A Travellerspoint blog

SAN SALVADOR, EL TUNCO, RUTA DE LAS FLORES

sunny 33 °C

After a long sweaty day crossing over three countries in one day, we got to the capital of El Salvador. They say San Salvador is one of the most dangerous among the cities of Central America. The crime rate is pretty high, it has plenty of political issues and the existence of bands such as Mala Salvatrucha is not helping the reputation of the country at all.

We wanted to bus it all the way to the coast of El Salvador, but in the end it got too late so we decided to spend the night in the city before heading towards El Tunco. We got there the next day: El Tunco is one of the prime spots for surfing. The waves here are really good and there are different surf spots to choose from: a beach break and two point breaks (one of them only for locals and professionals). We stayed in a really nice little hostel owned by Jose, a surf professional who set it up a few years ago; we really liked Jose (aka. Mini mouse) as he was a very humble and chilled guy who never bragged about his surfing skills as usually happens. We saw him surf one evening though, and bloody hell he was amazing. Big ups!

We met a lot of other really friendly people in the hostel: a couple from England, a girl from Sweden, some super nice funny guys from Argentina... and we had a good night out with them. A funny thing was that the surfers that hanged out in our hostel didn’t drink alcohol, and they took us out and just drank water themselves.

It was also going to be my birthday in two days. I was turning 30 and Henrik wanted me to have a special day; He ran around different places trying to organise something special for me, but this was a tinny little place with some small shops and a very laid back culture: everything takes time...and many things does not work at all.
Apparently some of the things that Henrik had planned didn’t work out, but in the end it all went good: I got to ride a horse by the beach, was surprised with strawberries in bed, and Henrik took me to a cool surprise dinner at a secret location, and I even got to blow the candles from a lemon cheese cake!

It was good surfing here; Henrik said that this was the best waves he had ridden. He managed to catch ride a wave from far out of the point the whole way to the beach, and got a 200 meter ride or so. My last day in El Tunco I was feeling much more comfortable with being out in the ocean and started to go for real but small waves. It was also really nice to sit down every afternoon and watch the sunset by one of the points and all the professional people catching crazy waves. We had a really amazing time out here.

After El Tunco, we head towards Guatemala, but we read about an area before the border called Ruta de las Flores. It was a group of very pretty small villages in a nice setting, so we thought it would be perfect to stay there for a bit before shooting towards Guate. We run into Richard and Becky (the English couple) there: they are such a nice couple, we liked them from the beginning. They were leaving the next day though but we watched movies together in that empty hostel and had breakfast together too.

We visited a set of waterfalls in the area nearby one of the villages and took a quick swim too; we also found a very expensive Spanish restaurant: I was tempted but we have always been looking on our budget, so this was not the right time to spoil it. The next day we went to another village and stayed in a sort of new village and went visiting Laguna Verde, which looks amazing in photos but it wasn’t as impressive in reality (kind of small). We had a very relaxing time in Ruta de las Flores and we were now off to Antigua, Guatemala.

Hanging out in the hostel

Hanging out in the hostel

Sunset surfing in Playa El Tunco

Sunset surfing in Playa El Tunco

Sunset in Playa El Tunco

Sunset in Playa El Tunco

Some guys were jumping this rock just outside the beach in El Tunco...it looked pretty scary with the rocks just next to were they landed

Some guys were jumping this rock just outside the beach in El Tunco...it looked pretty scary with the rocks just next to were they landed

Laura enjoying her birthday ride on the beach, we must have looked like real gringos

Laura enjoying her birthday ride on the beach, we must have looked like real gringos

Laura posing in the plaza

Laura posing in the plaza

Loads of houses in one of the Ruta de la flores villages were pimped up in this lovely way

Loads of houses in one of the Ruta de la flores villages were pimped up in this lovely way

Nationalistic El Salvadorian dog saluting the flag by taking a dump next to it...

Nationalistic El Salvadorian dog saluting the flag by taking a dump next to it...

The green lagun as it was called, was ok, but perhaps not worth the 1 hour steep walk, any way, at least we have to put one photo

The green lagun as it was called, was ok, but perhaps not worth the 1 hour steep walk, any way, at least we have to put one photo

We found this amazing Spanish restaurant, this was however as close we got to the food, prices was pretty steep

We found this amazing Spanish restaurant, this was however as close we got to the food, prices was pretty steep

Old nice church in one of the Ruta de la flores villages

Old nice church in one of the Ruta de la flores villages

Laura with green chicken bus in the background in one of the villages

Laura with green chicken bus in the background in one of the villages

Posted by hmontonen 19:43 Archived in El Salvador Comments (0)

LEÓN-Las Peñitas-JIQUILILLO

sunny 32 °C

After hot Granada we were off to León. We really liked León: it had a special vibe. Being more of a student city, it’s always been a bit more revolutionary than its neighboring ones.
Although slightly older and unorganized, compared to Granada, it was definitely more authentic and we never felt unsafe in town… We didn’t do much in León, besides wandering around the streets, exploring the market…We also met Hanna again here. It was actually her last days of her trip in Central America…
After 3 days in Granada we thought we could go down to the Pacific coast to Las Peñas and check out the waves. Las Peñas is a very remote and tiny place. The waves were huge though, so that made it very difficult to ride a wave. In fact, a guy who’d rented boards before us, had broken his nose as he got hit by the board!
The next day we rented an inflatable kayak and went out to a mangrove area: it was really cool, exploring it on our own, besides the fact that we were on an inflatable kayak in a water full of branches and things sticking out so we would have to watch out for the sharp stuff in the water!
We kayaked up to Isla Juan Venado, a protected area which is a nesting for sea turtles. It was very different from the place we stayed at in Costa Rica.
We tried surfing in Las Peñitas but the currents were quite strong and the waves fairly too big. To be honest, there weren’t the best conditions to surf. In fact, the guy who’s rented the board before us had had an accident and hit his nose with the board!
We left Peñitas as we have founded a place which sounded very appealing: a basic hostel by the pacific coast, north of Nicaragua, which was supposed an amazing place. It is called Rancho Esperanza. The good thing about it is that they offered voluntary positions to help the families who lived in the community nearby. We actually spoke to the manager from the hostel, an American guy, who said that they had a strong need of volunteers. It sounded perfect: a paradise by the coast, surfing possibilities and working with the community. However, when we got there we realized that there was as good as it sounded. First thing, he said he had a kids center: the volunteers worked only 2 hours a day, which sounded very little. But then we went visited the community and we realized that a lot of the kids who attended the center came from a humble family, but not a poor one. I had the impression that the owner of the hostel had set up different “volunteer” activities to keep the guests happy in the place and made them stay longer. He had started some good things which were good for the community but the area was definitely not in a desperate need of help as we expected.
Cathedral of León

Cathedral of León

Gringo Henrico

Gringo Henrico

Little ones swiping the streets...

Little ones swiping the streets...

Niños en las calles de León

Niños en las calles de León

Niños jugando en las calles de León

Niños jugando en las calles de León

Little cat who lived in a hostel in Granada

Little cat who lived in a hostel in Granada

Skateboard in León

Skateboard in León

Making bracelets at the square of León

Making bracelets at the square of León

Chill out time. Nicaragua

Chill out time. Nicaragua

Kayaking at Las Peñitas

Kayaking at Las Peñitas

Great beach Las Peñitas!

Great beach Las Peñitas!

Mangrove swamp at Las Peñitas

Mangrove swamp at Las Peñitas

Splendid sunsets at Jiquilillo

Splendid sunsets at Jiquilillo

Relaxing in Jiquilillo

Relaxing in Jiquilillo

Besos in the sunset

Besos in the sunset

Posted by hmontonen 09:32 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Nicaragua: San Juan del sur, Isla Ometepe, Granada

sunny 30 °C

San Juan del Sur felt very touristy and a bit pricier than I expected. However, it’s known to have the best surf spots in Nicaragua and that is mainly why we decided to go there.
But the truth is that San Juan has its own charm. In spite of the increasing of expats and gringos, it still feels very authentic: its market, local food… We stayed in a local hostel: cheaper than the other backpacker options, and very nice staff. We went surfing three times to Playa Remanso. The first day we met an English guy named Jonny and Hanna, a very friendly and cute Norwegian girl who was fluent in Argentinean Spanish. It was almost impossible to grasp a foreign accent. She’d lived in Murcia for one year when she was very young and a year in Argentina. It was very nice to meet them both. We were all pretty much at same level of surfing; well, Henrik and Jonny could surf a bit better. But still we could take the piss out of each other and not have to deal with the surfer attitude that’s very common in these places.
I cannot stress how awesome the surfing was, at least for beginners. Playa Remanso has extremely consistent small waves that breaks perfectly. It is very easy to paddle out as the water stays quite still and the waves are perfectly formed and that makes it easier to catch. We all improved so much every day. Henrik and Johnny started to catch quite a lot of good waves. I felt like I learned a lot too: finally I left the white water waves behind. Catching unbroken waves was the next step and it worked (sometimes).

The second night we took our friends for dinner to the place we’d been the night before: it was a very good deal: 60 colones (3 dollars) for a full meal including a fresh juice. Everyone liked not only the good food, but that we had managed to eat under 100 colones. But we are really on a budget and we have learnt to eat local and half the price of the gringo places… Actually it was so good value that we ended up eating here every dinner. There was this quite cool bar that we went out to in the evenings, completing a perfect day of surfing, nice dinner and some drinks to round it up.

After 3 days surfing, eating and enjoying the sunsets, we were ready to shoot of to Isla Ometepe: an island that stands in the middle of Lake Nicaragua and that is land of two volcanoes. We said to meet with Hanna and Vanessa, a Spanish girl who was staying at the same hostel as Hanna’s, and who we’ve met the night before living in a pub, and leave for the island together.

Getting to Isla Ometepe was supposed to be reasonably easy and should not have taken too long. But the problem was that we were trying to go to a specific hostel in the island and the bus service around the island is not as frequent as we though. At first, we decided to stop by one of the gringo hostels: we were all sweaty, it was pretty hot... The hostel turned up to be fully booked so we said to go to another hostel which was supposed to be really closed; however someone from the first hostel said that it was more than 5km to get there. We were lucky and hitched a ride just when we went out to the road but we never said where we were heading to; we assumed we would see the hostel sign by the main road. After almost 10 minutes drive we were starting to think that we might have past…and we had. It was another 2 hours nearly until we had made it to the hostel…or ranch I suppose it should be called.

Since Hannah was in a bit of hurry, we decided to do the volcano trek the next morning even though we had had a long day of travelling. After a 6 am breakfast we were off climbing. Joining us was a nice chilled Australian couple. The trek was actually pretty hard as it was just constantly going upwards. Vanessa, the Spanish girl, was breathing pretty heavy from the start and after 45 min of huffing and puffing she gave up and walked back. Hannah got pretty exhausted too and was close to turning around, but we managed to convince her to continue. The hike was nothing really spectacular, but we did see loads of howler monkeys on the way and we passed through some pretty cool foggy forest. We stopped for a bit at the crater, but it was way too cold to take a dip. Unfortunately there is no real viewpoint from the top which is quite bad, but close to the bottom we stopped at a point where we could see the other volcano perfectly.

The place we were staying in was suppose to be all hippy and stuff. However we had felt like they were really just money focused. For example the bread baking courses and volunteer work was just a joke to make money. You had to pay like 15 dollars, make bread for them which they will sell to guests…you did not even get a bread for it. What really tipped things over was that they only gave the guides less than half the money we paid them. In the end they didn’t do more than give a call to a local guide…and for this they took half the money. We tried to mention it to them, but the guide we had had begged us not to say anything as they would never call him again….so sad to see how a place that is suppose to help the community is taking advantage of the locals in this way.

Hannah and Vanessa left the island, but Laura and I stayed on for another day. We had a pretty chilled day, renting bikes and exploring the island a bit. Isla Ometepe is pretty nice, but it’s definitely not living its fame.

After Isla Ometepe we moved to the colonial city of Granada. After staying in dumps for the last 3 weeks we decided to stay in a bit of luxury hostel (a gringo hostel…but luxurious for us I mean), the place had free computers, coffee all day long, and even a swimming pool. Granada is a really pretty colonial city, but it’s a bit weird city…its like it does not have a real soul to it. The center is quite luxuries and not many Nicaraguans actually live there, giving the town a bit fake feeling. We were really surprised how much poverty there was…street kids begging and selling stuff everywhere. Due to the huge class differences it did not feel very safe either.

Still we had an pretty good time. We rented bikes and cycled along the seaside and got to see some of the 300plus islands just outside of Granada. Unfortunately we were told that it was dangerous to cycle very far, due to robberies, so we could only see bits of the archipelago. A weird thing too was the attention that everyone gave to Laura…everyone that we passed, including 10 year old kids, whistled at her. Once I turned around and screamed “oh well thank you” making them feel like they referred to me instead of Laura, pretty funny way to deal with it.
We managed to catch up with Hannah before she moved on again. One of the nights we went out a bit. Drinks were so cheap in Granada, found this place that had ok mojitos for around 0.50 Euro (50 Euro cent). That’s the cheapest drink I have ever had in my life.

Granada was crazy hot, so we decided to take a short one night side trip up to a volcano lake. The place was beautiful and it was just so relaxing. There were almost no people and there was nothing to do but to chill and go kayaking on the lake. This would seriously the perfect place for some sort of health resort or rehab place. I felt particularly motivated and even went running along the lake. We left feeling fit like ninjas and ready to move on further north to the city of Leon.

Henrik catching a nice wave near San Juan del Sur....up he goes

Henrik catching a nice wave near San Juan del Sur....up he goes

...and off Henrik goes....

...and off Henrik goes....

...riding it until it breaks...

...riding it until it breaks...

Henrik catching a nice left hander...thanks to Jonny finally we had some good surfphotos

Henrik catching a nice left hander...thanks to Jonny finally we had some good surfphotos

Henrik surfing righthander near San Juan del sur

Henrik surfing righthander near San Juan del sur

Unfortunately this was the best pic I got of Jonny boy...he did catch a lot better waves off camera...go Jonny go, go

Unfortunately this was the best pic I got of Jonny boy...he did catch a lot better waves off camera...go Jonny go, go

After surf beers with some people that we met in San Juan del sur

After surf beers with some people that we met in San Juan del sur

Happy times in San Juan del Sur, me, Laura, Jonny and some other guy hanging out in the bar

Happy times in San Juan del Sur, me, Laura, Jonny and some other guy hanging out in the bar

Picture does not do the view of Isla Omepete justies..the island is two big volcanos that formed a bit of land in between them...amazing

Picture does not do the view of Isla Omepete justies..the island is two big volcanos that formed a bit of land in between them...amazing

Boat quality and safety on the lake to Isla Omepete was minimal...luckily there was not much waves when we were there

Boat quality and safety on the lake to Isla Omepete was minimal...luckily there was not much waves when we were there

This guy just jumped from the ferry just as we were arriving to Isla Ompete and swam out to a boy to connect a chain...crazy man

This guy just jumped from the ferry just as we were arriving to Isla Ompete and swam out to a boy to connect a chain...crazy man

Laura posing in front of some cool forest covered in fog on the way up the volcano

Laura posing in front of some cool forest covered in fog on the way up the volcano

Exhausted and covered in mudd after a solid 4 hours climb to the top of the volcano

Exhausted and covered in mudd after a solid 4 hours climb to the top of the volcano

The group posing up in front of the lake in the crater on top of the volcano

The group posing up in front of the lake in the crater on top of the volcano

Nice view of the other volcano taken from the volcano we did climb

Nice view of the other volcano taken from the volcano we did climb

View of the volcano we did not climb

View of the volcano we did not climb

Hannah insisted on not using flash, but sorry to say that this one with flash was the best to show both us and the volcano in the background

Hannah insisted on not using flash, but sorry to say that this one with flash was the best to show both us and the volcano in the background

Cycling around Isla Omepete...volcano view is guaranteed pretty much whereever you are

Cycling around Isla Omepete...volcano view is guaranteed pretty much whereever you are

We went to see a local football game on Isla Omepete...the game got on hold when a cow entered the field

We went to see a local football game on Isla Omepete...the game got on hold when a cow entered the field

The main plaza Granada

The main plaza Granada

Henrik posing in front of some type of castle in Granada city

Henrik posing in front of some type of castle in Granada city

Laura making some new friend at the market...so many street children in Granada...scary

Laura making some new friend at the market...so many street children in Granada...scary

Window into the meat section of the market in Granada

Window into the meat section of the market in Granada

Henrik thought he could fool people into thinking he´s a local by bying some local drink in a plastic bag...but the gringo face still gave him away

Henrik thought he could fool people into thinking he´s a local by bying some local drink in a plastic bag...but the gringo face still gave him away

Henrik biked the whole way out on the pier to get a better look at the archipelago...until someone told us we werent allowed there

Henrik biked the whole way out on the pier to get a better look at the archipelago...until someone told us we werent allowed there

Laura doing some hippy bracelets in the archipelago outside Granada

Laura doing some hippy bracelets in the archipelago outside Granada

Henrik walking out on a small pier in the archipelago outside Granada

Henrik walking out on a small pier in the archipelago outside Granada

Henrik kayaking in Volcano lake Laguna Apoya

Henrik kayaking in Volcano lake Laguna Apoya

Nothing to do but chill at Laguna Apoya

Nothing to do but chill at Laguna Apoya

Posted by hmontonen 08:38 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Volunteering with sea turtles, Playa Buena Vista, Costa Rica

sunny 30 °C

After New Year we were now focusing on finding a way to get to Samara to see the turtle volunteer project. We weren´t 100% sure still if we would do it as there were some doubts about the cost and also what other activities we could do there. We waited a day to travel to avoid the hordes of people travelling after New Year. However, on the 2nd it was still super chaotic. We actually only wanted to travel 30-40 km up the coast, but the roads are so bad that you have to take a 12 hour trip around taking 5 buses, a taxi, and a ferry ride. In the end the trip took so long that we stopped for a night in Nicoya, which must probably the only place in Costa Rica without tourist.

The next day we called the director for the project and we managed to clarify some things that we were a bit worried about, actually we even managed to negotiate down the fees. This was all we needed to be certain about going there. After a bus ride to Samara, we then took a taxi to Playa Buena Vista. Or actually there was a small river that we had to wade across to get to the actual beach. It was really an amazing place, completely deserted as far as the eye could see. A real paradise. Actually we learnt later that Mel Gibson has a house on the next beach.

We were told that we would be picked up by the river by the volunteer coordinator. However after waiting for an hour we decided to try to find the center by ourselves. After 10 minutes walking on the beach we finally found the place. It looked more or less like a big tree house, basic, but still pretty cool. Unfortunately we didn’t get a very nice greeting. Instead of apologizing for not meeting us, the coordinator, Roy, was upset with us for some strange reason as apparently he has a policy of not going to meet volunteers after 3pm. Really weird guy, but we decided to not let it affect us. A bit later he did come and apologies in a sort of way.

Otherwise the place was really cool. We both loved that it was pretty rustic, simple wooden construction on a wilderness beach without electricity and sometimes without any showers even. Right next to the house was the turtle hatchery, where the eggs are buried. Basically there were two main work tasks regarding turtles, first was to patrol the beach for turtles laying eggs, dig them up and bury them in the hatchery. The second task was to constantly monitor the hatchery, and whenever the turtles started to hatch, we would weight them, measure them, then and then finally realize the tiny babies on the beach, so that they could crawl into the sea by themselves.

Actually the cool thing about working here compared to working with other animals, is that you get to see the result of your work directly. Even the first night we got to see babies hatching. A few would stick their heads up and after a while more, and more, and more, until there would be nearly a 100 tiny turtle babies crawling around. We then took them down to the beach, and realized them at the same spot as the mother had originally laid these eggs. Some would have trouble getting down, as waves would push them up sometimes, but after a while all the tiny babies have made it to the “safety” of the sea. Though we ensure that the eggs or the babies are not eaten by any animal or taken by poachers, only one out of 500 survives until fully grown.

The only negative thing in the center was Roy the coordinator. He was just getting worse, he would have these mood swings and just get upset for anything. You would never know what he would tell you off about. A lot of issues would also be around food. We always got very little and very basic food and they would be so tight with everything, yet we are paying 22 dollars per day. We would ask logic things like can I have another cup of coffee or some more food or some spice with the food, and we would be told no very angrily. To make the thing even worse the Ticas working in the center, would eat more and better than us, like eating meat, when we had rice and beans. Roy would even invite friends to have lunch or coffee while we weren´t even getting enough. Because we worked pretty physical and also surfed most days, we were constantly very hungry. Felt like we were on that survivor show (Robinsson in Swedish). Actually we lost loads of weight; I was down to 67 kilos, which is what I weight when I was 20 years old.

Everyone else was very nice though. When we came there were only 5 people. However, in a few days we were 15 people and at one point we were actually 23 volunteers working there. One guy even had to sleep on the floor for a few nights. Having new people coming was great as it meant that the atmosphere changed and it was always people around. However, with so many people it was difficult to get to know the other people really well, even though we spent 24 hours together. There were people from all over the world, but the two main groups were Germans and funnily enough Swedish. We were 5 Swedish people for a while. I have not spoken so much Swedish in years, which was pretty weird being in Costa Rica and all.

There were too many people to mention all by names, but we got closer to a few people like Barbara who this was crazy little Austrian girl, so funny and a super sweet French girl named Cloe. There were also three fun loving Brazilian girls, four nice Swedish girls, a Spanish guy, and loads of Germans. On our spare time, which was loads of time, we would play volleyball, go exploring and surfing. In the evenings, we would sit around the camp fire, grilling marshmallows, making Smers (cookies, chocolate, and marshmallows sandwiched together).
Though in general the evenings were very short, as people started to go to bed from 19pm and by 21pm no one would be up. This was because we had to monitor the hatchery 24 hours a day, meaning that you would have to get up for 2 hours during the night to monitor the turtles. Even though we had to do this every night, I never got used to this weird sleeping pattern, suppose its like having a kid. Unless you had a nest hatching in the night, the night shift meant sitting like a zombie, checking all the nests for hatching every 20 minutes. Afterwards you would try to go to bed for a few hours, then be woken up at 6am.

Actually I didn´t get any hatching during my shifts until one of the last nights. Though I helped out during some hatchings. Still it was so nice in the end to finally sit down and weight and measure the little ones. They would put up quite a struggle when being put into the scale. Very strong for weighing 15 grams and being 4 cm long.
Just a few days before we left, the main thing that we came for finally happened. One evening just before we were going to bed, the search team came running back, screaming that there were a big turtle laying eggs. We all dropped whatever we were doing and ran on the beach. It turned out that we were very lucky as it was a green turtle laying egg, which is the second biggest type. This big mamma had a shell that was 85 cm long and it probably weighted 300 kilos. We waited for her to finish covering the eggs for two hours. In the end we were only a few people waiting, but the wait was worth it, when we got to see the gigantic turtle crawl out to sea. This was the last thing we felt like we missed to complete the turtle experience. It had been a great two weeks at the turtle center, but we felt that we have now seen and done it all, and it was time to move on again.

Playa Buena vista

Playa Buena vista

Lonely log on the beach

Lonely log on the beach

The chillout area

The chillout area

Cute puppy popping by

Cute puppy popping by

Laura working hard on a hole

Laura working hard on a hole

Can you dig it...hoping to find some alive turtles when excavating a hatched nest

Can you dig it...hoping to find some alive turtles when excavating a hatched nest

Can you dig it...hoping to find some alive turtles when excavating a hatched nest

Can you dig it...hoping to find some alive turtles when excavating a hatched nest

Turtles making it up to surfice after hatching 50 cm deep in the sand

Turtles making it up to surfice after hatching 50 cm deep in the sand

and more turtles coming up...

and more turtles coming up...

...and even more turtles coming up...sometimes up to a 100 turtles could be crawling around in one cage

...and even more turtles coming up...sometimes up to a 100 turtles could be crawling around in one cage

Little turtles going to the sea

Little turtles going to the sea

Baby turtle posing up for a photo

Baby turtle posing up for a photo

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165106_10150373156450212_808910211_16948294_6095337_n

Hiding behind the hatchery

Hiding behind the hatchery

Sunset Playa Buena Vista

Sunset Playa Buena Vista

Hanging out at the dinner table

Hanging out at the dinner table

The turtle crew hanging out by the campfire

The turtle crew hanging out by the campfire

Bunkbed city...18 in one room

Bunkbed city...18 in one room

Laura surfing baby waves

Laura surfing baby waves

The next beach where Mel Gibson has a house....its not the one in the picture

The next beach where Mel Gibson has a house....its not the one in the picture

Henrik surfing

Henrik surfing

To surf more or not to surf more thats the question on Henrik´s mind

To surf more or not to surf more thats the question on Henrik´s mind

The turtle crew Jan 2011 posing up for a school photo

The turtle crew Jan 2011 posing up for a school photo

The daily vollyball match

The daily vollyball match

Always great to find alive baby turtles when digging up the eggs and unborn babies

Always great to find alive baby turtles when digging up the eggs and unborn babies

Henrik and Cloe mudfighting in the river

Henrik and Cloe mudfighting in the river

Big momma green turtle laying eggs...we flash was not allowed hence the redness

Big momma green turtle laying eggs...we flash was not allowed hence the redness

Baby turtles being released on the beach

Baby turtles being released on the beach

Turtles on their way to freedom...they only have to pass Laura

Turtles on their way to freedom...they only have to pass Laura

Small little ones rushing to the water

Small little ones rushing to the water

Baby turtle sprinting to the sea

Baby turtle sprinting to the sea

Pretty strong for a 15 gram baby

Pretty strong for a 15 gram baby

Jules Vernes starting his trip

Jules Vernes starting his trip

Small little turtle

Small little turtle

Posted by hmontonen 20:53 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Cauita, San Jose and New Year´s Eve in Montezuma Costa Rica

sunny 30 °C

The return trip from Bocas Islands to the mainland was luckily as dry as the trip out. However, after that the boat trip the remaining of the day was pretty awful. We ran into a Catalan man when we got off the boat who told us loads of BS about there being any bus etc to the boarder, so we went along first to share a taxi with him (obviously the taxi guys said the same). Normally we never do this, but it all went so quick and it was raining too. Still after a while we figured that this was all complete BS and asked to be driven back and voila, there were loads of cheap local transport. Ok that taxi drivers do this as they need to make money, but hate when gringos talk about things that they don’t have any idea about.

After that we came to the boarder which was a complete mess. There was no logic in how to cross the border and loads of people cueing in different lines. You had to get a stamp there, pay here etc. Also very unlucky as the guy in front of us was getting passports from a whole buss stamped. After that we had to walk over a bridge that looked like something from a Vietnam war movie. Pretty cool actually, but we were too wet, too tired and too annoyed to take any pictures of it. After getting to the other side, there was even more chaos. We had to wait an hour only to be told that we have to have an journey out from Costa Rica to be allowed in. However, you cannot buy bus tickets online, so unless you had a flight ticket you were basically forced to buy a completely useless ticket back over the same boarder we were crossing for 12 dollars each. A complete robbery I say.

We were so annoyed and tired that we decided to break off the journey and stay a night in a small Caribbean village called Cauita. The place was actually pretty nice, but we got a chock from the prices. The supermarket in the center charged 4 dollars for a packet of milk or 2 dollars for a can of crushed tomato, for example. That’s like double the prices of Norway. Could this be the most expensive shop in the world? We ended up eating our favorite cheapy dish, spaghetti with garlic and onion. Yummy!

The next day we went for a walk in a national park that was just next to the village. It was actually really cool. We saw loads of monkeys and sloths. The trail was also really nice, mixing between walking through jungle and sometimes walking next to the beach with palm trees. We decided to take a bus in the evening to San Juan to break down the journey to the Pacific side of Costa Rica. For some reason there are no night buses which is pretty annoying as a coast to coast trip is 10 hours which would be perfect for a night trip. So in the end we had to stay a night in a hostel in San Juan. We decided in the morning to take it a bit easy and actually go explore this capital a bit, though even the staff in the hostel said that there are really nothing to see. A few hours walking around and we could conclude that they were right. We were amazed how American the culture was there, they had way more American fast food chains than we do in Europe, Taco Bell, Wendy’s etc. A sad thing is that even the poor Ticas (Costa Ricans) save up money all week so that they can go to eat at Mc Donald’s on Saturday night.

We were going back and forth with things to do as my leg was still not well and I could not swim. After some thinking we decided to go to the volcano area in the center of Costa Rica. However, when we came to the station we spoke to a lady in the buss cue and she told us that the place was not very nice, its cold and raining, and that we won’t see anything of the volcano as it is not active at the moment and there would not be clear views anyway. When she told us that she only went there because she had to, we were deterred enough and decided to make a change of plans. A taxi later to another bus station and we were on a bus going south to the Pacific coast. In the end we had not had much sun so we were really looking forward to some sunshine.

We decided to go to the slightly less touristy part of the coast, to a place called Montezuma. The only reason why there´s a little bit less tourist there is because it’s a bit of a pain to get there, especially since we had started travelled so late and there were no public transports. We had to take a taxi from the bus stop, then a ferry across a bay, after that a taxi again to a village where we had to stay over. We had run into two Dutch girls, one of the possibly being the worst person we had met during the trip. We really were chocked how rude this girl was to us and even more to the Costa Rican´s. Think her friend was really embarrassed of her too. After this we had to take an local bus, then change to one more to finally arrive in Montezuma.

It was actually quite a funky little place. Pretty busy too as it was leading up to New Years. After taking in a crappy cheap hostel right on the beach, we went exploring the area. We started to talking about how cool it would be to volunteer in a place that is actually nice, like this. By chance we saw some info about volunteering and found out that there were actually quite a few possibilities. One of them was working with sea turtles, something that neither of us had thought about before. Still we wanted to go to see them so why not volunteer for a while. It turned out however that there were not many turtles coming to Montezuma this time of the year, but that they had another center further north close to Samara, so the turtles would have to wait.

I still could not swim so we were trying to come up with other activities. We found a cool café that had various activities for free every day, one day we went salsa dancing, and another day Laura did some sort of stretch yoga. One day we rented bikes and cycled out to the tip of the peninsula. It was a really nice bike ride along some deserted beaches and small villages until we reached the nature reserve Absolute Cabot which was the first reserve, founded by a Swede who got killed protecting the nature. After a few days my wound was good enough to swim and we went visiting a set of amazing waterfalls. I am always very skeptical to waterfalls, as they are almost always a disappointment. However, this place was amazing. There were natural swimming pool that you could swim around in and you could jump from the cliffs down, the highest being a ten meter cliff. We saw loads of locals jumping there, but I decided against it after a guy told me that his friend had died there. Actually we saw a guy being cut up pretty badly when he tried to walk out on a tree branch that was hanging over one of the pools, though he was pretty drunk and stoned this guy.

We weren´t really doing much in the evenings as I could not drink yet. Though we went to check up on the action in town a bit, lots of hippies playing bongo drums, doing fire shows and that sort of stuff. We had gotten to know two Dutch girls in our hostel that we hanged out with a bit. On New Year’s we went with them in another village called Malpais, where I went surfing and the girls went bodyboarding. The waves were pretty messy, but at least I got one good wave. In the evening we went out for a meal with the Dutch girls. We decided to treat ourselves, but like on Christmas day, we were let down by the expensive food. The local cheap places we go to are always much better, and least then you get will get enough food to be full. At about 22pm I decided that I deserved to have a beer, which turned into 4 beers. Ok I still had 2 days more of antibiotic, but 4 beers on New year’s evening is still pretty good. The girls had made loads of homemade piñacolada, but luckily none of them were very big drinkers so 4 beers was ok. We were mainly hanging out on the main street in Montezuma which was packed with people dancing, drinking etc. The music was pretty bad, but we were still dancing around having a great time. It was not the best new years I have had, but it was pretty good, and it was great to wake up on New year’s day without a hangover.

Walking on the beach in the nature reserve near Cautia

Walking on the beach in the nature reserve near Cautia

Beach in nature reserve near Cauita

Beach in nature reserve near Cauita

Mangrove swamp near Cauita

Mangrove swamp near Cauita

You gotto love sloths...so slow and chilled...also love that they sort of smile at you always

You gotto love sloths...so slow and chilled...also love that they sort of smile at you always

Playa Montezuma taken from our hostel..pretty nice location

Playa Montezuma taken from our hostel..pretty nice location

Playa Montezuma

Playa Montezuma

Amazing tree that we came across when cycling...never seen anything like it

Amazing tree that we came across when cycling...never seen anything like it

Laura dipping her feet in one of the pools below one of the watefalls

Laura dipping her feet in one of the pools below one of the watefalls

The second waterfall...this was the only one you could not jump from, a guy fell down and died here

The second waterfall...this was the only one you could not jump from, a guy fell down and died here

Henrik hiding behind one of the waterfalls

Henrik hiding behind one of the waterfalls

Some guys got the village drunk to sit on a bike for a photo...luckily none of the bikers saw him

Some guys got the village drunk to sit on a bike for a photo...luckily none of the bikers saw him

Dinner New Year´s Eve

Dinner New Year´s Eve

Girl´s mixing Piña Colada

Girl´s mixing Piña Colada

First beer New Year´s Eve

First beer New Year´s Eve

Warming up with some drinks outside our hostel New Year´s Eve

Warming up with some drinks outside our hostel New Year´s Eve

Firedancers or what you call them...a few were drunk and accidentily lit themselves on fire...I say, don´t play with fire if you don´t want to get burned

Firedancers or what you call them...a few were drunk and accidentily lit themselves on fire...I say, don´t play with fire if you don´t want to get burned

Someone lighting some fire from the reggae stage

Someone lighting some fire from the reggae stage

Street party New Year´s Eve

Street party New Year´s Eve

The girls partying away on the beach on New Year´s Eve

The girls partying away on the beach on New Year´s Eve

Posted by hmontonen 18:13 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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