A Travellerspoint blog

Santa Elena - Monteverde

La Fortuna - volcan arenal - cahuita

sunny
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

Spent a few days up in the mountains and cloud forests of costa rica, at santa elena. Went on our night tour into the rainforest which was good. Didn't see quite as much as had hoped. Did see a tarantula which the guide poked with a stick to get it to attack which was interesting.

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Saw fireflies and loads of insects and a raccoon. Not quite the jaguars, sloths and monkeys that we were hoping for. Did quite a bit of drinking with the couple that we were travelling with while we were there which was all good fun. Also attempted our own little night safari after several too many drinks. Didn't get very far though which is probably a blessing, given all the wildlife and costa ricans that own weapons.

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I managed to pluck up the courage to do a canopy tour on zip lines in the rainforest, having initially chickened out of it because of the heights involved. One of the lines was 260ft over a valley which certainly focussed the mind, as did the tarzan swing. This was basically a platform that you had to jump off and drop about 50ft then swing out over the jungle. Had to do it because everyone else in the group that I was with did it, including an 8 year old girl. Was good fun.

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Spent a few days in Santa elena before getting a 'jeep' - boat - 'jeep' tour to our next destination, la fortuna. Turned out the 'jeeps' were minibuses, surprise surprise. The reason for going to la Fortuna was essentially to see volcan arenal, a volcano overlooking the town. Unfortunately for almost the entire 3 days that we were there the volcano was covered in cloud. It is supposed to be very active and spews lava out the top. Didn't see any of that though. We did a trip to the hot springs which are heated by the volcano. It was pretty much a resort with different pools of varying temparatures. One of them was 45 degrees, and was quite entertaining watching people trying to get in it. Far too hot. We decided not to do any of the tours to the rainforests on the volcano on account that they seemed to be a bit of a con and we would be unlikely to see any wildlife. So we, along with Sarah and James, decided to chip in together and hire a cire and do our own wildlife tour. Couldn't afford a 4x4 but certainly got our moneys worth out of the car - a little gold hyundai - which me and james took turns at hammering about little rocky dirt tracks through the forest. Was great fun. Actually saw quite a bit of wildlife aswell, monkeys, vultures, and two different types of toucan. I'm not that fussed by birds, but the toucans were amazing.

Next day we travelled to San Jose, capital of costa rica, in order to catch another bus to the caribbean. Had to stay a night in san Jose which wasn't great. Not a lot to see and do, and felt a bit dangerous. We also stayed in quite a strange place with a weird night porter who liked to stare a lot, and a funny old man who crept about the place occasionally stopping and staring into space. Managed to survive the night though, and are now in Cahuita on the Caribbean. Very nice so far. Saw our first sloth, attached to one of the windows at our hotel here. Very very strange looking thing. Moved off up onto the roof after Jenny irritated it - as any good zoologist would - waking it up by blowing in its face. Moved off very very slowly and went to sleep again.

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Going to spend a couple of days here then move south to the next beach resort, puerto viejo, then on to Panama.

Posted by calumfife 10:48 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Isla de Ometepe

San Juan del Sur and into Costa Rica

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Isla de Ometepe is an island with an active volcano on it, in the middle of Lago de Nicaragua, which is a massive freshwater lake that allegedly also has sharks in it. island is split into two bits with a volcano on each. The main volcano, conception is very active and in fact the day that we left was spewing out black smoke, and there was a news bulletin about it on the radio in the taxi to our next stop, San Juan del sur. We ended up travelling to, and spending the next few days with a Canadian guy Adam. When we arrived on the island we were hoping to get a bus to the other side to stay on a farm, but were told that there was a dispute between the two parts of the island, something to do with Spain gifting a ferry to the other side, so road blocks had been set up meaning that no vehicles were able to travel between the two sides. Pain in the arse for us. So we got a mini van as far as we could, and got dropped at one of the road blocks with a little guy and his family, and his chicken....in a box.

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He showed us to a place called charco verde where we ended up staying for the time we were there. It was very nice, right on the lake with a beach, and the volcano in the background.

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We intended to try and climb up the volcano but never got round to it. Instead we got up really early and went wandering about the reserve right next to our hotel, saw loads of monkeys in the trees just above our heads which was pretty amazing.

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We then rented bikes that didn´t work and set off to the other side of the island, 16km all uphill, at 12 o´clock in the baking sun. Seemed like a good idea at the time, until we realised we might have to cycle the whole way back. We ended up paying for the bikes to come on the bus with us because we had horse riding booked in the afternoon. We cycled to a natural spring where we went swimming, and ate watermelon which we bought from a farmer on the way. We took a horse ride in the afternoon up a hill near to where we stayed. Jenny enjoyed this very much. My horse was an old stinking nag that didn´t really seem up for the whole affair, sauntering about at a nice leisurely pace which suited me. We spent a couple of days total on the island and then the 3 of us headed for San Juan del Sur.

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San Juan del sur is a beach resort on the south pacific coast of Nicaragua. The town and the beach itself were nothing special. Jenny had a bit of an episode when we were trying to find suitable accommodation, as it was all quite expensive and some of the places were very nasty. We ended up in quite a nice place though right on the front. We caught a bus to one of the nicer beaches the next day, having hired surf boards. The beach had very big waves. I´ve never surfed before so was crap, although managed to kind of get up a couple of times. Jenny was doing better until her board flew up in the air and smacked her in the face. Caught her just above her lip. She is fine now, although thought all her teeth were falling out, and I´ve had to put up with having a girlfriend who looks like she has a black moustache for a few days, given the bruising. She´s fine now though.

We met up with another couple Sarah and James who we travelled with to costa rica. Staying in the same place as them at the moment. The day before we started travelling with them James had hired a canoe to go out on one of the lakes and had found a dead body in the water. When he paddled back to the shore and told someone about it he had been told that they knew about it, it had been there for a couple of days (in the baking sun), and they proceeded to do nothing about it, as if it was a completely normal everyday thing....despite people swimming in the same water.

We had to flee San Juan del Sur because Semana Santa is this week and everyone in Latin America heads for the beach. Apparently hundreds of the locals drown each year because of getting pissed up and going swimming. Apparently all the robbers go to the beach too, and poison is put down to kill all the stray dogs, so didn´t much fancy waiting around to see all the dying dogs. There were hundreds of locals sleeping on the beach when we left. We left for the border at about 7 am and the beach was mobbed with people all drinking and swimming fully clothed which was interesting.

The border crossing between Nicaragua and Costa Rica was an absolute joke. We had to queue for 2 hours and when we got to the front there were people all barging in. Then we had to do the same at the costa rican side. We then bought a ticket for a bus to Monteverde up in the mountains, and were told to go up the road to wait for it. We walked quite a way and everyone kept telling us that it was 1km further. Eventually we just stopped at the side of the road and tried to flag the buses down. This didn´t work very well, although eventually we manged to get one after a couple of hours, and we had to pay again.

We managed to get as far as Liberia, a town in Costa Rica, and stayed the night there. Yesterday we caught 3 buses and managed to get all the way up to where we are just now Santa Elena/Monteverde, where there is lots of nature stuff to do. The third bus that we caught yesterday was a bit of a joke as well. A Chicken bus with about 100 people on it, sitting and standing, that took over 3 hours to travel the 50km to where we are just now. The road was ridiculous and so dusty. Got here eventually though. Planning to do a night-time nature walk in a forest to try and see some tarantulas, sloths, frogs, monkeys etc. Should be interesting. Planning to spend a bit of time here away from the chaos of semana santa.

Posted by calumfife 09:35 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Utila and granada Nicaragua

-17 °C
View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

Spent the last week and a half on Utila in the bay islands, partly because of a little bit more bad luck, and partly because it's so so nice. Jenny woke up the day before we were supposed to start diving looking like a robot, because she couldn't turn her head separately from her body due to a really sore neck. Had to have another trip to the local doctor which was fun. Turns out that she also had a parasitic bug in her stomach as well which is nice. Anyway, we had to put off the diving for a few days until the injections and pills that she was given worked.

Eventually we managed to get in the water with the diving gear on, having spent a lot of time reading the theory behind diving. The place where we signed up was amazing though. Very cheap, good rooms, its own jetty&pier, big courtyard with hammocks hanging from the trees. Very nice. They also had a cross eyed dog called Alejandra who spent the entire day fetching plastic bottles from the sea, which was quite funny. She got a bit confused if you through stones in instead of bottles cos she couldn't find them, so I preferred to throw stones.

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We got taught the diving along with another couple of candians and Swedish girls. our instructor was a local islander and looked and sounded like a pirate. He was very good, apart from the fact that he called me several different names a day....caleb, caylum, calvin, team scotland. The diving itself was absolutely amazing. We are both now PADI qualified divers to 18m. Both of us enjoyed it so much that we considered taking the advanced course. have to move on though. May try and do this in Asia. Saw all sorts of amazing stuff in the sea, including a creature called the 'thing', which was a big 4foot long centipede, moray eel, queen angel fish, loads of weird things. I was a bit rubbish on the first dive and sucked all the air out of my tank in about 20 mins but got a lot more relaxed the more we did it. we also had a huge pod of dolphins jumping about at the front of the boat that we were diving off which was incredible. We met up with a couple of Brummies who were a good laugh, and went out drinking with them on the last night. There was a big party and barbq on the last night which was good fun.......until we had to get on the boat back to the mainland the next day. Felt very very rough.

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We've travelled quite far since then, over the last 2 days, to get to Granada in Nicaragua where we are now. Did an all day bus journey on a Ticabus yesterday. Was freeezing. Air conditioning worked too well, and neither of us were dressed for it. Much warmer here in Nicaragua. A lot poorer than anywhere that we've been so far. We just had lunch in the main square, and two children sat down with us asking for money. There was a three legged dog with no fur, and when we'd finished as much of the yuka and pork scratchings that we were eating a little skinny guy asked us if he could take the remains of our meal and scooped them up with his hand and ran off. Not great.

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Looking to travel on to an island with a volcano on it tomorrow, with a candian guy that we met who speaks very good spanish.

Posted by calumfife 12:39 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Utila - Bay Islands

sunny

Having a bit more fun in Honduras since the last entry. Left the scorpions and rain in Tela and spent a few days in a city called La Ceiba, in order that replacement bank cards be sent. They days waiting for the cards to arrive were certainly a good lesson in budgeting properly. Back on track now though.

Before we even got that far however it rained in Tela for 2 days solid, and the place where we were staying was clearly not properly equipped to deal with this. First the room began to smell a bit like a forest, and then towards the end like a public toilet. Sewage system wasn't up to much. Roof also dripped continuously which was fun.

Anyway we put all that behind us and booked into a much nicer place in La Ceiba, with a TV, which Jenny was very excited about. Unfortunately there was only one American channel, which showed endless re-runs of CSI Miami. I was a lot more interested in the strange local TV which seemed to have a gameshow where you and your partner could win Hondurian citizenship by standing up on cue and saying a line in unison faster than anyone else, there was a lot of weeping and wailing involved.......however my spanish is not up to much, so I might have been mistaken.

That was about the highlight of La Ceiba as it goes. Not a lot to do or see. We got a taxi to what the lonely planet described "the most popular beach" to find that it was deserted other than the big bits of driftwood and thousands of broken bottles, shopping bags etc. As for the sea, I would rather have taken my chances at Portobello.

We've made it out to an island off the coast which is much nicer. Utila is part of the bay islands, and is really really nice. Cheapest place in the world to learn to scuba dive, so we've signed up to an open water course to learn over the next week. Loads of nice restaurants, and the most amazing bar in the world - like a labrynth in the jungle with walkways through and above your head where you can climb about. Lots of little fairies and shiny things all over the place. Unfortunately there are also lots of massive spiders in massive webs just above your head as well. We've also been told that there are tarantulas on the island. I now have a strict regime of checks to eliminate any surprise attacks from uninvited insects though, so fingers crossed won't need any trips to the local "hospital" here.

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Anyway, back to the beach/hammock for just now......
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Posted by calumfife 13:42 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Honduras

puerto cortes - san pedro sula - tela

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View round the world on calumfife's travel map.

Managed to survive a bit of a rough journey over by boat from Belize to the port of puerto cortes in Honduras. There was the usual immigration nonsense, at the Belize side. Before we even docked there was a crowd of taxi drivers almost diving into the water trying to grab us and put our luggage in their "taxi's". The immigration office in Honduras was an 8 minute drive from the port, and they were all offering various servies for various prices. We hooked up with a swedish couple, and another couple and got on the back of one of the pick-ups and were taken inot town. The guy who took us there was offering to take us to our eventual destination, but given that the 8 minutes was painful enough, I didn't fancy another hour in the baking heat. It was cheaper to take the bus, particularly given that the guy started shouting at me when I gave hime the price we had originally agreed - wanting more. Anyway we took the bus to San Pedro Sula and then switched to another one that brought us to Tela, where we are just now.

Tela is a port town, with a nice beach. Not very touristy which is nice, and not a lot of english is spoken by the locals, if any at all - which turned out to be a bit of a problem later on. Initially things went well, and we planned to spend a few days here saving a bit of money, as it's very very cheap to live here, much cheaper than Belize.

Everything was going well until I discovered that my wallet had disappeared that is. This wouldn't be such a problem, but none of Jenny's cards seem to work over here, so we were relying solely on my card for money. Turns out that I left my wallet outside the door of our room, having opened my bag to search for the room key, taken everything out and put everything back in except the wallet. So, one of the other residents of the hotel where we are staying helpfully took the wallet to his room, binned all the cards and took the 50 quid or so, and my wallet. Cleaner found the cards in the bin and returned them to me, couple of days later after having cancelled them all. Luckily we had taken out about 100 pounds the day before, so have been living off this ever since, for the last 3 or 4 days. Replacement cards are on they're way via fed-ex though hopefully arriving soon. Anyway, having argued about who's fault it was that I lost the wallet, over a disgusting piece of fried chicken that we had to share, I think Jenny and I agree that it was probably more her fault then mine. At the time this all seemed ok in perspective, as on of our Swedish friends had caught malaria - despite his dad being a vaccines expert.

Turns out "in perspective" it wasn't ok, given that since then I've been stung by a scorpion. It was waiting to get me when I got out the shower, hiding in my towel. So sore. Got me on the wrist, which I suppose was a blessing given the circumstances. Didn't even see it, just felt it. So whilst I was screaming, Jenny was helpfully shouting at me "What is it? Was it a spider? Was it a spider?" - The lonely planet says that black widows live here. So I was panicking even more. Turns out it was a scorpion, that we saw make its escape scuttling up behing the toilet. Needless to say, going to the toilet is now a bit of an ordeal, involving a lot of checking and re-checking, also when puting on clothes, picking anything up, getting into bed it all has to be thoroughly shaken and checked.....Although the sting was sore, didn´t think much of it, but thought we'd better check the internet to see if it was poisonous. I began to feel a bit strang in the internet cafe though, mouth felt tingly and felt like I'd had quite a lot to drink. So we went to the hospital/clinic, which was fun. The "doctors" there didn't speak any english, and my spanish doesn't stretch to scorpion stings, so we played charades for a while, me pretending to be a scorpion them looking confused and asking various questions in spanish. Eventually they decided to inject me with something and leave me for 20 minutes - to see if I was allergic to the sting we presume. Turns out I felt fine after a couple of hours having been sent away with some pills and cream.

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Feel a lot better now though. Looking forward to leaving Tela, especially seeing as it's been raining non-stop for two days and the streets are like rivers.

Having such a good time in Honduras so far. Planning to move to La Ceiba and the Bay Islands - to learn to dive assuming the new cards arrive and it stops raining - in the next couple of days.

Posted by calumfife 11:09 Archived in Honduras Comments (1)

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