The planned route (Click to enlarge)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Getting scared by frogs in Costa Rica

For the last 10 days Hol and I have been accompanied on our travels by two friends from home; Chris and his much better looking other half Charlie. Godders (Chris) loves a chinwag, and so it was no surprise that by the time we got from airport to hotel we had been filled in on recent engagements, various missed parties and a liberal dose of sporting updates. What was also a wake up call for Hol and I was hearing about the scale of job losses first hand. We had been sat thousands of miles away thinking it was just a stack of media hype with only a few bankers and blue collar manufacturing jobs getting hit, but with talk of mass restructures with 30% redundancy in the kind of jobs Hol and I had been involved in, we realised why people continually repeated how we had chosen the right time to go away. From now on, no more grumbling from our travels! So relinquishing planning responsibilities to the two new arrivals, we let holiday spirit replace penny pinching as we set off for our Costa Rican adventure. It has been a cracking 10 days.

After hearing only the budgetary complaints of grimy, shoe string backpackers down in Panama, we were unsure of what Costa Rica would be like. It's an extraordinary place. First we whisked up to La Fortuna to see Volcan Arenal; one of the world's most consistently active volcanoes. We perused the various tour options and although sorely tempted by 'Mr Lava Lava's guaranteed best time of your life in the world', we plumped for a 'see lava, see waterfall, walk in forest and soak in hot springs all in one mega experience'. We were duly entertained by a sprinkling of spewing lava, some lightly rumbling ground and a couple of canopy bridges. But we were particularly excited about 'Baldi hot springs'. Billed as a touch of Vegas in the jungle we excitedly donned our speedos, but not leaving the thriftiness behind we avoided the $7 beers at the swim up bar by sneaking in a bottle of rum wrapped in a towel and just buying cokes. Godders and I immediately tried the hottest pool and burnt our legs. In hindsight the fact that a woman was heating her baby's milk bottle in there should have been a clue. Less hot pools provided respite from sore limbs and we finished the night with some dramatic drunken watersliding which cleared new passages in my nostrils I never knew existed.

From here it was off to the world famous cloud-forests of Santa Elena. At $25 per person for a guide and not wanting a big crowd we decided we would just walk around ourselves. Nervous we wouldn't see anything we crept onto the trails at 6.30am with nothing but optimism and a small leaflet of local fauna. Within 2 minutes I look up and say, “Errr chaps, I am pretty sure that is a resplendent quetzal”. Now I imagine, this may mean nothing to most people, but for the last month we had been past multiple 'Quetzal trails' from which descended legions of glum, khaki clad birders who had traveled all the way to South America just to see these 'flying dragons'. Sure enough, a consultation with the leaflet confirmed we were looking at one of the rarest and most impressive birds of paradise on earth. A strong start. We then spent the next 5 hours spotting hundreds of birds, ants, butterflies, giant milipedes and occasionally scaring Godders by saying we had seen a tree frog; an inexplicable phobia that provided hours of entertainment. Just before we left we bumped into a guided tour going the other way. The guide in a jocular tone says, “spotted any quetzals?”. When we replied that we had in fact seen two the audible groan from the tour group lent us a smug edge on the trip home.

We have now finished the trip amongst fire dancers and hippies on the Nicoya peninsula. Campfires on the beach, swimming in waterfalls and getting lost in the forest after dark have filled the days. It has left us realising what an incredibly diverse country Costa Rica is. All of this is only a few hours from place to place. It is a little more expensive, but then instead of the $2 turd, rice and beans you get elsewhere in Central America, you have to pay $4 but get a massive plate of salad, fresh fish and various bits and pieces of deliciousness. It really is a case of you get what you pay for and unless you are scrimping every penny then Costa Rica is the place to come. We now leave Godders and Charlie and head North on a 60 hour bus journey to Guatemala where we will spend a few days. And then... U.S.A.

We can't quite believe we are such a short distance from the U.S. From when we left England it always seemed like an impossibly distant oasis of development, the English language and ease of travel. We are now only ten days away and from there it is just a few months of cycling and walking before getting on the freighter from Vancouver to South Korea on August 19th. We have a rough idea for a cycling route which is below, but we need advice from anyone of places to go or people to see on the way. At the moment, we plan to go from El Paso up towards Santa Fe, skirt west of the Rockies towards Aspen before heading up to Yellowstone and a short hop north west up to Vancouver.

Ver mapa más grande

It isn't a detailed plan as yet and we need to fill in some gaps. Therefore any suggestions of things we should see send them to or post a comment on the blog. If all goes to plan we will be riding our new steed, a shiny red Santana Noventa (already nicknamed Carlos), out of El Paso on the 15th April. From there, we just keep heading north. Can't wait.

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