Manuel Antonio National Park – Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio National Park – Costa Rica

If you are not really a nature person, and are not big on hiking, but want to get out into the jungles of Costa Rica, Manuel Antonio is a perfect national park for you.  As the smallest park in Costa Rica, it is certainly manageable, even for non-naturists like ourselves.   The public bus dropped us off about 300 meters from the entrance.  After buying our tickets for $10 a person, we made our way to the gate.  Its possible to hire a guide for the day, but we passed.  It was hot and we knew we could not last that long walking around.  We were told, though, to follow the groups with guides who would inevitably be pointing out the wildlife along the way. Our goal was to see all three Costa Rican monkeys while in the country.  We already had our fill of white-faced monkeys and Squirrel Monkeys at our apartment in Quepos.  But, the Howler Monkeys remained on the list.  And, we wanted to see a sloth.  I was desperate to see a sloth, and was told Manuel Antonio was the place to do it. Just when we wondered how long it would take to start seeing the wildlife, there they were – all of them, within our first half-hour of being in the park.   There were white-faced monkeys hanging out just inside the entrance, balancing on the electrical wires that served the park rangers who lived in the park. The Howler Monkeys were dark black, easy to watch, but hard to see their expressions.  Although, I caught one sticking his tongue out – probably...
Into the Land of Monkeys in Quepos Costa Rica

Into the Land of Monkeys in Quepos Costa Rica

After a “fancy” Tica bus across the border from Granada into San Jose, Costa Rica (which only broke down twice because of no air conditioning), and a night in a strange hostel (near a McDonald’s, good enough for a well deserved meal), we took the 3 hour bus to Quepos Costa Rica, a place that a few days before I had no idea even existed.  Once we cancelled our flight to the Corn Islands, we were stuck last minute trying to find a place for New Year’s Eve, not an easy task, particularly when I was still feeling ill from Granada.  I pulled up whatever I could find on AirBnB, and managed to grab a few nights at an apartment on a hill, overlooking the Pacific, with a pool.   Welcome to Quepos Costa Rica. Although a lot more expensive than what we generally spend in Central America, it was just about average for Costa Rica, and for us was just about perfect. We were able to make our own meals, relax on the balcony overlooking the jungle, lounge by the pool, hang out with the two house dogs, and enjoy the jungle. Quepos Costa Rica is on the edge of Manuel Antonio, one of the smallest national parks in the country.  The wildlife of the park spilled over into Quepos – iguanas, large lizards, geckos, beautiful birds, the largest bug I ever saw, and plenty of monkeys.  Monkeys, Monkeys Everywhere At first, the monkeys remained elusive.  We always seemed to miss them.  Then, they seemed to be everywhere.  The red Squirrel Monkeys would venture over to the pool and outdoor...
Travel in Central America – Nicaragua Strikes Back

Travel in Central America – Nicaragua Strikes Back

Well, by now it is no secret that Central America was not too kind to us – between mosquitos, awful bus transportation, not so stellar food.  It felt like it had been all down hill since Guatemala – we never should have left.  Leon was a little oasis and Granada served its purpose – we slowed down, drank cheap mojitos, got some work done, and watched a lot of CSI.  Things were starting to improve and we were happy we stuck it out and continued to make our way south, rather than give up and fly straight to Asia.   Then, we realized again that we were not meant to travel in Central America. Travel in Central America – It Sucked Although we ate relatively well, and the Nicaragua food was good, things started to go downhill real quick. On a Thursday I started to feel sick.  My stomach was off.  I felt like I had a fever, but when it was over 90 degrees and humid, how can you tell whether you have a fever?  Then, I got the chills sitting on the hammock in the tropical heat.   It hit me – diarrhea, vomitting, fever, and chills.  At first, I was afraid I had Dengue Fever – one of the down sides of WebMd and self diagnosis mixed with a hypochondriac.  I was beginning to hate travel in Central America. In the end, I think we drank bad milk.  The refrigerator sucked at our hostel, and our milk was not necessarily as cold as it should be.  Eric was only a few hours behind me.   No Corn...
Christmas in Nicaragua – Laguna de Apoyo

Christmas in Nicaragua – Laguna de Apoyo

As we anticipated, Granada, Nicaragua, was quiet on Christmas.  We figured we would escape the dusty and dirty city to head to the lake for the day. We made our way to Laguna de Apoyo. We found ourselves at Laguna de Apoyo – a crater lake not too far from Granada. Our Hostel Oasis has a sister property, Paradiso.  They drove us out there, dropped us off for a few hours and drove us back.  Could not be an easier way to escape out to Laguna de Apoyo. It was a lovely lake, even if particularly noisy with the locals and others partying it up for Christmas.  There was a swim platform in the water, where we hung out and floated while chatting with other travelers.  There were some hammock swings, and a clean, little beach.   It was quiet – we had no internet or electronic devices with us.  We read our books, swam and realized that even if Granada was not what I expected, at least the lake offered a Christmas Day of...
Christmas in Exile – Nicaragua

Christmas in Exile – Nicaragua

We have spent the holidays overseas and away from family before.  We have experienced Christmas in Italy, Brazil, and Cambodia.  We have had Thanksgiving in Amsterdam and Brazil.  I can only count a few times that we have been WITH family over Christmas in the last 10+ years.  I think they have come to expect us to be away. So, spending Christmas in some place like Nicaragua did not really phase us.  We are not fans of the holiday, and despise the commercialism of it.  For us, the holidays were nothing more than a hassle – we needed to plan out where to be ahead of time to ensure we had a room.  Other than that, we could not care less. I thought that Nicaragua, being a Catholic country, would at least feel like Christmas.  It didn’t.  There were very few decorations around town, and not even a Christmas tree to be found in the main square.  It was actually kind of perfect for us, and allowed us to spend a Christmas in exile, and a Christmas like the local expats. The only way to tell it was Christmas Eve at all was to see the stampede of people in the streets surrounding the central market – all buying toys and gifts.  A popular gift seemed to be a saran wrapped fruit selection – apples, grapes, and maybe an orange.   It seemed that there was no holiday season, lasting 4-6 weeks long.  Instead, on Christmas Eve you buy some gifts and food to prepare a meal.  At night and until early in the morning, people light off fireworks...
Temporary Locals in Nicaragua

Temporary Locals in Nicaragua

My Faux-Urban Lifestyle We were locals back home in Clarendon.  In our little corner of Arlington, Virginia, we had our bit of local, faux-urban paradise.  We had our Indian restaurant, our favorite Thai place where they made our mojitos before we even sat at the bar.  We knew the managers of Boulevard Wood Grill, the Washington Sports Club, and O’Sullivan’s for a good pint of Guinness.  Eric had an unhealthy relationship with the woman at the local pizza joint.  I think she kind of liked him.  When people made their way to Clarendon, we suggested a spot and told them, tell ‘em Eric and Amber sent you. I imagine this is what it is like to live in a small town, where people know one another.  Regardless of our near celebrity status in a few Clarendon joints, we got bored.  We wanted more.  I loved being recognized, but often felt restless.  I wanted a different place to eat, something new to experience.  This was part of my Life ADD.  I got tired quickly and in the 2+ years I spent Clarendon, ached for something new in my life. So, we traveled.  We are happy with new experiences on a regular basis.  We are perpetually on the road, experiencing new things, new food, and new people. Becoming a Local Yet, we enjoy when we become temporary locals.  When we stay long enough in a place to become regulars – when people smile at us, recognize us.  For a brief period of time we experience what it would be like to live there – we don’t want to stay long enough...
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