We are ready and waiting for the bus outside our Hotel De Campo at 6am and it arrives 6.50. The cheery driver ( they all are) waves us aboard and the bus, already full, shoogles and rattles out the unsurfaced track 18 km to main highway.
Reach Los Chiles in about an hour and get another bus to the border at Tablillas.
Choose between the various queues starting off with the one to pay the $7 each departure tax.,,,, we get charged $8.. Join another queue to get passport stamped for leaving Costa Rica then head off across no mans land. No signs showing which way in either Spanish or English but an elderly man senses our confusion and points us in the correct direction.
The Nicaraguan immigration queue looks equally chaotic but is actually fairly quick moving. We answer a few simple questions in Spanish and must have got the answers correct because we get the passports stamped and then after getting our baggage scanned we exit out in to what appears to be the back yard of the offices but we keep walking and choose between one of the police booths where again our passport is checked. Nearly there. ..
We keep walking to a barrier and a beat up minibus offers us a lift for the 30 minute onward journey to San Carlos for $3 each. We hop aboard and then there's another stop on the new Santa Fe bridge for a document check by armed military personnel and we are again on our way. Pass by acres and acres of orange groves where the harvest is underway. Canvas sheets are spread below the treees which are then shaken to dislodge the fruits. What a contrast with Costa Rica. The main road is badly potholed and the rural houses are weather worn and a bit down at heal.
San Carlos is a lively but scruffy sort for place on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. No sign of wealth and the shops are small with weather worn hand painted signs.
Two butchers shops near the station have the raw flesh hanging from hooks at the edge of the street.
The bus station is bustling.. music, shouting, buses revving and all very colourful though dusty.. Reminds us of India 25 years ago. There's a whole row of basic restaurants and a waitress beckons us in to one and shows us a seat.. Theres no menu but we order coffee, toast, eggs and fruit juice while I nip off to the bank for some Cordobas.
The other major difference from Costa Rica is that not many people speak English. All the better to improve our Spanish.