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The Vagabond Adventures: leg three

The Vagabond Adventures: leg three

“If you don’t have any plans, you can end up doing some interesting things” -Karl Pilkington

Lago de Nicarage, Lake Nicaragua, is the largest lake in Central America and the 19th largest in the world. It dominates the Southwest part of Nicaragua. During our previous trips, we traveled the sliver of land between Lake Nicaragua and the Pacific Ocean. Our final destination was la Isla de Ometepe, an island inside Lago de Nicaragua composed of two volcanoes. Volcan Concepción, an active volcano, makes up the Northern half of the island, while the extinct Volcan Maderas is connected by a narrow strip of land. It was by far my favorite place during my whole study abroad.

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We took a one hour ferry from San Jorge to Moyogalpa on Isla de Ometepe. We chatted with the ferry workers and they let me “drive” the ferry!

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We stayed in a hostel called The Landing Place in Moyogalpa. Cheap, clean beds, our own bath, and a room full of hammocks on the top floor. We ate at Mar Dulce, an Argentinean restaurant up the road, multiple times during our stay. They had the most delicious smoothies.

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Our first adventure was going to the Ojo de Agua, the Eye of the Water, springs of mineral waters that are supposed to have healing properties. It cost $3 to get in and was a little disappointing. It was basically a swimming pool they flowed the water through and the water was not warm. They did have a rope swing to jump into the water and we had fun floating around, talking to other tourists.

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The second day, we hiked the trail up to the San Ramon waterfall. 3 km, that felt more like 30, straight up the side of Volcan Maderas. The trail was not always well marked and included climbing up rocks and over trickling water. It was one of the harder things I have ever done. The 350 feet waterfall waiting at the top, however, is more than worth it. We waded in the cold water pooling at the bottom of the waterfall. This was what I had been searching for, a natural waterfall I waded into and could stand beneath the falling water. We had fun playing in the pools, finding some water creatures, and drying off in the sun. In all, it took the whole day between our ride from the other side of the island and the hikes up and down the volcano.

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One thing checked off my bucket list

For our third day, we decided to explore the island a little more freely and rented dirt bikes. There is one big road that loops around the island, so it’s hard to get lost. The road was nicely paved for about 2/3 of our trip. Our end destination was El Caballito’s Mar Kayak Tours. Between day two and three, I was getting a full body work-out. We paddled along the lake shore and up into a river, about a 3 hour round trip. In the river, we saw birds, alligators, lizards, monkeys, turtles, and sleeping bats.

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If I ever return to the island, and I sincerely hope I do, I want to do the hike up Volcan Concepción, about an 8 hour trip, and hike up Volcan Maderas, about a 6 hour trip (not back to back!). There were also many beaches and a few small towns we didn’t get a chance to explore.

The Vagabond Adventures: leg two

The Vagabond Adventures: leg two

GO and SEE all you possibly can.

Our hostel arranged for us to ride to Granada in Monolo’s truck. We stopped along the way as he “wanted to show us his homeland.” We saw fields and our first glimpse of the volcanoes that make up Ometepe island. He drove us through Granada and pointed out the 4 huge beautiful Catholic churches. Monolo said “there are 4 churches here and if you have a lot of sins you go to all 4.” We said adios and gracias to Monolo, found our hostel and settled down.

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La iglesia número uno

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La iglesia número dos

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La iglesia número tres – I loved the cheerful yellow against the bright blue sky

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La iglesia número cuatro

While searching for a place to eat, we found a little used book shop ran by Troy who used to live in Seattle. I could have lived in his tiny shop (he did live in the adjoining space). Walls of books and beautiful original photography hung up. It seemed like everywhere we went we met Americans who had since settled in Costa Rica.

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In Granada we took a boat tour around the Isletes off the coast in Lake Nicaragua. Granada was a bold and bright city with wide cobblestone streets down the center.

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The next day was spent in Masaya. Masaya is considered the heart of Nicaraguan handicrafts. They have a huge market with everything from hammocks and jewelry to souvenirs and clothes. In hindsight, I would have skipped Granada and spent more time in Masaya. Unfortunately, I did not take any photographs in Masaya.

The vagabond adventures, leg 1

The vagabond adventures, leg 1

vagabond (n): a person who wanders from place to place without a home or job

Costa Rica has a one week break in the middle of their summer school sessions. During this week, we packed up and journeyed across the border into Nicaragua. It was my favorite week of the whole summer. I cannot tell you how much I loved Nicaragua. Although I loved studying abroad, I did a lot more studying, more school, and less adventuring than I thought I would. My classes were challenging. It helped me with my primary goal of learning Spanish, but not with my general desire to experience another country. In Nicaragua, we had no classes or obligations. We woke up each morning and decided what we wanted to do. I felt free.

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To cross the border, I took a bus from San José to Rivas, Nicaragua. We went through customs and spent the night in Rivas.

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The next morning, our hostel arranged a car to take us San Juan del Sur. A constant throughout our week was the amazing people we met. The 6 hour ride was memorable for several reasons. First, 7 of us including the driver were piled into one car. Second, we jammed to the driver’s CD of Snoop Dog, Eminem and other 90’s rap classics the whole way. Third, at one point we all tumbled out of the car so it could make a particularly steep climb up a hill. We arrived safe in San Jual del Sur, found an $8 hostel with breakfast and ocean views, and settled in for the night. DSC_0211c2           DSC_0111c2             DSC_0254c2

San Juan del Sur is a beautiful calm beach town. The ocean harbor is gorgeous and the town is watched over by a giant statue of Jesus up on the mountain. It reads “Jesus en ti confio.” How beautiful! We hiked up to the statue and it was miles of almost vertical roads. Our thighs were burning, but the views were incredibly worth it. The rest of the night was spent at an awesome cheap beach restaurant resting in their hammocks.

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The second day we took an hour boat ride to snorkel, but let me warn you, this is not a spot known for snorkeling. It was still a relaxing day on the water.

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Spontaneity Is Necessary In Life

Spontaneity Is Necessary In Life

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.” – Lewis Carroll

This was a spontaneous trip, deciding 2 hours before the bus left that I was going. Two buses took us from San José to Manuel Antonio. It was pitch black when we got there and by complete chance we managed to find an amazing hostel, Backpackers Paradise Costa Linda. It was only $10 a night, clean, had wifi, and a cafe attached. There were giant breakfasts with 2 huge plates of food for only $4. The beach was a minute walk from the hostel and the National Park was a minute walk the other direction. Manuel Antonio is a small lazy area, with beautiful beaches on the Pacific coast.

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We spent our whole first day relaxing on the beach. We rented two surf boards and one of the guys in our group attempted to teach us how to surf. It was SO much fun, but I can confidently check surfer off my list of possible careers. We layed in the sun and explored the coves and rocks around the beach.

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The second day we hiked through the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. There is plenty of wildlife and fauna along with beautiful beaches. The wildlife takes a careful eye to spot and other groups benefited from having a guide, but I still managed to see a couple creatures: a lizard, some crabs, toucans, sloths, and some really weird spiders. We also found monkeys outside the park playing in the trees.

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Manuel Antonio was truly beautiful and reflected the image I had of Costa Rica in my head. Costa Rica has spots of complete beauty, but it is easy to remember that it is still a developing country. Some ways, such as recycling they are far beyond other countries, but there is also trash littering the country side. It is a wonderful marvelous country that is capturing my heart, but there are vastly different sceneries here.

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The Meaning of Pura Vida

The Meaning of Pura Vida

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone” -Neale Donald Walsch

They say the phrase “Pura vida!” in Costa Rica all the time. It literally means pure life, but they use it as a greeting, as a salutation, an answer to “how are you?”, as a “let’s do this!”, as everything. Pura vida is the perfect phrase to describe my first experience white water rafting. That’s what it was: pure life. One minute we’d be floating gently down the river with just beautiful selva (jungle) on either side. The next minute adrenaline would flow through you as your guide yelled “forward!” and we charged into a rapid. White water rafting was one of the best thing I have ever done. I’m totally hooked! Pura vida!

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The Río Pacuare is apparently world known for its rapids and the selva on either side was absolutely beautiful. The river floated us past waterfalls, canyon walls, selva so dense you couldn’t see past the first few trees, and indigenous homes that are only accessible through the river. My raft had 6 people in it, plus our guide Ricky. The journey contained 38 level 3 & 4 rapids. A little rapid information for you all: The highest level of rapids is 5, so this was quite a wild ride for my first trip! It was a 4 hour trip on the river, plus we had a lunch break on the side of the river. The river was so cold and soaked us completely through, but with all the heavy paddling we were doing it felt good.

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Note: These photographs were obviously not taken by me. They were purchased from the tour company.