Archive for May, 2008

Milling around Monterrico !! – Guatemala’s Pacific Coast

May 30, 2008

Hola from Guatemala

Pics to follow..

The shuttle turned up and in 2 hours I’m in Monterrico. The highlight of the journey apart from the driver stopping for both petrol and a cola was when we had to drive on to a little motorised ramp to get across a river. Very efficient !! I arrive in Monterrico and am met by a little local girl called Selena who wants to take me to stay at Johnny’s. That’s pretty convenient as that’s where I was going to stay anyway. First impressions are, this is more like it. There are about 4 other tourists in town and that’s it !! Yes, it’s low and rainy season. The manager Tony gives me a 30% discount to take a room and then I come back and chat to him during dinner and over a couple of beers (oh and the game of volleyball played by some rather fit locals on the beach in front of us, where is my camera when I need it ?). Tony is Scottish and has been out here for nearly 20 years, so gives me the local low down.

After breakfast the following day I hit the beach. The sand is black here, the Pacific roars in with one pretty big wave close to shore (I could hear it all last night) and the beach stretches for about 50km. I love the way the crabs have evolved and are black, the equivalent of the white ones I’ve seen on other beaches elsewhere. I relax in to a sloping part and I feel like I have all the beach to myself, there is just hardly anyone here. Time for a spot of music and reading and relaxing. I’ve decided to make the remainder of my time all about relaxation, although I have no idea how and when I’m getting to Mexico City as yet, but I guess everything will sort itself out. I stay there until 4ish and then head in to town to explore. Monterrico appears to have one main road pictured above and the rest are kind of sandy. It seems small so it amazes me that this is the main place for Guatemalans to come to the beach as it’s so under developed – perfect !! Everyone says hello as you walk around, I just love the feel of the place.  I go for dinner in El Pelican, which surprisingly lives up to it’s name by having a real live one living in the restaurant !! Then I have an early night and end up having a fight with a cockroach that landed on my head and tried to hide under my pillow (a repeat of my Bangkok hotel). I flushed him !!

The next morning I have been bitten by mozzies. In Nicaragua they would bite me and itch and then go away (so much for the B1 vitamins I’ve been taking that they are supposed to hate). The mozzies here are just plain evil, they’ve really gone for it and they itch like hell. To make matters worse it’s not even sunny. I go in to town to sort out my bus back for the following day. Unbelievable, Guatemala has petrol strikes, are they following me around Latin America or something ? Thank goodness it’s my last country. This time it’s actually the people themselves blocking the road. They assure me that the bus will come it will just be a bit later than usual. I stock up on some toiletries and then head back for lunch. It’s raining really heavily now and I go back to my room to read. I notice a fluttering above in the rafters, is it a bird ? No, it’s bats !! Okay, so now I have cockroaches, mozzies, geckos and bats in my room, it’s like I’ve got my own private zoo !! You know I wondered what the little black splodges were on the sheets, I thought it was some kind of bug but it must have been bat pooh all along – yuck !!

Today, I have yet again been eaten alive. The bats are quite noisy but at least I got a good photo. The weather can’t make up it’s mind if it wants to be overcast or sunny, so I’ve come to get up to date and hope that everything brightens up later. There are a couple more tourists in town but apparently it’s busier here at the weekends – makes sense. It doesn’t look like I’m going to get the tan topped up before I leave so thank goodness I’ve got Portugal. I’m heading back to Antigua later and then tomorrow will head somewhere else, as to where that may depend on the strikes. A lot of people miss Monterrico but I’ve loved the solitude of the place, and that also means that I’m bang up to date on the blog, which is a relief as I didn’t want to have to do it when I got back !!   

Transport count:

Plane = 26, Bus = 121, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 11, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Antigua’s Alright, Chichi’s Cheery But Pocaya’s Just Priceless !! – Guatemala

May 30, 2008

Mayan bird traders at Chichicastenango MarketToasting marshmallows in Volcan Pocaya

Hola from Guatemala

Well here we go my final country and I have about 3 weeks here. I’ve heard great things so let’s hope I can go out with a bang (and not one from the volcano above) !!

I caught a taxi from the airport to a hotel near the bus station in Managua, let’s just say it’s not the most desirable area and I’d already met someone who got mugged here on his way to the bus station,  he was so near he could see it. I too can see it from my hotel – fingers crossed !! I have decided due to time constraints to skip Honduras as I don’t dive (early readers will note my Koh Tao experience) and although there are supposed to be some great ruins at Copan I’m going to save myself for Tikal – according to the books the “mother of all Mayan ruins” !!

I bought my bus ticket to Guatemala City. This involves a 1 night stop in San Salvador (again I’ve heard great things about here so another visit). I have to be at the bus station at 4am – no wonder the muggings occur !! I wake up at 4.20am….I am late but make it to the bus station in 10 minutes and all is fine, which begs the question why do we have to be there an hour early ? I was in such a  rush that I didn’t even think about the robbers. Although, I did hear a whistle going off several times last night which usually means police around robbers beware. We drove straight through the border, through Honduras and into El Salvador arriving in San Salvador around 4pm. The area the bus station was in looked a bit of a dive so I stayed in the adjoining hotel and went out for food. They drive like absolute maniacs here. Another early night as this time I have to be ready to go at 5.20am, there aren’t any facilities in the hotel so thank goodness for Sudoku !! This hotel actually knocks on your door in the morning to wake you up for the bus so I was on time and could even grab a coffee. We get dropped off somewhere in Guatemala City. There are 6 tourists and we decide to hop in 2 taxis to go straight to Antigua an hour away. Let’s just say Guatemala City doesn’t have the best reputation, robberies still happen in Antigua but it seems to be the safer option. None of us seemed to have been given any Nicaraguan exit stamp or Guatemalan entrance stamp so hopefully that’s not going to come back to haunt me, in Columbia you got a hefty fine.

In Antigua I get dropped off at a hostel called “Los Amigos”. A little confusion here as I knew I’d been recommended to stay there and then realised it was for a hostel in Flores not Antigua. It was fine, I got a room and then was offered my free drink by Tops the owner of the bar that’s been running for the last month. It’s incredibly relaxed and is called “El Chillout”, Tops must say chillout minimum 200 times per day. Time to go and explore….. Now if you were arriving here for a holiday or to start your trip I would say it’s the ideal place. You can basically arrange everything here, take Spanish courses a plenty and it’s a beautiful colonial city somewhat similar to San Cristobal in Mexico but bigger. This used to be Guatemala’s capital but as it was smashed to the ground by the 1773 earthquake, the capital was moved and hence Guatemala City was born. For me though coming towards the end of my trip there are way too many Gringo’s, I just feel like the place has lost some of it’s original ambience. Maybe, it’s just because I’m near the end of my journey, however there are some cool places to go from here so it’s not all doom and gloom. I spend the evening back at “El Chillout” chatting to a couple of my fellow inmates.

The next day I have one of “El Chillout’s” special Mayan breakfasts and in the afternoon I join my tour to see Volcan Pocaya. Now, I told my parents by phone earlier in the day that I was going to be toasting marshmallows in volcanic lava and I just think that they didn’t believe me, well Mum and Dad, there’s the evidence above !!

We arrive at the village below and are hounded by children to buy sticks. My advice is get a stick, otherwise you are in danger of falling over on the rocks and they do cut. We then start our hour or so hike up hill for 400 metres at altitude and stop at various look outs points along the way. You can also hire horses, but I need the exercise. Eventually we come across some black rocks that are a result of an explosion in 2006. There’s still a way to go and eventually we are having to climb up and down rocks. The rocks are starting to get warmer and then we see the lava. It is flowing and changing direction in front of our very eyes. Forget La Fortuna, this is where it’s at !! There are cracks underneath some of the rocks and you can see red hot lava below and we’re walking on them !! It’s crazy !! This would never ever be allowed in Europe. One explosion and we’re gone…. some people’s shoes even start to melt. I love the fact that even after more than 11 months I can go somewhere new and be totally dumb struck by one of the world’s natural wonders. Do I have to come home yet ? Oh well, time to toast my marshmallows. The temperature is so hot I can only get close enough to toast the end one (should have brought a longer stick), they still taste delicious !! We watch the lava for ages and then as the sky clears we can see the actual volcano it’s coming from quite far in the distance. Darkness will soon be upon us so we head back down. The children are waiting for us to collect up the sticks, for some reason they don’t want to pay us money for them can’t think why !! What they do want though is to play. We get roped in to football either with a ball or a makeshift one using plastic water bottles. They want to have photos taken and rather than ask for money they just ask if any of us have pens. Luckily, I have two on me so give them to them. It was really sweet and is going a long way to endearing me to the Guatemalan people. Game over, we drive back and I spend yet another evening at “El Chillout”, but am so tired I just head to bed.

The next morning I catch a bus to Chichicastenango, or Chichi as I like to call it (mainly because it took me 4 days to be able to pronounce the original). Today is Sunday and it’s market day and apparently this is the largest market in Latin America. It takes around 2 hours to get there and after a coffee I go for a wander. The women are all dressed in traditional Mayan colours but a lot of the stuff on the stalls was very similar and targeted at tourists. I liked the more local stalls like the corn man and the chicken sellers (pictured above). Around midday with barely anything purchased it started to rain so I took shelter whilst waiting for our return bus to pick us up. 

The following day I decided it was time to explore Antigua. I visited some of the churches and colleges destroyed by the 1773 earthquake. Houses and such were mostly restored back to their original designs. I think my favourite was Casa Popenoe which had been rennovated and is a great example of how the important people lived in the city back then. Later on, I went to the market and bought a few bits and pieces to bring home, basically the smallest things I could find so they would fit in the rucksack.

Well Antigua is done, but I’ll probably have to come back as I’m off to the beach and Monterrico next, well I can’t come home too pasty can I ? The bad news is the bus is delayed from 8am until 1pm (just as well as I’d left my camera cable in my room – phew !!), that’s cutting short a bit of my beach time but there’s not a lot I can do about that. As I said earlier, Antigua makes a great first stop and Pocaya is incredible but I’m looking forward to seeing the real Guatemala……. 

Transport count:

Plane = 26, Bus = 120, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 11, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

“The Cream of Little Corn !!” – Corn Islands, Nicaragua’s Caribbean

May 30, 2008

Sunrise on Little Corn with Darren and AmyLittle Corn Island

Hola from Nicaragua

So I caught my Atlantic Airlines flight to the Corn Islands. The plane was incredibly small and we just had to sit where we could balance out the weight. After 45 minutes we made a little stop in Bluefields where a man opened the door and shouted “Bluefields !!” What a relief I thought for a minute we might have been in the Congo or something !! Another hop, skip and a jump and we had landed in Big Corn Island. Not surprisingly the larger of the two islands, hence big and little Corn. Now, I’d been told by the guy who worked in a hostel at Leon to stay on Big Corn as there’d been an incident with a girl on Little Corn a couple of years ago. Three words for you, “are you mental ????”. Big Corn is by far more seedier, not that I spent any time there but that’s the word from the people who did and unlike Little Corn it has roads and modern things like that. My instincts told me to head straight to Little Corn anyway, so I jumped in to a taxi and headed to the boat pier. Upon arrival I met a lovely Canadian couple called Amy and Darren who told me the next boat was leaving at 10am and they were going for breakfast and would I like to join them. Breakfast consisted of beer (well technically it was the first proper day of their holiday) and a sandwich. At 10 we caught the boat. It is boiling hot. According to the books the boat journey is a back breaking 30 minutes across the Caribbean. It also recommends to sit as near to the back as possible. Amy was sat in front of a washing machine (well, I suppose it’s the only way to get it to the island !!) and there were plenty of crates of beer on board so at least we’d be merry if we ran out of petrol. The boat actually rears up a lot at the front and the driver can’t see where he’s going so they have a man up front holding a rope for balance and to make sure there’s nothing to crash in to in front. The journey is indeed like going on a fairground ride for free, and Amy and I scream a bit at first as we collide with the waves, until of course we get used to it, although we did still grab hold of the seat in front just in case. 30 minutes later we arrive.

First impressions are this is what I have come for. I think Big Corn was larger and more developed than I expected, Little Corn is a whole different ball game (come to think of it they’re even playing baseball here today). We are immediately pounced upon by the locals who hand us a map and try to guide us to accomodation, for a commission no doubt. On Big Corn we’d been recommended to go to Elsa’s on the other side of the island. The main side it very still and humid whilst the other side has a wonderful breeze. Little Corn is quite long and thin so this should mean a short walk across the island. Let’s just say the map could be a little more accurate. Darren leads the way and we walk through some houses, cross a football pitch and are then heading into plantations. Amy suddenly speeds up and I’m oblivious to the fact that she has seen a man following us carrying a machete. Luckily he veers off, must be off to collect some fruit and we keep following paths until we’re squelching through mangoes. A man calls out to us and asks us if we’re looking for Derrick’s (a popular backpacker hangout). We say no Elsa’s and some how we’ve come way to far up the island. He directs us down to the beach (we’re now looping back) and we walk back down (how does my backpack still feel so heavy when I’ve given Auntie Eileen some things ?). We come across 3 places all together – Carlito’s, Grace’s and Elsa’s. Elsa’s has a hut free and as it’s big enough Darren and Amy ask me to come and join them (well that is after I’ve reclaimed my shoe laces from the stray puppy). It has two big beds and a bathroom with a shower and sink but a sarong for a toilet door. Inhibitions will have to go out of the window – or in this case wooden shutter !! Bikini on, I head straight to the beach (a journey all of about 30 metres) and go for a swim. Ouch, there’s a lot of dead coral washed up, but eventually I’m in the water. After that I go back to shore and promptly fall asleep for 2 hours (well, I was up at 4am). I wake up a little toasted and join the others for a beer. It’s so lovely here, the sea is so turquoise and apart from our 3 little places to stay I can’t see anything else up the beach apart from one wooden building on a hill. We meet some other people and cross town for dinner. When we get back we come across a major Corn Island issue no water, so we just go to bed.

Amy and Darren get up early today but I decide to take my timeake and utilise the bathroom as the water has returned. Then something incredible happens. I go for breakfast and then don’t actually move for the rest of the day. That has to be a new record !! Just as I’d finished my breakfast I got talking to an ex Boston cop (one of the hard Irish types) who lives here. I was desperate to get to the beach but he didn’t seem to stop talking. At first the stories were amusing and then it was just a pain, especially when he said his two favourite hobbies were fighting and f*ck**g !! Then he started introducing me to everyone as his future wife – I don’t think so !! Luckily Amy and Darren then came back to rescue me after their 4 hour walk around the island, we deferred his dinner invitation, after all the guy still has a gun in his house !! Plus he was already on his second bottle of rum. Although one good story was that as Little Corn has no police the community of around 700 people appointed their own man. He’s now in official training on the main land. Basically if they have a problem with anyone they go to him with the issue (there are 1 or 2 crack heads on the island). If the person concerned doesn’t change then they get kicked off the island, the best bit is the guy in charge is known as “Bad to the Bone”, apparently he isn’t but he just has everyone’s respect. We then managed to edge the cop out gradually and got chatting to Liz and Tony and a new couple called Mel and Brendan. A storm blew up at about 4 so we decided to stay put and have dinner there. There are two tiny puppies there as well as a lot of other stray dogs and as I lifted one of them up he had fleas literally swarming over his stomach, I won’t be doing that again and went to wash the hands quickly. Tony and Liz had had to move rooms that day, it looked like Tony had got a huge dose of bed bugs on his arms, but maybe it was the fleas !! The dogs all stay here as the tourists are the only ones that feed them. Time for bed which is usually around 9.30pm when the generator gets switched off.

I had a fitful nights sleep. We keep the shutter open to let air in but Amy kept thinking that someone was trying to get in. Then she heard further noises and we think it was a mouse getting up on the ledge trying to eat her crackers. We decided to get up at 4.45am to watch the sunrise, there’s a picture of Darren and Amy above in the hammocks. At daybreak we went for an early morning walk down the beach with Liz and Tony. It’s nearly lobster season, which is where the islanders make their money so they’re getting all their traps ready. One dog with collar came along, he entertained us by sniffing the beach and then digging up crabs, we stopped him trying to kill them. He’d been adopted by a traveller who stayed here, no wonder it’s the healthiest dog I’ve seen so far. At 7am after a bit of a snooze outside we went to Casa Iguana (there seems to be an Iguana something or other everywhere I go) for breakfast. It’s arguably the best on the island. As it’s on a bit of a hill I took the above picture of Little Corn from there. Then we hiked for an hour or so to a secluded spot to go snorkelling, swimming or in my case falling asleep whilst sunbathing. By midday it felt like we’d had a full day already which was just as well as it started to rain. We headed back and sat under cover munching my mouse free crackers. We took a walk over to the main town and ended up having dinner at the Loster Inn. The owner’s grand child had been shot a couple of weeks earlier in Managua for not handing over his Timex watch !! Silly boy decided to run…very sad. A couple of us went for the boil up which was an amazing fish and potato soup and then we headed back to Elsa’s. We only had one torch this time and the path back is incredibly dark. There’s a full moon tonight and I’ve never really believed all of that mumbo jumbo about what it does to animals and the like but I do now. The path had a few crabs on it the first night but tonight it’s like we’ve had a total invasion. They are the huge blue crabs I saw in Calhuita but they were just everywhere. The rustling in the bushes makes them sound huge and then they were all over the path. The girls were screaming, laughing hysterically and grabbing the nearest person for support. The boys were being pretty manly. It was like we were in a new blockbuster “The Blair Corn Island Crab Project”, in total darkness apart from one small torchlight jumping up and down. At one point there must have been 50 in our way. My eyes were adjusting to the darkness and I could see something that resembled a small coconut about to connect with Amy’s foot. I didn’t tell her as I knew it wasn’t a crab. Upon collision she screamed and high kicked in to the air, I think she’d do well in a Can Can audition at the Folie Bergere. It was quite simply a priceless moment. With great relief we finally reached Elsa’s and had a beer with Mel and Brendan (I’m not even going to put in here what they saw happen in a restaurant this evening, too gross, just having this note will remind me). There was a full moon party starting at 9pm at Iguana. I’m thinking Thailand and Koh Pha Ngan, oh hang on a minute I’m in the Corn Islands, not the same !! One of the guys came back to report that three people were sitting around a fire. I’ll give that one a miss then….

The next morning we wake up early. There is a dog under my bed (mother of the puppies), how on earth did she get there ? Darren and Amy decide to get up and catch the 7am ferry. I’m having a “Clash” moment – “Should I stay or should I go ?”. I’m going to leave that to the Gods and the weather as it’s all been a bit iffy. There’s a 2pm boat so I can catch that and I have an open ticket on my flight. It’s sunny, it’s raining, it’s overcast – help !! By 11am it’s pouring again, well that’s my decision made, I’m leaving on the 2pm boat with Liz and Tony. We say goodbye to Mel and Brendan and catch the boat. It’s stopped raining so at least our bags stay dry. At the airport we are the only 3 to get on board. It’s like having our own private plane – now this really is backpacking !! Unfortunately at Bluefields more people got on. In Managua I say goodbye to Liz and Tony and catch a taxi to my hotel.

I’ve had a brilliant time here and it’s been made better because of the people I’ve met. Little Corn is stunning, there’s loads of snorkelling and diving, it must be one of the least spoiled and cheapest places in the Caribbean. Miss it at your peril. A word of advice though, if you don’t want crabs and other things to go bump in the night too much then stay in a room that’s not directly on the ground….  

Apart from one night to go in Managua that also concludes Nicaragua. I’ve had an absolutely fantastic time here, despite the strikes and so far it’s definitely my Latin American favourite, one country to go !! 

Transport count:

Plane = 26, Bus = 118, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Lived in Leon !! – Nicaragua

May 29, 2008

Leon - Latin America´s largest cathedralWith Auntie Eileen on the Mangrove river trip - Leon

Hola from Nicaragua

Victor arrived at the allotted time to take us to Leon, a journey of about 2 hours. We checked into Lazybones hostel which looked exactly like Oasis (but nicer) in Granada, it must be because it’s run by the same people. A lot of people skip Leon but I have to say I prefer it to Granada as it’s less touristy and definitely has a more lived in feeling. It’s also bigger which I didn’t expect. There are still a couple of stalls in the square but not anything like Granada has and it’s pretty low on tourists at the moment probably due to the petrol strike. Auntie is still not good so I popped to a pharmacy to try and get something to help. I bump into a guy I met in Costa Rica (who has since been robbed at knife point in Managua) and we decide to relax for most of the afternoon as it’s roasting outside. Leon is the 2nd hottest city in Latin America after another one that’s just nearby.

Later on we had a little walk around town to get our bearings and as darkness fell saw a hauntingly beautiful parade of school children with candles who had caused traffic to stand still whilst they celebrated their school’s patron saint. I can’t imagine that happening in England !! We went for dinner at the Shark Pit and then headed back. We met Ed, a guy who is cycling through Latin America. As he’d some how managed to get what looked like first degree burns on his back Nurse Eileen was called upon to adminster a rather high dose of Aloe Vera. I had to take some photos as his face was very contorted at the slightest touch and not that I take pleasure in someone else’s pain but it was a hilarious spectacle to watch.

The next morning we met up with a tour guide called Wilbur who was taking us out to San Jacinta a village some 30 minutes away to see the mud fumaroles. The local children were on hand to guide us around as they have no school as the teacher can’t get there due to the strikes. San Jacinta looks like quite a poor village with thatched roof houses and home to around 7000 people. They again were parading the streets to celebrate a saint – it’s catching !! The children wanted to give us some hot mud as it’s good for the skin but we prefered to give them a little tip each for showing us around. They really were very sweet and the boys were mad on football. There were quite a few fumaroles all of differing consistency bubbling away. The volcano is quite far away but the area could go at any time although they’ve only lost one house so far. After a viewing and a drink we headed back but not before one of the girls had given Auntie a little pot that she’d made freshly for her – it was so sweet !!

Back in town we relaxed and played cards with Ed. Time to teach Auntie Eileen shithead, we had to play for 2 hours before she finally was one – must be beginners luck !! We went to look at one of the city’s churches and then headed to the Cathedral (Latin America’s largest and pictured above). It was huge and contained the tomb of Ruben Dario, Nicaragua’s finest poet (from Leon) with a very sad looking stone lion at it’s feet. As a fitting follow up we then went to visit his home which is now a museum. We walked in the shade as it doesn’t seem to even think about getting cool here until after 4.30pm. We ended up going for dinner in a lovely restaurant across the road called Mediterraneo and played some more cards before bed.

The next day we were up early yet again (it’s hard this travelling lark you know !!) as we’d booked a tour to go to Isla Juan Venado near Penitas. The object of this tour was to do a boat trip down a mangrove river and see some wildlife. We were thinking of a longer trip but as there were no stops for 5 hours decided against it. If we had we may have seen some crocodiles, but not to worry they’re not exactly my favourite animal and the boat is quite small. We hopped in and our driver tells us he has 7 children, he says it’s because of all the fish he eats – so there you go boys, a little secret, a lot of fish goes a long way !! There were red and black mangrove trees and that’s us above pictured on the boat going downstream.  We saw loads of different birds and lizards but I think my favourite was the broad billed heron that looked incredibly shy sitting up in the tree. I have the photo !! The island itself is actually named after a man who lived here all by himself and eventually died here. We stopped at a point and walked through to see the Pacific ocean. A man had hung up a hammock and had an instant new home. You could see he’d had a good crab supper and lunch was a bucket of fish he’d already caught that morning. I guess he had a great setting but he obviously had no money, there is a lot of poverty in Nicaragua and you see it everywhere. We sped back and as the tide had changed couldn’t go right in to shore. Auntie decided to walk through the water and the driver offered to carry me. There were two small channels to get through and I’m not one to look a gift horse in the mouth so I let him fireman carry me over the first and then assumed a slightly more ladylike position for the second – thank goodness I’m wearing shorts !! We said goodbye and then had an iced tea (another addiction and I’ve got Auntie on to it too !!) before heading back to Leon.

Later that afternoon we walked down in to town to see the old jail, now, yes you’ve guessed it, a museum. Judging by the murals and other pictures drawn on the walls it was home to many a torture but now houses the local heroes of Leon – a relief for us !! We then followed our nightly Leon ritual which is Mediteranneo (well the food was so good last night !!) and cards.

Today is Saturday and I really loved today. It felt like we got a real local flavour of lived in Leon. Our shuttle to Managua is not until this afternoon so after my morning swim we decided to take a walk down to the old indigenous village of Leon called Subtiava. On the way, Auntie keeps waving at people in cars, they are taxis (the strike is over !!). I asked her why she kept waving at them and she said it was they keep waving at her, and she wonders why they keep stopping in front of us…bless !! Actually the people in Subtiava don’t really look indigenous here anymore, in fact they seem to have lost a lot of their original culture throughout the whole of the country. The streets although less than 2km from town are more spread out with more greenery and it just feels like a nicer place to live. We walked down to the market where the women were only too happy to pose for photos. In fact they were really putting on a show. I had to take one of the rice and beans lady (the classic Latin America stall) but I wouldn’t have wanted to buy my meat here as the flies were buzzing around it at all angles. We got to see women walking around with the heaviest baskets on their heads and literally whole families riding on bicycles (a bit like the Asian motorbike system). The church and museum were closed so we went back to the hostel to await our transportation. On a good note, the transport strike ended last night, so hopefully things should be back to normal asap, although I’m not sure how the taxi drivers are going to make up their wages, especially when they are struggling to survive as it is.

The minibus arrived and we were dropped off at the Managua backpackers. It seems to be in a safe enough area so we walked to the local Chinese and placed an order for take away (this in itself is a landmark as Auntie Eileen was the first peron who ever gave me a chinese take away). The hostel has a huge DVD collection so we sat down with the rest of the inmates to watch “In to the wild”, it was good but a bit depressing at the end, maybe I should read the book first next time.

Our taxi picked us up at 4.30am to go to the airport, sadly it’s time to say goodbye to Mi Tia Maria (Auntie Eileen). She’s heading back to the UK and I have conveniently arranged a flight at the same time to the Corn Islands, so I can drop her off. I know which place I’d rather be going to !! I think she’s enjoyed herself and it’s been lovely to have her visit me, although she quite often does if I’m in some far off corner. So it was a quick hug, a thank you for helping to take back some things and a goodbye. It’s time for me to top up the tan I hope !! My recommendation would be miss Granada and go to Leon, unless of course you have time to do them both !! Now it’s time to go and visit this pair of islands that everyone’s been raving about…………..

 

Transport count:

Plane = 24, Bus = 118, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Oh my it’s Ometepe !! – Nicaragua

May 27, 2008

The bull rodeoThe common blue magpie jays seen on Ometepe

Hola from Nicaragua

So it’s time to go on to Ometepe. Ometepe is a volcanic island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua (Latin America’s biggest lake) which has a volcano on each end. The largest Volcan Concepcion and the smaller Volcan Maderas. Ometepe has also made it to the short list for the new seven natural wonders of the world.

We caught our shuttle at 5am. It would normally have been 8am but due to the petrol blockades we had to try and leave early before they’d set up for the day. Hence, we arrived at the ferry before the gates were open. There were 5 of us so we sat and had a coffee and then boarded the 7.30am one to Ometepe. We climbed up to the top open air deck and watched as the lorries and cars were being loaded on. Apparently in the past many a ferry has sunk at this stage. Nearly there and some seagulls decided to join us on route so that they could catch crisps being thrown at them by the tourists. We arrived at Moyalgalpa and were immediately accosted by the minibus driver wanting to take us. For $5 each we could get to Santa Domingo in an hour rather than more than double that time on the local bus. Despite the strike the buses are still running here although we did encounter a blockade of rocks across the road which the driver had to move. Santa Domingo is the nicest part (well I am on a holiday budget at the moment !!) Most backpackers head to Merida but I have to say we have the best beach.

We checked in to Villa Paraiso and for an extra $3 got a fab room with view of the beach, patio, TV etc etc and unlike the other room I looked at it´s midge free. It appears that a small amount of money goes a whole lot futher here. I bumped into a guy I’d met in Colombia a few weeks earlier – it still freaks me out that over a continent you can just randomly bump into people. Auntie and I sat on the patio for a bit with some tea and watched the elegant looking blue magpie jays (pictured above) perch on the rail just in front of us. After a spot of lunch (the food here is great) we decided to explore.

We’d decided to go to “Ojo de Agua” (eye of the water) a natural lagoon down the road but on the way we came across a little tourist office and stopped inside. They had a little wildlife trail which you could walk on so we decided to do that instead. My aim was to find Auntie monkeys as she’s never seen them in the wild. Completely unprepared but armed with binoculars we walked on the very uneven volcanic rock path – flip flops weren’t exactly the best footwear !! After battling the initial swarm of midges we came across various birds, lizards and squirrels. I even saw an Agouti. The path was very up and down and we´d ticked most of the birds off the list but no monkeys (although I was sure I could hear them). It was starting to get dark so we sped up to make out way out of the park. Then I saw them. There was a whole troop of howlers. They were hanging out on the old canopy ride platforms as if to say “we’re ready to go where’s our guide ?”. Then in front of us we came across a Capuchin, he really did´nt like the look of us and broke off a rather large stick from a tree. He just looked at us and then dropped it but then got another. We decided to leave the monkeys in peace and went back to the hotel for dinner.

The next day we’d booked an island tour to leave at 9am. I just wanted to get an idea of what was on the island so that we could then decide how long we wanted to stay. You can of course climb either of the volcanos here, it takes either 6-8 or 10-12 hours depending on which one you do. Don´t think Auntie’s up for that but to be honest I haven’t met anyone who really enjoyed doing it anyway. After my traditional breakfast of gallo pinto (rice and beans to you !!) we headed out. The one and only bad thing about Villa Paraiso is that they try to charge you extra for an English speaking guide and never in all my trip have I come across that. So I asked for a Spanish one, which turned out to be Juan Antonio from reception and he spoke amazing English – result !! He also liked getting out of the hotel so it was a bonus for him.

First stop was El Porvenir, some 2000 year old petroglyphs etched in the hills. All I´m saying is lots of circles. We got to walk amongst some great trees and plants and Auntie who is a bit of a gardening buff was thoroughly enjoying herself despite the heat. I have to say it feels like Nicaragua is the hottest country in Latin America, but apparently it was 40+ degrees in January. Next stop the museum which talked about the formation of Ometepe and has some great pottery examples from the old tribes. Then Chaco Verde. This is also described as one of the most beautiful spots on the island but I have to say I preferred Santa Domingo. We went for a stroll down by the lagoon and saw some river turtles and trees full of parrots then it was time for lunch. I was still full from the mammoth breakfast so just had an ice cream. After lunch we headed to Punta Jesus Maria which has a stretch of beach leading right out in to the lake and is the nearest point from Ometepe to the mainland. Lots of ingenious fish were leaping out of the water to catch the midges. You get a great view of both volcanosat the same time from here. We were now really at the end of the tour but as Auntie had been so engaging with Juan Antonio he asked us if we’d like to experience something more local (not on the tour) although it may be very different to our culture, I of course said we would !! Secretly I think he was not in a rush to get back to work but all the better for us..

We pulled up at what in England would be something similar to a fete. There were little tents serving food and drinkand quite a few people there. We saw some cows and bulls and some men looking like modern day cowboys on horses. We were at the local bull rodeo. Apparently this happens on one month a year, weekends only to celebrate a patron saint so our timing was perfect. We’d actually had a bit of a storm the night before so the festivities and partying had been cancelled so it seemed that people were even more keen to get going today. I bought our guide and driver a beer and then Juan went to check if it was okay for us to come and watch, after all we were the only 2 tourists there – how exciting !! It indeed was okay so we took our ringside seats. More and more people were gathering around and quite a lot of teenage boys were standing in the ring. The bulls and cows had been herded into a separate pen and the band began to play which meant we were about to start. The first cow wasn’t very cooperative, there was a lot of pulling and grabbing of the tail and I wasn’t sure I actually wanted to watch at all. Generally, I haven’t seen them treat animals very well here (they love cock fighting) and so didn’t really want to watch a live example. Eventually the cow was in position and the volunteer (no prize money, it’s more of a macho thing) mounted her (no comments please !!). Upon release she galloped off and shook him to the floor (he lasted 3 seconds max). As she’d been a bit difficult to begin with the bravado of the teenage boys had disappeared and they’d all climbed up the fence and well out of the way. The rider got up and jumped out of the way. We were told that neither rider nor animal are usually hurt (let’s hope not). The next bull looked like he’d done this all before and calmly was led to the pole for his rider to get on board (maybe it’s just the females being difficult – which of course I can’t imagine would be the case !!). On the off all he wanted to do was go back to the pen holding the other animals, they tried desperately to get him excited with a red flag but he wasn’t having any of it. So the rider stayed on and I’m not sure how they decide who wins but he’d stayed upright for the whole allocated time. Finally for us, out comes Contestant no.3. His cow again is more awkward but not as bad as no.1 so despite the cows best efforts he manages to stay on (see above picture). We left just as the first contestant was going to have another go with a new animal, obviously humiliated from his earlier 2 second effort, it was great to experience a bit of traditional Ometepe life.

The next day is one of relaxation, after all Auntie is on holiday. We decide that it’s time for some sun so after breakfast and sorting out transportation for the following day we head to the beach. The sand is absolutely scorching hot as we head straight into the lake. You can walk out quite far here as it’s quite shallow. It’s weird though as you can’t see any land so it looks like you’re in the sea but it’s really fresh water. There even used to be fresh water bull sharks (still a few apparently) in it until they overfished it for the Asian markets (I blame that shark fin soup!!). Time to then spend a couple of hours in the sun on the most uncomfortable chairs ever !! After lunch we finally made it to Ojo de Agua which was a 30 minute walk away. It wasn’t actually as natural as I imagined but there are two pools and it is fresh water. Auntie Eileen decided to go straight in and I could tell by her face that it was a lot colder than she was letting on. For this fair weather girl that was just not a goer !! However, I had to laugh when an 7 year old local girl was trying to instruct her to put her shoulders under, she’s not one to take orders my Auntie (too used to bossing patients around as a nurse) but she certainly obeyed in this case. On our way back we were bombarded by bats, which amused me as one of the many strange dogs here looked like it had a bat man mask on with it’s markings. Maybe this is where the new bat cave is !! I like bats, I’ve heard there’s a cool bat cave in Guatemala to check out so will have to try and investigate when I’m there.

The following day it was time to leave, we caught the 9am ferry (which appeared to be in danger of sinking due to the overloaded lorry filled with plantains) and then had to wait for the scheduled shuttle to take us back to Granada. I’d have liked to head straight to Leon but the strike is still on so it doesn’t look like we’re going to make it there today. We were with a Canadian girl called Kayla who wanted to go to San Juan del Sur, however the strike has caused a reduction in travellers (a lot have gone straight through) so she decided rather than try and go in a private car on her own she’d come in the shuttle with us to Granada. On the way we had to go through a blockade. It was just the 3 of us and the driver in the minibus. The minibus was made to stop and the locals looked in. They didn’t look very happy but did say hello then just stared at us, to be honest I think the strike is hitting their pockets very hard so they weren’t in the best of moods. They let us pass, but I’m wondering if it would have been so easy if we had more people and some men inside. We dropped Kayla off and checked back in to the Oasis, ooh it’s like a home from home !!

Back in Granada Auntie Eileen has a case of deli belly so we take it easy today. There are lots of hammocks in the hostel so it’s really easy to relax. The hostel offers a free daily 10 minute call so at least she can call home to make sure everything’sokay. We’ve been unable to find a shuttle so have booked Victor (the driver I used before) to take us to Leon tomorrow, he’s still $20 cheaper than everyone else. We go out for dinner to an Asian restaurantbut it’s a bit of a disappointment- I am still craving a decent curry !! When we get back we get chatting to a Scottish girl who seems a bit scared of Nicaragua, I try to reassure her as so far it’s been excellent.

Oh well it’s time for bed, tomorrow we’re off to Leon a bit further North. All I can say is if you missed Ometepe then it was a big mistake !! 

Transport count:

Plane = 24, Bus = 117, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 30 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Grandiose Granada and the Gasoline Gangs !! – Nicaragua

May 24, 2008

The girls play football on the streets of Granada ...Views over Granada

Hola from Nicaragua

I woke up around 10am. Katie had woken up early enough to put her name on the list for the Granada shuttle – I have no idea where she gets all of her energy from, especially as she’d stayed out later than me. I called my Auntue just to make sure she’d got my message and she seemed incredibly relaxed about all the potential problems the strike may cause. The shuttle decided to leave a bit early due to the petrol blockades. We were instructed to put our bags on the bus and then we had to walk in small groups so to not attract attention to ourselves. The idea was that we walk through the first blockade actually in San Juan del Sur. I don’t know why but we even invented cover stories as to where we were going while we were walking. All very cloak and dagger !! After 30 minutes we reached the bus that had quietly snuck into a side alley. We’d seen very little action although one guy was being interviewed by the TV station. Time to get on the road. The journey takes about 2 hours. We suddenly came across a very large blockade. To say the people weren’t happy to see us was an understatement, however they let us pass without incident. The next blockade was more hostile. I actually wasn’t too worried as police were there and they are armed. I felt like a “Scab” crossing the lines, after all I do agree with what they are striking for, but at the same time I’ve got to fetch Auntie tomorrow. This time they decided to bang on the bus doors. It was a little unnerving, but maybe more so when we saw a guy being pulled out of a taxi on the other side of the blockade, I’d loved to have taken a photo but daren’t risk it !! Basically all public buses and taxis should be striking as the petrol has increased so much it is affecting their pay. At least 2 people that I now know of died in Leon and it’s rumoured that the president, Ortega sold oil to other countries, really not sure about him, yet another mate of Chavez the clown. Katie also seemed to be coming down with the flu and was fading fast. We reached Granada and as the Bearded Monkey was full I went back to Oasis where I’d planned to stay when my Auntie arrived anyway. I met up with the Irish who’d been on the shuttle. After all the day’s excitement we were knackered so went out for a quick hot dog. After a relaxing afternoon we went out for dinner on a very touristy street just off the main square. It was an Asian restaurant, Pauline an Irish girl has been craving Indian food as much as me but this had to do. I had Korean tacos which were great but the others were a bit disappointed with their Thai. We got some beers on the way back to the hostel. I discovered that Pauline had also done the turtle volunteer work that I’d done. Just after 11pm a girl came in looking for a room. All they had left were the expensive ones so I offered her a free bed in my room, well couldn’t let a girl roam the streets at that time of the night and that is my good deed for the day !! Off to bed I have to admit I was getting excited about Auntie’s impending visit tomorrow.

I woke up around 8am, and Katie came over about 30 minutes later so we went back to the Bearded Monkey for breakfast. I have to say the food is really good there. After breakfast Katie packed up and we went back to the Oasis where I changed rooms and as there was a spare bed invited Katie to stay. After we were all sorted out we went to the main square and ended up doing a bit of jewellery shopping. During the day it’s surrounded by horse and carts to give rides around the city. The poor horses end up with lots of bows tied to their head, I’m sure they know it makes them look silly !! Annoyingly some of the stall holders were selling turtle shell products so I refused to buy from them. I know they are poor but it’s just wrong !!

Katie went off to make a call so I got a drink and sat in the square. When she came back she saw a bowl of food which a local guy was having and ordered it. As it was pork I declined. There are a lot of hungry children here and you can see the saliva literally drooling from their mouths as they watch you eat. There was some crackling with the food and she took a bite. After swallowing it she looked down to see that there was an enormous amount of black hair sticking out. In fact it could have been human for all we knew. It certainly bore a close resemblance to my legs if left unshaven for a week (I haven’t actually resorted to that as yet, maybe if I was away longer and wanted to save on razors !!). We never did find out if it really was pork, one bite had been enough for her though. She immediately felt sick and I don´t blame her. It was gross !! We couldn’t stop joking about the fact that she’d turned into a cannibal for the rest of the day.  

After that we decided to go to one of the Cathedrals to walk up the bell tower to take some shots of the city from up high (as you can see in the above photo). We walked up the steps and as we had been told to mind our heads we walked out through a gate way on to the roof. It provided us with great views although it was hard taking pictures as the roofs were quite curved. It seemed like quite a bit of balancing was going on. I noticed one of the structures at the side had fallen aswell. Suddenly we heard a shout. Apparently we were supposed to carry on up the stairs and where we were standing was a dangerous area, we had to come back inside immediately. Reprimanded like naughty school girls (I wish !!) we came back in and finished the walk to the top. We wandered around town a bit more and went for a very delicious ice cream at the Euro Cafe, with a dulce de leche sauce of course !! (Yes, I’m still addicted, I think it will be a life long passion). 

I had a taxi booked for 5 to take me to Managua airport. I’d got a brilliant deal for $30, there and back including the wait time (obviously would have been cheaper if a bus was running !!). Sometimes it does pay to be extra nice and speak as much Spanish as possible to the receptionist. My driver, Victor, turned up bang on time. Auntie’s plane arrived and after a little problem with the luggage being stuck we were on our way. I’ve changed her name from Eileen for the purposes of this trip. Mainly because the word for Aunt in Spanish is Tia, so I’m introducing her to everyone as Mi Tia Maria – makes me laugh, and it involves alcohol !! After checking her in we head straight out for a Mojito before going to bed, after all she’s had an extremely long journey via Miami to get here.

Katie’s shuttle to Managua left at 4am, actually they knocked at 3.30am which was a bit of a shock. She’s been hilarious, is off to party in Tahoe but Katie just remember to “Rally ” !! (private joke). It’s been a laugh and she’s promised to show me around the West Coast of the USA of I ever make it there. Auntie and I get up and tour the city’s cathedrals ( where there seems to be an endless streams of people sweeping floors), then it’s time for lunch. After lunch we head to the old convent which is now a museum, Mi Tia Maria decided that they’d got the labelling all wrong on the old statues and what they’d labelled as monkeys were really jaguars. Granada is really quite a stunning town, very colonial and grand and can easily be seen in a day or two. I love the way the tiled pavements are all different and the buildings are a variety of different colours. It gets incredibly quiet on the less busy streets at night though, and there does seem to be lots of slot machine places everywhere. There are lots of men trying to sell us pottery – not the best item to put in my rucksack !! We watch girls play a football match in the square (pictured above), it’s amazing how many boys were watching on bicycles at the sidelines, maybe they weren’t that interested in the actual game itself though. For dinner we headed to a lovely restaurant called Pasta Pasta, not very authentic for the first meal but there’s plenty of time yet.

On the way back I said goodbye to Eddie a boy whose Mum had a stall near the hostel he was so sweet….Granada is extremely grand, now having been around Nicaragua I have to say I prefer the more authentic Leon which a lot of people miss out. They had an Australian situation where Leon and Granada disagreed so Managua was the in the middle – shame but true !!

We in the mean time need an early night as we have an early shuttle to Ometepe tomorrow and so far I think Auntie is enjoying it and she can read Spanish really well, I’m impressed !!   

Transport count:

Plane = 24, Bus = 115, Train = 2, Boat =20, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 30 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Stranded whilst surfing !! – San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua’s Pacific Coast

May 16, 2008

Drinking in the gutter wuth Jas and Lucy, oh the backpacker\'s life !Katie showing me how surfing should be done !!

Hola from Nicaragua

So we arrived at the border and I changed some dollars into the local Nicaraguan Cordoba’s. The exchange rate is more or less as good as the banks so it makes sense. The line was very long and it’s really hot here, at least it’s all orderly. Exit stamp achieved, we get back on the bus and hand over our passports to get a Nicaraguan entry stamp. We then have to stand in another queue with our bags and hand in the customs form. Not actually sure why, as they waved us all on and we put our bags straight back on the bus. I got out at Rivas with two really nice Americans and we were told a taxi to San Juan del Sur would cost around $15. You seem to be able to use both dollars and the local currency here. A school girl tried to get us a taxi but we went for an official one. There didn’t seem to be any buses or collectivos anyway. 45 minutes later we were in San Juan and today is just getting better and better for me as I got the last bed in Casa Oro. Due to my early start I’m knackered so go for a walk to find yet more sunglasses and then have some food. I like it here, it feels incredibly relaxed. As I check my email later on I see that Katie is here and is still up for giving me a free surf lesson. Surfing is something I would only ever contemplate in hot weather and warm seas. I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy it but I remember that she did assure me that the Pacific Ocean is less salty than the Caribbean Sea, and you never know you’re going to like something unless you try it I suppose. I reckoned she was probably at the beach so I’d go and try and find her around 6ish. Half an hour later back in the hostel I see Katie. We arrange to meet the next day for my surf lesson…HELP !!

I’m so tired I read for ages then head to bed still reading and looking forward to an early night. At 9pm a local guy is brought in looking rather worse for wear and is led on to a bunk. He bangs his head and then leans over to the crack between the bed and the wall and proceeds to be sick. It’s a big dorm but I really don’t want to smell that all night. I must have given daggers to the local girl (oh yes, be very scared at my daggers !!) and she went and got a mop and cleaned it up. I slept soundly and woke up at 7am.

I collected my surf board and went to meet Katie. We are joined by a Norweigan couple Andy and Anna. We heard last night that Nicaragua had called a nationwide bus and taxi strike due to the ongoing price increases (if you think we had it bad, the prices are horrendous in comparison here !!) so we had to get a secret shuttle to the beach. There are blockades out of town so we couldn’t get to the beach we wanted to go to so went to Maderas beach instead. The beach was empty. Katie ran through a couple of the few important moves we’d need to make, including popping up on the surf board, then it was time to hit the ocean. It strikes me that the hardest thing about surfing is getting out there in the first place to catch the wave. I seemed to be paddling sideways which meant that in no time at all I was on for a tumble dry setting in the waves. Glad I’d removed the contacts or I think I’d have had real problems seeing anything. At least my ankle strap was keeping the surf board attached. I watched Katie in action (as you can see from the shot above), just how long had it taken her to surf like that ? And she claims she is still a beginner. She was very good and kept encouraging me to keep going, which I did. I have to say I was thoroughly enjoying myself, I’d even go as far as to say I’d try this again with a full lesson. Sometimes I even surprise myself. I get dunked, dunked and dunked again, but oh what fun. I can now get into position but can’t pop up. Andy seems to have no fear. I think the coordination of being in position, paddling and catching the wave is getting there, i just can’t seem to pop up. Eventually I manage to kneel. I catch the wave and am screaming with laughter as I soar in to shore. My arms are in the air and I look like a crab doing the Mexican wave, but it’s such a brilliant feeling. I really don’t care that Anna is laughing her head off at me, well I must look a ridiculous spectacle. After an hour I decide to catch some rays. Then the others do the same. They go out again after lunch, I was going to but I’m really just enjoying watching and getting a bit of sun. That´s my story and I´m sticking to it…

Later on as I’m reading I see something black and orange coming towards me. Considering the last creature I saw with that colouring was a tarantula I screamed. It was a crab !! My scream and movement made it lift it’s claws up at me and scuttle past sideways. It did indeed look like it was doing the Mexican wave, at least something looks like the way I surf. The tide is coming in and all the crabs seem to be heading to us, my new game was not to let them past until they had performed the wave ritual. We got ready to leave as our bus was coming to pick us up at 3pm and I really must have pissed the crabs off as one of them secretly got behind Katie and gave her bum a good pinch. Sorry Katie !! We walked up the path to catch the bus. No sign. We waited and waited. After 45 minutes I’m so thirsty that I decide to get us all drinks back at the beach. The bus is still not there. We think he may have thought we said 4pm so we wait. No sign. At 4.15pm Katie decides to go back to the beach to see how we can get back. I’m not worried as at least there’s 4 of us. She comes back and says there are still trucks at the beach so we head down to see if we can catch a lift. We’ll need to find transport capable of taking the surf boards though. On top of that I’ve been fretting on how I’m going to get to Managua to pick my Aunt up in 2 days time due to the bus strike. I’m thinking of trying to get straight to Managua from here so at least I’ll be there on time.

The first guy we meet will take us but can’t fit the surf boards on. We then meet an older American woman who after Katie told her our stranded story just said “Well, good luck” (translation – hard luck leave us alone). Luckily for her I didn’t hear this at the time as I would have gone mad (in fact, she was staying at my hostel so I would have really have gone for it and I know whose side all the backpackers would have been on, not hers !!) – one word for you lady – KARMA !! It turned out that the driver who she’d made out to be her friend was a taxi driver who would take us back if we paid him. 2 hours after we were supposed to have left we jumped on the back of the pick up truck, it was bumpy but fine. It turned out that the route we’d been dropped off at earlier had since been blockaded aswell. We were dropped off at the far side of the beach and then walked back to town. I never realised how hard it was to carry a surf board. On the way I bumped into the 2 Americans I’d shared the taxi with the day before but was in a rush as it was 5.30pm and the surf shop was supposed to close at 5. Thankfully it was open. The old cow was returning her surf board and I just ignored her smiles. As I came out I heard my name, it was Lucy, last seen in Monteverde. They’d changed their plans and come here and were doing a homestay and learning Spanish for the week. We arranged to meet up later on that evening.

Arriving back at the hostel I was somewhat relieved to find that the shuttle to Granada was on, at least that would take me part of the way to meet my Auntie, so i ditched my plans to go straight to Managua. I met up with Katie, Anna and Andy and a couple of surfers from Newquay at a bar called Big Wave Dave´s. I was jealous I´d already eaten when I saw their food arrive. Jas and Lucy turned up shortly afterwards and after dinner and a couple of beers we headed to a bar called Republika. The bar was full so Lucy, Jas and I had to sit in the gutter to drink our beers (a lovely shot above), as you can see my social life is really soaring to new heights !! The rum was really strong and I sneaked off part way through to call home to advise my Auntie about the transport strikes. We didn’t really have a clue what was going on and it´s hard passing on local news without unduly worrying the parents. Panic over, I went back to the bar (we´d been found some chairs) and had some local rum. Apparently Nicaraguan rum is the 3rd best in the world so that´s good enough for me. As I was started to feel a little tipsy the bar ran out of drink so the girls left which meant more goodbyes, I stayed with Katie a bit longer and then left myself.

I have the feeling tomorrow could be a very interesting day and as for being stranded, I´d had a good time attempting to surf that I really didn´t mind at all !!

Transport count:

Plane = 24, Bus = 114, Train = 2, Boat =20, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 30 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Misty Monteverde !! – Costa Rica

May 14, 2008

Pizza night in MonteverdeSt Elena Reserve

Hola from Costa Rica

So on to my final destination in Costa Rica, Monteverde. You can catch a couple of buses or the quickest and easiest route is a jeep/boat/jeep. Really as you go in a minbus it should be called the Bus/boat/bus, but I suppose this doesn’t sound as exciting and therefore a lot of people wouldn´t opt for it. Anyway it was all very pain free. The highlight was the narrow little boat over the lake which gives you a great view of the Arenal volcano. I arrived in Monteverde in under 3 hours and checked myself in to the Monteverde backpackers. Possibly I´d recommend Pension Elena it looks more fun. Although the area is called Monteverde most of the backpackers stay in Saint Elena the nearby town. I like it, it looks real and although caters for tourists it hasn´t outdone itself and retains a lot of character. I chatted to an Aussie girl in my dorm for a bit then went out to get some food. Budget food is a little limited but I headed to a cafe called Maravilla and then had an early night.

The next day I pottered around town, had a late breakfast and decided to do the Sky Bridges walk. Just as I got back to the hostel it absolutely poured down. Luckily this didn´t last too long ( well we are coming in to rainy season) and I was picked up by my over friendly driver who insisted he wanted to marry someone from another culture and would I like to come with him to Bar Amigos that night….think I´ll give it a miss. I got to the Sky Bridges and was told it would take just over an hour to do the walk over the 8 elevated bridges. I set out down the narrow paths and tried to spot wildlife. It seemed like there was too much tree cover so made my way to a bridge. The bridges are incredibly high and you are above or in line with the tree tops. At first they felt a bit unsafe especially as they wobbled wildly when anyone else walked on them with you. I kind of wanted to experience this on my own so let various people pass by. Then the loud groups were so noisy that I didn´t think any wildlife would even stick around. As the bridges got higher and higher the scenery was getting better and better. Eventually the ends of the bridges looked like they were disappearing in to the clouds (could that be because I’m in a cloud forest? ), it was all quite misty! I spotted an Emerald Toucan (the smallest of the species) and managed to take a photo. Then a rare treat, I got to see a Quetzal swooping through the sky. This is a rare and protected bird in Costa Rica and is a gorgeous green and red colour, the males also have quite a long tail feather. Finally on the very last bridge I saw a nose bear otherwise known as a Coati, although it looked completely different to the ones I’d seen in Iguazu. Unfortunately I couldn´t get a photo as once again everyone was walking over the bridge so the shot came out blurred …. god damn those tourists !!

I was starving when I got back to town so went to Morphos for dinner and had some lovely roast potatoes with my dinner. When I got back to the hostel Jas and Lucy from La Fortuna had checked in. They also needed to eat so took them to Maravilla and just had a drink while they ate. It was great to see them again !!

The next morning I had to get up at 6am for an early morning trek through the Saint Elena reserve. Two of the other girls from my dorm were going whilst Jas and Lucy were booked to do the canopy tour which here includes a rather scary tarzan swing. I had been recommended to get a guide which was definitely worthwhile, otherwise it´s very difficult to actually see anything. Firstly, we were met by a rather wild pig called Charlie. Well when I say wild he seems to have domesticated himself. Apparently he did have a girlfriend once but she hated his forays into the car park to say hello to people so dumped him and retreated to the forest. He in the mean time has become addicted to insect repellant and was trying to lick it all off Helen´s legs. Being a friendly pig, he decided to begin our 3 hour trek with us (I so so want a pig, I’ve even given up eating pork for the time being, I just can’t face it !!). The Saint Elena reserve is a cloud forrest, it´s split into primary and secondary forest, here’s a picture of the primary forest above. You can also go to the Monteverde reserve aswell here. It used to rain every day but due to global warming it doesn’t anymore. In fact, the warmer weather has brought birds that never used to live here like toucans in to the area. They have then been killing the Quetzals and Bell birds, according to our guide there used to be more than 100 bell birds in the park 3 years ago but now there are only 35, it didn’t seem like they were endangered as we could hear them constantly, but maybe it was the same one who was a bit lonely. So on to the wildlife, we got to see a cool stick insect and then a millipede which gave off a rather almond smell to disuade predators. We did get to see a couple of the rare Three-wattled bell birds which look like they have rather strange black spaghetti hanging over their beaks. They have to be at least 7 years old to have this feature and were just sitting on the end of a high branch calling out with their bell sound to attract females. Next a huge helicopter beetle, I also pointed this out to a couple who were walking on their own. Then the tour ended, no monkeys – boo hoo !! Helen decided to go off and walk some more trails but didn’t see anything else and I caught the bus back in to town for a late lunch. I bumped into some girls I´d met on the volcano tour in La Fortuna and then went to book my bus ticket. There´s a TransNica bus that takes you straight through the border but unfortunately that was booked up so I´d have to stay another night and leave on Monday. Lucy and Jas decided that they´d leave and just try and catch the local buses so we all went out for a last pizza. In all there were 10 of us (as you can see above) and we caught up with Steve who´d also been my dorm mate in La Fortuna. We called it an early night. Actually it was really strange as our whole dorm had been out together so we all went to bed at the same time (it´s been ages if at all that that´s happened), it felt like we were on an illicit school trip and we were having to arrange a time to wake up for our midnight feast. Lucy was talking about the toilet and obviously being Australian called it a Dunny. Brooke (American) and Magnus (Norweigan) said “What´s a Dunny ?”, only the way Magnus said it was “Dun…..ny ????” in a very funny Scandinavian way. Lucy then repeated this and burst out laughing so we had some more fun and introduced them to the word “Doona” as well, which Magnus also pronounced in a very high pitched questioning way. It meant that we all went to sleep literally snorting with laughter under the bed clothes. Very juvenile but it took me ages to fall asleep I was laughing so hard. I think you had to be there. The girls had to leave at the crack of dawn. It was sad to see them go but there is a possibility I´ll see them in Nicaragua so who     knows …..

I got up and went to the Orchid garden. I´ve just finished a book called Orchid Fever about the rules and adventures of people in the orchid world so thought it was rather fitting (more riveting than it sounds – honest !!). They had some 500 orchid species out of 1200 that exist in Costa Rica including the smallest. Actually the garden was beautiful and I hung around after my tour in the hope of getting that all important shot of a butterfly pollinating an orchid – no such luck !! There was however a great moment of meeting Lorita. She´s a wild green parrot but comes to the garden every morning as she knows they will feed her. She has even learnt her name and screams it out and then cackles with laughter, this then makes you laugh and it was highly entertaining for a while. One very happy wild bird !! Next on my list was the Serpentarium where they house both the local harmless and venomous snakes. I tried to tell the difference with the head shape but it was really hard, I´m really not going to know the difference if I come across one face to face so think I´ll treat them all as venomous just in case.

After a relaxing afternoon there for me was one thing left to do the guided night walk. I haven´t done one since Borneo and when the guide asked me what my expectations were I said I had come to see Tarantulas as I heard most people had seem them on this trip, and I knew any photo I got would scare the hell out of my Dad when I got home. We started off while it was still light but we had all armed ourselves with torches. First port of call was to walk through a banana plantation, we then rounded a bend and walked up some steps then bingo….our guide stopped at a ground level hole in a tree. He shone his torch inside and said orange legged tarantula, it was a female who was guarding her nest. Apparently they don´t kill the male if they realise he wants to mate with her, and she´s also very opportunist if prey walks by. He got a small stick to create some vibrations which would make her venture further out of the nest. She was huge and actually quite beautiful. She didn´t come out too far so we still had to crane our necks to see her properly. Well, at least for me it meant that my expectations of the tour had been met immediately. Darkness fell pretty quickly after that. It was incredibly difficult to spot anything but we were all shining our torches up high in the trees in the hope that we may find a pair of eyes shining out in the dark. All we really found were fire flies, various May beetles and moths. There was a teeny weeny frog and then I screamed as I realised the buzzing sound was a huge beetle flying at me. Thankfully that only happened one more time and I´m pleased to say I handled my next buzzing in a far more dignified manner. After the forrest we made our way over some fields but didn´t really see anything. One of the girls moaned that the tour was boring but she  really was a pain anyway and then we were back at the minibus. I have to say I quite enjoyed it, I love the sound of the forest at night well that is of course as long as I´m with a guide to save me and I don´t have to camp there !!

Arriving back at the hostel I found that Helen was waiting for me with Magnus and a new guy who’d moved into our dorm called Jacob. Steve then turned up with John and we all went to Maravilla for dinner. After dinner I said goodbye to Steve and then headed to the only happening (if you can call it that) place in town called Bar Amigos. They had the audacity to charge an entrance fee even though it was a Monday night. At least the beers were cheap !! On entering, it looked like we’d walked in to a bar where time had stood still. In fact it reminded me of an old style social club we used to have in the UK (probably still do !!). Boney M was playing on the sound system and there was a disco ball hanging down from the ceiling. There was a motorbike on stage and the DJ was advertising himself as “Music for the new millenium” !! Maybe he didn’t realise we’re in 2008 already. I only had one beer as I had to get up at 3.30am for my bus and I really couldn’t take the excitement. I got back to the hostel and the Canadian couple had decided to share the bunk bed above Helen (that was a result as they could have chosen the one above me). The night before I had told her a collapsing bunk bed story from a dorm in Borneo, no wonder she was looking at me worriedly.

My alarm went off at 3.30am, I moved everything outside and packed up and walked to the bus station. The bus arrived at 4.15am and I boarded. It was due to arrive at the highway at 6am and my next bus was due to pick me up at 6.40am, plenty of time !! Ten minutes in to the journey there seemed to be a problem. The driver got out to have a look along with another passenger. They only took 10 minutes and then we were on our way again. The highway turned out to be a 2 lane road and we’d arrived at 6.30am, have I been had ? I grabbed a coffee, drunk it quickly and went to the bus stop. A woman then informed me that my bus had arrived early at 6.20am, waited 5 minutes and then left. She checked with a taxi driver who said the next bus was due at 9am but I should call the office in order to get it to stop and pick me up. I wasn’t unduly worried as it was still really early so I went back to the cafe and bought a phone card. I thought my Spanish was getting better but I couldn’t understand the woman who spoke at me at 500 miles an hour in an automated message in order to get the card activated. A taxi driver then left me borrow his mobile to call the office in Monteverde but it was still too early and noone answered. As I was talking to him another TransNica bus sped past, so much for the next one being at 9am !! I am now cursing Costa Rica and just want to leave, I probably looked a sad lone and tired figure as I sat on my backpack at the side of the road. I decided to either catch the next TransNica or a bus to the border, whatever turned up first, after all if there´s one thing I do have it´s time. 15 minutes later, the taxi driver who’d let me borrow his phone came back and screeched to a halt beside me. All I heard was “Sally, Sally, I´ve stopped the bus, quick jump in my taxi !!”. My paranoia was telling me this could be a con but the chance of a bus going smoothly through the border was too good to lose. I got in the taxi and he told me that the bus was waiting for me at a restaurant up the road. As we approached there was no bus, damn it´s a con. He sped up, tried to overtake anything in sight and then 500 metres up the road there indeed was the bus waiting for me at a petrol station. I thanked the taxi driver profusely and gave him some money. Then I was safely on the bus and on my way to Nicaragua. I´ve often felt that someone has been watching over me on this trip and keeping me safe. Whoever you are, thank you. It´s amazing how your emotions can change in the space of a couple of minutes, as for me I´m elated, my language is no longer blue and I’m now on my way to Nicaragua.

As for Costa Rica, I’ve enjoyed it and met some great people. A lot of the trips seem to be very tour driven. They certainly have got to grips with the tourist market. I would come back but I think it’s a place better suited to a holiday budget rather than a travellers one. However, I’d love to go to Corcovado National Park one day. The only sad but unexpected thing is more tourists more petty crime……………..

Transport count:

Plane = 24, Bus = 114, Train = 2, Boat =20, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 29 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

In a little bit of a lava !! – La Fortuna, Costa Rica

May 4, 2008

Jas and I after the AbseilingArenal Volcano starting to smoke

Hola from Costa Rica

So I said my goodbyes to Katie and headed to the bus station for the 7am bus to San Jose. All things being well I should be able to transfer to another bus station and catch a bus to La Fortuna. We arrived in San Jose, the capital at 10.45am and after a bit of taxi negotiation I got to the other bus station in 15 minutes. Considering how expensive Costa Rica is for tourists compared to the other Latin American countries I was surprised by the poverty I saw. I didn´t see anything like it in Panama City. I boarded the 11.30am for La Fortuna with some Canadians and we took it in turns to make sure the bags hadn´t disappeared before we left town. We got seats but they managed to cram people down the aisle of the bus and it soon became really hot. Not a problem for me as I fell straight to sleep !! We got to La Fortuna around 4.30pm and I walked up the road to find the Arenal Backpacker resort which according to the flyer I´d picked up in Bocas was the no.1 hostel in Costa Rica. They had dorms available and I have to say it does have free Costa Rican coffee, a gorgeous pool and a thoroughly modern bathroom, it´s up there with the best. In my dorm were 2 Americans called Steve and Mike. Mike was a bit older and after continually calling me Amber said he hoped I didn´t snore at night (I don´t). The main reason to come to La Fortuna is to see the Arenal Volcano, the second most active volcano in the world (Hawaii being the most). Tonight looked really cloudy so I decided to wait until the following evening. Instead I went out for a casado, a typical Costan Rican plate of rice and beans, plantain, other salads and a bit of chicken. It was delicious. I´m pleased to say that my eye has returned to normal today and I decided to get an early night. Okay, considering Mike asked me if I snored the man could out do many a jumbo jet taking off !! It was horrendous, I barely slept a wink.

When I got up the next morning Mike had checked out. Just as well as I would have asked if I could have swapped dorms. I asked the German girls how they´d coped with 2 nights of him and their answer was very strong ear plugs !! After my breakfast of yes you´ve guessed it, rice and beans, I decide to go and check out the town. Volcan Arenal was thought to be dormant by the locals until a huge explosion in 1968 killed 80+ people and destroyed two small towns. Now it seems as though a whole town has been built because of it. There are two main roads and lots of tour companies. La Fortuna also appears to be a bit of an adventure activity town – what can I try next ? The eyesore of the place is the huge Burger King. It all just seems a bit purpose built to me, and lacking a bit of character. Although the little square with it´s abundance of plants is pretty. When people in Costa Rica ask in Spanish how are you ? The answer here is Pura Vida, which means pure life – I quite like that. Very  handily you can use both Dollars and the local currency called Colones, which for some reason won´t stick in my head and I keep calling it Cahones which means I´m paying with rather large testicles for everything !!

At 3 pm it was time to go on my tour of Volcan Arenal. It looked like there was less cloud cover today. Apparently it had been impossible to see lava the night before. We got taken to the original look out point first, although a couple of years ago the volcano changed and now the lava runs down the other side. It´s best to see the lava at night and given the hour time difference between here and Panama darkness comes early at 6pm, so first we went on a little trek. We immediately saw some toucans jumping around in the trees. Then some other flycatchers and parrots, I would definitely recommend binoculars for Costa Rica but the guide let us borrow his. Unfortunately the monkeys didn´t want to come out to play so we drove to the main view point for this evening´s spectacle. Already, there was a lot of ash coming out (as you can see from the above picture), so now there was nothing to do but wait until darkness fell. Suddenly we could see little red rocks coming down the mountain, impossible to capture on camera although I did get the one above, the lava is on the right of the photo. Then there was a mini explosion and some darker grey ash spewed into the air. This then caused a large ball of red lava to hurtle it´s way down the volcano and it did last for quite a while. We watched for an hour or so and then it was time to go back to the hostel. A volcano lava first for me but I´ve heard there´s one in Guatemala where you get so close you can toast marshmallows so I may venture there soon. I had a couple of beers in the bar with Steve and another guy called Gary and met Jas who would be on the same activity as me the following day.

Our dorm has been invaded by English people and Steve  is the only American. The boys left at 7am and I got up to meet in reception 30 minutes later. Jas and I were going rapelling, also known as canyoning here, to me it´s abseiling – another new experience to add to my list. We were picked up by minibus and then swapped to a jeep to handle the more rocky roads. I have to admit I´ve been feeling a bit nervous about this. At the base we were given a harness, hard hat and gloves. We hiked down a path and then came to a small rocky ravine. Our task to abseil down it. The main rule seems to be keep your legs straight, your right hand behind you to feed the rope through, and your left above to help steady you. Then you literally lean back, let the rope take the strain and walk down the rocks. Given the fact that the mosquitos were starting to feast on my calves I needed no encouragement. I really enjoyed it and it seemed a lot easier than it looked. We walked along some more rocks until we came to a platform. This involved a 150ft drop. In this case, you hang off the platform until your upper body is below your legs and then simply let go. The faster you feed the rope the faster you go. We had to push off the rocks at certain points so as not to crash in to them. Then I managed to avoid the pool at the bottom, so the guide splashed me with water anyway. Obviously pays not to try and be a smarty pants here. Great fun though !! More rocks to scurry down until we came to a deeper pool. We had to position ourselves to a certain point in the rocks and then jump “butt” first in to the pool – so as not to hurt ourselves. The rock climbing was not over yet. The next ravine meant starting off sideways and half way down turning to climb down the rest normally with the rope. The passage was narrow but when I did collide with the rocks my bum was on hand to cushion the blow. Some of the walking brought back memories of the Lost City in Colombia, it was so scenic. Next, time to head to a 200ft drop through a waterfall. I think the scariest part of the day was actually looking over the edge. I just kept telling myself to trust the equipment. I let go and went quite fast. The guide has a brake to control you if you go to fast and I´m sure they apply it when you reach the water. Oh well, it was nice to get a free shower as part of the trip. I finally reached the bottom and after one more little rock face it was time to head back for lunch (attached is a picture of Jas and I, soaked to the skin and holding out our smelly soggy gloves after completing the trip). I really enjoyed this trip and would definitely try it again, maybe with a little more difficulty involved !! Back at the hostel , I repacked my bags and chatted to Jas, next stop Monteverde.

Transport count:

Plane = 24, Bus = 110, Train = 2, Boat =19, Sunglasses = 8, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 28 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Creole and the Coconuts !! – Calhuita, Costa Rica

May 1, 2008

Calhuita beachBlue crabs in Calhuita National Park

Hola from Costa Rica

Amazingly the 8.30am boat did stop for me. I’d heard stories of people with Dengue fever waiting at the pier all day. Maybe it had something to do with a stroke of luck that someone was getting off at the pier. Result, anyway. Various people realised where I’d come from and asked me about the project and then I noticed that Katie was on the boat from Bocas. There’s a very (once again) efficient minibus which takes you straight to the border and I got my stamp out of Panama. Then it was a case of walking across a very rickety old bridge to get to Costa Rica. The police stopped me to check my passport and then I got my Cost Rican stamp. All very easy (apparently David is the busier border). A Swiss guy carried one of my bags and there waiting was a bus to take me to Cahuita my next destination. Originally I’d been told to go to Puerto Viejo but then I heard it was full of drugs and a bit touristy. Calhuita is the next option down the coast.

I’ve decided to shorten my time in Costa Rica and allow more time for Nicaragua. One because I’ve met loads of people who’ve had their bags stolen (more tourists more theft, and incredibly ingenious ways ) and two because it’s simply more expensive.

Katie and I get off the bus and as she’d heard Cabinas Smith was a good place to stay we decide to go there. There’s actually two of them, so we opt for the cheaper one, no.2. Walking through the town I am confused. It doesn’t feel like I’m even in Latin America, in fact I could be smack bang in the middle of the Caribbean. The population is definitely originally Caribbean and there’s a reggae influence everywhere. Cabinas Smith is great. The bathroom is spotless and even has a stained glass shower door. I let Katie take the double bed whilst I opt for the upper bunk. Katie went out to explore town and I have a well needed shower – oh, it’s so good !! I drop in some laundry and then grab a late breakfast.

I meet Katie just after 1pm and we head for the Calhuita National Park. Entrance fee is by donation and basically the 7km path is in forrest adjacent to the beach. We study pictures of the animals we might see on our way and then head off. We see huge blue butterflies and then an Agouti, a strange but nervous rodent like creature. Then we have to walk through the sea (more wet socks) to continue with the trail. Suddenly Katie thinks she sees a tarantula crawl back in to a hole, I hope not. Suddenly we come across hundred of blue crabs as in the above picture, she decides that’s what she originally saw. They are just everywhere. When we get near they quickly crawl in to their holes. Next we see some Capuchin monkeys, although they are very quick to hide behind the foilage in the trees. Then we hear a huge noise. At first we think it could be a puma and start laughing nervously, really I think it was a Howler monkey. We come across a couple and then see a huge family in the trees. They obviously don’t like us and start trying to shit on us, I really prefer the Probiscus monkey method in Borneo where they just throw sticks. We manage to avoid it and move on. Suddenly we are aware of just how many mosquitos there are. We see a couple wearing sensible shirts and trousers but the mosquitos are still managing to find a way through the fabric. Katie laughs and says at least she’s not wearing a vest top and then laughs even harder when she realises I am. I’m not sure what it is, sometimes I have every possible provision required and other times I’m just plain stupid. I have covered what I thought was every available space where I could be bitten with repellant. Katie is nearly screaming because I don’t know what it is about my blood but they just love me (must be because I’m so sweet – Not !!). They are literally swarming me as if they are looking for any little small space where I’ve missed with the repellant. They succeed. Apparently there are two new bites on my back (well it’s hard to reach) and horror of horrors one has bitten the side of my eye. Oh no, I know what’s going to happen now (2 previous holidays to go by). The eye will swell up, in a very unattractive way. We decide to high tail it back to town before any further damage can be inflicted.

Back in town we come across an older guy who’s ranting away. He looks like he came here and never left and spends his days drinking rum and just ranting. We also get offered some drugs. It’s just that sort of place. Apparently women quite often come here for a rasta fling. Well, ladies let me assure you there’s plenty of torso on display, but not sure I’d take the risk. Back in the room it’s confirmed, my eye is swelling big time. In fact, with some purple hair dye I’d be willing to give Leela from Futurama a run for her money. I rest for a bit and then we head out for some local Costa Rican food and a beer. We are so knackered that we’re in bed before 10pm, well to be honest we were told there was to be live reggae at one of the bars but I think the band overslept so we couldn’t be bothered to wait.

The next morning Katie went for a run while I relaxed. What a great night’s sleep. I must have needed it after all my night duties in Sorapta. Katie decided to go to Puerto Viejo to do some surfing and I decided to spend the day on the beach (pictured above). I had heard you could get hassled so I strategically placed myself near some other single women and as it was a Monday I think we were fine. The eye is even worse today, so I keep the sunglasses on permanently. Well, I wouldn’t want to scare away small children !! The beach is pretty nice even if the current is a little rough and is made better at the end of the day when the monkeys swing over to the coconut trees. What a lovely day !! I meet Katie for dinner and we go to Edith’s, the hottest Creole / Caribbean place in town. I have a Jerk Red Snapper – delicious !! You could easily spend days here but as I’ve said we’ve decided to cut some time from Costa Rica so we leave tomorrow. Cahuita is worth a visit, especially if you’re on way to or from Panama. We are skipping the Capital San Jose in favour of our next destinations. We may or may not meet up in Nicaragua in a few days time and she has promised me free surf lessons, she’s the one I feel sorry for !!

Transport count:

Plane = 24, Bus = 108, Train = 2, Boat =19, Sunglasses = 8, Mosquito Repellant = 10, Books Read = 28 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally