Palo Verde National Park
Some Holyoke girls posing (similar Goucher pics on Facebook), and the view from the top of the mountain.
The first dry forest I've been to in Costa Rica. Different then the rain forest, go figure. Birding at sunrise. White faced and spider monkeys dropped unripe mangoes on us. Howler monkeys howled at each other – that was cool. A hike up the backside of a cliff to an absolutely stunning view of the marshes and river that form the top of the Gulf of Nicoya. An old pier of sorts into the marsh meant an amazing view of the sunset and a number of great photoshoots. More frogs than I have ever heard in my life that night after the sun went down. The next morning, I got up to watch what I think was my first complete sunrise ever, and an abandoned pylon of the pier served as a great yoga mat for some sun salutations.
those are white-faced monkeys; and a sunrise.
Passing into Nicaragua
We sat at the border for a little while and I bought some booze at a duty free shop for the first time in my life: Women with hammocks on their heads and men with boxes of pirated DVDs attacked us as we sat on the curb and a young guy (Tico or Nicaraguan, I'm not sure) greeted me by saying, “Que pasa, flaco?” (“What's up, skinny?”).
We stopped at a spot along Lake Nicaragua so our professors could ask if the big bus could manage the ferry ride to Hometepe, an island with two volcanoes in the middle of the lake we were going to stay on for two nights. The three guys stripped down and jumped in the water, because it was beautiful and because we could.
The bus couldn't make it, so we had to change plans, and a week later our professor showed us an article about how Nicaragua just got enough money to start building a sewage treatment plant to start cleaning the hundreds of thousands of pounds of human excrement that gets dumped into the lake every year. Maybe, the article said, just maybe in fifteen years or so the lake will be clean enough for people to swim in. Great, guys. Great.
...is a cool city. I've been in Monteverde now for two months, and it doesn't feel like Central America in that really stereotypical salsa-in-the-streets sort of way. Granada did. Beautiful doors, old colorful buildings, cobblestone streets filled with ox-drawn carts and old Toyotas,and a central plaza and market at the base of an old and beautiful church.
Went out to an outdoor bar called Cafe Nuit with a few choice people; Hillary and I danced to live salsa music (she's a great dancer), then she danced with a Nicaraguan guy who actually flipped her over. Who's that ice skater who just, you know, does a complete forward flip in the middle of his routine with no warning? Yeah, it was like that.
The next morning I walked around the city taking pictures (Also with Hillary - her pictures are far better than mine), had my Spanish complimented by a man selling jewelry in the market, and Naila, my Spanish teacher's beautiful two year old, ate the French fries off David's plate.
San Juan del Sur
Because our Hometepe trip was canceled due to the unfortunate length of our bus, we decided at the last minute to travel to San Juan del Sur, a classic surfer-bum beach town, but without the big waves, on the southern Pacific coast of Nicaragua. Lack of time to plan meant no hotel could fit our posse of thirty students, professors, babies (two of 'em), a nanny, and a bus driver, so we split up into five different hostels and hotels, which was great because traveling as a herd gets really tiring, really quickly.
I used my find-good-restaurants-in-foreign-countries-with-my-nose skills (thanks, mom) to find the group a good dinner spot on the beach, as the professors were all running crazy trying to find us beds to sleep in. I got mad at my friends (and the roosters that woke me up at 5:30) and explored by myself one morning, walked the beach and found a bookstore-cafe with the best banana pancakes I think I have ever had.
I joked with an Israeli tourist about the five words of conversational Hebrew I know on a bumpy truck ride to a beautiful stretch of beach about forty minutes north of town, then spent the afternoon boogie boarding, reading, and exploring the beach. The truck back to San Juan was packed, so Dave and I got to hang off the back for the ride home – it was great.
The truck to the beach, and the beach.
Like most of the group, a few friends and I got off our chartered bus in Liberias, the main bus hub in the province of Guanacaste, on the way back to Monteverde. We were to take a public bus to a beach on the Nicoya Peninsula, but first we had to find our two missing travel-buddies:
- Brett, Quinn's boyfriend, had flown in from Goucher for the week and had taken a bus from San Jose to Liberias that morning
- Sam, a volunteer at the Institute in the middle of an amazing pre-college gap year (we bonded real fast – he was a Deputy Field Organizer for the Obama Campaign in Philly) had began his two-bus journey from Monteverde to Liberias at 5:30 AM.
Brett found us within an hour of us arriving, but it took us three more hours to track down Sam, who had holed up in a coffee shop in the town center to eat cheesecake and read Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The final stop of our Spring Break, this beach was absolutely beautiful. For less than $20 a night per person, eight of us stayed at an amazingly beautiful hotel with free breakfast, a pool out back, and the first real hot showers I've had since I left the US.
On Friday we started drinking before noon, and I never got around to sunscreening my back: I ended the day not really wanting to drink or see the sun ever again, and successfully moderated the two over the remainder of the trip.
The next two days were filled with more boogie and body boarding, homemade guacamole, amazing milkshakes and smoothies, a failed Vodka watermelon, a beautiful sunset on the beach, and a whole bunch of social tension, which pretty much makes it THE stereotypical college spring break, more so than I thought I would ever experience. I kept looking for the hidden cameras I could have sworn were filming for the next series of Real World.
Now, we're back in Monteverde. We got off the bus in Santa Elena Sunday night still wearing shorts, flip flops, and sunglasses, only to find it raining and chilly as usual. We were pretty beat up (boogie boarding and tipsy tidepooling meant cut up feet and knees for me, not to mention the sunburn, and Jesse had his own rocks-and-surf injury, although he’s been blaming his bloodied stomach on a Shuma (that’s half-puma, half-shark).
The work load is really stepping up now that we only have six weeks of classes left (and one or two major projects in each class). That's enough for now; a few more quick stories are coming soon.