After the mostly Costa Rican riders got their things, the bus pulled a loop and revved its engines back to the central valley. I stepped across into non-country through a loosely-guarded checkpoint. I had expected sniffer dogs inside. Instead, there was a little strip of corrugated metal shacks selling food and water stuffed inside the corner of the Costa Rican boarder-wall. A couple of large Duty-Free Stores thumbed up across the trampled & sun-scalded grass. The Nicaraguan customs office was smaller, and I was stamped through with barely a glance. Entrance was 12 bucks. Most of the Costa Ricans paid in American—the countries had a contentious history, and refused to accept each other’s currencies.
The bus ride had been a hot & dehydrated 6 hours. Add an intial hour tramping, confused through the Coca-Cola bus station at my starting point in San Jose (that shit is not a station), and an hour tramping through & waiting in line in non-country, and I was ready to bypass the two buses necessary to get to San Juan Del Sur. I was glad when the Taxi hustlers rushed me as soon as I crossed from non-country into Nicaragua. One wanted 20 US for the 40 kilometer ride. Another Taxi hustler offered 15 as I was shoving my giant backpack in the first hustler’s car, but he didn’t have Taxi ID and his car looked like it should’ve been euthanized years ago, so I said “too late,” and slammed the trunk.
The Taxi hustler tried to tell me the Naked Tiger Hostel was at the top of a massive hill and it would be 10 more for him to drive me up it. I refused four times before he gave up. We smoked a cigarette together and he named the various volcanoes jutting high across Lake Nicaragua. We lazily swerved around cyclists, pedestrians, bulls and pigs as the sun disappeared behind Volcano Conception.
The taxi driver’s claim wasn’t TOTAL bullshit. He dropped me off at the fortified front gate of The Naked Tiger, and a steep hill passed past my range of vision in the falling dusk. There was a Nica guard at the gate wearing a shirt emblazoned with the Naked Tiger logo. Some sort of shuttle was to come past in ten minutes which could give me a lift to the hostel proper. Before it could, an Ozzie in his 50’s swung up to the gate and offered to give me a lift.
“Nah, not the tIgah. I work at the next hostel ova. People in town call it ‘the tIgah rehab hostel.’ Loads of people come ova aftah they’ve been run down by tha partying and drinking and…everythIng else that goes on ova there, sleep it off for a couple days.”
I had heard of rehab hostels before. Marion, from “Hardcore Travelers,” had stayed at one after he had partied himself out at a raving coke hostel in the depths of Thailand.
The pick-up crawled past another guard with a Naked Tiger t-shirt. He was sitting on a stump and cradling a shotgun.
“What’s your name?” I inquired.
“fRed.” he stuck his hand out for a shake while handling the wheel with the other. We passed through a second security gate and the Naked Tiger opened up in front of us. It looked like the villa of a Columbian Coke Kingpin.
“If ya lOOking for a quitah place, we’re just up tha hill.” Fred pointed, we parted ways, and I stepped into the Naked Tiger.