Circumference of the World
Nicaragua was only the 8th country on my journey, but it had taken 2 years and 40,015km (the circumference of the earth) to get there.
As El Salvador and Honduras before, Nicaragua proved to have little to offer which could not be found in Mexico or Guatemala. After leaving Mexico people have been progressively less friendly and open, the food less tasty, roads less curvy, and the landscape less impressive. Maybe it was because I had been on the road for so long, maybe it was the loneliness, or perhaps the residual weakness of dengue that plagued my time in Nicaragua, but whatever it was I had to work at staying alert, staying interested and engaged in what was going on.
Nicaragua flew by in the glimpse of a couple of weeks. There were a few highlights, but little to keep me there for long. Ometepe Island, with its twin volcanoes was a lovely retreat. I finally found good food, and passed the time with other intrepid travelers. San Juan del Sur was an exceptional place, with some of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen. It was my last stop in Nicaragua and I treated myself to a nice hostel, with nice food, and a view of the Pacific from the top of a seaside mount.
And as quick as I had surfed down a volcano in Leon, walked the colonial streets of Granada, rode around Ometepe, and played with the resident monkey at the Oceanside hostel, I was heading for the Costa Rican border.
I was caught in the rain again upon entering Costa Rica, and by the time I arrived at my host’s place near the beach I was sick. The dengue destroyed my immune system and any tolerance for strange food that I had developed so that every bit of rain made me sick and every meal made me nauseas. I was in for a rude awakening when I went to the market to buy some fruit and ended up paying $40 for a bag barely big enough to last a few days. It felt like being back in New York. Costa Rica is in fact the most expensive place in Central America. Once I was healthy there was little else I could do but ride around as park entrances and activity fees were astronomical (for me). If you are on a 2 week vacation, and going back to a decent job, Costa Rica is not expensive, but when you live on a motorcycle with no income for years on end the lovely tourist trap is a huge drain.
Costa Rica is a lovely country, with some of the biggest bio-diversity in the world. It is a tiny strip of land that is home to thousands of species of flora and fauna. I wanted so badly to go on tours and see incredibly colorful, and rare, birds and reptiles and sea mammals, but the budget only allowed me a glide through the canopy. In truth I’m not sure I could have handled anything more. By the end of the first week I knew I had to do something to recover from the dengue, so I bought a ticket to fly to the states and recover at my mother’s house.
On my way to stay with David, a guy I had met during Dia de los Muertes in Mexico, my clutch cable broke while riding up a hill. I managed to flag someone down and use his phone to call David. Within an hour he, his father and neighbor were there to pick me up with a truck. We lifted Georgia up (no small feat – she’s a big girl) onto the back of the truck and brought her to David’s place where she would await my return from the states. David’s family welcomed me in as though I were a lost son, and all my pain seemed to disappear while staying with them. David’s brother gave his bunk and went to sleep with his parents. It was a tiny, humble house which did not represent the hard work of David’s father rather the persistent inequity between the classes in Latin America. The medium standard of living in Costa Rica is higher than other places, but for those who do not work in tourism the gap between the lower and middle classes still appears insurmountable. Of course that was not something I was made to feel while staying with them, they allowed no sign of poverty while we ate and passed the time together.
After a few days with my new Costa Rican family I boarded a plane to Minneapolis to recover and visit my mother. I wish I knew then that it would be the last time I would see her, the last time I would hold her face in my hands, the last time I would listen to her stories and eat her incredible cooking. I wish I knew…