After having kayaked to Ko Nangyuan on Koh Tao, Anna and I were hooked and made a pact of sorts to make sure and do it again! Ko Phi Phi Don provided yet another fantastic opportunity to do so. On our second or third day there, we got up bright and early (around 10am-ish?) and headed out for food and coffee to quench our slightly hung over bodies. It was probably about noon or one by the time we made it to Lo Dalam beach to rent a kayak so we could paddle our way to Monkey Beach.
Monkey Beach Kayak
Monkey Beach Kayak_2
As soon as we stepped foot on Lo Dalam we were approached about renting kayaks by a local shop worker. The price for the day was 600 baht. This price wasn’t out of the realm of what we were expecting to pay, but being the bargain seekers we were, we tried a couple more places first. The third place we stopped by was the winner. The woman (whom I’d guess to be the boss) had that feisty vibe that reminded me of Mol from Mol’s beach bar on Hin Wong Bay (Ko Tao). We asked her how much the kayaks were, and she said “200 baht per hour”. We replied that we wanted to rent one for the day, to which she gave us a quizzical look, checked her watch, looked back at us and said “for the day??”. Lol! We had to laugh and give that one to her! I’m sure most people renting kayaks for the day would have in fact rented them in the morning, but alas there we were mid-day. She gave us the kayak for the bargain price of 400 baht and away we went.
Monkey Beach Kayak_3
Monkey Beach Kayak_4
The crystal clear water of Lo Dalam bay was so calm and almost lake-like that the paddle just around the corner to Monkey Beach took very little effort and time. Once there, the only thing to really watch out for was the boat traffic! Dozens upon dozens of tour speedboats were coming and going with numerous tourists aboard, all coming for the snorkeling and monkeys. A quiet beach this was not!! The snorkeling was also ok, but not the best of the bunch really. The monkeys of course were adorable and lovely and amazingly patient as tourist after tourist shoved their phones and iPads toward them on selfie sticks.
After several hours of literally baking in the sun, we decided to try to get to yet another beach that was located across the Lo Dalam bay. We skirted around tour boats and out into the open sea we went! While the sea looked to be quiet and calm from our perspective on Monkey Beach, it wasn’t quite the correct story once we were actually out there… Lets just say that Anna started to feel a little sea-sick and we both started to question whether it was really smart of us to continue on.
We opted for the “Safety first” route after making it probably 3/4 of the way. But seeing how the waves were crashing violently against the cliffs ahead and not wanting to potentially be part of those waves doing so, we headed back toward the sanctuary of the bay waters. We didn’t quite make it until sunset on the kayaks, but instead simply went to the Sunset bar for drinks to toast the setting sun. 🙂 Anna took a picture of a kayak in the sunset (while we sat comfortably drinking) and we pretended that was us in spirit. 🙂
Many days after my morning Muay Thai Kickboxing workout I’m left exhausted wanting to do little more than just relax with a book or have a massage. The best remedy for my sore body (especially my feet) however is to walk. I really have to rev myself up for the task however. Especially since the walking includes doing so during some of the hottest hours of the day. Usually I head to Hin Wong for a snorkel or Sairee to just hang about but this time I thought to check out a new route.
My initial plan was to head to Jim’s bar. Located high up on one of the hills nearby, it seemed like it would be a nice ‘goal’ place to walk to and to be rewarded in the end by a cold drink and hopefully a beautiful view to boot. Armed with my plan I headed out toward Hin Wong bay but made a turn at the top of the hill toward Jim’s bar instead of heading down to the bay. The walk there wasn’t altogether unpleasant. Though there were bits with a 20% or 30% grade to them, the majority was variable enough to cut the monotony of just walking uphill. Bits of the path were concrete while other bits were only dirt and gravel cut through with erosion from storms.
Peek at Sairee
Butterfly Garden Free View
Butterfly Garden Free View_2
Though it is possible to make the trek with a motorbike or an ATV, I prefered walking. First because of the exercise aspect, but most importantly because of the condition of the unpaved bits of the path. They really were quite treacherous and while during my hike up I didn’t notice any accidents, on my way back down I witnessed 2 rolled motorbike accidents (one with injuries) and heard from another person that he’d witnessed 3 as well! But I’m getting ahead.
Looking to Jim’s Bar
The View Entrance
The View Path
It felt like I had been walking for hours! No one was in sight except the occasional random passing motorbike and the sun was beating down hard on my skin. I took appropriate breaks here and there to chill in the shade and have some water or take pictures of the local wildlife (I spotted a water monitor!!) and though I was absolutely dripping in sweat to the point of all my clothes being soaked through, I trudged on having no idea how far or close I was, yet determined to get there. Eventually (after going up the 30% grade bit of the path) I made it to a little bar. It turned out to be the Butterfly Garden! That was good news for me since Jim’s bar wasn’t too far beyond that. I stopped for a sugary tea to replenish a bit of energy then continued up the hill to Jim’s.
I was surprised that Jim’s wasn’t that far at all from the Butterfly Garden since on the map they seemed to be a bit further apart. It literally was just up the hill from the Butterfly Garden. While it was a cute little bar, no one was there and the views were simply of the surrounding jungle. So instead of sitting and staying, I opted to check out a bit further along the path. There were signs for the Mango View Bar and another place simply called The View Bar. One was down the path to the right, the other to the left. I chose the right path toward The View Bar and about half a km later, I’d arrived to one of the most stunning views of the island I’ve seen so far! You could see just about the entire island including the National Park islands to the South of Koh Tao, a bit of Koh Samui to the SW and even the mainland of Thailand!
Koh Samui View
National Park Island View
So stunned by the beauty of The View’s views, I took a seat on the patio and ordered a drink. I learned from the owner that the place had only been open for 5 months now, the deck I was sitting on was only a month old and the bar itself is the highest bar on the island! There was only one other couple there when I first arrived which gave the atmosphere an even more peaceful and beautiful appeal to it. I met Suay (beautiful), the local squirrel who would pop in every time it was hungry for some fruit. He ate out of the owners hand but unlike other squirrels I’ve seen, he didn’t live in a cage. He simply came and went as he pleased 🙂 He did come over and sniff my toes at one point during his search for some more food, but sadly my camera didn’t reload fast enough to capture the shot 😦
I spent hours up there sipping on drinks and chatting with people as they came and went and was reminded just how international Thailand is. Within the few hours I was there I met people from Spain, South Africa, Norway, Germany and the States. Quite an impressive mix! In any event, the day was moving along and it was time for me to start heading back along the 3.5km path back to my place. As I came back into view of the Butterfly Garden however I was coaxed into staying for “just one drink”. “Have a beer, kick up your feet! Free view!” the Thai’s were calling to me. And though I had been kicking up my feet for several hours I thought, why not? So I settled in for a beer and started chatting with the locals who owned the place and a tourist from Canada.
The View Bar
The View Bar Patio
It was then that the local said they were going to have a barbecue. And the main meat of this barbecue?? Locally caught and freshly killed bat… Yes bat! I LOVE bats!!! Ok, not in the eating sense but I love those cute little critters!! I’ve loved them since caving in college and have always adored their little furry faces! So when he pulled out the bodies ready to be put on the barbecue, I couldn’t believe it and figured there was NO WAY I’d eat a bat! Alas, after 2 beers (why not have 2 when you’ve already had 1??) I thought, yea, I could try some bat! The meat was very tough and quite hard to pull off the bones but it was flavorful. I only had one wing however as I started to feel a bit guilty for having eaten one of the cute critters, but at least I tried something new.
I ended up staying for another couple of hours at the Butterfly Garden having beers (3 in total, I promise!) chatting with people coming down or up the road, heckling them to stay for some bat, doing some Muay Thai play fighting with one of the locals who then invited me back everyday to practice with him for free, and sadly witnessing 2 motorbike rolls (one resulting in a nasty road rash injury). After my 3 beers however, the sun was really starting to set and it was definitely time for me to head back down (I still had 3km to go!) before it became pitch black. I thanked my new Thai friends for the bat and conversation, and headed down the quickly darkening path back toward town. I won’t lie that I kept thinking how idiotic I was to have waited so long to go back down as the path became darker and darker. But, all’s well that ends well, and my hike down the hill was thankfully without injury!
I made it to the bottom of the hill just in time to see one of the most stunning sunset skies I’ve seen since being on Koh Tao. I wish the picture I took did it justice, but really it doesn’t. Unfortunately my camera doesn’t take night shots well at all!! 😦 All in all, it was a beautiful day full of unexpected people, experiences and breathtaking views all around. And on top of being thankful I’d made it back home in one drunken piece, I was also so very thankful that I’d made myself get off my duff that morning and make that hike in the first place. I will definitely have to go there again!
While there are several fabulous things to do while in Prachuap Khiri Khan, Thailand, perhaps one of my favorites was visiting the Ao Noi Wat. ‘Wat’ simply means Temple, but what sets this one apart from every other Wat I’ve been to so far is that it is located inside a cave! In college I took a biospeleology class in college where we went all over the state of Texas and even into Mexico to different caves and the idea of finally getting back into one was thrilling! Mind you, this particular cave wasn’t one that required to wiggle on your belly to get from one point to the next as it is quite large and easy to simply walk through.
Walk to Ao Noi
Fishing Village from Afar
Fishing Village Welcome
I headed out about mid-day on my own to track down the Ao Noi Wat with a bottle of water, my camera and favorite all around walking shoes, my Keens. The walk there really wasn’t all that interesting per se, since it literally was just walking along the side of the road. The views however became more and more breathtaking as I got closer to the Khao Ta Lai Forest Park. The beauty of the hills jutting out from the ocean was so beautiful and picturesque, I had a hard time continuing without stopping to take a gazillion pictures!
Fishing Village Bay
Khao Ta Lai
Khao Ta Lai_2
Khao Ta Lai_3
Toward Ao Noi
Turn off for Wat Ao Noi
I walked past the over 150 year old fishing community of Ban Ta Monglai toward the Ao Noi community as the sun beat down on my skin making me wish for shade! I knew I was going in the right direction, but I also knew the Wat was located in a cave, so some form of hill had to be ahead. But as I walked past the fishing community and the Khao Ta Lai Forest Park, the hills disappeared. The only ones visible were about 11 kilometers away in Myanmar (Burma)! I continued to trek on however stopping every now and again to ask locals which direction the Wat was, and armed with the confidence that even they were still pointing for me to continue on, I figured some hill structure would have to show up soon.
Turn off for Wat Ao Noi_2
En Route Wat Ao Noi
Detour to Beach
Detour to Beach_2
Hut on Beach
As I didn’t have a watch with me, I honestly don’t even know how much further on I walked until some hills became visible again and until I finally hit Wat Ao Noi. I was drenched in sweat from the sun and had been guzzling water as if my life depended on it (which let’s face it, it does!). Finally I arrived at the base of the Wat and started an over 300 step climb to the entrance of the Wat. The views of the town and beaches as I climbed were spectacular! I will say that while most of the stairs up were in good condition, there were a few bits that had me worried as they were split in half and sliding toward the edge of the cliff. Up and up I went until finally coming to the entrance where a box with 2 rechargeable flashlights sat. A little sign said they were for the borrowing, and just to plug them back in when done.
Wat Ao Noi Bay
Wat Ao Noi Bay_2
Start of Steps to Wat
View from the Top
Of course, the one thing I SHOULD have thought and known to bring (a flashlight) I didn’t, so it was really quite nice that they provided them there :). I headed into the cave armed with my flashlight out of the sun and into the darkness. I was literally the only person in the Wat and I won’t lie, at some points little bits and flashes of the movie “The Descent” went through my mind that at times freaked me out. An especially heart-pounding moment was after I left the only naturally lit area of the cave and headed to the first reclining Buddha. As I grappled with my camera while attempting also hold onto the rather large flashlight, the light flickered on something alive on the cave floor. I immediately scanned the light back to what I had seen to discover 2 little black dogs!! They lived in the cave!!
Stranger in the Dark
Stranger in the Dark_2
I sighed a sigh of relief upon seeing them as I called them over for a pat, but then had another second of slight panic as I wondered whether they could be rabid! I mean, bats can carry rabies, bats live in caves and who knew whether the dogs had been vaccinated or if anyone actually took care of these dogs… Luckily however they were very friendly and showed no signs of being rabid and quite frankly their presence made it easier to be the only one in the cave. Because surely if some crazy creature crawled out of some crevice to attack me, they would bark first to alert me, right?? 😉
Reclining Buddha 1
Reclining Buddha 1_2
Reclining Buddha 2
I carried along the length of the cave past the first reclining Buddha and to my surprise found a second next to a series of about a dozen large Buddha’s in seated position. Along to the right of the seated Buddha’s was another walkway that led to another large area where tons of visitors had stacked rocks in a variety of patterns, making their mark to show they were there. And in the very back of this last large room sat yet another Buddha watching over the whole show.
I spent probably twenty minutes (it’s not THAT large a cave) walking around and searching for various other avenues to explore while listening to the nothing sound of caves, linked in with little chitters from bats above every now and again. I will say my favorite thing about caves is the nothingness. There is no sound most of the time and when the lights are turned off, you could hold your hand an inch in front of your face and still not see it. There is such a peace about caves that is so very hard to find anywhere else and being back in the environment again was so very delightful.
As I headed out of the cave, my two little protectors followed. At the entrance I noticed that indeed there was dog food scattered about the entrance around two blue dog bowls (I hadn’t noticed this detail before) but I also noticed there didn’t seem to be any water source for them. As one of the dishes was empty, I poured it full with water. One seemed to be quite thirsty, the other not so much so again it was a good sign that they were being taken care of somehow.
I headed back to the ground floor as the dogs chose to remain behind and wait for the next cave guests. Back on solid ground I visited the actual Wat of Ao Noi. The Cave is simply where there are several Buddha statues, but the actual Wat isn’t in the cave, yet decoratively set along the base of the cave hill near a pond, the ocean and a monk community. After visiting the Wat, I headed back toward my guesthouse back in Prachuap, stopping along the way at a very delicious (I should have gotten the name!!) restaurant with some of the best khao pad gai (chicken fried rice) I’d tasted anywhere.
Wat Ao Noi
Wat Ao Noi_2
Wat Ao Noi View
Wat Ao Noi View_2
I was quite shocked to learn that the whole trip only took me about 5 hours or so, including a leisure lunch! I am generally quite a fast walker by nature, but even this surprised me! One not so good outcome from having walked as far and as fast as I had, however was my feet. It had been a long time since I’d actually worn my Keens and by the time all was said and done with the walking for the day, I’d developed quite a large blister on the bottom of my foot. Luckily it hadn’t popped, but I wasn’t so sure the same could be said after the walk we had planned for the next day at Khao Lommuak…
I spent only a few days exploring Salzburg with my dad just as Oktoberfest 2014 was beginning. So needless to say there was a TON of beer drinking, lots of men in lederhos’n, ladies in trachtenblus’n and dirndl, joyful music sung in German urging you to keep drinking, lots and lots of pretzels, gingerbread heart-shaped cookies and bratwurst!! Between the castle tour, the German food (though we were in Austria!!) and watching nuns knit a scarf for a statue, it was a great time!!
Salzburg is perhaps most famous for being the birthplace of Mozart and where the real Von Trapp family lived! In fact, the musical/film inspired by their life (The Sound of Music) was even filmed in parts of Salzburg:)
So instead of rambling on as I normally do, I will simply let the pictures tell the story:)
The drive there: passing lovely villages along the road through the pre-Alps:)
On the Way
Along the Hillside
Cute Village Ahead
Cute Village Ahead_2
Cute Village Ahead_3
Castle Along the Way
Castle Along the Way_2
Around town: My personal favorite in this set is of the Bishop statue with a scarf around his neck!! And watching another bit getting sewn on:)
Just in Town
Looking onto the Town
Along the Street
Fun on Trains!
In Line for BEER!!
Statues in front of Church
Bishop Keeping Warm
Knitting on Another Layer
Castle View from Town
Beer is GOOD!!!
Very Cool Statue!!
Probably one of THE prettiest cemeteries I’ve EVER seen!!! It seriously was very impressive and well kept!!
Home in the Mountain?
Home in the Mountain?_2
Home in the Mountain?_3
Views from the Castle
Images from inside the castle walls:) I adore the doggie water bowl!!! 🙂
Isola d’Elba!! Though I am half Italian, I never knew that this little archipelago off the coast of Tuscany in the Mediterranean Sea even existed!! The shame, I know!!! Thankfully my dad did as he suggested a weekend trip there to explore the little land and its numerous beaches!! From his house outside of Florence it took about 4 hours to get to the dock at Piombino where we drove on to a ferry-boat (called MOBY) and headed to the port in Portoferraio on the island of Elba. Though the weather had been very sketchy for several weeks prior to our trip, and though it even rained on the ferry ride over, we got two full days of sun on the island and only had cloudy days on the day we arrived and the day we left:) Seriously lucked out since it was toward the end of summer/early fall that we went to begin with!
Our hotel (hotel Gabbiano Azzuro- hotel Blue Seagull) was located in a town called Marciana Marina on the North Western section of the island. The town itself is a cute little quaint place with the usual shopping, restaurants, beaches, marinas and hiking trails from here to there. The hotel, while really not terribly impressive inside offered quite a delicious breakfast including some of the best brioches I’ve personally ever tasted! They were filled with Bavarian cream… YUM!!! Just looking at them however pretty much capped my daily allowance of sugar intake… lol!! I should probably clarify that the hotel itself was quite clean, the people very nice, the location an easy walk to/from the town center, but the rooms were not that big and while they boasted that each room had a private balcony, the majority of those balconies looked on to an abandoned building and you could only see a sliver of a nice view. However, we were not there for the hotel… we were there for the BEACHES!!!
As far as beaches are concerned, I seriously didn’t think the ones in San Blas could be topped but the ones on the Island of Elba sure do give them a bit of a run for their money!!! The colors of the water surrounding the island at the various spots are out of this world beautiful! I found myself literally taking the same exact picture 3 or 4 times over just to make sure I was properly capturing the colors!!
The beaches are quite different from one another and some were even different from any I had previously been on before. While I’ve mainly been used to beaches with sand, many of the beaches on Elba consisted of stones!! I wasn’t expecting this aspect at all!! The stones are like river stones, therefore not sharp in any way, but smoothed out from years of sea water sanding them out. While they weren’t that comfortable to lay out on, they weren’t completely terrible either and it was due to these stone beaches that the colors remained so crisp and lovely, even when in the water!
Needless to say, after mapping out several beaches for us to visit, the next few days were spent just going from one beach to the next, sunning and tanning, swimming and snorkeling and generally just loving the water and life! It was a great and relaxing time to be sure!! Even more of a bonus was that we were still in Italy so dinners were to die for!! I Love Italian food!! The last day was spent driving almost all the way around the island, taking several pictures along the way before heading back to the ferry and then home.
The day trip to Cinque Terre and Portovenere was mainly just for a viewing of each place. It had been a while since I had been to either spot, so it was time to reconnect, even if just for a day. Portovenere, which means the port of Venus (in my first version I said “door” of Venus, hence the comment below, lol!!) is another lovely seaside town located not far from the Cinque Terre in Liguria. The cutest of its features in my opinion is a little church at the end of the town that is built up on the rocks jutting out to sea. It is a very popular place to get married, and in fact while we were there, one wedding was just ending and as another bride was making her way up the steps for her turn, lol!! Portovenere also has a grotto and often times the waters of the area are blessed with pods of dolphins!! Unfortunately for me, the day after we were in Portovenere, a pod of 50 dolphins was spotted!! Oh well! It was probably just as well because otherwise I would have jumped in the water to chase them, lol!! Anyway, as the trip to Portovenere was really just for a quick reconnect, not a ton happened aside from wandering around and taking pictures. So enjoy them while they’re hot! 😉
Though there was lots of drinking throughout my trip to Scotland (and Glasgow was no exception) I was at least countering some of the calories I was ingesting via beer in the form of hikes! As Anna is also a big fan of hiking, we set off for Loch Lomond to take on Conic Hill!!! Markie also joined us for the day of fun!! 🙂
Now, while we are fans of hiking and walking in general, we aren’t necessarily the most organized of people… Real hard-core hikers are prepared in advance. They pack the necessities, make sure they have the right shoes, get up at the rear of dawn to make it to their destination so they can get in a good hike before lunch. Yea…. this was not us at all!! We woke around 10, made our way out of the house maybe around noon?? Left in jeans and random everyday-use sneakers. Then went to get Markie, headed to Conic Hill to climb the “mountain” (it’s really just a hill!!) got some candy bars and some water at the little store at the base of the hill, then headed on up! Actually, had it been completely up to Markie, we would have just stayed at the base where there was a little restaurant and had some whiskey and beer instead of climbing at all (he was like “you were serious about hiking??” lol!!). So after convincing him that yes, we really were going for a hike, we headed off!
Though again we kept calling our hike “a hike up a mountain” it literally was just a hill. The climb was not tough or really that steep, just cold and quite windy at the top!! The more movement we made though the warmer I felt (of course from circulating the blood) but the second we would stop, I would freeze!! It only took about 45 minutes to get to the top at a very leisurely and relaxed pace. The view from the top was splendid as you could see all across the Loch and each of the little islands in the Loch. Sadly, that particular Loch is quite popular for parties in the summer and such… I say sadly because apparently there are a lot of deaths that occur in that Loch due to people getting too drunk, then getting on their boats or trying to swim or what have you… And because of the currents/depth/clarity/size of the Loch, it’s more like people just go missing… The bodies aren’t always found:( In fact, not that long before we were there, a news report had come out that a foot had washed ashore on one of the beaches on the Loch… Joy!! It was thought to be from a case years before of a child that had apparently drown, but the body was never found…
Another interesting thing to note about Loch Lomond for those seriously into hiking and camping out during hikes… It is the start of the West Highlandway which is a 4-5 day walking camp route!! It is quite a popular route and in fact even as we were coming down off the Hill, we passed several younger people with their backpacks, yoga mats and wee tents strapped to them. Obviously they were off to tackle the West Highlandway!
For sure had it been actually warm weather I could see being interested in doing something like that… But you all already know how much of a complete wimp I am in the cold!! Good times! In any event, once we made it back down, to reward ourselves we just had to stop in for a pint and some whiskey to warm up!! Since Anna was driving though, she could only have coffee… poor thing!! Don’t worry though, she caught up to us later that evening once we ditched the car! 🙂 We hung out for a couple of hours enjoying our beverages then headed back to town for the evening festivities!
Almost forgot! On the way back we actually stopped in to visit with Anna’s dad for a few moments where we were scoffed at each time we called “Conic Hill” a “mountain” 😉 Obviously we were trying to sound tougher than we actually were and her dad knew better!! Lol!!!
Early the next morning, it was “on the road again” for me. I was picked up at the tour office and shuttled from La Fortuna to Lake Arenal, across the lake in a little boat and met on the other side by another shuttle that took us to Monteverde.
Ok, technically we were taken to Santa Elena which is right next door to Monteverde. Locals insist you use the proper name of Santa Elena, but tour groups and tourists call the whole area Monteverde.
When I arrived in Santa Elena I was dropped off at a place that some people recommended to me. If memory serves correctly it was called El Toucan. The reception staff however were not very helpful as when I asked how much the rooms were (private with a private bathroom if possible) they asked how much I wanted to pay instead of telling me the price. Red flag alert! I stated no more than $10 per night and they jumped on it! Red flag alert #2… I asked to see the room first (always a good idea for any traveler) and they seemed nice enough but I did notice that the place was practically empty and the “private room” I was to stay in had 3 other beds. So I decided to move along and see what else there was.
As I hiked up a teeny hill I spotted the tour van passing me, and the tour driver spotted me giving me a look of “what is that crazy tourist doing now?!?!” as I had just left where I was dropped off and was heading in the same direction he was driving! In any event, I noticed many people being dropped off at the Monteverde Backpackers so I decided to check it out. It was $16 a night and I don’t believe there were any private rooms left, so I opted to keep going. I was told there was another hotel/hostel just down the road so I went to check it out…
Enter Cabinas Eddy… I literally get chills thinking of this place and the kind hospitality and beautiful accommodations that I was provided during my stay here. I can’t say enough good things about the place and the people!!! Cabinas Eddy is run and owned by 2 generations of “Eddy’s”, the father and his wife and his son (Eddy) and his wife and child. For $8 a night, I was offered a beautiful and cozy private room with a private bathroom and HOT water!!! I almost passed out when I found out the price for it and scrambled furiously to get money out to pay before someone else came by to snatch it up!!! Well in all reality I first had to excuse myself politely to furiously get money that was stored in my bra out to pay, as I never travel with cash easily available but rather always store it in less likely places…
After signing in and settling in, I signed up for some tours. One jungle night walk for later that evening, and after making sure the place was a good one that took care of its horses, I signed up for a horseback ride.
Monteverde/Santa Elena truly is a magnificent place! Nestled in the cloud forest of Costa Rica the biodiversity is rich and the land literally reminded me of the hills of Ireland!! Rich, lush and rolling, this area really was a beautifully magnificent sight to behold!! Now, I should mention here that I have never been to Ireland, but the land is what I would imagine Ireland to look like. Since being there I have met several people from Ireland whom have also visited Monteverde and have asked if it reminded them of home, and they have said absolutely yes! So I really don’t mind so much making that comparison even though I haven’t actually been to Ireland…
Anyway once again I’m getting off topic! I spent only 2 nights in Monteverde, which really unless you plan to do a bunch of tours is about the right amount of time. They are also quite famous in that area for zip lining and for sky walks as they are in the cloud forest. The weather while I was there was quite nice as it was sunny and warm in the day and got chilly at night! The winds even picked up for the second night I was there, which locals said was very unusual for this time of year (normal for December time). The cool mountain air at night was so refreshing and nice and made you want to bundle up making for some of the best night sleep I had had in a while. The food was fantastic as I was once again indulging in casados, and the people all very friendly! None as friendly as the Eddy family though as on my second day there they offered me a homemade tamales! It was so darn scrumptious!!
I of course did find time to do a little fiesta-ing in the town too and on my way back from one bar ran into some people whom I had noticed around town in La Fortuna. They were staying at the backpackers place which is where I ended up going and meeting a ton of other travelers. I stayed up till quite early in the morning talking and drinking and playing cards with my fellow travelers and the hostel manager. I know I’ve probably mentioned this before, but it really does still amaze me how many travelers are on the same path. There are so many who have just had enough of where they were and what they were doing and decided to simply pack it up and move on. One such case was of a guy from England I believe who was an architect there. He once loved that occupation but then just got burned out and decided to pursue his true passion: photography of primates! He has since been traveling the world in pursuit of every variety of primate! There were and are of course just your regular garden variety travelers on vacation or on a sabbatical, but quite surprisingly to me even more who left everything from their previous life behind to just travel and try something new.
The morning of leaving Monteverde I ended up on the same bus as the people I had seen in La Fortuna and in chatting some more with them realized that we were once again going to the same place: Manuel Antonio.
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!!!