Splette's Travel Blog
  • Complications
  • April18th

    Those of you who know me a little better, are familiar with my special ability of getting myself in unnecessary trouble, so that life never gets too boring. A condition, my friend and travel psychologist Rolf V. diagnosed as sensation seeking. This story is a representative example.

    One of the reasons I came back to Costa Rica was to meet up with old friends from the time I was living here. Unfortunately, many of my Tico friends here are even more spontaneous than me and it’s been near impossible to make any plans ahead of time of who to meet when and where. For that reason a trip to the cloud forests of Monteverde and another trip to a beach had been cancelled at short notice and I grew tired of being stuck in San Jose. So I decided to go to the beach of Manuel Antonio by myself. While I generally love travelling by myself, it can have some disadvantages at times. For example having no-one to watch your stuff at the beach while you go for a swim. But as the seasoned traveller that I am, I have a solution for such minor problems: I left my camera and all valuables at the hostel and only packed my Costa Rica phrasebook and two beers in my little man-purse, grabbed a towel and headed for the beach. The sunset was nice and my Spanish skills seemed to improve with every beer as I was studying useful sentences from the phrasebook. Well, until I remembered that I had hidden my other credit card, driving and diving license, vaccination pass and my bus ticket back to Panama in an inner pocket of my man-purse. Damn. So much for being well prepared. I had heard that theft is not uncommon at the beaches here, especially at dusk and well, I had two beers already and was all by myself. But hey, the water was just too tempting. So I went to swim. The waves were great fun and the water had perfect temperature. Luckily, nothing was stolen while I was in the water.
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  • April8th

    Bus FeetTime to move on to Costa Rica. Flights from Panama weren’t within my budget, so I took the bus which can be fun but it’s also quite a long ride. If all goes as planned (when does that ever happen?) it’s a ~16h trip from Panama City to San José, Costa Rica. When I last took that bus about two years ago, I ended up getting stuck by a road block and had to spend the night in a Catholic convent in some village nearby.

    All the tickets for the first class bus were gone, so I took the regular Ticabus which leaves Panama at midnight. Next to me sat a guy that reminded me of the main character in the movie Machete Kills. Those seven hours until we reached the border, I didn’t sleep very well. At he border all passengers have to line up their luggage in a room, so it can be inspected by the customs officers. First, all the names from the passenger’s list were read aloud. The guy had to repeat my name three times until I understood he meant me. His pronunciation of “Splettstößer” didn’t even come close! I don’t blame him but corrected him nevertheless so he’ll know for the next time I cross that border.
    Next, the drug dog entered the room and ran along the line of suitcases, bags and backpacks. At my backpack he paused and and took an awful amount of time to sniff it. Was it my smelly socks? Or the two bottles of cheap red wine I ‘smuggled’ from Germany (Dornfelder)? I’ll never know. He moved on to the next suitcase without raising alarm. My seat neighbor Machete was called into another room for some questioning.
    Getting the passport stamped was quick and without hassle. On the Panamanian side they took another photo of me before I left but no fingerprints this time. On the Costa Rican side the bags where checked again. This time without dog.
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  • April7th

    laptops_headerThree and a half years ago I bought an expensive Sony Vaio Z in order to be able to work throughout my original 2-year trip across North and Central America. That 13.3″ Vaio was pretty powerful and had a nice screen. But more often than not it gave a headache. The first time I had to sent it to repair was still in Germany just a month after I got it. The second time was during the trip in Boston, which took them forever to fix. Eventually, the screen showed some permanent damage in the form of vertical streaks of dead pixels that drove me insane. Anyway, I didn’t have the money to buy a new one, so I kept using it whenever I traveled.

    The last few weeks before this trip to Panama and Costa Rica have been pretty intense. Plenty of work with tight deadlines. In general I think it’s not good to bring work to your vacation but I didn’t have much of a choice. The first few days in Panama I spent in a small beach hut with my Panamanian friend, a fridge full of beer and WiFi. Good conditions to get some of the urgent work done. Until… the power went off for hours. And when it came back on I realized it had killed the computer. Nooooooooo…. ! Whenever I tried to turn it on, it would power off after a few seconds. Stuck at the beach with a broken laptop and some tight deadlines sucks. I swore to myself never to buy a Sony laptop again…

    Copying data from the old laptop harddisk

    Copying data from the old laptop harddisk

    The next morning my friend and I went back to Panama City. He found a small computer repair shop that would get the harddisk out of the laptop. Then we went to the Albrook mall, one of the large shopping malls here to buy a new one. Electronics are fairly cheap in Panama, cheaper than Germany or Costa Rica. But even though we went to several stores, the choices were very limited. I wanted a Lenovo since they have a reputation for good built quality but most laptops they had for sale were – you guessed it – Sony Vaios. Eventually, I decided for a cheap model for 450€ with 6GB or RAM and 1TB hard disk. It’s not as compact and fast as the old one and the screen isn’t that great either but for that price I don’t care as long as I have some computer to work with. Oh, and the keyboard and operating systems are all in Spanish, yeay. This should speed up my attempt to learn Spanish considerably, ha. I’d have to upgrade to Windows Pro for $140 to be able to change the language, so I’ll just leave it for now.

    I must admit without a computer I felt a little amputated. It took me a day to copy all the files and install the most important programs (thanks to Adobe Creative Cloud and Ninite) and now that feeling has vanished.

  • April16th

    X-ray of my teeth. Puzzle Picture: Find the healthy tooth!
    Yep, it’s been a little while since I last saw a dentist’s office from the inside. About a year and a half ago, before I left Germany. My teeth have been a little over-sensitive lately, so I figured it may be a good idea to visit a dentist before I leave on my two-month trip to the US and Europe in a week. Turns out, it was the right decision. In fact I should have come earlier. Like a year ago. Well, my Spanish is still at the level of a toddler (except for some special vocabulary such as cerveza or que rico!) but when the dentist vigilantly went through my mouth one tooth at a time and repeatedly kept saying ‘la caries‘ to her assistant I knew that can’t be good. She then started fixing the first tooth and later sent me to get the above X-ray done and gave me three more appointments this coming week.

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  • March4th

    Indigenous people blocked the only East-West highway in Panama with tree branches. We had no idea how long the blockade would last.
    The great thing about living on a tourist visa in Costa Rica is that you have to travel to another country every 90 days. I decided to visit Panama City for a week. I stayed at the amazing Hostel Mamallena again and visited my friend Rychy. Besides that, the week in Panama wasn’t very eventful. Unlike the trip home.
    Because I am travel cheap, I decided for a long bus ride rather than a flight. Then again, I am not that cheap and like to travel with a little bit of comfort, so I booked a bus ticket in the clasa ejecutiva (business class). Including the border crossing the trip was supposed to take 14-15h. The bus was half empty, so I got the seat next to me for myself. Great. Soon after we take off we got served a hot meal: Steak. It was surprisingly good. Only, the fact that we were provided with a plastic fork but no knife made me feel like a caveman gnawing on a chunk of meat.
    Next on the menu was the obligatory movie. In Latin American long-distance buses it’s usually one of the following categories: Action movie American style (Stallone, Schwarzenegger, etc.), Action movie Asian style (Jacky Chan, etc.) or Comedy with black American actors (Eddie Murphy, etc.). Since I paid $10 extra for the ‘business class’ I was hoping for some better movie. Well, I ended up watching ‘2012: Ice Age‘. It’s kind of a bad remake of The Day After Tomorrow (as if that wasn’t bad enough). In the movie the climate goes crazy and a glacier is approaching New York City with 200 miles per hour. No kidding. This is the worst movie I have seen in full (unlike the cinema, I couldn’t just walk out) in a long time. IMDB gives it a whooping 2.3/10. Here is the trailer, just to give you some idea of how bad it is. One last fun fact: The boy (I don’t dare to call him an actor) who plays the son of the main characters has the second longest tongue in the world. Exactly, WTF…

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  • December20th

    Four withdrawals of a Peruvian bank of 122.77 € each.

    My bank account statement

    My attempts of getting my bank account in a better shape have taken another blow this morning. Here comes another article for the ‘crime’ section of my blog (José, I hope you are happy now! 🙂 ).

    As we all know, I am really good at losing things (one of the numerous superpowers I possess). But the only thing I actually got stolen during the last 12 months of traveling was a pair of smelly sneakers. Until last night, when 500€ (to be precise: 491.08€) miraculously disappeared from my bank account. That’s not cool. The money was withdrawn from a bank in Lima, Peru. I have never even been to Peru (yet). How this is even possible is beyond me. I could not contact my bank directly because their service number cannot be reached via Skype. So, my dad (who has access to my account) had to take care of this. The bank blocked my card but what’s going to happen to the 500€ is unclear. The bank person in charge did not reply my email, yet but told my dad something about a police report. I wonder how and where from I am supposed to get this police report. From Germany (via phone?), from Costa Rica or do they expect me to fly to Lima to file the report there…

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  • September20th

    My fake flight ticket: Bogota -> Frankfurt

    My fake ticket: Bogota->Frankfurt

    In many regards traveling the world has become so much easier these days. But there is one thing that can cause the world traveler of today some headache: The onward travel requirements that many countries have implemented. What’s an onward travel requirement? Well, you are only allowed to enter a country when you have proof that you will leave this country. This is a major inconvenience when you are backpacking across a continent. Often you don’t know how long you will want to stay in a country. If it’s nice you stay longer and otherwise you move on sooner. I mostly travel by bus anyway and often these tickets can not be bought online.
    So, what to do?

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  • August3rd

    Google map of my trip

    You might have noticed: The Google Map is back. A few months ago I had some technical problems with the map and took it offline. I was now able to fix those problems and put the map back online. Due to the number of markers and lines on the map it might be slow on older computers or when you are on a slow internet connection. As a new addition, many of the map markers now contain links to the corresponding blog posts. I hope this will be useful.

    Visit the map here

  • August1st

    Thanks everyone for having a close look at my disgusting wound and for giving me your expert opinions…
    It’s not that I don’t trust you… but just to be on the safe side I decided to see a doctor in Granada. I walked into a clinic, more or less randomly and asked the receptionist ¿Habla usted Inglés?. She shakes her head and asks in Spanish what I came for. I point to the wound on my ankle and ask ¿Possible leishmania?. She understands my concern and calls the doctor – on her mobile phone. The whole reception area of the clinic looked more like a hotel lobby. I didn’t see any doctors here either. She indicates me to follow her and to my surprise we leave the building and walk down the street. About 150 m away is the actual office of the doctor she called. It seems like this is a slow day for his business. There were no other patients. I can’t remember when was the last time I got to see a doctor right away without any waiting time. He greets me with a friendly smile and shakes my hand. Do you speak English? Nope. It also appeared he did not understand a single word of English, so during the 30 min meeting I relied heavily on my non-existing Spanish skills and ‘sign language’. The first thing I noticed when entering his office was how cramped and messy it was. It seemed more like an evidence room: Stacks of folders randomly distributed throughout the room, boxes, medical tools, etc. The highlight however was a large tapestry of Ariel, the little mermaid. How random. And creepy.

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  • July30th

    Looks like I got my first exotic parasitic disease. ….or not?

    A few days ago, I felt a strong itch on my ankle and scratched it hard until it started bleeding. I thought this was just another of those annoying mosquito bites. But the wound, about the size of a finger nail, didn’t show any sign of healing since then. Yesterday I had a closer look at it and it seems to resemble the symptoms of one of those tropical diseases not uncommon here in Central America: leishmaniasis. It is being contracted by the bite of certain species of sand fly that injects protozoan parasites (Leishmania) into the wound. The main symptoms of the resulting disease, Leishmaniasis are skin lesions at the location of the bite. I am concerned because I have been bitten by plenty of sand flies over the past month, especially around my ankles.

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