Saturday, March 28, 2009


This is fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Blinding Frogs and Finding Tadpoles.

(Montezuma, CR - Dominical, CR)

Hotel Lucy in Montezuma is just North of town, across the beach and around the point. So it´s easy to walk back from dinner along the shore, avoiding the road, the dust, and the streetlamps. We thought we´d have a little romantic walk, look at the stars, and perhaps sit a bit on the shore listening to the waves crash against the black rocks. As we made our way toward the point, we noticed the sand moving, and as we ducked down to get a closer look, realized that there were Hermit Crabs everywhere. Of course we began to step gingerly, but we soon looked at eachother and said, "Nope, we can´t do this." So we painstakingly made our way up to the road and back to the hotel where we donned our headlamps and ran back down to the beach with our cameras in hand. Their little shells and legs were clicking and clacking against the rocks, and even with lights it was difficult to avoid stepping on them. Some were so tiny!
From Montezuma we made our way down the peninsula, took a ferry, then drove inland toward the mountain towns of Monte Verde and Santa Elena. Climbing to over 6,000 feet, we found ourselves in the cloud forests with cool air and a chance to wear socks and pants for a couple of days. We stayed at a great little hostel, Pensión Santa Elena which is near the center of town and whose guests are an international mix of travelers hoping to see two-toed sloths and signing up for crazy zipline tours.
These are also the reasons that brought us there.
We walked down the road at dusk and wandered through the Frog Pond. They handed out flashlights and we went searching through the different terreriums. We took so many photos, and not until the last tank with the red-eyed, green-legged beauty did someone tell us, "Oh, you´re not supposed to use the flash on your camera." Well, thanks a lot for telling us! We´d been momentarily blinding the poor little creatures for nearly an hour.
The next day we heading up into the Cloudforests of Monte Verde. Aptly named, the air under the jungle canopy is cool and shaded, here you can walk for endless hours on brickwork pathways, peering into the ferns and dark nooks of trees for frogs, bugs and birds. We walked for over two hours, stalking sloths, hoping to see exotic birds and monkeys. We saw three beetles.
That afternoon we did the Extremo Zipline Tour. As we hooked in for our second zipline, Adam and I doubling up for a long, high wire that tosses you out across a valley where cows are tiny dots below, I cried. I couldn´t help imagining the little line snapping and thus plummeting to my death. When we were off the other side, Adam hurriedly explained that with the double caribiner system was virtually accident proof, and with that logic in mind I calmed down and proceeded to attack with gusto the 14 ziplines total (with a seriously ridiculous and windy one to finish). I highly recommend this tour to anyone willing to try. I did skip the Tarzan Swing, but Adam did a monkey flip and we have him on video giggling as the 50 foot rope tossed him out and over a jungle ravine. I watched, absolutely not interested in trying it myself. I´ll do some crazy stuff, but there is a limit.
That night we went to bed at about 8p, and watched Transformers on our little iPod Touch.
Yesterday we headed back down the mountain to Manuel Antonio. As we headed out of town on the long, dusty dirt road toward the beach, I really had to pee. Now, usually I wouldn´t get into a story like this, but I just wanted to point out a big problem with being a girl, and having to pull your pants down. This was made especially difficult because the roads were lined in barbed-wire for miles and miles, so I couldn´t just run off into the trees. Also, there was enough traffic that I couldn´t just risk it for a quickie (add the riding pants and shorts underneath, and it is virtually impossible to be quick). After 31 years of camping, hiking, and travels to places where a bathroom is not always available, I have learned to rough it, and in some cases just hold it. Imagine, if you will, 45 minutes on a rocky mountain road on the back of a motorcycle when you really
Manuel Antonio was very touristy and overpriced, (by our standards, US prices!) but the beach is beautiful, and there were tiny spider monkeys with babies on their backs climing in the bouganvillea bushes at our hostel. Costa Linda Backpackers was just off the main street, and a nice little 4 minutes walk to the beach. Hard to beat $20 in Costa Rica for a private room with a double bed! The fan, though on high and seeming to work very hard, barely blew a whisper and I spent a long night accosted by mosquitoes whose giant, puffy bites in the middle of the night had disappeared by morning. Adam doesn´t believe me, as his turn into big red welts and last for days.
Here we are at last, in Playa Dominical. The one place I couldn´t miss on our Costa Rica adventure. It was in this tiny, laidback surfer´s town that I lived with a group of Orcas friends in the winter of 1996. Many things have changed, new businesses and hotels, but the town is still quite small, still filled with devoted surfers, with it´s lush jungle backdrop and the wide Pacific Ocean stretching out forever. We rode straight to my old house which is pretty dilapidated now, with giant dead leaves covering the yard, graffiti on the walls inside, and the paint beginning to fall away.
We had lunch at San Clemente Bar and Grill where I spent many nights playing pool and darts, and many mornings drinking delicious Costa Rican coffee and watching CNN for updates on home. The big news at the time was that people were offering $5,000 for the new Tickle-Me Elmo dolls.
Adam and I hiked to some nearby waterfalls, where we saw tadpoles swimming in little "tide pools" that dry season has left. There wasn´t much water, so we hiked for a bit, and then came back into town for our third cold-water shower of the day. It is so humid here that we are just wet with sweat all of the time. Needless to say it is difficult to stay hydrated.
We´re staying in a little room at Los Cocos for $14, the cheapest we´ve see yet in Costa Rica. We´ll dine at Thrusters tonight, where I used to eat pizza and play cards with my roommates from New Jersey.
Tomorrow we ride the long road to San José where we´ll get new tires for Peter (pretty girl), and try to find something to do in the capital. Then it´s off to the Southern Caribbean coast, and after that: Panama!
I need another shower, and the parrot over my shoulder is starting to caw and chirp too loudly to focus.
Oh, what is the difference between a tadpole and a pollywog?
¡Pura Vida! It´s a good life.

Click on the photo to browse our latest round of pics, WITH CAPTIONS!

P.S. Kyle, Bethany, Mike and Leigh put together a couple great slideshows from their visit. Check ´em out if you have time!
Kyle and Beth´s Guatemala Photos
Mike and Leigh Guatemala Photos

Monday, March 23, 2009


(Playa Tamarindo, CR - Montezuma, CR)

From ¨Pura Vida¨ Hostel in Tamarindo, it was a short drive down to Playa Samara which we visited on the recommendation of a few guys we met during dinner prep the night before. Grace put together a fantastic stir fry dish of bean noodles and vegetables which was our first experience ¨eating in¨ since we started the trip. It turned out to be slightly more expensive than going to one of the cheap eateries in town, but from a health and taste perspective, well worth the price. (Seriously, I think that meal may end up saving my life).

In our opinion, both Playa Samara and Tamarindo were nothing to rave about. Hot, dusty and expensive with a majority white population. We did find a great spot to stay in Samara though, just a short ride outside of town, named Villa Kunterbunt. It´s run by a German artist and his lady friend who have been living in Costa Rica for 16 years. (Apparantly all of which time they spent painting the house, which has become a rainbow inspired spectacle!) We met a friendly couple from Australia and enjoyed a lively conversation over dinner where I was explained in detail the silly rules of the game of Cricket, and where we all racked our brains for various ways in which we can improve the world. Imperial is a delicious Costa Rican beverage, by the way.

The road down the Peninsula to Montezuma was a fantastic ride on mostly dirt roads and sandy beaches. We crossed two small rivers with ease, neither of which we felt worthy of a photograph. Sorry Tudor.
We arrived at Montezuma in the afternoon and found a great little town set between two sandy coves just around the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula. We booked a room at a fantastic hotel on the water named ¨Hotel Lucy¨ and decided to stay an extra day.

Today we hiked up to a series of waterfalls just outside of town and spent the day splashing around and doing a little cliff jumping. We had lunch at a restaurant perched on stilts above the water, and followed that up with a little reading on the beach as the waves crashed against rocks just beyond our feet. You could argue that it was superior to spending a standard winter day in Seattle I suppose.

1) Our first taste of Costa Rican relaxin in Tamarindo
2) Villa Kunterbunt in Playa Samara
3) Quite the perch...
4) make friends...
5) ...and watch the sun drop
6) Before landing on the tile floor, it landed on Grace´s face. It was funny... for me.
7) It was having the hardest time swallowing the whole squirrel. Did anyone else think that these things ate bugs???
8) A little beach time just north of Montezuma
9) Pete gets so happy out there
10) Hotel Lucy in Montezuma
11) At the upper pool at ¨Las Cascades de Montezuma¨...
12) ...Grace found a comfy spot...
13) ...with a nice view.
14) It...
15) ...was...
16) ...high.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pesos, Quetzales, Lempiras, Cordobas, and now... Colones!

(Leon, Nicaragua - Playa Tamarindo, Costa Rica)

Yesterday we arrived in Costa Rica, our 5th country! We pulled into Tamarindo just at dusk and found a little hostel up a dirt road where we got two beds in a dorm room. Suprisingly, this is the firt time on the trip that we have stayed in a dormitory and not had our own private space. Other than the fact that the beds were insufficiently padded and miserably uncomfortable, AND the lack of any type of air circulation whatsoever which lead to a sweat soaked mattress, there wasn´t really much to complain about.
A few American guys and some Israelis got thoroughly hammered on the hostel patio last night, polishing off a bottle of Vodka in minutes, which provided a consistent amount of entertainment as Grace and I kicked back with our books. One of the highlights was when the one guy from Indiana attempted to sing the Israeli national anthem which was, to say the least, embarrasing and honestly a bit offensive:-o

The four days we spent in Leon, Nicaragua were a fantastic break from the constant travel and we did some serious lounging. The hostel we stayed at was named Via Via and offered a perfect atmosphere for taking it easy. (By the way, Jenny, I finally finished ¨What is the What,¨ and, although a fascinating read, I want to personally congratulate you on putting me into an introspective depression over the last few days:-)
The only physical activity we did while there was going Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro. Twenty-three bucks a pop gets you a 45 minutes ride in the back of a truck to the base of the volcano, a guided 1 hour hike to the top, and then a 45 second ride back down on a piece of plywood. (They´ve got a radar gun at the bottom and the tour guide was going 70kph on the way down. Grace was clocked at 30kph and I was going under 20. I wiped out halfway down when he took the reading... I swear!)
Finally we decided it was time to move on, so we packed up and hit the road. We spent 1 day in Granada which we both really liked and felt we could have explored a bit more. We found the city more ¨walkable¨ than Leon and the buildings more interesting. We felt restless after our long stay at Via Via though and decided to keep moving on to Ometepe Island on Lago de Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America.
It was only an extra $3 to throw the bike on the ferry which was great and we were able to do a serious tour of the island on our own once we arrived. Unfortunately, the room we found to stay for the night at Hospdaje Buena Vista was seriously bug infested and we did NOT enjoy a good nights rest :-( On a lighter note, we only talked to 3 people the entire time on the island, one of which used to live 2 blocks from our house in South Park, San Diego, and the other two used to live on Orcas Island 32 years ago. Amazing.

The border crossing into Costa Rica yesterday was fairly straight forward and now we´re planning on spending the day here at Playa Tamarindo, paddling around in the waves, and workin on our tans. Life continues to be good.
Take care all!

1) Our Hostel in Leon,
2) where they let us pull the bike right up into the mix
3) Hiking with our Volcano boards at Cerro Negro
4) They gave us some killer duds for protection on the ride down
5) Grace was a little nervous at first...
6) but after a couple swedish girls took off ahead of us...
7) there was no stoppin her!
8) Grace is on the right getting clocked with the radar gun
9) that´s my girl
10) Ahhh, sweet success
11) Grace in Granada
12) Waiting for the Ferry to Ometepe
13) Peter strapped on board
14) Sunset as we wound around the Southern loop of the island

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Makin Moves in Central America!

(Antigua, Guatemala - Leon, Nicaragua)

Before we get started on this epic journal entry I want to quickly point out that we have added a link on the left to our Picasa Photo Album! You can view all of our uploaded photos here and it´s a lot easier to scroll through without having to click the thumbnails below. I hope this helps.

And now, the saga continues....

Yes, we have been lazy fools! Although, only in regards to updating the website. In real life we´ve been so busy we truly haven´t had an extra 2-3 hours (the approximate time it takes to do an update) to sit at a computer.

Since we last touched base, we´ve trekked the ruins of Guatemala, met our first corrupt border officials as we passed into Honduras at Corinto, and spent nearly two hours in 100F while our "helper" helped process our paperwork to get us into Nicaragua! We are now enjoying some roasting hot days (sweat, my friends, is continuous) in Léon, at the great hostel Via Via.

This is what you missed:

We left Antigua after only one night, but managed to go salsa dancing, meet some folks, enjoy a dance performance, and some tasty rum drinks. From there we made our way up the winding mountains and across the land of little volcanoes (as far as the eye can see, these little volcano shapes stretch). Our route took us through Guatemala City at about 11am, and from what I had read I was expecting a person with a shotgun sitting "shotgun" in every car, guns everywhere, craziness, scariness. What I saw was quite different! It was a city like any other, people driving with their babies in carseats, buses loaded with people doing people things. It just goes to show that you can believe everything you read, but you really really shouldn´t.
From there we wound again along beautiful jungle highways, and took a turn down a long pale dirt road to Lanquín and Semuc Champey. We were so extremely tired after that long road that when I sent us 20 minutes farther than we needed to go (I apparently misread the book) there was a moment of frustration which was not helped by Peter falling over. Again. Oops!

We stayed at El Retiró, a fantastic place set into the hillside along a river. This place was idyllic, with palm-thatched bungalows, hammocks strung up on the porches, two horses and a cow grazing on the lush green grass. We´d heard good things about this place, where travelers staying at other hostels and hotels come to hang out. We were not disappointed. The bar and dining room is under a big palm thatched roof, with candles on all the long, wood tables. Everyone sits together, and dinner is served buffet style with each night new creations from the kitchen. The food was fantastic, the beer cold and plentiful, and the crowd was a great international mix of travelers. **If you want dinner, make sure you sign up before 6pm! We nearly didn´t get to eat our second night because we got back late from the bat caves, and the sign-up sheet was full. Many thanks to our friendly neighbors who brought back extra from their multiple trips to the food bar!

That first night we made two trips each to the food bar, after laughing at other people who´s plates were stacked overly high. The food was too delicious! We also met Melanie and Jasper from Holland, who were to be on our tour the next day.
We stayed in one of the Loft rooms, just the first of many nights in single beds. The next morning, our bags packed with sunblock and our picnic lunches wrapped in banana leaves, we set off back up the rugged dirt road (the same one I´d misguided us onto the evening before) and we had an awesome day. There were about 15 people on the tour, which started out with Adam, Jasper, and Tymon swinging off a rope swing into the chilly river. From there we hiked through caves with candles, swimming through the pools and waterfalls where it was too deep to walk. Rickety ladders and slippery ropes, ducking under low ceilings and trying to keep the candles lit! Fantastic. After the caves, we all jumped on inner tubes and tubed down the river to a big bridge where more of the boys took turns jumping off. A brutal hike (really only 25 minutes, but seriously straight upward) and we reached the Mirador, which is a splendid view of the Semuc Champey pools. These are a series of nearly-warmish water in cascading pools of ridiculously pretty water and slippery slides in between. It didn´t take long to take a few photos and head on down to get into the water where we spent another two hours just exploring the pools down and down till we finally had to hike out to the motorcycle to fly down the mountain for the Grutas de Lanquín (Bat Caves!). We waved to our new friends (Jasper, Melanie, Tymon, Inga, Sean, Dagmara, Mette and Casper).
The Grutas are yet more caves, these ones dry that are huge and wind back into the mountain. They are hot and humid, and filled with thousands of bats that come out each evening at sunset. We did a quick (hot) hike inside, and then waited at the mouth of the caves for the action. It was unbelievable! They literally poured out of the blackness, avoiding us at the wide opening, a nearly silent stream of little flying things.

And that is how we missed dinner. Or nearly, luckily having made some friends on the tour who were good enough to hook us up with some delicious pizza, and eventually two full plates of various tasty delights. We bought a few large bottles of beer in return.
We really had a fantastic group on the tour, danced and drank all night, and then met up for breakfast the next morning. Jasper and Melanie are heading the same general direction (South-ish) and we hope to meet up with them again at some point.

Friday morning, and after a big day of hiking and drinking the day before, we barely managed to meet for breakfast at 9am (well, Adam at least, I´d been up since 7am packing up). We headed out around 11am, and up the road to Flores where we were all set to meet my sister Bethany, her husband Kyle, and our friends Mike and Leigh. The first half of the way there takes a while, winding and winding, but then it turns into a hi speed straightaway which we used to our advantage catching up on some time. We were about 30 minutes from our destination when we found ourselves in a tropical downpour. Adam was drenched head to toe, and I was, well, a bit wet. Sitting behind him, I really get the best out of a rainy situation. We rolled up to the Doña Goya 2, with its great view of the lake, and who appeared but four little faces up on the top floor balcony! We took photos back and forth, and they helped us unload.

Dinner in Flores, some drinking on the roof, and the next morning we rode the hour to Tikal.

We decided to stay a night in the park, which was great (and totally ruined our budget for the day). The Jaguar Inn had great rooms and tasty Pasta Carbonara (with bacon!).
We managed a couple of hours wandering the beautiful pyramids and ruins, where monkeys played and birds chirped their wild songs. It got pretty dark under the jungle canopy as we left, and lucky for us we had a group or we may have gotten a little nervous. As it was, we hurried out to dinner and woke up at 5:30a on Sunday for another few hours of exploring. The highlights of this day were definitely the howler monkeys (wild, maniacal whooping from high in the trees), a crazy attack turkey with peacock-like feathers, Hand sized spider/crab/scorpion beasts in the caves of Tikal, and a beautiful ride down to Lago de Izabal where we were set to stay in Río Dulce at the Tijax Hotel. This place was great! Set right on the river with a marina in front and big open bungalows, it felt like an adult summer camp. And by adult I just mean grownups.

We wandered around Rio Dulce and ate truly delicious pizza at Rio Bravo which is also set right on the river. Monday we loaded up again and the six of us took a boat down the river winding around the mangroves, watches pelicans and other sea birds fly above us, and enjoyed the scenery. Livingston is well known for its Garífuna culture, a mix of Latin and African roots from crashed slave ships. Our stay at Casa Rosada was wonderful, pretty little bungalows, great food, and a long dock where we sat out drinking wine and telling ridiculous stories.
I have noticed there is a lot of Italian food in Guatemala, which is surprising and really great.

Tuesday meant an end to the six of us as Mike and Leigh had to head home. The four of us stayed at a surprisingly cheap hotel that smelled terribly of diesel fuel (no wonder it was so cheap) and were stalked for a while by a crazy homeless guy who pulled a plastic gun on us like a gangster and seemed to always be where we wanted to go. Somehow the 20 minutes of him staring straight at me with the ¨Loco¨ in his eyes made me a little nervous, and needless to say when he showed up at the ice cream shop and watched us from across the street, that made me nervous too.

We had an awesome time, and were so happy that our friends made the trip! We´ve got some great photos, and I think I even may have gotten one against the ancient stones wearing one of my fantastic shawls, with the same bag that Palma had in Guatemala over 30 years ago.

On Wednesday, Bethany and Kyle headed toward Antigua, and we separated ways. They headed toward the pretty city and a tour of the volcano, where apparently Kyle made a sculpture for Bethany out of lava he pulled right out of the mountain. Us toward Honduras, where we met our first corrupt border official, which was not the best introduction, but things got better when we made our way down to Lago de Yojoa and the D&D Bed and Breakfast where they brew their own beer.
We slept really well in their comfy bed, and the next day packed up and headed South toward Nicaragua with a really special stop in Choluteca where we ate at Pizza Hut (which is a high-class sit down type of place in Honduras) and stayed at the Hotel Rivera which was actually really nice after seeking a hotel in three different cities to no avail (either ridiculously expensive or creepy-sketchy). Up the next morning and to the border at El Guasaule where we met some nice border guards, and hired a helper who spoke great English and did about 2 hours of running around for us to get all the paperwork sorted out. It was about 100F outside, even in the shade, and things were a little sketchy, but he didn´t take any money till it was all done, so we felt pretty good about it. He also warned us to just "act dumb" with the police, which really came in handy about 5 minutes later.
So, we gave all but about $5 to the helper guy, and ended up with an empty tank of gas literally limping into Nicaragua. We managed to get two liters from a roadside stand which the guy poured into our tank from a plastic jug, and made our way sans Seguro (mandatory motor-vehicle insurance you are supposed to buy at the border) to Chinandega where we finally got some cash, some insurance, and some freaking food! It was about 3pm, and we hadn´t eaten anything but a little yogurt in the morning.
I ate a hotdog smothered in condiments, and even found a few of the bon bons I´ve only ever had in Argentina!

Now, León. Where the electricity went off this morning, forcing us to just relax, wander, and read our books. I finally replaced the flip flops that had fallen off the motorcycle our third day in Mexico, and now we are sitting in our sticky skin as the air finally cools (it is just after six in the evening) two kids giggling delightfully just outside the open doors to this internet place, and Adam sitting across the way uploading photos. It´s a two person job, this website stuff.

Hostal Via Via is a restaurant and bar with pool tables in front, dinner on a patio courtyard in the middle, and at the back an open courtyard with the rooms running down either side. The place is lovely, with hammocks lining the center courtyard, travelers and locals hanging out drinking and chatting, and a bustling street outside.
Tomorrow we may go Volcano Surfing, or take a boat to see some crocodiles and exotic birds. We could be cowboys for a day, or go watch rooster fights, but I´d rather have some ice cream and walk around in my newly clean clothes. Did I mention we´ve been doing laundry in the small hotel sinks for over three weeks!? What a delightful thing it is to just have clean clothing. And a double bed. (Last night´s was a King!)
From León we head toward Managua and Granada, perhaps Isla Ometepe and perhaps more. We´re enjoying a slow-down, three whole nights in a town is more than we´ve done anywhere on our trip and we are soaking in the stillness. Also feeling a little cabin fever, but give me a book and a hammock and I´ll be fine.

I need a shower and a big cold beverage.

Until next time.
Lots of Love,
Grace and Adam

1) Our gracious host Edwin invited us to a barbecue at the Guate Linda Language Center in Antigua
2) Grace stepped in for a quick Salsa lesson and I quickly got the feeling at that moment that the Teacher had quite possibly become the Student
3) Overlooking the Semuc Champey pools after a grueling flight of stairs on an empty stomach
4) It was fantastic, although I am still scratching at some of the bug bites I got there
5) We met some great friends at El Retiro in Semuc Champey that we hope to see again
6) After seeing my impressive growth, our tour guide (Elvis) insisted on trying it on
7) Just as it gets dark, this cave in Lanquin comes alive with these black winged devils
8) It was awesome
9) The posse is waiting when we arrive in Flores
10) Looks like they were havin a hell of a time in the minibus on the way up to Tikal
11) We had 2 hours in the park before the sunset to have a look around
12) We ended up walking out of the site in the dark, with no headlamps, and an older couple from Kentucky hot on our heals fearing for their lives
13) The next morning we were up bright and early to catch sunrise over the temples
14) Long story short, we had to wait 45 minutes for them to open the gate, we sprinted the length of Tikal to the highest temple, and arrived just in time to witness a wall of fog so dense we couldn´t even see the trees 50 ft away. Not cool.
15) These birds were pretty but I got some awesome video of one of them chasing down D and Kyle and attacking some other tourists. No joke, watch out for them.
16) It´s a good thing no one was afraid of heights or the hike to the top of this temple would have been a REALLY uncomfortable experience...
17) Hey guys, lets go in this cave and snoop around
18) Grace was the first to spot one, and was very quick to notify us of her find
19) Standing in one place I found 16 of these. We´re talking CREEPY.
20) Mike found one of there cousins behind the bathroom curtain when we arrived in Rio Dulce
21) We also found a very peculiar insect just outside the door
22) Mike was nearly decapitated by a flock of crazed seagulls on our trip up the river to Livingston
23) Yeeehawww
24) It was nice and relaxing when we arrived in Playa Blanca
25) -How ya livin Kyle? -Pretty good Adam, pretty damn good...
26) Wine on the pier in front of Casa Rosada in Livingston
27) The wind picked up and things got rather chilly
28) It was a really nice night though
29) A full moon over livingston
30) Leigh and D pose on the ride back to Rio Dulce just before boarding the bus to the airport
31) A day later Kyle and Beth say farewell as they continue their trip down to Antigua