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Lochgoilhead

As my time in Glasgow was coming to an end, and since again Anna and I do enjoy a good hike, we asked Anna’s dad if we could stay a few days in his cottage in Lochgoilhead.  Thankfully he said yes, and was even kind enough to let us use his truck to get there!!  He and his wife also happened to be going when we were planning to go, so we got to spend one of the nights with them:)

Her dad and step-mom were already at the cottage by the time we were able to go, so we took a cab to his house, picked up the truck and headed on out.  The drive there was all along normal 2-way lane roads, but just before we got to the turn-off where the road was only 1 lane (for 2 way traffic!!) with the little side pull-offs for people to pass, we stopped for a little lunch… There at the “Rest and be Thankful” landmark we had a bite to eat and I had my first taste of black pudding… Also known as blood sausage… Ick!!!  Is all I have to say about that!!!  I really didn’t like it at all!!  Perhaps it was mainly due to me knowing what it was to begin with, I don’t know… I think it’s just one of those things you have to grow up with to actually like…!!!  Anyway the “Rest and be Thankful” stop goes back from quite a long time ago!  Those words are inscribed on a stone (see the pictures) placed there by soldiers who built the original military road in 1753.  Apparently the original stone  was destroyed and replaced by a commemorative stone instead… This point marked the turning point to get to Lochgoilhead.  And after our nibble, we headed on to the village where the cottage resided.

Once we arrived and settled in for a bit, we headed off for our first hike!  Again, we aren’t really the kind that prepare the way we should prepare for hikes… Honestly though we didn’t really expect the hike we ended up doing!  We simply set out just behind the cottage on a trail that led to some lovely waterfalls!  From there we saw some signs pointing this way and that, and thought, why not?  So we headed uphill, and up and up… Eventually we came to an area that looked like it could be a good place for a ski slope in the winter!  Two older people were coming down the way fully geared in proper hiking attire including ski poles, proper wind pants and hiking boots.  As we passed them we stopped them and asked how long to the top?  We didn’t get an exact time, but they did warn us about how wet and mucky the way up was and how windy it was at the top, and they further warned us not to go past the stile!  We thanked them for their input and headed on our way, figuring that if/when it got too tough for us and our completely inept sneakers/clothing for us to continue, we would turn back!

Up and up we climbed!  The slope was pretty decent, nothing really to laugh at by any means and while the land did slosh under our feet (sometimes water did sneak into the sides of my sneakers from the amount of water that pooled from some of the steps) we made it to the stile (don’t cross it!!) in good condition and basically dry.

Once at the stile there really were only two ways to go… Back down or up past the stile… Neither of us was terribly tired at this point and though the view from the stile was nice, you really couldn’t see all the way around because we were surrounded by dense forest on both sides.  And since what appeared to be the top of the hill/mountain was just a little ways beyond the stile we thought, heck, why not??  So past the stile we went!

Up and up and up we climbed!!  And it was during this hike that I was properly introduced to Scottish hills!!!!  You see, what appears to be the top of any hill/mountain in Scotland isn’t at all the top once you actually reach it… For once you get to what you thought was the top, you realize that the top is actually just a wee bit further on… And again just a wee bit further on… And again!!!  So literally we went from one “top” to another and another and another until finally what looked like would be the actual top appeared, but by that point it would probably take another hour to get to it and as it was starting to get late in the day (sun was getting lower on the horizon) we opted to give up that mountain top and do the sane and safe thing- turn back toward town!  First we had to take some picts of the surroundings and later estimated that we had probably walked about 20-25 kilometers on that hike!  We never could actually see on a map where the heck we went, but isn’t that part of the fun??  However, from the position that we made it to, you could see the town below, so we had at least some perspective of where we were!

We made it back to town just as the sun was setting, and after a pint in town we headed back to the cottage for a homemade meal!  We watched a YES!/No Thanks debate on the tv, then headed to bed (after Anna’s step-mom cleared a rather large spider from our room!!!).  The next day we rose at the rear-crack of… about 11am, lol!!  Anna’s dad and Step-mom were downstairs with trail maps/paths of the area and they gave input on where we should probably go.  We took their advice and around one or so (after packing something to nibble on- how sensible we became!!) headed out again for a hike.  Her dad and step-mom joined us for the first half-hour or so of the hike, then headed back while we headed up the trail to the steep/climbing bits.

After the hike from the day before both Anna and I were interested and pumped to climb a hill/mountain once again!!  And we thought that this particular trail would allow us to do just that… However, the trail never really led to any mountain base.  It simply wound around the base of several mountains.  Each time we tried to get to a base we were cut off by marshes or terrain so thick with heather/brush that who knew what was under!  Finally we did come to the end of the trail that basically dead-ended on the tip of a kind of peninsula.  Yet we were still quite determined to get up a hill!!  The end of the trail happened to end at the base of a mountain, but the way up was quite steep!  Did that stop us??  No, not really… We scaled part of some sheer rock on the side of the mountain up a little way… Then we came to our senses… That we were probably being really daft!!  So we gingerly made our way back down.  Seriously, the only real way to get up that particular mountain was with proper mountain climbing gear!  But again, once at the base we thought surly there MUST be a way up!  Anna happened to find a little sheep path, which we followed for several yards until it literally dead-ended at a drop hundreds of feet below us!!  Yup, we were being daft in trying to follow the sheep path…

Again we had to give up our quest for the day and headed back.  All the while that we headed back we kept looking for ways to get up a dang mountain to no avail!  It was probably best though that we didn’t find one… By the time we got back (after a brief scare with some hairy coos- well I wasn’t scared but they are known to be aggressive when babies are around, and as we walked through the field one of the coos spotted us, turned and started walking toward us.  I thought it odd behavior and then spotted some baby coos to the right… yea… we hustled a little bit out of that field!) it was almost dark again.  We had some drinks and dinner in town then wandered back to the cottage in pitch beautiful darkness!!  The kind of darkness where you can see every star!!  Just wonderful!!  Though Anna was scared out of her wits over walking in the dark and barely let me a few feet away from her, especially when it came time to cross the river, lol!!  All in all that day, we estimated we walked about 30-35 kilometers that day!  We left the next day and headed back to town (with a brief stop in the lovely town of Luss) where we had a lovely and delicious curry dinner with Anna’s mum!  Good times!! 🙂

I almost forgot about the ticks!!!  While at the Cottage, Anna’s step-mom left us an article about ticks… Beware the ticks when you hike!!  You can get Lyme disease from them!!  We laughed it off and didn’t really get bothered by the potential for ticks, though we did check ourselves for the potential of some… I never found any until a few days later when I was in Gatwick!!  4 on my arm!!  Ewww… I know!!  But they were babies and I plucked them out, watched for signs of Lyme disease, and luckily I can report I’m Lyme disease free!!  Yay!!

On to Most Random Street Signs

Back to Glasgow

Back to United Kingdom

 

La Fortuna

I arrived in La Fortuna the next afternoon and headed to the hostel I found on the internet called “Sleepers Sleep Cheap”.  The word ‘cheap’ of course caught my eye immediately when searching for somewhere and the reviews seemed good enough.

About 100 meters south of the bus terminal, I arrived at the hostel which was set back a little from town than most of the others.  For $10 a night, I got a private room with a private bath, hot water and breakfast!  I paid for 2 nights and proceeded to get settled in.  Honestly I don’t have any negative words for the hostel.  It was a very basic set-up and nothing fancy by any means, but it was cheap, my room was clean, the staff were very friendly and accommodating, and the breakfast area had one of the best views in my opinion… I will later divulge what that view was;)

Now, I wanted to state my opinion about the hostel before writing about this bit: interestingly enough, weeks later when I was in Bocas Town (Bocas del Toro), Panama, I met a couple who just happened to stay at the hostel at the same time that I was staying there!  But they had a very different opinion of the place… Though they did agree it was cheap, they said they believed they had bed bugs and that their door wouldn’t close all the way so all sorts of critters would come in during the day and night.  Their room wasn’t clean and they weren’t that thrilled with what was served for breakfast (toast, eggs, fruit and coffee).  So, I guess it just goes to show you that not everyone’s experiences are the same!

In any event, after getting settled in it was about time to eat something, so I found a local soda that was recommended and that was just down the street from my hostel and had a fantastic fillet de pollo casado!  I absolutely love those casados!!!

Waiting for my meal to arrive, two guys whom I had met on the bus showed up so we dined together.  I spent that evening wandering the streets of La Fortuna with them, drinking beer in the central park. Since we had all arrived in the late evening, there really wasn’t much time to get our barring of the area, so at this point none of us really knew where the famed volcano was.  Sitting in the park drinking, it became a little bit of a game trying to figure out where the volcano actually was.  If the volcano had been active, it would have been quite obvious, but alas the volcano was dormant while I was there.  And mind you, it had been dark since before dinner, so there wasn’t any way to see around us…

The next morning I rose early determined to check several things off my list.  First off, I wanted to do a tour of the volcano and perhaps the hot springs and second I wanted to go to the famed La Fortuna waterfall and finally, I wanted to get a plan in place on where my next destination would be.  Even though the purpose of my trip to Costa Rica was not to be a tourist, one really can’t help but do a tour or two once here!  They can be pricey, that’s for sure but I did a lot of tour “office hopping” prior to settling on the final place to book at.  And since it was the off-season, there were more deals available than not.

Red Lava, a tour office located at the bus terminal offered the best prices and most unique tours.  Through them I booked a tour of the Arenal volcano that was 5 hours long, including a nature hike to a waterfall (not the La Fortuna waterfall but another one), a history of the Arenal volcano and finishing off with a night dip in a natural hot spring.  I also booked for a Jeep-Boat-Jeep package that would get me from La Fortuna to my next destination of Monteverde via, well you guessed it: a jeep, a boat and a jeep:)

It was mid-morning by the time I got all my bookings complete and since my volcano tour wasn’t going to start until 2pm, I opted to spend my time in between by going to the famous La Fortuna waterfall.  Since my motto on spending money was “the less you spend now, the more you will have later” I decided to walk to the waterfall, located inside a National Park, instead of taking a bus directly to the entrance of the National Park… I really should have just paid the darn $8 for the bus!!!!!  But oh no, I decided to keep that money and hike there myself instead!  Afterall, it was a paved road to the park so I figured a little exercise would do me some good!  I have no idea what the temperature was outside, but the sun was shining and it was definitely humid!  I had my little personal bag with me so I could bring my camera for the trip and take plenty of pictures.  And I was off for my hike…

About 8 kilometers (about 3 of which were straight uphill- the end 3 of course) later I arrived to the park entrance red-faced and completely dripping in sweat.  In fact I was so saturated with sweat that both my t-shirt and breathable pants were completely soaked through!!  My bag, supposedly waterproof, even began to soak in some of my sweat so that the inside contents became damp!  The very first thing I did when I got to the park entrance was go to the bathroom and practically bathe myself in the sink with my clothes still on!  Thankfully I did have along with me my vapur water bottle and therefore was hydrated the entire way, but I still had to refill it twice before ever leaving the bathroom because of my extreme thirst!!  People were looking at me like I was crazy, but all I cared about at that point was that I had made it!!

But then, I glanced at my watch… it was noon… there was NO way I was going to be able to actually get to the waterfall and back down to town by 2:00 for my volcano tour:(  You see, I had made it to the park ENTRANCE but the waterfall itself was still about a kilometer deep into the park.  And tack on the fact that if I wanted to even try to see the waterfall I would have had to pay the $10 entrance fee, well, it just didn’t make much sense at that point to even try for it.  So I decided to simply head back down to the town, perhaps get a bite to eat and make it in time for my tour.

The walk back to town was much nicer!!  All downhill with a little breeze to boot!  The little breeze did wonders to dry my clothing on the walk down and by the time I made it back (about 1) I had just enough time to grab a bite to eat at the soda where I had dinner and get ready to meet my tour.

Oh and I promised I would divulge the breakfast view from my hostel… It was indeed the volcano!!!  I had been staring at it all morning during the first morning while enjoying breakfast yet never realized I what I was looking at, lol!!!

On to Volcan Arenal Tour

Back to Costa Rica

San Jose

I should start by saying that I really didn’t have a plan.  None of this trip was planned exactly.  The farthest I ever got with “planning” was that I was going to sell everything, quit my job and travel out of the Country.  But that was it.  Seriously, nothing beyond there.  So when I landed in the San Jose airport (located in Alajuela) I didn’t have any further idea of where I was going to even sleep that night or what my next move was…

Many would find that crazy especially since I had the time to figure it all out, but in my mind I was just interested in the experience and the challenge of having to figure it out as I went along.  I have always done my best work when thrown into the deep end of the pool and in a way, planning to NOT have a plan was my own personal ocean:)
Walking out of the airport I was immediately ambushed by tons of eager faces and voices all asking “Taxi???”.  I turned them down and asked someone nearby where the bus station was instead.  My thoughts were to get out of San Jose immediately and get out to a more typical Costa Rica town: more nature, less city!  As I made my way toward the buses I suddenly thought “well, one night wouldn’t hurt and I could use it to get my barring”.  So I headed back to the taxis and met a couple of other people who were asking if I wanted to share a cab to San Jose.  I took this as a sign that ok, I could stay one night in San Jose!

In retrospect, had I really understood that the airport was in Alajuela (which I did have a foggy memory of my brother telling me that, yet it somehow wasn’t solidified in my mind) I would have just gotten a taxi to downtown Alajuela…

In any event, about a half our later we were in San Jose and had dropped off my two taxi buddies at their various locations.  The taxi driver then turned to me and (all in Spanish) said- “where are you off to?”  I replied that I had no idea, but asked what he would suggest?  I stated that I wanted somewhere cheap- the cheaper the better in my mind!  He politely stated however that he would much prefer I stayed somewhere a little more pricey, but it would be in an area he considered safe for a single traveler.  I acquiesced and was taken to a little B&B near the downtown area.

After settling in I spent the rest of the afternoon getting lost and trying to get directions on where downtown actually was!  I ran into a few people on the street who I trusted to ask questions of and they assisted me very kindly- but each person also emphatically told me to either get back to my B&B prior to the night-time or take a taxi back.  “Muy peligroso” was what I was told.  Mainly because the drug addicts come out at night and petty crimes apparently aren’t unusual in San Jose.  Though there are crimes everywhere, I took the locals advice to heart and made sure I was back at the B&B by 6pm (yes, it gets dark here by 6pm everyday, year round!).

San Jose was a bustling, constantly moving city!  There were people everywhere!!  In the markets, hanging out in the parks, moving on foot or in their cars or on bikes going to their destinations.  Movement everywhere you looked!  Buildings weren’t very tall but they were everywhere all squished together as far as the eye could see, thus blocking any real view of the beautiful nature that surrounds the city.  McDonald’s, Quizno’s, Pizza Hut and other U.S. food chains were also everywhere!  I hate to admit, but as I was getting a little tired from all the travels and walking around all afternoon, I did drift to a Quizno’s for dinner.  The shame, I know!!  But crowds and areas with lots of hustle and bustle tend to wear me out fast and it was nice to get a little food that I could relate to, so to speak.  I knew there would be plenty of time to taste local flavors and I was certainly looking forward to that, but for the time I was happy with the Quizno’s.

After my bite to eat I did a little internet research at my B&B for Volcan Poas.  My cousin, who is a “seasoned” Costa Rica traveler said it was a good day trip from San Jose, so I decided to check out what was available there (hostels and such) for a trip the next day.  I found a few hostels online and took down their information so I could look them up once there.  I also had to get the bus situation understood because San Jose has 4, yes 4 different bus stations all in different locations from one another.  Depending on where you want to go to, that decides which bus terminal you need to show up to.

As I settled into the B&B to sleep, a huge thunderstorm settled in overhead… Now for those of you who know me, you know that I absolutely ADORE thunderstorms!!! In fact, so much that whether a place has thunderstorms on a fairly consistent basis is actually a deciding factor for me on whether I will plan to live there or not.  I know, I know- sounds absolutely nuts picking a place to live based on thunderstorms, but hey, I follow my passions no matter what form they take!

On to Volcan Poas

Back to Costa Rica