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Scrappin my way Northward

Posted by on March 9, 2010

The last time I left you, I was having a cup of coffee on Luna´s Castle´s dime after which I´m sure we all are aware (and had a good chuckle) they called me out on it (see comments section from Panama) which I´m thinking (and know) was greaaaat entertainment for all my friends.  I´d like to personally thank and simultaneously apologize to Luna´s Castle for a) the coffee and entertainment and b) for abusing my privledges as one of their “guests.”

I don´t know how they found my blog, which only adds to the mystery Hanukah Miracle that was being called out by a hostel on your website—which is only read by my family, a few friends, and some guy named Pancho I just paid 5 bucks to hold a www.backpackeracker.com sign on the corner of the dirt road outside while I type this.  Great, he totally just stole my sign and is now using it for fire tinder, wait, now people are stamping on it and screaming death to BPA.  Let me slip on my Panama hat, they´ll never recognize me.

Back to the point, (the crazy dudes here are rubbing off on me, that or the Mojitos, you decide).  I realize the Internet is the Internet and that anything can be found at any time through our good friend Google, but isn´t the Internet supposed to be about fantasy football, facebook, internet poker, pet forums, and porno websites taking complete control of your comp—wait that doesn´t happen on everyone´s? The point is that the vast majority of people use the Internet for entertainment purposes.  Lord knows, this site isn´t informing the masses, provoking guerilla-induced revolution, it´s entertaining.  At least I hope it is, though I´m beginning to think its entertainment value is based on the following scale;

When BPA has 0 beers———-Historically unfunny (in the category of root canals and  puppies getting hit by trucks)

When BPA has 1-3 beers——–Kinda funny but not really (Your buddy is drinking beers on a raft in the ocean and  gets pulled out to sea in a rip tide, never to be heard of again)

When BPA has 4-9 beers——–Worthwhile reading and very very funny (said “deceased” buddy sends you a postcard from Japan saying he floated across the ocean and now has a beautiful Japanese wife and three children who are Karate masters)

So why, and more importantly, how (I´m lookin´at you Luna) are these people finding my site, and why is it they care to comment on a goofball writing about traveling around the world?   I´d say I even censor 90% of the shit I´m thinking because it might offend someone, yet the 10% that makes it out, does so anyway.  Go figure.

Anyway, that´s my official take on the sometimes edgey posts that are Backpacker Acker.  If you don´t like em, write me an e-mail, as now, that is your only alternative. I´ve gone totally Fidel Castro on everyone and require approval for all comments to be posted to the site.  Remember I´m doing the (poor) writing, you´re doing the reading.

So here we were back in a familiar place called David, Panama.  We had spent time there three weeks prior on our way to Panama City.  Fresh off pancake-gate, I was sure to ask the hotel we were staying in if they served pancakes as I didn´t want to have any relapses and get caught stealing pancakes again.  Free pancakes are as you all know, my cryptonite.

My lovely traveling companion looks down at her airline ticket and notices that her flight departs from San Jose, (not only a different city, but an entirely different country than we are in) in less than 30 hours.  We previously thought we had 54 hours until departure.  Brief panic set in and we realized that tomorrow would be one of the longest travel days of our lives.  Boy, were we right.

The next morning we awoke at the crack of dawn, the streets were completely empty (this is saying something as Latin Americans are some of the hardest and earliest working people in the world) and humped our way to the bus station to catch a bus to the Costa Rican border.  We flew through the border in record time somehow and hopped on a bus heading towards San Jose.  This would have been a direct 7-8 hour ride but of course we had no reservations and weren´t in line long enough to get a seat for the journey.  Jammed in the back of the bus with people all around me like a chotchey bar in Lincoln Park, Chicago, for three hours, we both started to lose it.  I, however, started to “lose it” maybe a bit quicker.

I´m not proud of the following conversation but a man can be pushed only so far:

Backpacker Acker:  I can´t take it anymore, I´ve been standing for 3 hours with no food and water, I feel faint, I´m getting off at the next town even if it´s called ¨KillWhitey.”  You can stay on or get off the choice is yours.

Jenn:  Hmmm, ok.  I guess I´ll get off.

And that was that.  We got off at some who-knows-where town called San Isidro which miracuouslyhad busses running to San Jose through all hours of the night and early morning.  We slept at some hotel, had a few beers to unwind and I sent Jen off on a bus at 4:30 a.m. the following morning to catch her noon flight.  Dicey, but we made it.

So here I was in a familiar position, alone on the road.  This didn´t have the isolation that Russia did, but it was still the same freedom and a bit of insecurity that comes with traveling alone.  My traveling companion gone, who would watch my bag while I chased pigeons or constantly remind me that my sunglasses were indeed on my head as I accused a 8 year old girl of swiping them?  (She stopped crying after an hour or so, come on)

The next day I booked a ticket for the capital, intending to only stay there for one night and catch the next bus to the Nicoya Peninsula and the town that is Samara.  Jen had spent some time there in her language school and recommended the place.  It didn´t disappoint.  Through a few rough patches of adjusting to life solo on the road, I learned to take Samara for what it is—a sleepy town with decent waves.  The people in Costa Rica, especially in the tourist areas, seemed to be more aggressive in wanting your money and ripping you off. Costa Rica is the most Americanized country of Latin America I would surmise, though in as in many cases, I may be wrong.  I was able to rent a surfboard and even a buddy from home was in Costa Rica for a week, so we met up for a few days in Samara.

We shared a room in a house right on the beach, met some very cool people, drank some very expensive beers, and just kicked it.  Two weeks later, I headed up to Liberia, Costa Rica, near the Nicaragua border to meet Jen.  As I was rolling along some sugar-cane infested road staring listlessly out the window, I saw a few airliners followed by a small airport which read Liberia International Airport.  Liberia, Costa Rica holds a special place in my nomadic heart as it was the first airport I had ever gone to outside of the United States back in 2000.  At 17 years old, my buddy Ari and I spent a week on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica introducing our pallets to the wonder that is the “screwdriver.”  Little did I know that after a week of drinking screwdrivers, I would never look at orange juice the same way ever again.

It was an amazing first trip outside of the country.  I knew very little of the world at 17 and was fascinated by almost everything we saw.  “Holy shit, a monkey, holy shit, that guy is tan, holy shit, that doesn’t sound like English.”  I also learned how to talk to women that trip since I wasn’t very good at in high school besides a few random lines I had mastered, “Yes you can copy my homework, then can I hold your hand?”  One thing I’ve learned about women—when you are 25 and older and woman tells you “you’re smart,” she’s hitting on you.  If you are 24 and younger and she tells you “you’re smart” she wants a) your homework  b) to make her  jock boyfriend jealous for 15-20 minutes somehow involving you as a pawn.

Anyway, the Liberia airport made me realize how full circle I had come.  I could now speak three languages and had traveled the better part of the world in the 9 years since I graduated high school.  Hell, now I even had a girlfriend somehow.  We all have places we can drive by, walk by, or see a picture of that makes us realize just how big of a trip, literally, life is.

The next morning Jen and I took a bus to the border of Nicaragua where we walked across uneventfully and shared a taxi to San Juan Del Sur with an Icelandic fellow named “Jack” (not his real name, I wouldn’t dare try to spell it) and a guy from England.  Picture in your head what you think meeting a guy from Iceland would be like.  Keep in mind now that Iceland is an isolated island settled by Vikings who had very little contact with the outside world.  Essentially, meeting someone from Iceland is the equivalent of meeting a very pale Mr. Rogers.  He says hello to everyone, smiles at everyone.  This, of course is a very beautiful characteristic in a person but also a very dangerous characteristic when said person is your traveling partner. A sample from our trip to the Corn Islands…

Jack:  Guys! Guys! I found this guy, he said we could pay him DIRECTLY and not have to buy tickets from the ticket person at the ferry station!

BPA:  Right, and who is this guy?

Jack:  He came out from behind this shack but he speaks English!  Quick give me the money!

“Vendor”:  Ya mon, you give me dem dat der cash and i bring you dem ticketz.  (bug crawls from his hair)

BPA:  O.K. Jack, we are going to go ahead and buy from the real person.

So all in all, a great guy, just a tad naive.

We found a hotel in San Juan Del Sur a small walk from the beach.  The owner wanted 20 dollars for December 30th but $150 for New Year’s Eve.  We tried not to laugh at loud at his requested price for New Year’s seeing as how the room had no windows, a leaky bathroom, and a bed that might or might not contain a large metropolis of bed bugs.  We spent the next two days body surfing pretty decent shore-breaks and drinking pretty cheap beer.  We don’t remember all that much from New Year’s Eve but there were fireworks and ridiculous little parades of children with stilts and giant heads.  Jen insisted I take a picture of them and as soon as I slightly pressed down the shutter button I was surrounded by the “parade” who were now demanding money for their work. I will say that having a 7 year old kid with a giant head 3 foot in diameter right in front of you is a bit intimidating and I immediately departed with a buck or two.

After a few days we caught a chicken bus to the town of Rivas.  A taxi then brought us right to the ferry dock where my first sudden pain of you know what occurred.  Those of us who travel know it isn’t a matter of “if” but “when.”  I ran into a restaurant and found myself in the smallest toilet I’ve ever seen and I’ve lived in Asia so that’s saying something.  Anyway, I’m glad it was 10 a.m. and the restaurant was empty.  As I boarded the beleaguered ferry for our trip to Omatepe I sat smiling on the deck in a much better state.  It isn’t a trip with BPA unless BPA leaves half his shit in various places in the region, thus the trip was officially underway when I left my brand new Panamanian hat on the toilet.  The fact that my hat was even off in the toilet says something about the entire experience.  And in the words of Forrest Gump, that’s all I have to say about that.

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The ferry, if you could call it that, more appropriately would be “the piece of iron and wood that floated across the lake at the mercy of the waves” brought us to the town of Moyogalpa.  A town of only a few thousand at the foot of a giant volcano acted as our base and our starting point for exploring Isla De Omatepe.  The island is basically just two large volcanoes, both active, with a collection of small little towns and villages around them.  I rented a motorcycle from a guy because we didn’t want to be in the main town for more than one day but had no idea where we wanted to go.  So we set off on this guy’s motorcycle and found a little place right on the water and made a reservation for the next day.

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The next day we arrived by bus (45 minute ride at no more than 22 m.p.h.) at the lodge and attempted to check in.  They said the people who were staying in our room decided to stay longer so we could not have the room.  I then had to explain to them the concept of a “reservation” and that we had no place to stay and no way of getting back into town.  I don’t know how people travel to some of these areas with out speaking a word of Spanish, in certain situations, it really must be terribly difficult.  The women behind the desk spoke zero English but eventually upgraded us to a very nice room for the night until the next day.  Problem solved, we enjoyed our room very much.

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Fear Jeebus, and fear my next entry…more of Isla de Omatepe…

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