GPS Point

We were heading for the beach; we knew that much after weeks in Panama City. What we didn’t know was exactly where we were going – we’d already bent the back of the bus a few days before trying to find the sea down a rocky track. All along the coast, the easiest places to get too are resort/hotel things, huge, facing out over the ocean with the backs to you as you approach down a road lined with armed guards and locked wi-fi. Like they don’t wanna share.

So you have to motor on to Costa Rica: And the first stop was Dominical, on the Pacific coast. Cruising down the beach front looking for somewhere to pull in, we spotted the unmistakable form of a Swiss-converted Landrover hiding in the trees just yards from the high-water line. It was our friends – a Swiss-converted couple who we’d met on the road before – and we pulled in to join them. Dominical is a very cool place to stop if you’re passing through in a vehicle and there was a few people camping. We’d stopped here more or less by chance. I mean, you can see from our globe in the photo above, which is actually the map we use sometimes as we’re going down the road, that we have all the GPS points in the world on there. But the resolution’s not too great: We know the Pacific Ocean’s somewhere over that hill but we’re not sure which road to take.

It turns out that our Swiss friends got here, however, by aiming for a specific GPS point that they had downloaded from the internet. Wow, we thought, our first actual, official kind of public GPS point. We’d never come across them before although, of course, we are aware that there is a brisk trade in .gpx files among overlanders. I never understood how, even though I love maps, I love gadgets and I love driving, I never really got into GPS thingies. We have a tracker in the truck – it’s just there to record the location of photos that we’ve taken – and is really more of an aid to memory than anything else.

We sat back (carefully) in our decrepit folding chairs, watching the light fade and listening to pounding surf; our first night by the beach since way back when… It felt strange and I couldn’t get it out of my head, that we were sitting at a known set of coordinates. All those German-speakers trundling through and sitting here in this same spot enjoying the Pura Vida. Where did those waves start? The ones climbing the beach towards us in the dark – across the ocean, around the world. And all of us ants passing through points. I felt very global.

Earthcircuit in Central America 2012
[The next day, I sideloaded the tracker’s .gpx and visualized it with something from the internet. Just out of curiosity. Yeah, I know Dominical’s not on there. This is the route we took going south. This time we’re heading  north on a mission of importance that will mean we have to negotiate strange environments and test ourselves to the limit. We don’t have the tracker on. Pretty soon we won’t even have the truck…]

Squatting Culture Becomes Criminal

 Traveling around the world overland very slowly is a pretty incredible cultural experience – you get to see something of the planet and her people every inch of the way – you also bring something of your own culture with you. What I didn’t expect is that, in the time that we’re away, my way of life back home, has been criminalized and from today I can be thrown in jail for doing something I’ve been doing for twenty years.  This isn’t some little hobby or other that we’re talking about, that has fallen under health and safety laws, say, or legislated out of existence. This is about how you choose to live, where you live and the people you live with, and it’s a full scale attack on a whole class of people. They have made squatting [in a residential property] criminally illegal; a little piece of the English culture that travels with me has died.

I’d like to expand on this whole topic – you know; the history; the present situation; talk about the common misconceptions and cover the issues; the reasons why squatting is beneficial to society and the reasons why, one day, it will save the planet. Soon I will and post it all here – until then I just want to say I am very, very sad, disappointed and thinking about my friends and family, and the thousands of people back home who woke up last week to find they were criminals.

Back in April 2010, we left the UK a few weeks before the General Election that brought in the first Conservative government for 13 years. We joked that we wouldn’t return until they had gone and the ever-so-slightly nicer Labour Party had been re-installed. Not so much joking now…

[I would just like to add that this one day it will all be legal again; you can’t keep a good idea down and you can’t kill the Spirit – below are some links to some of the campaigns against this completely daft law-change: Fight the Good Fight!  ]

24 hours in no-man’s land

Tropical frontier by night.

24 hours in no man’s land – according to the paperwork, anyway – in reality it was a duty-free zone major with a 24/7 hustle and bustle. Stuck between two countries was something that had never happened to us before. Luckily we weren’t alone.

The story is after leaving Costa Rica a while back we learned that we couldn’t return for three months. But that was OK, we thought, we were in Panama where we could stay for 90 days. And then we actually tried it out: We got past the Panamanian control at Paso Canoas, got our passports checked in with the Costa Ricans  and went to sort out our vehicle.  This part of border crossing is generally managed by the Spanish-speaking half of earthcircuit. The English-speaking half is there to provide back-up and their first duty is to find a comfortable chair opposite a flatscreen showing some soccer.  In this particular case, there was a flatscreen (slightly too close to the flickering fluorescent light but still a good reception) and it was showing England against Italy.

“Tell him to take as long as he wants, ” I called to Dunia, taking the comfortable chair, “the match has just started. If I need to do some photocopies, I’ll go at halftime.”

From  the corner of my eye, I could see that things were happening at the desk; the official banging away on a computer, shuffling papers… I got sucked into the match, hypnotized by the pendulous movements of an experimental side playing a friendly. And then, Dunia came over and said, “Well, you can watch the football – we have to wait 24 hours.”

A foreign vehicle has to be out of Costa Rica for 3 months before it is allowed back in. But the foreign vehicle can stay in the neighboring country of Panama for only 90 days. Seeing as there’s nowhere else to go that means you have to live in no-man’s land, on the Paso Canoas border, to make up the difference… You see, there is a difference: Three months is generally 91 or even 92 days. Not 90 days. Unless you got February in there somewhere. Which, of course, we haven’t. So, cue up a 24-48 hour wait at the border – a suspension of time as we moved from the Panamanian Chronosphere to the Cost Rican one.

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