It was late at night in Puerto Limón, Costa Rica. Nearly everyone told me to take a taxi to the hotel. If I didn't, I'd get mugged. So, of course, I ignored their advice and walked. It wasn't the brightest thing I've ever done.
The dangerous streets of Puerto Limón
You can tell a lot about a town's safety as your bus enters the city. Every house in Puerto Limón seemed like a prison. All the houses had iron bars on the doors and windows (even the ones on the second floor). Most houses had fences so high that a pole-vaulter would have trouble clearing them, especially if he landed on their sharp points. Some houses even had the same razor wire that maximum security prisons use. In short, it seems that ultra-safe Costa Rica has moved every criminal in the country to Puerto Limón.
The bus pulled into the shady bus terminal at 11 p.m. and I had no reservations anywhere. The driver told me to hurry up and collect my luggage or someone will steal it. I asked around to see how safe it was to walk four blocks to a hotel. Most people said, "Take a taxi."
The best story in Central America
My crazy adventures in Central America don't compare to the adventures of William Walker. His life story is so outrageous, so preposterous, that it's amazing that few know about it. William Walker was born in 1824 and had led an amazing life:
Walker wanted more. He wanted all of Central America. The only problem was that he didn't have an army. In 1853 he rounded up 45 mercenaries, which he figured would be enough to conquer Baja California. What's amazing is that he did!
Walker returns to attack Nicaragua
About a year later, Walker sailed to Nicaragua with 60 armed men to help the city of Leon defeat the city of Granada. An American journalist in Nicaragua reported that Walker was trying to setup a slave state. Walker sentenced the journalist to death, but the writer escaped dressed as a woman.
The US immediately recognized the government as legitimate and planned to build a canal through Nicaragua. With that, Walker attacked Costa Rica.
However, once Walker declared he would conquer the rest of Central America, the neighboring countries (who all hated him) forced him out. Furthermore, Walker had pissed off the tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt, who soon lobbied the US Navy to stop Walker. Vanderbilt's connections made it happen and the US Navy escorted Walker back to America. As Walker forces retreated, he spitefully burned down the beautiful city of Granada and left an infamous sign saying, "Here was Granada."
Walker returns for a third time
Just six months after arriving in the US, the stubborn Walker gathered yet another small army and sailed to Greytown, Nicaragua. Greytown, now called San Juan del Norte, is strategically located at the mouth of the Rio San Juan, which, at the time, was the main transit route across Central America. However, the US Navy arrested him again, and deported him back to America yet again!
...and a fourth, and final, time
At this point (or far earlier) you probably would have given up, right? Unbelievably, Walker was not deterred. He mustered yet another force and this time stuck his nose in Trujillo, Honduras.
The Hondurans didn't bother with a trial. They just had the 36-year-old Walker stand in front a firing squad.
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