Sunday, 13 April 2014

Travelling with the parents!

After a mad morning of nearly missing various boats trying to get back to the mainland we made up some serious time on road. We found a 4x4 taxi driver who would take us the 1.5hr drive to Sixolla for just $20 and get it done in a little over an hour whilst singing all the way. We had a loose timing to meet up at 12 noon at the border and amazingly we were bang on. We got our exit stamps and headed to the rickety old bridge for a short walk to Costa Rica! Apparently if a lorry makes its way over the bridge everyone has to start running because there is nowhere to go on the side and the drivers don’t slow down.

Sure enough we made it to the other side unscathed and got in line for our entry stamps. After a little look around at the cars just outside the official gate we spotted Kyle’s Mum and Dad. To be sure there were long hugs, tears and big grins, with it slowly sinking in that “wow they are actually here… together” for all of us.

We jumped into the wonderfully air conditioned hire car, sat back, relaxed and were blissfully safe in the knowledge that we were to be looked after for the next few weeks! No more planning, scrimping, budgeting…

After a pretty short drive to Casa Viva we stopped off at the local town of Punta Uva (close to Puerto Viejo on the Caribbean coast) for a few long awaited beers at a very cool and quirky Caribbean bar. 

Naturally Marc and Debbie already seemed pretty at home as if they’d been there for years, chatting to the locals and making friends with the Rastas selling ganga and bread “Buy ya fresh bread, good for da head, so ya down’t get dead” a larger than life big momma chanted whilst propping Marc under arm. 

We had a few days stay in a lovely wooden villa. It was surrounded by gorgeous lush gardens and was 30 paces to the beach. 

iPad firmly glued to Mum's hand! 

What is pretty special about this area is that it is against the law to build on the beach. Looking along the shoreline from the water it is just white sand into dense jungle. All the houses and villas are set back, hidden from view, keeping the area entirely unspoilt.

Kyle experimenting with his new camera timer, 2.30s shutter exposure at 4am on the beach on his own ... a little drunk !  

The rest of the day we spent sharing stories, show and tell slideshow style, having a delicious fresh lunch and a dip in the sea. 

The waves here were pretty big, so it was nice for Marc to have a friend to play in the sea with. 

Needless to say they got nicely tumbled about resulting in Marc’s nose leaking seawater for the next 4 hours! 
We had a mixture of Debbie’s lovely home cooking (mmmm…) and went out for some great meals too. We also fell nicely into the routine of pre dinner GnT’s most nights.

The next day we went on a walk along the coastline, into the jungle and then conked out in the afternoon! We realised just how tired we were! We let go in a big way and slept for hours!

Our next stop was 2 minutes (literally) down the road to ‘The Beach House’ villa. Here we were to stay another 4 nights. What a place! It was beautifully designed.

Stunning woodwork, an ENORMOUS bathroom and a great outdoor decking complete with BBQ and hot tub!

Spot the fire in the background heating it up! 

Not just any old hot tub too…filled with fresh water and then heated by a fire with piping tunnelled into it for a few hours! Heaven! Our pre dinner and post dinner drinks were spent in there! Going into overheat mode and getting some mega headrushes. The three Stevos had a brain wave and started to plan their new entrepreneurial endeavour; economical hot tubs for the UK. They spent a good 30/40 minutes discussing the logistics, additional add-ons/accessories and details of their new company until they eventually Google’d it and realised that it has already been done! Doh!

We were surrounded by wildlife. When we first arrived we saw a sloth above the house in the branches! The closest we have come so far! We heard the dominant sound of howler monkeys throughout our stay and Kyle developed an obsession with trying to capture a photograph of the big beautiful blue butterfly that came to visit often. No picture here as he was unsuccessful…the mission is still continuing.

Kyle and I shared with Debbie and Marc our newfound love for Argentinean cuisine and we found a great restaurant, aptly named ‘Malbec’, and enjoyed fabulous steak prepared by a lovely old Argentine couple. 


We subsequently bought more of their meat to BBQ the following night, accompanied by their delicious ChimmiChurri sauce.
More days were spent on the beach; chilling, boogie boarding, watching surfers and playing in the huge waves.

Far from the rip tide this time!

Eating, drinking and lots of chatting.

Chilling in the bathroom
Peace and Love

Very merry Debbie!!
Kyle playing with his camera in the early hours again!

After spending 6 days in Punta Uva, we packed up the car and headed North East for about 5 hours to a Ranch right in the centre of the country, near the small village of Platanar, 30 minutes south of La Fortuna Volcano. The ranch was set on picturesque rolling hills with beautiful views of the countryside around. 

We spent the late afternoon exploring the place and went down to the stables to say hello to the horses. They seemed all in pristine condition. We came across the fattest pig we had ever seen, dragging its tummy and trying to scratch itself on a tree! Hilarious!

Who ate all the cream pies?

The next morning, bright and early, we rose for a ride. This was good fun; something the four of us had never done all together. Debbie got back into the saddle after 4 years; having ridden all her life, she was at home. – Beside from the fact that we had to ride ‘Western’ like a cowboy! We were matched to our horses, had a trot around to see if we were comfortable with them and headed off into the vast countryside. 

Early on in the ride we did a river crossing which was great! 


Followed by a great stretch of dirt through the sugarcane plantation which we cantered up, opening up the horse power and letting them loose which was brilliant – I am still a bit hit and miss with the rhythm!! Bang, bang, bang!! I got some good tips from Debbie though. Kyle got on very well with his trusty stead, occasionally taking off like a cowboy into a canter just the two of them. Fun to see Marc enjoying being on a real horse instead of the rocking ones he tends to spend a lot of the year sat on. 

Our canter through the cane fields!

Once we arrived back we fell into the pool for a cool down and then it was onto meet Mum and Dad Brown! They had arrived earlier in the week and visited Tortuguero National Park in the North East of the country before coming to Arenal where they were staying now. It was an hour’s drive to the Lost Iguana Hotel. When we arrived, reception called their room for us and told them we’d meet them in the bar. The hotel was really spread out on a hill overlooking the famous Arenal Volcano. After a few minutes of waiting, I couldn’t stand it any longer! I started to climb the path to where I thought the direction of their room might be. 

Sure enough they came round the corner…!

Drinks at the bar, followed by a big reunion lunch with the 6 of us! 

We had a merry time, not really knowing where to begin on the conversation! 

Our table had an awesome view of the volcano and apparently we were very lucky to see the top of it; it is usually always covered in cloud.

In the afternoon we all adjourned to Mum and Dad’s balcony where we sat facing out to the volcano. 


Around 4pm it was time to separate… Kyle and his parents were to return to the Ranch for another night and then head onto the West coast whilst my parents and myself were to spend one more night in Arenal before going south to Monteverde cloud forest. Ok, it was only 3 nights but this was a big deal! We have spent every day and night together for the last 6 months! I couldn’t help but get all teary and pathetic!

So this is where our blog must split – we had 3 days of doing different things!

Hannah’s 3 days(!)…

The rest of this day was just lots more chatting. We went down to the (heated) pool around sunset and I met some of mum and dad’s new American friends! Haha! The Caribbean side not so much, but Costa Rica is densely populated with American tourists (expats) and going to this lovely posh hotel, there were so many older stereotypical fat American tourists with socks and sandals! Super super friendly, we couldn’t have felt more English and conservative! ‘You guys are so smiley, I think I am going to call you ‘The Smileys’!’ (cue our nervous laughter and sick in our mouths!)

The next day we transferred to Monteverde. We took a boat across Lake Arenal and then a mini bus up the mountain. When we arrived, our first impression was surprise at not actually being in the clouds. The weather up here is always bright and sunny and the temperature was a pleasant cooler 19 degrees.

We wandered around town, went to lunch at this cool restaurant that was built up around a half-century old fig tree.

In the evening we went to see frogs in this frog sanctuary. Some of them are the size of your thumb nail – very cute! Particularly the iconic Red Eyed Tree Frog.

The following morning we had a tour of the dewy trails of the cloud forest in the Santa Elena Reserve. 

Our tour guide, Orlando was brilliant; so knowledgeable and his other talents shone through when he kept grabbing dad's camera to capture the birds and other animals in the trees above us, adjusting the settings and trying to get THE shot- turns out he is a photographer and has had many of his pictures made into postcards-some of which mum had actually bought the day before.

'Kisses from Costa Rica'

He also was asking my opinion on sounds capes to compliment yoga and Pilates classes- a project of his in the pipe line.
We spotted some 'resplendent quetzals' which is a big deal apparently for the geeky bird watchers. They were rather resplendent actually.

That afternoon we went on a great chocolate tour, further adding to my newfound knowledge of the cocoa bean that I gained in Peru. 

It was also fun to share my passion for all things chocolate with mum- the person I blame for my massive sweet tooth! Lots of yummy tasters including chili hot chocolate which was delicious.


For the rest of our time here we simply chilled in the Monteverde Cloud Forest Lodge where we were staying; exploring the beautiful gardens and soaking in their giant greenhouse Jacuzzi.

Short and sweet and we were off to reunite back with the Stevos.

Kyle’s 3 days away!

Hard on the outside.. soft on the inside!! 
Having left Hannah a little teary eyed with Nick and Nicky we set off back to the ranch and spent the rest of the evening with a few beers. It was an early start the following morning to begin the supposedly 4hr drive (which was in fact 6 hrs) to our next destination. We drove around the Arenal Volcano and made our way around the top of Arenal Lake stopping along the way to take in the sights with a coffee and macadamia treat. After a relentlessly windy 2’ish hours around the lake we were heading over the luscious jungle hills into what suddenly became a pretty arid and dry landscape. It was definitely a stark contrast to what we were accustomed too. 

Whilst blissfully unaware of any speed limit and taking in the scenery suddenly we were being waved down by a man in tall shiny leather boots. With my most basic of translation we managed to decipher that we had in fact been travelling around 40kmph above the speed limit. When asked to pay on the spot Dad kindly turns to the police officer and asked “Do you take credit card? ”. The Policeman obviously didn’t understand but got he jist. I then say “no tengo dinero”, I do not have money, he looks at us a little surprised to say the least. Three gringo’s in a hired 4x4 asking if they can pay on card because they have no money, it was pretty funny. Never the less Dad hunts around in his wallet and scrapes together half of the fine in cash and hands it over, which he is happy to accept and wanders off. Nothing like a little bartering and bribing to get the appetite going… cue Costa Rican Burger King! Mum, Dad and I when together are suckers for the occasional BK, usually on the drive home after a heavy 5 days selling on the stand. Again with a little confusion at the till with who ordered what and who’s getting the extra bacon or onion rings on the burger etc we had finally ordered and were tucking in. Bottom line… UK BK is better! 

The last 45 minutes of the journey made us really appreciate the 4x4, we were on a dirt road heading south along the pacific road (sorry, track). We arrived at The Azul Ocean Club just in time for our first (well Mum n Dads) Pacific coast sunset over the stunning ocean! 

We spent the next few days chilling and relaxing. 

In true Stevo fashion both parents got carried away (typical all or nothing) after finding the gym area
before breakfast one morning and ended up pulling muscles!! 

Soaking up the crazy hot black sand on our poor burnt feet, much to Mum’s annoyance. Best comment of the holiday “ I didn’t come all the way to Costa Rica for black fucking sand… bollocks!” hilarious! I had actually never seen sand like this. There were volcanic minerals, which produced streaks of shiny metallic blue. 

Dad and I took a Kayak out and managed to beat the breaking waves eventually after a pretty insane 1st tumble. We timed it right and swam out beyond the break so Dad could hop in, I was to follow but by the time it was my turn we had drifted back into the break zone! A massive wave came along, with me hanging on the front and Dad sat at the back it gave us a split second to react which we did nothing with apart from give a little holla! We were flipped backwards, tumbled and got washed up with the Kayak on the shore. When we eventually got out to sea on our second attempt and decided to turn back we thought it would be fun idea to ride one of the giant waves in. While drifting closer to the break point we discuss our action plan of when to start paddling. Again we were caught out and suddenly a monster was approaching so we started paddling quickly. The first 4 seconds or so was awesome; we picked up some decent speed. I noticed that the speed combined with the pitch and force of the wave meant the front started to ‘dig in’… uh oh I thought and the next thing we know we have both been literally catapulted out of the kayak and monstrously tumbled. Still, all was good with no injuries, just a fun story and experience.

Back together!

We all reunited again at The Azul Ocean Club on the Pacific coast on the Nicoya Peninsula. It was time for a bit more R & R. 

Can you spot our friend hanging from the tree?

One morning we went on a fishing trip. We were taken out into the great Pacific by 2 fisherman in their small boat. 

Marc talking fishing!
The first thirty minutes was very promising; we saw massive signs of life - lots of splashing - possibly sharks?! Big fish and even rays jumping out the water. We agreed that we wouldn't open the first beer until we had caught our first fish, thinking it would probably be immanent. A few hours in, we gave in and all cracked one open. 

Unfortunately 5/6 hours and a lot of beers (Kyle mainly!) later still no fish. 

We made a last ditch attempt by all getting involved and holding the rods... 

We did see the biggest school of dolphins though - hundreds!! Pretty breathtaking. 

They were diving and spinning out of the water, even the babies. It was wonderful to watch, lying on our tummies over the front of the boat, marvelling at how close they get. We also saw 2 turtles swimming on the surface! 

So all in all not bad! A wildlife trip! That's why they call it fishing- not catching!

That night we ate at Tree Tops: a lovely B & B built on stilts up in the trees with a fantastic view of the sunset over the ocean. What we hadn't expected when we booked it was that it was a private restaurant! We were the only table with the food being prepared all day just for our meal. It was very special indeed!


The following morning Marc, Kyle and I went back to the Tree Top bay and borrowed some snorkels. Marc and Kyle spotted some extremely rare blue starfish!!

On our last night all-together we ate at the hotel. We had a friend that joined us...the biggest grasshopper you will ever see...!

Kyle and I had fun showing off our improved Spanish to the folks and teaching them some words.
The following morning we were all up early and it was time to say goodbye to Debbie and Marc. They were driving back to San Jose to fly home and Kyle and I were to continue with Mum and Dad Brown north into Nicaragua. It was sad to go through the goodbyes again – took us back to the 3rd September ‘13…

And so we continued on…we had quite a long journey ahead of us. It began with a 1.5 hour bumpy private transfer to the town; Liberia. Easy peasy. Here, we had to catch a local bus to the border. Mum and Dad were about to get a little taster of our traveller journeys!


Here we go…after an hour and a half of enduring pretty constant screaming babies whilst we suffered from delicate tummies (we all seemed to had caught something..) we got to the border. 

There was quite a bit of queuing involved, Kyle did a dodgy money changing deal through a fence, feeling a tad delicate, we walked with our bags quite a way in the heat of the day (Mum – you were right- perhaps a backpack would have been better for you), met some hassling characters along the way, tried to negotiate a taxi, it got very crowded on the Nicaraguan side, gave our Costa Rican change to a beggar woman who later returned back for more, nearly got ripped off to bring our bags into the country claiming we needed to pay $40 – (bollocks), Dad got trapped on the other side of the fence with Mum’s passport, Mum nearly got mugged, lots of shouting and then we leapt into a ‘taxi’ whose boot had to be roped down with our bags in and we drove off. Welcome to Nicaragua! This is traveling Mum and Dad!!!

After a sticky but very scenic 2 hour taxi ride we made it to the beautiful colonial town of Granada. 

Our hotel was lovely. Kyle and I could seriously get used to these luxurious bathrooms!! Our mouths dropped open!

That afternoon we took a horse drawn carriage tour around the city; none of us had any energy for walking. We took in the cleanness and bright colours of the beautiful buildings. 

Our guide spoke English but it was still difficult to understand him. He seemed to bang on about some guy called William Walker. Kyle asked if there was a statue of this man in the city. He looked at Kyle in a funny way saying definitely not…our subsequent research reveled that in the 1800’s this William Walker (American) invaded Granada, made himself president, re-instituted slavery, declared English the country’s official language, mortgaged the entire nation to fund personal borrowing and invaded Costa Rica, announcing his intention to control the whole of Central America…huh… not such a popular guy then…opps.. no.. no statue Kyle.

That evening we had a drink and a pizza on the bustling strip, marveling at how cheap everything was again. We enjoyed some interesting Michael Jackson break dancing and were serenaded with street musicians – tips were with pizza!

The following day we bopped along the cobblestone streets, seeing churches and monuments. 

Mum and I got a bit lost in the overflowing locals market – we had definitely drifted from the tourist track!

Up the bell tower:

Most of the houses/buildings seemed to have cute little courtyards in the middle of them; some shady garden spot where they can have a bit of relief from the scorching heat.

Another day we took a trip to the Masaya region. We visited the Pueblos Blancos famed for their skilled crafts people and colourful traditions. It was here that Mum began her love affair with the Nicaraguan artisanal pottery! We visited a workshop and learnt about the process of making their lovely work. 


Invariably, the tour ended in the shop – spoilt for choice! We bought a little pot and Mum got a few; this was only the beginning to Dad’s horror; over the next few days she was to purchase a good few more!!  

We then went to the gorgeous village of Catarina, which has an amazing lookout point over a lake with Granada behind and Lake Nicaragua sitting beyond the city. 

We wondered the town; this is where the locals come to buy their plants; there were ‘garden centres’ galore. We also saw hammock shops and bamboo furniture shops.
Next stop were the markets – warning – more pots!! We went to two different ones. On the second, Dad and Kyle went straight to the bar and sat down with a beer and some cashew nuts for the duration. Typical men.

Finally we headed to the Masaya Volcano; ‘the most heavily venting volcano in Nicaragua’ – and that’s saying something: the country has 11 major volcanoes! So naturally, we were driven up to the crater, the vehicle parking facing out in case we need to make a quick getaway, gulp!

We climbed a hill and watched the sunset through the sulfurous smoke. 

Then as darkness was falling we all donned hard hats and entered a nearby bat cave with torches. Yikes!

The following day we transferred to Leon, a city a few hours north west of Granada. We stayed in El Convento, an old convent!

Wandering Leon’s streets, it has a more shabby chic/ rough and ready feel to the pristine Granada.

We visited the cathedral. Even though I had read that it was $1 admission to climb the roof, when the old door man pointed to Mum, Dad and myself (Kyle was outside taking snaps) saying $3 – I stupidly misunderstood and thought $3 each. So when the four of us handed the guy $12 he simply cackled, showed us the way and scarpered before we all too late realized that we had been ripped off. Grrr. His evil little laugh resonated around the courtyard! Oh well…the view was spectacular and we were actually ON the roof – no barrier! 

Volcanoes everywhere!!

I promise I didn't know Kyle was taking this photo!

A little nervous on the roof...

The cathedral was in the process of being repainted – there was quite a contrast!

Found these cute little boys outside in the main square:

We really noticed a trend with the male Nicaraguans; they had such sharp haircuts. From really young school kids to older men, they all look like they have just stepped out the barbers. They seem to make much more of an effort with their appearance than the girls!

Evening time in Leon

A local bus - seriously 

That day was Pancake Day so in the evening we hunted down a bar and asked if they would make us pancakes. They said they could and wanted to put all sorts of fruits and syrups on too. In the end we managed to convince them just lemon (lime was their substitute) and sugar would be great. They thought we were mad but we just blamed England! They went down nicely with some lovely Mojitos for just over a quid a pop, Mum may have got a little ‘pickled’!

We visited a very attractive contemporary art museum. The pieces were displayed in rooms of stunning courtyards. We challenged ourselves with some challenging works!

The resident tortoise
On our last day all-together we went to Las Penitas beach. We had a lovely relaxing day, basing ourselves in a shady restaurant, as it was SO hot. Kyle had a little surf on a rented board. Towards the late afternoon, we were all chilling out near the water and we witnessed the most horrendous sight…2 dogs mating about 10 feet from us and then – they got stuck!! We were in shock not knowing what to do! After about 5 minutes of them struggling to separate, they just gave up and stood awkwardly bum to bum contemplating their next move! Then typically another dog entered the scene…and…it got a lot worse but the stuck pair eventually separated! WTF!

What a memorable end to a lovely holiday with the parents, haha.

Thank-you so much Mummys and Daddys for coming out and sharing our traveling adventures all together. We all had a brilliant time. We miss you loads. xHnKx

No comments:

Post a Comment