Friday, April 27, 2007

Costa Rica and Panama

Smoking Volcan Arenal, Costa Rica

Crossing the border into Costa Rica, I was suddenly confronted with something I hadn't encountered for a long time, something alarming and humbling, embarrassing and annoying all at the same time---the place is full of American tourists. You get groups of high schoolers on their big graduation trips, families with sneering teenagers and fighting kids, hiking geezers with their specially bought brandname rainforest is shocking, and they're everywhere. If it weren't for the stunning beauty of the rainforests and the numerous active volcanoes, I'd have crossed the border into Panama much earlier. But I can see why everyone wants to come, it's really safe, and pretty amazing. There are monkeys eveywhere, and parrots. You learn to ignore the geckos attracted to the heat of your screen while watching TV, or sometimes you watch the geckos instead. I was hoping to see a sloth, but no luck this time.

Monkeys playing in trees, Costa Rica
In San Jose, the capital city of Costa Rica, I had my own American relapse. I ate french fries at McDonalds. Then I had lunch at Subway. They have Taco Bell here, Wendy's, KFC, Papa John's---for someone who hates fast food, I was dancing with joy! I went to the mall. And I found myself a precious jar of JIF peanut butter (creamy, of course). Honestly, I'm embarrassed about the whole ordeal, but really there's nothing much else to do in San Jose.

I came to Panama on Monday, and took a 45 minute ferry to the Carribean islands right near the border. Travellers all rave about this place, so I had to see it. The town of Bocas del Toro is hot and boring, but when you get out into the islands, to the beaches, it's pretty beautiful. Yesterday I chartered a boat with a group from the hostel to the uninhabited island of Zapatilla. With blue water, white sand, palm trees, and no people, it was everything an island should be. I saw real live swimming squid while snorkelling, that was super cool, I'd never seen squid other than the vaccum packed salted ones at the 7-11 stores in Japan.

Today I head to Panama City and wait for my flight to Peru on Monday. Until then!

Bocas del Toro beach, Zapatilla island, Panama

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Underwater Pictures

Backtracking a bit, I wanted to show you some pics I took while diving. Most pics were of fish butts (running away) but I managed to get a couple interesting shots:

Divers in front of me

Fish butt
Green Moray, see it? See it? I took this picture!!!
Another fleeing fish

Just to make this entry more exciting, here are a few shots my diving instructor gave me.

Reef shark

Turtle Octopus

Monday, April 16, 2007


Where do I start?? To get to the beautiful colonial town of Granada, Nicaragua, I had to fight returning Easter holidayers for seats on rickety old school buses through hideous San Pedro Sula, frightening machinegun-happy Tegucigalpa (the capitol of Honduras) and hot and filthy Managua, Nicaragua. Luckily I made some friends doing the same journey and have been able to laugh my way through it all.

We bummed around the Granada hostel for a few days (it was SOO comfortable, with hammocks, pool table, books, games, restaurant serving delicious food...) and then took the ferry to Ometepe island. The island was formed by two active volcanoes which emerged from the lake, and Volcan Concepcion was still smoking when I arrived. We did an 8 hour grueling climb up the non-smoking volcano and I'm still limping around now from that.

The hostel we picked on the island was an organic commune kind of place, and it was much more primitive than I'd imagined. Outhouses, outdoor showers with only the modest protection of banana trees, various insects and animals visiting the dorms at night...but it was really fun and only cost $2.50 a night. I think the most I spent on any single day in Nicaragua was about $20, and that was only after numerous rum and Cokes (jealous, Mom?).
I put up some new pictures. I rearranged the picture links from most recent to older so the newest will always be on top. Check out Guatemala, Belize and Honduras, and Nicaragua! Sorry, lots of sunset shots, humor me to you all soon!