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  • The adventures of Ma and Pa

20th July 2008

La Fortuna – Arenal Costa Rica

ArenalLa Fortuna was a sleepy farming town until it was “discovered” and now the grid of streets are lined with hotels, hostels, tour operators and souvenir shops. The main attraction of the area is its proximity to the Arenal Volcano and the relative affordability when compared with the surrounding resorts. The moment we stepped off the bus we knew we were where the tourists were, for the first time since the trip began every step we took someone was trying to sell us a tour or help us find a room. Once we got off the main street this stopped and we were able to find our hotel with no problem. After a brief rest Amy and Turgay decided to go out a splurge on dinner, at Don Rufino’s. They came back to the room with rave reviews but a lighter wallet.
The next morning after a leisurely start to the day with breakfast at Vienna Caféart in the rain and a wander around the town we decided to take a walk, this walk got longer and longer after we decided to keep going to La Catarata de Fortuna (the waterfall of Fortune), a 7km uphill walk. As the walk progressed what had started as a gentle sprinkling of rain turned into a torrential downpour which lasted the entire rest of the walk. They took shelter at a roadside stand where a family had set up a cold water and cold coconut business, after having a coconut and feeling fortified against the rain they continued on (Amy really likes waterfalls). Along the way we saw a wood sculpting studio, had the artists been selling any of the pieces that were in the parking lot in front of the store I’m sure Amy would have convinced Turgay that they couldn’t live without one of them, lucky for them only the pieces in the store were for sale,now we are wet and while very beautiful they were not as moving as the others. Finally they arrived at the waterfall, paid their entrance fees and walked down to the falls. There are two separate waterfalls, the main one falls 70m into a sheer canyon set in the jungle and covered in bromeliads. The setting was beautiful and despite being soaking wet the whole walk was well worth it. Amy tried to go swimming but was quickly deterred by the temperature of the water (it was freezing). After returning to the welcome center Amy and Turgay hooked up with another couple and shared a taxi back to La Fortuna. After a very hot shower and some dry clothes they headed out for our guidesome dinner where the discovered the delicious and very affordable Soda El Rio, this restaurant specializes in basic fare of rice, beans, vegetable, meats, fried plantains and shredded cabbage. They served no alcohol but did have delicious fruit shakes with either ice and water or ice and milk.
Turgay and Amy decided that they wouldn’t take the traditional tour out to the volcano to view the lava flow from a distance of 5 km or so, which after their experience at Pacaya in Guatemala, lava from that far away just didn’t excite. Instead they decided to go canoeing on the San Carlos River. iguanas galoreTheir guide Carlos (just a coincidence) and driver were excellent making for a wonderful experience. They pointed out two toed sloths, monkeys, caymans (alligators), the blue-jeans frog, iguanas and a multitude of birds. It was an easy paddle down the river to where it joined with the Rio San Carlos and to our exit point where we were served fresh fruit and water. On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a bridge near a restaurant where people feed the iguanas the trees and the underside of the bridge where covered in large somewhat hefty iguanas.
Friends of Amy’s from New Orleans were also in thearenal volcano area at this time, Michelle, Maggie and Corey were staying at a resort near La Fortuna but since they were all heading to the Santa Elena/Mounteverde area the next day everyone decided it would be easier to find each other there.
Amy and Turgay signed up for a Jeep-Boat-Jeep trip from La Fortuna across Lake Arenal and on to Santa Elena. This “Jeep-Boat-Jeep” trip proved to be a minivan-boat-minivan trip; it was however through picturesque countryside, the boat trip across the lake afforded wonderful views the Arenal Volcano and the surrounding pastureland. We were lucky enough to get Speed Racer as our second minibus driver making the trip that much more exciting.

-La Fortuna Arenal-

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18th July 2008

Liberia Costa Rica

welcome to Costa RicaLiberia, located in north western Costa Rica is a provincial capital and ranching town of about 45,000 people. Though it had little to offer in the way of tourist attractions, we loved Liberia for its slow paced tree lined streets where everyone sits and chats in the Park Central at sunset. There is a small street Calle Real that has several old colonial style houses, as well as a house that is completely covered on the outside with news articles relating to the town. After our long border crossing day we grabbed a quick but tasty pizza at Toscano before checking into our hotel, Hotel de Casona and calling it an early night. We planned to stay only one night but after having an excellent breakfast in Café Liberia and missing the bus to our next destination or rather the bus to catch the bus wethe newspaper house decided to stay another night, our original hotel was full so we moved to Hospedeja Casa Vieja and after checking in and resting from the heat, we returned to Café Liberia for more of the good food and free Wi-Fi. We wandered the streets of this town in the evening sitting in the Park Central to listen to the birds and watch the people. The next morning, very early we boarded the bus to Canas and from Canas we caught a minibus to Tilaran. We had a wait of several hours in Tilaran and spent the time wandering the town, using the internet and having pastries and croissants at Mus Anni, a Costa Rican bakery chain (very good pastries). Finally we boarded the bus to La Fortuna; the ride was along a winding road that hugs the shores of Lake Arenal and was shared with many cows. On the way into town we had our first view of the Arenal Volcano, the active volcano that is the major tourist attraction of this area before finally arriving in La Fortuna and checking into our hotel, The Mayol Lodge.

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17th July 2008

COSTA RICA

see the world - costa rica by you.

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14th July 2008

Isla Ometepe Nicaragua

the ferryLa Isla Omotepe, an Island created by twin volcanoes that through eruptions formed an isthmus between themselves, is situated in Lake Nicaragua although here due to the vastness of the lake you feel that you are on the ocean. The ferry ride over to the island was interesting to say the least, a small ferry transporting locals, tourists, motorbikes, chickens, and goods We choose to stay in the port town of Moyogalpa, while not the most picturesque town we only planned to stay the night and take a trekking tour around the island the next day. Our hotel, Hotel Omotepetl, while definitely not the Ritz it was decent accommodations and was well situated near the dock. It was Sunday and all the caballos were in town from the surrounding villages parading through the streets, on horeback and in trucks. Later we went to Yogi’s, a cafe and internet café, and met its eccentric owner, an US expat who has lived and traveled all over Central America, he told us some stories about the places he has lived as well as about being an Army Radio operator whose job it was to listen to Russian radio transmissions. restingThat night we went to sleep early in preparation for our trekking the next day, but it didn’t last long, some of the others hotel guests who had partaken of the fruit of the vine or something else were confused about which room they were staying in and though the management tried to stop them the 4th, 5th and 6th time they kept trying to open our door or knocking on it or arguing in front of it or sleeping in the chair outside it. This whole experience kind of soured us on La Isla Omotepe and being exhausted the next day we couldn’t go on a tour and had no desire to climb the volcano, so after breakfast we boarded the ferry and returned back to San Jorge. At the dock we got a good price on Taxi to the border, where we had the joy and pleasure of getting our Nicaraguan exit visas( to say that it is unorganized and chaotic would be putting it nicely) and then waiting in a very long line (and finally line hopping) to get our Costa Rican Entrance stamps. We met up with two Dutch girls traveling in the same direction and decided after seeing the 200 or more people waiting in line for the bus, to share a taxi with them to Liberia.

-La Isla Omotepe Caballos-

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13th July 2008

Granada Nicaragua

cafes in colorSituated on the shores of Lake Nicaragua (also known as Lake Cocibolca) at the foot of the Monbacho Volcano, Granada is Nicaragua’s oldest colonial city and probably isn’t largest tourist draw. Despite the touristic nature of the city we all loved Granada; there is a life and vibrancy to this city, you want to stay just a little bit longer, explore it a bit more. The colorfully painted colonial style buildings in what makes up the heart of the old city are organized like all Central American towns around a park central with a cathedral. The park central is the heart of the town full of people walking, children playing, lovers whispering, and tourists gawking.
The first afternoon in Granda after checking in to our hotel, Hotel Hospideja Cocibolca, we simply wandered around looking at the architecture, sampling the cafes, checking email and getting our laundry done.

art in the cafe el tercer ojoThe second day also centered around walking and food; after lunch, coffee and the internet at El Tercer Ojo, a very good café with free Wi-Fi we went to the Muse de los Tres Mundos. Muse de los Tres Mundos is housed in La Casa de los Leones (house of the lions) named for the magnificent and enormous doorway adorned with two carved lions that stands as the front of the building. This doorway is the only original standing part of the building that burned in 1856 with much of the city during the retreat of William Walker. La Casa de los Leones is home to galleries, concert space, practice space and residences for visiting artists. There are permanent studios in the back of the building where we met Memo Barratta a very talented and friendly artist, in the gallery while we were visiting there was a black and white photography exhibit showing the works of Oscar Naverette and an opera practice in the front rooms. After a coffee break and a snack at the Euro Café we returned to the museum for a guitar concert. a classical guitar concertThe concert featured classical guitarists from Central America, as well as a Swedish group of young musicians “Grupo La Volta”, they played many different stringed instruments from around the world as well as bottles and brooms during their section of the concert. This concert was part of the first annual classical guitar festival which traveled to cities in Central America. After the concert we went to Mona Lisa for Turgay’s favorite pizza so far on this trip.
The next day we visited the Iglesia de San Francisco the museum contained in this complex houses both religious and cultural artifacts, showing the life of the ancient people. At the rear of the museum are basalt figures carved between 800 and 1200 AD by the inhabitants of Isla Zapatera in Lake Nicaragua. After the museum we had brunch at Kathy’s Waffle House, this café in extremely popular with tourists, locals and expats. breakfast entertainmentWe ate on the veranda outside with a view of Iglesia de San Francisco and the street life going by; horse drawn carriages, a few goats and a group of musicians who stopped and entertained a local family. After brunch we went to Garden Café to use their Wi-Fi and to have some refreshments. This café is situated around a central garden courtyard with hammocks hung near the tables on the veranda, we were just getting ready to leave when the skies opened up and it poured. After the downpour we walked to the Lake and strolled along the banks of this enormous lake where along with locals and tourists, live stock was grazing. We stayed down by the lake until the mosquitoes proved too much for Amy and we all headed back into town. We went back to El Tecer Ojo to work on the Blog and have a snack. Our time in the café just got longer and longer and we ended up having dinner there, the food was very good.
On our final morning in Granada we had breakfast at Kathy’s Waffle House again before catching the bus to Rivas (well almost catching the bus we had to wait another two hours for the next one). We shared a taxi to the pier at San Jorge where we caught the ferry to La Isla Omotepe

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10th July 2008

Little Corn Island Nicaragua

The plane to Big CornLittle Corn is a small Caribbean island located about 70 km off the coast of Nicaragua. The population is only about 700 and the atmosphere is very laid back. It is not as inexpensive as many of the other places we have traveled so far but it was well worth the expense. There is little to do on this small island besides lay on the beach or go diving. Amy and Turgay had come here for the diving as it had come highly recommended by instructors at their last diving school, they weren’t disappointed. There are two dive shops on Little Corn and they choose the one recommended, Dolphin Dive. After speaking with the instructors there, little corn beachKarl and Adam, they decided to go ahead and do their advanced open water certification, which consists of five dives; three required a deep dive (30m), an underwater navigation dive, a night dive, and two of your choice, they chose an underwater naturalist dive and a performance buoyancy dive. During the peak performance buoyancy dive they had to accomplish different tasks underwater suck as knocking over weights set up on the bottom in a sandy spot. But they had to knock over the weights with their chins (not as easy as it sounds with all that diving gear on). After passing the buoyancy dive they had time left over on the dive and went through a series of coral tunnels where they saw some glassy sweepers, a school of which seemed to have one mind and turn in unison. our instructorOn the night dive they saw an octopus, a giant barracuda (2.5m though Amy swears it was 3m) and spiny lobsters. Amy loved those dives too but her ultimate favorite was the underwater naturalist where they took identification cards with them on the dive and identified different fish and coral while diving. She liked the time they took looking closely at the coral and trying to determine which fish was which. Finally on their underwater navigation dive Amy finally saw her first sharks, four nurse sharks. We spent our evenings just hanging out and studying for our diving tests.
Although the diving was the highlight of the trip the food at the Cuban restaurant Habana Libre, came in a close second. a round of applause for the chefThe choices were few but the food was delicious; either beef in special sauce or catch of the day and sometimes lobster in either garlic sauce or Cuban sauce. This small restaurant is run by a Cuban national who immigrated to Nicaragua about 8 years ago and his partner is a Nicaraguan native. Together they make an incredible team and some memorable meals. After 4days on the island they decided to return to the mainland, repeating the previous process but with a much drier panga ride. After arriving in Managua we took a taxi to the bus depot to catch a mini bus to Granada. The hawks for the buses were very aggressive each trying to take the luggage and put it into their vehicle. This was a bit overwhelming after the peace and quiet of the islands but Amy and Turgay got control of their own luggage and chose the minibus that looked the nicest. After a 45 minute ride along the Interamericana Highway and we arrived in Granada.

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8th July 2008

NICARAGUA

See Nicaragua For Free

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5th July 2008

Jungle River Lodge

Jungle river LodgeWe took a taxi up to the Jungle River Lodge on the Rio Cangrejal in the rainforest of the coast of Honduras. This rustic lodge offers eco adventure tours, including rafting, hiking, and canopy zip line tours. After checking in and signing up for a Zip line tour the next day, we went down to the river and thought about swimming but instead we all decided on a walk along the road through the jungle. Pa’ and I had a great view of the jungle scenery from Turgay’s pocket. There are many species of birds in this part of the jungle and we spent a long time watching them, especially a certain bird which has a technique for whistling that involves swinging upside down around a tree branch. We returned to the lodge when we all ralized that Pa’ was no longer in the pocket with me, Amy and Turgay spent several minutes backtracking in order to find him again. He was in the road not much worse for the adventure only a little dusty.Ma and Pa take a ride
Back safe and sound at the lodge in the evening Amy and Turgay enjoyed a set menu for dinner that everyone ate together, family style. It was here after dinner, that Amy finally declared all out war on ants. She had been battling her conscience about killing the ants that were continuously taking up residence in her backpack and had been shaking them out and brushing them off but not killing them. That was until, on the way to their room that night two very large ants bit her toe. This was it, the last straw and now there is no ant in her hotel room or luggage that is safe from her wrath.
The next morning after breakfast Amy and Turgay went zip-lining. For those unfamiliar with zip-lines, they are steel cables suspended between two platforms; hereposing those platforms are in the jungle canopy. There is a trolley from which a person (zipist) is suspended by a line attached to a harness. After locking onto the trolley the zipist releases the cable and they proceed down to the next platform. It can be fast or really fast depending on the cable and how much you use your gloved hand as a brake. Amy and Turgay loved it, though Amy was a little nervous on the first and second zip-line. This zip line course consisted of nine platforms and eight cables the longest 20 meters in length crossing high over the river. After finishing the zip line tour which also included a hike in the jungle and an introduction to the traditional medicinal properties of the plants there, they returned to the lodge and were lucky enough to catch a ride back into the city. Rio Cangrejal 3The ride ended up going to mall in La Ceiba, where after stocking up on essentials like bananas ad toothpaste Amy and Turgay headed to the bus station to board a bus for San Pedro Sula.
We arrived into San Pedro Sula in the early evening and checked into our hotel which by chance was near the mall. After two months without a mall, two in one day was something of a novelty. We decided to have a look around and were lucky enough to find Turgay’s favorite tennis shoes, a discontinued model of New Balance, on sale at a sport shoe store. All in all though our time there was short we liked San Pedro Sula.
We woke up very early the next morning to catch the bus to Managua, as they have no night buses in Central America we spent the entire day on the bus crossing the border into Nicaragua and arriving into Managua in the late afternoon. Only staying the night in Managua, The plane to Big Cornwe decided to stay near the bus station. Although convenient it was not the nicest neighborhood and is probably not a good representation of the city. We woke up early the next morning and headed to the airport to board a small La Costena Airlines plane to Big Corn Island, we bought the tickets at the airport that morning and took the 40 min. flight to Bluefields where after a brief touchdown we flew another half and hour before touching down in Big Corn. A brief taxi ride to the dock and half an hour panga ride deposited us on the dock of Little Corn Island. A panga is a small open air speed boat used to transport people and goods. They can be bumpy and wet and this one was wet because the skies opened up on us as we pulled into the dock.

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5th July 2008

Utila Honduras

the dive boatThe Bay Islands lay 50km off the Caribbean coast of Honduras along the second largest barrier reef in the world. Utila, the most affordable of the three islands, is one of the least expensive places in the world to learn to dive. Amy and Turgay decided to do their PADI open water certification here and took their course from the Bay Island College of Diving. We stayed at the Seaside Inn for three nights and thankfully that was all (it had a few cleanliness issues but a very nice staff). We moved on to Rubi’s Inn which is the cleanest hotel yet run by absolutely the friendliest and most helpful couple.
Amy and Turgay seemed to be hooked on diving now especially after their first dive in the open water.
With all the time they had on the Island they had a chance to get to know the local restaurants very well. Skid Row burritoFirst among their favorites was Skid Row for lunch where they had only Chicken or Veggie wraps or burritos or two kinds of sandwiches. Sometimes a limited menu is the best, do what you do best. Another favorite was Evelyn’s a grill and barbeque restaurant with tables arranged on the veranda. Everything they tried there was delicious. The best pizza was to be found at PizzaNut in part of the CocoNut restaurant and bar. Turgay really liked RJ’s grill but Amy didn’t eat there beacause she was ill. Amy finally went to the doctor on Monday morning after trying to get it out of her system for four days. Dr. John the recommended doctor on Utila, seemed to be a legend in his own mind. Amy and the other patients waited outside on the front porch of his clinic for 5 hours while he was two and a half hours late arriving, though in all fairness there is a sign posted stating “I’m not late your early” and he proceeded to take 40 minutes with each patient. Amy is all for thoroughness, but to a point. When she finally got into see him he mostly talked about himself and then prescribed the same antibiotics that we already had in our medicine bag. To see some pictures of Dr. John from the about Utila website click this link.
our patioOn Wednesday, Amy finally recovered enough to feel up to the ferry ride back to the mainland. After checking out of the hotel and almost taking the room key with them, the owner was kind enough to rush them down to the dock on his golf cart; only to find out the ferry was out of commission. At first the ferry was going to be late, then it would probably be repaired by the afternoon and finally it wasn’t today and maybe not tomorrow. (Island time) We had checked out so we decided to look for another hotel for a change of scenery and since the next day was Turgay’s birthday. We choose the Jade Sea Horse, this hotel is a collection of cabins set in a garden. The garden is a work of art, a compilation of mosaics, found objects, glass walls and wooden pagodas. Each cabin is unique in structure and décor all with interesting details and quirky originality. And if that wasn’t enough the hotel is also home to the very popular Treetanic bar, built near the entrance to the hotel in a tree offering views over the whole garden. This is a must see if you ever find yourself in Utila. The following morning well mid-morning another ferry was pulled into service from a different island ferry route and we finally made it off of Utila and back to La Ceiba.

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22nd June 2008

Copan Honduras

no it isn't a golf courseThis small town of about 7000 is located in north central Honduras near the Mayan ruins of Copan. The white washed buildings with red tiled roofs along cobble stoned streets lend the town a wonderful atmosphere. We stayed in hotel Brisas de Copan, a small family run hotel with very clean rooms and Television in every room. Honduran cable is far superior to any we have encountered thus far showing good quality films on several channels at the same time. Turgay and Amy spent some time in Café Via Via watching Turkey and other teams play in the Euro 2008 soccer tournament Turkey won their match in penalties after scoring the tying goal in the final seconds of overtime.
Serious tooOnly a one kilometer walk from town is the archeological site of Copan. This site is one of the most important sites of the ancient Mayan civilization. Though not cheap (about $22 for the site and museum) it is well worth the entrance fee. Sometimes referred to as the “Paris of the Mayan World”, Copan is home to many intricate sculptures and hieroglyphics. There are many impressive Stelae depicting the Mayan kings of Copan, the originals are found in the Copan museum near the entrance to the park. the symbol for Copan the leaf nosed batAlso in the museum is a replica of the Rosario Temple which was discovered intact beneath a larger temple, through a series of archeological tunnels in 1989. This temple was so sacred that rather than destroy it the new temple was built over it thus preserving it. The most important ruin at Copan is the hieroglyphic stairway which relates the story of the kings of Copan. This site is well maintained, has a pleasant nature trail and is even home to a flock of scarlet Macaws.
In the park central of Copan we listened to music in the evenings and wandered up and down the small cobbled streets. Near the town are a butterfly garden, Enchanted Wings, Butterfly at enchanted wingsand a bird park, Macaw Mountain. The butterfly garden is only a few minute walk out of town and very informative with all stages of Butterfly development represented and a short tour included in the entrance fee. Macaw Mountain is a bit more expensive and is a 25 minute walk uphill out of town. The ticket covers an extensive personal guided tour and also allows you entrance to the park for three days. Macaw Mountain was established with rescued, injured and endangered birds. The setting is beautiful and there is a café which serves coffee that is grown, harvested, roasted and ground on the premises. We stayed for a total of three nights in Copan before boarding a bus to take us o the Caribbean coast of Honduras. Scarlet Macaw up close
The bus departed early in the morning and was by far the nicest and the coldest bus we had been on yet. The reason for the overactive air conditioning soon became clear, in each small town that we stopped they managed to pack more and more people on the bus until a bus with a seating capacity for about 50 people was carrying at least 100 people. As we made our way to San Pedro Sula we passed through beautiful countryside and despite the number of people on the bus it was a comfortable ride. In San Pedro at the main bus station (which is enormous) we were able to locate the onward bus to take us to La Ceiba from where we boarded a ferry to take us to the Island of Utila.

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  • When We Found What

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  • See The World!

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