Phew what a week! This is the first time our weekly update has come out with the two of us in different places!
We left off the last update having just had an incredible trip to Rio Celeste and the most amazing waterfall we’ve ever seen. As we left Lake Arenal the following afternoon, we decided that we should make use of our rental car, even though we were leaving later than we would have liked. We left Arenal, drove an hour and a half back to Playas del Coco to drop off the luggage from the car, and drove another hour and a half south to Tamarindo – perhaps the best known gringo beach in all of Costa Rica. The drive there was…interesting. Google gave us two options to get there, both with the same ETA, but with one being almost 20 miles shorter. So we decided to take the shorter route, thinking we could beat Google’s time estimate. We were wrong. The first half of the drive consisted of brutal, dirt roads. At one point, there was a river running through the road, so Heather got out of the car and walked through the mucky river in order to check the depth. Jim took the 4×4 rental car through the water, the level coming up to about the top of the tires (not sure why neither of us thought to have our cameras out for that one)! Eventually, we made it to Tamarindo and inquired about renting surfboards or paddleboards. In the end, we decided to drink beer on the beach instead. It was low tide, so the surf was really small, and it was late in the day, so just sitting and watching the sunset seemed like a nice option. After the sun set, we decided to wander around the town, surprised at how big and Westernized it is. The streets were packed with tourists and lined with shops, bars, restaurants, and ice cream shops. It’s a vibrant place and we can see why a lot of Americans, Canadians, and Europeans have decided to settle here; and it doesn’t hurt that the beach is particularly beautiful! After some wandering and grabbing some food, we headed home…this time taking the long way, since it was now dark and taking crazy dirt roads didn’t seem like a great idea.
Thursday and Friday were mainly spent hanging out in the condo, getting some things done in preparation for our impending departure. Jim worked on getting the bikes washed and packed into their bike cases while Heather did all the laundry and started to get the rest of our things organized. On Friday afternoon, we set out for a long run. This time, we decided to run loops around the condo, rather than trek through the local towns where we don’t know our way around. This allowed us to set up an “aid station” where we could stop for swigs of Gatorade, and also allowed us to run along the beach for much of the run. Once we had clocked about 11 miles, Jim decided to jump in the water, Heather following behind to take photos of the most incredible sunset! The sky was turning the darkest red, purples, and oranges over the water, while a rainbow formed behind us, over the jungle. It was magical!
We worked to get everything packed up early because our plan was to take a day trip to Nicaragua on Saturday. Actually, we had tried to go on Friday, but learned the tour was cancelled that day due to some protests of the Nicaraguans against their corrupt government. So Saturday morning, we met our shuttle at 5am and began the journey. We had hoped to do this on our own, without a tour group, but found that we wouldn’t have been able to take a rental car over the border. We had also heard it can be tricky to cross the border on your own, a Canadian couple we met one day said they had been coerced into paying the border control an insane amount of money to cross. And in the end, we were glad to have gone with this group. We met some lovely people that made the trip a lot more fun, and it was nice to be able to rest on the bus, rather than stress about where we were going or spend the entire day driving. It did take some time to gather the whole group of 30 tourists that morning, but eventually, we stopped at a nice place for breakfast just before the border (it’s about an hour and a half to get to Nicaragua). It took about an hour for the group to get over the border; we spent that time outside the bus, in the heat, and making the best of the four little tourist shop stands out front. Eventually, we were in Nicaragua! Our first stop was the shore of Lake Nicaragua – the largest lake in Central America, and the third largest in all of Latin America. It was beautiful, but hard to see the volcanoes on the other side due to the cloud cover. From there, we drove to the colorful town of Catarina. There is a lagoon there that used to be an active volcano, and as we approached the viewpoint, it was completely covered in a thick layer of white fog. We were bummed, assuming we’d leave without being able to see it, but within about 20 minutes, the fog cleared and the blue sky opened, leaving a glorious view of the bright blue water.
After viewing the lagoon, we had some time to wander around the vendor stands in the beautiful town, it was truly a beautiful place. Colorful handmade hammocks, carved wooden knick-knacks, t-shirts galore…everything was so much cheaper than in Costa Rica! From Catarina, we drove about 20 minutes to Volcano Masaya, an active volcano! From the top, looking down into the middle, we could see the orange, glowing lava. What a cool experience! From the volcano, we stopped in nearby Mayasa for a group lunch, including a birthday celebration of one of our fellow tourist passengers, before continuing on for the boat tour. We didn’t have the highest of expectations for this, expecting a quiet meander along a river. But it was great! We took the boats out at relatively high speeds, through the lush greenery of the jungle, and through the 236 islands formed from volcanic eruptions of the past. The 236 islands are all small and close together, and are primarily owned by the country’s wealthiest people. We saw large houses and private boats, all in an area that is generally pretty poor. One of the islands is called Monkey Island, it is now a refugee for a few monkeys before they are released back to the wild. We pulled right up to Monkey Island, the monkeys came swinging over, and Heather got to feed one! They were the best, such cute little guys!
Following the boat tour, our final stop of the day was to the beautiful, colonial city of Granada. We pulled up at sunset to catch a glimpse of the old church and to wander through the main square a bit. We decided to grab some freshly made pupusas for the bus ride back to Costa Rica, and we were glad we did! They were quite tasty, we watched the lady take the fresh tortilla dough, roll chicken into the middle, then flatten them onto the grill until they looked more like a tostada. She then topped them with a kind of cole slaw, we paired them with a Coke and were on our way to pupusa heaven!
It was a very long journey back home – driving to the border, waiting to cross the border, driving the hour plus back to Playas del Coco after dropping people off along the way. By the time we got home, it was after midnight; it was a very long day but we were so thrilled to have the chance to see part of Nicaragua.
After a quick sleep, we were up early to go pick up our rental car (to get us to the airport – it was cheaper than taking a cab) and pack the remainder of our stuff. Time to say goodbye to Costa Rica, we loved our time in this amazing country and truly hope that we’ll be back again in the not so distant future. We had a smooth flight from Liberia to Miami, where we stopped for a final dinner together before heading our separate ways for three weeks. After a sad goodbye, Heather headed out to grab the shuttle to the Keys, while Jim prepared for another night of (not) sleeping in the airport. Heather’s shuttle finally dropped her at her shared housing at just after midnight…to find the door to the house locked. She reluctantly rang the doorbell to wake up her housemates, people she had never met, then to tuck into her shared room in the darkness, across from a stranger.
The following morning, Heather was up at 6am to start her first yoga teacher training class! We started the day in the studio with a tea ceremony, and by the end of the day, we were already doing very basic teaching! This training is extensive, covering the mental, physical, and spiritual elements of practicing yoga. Each day runs from 7:00am to 5:00pm, with homework assigned nightly, so the days are jammed packed. But what a fabulous first few days, with lovely new friends to go with it. Heather has 4 housemates, aged from 33 to 61, and they are just delightful.
As for Jim, a sleepless night in Miami meant a long travel day back to Bertha on Monday. The 7 am flight from Miami to Denver went off without a hitch and both bikes and our checked bag arrived safe and sound. After Jim figured out how to secure everything together so he could cart all 5 pieces of luggage across the airport to the Super Shuttle, he was finally out of the airport and heading to Bertha!
The storage place we had stashed Bertha in while we were gone for a month seemed to have grown up all around Bertha and Jim couldn’t help but wonder how many little creepy crawlies had made their way inside. After doing a very thorough “what’s living in this cabinet?” check throughout the place, Jim deemed Bertha ready to hit the road and he hooked the battery up before turning the key. Bertha started right up – always a great sign after sitting idle for so long.
Jim got the bikes and luggage stowed in the main living room area and headed out towards the library. More than just desperately wanting to get Bertha moving at freeway speeds to eradicate whatever might be living under her chassis, he had overdue books to return.
Tired and zombie-like after being awake for more than 30 hours already, he spent the rest of the afternoon working in the library before calling it an early evening, doing some quick necessities grocery shopping, and getting some long overdue sleep in our comfy Bertha bed. It was so good to be home, though it wasn’t quite the same without Heather there. These next three weeks ahead are going to be our longest apart. It will also be the first time Bertha will enter a new state (TWO new states, actually) without both of us on board. Sad bears.
Thanks for staying with us, especially as we fell behind this week. We’ll try to be better next week as we continue our time in different states, Jim starting his journey north toward Minnesota.
Total RV Trip Miles: 17,575