Looking back: what’s happened so far

I am now in Panama and as I am nearing the end of Central America, I thought it was time to put down my thoughts on a few things. I will start from Panama and work my way back.

Well, so far so good. My first impressions of Panama are positive. I had a feeling it would be like that though and that’s maybe why I was looking forward to it. Or maybe because it is the last country before Brazil. The truth is I couldn’t wait to get out of Honduras and Nicaragua.

Honduras was very unimpressive (at least for what I saw) with one exception – La Moskitia. The jungle part of the country accessible only by boat, dirt roads, and plane. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go as the rain made it impossible to move around. The few dirst roads would disappear, the rivers would be hard to navigate, and it wouldn’t have been too enjoyable walking under the pouring rain. I decided to save myself the $400 and head to Panama.

I bought a TicaBus ticket that would take me directly to San Jose, Costa Rica from where I would make my way to the Panamian border. Well, it didn’t happen quite like that. The morning of the trip all buses were cancelled because of the Honduran general elections. The borders were closed. We decided to take our chance and go to the border anyway. We didn’t go through. Nobody did. They wouldn’t even let diplomats and Nicaraguans go through.

We were stuck in the middle of nowhere with no Inet access. Not only it was weekend but also elections day. Everything was closed. We even struggled for food. We tried to make the most of it and went hiking.

We made it to Nicaragua on Monday. I spent the night in the capital Managua. Just like Tegucigalpa (Honduras) it was ugly. I took a shared taxi with four men, two of whom sat in the front seat. We first went to the worst neighbourhood of Managua called ‘Jorge Dimitrov‘ where a teenager was killed the day before. We also stopped at a car store where the driver bought some liquid for the car. The taxi drivers almost everywhere are trying to rip you off charging double the price. it’s always a bargain. At times I have hated them. It can be tiring and frustrating.

Nicaragua’s capital sucks but it seems like the rest of the ountry has a lot to offer. It would make a fine end to my trip.

After all the travelling and all the run-down places I had gone through I was looking forward to something pretty. I didn’t realise how tiring and depressing the ugliness was until I got out of it. It puts you down and sucks the life out of you. Luckily, San Jose (Costa Rica) provided that breath of fresh air I needed so badly. I didn’t expect much of it but it surprised me. It is a pretty capital. Decent buidings and roads, modern conveniences, good night life. I took a direct bus (a bit more expensive) from Managua to San Jose.
Those buses were supposed to help you cross the border efficiently (at least that’s what the book said). Well, it took us 4h – the majority of which we spent on the Costa Rican side queuing for a single stamp. The most tedious border crossing so far. I hate those too.

The little I saw in Costa Rica was beautiful. It is by far the greenest country in Central America. Unlike other countries whee the housing never seems to end (stretching along the road), Costa Rica has vast kilmeters-long jungle areas. It doesn’t get much better than that for fresh air. And it’s beautiful.

Getting to the Panamian border from San Jose was easy – a direct bus! Sweet! Crossing the border was fast but very frustrating. Although I had a visa (€50) they wanted an exit ticket as well. There was only one option – a ticket back to San Jose, Costa Rica ($11).I was so mad about it s I am not going back there (at least not by bus) and it was a complete waste of money. I thought that’s what visas were for! And then to top things off I got talked into paying $5 for a minibus ride hat cost $0.50 on the chicken bus. The guy told me the town was dangerous and it was getting dark. I knew that wouldn’t be the case and I felt uneasy but I had just missed the bus. Surely enough there wasnone of the danger the guy was talking about. it was a one street town with tons of light, people, and shops. The ride only took 30min and there was plenty of daylight as well. I was so mad at myself for taking that ride! Especially when I read the ne chicken bus was only 30min away.

One thing I forgot to mention is that as soon as we left Nicaragua the people’s attitude changed. People in Costa Rica and Panama are much nicer. And some of them even do it jus for he sake of it! Everyone seems to be the same when it comes to throwing rubbish on the street though. Frustrating and disappointing.

Now a bit about how I have felt so far. I have been good. I was sad when I left Mexico, not even sure I wanted to do this. The first couple of weeks were lonely, my spirits were down. Things changed when I started meeting people. I have met some fun people, some magical people, some utterly unmemorable and unexciting people, some nice but bragging people. Most locals have been very nice and helpful. It’s amazing how easy it is to travel (alone) once you are one the road. It only takes that first step. So far I have found it easy. Speaking Spanish has definitely helped a lot.

I enjoy seeing pretty places and doing cool things. And I really enjoy the actual travelling. Some of the rides (bus or boat) are very scenic but even if that’s not the case I enjoy getting completely lost in my thoughts. I had felt the happiest on a bus on two occasions. You feel free and powerful, able to do anything you want.

One disturbing occurence (fact) is that despite all the beauty that surrounds me, all the great activities, it is somehow not enough. You get used to it and start wanting better (not necessarily more just better). A more beautiful place or a more envigorating activity. Something unique, something that nobody else has done before. Some of the places I have visited (unless completely new to me) have felt like ‘been there, done that’ despite their beauty. I have been indifferent. I remember being completely indifferent when I jumped off that 10m rock into the river (Guatemala). I kinda did it in an attempt to feel something. I have also noticed that the more reckless the activity, the more it appeals to me.

One thing that hasn’t changed so far is: I miss Mexico. There is always something reminding me of it. And as it was the first Latin American country I had ever gone to, it would always have a special place in my heart.

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