Nicaragua & Costa Rica: 2/20-2/26

Granada >>> Isla de Ometepe >>> San Juan del Sur >>> Tamarindo

2/20
+ Woke up at the Treehouse Hostel to howler monkeys in the morning (and all throughout the night). If you don’t know what they sound like, look it up online. They’re impressively loud for their size.
+ Walked back up the hill to the bar portion of the hostel to check out. Glad to see many of our hostelmates were still alive, although many had no memory of their actions the previous 12+ hours (It was THAT insane last night).
+ Seemingly everyone was ready to leave on the free 11 am shuttle so about 15-20 of us crammed into the pickup truck and truck bed back to Granada. Since we skipped breakfast and wanted fuel for our upcoming travels, we got lunch with Jessie and Tanice and reminisced on the funny times from the night before.
+ After saying our goodbyes, we trekked to the bus station (through another crazy market) and eventually caught the bus to Rivas for connections on to Isle de Ometepe.
+ After a bus, taxi and a very complicated ferry ride (We watched as they loaded a huge semi carrying telephone poles onto the deck of a ferry. Not our ferry thankfully!) We made it to Ometepe!
+ Walked to our hostel as the sun was setting and checked in.
+ Caught our breath for a minute from our long travels all day, then walked back into town to grab dinner.
+ Back at the hostel, Liz passed out immediately while Corey researched on the tablet.

2/21
+ Originally the plan was to spend the day exploring the island, but we instead opted to spend it lounging in hammocks (our new favorite pastime) researching for our next city.
+ From our hammocks, 2 large blue and white birds flew over us. These large birds were so different than any other bird we had seen! They had these little plumes on their heads that made them look like some type of cartoon. Almost like a Pokemon! (Over the next few days we discovered these birds are called  Urraca (blue-tailed magpie) and are actually plentiful on Ometepe)
+ Not wanting to walk into town for lunch, we instead stayed at our hostel and depleted our snack reserves.
+ We did eventually head into town for dinner and went to a much cheaper, tipico style food place we had noticed the night before.
+ We also swung into a grocery store and replenished our snack supply (a must have on travels!)
+ Before sleep we watched the movie “Joy”, and prepared our bag to explore the island the next day.

2/22
+ After breakfast at our hostel, we hiked into town and rented a scooter/moped from a store run by 2 sisters.
+ The island is 2 big round volcanoes connected by a thinner isthmus. It looks almost like a pair of goggles from the air. We were on the far left end, but drove almost all around the island throughout the day! (Everywhere we could that there were paved roads)
+ We enjoyed great views both of the volcanoes and the local cities, houses, and shops.
+ Volcano Concepción is an almost prefect cone shape with clouds consistently swirling around the top. It almost looks like something out of a cartoon! Or like a vanilla ice cream scoop with chocolate on top, except the colors are reversed.
+ Volcano Maderas also has a cloudy top, but it is not nearly as perfectly cone shaped.
+ Because both volcano hikes end in the middle of the clouds with no views, we opted not to spend the money (or 8-10 hours of time) to hike them.
+ While driving we did see a troupe of Capuchin monkeys playing and eating on the roadside. So we pulled over and watched them for a bit (while making sure our phone and camera did not become their new play toy).
+ We also stopped to hike and explore a nature reserve called Chaco Verde, which had nice views of the lake and lagoon.
+ Another popular spot we stopped at was a beach called Playa Domingo. It was a nice beach and did not feel like we were on a lake at all, with the waves and sand. We got some smoothies and took in the sights for a bit before continuing on.
+ Our last stop on the island tour was a place called Ojo de Agua. While it was a nice shaded spot to swim and cool off from a natural spring, it was really just a big glorified swimming pool. We still enjoyed ourselves though and watched as people attempted a slack line above the water (and we even tried a couple times ourselves, with no success).
+ After we left there, we were headed back to our town, which was about an hour away. Around 30 minutes into our drive, the sun set and it got dark. Unfortunately, the scooter we rented did not have a right headlight and we were half blind while driving down the dark roads through unfamiliar territory.
+ After about 15 minutes of no problems (and all day driving it fine), all of the sudden about half of the road/concrete was missing on the right side of the road. Before we even saw that or knew what had happened, our bike fell over on the left side and we both skidded along the pavement for a little bit before stopping. Luckily, we were only going about 15/20 kph when it happened (not the 40-50 kph we were in the daylight) otherwise the injuries would have been much worse. Corey got the worst of it since he was in front, with most of his whole left side scraped badly, but Liz had a couple injuries too.
+ It happened in front of a couple shops and a number of people ran over to help us since they saw the accident (and pointed out how the road was messed up there, which we would have seen if we had a right headlight!)
+ Angry at the fact the scooter defect caused our crash and hurting from our numerous injuries, we gathered ourselves and counted injuries. Luckily the bike still worked (although it was scratched up too) and we continued the drive back to our hostel, hopeful that the rest of our journey involved no more spills.
+ Back at the hostel we showered and spent a good 40 minutes tending to and dressing our wounds.
+ We decided against riding the scooter back into town for dinner and instead walked. We went to the street food cart of a person we had met the previous day and got delicious Salvadorian food for cheap. (Turns out our friend was an El Salvadorian who used to live in the US.)
+ Walked back to the hostel and got ready for the next day while contemplating our conversation with the scooter company the next day.

2/23
+ Ate breakfast at the hostel.
+ Got our laundry we had turned in earlier and packed our bags and checked out.
+ Drove the scooter back to the agency and proceeded to have a not so fun argument/conversation with the workers. We approached the situation very calmly, recognizing both sides of the situation. While we were responsible for the vehicle when it crashed, we also acknowledged that the cause of the crash was entirely due to the defect of their rental product (causing us not to be able to see the road). If this had happened in the U.S. with a rental company, there would normally be lawsuits threatened against the company and demands for not only all money returned, but also the payment for injuries, etc. Unfortunately, this is not the U.S. It’s Nicaragua. So between pretending to not speak English well when it was convenient, the guy at the rental shop was very demeaning and dismissive. After explaining how we couldn’t see the right side of the road with the right headlight out, he proceeded to turn on the headlight in the shop, in broad daylight, and claim he could see everything just fine. What a joke! Of course in broad daylight you can see everything. We might as well inform all the car companies that they only need to make cars with 1 headlight on the side, since it has zero effect on the driving, according to him.
+ After almost an hour of circular arguing (and Corey managing to not punch the smug man in the face for his belittling comments and insults) we settled on them keeping our $100 deposit and paying an extra $5 (on top of our $30 rental). We were both very upset and felt like we maybe should have been much angrier and not reasonable (though in a foreign country, where people can buy off police, that’s never a good idea).
+ Still upset but happy to be done with the situation, we walked back to our hostel, gathered our bags, and then boarded the first ferry off the island. Eager to leave that situation behind us, and happy it was not worse physically or financially, we counted our blessings and put our focus to enjoying our upcoming travels.
+ Back on the mainland, we broke one of our travel rules and paid probably triple the price to make our journey to San Juan Del Sur much quicker and more convenient (as opposed to chicken buses). This was partially because we were so drained from the scooter debacle, and partially because our injuries (particularly Corey’s) left us a bit handicapped and wary of trying to get on/off chicken buses quickly.
+ Thankfully our taxi driver was very nice and took us all the way to our hostel, so we didn’t need to lug our bags very far. We checked in to Casa de Olas and were happy to be greeted by much friendlier people than our previous hostel.
+ Although we were in a party hostel, all of the crazy people from the weekend had checked out that morning. So we were given our own private dorm room, which was really nice.
+ We then caught the free shuttle into the actual town of San Juan Del Sur (we were staying way up a hill about 10 km outside of town). During the 2 hours we had before the return shuttle we grabbed lunch, checked out different tour/bus companies,  had some happy hour drinks overlooking the cove, and explored the town.
+ Rode the shuttle back and spent the next couple hours socializing, playing a new drinking game the Aussie’s call Downers, and eating a family style dinner of chicken curry.
+ Apparently Tuesday nights also have a pub crawl and nearly everyone was heading out. We would normally have gone with, but since we had just spent so much money on the scooter, we decided to be lame and hang out at the hostel instead. So the evening was spent browsing Facebook, Instagram, and enjoying the silence of what was now basically our own private beach resort.

2/24
+ Woke up to find Corey’s toiletry bag halfway through our window leading to the monkey enclosure, with all of the contents missing. We reasoned that the monkey must have reached his arm through the fence, in between the partially open slats and grabbed the toiletry bag from Corey’s backpack! We quickly surveyed the monkey enclosure and sure enough, stuff was scattered all throughout their messy playground. We spoke to the staff who escorted us to the gate and then he went in and recovered as many of Corey’s toiletries as possible. In the end, we got back about 1/3 of our stuff, and didn’t lose anything of great value that couldn’t be replaced.
+ We then ate our free pancake breakfast at the hostel and caught their free shuttle 10 minutes down the mountain and into town.
+ From there, we booked another shuttle to Maderas beach, where we happened to hang out with Emilie and Julia again-  two Canadian girls we have been running into multiple times in different cities on our travels.
+ We also ventured off up the beach to explore the jutting rocks, tide pools, and nice tranquil coves. The water in this area was super clear and made for great swimming. We would have loved to stay longer and enjoy the sights, but we had to catch our shuttle back to town.
+ After the 30 minute ride back south, we enjoyed a cerveza while watching sunset over an almost too perfect picturesque setting of little sailboats and houseboats in the cove, surrounded by cliffs. Although we’ve never been huge sunset enthusiasts, even we can’t stop ourselves from snapping way too many photos of the beautiful orange, purple and pink skies as the sun fades away.
+ When the hoards of people on the beach taking photos finally dispersed, we took it as our cue to leave as well and set off for our next stop for the night, a brewery!
+ As we mentioned in Honduras, finding good beer in Central America has been a tough undertaking. When we do finally stumble upon a brewery with delicious craft brews, it’s nearly impossible (and would be downright wrong) not to sample them all … multiple times.
+ So after we finished with our flights of their 3 different homemade beers, we went across the street to a good (an,d cheap) seafood restaurant that was recommended. Our referral source was spot on and we split a delicious seafood dinner, comprised of about 5 different types of seafood in a big paella-like mixture.
+ We caught the last shuttle back to our hostel at 8 and then spent the evening hanging out around the pool watching drunken debauchery from some of the Australian Amigos in town for their last night. The hostel had a policy where if you accidentally bumped into and knocked over the giant Jenga tower, you had to run around the pool naked. Let’s just say it happened often enough to question if they were all still accidents. Luckily, we kept our distance and made it to bed unscathed.

2/25
+ Today marks 2 months of travel!!! It’s hard to believe how fast time has gone by, and how many things we’ve done/places we’ve been to. We were nearing the end of our time in our 5th country, Nicaragua but had 1 more full day for exploring.
+ Hermosa beach was our destination for the day, about 30 minutes south and known for big beaches and lots of Surfing.
+ After 2 more shuttle rides, we arrived just in time to snatch up the last available hammock. The views were great and luckily we had a very strong ocean breeze to combat the oppressing heat. We didn’t laze around for too long though because we wanted to go exploring the tide pools while it was still low tide.
+ So we at off on foot again and for about 2 hours we wandered around on the perilous cliffs and rocky outcroppings. It was very similar to the coast of California with the huge waves crashing against the cliffs and various coves, just far less abundant sea life. We still managed to find a few different sea creatures before hunger drove us back towards the restaurant area. Unfortunately on our trek through a shrubbery area, Liz had her second bout of “I love to put my hand on a cactus” fever. So as her left hand was still recovering from the scooter induced road rash, her right hand’s jealousy led to Liz picking out about 20-30 little cactus needles from the folds of her fingers.
+ Lunch was surprisingly filling and afterwards we spent the rest of our beach excursion lounging in hammocks reading travel guides and watching surfers successfully (and some unsuccessfully) catch some gnarly waves.
+ There was another gorgeous sunset right over one of the huge rocks jutting out of the ocean and we managed to see it through just long enough before hopping on our return shuttle back into town.
+ We had 2 hours to kill (or so we thought) until our hostel shuttle came so we grabbed dinner at a cheap roadside Mexican restaurant, then stopped by the Brewery again for a blues fest they were having. We had heard they would have some different beers on tap, but we were forced to drink the same delicious ones from the night before. Darn.
+ The 8 pm shuttle that was supposed to pick us up never came. After 30 minutes of standing around waiting, we ducked into a different hostel to await the next shuttle at 10pm that headed right next door to our place. While we waited, we researched for our border crossing into Costa Rica the next day.
+ After finally arriving back at our hostel, we spent our last night there hanging out with people, swimming in the pool, and preparing for tomorrow’s travels. Luckily, we somehow still had the whole 6 person dorm room to ourselves this whole time!

2/26
+ In the morning after breakfast we booked flight tickets out of Costa Rica since they require you to show onward transportation when entering through customs.
+ We said goodbye at the hostel and then walked down the hill to the main road to wait for the chicken bus from San Juan Del Sur to Rivas, where we would catch a different bus to the border.
+ After standing around for a while with no luck, we finally agreed on a good price with a taxi driver to the border, skipping the backtracking to Rivas and saving some time. He was nice and gave us some helpful tips and info for Costa Rica. We’re really happy we took Spanish Lessons in Guatemala otherwise we wouldn’t be able to communicate well in these types of situations!
+ The border crossing was rather seamless and relatively quick, compared to other crossings we had done. We even got a good exchange rate from the Nicaraguan Cordobas to the Costa Rican Colones. Which is good, because we had been repeatedly warned by many other travelers how expensive Costa Rica is compared to other surrounding countries, so we would need every penny we could get!
+ We immediately caught a bus to Liberia, where we would catch another bus to our destination for the next few days, Playa Tamarindo. This place was recommended by Liz’s relatives so we were excited to visit some of the same places they had been.
+ Corey was particularly excited about Costa Rica, as it had been near the top of his bucket list for many years! Plus he read so much about the country in the guide books, he was anxious to do all the exciting adventures Costa Rica offers!
+ After arriving in the Liberia bus station we got our next ticket, but unfortunately the bus wasn’t leaving for 90 minutes so we plopped down in a bus station cafe and did more reading until it was time to undergo what was to be our most interesting chicken bus ride yet.
+ We sat in the back row bench this time to keep an eye on our bags, even though we knew it would be a bumpier ride. Although the ride was only about 2 hours, we had some very interesting characters sit next to us. The first was a drunk girl in her 20’s who was very friendly and even spoke decent English, but was very hard to understand due to the slurred words and erratic train of thought. The second was a large sweaty man in his 40’s who at first seemed angry and standoff-ish, but then also started talking to us about who knows what. We both tried our best to communicate in Spanish or English with him, but we were never sure exactly what he was saying. It turned into a 20 minute game of charades while we covered topics ranging from snow, Santa and chimneys, him maybe or maybe not liking various states (we’re not sure which) and smiling a lot. Or none of those are correct and we were as confused as we looked.
+ This “chicken bus” was different than most because instead of going on the most direct path to it’s destination (but still stopping frequently to pick up people) it turned on a bunch of side roads, and in and out of neighborhoods. So it took twice as long as it should have. We asked someone if this bus was indeed headed to Tamarindo and they just responded “Yes. Pura Vida” (Meaning relax and go with the flow).
+ After finally making it to the end of the bus line, we walked through town to Pura Vida hostel and checked into the last 2 dorm beds.
+ We quickly befriended a Canadian guy who had been staying in Tamarindo for about 10 days already and loved it. He gave us some tips and pointers about the area and then walked us about halfway towards a dinner spot he recommended before we parted ways. Liz was craving some southern style BBQ and she was in luck because Tamarindo was the most touristy place we’d been since we started in Cancun, so they had tons of American style restaurants and shops (at American prices) and huge resorts too. So we easily found a BBQ restaurant and indulged our nostalgic taste buds.
+ After dinner we walked around exploring the city and found another brewery! (One of the perks of the American influence in the city. ) We sampled some of the craft beers they had on tap, but chose to move along due to the small cups you got and the poor service. But the beer was good!
+ On our walk back to our hostel, we happened to see a giant movie projector screen on the top of a tall hotel showing the most recent Star Wars movie! We were both excited to watch it again so we hurriedly found our way to the top, only to catch the last 5 minutes or so. Although we were disappointed, they were about to start their second movie which was “The Revenant” so Corey talked Liz into staying and watching. We ended up being the only ones up there the whole time so it was like our own private rooftop theater! Complete with a cool ocean breeze and a cold beer. We were happy we were there for their weekly movie night.
+ Afterwards we went back to the hostel and quietly snuck into our dorm rooms, as usual being the last ones awake.

 

Click here for more photos of Nicaragua and photos of Costa Rica!

Nicaragua: 2/13-2/19

Leon >>> Poneloya >>> Las Penitas >>> Granada >>> Laguna de Apoyo >>> Granada

2/13
+ Had to get up early for our Volcano Boarding excursion on Cerro Negro.
+ Our hostel, Tortuga Booluda, provides fee pancake batter for guests to cook their own pancakes. Liz lit a gas stove for the first time and cooked pancakes for us!
+ We walked to Quetzaltrekkers and met up with our group. Rode in the back of some sort of Army jeep for about 45 minutes out to the Volcano. On the way out, another Volcano nearby called Telica actually erupted right in front of us! We didn’t get to see any lava, but still watched huge clouds of smoke and ash bellow into the sky, which was pretty cool.
+ On our shuttle, we met some nice people from the states (NC, and CA) and a nice Swedish girl, Rebekah, who was actually staying at our hostel!
+ Our trek to the top of the Cerro Negro volcano took about 45 minutes and we got to view the crater and a few sulfur steam vents with all of the yellow stained rocks around them. The higher we got, the more windy it got. This made for some treacherous trekking with the boards strapped to our backs between our backpacks. (We each looked like Buzz Lightyear with the boards strapped to our backs) At times we felt like we were almost blown off the mountain with the 50+ mph winds.
+ It was finally time to go Volcano Boarding! After putting on our full body suits, safety glasses, gloves, and bandanas, almost every inch of our body was covered and we were ready.
+ They say opposites attract, and never have Liz and I had such opposite experiences as we did going down the mountain. Since you have the ability to control how fast you go (based on how much you use your feet to slow and stop yourself), it’s up to each person what level of daredevil they want to achieve. Liz set the record that day for slowest descent, seemingly slow enough to admire each rock and viewpoint along the way. Corey nearly broke the sound barrier and his rocket sled trip ended at the bottom after about 30 seconds, leaving a trail of dust and an avalanche of rocks tumbling down behind him.
+ Both of us had a lot of fun though and luckily our tour company was the only one to allow us to go down twice! So back up the mountain we went (although this time half the group opted to stay behind, content with only the 1 risky thrill ride). The hike up was even more windy this time, but we made it up faster with the smaller group. Our second rides down, Corey went even faster, clocking in around 77 kilometers per hour, and Liz may have gone even slower (but was still the prettiest and most graceful Volcano Border in all of Nicaragua!).
+ Afterwards we met up with the rest of our group and had a delicious lunch of soft tacos with a new fancy ingredient: refried bean paste! Despite the name (and look), it was actually really good and everyone at the table stuffed themselves.
+ The ride back to the hostel was fun and we were all good friends by the time we arrived back in León. Dirty, hot and sweaty we all said our goodbyes and raced back to our hostels to take showers and get the countless black rocks out of our hair, ears, noses and other various crevices.
+ After our showers, we stayed confined to sweat in our hostel and escape the sun for the remaining few hours of daylight.
+ In the evening we went out again and after a quick stop to buy shirts from our Volcano boarding experience, we headed down to get ice cream at a place we had been recommended to visit called “Kiss Me”. Although the ice cream was very good, we paid more than we normally do for dinner for 2 here.
+ While strolling through the city afterwards, we found a celebration concert taking place in Central Park. They were celebrating the 100 year anniversary of some famous freedom poet  (we think?) and there were various dancing and singing groups that performed. We stayed for about 90 minutes and alternated between watching the concert, the nearby wedding taking place at the huge cathedral, and just watching all the different types of people walk through the park.
+ We had heard about a delicious pizza place we needed to visit so we headed there for dinner. The place had funny drawings on the wall, but the food (and service) was a bit disappointing.
+ On the walk back to our hostel, we passed a bunch of crazy clubs and bars that rivaled Downtown Orlando!
+ The rest of the evening was spent lounging in hammocks at the hostel and planning our next few travel moves.

2/14
+ We slept in a little at our hostel and woke up just in time to have the last few pancakes.
+ It was time to head back to the Pacific Coast, our first time there since we were in Guatemala. We were going to a secluded backpacking lodge on the beach called the Surfing Turtle that was only about 45 minutes southwest of León.
+ The shuttle to the Poneloya beach was leaving from a different hostel so we packed up our stuff and walked over there in time to catch the bus with about 8 other backpackers.
+ When our shuttle bus went as far as it could, we had to then strap on our bags and walk a couple hundred yards through soggy sand (it was low tide so no boats or cars would work). We eventually reached a deep enough part that had a little river to cross so we paid a dollar, and boarded a boat for all of 30 seconds to go about 30 feet to the other side. Then it was another 15 minutes of walking to the actual hostel. There was supposed to be a free horse and carriage to pick us up and take us, but as usual in Central America, things are not always as advertised.
+ Covered in sweat from the almost nauseating heat, we checked into our dorm room and ordered lunch.
+ The last thing you want to do when you’re hungry, hot and tired is wait forever for your lunch. But that’s exactly what happened as we watched seemingly every other person in the hostel get there food as we sat there for over 2 hours waiting! We finally complained (for the 2nd time) and magically less than 5 minutes later we got our food. We assume they had lost our ticket. This experience, combined with some surly staff members, was not a very good start to our experience here.
+ After we finished our small and tasteless burgers from their overpriced menu, we could finally do what we came here to do and relax at the beach!
+ We relaxed in the hammocks and read the guidebooks for the upcoming countries.
+ The hostel was hosting a “speed dating” activity to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We did not participate but had fun asking each other the silly questions the organizer had selected.
+ After the speed dating the main bar closed and the beach bar opened up with a bonfire. Everyone moved down closer to the water to continue hanging out.
+ The surfing turtle is the only thing on this section of beach as it becomes an island with low tide. With almost zero light pollution, we could see the clearest night sky we had ever seen! So many stars! We felt like we could even see the Milky Way!
+ Went to bed in our 16 bed dorm on the 2nd floor of a thatched roof hut. We made sure to book this dorm specifically as we had heard great things from other travelers. The dorm was completely open air. (2 walls were only screens) this meant we had great ventilation and beautiful views to wake up to!
+ Corey’s bed was a top bunk closest to the screen. He definitely enjoyed his sleep that night!

2/15
+ Woke up to the beautiful view and packed up our bags since we were checking out today.
+ Ordered breakfast of pancakes and fruit. Liz says they were the best pancakes she has ever had!
+ All of our accomodations in Nicaragua have offered free organic coffee throughout the day but it’s been SO HOT everywhere that Liz had not even taken advantage of this!
+ Hung out at the beach for most of the day. Corey played KanJam (a frisbee game) with some Canadian guys and finally got to use his football he won from Miller Lite back in Honduras.
+ After a small lunch, we headed back into town to our next hostel. We eventually caught the local bus and rode it a short ride to the other side of the beach called Las Penitas.
+ We checked in to Barco de Oro and were greeted with free juice, friendly staff, and mermaid wall art! This hotel was not right near the waves but was actually right along the tidal flats.
+ We walked down the beach a bit to watch sunset and the waves splashing over the large rocks.
+ Back at Barco de Oro we ate dinner (another delicious and cheap jalapeño steak!) and planned out our next moves.

2/16
+ Corey decided to skip surfing lessons for now and wait for better waves.
+ Ate lunch at a nearby hotspot called the Lazy Turtle and had a lazy day researching how to get to Granada and where to stay once we arrived.
+ Caught the local bus back into Leon. This bus was much more crowded than the previous day and stopped on the far west side of Leon. Hired a taxi to take us directly to the bus station for Managua.
+ Rode in small minivan to Managua then on to Granada on the city bus. All for less than $3/pp!
+ Arrived in Granada around 9 pm. Had trouble finding our hostel because Google and Tripadvisor both showed incorrect addresses. After walking about 12 blocks with all of our gear, we finally stopped into Oasis Hostel  (not our original choice) and booked 2 nights. Oasis had tons of signs advising not to walk around the city at night.  Woops! We were glad we didn’t have any problems.
+ Got dinner at a tipico restaurant for really cheap and watched street performers.
+ Walked back to the hostel, set the fan on full blast, and tried to fall asleep as quickly as possible to escape the heat.

2/17
+ Spent most of the day lazing about in the hammocks and using the free computers to do research for upcoming travel and tried our best to stay cool.
+ Left the hostel in the afternoon and saw a long line of people waiting for something a few doors down from the hostel. Eventually a door opened and the waiting adults poured into the building. One by one each person  reimerged toting a little kid. It was the pickup line for elementary school! Most parents rode away on their bikes with the kid sitting sidesaddle on the bike frame. It was quite a sight with the bikes riding every which way on the sidewalk and down the middle of the road.
+ Talked to a few tour companies about activites for the next few days.
+ Ate dinner at Toritos and decided to take advantage of the promotion they were running for a good deal on a nice room. We made a reservation for a room for the next night with AC! Woohoo! What a luxury!

2/18
+ After another free breakfast of AYCE pancakes, we checked out of Oasis and moved our bags across town to Toritos.
+ Took the shuttle to Laguna de Apoyo and stayed the day at Paradiso Hostel.
+ It was so windy the lake was more like an ocean with waves! The cooler weather was a great escape from the Granada heat.
+ We spent a while lounging in hammocks, reading our travel guides, and sipping on a licuado.
+ Then we headed down to the beach (lake) where Corey got some use out of his football and threw around with some french Canadians for a bit while Liz floated in a tube on the lake.
+ Returned to Granada and headed back over to Toritos to shower and enjoy our AC!
+ Ate some disappointing pizza for dinner at a place that was popular, but not very well organized.
+ Met Rebekah (from volcano boarding) and her hostel mates for a drink.
+ Went back to Toritos and watched some spanish TV before bed. Corey really likes watching movies he’s already seen in Spanish and trying to figure out what they’re saying.

2/19
+ After breakfast we took a walk down to the coast of Lake Nicaragua. This is the largest lake in Central America! It was obvious the city had done some beautification of this area but unfortunately it was still not a great part of town.
+ On the walk back, we unknowingly walked under someone actively painting the ceiling of an overhang. Liz got a big drop of paint on her lip and quickly realized what was going on! We ran past the building and escaped with only a few drops on our clothes (including 1 big one right on Corey’s crotch area, so that will surely look weird every time he wears that shirt in the future).
+ Wanting to work out some kinks we had developed from these hard dorm beds, we decided to try a unique experience we had read about online. It was a place called the  Seeing Hands Blind Massage. This business offers cheap massages and a source of employment for the local blind residents of Granada. We each got a 40 min massage for $11 each!
+ Ate a quick lunch of leftover pizza and then caught the free shuttle to the Treehouse hostel.
+ Treehouse is exactly that! A treehouse built into the side of Mombacho Volcano about 30 minutes outside of Granada. A suspension bridge, lots of hammocks and thatched roofs and also a lot of climbing up and down the side of the mountain for the bathroom and private rooms.
It is a cool setting being in the middle of the jungle with monkeys all around but the hostel itself was overpriced and not very well managed.
+ Ate a communal, family style dinner the hostel workers cooked that consisted of chicken and rice. Corey sweet talked one of the staffers and managed to sneak in some seconds!
+ The place was also known as a party hostel and since it was Friday night, and the treehouse was offering free shuttles from Granada every couple of hours, more and more people kept showing up. Eventually drunken craziness was beginning to surround us and we were starting to question if this place was for us.
+ Luckily, right when we were considering escaping to our room to watch a movie, we met 2 Canadian girls named Jessie and Tanice. They ended making the trip out there well worth it! We spent the whole night talking and people watching. The now crazy party combined with the motor skills needed to get around to each part the treehouse made for lots of excellent people watching. Occasionally people needed assistance back to their room/bed (who knows if it was their bed!?)
+ Around 2am the 4 of us decided it was bed time and made the 10 minute climb down the rocky path to the rooms in the dark. Fell asleep listening to the crazy party still going on.
+ Liz woke up once or twice at night and early morning to the sounds of howler monkeys outside our room, but luckily they haven’t evolved enough to pick locks so we were safe inside our room and mosquito net.

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Honduras & Nicaragua: 2/6-2/12

La Ceiba >>> Lago de Yojoa >>> Leon

2/6
+ Our hostel had a nice hearty breakfast ready for us in preparation for our White Water rafting trip we were to go on later in the day.
+ Luckily we weren’t the only ones signed up for the rafting today. We were joined by another nice couple staying at our hostel.
+ The 7 of us (including both guides and 1 of their wives) successfully navigated 2 small rafts through class 3 and 4 white water rapids down the Rio Cangrejal.
+ Maybe the highlight of the trip was when we had the chance to stop and jump off these really tall cliffs into the rapids below. Corey went first and when he resurfaced still breathing, the rest of us decided to give it a shot as well. After our 2 new friends jumping and the crazy guide back flipping into the river it was Liz’s turn. Thankfully Vegas wasn’t taking any bets at the moment otherwise Corey would have lost every cent he had because Liz actually jumped! From 40+ feet up in the air! While Corey thanks the influence of our new friends and some blatant peer pressure from the guide and group played a part, it was still so brave for Liz to jump! Way to go!
+ We were making small talk with our guide in between rapids. When asked our professions, Corey confidently stated he is a pharmaceutical fork!! (The word for sales and fork is very close) The 3 of us had a good laugh.
+ We then finished the rest of the rapids and survived riding on the rafts on the trailer back to the hostel (out of necessity, not just for fun).
+ We decided to explore up and down this only road in and out of the jungle here and ducked into a few different hotels and restaurants. Our favorite was a place called Pico Bonito, a fancy resort style lodge situated right on the river!
+ We ate lunch overlooking both the infinity pool and 100 foot waterfall down the mountain in the distance (not too mention the gorgeous garden that was perfectly manicured).
+ Just in our short time touring the luxury resort, we got the itch to take a break from our backpacking dorm rooms and splurge for a night here. We spoke to the manager who was extremely nice and we were able to land a room for the next night for 33% Off and a free room upgrade!
+ After lunch we walked up the mountain towards the section of the river containing class 5 rapids and were joined by a new friend, Ace, a very friendly German Shepherd. He left his animal oasis of a home and walked with us the whole time up and about halfway back. Unfortunately when we stopped to explore another hotel called Omega, he was chased off into the woods by 2 big (and mean) rottweillers. We were really worried he would get lost but the manager of Omega assured us it wasn’t the first time it had happened and that Ace always found his way home in the past.
+ At Omega, Liz lounged around in a hammock drinking a licuado while Corey went hiking at the hotel’s personal hiking trail for about 45 minutes. We then followed that up with some beers and chatting with other travellers before heading back to our Jungle River Lodge.
+ Liz then flexed her own bargaining skills and got us free use of the hot water showers to avoid another night of icy cold torture showers.
+ After another good dinner right there at the hostel, we watched “In the Heart of the Sea” with Liam (our dormmate) and then feel asleep listening to the rain and weird jungle sounds again!

2/7
+ The next morning we woke up to find out it had been pouring rain all night long and that the river had risen almost 20 feet from the day before! It was now much rougher looking and the river itself was brown instead of blue like before. We also discovered that the power at our hostel (and the whole mountain) had gone out and wouldn’t be back on for a while.
+ We ate breakfast at our hostel again, and then since it was still raining we decided to have a lazy morning inside and watched Bridge of Spies until lunch time.
+ We ate lunch there and then packed up our bags and moved down the road to Pico Bonito.
+ They also did not have power, but we explored their gardens for a couple of hours before we got ready to leave with the owner, Richard. He had offered to take us into town with him to a super bowl party at a cool restaurant right on the beach. This was perfect since there was still no power up on the mountain and there wouldn’t have been much else to do.
+ On the way to the party we stopped at a house owned by the people who worked at Richard’s place and hung out with them for a while. They were really nice and hospitable. We shared some cocktails while we used their Internet to book onward travel the next day. All of the people we’ve met in Honduras have been extremely friendly!
+ The superbowl party was a lot of fun and we met a lot of people, mainly ex pats from different countries (mostly U.S.) who now made their living owning different establishments around town. Plus the restaurant had an all you can eat buffet of delicious food which we (especially Corey) made sure to take full advantage of.
+ One interesting thing that happened was that a Miller Lite rep showed up and whoever was drinking a Miller lite got a free, regulation size NFL football! Although Corey was drinking a local beer at the time, he quickly switched to miller lite to get a football, and it worked! But who knew they had beer reps here in Honduras, how strange! (One of the bar patrons told Liz that the rep used to have sexy girl reps that came around with him until a couple of years ago when the girls were kidnapped by a gang. So they stopped doing that. No wonder Honduras has a safety travel warning.)
+ After the Broncos won we rode with Richard back up to his place (which still didn’t have power) and got ready to leave the next day before going to sleep.

2/8
+ Woke up a little early in Pico Bonito and got ready to leave. While waiting for Richard to take us into town to catch our shuttle, we spent the morning playing fetch with the dogs and admiring the beautiful jungle scenery for one last time.
+ Richard drove us the 25 Minutes down the mountain to Burger King (located in a very touristy part of town with Dunkin Donuts, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, etc. also around the area) where we were to meet our shuttle driver.
+ To make a long story short, the weather was still bad so they had initially canceled the ferry from Utila and our shuttle was going to leave with about 4 people (including us) towards our next destination, Lago de Yojoa. However at the last minute they decided to run the ferry (after some people on the island already bought a flight from the island to La Ceiba. So we ended up having to wait at burger King for almost 4 hours while the shuttle driver ordered another bus, and a couple cars to take all the new people that wanted to make the trip as well (since the ferry had not left the island in a number of days due to weather, there were a lot of people leaving now and wanted onward transportation).
+ So after waiting at Burger King for 4 hours we actually ended up riding with the shuttle driver’s wife in her personal car (a Scion, just like Marymom’s car!) To a halfway point where we got into a different shuttle bus for the rest of the trip. Plus, our bags were on top of a different bus the whole time, but luckily they did eventually arrive at the same destination as us.
+ We finally arrived at our hotel, D&D Brewery, the only brewery we’ve come across and it’s right in the middle of the jungle!
+ We checked in and spent the evening sampling the local craft beers by ordering flights and sitting around the camp fire to keep warm (it was much colder than our previous spot).
+ Went back to the room and watched the movie “Sisters” before falling asleep.

2/9
+ Decided to sleep in late and have a lazy day. Actually had to use our ear plugs for the first time due to all the noise outside by people who were getting up at a normal hour like losers!
+ Spent almost the entire day on our tablets around the main hangout area catching up on the blog and more importantly, watching hummingbirds fly around the area to all the different bird feeders.
+ Liz was very fascinated by all the different types of hummingbirds and their interactions with each other and how close they would fly by us.
+ Tried a couple new food dishes and beers from the bar and eventually headed back to the room somehow tired from perhaps our laziest day yet.
+ Watched “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” before going to sleep.

2/10
+ Slept in a little bit again today and while eating brunch we planned out the rest of our day.
+ Walked 30 minutes to the next town to try and get cash from the ATM. Unfortunately it didn’t like our card so we had to catch a bus to the next town after that to withdraw money there.
+ Finally got the money and then took a Tuk Tuk back south to our desired destination, a giant 43 meter waterfall called Pulhapanazak Falls.
+ We had originally intended to both not only hike to view the waterfall, but to climb behind it. Unfortunately we were not properly informed on just how wet we would get and once there we found out we would in fact get completely drenched and since we did not have a change of clothes or bathing suit with us, Liz chose to stay warm and dry while Corey stripped down to just his shorts and went in with the guide.
+ The waterfall was massive and extremely powerful up close, but a lot of fun to swim/climb up to and behind it. The force of the misty spray alone felt like I was being pelted with BB gun bullets. We viewed the caves behind the waterfall, but the openings were so tiny and pitch black that we didn’t go in.
+ We eventually made it back to the world class photographer, Liz, and Corey changed back into his dry clothes. We then explored the rest of the park before heading out with a little bit of daylight left.
+ Having walked back to the main road and no bus in sight, we decided to hitch hike back to town and hopped into the back of a pickup truck. Although not the most comfortable ride of all time, it was free and we didn’t get abducted/killed so we count it as a win!
+ Corey wanted something different than the same food we had been eating at our hotel so he grabbed some fried chicken from the little town on the way back.
+ Back at D&D, Liz got dinner and we decided it was time to move on to our next destination so we booked onward travel for the next day with the same guy who had brought us here from La Ceiba  (a little more expensive than the bus/taxi route option, but much more convenient and stress-free).
+ We finished the night sipping more of the local craft beer and roasting Marshmallows around the fire with some friends we met from the UK.
+ We did have 1 fun little surprise before the night was up however; the 2 local house cats each brought us dead/half dead mice as parting gifts and symbols of their eternal love for us. They then proceeded to toss them around in the air (as high as 5 feet up) while simultaneously performing acrobatic stunts. The cats were tossing the mice all around us! After watching and laughing for a while, we realized there was a very high probability at least one of us would get hit with this mouse corpse as it flies through the air.  Bed time, we decided- so we packed up and moved back to the room.

2/11
+ Woke up early on our last day at D&D Brewery to do 1 more activity before we left, and that was to actually see the lake (since we did travel all the way here to Lago de Yojoa)!
+ Rented a double kayak and a very, very, very old beat up truck took us to a nearby canal that connected to the lake. After about 25 Minutes paddling through the canal, we reached the lake which was teeming with many different kinds of birds. We explored the outskirts for about half an hour before heading back since we still had to pack up to leave.
+ Once back at the Brewery, we found out our shuttle was going to be arriving around 12 instead of 1 which put us into a mad scramble for the next 30-40 minutes trying to get everything ready. Luckily we were able to get everything together enough to throw it in the shuttle van, pay our bill, and grab a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches to go since we had skipped breakfast earlier and were starving.
+ Took off in the shuttle van with 6 other people to meet our main shuttle driver an hour away on the main road to our next destination: Leon, Nicaragua!
+ After about 7.5 hours in a shuttle bus with no individual seats or headrests we finally reached the Honduran/Nicaraguan border! (Would’ve been a lot faster if we didn’t stop every hour or so).
+ After exchanging money and getting politely ripped off with the exchange rate, as usual, we got our passports stamped and then hopped on the bus again for a few more hours to Leon.
+ Luckily the van came equipped with a dvd player and we got to watch movies the whole way. We watched Pain & Gain, Django Unchained, (most of) Steve Jobs, and Fast and Furious 6.
+ We finally ended our 10.5 hour journey in Leon around 11 pm. The bus dropped us off in front of a famous party place, BigFoot Hostel. We decided to just spend the night there instead of trying to trek across town looking for another hostel at 11 pm.
+ We opted for a private room to get away from the noise, but it was right next to the kitchen and due to some overly ambitious girls cooking about 7 lasagna dishes, our room was literally as hot as an oven.
+ After escaping our room, we grabbed some new Nicaraguan beers and talked with some people and then researched for our time in Nicaragua. We ended up staying up later than everybody else (as usual). Those youngsters just can’t keep us with us seasoned night owls.

2/12
+ After waking up sweating like we just finished a hike, we were already yearning the previous 6 days of cold crisp mountain air. We decided to check out of Bigfoot and hike to the other side of town and check into a nicer, cheaper hostel Liz had found called Hostal Tortuga Booluda. We opted for the dorm room this time since the people seemed more our style (tranquilo).
+ We gathered info from the hostess then set off to explore the city on foot. We grabbed some delicious tipico food (big plate) and 2 drinks for a total of $4! That includes both of us!
+ There is a really unique looking, historic Cathedral near Central Park that we visited after lunch. We climbed up the very tiny stairway to the roof to get sweeping views of the city. It was as if we were transported to Santorini, Greece because everything was white washed! (This Cathedral was built in 1747! Wow!)
+ It was a great view point to see other historic churches and the surrounding mountains.
+ Afterwards, to cool off (or at least that was Liz’s excuse) we stopped in a Smoothie shop and we shared a delicious Shake.
+ Now it was time for our regular interrogation of different tour companies that we do in each city to learn about all the different activities/excursions and price shop. We ended up choosing a tour to go Volcano Boarding down a Volcano called Cerro Negro. The company we chose was called Quetzaltrekkers. They not only had a great price and included lunch, but they were the only company that let us go down the mountain twice! And best of all, they donate 100% of their profits to charity.
+ As we wandered through town checking out all the different shops and restaurants, we were looking to escape the unbearable heat. We stumbled upon a movie theater and decided to watch “Deadpool”. Our first movie theater experience overseas! (Theater was the same, but the movie was only $3.50 and it actually started at the exact time listed! No extra 20 minutes of previews. Weird!) The movie was way funnier than expected and we were happy with our choice.
+ Only a block away was a cool place called Via Via that we went to afterwards to lounge around in the hammocks and enjoy some cervezas.
+ The dinner smelled too appetizing to pass up so we decided to forgo our original dinner plans (which included another 15 minute trek across town) and grab dinner here instead. Liz got some chicken fajitas and Corey got 1 of the best filet mignon steaks he’s ever had! It even included Jalapeño sauce! Soooooo good!
+ When we were finished licking the plates, we got back into a big hammock for 2 just in time for the food coma to set in. After an hour or so, we embarked on the walk back home and spent the rest of the evening lounging at the hostel and updating the blog/pictures.

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