Thu May 27, 2004
Back from my whirlwind vacation to Central America and ay carumba was it action packed! A lot happened and I couldn’t be bothered to write it all up, but I did keep a “laundry-list” factual account of the things we did, if you’re interested you can read more about it below.
Mexico to Costa Rica 2004…
Here follows the transcribed version of a simple account I kept of our holiday while on the road.
April 22nd Thursday
We met in Houston and caught a plane to Veracruz. The humidity hit us like a sweaty blanket of heat…caught a cab with a rather boisterous cab driver. Our accommodations were at the Holiday Inn, an old historic building done in the old Spanish colonial style. It didn’t take us long to dive into the pool.
April 23rd Friday
We had a hearty breakfast of fruit in town; I was of course paranoid about the infamous germs that I believed infested the food and water in Mexico. We checked out the beach and had lunch by the pool, walked through the rich part of town and saw a bizarre parade. Then we dressed up and went out to check out the dancing in the square. We had a nice dinner, although was constantly hounded by hawkers. Later in the evening we went to Cachingas, a salsa club. They had this lavish cabaret show that involved some impressive costumes and acrobatics. I of course failed miserably at dancing the Salsa and vowed to learn.
April 24th Saturday
We ended up having another day in Veracruz, having planned to catch the night bus to Oaxaca in the evening. We went for a stroll along the waterfront, the very place where Hernando Cortez first landed his invasion party.
April 25th Sunday
We got a room at this fairly quaint hotel popular with other Mexican tourists. After a brief rest we headed into town and settled in a restaurant on the Zocolo (main square). I had an awesome chicken mole. We walked about and enjoyed the colonial architecture, particularly in St. Domingo church. We also went through the bustling market and walked down chocolate street where we bought some of the local freshly made unrefined chocolate. A thunderstorm broke in the late afternoon and we took shelter in a chocolate house and drank hot chocolate. We returned to the square and had a Plato typico dinner of roasted grasshoppers and other Oaxacan delicacies, including a delicious cheese that had the consistency of chicken.
April 26th Monday
We went on two tours today. The first was to Monte Alban, the ancient and mysterious Zapotec city. The second was a trip deep into the desert with a guide. There we visited a calcified “waterfall” and pools of natural mineral water where we went swimming. On the way back we stopped at the obligatory Mezcal making factory where a tired looking horse trod around in circles crushing the fibrous plant. In the evening we caught a night bus to Puerto Escondido and suffered through a winding white-knuckle ride down to the coast.
April 27th Tuesday
We stayed at this nice, but pricey place with our own terrace. We checked out the beach where killer waves pounded the sand, waves infamous for their ferocity. In the evening we had a nice dinner at the hotel and had drinks at this funky café where we played ‘Jenga’.
April 28th Wednesday
Today we tried to go boogie-boarding. I duck-walked into the raging sea with my flippers and board and goggles. Two minutes later I lost the goggles and was pounded by a succession of monster waves. As I was tumbling helplessly in the surf my board smacked into my chest and cracked a rib or something. I was in pain for the rest of the trip.
April 29th Thursday
After yesterday’s beating we chilled on a gentler beach just outside of town and nursed our wounds.
April 30th Friday
We took a daytrip out to Puerto Angel, a picturesque fishing port and Zipolite, a nude beach with blue surging waves. There weren’t many people there. A spaced out French hippie tried to sell us his hammock and one of the local fisherman tried to sell us marijuana and cocaine. In the evening after eating at our favourite oven-baked pizza restaurant on the beach, we tried to catch a bus to the border town on Tapachula. We, however, missed it and took a bus to San Cristobal de la Casas in Chiapas instead.
May 1st Saturday
We were so glad we came to this beautiful city in the highlands… Upon arrival we were swamped by people offering accommodation, ended up staying at this hostel with bed bugs! The food was cheap and the atmosphere was very laid back and cool. We checked out the main square and later on went to this little bar called Revolucion where we drank beer and listened to a live band play some rebel-reggae.
May 2nd Sunday
Determined to make our way into Guatemala before the weekend was over we caught a bus to the border and walked across into another world. We caught a terrifying series of chicken buses in order to reach our destination, Panachel. They use old school buses from the States and give them a wicked paint job, sending them screaming and bouncing around blind corners and over mountain peaks. A bizarre image I’ll never forget was seeing a huge hapless hog strapped to the top of one bus. Panachel itself is a Mayan village on the edge of lake Atitlan, - a bit gringo-fied, but still beautiful.
May 3rd Monday
We woke up late and walked around town. Later on we took a boat to another village on the other side of the lake, Santiago de Atitlan. We managed to stumble across Masheemay, the local god, a big fat wooden effigy, adorned with a multitude of coloured scarves and smoking a cigar. On the way back we were soaked on the boat. We had a nice dinner on the lake and marvelled at it’s beauty.
May 4th Tuesday
We had planned on leaving today, but were delayed and decided to just stay an extra day. We took it easy, rented some bikes and rode along the lakeshore. We rode through another village (San Antonio) and ended up on a deserted ‘beach’ on the lake. It was fun dodging the three-wheeled taxis, hawkers and animals on our nifty wheels. We ate a rather dodgy dinner at this “one-man” restaurant then headed back. I enjoyed listening to the Mayan washerwomen speak in the Mayan tongue at our Hospedaje.
May 5th Wednesday
Jumping on another chicken bus from hell, we headed into the hot, dirty and dangerous Guatemala City, the biggest urban sprawl in Central America. At the bus station we were held in check by a shotgun-toting security guard before being allowed to jump on a taxi to wiz us to the Tica-bus station. We met a nice guy from the States called Jason there. On the first leg of the journey to Nicaragua we took the bus to San Salvador in El Salvador. This city was the poorest and most war-torn I’ve seen yet, way darker than Guatemala City. We stayed at this really dingy and overpriced bus-hotel in a bad neighbourhood, only venturing out briefly with Jason to get some Chinese food before the eight o clock “curfew” set in.
May 6th Thursday
After waking up insanely early we travelled a long way through Honduras to Nicaragua, crossing several borders and soon running out of U.S. currency. Luckily for us, our friend Jason helped us out and spotted us some cash. In Managua we hopped on another bus to Granada, a great colonial city with a very “Cuban” feel I thought. Huge interior courtyards with fountains and old men sitting in rocking chairs out front. We had a great dinner at this ex-pat hangout and stayed at this neat little Hospedaje.
May 7th Friday
Today we hired a guide for the day to drive us around to a few places. We started off at Volcan Masaya where we hiked around and peered into the sulphur-spewing crater. The story surrounding the Volcano and the “Bodillo cross” was fascinating. Then we were whisked off to this artisan market in Masaya proper, housed in an old fort. We then headed down into the crater of another dormant volcano to swim in a crater-lake. We swam and drank and ate food with our guide. In the evening we went to this super romantic restaurant with drooping trees and a fountain and serenading buskers.
May 8th Saturday
Today we continued the journey into Costa Rica on the Tica-bus. The border crossing took a hellish three hours standing in the sun waiting for passengers to be processed. That night we stayed at La Amistad, a pleasant hotel with a great buffet breakfast. A nice lawyer who probably felt a bit lonely helped us out and showed us around town a bit when we looked lost in the pastry shop. We had dinner at “Mariscos” a grungy underground bar with great music. I was enjoying the fact that everybody spoke English.
May 9th Sunday
Our guide, the good Sebastian, woke up late so even though we got up at the crack of dawn we left a bit late. We met the nine other people in the group - Robert, Patricia, Leslie, Melissa, Connie, Allie, Laura, Ryan and Nikki and hopped on a bus up to La Fortuna. That night we relaxed in the hot springs and soaked up some alcohol at the swim-up bar. The various pools got hotter and hotter closer to the source of the spring, the hottest was 65 degrees Celsius. Angela was the only one who managed to dive in, Sebastian was most impressed.
May 10th Monday
This morning we went white water rafting on a class 3 river called White Stones. We were going to go on the Class-4 Rio Torres, but it was flooded. It was loads of fun and lunch was included. In the afternoon we went on a Volcano hike with a guide. We saw some spider monkeys and birds and learnt some interesting things. At the viewpoint we drank Guaro and orange juice and watched amazed as lava rocks tumbled down the slopes of Volcano Arenal.
May 11th Tuesday
In the morning we jumped on a boat with our bags and crossed a lake. Then we jumped on some horses while the boat whisked our bags off to an undisclosed location. We headed partway up to the Monteverde cloud-forest on horseback before crossing a stream and going the rest of the way in a mini-van. In the evening we relaxed and ate a fantastic dinner at this great place called Morphos, at the hotel we drank Guaro for a while and hit the sack.
May 12th Wednesday
In the morning we ventured into the rainforest with another guide. We saw and photographed the infamous resplendent quetzal and some hummingbirds. We also saw some cappuccino monkeys. Our guide had lots of interesting things to tell us and he showed us some bird nests. We then went on the Sky Walk, bridges spanning ravines where you can look down on the jungle canopy. After that came the Sky Trek, a series of fifteen or so zip-lines high above the jungle canopy. Was really fun. Angela was terrified but managed to conquer her fears. We also had a go on a Tarzan swing. In the evening we all went back to Morphos.
May 13th Thursday
We hired a private bus to take us to Quepos. On the way we checked out some crocodiles. The hotel was nice, set right in the jungle Hotel Villa Romantica. We caught a taxi down to the twin city of Manuel Antonio at night and swam in the ocean. There were some flosflourescent crustaceans in the water; they looked like underwater lightening flashes. After drinks on the beach we ate dinner back at Quepos.
May 14th Friday
Early in the morning we headed into the Manuel Antonio national park. It was extremely beautiful, with jungle backed beaches and monkeys, iguanas and hermit crabs. In a rather unwise move, Angela ate some fruit, only to find out later that it was poisonous. She paid with several trips to the washroom. The rest of the group went snorkelling while Angela recovered and I chilled in the hotel pool and drank beer. At night Angela was better and we joined the group in Patricia’s birthday celebrations. We ate dinner at this restaurant housed in a grounded bomber plane scavenged after being shot down over Nicaragua during the wars.
May 15th Saturday
We headed back to San Jose after sleeping in. In the evening we met Sebastian’s wife and child. We caught a taxi to this Sushi place deep in the suburbs and pigged out on substandard (acc to Vancouver standards) Sushi.
May 16th Sunday
After saying our goodbyes to the remainder of the group, we made our way to Tamarindo by bus. We caught a bus to Liberia, then several buses from there through Santa Cruz and down Peninsula de Nicoya. At Santa Cruz we ate dinner at this strange Chinese restaurant/bar/Casino/lounge. After getting in late we stayed at this nice, but expensive, place with a pretty little garden.
May 17th Monday
We checked out the scene in Tamarindo - lots of gringos and annoying tourists, but lots to do as well. I was rather bummed because I lost my contacts, but persevered in the end and took a surfing lesson at two. I was pleased with my progress, I managed to stand on the board easily and catch a few small waves with moderate success. Angela enjoyed it too. We also managed to put in some serious chill time and watched the sunset on the beach.
May 18th Tuesday
We became obsessed with leaving Tamarindo and tried unsuccessfully for a while to rent a car. We tried to catch a cab then ended up riding with one of the rental guys to Playa Negra. We got dropped off at Kontiki, this Peruvian place Sebastian told us about. They cooked us a fantastic dinner on the BBQ, I had chicken and Angela had fish. We watched some TV and chilled.
May 19th Wednesday
Took the long walk into town (and were to take that long walk many times after that). We tried to rent some bikes from the local residents but failed. This was a very very small town with no tourists but not much to do. We ate a fantastic Peruvian breakfast at Café Playa Negra, a place with great music and reading material destined to become our favourite haunt. We checked out the beach…long stretches of deserted coastline backed by jungle. Swam a bit in a calmer area (Playa Avellina) and climbed a tree. Had lunch at Pablo Picassos and checked out the surf but it was a no-go. The swells were huge and the white water rampant. A storm closed in and washed the rest of the day and then week out. We met some nice people though - Daniel and Ana-lise and saw Sebastian and his family again, they came up to stay at Kontiki.
May 20th Thursday
The stormy weather set in and we frequented Café Playa Negra a lot. We ended up huddled on the beach under my rain poncho drinking beer while a white wolf dog kept us company. Angela took a nap and I took a long walk to check out the rugged and deserted coastline. The storm was ugly but impressive. In the evening we went to Reef, a family run place with two dishes - Red snapper with garlic and red snapper with ginger. We ate both. Walking back at night, the fireflies looked like fairies or perhaps fallen stars as the flickered in the jungle around us and lit the mud puddles ahead of us.
May 21st Friday
We had a nice day, a late morning. Walking to the beach after breakfast we borrowed a boogie-board from the hotel and went in the ocean for a bit, but the waves were crap of course. In the evening after napping we found out the ride we thought we had to San Jose fell through so we prepared to hitch our way out.
May 22nd Saturday
Through a stroke of good luck and goodwill, things went smoothly and Sebastian gave us a ride to Santa Cruz after breakfast. From there we caught a bus to San Jose. We checked out a few hotels by cab and settled on this charming renovated home with a really friendly owner, possibly the nicest man we’ve ever met. In the evening we went out to dinner at this place called Spoon, then watched a movie in the mall. We watched Troy, during the trailers some employees dressed as Zombies shuffled through the theatre and scared Angela to death! Four hours later we woke up at 4:30 am to catch a taxi to the airport.
May 23rd Sunday
Well, I’m sitting here at the Houston airport and will be for many many hours. Had an emotional goodbye with Angela. Party’s over for now, time to go back to Vancity. Probably have to find a place to stay when I get in.
May 25th Tuesday
Well, I’m sitting here at my parent’s house typing this all up. When I got in I stayed at the Granville Street youth hostel, or crack-hostel as I affectionately call it. It wasn’t too bad this time and the next day was sunny and glorious. Took some pictures, went bike riding, visited Julien and Sarah and Melody and spoke to Angela on the phone. She had some trouble with her room-mates when she got back and decided to come to Vancouver within a few weeks! Good news! Especially as I’m off to Victoria in a month. I haven’t even seen mom and dad yet, they’re dancing as usual. Our holiday was a roller-coaster ride and it’s time to catch my breath. The best thing about it was that Angela and I are finally together and besides from a few hiccups, it’s going really well. It all started a year ago I guess, but ever since that kiss on the beach at Puerto Escondido, we’ve been inseparable. Here’s not really the place to tell that story though!
I don’t often write about my personal life in this journal, but I’ve come to come realizations about staying true to oneself and not neglecting the people around me that I love… I think in Korea, my life started to fragment in a way that I didn’t like and I was becoming distant and self-detached, a pattern in my life that I want to break… Angela called me on it, and although I was running from some personal demons for a while she never gave up on me and for that I’m grateful to her…I just hope she can come to forgive me for the way I was in Korea when I tried my hardest to stop feeling and almost succeeded. I’ll never feel regret though, just gladness for the things I’ve learned and the reminder of what’s really important in this life.
So, we’re finally together, my best friend of the past seven years… It’s a big deal for us, after fighting, and cherishing, and nurturing and being afraid of the love that’s grown between us - We have a long history, and I’ve wanted to be with her when she didn’t and she’s wanted to be with me when I didn’t and the timing was finally right…. I knew when we planned this trip together that it would either make it or break it for us, but really I should have had more faith in what we had and what I never wanted to let go. For us, it’s beautiful and daring and real and even though we’ve loved each other as the best of friends for a long time, only just begun. Anyways, the point of writing about this is to reaffirm what the wise among us have known all along, that love is an unexpected treasure when we take the time to bask in it’s glow, but it takes courage and diligence and faith to follow your heart, not just in the love of another, but in the ambitions of our lives. An elevated state of being encourages us to take ever greater risk and a willingness to embrace the bittersweet pain we associate with being truly alive.
It’s hard not to see life in dualities, black and white, day and night, awake or asleep… I hesitate to say I’m experiencing an altered mindset any different from before, it’s not like you can turn a switch. I’ve always believed that to perceive growth as cyclic is a somewhat limited two dimensional perspective, yes there are cycles of light and dark, of attacking and defending, conscious and unconscious… but I see it more as a three dimensional spiral of growth. Like inhaling and exhaling in an upward spiral toward an infinite goal. We forget and remember, forget and remember and ceaselessly strive toward a sky with no ceiling…Sometimes our progress along the spiral is obscured, and sometimes we ascend or descent accordingly, but it is always a dynamic movement, no matter how static our lives seem, every action holds consequence, every intention and thought affects the focus and tangibility of our lives. One really has to ask themselves the question, “When do you feel truly alive?”…Can you recognize those moments, have you found them? When you do never forget it, and if you aren’t doing that right now, throw every thought and intent into it’s manifestation , make it happen and never stop.
Well, that was hi-falutin’…time to get back to reality