This month is significantly, the first month I have travelled solo. It’s been different to previous months but brilliant in so many ways. Travelling solo gives a feeling of total freedom, and I feel consistently amazed and proud of myself every time I make it to a new place alive! I can do (almost) whatever I want and whenever I want, which means I live in the moment all the time – my favourite way to be. I do sometimes forget to eat but that really is the only downside.
I’m amazed its been 3 months, and I’ve struggled to cut this list down from 21 things – but here it is – my favourite stuff from this month…
10. Boat trip from Jaco to Monteverde, Costa Rica
I wasn’t lucky enough to see any dolphins or whales but this was a beautiful boat ride in itself. It was the first place I properly visited on my own and so with this boat ride came a sense of freedom and pure joy (maybe pura vida). I met some lovely people on the boat and it was great to know immediately how easy it is to meet people. Plus the sea was beautiful, the sky was blue and sun was wonderfully hot – and these are all the things I need to make me smile.
9. Arenal Hike, Costa Rica
Arenal was the first place I visited that was seriously tourist crazy! I stayed in La Fortuna (the cheaper option) and the town there is basically a street of bucket shops where people try and sell you trips of the local area. A friend and I spent a slightly depressing afternoon trying to negotiate between several of them to get the best deal to go and walk around the national park, which is at the base of the volcano. We spent the whole time feeling like we were being ripped off or lied too and started to feel OK with not seeing the famous sight of the eruption. However, she then very cleverly befriended a local, who organised a cheap taxi for us. The taxi drove us there, waited (slept in the car) while we walked around the park and took us back for $20 each – a total bargain for Costa Rica! The path is very clearly marked and there was no need for a guide. We might have seen more animals with a guide but to be honest its just a really beautiful, peaceful walk and we got to talk and go at our own pace. It was just a really lovely day.
8. Local Hotspring, Arenal, Costa Rica
The same lovely local that organised the taxi for us also took us to a local hot spring. There are loads of hotsprings in Arenal and they can be anything from really posh places, like a spa where you can have dinner and drinks to completely untouched and natural. The one we went to was one where locals go, untouched without even a sign to suggest it was there. We took beers and found a place to sit in the dark. The locals brought candles, so there was a really relaxing atmosphere. I felt really lucky to be there because I was kind of gate crashing a date – I felt like the mother chaperoning – but it was great because it meant I got to go to this awesome hotspring and have my feet massaged by natural waters. That was a good night.
7. Seeing Dolphins at sunset with my Mum, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
Normally seeing dolphins would come higher up my list, but this loses a few points because the boat was full of drunk people and had a really annoying man as the tour guide. I was also a bit sick, but I really wanted to hang out with my mum, so I went anyway and it was really worth it. We were a bit disappointed with the snorkeling on the trip as it was basically a lot of murky water (perhaps I have been spoiled in other places though!), so I didnt have any major hopes for dolphins. Mum and I got ourselves in a good position anyway, and were enjoying looking out at sea when the annoying man came to talk to us. Kind of wanting to just talk to my mum, I felt even more annoyed with him, until suddenly he started spotting dolphins everywhere. Costa Rican guides are incredible when it comes to spotting wildlife, they find stuff where no one else could. The trick here was to look for where the birds were (brown boobies in this case – tee hee, cant be mature about that name, especially as my mum kept saying how excited she was to see so many boobies!!). The birds know where the fish are and then the dolphins go to the same place to also eat the fish. I couldn’t get a good photo as the boat was a bit too big, but it was so exciting seeing them pop up all over the place. We then had a beautiful sunset and it turned out to be a wonderful afternoon. No dolphin pic I’m afraid but this is me on a boat with a fabulous sunset.
6. Rodeo night, Arenal, Costa Rica
Arenal features much more than I thought it would this month, but I cant miss out the rodeo night because I’ve never been to anything like it! Firstly I’ll say that none of the animals get hurt in this event – only the humans. One person did get stomped on by a bull and a guy ran out with a tiny stretcher… :-/
,A Costa Rican rodeo basically involves a lot of games with horses, bulls and people. My personal favourite was musical chairs with men on horses. They had to ride around on horses during the music and when it stopped, jump off and run with the horse to stand in a hoop. The last one didn’t get a hoop and was out of the game. (Tee hee – it was grown men playing musical chairs!!)
I think this is what amused me most about the whole evening because it was a massive display of machismo. We waited a long time between events, while men strutted around in tight jeans pretending to have a purpose, then something would happen – maybe a man coming out riding a bull or a horse for about 30 seconds and then more strutting. I loved it.
We watched the organisation of the bulls from above and there were about 20 guys being manly around the main entrance to the arena and we realised why such a long wait between shows.
During the event there are very cute cowboy kids running around, which is hilarious and more than a bit terrifying as they are tiny and the bulls are massive.
A great night, even though I was routing for the guy in pink, who was rubbish and lost every time. He did have the tightest jeans though…
5. Spanish School, Dominical, Costa Rica
It’s a wonderful feeling when you say something in a foreign language and someone actually understands what your saying. During the week at the school in Dominical I realised that I had actually started remembering words too and it was great fun practicing them. I want more please!
4. Arriving at the Parador Hotel to meet my parents and seeing my first sloth, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica.
I was really excited to spend a week with my parents after 2 and a half months away. The main part of our together time was staying in probably the nicest hotel I’ve ever been to. There is nothing better than those first moments in a place with the anticipation of what could be ahead. I arrived early and was a little overwhelmed with the place having spent a lot of time in hostels. When my little cheap bus turned up, the staff looked confused and upset that a slightly smelly backpacker was moving into their beautiful palace and I think they thought it must be a mistake. However, they couldn’t dispute my name and so started talking me through the facilities in the hotel. Men began to arrive with hot towels and cocktails for me and my non-existent partner. This was a honeymoon place of dreams. They took me through to my room, which was big enough for 4 people and I could barely speak it was so amazing. I had my own porch with tables and a chair (plus an iguana and a range of colourful butterflies). Most excitingly for a backpacker, the bathroom had a massive HOT shower, with not one but 2 hot taps! I had some hours to kill, so I spent the afternoon by the swimming pool watching a sloth roaming about looking for a place to sleep in a tree just nearby. I knew I was going to have a completely mind blowing few days ahead.
My parents are incredible for treating me to this, I’m missing them, the hotel and the breakfasts just writing about this!
3. The journey to Tortuguero, Costa Rica
One of the joys of travelling is working out how to get to a place and actually working out the local transport system, which is usually pretty mental. This is actually something that often makes me very nervous and I am always amazed I actually arrive anywhere – I’ve lived in London for 10 years and can still get lost there, so I have little hope in a foreign country. This journey was exciting because there were so many elements to it and at the end there was animals.
First, I befriended a taxi driver with my rubbish Spanish in San Jose (Alfredo, who said I was muy amable´). He made sure I got to the bus stop on time, while dutifully swearing at lots of other drivers on the way. There was then 2 bus rides, the first involving a bag theft – not mine, thankfully being a londoner, I compulsively grip onto my bags at all times. On the second, I made friends with a couple of lovely northerners who were the sort of people I could instantly chat to – they were heading to El Salvador after Costa Rica so I still hope to see them again. Local buses here are amazing as they take a really long time, cram hundreds of people on and then every 15 minutes someone gets on selling another product – bags of drink, cake, bread, sweets, cheese, fruit – you name it and you’ll probably find it!
The final bit of the journey is a boat – my favourite thing and the best thing about this boat is that its less than £4 and lasts 2 hours and involves oodles of animals. There hadn’t been much rain so every so often the boat men had to get out and pull us along, which is crazy as it is a boat rammed full of people. There was a policeman on the boat looking nervous that he might have to help! We saw monkeys, birds, artworks carved into trees and most excitingly an enormous crocodile!
It was truely ace. On the way back, I booked a shuttle because I knew I had to travel for 3 days but I wished I hadn’t because it was way less exciting than the local route.
2. Monkeys at Luna Llena Hostel, Montezuma, Costa Rica
This must be the best hostel in the world. Surely. I stayed in the dorm, which was full of excellent people. There is then free coffee in the morning – awesome. And most brilliantly, everyday there is a monkey show with Capuchins and Howler monkeys that live in the trees there.
It was too hot in Montezuma for me to be out during the day so I’d retreat to the lovely chill out area for lunch (usually bread as I couldn’t afford anything else!) and everyday the monkeys came.
I was in heaven. They ate fruit from the trees, particularly cheeky ones took the cats dinner and this fellow followed me up the stairs and played with the laundry.
Not only monkeys live in the jungle there, there are also stunning iguanas and a cheeky bird that stole my friends breakfast. He literally watched us for 10 minutes, then swooped in and stole her toast.
I found it so hard to leave here and would have stayed if I had more time as it would be a great place to stay and learn Spanish. Can I just say it was about £10 per night also – incredible.
1. A sloth doing a poo and other wildlife, Parador Hotel, Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica
Nothing beats a sloth coming down a tree to do a poo. They do this only once a week and it is their most vulnerable time as they could easily get eaten while they are on the ground as they have no protection and are really slow. My mum and I were heading out for a morning walk in the path of the hotel when a couple of very excited gardeners called us over and there he was – beautiful sloth, slowly and gracefully making his way down the tree.
They must have to plan their poos way in advance as it takes a really long time to get down.
And we were so close, so I have to say I was moved to tears by the experience as these are such beautiful animals.
This was his ‘Ok, I’m going to do a poo now, are you really going to watch?’ face and so we left him to get on with it. I love how beautiful they make doing a poo.
We carried on our walk and a member of hotel staff started walking with us spotting monkeys, more sloths and birds everywhere. It was the best morning walk possible.
This hotel was way better for wildlife than the national park. Every morning mum and I got up and watched a bird show from her balcony from 5.30am – I’m not normally a morning person but this was an excellent reason for lack of sleep I have ever had.