That is gonna go straight to its thighs…
Leaving Nicaragua was a bit more stressful than getting there. Jamie and Emily were going on to Ometepe, so I would have to make it most of the way back by myself. I am not much for planning, so I wasn’t exactly positive on how to get back to Monteverde. I had several general directions/areas that I needs to go, but other than that…I was a bit screwed. That combined with the fact that I’m not what one would generally call “fluent” or “passable” in Spanish made the trip that much more daunting.
We all had to make a stop in Rivas, so we took one of the “chicken buses” from Granada to there. When you read “chicken bus,” think of what a school bus would look like if it were covered in graffiti, blasting music, and transporting plenty of people (and the occasional chicken). Getting off at the bus station in Rivas, you are immediately offered every kind of help that you never wanted or knew you needed. It was especially true for us, as we were all white. The scene looked pretty dramatic. We said our goodbyes hastily, as Jamie and Emily were ripped away from me in a tide of people towards their taxi to the ferry. Immediately after they were gone, there formed a line of people that spent the next 20 minutes trying to convince me that I should not stay and wait for the bus, but instead I needed to come with them in their taxis. My Spanish is usually okay, but I was so stressed, that I think the only thing that I said the entire time was, “It’s okay,” and, “I’m going to wait.” As a rule, you should not trust taxi drivers and bus drivers that you don’t know, so instead I started talking to the little, old ladies selling bananas. If someone is going to know what’s up, it’s a little, old lady selling bananas.
Crossing the boarder back into Costa Rica went okay. A German girl and I joined forces to get some things accomplished. At one point, I was sent off to gather us some immigration forms. The official who I had just seen give one to a Costa Rican refused to respond to me when I asked for the form. When he did respond, it was with a gesture that I am VERY sure was not exactly kind. The only reason I ended up getting the form was because I pretended not to understand anything he said or gestured my way.
“Can I have two immigration forms?”
**another rude gesture**
“Two of them?
**another rude gesture**
“Can I have two immigration forms?”
**At this point the official beside him grabs two immigration forms and hands them to me.**
Feigned ignorance and persistence wins out!!
The rest of my trip was just a series of bus trips where I asked advice from little, old ladies along the way. Basically, unless you are elderly and female, I cannot trust your advice. “Oh really? There is no bus that goes there? That lady right there says that the next bus does, so is she wrong? No? You just remembered she is actually right? Great, shove off!”
The visa trip was a nice break, but I was glad to be back in Monteverde. The return trip was a good litmus test for my ability to speak Spanish. It may not be good, but it is good enough to get me around in foreign countries on a public transport system that I cannot begin to understand.
Looks to be some sort of an Ichneumonid (to my untrained eye).
The three of us who went to Nicaragua were looking to get differing things out of our visit. The two friends that I was with work as naturalists at the UGA Ecolodge. Naturalists are often way too busy helping tourists and student groups to ever get away from campus. As such, they wanted to stay as long as possible and see as much as possible. On the other hand, as a researcher, I’ve been able to travel around a bit, especially when Mark was here. My trip to Nicaragua was mainly to get my Visa trip out of the way and to celebrate the fact that I didn’t have to wake up at 2:30 in the morning. “Celebrate,” in this case, means that I wanted to drink all of the cheap alcohol that Granada had to offer.
I did end up doing more than drinking and reading books (which is a perfectly valid way to spend a vacation). On the first full day that we spent in the city, we ended up going on a horse-drawn guide through the city. Granada is an old colonial town, so a lot of the draw is the architecture. There are some truly amazing cathedrals throughout the city, and the entire place is steeped in history.
The other stop we made was at Doña Elba’s cigar factory. Jamie took time to make his own cigar, and I took this time to try desperately to take a picture of me with a cigar where I didn’t look like a complete fool. I took plenty more pictures of the town, but most of them have Jamie and Emily in them. Since I haven’t asked, I’m not going to post those. I’m sure that they, like most, would prefer not to be associated with me or this blog.
It is important to note that “guides” in Granada are often anyone that can afford the boat/cart/horse to lead them. They should never be believed when it comes to important, possibly hazardous things. A lot of our time in the tour was spent simply talking about Nicaragua and Granada. We were assured that it is perfectly safe to just jump in Lake Nicaragua and swim. It isn’t, and please don’t do that.
The next day, we spent most of our time in Masaya. This town is a bit less touristy than Granada, but definitely draws in travelers who want to see its markets. Our day was spent traveling through the craft market and then wandering around town. The craft market was fun, but honestly was a bit too touristy for me. Either every single person there has the exact same style of painting/carving, or those are the same tourists crafts that are sold all over Nicaragua.
Our nights were spent down the main strip in Granada. We were either checking out the local clubs to show off our newly acquired dance moves (they were completely dead), or we were hanging out with some of the other people in our hostel. It should be said that traveling Granada, you have to get very used to being asked to buy things. In Panama, I couldn’t go 10 feet without being offered weed; in Nicaragua, every 10 feet was spent with some adorable child wanting you to buy some craft. Also important to note, asking the adorable children for weed is frowned upon.
The next day we left, which I suppose I will write about later.
Mark and I went to see the waterfall in the Monteverde Reserve. Most importantly, look at that butt! This is what running up La Trocha will do for you.
I’ve only just now returned from my visa trip to Nicaragua. As nice as it was to be able to go there with two of my friends from UGA Costa Rica, it’s also nice to be back home!
The beginning of the trip was probably the most stressful. Honestly, the three of us could probably have done a better job of creating a plan as to how we would even get to the border. We knew the general stops and directions, and we figured that it would all just work itself out from there. We are dumb, and we don’t value our lives nearly so much as we should. Actually, getting to the border ended up going well, but that is only because the cousin of one of the cab drivers we know was headed to Nicaragua too. We were told to just follow her, and we did an excellent job of it!
Crossing the border is always a bit stressful. Some people worry about whether they left their iron or stove on at home, but at the border, I always begin to wonder whether I left the bag of cocaine in any of my orifices. Different folks, different strokes. The crossing went smoothly, and it completely confused me. Exiting Costa Rica went as expected, but we hopped on a bus to get through the next portion of entering Nicaragua. Somehow that meant that we were not examined at all. Instead, we were told to simply wait while the rest of our bus crew was examined. I’m almost positive this had nothing to do with a simple mistake and everything to do with how incredibly attractive the three of us are. While waiting amongst a pile of needles, baby diapers and other refuse, we were surrounded by grackles. One of the tourists, who had clearly lost his mind, commented on how great of a birdwatching spot we were in. Emily, who naturally assumed he had to be joking, commented on how great it was to see her two hundredth grackle that day. Her sass was answered with an awkward silence.
We had been warned by the aforementioned cousin that she avoided taxis when possible. Apparently, many of the taxis aren’t exactly official, and they are known to occasionally be moving drugs as well as people. Instead, she takes the chicken bus. These buses are essentially school buses that have been covered in graffiti and are blasting music (occasionally there are a few chickens that are on them too, but we did not get to see such a thing). Naturally, the last part of the trip, we took a taxi. There were no chicken buses readily available, and as I mentioned before, we apparently do not value our lives.
Before heading around town, we settled into our hostel. One of our friends had suggested Hostal El Momento. They have $8 a night dorms, are right next to the central park area, and are pretty freaking amazing. The rest of that first night was just spent exploring and drinking. In fact, I’m going to write about the next few days in the next post, but if you don’t read that far, you can go ahead and sum up our stay as “exploring and drinking.”
Not too many pictures from that first day, so here is a teaser of what’s to come!
Tomorrow is the day that I have to leave Costa Rica for 72 hours for my visa trip. Many tourists joke about “how terrible it is to be forced to take a vacation every three months.” Every time they make jokes like this, they have no idea how close they are coming to being punched in the throat. Vacations are wonderful, but forced vacations when you have little to no income are just a reminder of how your bank account suffers every month.
In any case, I went up to St. Elena to change over my currency back to dollars. It was the first time I’ve made the trip since Mark has left – which I suppose needs to have its own blog entry – so I knew that the run was going to be rough. Surprisingly, I made that run with relatively little difficulty. I may have wanted to jump off the cliff while running up La Trocha, but that was to be expected. It wasn’t until I got to the bank that I realized what a terrible mistake I had made.
My Spanish is sketchy at the best of times, so when I realized that I was about to have to explain my situation to the bankers entirely in Spanish, I was a bit nervous. When I remembered that the worst parts of my Spanish are large numbers and money, I nearly shit myself. The first bank I went to wouldn’t even let me in without passing some sort of strange clearance. An officer stopped me as I was walking in to ask me what I was doing. I explained that I needed to change my currency. After a few minutes of checking with the personnel inside, he came back to let me know that I could enter the building. I would have wondered what the hell that was about, when I saw other people walking in and out unmolested, but it did give me time to practice what sort of conversational vocabulary I would need to explain my situation to the bank teller. My Spanish was…stumbling, but I got my point across. When she realized that the large numbers were not making sense, we started writing them down. After that bank, I had to repeat this process with another bank just so that I could get bills that were smaller than 50′s.
After a few more chores in St. Elena, I began the long walk back to UGA. I was physically exhausted from the run and mentally exhausted from functioning in Spanish all day. After about an hour of walking, I ran into some of my friends that worked in the kitchen of UGA. We had a quick conversation where they invited me to walk along some trail back towards St. Elena, and then we would all go to the community down past UGA. Because of my exhaustion, made many assumptions when I couldn’t understand what they were saying. One assumption was that we would be driving back to the community, and they would drop me off. I quickly realized that we would be walking there via a trail that I had heard mentioned before, but was rarely used anymore. Knowing this is what was happening, I realized I would not be getting back to UGA for several more hours. That being said, I had always wanted to hike this trail, so I didn’t mind very much at all.
After about an hour and a half more, we finally made it to one of their houses. At some point, one of my friends had told me that I could call if I ever wanted, and she would make dinner for me. I had apparently missed the part where she said that she would be feeding me that night too. When we arrived at her house, she served me the most food that I have ever consumed in one sitting. It was all amazing, and she also had some homemade pepper sauce that I would kill for. That being said, it was also they type of meal that doesn’t seem to diminish no matter how much you eat. After maybe an hour of me trying to finish my plate, her daughter took pity on me and told me it was okay if I couldn’t finish it all.
The next 45 minutes was spent walking back up the mountain to UGA. At this point, I had been beyond exhausted for half the day, but what was new was the fact that I was stuffed to bursting. At several point on my hike, I had to stop just to see if I was going to vomit.
I know that sounds a lot like complaining, but I do know that the day was amazing. I got to hike a trail that most people from UGA have only ever heard of, and I got to spend my afternoon and night getting to know the locals that I work with a bit better. That will have to serve as the first update for this blog in a while. Hopefully I’ll fell more like updating when I get back from Nicaragua.
To distract from the boring/horribly written tale above, here is a Violet Sabrewing Hummingbird: