Monday, 9 February 2009

Back and Forth

This Time Last Year

Today was our transfer day to San Jose in Costa Rica. That meant a ride upstream on the Rio San Juan, then upstream on the Rio Negra to Los Chiles and a numbing five hour bus ride to San Jose. A long day.

We were up at 5am and ready to leave at 6pm. We saw our canoes going past on the slow cargo boat back to San Carlos. We sped up the river and arrived in San Carlos at 7.30am and had breakfast in the Mirador. Jim turned up having arrived on his new boat from Solentiname. We said goodbye to Pat and Dorothy who were flying out to Manugua and home to the USA that way.

The rest of us went through customs and got back on our boat to Los Chiles. Luiz was here with the bus and after customs we were on our way by 11am. We had lunch somewhere past Zarcero and arrived in San Jose at 4.30pm.

Manuel and I were going to stay in Santa Ana with friends but it turned out all the rooms were let so Luiz drove us up to the Pico Blanco Hotel in Escazu which is a strangely opulent place in an obscure part of town. It's always empty too. You get superb views though.

In the evening we had our farewell dinner with our guests at a Peruvian restaurant. And the taxi got lost taking us home!

This Time in 2007

This was also a transfer day as we left San Jose in Costa Rica to get to Solentiname in Nicaragua.

I was up at 4.45am but Luis was late picking me up (as usual!). We then went to the San Gildar Hotel in Escazu to pick up my co-guide Carlos and our only guest Lee. This is the first time we run a trip with a single guest. It's going to get strange! Jim was also with us as he was returning to Solentiname. Carolyn was staying behind to recuperate from her back operation.

We left San Jose at dawn and were soon out of the suburbs and climbing the hills. We took a break at Zarcero and looked at the topiary gardens and the amazing pink church. A bit later we stopped for a pancake breakfast. After crossing the mountains we dropped down into Santa Rosa for another stop. We needed cash and peanut butter (for Lee).

Luis got us to Los Chiles in plenty of time for the Collectivo (the public boat), which will take us into San Carlos, Nicaragua. We all negotiate customs successfully except for Carlos who can't get his visa signed. Some cross-border nonsense is going on between Costa Rica and Nicaragua and making life difficult. In fact it takes three days for Carlos to get this sorted out and we have to leave him behind.

At Oscars cafe we had some pineapple juice before wandering down to the dock. the Collectivo doesn't leave at any particular time it leaves when it is full. You can pay extra if you want to ask the driver to leave now! It wasn't going to leave any time soon so we went back to Oscar's for an early lunch. In fact Jim went off to find a private boat as he feared if we waited for this Collectivo then we would miss the Collectivo at San Carlos which is to take us out to the Solentiname Islands. This latter Collectivo only goes twice a week!

That all worked out so we finally left to follow the Rio Negra downstream to Lake Nicaragua. We waved to Carlos as we left him behind! Our private boat was very fast and only took 45 minutes to get to San Carlos. The Collectivo can sometimes take 2 hours!

We get through customs with no problem and the local boys pitch up with a wheelbarrow to help us carry our stuff through the small town to the dock at the other end whre the boats to the islands leave. I notice that the main high street is now paved. It was just dirt a couple of years ago. The Solentiname Collectivo is ready and waiting and so we load our stuff onboard and say hello to those people we recognise. As usual the boat will not be leaving at any specific time so we wander back into town to buy some supplies. We go to the market to get fruit and vegetavles and a dry good store to get water and beer! I get some netting to make butterflky traps!

Eventually the boat gets under way and we have a two and a half hour ride out to the islands. At San Fernando island we unload at the dock of the Albergue Celentiname. I notice that half the dock has slipped into the lake since I was here last. I wonder how long it will take Daniel to repair it?

I have the same cabin I had last time and of course I should be sharing it with Carlos. I wonder what he is doing. Probably having a Kafkaesque experience in getting his visa signed.

After dinner we laze around in the hammocks before knocking off for an early night.