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.