We were really disappointed with Boca Sabalos. The Lonely Planet suggested that one could do some bird watching along the two rivers but there was nothing worth staying there for. ‘Town’ was one dusty gritty street leading out, our hostal was a huge, rambling, wooden echo chamber with only a couple other guests at it and we only found one trail that led to the river where there were ladies were doing their washing under a hut. No birds, no jungle… nothing. We spent one night and vacated back to San Carlos. It was almost time to leave Nicaragua anyway and we didn’t want our last night to be in that creepy little town…
It was refreshingly easy to leave Nicaragua. We dragged our bags across the street and were handed a migration form to fill out. Once done we were directed to a line-up of two, it took all of five minutes to get stamped out, pay our departure tax and buy a boat ticket for the two hour trip down the river to Costa Rica.
We made our way down to the boat, now we are technically in No Man’s Land and not allowed to leave the compound. We picked a seat, handed our paperwork to a guy recording names and taking ticket. A girl in the front jumps out of the boat, walks out of the immigration office and returned with two smoothies from the place next door. We do after all, have some time to kill before the boat is to leave.
There are three men on the dock, each one is mouthing numbers as they count how many people are on the boat. It should be easy because there are individual seats and they are all full but they are each coming up with different numbers. The lady next to us has not bought a ticket for her young son, she is not required to but they have counted the tickets and then the people on the boat and the numbers don’t match.
An official in uniform comes onboard and asks to see the exit stamp on each of our passports. He goes through all the passengers onboard and he is no sooner gone than four more people show up. There is a recount and more headshaking as they fill the tank with gasoline. A woman at the front of the boat drops her sandal off and starts cleaning her toenails.
Finally it is time to go, they insist we wear a green camouflage horseshoe lifejacket and we putt off downriver a few hundred feet before there is a near U-turn because they can’t figure out who put one of the bags on the bow. One of the passengers fesses up and the boat straightens out again. The woman up front is sanding off the calluses on her heels.
We are on a river cruise! This river is narrow and the birds on the banks are easily viewed. I pull out my camera. Monkeys and turtles dot the way and we wave at the many people who live along the shores. We are about half way there when they collect our Departure Forms… the wind takes one out of the officer’s hand and it flutters into the water. We are told to put the cameras away and put that lovely horseshoe lifejacket back on.
The boat pulls up to the bank near a military station and we are boarded by two officials, one in the front and one in the back. They want to see our passports. I flash mine and hand Brad his… the official reads mine out loud. “Canadianse, Importante” the people behind me giggle. ‘Show me your bag.’ I unzip my backpack and he says “Nice camera, you could take my photo”. More giggles. They finish with the boat and we are heading up river toward Los Chilis. We know we’re getting close we start passing boatloads of gringos on tour from Costa Rica going the other way. Just as we are docking and I have slid my camera back into the bag we come across the BIGGEST crocodile ever! River Cruise/Border Crossing same thing.
We trundle our bags up the ramp and into the line up to have them searched under a big hut. Just as we are nearing the search table a guy comes up and says ‘just go’. The tables are being dismantled and our bags are no longer important. We are still in ‘no mans land’ because we have stamped out of Nicaragua but not into Costa Rica. The stamp in office is a couple blocks farther down the street. We head off on foot in that direction followed by taxi drivers trying to sell us a cab.
The rest of the day is a bit of a bussy blur. We walked at least another kilometer to the terminal where a bus was idleing and ready to go. Our destination is San Jose but this bus only takes us half way… we drive through miles and miles of green pineapple and orange groves. Banana plantations and up , up through villages in the highlands were it reminds me of home. Green rolling hills and herds of heifers dot the horizon. We are as high as the clouds in the setting sun and it is mesmerizing.
After 11 hours on the road we finally arrive at our hostal in San Jose. We are without local currency because (we discovered) this money was also taken from us when we were robbed on Corn Island. Tired and hungry we go into the busy city streets to find an ATM that will work for us. The day has caught up to me and I find the being back in the city overwhelming. This place has all the same stores as at home and we find that our hostal and a subway supper has cost us triple the price of Nicaragua. I am in tears before bed.