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  • Writer's pictureGemma Fottles

Costa Rica to London: The Long Way Round

After two months spent completing a internship in Honduras and then backpacking Costa Rica, the first thing I wanted to do when I got back was to drop my dirty, hulk of a rucksack on the floor and crawl into bed. This apathy was not for an actual lack of excitement of being home. It was the fault of the 72 hour long journey I had just undertook from Costa Rica to the UK. I was as exhausted as I ever thought I could be. This journey didn’t have to be so painful, but due to a combination of an absence of organisation and a pretty hapless disposition, it was, without a doubt, the worst journey of my life.

It started in the small town of Quepos. After a brilliant final week on paradisaical beaches, I booked a bus to San Jose leaving town at 5am. At 4am I nonchalantly tried to book a taxi. To my great surprise and utter disbelief, taxis didn’t exist in Quepos at 4am. Great. A panicked rant in broken Spanish and I managed to flag down the one, sole car passing through, getting myself to the bus station in time for a sprint to my imminently departing ticket out of there.

Costa Rica

This was the beginning of what would be almost a Laurel and Hardy sketch of unfortunate events. I arrived on the cramped bus, sticky and out of breath, and, without this knowledge of what my three day journey was to include, I started to relax. Naively. One disaster averted surely meant that was my fill? Waking up in San Jose, I fought my way through more broken Spanish to my 9 hour bus to Nicaragua.

That night I stayed in what can only be described as a closet with a discarded mattress inside. I was bid a cheerful, ‘buenos noches!’ Until one of the two men came knocking, asking for English lessons. Of course! What better time of the day to practice your English? After persistent refusals, a bit of a scare and a rucksack pushed against my door, I got to sleep.

Another 5am journey followed, but not before an awkward scramble around this hostel-cum-average-person’s-house to find a way out. The ensuing bus journey was hot, it was cramped, it was noisy. My clothes were dirty, I was dirty. I had little food or water, and, sleep deprived, I had even less patience or tolerance. At border control my brain point blank refused to slowly translate the conversation directed at me.

To hot for hair

The heat prevented me from getting comfortable and the noise prevented me from getting any sleep. When I finally arrived in Tegucigalpa, I breathed a sigh of relief as I swung my rucksack on my back. I was on the home run. But lo and behold, my immigration ticket was nowhere to be found. This was given to me on arrival 2 months previous, and I hadn’t really taken much notice. I was, however, not to leave to country without it. An empty rucksack later and a sweaty hour later and there it was, crumpled up in a plastic bag, stupidly out of sight.

I slept on San Pedro Sula airport floor before my flight. On check in, I was presented with another surprise of a $38 charge to leave the country. Did they not want me to leave?!  I checked my account on the way out to a sorry balance of £5.80. I was lucky that in my airport stint my exhaustion overpowered my hunger. Three plane journeys later I arrived in London, only, of course, after scream-inducing turbulence.


This journey was made up of an abundance of unfortunate events. It was one thing after another, a guide of how to monumentally screw up a journey. One missed bus would have lead to a missed flight, one more breakfast and Honduras would have been my home a little bit longer. It was a journey that I look back upon with humorous disbelief. How did I make it back? Annoyingly, luck and unluckiness seem to be constantly fighting it out in my life and I can’t really tell who is winning most of the time. Lessons learned and experiences embraced, as often is the case with travel, the worst journey of my life was also the most memorable, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

#Journey #Airport #CentralAmerica #Backpacking #Nicaragua #Disorganised #CostaRica #Spanish #Humour #Naive #Honduras #Unlucky #Travel #Bus

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