Caught in the Twilight Zone

This post is originally from February 19, 2013

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So the last you heard from me I was in Antigua, Guatemala. Saying goodbye to the group was totally sad as I’ve made some really great friends over the past few weeks. There was so much to do in Antigua. I went to the market a few times to appease my shopping addiction but unfortunately I don´t think I did as well as past trips. Stalls are filled with brightly coloured figurines that look like you could buy at the dollar store. Ponchos just aren’t my bag and I don’t think a hammock would withstand our winters…alas my backpack won´t be a full 90 litres this time.
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On Sunday Michelle and I flew from Guatemala back to Costa Rica. From San Jose we were propositioned by a taxi driver to take us three hours to Quepos near the ocean. This is where we entered the Twilight Zone. This part of Costa Rica is a Mecca for Croc-wearing, Hawaiian print-sporting, beer bellied, bald American men. I feel like I have been transported to a different planet. Getting checked out by old men is just plain gross…although I do fancy a nice set of bright Crocs. Today I took an incognito photo of about 8 men lounging in our pool drinking beer. OH GOD!
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The day we arrived we found a spot that must have been frequented by the locals. It was slightly treacherous to get to, but once in the water it was so beautiful. Yesterday we took the local bus about 7km to Manuel Antonio where we befriended a local drunk man named William who had a cart full of coconuts. He would yell out WATER COCONUT FRESH and I think was trying to sell coconut water. He spoke no English.  It was funny because  while we went for lunch and sat at an outdoor cafe we noticed he got comfortable and sat on my sarong so that he could  ‘look after our spot’. After lunch we found him lounging in our chairs. Bless him. We bought him a pack of cookies and he was happy to finish my diet coke. He smelled like booze galore as he told us he would make himself a ‘coco-loco’ -which he would generously pour rum into the coconut. Little William was convinced that my name was Catherine and his toothless smile was one only a mother could love.
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Today we trekked through Manuel Antonio National Park. Most people in there had guides but Michelle and I were on a mission to bypass all the wildlife observers and get our asses to the beach. We were told that there is the most beautiful beach inside the national park. Groups of Americans would be huddled together looking high into the treetops trying to spot sloths, and monkeys. We just kept on full throttle to our oasis until deep in the jungle we found it. The water was clear and warm and the beach was so beautiful. On our way we did see some monkeys –  group of Capuchin – you know the kind Ross had on Friends named Marcel. On the beach I couldn’t help but laugh when a raccoon like thing crawled next to a sleeping beer bellied man. The wife was clapping her hands trying to get it to leave while the poor man had a startled wakening. Swimming in the ocean is my absolute fave. Nothing can compare and I wish I could bottle that feeling forever.
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Tomorrow we will spend our last afternoon at the beach, possibly with drunk William, and then we are taking the bus back to San Jose. It will be an early rise to get our flight back to reality the next morning.
I just want to thank you for joining me in my adventure. It has been a great month and one that I will never forget. Travel not only teaches me so much about others, but also about myself.
Until next time…Adios!426402_10152649333265434_319520550_n

To jump or not to jump…that is the question?

This post is originally from February 3, 2013

Yesterday we left La Fortuna and crossed Lake Arenal which was surrounded by huge mountain ranges. It was totally beautiful and such a scenic way to travel. The drive to Monteverde was again stunning. Costa Rica is so lush and the rolling hills seem endless. The hydrangeas are the biggest I have ever seen and there is a rainbow of colourful flowers everywhere. Monteverde is higher in altitude and let me tell you it is so freaking windy that it sounds like the roof of our lodging is going to blow right off.417623_10152627446175434_1218008027_n

Last night we did a night hike in the jungle. It sounds kind of ridiculous to go hiking in the dark (kind of is ridiculous actually), and even more ridiculous that we actually paid to do it. My trusty headlamp that I brought from home was useless as the batteries were fried so I used this torch that had less of a light than my phone would. Oh well…deep into the forest we go. Our guide pointed out such critters as ants, roaches and drum roll please…moths! Pretty amazing eh! No really…it did get better. Eventually we saw tarantulas, sleeping colourful birds, vipers, sloths, and other interesting animals that sound like pikachoo but I know that is not what they are really called. With critters making odd noises and coyotes howling in the background it was creepy but also pretty fun.31460_10152627347325434_1439413052_n
Today was one of those days that I will never forget. This was bungee jumping day!  I have been amping myself up over the past few days in order to get the guts to do it. To be honest it has never been on my bucket list, but I feel like I should seize every opportunity I get and life is short so carpe the effing diem. Excuse the language. 😉
Before the bungee a bunch of us did the amazing zip lines through the jungle forest. The scenery is stunning. Hmmm, haven’t said that much on this trip have I?  There were 15 different cables. Some were short and not extremely high, and others were only for the insane. The longest zip line is where I was harnessed by the chest and feet and they send you head first like superman high over the canopy at speeds of 60km/hr for a full kilometer (and the drop is a mere 540feet). Yah, pretty freaking scary I would say. You couldn’t even see the end of the zip line from the starting point and when you are high above the trees with the wind gusting past you, it felt like death was lurking. But alas, I survived. Another zip line is where they dropped you 196 feet on what they call the Tarzan Swing. Apparently (others told me because I was in a fog of fear) that my feet didn’t leave the platform when they pushed me off so I went head first and came to a crazy jolt when the cord snapped me back. Oh my lord…another glimpse of death. For a few of the cables I was able to go tandem with Michelle. It felt much more secure and we could actually enjoy the view instead of poop ourselves. At one point though I was sailing along at warp speed when instead of slowing down I rammed straight into the metal platform. Injury number 209… Another instance of near death was when I was asking the lovely man where to put my hands on the 98 ft straight down rappel. As I was mid question he shoved me off again. I am sure that the people that work here get total pleasure in pushing tourists off the platforms. I know I probably would if I worked there! By the end I felt like a walking pile of nerves. But it was totally worth it!12215_10152627476660434_326802051_n
Now comes the bungee. I am still waiting to puke because I am so freaked for what I am about to do.Then any woman’s  fear comes true. I had to step on the scale in front of everyone so they knew how much cord I needed for the jump. Not only do I have to get weighed but now they write my weight in large numbers across my hand. A proud moment…NOT!  Next we walked out to the platform which is basically  a cable car that moves out into the middle of the gorge. This is the highest bungee jump in all of Latin America. I don’t think I have ever felt so petrified.They hooked me up to the cables and cords and stuck a helmet on me(because that would do me real good on a 143 death drop).  I edged towards the open part of the cart. There they double checked all my hooks and harnesses and I told me to go further to the edge. At this point I felt like I was going to faint. This is effing nuts. Carpe diem my ass! They start the countdown and I freaked my freak. “No wait, please don’t make me do this,  I don’t care about the money I just don’t want to go”. At this point I would have paid them double to not have me jump. So my friends…I did the walk of shame. They pulled the cable car back to land and I can’t even tell you how relieved I am to be back on the solid ground. I think I have had enough adrenaline for this lifetime in one day. That bungee would have sent me over the edge…literally!299847_10152627429355434_1026619054_n
The rest of the day was full of laughter and no regrets. I can fully say with confidence that bungee just isn’t my thing. I love life and think you should experience as much as you can…but I just don’t think my life will be any less exciting just because I didn’t jump.
Tomorrow it is off to Nicaragua…more stories to come

Extreme Days in La Fortuna

This post is originally from February 2, 2013

This post is only about one day, but it feels like I did enough for an entire year!

 

When I opened my eyes yesterday morning and looked up there was a massive tail poking through the roof of our thatched cabin/hut. The tail was about a foot and half long. You could tell that he was hiding under the tin on the roof but if the ceiling wasn’t so high I would have been able to reach up and grab it. When I returned from breakfast my new lizard friend left me a pile of presents. I felt quite at home with a pile of of shit laying on my bed. I am so used to my cat Orange leaving me random ‘treats’, that this just seemed like another day in my regular life.

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We first ventured out to the jungle to canyoneer. We took a 4×4 vehicle up a mountain into the depths of the jungle. This jungle is full of waterfalls, which by the end of all our drops we would certainly become incredibly wet. Basically canyoneering is hooking yourself into a harness that attaches to ropes and you repel down cliffs. The cliffs that we repelled down were all waterfalls. It was so beautiful…but it is kind of difficult to take in all the beauty when you are concentrating on not peeing your pants! The first drop wasn’t that far down, but getting used to the idea that you had to release your hand so your body would drop towards the ground was challenging. I felt like a puppet hanging from a rope that kept crashing shoulder/head first into the rocks. Hmmmm, maybe this is not my calling. We literally had to hike down rock formations to get down to the next drop. Hiking in Toms shoes (canvas shoes with not a great grip) was also a bit of a challenge. Mainly I clung to the rocks with my hands which was oh so graceful…NOT. The next drop was a mere 40 meters! It was heart wrenching because the first bit was slow and you could use your hand to control the speed of how fast you go, but then they you let go and you freaking drop at top speed!!!! So bloody scary but also super fun. (Remember this is all in a waterfall!) The last waterfall drop was 70 meters. Holy Eff…when I got to the bottom I literally thought I peed myself because it felt warm between my legs. I got embarrassed and was thankful only two of my group mates would see the accident. Thankfully I didn’t urinate all over myself…it was in fact the carabeener that had created so much friction with the rope, which in turn heated the metal. Phew!!! When I told Tom, who is this 6 foot 4 ginger bearded Aussie dude about my accident he was relieved because he too had been thinking he had pissed his pants! The experience was quite adrenaline pumping plus also really physical. I was certainly still sore from rafting so this just added to my aches and pains. It was so worth it and couldn’t even imagine a prettier backdrop.

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Can you see the ant down there…it’s me!

 

After returning from the waterfalls we went straight to an orphanage. We stopped at a market to buy fruit and then we headed to the home. It really did seem like a home. There were 18 children all under the age of ten that lived there. It seemed to staff about 5 women who also lived at the home. The children were so happy and excited to see us. The home was bright and clean. It really was a great place. In my past travels I have seen orphanages that make you cry, so this was a nice change. It is just hard to imagine what each child has been through knowing that each was taken from a home that either was full of neglect or abuse. Also hard to imagine that they get enough love and attention when there are so few workers compared to children. At the age of 10 they are moved to another facility where they stay until they are 18. At 18 they are forced to live on their own. This orphanage is funded by the government.

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Finally at the end of the day we drove to a hot springs where the pools are heated from the nearby volcano. The pools were very soothing on my sore muscles until I decided I would go on the water slides. The first one was fast but fun. The second slide was the water slide from HELL. First of all it was dark. Once i put my arse on the slide there was no turning back. It was so fast that it threw my body into a laying position. Water kept pouring from the top onto my head as I was going down so I couldn’t see a thing. And I couldn’t for the life of me sit back up because the momentum was so strong. By the time I shot out the end of that damn thing my spine had been grated like cheese. I now how a lovely red scabby spine. Holy HELL!!.  Just adds to the bruises from rafting and scrapes from canyoneering!!

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Today we are in a town called Monteverde. Tonight we are going on a night hike with flashlights in search of random animals. Until next time…

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Do you know the way to San Jose?

This post is originally from January 31, 2013

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Hey Everyone,

This is day three away from home and so far so good. 🙂
Our adventure nearly didn’t start. We got to the airport in Edmonton on time. Cleared customs and while sipping our Starbucks got lost in our conversation. Michelle’s friend has also joined us,  so we were busy gabbing away when I noticed how much the terminal had cleared out. That didn’t faze any of us however, we just kept talking. A little while later we hear the announcement over the intercom “this is your ABSOLUTE last and final boarding call”. We literally ran onto to the plane and they shut the door of the plane directly behind us. After our grande entrance and many stares as we took the walk of shame to our seats, we couldn’t help but laugh our asses off. How close we were to never leaving Edmonton…
We arrived late into San Jose, Costa Rica. And yesterday was basically a full day to laze around and explore. We found a park near our hotel where apparently half of Costa Rica goes to make out. It was mighty interesting coming up with stories for all the lovers. My fave (made up story) was a youngish looking girl (cant really tell her exact age because they were sucking face the whole time) and a bald headed older man. ‘Juanita’ is ‘Jose’s’ lover on the side while his wife stayed home and baked bread. Poor woman, doesn’t  even have a clue!
We met up with our G Adventures group last night. There are 13 people- about half are chicks and the others are guys. They come from Australia, Switzerland, Holland, Germany, Denmark and us. It looks like we will all get along just fine.
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This morning was a bright and early start as we drove through the country side to the town of La Fortuna. The country was just what I expected. Very green, with plenty of bright and beautiful flowers. Along the way we stopped at a waterfall which was absolutely breathtaking. A bunch of us decided we would go white water rafting – it was a two hour haul down a class 3 rapids river. The view was spectacular and I am sure the view that those sitting behind me had was even more spectacular with my ass crack hanging out. I was the one at the front of the boat for the first half. Not a really good decision on my team’s part…but I took one for the team. The rapids were crazy and there were multiple times where one person would end up on another’s lap. We had a few near bounces out of the raft, but with our amazing skillz we never capsized. By the time we reached the end of the run my right butt cheek wouldn’t stop twitching. Not sure how my body is going to feel tomorrow? I wont have much time for recovery because we are going canyoneering in the morning.
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That is me in the front, nearly falling out

Off to Central America

This post is originally from January 28, 2013

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Hey Everyone,
Well, it is that time again. Time when the excitement of Christmas and holidays have worn off. When icy roads and bundling up becomes old news. And when all my scrimping and saving has come together and I am lucky enough to head somewhere warm and full of new adventures. Yes my friends, I am traveling down to Central America tomorrow. I am going with a friend of mine, Michelle – and we will start off in Costa Rica where we will meet up with another G Adventure tour. From there we will travel through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and finally Guatemala. The last week will be solo…or should I say duo – and the two of us will have to make our way back to Costa Rica; but in the mean time we will go where ever the wind may take us.
I am pretty sure there are no camels there, so you don’t have to worry about me falling off again. And after my near sexual assault disaster in India I have learned to never go into a dressing room alone with a man. So hopefully my stories can take you on a ride with me sans near death or dismemberment. 🙂
Tally ho, or should I say Adios!
The G Adventures Tour I will take – Backroads of Central America
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