The Writers' Roundup is on vacation until I reconnect with my Google Reader in late February. I need a break from RSS! If you really miss it, you can always browse old Writers' Roundups; they may be old, but they're still bursting with information.
My lover travel gave me the best Valentine’s Day gift ever — a border crossing.
Border crossings fascinate me because life can be so different on two sides of an artificial line.
On the Nicaraguan side, trucks lined up for nearly a mile waiting for inspection so they could deliver their goods into Costa Rica. People rode in beat-up taxis and chicken buses (aka old American school buses), and paid their fares in cordobas (200 = $1).
But once we walked into Costa Rica, the buses turned into coaches, relative luxury. This is, no doubt, the wealthier country. In many parts, dollars are used as often as colones, the local currency (500 = $1).
Here’s the other reason I love crossing a border: it means I’m deep inside a region, in the thick of local culture. It means I’m really experiencing the place. Most tourists don’t cross borders — we usually fly from one place to another, and don’t get far enough from the airport to cross into a neighboring country. But literally walking from one country into another is one of the most interesting travel experiences out there.
Exiting Nicaragua and entering Costa Rica required at least half a dozen passport checks. First we paid a municipal tax to leave, then waited in a short queue (and in the rain) to cross the road toward Nicaragua’s exit building, where we got exit stamps and exchanged the last of our cordobas for colones. (If you think it’s confusing to go from your currency to that of another country, try figuring out the exchange rate from the country you’re leaving to the country you’re entering.)
Then we walked across a parking lot and literally across the boder into Costa Rica:
Once across the border, several sets of border police checked our passports alongside the road until we entered a building, where we waited in a line for our entry stamps. Soon we were sitting on a coach bus, waiting in comfort for a ride to the nearest city, Liberia.
Of course, we could’ve boarded a bus in Nica with 40 other tourists and been ushered through this entire process…
But where’s the fun in that?