Winners don't wait for chances, they take them. — Dustin Moya
It is early morning when my alarm goes off, just before 6am, and I am ready to head to the sixth country of my great journey and the twentieth country I have been fortunate enough to travel to in my life thus far–Costa Rica. Quietly throwing over both shoulders is the black rucksack that was packed carefully the night before in order to get an early start, but as slow as I am in my attempt to make my movements ninja-like, Claudio is still woken by me and after apologizing he gives me a quick farewell and safe travels before falling back to sleep to dream about giant mushrooms or saving Princess Toadstool or whatever Italians dream about. Wasting no time I am out the front gate and walking down the street towards the Mercado where the buses congregate. Climbing aboard the green hulk, as I like to call it due to the color of this particular chicken bus that has an oversized Mercedes emblem attached to the large front grill, the ride to Rivas lasts almost an hour to travel the 21km (13 miles) as the bus stops every few minutes either picking up new passengers or allowing others to vacate. The cost, however, is a mere C$15 córdobas ($0.63 USD) so I can’t complain too much since I am using the same transportation that the locals use. Arriving in typical gringo fashion I am verbally assaulted by the barrage of taxi drivers waiting at the bottom of the steps exiting the bus. The first time you experience this, it is overwhelming and you cannot help but laugh at the quick talking sales pitches thrown at you, but, over time it wears on you, and soon becomes one of the biggest irritations wherever you make an arrival that forces you to exit. Pushing my way through with force, because of their aggressively incessant attempts, I move away from most of them but of course one lingers behind yelling, ‘taxi, taxi, taxi … collective.’ After taking a moment and haggling with the driver over the price, C$60 ($2.60 USD) later, and I am on my way to the border sitting shotgun while four other poor souls are wedged in the back seat of this late 80’s Honda Accord. Not even fifteen minutes down the road and the car rolls to a stop. Attention, we have a flat tire. Thinking this could take several minutes I climb out of the front seat since the heat of the morning is already beginning to bake the interior of the car. Shocked and amazed, I watch with the driver with NASCAR-type precision skills change the flat driver-side tire without a jack in record time, as he has already pulled off the old tire only to replace it with one that has far less tread than the current deflated one. Stunned at how quickly the change has occurred I also realize that if we experience another tire mishap I may be walking or hitchhiking to the border. Thankfully, this is not the case and we arrive at the frontera border town of Peñas Blancas. Oh, where to begin with this chaotic ordeal, of yet, another overland border crossing?