Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Serge and Jessica's excellent adventures in Central America

I was able to not check my e-mail for seven days which was such a relief. However, the ability to get continuous Internet access at work also meant that I was now all alone in Nicaragua and that the last two amazing weeks with Jessica were over. We both shed tears as Jess boarded her flight this morning to Miami and then to Toronto and I slowly realized that I was still very much in Nicaragua for the next five weeks as I try to complete my demanding work term. But that's enough about today's morose reality. Let’s reflect and savour the memories.

Jessica arrived on Friday, June 15th at the Managua International Airport. I was waiting there for her alongside my adopted brother, Oscar. We saw her but she looked anxious and couldn’t seem to find her piece of luggage. Unfortunately, it had not made the connection so we were told to come back the next day to hopefully retrieve (which we later did). We went to Pochomil on Saturday with Wendy, my friend and colleague from work, along with her two cousins that arrived that same day. We had a wonderful time at the beach while eating fried fish and shrimp. I was the designated driver and drove through villages and mountains trying to avoid the free range dogs, sheep’s, chickens, pigs, horses, cows as well as free range kids, bicyclists and old people as they strolled in the middle of the road. Didn’t hit anything and we made it back safely.

Sunday was spent travelling to Isla de Ometepe where our kind guide, Daniel Jaminez was waiting for us. We spent our first night in Charco Verde and Jess and I had the opportunity to go on a nature hike, find a secluded beach with very warm water and swim while looking up to the islands two volcanoes, Conception and Madera. The next day, Jess and I hiked up to see the San Ramos waterfalls while Wendy and her cousins did quite a big hike up to the top of the Madera volcano. On Tuesday, Jess and I parted ways with Wendy and her cousins and we spent the day in Granada, admiring the unique Spanish colonial architecture of the oldest continuous European settlement in the Americas. We then took an hour and a half boat ride along the Granada islets and dreamed of living in one of these huge houses. We even got to befriend some monkeys on the isla de monos (monkey island). I had to return to work the next day only to find out that Nicaragua was undergoing huge electricity problems resulting in rolling black-outs of eight hours or more. We tried to work from the nearest mall (as they had free WI-FI access) but eventually gave up and went to see Shrek Three, ate a good meal and relaxed.

Thursday was spent in Masaya, the headquarters for much of the Nicaragua art and crafts talent. We went through the traditional and old market and found some very good deals on quality pottery, hammocks, wood carvings and paintings. As we admired our purchases and sat in a local cafĂ© enjoying our coffee, we looked at life go by for a little while. On Friday, we made our way to our weekend destination which was La Conchia or the village of San Juan del Oriente. The British owner of the Spanish School I attend in Managua has built an impressive eco-lodge along with plenty of animals, an amazing garden, solar panels and a solar water heater (resulting in my first warm shower in Nicaragua). We ate great food and visited the Mombacho Volcano on Saturday located amongst the cloud forest. We were able to do a hike up there and admire the amazing foliage and wildlife. We also made it out to a much different volcano in Masaya where there are plumes of Sulphuric smoke still coming out. After burning our eyes and lungs a bit, we made it back for some more great food at the hotel. On Sunday, we finished our journey in Nicaragua by swimming in the most amazing lagoon called Apoyo Lagune near Masaya. It was clean and warm and very sunny so we spent a good part of the afternoon swimming with Giamina, the eco-lodge’s daughter while our driver sat and relaxed while reading the newspaper.

Monday, June 25th saw the second part of our trip commence. We boarded our flight to Costa Rica, a bit anxious because all indications was that Costa Rica was not nearly as nice as Nicaragua. After driving around in circles with our rented 4x4 for the first few hours, we eventually found our hotel in Alajuela and had a great meal because getting a much deserved rest. The next day, we left early and drove to Monteverde and its treacherous 30 km of unpaved, pot-holed and narrow roads up 1000 metres to the village of Santa Elena. We found a hotel and took a night walk that same evening seeing tarantula spiders, black widow spiders, a silver fox, a family of racoons, a porcupine and a sloth and its baby. We saw countless types of insects I won’t start to name. The next day, we did what we came to Monteverde to do: a 18 platform canopy tour with the Selvatura company. It was worth every dollar as we both had a great time. Jess was the only woman who tried the Tarzan swing (a few men decided not to do it). Jess doesn’t look like the bravest person but she sure is! Actually, that same day, she tried to fight her irrational and debilitating fear of snakes… so we visited the Serpentarium and viewed 40 different types of snakes. Towards the end of the night, as I was holding a baby boa constructor, she stroked its skin three times. Last time I saw Jess in front of a snake she was shaking vigorously and had turned white as a statue. Huge steps here!

The final leg of our journey was to drive a snail-like pace from Monteverde to the Caribbean coast to spend a couple days near Cahuita Park, 40 km south of Limon. After spending countless hours behind 18-wheelers, we finally made it. Cahuita was very quiet and very much a reggae-based culture. There was a groove about the village which we didn’t miss. Unfortunately, it was also the rainy season meaning there were long bouts of rain and the humidity went through all our clothes. We did get to do a great hike and took some pretty cool pictures in the Cahuita park. We drove back to our base camp in Alajuela and readied ourselves for our departure on Sunday back to Nicaragua. This brings us back to today, Monday, July 2nd, the date of Jessica’s departure. So, as I sit back and reflect on our trip, I can only say that I have thoroughly enjoyed spending so much time with Jessica in a really interesting and hospitable part of the world.

To view pictures of our trip, click here.

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