A Travellerspoint blog

March 2017

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA, GRANADA

Colonial City

DAY 45 WEDNESDAY 22ND MARCH

Free breakfast pancakes included in the room rate, and they were cooked by the staff so Lyn did not get to test her cooking skills again.

I was up at 7am and wanting a shower, but there was no water. I left the shower tap on and at about 7.15 the water came through. I was down eating pancakes by 7.30am, an unusual early morning for me, as I am usually the last one out of bed, but the oldies were still sleeping when I left the room. Lyn was down by 8.30 and Dolly by 9.

I had advised reception that our room leaked last night after we'd had showers and we'd had to use a towel to mop up the water. The receptionist came to us later after breakfast and advised we would receive 10% discount for last night and we are able to change to another room today as soon as it become free. Later the owner came and introduced herself and to ask exactly what the problem with a plumber. Nice customer service.

Hostel Oasis Granada is very large and has lots of relaxing areas. We 3 are by far the oldest here, but not a problem. Triple room is US$38 per night including breakfast and all day tea and coffee.

DSCN0690.jpg90_DSCN0689.jpg

Granada is a city in western Nicaragua and the capital of the Granada Department. With an estimated population of 123,697 (2012), it is Nicaragua's sixth most populous city. Granada is historically one of Nicaragua's most important cities, economically and politically. It has a rich colonial heritage, seen in its architecture and structure.

Granada was founded in 1524 by Francisco Hernández de Córdoba, ostensibly the first European city in mainland America. Unlike other cities that claim the same distinction, the city of Granada was not only the settlement of the conquest, but also a city registered in official records of the Crown of Aragon, and the Kingdom of Castile in Spain.

Granada is also known as La Gran Sultana, in reflection of its Moorish and Andalusian appearance, unlike its sister city of León and historical rival, which displays Castilian trends. Its very popular and well known as a Touristic Town.

large_DSCN0701.jpg

We headed towards the central park and then down some little streets that led off the park. Different bright coloured paint is used for every dwelling or business which creates streets of rainbows. Larger buildings painted in bright colours also like yellow contrast beautifully with the amazing blue blue sky.

DSCN0732.jpgDBA7CFBFFA7F61FAD86E3CC0EF016121.jpgDSCN0727.jpgDSCN0726.jpgDSCN0725.jpg

The weather is wonderful, but it's pretty hot - in the 30's is my guess. This kind of heat makes you thirsty so it was not long before we needed to find a beer stop. We were certainly spoilt in San Carlos for prices as the beer here is almost double the price that we had paid. But it is still cheap enough, painfully though now they quote the prices before tax and before what seems to be a compulsory tip. Again, it is still cheap and the beer is served icy cold.

large_180_FSCN0711.jpg

We stopped at a bakery to try a piece of tart and have a sandwich for lunch. C$90 = A$3.99 for a ham, cheese & tomato roll.

F1A15271B6843C6572BE58F20D7C0280.jpgDSCN0734.jpg

Continuing walking we passed Guadalupe Church and finally came down to the lakes edge, Lake Nicaragua. Hard to believe just yesterday we travelled 7 hours parallel to this lake and we are again on its shores. Looking more like a sea there are apparently 365 islands & islets close by here that we hope to see some of in a tour while we are here in Granada.

DSCN0743.jpgF1E14F85D11E79C2D5FAE38CD49C6706.jpg

From the lake we walked back up the street to the central park. The sun was a killer and on the way we had to go inside the church for some shade and a little sit down. The only thing that got us moving again was the promise of a cold beer back up near the park. Now it may sound as if we are piss heads just moving from beer to beer, but the truth is that the cost of beer is the same as a soda and actually not much more than the cost of water so it makes sense for us to support the local brew and keep hydrated. (So did that sound convincing?) Anyway, we are on holidays, it's hot and we needed a drink. We purchased some giant cashews to have with our beer and they actually cost more @ C$50 = A$2.21 than a bottle of beer @ C$40 = A$1.77.

90_DSCN0775.jpg90_DSCN0776.jpg90_FSCN0780.jpgDSCN0778.jpg

On our way back to the hostel we found a Pali supermarket and purchased supplies for dinner. Lyn cooked a pork and vegie surprise, very tasty. And we also purchased a small bottle of rum C$59 = A$2.61 and a bottle of coke zero C$34 = A$1.51 to mix with it for drinkies after dinner.

90_DSCN0791.jpg

Tonight the hostel advertised movie night and we rocked up to the large screen telly near the kitchen to watch the movie, only to discover it was being played in Spanish with no English subtitles. We thought this was a bit odd in a hostel where most occupants were not Spanish speakers, but there you go. We opted for a few drinks and then an early night instead.

DAY 46 THURSDAY 23RD MARCH

Pancakes for breaky again today and a banana and coffee/tea.

We had a bit of a late start getting out as I am trying to organize future days travel and accommodation, so it was already after 11 before we headed outside. On the way to dropping off our washing we stopped to have a look inside the Cathedral.

DSCN0797.jpgF2ED8981039980FEBB65A568FBE76BDE.jpgDSCN0796.jpgDSCN0795.jpgDSCN0794.jpgDSCN0793.jpgF2E252B79D1F1F2ABED2DB67F7CEED71.jpg

Now we would usually do our own hand washing, but due to the fact that we had been in the jungle for a few days and some of our clothing got quite muddy so we are having a washing treat.

The horse and carts that line one side of the central park are there to take tourists for Jaunts around the town, you can go for 30mins or 1 hour or however long. We decided to have another little treat and go for a 30 minute ride/tour. Granada is not very big and at US$10 for 30 minutes divided by 3 it was not so bad. Our driver/guide spoke very good English and as we rode along the streets of the oldest part of Granada he gave us the spiel about the buildings, churches, statues etc that we passed. Although all this information is very interesting at the time, it really does not all sink in, as we are not memorizing along the way. We enjoyed the ride anyway.

large_DSCN0841.jpgDSCN0857.jpg90_DSCN0853.jpgDSCN0849.jpgDSCN0845.jpgDSCN0840.jpg90_DSCN0828.jpgF342AD26EA67EFA0A9896BC800D8E947.jpg90_F33FC990BC2126CB37E8AB1D6FE533F5.jpgDSCN0821.jpgDSCN0817.jpgDSCN0814.jpg

After our jig around town, we walked through the local market as this was where we were told we would be able to buy a frilly pinnie that we have been seeing the local women wearing. We did in fact find them and happy with our purchases decided to celebrate with a beer. We chose a random bar in a building with an assortment of bars and ordered a large beer. I thought the waiter asked if we wanted 3 glasses, but in fact he asked if we wanted 3 bottles. We could have easily shared a large bottle each, but since he bought us 3 and they were already opened we had to drink them. Had a bit of fun with the waiter and our new pinnies, him taking photos for us and even giving me a tray of crisps from a walking vendor to take a photo with.

large_DSCN0872a.jpg90_DSCN0874.jpg

After drinking our very large beers we continued up the street to check out one of the churches we had passed in the horse and cart. On the way we had a quick tour of a hammock making factory. This particular business hires blind and deaf people, and we saw a blind man who was weaving as quickly as the sighted man next to him. They also had the worlds biggest hammock and boasted that they had even made a hammock for the pope when he visited.

large_DSCN0891.jpg90_F3A4D18E9A5413EFF961948B14741DA2.jpgDSCN0901.jpg

A little further up the street and we were back outside the La Merced Church, still bearing the black scars of the fire ordered by William Walker (but that is another story). In this church for C$30 = A$1.33 you can climb up the bell tower, which offers magnificent views over Granada. It was like a sea of terracotta roof tiles, with churches towering up over the roof levels and with views of volcanos and the lake in the distance. Worth the small entrance fee and the 70 step climb up. Luckily the sign said not to ring the bells otherwise we would have been deafened.

large_90_DSCN0949.jpgF3E4E380C020FCDB1FD1B3F3EC4D09B5.jpg90_F4352D8D91C8B67A20E0D3182E8D5113.jpg
large_DSCN0923.jpg90_DSCN0944.jpg90_DSCN0937.jpglarge_DSCN0942.jpg270_DSCN0933.jpg90_DSCN0928.jpglarge_DSCN0926.jpg

The volcano in the last photo, when it blew its top created a lot of the islets that are now in the lake - see did remember something from the tour this morning. Not sure when this happened, obviously a long time ago.

Around 5.30 we headed out to collect our washing from the laundrette. On the way back it seemed like a good idea to stop for a cocktail, so we did. We ordered our old favourite pina colada, but what we received was nothing like a pina colada we have had before. It was a cocktail, it was icy cold and it was very yummy, but it was not a pina colada. When I questioned the waiter, and showed him the picture on the menu he just said 'yes different'. lol At C$60 = A$2.65 we were not going to complain too much.

large_90_DC57CF15CE3319762E19893B9868073B.jpg
90_DSCN0952.jpg90_DSCN0954.jpg

It was dark when we walked back to the hostel and the streets have gone quiet again. Gone is all evidence of the madness of the daytime street stalls and traffic. Back at the hostel we finished off rum and coke from yesterday.

large_F4A3235CEACB4BD66FAE901AD6BB8A6A.jpglarge_90_DSCN0956.jpg

DAY 47 FRIDAY 24TH MARCH

Third day in a row for pancake breakfast - think I am reaching my limit. Miss Dolly has managed to catch a cold and is not firing on all cylinders today. Must be all these cold showers we are having?

This morning we did a boat tour of the small islands in Lake Nicaragua.

Boat Tour of Islets US$15 each

When the Mombacho Volcano erupted thousands of years ago, it threw huge rocks into Lake Nicaragua. As a result of this violent eruption 365 islets were formed in front of Granada. The islets differ in size between a hundred square meters and over one hundred hectares.

The wild nature, resident birds and visitors and the day-a-day routine of the local families make it an ideal place for a boat ride or kayaking around the lake.

The small islands, in Nicaragua called "Las Isletas", serve different purposes. There is a community of about 1200 people living on the islets. Most of the people living here are fishermen. Other islands accommodate hotels or luxurious houses (some of them can be rented). There are also uninhabited islets with only some palm trees growing on it.

Lake Nicaragua or Cocibolca or Granada is a freshwater lake in Nicaragua. Of tectonic origin and with an area of 8,264 km², it is the largest lake in Central America, the 19th largest lake in the world and the 9th largest in the Americas, slightly smaller than Lake Titicaca. With an elevation of 32.7 metres above sea level, the lake reaches a depth of 26 metres. It is intermittently joined by the Tipitapa River to Lake Managua.

DSCN0969.jpgDBD0A162D787012E56FCEAA8E79D1864.jpgDBCEB0BE0D906BE3FD823BDB4218F03F.jpg

We stopped on Isla San Pedro to look at the fort that protected Granada from the pirates crossing the lake. Good ole Captain Morgan was the pirate of the day.

DSCN0975.jpgDSCN0985.jpg

Next stop near monkey island where there are 3 spider monkeys residing. A pregnant Miss Lucy Monkey (or should I say Mrs) came aboard our boat after checking out the talent on another boat first. She seemed to take a liking to me as she sat on my shoulder and gave me a throat hug. She then went over to a Spanish lady and checked her out for nits.

large_DSCN1024.jpglarge_DSCN1018.jpg

Our last stop was on an island where we could buy a beer, have a swim in the pool and watch the locals go about their daily chores. This island had everyday people living on it. Obviously not anywhere near same living standards as the mansions we had passed on other islands. It seemed like one extreme to the next. Today was obviously washing day as the ladies were in the lake thigh high washing clothes. But washing did not stop at clothes, the family pig was dragged begrudgingly into the lake for a scrub down, and we saw a little boy washing a chicken!

90_DSCN1040.jpgDSCN1042.jpglarge_DSCN1044.jpglarge_DSCN1050.jpglarge_90_DSCN1052.jpg

The boat sped back to the dock weaving its way through the small islands giving a another view of how the rich and famous would live if they visited their own properties. We were barrelled back into our transfer van and taken back to the hostel. Nice way to spend a morning.

DSCN1059.jpg90_DSCN0998.jpgDSCN0995.jpgDSCN0991.jpgDSCN0989.jpg

The rest of the day we just hung out at the hostel, Dolly having a bit of a rest, Lyn reading and me catching up on travel work.

Come 5pm it was cocktail hour and unfortunately Dolly did not feel up to heading out with us, instead opting to rest her head cold some more. Shame for her as we found the best pina colada cocktails. They were so good, Lyn and I had 2 each! Extravagance. At C$66 = A$3 it was above budget but they were so nice we just went for it. Don't worry about Dolly missing out, we will be back here when she is feeling better.

DC2DECF0DC512BF08AA6B5F7179D68DD.jpg90_DC2FEE8E04C3EB8860DBE8E47CCE9FAE.jpg

Lyn cooked a delicious chicken & vegie dish at the hostel tonight. We had purchased some marinated chicken at the supermarket earlier and she certainly cooked it to perfection.

Time to sort and repack our bags. We are heading to Lake Apoyo for the weekend and will be leaving most of our luggage here at the hostel in Granada for when we return.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 04:54 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged oasis granada hostel Comments (4)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA, DEEPER IN

CHICKEN BUS FROM SAN CARLOS TO GRANADA

SC_TO_G.png

DAY 44 TUESDAY 21ST MARCH

We had a relaxing morning as today is a travel day, but our bus does not depart until 3pm. We hung around at the hotel using the internet until checkout time which was 11am. We were able to leave our bags while we had a last little stroll around town and then back to our usual restaurant for a beer (at 11.30am, is that too early when on holidays?) and something to eat.

We walked via the huge big yellow church on the hill.

DSCN0626.jpgDSCN0627.jpgDSCN0631.jpgDSCN0632.jpg

Yesterday while sitting in the restaurant we saw another patron eating chicken wings and chips so this is what we decided to have for our lunch. Lucky when it came to order there were some young Americans there to help us ask for chicken wings. It took 30 minutes for our food to come out but this gave us enough time to finish our beer. Nice every so often to have a meal that does not include rice and beans. Not a bad deal for C$140 = A$6.20 each.

large_8FFC8A7FEA64A10A3B226D2F46BF9937.jpglarge_DSCN0652.jpg

We lingered over lunch until about 1pm when we decided it was time to go collect our luggage. It seemed we had walked this path many times before so it was only just after 1.15pm when we were back in our lunch seats and ordering our last C$19 = A$0.87 Victoria Frost beer, our farewell to San Carlos.

Just after 2pm we dragged our luggage the short distance to the bus station. It seemed that a lot of the shop owners were saying adios to us, perhaps we had stayed in this little stop over town longer than others, or just the fact we had luggage and were leaving they bid us farewell.

We were at the bus station by 2.10pm, lucky there were benches that we were able to sit at and wait for the bus. The station was a hive of activity, surrounded by shops and swarming with walking vendors selling everything from food, drinks, fake jewellery and belts to a lady (who was in great need of her own product) selling bras!

DSCN0666.jpgDSCN0669.jpg90638358B2D6F35D532BF9656310EF07.jpg

I had a walk around taking a few photos of some colourful chicken buses, not realizing that just before 3pm we were instructed to board one of these un-coach like machines.

large_9019E402F528F962FB6DFF8E4EF1CB28.jpg

90_DSCN0672.jpg

We sort of knew it was going to be a long ride when the first 25 km took about 1 1/2 hours to transverse. This was a long distance bus for us, but it was the normal getting home bus for the locals, so we stopped at just about every 2nd tree to pick up or drop off passengers. At least the seats were comfortable and there was plenty of leg room, even for me. It was not air-conditioned, but there was a fair breeze coming in through the windows so although the travel was slow, it was not uncomfortable. Throughout the journey we all had 2 seats to ourselves intermittently shared with oncoming and offgoing passengers.

At one stop, the bus conductor (guy collecting the money and loading the luggage), there were great huge heavy tubs loaded onto the roof of the bus. This was done by 2 other men lifting the tubs onto the conductors head. With this load he scaled the bus loading ladder and passed the big tub to men waiting on the roof, this was done with the great weight balancing on his head. A man sitting next to Lyn advised us it was queso (cheese). I was impressed, especially when he repeated this action about 15 times lifting the tubs up onto the roof.

The trip continued and continued and continued. We witnessed a beautiful sunset, I took photos through the dirty bus windows. Darkness fell as the bus continued, stopping and starting as it picked up and dropped passengers. The end of the line finally came just before 10pm, after we had driven through a very quiet and deserted looking Granada.

Not having any idea where the hell we were, the bus stopped in a back street with no visible street signs. The conductor pointed us in the direction of the central plaza so we started to walk in that direction. I had pre booked our hostel accommodation, thank god, and had a map that I could follow from the central park. There was a security guard standing on the corner so I asked him for directions to Calle Estrada, he did not know but did not hesitate to flag down a passing car to get directions. Luckily for us the driver spoke English and shouted out the directions to us. Another plus we were not far from the hostel and only had to drag our luggage for about 10 minutes.

We checked in and were shown to our room. First up was a coffee and tea, even though we had not eaten since the early lunch none of us seemed to mention needing any food. It's surprising how exhausting sitting in a bus for 7 hours can be. After 3 tepid showers we went to bed, it was midnight by now and although we had all 'napped' in the bus we still seemed to feel buggered.

Catching up on internet, I posted photos until about 1am and then crashed.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 10:39 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged bus san granada chicken carlos Comments (0)

2017 MARCH NICARAGUA OVER THE BORDER TO COUNTRY #3

COSTA RICA TO NICARAGUA, then into the jungle.

lc_to_sc.png

DAY 39 THURSDAY 16TH MARCH

We were outside and waiting just minutes before 9am - our agreed meeting time for the taxi to take us to the border. We had a quick breakfast of toast and coffee/tea and had the luggage waiting. No taxi by 9.10 gave cause to our landlady to offer to make a phone call. Luckily I had been given a mobile number of the guy we negotiated with yesterday. She advised taxi would be here in 5 minutes.

Sure enough 5 minutes later a clapped out old battered car pulled up and two blokes got out saying something about frontier and it turned out they were our lift. The driver had to empty his boot, which had 3 spare tyres in it, so our luggage could be loaded up. Then us 3 had to squeeze in the back seat which was a pain considering it was only a 2 door car. Of course the mate was coming along although it would have made much more sense for him to stay with the excess taken out of the boot and make more room for us. But whatever.

The driver started the engine and music started to blare out of the back speakers, thankfully an English song was playing with prompted us 3 squashed in the back seat to start to sing along, much to the delight of our driver and co pilot. I had remembered to write down in Spanish that we needed to stop to pay the exit tax for Costa Rica and we were driven to the pharmacy opposite the bus station soda to make payment. The exit tax for Costa Rica is US$7 plus there was an extra US$1 commission. Not exactly sure what this fee is for, but if you don't pay it you can't leave the country.

Back into the car we pile and drive the 6km to the border. This was a bargain ride at US$5.

DSCN9853.jpg

Due to lack of signage we actually missed the place where we were supposed to get an exit stamp and after walking 100m into no mans land we were sent back to get the stamp. The border guards were very polite and happy and had a bit of a chuckle on our return with the correct stamp.

So it was adios to Costa Rica and hola to Nicaragua. First up we were met by some lovely ladies who pointed a thermometer gun at our head to take our temperature. Not sure what this was for, but they asked so nicely and then offered us tourist information to take about the country we had just entered. We picked up some maps and were advised to move on to the immigration counter where we had to pay US$12 entry fee and received a Nicaraguan entry stamp in our passports.

Next our bags were put through an xray machine and given the all clear were advised to walk down the road to the awaiting collective taxi van that would take us to San Carlos. I was able to get some local currency out of an ATM before walking to the taxi. Crushed into the back seat of the mini van it was not long before it was full and we were on our way passing citrus groves on either side of the road.

About an hour later we arrived at the bus station in San Carlos which was a bit of a shit fight. Touts started hassling for bus tickets to other places before we even got out of the van. We did not want to travel on any further, but most of the other occupants of our van were taking tickets as the touts thrust them into their faces. I suggested we grab a seat at one of the bus side restaurants to have a drink and to move away from the chaos.

I had not heard back via email from the hotel I sent a request to so I decided to go and find it while Dolly & Lyn stayed at the bus station with luggage. Of course just before I set off it started to rain, but it was dry again even before I left the bus station compound. Enroute I checked out a few other hotels, but the one I had picked was in fact the pick of the hotels I saw along the way. They still had a triple room available so I said we would take it and I returned to collect D & L waiting at the bus station. Hotel Gran Lago was only about a 15 minute walk with our luggage along a pedestrian market street and then the lake side boulevard.

DSCN9854.jpg90_DSCN9855.jpg

San Carlos has a very nice relaxed vibe, which we all noticed instantly and it seemed to be more friendly than Costa Rica.

After checking in it was time to find food. The lady at the hotel said her husband is selling food and she sent their young daughter out with us to show the way. Luckily it was one of the water front places we had seen and wanted to try out. Beer was the first order for the day and on the first sip got a thumbs up from all three of us, and at a great price of 19 cordobas = A$0.84c. Yes we liked Nicaragua already. Food was good too, similar fare to local food in CR but cheaper. Chicken, rice, salad & fried plantain 100 cordobas = A$4.43. We had a few more beers to celebrate the new country.

large_DSCN9862.jpg90_DSCN9863.jpgDSCN9864.jpg

The young girl at the tourist office advised where we are to catch our boat tomorrow as we are going into the jungle. Actually up a river that is off the lake, about 4 hours from here in a boat.

We had a bit of a wander around town. Bought a pineapple from a street vendor and Dolly asked her to cut it up for us. She did this no problem even dividing the cut pieces into 3 bags for us. 30 cordobas = A$1.33 - it was sweet and juicy.

large_180_DSCN9882.jpg

We ventured out again to catch the sunset on the lake - beautiful. There are a few tourists around, but not many. Returning to the lake side restaurants for dinner and a beer, we joined many locals doing the same. Lyn & I shared a whole fish that was only 150 cordobas = A$6.65, and Dolly had a chicken soup that could have fed us all for 100 cordobas = A$4.43, washed down with our new favourite beer.

DSCN9894.jpgDSCN9900.jpglarge_DSCN9910.jpgDSCN9917.jpg90_DSCN9918.jpg

After dinner we returned to the hotel to have cold showers, no hot water here. And we had to pack a bag to take into the jungle, we are going to leave most of our luggage here at the hotel.

DAY 40 FRIDAY 17TH, DAY 41 SATURDAY 18TH & DAY 42 SUNDAY 19TH MARCH

Our luggage left in the room, we headed out to have some breakfast before boarding the boat. We went to a restaurant and had scrambled eggs with ham, gallo pinto & tortillas, with coffee C$65 = A$2.80 . We needed something in our stomach in case we would be throwing up later on the boat, lol. We walked to the pier at 8.30 but the boat was already almost full, and the best seats (bits of plank) already taken, side seats where you can lean are prime position. We scrambled aboard and found a some empty space in the middle. We were the only non locals on board, so all eyes were on us.

DSCN9919.jpg90_DSCN9920.jpg

The boat was scheduled to depart at 9am and we pulled away from the dock at 9.30am, fully laden with what I guess is supplies for the little village we are heading to.

large_DSCN9921.jpgDSCN9922.jpg

===Los Guatuzos Nature Reserve & Rio Papaturro===

Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge is located in the south of Lake Nicaragua, within the municipality of San Carlos, Rio San Juan. This natural site is a strip of wetland bordering the nearby country of Costa Rica. “Los Guatuzos” has an extension of 438 square kilometres consisting of tropical wetlands, rainforest and wildlife refuge. Adventurous travellers can take pleasure in its luxuriant flora and fauna through the magnificent Paputurro River. Here avid nature lovers have unique opportunities to spot all different kind of birds such as northern jacanas, purple gallinules, fasciated-tiger herons, great egrets, green herons, neo-tropic cormorants, anhingas, great kiskadees, and other colourful interesting birds.

The site has been recognized by UNESCO as a biosphere reserve and belongs to the list of wetlands of international importance of the Ramsar Convention, which is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.

Both “Los Guatuzos and Papaturro River” also provides the opportunity for nature enthusiasts to observe mammals in wildlife like white-faced monkeys, spider monkeys and howler monkeys, actually the loudest monkey in the world. In addition caimans are also seen sunbathing along the river. Reptiles like “green iguanas” are also spotted in lush trees.

Around 11.30 we make a stop at a little island in the middle of the lake. This looks like the lunch/toilet stop as most of the boats occupants evacuate and head for a shelter that is serving what looks like fish soup. Dolly decides to stay on the boat and Lyn & I get off to stretch our legs. We don't eat, but watch as the locals purchase fresh fish from the islands inhabitants. These fish are kept in a wooden box which is in the lake water keeping the fish alive and kicking, or at least tail swishing as they are dragged out and sold off. Can't get much fresher than that.

DSCN9933.jpgDSCN9936.jpg90_DSCN9939.jpg90_DSCN9944.jpglarge_DSCN9948.jpg

It was almost another 2 hours before we finally reached the month of the Papatorro River. Now the boat really slowed down as the river was narrow and shallow and the boat had to be poled along up the river. WOW this is where the adventure started. Not very far into the river I spotted iguanas in the trees. The second one I saw was a giant monster and was to be the biggest I would see all weekend. I was loving this place already, it took us 45 minutes to manoeuvre the boat to the dock, it was slow going, but great for viewing.

DSCN9965.jpg90_DSCN9971.jpg

Eileen & Armando were at the dock waiting for us. I had pre booked this trip months ago and Eileen advised they did not speak any English. Turns our her English was quite good, much better than any attempt by us at Spanish anyhow. Armando spoke very little English and we did the tours with him. What he lacked in language skills he made up for by having the eyes of an eagle and could spot wildlife in darkness and in light.

We had a wonderful couple of days here and we saw tonnes of wildlife. We did 3 tours: night tour by boat, walking tour at crack of dawn and afternoon boat tour. All 3 were fantastic, as I said Armando had an eagle eye.

We also had a lot of time to relax outside our cabanas. Lyn and Dolly would sit reading for hours as I just sat and watched the wildlife come to within eyesight of us. I fell in love with the iguana's and they were plenty. Not only on the tours did we see them everywhere, but in the trees across the river from our accommodation there were basking iguanas too. I particular one that I named Oskar became a favourite and we monitored his movements. Smaller lizards would be closer and some would co-operate and sit still to be photographed. Unlike the 3 species of monkeys we saw, which we not so good at staying in one place for very long. Still we saw plenty of howler monkeys, white faced monkeys and the long limbed spider monkeys. I managed to get some photos, but these guys are high up in the tree and move so fast.

Caiman were in the river, and we saw them during our tours and one came to visit on the beach opposite our cabana. Armando had said it was safe to swim in the river, but I'm kind of glad I didn't. Not that the caiman were likely to attack, but I would have had heart failure had one come swimming up next to me while I was in the water. Birds, birds everywhere. Not a birder, but still appreciated them all. Dolly became quite fond of the kingfisher and we saw a lot of those. Both the large amazon kingfisher and the smaller one. Beautiful they were.

We had an amazing encounter with an anteater, who seemed to want to drink from the river but would get spooked every time he went close to the water. Perhaps he could sense a nearby caiman which we could not see. Armando actually got a cup of water from the river and the anteater drank from that. These fury animals were also delightful. So cute looking with not a great fear of humans as it just went along its way.

And the frogs, we saw some ugly toad looking frogs on our boat tours but Armando went above and beyond when he started to rustle around in then jungle during our morning walk, following the sound of the frog to produce a highly poisonous blue jeans frog. This beautiful and very tiny creature was the size of a 5c piece and happy to sit for just 2 seconds while we took a photo. Not even Armando touched this little guy, using his cap and a stick to bring it closer to us. Seeing this frog was just amazing, only to be topped when Armando showed up at our lunch time with a red eyed green frog. Another absolutely beautiful specimen. Wow!

We even managed to see a very large snake which Mr Eagle Eyes pointed out to us high high up in a tree. It was not until I saw the photo on the bigger screen of my computer did I realize that the snake had his head up and was watching us from a great height.

These days in this environment really has been a big highlight in the trip so far for me. Our hosts asked us on the last night if it was as good an experience as what we expected, and we all replied it was much better than we imagined.

The meals that Eileen fed us were great too, no way would you ever go hungry while staying here. The accommodation was excellent also. The cabana we stayed in had a double bed, single bed and bunk bed so we all got to sleep in our own bed. And the sheets were changed daily. There were mozzie nets on all the beds. Cold shower, but it was pretty hot so not a problem. And the lights were run on solar power so there was no electricity, but all this just added to the experience.

As you can imagine I took lots of photos - all posted on Facebook. I don't have a very flash camera (and it has been playing up) and these animals are in the wild and do not do the curtesy of stopping to pose for a photo, and a lot of the time they were at a distance, but still I think I took good enough photos to get an idea of what we saw.

I'm just going to post a few photos here, a few highlights of our sightings. Also am going to list costs for my future reference.

Boat C$105 = A$4.65 per person each way on ferry boat
Accommodation US$20 per person per night including breakfast
Lunch US$8
Dinner US$8
Beer in local bar C$40 = A$1.77

large_DSCN0019.jpglarge_DSCN0016.jpg

large_DSCN0042.jpglarge_DSCN0043.jpg

large_DSCN0051.jpglarge_90_DSCN0065.jpgDSCN0113.jpgDSCN0093.jpgDSCN0089.jpgDSCN0077.jpg

large_DSCN0139.jpglarge_RSCN0241.jpglarge_RSCN0242.jpglarge_DSCN0300.jpglarge_RSCN0310.jpglarge_DSCN0286.jpglarge_RSCN0277.jpg

large_DSCN0362.jpglarge_DSCN0357.jpglarge_DSCN0342.jpglarge_DSCN0340.jpg

RSCN0403.jpgDSCN0402.jpglarge_DSCN0398.jpgRSCN0407.jpgDSCN0404.jpg

large_RSCN0372.jpglarge_DSCN0447.jpg90_DSCN0503.jpg90_DSCN0506.jpglarge_90_23FCB7CCD5D0E4628C63012394F645F9.jpg

large_DSCN0297.jpglarge_RSCN0282.jpglarge_RSCN0274.jpglarge_DSCN0192a.jpg

large_DSCN0483.jpglarge_RSCN0464.jpglarge_DSCN0459.jpglarge_DSCN0440.jpg

large_DSCN0513.jpglarge_DSCN0543.jpg
large_DSCN0559.jpglarge_90_DSCN0563.jpglarge_24898B09D0625C6A7678D39637FBCFAB.jpgDSCN0569.jpgDSCN0571.jpglarge_DSCN0583a.jpg

DAY 43 MONDAY 20TH MARCH

After breakfast we were back on the ferry for the 4 hour trip back to San Carlos. We hugged Eileen and Armando goodbye and left with many wonderful memories of our last few days.

large_DSCN0607.jpg

Halfway across the lake instead of stopping at the island for a meal break we were met mid stream by another boat selling ready to eat meals.

DSCN0613.jpg90_DSCN0616.jpg

We had a quiet, relaxed rest of the day in San Carlos. Went to the bus station to purchase our tickets for our departure tomorrow, had a few beers and just reflected on our time in the jungle.

To Raymundo who requested more details, today I am wearing black knickers.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 21:25 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged iguana rio los caiman papatorro guatzos Comments (3)

2017 MARCH COSTA RICA LA FORTUNA TO LOS CHILES

Moving closer to the border.

semi-overcast

DAY 37 TUESDAY 14TH MARCH

Travel day today, we left La Fortuna and went south to go north, just the way the buses go! What was on the internet as a 2.5 hour 2 bus journey turned into an over 5 hour, stop at every bus stop on the way, journey.

We had breakfast at the hotel, then dragged out luggage 10 minutes to the bus station. We were actually running early so we were able to catch the 9.45am bus instead of the 10.10am bus, but really we did not depart until 10am so not sure which one we were one anyway. Drove through the forest most of the way from La Fortuna to Cuidad Quesada, over some very dodgy looking bridges that I thought would not possible hold the weight of the bus and its cargo, but of course they did. It took us just over an hour to reach the bus station at Quesada, luckily we did not have long to wait for a connecting bus and we were on the road again within the hour. It was now almost 12 noon and the internet had advised we would be arriving in Los Chiles at 12.30pm. Ha, not a chance.

As we drove out of Quesada I saw a sign that stated Los Chiles was 89km, and we arrived there about 2.5 hours later. It was quite a nice drive into the very north of Costa Rica. We passed lots of sugar cane fields and I also saw a cane refinery along the roadside, which momentarily filled the air with the sweet smell of molasses as the bus zoomed by. Most of the fields however were pineapple plants. Pineapples for as far as the eye could see on both sides of the road. The plants seem to be grown a lot closer together than what I had seen in Australia. Perhaps the dirt here is good and they can really jam them in. There was no pineapple scent in the air and I could not see any fruit on the plants but they were big and healthy looking so perhaps they had just been harvested? Pineapples in the supermarket here are about C1100 = A$2.60, which I think is quite expensive for the locals to pay for a fruit that is grown in abundance.

I had pre booked our accommodation yesterday so after the bus had dropped us at the end of the line, the Los Chiles bus station we just had to find our bearings and walk to Cabinas Felicia where we are booked in for 2 nights @US$30 per night. I asked a man in a soda (local food outlet) and although his English was not so good, he and a few of his customers were more than willing to help us out with directions. 'Down there, right, left, right'. We found the place with these perfect directions and were buggered after dragging our luggage the 4 blocks in the hot sun.

No one at Cabinas Felicia spoke any English but they were expecting us after receiving my email so all was good. We were shown to a little 2 bedroom cabana with spare beds in the living area as well. So for the next 2 nights we all have a bedroom each. There is a little kitchenette as well but only with very basic facilities, so Lyn will not be cooking cordon bleu here. lol.

180_DSCN9733.jpg

After claiming our respective sleeping areas and spreading out our respective belongings we found ourselves heading out again to find something to eat for lunch. We hoped to find a cheap soda (eating place) where we could use up the rest of our Costa Rican money. We had a stroll around town, not much here, although there does seem an abundance of clothing shops and shops selling bicycles, too much of these 2 things available for what looks like the small population of this border town.

We ended up stopping at the soda near the bus station, same one where I had asked directions earlier. There was no written menu, but lucky for us there was a customer who spoke a little English so we could order chicken and salad and make sure we had enough money to cover it. Worked out in the end this guy told us the wrong price anyway and we were short just a couple of colones, but the owner seemed ok with it. The chicken had been deep fried and threatened to be crispy and dry on the inside, instead when I bit into a drumstick the chicken was lovely and moist and delicious. Our meals came with a 'natural' drink, which is some kind of fruit drink which for all we know could be cordial of some kind, but it was cold and tasted of pineapple so good enough.

After food we stopped at the supermarket to buy some supplies. Tragedy! they only had one can of rum left, however Lyn & Dolly settled for a local beer which was on special for only C400 = $A0.94. We had no local money left but were able to pay by credit card at the supermarket.

Returning to our cabanas we did a bit of housekeeping (ie washing clothes), had a drink on the balcony and then settled inside to watch some cable TV. Managed to find a channel in English (after watching a bit of Mama Mia in Spanish, the songs still in English) and I watched about 4 movies before turning off the telly just after 11pm.

180_DSCN9730.jpg

DAY 38 WEDNESDAY 15TH MARCH

I must admit it's nice sometimes not to have to share a bed or even a room - no snoring or bed hogging is a luxury when you are travelling with others. lol We shall all lap it up while we can cause this sleeping arrangement is a rarity.

This morning we did a boat tour on the Rio Frio (river Frio). There was a slight misunderstanding with the tour company with regards to meeting place and we were down at the pier at 9am as advised. However, when no one had turned up by 9.30 we went looking in their restaurant to see what was happening. Finally it was sorted out and we were on our way by 10am, almost having the whole boat to ourselves bar 2 other local passengers. Also the owners son came along with us as I had shown my displeasure when I found out the boat captain did not speak English.

Gary (the son) however spoke good English and knew all the names of the birds and animals that we saw along the river. It was a little overcast today but that made the trip not so hot. We saw quite a lot of birds, mainly water birds: cormorants, egrets and kingfishers. Monkeys we saw howler and white faced. Lizards: iguana and JC lizards. And one caiman! So it was a pretty good trip and I thing we got our moneys worth, US$30.

The boat putted down the river that leads to the border of Nicaragua. Before the new near by bridge opened, this river was the only way that you could cross the border in this area. This was going to be the way that we were going to cross into Nicaragua, but unfortunately they no longer have boat crossings. Much cheaper to go via road now.

Our boat did cross over the invisible country boundaries and our guide made a bit of a joke that we were in Nicaragua illegally. This joke started to become a little real when we started to have problems with the boat. When the captain tried to do a u turn in the river he ballsed it up and we ended up crashing into the bank. No harm done but when he tried to back the boat up we hit some submerged trees and then something went wrong with the outboard motor. There was a bit of a mad panic and a lot of tooing and froing, which the captain, guide and the 2 male passengers all working to get us free. Us 3 ladies sat there calm as, enjoying the scenery. We had no problem with the delay at all.

large_180_DSCN9813.jpg

Finally the boat was free and the motor was running and we were on our way back to Los Chiles dock. On our return journey we stopped and saw some very cute white faced monkeys.

large_RSCN9739.jpglarge_RSCN9753.jpglarge_RSCN9762.jpglarge_DSCN9767.jpglarge_DSCN9788.jpglarge_RSCN9794.jpglarge_RSCN9798.jpglarge_DSCN9804.jpglarge_DSCN9810.jpglarge_DSCN9830a.jpg

It had been spitting with very light rain for some of our boat trip and on the way back to our accommodation we stopped at the supermarket for lunch supplies. When we stepped outside the market it was raining a little harder, but by the time we had donned our rain jackets & ponchos it had stopped.

large_180_DSCN9842.jpg

After lunch we went for a walk up to the bus station to check out bus times for tomorrow to take us to the border. Always more fun when no one speaks much English and we of course are still completely hopeless with any Spanish. We did however ascertain that there are buses hourly to the border and the price is C500 = A$1.18. As we don't have any Costa Rican colones left we asked how much in dollars and were advised US$1. Not a very good exchange rate, but we don't want to draw any more local currency. Having a bit of a joke with the guys giving the info, one suggested we take a taxi (border is only about 6km away) and in the end we managed to agree on a price with a taxi driver who will collect us & luggage from our hotel in the morning and drive us the short distance to the border for an agreed US$5. Bus was going to cost us US$3 so for a couple more dollars we got a pick up and don't have to time or wait for the bus.

As we were walking back past the Milnos Los Chiles a guy on a motor bike pulled up with a back pack. I suggested we go have a look. He pulled out a plastic bag that had maize (corn) kernels both yellow and black and cacao beans in it. This he gave to the mill man which he put into the grinder and started to grind them all together, putting it through the milling machine a few times until it produced a powder the consistency of flour. Due to language barrier we could not find out if this is used for cooking tortillas or bread, but they guy did convey that it was very good mixed with leche (milk). By the smell of it I reckon it would make a very yummy chocolate milkshake. Unfortunately, he did not offer us a sample so we could not try it out. We have seen people coming and going to this mill, I guess it must be where everyone comes to mill their maize or whatever. Pretty cool.

90_DSCN9843.jpg90_DSCN9844.jpg90_DSCN9845.jpg90_DSCN9846.jpgDSCN9847.jpg90_DSCN9848.jpg90_DSCN9849.jpg

Lyn managed to cook a tasty dinner with the limited cooking facilities and ingredients we threw together. Cold showers all round (hot water not working here) and another night of English telly was enjoyed.

This is our last night in Costa Rica and although we have enjoyed this country we are looking forward to entering Nicaragua.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:47 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

2107 MARCH COSTA RICA, GOODBYE MONTEVERDE, HELLO LA FORTUNA

We depart the mountain area to go look at a volcano we may never see!

sunny 28 °C

DAY 33 FRIDAY 10TH MARCH

We had an easy morning, our last breakfast at Taco Taco, then it was time for our bags to be stuffed again as today is another travelling day. We had to be out of our room by 10am, but the shuttle pick up was not until 2pm in the afternoon. We filled the time with one last stop to the shops for a quick souvenir purchase (fridge magnet) and then spent the other waiting hours reading our books while seated in the lobby lounge.

We still had enough food to have a wrap lunch and before we knew it the time had come to load the bags for the change of location.

The minibus took us just out of the town limits where we were transferred to another minibus. Luggage was transferred over for us, we just had to move our bodies to the new transport vehicle.

The next 2 hours we were bounced around on a rocky dirt road to reach Lake Arenal. These vehicles really get a thrashing having a life driving over these rough roads everyday. The drivers do not travel fast but still the poor little bus copped a beating, going up and down and around the hilly roadway. Most of the scenery here was cleared pastoral land. Lots of dairy cows eating the lush green grass. Did not attempt to take any photos as we were bouncing around too much.

The minibus dropped us on the side of the road, lakeside. It was a bit of a scramble with luggage to get into the boat which had just pulled up onto the bank of the lakes edge. Soon everyone from the minivan with luggage was seated on the boat and we were off across the lake.

The water was a little chopping, but it was still an enjoyable trip across the water. I think it took about an hour, but within 15 minutes we caught sight of the famous Arenal Volcano, which has only just stopped spewing molten hot lava in 2010. Of course there was cloud cover at the very peak which remained hidden the complete trip. It has set a challenge for us to photograph or even just witness the volcano in it's entirety during our several day stay.

DSCN9607.jpgDSCN9623.jpglarge_DSCN9624.jpg

On the other side of the lake, it was a scramble off the boat (which again just parked randomly on the lakes edge) with luggage up the hill to the waiting minibus transport that would take us to our chosen hotel. A nice young German chappy helped Dolly with her bag (she playing the old lady card) up the hill and again assisted us all with passing bags via the window into the transport.

Drive was again about an hour to La Fortuna town. We passed many, many 5 star spa resort type hotels along the road. There are hot springs here, due to the volcano still being active, the underground water is being heated by it. Oh to have the money to be staying in these places, but no we were delivered to our back street Hotel Dorothy, which is home for the next 4 nights, triple room US$36 a night. Upon check in we saw this place is a little tired and can I say 'rustic'? The room they wanted to check us into was like a jail cell with a single and a bunk bed that stood about 7 feet off the ground with no save me rail. Worst part was no window to the outside world, just a window into the hallway. Yeah, not having that, we settled for a room with a window with a view of the still hiding volcano, that had a double and a single. We are happy to double up in a bed to avoid a bunk bed.

DSCN9632.jpg90_DSCN9633.jpg

I stress again the room or the whole hotel is a little rustic and could do with a good old scrub down, but the bed linens looked clean and they supplied lovely fluffy white towels. And we discovered later in the evening the shower was the best we have encountered all trip. Hot and strong.

By the time we were settled and ready to go for a wander it was almost dark. But it seemed safe enough and there are lots of people milling around. We had a quick walk on the main street, and decided it was time for a cold bevvie. Supermarket on the corner is selling our favourite rum and cola in a can and Dolly's local beer of choice so we purchased those and went and sat in the La Fortuna Park in the centre of the town. Lots of people out and about so we did not really stand out like a trio of drunks sipping out of brown paper bags in the park. Although drinking in public is apparently a no no, but we have been advised if it is covered and discrete we should be ok. Lucky we have our stubbie coolers with us at all times for emergencies like this.

DSCN9634.jpgDSCN9636.jpg

It was nice sitting watching the world go by, this town is very touristy. People come here to hike the volcano, visit the hot pools and pay exorbitant amounts of money to do all sorts of leisure activities like zip lining etc. Costa Rica sure is expensive if you want any sort of active entertainment. Lucky we are happy to buy supermarket drinks and sit in the park and observe the masses. On that note we had another round before heading off to find some food.

On our way out earlier I had spotted a restaurant that was offering plate of the day for C2500 = A$5.88 including a drink so we decided that was would a good choice for our dinner. A couple from our hotel were already seated and their food looked ok so we ordered as well. Beef stew (yummy gravy), rice, beans, salad, fried plantain - this seems to be a standard meal where only the meat part varies, good value for the money and the drink was some kind of unidentifiable fruit drink.

DSCN9642.jpg

Back at the hotel we all enjoyed the best shower of the trip (separately of course) before going to bed.

large_180_DSCN9641.jpg

The Arenal volcano measures at least 1,633 metres (5,358 ft) high.[2] It is conically shaped with a crater 140 metres (460 ft) in diameter. Geologically, Arenal is considered a young volcano and it is estimated to be less than 7,500 years old.
Arenal is one of seven historically active Costa Rican volcanoes along with Poás, Irazú, Miravalles, Orosí, Rincón de la Vieja complex, and Turrialba. It was Costa Rica's most active volcano until 2010, and one of the ten most active volcanoes in the world. It has been studied by seismologists for many years.
The volcano is located at the center of Arenal Volcano National Park in the northern zone of the country, 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) southwest of the La Fortuna district in San Carlos (canton), Costa Rica.[6]
Arenal Volcano area is an important watershed for the Arenal Lake Reservoir. The reservoir's water is used for hydroelectric power. It is also connected to the national system.

DAY 34 SATURDAY 11TH MARCH

:-( Not a good night last night, Dolly and I shared the double bed and we were eaten alive by invisible invaders. We are hoping it was not bed bugs but it seems the only answer. We complained to the reception and he looked horrified and asked if we had any food in the room. No mate, we were the food for these hungry little buggers! Anyway we changed rooms but the damage is done and lets hope they are not in the new room.

Our new room still has a view of the volcano and is a little more cheery looking, but alas the shower is not as good. But a choice of bed bugs and good shower or no bed bugs and crapper shower the choice is obvious.

DSCN9644.jpg90_DSCN9645.jpgDSCN9646.jpg

Lyn cooked poached eggs for breakfast from the supplies we purchased last night at the big supermarket at the end of the street. We have use of a grotto old kitchen here and no breakfast is included. Free coffee but that is it.

Late morning we left the hotel to explore the town. Didn't take very long. All the shops are overpriced souvenir shops (selling stuff made in Thailand that we know we can get there for a much cheaper price) and shops selling tours (hiking, zip lining etc etc) and lots of bars and food outlets, with the occasional supermarket in between them.

We stopped for an ice cream cone C700 = $1.65 which ended up being the cheapest in town for one scoop as everywhere else we saw as over C1000. The volcano still not completely revealing itself.

large_DSCN9653.jpg

It's Saturday and I must say the town is abuzz and we noticed there is a abundance of mountain bikes and riders in the town. We found out later that there is an annual bike ride from Tilaran to La Fortuna (around the lake) 75km bike ride which was on this weekend. They rode this morning and return again tomorrow. We actually met some of the riders while having a pit stop (us and them) and they told us all about it.

90_DSCN9657.jpgDSCN9658.jpg

We continued on looking at the shops. Found the bus station that we need for a few days time when we depart here. Stopped and had some lunch. Lyn & I had a little pork ribs and Dolly a couple of chicken wings from a local hole in the wall. C1500 = A$3.53 enough to stop a tummy rumble.

We looked a few more shops but not impressed by all the overpriced rubbish they are selling that comes from Thailand. So I suggested we just go to supermarket, buy some drinks and go sit in the park with the rest of the world. Not that the rest of the world were drinking, but we needed hydrating!

We spent a lovely afternoon in the park, watching families play with kids. Lots of licra clad bodies walking around looking happy with themselves that they made the ride today, have they forgotten that they still have to ride back tomorrow?

By the time we left the park, heading home with all intentions of cooking our dinner, I suggested we eat at the same place as last night and everyone jumped at the chance. Maybe not for the food, but maybe for the thought of not having to cook.

DAY 35 SUNDAY 12TH MARCH

Good news no new bites for me last night, I slept really well. Dolly is not faring so well though. She claims to have new bites, but I think they are from the night before which have waited to come out, as there is no way they would just choose her to violate if we are sharing the same infested bed. So we both just need to nurse the bites we have for the next few days and try not to scratch them.

Breakfast of coffee/tea and toast before we headed out about mid morning down the road 20 minutes to the bridge that crosses the Fortuna River. Here we have been told is a good place to go for a swim. Seems they told everyone as there was already a crowd down on the rocks and in the water. We managed to climb our way down and then brave the water. We had only walked perhaps 1 km to get here but the sun was out and it was warm. The water was cool, not freezing, and once you were in it, it was lovely.

large_DSCN9680.jpgDSCN9682.jpg180_DSCN9684.jpg

We stayed for a couple of hours kicking ourselves for now being as organized as the people around us with drinks and snacks. Obviously it was busier today being a Sunday, but there was still enough room for everyone to find a spot to sit in or near the flowing water. There was a deep pool that had the young ones jumping into via a swing rope or straight off the rocks. I was keen to have a swing, but where they had to climb out of the water to get back on the banks was way beyond my physical capabilities, so we settled for a little further up the rocks where we could at least get in and out of the river.

Sufficiently cooled off we decided to head back to get some lunch. Two minutes on the road and I happen to look up a the volcano and amazingly it was clear of cloud! A miracle! Quickly diving for cameras before the cloud rolled back over it, we managed to get a few shots of the naked volcano peak. Happy now, I thought this was not going to be a sight we were going to encounter.

large_DSCN9694.jpg180_DSCN9696.jpg

Halfway home we saw a beautiful iguana (lizard) which had been run over by a car and although it was still alive, only just, it was not going to last much longer. Really we should have hit it on the head with a big rock to put it out of it's misery, but our luck we would be seen as stoning the poor thing by a passer-by, not being able to explain what we were doing in Spanish. So we left the poor thing, hoping it would die soon enough before the vultures, of which there were many in the area, found it.

DSCN9702.jpg

A stop at the supermarket for lunch supplies, with which we returned to the hotel to prepare and eat. A short relax and just before 4pm it was unanimously decided it was time to walk into central park for a drink and a people watch.

large_180_DSCN9709.jpg

The checkout chicks at the supermarket are getting to know us by now and we have become like a permanent fixture in the park every afternoon.

We actually made it back to the hotel for dinner tonight and Lyn cooked a lovely spag bol.

DAY 36 MONDAY 13TH MARCH

Very relaxed day today, we did not do much at all. I spent most of the day planning our next weeks travel - booking accommodation and sorting out transport.

We didn't venture out until lunch time to get some supplies from supermarket at end of street. After lunch we strolled into town, bought a couple of postcards, had a peek in the central park church and then basically took up our resident spot in the park to have a few drinks. Not as crowded as the weekend, but still some families with little kids kicking balls around and chasing puppies.

DSCN9714.jpg

90_DSCN9717.jpg90_DSCN9718.jpg

We have had a nice time here in La Fortuna and although we could not afford to do any of the paid activities, we could afford the supermarket drinks which we have enjoyed in the park. I'm glad we saw the volcano revealed in all it glory, although no longer spewing out molten lava it is still an amazing giant that overlooks the town.

We again made it back to the hotel for dinner, Lyn cooked pork chops and vegies. Tomorrow we move on to Los Chiles.

large_DSCN9719.jpglarge_DSCN9722.jpg

Posted by Cindy Bruin 18:36 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged la fortuna Comments (2)

2017 FEB - COSTA RICA ALAJUELA TO MONTEVERDE

We travel by bus into the cloud forest.

semi-overcast 24 °C

DAY 30 TUESDAY 7TH MARCH

A very early morning this morning, we were up at 6am to have a quick breakfast, pack the last of our stuff and jump in a taxi to be at the bus stop on the main road in time to catch the bus passing by that left San Jose at 6.30am. Amazingly we were on the side of the road just after 6.30am determined not to miss our bus. I had purchased tickets online and was a little relieved to see other people were waiting for the same bus and I would not have to jump in front of it to stop it.

DSCN9315.jpg

The Monteverde bus turned up just minutes after its expected time of arrival of 30 minutes after departure time and soon we had our luggage loaded down below and were seated in the bus which was taking off down the highway. Must admit I had a bit of an on and off nap during the first 2 hours of the journey. We stopped for a 15 minute toilet break just before 9am, and I guess it was a breakfast break for the ones who did not eat before getting on the bus. The road had not been all that exciting thus far and did not get interesting until we turned off the main Interamerican highway and the road turned to dirt about 20 km out from our destination. This is were it did get interesting as we started to climb, the road ever winding and the drop off the side at killer heights. The bus although down to a low speed of between 35 - 40 km/h did not seem to strain too much, and the driver was obviously at ease with the dirt road, no railing, deadly drop off roadside cliff as he continued to answer calls and text messages on his mobile phone while navigating these, what I would call, difficult driving conditions. Good to know he was completely at ease. He smiled at me several times as I attempted to photograph the steep drop off, even pointing out a magnificent vista on the opposite side of the road to where I was looking. I guess he drive this big coach on this road often enough to know it like the back of his hand, or at least he portrayed this.

It was 10.15am when we pulled into the bus station in Monteverde, making better time than expected. We alighted from the coach to find the temperature a little cooler than what we had in Alajuela, and it was trying to sprinkle with rain but the wind was blowing it away. I had a mud map of where we needed to walk to our booked accommodation, but just needed to confirm the correct direction we needed to travel in. Thank goodness we were directed down the hill and only had a small hill to pull our luggage up to the hostel. The rain had since stopped so we did not get wet.

It was early, but lucky for us our room was empty and we were able to check in straight away.
PENSION SANTA ELENA 3 NIGHTS @ US$54 = US$162 TRIPLE ROOM

DSCN9324.jpg90_DSCN9325.jpgDSCN9326.jpg

After we had settled in the guy at the desk told us about the activities we can do here in the area. Lots to do here so we will have a think and a chat and decide later.

We headed out for a bit of a look around town, browsed in some souvenir shops, found couple of supermarkets for supplies. Decided to stop and have some lunch when we found a reasonable restaurant. Huge meal C3500 = A$8.21 - pork chop with rice, beans, salad, vegies & fried plantain, included free dessert of piece of banana cake. Overpriced beer C1800 = A$4.22, but overall a good meal for less than $13.

90_DSCN9328.jpg

Returning to the hostel after a lap of town, we did a bit of washing to keep on top of it and then sat around chatting after getting a few supplies for our afternoon drinkies.

90_DSCN9342.jpgDSCN9341.jpg

I booked a couple of the activities we are going to do over the next few days with the receptionist. Dinner was just a sandwich - after the large meal we had at lunch time.

Night time is a bit cooler than what we are used to, and the wind sounds like its making itself known outside as well. Hope the following days are going to be nice as we are booked in for some outside activities.

DAY 31 WEDNESDAY 8TH MARCH

Breakfast, which was included with our room rate, was a choice of 2 things from the Taco Taco place next door. 1. fruit with yoghurt and muesli with toast and home made marmalade & 2. fresh fruit with breakfast tacos with scrambled eggs. Tea and coffee are free all day at hostel.

90_DSCN9348.jpgDSCN9349.jpg

Busy day today, at 10.30 we were collected by mini bus that transferred us 30 minutes away to Selvatura Park where we did a hanging bridges walk.

The Selvatura Hanging Bridges are an excellent option for observing the beautiful flora and fauna of the Monteverde Cloud Forest. The 3 kilometre journey will take you across bridges hanging in the tree canopy, at heights that range from 12 to 60 meters. In addition, the bridges have varying lengths from 50 to 150 meters.

We did not see a great deal of wild life but the trees and the flora was just amazing, beautiful. Some of the bridges were 30 meters high so we were almost in the canopy of the forest looking down on smaller trees and at eye level with the larger ones. Yep, it was very impressive.

180_DSCN9367.jpgDSCN9378.jpgDSCN9387.jpglarge_DSCN9392.jpglarge_DSCN9411.jpglarge_DSCN9412.jpg
90_DSCN9445.jpgDSCN9463.jpgDSCN9476.jpg

We finished the bridge walk just in time to get the 1pm bus back into town, where we returned to the hostel to have our lunch. After eating our tuna sandwiches we took the local bus (C600 = $A1.42) 5km to the entrance of the Monteverde Reserve. We did not actually enter the reserve we were here to see the humming birds at the Hummingbird Gallery. We had seen a few of these small very swift moving birds in the forest, but here there were feeders set up and the birds, many of them, came in to feed and we could see them up close. There were a variety of sizes and colours and they were just lovely.

Their little wings move so fast in some of the photos it looks like they have no wings at all. The videos on FB are much better than these photos.

DSCN9508.jpgDSCN9507.jpgDSCN9505.jpgDSCN9495.jpgDSCN9494.jpg

Just before we left one of these coatimundi just casually walked past us, these critters are obviously used to humans being around as it did not run off, just went about its business.

DSCN9518.jpgDSCN9517.jpgDSCN9516.jpg

We were going to walk the 5km back into town, but decided to catch the bus half way back as we were told about a happy hour at the Hotel Belmar. Managed to explain to the bus driver where we wanted to get off then had to walk up the hill on the dirt road to the hotel. It was pretty swish, but the staff were very nice to us. Dolly and I had a trio of locally brew beers with tapas and Lyn had some kind of tequila cocktail. The prices were outrageous, but we enjoyed a nice indulgent beverage while watching the sun go down.

90_DSCN9529.jpg90_DSCN9530.jpgDSCN9534.jpglarge_DSCN9535.jpgDSCN9542.jpg90_DSCN9544.jpg

It must have been close to 6pm when we thought it must be time to start walking back to town, I estimated it was about 3km. About 100m down the road, before we even reached the main road again, we came across a taxi that had just dropped someone off and was obviously going to return back to town. Lyn asked out of curiosity how much back to town and the driver said US$3 and we all 3 jumped into the back seat. Not going to let a cheap fare like that slip past, as it was cold and drizzly and none of us felt like the walk anyway. We ended up paying the taxi C1500 = A$3.55 and he dropped us right in front of our accommodation. Got to be happy with that.

A quick visit to the supermarket for a couple of supplies and we sat and had a drink while waiting for a cooking space in the kitchen to clear. it's busy in the hostel again tonight, seems to be a very popular place. Lyn and Dolly cooked dinner tonight, pork chop & vegies, well done ladies.

After dinner we had showers and basically went to bed.

Great day today! It's very windy outside again tonight, and as I finish this by the sounds of it outside the rain is coming down heavier.

DAY 32 THURSDAY 9TH MARCH

This morning after breakfast from Taco Taco we were collected for a 3 in 1 Don Juan Coffee Tour US$35. 3 things being coffee, chocolate & sugar. Don Juan is just small coffee planation that does not produce enough coffee to export out of the country or not even enough to distribute within Costa Rica, all that is produced here is sold to tourists that visit Monteverde and they have a coffee shop in town that they obviously use their own coffee.

On arrival we were all treated to a ride on an wooden cart pulled by a couple of burley oxen. The ride was only for about 20 metres and back, but I could have easily have passed on the ride back. Not the most comfortable, even with all my padding aka fatty bum tissue.

90_DSCN9552.jpgDSCN9553.jpg

We were shown the different stages of the coffee plants growth and given lots of information that I have obviously already forgotten. One thing I do remember is that the guide told us Costa Rica used to be one of the worlds biggest coffee producers, but now produces only 1% of the worlds coffee. Not that this countries production has gone down, just that more bigger countries are now producing coffee as well. He told us they are happy here to produce smaller quantities of higher quality coffee, rather than bulk amounts of shit coffee.

DSCN9557.jpgDSCN9558.jpgDSCN9562.jpglarge_90_DSCN9573.jpg

We were shown through the husking and drying procedures, then taken into the roasting area. Another fun fact, they only harvest coffee here 3 months of the year, November, December & January and nearly all of the coffee pickers are from Panama or Nicaragua. Costa Rican workers do not like to get jobs as coffee pickers as it is for only 3 months a year. Pickers are paid by the amount of coffee they pick and by the quality of the berries they select to pick. Good pickers may pick less in weight, but are more selective therefore get better pay for the better berries picked. Pickers from Panama & Nicaragua can make enough money in the 3 months to live the rest of the year in their much cheaper countries.

DSCN9564.jpg

Next part of the tour was about chocolate. The cacao plant is not grown in the area as the weather is not conducive, so they bring it in and make the chocolate here as an addition to their coffee trade. Actually more money is gained from the cacao butter which is separated from the cacao. The powdery cocoa is then made into chocolate using animal and other plant fats (much cheaper palm oil) and the cocoa butter is sold to be used for cosmetics. Ideally, chocolate should be made using the cacao powder and cacao butter, but the butter is just too lucrative to be used in eating chocolate production. Actually, eating chocolate is just a yummy bi-product of the collection of cacao butter. The chocolate story was quite interesting and we all got to have a taste after the little talk. We tasted their dark chocolate and their white chocolate (which of course is not actually chocolate at all as it contains no cacao) but they did use cacao butter and not animal/plant fat to make it. We were also given chocolate coated roasted coffee beans - I personal favourite of mine (correct Lisa Plant?)

90_DSCN9588.jpgDSCN9589.jpglarge_DSCN9591.jpg

Third part of the tour was about sugar. Sugar cane which is also grown here in Costa Rica is used as natural drink by pressing the cane to extract the liquid. Sugar cane is 70% water so there was quite a bit of fluid to come out of the stick. We got to try this refreshing drink, and also with a little lemon juice added. Our guide advised this is available everywhere, but must admit we have not seen it and I guess not knowing the name of the drink in Spanish would not know anyway. And I guess it would be offered to the locals more than tourists.

90_DSCN9598.jpgDSCN9600.jpg

Like most tours it finished at the gift shop where we could all help ourselves to the 3 different blends of coffee to taste. Light, medium or dark. Fun fact: light roasted beans have the most caffeine, the more you roast the coffee beans the less caffeine it contains. Most people would think having a dark roast it would be stronger, but this is a fallacy. Learn something new everyday.

After about 3 coffees, we were driven back to our accommodation.

We just hung around the rest of the day, doing washing, reading etc.

Around 5.30pm we were again collected for another tour. This evening we are doing a Kinkajou Night Walk US$20. Hoping to see creatures in the night, we walked around the forest with a guide who had a flashlight to rival the ones used in X-Files, for about 2 hours. We did see a few animals: Motmot (bird), Armadillo, Humming Bird Nest (with bird inside), Possum, Crystal Wing Butterfly, Rainbow Beak Toucan, 2 toed Sloth, Stripped Pit Viper (snake) x 2, Bark Scorpion, Emerald Toucan & Kinkajou. Not able to take any night photos I posted Mr Google photos on my FB page so these animals could be identified. Our guide had the eyes of a hawk, how he saw some of these creatures that were camouflaged in the forest was amazing, but I guess that is his job. The birds we saw were of course sleeping or trying to sleep and Dolly is convinced they were stuffed props. Lol she does not believe they were real.

Too late to cook when we returned so we had take away chicken & chips from Pollo Asado!

Tomorrow we again move on to our next destination: La Fortuna.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 11:36 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged monteverde Comments (0)

2017 FEB - COSTA RICA CONTINUES

Inland we travel away from the coast to the Capital San Jose.

DAY 26 FRIDAY 3RD MARCH

Up early today as we are booked on the 9am bus to San Jose. We had a cooked breakfast to use up the remainder of our food, finished stuffing our bags and gave the nod to our landlady to make the call for a taxi to take us into town to the bus stop with our heavy bags. She said the taxi would cost about US$3, but when we got out I advised Lyn to just give him C2000 = A$4.76 and he was more than happy with that amount.

large_DSCN9235.jpg

Today we are taking the bus as apposed to a shuttle service because of the difference in price. Bus was C5270 = A$12.54 each and the shuttle van was US$55 = A$72.40 per person, which was just a ridiculous difference. However, within 2 minutes of sitting in the bus I did start to regret this option as the seats on the bus were designed for midget Aztecs and not fat arsed, long legged Australians. Unfortunately, the bus was full and I had a nice Canadian lady sit next to me, which meant I was pretzeled in to the small seat with non existent leg room, so the next 5 hours was most uncomfortable.

The bus left just a little late, just a little after 9, and it was raining. Today we drove through some magnificent scenery. Through the cloud forests and green for as far as the eye could see. It seemed like the road had been cut through the middle of the mountains for a fair distance as there were high cliff walls on either side of the road, every now and then when we were at the peaks the vista would be amazing!

There was only just a one 10 minute stop in Limon when Lyn & I did not take advantage of the toilet stop, so by the time we arrived in San Jose at 2pm we were both busting and make a bee line for the loos pushing over zealous taxi drivers out of the way. Much relieved later, we again avoided the taxi drivers (not so zealous now) and pulled our luggage 5 or 6 blocks down the road to a different bus station. We needed a bus to take us the 16km out to Alajuela.

Alajuela (Spanish pronunciation: [alaˈxwela]) is the second-largest city in Costa Rica after the capital, San José. It is also the capital of Alajuela Province. Because of its location in the Costa Rican Central Valley, Alajuela is nowadays part of the conurbation of the Great Metropolitan Area. The city is the birthplace of Juan Santamaría, the national hero of Costa Rica and the figure who gives the name to the country's main international airport, which is south of Alajuela downtown.

This bus was only C500 = A$1.18 each and was supposed to take about an hour to travel the short distance to Alajuela. Due to very heavy traffic and road work (3 lane bridge reduced to one lane) the trip took almost 2.5hours. With our luggage unloaded at the Alajuela bus station we just had to now find the hotel which I had booked. The town is a grid, so we just had to find Calle 2, Avenida 4, which sounded easier than it was and after dragging our luggage a few blocks I just stopped and asked a group of policemen who were standing around watching (guarding?) an ATM which had a line up of about 35 people. We were not far off, just 2 blocks down that way they pointed.

HOTEL SANTA MARIA 4 NIGHTS TRIPLE ROOM @ A$261, unfortunately we had already trashed the room before I took these photos.

DSCN9236.jpgDSCN9237.jpg

We found the hotel and met up with Miss Dolly who had arrived earlier in the day on a flight from the UK via Mexico City. The next couple of hours were spenting chatting and catching up with Doll, and she regaled the story of the problem she had with immigration at the airport. The same sinario that I was worried about when we crossed the border actually happened with her and they were about to send her back to Mexico because she did not have an exit flight out of Costa Rica. With the aid of the airline staff she did manage to book a flight to Nicaragua which appleased the immigration office (which she described as gestapo like) and after a two hour delay was finally admitted into Costa Rica.

It was dark when we finally headed out for something to eat (realizing Lyn & I had not eaten since breakfast), Friday night and lots of shops were still open and there was a decent crowd out and about. We ended up eating at a greasy fried chicken place mainly because we were hungry and because we could only find chicken places. It was good enough to fill our stomachs and we then wandered back to the hotel.

This is the first time we have had a TV the whole trip and one with cable channels, so we spent the rest of the night watching a couple of English speaking movies.

DAY 27 SATURDAY 4TH MARCH

Breakfast at the hotel is included with our room, so we had fresh fruit (piece of pineapple, banana & pawpaw) tea/coffee & toast. Just enough to get us started for the day.

We are just going to have a look around town here in Alajuela today, nothing too strenuous. The sun was out and although there was a bit of a frisky breeze it is still fairly warm. We started out in Plaza Santamaria with the statue of the county's hero, Juan Santamaria.

Juan Santamaría was a Costa Rican soldier, officially recognized as the national hero of his country. A national holiday in Costa Rica, Juan Santamaría Day, is held every April 11 to commemorate his death. He was also known as the Nacho Gonzalez, an important character in Costa Rican history that established the Indian cultures in a region of Costa Rica.

We made our way up the street to the Central Plaza and the Alajuela Cathedral.

The Our Lady of the Pillar Cathedral also called Alajuela Cathedral or Cathedral of Virgin of the Pillar, is the name given to a religious building affiliated with the Catholic Church, which is located in the city of Alajuela, the second largest in the Central American country of Costa Rica.

large_DSCN9250.jpg90_DSCN9251.jpgDSCN9252.jpg90_DSCN9253.jpgDSCN9257.jpg

Then on to the museum in a lovely old building that once served as a jail and an armoury.

Juan Santamaría History Museum
This fortress was built between 1874 and 1877 by General Tomás Guardia and remodeled in 1936 by then president León Cortes Castro. Various Alajuelan military leaders that commanded the headquarters came to be president of the republic such as General Próspero Fernández and General Bernardo Soto Alfaro.
By 1894 there were enough military weapons to arm 5,000 men. Some believe that the underground tunnels that connect the barracks with the general’s residence and the city hall are from the remodeling in 1936.
After the abolition of the military, it was converted into an education center and after that, it was the main office for the Research and Perfection in Technical Learning Center (CIPET in Spanish). It has been recently set up as the Juan Santamaría History and Culture Museum. It was declared a Historical Architectural point of interest, according to the Executive Decree published in the La Gaceta.

DSCN9259.jpgDSCN9263.jpg

Next stop, we had a walk around the central market, that was full of an assortment of stalls selling everything from fruit and vegies to underwear and footwear. Also there were a lot of food stalls and we decided to stop at one to have a bit of a snack. Ceviche was on the menu so we had a serving of fish ceviche. Dolly had a taste and not being a fish eater to start with was none too impressed, but she did like the vinegar & lime liquid it was served in. We also tried some fish which was very tasty.

90_DSCN9272.jpgDSCN9278.jpg

Returning to the hotel for some lunch and a little rest, we headed out again later in the afternoon in search of Walmart supermarket. Due to my fantastic navigational skills we managed to walk about 5 km to get there when it was only 1.5 km distance away. Gave Dolly a great workout and she is now sleeping like a baby.

180_DSCN9284.jpg

After a coffee and wandering around the supermarket tasting cheese and whatever else was on offer, it was mutually decided we get a taxi back to the hotel, which ended up being just up the road.

By now it was rum o'clock so we sat in the hotel courtyard having a couple of cans of cuba libre (rum & cola). Dinner was roast chicken and fresh bread that we picked up at Walmart.

90_DSCN9285.jpg

Another movie on telly before bed.

DAY 28 SUNDAY 5TH MARCH

Today we did very little.

Lunch time we headed out looking for food, central market was closed so we just bought some bread from the supermarket and had the left over chicken from yesterday.

DSCN9289.jpg

The afternoon we hung around the hotel as a friend of Dolly's was arriving in Costa Rica and was going to come to us for a catch-up. By 6.30pm she had not yet shown up so we headed out again in search of food. Not a great deal open on a Sunday night and as we did not want to venture too far we ended up at KFC for chicken and chips - fast food always a good standby and they are all of Americas finest here on offer.

On arrival back at the hotel, Liz (Dolly's friend) had in fact just shown up and was chatting with the receptionist. This called for a drink and we sat around chatting with having a few cold beverages that we had purchased earlier in the day.

We had decided to go to Poas Volcano tomorrow and Liz was going to meet us back here at the hotel in the morning and come along also.

DAY 29 MONDAY 6TH MARCH

Liz arrived at the hotel just as we were going for breakfast and joined us for a coffee. The hotel receptionist had advised the bus to Poas was the same bus stop as the one we had arrived at so we had an idea of where we were going. We left the hotel at 8.30 for the short walk to the bus station. Luckily for us Liz spoke Spanish and when we arrived at the bus station confirmed it was the incorrect one and received directions for the bus stop just 2 blocks away. So much for the hotel information.

Anyway we were there in plenty of time and stood with a pack of other tourists also waiting for the bus to the volcano.

The Poás Volcano, (Spanish: Volcán Poás), is an active 2,708-metre (8,885 ft) strato volcano in central Costa Rica. It has erupted 39 times since 1828.

The bus finally loaded just after 9, luckily we all got seats, the one way fare was C1090 = A$2.55 each. The entrance gate to the volcano was less than 20km away, however due to the winding up hill road it took us almost 2 hours to reach it. Ah and we had a 15 minute toilet stop on the way too. At the stop we bought cheese and beef empanadas to try C800 = $1.87.

DSCN9291.jpgDSCN9290.jpg

Back in the bus it was only about another 20 minutes before the bus stopped again at the entry gate to the Volcano park. The bus stopped here because you have to pay US$15 entry before it will take you any further. A lady in a uniform entered the bus and announced there is very heavy cloud cover and visibility is zero, you can see nothing, but if you want to enter the fee is US$15. The bus was not returning until 2.30pm so just about everyone on the bus decided to pay the entry fee and go look at the cloud. We thought this was a bit silly to pay money if there was no chance of seeing anything, and it was a huge price to pay to sit around in the café until it was time for the bus to go back down the hill.

Liz suggested we start walking back down and try to hitch a ride. I thought it would be highly unlikely that we would get a ride being the four of us, but it was a better idea than just waiting around in the misty rain for the bus to depart. It was pretty cold also outside of the bus, and we could not get into the café without paying the entry fee.

It was downhill so we thought we would take our chances. Well, we got no further than about 20 steps before a taxi pulled up and Liz negotiated a price for us to get back into town. The taxi had obviously just dropped people off at the entrance and they must have paid a good price because he agreed to take us for C1000 = A$2.34 each, which was actually cheaper than the bus.

It was a shame we did not get to see the volcano crater or any views, but them is the breaks when you have to rely on mother nature. We had a nice bus ride up and a taxi ride down, then we headed back to the hotel for tea/coffee and cake and natter some more.

Liz left us in the afternoon and we headed out to the central market for some lunch. We returned to the same place we ate at the other day and we had ceviche and fried fish again. It was yummy. Lyn & I also bought some seafood soup to take away that we had for dinner.

Later in the afternoon we all started to pack our bags as we are departing Alajuela tomorrow morning early so need everything ready to go. This is when Lyn realized there were slashes in the back pack that she had worn when we had gone out for lunch. Quick contents check revealed that the purse she was carrying in there was gone. So sometime while we were out and walking around the streets or in the central market, some one had slashed the bag and grabbed out her purse. She did not feel a thing. We lost about A$50 in cash, plus Lyn lost the purse. It could have been worse, but it just puts a bit of a dampener on everything. Guess it will also make us more aware and more cautious in the future, no more carrying back pack on our back. Like I said it could have been worse, only cash was lost, no cards or passport.

Posted by Cindy Bruin 20:27 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged alajuela Comments (3)

2017 FEB - ON TO COSTA RICA (CARIBBEAN COAST) PUERTO VIEJO!

We changed countries, traveling to neighbouring Costa Rica from Panama.

sunny 30 °C

DAY 21 SUNDAY 26TH FEBRUARY

Today we changed countries! Crossed the border over into Costa Rica. We again decided to pay the money and go with a shuttle service that included a hand holding over the border and drop off directly at our accommodation on the other side. This was for US$28 each.

Set the alarm so we had enough time to finish packing our bags and have some breakfast. It was only a quick walk to the ferry station from our hostel so after getting our US$10 key deposit we left, dragging our luggage up the road.

It was only a few minutes before we were all squeezed into a boat and then farewell to Colon Island. We had a great few days here in the islands of Bocas del Toro and our skin colour now reflects the fabulous weather we have been having.

A 20 minute boat ride and we were back at Almirate where we were loaded into 2 minivans and set off to the boarder which took about 1.5 hours drive. Along the way the other minivan had pulled over to the side of the road and our driver stopped to assist. We then found out he had stopped because there was a sloth on the side of the road. As I said in my last post, Humans are one of the biggest killers of these animals, not necessarily from them going out hunting these hairy creatures, but because a lot get killed on the roads. Their slow pace and lack of road crossing skills make them easy if not intentional road kill targets. The van driver stopped to assist this one and after we had all snapped up as many photos as possible he picked it up by the scruff of the neck (like you would carry a cat) and carried it to the other side of the road near the bush. That apparently is another way they inevitably get killed, people trying to help return the animal to where it has come. But if it wants to be on the other side of the road for whatever reason (usually the call or smell of a female on heat) then they will unknowingly risk their life to get to their mate.

large_90_DSCN9091.jpglarge_RSCN9096.jpg

So cool to see a sloth so up close, this one was a 3 toe adult, he looked as happy as Larry.

At the border we all had to line up for exit stamps out of Panama, then collect our luggage from the vans, pay US$4 exit fee to get out of Panama then walk across an old, now pedestrian, bridge.

180_DSCN9094.jpg

Once on the other side of the bridge we had to line up again to get an entry stamp into Costa Rica. I had been told that Costa Rica requires you to prove you have an exit ticket out of the country when you get to the border. We did not have a ticket out of CR but do have one out of another Central American country which we were advised would be enough. After waiting in the hot sun, when our turn finally came up the only question they asked was where we were going to now. Puerto Viejo was all they needed to know. Stamp, hand back passport, have a nice stay.

So we entered Costa Rica without a hiccup. There was a minibus waiting for us all just past the stamp office, they had already collected our luggage while we waited in line so now we just had to squeeze in and we were off.

There were a couple of drop offs before our accommodation, but they definitely dropped us at the front door, even having driven down the 100m driveway. We had gained an hour crossing the boarder and unfortunately our room was not yet ready. The occupants had not yet vacated the room. Check out was at 12 and they were using up every last minute. We left our luggage and decided to take a stroll into town to have a look around.

TROPICAL PARADISE 5 NIGHTS @ US$202.75

90_DSCN9095.jpg

We are right on the beach here, although our accommodation is set back behind the 100 meter driveway, our sea view bungalow is sea view if you had some binoculars. hahaha at least it was right on the beach. Playa Negra - Black Beach, named for the black sand which we discovered was very hot underfoot as we walked along the beach into town. It was only a short distance and we spent most of the walk in the waters edge to save our feet from frying.

Puerto Viejo is small, only a couple of streets which seems to have a lot of bars, so again its nice that we are staying a bit away from all the noise that these places like to fire up at night. Found a supermarket and instantly noticed the difference in prices of those in Panama. I knew Costa Rica was going to be more expensive than Panama but it's still a bit of a shock when you first see it. And we need to get our head around the local currency, gone are dollars and now we are in Costa Rican Colon. 100 Colon = AUD 23c, so there is going to be a lot of zeros on the money that we are going to have to take note of. We were able to purchase a few things at the supermarket using my Citibank card as we had not yet found the ATM.

Back at the accommodation our room still was not ready, occupant had only just left and we were told the place was a mess so needed to be cleaned. Lyn sat reading a book while I had a power nap. Finally we were able to settle in our room, with kitchen - home for the next 5 days.

Next up, a stroll down the driveway, cross the road, and into the sea. At first the water did not look as appealing as in Bocas due to the black sand, but once in the water we could see that it too was very clean and clear. A little more of a wave here than what we were in yesterday.

Today is Sunday so there were a few families on the beach sheltering from the sun under the palm trees. After our swim we (well Lyn mostly) did some washing. We had not been able to do any clothes washing in the last hostel so we had a bit of a build up. Found an outside sink, strung up some lines and hung hangers from the tree - instant Chinese laundry.

Now it was later in the afternoon and cooler so we again headed back into town to find ATM and get some local cash. Well it seems there is only one ATM in town and 20-30 other people had the same idea as us. I counted there were 18 in line in front of us, I said to Lyn lets just get supplies from supermarket and pay on card and worry about getting cash tomorrow.

This we did and again were shocked by prices. Meat was not so bad, but the distinct lack of vegetables forced us to buy overpriced tin corn which cost more than the meat (well almost anyway). The worst item was water, we bought a 6 litre bottle that cost just over AUD$6.00. We have been drinking boiled tap water along the way mostly so have not had to buy water, but the tap water at our accommodation has that distinct bore water smell and although its ok for hot drinks ie coffee & tea it's not much chop to drink.

Dinner of chorizo sausage, mini potatoes and the million dollar corn was cooked in the kitchen.

We are thinking of hiring push bikes tomorrow to have a bit of a look around - seems to be the thing as there were lots of tourists on bikes today.

DAY 22 MONDAY 27TH FEBRUARY

We did bugger all today. Chillaxed around most of the day.

Went for a swim in the afternoon. Walked into town, managed to get a turn at the ATM but could only draw out a maximum of 50,000 colons = about A$120, that is not going to last very long. But we are able to pay at the supermarket with MasterCard and we still have a bit of US dollars that we can use also.

DSCN9118.jpg

Had a wander around town, stopped for a beer at some beach side bar that had beers for C1000 = A$2.35 and tried our first Costa Rican beer called Imperial - it was ok too, served nice and cold. Found another supermarket and bought some supplies.

DSCN9120.jpg180_DSCN9121.jpg

We found a hostel that we can rent bicycles from which had a sign reading rental US$5 per day, but this was the price for the day only, not a 24 hour day, just the part of the day that is light. 24 hour rental was US$7 so we ended up taking that for 2 days. So now we have wheels to go exploring - but that will be tomorrow as today is almost already done. We can go cruising on our cruiser bicycles.

On the way home we stopped and bought a coconut to drink, very reasonable at C300 = A$0.71c.

We seemed to have missed lunch today, too busy doing nothing. Lyn cooked dinner in our bungalow while I rode back to show my passport to the rental guy.

Another hot day in Costa Rica! I saw an agouti run out in front of my bike as I was riding up the long driveway today.

agouti.jpg

DAY 23 TUESDAY 28TH FEBRUARY

PT_TO_M.png

We were a bit more energetic today. Rode our hire bicycles 12 km to Manzanillo. The morning was overcast so it was quite a nice coolish ride, mostly flat, just a few hills near the end. On the way we saw some howler monkeys in the forest along the road, with a very cheeky baby one that was happy to pose for us.

DSCN9130.jpg RSCN9141.jpg

Named for their throaty howls that can be heard for up to three miles, howler monkeys are the loudest of all New World monkeys. There are nine species of howler monkey, and Costa Rica is home to the common mantled howler, which inhabit parts of southern Mexico, Central and South America. Howler monkeys usually vocalize at dawn and dusk by passing air through a specially-adapted hyoid bone in their large throats. The result is a deep, grunt-like call that resonates for miles. These vocalizations are used to mark territory and communicate with others within the troop. -

We also saw some black vultures eating something very smelly - looked like a bag of prawn heads.

DSCN9143.jpg

Black Vultures are often seen hovering in the sky looking out for carrion. With keen eyesight they can spot carcass from a very large distance but the scavengers have a poor sense of smell (maybe for the better).
Vultures are beneficial for performing sanitation duties but they also kill newborn or weakened animals, including sea turtle hatchlings.

At the end of Manzanillo is 'The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge' so we parked up the bikes, locked them up (apparently theft is rampart along this coastline) and went for a bit of a walk through the forest. We did not manage to see any wildlife except for a hermit crab that was crossing the path in front of us.

DSCN9162.jpg

It's supposed to be good surfing around here but we didn't see anyone in the water trying to catch a wave. Apparently it's pretty unforgiving and if you fall off your board there is a good chance you get smashed into the rocks and reef, so only for advanced surfers.

We walked to the lookout which displayed a rock formation in the water that we dubbed the 'One Apostle of Costa Rica!'

90_DSCN9152.jpgDSCN9153.jpg

The Gandoca Manzanillo Wildlife Refuge is situated in one of the most stunningly beautiful regions of Costa Rica. Located just a few kilometres north of the Panama border in Talamanca County, this wildlife refuge protects some the region’s most endangered flora and fauna. Lying on the Caribbean coast of Limon province and bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the east, this refuge is classified as a humid tropical rainforest and also looks after the only natural mangrove oyster beds found along the reefs of the coast.

Encompassing several rare habitats like a lowland rainforest, a wetland and a mangrove swamp, the Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo also safeguards the only orey and jolillo palm swamps in Costa Rica. This wildlife reserve is very important from an ecological point of view because it contains the only intact mangrove swamp in the Atlantic, and the primary lowland small rainforest found here is the only one of its kind in the region. A unique habitat, this reserve includes a 10 kilometre beach strip, a 740 acre forest, a coral reef and 2 swamps. The Refugio Gandoca Manzanillo is also the nesting area for several species of turtles, manatees, crocodiles, caimans, tarpons and dolphins. The turtle nesting season here lasts from March to May.

After our little walk there was not much else to do but start to head the 12km back to Puerto Viejo. The sky had cleared a little and now was showing blue and sun was beating down, so we thought a swim was in order before we started to pedal again. The sea was a lot more rough here than near where we are staying, but as I said this is a surf beach. We just went in deep enough to cool off but could already feel a bit of a rip dragging us out. There were signs everywhere on all the beaches we rode past warning of rips.

large_DSCN9167.jpgDSCN9168.jpgDSCN9169.jpgDSCN9170.jpg90_DSCN9171.jpg

Cooled off, we unlocked the bikes and set off back at a leisurely pace, no need to rush back. It was a lot warmer going back and we stopped several times to have a drink of water. By the time we reached town again it was mutually agreed a beer was in order and we stopped at nema bar again for an icy cold beer C1000 = A$2.35. Tried a different flavour today Pilsner, and not sure if it was because of the 12km we just rode in the heat but that beer tasted bloody fantastic! Oh yeah and we stopped on the way and bought a pineapple for C1000 = A$2.35.

90_DSCN9175.jpg

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing (ie recovering) and at 5 o'clock I made some cocktails with our freshly purchased pineapple, fresh coconut water, orange juice and some local rum that we bought yesterday at the supermarket. Gotta love an accommodation that supplies a blender!

90_DSCN9176.jpgDSCN9178.jpg

As I was on a roll I even cooked dinner, yes I know amazing! We had smoked pork chop with pineapple couscous!

Another good day, lets hope we can still both walk tomorrow after our big cycling effort today!

DAY 24 WEDNESDAY 1ST MARCH

pinch and punch for the first of the month!

We had a quiet day today, after breakfast we went for a bike ride in the opposite direction to yesterday which ended up going nowhere but to roads out of the area. We stopped at a supermarket and had an ice cream cause we had cycled 5km and I don't know about Lyn but I was feeling a little tender and leg sore from yesterdays effort.

90_DSCN9180.jpgDSCN9183.jpg

The road was scenic enough, forest on both sides, no sloth sightings, they are eluding us now. We did see lots of giant trees with birds nests handing from them. Mr Google advised me they belonged to Montezuma oropendola birds.

DSCN9182.jpgmont.jpg

We cycled the 5km back and went for a swim on our black beach to cool off. The waves were a lot stronger today, and the pull was pretty strong. We stayed in water shallow enough to be able to stand and tried not to get bowled over by the incoming surf. It was still nice having a swim in the sea but we both came out a kilo or so heavier with a load of black sand caught in our swimming togs. Ah well, good exfoliation for the skin, right?

After lunch we rode into town to the super market to buy supplies for the next 2 days as we are returning the bikes today. Since we have ridden in both directions it is not worth having them for another day. And to be truthful just those little rides I was saddle sore enough! We dropped the shopping back home and then returned to town to have a ride around the back streets. Puerto Viejo is a nice little place with only a handful of gridded streets. It has a hippy / surfy / trying to be rasta type vibe and the smell of cannibis hangs heavy in the air almost every where. I even noticed it in some of the cars that passed us on the road today while we were bike riding, some of them could have been straight out of a Cheech & Chong movie. Apparently there is a big drug culture here, not just marijuana but heavier stuff too, although we have not been approached. There is also a pretty high crime rate too, but thankfully this we have not encountered either. Maybe the fact we are not out at night or just that we are old, and too straight looking? who knows.

Riding around town took all of 15 minutes so then what better than to have a cold beer while looking out over the sea.

large_DSCN9190.jpglarge_90_DSCN9185.jpg

After the beers we returned the bikes and walked back via the black beach. Stopping for another swim before heading back to our bungalow for showers, cocktails & chicken dinner that Lyn cooked.

DSCN9201.jpgDSCN9198.jpg

DAY 25 THURSDAY 2ND MARCH

Happy birthday Patrick.

It was raining when we woke up this morning. Not heavy rain, just a gentle steady shower - more a sprinkle- that lasted a few hours. No idea if it had rained during the night as well.

By 12 noon the sun was back out and heating us up as we walked the short distance into town. The ground did not even look wet anymore, the only evidence of any rain were a couple of shallow puddles by the side of the road, which I'm sure will be evaporated and dry before the late afternoon.

We walked to the bus station as we needed to purchase our bus tickets for tomorrow. The sneaky guy behind the counter tried to short change us C1000 but I went back and challenged him. He was too quick to get back the extra money so it was obvious he was trying to scam us. Mate you need to get up earlier than that to cheat us out of a price of a beer.

Speaking of which, it was time for a coldie and we found a nice seafront bar, the crazy lobster, that was advertising beer the same price as our usual so we thought we would enjoy the better view. Again we were served an icy cold beer, but when it came time to pay, pay we did. They added tax? and service charge so we figured we paid for the nicer view.

90_DSCN9222.jpgDSCN9221.jpg

Last visit to the supermarket for lunch supplies and we walked back home.

Late afternoon swim was our last dip in the ocean for a few weeks as we will be travelling inland for the next part of the itinerary. It was again a bit rough, actually surf was up and we only just managed to remain standing while collecting sand in our togs. Shower, last of our cocktail mix and Lyn cooked pork chops (my fav) for dinner. Bags repacked sometime before bed.

180_DSCN9232.jpg

We have had a great time here in Puerto Viejo, nice relaxing, as well as a bit of cycling. Swim in the sea, cold beers and home made cocktails. Tomorrow we have a 5-6 hour bus to San Jose and then another 1 hour on to Alajuela where we hope to meet up with our good mate Dolly who is flying in from the UK. You know, Lyn and I travel a lot together and inevitably spend a lot of time together, and it is amazing that we still have things to talk about. Most of the time it's just shit and sometimes we don't talk at all, which is ok too. But I think we will both agree it's nice to have another person along who can add to the shit we talk, so we are looking forward to seeing Miss Dolly.

large_DSCN9215.jpglarge_DSCN9211.jpg

Posted by Cindy Bruin 18:00 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged puerto viejo Comments (2)

(Entries 1 - 8 of 8) Page [1]