I’m lying on my mat in savasana waiting for class to commence. I can hear the hurried sounds of people scrambling to get a good spot in the studio, and have to remember to come back to my breath before I start fussing over the day’s events in my mind. I shouldn’t have said that to a colleague. I spent too much time on social media today. What am I going to eat for dinner? Hell, what am I going to wear tomorrow? Breath. This is why I come to yoga. To leave my neurotic thoughts, my anxieties and all my inhibitions at the door. I focus on my breathing, its simple. I listen to the instructor as we glide slowly and serenely from posture to posture, inhaling and exhaling and I leave it all behind for an hour. I’m free.
When I set out for Puerto Viejo against the advice of my new friend the Aracnaologist who claimed it to be a “dump”, and “just another San Juan”. I had this idea that I would tan in the day, and write at night. I’d lie on the beach and do nothing for couple days in Puerto Viejo, then relax in Bocas Del Toro for another few, making the last shuttle to Panama City with one more day to spare. My idea was that I would kick the drinking, eat right and be so relaxed that my transition back home would be a breeze. I’d be tanned, and wouldn’t feel overly tired during the Christmas Holidays.
“Tan”. That is a funny word to describe what I did in Puerto Viejo, because I lost all the colour I had been working on during my time there. I probably should have read ahead, called a friend, or asked the audience. However, I just assumed further south would just be equally as hot as Nicaragua had been on the Pacific side. And it had been HOT. Like, no-point-in-drying-off-from-your-shower-hot because you’d be soaked-through-your-clothes-sweaty in moments anyway. BUT as it turned out, I had unknowingly and excitedly made my way over to freakin’ Green Season in the Caribbean side. Also more simply referred to as, Rain Season.
So I didn’t sit out in the sun, soak in some vitamin D, and bronze my whole body like I don’t really give a !%$^. I probably avoided some new beauty marks and more importantly any strands of melanoma, because lets face it pale is the new tan! At least, that’s what I’ll be telling everyone when I’m home anyway…
However, I did not anticipated falling in love with a place that I had only planned on staying a few days, because it happened to be conveniently on my path home.
I was welcomed by Pagalu Hostel, a new and inviting brightly coloured hostel, with the nicest bunk beds I had ever had the ‘luxury’ of sleeping on, equipped with a communal kitchen with a well thought out labelling system. Take that you chocolate milk thieves. It’s hard to imagine thinking of a luxurious bunk bed, but I had had my fair share of torturous sleeping arrangements. At Pagalu I had my own night light, charging station, and fan. So yes, apart from the smell of sweaty boys and the sound of others snoring so loud I thought a truck was backing up – it was, truly, luxurious.
My introduction to the town was also very pleasant. There was a lot going on in Puerto Viejo, and on my first night I was invited to a late dinner/ all you can eat Asian feast with 5 Girls! We waited until 10:30 to go to eat half price, which is way to late to eat, especially since it was my second dinner, but by know you should know I’ll do anything to save a dollar. Yeah, I was stoked considering all I had talked was beers and ball for the past 7 weeks. So I gushed, talking boys and ambitions whilst stuffing my face with local sushi, and sippin’ on Pina Coladas for the entire evening. *Side note: Don’t drink Pina Colada’s with all you can eat anything. Drink Water, Eat all you can Eat. Taking up no precious space with thick liquids.*
Waking up to the sound of rain slamming on the windows is probably one of the most soothing sounds in the World, so each morning was greeted with a warm and relaxing embrace. I headed into the common room, where there was local coffee already brewed and waiting for me, had my usual, and cheapest meal of toast/peanut butter/ banana combo, and wrote for the entire morning. It was there that I brought to you 3 posts in a week. The words were flowing out of me like the rivers of Lanquin.
In the afternoon I’d head out with the girls and grab a bike for the day, rentals were 3 dollars, and it was necessary to allow you the freedom of roaming around the town. From there decisions were made simple: Beach, Hike, Yoga, Vegetarian Lunch, Ginger Chocolate Smoothie, Markets? What ever we felt like doing for the rest of the day. Maybe, even all of the above.
The drive around town is incredibly picturesque. The more developed hub, with markets and second hand clothing stores, vegan eateries, and local artisans. You would have to stay for a month to unravel its true potential. Bread and Chocolate is a fan favourite for cool eats to start. But the shops are endless so there is no way you’d be able to see them all without a lot of time. Once you leave the main square, you head on towards the beaches, past the handmade stands, where fresh produce is sold for cheap, and you can pick up all your gifts for your friends. Moving past, you find yourself cruising along the road, through the jungle and endless Yoga shacks. Surrounding you is dense vegetation and jungle life expanding as far as you can see to your right, with the ocean looming through it in the distance to your left. It takes about 20 minutes to get to the first Beach, and from there there are two more from a further distance. To be honest, we never got that far. We only had two suitable beach days, and we didn’t want to waste any precious time in the Sun. I don’t think I have ever been so excited to swim in the open Ocean, I felt the epitome of true freedom.
That’s exactly the vibe that will enrapture you in Puerto Viejo. I sure as hell didn’t come back with any colour, but I did get the much needed relaxation I was so desperate for. I drove into the Carribean, tired, and ready to head home. I left wishing I had more time, and could stay forever. Life was as slow as it had been on Caye Caulker, but it was much larger, making each day vastly different than the next. And the food; I could feel the nutrients in my skin and I could see the difference in my hair. I ate Mango Salad for cheap, had eggplants and fresh produce in my stir-fry’s, coconuts for a midday snack, and indulged on copious amounts of Ginger. and I LOVE Ginger, I eat that shit raw.
If your not a foodie like myself, the wildlife will be sure to hook you during your time. Picture this, we’re riding bikes around, stopping at Ohm to sample some gourmet dark chocolate. Did I mention its free to try all the flavours? We literally stopped here every day, so eventually we had to buy some. Anyway, all of a sudden we find ourselves aiding in the relocation of a sloth that has made his way into the backroom, across the street back into the jungle. A wild sloth. I nearly cried in excitement, the 5 year old version of myself once again coming out to play. I have seen sloths before in South East Asia, but never wild. They are hilarious. So slow, so stunned, absolutely the cutest freaking animals in the World. And, they’re everywhere in Costa Rica.
Pura Vida is the motto in Puerto Viejo, which means Pure Life and it couldn’t be more accurate. Life was easy. Life was good. I planned on coming for a few days, just “because”, but ended up skipped Bocas Del Toro all together. I had found exactly what I was looking for in Costa Rica.
Like all good things though, they eventually have to come to an end. But luckily for me, the end just meant the beginning of something new. I was making a beeline to Panama City to fly home for the holidays, before embarking on my next adventure.
I was happily two weeks away from joining my boyfriend on his side of the World.
In London, England.
I’m sorry if I seemed a bit cynical in my last post. Though I didn’t find necessarily what I was looking for in San Juan Del Sur, I cannot say that my time there was a complete waste. I was surrounded by 6 great people with whom I had grown to love individually. We spent days, sometimes doing nothing but watching seasons of game of thrones. We always had great conversations, and shared our stories, really getting to know more about one another. I learned from each and every one of them, and was once again reminded just how beautiful it is to be unique. I mean, if we were all the same, I’d imagine we would never laugh, never learn, never truly be.
For the last 6 weeks Reese, Jac, Matt, Corey, Stu and Max had been my family. We looked out for one another. We teased and embarrassed each other like any good family does. We even got into arguments with one another from time to time because that’s just how comfortable we were together. We were honest. I found I could be myself, and could let all my guards down and completely let go. They treated me equally, never like “a girl”, I was their wing-man at the bar, and if anyone was bothering me, they were my boyfriends.
We were this rock band full of weirdo’s in our own way. Completely ourselves, and never treating each other with disrespect. We made meals together, sharing the chores. We cuddled on couches because there was never enough space, and slept on each other shoulders on the long drives. Though I was the first to go to bed the night before I left, everyone still got up early in the morning to say goodbye, Matt even walked me all the way just to be safe. They made me feel like I was home, and even though I’m not a massive fan of raves, I am a huge lover of friendship. I was actually quite sad when I decided it was time for me to leave the group.
We didn’t initially plan on going to El Salvador. To be honest I forgot the Country even existed, its never really talked about. If your about to look at a map, it’s the tiny Country bordered by the Pacific Ocean, east to Guatemala, and south west to Honduras. Though it is its tiniest, it also happens to be the most densely populated Country in Central America. But don’t let its forgotten space and repetitive characteristics steer you away, its certainly worth a few days and I’ll explain why.
Since we took a slowed pace through Belize and Guatemala, we realized it would be best to choose between Scuba Diving or Surfing. El Salvador, or Honduras. By doing both we would also be limiting our experience of either. They are both time consuming and money-eating pastimes, and your better off diving headfirst into one, then skimming them both. Plus it leaves you excited for a follow up trip to try the latter.
Anyways, we happily agreed on surfing, since we had a little taste of the coral life during our snorkelling trip. (I know scuba divers are screaming at me that its not the same) But as a lover of wake-boarding, and a jealous friend of those I left behind in Whistler happily posting opening day photos of its beloved mountains, we decided to fill our longing to snowboard with surfing instead.
So we headed for El Tunco, a tiny beachside village next to El Sunzal in the department of La Libertad. It reminded me of Bali in a way, but instead of morning doorway offerings and beautiful hindu statues, it offered me rice and beans for breakfast and a couple of picturesque rock formations. It’s also a tenth of the size of the famous Indonesian surf spot. El Tunco’s single sand strip is bordered by surf shops, standard eateries and board rentals along the way.
Now I know I’m not talking the landscape up that much, but the spot is actually illustrious in the backpacker world. Besides, the pictures speak for themselves. And though your probably by this point sick of rice and beans, El Tunco’s unique appeal, and captivating black sand beaches will grapple your heart and keep you for longer than you expect.
Ill skim the details of the bus ride over to San Pedro, Lago Atitlan, because by now you know they’re all long, boring and generally overcrowded. We even picked up a hitchhiker and her daughter on the way, and the two of them shared the last seat in the back. Needless to say, it was rough. More so for Matt and his 6 foot 10 frame, who was sitting front seat with the driver and another man (not a small guy) in the middle of them. But then more so for me again when I realized I didn’t have my sunglasses and would likely never see them again- along with my beautiful onesie.
So ya, I was irritated. But without room to move my arms to look in my bag to double check, and thinking back on the surprisingly long relationship I’ve had with my Ray Bans, I decided the only rational thing to do was remain positive. Everyone’s already irritated at this point, the last thing they need is the antics of a forgetful girl causing a scene because she has once again lost her sunglasses, only to find that they’ve been on her head the whole time.
But they weren’t on my head this time, and they certainly weren’t in my bag when we pulled up. By this point I had been trying to retrace my footsteps, only to remember that I had my sunglasses in my hand along with my wallet and passport. So I was really, really, trying not to freak out. My things were gone – or left somewhere, the hostel, the bathroom. I didn’t know, because the bus driver who had been half an hour late had the nerve to yell at us to rush, without giving me a second to collect my thoughts, do a last minute check, or even pee.
As fun as Semuc Champey was, it was also exhausting. Matt and I decided it was worth it to our sanity to extend our time in Lanquin one extra day, and kick back and relax.
But do you ever wish that you can see into the future? You know, look into a crystal ball or something, and see what lies ahead.
The hassles you could avoid, if only.
In this particular case I am referring to spiders.
I mean, had we just stuck to the original plan and got on a bus at the crack of dawn the day after the excursion, I would never have ended up being bitten by a spider.
But I’m sort of getting ahead of myself.
I have been pondering on this latest post for a few days now trying to find the right words to describe the unforgettable experience I had at Semuc Champey, during our time in Lanquin, Guatemala. I can’t really tell you exactly how I felt because my emotions ranged from excited and overwhelmingly amazed, to nervous and down right terrified. It was truly the most memorable day I have had to date during my time in Central America. You know, one of those days you’ll never forget. As a person who is overly worrisome, and sometime anxious, I left our day tour of Semuc Champey feeling braver than I did after swimming with sharks, and as relaxed as I had been after going slow for two weeks on Caye Caulker.
If you are ever in Guatemala, give this place the number one spot on your list of places to see. Its a hidden gem, and a bit of a trek, but absolutely worth the ride.
And, since we all seem to respond better to Lists…
It was an interesting bus – or I should say van ride, over to the small village of Languin. Two spots had thankfully freed up, making it rather comfortable comparable to the other bus we had of the same size, on the way to Tikal. There were 5 of us Total, 10 spots in all, and I somehow managed to snag a whole bench to myself. I’m telling myself it was not because no one wanted to sit with me. Regardless , it made for a super relaxed first 5 hours! It was early when we left, so I slept for most of the morning. I finished my entire litre of water as it was hot inside, and started getting really restless like everyone else, 20 minutes to the eat and stretch stop, and really needing pee at this point. Then suddenly we were held up in bumper to bumper traffic, behind a truck full of overcrowded cattle. Our driver said nothing, not that we would have understood him anyway if he did, and jumped out of the front seat and started up the road on foot. We were confused, hungry, and at this point dancing in our seats because we all had to pee. How long would we be stopped here? Five minutes, twenty? After fifteen minutes of stretching our legs, hanging outside the car, and discussing how confused we all were, the boys decided they would try and find out, while I set out in search for a bathroom. “El Bano?” was the first word in Spanish I had learned, and quite frankly the only word I had actually remembered anyway. There were 2 houses in site, and I thought maybe one would allow me into their home to use their bathroom. I got two “No’s” followed by a lovely offering of cola, and some roadside chicken. The families were actually prepared for the road block and had set up vendors, selling pop, beer, food, ice-cream, anything to make a quick buck. But they wouldn’t sell me the use of their washrooms, or maybe they would have, had I only known a word of Spanish.
When your travelling and constantly on the move, it’s hard to find time to sit down and write. Days are long and filled with so much newfound excitement, that its easy to forget to sit down and take a moment to reflect. This morning I was thankful for the rain.
As this trip approached I found that I wasn’t anxious nor apprehensive, as I was on my trip to Thailand. Instead, I welcomed all the possibilities that Central America would have to offer me. Parents were of course lecturing. Adults I find are often scared of the unknown, and spend to much time being caught up in the negativity the news provides them with surrounding foreign places. However I have learned the news is pretty biased. They rarely cover stories about all the joy foreign countries will bring you, but waste no time poisoning you with the horrors you may face, with some troubling luck. I wasn’t nervous. Instead, I welcomed all opinions, taking each suggestion with an open mind.
We were a bit disorganized heading over to Ko Tao, 15 minutes late for a bus we had to sprint to wearing 50L backpacks in 35+ degree weather, no room booked, let alone any idea of which area of the island we were staying. Nick took the reigns as our tour guide, because he had been doing this backpacking thing for a few months, which was terrifying because he undoubtedly had his sister doing the bulk of their planning so far. Nonetheless, your a bit at ease when you jump on a bus with 50+ fellow travelers, who might have a plan, but probably don’t, but may have a general idea for you. Thats the thrill of backpacking though, you just wing it. You can plan, but you’ll probably meet people with useful insights who will tell you tales of their journeys, and you’ll detour. You meet people everyday with a story, of a place and some helpful advice they share, and you roll with it. You take every day as it comes, and it always works out (uh sort of). This particular time we had put all our trust in Nick to lead us to our new destination.