth to pay the $2, then returned to the line to wait...and
wait..and wait. 45 mintues later it was my turn. I stepped up to the window, slid both me and Jay's passports through and was informed that Jay had to be there in person to verify his
identity. Not willing to be pushed back to the end of the line, I yelled aross the crowd and wildly flailed my arms to get Jay's attention. He wound his way through the thick mass to
show his face to our not so friendly immigration officer behind the glass. Satisfied that the passport matched the gringo, he requested 90 Cordobas. Not expecting another exit tax, I
showed him our receipt and explained that we had paid already. "Es diferente", he replied and once again demanded the 90C. With a roll of my eyes, I forked over a 100 Cordoba bill.
"No tengo cambio." I've heard this phrase so many times that it's on my list of possible titles if we ever write a book about our Latin American advenutres. Yet, it never siezes
to amaze me that these people doing business solely in cash would not carry the denominations to be able to give appropriate change. Even more baffling is that the burden lies with the
customer to figure it out! He indicated that he would go ahead and hold onto our passports until we got exact change. Jay ran off with this mission as I stepped aside, holding our
place in line and keeping my eyes on our passports.