Boquete, Panama

Getting to Boquete from southeastern Costa Rica was a breeze. We had some trepidation crossing the border because the guy who owned the land and hostal on the Osa Peninsula said we could cross without an onward ticket, that all we had to do was get one of those American Airlines 24 hour holds and show it to immigration and they wouldn’t know the difference between that and a ticket. I was thinking, oh right, like the immigration guy doesn’t know that trick. Well, either he didn’t know or he didn’t care, because we breezed in with it. Or maybe he figured if we would try that, we would certainly be able to buy a refundable ticket and show him that before we cancelled it. The whole thing is stupid.  You can do the refundable ticket thing and get into the US, too.

Anyway, it’s only about three hours from the border to Boquete, via Panama’s second biggest city, David, which has a hundred and something thousand people. So, voila, we got there in the early evening.

It was nice to be back up at 1500 meters elevation where it’s not hot. At this point, we’re just cooling our jets and waiting till it’s time to go to the States. We figured to hang out there for at least a week, cool off and let our mosquito bites go away. Turned out, we had to stay over a week because my ATM card pin was stolen. That’s a major problem in Boquete. There are many foreigners and the thieves have that card they can put in the machine and recover the PIN from the previous user. It took about 10 days to get my new card from Citibank. As I said, though, it wasn’t a problem because we were planning to hang out there anyway.

Boquete is a nice place, for sure, but after Costa Rica, it was sort of not as good. It’s quite developed, so there isn’t much funkiness. and the wild areas aren’t as wild as some of Costa Rica. There are some wild parts of Panama, especially in the east as you near the Colombia border, but not so much around Boquete. And, the mountainous spine of Central America peters out there, East of Boquete, Panama is all low tropics.

We didn’t do much while we were there. The hostal was very comfortable and quiet, except for the river running behind it. Our place is the one on the left and our room faced the river on the second floor.IMG_5961

Here’s the vies the other way from ground level.

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Another creek runs through town.

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There are more indigenous people who still wear traditional clothes than in Costa Rica. In general, Panama has more of that than Costa Rica. You might think because the Canal Zone was governed for so long by America, and there is a lot of wealth from that to be shared among a couple of million Panamanians, that Panama would have lost that, but it hasn’t (yet).

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I just put this in because I like the picture and it reminds me how much especially Myung likes rembutans, which are a kind of lychee. I thought Thailand was the rembutan center of the universe, but I now think Costa Rica/Panama is, except here they call it mamoncillo.

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One of the nice things to do around Boquete is go to some hot springs about 45 minutes away by bus, plus about a 45 minute walk. It costs $2 each way on the bus and $2 more to get in because they are on private property. It’s basic, but well worth practically no money. there are two places where the spring has been dug out and surrounded by rocks.

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There are many hikes up and near the Baru Vocano. One popular one is the Trail of the Quetzales. Honestly, we’ve been in Central America for over a year and have not seen a quetzal. Oh well. We have many photos of yet another forest hike. Here are a couple. (Yes, that’s real bug in the top left.)

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Actually, that was kind of a hard walk. Steep up and down in many places for about 14 km. After coming down on the other side of the mountain, it was still three hours on two buses to get back to Boquete.

I don’t have much else to say about Boquete. It was mostly about hanging out. Hey, there were a couple of good supermarkets, a fine bakery, and some nice restaurants. The kitchen was good where we stayed. What else do you need?

As soon as my card came, we left for Panama City, where we are now. I don’t know if we will stay here till we return to Costa Rica to fly out on Sept 5. In any case, I’ll have another post before we go.

Be well, all of you.

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Costa Rica. Osa Peninsula

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This is the last Costa Rica post until we leave for the States. Maybe we’ll spend more than a couple of days in Costa Rica after visiting Panama and before we depart from San Jose, but I very much doubt there will be anything of interest to write about Costa Rica then. The next posts will be about Panama, where we are now.

The most pristine lowland tropical area of Costa Rica is the Osa Peninsula in the southwest. Much of it is parkland. There is a paved road down the east side about a quarter of the way around, and a poor dirt and gravel road for another quarter of the way. In the northern part, there is a road, but we were told it’s closed in the rainy season. In the northern part, there is a resorty area called Drake, after the explorer, but it’s only reachable by boat. In the southeast, the paved road goes to a proper town called Puerto Jimenez. That’s where we based ourselves and where, conveniently, there was an Alamo to drop off the car.

Puerto Jimenez has nothing to distinguish it. We have a few pictures of the shoreline.

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Here’s a beach several kilometers along that bad dirt road beyond the town.

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Myung got her toes wet. I mostly sat among the driftwood piles and stayed out of the rain.

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The beach bar scene isn’t exactly Cancun. This is it. Party down!

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Most tourists either just visit the town or go on an expensive tour to Corcovado National Park, which starts at the end of the bad road. We did probably the same thing, though without the guide, by heading for a “hostel” deep in the forest on private land abutting the park. One dirt road goes about 10km into the forest to a hamlet called Dos Brazos. Just past there is the home of a guy who bough A LOT of land, put a place to stay in it, and had locals build a trail system. I’ve been in several jungles, and this qualifies as out there. All kinds of animals, birds and insects are common. We still don’t have great pictures of the scarlet macaws, but we saw many. These are the same birds that were on the fence at Copan Ruins.

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One nesting spot is tricked out with a place to hang out and gaze at them up in the trees.

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A little farther up is a better view back toward the little gulf between there and the main part of Southern Costa Rica.

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So many big views and little views.

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When we went to Tortuguero, we felt very fortunate to see a couple of toucans from a distance and one flying overhead. Here, they are everywhere.

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These trails are narrow and overgrown in many places. This one goes around the right side of the tree. You often can’t see where youre going till you get there and, even still, we made a few wrong turns.

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Then it goes along the mountainside. Where’s Waldo?

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Here’s the look back. It goes on like that for many kilometers.

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And it’s hot and sloppy. That shirt was soaked with sweat within about 15 minutes and the rubber boots are muddy. The photographer is tough as nails.

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We spent three days and two nights there. The digs were more than adequate.

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Believe it or not, guys carry canisters of natural gas up, and there are 7 burners to cook on. A little solar panel provides enough electricity to power a few LED’s and charge a phone. There’s drinkable running water, showers and a sit down toilet.

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There’s room to hang out and/or eat.

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Sleeping is upstairs. That would be alright except my mosquito net didn’t stay closed very well. I must have a hundred bites, right now as I write.

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Then it was time to return the car and head for Panama. From Puerto Jimenez, you can take a ferry to Golfito. From there, it’s only a two hour bus ride to the border. Golfito’s pretty nice. Very many local and foreign tourist go there. It was a big port for the United Fruit Company when it ruled much of Central America. That’s all over with, of course, and the big houses are falling apart now. What’s left is a quiet town that reminds me of a biggish Tamales Bay (for those of you who know the San Francisco Bay Area).

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After that sweltering lowland scene, we headed straight for Boquete, Panama, in the Panamanian highlands. Ahhhh, it’s nice to be cool again. I’ll write again soon. Be well, all of you

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Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Each year, about 40,000 turtles, mostly greens, lay their eggs on the beaches around Tortuguero. I was told Tortuguero is the second largest newsting site in the world. We did what most people do. We went there one day, checked out the turtles making their nests and laying their eggs, spent the night, and left in the morning. Some people hang around. It’s a perfectly nice Caribbean tourist beach place, tranquil with hardly any hard partiers. You can go on nature tours by canoe or electric outboard, or just chill. We did the turtle thing and went back.

To get there, you get yourself to Cariari, then to La Pavona. That’s the end of the road. From there, it’s about a 10km (I’d guess. It’s hard to say on a boat) ride down the river to Tortuguero. No road goes to there and there are no cars there.

We kinda got the ecotour on the way there. The public boat wasn’t leaving for a couple of hours, so we cadged a ride with a group of about 20 year olds who were being taken there by their leader to do something eco with the turtles. They had a spotter who pointed out a lot of things we wouldn’t have seen ourselves and the public boat drivers wouldn’t bother to stop for.

Here’s where we started and what we looked like.

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This is what much of the river looks like.

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Here’s caiman. They are like crocodiles but not so aggressive or dangerous. Still, you probably don’t want to go swimming in this river. There are crocs, too.

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Here’s an iguana.

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Here’s the only good picture we have of a toucan.

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After about an hour, you get there.

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The town looks like this.

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This guy is selling breadfruit.

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The beach looks like this. Typical.

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IMG_5639The turtles start coming up around sundown and might come up any time during the night. Sometimes they don’t return to the sea till after morning light. Sometimes they change their minds, turn around, and head back.

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Mostly, they come up, do their thing which takes about an hour, and go back the way they came.

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They clear the area, and make a shallow pit to lay their eggs.

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Then they lay them, leaving one to four on top so the predators think they already got the prize.

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Then they dig a smaller deep hole. They hope this leads predators to think maybe that’s the real nest.

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Then they go back. They lay eggs every two or three years for up to 150 years. The turtle watching groups are more restricted than anywhere else I’ve been. You can only watch for several 5 minute periods. I remember in Malaysia in 1999, I was left on a beach and some teenagers took me to the sites and we watched all we wanted all night. That was a different place in a different time. Shoot, you could buy turtle eggs, and turtle meat was one of the most common and cheapest meats there. You can’t have either in Costa Rica. Poaching turtle will get you six years in the clink, and I was told tey enforce every minute of it. During our 5 minute periods, we watched nest making, eggs being laid, and one turtle heading back to the water. No photography is allowed because someone might use a flash, and that’s prohibited.

That’s the story, morning glory. We’re headed for the southern Pacific Coast with about five days left on our car rental. Talk to you later.

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Cartago, Paraiso, Volcan Irazu, Turrealba

We headed toward the other side of San Jose, toward the southeast, in our quest for a perfect mix of urbane and country that would be juuuust what we want. About 30 km southeast of San Jose, the next urban center is around Cartago. We went now because August 2 is the day for the patron saint of Costa Rica, La Negrita. Now, technically, La Negrita isn’t a saint. It’s a black statue of the Virgin Mary kept in the Basilica de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles. To make a long story short, miracles have been attributed to it, especially the curing of illnesses. Every year for about two weeks, starting Aug 2, at least tens of thousands of pilgrims come to pay homage and get relief from their maladies. Some crawl from as far away as San Jose, but most either walk in or crawl the last bit in front of the basilica. That black statue in the right foreground is a replica of the much smaller La Negrita inside.

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We weren’t going to brave that to look at La Negrita, so we just hung out around there and left. That seemed to be all we wanted to do it Cartago. It didn’t feel holy, not like Medjugorie, Bosnia, or someplace like that. The crowd was kinda cranky.

We based ourselves near Paraiso, about 10 km from Cartago. Our place was in the country, away from everything. It was relaxed, quiet and had a view. We spent a fair amount of time just sitting outside our door with our computers and the owners dogs.

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Here’s another typical view from a couple of kilometers away.
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Things to do around there included nice drives through the countryside, visiting an old church ruin…

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… and lounging in cheap public hotspring pools. Reports of my death are greatly exagerated; I was just sleeping.

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That all was down in the Orosi Valley below Paraiso. Above, Irazu Volcano rises up 3432 meters (over 11,000 feet). Luckily for us, it was clear enough to see, unlike Poas.

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We continued going in that direction, with the goal of reaching Tortuguero of the Caribbean Coast, and stopped above Turrealba to look at Costa Rica’s most notable archaeological site.

Guayabo is no Pelenque. No one knows yet much about the people who lived here. They do know it existed from about a thousand years ago and is the biggest find in Costa Rica. The walk through the forest to get there is better than the site itself.

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After going to the coast, we came back this way, and I’m writing this from Turrealba. We like this place, too. Again, there are no noteworthy photos. It’s just pleasant. We stayed at this hostel, overlooking the town.

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There’s a nice path down to the town. It goes through grassy scrub where thousands of butterflies were flitting around. A National Geographic photographer could have had a field day when we went down there this morning.

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That’s going to do it for now. As soon as I can, I’ll blog about Tortuguero. Be well, all of you.

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Alajuela, San Jose, Central Valley, Poas Volcano

IMG_5032Before coming to the mostly urbanized area around the capital, San Jose (Chepe to the ticos), no place seemed like anywhere we’d like to live. Our first stops in the central valley didn’t appeal to us in that respect, either. We’d read a post on the International Living magazine website by a couple who retired on the hillside above Grecia, so we headed for Grecia. It’s a city of a few tens of thousands. For us, it was too sleepy. The church to the left is just one of many churches in town. Towns like this everywhere, including America, have no shortage of churches.

Even sleepier was Sarchi, even though it’s hyped as a center for artisans. The day we were there was a Catholic saint’s day, and there was a little life in the park in front of the church. I think that was what passed as action for Sarchi.
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Oxcarts are emblematic of how ticos see their heritage. The park’s main attraction was this brightly painted, giant oxcart.

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The high energy in Grecia and Sarchi was too intense for us, so we went on closer to San Jose, to Heredia. It’s a university town, sort of. There IS a university there, and a little student ghetto around it, but mostly Heredia is run down and a little creepy after dark. The hotel was weird; I don’t even want to talk about it.

It’s obvious the city is trying to brighten itself up. The street corners have funny busts on the top of the posts, and the park has these.

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Saturday is market day.

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Usually, the closer you get to the capital of countries like this, the grottier it gets. We thought, well, if Heredia which was supposed to be a college town is like that, it’s going to get worse as we near San Jose. We were driving around the hills north of Heredia and got lost, eventually finding ourselves down in Alajuela, the second largest city in Costa Rica, population 50,000. We figured, oh man, this is where the airport is and it might be seedy and worse than Heredia. To our pleasant surprise, Alajuela is nice, even at night. It’s not run down, maybe because so many people spend a day or two there arriving or leaving Costa Rica from the airport. I’m thinking that brings loads of hot money into town, and that provided the prosperity. It’s not a tourist destination for any reason other than the airport. It’s just comfortable. Myung likes it a lot. I think we have added it to our list of possible places we could plunk down, at least for a while.

You’d think we’d have photos. We have five, and they don’t say much. Alajuela isn’t photogenic. Here’s what we have. Here’s a shot down a narrow street. I put it here because Alajuela has a lot of lorikeets, whereas most cities have 99% pigeons. Some of the lorikeets make their homes in the wall of that yellow building on the right.

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Here are the other three pics.

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About 25 km from Alajuela is a famous volcano, Volcan Poas. At this time of year, you are lucky to be able to see down through the clouds that usually blanket the peak. Here’s a picture from the pamphlet you get at the entrance.

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Here’s what we saw of the main crater for a few minutes when it wan’t totally obscured.

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The smaller crater with the lake at the top was more visible.

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There have been 39 eruptions from the main crater since 1829. The last time was in June, and the last major eruption was in 2009. The little one hasn’t blown in nearly 10,000 years.

While we were up there, we ran into some Korean people. The woman in the lower left lives in Quito. She is visiting the people on the right, who live in Heredia. Needless to say, we got the Ecuadoran’s email and phone number.

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Complete change of pace… We went to the capital. The total population of Costa Rica is 4.5 million, and the greater San Jose area, which would include Alajuela, has about half the population of the whole country. San Jose proper has about 350,000, so it doesn’t feel like some huge city. Even right downtown is fairly mellow.

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There’s a little Chinatown there.

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A lot of markets in the big cities are hectic and rude. I’ve gotten to the point where I try to avoid them. This one is chill, like the ticos. This mahi mahi is very chilled and fresh.

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The most interesting thing to happen the day we wandered into town was coming across this yellow building. It’s called the Yellow House, and is the foreign ministry.

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It looked like something was going on, which is probably rare in a country that hasn’t even had an army since 1948. Turns out, Ban Ky-Moon is here for a vacation from dealing with countries who definitely do have armies. We hung around till he came out.

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Then he came out. Myung was excited about seeing her famous compatriot. Security was a joke. No one seemed to even look at us with our day packs. hanging out across the street. I think we could have walked right up to him and shook his hand.

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That’s going to do it for now. Next up is the Cartago area, where we are till tomorrow. Be well, all of you.

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Costa Rica. Monteverde and Santa Elena

So, we left the Pacific coast and headed back into the Central Highlands. Here’s the view back toward the peninsula.

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The number one mountain destination for Costa Ricans (who call themselves ticos) is Monteverde. Almost all tourists who get off the beach go there. I can see why. The parks, Monteverde and Santa Elena, are in a cloud forest about 1400m (4600 ft) up. The constant mist creates a cool jungle. You can have a jungle experience without the heat or the mosquitoes. The town everyone stays at is Santa Elena. It is the classic tourist town, with dozens of sleeping options from backbacker dive to upscale. This appeals to most tourists, including us. The first non-indigenous people to settle there were American Quakers who refused to be drafted into the Korean War. After their imprisonment, they emigrated to here. It was a hard life then. You wouldn’t know it now, Costa Rica is no Honduras. Life’s good, Or as they say here, pura vida.

There are quite a lot of animals here. As always, we have some pictures, mostly bad, and didn’t see the rare animals. There are mountain lions and ocelots, and many others we haven’t seen in Central America. We did see an armadillo. It was dark in the forest, so the image is out of focus.

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What I would call a coati, and they call a pizote, was hanging around a picnic table at the entrance.

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There are loads of butterflies and birds. We went on a night walk with a guide, and saw a sloth and another kind of racoon-type creature that lives in the trees. No good pictures of them in the dark. He pointed out a couple of cute frogs I never would have seen by myself. There’s so much life in the forest but, like when I’m diving, I just don’t have a good eye for seeing, especially little things. These frogs are about the size of your thumbnail. Looking at them reminded me of looking for nudibranches while diving. I know they are there, but don’t see them as often as a lot of other people.

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Heres a taranchula, a couple of venomous vipers and a colorful bug.

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Myung is really into flower and foresty pictures. She takes about 90% of the pictures. I’ll put a few in here to give a feel for the places. I know, these all look the same after a while. You gotta be there, though. It’s beautiful.

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Where’s Waldo?

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It goes on and on.

Y’know, if, by chance, anybody wants to look at sometimes hundreds of pictures of some place we’ve been, I can send you “albums” have have stored in the cloud. Those go all the way back. India, Southeast Asia, Korea, China, Nepal, Mongolia, Africa, South and Central America, Myung’s pictures from Turkey. Just ask and I’ll email it to you.

That’s it for now. Coming soon is a post from the urbanized central valley around the capital. Be well, all of you.

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Costa Rica. Nicoya beaches

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We went to some beaches on the Nicoya peninsula between Coco and Tamarindo. Neither one of us are really beach people, so after three days it was time to return to a cooler climate. There’s not much to say. In general, I would say the beaches we saw, except Tamarindo, weren’t nearly as touristy as we thought they would be. They are unspectacular, but quiet aned peopled mostly by locals. Maybe at one time there was more of a scene there, but now it seems the property bubble has burst and there are cheap digs all over to rent or buy. We rented a four bedroon house for $40/day. It was nice to spread out and have a kitchen to ourselves.

As I said, the beaches weren’t spectacular. We did the walk along the edge of the water thing and went swimming once.

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For me, the best things about tropical beaches are the sunsets during the rainy season when there are clouds to provide character and color…

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…and the fresh fish. This is just a guy who caught one about 50 meters off the beach.

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We bought littler ones from a fisherman, and Myung cooked them up. Man, she’s good at fish.

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There isn’t much else to say about those days there. I’ll just post a few people pictures and declare victory. Very soon, maybe tonight, I will post about the Monteverde cloud forest, where we went next.

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Costa Rica. Arenal and Rincon de la Vieja NP

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We’re back to being our itinerant ways, only this time we have a car. For the next month, there will be no more waiting in the park till whenever for a bus to near where we want to go. Like, I chilled out in this park in the charming little town of Tilaran, looking after our stuff, while Myung walked around.

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That’s all fine, but when we got to La Fortuna, it became obvious that renting a car is definitely the way to go in Costa Rica. So many places, especially the parks, are accessible only with a car or with an expensive tour or even more expensive taxi. So, we are stylin’ in a teeny Suzuki.

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We’ve been here for nine days. So far, we’ve done some of the things tourists do in the Lake Arenal area and Rincon de la Vieja National Park. La Fortuna is where most people base themselves for the Arenal area. Even though we could have stayed anywhere because we have wheels, we first arrived there via public transportation and it’s there we stayed. There’s little photoworthy about La Fortuna. There’s a park and a volcano, of course.
La-de-da.

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We stayed in a hostel, as we usually do, because they usually have kitchens, and that saves a fortune on food. Just coffee in the morning adds up. It seems so far that the main way people make coffee here is to put the coffee in what is basically a sock, and drip it through that. It works fine. I first saw this as the usual way back in Malaysia about 15 years ago. Here, the hostel manager is making herself a cup o’ java.

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Lake Arenal is a lovely lake surrounded by parks and scenic areas. It rained a lot of the time we were there, but here is a picture we took during one of the brief periods you could see fairly well.

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The first nature walk we went on was a little wet and slippery, over this bridge and into the forest.

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We aborted that one after a couple of hours because it was too laborious dealing with the rain and the mud. Later that afternoon, though, we indulged in a soak in one of the free public hot springs around there. There are many resorts which charge $10-$75 to partake in the spa experience, with swim up bars and everything, but the springs create such a volume of hot water, whole creeks are hot. This spot is not more that 50 meters off the road. Just scramble down the bank and you are there.

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Rincon de la Vieja National Park is a World Heritage site, north west of Arenal. Boy is it worth going there, even if you did have to spring for a $30 per prson tourist shuttle! It’s a beautiful hike through forest which is dry during the dry season and mostly green at this time of year. The main hikes people take are the 10 km round trip to these falls and a 3 km loop. It’s muggy hot, so a cool dip when you get to the falos is refresshing, to say the least.

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We have pictures of the walk, like this one…

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… but you’ve seen a lot of tropical vegetation photos, so I’ll spare you. The only good animal picture we have is the lizard at the top of this post. There are bad pictures of a tapir, a raccoon-type creature with long legs, and some birds. Myung saw a couple toucans and some wild pigs, but didn’t get a photo. There were capuchin monkeys we saw and some howlers we couldn’t see.

After that part of the day, we returned to the start and went on a little 3 km loop which is the main attraction of the park. There are fumeroles…

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… boiling hot springs…

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… and boiling mud pits. These pictures don’t do them justice. Just use your imagination and picture these water and mud pits, fumeroles being very active, not to mention very hot to be near.

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Blurp, blurp.

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I don’t know what this town is, but driving around, this is a typical, lovely Costa Rican setting.

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Costa Rica isn’t quite what I expected. I knew it was going to be considerably more developed than Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua, but I didn’t expect it to be this developed. It really seems it has tried to emulate the US. The style of development is very like in America. The stores and shops are like in the US, and we haven’t seen a traditional town market yet. You might guess correctly that the produce isn’t nearly as good as in the CA-4 countries, which is a shame. We both miss that. I haven’t asked anyone if they mind having American quality, pretty but lousy tasting produce. They must be getting used to it. We did. The amenities are nearly what you’d expect in the States, though noticeably funkier, for sure. What is a bit of a shock is the the cost of things. Nearly everything is more expensive here than in the States. All the more reason to cook in accomodations with kitchens. At least the car rental is cheap, $20/day.

One source which studies the happiness of people around the world uses criteria which awards Costa Ricans as the happiest in the world. Y’know, one of the first things you notice about the people here is that they are not only nice, but seem happy. I, for one, feel like I’m being out of place when I’m perturbed about something like the slowness of the check out at the supermarket. Everyone else is fine with just about everything, it seems. I’m hoping it’s as infectious as it seems to be. This is a sweet country, so far at least. I’ll keep you posted on that experience.

That’s going to be it for now. This was a good time to post something, as from Rincon de la Vieja we went to the Pacific coast and are currently doing the tropical beach thing. A post on that should come soon.

Be well, all of you.

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El Salvador and Nicaragua

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And I thought Honduras went fast! We had 8 days left on our four-country visas, and blew through El Salvador and Nicaragua in that time. Basically, we did two things, scope out La Ruta de Los Flores in El Salvador and Granada, Nicaraqgua. I think it’s fair to say we have now technically been to those countries and can tick them off the list, but have only impressions and really know little more than we did before.

So, this story can be short. It took almost all day to leave Honduras and get some distance into El Salvador. We got to a town and spent the night in a No-Tell Motel across the road from the bus stop to continue on. No wifi, but the porn was on cable so we didn’t have to worry about bandwidth. The next day, we went to the main tourist town on the Route of Flowers, Juayua. Here’s Juayua…
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La Ruta is one of the main tourist destinations in El Salvador, along with the beaches and the capital. There aren’t any more flowers along there than anywhere else at this time of year in Central America. I guess it’s catchy draw, though. What you notice immediately after coming across the border from any of the neighboring countries is how relatively colorful it is. All I know is what I saw in three days, and maybe it’s only around there, but everywhere around there is brightly painted. The people dress in bright colors. At least in a couple of the villages, mosaics are popular. All in all, I can see why tourists enjoy coming to this area.

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There are, of course, flowers. Myung has taken hundreds of flower photos over the years. Here’s a few from there.

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Another thing almost everyone does during their stay in Juayua is walk to this falls. It only takes about a half hour to get there on foot. It’s modified natural. The water blasts out of the rocks and from above. The pool and the artificial looking lower part is obviously man-made. It’s still nice.

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On weekends, there’s a food fair. It was gourmet, by Central American standards. That red tint in the one picture is from bright sun through the red tenting over the area. Gotta love the frog on a stick.

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We like ceviche.

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From there, we bolted for Nicaragua. They put their best foot forward at the border post. Another thing you notice is El Salvador is more prosperous than Guatemala, Honduras or Nicaragua.

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Granada was our only stop in Nicaragua. For the first 200 years of Spanish rule in Central America, Granada was second only to Antigua in importance. It isn’t nearly as preserved as Antigua. It remained an important city after time passed Antigua by. Old buildings were replaced, whereas in Antigua there was nothing happening after the capital was moved to Guatemala City, so the buildings were left to crumble on their own. It’s still a very nice city to visit, with enough of it’s colonial heritage left to give you an idea of how it was.

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Granada sits on the huge Lake Nicaragua, which is the dominant geographical feature in Nicaragua. While we were there, there was a stiff breeze off the lake for the whole time, making the hot temperatures quite bareable. The east side of town features a wide prominade, lined with many mostly fancy restaurants, heading toward the water. Then you get there.

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Actually, much of Granada is a bit scruffy. Here’s the market and a street off to the side. There seems to be a lot of this in Nicaragua, from what I could tell from Granada and looking out the bus windows.

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The good news is they sell ceviche by the bucket-full for about $2/pound. Yum.

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I don’t remember whether I was asking directions or negotiating the price of eggs, nor if she was pointing the way or stayin’ alive, stayin’ alive.

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We had two full days in Granada and got into Costa Rica in the afternoon of the last day of our visas. So that’s it for the CA-4 countries. There is so much more to see, someday I’d like to come back.

We’ll be in Costa Rica and probably Panama for a month and a half. It’ll be nice to not zoom around like we just did after leaving Antigua. This phase of our journey will be completely different. For the first time since Africa, we have a vehicle. Costa Rica is very Americanized; we rented this puddle jumper from Alamo.

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We will be looking at a lot of nature stuff and for places to maybe plunk down for an extended period. I’ll try to be timely with the posts.

Until next time, be well, all of you. Continue reading

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Honduras

Even though we were only in Honduras for a couple of weeks, it seems like we did quite a lot. Usually, we go pretty slow, but we went faster this time because our four country visa expires July 11 and we have to get into Costa Rica by then. This means we did what most people on their two week vacations do. We did the Copan Ruinas area, went to the locally famous D & D Brewery and Resort near the north end of Lake Yojoa and took in nature stuff around there, checked out La Esperanza and Gracias, then split for El Salvador. Fast and nasty, but perfectly fine.
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If you are on the two or three day tour of Guatemala and Honduras, you would probably go from Antigua to Copan Ruinas on the shuttle and come back the next day. We took it one-way and continued on in chicken buses. There are two main things to do there. One is to see the Mayan ruins. The other is to go to the hot springs.

The ruins are significant and interesting because of the good condition of the sculptures and inscriptions. The structures are far less impressive than major sites like Tikal, Pelenque, Chichen Itza, and so on. I don’t really care about the historical details, so here are just a few pictures with little verbiage.

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The archeologists consider this stairway a treasure. Inscribed on it is the dynastic history of the area over it’s three hundred year glory days.

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This altar and statue of a bird with a fish in it’s mouth are in the site museum.

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After so many posts about Mayan stuff, I’m going to leave it at that, even though we have many, many more pictures. You’ve kinda seen it all already.

I think the better thing to do in Copan Ruinas is going to the hot springs. They are 23 km and an hour away on an awful road, but worth it if you don’t have to stand in the back of a pickup the whole way. It was developed beautifully in the forest by an Italian hydrologist. This has to be one of the very nicest hot springs I’ve ever been to. And that’s saying something.

You go over this bridge and through the trees, and you’re there. The pools get cooler as they go down.

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Here’s the area for massages.

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There’s even mud for your do-it-yourself facial. Man, it really does make your skin feel good.

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D & D’s is a favorite place to base yourself for a few days while you partake in the many activiites around Lake Yojoa. It was started and continues to be run by a 27 year old guy, Bobby, from Portland, Oregon. What a great job he’s done, and at such a tender age! He make four different beers which are available on tap. The food’s decent and the beds are cheap.

From there, we did three of the things to do, visit a falls, go on a birdwatching boat trip, and take a nice 7-8 km walk in a nearby national park.

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Pulhapanzak Falls is right nearby and reached by a short walk. You can drive if you have a car. It’s just a couple of views and a zip line in front of the falls.

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Next up was the birdwatching. Actually, there is an ecopark area along the canal. We walked that the day before.

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Okay, here are ther boats and the ride. The guide was essential for spotting the birds. We’d have missed the frickin’ toucans without him! No toucan pictures here. They are too small. The other bird pictures are hardly National Geographic quality, so here’s just the boats and some water lilies.

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The last thing we did from D & D’s is take a day hike in Meamber National Park. It’s basically a forest shlep up a mountain into the cloud forest and back down. Most of it is jungly.

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There are miradores of the lake from the openings.

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After descending, there is a fall right close to the entrance anybody can reach with ease and is a popular swimming hole.

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That’s almost it for Honduras. From D & D’s, we went around the south end of the lake and looped back toward southwest Honduras near Copan/northeast El Salvador. On the way, we spent a day in La Esperanza. It’s a peaceful place of no particular interest. We did have a very nice day with a very nice American/Korean couple. Myung identified the woman as Korean right away. (There aren’t many Koreans in this neck of the woods.) She chatted with her for awhile, and we ended up going over to their house to watch the US/Belgium World Cup match and having lunch. La Esperanza is forgetable. Meeting these people, John and Ana, is what we will remember about La Esperanza.

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We spent a day in the equally calming but forgetable town of Gracias. For a short time in the 16th century, it was the capital of Spanish Central America, but that was then and this is now. Time has passed it by.

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From there we went to El Salvador, where we are now for a few days. We’ll stay in this one place, Juayua, on La Ruta de las Flores, and go through Nicaragua to Costa Rica by this Friday. Then we’ll slow down again.

As always, be well, all of you.

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