So the day after my last post, I was convinced by my German buddy divers to do my first night dive EVER with them! Usually you do it when you do your advanced course, which I don’t have. But one of them is a dive master and the other is doing his course to become a dive master so I felt comfortable to go with them, especially after doing two day dives in their company….I want to specify that I was still SUPER scared! Just the thought of going diving in the dark was a scary one…but the water is very clear and I was with the right people. We went down, and at about 5m I had some trouble with my right ear, but after a few minutes it was okay. So down we go, into the darkness and all we see is our own and other people’s flash lights. I was just trying not to look anywhere else, just where my light was pointing because then, its just pitch f*ck*ng black.
We saw lots of nice life underwater: many big starfish, sea urchins, lobsters, spiny lobster, shrimp, 3 or 4 trumpet fish, many sleeping fish as well, an octopus (!!!), I think an eel or some sort of slithering black and white spotted thing, and a huuuuge baracuda. It was a long dive, 76 minutes under water and with one tank because it was not very deep. Half way through, the local dive master made us go in a circle on our knees at the bottom and signalled us to shut our lights. I started shaking my head and thinking: ah! ya right no way then we are going to be in pitch black ocean water. But then the other dive master took my hand and we closed all our lights. It was something like I have never seen: it was like there were stars under water. It was fluorescent everywhere coming from corals, fish, starfish powder and plankton. We stayed there just looking around us for a while and continued diving. The experience was amazing and I would definitely do it again! Unfortunately there are no pictures! But here is a trumpet fish I got off the internet so you can see what it looks like!
Arrival inPanama was….quite something actually. The bus and boat rides to cross the border and get to my destination were very nice. I am in the Archipelago de BocasdelToro, which are islands on theCaribbeancoast. There is one main island that is pretty big and more “touristy” you could say: lots of restaurants, people have cars, stores, diving centers etc. I am staying on an island called Bastimentos which is a small village, no bank or atm, no cars and barely any tourists. There are some beautiful beaches here as well and so, upon arrival, I asked for directions to the beach which was supposed to be a 20 minute walk. Buuuuutttt, I got lost in my thoughts and follow a path, which ended with mangroves. Seeing a little bridge (that must lead to somewhere right?) I try to get to it, not knowing that I would sink into mud all the way to my knees. What was worst, was that I was terrified of all the little crabs running around everywhere, or if there was something under there that would bite me. I also lost one of my Birkenstocks, so I tried to dig to get it back but never found it, and ditched the other one L. It was only when I got back to my hostel that I thought: oh crap crocodiles! I didn’t see one, otherwise I would have really panicked ahahaha. So I find this little resort thing and ask them how to get back, and well…options were: go back the way you came from (no fucking way!), wait for a boat to take me across, or swim. There was no boat and all I had was sunscreen and a book in a Ziploc bag. So I put my glasses in there and swam across. It really wasn’t that far so it went really well. I went to the hostel and I was just really angry, I changed and went out to find the freaking beach; which I did. And it was beautiful white sand and turquoise water so at least it was nice. I got back and met this Spanish guy so we chatted and hung out and ended up going to this reggae live show at a bar on the water. At our second beer, we heard screaming and bottles breaking: people were fighting so we got the hell out of there, like everyone else did too, that ended the night! This morning, I was told it was a guy and his ex-wife that were fighting…intense. On the island they speak Spanish but also guri guri (not sure if it is written this way). It is English, cut and stuck together and sounds nothing like English ahahaha. Oh and they have these huge, I mean like 3 inch long grasshoppers here, I got one on my head yesterday while skyping with my brother and then it stayed stuck in my curls. I have never seen a big bug like that! Very welcoming ahahha.
This afternoon I went to the bigger island to the bank and also did two dives which were really fun and met some awesome people too, saw some nice fish, a barracuda, starfish, lobster and lots of nice corals!
We arrived in Puerto Viejo de Talamanca in theprovinceofLimoninCosta Ricaon Sunday the 21rst. The bus ride from the capital to theCaribbeancoast was about 4.5hs and everything was soooooooo green and beautiful. We also saw many trucks with very familiar brands such as Del Monte and Chiquita (BANANAS!!!). According to the guide book, Rocking J’s is the pick and party hostel. We got there and even though it is all pretty and big with mosaics everywhere, the dorms we were in was super crowded and not the cleanest. To top it off, the price was 4$ a night more than what we thought. Luckily, as we walked around later on, we found this little place owned by two Germans fromBerlinand fell in love with it. The lady was nice enough to give us a little discount because we told her we would stay for 4 nights.
It is great also because we have a kitchen at our hostel and can cook for ourselves.Costa Ricais pretty expensive, especially coming fromNicaragua, where everything was half the price. We got free sausages from the people who left the day we arrived at the hostel. Ironicly, we had bought the same ones, and so, sausage has been on the menu for almost all three meals a day, we are becoming sausages ourselves.
I now sit in a hammock at my hostel which is called Vista Verde for the simple reason that everywhere we look around us is green; big green trees, palm trees, leaves and many flowers. There are little lizards that run around and we hear the frogs at night. Yesterday we saw a sloth (paresseux) in one of the trees. He was very close and moved soooooooooo slowly! Today we rented bikes and went to snorkel at Punta Uva. It was awesome! The reefs were really big and are the only living reefs inCosta Rica. There are over 400 species of fish and 35 different types of coral and the water is supposedly the clearest in the country. Tomorrow, I will be doing two dives and exploring further down into the ocean, can’t wait. The mission has been to see a toucan on our bike rides and walks, but so far we have been unlucky, maybe tomorrow.
Our daily ritual is actually going for fresh fruit juice everyday, yummm! Strawberry, pineapple, starfruit!!
Unfortunately, time flies when you are having fun and Friday is already time for Cassy to head back toCanadaand for me to go off toPanama, more to come!
So Thurday the 18th was our departure from the island back to Managua the capital, because Chanelle was leaving. During the night I started a fever, I was cold, hot but still managed to get some sleep. However, the day was a long one and included alot of ibuprofene. When we got to the airport Cass and I wanted to buy our flight to Corn Island, but it turned out to be more than what we were told by other travelers. We were disappointed, but it would have been very expensive to go just for 3 days, so we decided to leave for Costa Rica instead. We arrived at the airport and waited there about 5hs until Chan got her boarding pass. When Cass and I arrived at the hotel, we took my temperature and I was at 103.8F/40C. We slept a bit and took a 10 hours bus to San Jose (we arrived yesterday, the 19th). I went to bed very early and got some good sleep. But this morning, still not feeling well I went to the doctor. The clinic’s building was amazing: the inside had trees, plants, fountains. Turns out I have a bug/bacteria in my body. So I am now on antibiotics. The doctor said I would be better by Monday with what he gave me. So we took it easy in San Jose, napped, watched a movie and now we are cooking our supper and leaving tomorrow for the Caribbean Coast so we can relax on the beach. Once I am better we will go snorkeling and biking and stuff but for the next few days its relaxing relaxing and more relaxing. I need a book. And headphones because mine broke.
It has already been 6 days inNicaragua! When we arrived, we spent the afternoon inManagua(the capital). The city itself is not very appealing, for a tourist anyway; there is no city center per se, and you have to take taxis everywhere because it is really big, ok so actually, its kinda really crappy. So we went by the lake during the afternoon and ate and had beer. (oh by the way, beer is one dollar YAY! Ahahaha) then we took a boat ride after our late lunch and were highly entertained with the drunk Nicaraguan family that was there. We chatted with them, they danced and drank (before the boat, on the boat and probably after the boat, ahahaha). It was a nice ride.
The next day we went toLeon, which is an old colonial city and visited the streets and the largest cathedral inCentral America. The streets were colourful and it was much, much nicer. We had a good hostel as well, and it had a pool! Which was nice because it was hot and humid! We then left for the beach at Las Penitas, some 18km away on the Pacific coast. We left pretty early and were able to get some sun, had some lunch, read and watched the surfers catch some big waves. We had lots of fun swimming and it was Chan’s first time at the beach!
Our next destination wasGranada. This is another colonial city and there are more tourists. We arrived on a holiday called Asunción de Maria, and everyone was partying in the main plaza: street food, beer, cowboy hats and boots, people with horses etc etc! Apparently the partying continued in another part of the city but we did not go. The next day we went to Las Isletas, which are 375 islands on the lake aroundGranada. We only took a one hour boat to visit some of them. Many people have big and nice houses on some of them, or restaurants. One of them is calledMonkeyIslandwhere 5 monkeys live. They came to see us while we were on the boat and we fed them candy. They actually took the paper off of the starburst before eating the candy! Ahahaha. It was really fun! Then we had lunch at a friend of mine’s restaurant called Tequila Vallarta. We were very well welcomed by his mother and the staff and had amazing food!
Our next destination was the Isla de Ometepe, an island with two volcanoes called Maderas (1300m approx) and Concesión (1600m approx). Getting to the island was quite something: we left in the morning, being told buses fromGranadato our destination were every 30-45mins. We finally arrived at the bus terminal, after walking through a local market, and we were told that there was one at 9h30am, which left early because it was full and the next one was only at 11h30am. Obviously it was 9h30am when we got there. So we ordered the typical Nica breakfast called Gallo Pinto. It is rice and pinto beans and you can eat it with eggs, tortillas or chicken. Then a little kid named Julio came and wanted some so we gave him what we had left. He sat with us and ate and we talked with him for a bit. The bus ride was not quite a chicken bus but close to it. It was an old yellow school bus which could not have been any fuller. There were 3 people per seat or almost and others were standing; it was cramped. It took us almost two hours before arriving to a city, from which we had to take a taxi to another village to take the ferry to the island. We arrived and there was a ferry only at4pm, but a lancha (smaller boat) was about to leave. For half the price and right away, we took it. Chanelle did not quite like the ride, the waves at first were quite big and a few people did not feel too good. On this boat there was a box with little chicks, just by the way ahahhaha. Well, Cass and I ended up falling asleep once the waves calmed down a bit. That lasted an hour. The next transit was another school bus, this time not so full, and ended up being nearly 3hs because of the muddy roads. We finally arrived at our hostel, right by the lake, and absolutely beautiful. We were starved. With all the traveling and almost missing buses and boats we had only had that breakfast. So we enjoyed the sunset, had a beer, and some garlic bread.
Today, the 17th, was our Maderas volcano trek. There were many beautiful flowers and colourful butterflies. We saw a crazy crab in the middle of the path and it would jump and snap its claws at us, so we had to go around because we were scared. It was funny tho. There were a lot of monkeys too and we would hear them almost all the way, maybe fighting, maybe making love, who knows! We left at 7h30am and made it halfway due to weather and timing. But it was a good hike, I was able to break into my trekking boots, and we did some exercise, we were really tired afterwards. Tomorrow is already Thursday and time for Chanelle to leave! So all of us are going back toManagua.
And so the next chapter of my life, of the next few and last months of 2011, and of my next big adventure started on Monday August 7th 2011 with the drive to New Jersey with Chanelle and Sarah. It was a nice sunny day, the drive was smooth, we arrived, had dinner, hung out and called it a day. Our flight was on Tuesday the 8th at 7h50pm and so by the time we woke up, ate and took it easy it was already time to go to the airport. We arrived at about 4h15 because we wanted to avoidNew York City traffic. So we wait in line at Spirit airlines to check in and next thing we know our flight is delayed because of the rain, which is making us miss out connecting flight toManagua,Nicaragua. Great. The family in front of us, who also had to change their flight had about 10 suitcases and took maybe an hour and a half with the agent and so it took forever to actually know what we were doing. To make a long story short, we decided to go toFort Lauderdale and take a connecting flight toSan Jose,Costa Rica which was only on the Wednesday night. We stayed at the Hilton by the airport. We arrived there at4am and only checked in at6am because that way we could have the room all day on Wednesday, which made more sense than to check out at11am or pay for two days. We spent the day sleeping, at the pool and then we were back to the airport. Because Chanelle had a return ticket New York-Managua, we were only able to get her to leave 2 days later, (to make up for lost time) but fromNicaragua, as they could not change her return destination. So we planned to take the 9hs bus ride fromSan Jose toManagua directly in order to save time.
We arrived to the Costa Rican capital at1amlocal time and knew there was a bus toNicaraguaat3amwith a company called King Quality. However, this bus could not be reserved online or by phone in advance and so we were really nervous that there would not be enough room for all 3 of us, in which case, would have been a real drag and we would have all been pretty upset. But……..we made it. I am on it as I write and there is a lot of vegetation, the scenery is beautiful lots of trees, mountains, and now I even see wind mills for energy! Did not knowNicaraguaused it!
The bus ride is really nice. It’s not a chicken bus that’s for sure! Actually it is similar to the ones I was taking inArgentina: reclinable seats, tv, air conditioning, food, pillow, blanket! It took a while at migration, but we are finally back on the road.
We all can’t wait to officially be started with the trip, as we have been transiting these past few days. Although we all couldn’t complain about the beds at the Hilton that’s for sure (ahahha), now the real fun begins!
So, as promised, the monthly update. July actually flew by, maybe even faster than the other months. On the first, which was also Canada day, I moved into my friend Mila’s apartment in the city center. We were four girls living in a two bedroom place. My other friend Anne only had a week left. We spent a lot of time together, making fajitas, going to a jazz bar, studying…well a bit ahahaha. And on the last weekend before her departure we headed off to Santa Rosa de la Calamuchita, where Mila is from. There, we hung out, took a walk up the mountain, drank a lot of mate and ate lots of sweets ahaha. I cooked a lebanese meal and Anne made hot wine. It was a little cold but we slept great with all the covers. On our last day we had mate by the river which was really nice.
We had many get togethers in July: going aways, birthdays etc.. On July 20th they celebrate friends day during which friends get together to eat and exchange presents or cards. It is more popular than Valentine’s day. I cooked a full lebanese meal for Mila and Carla and received a book and a hat from them.
July was also the end of the semester for me. I had to hand in papers, write an exam and go for “coloquios”. When you have more than a certain grade in the class, you do not have to write the final exam or paper. Instead, you meet with the professor and have a presentation, discussion about something they previously assign. For literature, I had to read two books and discuss them, for another class I had to defend or explain the professors comments on my paper. But in most of these cases the professors were seemed more interested in asking me about my experience, where I come from, how the weather is back at home, what exactly I study etc etc. I had trouble with one class; the professor was not satisfied with my paper and so I had to re write and re organize it. Then when I met her, she complained about my bibliography and my sources, on how they were not scholarly enough and I should have gone to the library. I thought this was ironic considering my friends usually laugh at me for always taking books out at the library when at Concordia. But anyways, I took her comments and advice. It was a little stressful anyways having to do the work again and I was really annoyed and just wanted it to end already! ahaha. Once that was done, I had to get the professors to go to the office and sign in order for me to get my certifications. I ran around a bit getting everything done but it all worked out.
In July, it is winter. And so, I decided to go diving with this guy I met on a diving site. We called up the agency and went! It was in a lake and we were ready for the water to be cold….but really…not THATTTT cold! I was getting my gear ready and was almost ready to go when I decide to switch around the wet suit I had on and put TWO WET SUITS! and seriously…it was soooo cold. We were only in the water for 24 minutes, but at 11 degrees!
My goodbye party was also really fun. Lucas cooked thai food, and we hung out until 4am! Rosario made an amaziiiiinnnnnggggg chocolate and dulce de leche cake! It was a great way to end the month in Argentina. Saying goodbye was difficult, but not so much knowing that I will be going back in December, as I have a flight on the 15th to head back home; it was more of a see ya later aligator! Although it was difficult to leave that special connection…
So, the big event of the month of July I guess you could say was me coming back to Montreal for 2 weeks, as a complete surprise to everyone! Wow. The reaction on my parents face was PRICELESS! They came back from Las Vegas on July 25th around 8pm. I had arrived that morning at 7h30am. My brother had picked me up and told the parents to meet for sushi in Vaudreuil on their way back from the airport. Dad called when they landed to confirm. So we went. We sat at a table and waited. When we saw the parents arrive, I went to hide in the bathroom. For a while I waited there, SOOOO excited, I had so many butterflies in my stomach ahahaha. I took a peek and dad was not sitting at the table. So I waited longer. Finally I see both of them sitting with my brother and I walk up to the table and say: “Mind if I join you?”. They both look at me, completely surprised, jaw-dropped and staring for about 5-7 seconds. No reaction. Then dad gets up, hugs me and mom starts crying. They really had noooooooo idea. It was our first meal all together since December.
The next day, I had a dinner with all the girls. Turns out Julia knew, but Karine, Reb and Marieve were all shocked as well to see me there, as they all thought that the surprise was going to be Emily (who now lives in New Brunswick). And so, I made some surprise calls here and there and popped up at Eriks as well. It was fun and still is to see everyone before heading back out into the adventure. July is going to end in Mont Tremblant with all my long time high school friends and it is going to be so much fun!