I had to wake up at 4:30am to ride a cab to the San Jose airport in Costa Rica. It was quite a busy airport that early in the morning but I arrived just early enough to make all the necessary checkouts and fly back to the USA.
I changed planes in Denver which meant I had 1 hour to clear customs with all my luggage. I had a little hang up when I presented my declaration paperwork with a paragraph of countries visited before returning section. I was sent to the level 2 baggage X-Ray checkpoint but since I was the only one in that line I made it through quickly.
A miserable overnight in LA and I was back on the plane to Alaska. The cold and snow was a bittersweet welcome home.
I am very thankful that you read this weblog, without knowing it many times I was very close to throwing in the towel but I didn’t want to let you down. I felt as if it was up to me to go deeper and farther into the forsaken third world and seek out the good and the bad. So if you can pay me one last favor and leave a comment with your favorite story of this saga I would be a better person for it and could more accurately speak to my audience in the future. You can be anonymous if you wish, but please just comment.
Now for the Q and A..
Was it dangerous? Were you ever scared along the way?
Yes it was dangerous, I put myself in several dangerous situations. I think that if anyone was looking to commit a crime against someone they would look past me. On the road most banditos probably didn’t know that I was packing a six pack of firebombs with an itch to use one, but I think that the confidence and purpose that I projected kept them looking for easier targets. On the street the machete muggers also never took a shot at me, because even in the dark 3:00 am night I was almost wishing that I could test my theory that throwing giant rocks will prevail over a simple machete.
The scariest situation I encountered was in a dark slum in the depths of Managua Nicaragua. I was held up at a policia checkpoint for an hour and a half as darkness fell leaving me completely lost. After a 30 minute aimless drive I ended up on a dark dead end street with gang bangers partying in front of the huts on either side of the road. I drove the gringo machine past all of them only to find the dead end. On my return trip back down the chokepoint they were all out waiting for me. With the windows down I almost had to run over a guy to demonstrate that I wasn’t stopping for any reason and I got out of it alive.
Would you do it again? What would you do different?
Never Ever Ever drive to Centro America for any reason. Everywhere you go you are constantly burdened by your car, you have to find a guarded parquero every night and you always have to watch it or people will jimmy the locks to steal your stuff. For the amount of money it costs to bring an American vehicle down there you could pay for a plane ticket and buy a vehicle once you are in country. A car with CentroAmerican plates almost never gets messed with.
If I go back I would fly to San Jose Costa Rica and by a motorcycle for $800. On a motorbike you aren’t stabbed by the fuel costs and breeze through the borders and police checkpoints.
Did you learn to speak Spanish? Was it hard?
Sólo puedo decir lo que tengo que decir. I can say only what I need to say, my vocabulary is still very small but I am still working on it even now. I went into Mexico without even being able to count to ten. Now I can get by using a 4 year olds vocab and understand where to go and what to do. It was very hard and very frustrating, but necessity makes things happen at an incredible rate.
It seems the fastest vocab and grammar lessons are watching movies with Spanish subtitles and writing useful phrases on flash cards to memorize.