D & D Brewery

Yesterday Tom, G and I had a 13 hour travel day from León to D & D Brewery near Lago de Yojoa in Honduras.  We got up just before 5 am to pack the last of our things and await our 5:20 am taxi.  The taxi was on time and whisked us away to the Ticabus “terminal” on the outskirts of León for our 6 am bus.  The bus started from Managua at 5 am and was late arriving in León by about 25 minutes.  No problem, but it was supposed to be a 6 hour trip to Tegucigalpa, the capital of Honduras, and we needed to connect with a chicken bus heading for El Mochito that left around 1 pm, so our window had closed slightly.  As is fairly typical of our experiences thus far on this trip, we had no idea where to find this connecting bus and needed to rely on a taxi driver in Tegucigalpa to take us to the correct bus.  We made it with about 10 minutes to spare because the chicken bus left at 1:30.  We had read somewhere that this bus would take about 3 hours, but to confirm this we asked the cabbie and he said, “4 hours.”  Due to construction through the mountains and the generally slow pace of chicken buses, the trip took almost 5 hours.  We left La Tortuga Booluda at 5:20 am and arrived at D & D Brewery at 6:15 pm.  13 hours.  We were all quite ready for some beer.

D & D brewery is a small scale operation that produces 5 ales-amber, apricot, raspberry, pale and porter.  It’s not the best beer I’ve had, but after drinking Toña and Victoria for 5 weeks, it was up there on my list.  I liked the pale the most, although Bob had been using apricot hops, so we couldn’t tell much of a difference between the pale and the apricot. While there we went on the birdwatching excursion with Malcolm and had a great time. Definitely take your camera!  We also went over to Palhapanzak Falls, which is a nice trip for a few hours, and went swimming in the river just above the falls.  All in all D & D was a good stop along the way, but was not a highlight of our trip.

Be warned that you need to take plenty of local currency with you as there is only one ATM, 3 towns over, and it was out of order the entire time we were there.  There is a Western Union location in the local town and D & D takes credit cards.

León

We have been in León since Wednesday and the place we are staying, La Tortuga Booluda, is by far the best hostel we’ve been to.  The owner, Olin, has been so helpful and even hooked us up with some friends of his in LA on our trip through California.  It has two guitars hanging on the wall for people to play whenever the mood strikes.  It also has a book exchange, beers, a pool table and lots of cool people from all over the world to hang out with.  The city is cool too, although the market in Granada was much more active.  The beach is not too far away so the other day we took a bus out there for a few hours.  The ocean there was incredibly powerful.  From here we are thinking of heading to Honduras to check out a microbrewery we found because we could really go for some good beer.

Laguna de Apoyo

We had heard about a great day trip from Granada to a crater lagoon, so we looked into it and discovered there are currently two hostels in the city that offer transportation to stay at hotels on the lagoon for the day, with full use of their water sports equipment included.  We went to one to sign up and they told us there was a minimum of five people required for the trip to run.  It was the day before and we were the first to sign up, so we weren’t too optimistic, especially since the details including prices were not what they had advertised.  The morning of at breakfast Georgia suggested we go to see if enough people had signed up to go.  I was not enthusiastic for various reasons, but agreed to check it out and we are both very glad we did.  They did indeed have enough people, in fact six more signed up after us, so at 10:30 am we headed from The Bearded Monkey Hostel in Granada to San Simeon Hotel, Laguna de Apoyo.  After a bumpy ride in the back of a truck with a roll cage and a tarp for protection we arrived at our destination and headed straight for the water.  The hotel had two kayaks, a row boat, inner tubes and other floatation devices and we spent a lazy day using them.  We also swam, read and had an interesting veggie sandwich with plantains for lunch.  Georgia marvels at how people here use plantains-how they are like colourful potatoes that grow on trees.  It was a beautiful, relaxing day.

Granada

Our stay in Granada has been an interesting one.  This is the view from the front steps of our hostel.  It is a busy, smelly place full of exciting energy.  We are having a good time with the beisbol players and older expats who are living in our hostel.  Drinking beer and exploring the city.  Eating some decent food.  Nicaragua is an authentic, enjoyable experience.

San Juan del Sur

Our trip to the beach turned out to be exactly what we were looking for.  From Bona Fide we travelled to San Juan del Sur, a surf town in Southern Nicaragua on the Pacific.  Although we had heard San Juan del Sur is the most touristy place in Nicaragua, which perhaps it is, it wasn’t overwhelming so as there weren’t too many tourists around, it being low-season.  It does have a ‘strip’ along the beach with some nicer hotels and condos on the east side of the street and some open air restaurants along the west (which seem to be expat owned), but off the main drag along the ocean it was pretty typical Nicaragua.

We decided to splurge a little and got a room across from the beach with the view you see above.  It was really nice and we did the typical beach things-swimming, sunning, reading, a little shopping and lots of eating and drinking.  The second night we were there we heard some music (it sounded like live music) coming from a pub across the street that sounded a bit more interesting than the normal music we have been hearing.  Although I had to drag Georgia down to the pub kicking and screaming (I’m only slightly over exaggerating) for a beer, we ended up staying there for about five hours drinking beers and rum, talking with what could easily have been every expat in town, as well as many tourists, and some local nicas.  I should also mention that the music that drew us in was open mic night and, as you may well have guessed, Georgia rocked it.  It was great to see that extra level of energy and joy she gets from playing amplified music for a group of strangers.  There certainly is something special in the air in a pacific coast tropical bar.

While staying at Bona Fide a guy named Skylar came by with a girl named Willow for a visit to check out the project.  We learned that Skylar is working on a farm near San Juan del Sur and, as we were planning to head that direction about a week later, we exchanged contact info so we could visit the place he’s staying.  As life would have it, we sent him an email he would not have received, but I saw him walking on the beach the evening of open mic night and we made arrangements to visit the next morning.  So, after a fantastic night of music and new friends we visited the nearby farm for the day to see what some other people have going on in the intentional community world. Skylar was great.  He showed us around the homes, carpentry workshop, aquaponics area and took us to meet some of the community members, including Chris, the man behind the operation.  It was an interesting place you can check out at www.fincalasnubes.com.  Check out some photos here.

We had a great time in San Juan, but after four nights we felt like it was time to move on as I want to get to the Corn Islands off Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast in the next week or two in order to get some diving in.  So from San Juan we are heading to Granada for a few days before going to Laguna de Apoyo, which we hear is a good place to do some swimming and kayaking with a more local feel than San Juan.

La Fortuna

We have arrived in La Fortuna after a long day of traveling involving a 4:55 AM wake up, a 5:30 AM bus, a bus transfer, a ferry, a taxi, another bus and another taxi.  After the ferry our taxi driver took us to the main highway outside Puntarenas where, while driving, we flagged down a bus headed for Cañas and Liberia. We were dropped off in Cañas at the bus station that was closed, hoping for a connecting bus to Tilarán where we would catch another bus to La Fortuna (although we weren’t sure there was one at that time of day). A taxi driver who didn’t speak English told me that there were indeed no connecting buses from Tilarán to La Fortuna and finally got through to me that he could get us to Tilarán in time to catch the last bus. We took the taxi and missed the bus to La Fortuna. The taxi driver promised me we would make it, using one of the few English words he knows, relax, so he goes flying down the road to La Fortuna to catch up with the bus. He was trying so hard I cut a deal with him to take us all the way to La Fortuna. We passed the bus on the way, but we got a private Spanish lesson as he told us all about the area, each of the towns and the lake. We stopped along the way to take pics of the lake and the volcano, it was nice.  We are staying at the Arenal Backpacker’s Hostel at Denis’s, our new German friend’s, suggestion.  It is not our thing as it’s more of a hotel compound than a hostel, with a party atmosphere. But, it’s a nice treat to stay in a place with a pool, hot showers, and a restaurant and bar (with a wicked happy hour), and probably the only time this trip we will do so. We did not however splurge and get one of the double rooms, instead we are in a nice sized tent, which actually I think is preferable.  We have a view from our tent of the Arenal Volcano, which is magnificent, and can often be seen despite the continuous light rain and periodic downpours.  So, all in all, life is good- and much better than it was yesterday.

Montezuma

We stayed at Hotel Lucy, which Lonely Planet’s 2007 edition of Central America on a shoestring describes as “an outstanding budget option, this sturdy beachside bunkhouse is a work of varnished timber with creative use of linoleum.  The rooms are simple but immaculate.”  I agree with that, except a bunkhouse makes it sound as if there are dorms, but all rooms are private and some have there own bathrooms.  And when they say beachside, they mean beachside.  There are two communal decks facing the ocean with rocking chairs, hammocks, benches, free wifi, a kitchen, grass area and the owners, Tito and Lucy are wonderful.  For G and me in a private double without bath, about $18 a night.  We spent two nights there relaxing and hanging out with Preeti from London and Denis from Germany.  With a desire to get out of expensive and tourist driven Costa Rica (especially because our free accommodation at Rainsong for the month was no longer an option) we started making our way towards Nicaragua, with some stops in Costa Rica, and at their recommendation, we headed to La Fortuna and Arenal Volcano.

Rainsong

Our driver, as he was shutting the minivan door asked us for our hotel information.  I said, “Rainsong Wildlife Sanctuary.”

He said, “Rainsong?”

I said, “Rainsong.”

With a slight smirk of confusion he said, “Okay.”

I wondered if he knew the place and of course, he did.

Thus far it seemed normal for all drivers in Costa Rica to be on there cells while driving, so I thought nothing of the fact that he made a few calls as we slowly travelled down what, in parts, might be the worst dirt road I’ve ever experienced.

We passed through Montezuma and I thought, what a nice place.  Small, but not too small, quaint, right on the water’s edge, an all around good vibe.  At the eastern edge of Cabuya the driver suddenly stopped at a hotel and got out to speak with a man there.  The man then got on the phone and Georgia and I were wondering what was happening.  There was no cause for concern, it just seemed they had some business to discuss and it was a convenient time.  After a few minutes the man walked up to the van with the phone, handed it to me through the window and said, “Mary.”  Mary is the owner and manager of Rainsong.  Mary wasn’t at Rainsong.  Mary was at a hospital in Puntarenas recovering from emergency gallbladder surgery.  In preparing to volunteer at Rainsong both G and I had to fill out applications and communicate with Mary via email to settle all the details of arrival date, length of stay and lodging.  Everything was set, or so we thought.  Mary wasn’t quite sure who we were, how long we were staying, or where.  One might chalk this up to the surgery, but she was quite clear about all other matters.  She just didn’t know us.  A huge storm, literally, was coming and she highly recommended we stay at a guest house for $10 USD a night a couple of km from the sanctuary as a tarp that acts as a roof and wall at our lodging on the farm had recently been stolen.  We had already wired $160 USD to Mary prior to leaving Vancouver to reserve our lodgings at the farm for the month, but with the storm coming and her insistence, we went to the guest house.  It was small, which is fine, but it wasn’t at all clean, had no windows and was made of concrete.  It felt like a tomb and having no idea where we were or where Rainsong was in relation, we politely said no gracias, and asked the driver to take us to Rainsong.  He reluctantly did so, stopping along the way to speak with a man who apparently worked at Rainsong.  After some conversation he agreed it was okay for us to be taken up there.  When we arrived 30 seconds later we tipped the driver for his efforts as although we couldn’t communicate well, I could tell he was genuinely trying to help us.  We went in to a mini jungle to find five early twenty year olds sitting around chatting.  Four guys, including twins from Florida were from the US and the lone girl was from AUS.  The twins were nice, as was another guy who’d been there for two nights sleeping on a mattress on a small patio in the middle of the sanctuary, which is about the size of a Vancouver backyard, that Mary didn’t know was there.  The other guy was a skinny white kid wearing a wife beater with an I’m a bad ass attitude supposedly from LA, but probably from Thousand Oaks, who had been there forty five days.  And then there was the girl from OZ.  I’m still not sure if her name was Char or Cher, but she was cool.  She’d been there two weeks or so, she wasn’t quite sure.  After 2.5 years backpacking through Mexico and Central America time just flowed.  She was “in charge” while Mary was away, and the stress on her was apparent.  Everything was in disarray and there was no money for food.  She was doing her best, but she didn’t know how things worked there, she just spoke spanish better than the others.  She showed us around to the different sleeping options, including our reserved spot, and G describes the events that followed in an email. “The “honeymoon hut” was a filthy shack with the roof (being a tarp) having been stolen recently and a wicked storm coming.  The bed was  wooden frame with a soggy foamy on it, and an ant colony living under the bed, on the bed, and in the bed. So, we weren’t going to stay there.  Our other options there weren’t great either, and the general vibe of the place was not at all good, or what we were looking for.  So, we walked into town and got a bite to eat, and a chance to talk about our next step- whether we stay in the town at a hostel and work at Rainsong, whether we pitch our tent at Rainsong or stay in one of the disgusting sleeping options, or whether we say fuck it and leave.  While mulling things over a woman at the next table over asked if we were on our way to Montezuma (about 7km from Rainsong), and if we’d like to share a cab so it’d be cheaper.  We took this as a sign and a welcome opportunity to get out of there.  So, needless to stay we left.  Me walking away from baby animals is saying a lot about the place!!”

Arrival

Life is certainly an adventure.  For months Georgia and I have been planning our trip to Central America.  We figured we could ease into our 9 month open-ended expedition by volunteering for 1-3 months in Costa Rica at a wildlife rescue hospital and permaculture site, called Rainsong, take some spanish classes and then move on from there as possibilities presented themselves.  We also had in mind, after our incredible experience this summer taking our permaculture design course with Andrew Millison in Corvallis, Oregon, to visit various permaculture sites throughout the region, maybe do some diving, and soak up the culture.  Well, we arrived in Costa Rica Wednesday night via San José, stayed at a hotel in Alajuela for the night, then headed out at 8 am via a shuttle company to Cabuya at the southern tip of the Nicoya Peninsula.  Going through customs was a pleasant experience.  As soon as we exited the airport we were greeted by a rather hectic array of people, speaking english trying to offer us transport.  We had been informed we must go to the taxi office to the left when exiting the airport, which was no problem, and pay for the orange taxi upfront to ensure we weren’t overcharged by the driver.  This was not possible as we were informed they have a new system with meters for the short trip into Alajuela.  This made me a bit nervous, but what can you do, so we headed out with our taxi for the hotel.  Our driver was wonderful.  Between his english and my less than adequate spanish the three of us had a nice conversation and although he might have gone a few blocks out of the way, it was no problem.  In Alajuela everything shuts down early.  It was about 9:30 pm when we arrived at the hotel and the street was mostly deserted.  All of the buildings on the street were protected by metal bars, not just the windows, but the entire front of each store, hence we needed to push a doorbell and have someone let us in to the hotel.  It was dark, raining, the road deserted and no one was answering the bell.  After about 10 minutes and countless bell pressings, we saw someone in the locked up hotel next door and explained our situation.  The guy working there was kind enough to phone our hotel after he called up the the owner from the street a few times.  The owner was not in, but his coworker came down, let us in, wondered why we hadn’t rang the bell (!) and set us up with a room for the night.  As I alluded to before I haven’t had a spanish lesson since the 1990-91 school year, Georgia knows no spanish as she studied french, and neither of us consider ourselves strong in the foreign language skills department anyway.  Our host maybe knew 3 or 4 words of english, but we got it done.  Our ride out to Cabuya was nice, although there was a lot of construction and many hours spent sitting in traffic.  We travelled with a nice German couple heading to Santa Teresa as far as Cobano, then got a different ride through Montezuma, Cabuya and on to Rainsong.

All things are relative and completely interconnected.  If we are able to slow down enough, everything is right there for us to access.  With this in mind I will say here, inaccurately, that this is where the adventure began…more to come.

Catching Up

Quite a lot of time has passed and many exciting events have transpired since my last blog.  Upon leaving Salt Spring we headed over to Mayne to spend a few days  WWOOFing and checking out the island.  Our experience on Mayne was quite good as our hosts were interesting and showed us a good time.  The operation was quite large, as they run their own organic heritage nursery, and recycled glass blowing studio.  It was extremely hot while we were there so we had to work two shifts, early morning and after dinner to complete our full day of work.  During the afternoons we would head over to Campbell Bay and lie on the rocks and swim.  It was nice, especially after our time on Salt Spring.  After four days there we headed over to Valdes for two nights before ferrying to Vancouver for four nights.  Coming back to the city was difficult for me as I have discovered the city is not the place for me.  For many reasons, including the traffic, I am much more suited for a quieter, more peaceful existence.  Fortunately we spent the next three weeks at our good friend Brett’s place in Corvallis, Oregon, a locale much more suited to our particular speed.  G and I headed to Corvallis to take a permaculture course and we loved the experience.  Corvallis is a university town well suited to cycling, and cycling we did.  It also has some fantastic local brewpubs and we became friends with some really great people.  Just after our return from Oregon we headed out once again for Valdes where we would spend just over three weeks living the good life.  In a few days we head for Costa Rica.