From Alaska to Tierra del Fuego

Borders

just after I wrote about losing things, I lost something again. This time it was my wash-bag and at first I thought losing my toothbrush is not so wild. Then I remembered that this where I hid my spare credit card. Still, I thought I can notify the bank, not worth going back to Costa Rica for. I laid back on my bed, having retired early as I wanted to hike the volcano Baru the next day, just to sit up again.
My jewelry case was in that bag. And in that case the silver cross that used to belong to my mom. It was pretty much the only piece of jewelry she wore every day and there was no question that I would let it be lost, if I can go back to get it.
I crossed back into Costa Ricathe next day, and crossing the border I thought I could give a little insight about border crossing in Central America.

Going by foot over the border always follows the same system, one finds the immigration office of the country one comes from, gets an exit stamp, pays exit fees if applicable, crosses the border on foot, find the immigration on the other side and gets an entry stamp, again paying for tourist cards, or entry fees.
Having small dollar notes with you is handy, the money changers use a rate far from what is said on the net, but are often the only way to change currency from the country you are coming from(I was stuck with pesos all through Guatemala and finally changed then on the border to Honduras). Make sure you change after you have paid the exit fee...

Here are the borders I crossed.

Mexico to Guatemala over Rio Usumacinta
Mexico immigration is on one side of the river, Guatemala on the other. Get your passport stamped before going on the boat. As I described before the bus driver and border official extorted money from us. Slightly scary and frustrating.

Guatemala to Honduras in El Florido
Nothing special happened here, walkover border as described above. Fines were all the official fines, we got a receipt and everything. I think it was 2 dollar to leave and 3 to enter.

Honduras to Nicaragua at Las Manos
The border itself was the same as Guatemala to Honduras, nothing out of the ordinary. There was a 2 dollar exit fee from Honduras (if you go by plane this becomes 35!) and the tourist card to Nicaragua was staggering 10 dollars. I guess they need the money. We got a receipt, so it was legit.
I did meet the slowest border official in the world, instead of giving us the entrance forms to fill out (like at every other border) he filled them out himself, checking every entry three times. He even managed to stamp slowly. For some reason one does not get a stamp in the passport, but a bunch of papers.
The annoying thing about this border were the two British girls I crossed with. They complained about everything, having to wait, having to pay ("they should pay us for coming here" they said.).
When we got on the bus to Esteli I sat myself away from them, before I could say something rude.

Nicaragua to Costa Rica
This was the most stressful border, not because it is fuller than the others, but because everyone kept hassling me. As soon as I got out of the bus a tourist guide jumped on me, pulling me to the immigration, talking excitingly and pressing the exit form in my hand. Meanwhile money changers were waving wads of money at me.
After I got my exit stamp, I tipped the guide, hopeing to get rid of him, but he was replaced by a lady from the bus company, pulling me towards the bus. I was busy putting the money away I had exchanged, trying to follow her at the same time, missed a step and fell flat on my face.
Everything fell out of my hand, I was afraid for my passport for a second, but Nicaraguans are nice, everyone helped me up and was concerned I had hurt myself, passport and money all staying with me.
When I arrived at the bus I had to wait 15 min for it to leave.

On the Costa Rica side I had to buy a bus ticket back to Nicaragua to be allowed to enter, which I disgruntled me even more. The nice American lady sitting next to me on the bus told me to roll with it after all I was on holiday in a beautiful country and I can't change it anyway. I noticed I was turning into the English girls, which shut me up quickly.

Costa Rica to Panama
This is the border I will be crossing for the third time today, as just retrieved my wash-bag. And lucky it is. This border is fun, it is a free zone, which means it is riddled with malls, little shops and food stalls. The whole atmosphere has something of an amusement park, Costa Ricans and Panamians coming here to shop. And migration is quick and hassle free on both sides, border officials being used to people coming over for a day.
The ticket I had to buy in Costa Rica has been useful, to enter again into Costa Rica and also to enter into Panama, as I need a return ticket for that as well, and for some reason a ticket from San Jose (CR) to Managua (Nic) seems sufficient.



San Cristobla de las casas

High expectations will backfire, sometimes not knowing anything about the place you are going means you are going to be amazed by what you find. But more about Flores when I get to writing about Guatemala. A lot of people have told me that San Cristobal is awesome, beautiful, the best town in Mexico etc. I found a quite pretty tourist town in which it was raining all the time. It did not help that my stomach bug had grown in intensity over the past two days, probably due to some strawberries I had bought on the market and not washed well enough. They were pretty much some of the best strawberries I have ever eaten though. So I ran a lot through the rain from my room to the toilet and updated my blog. I did make it to the market and saw beans in every colour imaginable.

I also went to the anthropological museum "Na Bolom", but did not manage to go on a tour to a village with them, due to my toilet problem. When I got better I decided to flee the rain and the cold and went to Palenque. The ruins were nice and our guide (I was bunking with three Australian guys, who probably thought I was the most boring German they have ever met, as they went to party every night, while I was still nursing my stomach) really knew his Mayan history and he reassured us that the world is not going to end in December. Apparently Mayans think in circles, a day is a circle, a month, a year etc, always ending and beginning anew and in December, when our sun is in the centre of the universe a new circle is beginning. Which means I will have to find a job after my travels. Damn.
From Palenque I visited Yaxchilan



and Bonampak,



one site which is only accessible by boat and another famous for it's murals:





Posted on 25 Apr 2013, 3:51 - Categories: Mexico


Around Mexico city



as I said before, the public transport system in (and as I found out around) Mexico city is very user friendly, even for a Gringa like me.
One day after I arrived in the city I went to Teotihuacan by bus, the challenge was to remember the name and to pronounce it correctly. There are a surprising number of similar sounding places around. I found the right bus and even aided another more confused looking Gringo. He turned out to be French, which did not surprise me as he had the same backpack as me; Quechua.
Yes, I do not have Jack Wolfskin gear.

We decided to climb the pyramids together, which turned out to be hot and difficult, the Teotihuacano must have had long legs and really small feet or the civilisation died out because their leaders kept falling down the pyramids. After a long climb I made it up the pyramid of the sun and although I usually do not like having my picture taken, I wanted proof I made it up:



After climbing the sun, we decided we also have to go up the moon, but as the top was closed this was not as an impressive feat, but gave us a good view over the compound.



After all this climbing stairs in the sun, we decided to watch other people move for a change and watched quite a lot of traditional dancing going on in the city:



One lady selling souveniers took a video with her phone of the Atztec shaman dancing in front of the catholic cathedral:



In the end we could not help ourselves and joined in some Salsa dancing in the park.

Posted on 25 Apr 2013, 3:56 - Categories: Mexico
Comments: »
who are you?   Posted on 25 Aug 2012, 5:00 by me
Susanne? Stefan? anyonelese starting with an S? I think I would have died with a hangover there, you cant tell how red my head is on this picture...

Mexico   Posted on 24 Aug 2012, 5:22 by S
I climbed up there after a night out in Mexico City which was even more difficult :)



Fight!

Mexican wresteling is so much fun. I want to learn how to do that. It is all showfighting, although I wonder how they manage not to hurt each other. As far as I understood from the guy sitting next to me, there are always a group of good guys, who have to play by the rules, and the bad guys. They all have scary to funny masks on, each fighter has his distinct "face" that he (or she!) is know by. Usually one group starts beating the crp out of the other, until the other makes a spectacular come back. Fighters are thrown out of the ring, others jump after them, three people beating the shit out of one, I loved it. It does look fake enough to just lean back and enjoy the mindless violence and there is quite some acrobatics involved and some of the moves are very impressive or comical. I had no ideas what the fighters were called and the guy next to me only new the ones from his childhood (who are retired now) so I shouted for "green guy" or "bat guy". Fun!

Posted on 17 Aug 2012, 6:26 - Categories: Mexico
Comments: »
M   Posted on 28 Sep 2012, 22:05 by Cynthia
Nice to read your posts. Good to read your experiences. Very envious of your time there. Love be with you. x C and the menfolk.

Hey Cynthia!   Posted on 22 Aug 2012, 10:15 by me
They do have (very non PC) midget wrestling, maybe I can start Hobbit wrestling when I come back to Iceland :) Petur might still be small enough to sign up...

Ms   Posted on 20 Aug 2012, 20:12 by Cynthia
Id love to see you do Mexican Wrestling!



Mexico City

I managed to import a stomach bug from USA to Mexico, actually it might just have been sensitivity towards all the chlorine in the water. Drinking out of a water fountain is like drinking out of a swimming pool! For this reason the flight to Mexico was not very pleasent. It did not help, that the flight from Yuma to Phoenix was in a tiny plane too short for the AC to do its work, which ment I was shaken around in a hot tin can. I arrived in Mexico City at night, found an official cab (an unofficial cab driver tried to convince me to get in his, but was chased away by airport security. I was brought to the hostel by driviung backwards through one way streets, that had been closed down, went to bed and woke up too late for breakfast, but fortunatly still had some porridge left from camping. The hostel was a party hostel, full of Americans, which did tours everywhere, even a bar-hopping tour! After 6 years of Iceland, I don't need a guide to show me how to drink. Anyway, I grabbed a map and headed of to the historical centre. Mexico City is easy to get around in, the centre is surprisingly walkable for such a big city and public transport is even for the spanish challenged like me managable.
I went to the old temple in the middle of town and to a history museum, learning about the Aztecs and their love for ripping peoples hearts out. I always thought the stories of human sacrifice were exaggerated, but no, they really did that en masse. When I came home in the evening I decided to follow people to Mexico wrestling, which is a lot of fun!

Posted on 25 Apr 2013, 3:57 - Categories: Mexico


Mexico time

2nd of August arrival at around midnight in Mexico City.
3-4 days in and around Mexico City then going to the Chiapas region
5-6 in the Chiapas region, seeing the the temple in Palenque and Yaxchilán

around 12th of August going to Guatemala

Posted on 25 Apr 2013, 3:58 - Categories: Mexico
Comments: »
Comment   Posted on 23 May 2012, 5:33 by Abi
LOL.



Mexico itinerary

So much culture! was my impression of reading the Mexico guidebook. Which is after the USA camping trip probably a welcome change. I will arrive in Mexico city on the 2nd of August, at midnight, which means, I should book a hostel beforehand.

There is so much to see and do in Mexico city, maybe I can find some couchsurfers for local advise. I will definitely stay a few days. As Ewelina advised me, a trip to Teotihuacán seem s well worth it. I guess from Mexico city I will go directly to the Chiapas region, I won't have time to go to Yucatan, I think. There I will visit Palenque and maybe even Yaxchilán another temple, but in the jungle, only accessible by boat. How cool is that? From San Cristóbal I will take the bus to Guatemala, but I will also spend some time discovering that. I think the trick is to concentrate on one area in a country and stay there, rather than spending much time trying to see all. I will probably hike in the jungle in Honduras, or some countries I have not looked at yet. Beaches I will discover in Honduras and on the sailing trip from Panama to Colombia, so I have a good reason to avoid places like Acapulco.

Posted on 25 Apr 2013, 3:59 - Categories: Mexico
Comments: »
agree   Posted on 17 May 2012, 8:53 by me
yes he is!

beer!   Posted on 17 May 2012, 8:44 by Christina herself
I love how funny Bjarni is!!!



Ewelina's Mexico advise!

Sending everyone an email paid off, Ewelina send me her insight about Mexico, so I do not have to rely 100% on a Lonely Planet.

Here it is:

1) Mexico City, two awesome one-day trips: Teotihuacan (not to be missed) and Tepotzlan.

2) Mexico: you have to, just have to visit Chiapas region, it was the nicest and prettiest region of all Mexico for us (visit San Cristobal de las Casas and go on a half day trip to San Jan Chamula, check Lonely Planet for instructions, we went on a trip with guides that meet in front of the cathedral in San Cristobal. Also, go visit sort of Natural Science/witchcraft museum in San Cristobal, this will take you out of touristy bits of the town to the area where locals live, it's a really nice walk, and try to come back a different route for a change :) And of course, Palenque is a must! :))

3) If you won't have enough time, skip Yucatan completely (but only if you don't go to Chiapas: otherwise you might want to visit Chitchen Itza and also Isla Mujeres, which I recommend for riding golf carts and overall relaxing atmosphere. There's a hostel there, by the sandy beach, full of Israelis who tend to sunbath nakedly, just in case you're interested.. :))

of course I can also just read her and Bjarni's blog about their south-america adventure, but it's so much!

Posted on 25 Apr 2013, 4:01 - Categories: Mexico