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.

​(I don’t normally sound like that)

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.

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.