February 26, 2005 [LINK]

From Guanacaste to Nicaragua

Once again, I'm at a loss for words to describe all I've done in the last couple days. On Thursday I took a bus from San Jose to the provincial (or cantonal, actually) capital of Liberia, in the dry ranchlands of Guanacaste. On the way we passed several volcanoes, including Arenal, perhaps the most famous in Costa Rica. It is one of the best birding locations, but because it is hard to get to (bad roads) and has similar cloud forest habitat to the Poas volcano / La Paz waterfalls we saw last week, I decided to pass it by this time.

Upon arriving in Liberia (I'm not sure if it was named after the country) I noticed that a major local festival was underway. I had the good fortune to witness an outburst of local culture, with music and dance. Also, there were very loud fireworks, launched from in front of the Catholic Church, built in the 1970s in a modern style. Anoather stroke of good fortune was meeting three local guys, Andres (!), Ralph, and (??? -- The name will come to me soon, I`m sure.) We chatted about sports, trade policy, politics, and anti-American sentiment around the world. Thankfully, nearly all "Ticos" are friendly to us gringos.

* In order to keep the content of this blog in the proper respective categories, the portion of the blog entry concerning birds that was originally posted here has been moved to: Archives/2005/02/26wb.html.

In the afternoon, I crossed the border into Nicaragua on foot, and was immediately accosted by hordes of children, money changers, and vendors. The first sign of a country in desparate economic condition, probably reflecting the failures of the Marxist Sandinista regime. Indeed, this is the first former communist country I've ever been to. (I'll comment more on that later.) After a long delay due to customs, I got on a bus at about 2:30 and soon saw the immense Lake Nicaragua with the awesome twin-volcano island. We arrived in Managua at about 5:30 and I was delighted to see a flock of at least a dozen Scissor-tailed (or perhaps Fork-tailed) flycatchers swirling around in the dusk. I then checked into a budget "hotel" that made me regret saving a few bucks. After sightseeing in the bleak, dusty capital city of Managua (largely ruined by a terrible earthquake in 1972), I took a colectivo mini-bus to the city of Granada, which has lots of beautiful colonial archtecture and is much more tourist friendly. That is where I am at the moment.