pura vida

I realized that I A) don’t update often enough around here and B) Never said much about my trip to Nicaragua and Costa Rica. I’m here to remedy both of those situations. Two birds! I’m a notorious non-rememberer-to-take-picturer so all I have are the few uploads from my phone I remembered to send (oddly enough, my cell network worked better in Nicaragua, the western hemisphere’s second poorest country, than in Costa Rica, the richest country in Central America). I’ve interspersed them here.

My then-roommate and I traveled for two and a half weeks flying in and out of San Jose. San Jose is a bustling, nondescript, dirty city and we quickly moved on to our next destination after spending a day trapped in the hostel hiding from torrential rains.

Our next stop, Puerto Viejo, proved to be much more interesting. With a decidedly Carribean culture and feel, Puerto Viejo looks like what I’d imagine Jamaica to be. It’s probably in the most dangerous area of Costa Rica as drug trafficking is a big problem, from what I hear. We experienced none of this but ran into a couple who were mugged at gunpoint while riding their bikes in broad daylight. After petting some baby sloths and monkeys, drinking coffee on a black sand beach and swinging in a hammock for many, many hours, we were off to our next destination: Arenal Volcano.

Let’s pause. June in Costa Rica is considered low season and not without good reason. There were times when it rained so hard, we were completely stranded. Nevertheless, it’s hot. In order not to be miserable, you need to make peace with being hot and wet… all the time. My personal slogan (which I intend to pitch to the Costa Rican tourism board one of these days) was Costa Rica: You Can’t Stay Dry! Which reminds me of the  almost convincing actual tourism slogan of Colombia: The Only Danger is Wanting to Stay!

Back to the trip. We arrived late in La Fortuna, the city closest to the hot volcano action, in the pouring rain, soaking wet from a rafting expedition earlier in the day. After sleeping in a tent because they had run out of beds, we skipped town thinking we’d return on the way back. We didn’t.

Next we moved on to Monteverde. Monteverde was beautiful and not unlike the Pacific Northwest in temperature and to some extent scenery.  We spent our first day crossing hanging bridges hung throughout the rain forest and finding monkeys who seemed a lot more pissed off than our delightful baby monkey encounter days before. Our second day was spent doing absolutely nothing. Well, not nothing, but pretty much the same thing that Unemployed Alexis does back in Portland: drink coffee, look at Facebook, read, sit, stare.

A 5am bus the following day took us up across the Nicaraguan border to the colonial city of Granada. An immensely welcome change from Costa Rica’s expensive tourist track, Nicaragua had culture, character and most importantly, things we could afford to do. We spent the most time here taking in the sights and trying not to have a heat stroke. Did I mention this was winter? I can’t even imagine what- no wait I can imagine it and I’m going to stop now. Let us not think of such things.

One of the best/worst days of the trip was our trip to Lake Apoyo. Before the unfortunate incident where I dared another American tourist that he couldn’t cross the entire lake via kayak and nearly killed him in the process, we really did have a nice afternoon bouncing around in the clear waters and swimming in an out of hot spots (the lake was actually a volcanic crater filled with rain water making it the cleanest lake in Nicaragua and creating fish that exist nowhere else on earth in addition to the aforementioned hot spots).

After recruiting a British girl on gap year to join us, we proceeded back into Costa Rica and on to the Pacific Beaches. Once we snapped out of sticker shock from the ridiculously high prices in this region (more expensive than the US), we enjoyed our final days on various beaches, the best of which was Playa Conchal, made entirely of small ground up shells.



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