August 2013 Posts

The Trip 2013 – Puerto Viejo to Panama City


Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Puerto Viejo to Panama City. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

Puerto Viejo was the last stop for me in Costa Rica, the next day I made my way to the border where I crossed into Panama. When we arrived at the crossing in the rain we had to queue up at the desk to get our passport stamped. For some reason they chose that moment to fumigate the entire building shutting everything down for an hour and a half. *sigh* Pura Vida!


When they finally reopened we had to cross the border into Panama. Unfortunately the only way to do this was across a rickety old train bridge.


I had a massive hangover from the previous night in Puerto Viejo which combined with the rain slicked wood and huge gaps between the planks made things a little Treacherous.


When I arrived into Panama I decided to make a change of plans. Rather than staying a night at the Bocas islands I decided I was going to take a night bus immediately so I could get to Panama City and meet some people that I knew were there.

Unfortunately that meant waiting at a bus terminal for 7 hours with nothing around other than a dodgy canteen, a Chineese run corner shop and a few smelly stray dogs. When the bus did finally arrive it was minute with barely enough leg room for anything. It was also incredibly wobbley, several people were throwing up due to the nauseousness induced by the wobble.

Eventually the driver decided enough was enough and we changed to a larger bus at 3am. This bus was a little larger which was good but unfortunately it seemed to have its aircon set to kill. had been warned that these busses can get cold so I brought trousers, jumper and a sleepingbag liner. None of that was enough to ward off the bone-freezing cold.

Finally we arrived into Panama City at about 8am. I had been worrying all day that I had no clue where I was going to be staying as I had done no research into hostels in Panama City, the bus stop certainty had no wifi leaving me high and dry. Fortunately two beautiful and very helpful Polish girls were on hand to help me. They told me about a place they were staying called the Panamericana and offered to share a taxi which I gladly accepted.

When there I checked into a cell-like private room and immediately fell asleep for several hours.


When I did finally awake midday I decided to wander around the vicinity of hostel which turned out to be in the old town of Panama City.


On my wandering journey I discovered a small market selling a great number of Panama hats.


I just had to buy one.


This was my third of such hats I had purchased on this trip, they dont last long when exposed to water and travel.

While wandering around down by the waterfront I thought I recognized someone sitting over on the bench, I went over and low and behold, look who it is


Becks and Jenny from my previous tour. I knew they were in Panama City but I didnt expect to see them buy just randomly strolling around the city.

I walked with them for a little while before I took off, agreeing to meet up again that evening for dinner.

I saw some more interesting things on my travels including an interesting local festival..

.. and some rather cute but dirty animals


Panama City old town is quite a dichotomy. On the one hand you have alot of money being poured into renovating the area as is evident by all the construction works and by fancy boutique hotels and restaurants popping up everywhere. But at the same time there are some incredibly poor areas just a stones throw away.



In 10 years or so this part of the town will be a bustling tourist destination filled with just expensive hotels, restaurants and shops. Im not sure where all the locals that live here will go..

I met up with Becks and Jen again for dinner with their tour group they had been with since I left them in San Jose. We went along the causeway to a nice restaurant. They told me about how their current tour leader had been so terrible compared to the tour leader we had had together, Chris. Their leader had basically checked out and didnt care about helping people more than the absolute minimum and as a result they had not had a great time. It really shows how much a big difference having a good leader makes.

The next day I met up with another person from my last tour, Meike who just so happened to be in Panama City at the same time. We decided to go and visit probably the most famous landmark in Panama, the canal



There were a great many tourists there, including one lady that must surely have difficulty looking at her tablet


We spent several hours together wandering through the accompanying museum



That afternoon we were due to meet Becks and Jen in the huge mall in Panama for a spot of shopping.


We were wandering through one of the super markets in the mall when I noticed that they sold gin here, and incredibly for central america it was cheap, just $1.5 for 250ml!


That evening Meike and I wandered around the old town a little more taking some pictures of the incredible skyline of the new part of the city.



That evening we met up with Jen and Becks again for dinner in a very nice Tapas restaurant.



The next day I sadly had to say goodbye to Meike who was flying back to Holland early as I was going to the beautiful San Blas islands with Jen.


This place was stunning. We stayed on a place called Franklin’s island, a tiny spit of land not 100m across. We stayed in thatched huts just a couple of steps from the water.


It was an incredible place




There were coconut trees all around us dropping their fruit all day long.


We decided we were going to try to get into one with my pen knife.

1) Start with a Coconut

2) Hack away at it for an hour with a penknife

3) Use a saw to cut through the inner nut

4) Fashion a straw from from a pen

5) Add rum and enjoy!

On the second day we took a boat on a snorkeling trip. We visited an awesome sunken boat that was teeming with life.



We also visited a raised area of sand that was home to a number of starfish.



That evening we met an Argentinian guy with his father and uncle.


They were incredibly generous and shared their phenomenally tender BBQ steak with us and gave save us the last of their very nice Malbec


Sadly the time came the following day to leave the island. I had had an incredible time there on the beautiful island




Back in Panama City Jen and myself met up with two German girls we had met on the island, Anna and Pia


We went back to the tapas place again and had some more of the very tasty grub.


Sadly I had to catch a flight the next day, I was going to miss Panama it was a wonderful place made particularly so thanks to all the incredible people that I shared the experience with!


The Trip 2013 – San Jose to Puerto Viejo

Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – San Jose to Puerto Viejo. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

After finishing my 17 day adventure from Antigua, Guatamala to San Jose, Costa rica and sadly said farewell to most of my fellow travelers I had a few days rest as recuperation with Kelsie before she had to return to Australia. We spent most of the 4 days chilling out and exploring the city.



We spent some time exploring the compact market places, there were some interesting shops..



I even had some time to do some shopping for some new shoes that were destroyed up Concepcion.


I found San Jose to be a rather gloomy, concrete jungle of a city with much of the architecture reflecting that feeling


There also seemed to be a lot of homeless and poverty


Sadly I finally had to say goodbye to Kelsie too after nearly two months of travelling together.


I was now on my own again, my first time by myself in Central America. Oh how I wish I knew more Spanish, it would have made everything much less intimidating. My first solo destination was the seaside town of Samara, Costa Rica



My main reason for being there was to learn to surf



I was relatively successful at first and found that I was able to stand up on the board even on the first attempt


The board however was a long board, which made things quite a bit easier:


Evenings in Samara were spent chilling out, drinking imperial and enjoying the glorious sunsets




On the days I was too sore or too tired from surfing I explored some more of the long beach. At one end I found this incredibly refreshing waterfall


I also rather foolishly decided it would be a good idea to try to swim the gap between the main beach and a small island nearby


Not the smartest move as the waves and currents were rather strong and the rocks incredibly sharp. Still I made it back only with only a few cuts on my hands and feet.

Sadly after a week of bliss it was time for me to move on. I was trying to work my way across to Panama City eventually. On the way I decided I was going to spend a couple of days exploring the Caribbean side of Costa Rica, specifically the town of Puerto Viejo



I didn’t really like the town. It felt kind of sketchy and was riddled with drug dealers and associated dodgy characters. It didn’t help that it rained for a large portion of the time I was there. Fortunately the hostel I was staying in (Pagalu) was great.



The hostel had a great atmosphere that encouraged people to become friends. I immediately hit it off with the people in my dorm, I will remember Puerto Viejo fondly mostly because of them, cheers guys!


The Trip 2013 – Monte Verde to San Jose

Note: This is a condensed version of the pictures I took with some added narrative. The rest of the pics can be viewed in the album The Trip 2013 – Monte Verde to San Jose. Each picture can be clicked to see a larger version and comment / like.

After Ometepe we crossed the border into our final country on this trip, Costa Rica. The first destination for us was the beautiful town of Monte Verde high in the hills of northern Costa Rica.


Of of the main attractions of Monte Verde is all the extreme sports on offer. I decided I was going to do the jungle zip lining first.


The site in which we did it boasts the longest zip line in Latin America at 1590m.


The ride takes the best part of a minute and a half which I managed to record in the super-man position:


The final zip line wasnt a zip line at all, rather it was a giant tarzan swing. To get there you had to walk across a rickety bridge before you reach the platform that you jump from.


After zip lining I decided I wanted to have a go at something I have been meaning to do for a long time, bungee jumping.

While we were getting suited up in our harness a friendly Makaw decided to join us. It seemed to have a fetish for peoples feet however.


To get to the bungee jump spot you had to ride in a small cage across the steep valley


One by one the people in the cage took the plunge over the edge until it was my turn. I shuffled up to the edge (my feet were tied to the bungee) before the countdown 5..4..3..2..1.. and I felt the not-so-proverbial boot up the bottom and jumped:

The jump was exhilarating tho the way the rope caused you to spin afterwards did make me feel a little nautious.

While I was doing the jump some members of our group went off on a coffee tour.



The following day we took a bus and a boat across to La Fortuna the town that rests at the foot of the Areal volcano in northern Costa Rica.



Like Monte Verde, La Fortuna offers a great many adventure sports for the adrenaline addicted traveler with deep pockets.

As soon as we arrived a few of us decided we were going to go canyoneering.


Canyoneering involves hiking and repelling down waterfalls and is great fun.



Some of the waterfalls are so high that you basically have to zip line down.

There were a couple of ‘surprises’ along the way too such as a dive bomb into a pool.



The other was a ‘Tsunami’. We were wedged into a small crevice then the stream was blocked from above. After a few minutes the dam was broken releasing a huge torrent of water down onto us.


I loved the canyoneering, I may have to see if I can do more of it on this trip!



When we returned from the canyoneering we found the other half the group having fun in the hotel pool.


They had been drinking sangreer all afternoon in the sun and had come up with a game called ‘Limeball’. It basically involed letting a lime sink to the bottom then in teams you have to try to get it to the opponents end by just using your feet.


The tricky thing was that it was really tough to see the lime through the chest high water so often everyone would loose the lime until someone would sneakily kick it towards the other side.

The following day I decided to continue on my adventure sports with some ATV’ing.


I had never done it before and was pleasantly surprised at how powerful the small things were.

We stopped after a few hours and took a break at a small river in the forest.




That evening we took a break from all the adrenaline and visited the hot springs at Los Lagos.


The pools are supplied with hot water fed by the volcanic activity deep underground. Unlike the springs in Hondorus that were built on a hill side deep in the jungle these were much more formal built up affair and were basically hot swimming pools. One of the pools even had a swim up bar which I made good use of.


We had dinner at a buffet in the hotel. During the meal we practiced a little “1912’ing”.



The following day we left La Fortuna and headed to San Jose. Along the way we stopped ot do a spot of white water rafting.


The guide in our raft thought it would be funny to stick twigs in our helmets


We had an awesome time though it made me yearn to do some harder rapids in the future.




During the ride we had an opportunity to ‘ride the bow’ which involves sitting on the front of the boat and hanging on for dear life as you sail down the river.

It was all good fun until Meike, a Dutch girl in our boat was thrown off and landed on her knee onto a rock.. ouch!


Halfway we stopped for some pineapple and a little cliff jumping.


After the rafting we headed to our final destination, the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. There we spent one more night together as a group getting drunk in a local club.

Im going to miss these guys, I had a phenomenal time, sharing so many good memories. I got on with all of them, each person had their own unique qualities that made them great to hang around with. I wish I could spend the rest of my trip travelling around with them. Thanks guys!