And on the Seventh Day…
A much needed rest (though 44 days in, not 7). Now I realize most of you are muttering under your breath “Rest from WHAT? How do you rest from vacation?” Oh but allow me to explain why we insist on NOT calling our trip a vacation. Vacation implies comfort, relaxation, ease of travel, dealing with businesses/people who are generally directly involved in tourism, a relaxed budget (or none at all for some lucky people), nice restaurants, packing enough clothes/supplies for your trip, and hotels where someone cleans up after you regularly. Our trip has elements of that every so often, but in general, we avoid all of the above because they cost money. Until last night, in San Jose, Costa Rica (where we are currently). But I digress – lets start at the beginning of the week.
Our last post left off on Sunday, and as I write that, I’m dumbfounded that it’s only Friday. This week was jam-packed! On Monday, we ventured around Granada and after Tyler made a cigar for himself (that he later smoked – needless to say, cigar-making will not be a future career endeavor), we wandered into an art gallery, Galeria Ubago. T&I had decided before leaving that should we find art/home decor pieces that we liked and felt are a good value on our journey (for a yet-to-be-purchased house), we would invest and ship them home. The idea of filling our future home with purchases and memories of our great adventure appeals to both of us, and we can think of no better way to incorporate reminders of this trip into our daily lives. Thus, on Monday, to put it simply, we purchased 5 beautiful, unique, and varied paintings.
But that does not really encompass the meaning of the purchase in our minds. We are now amateur buyers of real art. Two of the pieces are by an up-and-coming Mexican artist Wilbert Medrano (originally from Nicaragua). Though dark, sad, and maybe even a bit strange (rightfully so- they reflect tragic periods in his life), we fell in love with both pieces and are excited to call them ours.
We said goodbye to quaint and lovely Granada on Tuesday morning and embarked on a 3-bus (5 hour) ride to Matagalpa, in the northern coffee growing region of Nicaragua.
We were told it would be cooler, and that alone was enough to convince us to visit. Fortunately, it wasn’t an common-in-other-parts-of-the-world exaggeration, and it was chilly enough to actually sleep with a sheet covering us. To be honest, I was the one who pushed for Matagalpa, so when we arrived after a long and hot bus ride on chicken buses (with an actual chicken!) to the town, the wave of disappointment that hit both of us fell squarely on my shoulders. It is not a necessary destination to visit, though it may be more interesting when coffee is actually being harvested and you can witness the entire process. Regardless, we decided to make the best of it, which was easy to do because we met up with some Canadian girls we had met a few weeks ago in San Juan Del Sur and were all staying in an awesome hostel, La Buena Onda.
On Wednesday we joined the girls on a trip to Selva Negra (near Matagalpa), an ecolodge, organic farm, and coffee estate where you can hike, ride horses, learn about the history of the area, visit a coffee museum, and otherwise commune with nature.
Though I haven’t ridden a horse in years (and T isn’t even sure he’s ever ridden one), we decided we wanted to ride on a trail for an hour. The trail was lovely and the sights were absolutely incredible. Matagalpa is in the mountains and is quite scenic, almost reminiscent of New Zealand. However, I should learn how to ask “Will I regret this?” in Spanish before I sign up for such activities. For some reason, the “guides” gave me the biggest horse of the bunch, and the leather saddle was way too big and dropped well below the horse’s underbelly, hitting my legs right above the ankle. I knew full well our butts would be sore after this, but the worst of the injuries occurred on my right leg, in that same spot where the saddle hit my leg. It hurt pretty much from the beginning of the ride, but my adjustments were to no avail. I got off the horse and a chunk of my skin had turned a weird brown color and had started bubbling. The burning sensation hasn’t subsided, but as of last night, the skin peeled off leaving a layer of red, bloody “new” skin (we think). This is one of those moments I want to take a picture on my iPhone and email to all 30 of my doc friends and get a consensus. 🙂 It’s definitely not infected, and we have gauze, neosporin, and enough medical tape to wrap around my head a few times, so I’m sure it will heal in a few days. In the meantime though, no sun, no water, and minimal walking for me.
Which brings us to yesterday, Thursday, the day we will try to fondly remember as “Tica Nica Hell”. We caught the 7:20am bus from Matagalpa to Managua in order to catch the Tica Bus (trans-Central America bus line) from Managua to San Jose, Costa Rica, at noon. The Tica Bus is nice by Central American bus standards and includes a bathroom (not really – think smelly hole in back of bus that we were conveniently sitting 2 rows in front of) and A/C (again, not really, SO HOT). 10 hours and 1 very lengthy border crossing later, we arrived in San Jose. We made reservations at a nice hotel within decently close proximity to the bus terminal because San Jose is not a city you want to be hanging around at night. Despite catching a proper “red cab” from the bus terminal, our cabbie took us in 15 circles to get the 7 blocks to our hotel. And then he charged us $30. We found out this morning the charge should’ve been something like $6. We knew $30 was wrong, but when it’s 11pm in a city like San Jose, you don’t argue in a language you barely know with a man who could just as easily rob/kill you. You fork over $30, say gracias, and vow to eat ramen for lunch for a few days to make up the extra cost. Which is exactly what we ate for lunch today.
We leave our Costa Rican hotel tomorrow morning for Bocas del Toro, Panama, via bus (approx. 8 hours) and then cab and then ferry. Despite our odyssey out of the country, we loved Nicaragua and would visit again in the future without any hesitation. For any of you looking for a cheap, easy, especially beach vacation spot, look into it – you won’t be disappointed. Plus you can say hi to all our new friends for us. 🙂