RSS Feed

Category Archives: Travel Diaries

A single mom and a child travel bravely in Central America.

The Four Day Trip

Since Julia and I seem to have a restless soul, we decided to take a vacation from a vacation. Hence, the idea of renting a car for fourdays came about—and to save money, we invited a friend, Nigel, from Australia. Here’s our new family (everyone looks great except me).


Well, for some odd reasons, nothing ever happens smoothly in Nica. There always seem to be a need for a bump of one kind or another before arriving to the planned destination. Even though I didbring a pair of extra contact lenses, bringing a second pair is—still not enough. Not with all the salt from the ocean, and hot humid weather—thosetwo things crumble those little circularthings up! I had a pair of very ugly, old glasses! Good heavens, I wasnot going to wear those things for the rest of the trip! Off to Rivas,a small city on the way to Granada to buy “cooler” looking glasses.
Then we headed on to Granada to visit friends that we met in Tamarindo, CR. Anyhow, the problem with traveling is that there often to seems to be a lack of appropriate words to describe these places. Granada is a very beautiful old, colonial town with a lot of color. Ther
e’s a beautiful central park in the middle of the town–where you can eat a meal, buy souvenirs and the like. Unfortunately, there were also a lot of children asking for food. We were told not to give out food and it was explained that once you start handing out things (food including), you will suddenly be surrounded by more children. A pretty hard thing for two teachers to do–not share food.

We did visit one church—we were warmly welcomed and encouraged to visit the top of the church with a small donation. I’m still hitting myself on the head for not bringing the camera with me at this time…we walked up narrow stepsto the top where there were big, open circular windows where you could see a beautiful view of the city. Stunning! And to add more character to the view, it was raining!
There is a market that seems to be endless. It continues on and on and on. It was hard to stay with the group because there are so many things too look at while trying to keep one eye on your friend. Once you lose your friends, chances are slim that you’d have a heck of a hard time finding them. Thank heavens, Elyza wanted to stay at the apartment with her friend in the pool instead of coming with us. I would have had to tie a rope on her to not lose her.

The next day we all drove to Laguna de Apoyo. It’s a crater filled with water. Extremely beautiful—very humid, very green, verybad road. The lake is so fresh, clean and surprisingly warm. We stayed in a hostel that was pretty much in the middle of nowhere…and one of the rules of this hostel was: Children under the age of 14 must be with one sober adult! Hmmmm….that’s quite a rule! Here’s a photo of Julia taking Elyza for an early morning boat ride.

This was supposed to be the “art town” where amazing artworks. It was more like a city with a lot of people, cars and loud music. The art center was hard to find…it’s an interesting open air market (we also didn’t know that the market would be in a “castle-like” building without a roof) butwith same artwork after artwork. A bit disappointing. And, the frog thing, is that art?

We went to see Volcan de Masaya—wow! The sulfur is quite strong—almost intoxicating. But, there are no words to describe how amazing it is to be so close to a live volcano. There are deep craters, and thick smoke coming out of it.

I wish we had a chance to stay in this city longer. This is the most historical part
of Nicaragua—this is where the civil war between the Sandinistas and Somozas took place. You can see bullet holes in the walls—however, it’s also the most intellectual city where the University is located. There a lotof amazing murals on the wall (political, of course). It’s also the home of the famous poet: Ruben Dario.

Take a close look to see who the figure is crushing….
Poor communication is not uncommon in Nicaragua—the people at Alamo car rental neglected to tell us that we didn’t have to return the car until the very next day. We were under the impression that the car was to be returned by 5PM…so we spent only a few hours in Leon and drove back as quickly as we could for 5 hours…and the woman looks at us frazzled travelers like we were crazy for returning the car so early—god dang it—it didn’t need to be returned until the next day!
It’s the journey–not the destination right?

La Frontera

Good bye Costa Rica (land of very expensive things)…hello Nicaragua (land of very kind people, magical air and cheaper stuff).
My heart always beating really fast and stomach gets butterflies every time I cross the Tico/Nica border. There’s an incredible difference in the air the minute you cross the border. It’s quite calm and orderly in CR—no questions asked by immigrations—a quick glance at your passpor
t, no money asked and it’s indoors. Cross the border, all the noise begins, everyone wants to help you (it’s their way of earning a very small amount of money), you wait in very short lines that take a very long time to get to the window, and price is always different to get into the country. I find it quite humorous that on even after showing immigrations your passport, there are still guards a few feet away that ask to see your passport
—and then you hop over to the Nica border, where guards could very clearly see that CR guards had already seen your passport, and you show it to them as well! Our taxi friend, Je

sus, once again carries my heavy backpack and walks us all the way into the Nica sid

Immigrations on Nica side was not so nice this time. I could barely hear him through the plastic windows, and h
e would stare at me point blankly when I asked him to repeat the request. Even my friend, Jesus, a Nica, had trouble hearing him. It turned out he wanted the address of where I was staying in San Juan Del Sur—-ha, ha, ha, I almost fell on the floor laughing—there ain’t no address in Nicaragua or Costa Rica for that matter! So, I made one up! It worked!
Returning to San Juan Del Sur is something of magic. I really love this small, fishing, surf town. The dona’s family was so happy to see us again! And very sad that they didn’t have room for us for one night. We ha

d to stay in a really crappy hotel—walls were painted in very retro style, one large king sized bed (very hard, coulda slept on the floor instead) and just didn’t feel very clean—it helped just knowing that it was for one nigh
t only.
The next day, with our strong determination, Julia and I looked and looked for an apartment all day. We finally found one—second level—3 bedrooms—within meters from the beach. We’ll move in today at four. Once we move in, we’ll feel settled—and I’ll buy Elyza a

big box of Frosted Flakes (only in the summer) to keep her happy every morning! Here’s the vi
ew from our balcony.
Elyza is going to take surfing lessons every day! By the time she returns, she’ll probably be pro!

A New Camera Has Arrived….

and so has my mother! We met in Liberia, the capital of Guanacaste—a small city that I highly don’t recommend! It’s got all the U.S. restaurants such as Papa John’s, Cinnabon, McDonald’s and the like all right next to each other. It’s not even a beautiful city either. Much to Elyza’s delight, there were three swimming pools! I really don’t see the point of swimming pools when there are playas y aguas!

Check out this awesome sign that was posted in the hotel room! I love it!
We took our pretty sweet time leaving the hotel to catch a bus to beautiful Monte Verde to meet our friend Julia! To get to Monte Verde from Liberia, two buses are required. We got off the first stop, which really feels like it’s in the
middle of nowhere. There’s a small restaurant and gas station off the road. We hungry people decided to eat—and were told that the next bus would not arrive for another 2.5 hours! Yikes! There were a group of taxi drivers huddled near the bus stop. We decided to be posh for the thought of hanging around the bus stop for so long just didn’t seem appealing—we paid quite a bit of money to ride in the taxi. Then the taxi driver asked if we could stop by his house to pick up a family member so he wouldn’t have to drive back down alone. Turns out to be one of the best decision made and money well spent—it po
ured and poured rain on a very dirt road (and mighty steep too!) The driver explaine
d to us that buses have skidded off the road, have had to wait for hours for the rain to stop and take a lot longer to arrive to the top. You can see both the view and wet horse riders in front of the cab.
Once at the top, we met our dear friend Julia. We were all so tired! We went to bed so early!
Today, Elyza and I went on the most beautiful, ye
t adventurous horse ride today! We rode to the top of the mountains where we saw the most beautiful
scenery! Everything I’ve learned as a child from equestrian camp—poof, out the window—riding on a horse in Costa Rica requires no rules: riding in a straight line (not important), staying behind a rider with space in between (no matter), riding through mud (huh, what’s the difference?), heck we even got off our horse!
Once we reached what seemed to be the topmost part of the mountain, take a wild guess to guess what we did?

That’s all for now!

Nicaragua Bound!

**Note: For some reason, the internet connection is ever so slow at uploading videos–so no more videos until we go back to Costa Rica. I’ll be buying a small camera to post pictures instead**

Know what’s nice about going back to towns you have visited previously? You see your friends. And, when you see your friends, they help you get around. My friend, Jesus, the taxi driver (by the way, if you ever visit Tamarindo, ask for Jesus, a most honest driver and a friend, who will get you around) drove us to “la frontera” (the border). He brought his daughter and friend along for the ride. Jesus explained to me as we were driving the taxi that he was no longer a taxista because he wasn’t really legal in Costa Rica (you see, he’s from Nicaragua)–that every stop, I must say: “My friend is driving me to the border” otherwise, he’d get arrested. Driving with a friend is much better than riding the bus (it’s a 4 hour difference). Meet Jesus, daughter and friend as we are eating our lunch (Jesus is the guy with the hat).

Below, Elyza shares her IPOD with her new friend. It was quite cute, Elyza put the earphone in her ear and the friend would just sit there. Elyza had to show her how to look at the video to watch a movie. I think she was a bit confused. It was rather darling.
We get to La Frontera—it’s really quite amazing to see such a difference between one country to the next—Costa Rica tends to be calmer, quieter and has a little more order. Then crossing one line into Nicaragua, you enter a world of bawdiness, quickness—everyone wants to help you (think-paparazzi)–but this time was different, Jesus decided to carry my much too heavy backpack and Elyza little backpack for us in the undaunting heat on a very muddy road. Because, we were with Jesus, it meant, getting to the other side quicker and less paparazzi.
We took a cab (they wouldn’t let me take the bus) to San Juan Del Sur to Dona Lucila’s house. The town is really quaint, colorful and very calm. Dona Lucila has lots of grandchildren for Elyza to play with. You can find them playing futbol often—one of the mother who is holding a baby was teaching the baby to cheer everytime a goal was made (that’s the beginning of teaching a child to love the sport).
Elyza got to surf for two days already—now we have to drag her out of the ocean and tell her it’s time to go home. She is now able to paddle, turn around on tummy, and wait for the right waves. We’re all so impressed! I’ll post videos when we get back to CR.
Bad news: the ATM machine only lets you withdraw a little bit of money—then you’re locked out! So today, I have to go to Rivas (a bigger city) to a larger bank to withdraw a larger portion–which means, I have to carry a lot of cash! I’m not very happy about that–and the only place that takes credit cards are restaurants owned by Americans (of course!). In a few short hours, I’ll have cash and a camera! This post feels so boring without videos or photos!
We both took Spanish lesson yesterday. Elyza always gets nervous with any class taken for the first time—so she had big fat tears streaming down her face—and Amanda, her teacher was so sweet, she took Elyza to the ocean, get this: she got in the ocean fully dressed all for Elyza and even bought her a popsicle. Elyza soon fell in love with her (and you better, believe that Amanda will be getting a big tip from me!)

We’ve Arrived!

Whew—what a tiresome way to get to Tamarindo (taking a two day break before heading over to Nicaragua). First, we fly a freezing midnight flight (now they don’t give out blankets) to San Jose, CR, and then we managed to catch a bus that we boarded 45 minutes after getting off the flight. That was another 6 hour ordeal. We were beyond hot, tired (but not cranky) and just dying to jump into the beach. Plus, I had a very big backpack that’s not very comfortable to carry when hot. So, I will be tossing out books (weighs too much, contact solution (hoping that I won’t need the second one—I’m not sure if there are any in Nicaragua)—cross your fingers that it will help!

It was like returning to family here—everyone was so happy to see us—and surprised to see how tall Elyza has gotten.
Below–Elyza introduces herself and the beach:
The next day (today)–we spent the whole day at the beach. We found the same surfing instructor who worked with Elyza. Look at how much she’s improved already:

We’ll head over to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua tomorrow for two weeks. We’ll be staying with a “host family” and are so looking forward to our next adventures!
Adios por ahora! Pura Vida!

Tell Me Why We Should Come Home….

We went horse back riding! This was Elyza’s first time riding on a horse by herself. This was a pretty neat ride—we went through neighborhoods, to an off beaten path (again the view is just stunning), through a very small river—and a huge rainstorm started—and yet, we continued to ride on. There are dogs roaming on the streets everywhere—and they always bark at the horses as if it’s some kind of game. The horses ignored them which made our ride very peaceful.

Friends come to visit! And, that friend, Dena, was so much fun for Elyza!

We decided to go to Playa Conchal (means beach with shells–literally). We have to take the bus to Playa Conchal—it’s about a 25 minute ride away from Tamarindo. Then you walk through a small town, Brasilito, get to Playa Brasilito and then walk towards Playa Conchal—all about a 15 minute walk (Elyza has gotten so used to walking everywhere that she no longer complains!). Now, here’s where it gets really interesting, we, walkers, share the beach with cars. Playa Brasilito is also the road that leads to Playa Conchal. There doesn’t seem to be any rules or speed limits here in Costa Rica, and especially, on the road. There are a lot of ATV’s–and super young teenagers driving them like they racing for NASCAR. Oh goodness, it hardly makes the walk enjoyable. And, then you have to walk up a very narrow path, which means you have to be squeezed right alongside the cars. I’ve explained to my friends and tourists that YOU have to watch for cars, for they are not watching for YOU! Check out the narrow path.

This was Elyza first time snorkling. Unfortunately, there weren’t very many fish on the shallow end–and I’m not comfortable having Elyza swim in the deeper parts of the ocean just yet. She was very pleased to have seen four fish though. Look at what a natural she is!

And, then it rained! Not lightly, not gently, it poured! And, poured! We were told that the bus would come at 3PM. These buses come very infrequently, so just to make sure we wouldn’t miss that bus, I wanted to get to the busstop by 2:30. Weeellllll, 3PM comes and goes. 3:30 passes. 4PM also passes. Ahem, finally, the bus arrives at 4:15. It was still raining so hard so we had to stand up while waiting for the bus (the seats were wet). I find out that the bus we were on doesn’t drive directly back to Tamarindo—so we had to get off to take another bus. Luckily, we only had to wait a few minutes for the next bus. But, Costa Rica doesn’t have bus transfers, so I had to pay again! I used every last coins I had left! I simply wasn’t prepared for all this–no rain jacket, not a lot of cash (don’t like to carry too many and refuse to bring credit cards on the beach) and no snacks! Elyza was a great sport throughout all this!

Until next time, Pura Vida!

So much fun here!

Whew! It’s really so much fun here. I really enjoy the slow pace and the repetive lifestyle here—so unlike home where our life seems to be in such a rush, rush all the time—running from one place to another. Even though, we seemed to have created such a comfortable routine, there have been several adventures that have happened along the way. One day, we saw two people riding a horse on the beach–while carrying a surfboard! Check it out!

And, of course, just like anywhere else, things break. My teeny tiny pipe the connects the sink to the water pipe broke. I noticed one day that there seemed to be a large puddle of water under the sink. I thought that perhaps, I was being too messy. As I bent down to wipe up the puddle, I noticed that water was dripping from the pipe. I touched it, and crrrraaaaack, it broke! Just like that! I had to e-mail the cottage manager, for I have no access to phones,—thank heavens, she e-mailed right back saying that she would send someone over. My first thought was—when? Would that mean I’d have to hang out in the cottage all day just to let someone in? Luckily, someone did come quickly—but only to look at it. He shut off the water to my place (sink, shower, laundry, etc)–and said that he will be back later. I asked him what later meant. He didn’t know. I asked him if there was any way he could be more specific–he said, “Tomorrow between 7:30-8:30 in the morning.” He arrived at 7AM instead—no matter, now we have water–and can brush our teeth, take a shower, finish my laundry, etc. Look at the pipe below.

Here is a video of these adorable monkeys!

The supermarket here is very expensive–which I find rather annoying. I’ve learned to search elsewhere for fresh fruits and vegetables–and there’s a truck full of of them—but they only come once a week. So, I tried to stock up with them. In addition, someone told me to get fish from the fish shack where the seafood is extremely cheap and fresh. He told me it’d be about $3. We go to the fish shack–and I managed to ask for a fish as well as ask how much it was in Spanish–which he said was $3. I also ordered shrimp–but somehow my English slipped–and suddenly the whole thing was $12! I told my friend, Antonio, about it—so now, he has to go buy the fish for me to keep the price low! Here are two different videos:

And lastly for this posting, check out the beautiful sunset.

Hasta Luego!

%d bloggers like this: