Ever saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I gotta get the heck out of Texas!
The stars aligned perfectly for the last eight months. From the beginning of my trip in Las Vegas, to the end in Mexico City, this unplanned plan could not have gone any smoother. Teaching English in Nepal and Guatemala has exceeded my expectations, along with the volunteers, travelers, and locals I met there. No one tried to mess with me and nothing was stolen. All 17 of my flights went without any bumps or delays. I even earned a voucher for a free flight in the future from volunteering to board a later flight while I was on a layover in Los Angeles. The money I budgeted was just about perfect. I was only sick once but with a common cold that lasted about a week. The major factor that played into my excellent journey were all of the friends that took care of me in their respective countries. I saved a boatload of money just from their generous hospitality alone. They all took care of me well! I stayed with friends in The Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Costa Rica, and Mexico. I account most of my globetrotting ease to them. Continue reading Everything Fell Perfectly Into Place…Except For Texas→
I’ve learned my lesson. Last year around this time was the coldest I’ve ever been in my entire life yet! “There’s no way I’m staying in Michigan next winter” I would always think to myself. Thankfully, I held true to the idea and have been experiencing one of the hottest, funnest, craziest, and best winters of my life! I usually leave home in the summers but it just makes more sense to get the heck outta there during the stupid cold months. Snow? What snow?
Dani came and picked me up from the mall and we headed directly to her university, The University of Costa Rica. She had a dance class to attend to while I found the opportunity to blog. It’s a lot harder to blog when I’m in backpacker mode rather than when I’m in one place for a long time, like when I’m in volunteer mode. Anyways, after her class was complete, she took me around campus where I met her brother Julian and her mother. Julian is a young professor at the college as well as her mother. We went back to their home where Dani had my own room and towel prepped for me. Later on I met her other sister Vivian. Now, I’ve officially met all the Gutierrez siblings and all of them were completely receptive of my arrival!
Maria Jose, her husband David, and Dani all had the day off and wanted to show me some more of Costa Rica. They took me to a secluded beach in Punta Leona called Playa Blanca that’s relatively hard to get to, filled with palm trees, coconuts, parrots, and some of the warmest ocean water I’ve felt in a while. The breeze was always gentle and there weren’t too many people there. The sun was shiny and the temperature was decorous. David supplied the Imperial beers, one of the most popular local beers of Costa Rica. It was the life.
We found a contorted coconut tree, extending out to the ocean that was perfect for climbing.
After sometime, Maria treated everyone to Pops ice cream which is commonplace in Central America. I’ve never seen one back home. Ice cream is ALWAYS a good thing to have. Next, we drove to yet another beach in Hermosa. This one was different though. The waves were monstrous and the sand here was dark and hot, similar to Monterrico beach in Guatemala. We ate here and chilled the day out underneath a tent. The beach here was meant for surfers. Anyone else attempting to swim would risk getting caught in its current.
After a full day at two different beaches, we called it a night and ate dinner back at the house. All the meals I’ve had at the Gutierrez residence has been the best. Here, a typical Costa Rican breakfast consists mainly of gallo pinto, which is rice with beans mixed with something that turns the rice into a darker color. I don’t know. I never asked. All that mattered to me was that it was effin delicioso! Especially when you mix in some salsa lizano. If only I could explain what lizano is to you non Ticos. It’s better than everything. I’m bringing some back home, courtesy of Dani’s nicer than nice mom who bought me a bottle for the road. Muchas gracias Senorita Gutierrez
The next day, Dani took me to a town called Cartago and up to a volcano called Volcan Irazu.
It was a windy day and there wasn’t too much to see but thought it was the perfect opportunity to play around with photos while we were up there.
That same night we met up with Julian and Vivi’s fiancé Mike at a bar nearby where I tried my first Costa craft beer. Dani mentioned that there was a river about an hour or two away that not many people knew about that you could actually swim in. I was game for it and so we went along with two of Dani’s amigas. Dani’s tiny little dog Nano came with us also. She was right, the bed of the river was secluded and there was no one in sight. We went up the river climbing rocks, big boulders, and smaller passages as little Nano hopped and slid all over the place, when eventually we reached the deep, jade colored pool. It was vanilla and clear enough to see through. And cold, but refreshingly so.
Just like any natural pool, I could have played in that thing all day long. There was a giant slide and also cliffs to jump from. Plus, the pool was deep enough to dive at the bottom and explore what was below. We went down to another pool that was a little lower beyond the river and took a few pictures there too.
Back at the house, Dani and I would play a few intense rounds of tri-ominoes where she was able to best me each time. As we played I planned out my route back north towards Mexico. My plans changed where I wasn’t able to leave Costa Rica the next day but instead leave a couple of days later the following Sunday. I didn’t want to leave on Saturday because no one wants to spend to their birthday on a bus for more than 24 hours.
“Oh it’s your birthday?!” exclaimed an excited Dani.
“Yeah it’s on Saturday.”
“Perfect because it’s my uncles birthday Saturday too and we’re having a big party!”
I heard there was an island here in Nicaragua made from two giant volcanoes years and years ago, situated in Lake Nicaragua. The island is loaded with cool stuff you can’t find anywhere else in the world. Let’s go!
We stayed in San Juan too long. It was time to get the heck up outta there. Naked Tiger was easily one of the best hostels I’ve ever stayed in, but it was time to move on. Ryan, Lisa, and Tyson were all headed off to new areas. Deb, Luke, and I stuck together there after. The three of us packed our bags and took a cab to the ferries near Rivas. Those ferries were our gate to Isle De Ometepe, my Volcano Island.
It was a little confusing once we got to the ferry port. There was a lot of construction and our Spanish was lacking so it was difficult to navigate. We finally found a ferry that would take is to the island.
Lisa warned us not to take the fast ferry, it was filled with intense fumes from the boars engine. She insisted that instead we should pay a few cordobas more for the slower, but bigger ferry. The bigger ferry didn’t depart until three hours later. The fast little ferry was ready then and now. So we took that one. And boy was Lisa right, the fumes were pretty nauseating. But since this was a boat, I took two motion sick pills that knocked me right out. Boats are the worst offender when it comes to my queasiness, so I had to take two. I was so out cold that I didn’t feel Luke or the ticket collector trying to wake me up to collect my money. I woke up a little later though, gave the guy my money, and climbed to the top deck. I felt great!
Once we finally landed, we were bombarded with taxi drivers wanting to take us all over the place. Even though the island was fairly small, it was still big enough to take a taxi or motorbike everywhere. We found a lady who would take us to the opposite side of the island for a decent price. The opposite side is where all the hostels and restaurants were that we didn’t bother to book in advance. I was lucky enough to have Luke and Deb who were fully on board with the whole winging it process. We stuffed our bags and ourselves in the woman’s jeep. Two other backpackers from Germany joined us, Leo and Anne. They squished themselves into the front seat and we were off!
The woman dropped us off at a hostel that was fairly central. Instead of looking for other places that were recommended to us by other backpackers, we just decided to stay here. Luke, Deb, and I shared a dorm with two others while Leo and Anna were put in another. The five of us decided to stick together for the remainder of our time on the island. I had a good feeling about our new German comrades. Both of them reminded me of two other German friends of mine almost down to the tee! Leo was a copy of my buddy Eric who I met in South Africa and Anne was the copy of my friend Elisa who I met in Vietnam. If you recall, I visited both Eric and Elisa in Germany last September.
We settled into our dorm and walked around the area. After several minutes, we realized that everything was spaced out and far apart. We’d need to rent motorbikes for sure, otherwise we’d die. We found a rental company just a few yards away from our hostel. The three of us decided to rent two motorbikes and split the costs. Both Luke and I had experience with motorbikes, so we’d be the main drivers with Deb riding along the back. We drove around looking for food and failed miserably when we figured that our hostel served up the best food. So we went back there. On the way back, Deb asked if she could drive a bike. There was a brief silence. Luke and I looked at each other.
“Have you ever ridden a bike before?” I asked, not sure whether this was a good idea or not.
She mentioned she has before, but just once, for a very short time, a long time ago. Luke and I looked at each other again, thinking the exact same thing. Neither of us wanted to ride with little asian Debbie, but neither of us could say no to her. Luke hopped on the back of my bike while we let Deb ride out for herself. It was really funny looking back on it now. She did a decent job but still…I couldn’t.
We got word that there was a pizza party happening at night a couple of kilometers down the road, with live bands, and lots of local drinks. I wasn’t too keen on the drinking aspect but still it sounded like a good time. Luke wasn’t feeling the best and went to bed early while the rest of us ventures out to the pizza party to find that it was actually a big hippie fiesta. The air was drenched in marijuana and everyone had dreadlocks and colorful loose clothing. There was no live band, but there was pizza.
One girl there said she felt a a positive aura from the bracelet I was wearing. It’s the green, yellow, and black one Quyen gave me right before I left Vietnam.
“I like that you’re Jamaican”, she said.
“I’m from the USA”, I responded back.
She apologized profusely but I told her not to worry about it. I get mistaken for a lot of things: South African, Moroccan, Guatemalan, a soccer player, a basketball player, even a drug dealer sometimes; it’s all good. One guy in San Juan was convinced he bought weed from me before. That’ll be the day. I take them all as compliments though.
The next day was the day we all planned to ride around the island. Leo and Anne rented themselves a bike and so we all began our custom tour together. We got word of a natural spring a few kilometers outward. We found the place, paid a small fee and entered the semi-natural pool. It was fresh water that was cool and felt great! I could have swam in there all day long! There were swings hanging off the trees where we could launch off and dive right in!
Honestly, the spot was perfect for me but there was way more of the island to see. Deb asked if she could drive again and so she did, but this time I rode on the back of Luke’s bike. We drove about a half hour west and had lunch at a small shack we found on the road. Afterwards we headed to Charco Verde, one of the best beaches in Ometepe.
We located a trail that took us around a loop up a small incline that gave us a view of an area of the island with a small lake inside.
Then we ventured further along to Charco Verde where I claimed my sixth bottle of sand on this trip. The sand here were like small dark pebbles. There was a lot of debris I had to filter out.
As I was filling up an empty bottle of sand, out of nowhere a small black horse galloped along the secluded beach with no owner in sight. It was like seeing a rare Pokemon pop up out of nowhere. I just had to catch take a picture of it!
Once we got back to our bikes, Deb, Luke, and I thought it would be a good idea to get back to the rental station to return them. We only had the bikes for 24 hours and if we were late, who knows how much they would charge us. Leo and Anne continued onto the other side of the island to watch the sunset. We returned our bikes just in time and were able to catch the sunset behind our hostel.
We were only on the island for two days because all three of us had to leave because we all had plans, all in Costa Rica. Both Deb and Luke had separate flights to catch in San Jose while I had a few friends you may remember from my blog a long time ago that I wanted to visit. Leo and Anne stayed behind to spend more time on the island while the three of us packed our stuff and headed back to the mainland first thing in the morning.
One of the most freeing sensations in the world is to book a one-way flight to a country you’ve never been to and not knowing where you’ll end up in the process. I don’t rely on guidebooks anymore; other travelers and locals I meet along the way give me all the advice and inspiration I need. It’s all part of the adventure! After my six-week stint teaching English to young locals in Guatemala was complete, I decided to press on further down Central America by backpacking along a random route, going wherever my curious heart saw fit. The unplanned journeys usually have the best stories to tell.
My friend Luke and I took a six-hour shuttle van filled with a group of perpetually coughing, elderly Korean passengers. If I fell ill later on, this would be the reason why. We successfully crossed the El Salvadorian border and drove to the Pacific coast, to a special place called Playa El Tunco. I heard it was one of the most charming places in this country and if so, I had to be there! We were dropped off at a hip hostel, with its perfect location, just a short walking distance to the beach. We dropped off our bags and strolled down to the beach of slate gray sand and emerald blue waves. There were international surfers carving waves as the freakishly enormous sun slowly dipped beyond the horizon. I’ve never seen the sun appear so big!
The next day, I met another wandering backpacker by the name of Jaryd who is an Australian copy of myself: his traveling style is unorthodox, doesn’t always follow the rules, and doesn’t mind getting lost in the world. A little birdie told us there were some secret waterfalls nearby and we could hire a local to take us there on the cheap. We were game and hopped in the back of his blue pickup truck. Two backpackers from England and Norway joined us for the ride. It always amazes me how we all can leave our respective countries solo, but always come across the right people and you never once feel alone.
We felt the sun beaming sun on us from the cloudless blue sky as we rode along the hills with surprisingly smooth roads. It took about an hour before we arrived in an isolated community, but it was here where we found the “yellow brick road” that led to the waterfalls, which according to our spanish speaking driver, were “hiding behind the hills”.
It was a piercing hot hike through a dry highland. Each step we took made a satisfying crunching sound from all the decaying leaves underneath our shoes. Winds blew up dust from levels beneath us into our faces. Occasionally, I’d find a spider or some other tiny critter on my leg from all the bush we combed through. The sun was relentless and I enjoyed every moment of everything!
After thirty minutes or so, we arrived to the highest of a series of cascading waterfalls with bowls of water deep enough to jump in from a great height. That was all the inspiration I need. We fearlessly leaped from a cliff of seven meters into a pool of welcoming cool. Immediately after, there was another higher waterfall to hop in. And so we did, from about ten meters up! With a few leaps and a little more trudging down steep narrow cliffs, we made it to the bottom basin where all the water collected. We were the only ones there and we could do whatever we wanted.
Back near the beach, we explored more of the small town of El Tunco. Most of the stores and restaurants here were stupid cheap. Luke, Jaryd, and I each had a hamburger, fries, and a soda; a full meal for less than four American dollars. All of the restaurants were that way. I had a cheeseburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner that day. It’s my trip, I can wander where I want and eat what I want! Surprisingly, it wasn’t nearly as touristy as I thought it was going to be. The vibe was really chill and easy.
I stayed there for a few days playing in the ocean, climbing big rocks, and attempting to sneak into lavish hotel pools nearby with my mental clone Jaryd, pondering where I’d go next.