A Travellerspoint blog

Granada

26 °C

Traveling from Playa Gigante to Granada went smoothly and was an interesting experience. I traveled with Gwen and Brian on the Chicken Bus that stopped right outside our hostel and took us all the way to Rivas for just over $1. It is pretty amazing the number of people that can actually fit on public transportation. Every seat was filled with multiple people and the whole aisle was packed with people. I was happy for my window seat and only a small backpack on my lap. We ate fried chicken in Rivas and then took a taxi to our hostel in Granada.

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My new accomodations are great! There is free water, coffee, and banana pancakes for breakfast. Very central location and a nice staff. I met three ladies from the Bay Area who are going to be living in Granada for a month taking Spanish classes, and we decided to do a boat tour on Lake Nicaragua of the small isletas that dot the lake. The tour was beautiful. We saw monkeys and stopped a two islands, one for a small snack and the other to look at the old fortress that was used to ward off pirates.

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Our tour guide, Alberto, grew up on one of the islands with his grandparents and told us that he would take a row boat to school every day. There is a definite contrast between the islands. Some are owned by small families that keep their fish fresh and alive by constructing nets that hang from trees into the water, and have simple hours. Others are owned by foreigners or very rich families - such as the family that owns Flor de Cana the national rum company. That island even possess its own helicopter pad. You can buy your own island for $300,000 USD, which many of the loca families are doing because they have never seen that kind of money in their entire lives.

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The following day I proceeded to relax, read and gorge myself on delicious food. Lunch was fish tacos that were so lightly breaded they tasted like they were tempura battered or something, with fresh cabbage and tomato on top. But dinner was the real winner, I went out with the three girl from my hostel and we went to this adorable restaurant called the Garden Cafe. It is the combination of a coffee shop, library, souvenir shop and restaurant all rolled into one. Books line the walls as you walk in, and it opens up into a beautiful courtyard with an overgrown garden in the middle. I also my first Nicarguan craft beer that was quite tasty, and a huge salad. Leafy greens have been in short supply during my travels thus far, so this was a real treat.

This morning I had a few hours to spend before my check out and journey to Managua. I went up into the bell tower of La Merced church, and got a magnificent view of the entire city. Just beautiful. After I wandered down to El Museo del Chocolate and tried their chocolate tea, which I am still undecided about.

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After a bus and a taxi ride later I am now back in Managua ready to start training for Global Student Embassy, and excited for the next few months!

Posted by rae.lloydlever 18:50 Archived in Nicaragua

Nicaragua

Playa Gigante

25 °C

Another adventure has begun! I am about to start working in Nicaragua for the next four months working for a company called Global Student Embassy leading trips doing sustainable farming with students from the US. My trip started with two long travel days. Flying from California to Houston and finally to Managua. Flying into Managua was beautiful at night. All over the city there are colorful trees that light up the street and a central area where a rainbow of glowing trees illuminated the night. The following day I took a bus from the bustling Managua bus station to Rivas on my way to Playa Gigante. At every stop different people would make their way on and off of the bus in a calculated system that I could not figure out. Various people would jump on and try to sell empanadas, sweets, dried plantain chips, or beverages from a cooler at the front. At one point two men with their faces painted like clowns got on and conducted a comedy routine. The bus station at Rivas was crowded with people coming and going. Taxi drivers hollering at obvious gringos, like myself - with the stereotypical backpack sandwich, to take their taxi for what of course would be the best price. I ended up sharing a cheap taxi ride with a couple from Quebec down to Playa Gigante, as there is only one bus that you have to catch around 1:30pm. The road was dusty and bumpy and I couldn't imagine how a bus would make it, though it does every day.

Playa Gigante is paradise. Beautiful undeveloped beaches with cerulean blue waves crashing against the sand. There are hammocks galore and the produce truck comes around selling fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs for under $2 total. Lazy days filled with reading and swimming have been the perfect way to relax after two tiring days of non-stop travel.

The first night I had a delicious meal with family friends, Gwen and Brian, where we caught the sunset and enjoyed tostones con queso, which are fried plantains with cheese, plus a typical Nicaraguan meal with rice, beans and protein. We were up there just in time for sunset.

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One of the evenings at my hostel everyone in my dorm joined forces to make a big communal meal that was wonderful! We bought fresh fish from a local fisherman and cooked it over the fire, made a fresh salad after soaking our veggies in iodine, that consisted of radishes, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumbers. Of course rice and beans were present, we had a cooked vegetable mix, fried yucca - so good! - and boiled chayote which is similar tasting to zucchini. It was a great meal and fun to share with everyone. Later that night we all went out a listened to live music at a local bar, and I finally saw bioluminescence in the crashing waves at night. Beautiful.

My last full day in Playa Gigante I tried surfing for my first time! It was so much fun and I am definitely going to try again the next time I am at the coast. The waves were very small, great for learning and I stood up twice. I have been enjoying trying new things, meeting new people, and seeing new places. Excited for the next four months and what will come.

Next stop is to Granada for a few days before I begin training. All the best!

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 08:39 Archived in Nicaragua

Manuel Antonio

sunny 29 °C

Manuel Antonio is beautiful, very small overall and a bit touristy. The main town that is next to Manuel Antonio is called Quepos, which is still pretty tiny in itself. The main attraction is Manuel Antonio National Park. At the entrance there are tons of people advertising cold water, mangoes, and coconuts as well as their services as a guide to the park. Tourists meander in large packs staring in awe up into the treetops. It is pretty obvious when there is an animal that is visible because there is a hoard pointing and gawking at the tree tops. Throughout the park I saw: a scary/poisonous looking spider, white faced monkeys, sloths, iguanas, a turtle, a long green snake and the most tame raccoons I think I've ever seen. The raccoons rustled through any bag they could find in search of food, and were not deterred by sand, clapping or even being hit by inanimate objects.

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The park ended at two private beaches with beautiful warm water, white sand, and at least a few less tourists. Ended up spending all day hanging out on the beaches, moving from one beautiful place to the next. I was able to meet up with my friend Kellie, who is working in Costa Rica, and we joined in with the tourism by buying a coconut and hydrating on the beach.

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There are a number of adventure tourism activities that visitors can partake including: parasailing, surfing, whitewater rafting, canopy tours, horseback riding, jet ski tours, and even a banana boat tour. I think it would be kind of strange to be a Costa Rican and having so many tourists coming to your country but never really getting to know the true culture that is present. Everyone is incredibly nice that I have met, but I can't say that I can really identify an obvious culture from the places that I have visited. I am excited to have the chance to go to a few places that are a little more off the beaten path once I am on program for Broadreach.

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I am back in Alajuela (after a sweltering 4 hour bus ride) and all of the preparation starts tomorrow. Time to get into instructor mode and get excited for this next part of my journey!

Posted by rae.lloydlever 19:51 Archived in Costa Rica

La Fortuna

Hot springs, rafting and volcanoes

rain 27 °C

I decided to head to La Fortuna, which is about 3 hours by bus from Alajuela (the San Jose airport). Costa Rican time is definitely different from the states. My bus was scheduled to arrive at 9:10am and it didn't show up until closer to 10:00am. Traveling on the bus was not the most comfortable since the bus was packed and I had my 45L backpack sitting on my lap the whole time. All of the locals were very helpful and kind trying to help me out and letting me know where I needed to get off and how far away we were still. The drive was beautiful, it was cool driving through all of the smaller towns and just seeing so many smaller farms with big gardens and lots of cows wandering around the hillsides.

La Fortuna is pretty popular for their spas and hot springs, but they'll all fairly pricey. To save a little money, my first night in La Fortuna I went to this free hot springs with two awesome girls I met at my hostel. We took a taxi there around 6:30pm (which by the way is pretty much night time since we are around the equator), once the taxi driver dropped us off we had to walk down this random road and we were kinda confused at first but we finally saw some lights flickering in the distance. It was a really unique experience. There was an upper area that was hotter water, and mostly occupied by locals. We went down to the larger pool that was just below a short waterfall. If I ever went back to this place I would definitely go during the day. Luckily I had brought a headlamp but when we turned it off it was crazy how dark it got. There were so many sounds that you could hear and without light to see all of our other senses were even more attuned. It was pouring rain, the waterfall was rushing and all of the animals were making their own noises. It felt somewhat eerie at times but it was also really neat to be somewhat off the beaten path in an area that is so touristy.

The next day I did the touristy option and went whitewater rafting on the Balsa river. Woke up early in the morning to see if there was any availability and it ended up working out great! I was one of three women on the whole trip of about 20 people. To explain how much it rains here, when we went to pick up part of our group we got to this road where a good portion of it had been washed out and they had to get out of their car in order to meet us. Pretty crazy.

The river trip was great, though I was with a group of guys who decided to tell our guide that they wanted to go big. Which in turn meant that our guide then decided to take us through the biggest parts of the river. I swam once and some people swam as many as three times, but everyone ended up safe and sound. After the river trip we had a delicious lunch where we enjoyed true Costa Rican coffee made fresh in a unique coffee making contraption. That evening I did end up going to one of the hot spring resorts, Baldi, which was a mix between Disney Land, Vegas and a water park and in my opinion. There were slides, a sauna, swim up bars and all of the pools were lit with brightly colored lights. It was a pretty funny place, but I'm glad that I ended up going!

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I think my favorite day in La Fortuna was my last. I went hiking with two wonderful sisters from the Netherlands. We decided to hike this trail called Cerro Chato which leads up to a lagoon in the crater of an inactive volcano. Arenal is the active volcano that is close to La Fortuna, and is right next to Cerro Chato – apparently at least. Since it has been so rainy the Arenal has not been seen for more than three weeks and that day was no exception. We ended up running into a tour and one of the people in the group was one of the guys that had been on the whitewater rafting trip the day before and we were able to tag along for free. It was pretty lucky that we did because the day would not have been nearly as wonderful if we had tried to do everything by ourselves. The trail ended up being very challenging and it became so steep in some parts that we were basically rock climbing, but with roots and dirt. It was great! :) Our guide, Eric, took us down to the lagoon and we were able to get into the water which was pretty neat. Eric told us lots of information about the flora and fauna that we were seeing, throughout the whole trip we saw a male white nosed coati, a few frogs and an ocelot! After hiking up and back down the volcano we walked over hanging bridges to reach a large waterfall and at the end of everything we were shuttled to the free hot springs that I had gone to the first night. I must say that I was a bit skeptical to go back, but it was MUCH better with a large group of people and many more lights. We were given mud masks and everyone relaxed in the bubbling water, soaking their tired hiking muscles. Eric even showed a few of us the small cave that is underneath the waterfall – it was really awesome. The total cost of our wonderful adventure only ended up being 5,000 colones (about $10) per person as opposed to the $60 sticker price.

I took a shuttle this morning from La Fortuna to Manuel Antonio and I am looking forward to seeing what will come next!

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The lagoon at the top of the Cerro Chato hike

Posted by rae.lloydlever 03:43 Archived in Costa Rica

Next stop: Costa Rica

sunny 26 °C

As a few of you may know, I am going to be heading out to Costa Rica this summer! I will be working for an awesome company called Broadreach as a Wilderness Instructor on a Field Biology program for middle schoolers and high schoolers. I am going to be there for just over a month, and I will be instructing two 12 day sessions. The trip is going to be awesome and I am really excited to explore a new area of the world! Some of the things that the students, myself and my co-instructor will be doing include: rappelling down a waterfall, carrying out a reforestation project and doing some dolphin research in the Drake Bay on the Osa Peninsula. Like I said, I'm pretty darn excited!

I will be traveling for about a week before my program starts and my rough plan is to go North of San Jose to La Fortuna and visit the Arenal Volcano for a few days, then head down South on the Pacific side to Manuel Antonio, then back to San Jose. I'll post more updates as my trip continues. At this point, I feel as prepared as I will be, all that is left to do is fly out tomorrow and see where this adventure takes me next.

If you want to learn more about the company I'm working for check out: http://www.gobroadreach.com/, there you can read trip updates once the program is under way as well! The picture below is from our staff training at the end of May in North Carolina!

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Posted by rae.lloydlever 13:25 Archived in USA

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