After four months on the road, we decided it was time for a recharge. It may be unfathomable to some that we would need a vacation from our vacation, but living in a van while navigating through foreign countries is challenging at times. We usually try to stay in a hotel once every week or two so we can have a real bed and room to sprawl out, but this time we decided we would go to a house for a couple of weeks and not do anything except relax, read, write, relax, eat, drink, and relax. It just so happened that our good friends Tommy and Brooke have a family vacation home in Costa Rica, and it was empty so they said we could stay there.
Our recharge plan has worked: we’ve been stationary for the last three weeks in a really nice house clinging to the side of a mountain on a coffee plantation. We’ve been swimming a lot for exercise, getting to know the neighbors, cooking great food, hiking, and relaxing. We had only planned to spend two weeks recharging, but Nacho has kept us here. We dropped him off at the shop when we arrived, thinking a week would be enough to get all of the lingering maintenance issues taken care of. In Mexico, after all, we had replaced all of the wheel bearings, did a brake job, and overhauled our steering in the space of two days. Three weeks later, we still wait, and are becoming stir crazy. No matter, we’re in a great place and will have a more reliable vehicle when we get under way.
In any case, or lingering in one place has done interesting things to our numbers. During the first week of April our daily cost was around $100 (ouch!) However, by the end this became our cheapest month so far.
Countries driven: El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica
(This month in RED)
Miles driven: 468 (Trip Total = 7,074; odometer reads 283,574)
Total Spent: $1,743 (MONTH: $58.12/day, TRIP: $65.89/day)
Notes on our spending:
Gas – Gas remains expensive as we make our way through Central America, rarely wavering from the $5.50 mark, give or take. Our gas expenditures in February, March and April were all within $11 of each other (the last 2 months were only $1 apart). It seems that our traveling style results in an unwavering $350/month in gas in this part of the world.
What is unclear to me is how we only managed to drive 468 miles, yet still spend as much on gas as we do in a typical 1,700 mile month. Something seems amiss in our numbers pertaining to mileage, but I’m just going to roll with it. Or maybe I should start looking for gas leaks…Nope, a quick check of Google Maps shows that we missed some mileage in there. This calls for a full-fledged investigation. Beh, who really cares?
VW Expenses – After we nearly burned Nacho down in Fray Bartolome, we decided we needed a surge protector to be used whenever we plug our van into land power. We found an Ace Hardware in Northern Nicaragua, so we sprung for a 15 Amp surge protector. Being in the Ace Hardware also came with the added benefit of feeling air conditioning for the first time in a really long time.
Camping/Hotels – This month’s camping fees were extraordinarily low. We spent $10/night for our last two nights in El Salvador, then spent $4/night for a few nights in Nicaragua. Once we got to Costa Rica, the expenses disappeared. We spent the last 21 days of the month in Costa Rica and didn’t pay for a single night of camping. This was due entirely to the kindness of Costa Ricans and friends.
One night in Liberia we offered to pay a hotel to sleep in their side yard, but they told us we could camp for free. Later we camped on a beach in Avellanas on someone’s property, but they didn’t ask for a penny (we left a tip anyway). We were invited to spend a night in someone’s home in Playa Coco, which turned out to be an incredible experience, and yielded us several new friends. Next we made our way to Atenas, where we were graciously permitted to stay in a friend’s vacation home, where we’ve been ever since.
There were a couple of hotel nights in there as well. I got sick in Nicaragua, so we rented a room in a family’s home for a night. Later, we rented a small beach cabin for two days in celebration of my birthday. All in all this was a really cheap month for lodging ($121 in total).
Food – This is one area where our costs continue to rise. Our first four months have cost $518, $659, $929, and $989, chronologically. This is one area where we’re not really willing to skimp; staying healthy on the road is paramount. Besides, we’re food lovers and finally have the time to devote to eating as well as we possibly can, so we spend pretty freely here. To compound matters, Costa Rica is about as expensive as the USA. We’ve been shopping about once per week since we arrived, and usually spend $175 each time we go to the grocery store. But then again, they have everything we could ever want here, so we don’t really care. We’ve been eating barbecued pork tenderloin, ribs, hamburgers, and chicken, and have been drinking imported Belgian and German beer. Could it get any better than this? We haven’t eaten out at a restaurant, not a single time, in the last 3 weeks.
Borders/Visas/Permits - We crossed two borders at the beginning of the month in the same day. To get from El Salvador into Honduras, and then from Honduras into Nicaragua, we paid $68. Later on we crossed from Nicaragua into Costa Rica and paid $24. Also, we’ve continued to stick to our guns and not pay any bribes, despite having been repeatedly pulled over by the police in Honduras and Nicaragua..
Other – Our third highest category was the all-inclusive “other”. This included a trip to the movie theater, a couple of yoga classes for Sheena, some supplies from Walmart, Skype telephone credit, an internet card (which doesn’t work), laundry, and various taxis and buses.