Ometepe Island and Apoyo Lagoon.

After the fun of Granada I was looking forward to going to Ometepe. Ometepe is a very small island made up of two volcanos, Conception volcano – which is active in the north, and in the south Maderas Volcano, which is where we were staying.

We got a bus (once we found the correct bus terminal) to the dock and met a Brazilian guy on the way, who thankfully could speak spanish and managed to stop us getting scammed for double the price than needed. The boat trip was actually rather enjoyable, it took a while to cross and we were one of the last people on it so had nowhere to sit and were squished down in the hull. It was an old ferry type and the noise (from the at least 50-year-old engine) was deafening and black smoke billowed up from in-between the wooden floorboards every five minutes or so. I went and stood outside, which most of the locals seemed rather alarmed at because as soon as they had got onboard they had all adorned life jackets.


While stood out there, watching the island come closer I met a Costa Rican girl called Sol and got chatting to her. Coincidentally Jake was talking to her boyfriend Will, inside. They hadn’t sorted a place to stay so we suggested our place, we were staying at a hostel called Monkey island and it was only $4 a night for room and breakfast.  We got on really well so they joined us.

On the island we said goodbye to the brazilian guy who was staying in the north, and got on the last chicken bus – of only five trips the bus makes round the whole island. The bus was full when we got on, so they squidged us into the space at the back made to fit about 10 people and all our rucksacks and bikes and boxes, rather uncomfortably but manageable, they then fit 15 more people into that space, then breaking all laws of physics and personal space they fit 20 more people in! It was horrible, extremely stressful and cramped. I was literally nose to nose with about 30 people, our exit was the path of least resistance so anyone getting out had to come through, over, or under all of us. Then get on the same way, but by then it had started to pour with rain so they got on soaking wet. There were no real roads either, so we were bouncing and jerking around all over the place. By the end I was so stressed I was catatonic. After the two-hour journey then half mile walk with our rucksacks in the pitch dark to find our little hostel I couldn’t even speak

Once there however I managed to settle down. It was all open plan and  very basic. They cooked us dinner which was delicious and only about $2.50. we looked in our room which was very basic, and decided to break the budget (haha) and spend an extra $2 a night and upgrade to a nicer bigger room with private bathroom which was extremely worth it. Walked into that room and was met with a huge, thankfully not poisonous tarantula on our doorstep blocking the way, now im not scared of spiders but that thing did make me jump. Thankfully it decided it didn’t want to stay the night… it was a cold fresh water shower too, heaven after the heat of the day.


Our first day all four of us went to climb San Maderas volcano, part way up to San roman waterfall. It was a 3km walk (it said) once you got there up to the waterfall, but that was the issue, it was all up and some of it really steep. We had to stop a lot because of the heat and trek and Jake wasnt feeling to well. We managed to get up to the last km – and that last km seemed to be triple the amount we had walked before. It was through the jungle so not a real path, jumping over logs, and wading through rivers, it was amazing scenery and lovely to listen to the birds but it was very hard work.


Once we got to the waterfall it was worth it, well I thought it was. About 260ft high and a little pool at the bottom to swim in which was extremely refreshing after the walk an absolutely freezing after about 30 seconds so the others didn’t stay in very long.


We were just getting dry and putting clothes back on when the heavens opened all of a sudden and it poured and poured, so strong that you could barely see 3ft in front of you. There was no point jumping over rocks to avoid getting our feet wet now. The path turned into a mudslide and we basically slipped all the way back. It was fun though. English people cope remarkable well in the rain.


On the next day we found the hotel was run by a family and there was a little girl here who showed me her bunny rabbits and some of the words she was learning in english, – I am Happy, I am sad, I am angry, I am sleepy. She loved it, doing cartwheels all over the place and chasing after rouge rabbits. She was at the age where she didn’t really get the gist of being gentle with the bunnies, but you could tell she loved them and were well cared for. I am scared of rabbits as a rule, (think I must have watched Watership Down too young) but these I could cope with.


We hired a canoe from the hostel and went canoeing out on the lake. It was very hard work, as no matter which way we went it felt as if we were fighting against the tide. There were some little islands we rowed to and we got out to have a look, and sure enough there were monkeys on them, hence the name monkey island, but there monkeys, unlike Costa Rica were not friendly at all. They came down screeching, shaking branches and swiping at us, very territorial, baring their teeth. We scampered as quickly as possible, a Capuchin monkey can bite off a human finger in one go and I would like to keep all mine.

After canoeing we swam in the lake. Its much cleaner near Ometepe than by Granada so was nice to do. We then face another animal attack of ants this time. All around our cabin. It was full of them, they were attracted by water in the sink and smell of the kitchen. Never seen so many in my life. Thankfully they didn’t make it too our room.


Our third day we met two girls from Luxembourg at the hostel who were travelling Nicaragua. Sarah and Philippine. We chatted to them a bit then out for lunch with Will and Sol. Everyone on Omepete knows everyone, I think the cafe we went to was ran by the hostel workers brother, and the little shop down the road by his wife’s cousin. Life feels very simple and pure and organic. Not easy mind, but nice. That evening we sat at the pier and watched the sunset before the rain came in.


We said goodbye to Sol and Will as they were leaving tomorrow, same as us but catching the 5am bus, we were lazy and caught the 8am one.
So the next day we got the bus back to the main pier, which was a lot less stressful than before, and got the boat to the mainland with Philippine and Sarah.

This time he boat trip was not fun. Right from the start it was listing to the side quiet dramatically and was a lot smaller and more fragile than the last boat. The wind blew strong too and it became the worst boat trip of my life. Both me and Jake genuinely thought it was going to capsize. It tilted over so far over at one point I could have sworn it couldn’t right itself, and Jake had an evacuation route planned. Our bags were on top too and didn’t know if they had been tied down so were afraid of losing them too. It was not pleasant, especially as there is bull sharks in the lake too. I could see now why all the locals put on life jackets as soon as they got on board.

we made it to the other side, kissed dry land and got another bus to the Apoyo Lagoon.


We said goodbye to the girls who were going to Managua and found our hotel which was right on the water of the lagoon. We had a little four-poster bed, tent thing as our room, out in the open air looking down onto the water. Basic but lovely. (The orange thing on the right side)

We got up early the next day, thanks to sleeping outside and the monkeys and cockerel, and went for a fresh morning swim. The place didn’t have many rooms, it mostly issues day passes, so we had the whole lagoon to ourselves for a bit which was magical. We used the hotels kayak and paddle boards and went around the edge of the lagoon (not all as its huge) and jumped off the floating platforms they had in the middle.


After lunch we went out on the canoes again, messing around and playing tag. Jake caught up to me and tried to board my canoe. He knocked me into the water and flipped my canoe over, while trying to right it, it fell again, but this time on my head. It hit hard and knocked me under the water, Jake had to pull me up and check I was okay as I was so dazed I just stayed half unconscious underwater. I couldn’t move or see straight or was able to get back on my canoe for  a while.

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After that we decided we have enough time in the water and decided to slowly go in. I went for a lie down as I felt absolutely awful and inevitably it made me feel worse. Looking at my symptoms Jake realise I probably had quite bad concussion so got the taxi to the nearest hospital. I don’t actually remember any of this, apparently I wasn’t walking right, had a huge lump on my head, was forgetful and slurred my speech. I do remember that it was very difficult to communicate with a nurse in Spanish even with my translation app. They concluded that I’d hit my head and had a fever… great. They suggested to me all these pills for fever and ignored the concussion, so in the end me and Jake just went back to the hotel and waited until I felt better.

The next morning we left Apoyo and headed to Leon in the north of Nicaragua. Despite the bump, I really enjoyed Omepete and the lagoon.

Managua and Granada – Nicaragua 

It was the first time I had to do a land border bus crossing, and I did not enjoy it. We eventually managed to convince the reception lady to call and ask which bus stop we needed, as there is quite a lot in San Jose.

The border crossing was much more expensive than we had anticipated. We had to pay $8 each exit tax and then $14 each entry tax into Nicaragua on top of the bus fare we had already paid. The journey was okay at first, they didn’t blast the air-con like they did for Jake, but played movies very loud, well very loud for me, I find sense sensitivity is something that affects me a lot with my Aspergers. It took seven hours to reach the border and we didn’t stop once, we were so hungry and dying of thirst when we got there. I found the border crossing very stressful. It was at night, we had had a long day, everyone had extremely large guns, asking us questions in Spanish and I didn’t really understand what was going on. I did panic quite a bit, which doesn’t look good at border control.


Once on the other side, in Nicaragua, we saw a lady selling Pringle’s, they looked heavenly to us, and without really knowing the exchange rate we gave her a 100 Cordoba note and hoped that was enough (worked out about three dollars.)

Once at Managua we couldn’t find a way out of the bus station, then the taxi driver didn’t know where we were going so took a while to get there and eventually arrived around 10 PM. The woman at the guest house we were staying at was really nice it took us out to get something to eat, she did our ordering for us as our sleep-deprived Spanish was awful.

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We only spend one full day in Managua as there is literally nothing to do. We walked down the main street filled with lots of light up trees called revolution Avenue; we went to the pier and looked out over the sea which was filthy, rubbish everywhere, it looks like the sewage pipe went straight into the water which was a very stark difference from Costa Rica. We went to the Main Square near the park, presidential Palace and cathedral and that’s about it, we did everything there is to do in Managua. The little bar made out of someone’s home next to ours was the best part of the day.

The next day we set off for Granada, a little village town by the side of lake Nicaragua. We stayed in a place called – surfing donkey on the lake. Only about 1 km from the Main Square so very central to everything which was good. The place was nice too, very social, with a pool and Hammock chairs. There is a 24 bed dorm which is completely open, and looks out over the lake, no windows or anything – at least it’s hot here. We found that hammock chairs are the most comfy things ever, if we had enough room in our rucksacks I would definitely be taking one home.

At the surfing donkey there was something new each night, Sunday night was barbecue night, so sat down with people from all over the world and chatted the night away. American, Russian, Israeli, German, Spanish. It was great, we even got garlic bread too … it was just heaven. The drinks where very strong. The rum and cokes had 75 mil shots in them, which means I was drunk after two.

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The second day we attempted to climb one of the church towers but it wasn’t open, we did see a lot more of the town though and managed to book a few tours. We didn’t stay out long, soon the heavens opened and Jake was not best pleased about getting soaked to the skin again.


Around Granada there is a lot of horse and carts, it’s a symbol of Granada. Unfortunately they all seem very thin and weak, most have sores on the back so will not be going for a ride. We got a better look at the lake too, it’s filthy, you can see why they advise you not to swim, every so often along the shore there are big piles of rubbish that get swept up every day. Apart from that Granada is actually lovely and beautiful to look at.

Day three we had a very long lying and then a healthy early lunch at this healthy food place, I got an avocado and tuna sandwich with Chia seeds and turmeric smoothie drink which was really nice, turmeric is really popular here. We went to the main cathedral and had a look in and climbed up the bell tower to see over the most Granada, Jake even came up the last bit despite his hatred of heights. They were painting the ceiling with bible stories, but the pictures were very bubble-like, more cartoonish like a children’s book then what you usually see in a church, it didn’t really fit at all.


That night we had a tour to Massaya volcano, we got picked up and drove to the entrance, then had to queue for about an hour. Our guide said there were 28 visible volcanoes in Nicaragua and nearly 1000 unseen ones. There are only three volcanoes in the world where you can definitely see you lava every day, here the Congo and Hawaii.

When we got up to the top it had gone dark and you could see over the Massaya town, then we got the summit and look down to the crater and could see the lava bubbling below. It was so bright it made the smoke and the sky red. It was really beautiful, almost mesmerizing to watch. We didn’t have long enough in my opinion but so happy to have seen it.

The day after we had a walk along the lake going the other way, away from the town. The lake smells and is seriously contaminated, the huge piles of rubbish are piled up every 6 foot. We walked into the old-old bit of town, it looks like there was a lot of parties and clubs and nightlife, now it’s all abandoned like a creepy theme park, all except the Gardens and kids park was still maintained, that night I did yoga, you could easily tell who had done it before, I was not one of them. I was amazed to see how much flexibility I had lost since not going to the gym and pole classes. Afterwards I helped the Israeli girl get her very, very drunk unconscious boyfriend out of the toilets and into bed, he didn’t stay there long but at least we tried.

Thursday our guide came for us and took us back through the abandoned park to the little pier and we got a private tour just for us as it was low season. We went around all the little islands off the coast of Granada in Nicaragua lake, there is around 134 of them, most of the people who live there never leave, everyone moves with row boats, no running water, one bar with a TV. Most do have electricity, but Wi-Fi is a no go, and most make a living from fishing. Our guide took us to San Pablo Island, you could see back to Mainland Granada. There was a fort there that was built to protect Granada and we could see all the different animals that live in the lake,  such as bull sharks, turtles and alligator gar. He gave us lots of different fruits to try and flowers. There were lots of huge boulders dropped everywhere from when Massaya last exploded.


We got to try a lot more fruits and then went to another island with some very friendly monkeys and got to hand feed them. Saw lots of birds and sleeping bats and playing spider monkeys, it was a great trip, you also got free drinks which helped.

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That night there was a bar crawl that finished at the donkey so we didn’t sleep very much so had a very lazy day the next day. Jake got this awful sun hat which makes him look like a stereotypical American tourist, and I had a massage by the “seeing hands”. An organisation which gives blind people the opportunity to work.


That evening we went into the town of Massaya which we did not enjoy at all. Imagine an open sewer filled with mud and rubbish, people throw their waste into the middle of the street, dogs did their business and people spat everywhere all squashed into one small space. The people seemed quite hostile towards us too. We smiled and said hello, but did not get a single smile back. I was also very glad I wasn’t wearing sandals and exited fast, especially when we realise were being followed to be pickpocketed.

The last day we got up and finish packing, we had a game of giant Jenga before heading to the bus stop to get a bus down to the docks to get to Ompete Island which was our next stop. Really enjoyed Granada even though it felt like we didn’t do all that much. But I am on holiday, so I don’t need to.

Costa Rican Quest pt 2

It was an early start after our night at the treehouse restaurant the next morning, we went for a trek through the cloud forest at Monte Verdi. We did not see much more wildlife than the night before, but did get a better view of a tarantula and saw the same kind of snake.


After that we went zip-lining. Which was one of the best experiences ever. I have done zip lining before in the Caribbean, but these lines were longer and faster. There were 11 lines overall I think; mum did the first five or six, it was hard for her to jump up and clip on her harness each time. As we went on the lines are longer. There was also a free fall to get to one of them.

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On the longest line you flew over the forest canopy immensely high up and there was an Eagle alongside which was just spectacular. The next was the longest zip line in Latin America and took over two minutes to get across, you could also do it lying down in the superman position which made it even more fun, if you ever get a chance to do it I would definitely recommend it.

At the and there was an optional Tarzan swing. You go out on this little walkway into nothing, open the gate and lean forwards and free fall till the catches you on the swing, for me that was the most fun part. (Did not go Arhhhahhhhahhh, like Tarzan though)


At the bottom Max had found a wild, although not venomous snake, he was beautiful and we had a hold before releasing it back into the wild, there were also people interviewing the people there about their experience at the rope swing and zip lines and a few of us including me got interviewed, I’m going to be on Costa Rica TV!


That afternoon we did the hanging bridges in the cloud forests. Basically just bridges hanging in the forest canopy, we saw a very beautiful bird, but that’s about it – although at the end we got to climb up through a tree which was really good fun. Overall it was a very busy day, we were exhausted when we got back.


The next day was a travel day again, this time to Quepos. It wasn’t a long drive, but on the way we stopped at a bridge over river full of crocodiles, at least 20 to 30 of them. Not too long ago I think two drunk people jumped in over the bridge… Didnt find much of them left.


At the hotel we dropped off our bags and quickly caught the bus down to the beach, we had lunch with our feet in the sand, but on some rather uncomfortable concrete chairs. Some people then went back to the hotel, or went to the port, while I convinced Annemie, Zoe, Max Maureen and Annika to go on a banana boat. We did quite well, only falling off twice.

That night me, Kim, Zoe and Annemie went to a bar for a salsa class, I was Annemies partner and she was very good teacher, she even showed me her special sexy move. A few of the Costa Rican guys took a fancy to Zoe and had her dancing, and Kim won at the casino so very good night.


There was this one man who danced with me, he was exactly breast height and kept moving his face forward and lowering his hand further down my back and spinning me around until I was disoriented, thankfully I managed to get away from him. We also met two Hawaiian surfer dudes and played pool with them, I think they want to take us back to the hotel which we quickly declined, said we might find them on the beach tomorrow instead.

The next morning we all went to Manuel Antonio National Park. Once in, after a nightmare queue getting the tickets, most of us went up towards the waterfall, saw a lot of bugs and a few spiders but no other animals, it was beautiful all the same and could hear the Howler monkeys.


Back down the path however we saw lots of sloths and then at the beach lots more sloths and Capuchin monkeys with stolen food and raccoons that snook up on you and took parts of people’s picnics.

We spent ages on the beach jumping waves and climbing rocks. On the way back we saw more Capuchins which are close enough to touch and some have babies. There were bright red crabs and also some squirrel monkeys which were cutest little things I had ever seen.


That night we went for a meal in El Avion, it’s inside a crashed WW2 aeroplane, it was also a ladies night back at the salsa bar so headed back there for a few drinks and dancing.

The next day was back to San Jose but not before a morning trip on a party boat. We each got a wristband which allowed us 8 free cocktails I think, anyone who knows me knows I get drunk off 2, so it was a little excessive. It was such a great day, we drank and sun bathed on the trampoline things, jumped off the top deck, chatted in the Jacuzzi with some big black African-American women and dance with them before swimming to the reef and snorkelling with fishes.


We then headed back to San Jose and got to meet back up with Jake before we all went out for a meal together back at the Cuban restaurant we had started at, and make sure to graffiti on the walls this time.

It was then time to say goodbye to everyone which was really hard because it was such an amazing group of people, thankfully most of us were still around for breakfast the next morning and got to have one last goodbye. We were so lucky to meet a group and just click, people you genuinely want to stay in touch with.

Me and Mum and Jake were staying in San Jose a few more days to explore and have some time just us three. While we were there, there was an art festival going on. The FYA festival, an international arts show. we watched group performances and marching bands, dancers, acrobats, street performers and this weird zombie live-action thing.

We went to the Gold Museum, which I found quite boring to be perfectly honest, mum and Jake like it anyway.  We then went through the market which was very noisy, small and cramped and expensive too! We went back a few days later and bought a few things with our very poor haggling skills.


While in San Jose we also did the Jade Museum, which Jake had already been to, and had missed an entire room with most of the jade. It was much more interactive which was much more interesting, it also had lots on the history and culture of the Mayans and people who used to live there.

On mums last full day we went to the National History Museum, we first went through the Butterfly garden, which was very large, then in the old prison and army barracks. After there was a lot of rooms starting with the indigenous people of Costa Rica, to people’s lives now. It was interesting but a lot of information to read, by the end I was just choosing specific little bits.

On the last day we spent it relaxing by the pool together. Me and Jake went in, then they quickly got out again as it was so cold, I swear the pool was chilled!


It was sad to say goodbye to mum but it had been great to see her and a great experience overall. The most amazing people and activities. Costa Rica was definitely one of my favourite places and happiest memories.

Next stop… Nicaragua.

Costa Rica Quest – pt 1

At this point I had been away from home 102 days, and wasn’t really missing it, although I was missing my mum terribly, thankfully for this part of the journey she was coming out meet us. Well she had kind of already booked this trip before we decided to leave, but hey I was going to see her.

I got the plane from Panama to Costa Rica which left around 9 AM, however Jake caught the Tica bus, which didn’t leave till 11:55 PM that night and took 14 hours, good luck to him.


I arrived in Costa Rica at 10 and mum wasnt due till 2 so I say and waited. I was waiting outside when all the lights went out and chaos erupted. No I know what’s happening, and everyone was urged to move back and nobody came through for four hours, when mum finally got outside about six she had managed to sneak out, about 1000 other people were still waiting inside. Apparently they had been circling for ages and there was nowhere for them to land, they were the last flight to be allowed in before all flights were diverted to Jamaica! We found our it was because all electricity has gone off all over Latin America, from Nicaragua down to Columbia possibly more.

I was happy just to finally see mum.

Finally at the hotel we met up with our tour group. ( Jake was still travelling,) he was staying in San Jose while me and mum did a tour around Costa Rica G adventures.

I had done tours before, one to Thailand and the other to Cuba which I both really enjoyed, what makes it special is the people you’re travelling with. I’m not just saying this because they might read it, this was generally the nicest group of people I had ever met.


There were 10 of us altogether. Me and mum, Zoe, Annemie, Kimberly, Julie, Chuck, Maureen, Max and our guide Annika.

We are from all over, Ireland, England, Belgium, America, Canada and Costa Rica. A real mixture but clicked instantly.

The first night we went to a Cuban restaurant that was covered in graffiti, it was a really cool place. I had a huge prawn filled pineapple thing covered in cheese, after eating super noodles and rice for the last month it was heavenly.

The next day we set off from San Jose to la Fortuna, it’s called that because it was built on the side of a mountain, that turned out to be Arenal Volcano.  When it blew, it completely missed the town so was named las Fortuna or the fortunate. On the way we stopped at waterfalls and a coffee plantation and saw how coffee was made, the whole process, from planting the seed to the finished product. I don’t even like coffee but it was alright, for the coffee drinkers it was stunning. I did like the Coffee liquor though. We got to plant seeds, and grind beans, as well as juice sugar cane. The juice was okay, but did not like chewing the actual cane, I had tried it before in Jamaica and still didn’t fancy it, despite having such a sweet tooth as I do.


We also saw sloths and toucans. We were lucky to see a very active slough e.g. it was awake, just happily chilling in the middle of a car park.

Our first day in Las Fortuna wait split up on the different activities. Mum, Chuck and Julie (the cutest couple ever) went on a boat told to see wildlife, Zoe and Kimberly did the more adventurous canyoneering and white-water rafting, while me Annemie, Max and Maureen did canyoneering and stand up paddle boarding.


Canyoneering was amazing. There were four abseils The last one was over 200 feet, and lots of little ones to scramble down. You could also cannonball into deep bits, and one section where you let the water buildup and then cascade over you so forcefully you have to cling on or else be swept away.


I loved paddle boarding to. Definitely hard at first giving it was my first time, and balance really isn’t my forte, but slowly got the just of it. Max was awesome in a way, no trouble there.


After a while I managed to do the one leg trick/balancing act and 270° of 360. The best bit was lining up the boards to run across them

That evening went to a spa/hotel with hot water springs with pools and slides. It had a swim up bar and little Jacuzzi pods, it was perfection, although in the end me and annemie had to get out and urge others to do so too as we were so hungry, at that point I almost enjoyed the buffet as much as the activities.

The next day was a travel day, we went from las Fortuna to Monte verde. We had a beautiful boat ride across Lake Arenal, under the Arenal volcano – which was where we did the paddle boarding the day before.


Once we reach Monte verde, half of us went to the herpetarium it was okay, but that is all. We did see frogs and snakes and turtles, but it was very small and overpriced for what it was.

That night went to a place called the treehouse. It’s built around a tree and is trip advisors is one of the top 10 bizarre restaurants around the world, it was really good to go to, very unique.

 

At first it was fine, then they started the live music and we were sat directly next to it. Usually that wouldn’t bother me, but they played excruciatingly loud. So loud you had to scream in the persons ear next to you in order to talk.

For most people this would probably be an annoyance or a little problem and would just enjoy the music. For me, having Autism, it was an overload of sound that became torturous, it felt like my head was going to explode, my skin felt too tightly and prickly, almost painful like pins and needles, I started to shake and feel like I couldn’t breathe, I suddenly burst into tears as it was just too much. My reaction was so extreme I felt like I was going to be sick and had to run to the bathroom, thankfully I wasn’t, but it shocks people – who don’t have an understanding or know much about autism how something can affect the person so strongly.

It was horrible and all I wanted to do was leave, run far away and never stop running. Thankfully mum talked to Annika and got us moved to the bottom floor where you could hear the music but it wasnt overwhelming. It took me all night to come down, but could cope. I told the rest of the group why, and I think it was the first time any of them realised I was autistic.

That is something most people don’t realise. That I’m different, my brain works very different me from the rest. I like this, I like being different. I like that most people don’t know, it means people don’t treat you differently. on the other hand – people don’t you differently, and expect you to be able to do everything that anyone else can, and seem very unforgiving when you can’t. For the most part anyway. Thankfully this group was awesome. I don’t tell people that often, as people don’t usually react all to positively, I’ve lost many friends just telling people. Here, with this group, I wasn’t really too worried.

Oh, – nearly forgot before the meal we had  a night walk through the jungle. It was good, we didn’t see any sloths or monkeys or armadillos or a kinkajou – which I would’ve loved to have seen, but we did see a funnel-web spider, tarantulas, bugs, hundreds of bat and a green striped who was absolutely beautiful.

 

I’ll finish my Costa Rica Quest next week.

Our time in Monte Verde, Salsa dancing and party boat.

Boquete 

We went to Boquete for six days, six glorious days that was a welcome break from our time with Irene.

After work we caught a bus from playa corona to Coronado and then one to David. It took an age, six hours or more and we weren’t sat together either. At one point we stopped at an immigration centre/ thing. Everyone had to show their identity cards, or whatever they had. Thankfully we brought our passports, three people didn’t, and had to be taken off of questioning, only saw two get back on, eek.

It was cold too, they put the Air con on so strong that people were putting on coats, even the drivers, but still refuse to turn the Aircon down. Jake thinks it’s like when you get something new you use it all the time, and that’s what happened with Aircon here, but then never got over it. Everything has to have the Aircon on full blast. This makes it feel so much hotter than it is as your constantly going from one extreme to the next.

David seemed okay. Had a look on Trip Advisor to see if we should stay a few days, but there is literally nothing to do. Got a hotel and found somewhere to eat. To Jake’s horror it was a fish restaurant, thankfully they also did chicken wings for him. On the way we also got chased by some very angry snarling dogs. I never thought to be more scared of the dog than a poisonous snake or scorpion in my bedroom.

Got to Boquete the next day and tried to find where we were staying, as it was an Airbnb. We didn’t know where was, and the directions were so bad that the taxi driver who lived there didn’t know where that was.

It took us two hours to find it, but once I did it was very nice. We had our own attic room, you can climb out the window to get onto the Veranda, and to get down can use a fireman’s pole. There is volley ball net and a swing, football goals, tight rope, pull-up bar, and a climbing rock walk under the stairs and a surfing balancer. Really cool.

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First day we got the bus up to Los Quetzales trial. The guy at the ranger station said it would rain so give us a cagoule and this huge bright yellow tarp thing, with a hole cut out of it for a head. Glad he did as it began to throw it down, hey it is the rainforest, lots of bugs and birds specially ladybirds loves the yellow thing.

We did not see any of the Quetzales birds, which is what the trail is named after, but it is the wrong time of year, most of the way was all led by stepping-stones, and a rope bridge which scared the hell out of Jake. I found it quite fun, but on the way back it absolutely poured, the cagoule did nothing, except it let the rain through at the bottom and soak down into my shorts, down my legs, and into my shoes.  I felt the squelch my trainers the whole way back ugh.


The next day was better, we went to the Jungela De Panama Wildlife Refuge. It was free and small, kind of like somebody’s back garden but all the animals seemed really well cared for, they had all been rescued from being hurt or being abused as pets by the owners.

Firstly there was a parrot with a twisted wing so it couldn’t fly, He was quite talkative, although it was in Spanish, so couldn’t understand him anyway. Next to spider monkeys Daisy and Lalita, which we could feed, Peanuts seemed to be their favourite. Next a small Capuchin monkey, she had only been there for 4 days and just want to cuddle, she liked sitting on my shoulders and was very interested in Jake’s water bottle. There was also parakeets, a hawk, chickens, rabbits, an owl, and a turtle that you got to feed, a little snapping thing that was so fast you could easily lose the tip of your fingers.

There was a goat there that like to run around and ram you if you did not give him attention, a few dogs and cats, and there was also a very mischievous raccoon, who we had to walk around on the leash. He liked to play and climb up Jacob and nip his fingers. Not every day you get to walk a Racoon on a leash, there are a lot stronger than they look. Most of the time I spent with Daisy the howler monkey. She had been abused as a pet, she likes to have her back stroked, and so she held onto me with her tail very tight, and held my hand with one of hers. She would get very annoyed with me if  I  stopped. When it was time and  I tried to leave, she jumped down – quick as a flash – and wrapped here tail through my sandals so I could not leave. She was beautiful.


Day three was just rain. It pored so heavy you could barely see three feet in front of you. Jake had to carry me down the road as it had flooded so bad.

Next we went to the Tuesday market.  There was about 30 stalls, and nearly all of them were run by American expats. Most of it was very posh jewellery or knives or coffee or delicacy foodstuffs that was extortionate expensive, especially nine dollars for single sausage!

We didn’t stay very long, so instead went to the lost waterfalls hike, The hardest part was the entrance, it was so steep. There were three waterfalls in all, up to the first one the path was really well maintained, to the second you can just about see it, and to the third waterfall the path was non-existent. The first falls you couldn’t get close to, you could see the rainbow through it and it was the tallest. Second was the most spectacular, you got really close and could paddle if you wanted. At the third I slipped on a rock and fell into the water, my trainers had just about dried out, but now full of water again. Would need flippers soon.


Boquete was the perfect getaway we needed, and reminded us why we were travelling, the waterfalls and mountains, animals and people. Here was a little slice of fun and paradise. I need. I got to relax and recharge for going back to playa corona and ready for our next step…

Costa Rica.

Playa Corona… and the many things I did wrong. 

After Valle de Anton, we went back to the city for two days, not much really happened while there – however we did have a warm shower which was heaven. 


On the first full day there was a huge bang just outside our room and all electricity and everything went off in most of the city it seemed, and it was hot. No amount of ice cream could cool us down. We ended up lying on the floor, and hope that the stone would cool us. We did have a look round the old town, all we did there was melt and get some very expensive drinks. 

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We managed to get to Playa Corona the next day very easily. We were working at an American expats home, doing gardening and landscaping, four hours a day four days a week, perfect; or so we thought. 

We met Irene, our host, and we were put in what is one of the houses she has on her property, usually spare for rent or air B&B. It was big and clean, with a king-size bed, kitchenette, porch, hammock, beautiful bathroom and a whole shower room, I felt like a princess after the filth of El valley. It seemed perfect, even if we did find a scorpion hiding in our curtains. 


Oh first day working, 23rd of May was our anniversary! Six years! We still went to work though. Can’t always be a holiday. 

Jake was given a machete and was to cut down this huge bamboo bush – which he spent most of the days we were there working on. I was cleaning concrete steps that were stained from the cashews and mangoes, we then went into town to get some food shopping, we tried to go out for dinner but we couldn’t catch the bus so end up having super noodles, drinking rum and watching crap on Netflix, personally I thought it was an awesome anniversary. 

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The next day is when the trouble started. I was mowing the garden; now this garden was the size of Central Park, and I was using this huge heavy petrol mower that look like it was the made in the 1920s, and I did it wrong. Absolutely and unequivocally everything I could possibly do wrong, I did wrong. I don’t know how, I have full capabilities of mowing a lawn, but nothing I did was right, and she seemed to take pleasure in telling me how useless I was, not in such certain terms, but were unmistakably implied.

I move it around wrong, I mowed the wrong place, I move the mower over grass more than once, I missed bits on my way, I got rid of the grass wrong and apparently I can go over trees and concrete, it was continuous, and hot, and stressful. In the end I actually started crying, I didn’t let her see though, apparently she was also having a go at Jake to about not being able to start the strimmer that she left unused for the past few months and about me. Complaining to him about how bad I was.

 The whole garden took the whole four hours. Apparently we do it every Wednesday, can’t wait for that. 


Over the next few days, I did more and more things terribly wrong and she seemed to relish telling me so. I didn’t move fast enough, I didn’t rake the leaves correctly, put them in the wrong compost heap (there were six by the way) I spray-painted her barbecue wrong. 

We were told to tresspass on to the next door neighbours land and cut down their plants, I did that wrong, made burms – of said cut down plants – wrong, weeded wrong, got rid of scorpions and snakes wrong e.g. I didn’t hack them to death with a blunt machete. Picked up fruit, cut grass with scissors, cleaned drains, moved logs and anything asked of us, we did wrong, me especially. 

The constant criticism, and attacks towards me personally really cut me down. Most days I ended up crying in the bathroom or so stressed about working with her I ended pulling out most of my eyebrows. 

Having Autism meant I didn’t fit in all that much, I was weird and an outsider, so I never really developed all that much self-confidence or worth and working with Irene shattered it all over again. It was terrible. My mental health suffered and jake suffered with me as there was not much he could do. 

He did talk back to her, one time when she was complaining to jake that she didn’t care how it’s done in Europe, this is how it’s done in America and that works better he said that’s what they thought about McCarthyism and segregation. This stunned her so much she stoped bullying him as much after that, and focused her anger and attention on me. I still don’t have the confidence to walk into a new place first, so talking back was not an option, I felt more stupid and downhearted every day. I drowned in her cruel words and disgusted looks.  

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I counted down the days till we left for Costa Rica. The hours I had to spend being near her. 

In the end I was told it was not even allowed to fuss the dog as I was showing her too much kindness and attention. And that being ill was no excuse not to work in the 38 degree heat. 

Being here show me how different people can really be, while emailing her to organise this work, she could not have been kinder and when we arrived she was so welcoming, and a soon as we started working for her, everything changed, I find it difficult to read people and understand personalities, being here and try to understand her just made everything more difficult, I was unhappy. 

Panama overall had not been kind to us. 

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We did have some good days, as we only had to work four hours in the morning 7 to 11, only four days a week we did get some time off to spend looking around. The problem was that there was nothing to do.


Went for a bike ride, and down to the beach a few days, the beach and sea were quite clean but very rough and not very clear being the Pacific side. The sand was volcanic and black so burning to the touch. 

One night we went down to watch the sunset and saw the whole beach come alive with tiny little crabs which was really cool to see. 

We went back in to Panama City few days, I was allowed to go down to the river with Maggie (the dog) and give her a bath. We also went up to El Valle to see Art. Later on he came down to stay near us for a few days. 

We were looking for a place for him to camp and while walking along the beach he and Jake got soaked from head to toe by huge wave that nearly suck them out to sea. They were so wet it broke jakes phone, I was glad I didn’t run and stayed dry. 

We managed to organise our diaries so we got six days off in a row and went up to Boquete, which I’ll tell you about next week. It was a godsend us to have a few days away from her. 

Our last day with her was day 100 of our trip. We spent most of the day cleaning the apartment which was spotless. Cleaner then when we came – especially under the bed. She still I managed to criticise how we moped, but it was our last day so who cares. 

We went out for tea, and came back and finished off half a bottle of wine and a lot of rum… 

… well It would’ve been rude to have left them. 

Valle de Anton

Here is when things started to go wrong.

I have already mentioned that we had a nightmare time trying to get to our next workaway. We got there about seven at night and they had waited to eat tea with us, which was very nice of them as we were starving. There were quite a few new people to meet, which was a little stressful, especially after the day we had had.

I had got more accustomed to talking to new people in Jamaica, and before that at university, so coped well enough. The difference here is that I couldn’t speak the language. England is notoriously bad at teaching second languages. In primary I had one year of German, and in secondary, five years of very broken French, so Spanish was going to be impossible for me.

The people were nice, as far as we could tell as neither of us spoke Spanish. Jake got talking to an American guy that lived there, he was in his 60s or there about. The first thing he spoke about was his love of weed and Coke and rum, Jake could relate to the rum part.

There are two of the girls, one didn’t really speak, and one from Chile, she spoke really good English and she spent a few hours trying to teach me a few basic words in Spanish.

That night we were put in a dorm, even though they said we could be in a private room. It was okay as no one else was in it, and they said that it was just a volunteer room. Bad thing was that there was nowhere to keep your stuff safe.

We were told we would work from 8 to 5, confused we asked about this, because in workaway you only do 4/5 hours a day.  Our host then said I would be working 8 till 12, and Jake 12 till 5. This meant that we wouldn’t be seeing each other, or be able to do any activities while we were there, which kind of defeated our point of traveling.

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Our first day we got off as it was a Sunday. I need it as I didn’t manage to sleep until three because it was so noisy, they had music blaring till 2AM, people running about and dogs barking. It was a cacophony of noise that was almost painful, like a puffer fish going off inside my brain.

We met another guy that day, his name is Art. He was Russian/American and him and Jake on really well, they chatted most of the night, we were going to do one of the hikes up the mountains, but it started pouring. Everything here has a metal roof, so the sound of the thunderstorm and torrential rain on the corrugated ceiling was even louder than the night before, even if it was a bit more pleasant.

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Started work on the Monday at eight, and our host was nowhere to be found, he hadn’t actually said what I was meant to be doing either. He didn’t show till about 10, where he told me – as I was a female, my job was to clean, do the laundry, make beds, mop and sweep and clean toilets then cook for when the men-folk got home! I have no issue doing those jobs, but the fact it was solely to do with my gender really pi**ed me off.

The ‘menfolk’ – including Jacob went to work on a building site, so didn’t see him for most the day. I was also meant to tend reception with the other girls, but seeing as my Spanish was lacking I could not do it very well. As for the cleaning, this place looked like it hadn’t  been cleaned in 10 years.

There is a level of dirt that I can deal with, then the level of that Jake can deal with, and then this place, it was grim.

Mould grew everywhere, flies surrounded uncovered food, the dirt was an inch thick and things growing in the fridge. I was told that it was only cleaning, so easy work. It was easy, yes, (our host made a point that it was easy work, because women can only do easy work) but it was disgusting. There wasn’t anything for us to clean with either, no soap or chemicals, so I had to use a ripped up piece of clothing that somebody in that stayed there had left.

When Jacob back he said he’s been hammering nails out of bits of wood for five hours and was bored out of his mind. We went out with Art and climbed up Mount Carigauna and watch the sunset which was lovely, although it was very hot and sticky, so afterwards I had to brave the shower and the cockroaches in it, also looks like there were leeches living in the sink, ugh.

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The next day wasn’t too much better. I asked if I could go to the construction site, they were very reluctant and tried to get Jake to control his woman – and not allow me to go. Jake basically told him to F-himself and I was allowed to go.

When I was there I was told I was scraping paint off the wall, (I can see where they saw the danger). They did not give me a chisel because that was far too dangerous, instead they gave me a cheese grater because it wasn’t sharp and I could not hurt myself. Afterwards I was allowed to do sweeping.

At one point I did manage to get away and help Jake pull out nails, this was scandalous in the eyes of the men working, so much so that they stopped, open-mouthed to watch me to see if I could do it, and seemed rather shocked when I realise I could use a hammer. I did enjoy watching it put all the men’s teeth on edge.

Jake was also allowed to use the spray paint gun, again, not me because it is too… complicated, I believe is the term they is used, at the end we moved planks of wood, they were amazing I was able to do so because the surprise, surprise wood can be heavy, and women can’t pick up stuff.

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Day three of work, I was cleaning again, I was exhausted because they were tattooing and playing music till 2 AM in the room next door. The upside was I was able to catch a frog that had decided to make a home in our dorm thanks to the damp and the rain leaking through the roof onto Jake’s bed. I also got to play with the dogs and the two kittens, which almost made me to forget about the rest of the stuff going on.

Day four, we didn’t want to wait around for our host to get up and tell us what we going to do, as he usually didn’t rise till about 11:30, so me and Jake went to the Butterfly Valle, not too expensive, and the guide spoke excellent English and very informative, I really liked all the butterflies, Jake put up with it. I think he found the practical information about them more interesting than seeing them, apparently only 3 to 4% of them survive in the wild.

 

Once back, we found our host had gone into the city, so both me and Jake did the cleaning, if that is what you call it, you would need to blitz the place to show any difference at this point. We then went to the Victoria Lorenzo Museum, which was free because it was their 40th anniversary I think.

The last few nights we had other people in our dorm. These were guests, not volunteers, so we had to put up with them wandering in and out, and tried to look after our belongings. It seemed our host was not telling the truth when he said this was a volunteer only dorm.

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The next day we climbed up with one of the other mountains without with Art. There was a good view from the top, but blisteringly hot, we tried to follow a path down and got lost in the woods, and nearly got caught on barbwire fence and attacked by a guard dog.

That night I was asked to cook, the cleaning of the kitchen took longer than cooking, I cooked for the whole family but some refused to eat it because I had cooked it.

Ugh.

After this week of ups and downs, the dorms, the noise, the work, the stress and lack of communication and basically complete disdain towards me over my vagina, we decided to leave. They didn’t seem very happy about it, as we were supposed to be staying over a month, but neither were we, and at that time we did not care. We had our last night there and I got bitten by fleas, what a lovely way to end the week.

We missed Art, but kept in touch. He was very different from people we usually talk to or meet, especially when it came to talking about his religion and beliefs – I disagreed with quite a bit, but actually really like him. He and Jake had a good hours chatting over rum about politics and history.

Couldn’t wait to return to the city, and thankfully had found another work away on the last-minute page…

But it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.

Not always an easy ride – Autism.

Autism is…

 

Autism is

Not knowing

What to do

What to think

What to say

What to be!

 

Why can I not

Just be me?

 

Why can’t I just

Dream the day away?

 

NO!

 

Must be normal

And live their way.

 

Have to sit

And think

And learn

And behave

Be normal okay!

 

A broken routine is fine

That’s what I’ve been taught.

 

I have to be social

And change my way of thought.

 

I have to get the joke,

Cope with the noise,

Look you in the eye,

And chat about boys.

 

So I won’t be me

Cut me in half with a knife.

 

I have to fit in

So this is my life.

 

Some days are perfect and some days this is how I feel. Even when I’m living / doing something I love.

I enjoyed Panama, don’t get me wrong; but it was hard.

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Yes, I have been told I’m doing this amazing thing, going traveling, something so brave; especially for a person like me. But it is also incredibly difficult and stressful, and these hardships are only enhanced by having Aspergers. The wonder of it all may be enhanced too, but it is sometimes hard to see, when everything else is mounting up.

Having autism, I kind of feel as if I am in a bubble or behind a glass wall, unable to reach the real world. In Panama, not being able to speak the language exacerbated it.

We had trouble getting answers back from workaways and not the best of times while we were there.

It was noisy and new and crowded. Squeezed onto overcrowded mini buses and people yelling and selling things. This is life in Panama, and I assume most Latin American countries. Seeing ‘real life’ and not the touristy side to these countries, made traveling there so much better and more authentic. We got the real feel of places, but at the same time it can be so overwhelming and difficult to cope with.

Our time in El Valle was not desperately pleasant. I am only one person, and many other people have had a great time at this place – the reviews said so – that’s why we applied. We just didn’t get that experience.

The thing is, that the world and how I react to it, and how it reacts to me, is different and sometimes harder than others realise and I expect it to be.

Just got to try to fit in, as life doesn’t try to fit with me.

That’s how it feels anyway.

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I will try and post our time in El Valley tomorrow.

 

 

Panama City

We left Jamaica on the 10th of May after 50 days.  As much as we were reluctant to leave, Jamaica seemed to be just as reluctant to let us go. Me and Jake squidged into the single seat in the front of Michael’s van, with two of the other workmates holding onto a load of timber in the back and drove to Kingston. We dropped off the other two firsts, and unloaded the van and got the airport only 20 minutes after we had planned.

I had already bought a plane ticket from Panama to Costa Rica, but Jake was going later by bus, because of this he didn’t have any proof of him leaving Panama; so Jamaica wouldn’t let him out of Jamaica.  We spent nearly an hour on their shoddy Wi-Fi trying to buy him a cheap ticket from Panama to anywhere – unsuccessfully. Every time we tried, the Wi-Fi I would cut out. In the end I had to beg to let him on the plane, and the woman at desk said to just lie to security to say you have a ticket and quickly ushered us through with only a few moments to spare. (Thankfully we didn’t talk to security or customs and definitely wouldn’t have lied.)

Very relieved we left Jamaica and got Panama, but once we had got there, there was no one to pick us up like we had booked. We waited around, no one showed, and eventually got normal taxi which ended up being five dollars cheaper anyway. We got the hostel (which took quite a while to find as it was not a common place) and there was so, so, so, so much traffic, and hundreds of cars. Once we got to the hostel we basically just collapsed, stress and travel really take it out of you.

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The next day we had a walk around Panama City, feels quite safe, and very clean too. Had lunch which consisted of a huge chocolate and banana crêpe, which basically made the whole of yesterday fade into the distance, once back at the hostel we chatted to the guy at reception, he was Venezuelan and trying to learn English, so we spent a few hours trying to help him with his pronunciation before going for a drink. It was quite fun actually.

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The second day we went to the Mira Flores lock, it was quite interesting, Jake enjoyed it more than I did, but the canal was very impressive. Sort of jaw dropping at the size of it and the work that went into it. We saw three huge ships go through, and the museum was good and the little cinema about it. We stayed nearly the whole day – but I believe that was more because Jake found it really good. In fact it was here that Jake asked me to take a photo of him. The only time in his life he actually wanted a photo!!

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The next day we packed and headed for the bus terminal. We asked for Valle de Anton, the person behind the desk said okay and repeated Valle de Anton multiple times. Then we got on the bus and the bus driver repeated Valle de Anton again multiple times. It should’ve taken us  about two hours to get there.

At three hours I made Jake go to the front and ask the bus driver where we were. He said he’d forgotten about us and had gone straight past our stop! Nooo.

He gave us each a dollar and said to cross the road and go back. Which we did. Repeated Valley de Anton to the next bus driver he said yes, yes get on. Eventually dropping us off half an hour back down the road in Anton! Which happens to be about 30 or more kilometres away from the entrance to Valle de Anton!  We had to get a taxi to the entrance to the Valle and then another bus to our stop. A cheap two hour journey ended up becoming a very expensive six hour journey. But at least we were there.

We were put in a nine bed dorm, not a private one like we had talked about but oh well, but were the only ones in it, and tried to get some sleep. Hoping the next stage would be easier than that day.

Fingers pointlessly crossed.

 

 

Time of my life.

The last few weeks in Jamaica were some of the best I’ve ever had. The people, the friends, the sun, sea and lifestyle overall, (especially working only four hours a day) and activities we did, made it so much fun. I can’t say Jamaica was my favourite place I have ever been, but right there and then, it was what I needed.

(I apologise for missing last weeks post, but I did not have the means to so.)

After work I went swimming, a lot, I often went with Canadian Michael to a mahogany beach. It wasn’t anything special, but you could swim out to sea for miles as it was so shallow – you could still put your feet down nearly all the way. The fact that the floor was covered in urchins was the reason I didn’t.

One day, we were in the water and a huge thunderstorm came over which was amazing experience, to swim through ocean with lightning and thunder going off overhead. We had to shelter in a juicy patties – which are delicious – in order to get dry and get a taxi. Jake was not so lucky and no taxi would take him, so he had to climb this huge hill in the pouring rain; which at some points is so steep you can put your hands out on the road in front of you. Poor Jacob, at least he got a free beer out of it as the Jamaicans were very amused at seeing anybody in the rain.

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The fresh air, healthy eating, active work and active days were really good for my health, body and mind as they say. I lost quite a bit of weight actually, but I also lost the skin off the top of my toes when I decided to go running with Michael down the hill. Running has never been my sport, and I am fully aware it never will be. It took a long time from my toes to heal and it hurt just to walk anywhere.

My feet were not as bad as my legs though, from my knee downwards, it seemed my legs had become an all-you-can-eat buffet for every mosquito in a 50 mile radius. I have never really been eaten by mosquitoes before, and i was happy to kept it that way. Bug spray and aloe vera did little to deter them, while Jake got off scot-free from the little blighter’s. You could have done a dot-to-dot puzzle on my legs at the end.

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I mentioned before about the animals that we had at the farm. While we were there both the rabbits and chickens had babies. The rabbits had three, but sadly, out of fear of the mongoose, which would not have been able to get to her, she killed them all.

The chickens however, had six chicks which were the most adorable little things ever. One day, they all escaped! Me, Jake and the two new Canadians – Christine and Murray had to run around in the dwindling light to try to catch them all and put them back, so they couldn’t get eaten by something. Thankfully, we managed to get them all back bar one who had died probably from shock or the fall. The others, after two hours or more, was safely inside the cage for the remainder of our time.

We also had some trouble with mice. Lise’s brother had this nice goats milk soap, which every mouse and the surrounding area it seemed to very much enjoy. Getting annoyed at this constant invasion, he manage to catch one, and the next day paraded it’s around, saying he was going to torture it to teach the rest of the mice a lesson, which was totally ridiculous in my mind. I told him so, and then, in no uncertain terms I was told I was a silly little girl who should keep to her own business as I know nothing. (never knew how alike to Jon Snow I was).

Luckily Michael managed to get the mouse and free it. He also noticed how upset I had got, and from then on whenever a mouse was caught I was allowed to let it go far away. This placated me, Jake however never got on with him after that.

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We did a few tours and activities while we were there. We went to the blue hole again for the third time as we enjoyed it so much. That time Michael decided to see if we can walk it. If you went the right way, this option would be quite possible – however we did not – we walked for hours, and hours, and hours and it was not fun. However we did get there in the end, even if we did have to go under a colony of banana spiders.

We also went to Dunns River Falls. It is one of the most famous attractions in Jamaica. Personally I preferred Konoko falls. It wasn’t too expensive to get in, but there are signs everywhere about buying or wearing water shoes. We didn’t have any and you we were not going to spend $12 each to get some, so we had to sign a waiver that we were not going to sue if I cut my toe. Every single worker thereafter asked if we had sign this waiver.

The first time we went up, you were asked to go with a group, no issue, the problem was they made everyone hold hands with the person in front of them and behind them, which was just ludicrous. For one, you are climbing up some quite heavy waterfalls and you have a person in front of you dragging you up, and one person behind you dragging you down, they said it was to help each other just made everything more difficult, especially to balance. Quite a lot of people with autism that I know are quite uncomfortable with some amount of physical contact, I can cope, but holding wet clammy hands with two complete strangers while in my bikini was not fun for me.

The second time up me and Jake went ourselves and it was a whole lot better. We managed to get to the secret stairs on the other side of the waterfall. It was hard to breathe and the water came down so strong in made your legs heavy to lift, but it was really fun to do.

One day we went to Kingston to see the farmers market with Michael to sell his products. The ride there was really fun, we went over the mountains and it was beautiful. In Kingston we were going to go to the Bob Marley museum but that was closed as it was so early. One of the other volunteers had been a few times and she said some of the authentic pieces had changed each time. So we gave it a miss. We then went to the Devonshire house which was also closed because it was a weekend, so basically just wandered around most of the time. Kingston was so so much hotter than anywhere else we have been, we weren’t there long enough to pass a fully informed judgement, but I’m glad we spent most of the time in Ocho Rios.

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We did quite a few fun things at the farm too. Colin the chef made cassava pizza bread, they had a proper wood fire pieces oven too so we had a pizza night for a few nights. One of them quite unexpectedly as a lot of people decided to come over and have a party, it was loud which is something I struggled with but I did enjoy it.

Something else I struggled with was the banana bread. In Jamaica people  put weed into everything. I have heard of weed brownies, but not weed banana bread. So when I had the banana bread I got extremely high. I was fine, went into town to get Pizza Hut and then suddenly I wasn’t fine. It felt like my head was filling up with helium and by the end of the night I was catatonic. I could not speak or eat or walk. I thought I couldn’t breathe and was eventually I was sick. Jake had to basically carry me home. It is something I had never tried before and would never try again.

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One of the days the organisation JOAM – Jamaican organic agriculture movement, have their meeting at the farm on world Earth Day, I quickly drew a picture to celebrate, Colin liked it so much I did a portrait of him for a gift too. The meeting was okay to listen to, but what I really enjoyed was witnessing the Jamaican National Anthem. I feel very thankful to have witnessed it, as it is quite special, not something many vacationers would get to experience.

Our time in Jamaica was a very special experience, it was the beginning of our journey and we couldn’t have a better start; I think that’s mostly down to Michael and Lise and I’m very grateful, when the time came to leave again we didn’t want too, and Michael made a joke about stealing our passports, but he kindly drove us down to the airport and gave us a send off, the night before he bought Champagne/wine especially for us, and we played dominoes, all of us losing miserably against him.

Our fifty-something days had come to an end and we set off to Panama.

Let the next step begin.