Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
12Trip End Ongoing
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Well, Mark finished the last blog with a cheeky note telling everyone to try to persuade me to go ziplining. I did go and I did enjoy it, thanks for the "encouragement" guys. But I am incredibly scared of heights so it was a pretty big accomplishment for me! I had a little crazy attack before we started and got a little bit hysterical, so one of the guys who works there said he'd do the whole thing with me, I felt much better to be strapped to a nice man for the duration of the ziplining, hurrah!
After Granada, we left to go to Isla Ometepe, which is the worlds largest freshwater island. The landscape was right out of Jurrassic Park! Dirt roads, luscious green fields, cloud forests and two huge and active volcanos on each side of the island.
We started off by heading to Merida, a very sleepy village, where we stayed at "Monkies Hostel". A really lovely hostel that is also a farm. All of the family worked together here and we made friendships with the sons and daughters easily - very handy for practicing Spanish! We spent a couple of nights here, the first Mary and I went to a local street party (Mark backed out due to the likelihood of dancing...borrrrring!) as it was Mary's birthday the next day. We had great fun dancing and chatting to the locals until we were told by one of the lads that works at the farm we were staying at, that the alcohol we had been sold was infact Seco - the local firewater - which basically means it's rubbing alcohol and around 70%! The rest of the night is a bit of a blur and resulted in me waking up with a bit of a gash on the inside of my left arm.
According to Mary (who had a hard time telling me what happened because she was laughing so much) I attempted to climb through a barbwire fence to get back into the farm instead of just opening the gate and managed to fall backwards and scratch my arm in the process. This has now turned into a pretty impressive meaty scar (I will be telling people that ask from now on that I was attacked by a madman with a knife!)
Needless to say Mark was less then impressed with us the morning after the night before.
After Merida we moved on to the otherside of the island and the volcano to Finca Magdelena, a hostel that again is a farm and also a coffee farm. We had some excellent coffee here, good stuff. There were plenty of trails for hiking around the farm, a few of which had petroglyphs from pre Hispanic times. We went on a couple of hikes where these petroglyphs were, but unfortunately couldn't find them! So, in the pictures you will see the closest thing, which is a reproduction of what a petroglyph apparently looks like. To us it just looks like a robot with a willy, but there we go.
As we were on one of the hikes, which trailed through plantain farms and cloudforest on the side of the volcano, we could hear the howler monkeys...this is quite a scary sound!! Apparently they're the loudest animals in the world, with their calls being heard miles away from where the actually are. To me they sound like Zombies roaring, to Mark they sound like Lions. Anyone who knows me will know that another fear of mine is zombies (irrational you might think, but until I have a chat with you about rabies evolving, you are wrong! I have bored many of you with this already...think yourself lucky if I haven't done it to you!) anyway...so yes, irrational fear of zombies. So, walking on a volcano, with a wounded arm (yes, superficial wound, but it adds to the drama) not really knowing where we're going and suddenly...ZOMBIES! Well, I knew they were howler monkeys but I'm sure the empathetic lot amongst you can imagine how I felt for all of 2 seconds.
The next stop before we left Ometepe (a sad day for the three of us as we all loved it very much!!) was Charco Verde, a little beach resort town with gorgeous views of the mainland across the lake and plenty of time to relax and get over our near miss with the zombi...monkeys. Actually, I say near miss, but I forgot to mention that when we were staying at Merida Mary actually got bitten by a monkey (on her birthday no less!!). No blood was drawn, but I still watched her closely for signs of rage (zombie reference, I'll stop with the zombie stuff soon I promise!)
There are monkeys everywhere on this island, all different breeds and they just wander around the roads with the cows and pigs. It's really quite cool!
We didnīt swim at the beaches though, as there are a rare breed of freshwater bull sharks roaming the waters and so with all our mishaps so far we thought it best not to tempt any more!
We got up early the next day to head onto the ferry back to the mainland. It was a smooth ferry ride for an hour or so, we then got on a few buses and arrived at our next and final destination in Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur.
San Juan is a small, heavely touristy beach town on the pacific coast and only about 45 minutes from the Costa Rican border. We stayed here for a couple of days but generally didnīt like the tourist tax that was imposed on us, as the locals here are quite obviously used to rich holidayers coming over from Costa Rica and quite happily paying more then double they should for a piece of fruit or a beer..us poor backpackers, on the other hand, were most put out and so didn't stay long.
Before we left though, Mary and I had a surfing lesson which was an immense amount of fun (even though Iīm still crap!) we had a rather hunky instructor, who taught us all in Spanish. So even though I failed miserably at the surfing, I still felt like I'd accomplished something by having the lesson completely in Spanish!
The journey into Costa Rica was appalling and everything suddenly turned to about 3 times the price we had been paying. Mark and I decided then to whizz through Costa Rica to Panama as quickly as we could. Besides, there is nothing that can be done in Costa Rica which can't also be done in neighbouring Nicaragua and Panama, only difference is that it's at least half the price in the other two countries! From what we saw of Costa Rica through the bus windows, it was very green and pretty looking. This is all!
We stopped for one night in Heredia to catch up with one of our friends, David, who we had studied Spanish with in Xela and then one night in San Jose where we then said goodbye to Mary and left to go to Panama.
Well, hurrah for cheapness again! The journey to the border was easy, but crossing the border to get into Panama was not quite so easy for me. As my parentals may well remember, I have a bit of a fear of bridges, especially ones with gaps in (when I was younger I was terrified of trainstation bridges because I used to think I would fall through the gaps in the steps and or fall off the bridge if a train came.. this fear has now pratically gone - not really possible for me to fit through the gaps anymore!) anyway, we had to cross this bridge to get into Panama that was rickety and old and falling apart. The wood was rotten, the metal was corroded, there were HUGE gaps and basically I got the fear and walked along at a snails pace looking down at the river rushing past beneath me through the gaps. Mark, completely oblivious to my pains waltzed off ahead and only looked round to see why a lorry was beeping (it couldn't get passed and I was walking to slowly, whilst also telling the lorry to "F**K OFF!!") he then came to save me and the ordeal was over. What a baby I am!!
We spent the night in Chaguinola, a stop over town with nothing to do, but it was to late to get to Bocas Del Toro that day which is where we were headed.
Bocas is a group of small islands on the carribbean coast. We had to get a water taxi over, which was NOT amusing in the least as the water was very rough and the driver felt it necessary to go at an incredible speed to the islands, I think we spent more time in the air then on the water.
Bocas was wet and miserable for the entirity of our stay; an island very similar to Utila except slightly bigger so the "coolness" of it was slightly lost on us as we had been there and done that! We celebrated our year and a half anniversary here though and went out for a nice meal (any excuse for some good food, we would have made something up if there wasn't an actual date to use!) and then left a day or so later bound for David.
At this point we only had a couple of weeks until our time in Central America ended (nooooooooo!!!) and so we were (and still are) rather intent on spending as little money as possible. Unfortunately this generally equates to doing nothing, so we were on the look out for a hostel where we could do just that. Our luck was in! We found the Bambu Hostel (highly recommend it!) Which was on the outskirts of David...it had a swimming pool, free internet, 75 cent beers and cable tv. Perfect! We spent 4 lovely days here jumping in the pool, sunbathing, drinking too much beer and watching films. After those 4 days we decided we should probably go and do something, so off we hopped on a hour and a half journey to Boquete.
Boquete is a lovely mountain town that alot of retiree expats have also learnt about. Fortunately this hasn't changed the prices/locals attitudes too much as yet, so we were happy!
Here we stayed in a cosy little hostel and each day went on small hikes - between 6 and 8 kms - to fill our time before then settling in for an evening of card playing and wine or coffee drinking (we have FINALLY found cheap wine!!!!)
Our first day we went on an 8km round hike to visit some gardens that are higher up in the mountains in the cloudforest. These gardens were thoroughly odd, with faces painted on all inanimate objects possible and lots of positive quotes painted around the place. See pictures for a better understanding!
The next day we hiked a 6 km round trip up a different mountain to a wild animal refuge, recovery and release charity that is owned by a couple in their fifties from surrey! I felt like I was talking to a friends mum when I was chatting to the owner. She trained to be a nurse in Basingstoke and then worked in Alton! At their place they currently have two cub Ocelots that were once pets to locals, but they grew too big. Unfortunately because of how poorly they were treated and how much human contact they have had, it is unlikely they will be able to be released back into the wild.
There was also a Puma cub which is due to be released in April, hurrah! Other animals were a baby anteater (mother electrocuted whilst crossing electrical wires), baby owls (found on ground wandering about, but too young to fly), plenty of monkeys (tamarinds, capuchins, squirrel amoung others) all of which were once cruely treated by their past owners and still have plenty of scars to prove it. It is actually illegal to own any wild animal in Panama, but of course it still happens. There were also alot of magnificent parrots, some of which had been bleached and then dyed yellow because the person who did this thought they'd get a higher price for them when selling. Most of these parrots are damaged beyond repair because of the bleach and so are living out the rest of their days here in HUGE well maintained enclosures (possible the best I have ever seen).
Both Mark and mineīs favourites were by far the toucans! We have waited months to see one, and here they were just wandering around in the open. Great stuff!
Needless to say I loved this place alot and am really annoyed that we didnīt get here sooner so we could have volunteered for a week or so. As it was, we simply didnīt have enough time.
And so here we are, back in David and now itīs only 4 hours to go until our bus! Time for dinner me thinks!
Lots of love to all, keep in touch and send us your gossip!!!