Kyla and Jay's Central America Travel blog

Dos touristas Canadiences, no hablo Espanol muy bien!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Unbelizeable!

hey all!

Just one more quick note, before we return to the northland in a week.. (aah!!)

After we last wrote, we ventured with a couple of new friends to Caye Caulker, Belize. After a smooth ride over from Belize city on a fairly quick boat, we were greeted at the landing by the town ´helper´, Gilbert. He put our bags in his push cart, and showed us a few of the cheaper accomodation options available. We ended up settling on a house, Casa Giselle, which was a few bucks more than we´d planned on spending, but was really nice, in the middle of town and had a huge kitchen with all the amenities of home.
We located the grocery store and distillery and began 5 days of relaxing. The streets of Caye Caulker are made of white sand and there are no cars- only golf carts. The air is salty and relaxing. We found it was basically impossible to be unhappy there.
We had a wonderful time with our friends Dana (a fellow Canadian) and Sanne (a Jolly German= Dutch ;) ) hanging out, walking around, checking out the clubs, running into and being serenaded by a very drunk Gilbert and swimming at the split- a spot where the island was ripped in two by a hurricane in the mid 80s and now serves as a cement dock for lounging, diving, gawking and sunning.

It was sad to leave, but with only a week and a half left in our trip- we bid our pals adieu and we headed to Tulum, Mexico. We´ve been here about 5 days.. And its been a great wind down from all our recent adventures. Defintely the most beautiful beach I´ve ever seen- the carribean turquoise water, white sand, dramatic plam trees and cheap cerveza.. We´ve been staying at a hostel in town, and have done a couple of snorkeling trips, and a day trip to Playa del Carmen, but spending most of our time at the beach.

Yesterday, after the beach we decided to check out the first night of Tulum´s town exposition.. We went over and it looked like a Mexican version of the Ex. Except smaller, with louder music and with more frightening gangs of hoodlums. We started to watch the Tulum beauty pagent at the grandstand, when I remembered I had somewhere to be.......... in a ringside seat, at my first cockfight!

It involved a lot of weighing in, taunting, catcalling and waiting. But when the action was underway, it was quick and brutal. I was berated by one of the trainers for photographing with a flash, mid-fight. When his cock won, the victory was decisive... beak to jugular. I made sure to beat it before the loser blamed me for blinding his (now dead) bird.

Anyway... it was an experience. I made it over to the Pageant to see the winner crowned and many a large firework be set off directly over us in celebration..

Today, we went to a water park called Xel-Ha. Kind of a neat idea- a natural water park.. with snorkeling- down a river, into cenotes/sinkholes, cliffs to jump off, caves to explore, bikes to ride, trials to hike and unlimited food and drink.. we had a nice time.. But we mostly realized how happy we are thay weve chosen to stay away from large scale resorts.

So, I guess thats it for now- from here we go back to Playa Carmen for a couple days, Isla Mujeres for a night and then two nights in Cancun to wrap ´er up.. Its been such a great journey and we really feel fortunate for our time here, and more importantly, rejuvenated by the whole experience. Thanks for keeping tabs...

Looking forward to seeing everyone soon! If we don´t see you, happy holidays!!

J and K

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Lake Atitlan-> Jungle trek to Tikal

Hello everyone!
Hope all is well wherever you are. This is going to be a long one...Jay and I are doing great. We have come to the realization that the end of our trip is closing in, which makes us sad, but we also look back on all the good times we've had and we can't help but smile. This has been an amazing journey!!

When we last wrote we were in Antigua, yes? So from there we headed out to Lake Atitlan. We had heard only good things about the lake and its surrounding villages (minus the flood that wiped out their sewer system last year). When we arrived in Panajachel I was in awe. It was market day - in an already tourist saturated town- and there were so many beautiful colours all around. In this region there are a lot of women, in particular, who dress in traditional Guatemalan textiles and many shops that sell them in the market. Our time here was quick, but we did meet a resident (possibly crazy) ex-pat that was staying at our hotel, named Ed (a.k.a. Eduardo, while in Latin American countries) He was totally harmless, but had an uncanny ability to lock you in a conversation without any possible way to escape, or get a word in edgewise. He cornered Jay one night and told him not to worry if he heard screams from his room- it was just his night terrors. (yipes). After spending a couple of days avoiding encounters - it was off to San Pedro, which we were really excited to visit.

San Pedro is across the lake, a short bumpy boat ride away. It definitely has a 'hippy scene' including various crafty people making and selling macrame jewlery along the main street. The real town though, where the Guatemalan people live, is up a huge hill and very fun to walk around. It is fairly secluded which helps it to keep an authenticly Guatemalan character, something we hadn't really seen yet. We also decided to take spanish classes while we were there (hopefully we'll make you proud Meggo!). We had a really nice teacher named Flora. She was really sweet and answered all of our questions regarding Guatemalan culture, although sometimes we weren't sure if we were getting the whole truth and/or nothing but the truth. As it turns out 'San Pedro'ans have the reputation from surrounding villages of being liars. It is actually not really based on fact, but that the town was named after St. Peter, who was the disciple who lied and betrayed Jesus. Our new addiction after leaving the town was blended mint lemonade!!! We haven't found it since. In essence, San Pedro is laid back, and incredibly cheap- we found some amazing resturants where we ate gourmet meals for a couple bucks. Definitley a great way to learn some Spanish.. (lessons were 32.00 each- for 5 hour lessons, plus free activities like guided hikes, trips to the beach, movies and kitemaking...)

We also spent a day checking out San Marcos a few towns away- which is a yoga retreat spot with lots of weird pyramid structures, and seemingly dippy people. It made for a neat day of hiking around.. but it was hot, and Jay had one of his many sweaty days.

Next we went to Coban, heading north, from Guatemala city. This is one of those towns that you have to go to, to get anywhere else.. We were 'greeted' (I use the term sarcastically) by a guy named Eric from Oregon. He gave us the shpeel about the hostel that him and his dad run, and it's the cheapest place in town, blah blah blah. Seeing as we were tired and it was so freakin' COLD(!) we decided to take him up on his offer. I know you don't believe me when I say it was cold, but we could see our breath...for Guatemala, that is cold. It was an o.k. place, but the best part was the father/son dynamic and there strangley confilcted personalities.. Eric, 35, is popular with the towns children because he can do the breakdance move, the worm- and his father Charles, is a self appointedly brilliant ex-teacher with a penchant for random stories, up to date travel advice, making pancakes, never changing his clothes and complaining about his little sister. They are operating this hostel until they can contest the will of Charles other (dead) sister, who apparently mistakenly left them out.. Anyway, we heard some hilarious arguements and basically used Coban as a launching spots to do several tours and side trips.. However we did take in all the sites available including a museum of Mayan artifacts, a trip to a coffee finca and a soccer game on a Sunday afternoon- Coban vs. Antigua, which was a blast.

From there, we visited Lanquin and Semuc Champey, where there are natural limestome pools that have formed over a raging river. There was a beautiful and difficult hike up to an amazing lookout that afforded a great view of the area. We spent several days hiking and swimming.. and took a four hour tour into the Semuc caves which involved all kinds of swimming (with lit candles = fun), climbing and jumping into water. It was amazing to find out they only found these caves a few years ago, and have still not finished mapping them out. They currently have 11kms mapped and we saw about 3 kms- but it was a real highligh for us. Afterward the spelunk, at around 6pm, we took an awesome tube ride down the Rio back to our hotel as thousands of the bats flew out and zipped above our heads devouring bugs. So cool. Met lots of great people here as well and enjoyed a wonderful evening chatting, until they cut the power at 10pm. ..

From there we took a bus to Flores... a weird little tourist town that is the launching point for visits to the Mayan city of Tikal. We were picked up this morning at 3am, drove the 2 hours or so to Tikal, and hiked to the top of the highest temple where we watched the sunrise over the jungle covered ruins. What an amazing experience- hearing the jungle wake up is something well never foget. This was followed by a lengthy tour checking out the ruins. Jay realized that one of the temples served as the backdrop of the Rebel base in the original Starwars.. It was a long day, but were feeling energized by the amazing history, jungle and animal life we got to check out.

We decided today to go to Belize, so were heading tomorrow morning to Belize City and onward to Caye Caulker. We have met some cool people well be traveling with, so were looking forward to this chapter.

Time is ticking though. Well try and get one more in before we head home.

kisses,
kyla and jay

ps- Xmas is kicking in full gear here, and it seems very strange in this hot climate!

pps- Happy Birthday Jordan!!!

Friday, November 10, 2006

One more from the road..

Hello!

Since we last spoke.. Kyla finished her next Bridgehead blog. Check that out if you like (brigeheadblog.blogspot.com)..We said goodbye to Estelli and spent a long day traveling to the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. Tegus'- if you're cool. It involved 4 different modes of transportation and took about 6 hours including connections, but we arrived in one piece. Or two, I guess.(random aside- Its really amazing how no matter where you go in Central America, you are guaranteed to be somewhere near a rooster. You can be staying in the country or the middle of town, or in a bigger city- but you can be sure at around 11pm, 2am and 5am, roosters will call out to each other and start their annoying chorus for a least 10 minutes. It's weird, but Ive come to enjoy it. Especially when the roosters sound especially pathetic.)

As soon as we crossed the border into Honduras, the landscape immediately became much more lush and dramatic. Reminicent, I'd say, of some areas of Alberta and maybe a bit how I imagine Montana to be.. lots of hills and valleys. And tall pine trees, which we have not seen thus far. We arrived into Tegus' and found it to be quite the pleasant town.. Of course there are dangerous areas, but the downtown core felt very protected and we spent the day walking around checking out the markets, various jesus-related stores, churches (something we've been enjoying lately) and eating some weird chinese food whilst cringing to high volume regga-ton.. We also spent our first night in a dorm room as the privates were all booked. It was fun to get to know our dorm-mates, especially when the Bermudian fisherman exclaimed he was off to San Jose the next day to hook up with his 2 wives! (dont ask)

NExt we took two buses (via San Pedro Sula) to get to Copan Ruinas. An amazingly cute little town in northern Honduras, with a very prosperous vibe.. about 2 kms from the actual Mayan Copan Ruins. The place we wanted to stay was booked up, so we followed one of the bus station trolls to his family's place. It was ok i thought, really cheap and up a big hill. I could put up with the saloon doors on the showers, the stink from the bano, and I didn't even mind the gash I got on my thigh from the protruding springs in the mattress. But when the owner started playing Traditional Honduran folk songs at 6am- I took issue. I emerged in my underwear, at Kyla's insistance, from our room and asked the man in the cowboy hat, (sporting a gun in his belt), standing atop the balcony overlooking the courtyard (where our room was) to 'Senor, Por favor, alto la Musica!' I probably wasnt making much sense as I was half asleep, because I had to make the hand signals of me covering my ears and turning down the volume knob for him to understand....

Anyway, we got an early start. Had a lovely few days there (after changing hotels), went to a bird sanctuary which was great, as well as the Ruins themselves. They were a little on the expensive side, but we really enjoyed the tour.. Especially learning of the rulers of Copan and their various periods.. Some of our favourites were, '18 Rabbit', 'Tiger Lilly Jaguar' and the best of all- 'Butz Chan"- we laughed about those a little too long.

From Copan, we took a transfer to Antigua, Guatemala- where we currently reside. It was long day, with a stop in Guatemala city, but we had an interesting crew of people who made the ride fun. Antigua is yet another colonial town with cobble stone streets and many churches, except it has a lot more hipness than the last few. We went out for our first splurge meal in a while, to this place called Las Palmas, and ate like royalty for 25.00. We were both hooing and hawing- best food weve had yet.. Since then we've been doing lots of walking around, checking out the markets, visiting some of the awesome ruins and sights in town and relaxing. We went to an 18th Century convent called 'La Cuchinas' yesterday.. so cool. There is a circular courtyard area surrounded by the individual nun's chambers. Below the courtyard, there is this huge circular room with a massive pillar in the centre and dome shaped ceilings. The resonance and echo in the room was so amazing, we hung out there for like half an hour signing and playing echo games. It was FUN.

We've realized that were down to our last month, so we're really trying to take it all in. Tomorrow, we head to Panajachel from where we will launch a week or so visiting different towns around Lake Atitilan.

And now.. I think I've got a computer fast enough to add some pictures, so take a look at a few selections from the last 2 months....





Kyla and I in Monteverde, Zipline tour. I think Kyla looks very impressive in helmets




Kyla's new best friend. This bird actually fell asleep on her shoulder, for a while.



The bullfights in Merida, on Ometepe.


Me, with birds



The tide coming in, San Juan Del Sur.



The Young Sandanistas truck rally, in Estelli

Thursday, November 02, 2006

All we are saying...is turn off that song!!!

Helloooo Everyone!

I hope you are all doing well. Thank you so much for your e-mails and comments, it means a lot. We are still having a great time down here, always something to do and places to see. When we last wrote we had arrived in Granada, what a great city! We walked around a lot and took in most of the ´sights´. The Scottish couple we had met went their own way after we last wrote and unfortunately we didn´t get a picture with them, because Nick was the guitarist from Franz Ferdinand! It was great hanging out with them when we did, but we also wanted to give them their privacy, I´m sure they don´t get much of it.

We had heard about a place called the Monkey Hut from fellow travellers but when we tried to get a ride there through a hostel it was full. We decided to go to Leon a day early instead. But just before we went to sleep we talked to a girl who said ¨you HAVE to see this place before you leave, you can just take a local bus in the morning¨. That is what we did, and we were so glad. We arrived at the ¨Monkey Hut'' (run by the Bearded Monkey hostel) around 10:30. It is this cute little cabin with kitchen and porch with hammocks, which overlooks the lake. The interesting thing about this lake, called Laguna Apoyo, is that it is a crater lake! It was formed when the Volcano Mombacho blew its top and created a huge crater. It is filled with crystal clear blue-green water and is amazing for swimming. We spent all day out on the water, but sadly had to leave at 4:30 when the last bus came. When we returned to Granada we signed up for the shuttle service to return the next day. In the process we ended up meeting a guy from Toronto, Seamus, who was managing the Bearded Monkey hostel, and befriending the bartender Jon from Ireland. They were tons of fun to hang out with we just couldn´t leave, and the fact that it was happy hour didn´t hurt. We closed the place down, which was 11:00, and stumbled back to our hotel. The wake up the next day was a little rough but we had another great day at the lake, just what we needed.

When we arrived in Leon we were happy we had postponed our trip. It wasn´t bad, but it was no Laguna Apoyo. The weather was beautiful and sunny for the most part, so we walked around and again tried to take in the sights. There were so many churches! There was huge cathedral in the centre of town, but we must have seen about 6 others, and Leon is not that big. There was an interesting market - gotta love raw chicken sitting out on a wooden table with flies all over it! Luckily we stumbled upon an art gallery. It was a very modest building on the outside, but inside were some amazing pieces, it was a relaxing way to spend the afternoon. A huge non-highlight of our stay was going to see Miami Vice starring Jamie Foxx and Colin Ferrell - wow - don´t see this movie, it is horrible.

Next we were off to Esteli, a northern ranch town, but also home to our next coop tour. The town itself is definitely lacking the colonial charm of the last 2, but it is cute nonetheless. I fumbled my way through a phone call with the coop to arrange a pick up for the next day, and everything worked out - thank goodness! The ride was about 2 1/2 hrs, 2 of which were not paved and extremely bumpy, but we survived. The tour took place over 2 days and was very fun and educational. For the complete story see the Bridgehead blog.

Thanks to Meggo for posting about the upcoming election. There is definitely no shortage of hooplah! Up until now we have only encountered huge billboards, Ortega hats everywhere, and cars that drive around BLARING a spanish version of ''Give Peace a Chance'' in support of and Ortega-run Nicaragua. It is actually driving us crazy!!! But so far there has been no worry in our minds about pre-election violence, but we have noticed hotels filling up. Last night was really interesting though. We heard a lot of commotion from our room at about 6:30pm. We looked outside to see what was going on, and found the streets full of pick-up trucks honking their horns with 5 to 15 people in the back waving Sandanista flags and screaming their support. The downtown streets were just filled with them driving all around. Jay snapped a few pictures and the people got very excited, it just made us smile, not frightened. It was only afterwards that we realised our hotel was beside opposition headquarters. Upon closer inspection of our pictures we found a guy giving them the finger. The festivities died down around 8:00 thankfully because we wouldn´t have been able to sleep otherwise.

Today is also the ¨Day of the Dead¨ here. Unlike Mexico, where there are many sugary skulls etc...here they choose to buy flowers and visit their loved ones who have passed. There is a cemetary a few blocks away that we walked by, and just beside it was a market full of people only selling flowers. It was really neat to see. It is actually a holiday here so many people are off work or school and the town has a kind of lazy feel to it.

Tomorrow we are off to Honduras. We´re planning to only spend a couple days there. We basically just want to zip right thrhough and be in Guatemala by next week. We´ll try and get some pictures up soon...hopefully technology will be on our side.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

nicara-fun

Hey everyone,

Lessee... After our last update, we went out for dinner at an Argentinian steakhouse.. I was in meaty heaven and Kyla enjoyed some steamed veggies, and didnt seemed to mind so much because i was so happy! We've been eating mostly veggie stuff. Not only was I in heaven because of the fat juicy steak, but also because there was a big screen TV playing a Beegees dvd in surround sound. It gave me night-fevah.

We caught the 9am bus the next morning from Liberia to the border, which was interesting, because we were the last 2 people they let on, and we were packed in to the point that we were basically hovering over the driver. Hanging on to whatever we could. It was an interesting hour long ride, memorable for sure. At one point, pretty close to the Nicaraguan border, the bus braked really hard and swerved left- Kyla and I looked out to see this frightening old witch-like woman on the road.. babbling loudly and reaching for the bus, wearing strange robes. It scared us a little bit, and the bus driver as well. 'aaiieee, abuela loca*...' I thought to myself. *crazy granny.

Got to the border, and went through a half a dozen short lines getting out stamps, and in stamps, and walking a kilometer or so in between. Nicaragua immediately felt a lot less organized, and a lot more poor. Immediately you get an idea how much more developed Costa Rica is in comparison to its neighbour. Although at first unsettling, the people seemed a lot more helpful, and this has held true thus far, nicaragua has an amazing people.

We shared a taxi with a couple German girls to San Juan del Sur. A beach town around a beautiful bay that seems to constantly be filled with stinky fishing boats. We arrived and spent a few days there hiking around, checking out the beaches, atmosphere and town.. We were amazed by the huge mansions sharing the same hilltops as steel roofed shanty towns. Lots of huge barbwired fences in between, of course. On the second day we started Spanish lessons, which we took for a few days. It was very helpful and we're looking forward to taking more time for Spanish school in Estelli, before heading into Honduras later next week.

From San Juan, we took a chicken bus to Rivas and then onward to San Jorge where we sailed on a tugboat to Isla Ometepe. At the docks on both ends, the boat is immediately engulfed with young Nicaraguan men, Nicas, jumping onto the boat from the dock, hoping to help you with your bags and convince you to come to their hotel, or take a ride in their taxi. Watching them clamour on the docks in an unbeleivable sight. We landed at Moyogalpa.

Ometepe, which basically means two Islands connected, truly is, each with its own massive volcano. We took the advice of a random dude we met and took another bus to Charco Verde, on the southern coast of Isla Concepcion, which is bascially not a town but an eco-resort. Got a great room and took a nice little hike to check out the volcano and the lagoon. Came back and noticed a huge increase in the number of mosquitos. We got dressed and came out for dinner (in the open air restaurant) and the air was thick with mosquitos.. it was hilarious, because they werent bitey, but they were everywhere. The staff kept them hovering around the lights and we ate in the dark, with another couple. It was fun.

After a couple nights, we went on to Merida. The bus wasnt going all the way there that day, so we decided to take it to Santa Cruz and hike in.. 6km was a tough hike with our bags, but once we got there, we found an awesome little family run place with cabinas for 8.00 a night. The father Jacinto runs the show at Monkey's Island Hotel, but all his kids and wife are helping out too.. really amazing atmosphere- as they are built on the former General Somoza's hacienda stables. *the Hacienda itself is an American run hostel next door for twice as much dough. Relaxed the rest of the day, went down and peered over to the actual monkey island- where there lives a family of biting monkeys. We considered swimming over to it, but turned back halfway. Later, we found out that it was Merida's anniversary, and therefore a 2 day party weekend. The next day we went to the rodeo to watch the bullfights. We went down with a couple from Scotland, drank some Nicaraguan Ron (which is unbelievable) and watched some young macho men nearly get impaled. It was pretty awesome actually, especially the town nutbar in the middle of the ring trying to direct traffic... We returned the next day, as it was the 'real bullriders' who challenged the bigger bulls on Sunday.. the whole town was there dressed up with shiny shoes. Everything seemed a lot more serious, so we didnt stay for the whole thing.. but what we saw was intense.

We traveled the next day by bus from Merida to Moyogalpa... Took the ferry back to San Jorge, and shared a taxi with our Scottish friends to Granada, from where we write you now. Its an amazing colonial town, with dozens of crazy old cathedrals, and lots of character and history. we spent 5 hours walking around today in the 35 degree heat, and Ive got a serious red glow happening.. Apparently Daniel Ortega of the Sandanistas- who are predicted to win the election- was here Sunday speaking at the Parque Centrale- that wouldve been a neat thing to see. We're sticking around here until Friday... Then to the birth place of Ruben Dario- Leon.

Thanks for checking in. A big Thanks to those who leave the comments!! Its nice to know people are checkin in.

Jay and Kyla

ps- Kyla was going to write this one, as we try to take turns, but we traded.. she is busy in a hammock reading '1984'. She'll do the next one.

pps- Pictures seem to work sometimes on blogger, but not others for some reason. I have been trying to upload a few, but its not working.. hopefully soon.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Nicaragua bound..

HOLA!

Well its been a little while, but as promised, we´re checking in! How is everyone doing? I hope happy and well.

Santa Elena was a great place to hang out for a few days. We visited a coffee coop (that provides Bridgehead´s Costa Rican blend = yum), which was fun, delicious and informative day. The next day we went on a zip line tour in the hills of Monteverde with Aventours. Wow, what a fun way to spend a day. We both took a few runs to fully get the hang of it, but by the end we were zipping around like monkeys. Well, I looked like more along the lines of a sloth. About 25 lines, a few hikes and rappeling area- which I sucked at. They also had this amazing Tarzan swing, that was a real blast of adrenaline. Jumping off a platform 60 ft high, and swinging out over a huge valley. I made a sound that I´m not sure I could reproduce if I tried.

We hung around another day, then took two buses and a ferry to Montezuma. A neat little paradise town on the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. Very quiet this time of year, which was nice for us but choc full of interesting locals and expats. The most amazing ´town drunk´ I think I´ve ever encountered.

We got some sun, and did a few great hikes. One day we went up to the waterfalls, a couple kilometres outside of town.. which was really nice. It was kind of a ciffside hike at points, and I am far from agile.. but we met a local kid who showed us the ´easy´ path. He then proceeded to climb about 50 feet up the wet rocks of the falls and jumped in. We did not, but we applauded when he emerged from the water alive.. He wanted me to climb up the cliff with him to the second set of falls that had a ´beautiful view´, but I was more than happy to decline and watch him risk his little life once again. (I knew he could do it)..

From Montezuma we decided we were heading to Samara. A beach town, some friends in Ottawa had reccommended, and also the home of Brian Pearson, the dude I met on the plane from Toronto to San Jose.. We found out it took 14 hours travel to get there, including 5 buses and 2 ferries.. So we decided to spend a little extra and take the transfer, which takes some scary roads between Paquera and Playa Naranjo which buses could never handle- Kyla did ok, after injesting some gravol. The trip only took 4 hours this way, which we figured was sorth a little extra dough.

We met a woman from BC on the ride and ended up finding Brian´s hostel together after eating some casados and giving him a call.. It wasnt the easiest place to find because it doesnt have a sign- he´s thinking of calling it ´hotel motalpo´- but apparently the local kids have named it ´hotel taliban´ becuase he used to have a big beard. I´m glad we all thought that was funny.

It was such a great place to stay for a week. Enjoyed the nicest beach, weather, vibes and waves we´ve encountered yet- and got to know some really great people from around the world. Best of all though, was the host Brian- who is all kinds of awesome- born in PEI, worked most of his life as a fisherman in The Queen Charlotte Islands of BC, he is very well traveled, really interesting and always on the go, doing something to his place, cooking, or heling someone figure something out. Getting to know this guy was a huge bonus.. although he is probably the same age as my father, I really feel like he could be my age (or younger) at heart. He and his hilarious Tica girlfriend Sandra, cooked up some unbelivable food, curries, shrimp dishes, ... ooooh gaad. so good. Taught us some great games, and marguerita recipes. He even sent us off to the bus stop today with a care package of cookies, pasta and two bottles of ice cold water. I hope I get to cross paths with him again some time.

From there, this morning, we took the bus to Nicoya and then another to Liberia. It might be best described as the Cornwall of Costa Rica. Not so bad, but meh.. But it is a neccesary launching point to our next portion of adventure- Nicaragua. We head to the border tomorrow morning... Should be interesting. It seems that there is a national election on the 5th of November, so we might try and get to the other side before then. Wow, time is flying. Luckily, we have met a lot of folks who have traveled through Nicaragua and have given us lots of tips- I think its going to be a real highlight of this trip.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Monteverde

Hello Everyone!
Jay and I are now in Santa Elena which is just outside of Monteverde. We had a great time being back in San Jose, as well as in La Fortuna- checking out the volcano and enjoying the hot springs. The town itself is very tourist driven, there are more souvenier shops and places to book tours than I have ever seen. It is also low season around these parts so everyone wants your business...badly! As soon as we got off the bus we were greeted by a mob of guys with pamphlets for nearby hotels. Reminicent of the Las Vegas card flickers guys. We ended up getting one that was normally $60 for $25 -which felt really extravagant, it had TV. The next day we checked into a more modest place called La Choza Inn. It was run by this really sweet family (little son and chiwawa included) who also run a tour company- Eagle Tours. We were able to do all our bookings through them for %15 off, which was very convenient.
The tour we chose was a hike at the base of the Arenal Volcano (see picture below). Yes, our tour guide seemed a little disgruntled to say the least. He liked to keep a pretty quick pace along the path, and then got frustrated when people lagged behind for taking pictures. He would start to tell us something, and then when a few of us were taking pictures instead of listening to him he would just stop what he was saying, and never continue. We chose to laugh it off and still enjoy our time there. Once the sun went down it was time to see the erruption. We drove to a lookout point and got to see the molten rocks bouncing down the side of the volcano, it was one of the most amazing things I´ve ever seen. The last stop of the day was Baldi hot springs. This is a resort that has 10 different pools that are all different temperatures. We had a great time going from pool to pool trying to find the perfect one. It was a very relaxing evening.

The next day we decided to go see ´the Arenal waterfall´. We weren´t sure what to expect, but decided it seemed like a fun adventure for the day. We were told it was 5km from our hotel so we decided to hike it. Once we reached about 3 km we stopped for a water break and were ready for the last leg of the journey. What we weren´t told was that the last 2km were pretty much vertical. It was quite humorous actually. We would climb a super steep portion, catch our breath, turn the corner and there would be a bigger hill and/or a steeper one!! This happened about 5 times. As soon as we thought we had reached the top, there was another hill. But we did it! Then, once we got to the park, the one thing that kept us going was the reward of a cool mountain swim at the base of the waterfall. Again, what ´they´ didn´t tell us was that is was a 600m vertical trip down to the base! This so called ´staircase´ was extremely treacherous. It was pretty much a vertical drop down the side of the mountain with a couple blocks for ´stairs´, and a thin chain as a railing. Slightly scary. But, again, we made it! And the swim at the bottom was the most refreshing I had ever had!!! The waterfall itself was incredible too, it was a fairly thin stream, but it was probably about 800m. Then...we had to walk up those stairs, but luckily had a taxi waiting for us to take us back home. A truly rewarding journey in the end.
The following day we left for Santa Elena. Instead of taking the bus, we decided to do this van-boat-van trip. It brought us across Lake Arenal, and then the mountainous drive to our destination. It was a very bumpy ride, none of the roads are paved here, and with all the rain the potholes are huge. I felt most of the time like I was on a bucking bronco, one hand gripped under my seat, and the other on Jay´s leg. But, as everything in life, the little bit of effort was well worth it. This town is really cute, and we are staying at a pretty neat hostel (with free internet!). Tomorrow we are going on our first tour of a coffee coop. The full report will be on my other blog bridgeheadblog.blogspot.com if you care to check it out, otherwise I won´t write too much about it on this one.
O.K., so I feel like I wrote way too much, but thanks to those who hung in there and read the whole thing. Gotta go make some dinner, I´m huuuuuuuungry!!! Love ya´ll! Kyla.