Published: July 21st 2012July 17th 2012
We are delighted to report we survived "Becky 38". As I write this Becky is curled up in bed licking her wounds from a big birthday evening, but more on that later. The days have begun to melt together after seven weeks on the road. Although I may not be in the clearest mental state as I write this, I will do my best to accurately bring you all up to date on our adventures over the past three weeks.
In departing Nueva Arenal we discovered we had made a slight error in trying to get to our next destination, Los Chiles, on the Costa Rican/Nicaraguan frontier. We ended up having to back track South to La Fortuna to get on a road that heads North. This ended up being a 4 different bus event that took 7 hours to go maybe 100 miles. It was ridiculously hot on the chicken buses and we often had to stand in the aisle. We hung tough till the last hour, at which time we were at our wits end. We travelled roughly ten miles in an hours time. I still to this day am very perplexed why the Costa Ricans can't walk
a 100 ft. down the road to stand next to other folks waiting to get on the same bus. At the same time, why they need to flag down a bus, making it come to a complete stop, pay their fare and receive change from the driver, then make the bus once again come to a complete stop, and they get off the bus literally 200 yds. down the road? We were delighted to finally reach Los Chiles as the skies opened up and poured just as we were getting off the bus. This was by far our most taxing day of travel to date, exaggerated by neither of us sleeping well the night before, nothing to eat all day, and getting bitten by fire ants on our toes at one of our transfers. However, the next days made it all worthwhile. Los Chiles
Our reason for venturing to Los Chiles was for me to pursue my quest to catch a 100+ lb. Tarpon. I had done a little digging on the internet and discovered the rivers in this part of Costa Rica could possibly afford me a chance at accomplishing this. After a little leg work and
Caimans Catching Early Morning Sun
a few phone calls and some bartering we had a day of fishing set up, but not until two days later. We found ourselves stuck in a frontier border town with really nothing to do or see and also no other tourists. It wasn't super sketchy, but a place that as we walked down the streets every single local stared at us uncomfortably and their eyes asked "what in the hell are you two doing here?" We both burned the day reading and studying Spanish as I eagerly anticipated getting on the water early the next day.
Up at 4 am, coffee at 4:15, running up the Rio Frio by 4:45, just as light was starting to break. It was a glorious morning thru the jungle river. The banks were lined with Egrets, Herons and Caimans. The air was filled with the screams of birds and Howler Monkeys and the water was alive with jumping fish and rolling Tarpon. After running a few miles up the river we stopped at our first spot and I began to cast. There wasn't a whole lot happening for twenty minutes and then Tarpon starting rolling on the opposite bank. We positioned the
boat properly and within a minute or two I was hooked up with the biggest fish of my lifetime. I have already shared the minute details of the day with all my fishing buddies so I will not bore those non-anglers with the details other than these: it took just under an hour to land the fish, I broke my flyrod in the process, and was completely spent, yet extremely elated when it was all said and done. The tarpon was over 6 ft. long and weighted approx. 150 lbs. Becky did an awesome job taking photos and trying to capture the amazing leaps the fish made. The remainder of the day involved two more fish, both larger than the first, but neither landed. One nearly jumped in the boat and simply scared the shit out of us, the second, around 200 lbs. broke my hook after about ten minutes. Really not sure I had the physical strength left for another hour+ battle, so no great loss. I conned Becky into letting me fish again the next day, which was rather uneventful. The highlight was seeing a large caiman grab a sleeping Egret on the bank and carry the bird
underwater to its demise. Nicaragua
The following day we headed to Nicaragua on our new fishing buddies boat. It was a short 20 minute trip down the Rio Frio, stopping at a military outpost in the middle of nowhere, then ending up in San Carlos at the Southern end of Lake Nicaragua. Our friends helped us clear customs, exchange money, buy a bottle of rum, and then lead us to the ferry dock. We couldn't have had an easier time transtioning to a new country thanks to our Tico friends. As we waited for our ferry we met an American couple that lived in Guatemala that were making their way back home. Two minutes before we met they had just been robbed. Simple distraction and bam, a bag with two computers gone in an instant. Becky and I both hugged our bags and decided the ease of travelling in security was over once we left the comforts of Costa Rica. Isle de Ometope
We had an 11 hr. ferry ride across Lake Nicargua that cost us each $12- all foreigners are required to go first class (upstairs). The trip was pleasant, but long. They played a
bad French movie with Spanish subtitles. There was plenty of room to lounge on the benches and read and sleep. We stopped in two different ports on the Eastern shore which were entertaining. All the locals would come out to the end of the pier, board the ferry and walk thru selling everything from cell phones to cookies to chunks of cheese. We bought some of the local fare simply because all the Nicaraguans were-a chunk of white cheese and warm tortillas. Looked and sounded great in principle, but was pretty awful. We finally arrived at the Northern port of the Isle de Ometope at midnight. We hopped in the back of a fruit trunk with our packs and 20 other locals, not really sure where we were headed, but with no ther options. After a 15 minute bumpy ride we came to the town of Altagracia, everyone got out at the town square except us. I tried to communicate with an old man the name of a hostel and he just waved his hands at us to stay in the back of the truck. We travelled down the road a little further getting a little sketched out since we
San Ramón Waterfall
Sky Fleeing Frenchy in Banana Hammock
had no idea where we were headed and the streets were dark and deserted. Finally the truck came to a stop in front of the hostel and we hopped out. The old man tried to hose us on the fare, but we paid him what everyone else had and we slipped into the hostel with him still barking at us. Merida
The next day we hopped on a bus and headed to the Southern part of the island to the little village of Merida, located on the Western shore of the Isle. We found a great hostel right on the water and settled in for a few days. We had access to kayaks and paddled along the shore, fishing and taking in the sights. We also went on the longest 3 km. hike up the Maderas Volcano to the San Ramon Waterfall. It was a nice hike highlighted by seeing tons of butterflies en route to the falls. We were both pretty spent by the time we reached the falls, but they were beautiful and refreshing. We took in the jungle environs until a crusty old frenchman showed up in a Speedo and we decided it was time
Pig Going from Point A to Point B
to leave. We hitched a ride on the back of fruit truck back to the hostel and offered the guy a little money, but he wouldn't accept it. Granada
In departing Ometope, we took an hour ferry, to the mainland, a taxi to Rivas, then hopped on a bus supposedly headed to Granada. I think Becky would have to say the Bus Station in Rivas was probably the most chaotic place she has ever witnessed. The noise, the vendors, the filth, and sheer number of people about was crazy. The bus we had gotten on was headed in the direction of Granada, but not to Granada. We got off at an intersection in the middle of nowhere and had no other option than to take a motor taxi into Granada. After bartering for a bit we hopped in and had a nice twenty minute ride right to our hostel. We spent the next day and half cruising around Granada and checking out the colonial city. There were some nice churches and buildings, but everything was in rather ill repair and could of used a fresh coat of paint. It was not quite the Colonial gem it was described
to be and very touristy. Spanish Immersion
We both enrolled in Spanish school for the next week and decided to do seperate home stays so we both could get the most out of the experience. On Monday morning we showed up at school at 8 am ready for class. Becky had a nice young man, Danilo, who spoke great English, and I had a nice lady, Flavia, who spoke some English. We both walked away from our first 4 hrs. of class that day mentally exhausted, yet curious to see what our host families would be like. Becky ended up in a very nice home, 4 bedrooms, two baths, internet, flat screen, etc. The owner was a very pleasant woman, Amalia and her daughter, Olympia who also lived there, Carlos (Amalia's son) would also pop in on occasion. There was one other student from Duke (Amanda) also staying at the house. Amelia was an amazing cook, very nice, but spoke a hundred mph and dropped all her s's so Becky had a pretty tough time communicating with her. Her numerous requests to ask her to speak more slowly weren't working, so it was a long week of smiling
Inglesia de La Merced
and head nodding for Becky, but Becky understood more and more as the week went on. Fortunately, Amanda was there, so at least Becky had someone to talk to in English. As far as my homestay, it is safe to say I was living on the other side of the tracks. Although I was only a block away from Becky's house, I was in the G H E T T O. What my hood and home lacked in flare was made up for by the wonderful old lady I stayed with, Marie Elena. She didn't speak a lick of English, but spoke slowly for me, constanly corrected me, quizzed me on the names of different things after our meals and really wanted me to get the most out of the time we spent together. Both of our weeks consisted of breakfast with our hosts, school from 8-12, then lunch back at our hosts, followed by an afternoon activity with one of the school's professors. Our activities were a boat trip around the shores/islets of Granada, a trip to the markets at Masaya, a trip to the small pueblito of Catarina, and a cooking class. We would then return to our
Laguna de Apoyo
houses and have dinner then crash, mentally exhausted. We both found the week of class to be exhausting and were delighted to have our little graduation ceremony on Friday afternoon. Becky got a good jist of basic vocab and verbs and I spent the whole week in conversation. My professor was a secondary school social studies teacher so we talked a lot about life in Nicaragua, the country's history and its differences to the United States. She often corrected me in our conversations and there was plenty of times I would simply throw an "O" onto the end of an English word and just keep on ramblin'. Overall I can say we both enjoyed it and learned a great deal. Spanish is a sumbitch to learn at our age, but hopefully it will continue to become more and more comfortable to use. At this stage we can definitely get by and communicate without any problems. Using proper tenses of verbs and learning a huge new vocabulary hopefully will get better every day. Laguna de Apoyo
We were supposed to stay with our hosts thru Monday, but once class ended on Friday we decided to bail to a very
quaint volcano crater lake just outside of Granada. Our minds were fried from the week and we each couldn't handle another day of eating beans and rice three times a day. We chilled at the lake and swam and read and spent time organizing our notes from the week of school. Becky even made herself a couple hundred flashcards. The lake was very beautiful and serene. We cooked our own meals at the hostel and enjoyed the peace and quiet. San Juan Del Sur
We decided we wanted to celebrate "Becky 38" in a more lively locale so we spent a very enjoyable day of travel on 7/15 heading South to the Pacific beach/surf town of San Juan Del Sur. It took three different buses, but went like clockwork. Off a bus, onto the next and five minutes later on the road again. We were both amazed at the simplicity and how little time it took to cover a pretty good distance. This in part was due to being a Sunday and not near as many locals travel on Sundays- Thank you Catholics!
In honor of Becky's Bday we ponied up and stayed in the nicest place
Nicaragua's National Bird
(Turquoise Browed Motmot)
to date (not counting our first week on Peninsula Papagayo). We had a great terrace next to the beach, AC, a kingsize bed, cable TV, and hot water. We were living large for two nights. SJDS is a nice fishing village turned surf town. It is pretty developed for backpackers with lots of cheap restaurants, a great beach, and friendly party vibe. We ran into a couple guys promoting a Pub Crawl for the next night and we decided it might be a fun thing to do for Becky's Bday. It turned out one of the guys grew up in Westminster and went to Boulder. We spent the day chillin' on the beach then headed out that evening donning our mandatory "The Dirty Crawl" tank tops. There was a group of about 20, of which were brits, belgians, irish, brazilians, kiwis, and americans. We were by far the oldest crawlers and nobody would believe Becky was 38. We went to a number of different bars, doing shots and playing games until we finally shut it down around 3 am. In all it was a great evening and met a bunch of fun people. It is currently three days since that
evening that I am writing the majority of this. My attempt to write following that evening was quickly thwarted and put on hold for a couple days. After our day of recovery we have been hanging out, visiting the surrounding beaches, taking in the sunsets, and watching parades. Today is a major National Holiday, the 33rd Anniv. of the Revolution. Lots of things are shut down and thousands of Nicaraguans along with all the buses in the country have migrated to the capital, Managua. We had been aware of this for a few weeks so planned on not travelling today, but are headed out early tommorow to Matagalpa in N. Nicaragua. Should be a long long day of travel.
We hope all our friends and family are having a great Summer. We apologize for not being more on top of the blog and having to write so much. In all honesty we simply forget about it and then realize we can't let any more time pass so force ourselves to do it. We hope you enjoy us sharing our adventures. Make sure you scroll to the bottom of the blog page to see photos that didn't fit with the
Schuyler and Becky
P.S. Sky's mustache is no longer on this trip. Amen! He's also no longer flying under the radar as Larry Hustler, but as El Toro. Pray for me!
There are more photos below