Another ninety days were bearing down on us so this time we decided to take the bus to Granada, Nicaragua to renew our visas. We drove into San Isidro with our Cloudbridge friends who were on their way to Canada for Christmas. Bill dropped the luggage and women at the bus station while he and Tom parked the car over by the market and hoofed it back. Together we took the Musoc bus to San Jose for about $6.50 each. The ride was pretty comfortable though there isn’t much leg room. It seems similar to the Greyhound buses with two seats on either side of the aisle and AC. A twenty minute stop is made about half way as there is no bathroom on the bus. There is a restaurant and small produce market for those who are hungry. The trip is about three and a half hours and goes over the mountain.
After saying Merry Christmas to Tom and Linda they headed to the airport and we to the TicaBus station by taxis. We arrived plenty early so after checking in we walked a few blocks to a Quiznos to get an early lunch as well as to a bakery for a sweet treat later in the day. Right at 12:30 the bus pulled out, on schedule (as did the other bus to the capital). This bus was basically as comfortable, with the addition of movies! Just as we were stopped for well over an hour due to an accident the driver put in the Meet the Fockers DVD which was shown with Spanish subtitles. That was followed by some movie that never should have been made, and then one for the kids. Latins came be very loud but the passengers on all the buses we took were well behaved and quiet. The driver picked up some locals selling food and drinks, which we passed on, as well as some other passengers.
Going through migration was pretty easy. In Costa Rica we had to exit the bus and go in the building for passport control. Just on the other side of the dirt road was a fence with locals yelling to us to change money…..hmmm, don’t think so. Migration didn’t seem to care about us as all they did was stamp the forms and passports without looking at us or the information. We all got back on the bus and a TicaBus employee gathered our passports and fourteen dollars for the Nicaraguan migration. We rolled on up to that area and had to disembark for a luggage check. An official money changer came by with a wad of cash and a heavy bag of coins. He was giving a 24.5 Cordorbas per dollar rate which was pleasing as the hotel manager had told me the rate was 25 to the dollar. After a bit of a wait a customs man came over to the outdoor tables to casually check baggage. By the time he got to our end he just waved us to close our suitcases. Then it was another wait for the man to return with our passports. We were called one by one, and afterwards he came on the bus to give change. Both borders took not quite an hour and a half. Not too bad. It gave us time to talk with some fellow English speakers who were able to answer questions.
From there it was about an hour and a half to Granada. By then it was well past dark, and the hotel manager, Chris, had advised that we take a taxi, even though it was close. Well, that was adventure! The driver had no idea where we wanted to go. Chris told us to have the taxi take us to La Frontera Bar, and Miss Margrit’s Guesthouse is two doors down. The driver must have been fixated on hotel as he had no idea where La Frontera Bar is, even though it is well known! He drove several blocks to the Central Park and asked directions. He either didn’t understand, didn’t believe, or something as he procededed to stop and ask several times where La Frontera Bar is and then drove off without a clue! I had to tell him to take a left! Finally, very frustrated, as he kept asking for Hotel La Frontera Bar, that it wasn’t a hotel, it was a bar we wanted. We finally got there, insisted on getting out, paid the two dollars he said it would cost at the beginning, and talked with the locals outside the bar. Yes, Miss Margrit’s was right there, next door. Later, when we looked at a local map, there was the bus station on the other side of the block……amazing…
Miss Margrit’s is a wonderful guesthouse with the typical inner courtyard architecture. The spacious room with private bathroom and AC was seventy dollars, which included breakfast. What a feast! Cereal with milk or yogurt was first, along with coffee. Then there was a choice of eggs, bacon or sausage, either toast or bagel, and juice to fill the tummy! More than enough for breakfast and lunch!
Granada is very different from the cities here. It is not overwhelmingly large, has colorful architecture, and friendly people. We did notice the main streets, the tourist area, is pretty clean. Go one block over and the living conditions change dramatically. The eco-sustainability is not to the same level with dirty streets and burned areas where an attempt to get of garbage is evident. Even Lake Nicaragua is brown…very disappointing. We had two days to explore and were fascinated looking into people’s house admiring the courtyards, seeing the colors, and being amazed at women carrying a variety of items on their heads without support. Since we only needed to buy dinner and had enjoyed The Marlin, we ate there both nights. Bill found the beef prepared well while I dined on seafood. Central Park has vendors, shoe shiners, a church, and is the base for the buggy rides. There were interesting views of businesses, including making hammocks. Xalteva Square is small and quiet with a church and language school. Apparently the indigenous and immigrants kept themselves separated long ago.
The market area was enough to experience once. There were outdoor vendors for a few blocks where traffic was allowed which made navigating through the throngs of people a bit interesting. We finally came across an entrance to the indoor market. So claustrophobic! The walkway was narrow, people were everywhere, and merchandise went forever high. We had to leave after fifteen seconds as it was too much. When we got outside Bill said some young woman had touched him on the arm and winked at him!
Down a few blocks and around the corner we were in the food selling area and out of the junky items. A bus pulled out of a lot and people were even cramming in the back door to get a ride. At least there were fewer people in the street. There were fruits and vegetables along with large bags of rice and beans for sale.
The first evening, at dusk, we took a horse and buggy ride for twenty dollars. The driver spoke enough English for the tour and encouraged us to get out and take pictures. At least by then it was cooler.
We both found Granada interesting and may look for a place with an inner courtyard to rent within the next year or two. Jack, one of our indoor cats, would so enjoy living outdoors while still being safely indoors.
The return to San Jose went smoothly though we weren’t sure about trying to get back into Costa Rica. The guy at immigration was thinking a bit too long about our paperwork for residency. He wanted the original form saying we had a number while awaiting a decision, but all we have is a copy. He finally stamped our passports for another ninety days. Phew! The first two movies weren’t worth watching but the last one was Les Miserables! We didn’t get to see all of it, but I enjoyed what we did get to view.
As the bus ride from San Jose to Granada is nine hours, including immigration, next time we might drive to Liberia and take a bus from there. Let’s hope we get our cedulas before next March……