My past couple of weeks have been reminiscent of the amazing race (can I say that if I haven't done the amazing race...? almost was, right Anna ;) ...met a guy zip-lining whose ex actually won it!)
Well anyway, they've been busy! And amazing! Haha
First stop after Finca Coco Loco was the Isla Ometepe in lake Nicaragua, only half a days' travel from the farm. Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes. One active, Concepcion, which takes ~8-10hrs to hike. And the other, Maderas, that is slightly smaller ~6-8hrs. The island itself is hence pretty big, and on arriving I found out that I really wanted to stay on the other side of the island where the nicer hostels and better beaches etc are more accessible... a 2 hour local bus drive away. Grabbed a beer from the local tienda/corner store and settled in to enjoy the view. Not so bad ;)
Met Sofia and Martin from Sweden on that bus and we hung out until I ran off to Costa Rica. They're awesome. We had some great adventures... trudging along deserted roads in the sweltering heat (with all our stuff because buses don't run on Sundays), cycling like maniacs up rocky dirt hills for pretty much no reason, making our very own coco loco cocktails by any means possible, playing Yaniv (the game is backpacker-famous), drinking the sweetest tasting beers in the most picturesque places... Ometepe is a great little place.
We opted for the Ojo de Agua (eye of water) natural springs and a cycle tour instead of hiking the volcanoes in the intense heat. Beach hoping was number one priority, and i wanted to search for petroglyphs (which are ancient carvings found in rocks all over the place apparently) ...the ones we found were not very impressive... But there was a cool one at little Morgan's hostel which you don't even have to go and find!
Then I was off bright and early - before sunrise - so that I could make it to Monteverde in Costa Rica in one day. Didn't happen. Just.
Costa Rica is a little bit picky about visas, you have to have an exit ticket which is fine for most people but not backpackers without a plan. On fellow traveller's advice I got a plane ticket out of the country online that I could print and show them before paying for.... best advice, but it took a little longer than expected for me to get that sorted so I ended up missing the last bus into Monteverde at 3pm after the border crossing. Damn. Ended up in a fancy cabina en route, run by the most lovely local family who let me use their computer because the wifi wasn't working on my iPad!
Getting off the bus in Monteverde the next day, amazing view along a dirt road that will never be surfaced, I was pounced on by 3 guys looking for me to stay at their respective hostels. Works for me. I got the best deal out, and met my novio Brian at Hostel Sinai (he runs the place and is absolutely hilarious, hooks me up with the best deals since I'm his novia - not for real tho don't get too excited people). But seriously, I recommend hostel Sinai if you ever go to Monteverde!! And say hi to Brian for me if you do :)
Went zip lining along the Central America's longest zip line and swung on a Tarzan swing 40m high and 90m long the afternoon I arrived. After Brian made me lunch :P scariest shit!! (Excuse the language) but yeah. I'd say it was a good warm up for bungee jumping, not that I ever want to do that to be honest! The zip lines were incredible though, flying through clouds above insane green forests. At one point I couldn't see anything except clouds around me, and a meter or two of the line I was flying down in front!
The next morning I hiked through the Santa elena reserve of the forests in search of alllll the animals!! Saw more spectacular scenery than animals but I guess that's what you get for refusing a guide. It was amazing all the same!
I loved the vibe in Monteverde, everyone I met was awesome and super friendly. Since there is still the dirt road making it that little bit more inaccessible to the masses it has retained some local charm despite being a tourist Mecca of sorts.
The tourist Meccas were my destinations in Costa Rica anyway, seeing the sites and getting out of there before my bank balance kills me!
Travelling in CR after an organic farm-stay in Nicaragua is a slap in the face when it comes to spending money. Sigh. I'm s
Used to it now though, not sure if that's a good thing or not!?!
Two nights in Monteverde and I got a bus-boat-bus combo over to La fortuna to hike up Volcan Arenal and swim in the local hot springs :) had the best guide Jose for that trip - saw some incredible things and he was really cool and interesting. Got up early especially to see Toucans the next morning because apparently they fly around outside the front of the hostel, but tho didn't see any! :( next time.
My day in La Fortuna happened to be a national holiday, el dia de Juan Santamaria, so there were a bunch of locals celebrating with a few drinks in the hot springs when we came down as part of our tour. we got to enjoy a few starlit drinks ourselves after the hike ;) got chatting to a few of them which was cool! Such a cool spot to be able to just go to and chill out, you never want to get out of the water it's so warm!
After my one night there (hence the similarities to the amazing race) I headed across the country to CR's smallest and most visited national park - Manuel Antonio. It's been described as Eco Disney, but I still loved it. Beautiful beaches, some with all the chairs and ice-cream or coconut vendors and cocktail menus but others without. And even though there's plenty of people gawking at them the animals are still there too! Don't know why.... But they're incredible! Raccoons, monkeys, iguanas, sloths, snakes... We even saw a Pigouti! (I had to look up what it was called, kind of like a bigger guinea pig with longer legs). Insane sunsets too.
I met another bunch of really awesome people at the hostel I stayed at too, so the were 4 of us most of the time. Graham, Gavin, Chelsea and I. Then we met Caroline in the park a little later too :)
Had a pretty hilarious night trying to find the party on Saturday, seemed like we just had to make one. Good times!! Hahaha
I spent a while in Manuel Antonio, 3 nights I think, then Graham was also heading south so we set off for Dominical which is a beach town only a couple of hours closer to Panama. It is so different to MA you'd think it was at least a couple of bus changes away! The beach was wild and rocky, and the waves looked intense. You can surf at Manuel Antonio (and parasail, banana boat, jet ski, scuba dive, snorkel, deep sea fish...) but it's baby stuff compared to what this looked like. I didn't try obviously, I'm Aussie, but I don't surf. Sorry!
The town is just two dirt roads lined with beach bars and hostels, with a couple of convenience stores. And the people around are American with fancy SUVs... Oh well, it was still incredible, didn't ruin the vibe at all. Surfing is life there. One night and one dip in the sea there and I was gone, off to Uvita! Said goodbye to Graham there too, he stayed on the bus past Uvita in search of Pavones (2nd longest wave in the world - he's from England and wants to learn to surf; heading for the best!)
Uvita was gorgeous. Similar to Dominical really. But this time there is a sand bank the shape of a whale's tail, and you can spot whales at the right time of year! Pus there is a lovely little waterfall inland about 2km. Which is where my hostel was, and it had the most incredible views. I mellowed at the waterfall and bought a bikini (extravagant!!) whilst wondering around town the afternoon i arrived, and raced to see the whale's tail (which you can only visit at low tide of course) the next morning before catching the bus to Panama!
When I say raced, I mean it. I actually ran down the beach a really long way (well it seemed really long) and down the dirt roads there because I ran out of vehicles to hitchhike with. I even got a taxi for the very end bit but I still missed the bus. Lost that round of the amazing race! Haha. It still worked out though, the next bus wasn't too late for me to cross the border before they closed. All good :) And I got to look at mainland Costa Rica standing on a giant whale's tail! Score!
So that was the end of Nicaragua and Costa Rica for me! Now I'm in Panama and I LOVE it here. It's got a good feeling to it. Not that I haven't loved every other country either, but infinitely have my favourites. For eg. Guatemala is my favourite so far, I think. - this is all subject to change, I'm not locking it in. Hahaha
David was nothing spectacular, a bigger city than I had imagined! I prefer the smaller places. I stayed just one night in transit at the purple house hostel which was lovely! Free nail polish and really good coffee. It's the little things :)
And now here I am further north in the highlands of Panama in Boquete. Absolutely love this place, reminds me Guatemala actually. Explored the town this arvo and set myself up for a night hike up the tallest peak in Panama - we leave at midnight to arrive at the summit before sunrise. Then hike straight back down. It will be really tough, and really cold. But it's there! And if the clouds clear I will be able to see the Pacific and the Caribbean at the same time! Wish me luck people! Hahaha so I'm heading off to do that in a couple of hours. Going to go and eat lots of food now.
And that's me up to date!
Adios amigos y pura vida!!