Peñas Blanca - a man-made semi-desert zone populated with bureaucrats and hangers-on, a name that recalls for me the soft suffering one can expect crossing LAm borders. My 90 day Nica visa was soon to expire, so, to renew it, I had to either officially touch CR & return, or pay for an extention at Migracion in the MetroCentro Mall in Managua. To enter CR (without private vehicle) one must have an exit ticket; I had an unused TicaBus ticket from February (cost $25 cash; valid to travel for a year, but only 6 months with CR immigation). So I foolishly opted to cross the border.

The interlocal from Leon to Managua (a 15 passenger van) is fast. Some are air-conditioned. It cost 51 cords (less than $2). Arriving at 'la UCA' (across from Universidad de Centro America) I decided to try a new route, through Jinotepe. That was a mistake. The 'expreso' to Jinotepe from UCA is not "express". It's a smaller van packed so full several were bent over with their backs against the roof. It's a 'colectivo' that stops everywhere to collect an extra two-bit passenger. I counted 29 of us in that sardine can on wheels. I thought I was safely alone in a solo-seat, but the campesino we picked up in El Cruzero who sat on a foot stool in the aisle crowded me too much for comfort. He had the nervous jitters. Later, in the hotel, I noticed big welt bug-bites on my left side that he'd continually rubbed up against. The mountaintop countryside is nice to view, if you can travel in comfort. I returned through Granada. I lucked out with good connections to Rivas and later Peñas Blancas. All tolled, transportation home to border cost me 140 cords (say, $5.50).

It costs $2 (or 50 cords) to leave Nicaragua (+ $1 to the "town", for foreigners). Entering CR is free with a valid exit ticket. I stayed the night in cool, breezy, but astonishly boring La Cruz, CR, a 450 colones (less than a buck & very nice) bus ride from the border. Sunset viewed from the cliff overlooking the cove and a range of verdent hills & valleys was the best I'd seen (on the pacific coast from BC to Peru). It lasted 20 minutes, roughly a 6-pack's worth, with hawks circling and howler monkeys saying 'Good night'. There are some fine, isolated, white-sand, camping beaches around the cove below, but I had wife & kids to return to, so I left after breakfast early the next day.

Surprise, it now costs $7 to leave CR (by land, no car). Impuesto salida terrestre. The law went into effect in April. I only had colones - mistake - they took 4,500 colones (closer to $9). (Border bureaucrats everywhere in Latin America know they have a little racket going, between what they take in and what they report, otherwise why endure jobs at the end of the line?) It costs $12 for a foreigner to be admitted into Nicaragua - that's dollars US only. I tried to pay in cords, Nica money for pity's sake, but NO, only dollars. So, already drenched in sweat from the heat & walk over the sunbaked gravel road for tractor-trailers, trying not to breathe passing by the fumigation station, I stepped out of line to retrieve a bill from my 'secret' money belt.

Exhausted but good for another 90 d, I arrive home in Leon, jodido, to hear a chorus of, "What did you bring me?" Home, sweet home.