El Paso is in the extreme western edge of Texas and is right on the border with Mexico with Ciudad Juarez on the other side of the Rio Grande. We have not previously stopped here so I took a drive on Scenic Drive which gives a nice view of downtown El Paso and Juarez beyond.
San Jacinto Plaza
Downtown El Paso
El Paso Scenic Drive
Next stop: Wilcox, AZ
(Click here for more photographs.)
Yes, it’s true. Niagara Falls is amazing. It seems like that word is getting overused these days. Can a hamburger really be “amazing”? Let’s agree that Niagara Falls is truly amazing. It’s one of those wonders of nature that you have to experience in person to fully appreciate. After visiting Niagara Falls and Iguazú Falls (in August 2013), we have now seen two of the world’s three most spectacular waterfalls with Victoria Falls remaining for a future trip. Niagara Falls, consisting of the American Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and Horseshoe Falls, is tops in terms of vertical drop combined with water volume but the 1.7 miles long series of waterfalls at Iguazú deserves its own type of amazing.
The route into Argentina from San Pedro de Atacama crosses the Andes through Paso de Jama, a mountain pass at about 13,800 feet above sea level. It was first necessary for us to get stamped out of Chile which is done at their border control office located just outside of San Pedro, 160km from the border.
Leaving from Arequipa, we wanted to get to Arica, Chile, just across the border from Tacna, Peru. This meant first taking a bus from Arequipa to Tacna. When we arrived in Tacna, we walked “across the street” to the international bus terminal. From there we would join a “collectivo” which would take us across the border, making the stops to get us stamped out of Peru and then into Chile.
In general, a collectivo is some type of vehicle that collects passengers until it’s full before leaving. In this case, the collectivo was a passenger car with 5 passengers. Once we had our 5, the driver took our passports and had our Chile tourist cards prepared.
Following the relatively uneventful border crossing, the driver delivered us to the international bus terminal in Arica. The trip from Tacna, Peru, to Arica, Chile, is about 40 miles, took a little over an hour and cost us about $11.
We were ready to leave San Juan del Sur and move on to Costa Rica. We boarded a bus in SJDS headed for Rivas, although we weren’t going all the way to Rivas. We asked to be dropped at La Virgen, which is simply the intersection where the road to SJDS meets the Panamericana Highway. From there we would flag down pretty much any southbound bus that would get us to the border city of Penas Blancas.
After waiting for a few minutes on the side of the road, a “collectivo” taxi stopped that had 2 seats available. These taxis will collect passengers until they have a full load and give everybody a break by sharing the fare. He offered to get us to the border for a little less than $5.00 so we took it. Penas Blancas seems to exist only to serve the “needs” of those crossing the border with Costa Rica. It’s more than a tad seedy, very busy and confusing. When we exited the taxi, we were immediately handed 2 immigration forms and asked to pay $1 each which I think is a fee levied by Penas Blancas. We then had to clear a checkpoint where our passport and immigration form were glanced at and asked to pay another $1 each for exit from Nicaragua. As an aside, I would also mention that there were long lines of semi-trucks with trailers waiting on both sides of the border. Apparently, the process for them to clear is quite time consuming.