Travesía Panamericana
Week 13

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The American Highway arriving to Puerto Caldera

July 1, 2002

Puerto Caldera, Costa Rica

Odometer: 205,915

Written by: Cris

Early in the morning we left San Jose to Puerto Caldera, on the Pacific side of Costa Rica. Our ship, the American Highway, comes loaded with 3,000 new vehicles from Japan and delivers them throughout Latin America. It was scheduled to arrive in the morning, but didnt make it to Caldera until 4:00 PM, so we had time to go to the nearby beaches and enjoy a bit more of Costa Rica before leaving. At around 2:30, we finished all the paperwork with our customs agent and left Guapo in a fenced parking lot. It was going to be loaded into the American Highway that same night. Both of us felt a sense of uneasiness when leaving what has been our house, vehicle, refuge and closest to the concept of "home" for the last 3 months. But overall we were very happy with how things went at Caldera. It is a small port, clean and safe; and our agent was very efficient and nice with us. While waiting for the bus back to Puntarenas, we saw the American Highway entering the port, helped by three tug boats. It has to be one of the biggest ships Ive ever seen (see photo), very impressive, probably about 6 stories high.

We finally made it back to the Puntarenas bus terminal, and after a wait, took a bus to San Jose. This short bus experience reminded both of us how much more complicated and slow our trip would have been if we were depending on public transportation. About an hour into the trip, and with the bus completely dark inside, I felt something soft touching my foot. I didnt mention it to Barbara because I thought it could be a mouse and didnt want her to worry about it. Half an hour later, the driver pulled over and turned all the lights on. Next, he screamed: "Who owns the iguana?", while holding a huge fluorescent green specimen from his left hand. Nobody claimed ownership, so the driver set the iguana free next to the road. The animal must have been pretty confused about the whole experience that nightOne of the passengers explained that it had felt on his shoulder from the overhead storage tray a while ago. Later, Barbara told me that she had also felt something touching her leg, but hadnt mention it either! So both of us have been touched by a huge iguana running loose inside a pitch dark bus...

July 2-3, 2002

San Jose, Costa Rica/Guayaquil, Ecuador

Odometer: n/a (car in ship)

Written by: Barbara

Despite the fact that we had been running errands and preparing what we needed for the rest of our trip for a long time, we got to our last day in Costa Rica with a sense that we still needed more time to finish up stuff. On the one hand we were eager to continue our journey, and on the other it was hard to leave our friends there, not knowing when we would see them again. On July 3, Erick and Marjorie drove us to San Jose's airport, where we took a plane to Ecuador. We were a bit stressed about flying because it was the first time that Chance would go through such an experience. He had to stay in a cage for about six hours, which we felt would be traumatic for the dog. Now I feel it was more traumatic for us-he seemed to be OK (it helped that he got used to getting in and out of the cage a few days before the flight). We had to get a new health certificate for him, but nobody asked us to show it in Costa Rica or Ecuador.

The Waterfront in Guayaquil

When we arrived in Guayaquil we were pleasantly surprised by Norma Plaza, a high school friend of Cris' mother, who was waiting for us. We had sent her an e-mail with the details of our flight with very little anticipation, so we were not sure she would be there. Norma, her husband Eduardo, and their children live in Guayaquil, and received us with great hospitality. They supported us in many ways during our stay in that city, helping us with our errands, driving us all over town, finding a place where Chance could stay, and treating us with delicious meals (my favorites: caldo de bola, humita, and pan de yuca).

It was essential to have a place to stay while dealing with the never ending paperwork related with retrieving Guapo from the port. In addition, thanks to Genoveva, a woman that works with Norma, we avoided leaving Chance in the "Hotel for Dogs," which in truth resembled a "jail for dogs." For the substantial amount of 20 dollars a day, you can leave your dog in a smelly  and dark cell, without any windows, and in charge of a man that in my mind looked like the crazy professor of a Hollywood movie (perhaps the idea of having to leave Chance there made me see everything more horrible than it really was). In contrast with this place, Genoveva and her relatives treated Chance in a way that surpassed our expectations, making special food for him, taking him for walks, and treating him very well. When finally we took Chance with us, he did not want to eat the dog food we usually give him, which probably doesnt compare with the "gourmet" diet he kept at Genoveva's.


Some of the Restoration Work in Downtown Guayaquil

July 4, 2002

Guayaquil, Ecuador

Odometer: n/a (car in ship)

Written by: Cris

While waiting for the ship to arrive, we got familiar with Guayaquil, visiting it's impressive brand new waterfront: Malecom, the old district, and other areas of the city. Guayaquil is going through a major rebuilding process. It is common to see new bridges, public art, whole neighborhoods being remodeled, etc. The Malecom (designed by architects from the US) was funded when citizens were given the option of diverting their taxes to that particular project. An old neighborhood on top of a hill has been painted with public money with the idea that the whole city benefits from the sight. Each house has a different, lively color. Bridges supports all over the city have been decorated with beautiful concrete sculptures, tile work and paintings. All original and effective ideas that are improving the citys livelihood drastically.

Today I could not believe my eyes when I saw, a couple of thimes around Guayaquil, VW split window buses painted school yellow and being used daily to haul kids to and from school. These buses are working hard after 35+ years...

July 5, 2002

Guayaquil, Ecuador

Odometer: n/a (car in ship)

Written by: Cris

Our day was centered around Guapo's arrival to Guayaquil's port. Unfortunately, it ended up arriving late in the evening. And since it was a Friday, we wouldn't be able to deal with customs until Monday...bad timing. We were able to find out that the Carnet de Passage is still required in Ecuador (despite what some say or write), and consequently we would not be able to travel freely through this country. As soon as we take the car out of the port, we will be escorted by a customs officer to the border with Peru. Too bad, since this country has a lot to offer to tourists. But good news considering the alternative, having the car stuck in a customs warehouse until it is shipped elsewhere!


A Salinas Resident

July 6/7, 2002

Salinas, Ecuador

Odometer: n/a (car in port)

Written by: Cris

We took advantage of having to wait a weekend for the vehicle to get to know at least the vicinity of Guayaquil. We chose to visit the beach resort of Salinas, about two hours away by bus. Chance stayed in Guayaquil. Our visit was pretty relaxing, we didnt do much (isn't that what resort towns are for?). A lot of walking along the waterfront and the beach, visits to local restaurants (plenty of seafood), internet cafes, and TV at the hotel (Wimbledon's tennis final).

We took an early bus back to make it on time for dinner with Norma's family. A good relaxing weekend, we didn't even need to take care of the dog!

The Waterfront in Guayaquil

The Watrefront in Guayaquil

Salinas Beach

Our Hosts Norma and Eduardo at Home

Week 14