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Sunday, 29 June 2014

Leon, Nicaragua

27/06/2014 - 28/06/2014

Day 1

By the time we finally left Grenada it was 11am due to a thunderstorm and no one wanted to leave in the downpour. Being such a big group, Phil and I left the others and were planning on waiting for them at the bus stop. We first had to get a $1 bus to Managua (the capital) before connecting to Leon (a further $2). We put our bags on the bus and we went to sit down. However, the bus (more of a minibus) started to pull away so we jumped on and left without the others. 

Phil and I then wondered around the parts of Leon he knew. Considering everyone I've met raved on about it, Leon was actually pretty boring, like Grenada. There were a few churches and many random stores. 


We met up with the others at the hostel we found, Guandabarranca, which was just opposite Big Foot Hostel. We had some really good street food: BBQ'd pork ribs, avocado, a fried cabbage sort of thing and rice and beans - all for about 100 Cordoba (£2). We then bought rum and drank heavily at the hostel. Only the guys went out tonight, which was very good although none of us can recall the last section of the night. 

Day 2

A very lazy day today. Up late, watched the Brazil game and then had a tuna salad baguette from a little French bakery round the corner. Cameron, Norway (no one could pronounce his name), Andrew and I then headed to the Catedral de Leon, which was this huge white church in the middle of Leon. It was basically a lookout point too as we could climb a set of stairs that led to the domed white surface. For $3 it wasn't really worth it but as we had done very little (mainly because there isn't anything to do), so we obliged. 






We had street food again and as it was also our last night as a big group as we're now all heading in different directions. Therefore we partied in Big Foot again, but it wasn't as crazy as last night.

Next stop, Utila, Honduras.


Saturday, 28 June 2014

Grenada, Nicaragua

25/06/2014

The team and I turned up in Grenada at around 3pm today. We had to take the ferry back across the lake where we picked up a chicken bus (an old US school bus) for $1. At the moment we're travelling as a 9, which is a bit too big. Half are slow and the other half aren't. Once checked into Hostel Oasis, Steve and I went to eat a hotdog before comparing prices for a massage. It turned out that the cheapest was $20 each at Coco Berry. 




Grenada itself is a really nice Spanish colonial city based at the top of Lake Nicaragua. It also has 5 prominent churches that run through the middle of the city. 



Steve and I then went to have a massage but as we went to go in, it was closed. We'll go back tomorrow. Post-shower we headed to a sushi restaurant, Kanpai, just down the road. Everyone is pretty dead from last night and the hostel basically shuts down at 11pm so we all went to bed.

26/06/2014

We got up, had breakfast and then 6 of us went to get massages. Other than Steve and I, the others were being stingey and paid $5 less and went to have a blind massage. We opted for a much better option and went back to Coco Berry's. It was epic and probably the best one I've ever had. 


Following this we strolled round the different churches, took pictures and walked down to the water front where it was possible to see Ometepe. At 5pm we went to La Merced (one of the churches) to climb up and take pictures of the city from the roof. After this we headed back to the hostel to drink with everyone else before going out. 










Next stop, Leon. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

23/06/2014

Having woken up feeling like death from the day/night before, Andrew and I met up with Steve to move onto Ometepe Island. The island is in itself extraordinary. It features two volcanoes in the middle of a massive lake. In order to get there we took a $1 bus to Rivas then a taxi to San Jorge where we'd then catch a boat across, which cost less than 70p (35 Cordobas) for a two hour crossing. The boat was dodgy to say the least as they required a guy to keep pumping water out of the hull by hand! 




At this point we had joined up with another bunch of guys so all shared a taxi to Little Morgans. Here we met up with Sush and her crew. I would say we stuck together as a large group but we kept to our own groups. The hostel however is really good, which has a good vibe going on too. It's based at the lakeside and they have 4 dogs including a 4-week old pup, and a pig!




We then watched the football, had some delicious chicken skewers and beers. I must admit the food, although not necessarily Nicaraguan, had been very very good (so far!). The island itself hasn't really got much going on as the main activity other than drinking is climbing the two volcanoes. Having barely slept last night I went to bed just after Andrew at 10pm.



24/06/2014

I was scheduled to climb the volcano today, which is something I have wanted to do since I began researching the trip. However, last night I moved out of the way to let a dog pass and chipped the skin off the back of my foot. Obviously this would have rubbed the whole time I was walking so decided to skip it. It seems to be happening like that at the moment! Nonethess, cloud cover and wind basically ruined the trip for those who did go up. I just took pictures from the restaurant!





Steve and I got up late, had breakfast and watched the final England game, which was poor to say the least. As the hostel didn't have Internet we walked to a nearby restaurant and watched the Colombian game. 

Phil (Canada) and I then walked back and started drinking at the hostel at about 4:30 as it was all-you-can-drink rum punch for $12 (£7)! The group was really decent here and lucklily we're all going to Grenada together tomorrow.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

21/06/2014

Having been given only 7 days in Costa Rica, we left early from Monteverde (5:45am) on a bus to Lagarto. From here we connected with another bus right the way up to the border, Puñas Blancas. The whole trip in total cost just $9. I had read online that this border was difficult and full of people trying to rip you off. It wasn't that bad at all. We exited Costa Rica with no problems but had to pay an $8 exit tax. After then walking a kilometre to the Nicaraguan side, we each paid $12 to enter. We got a taxi from there to San Juan for $20, which in my opinion was ridiculously high but no one wanted to catch the bus...for $0.25!

Once we arrived in San Juan, we tried to stay at Pacha Mama, one of the bigger hostels here, but had no luck as they were fully booked. After a lot of searching, we found another hostel, Beach Fun Hostels, which only cost $9 a night. At this point we were a group of 8 but it was fairly divided. Sush and her clan went to a hostel 4km away but Andrew, Laura and I stayed in town. 

By the time we had got to San Juan it was already 4pm so we went and had a late lunch. This was then followed by buying a liter bottle of Flor de Caña (really good Nicaraguan rum), 12 beers and mixer for 165 Cordoba or £3.70 each! 

We also caught an incredible Pacific Coast sunset. We drank at the hostel then went out into town where we found live music. I was absolutely knackered so crashed by 12.




22/06/2014

Today is Sunday Funday. Something that had gone from being small a year ago to now one of the biggest parties in all of Central America. Basically it's a bar crawl but to three different hostels with pools. We had to wait in a queue from 8am until around 9:30 to get the vest and ticket, which cost $20. Sush and her lot didn't get tickets. Once we had them, we had a really good breakfast just up the road from us and then started drinking again with some Swiss girls at our hostel. Bearing in mind this was 10am and the party doesn't finish until 11, it was going to be a long day! The pools were actually really good and the views over the San Juan bay were amazing. Unfortunately I have no pictures of it because I didn't want anything stolen/wet. Last week a guy died in the pool as he was drunk/on drugs and played who can stay under the water for longest?! He won. As a result, we all were given a can of beer and had to shotgun it. Ironic really. 


Tomorrow we're off to Ometepe Island for a couple of days, which is only an hour or so away!

Monteverde, Costa Rica

19/06/2014

After a really long drive from Montezuma, Sush and I arrived in the Monteverde, which is in the north of the country. We paid $55 through Montezuma Expeditions to get there and it was a total rip-off. We had to get multiple buses and a ferry of which we could have just done it ourselves for a lot cheaper.



We found Andrew and headed to Sleepers Hostel. We got a 4 bed private room with an en-suite bathroom for $9 a night. As we arrived in the afternoon all of the tours were out for the day so we just had a nice relaxing day before doing the night walk in the evening. On the walk I managed to see viper snakes, sloths, tarantulas, kinkajous, porcupines and a variety of different sleeping birds. Although the tour was $20, it was worth seeing some tropical animals in the wild. Most of the photos I took are on my camera so I can't get those photos on here. Following the walk, we headed back to the hostel for an early night.

20/06/2014

This morning everyone was up at 6:45 ready to do the zip lines. However my neck is still aching following the cliff diving in Montezuma. As a result, I stayed in bed until 11am, which was needed! It's amazing how the tiredness catches up on you if the previous nights sleep isn't good. Costa Rica also won their second World Cup group game so the town was very busy!


Once the others returned, we headed to the Santa Elena cloud forest, which the area is famous for. This was basically a humid and wet version of a forest back home. The walk itself was pleasant as we only walked for 2 hours and covered 4.5km before returning back to the get the bus back into town. 








Once we had finished the walk, it was nearly 4pm so we went and had a coffee before dinner. We've definitely found Costa Rica to be way more expensive than is necessary. I think the main reason is the amount of Americans that go so prices are pushed artificially high. Considering the average monthly wage is only $400, the country should be dirt cheap. 

Tomorrow it's time to leave Costa Rica and head to Nicaragua. Due to the immigration office giving me only 7 days in Costa Rica, I've been forced to leave earlier than expected. That now means I can go to San Juan del Sur, which is just the other side of the border.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

San Jose / Montezuma, Costa Rica

16/06/2014

Today Andrew and I arrived in San Jose, the capital of Costa Rica, after two buses and one boat at around 3pm. The journey itself wasn't too bad but seemed to take forever as we were up at 6:15. Crossing from Panama into Costa Rica was also pretty cool as we had to cross a huge bridge, which host spectacular views. The hostel that we stayed at, Hostel Van Gogh, was actually a pretty odd hostel as far as they go. The owner, David, although nice was not really cut out for the hostel business. The hostel was clean and tidy but he had some really strange rules like: the doors closes for the night at 12pm, no drunk people etc.. He was also a bit of a stinge as he claimed the washing service was $15?! Apparently it was because of electric, which unless he washes clothes for 2 weeks straight, was nonsense. However, he did note that we should check our passports for how many days the government had given us. I had 7 days to do all of what I wanted to do and get out. If I overstay it I will be deported back to England and banned from travelling to other countries for 10 years (apparently). This has now cut my trip short but will make it up in Nicaragua. 




I have now joined up with Sush, my friend who I met for a day in Auckland two years ago. We'll see how that turns out as she's with me for a month! Ernesto, my friend from Durham, who is actually from San Jose, picked us up in his car. We went to a traditional Costa Rican restaurant that served a variety of meals. I went for the same thing Ernesto had, which I can't remember the name of. It had pork, rice, salsa and avocado served with tortilla crisps. 

After dinner we headed to a bar for a beer. The bar had over 100 international beers in it. Ernesto got me the beer that they make in-house, Escuchante, which was around £4.50!

17/06/2014

I woke up at 9ish, had the breakfast that David made for the guests and talked with Sush and her friend for a little while. We left Andrew too as he didn't want to do another beach. We'll see him later in the week. Our bus to Montezuma is at 2 so we only had a couple of hours to see some of San Jose, which is actually a bit of a dump. We visited the Jade Museum basing it on what David had said. It was shit. Some was in English and some wasn't, so we learnt very little. 


The journey to Montezuma wasn't that bad as the bus had windows that opened but no AC. The ferry felt like it took forever. It took around 6 hours in total. We stayed in Luz en el Cielo, and although it cost $15 a night, it was nice, clean and comparable of prices in town. We dumped the bags, ate some food and crashed early due to another long day of travelling. The amount of wildlife is insane around here too. I saw an armadillo, a praying mantis and massive lizards, as well as listening to monkeys in the trees around the hostel. Considering Costa Rica has 6% of the Earth's biodiversity it's hardly surprising. I've also managed to injury my back from all of the bumps on the boats so my sleep hasn't been great. 




18/06/2014

Up at around 9am today again and made our way down for the amazing (included) breakfast. We had scrambled egg, watermelon, banana, toast, and rice and beans (Costa Rican norm). 


Following breakfast, Sush and I walked down along the beach to find the amazing waterfalls that exist in Montezuma. We had to walk up the low flowing river over rocks to get there but it was massively worth it. Once we got to the main 20m waterfall we had to hike up a very steep hill and walk to the others. No easy feat in flip-flops! We got to the top and not many people were around but we were told that there was a red cross indicating where to jump out safely. This was a 10m drop - the height of the average house! Naturally I though about it for a bit and saw a local do it. A minute later I went, armed with my GoPro. It was easily the scariest and craziest thing I've ever done. It was just like sky diving and bungee jumping but with no real control. My stomach went to the top of my body as I was airborne for a good 3 seconds before smashing though the very deep water at the bottom (I never touched the bottom). I hit it with such force the GoPole bent and ripped the piece of flesh that connects your upper lip to the gum, and pulled my neck and pectoral muscles in the end. Nonetheless, it was incredible. I went on to do it 6 more times! Every time was as scary as the first. Amazing. I haven't stopped thinking about that feeling since! We stayed here for a while as others joined. There was a rope swing and some smaller jumps too.





We then headed to the beach for a while to watch the sunset and drink a few beers. Post-shower, we ate at Restaurant Soda, which had only been open a week. For no more than £3 I had papaya juice and a lasagne with salad, which was great as they served it with balsamic vinegar - something I haven't seen since I've been away. We then went to the beach, made a fire (well a local did) and chatted with a Colombian and German girls into the early hours. 



Tomorrow we're off to Monteverde in the north of Costa Rica, where we'll join Andrew again.