For our New Years Eve celebration we decided to book a volcano tour, as for the past month I had been picturing sitting on a volcano enjoying the sunset on 2014. However, even the best laid plans do not always work out as we have come to realize on more than one occasion during this trip. Our tour group was extremely unorganized and as a result we made it to the top of the volcano 20 minutes after the sun had set. Accepting our disappointment we still sat and watched the changing colors in the sky with thankful hearts that we could share this journey together. For Travis and I, 2014 had been a very challenging year for us as we dealt with a myriad of hardships that included grief, depression and lots of change. Discussing all of this in the growing darkness of 2014 gave us the freedom to leave it all behind and look forward to a new year. With our group of 11 we then proceeded to set up camp where Travis and I were informed we would be sharing a tent with a mother from Russia and her 3 year old son. We laughed to ourselves at the way our romantic volcano top evening was continuing to unfold. As a group we then hiked up to the crater of the active volcano and looked down at the glowing red lava in amazement. The smell of sulfur was suffocating at times and the sound of the volcano was like jets flying closely overhead. For the first time I felt like I was beginning to humbly grasp the power of a volcano. I smiled to myself as I often used volcanos to teach anger management to children and thought how anger is nothing compared to this monster. The stars shown brightly on our walk down to camp reminding us of home on the farm and then the coyotes howled in the distance and I closed my eyes and pictured myself there for a moment. In the early morning our guide woke us up to watch the sunrise on 2015. The wind was strong and the air crisp as we stumbled up a hill for the best view. As the sun rose over the peaks of distant volcanos our excitement for the new year truly began.
Saturday, 31 January 2015
When we stepped out of the shuttle in Leon the sweat began flowing nearly immediately. We had heard that Leon was much warmer than Granada, but all the warnings now seemed understated. Compounding this inconvenience we realized that we had been lead astray by other travellers on Trip Advisor in their recommendation of the hostel we had booked. Regardless of these minor obstacles we were able to get out and enjoy Leon's incredible Cathedral and other lovely buildings. It felt like we were in Europe somewhere except for the lack of tourists, which we were very thankful for. Walking around inside and out of the largest cathedral in Central America we marvelled at the craftsmanship, paintings and sculptures. The streets were busy with people selling goods and picking up supplies for New Year's Eve which we learned is a time spent with family, not friends. You can really tell the value of family down here, children of different ages always helping and caring for one another and the elderly never walking alone.
Tuesday, 27 January 2015
Traveling isn't easy. Each time we reach a new location it feels like an accomplishment as nothing is simple when travelling cheap in a developing country. Upon meeting our taxi driver in Popoyo, we instantly knew we would have to be very alert as we sensed that he was most untrustworthy. This apprehension was verified when he stopped 3/4 of the way to our destination (Rivas) to pull up a chair and have a beer. I tried to laugh it off as typical absurdity, but it was difficult when two guys pulled up right after and loitered at the trunk of our taxi which was where our backpacks were, where our homes were. Thankfully with Travis's watchful eye they did not have the oppurtunity to try anything. The 3 hour ride on the old school bus (called the chicken bus) from Rivas to Granada was very crowded as usual with half the people standing in the aisle. Each stop mobile food vendors with baskets of differing products would climb aboard to sell their wares and somehow make their way around to all the hungry passengers. Now, if you are a person like Travis who values personal space you would find these bus rides very uncomfortable with an average of three people touching you at all times. But on every single one of these bus rides we have met very kind people. On this ride I gave up my seat to two young children standing in the aisle falling sleep on their feet, an easy decision. After two hours of standing along side of an elderly man, he told me through an interpreter that he was sorry I had to stand as my feet must be sore. He was so thoughtful, however looking at his shoes and age I felt terrible he was standing as well.
Our place is Granada was the cheapest yet, $10 for a twin dorm bed in which we slept surprisingly well. A few nights here really helped offset expensive Coast Rica. Granada itself had an abundance of old colonial character with its churches and impressive colourful buildings. We found a place with chocolate crepes and pancakes for breakfast and quickly made them an integral part of our morning routine. We also decided to treat ourselves with massages! It was very enjoyable to escape from the stress of travel and completely relax, even if some of their techniques were comical indeed. The best part of our stay in Granada was the day we spent at Laguna de Apoyo; a very old volcanic crater in which a lovely lake now resides. We thoroughly enjoyed playing in the mineral water and talking the day away. It still amazes me how the more time we have together, the more we have to talk and laugh about, rather than exhausting all topics and staring blankly at each other. Even though Travis and I have fantastic communication, we have never spent every minute of every day together like this. So we would be lying if we said that we didn't each have some apprehension as to how things would go for us. But, I can say with absolute certainty that this time has shown us how more time together only serves to strengthen our relationship. I am constantly thankful for the wonderful people we regularly meet along the way, but I am more thankful for the endless amount of alone time we have together.
We would like to thank you for your patience as you've had to wait quite a while for us to post a new entry. Even though I have been writting about each location shortly after we move on we have lacked adequate internet services to post recently. Also lately, more than ever, we have got caught up in the moment and have lost track of time. Thirdly, and this is something you may not know, I will not post unless the blog entry has been carefully reviewed by my beloved Editor and Esposo (husband), Travis.
It has been an incredible experience for me to reflect and journal our travels. However, the entries are not my own, each one Travis has infused his experiences and perceptions as well and I am so grateful he has. His grammar and punctuation skills exceed my own and he is able to see what I'm trying to say and enhance it each time so that our posts clearly convey our experiences (hopefully). This joint effort has added to our own reflections of our journey as we do our best to share with you from our heart the joys and trials of backpacking. I am so thankful for Travis's help, his way with words and excellent editorial skills have greatly added to this blog. Each entry takes us about 2.5 hours combined and we hope you continue to enjoy reading about our travels as we are now passed the half way point and on the home stretch, flying out of Mexico on April 1, 2015!
Also, we apologize for your inability to comment on our posts as our settings were improperly adjusted at the beginning. Recently, we changed them so anyone can comment now and we would love to hear from you! Also, check in regularly this week as we will be posting often to catch you up to speed with where we are now.
Chantal ... And Travis
Sunday, 4 January 2015
Travis had told me many times that Christmas in another country would not feel much like Christmas at all (from his Christmas away in New Zealand) and although I tried to grasp what he was saying, I had no experiences of my own to prepare me. And then it happened... It was nearly impossible to believe it was Christmas time as we traveled in the sweaty, dusty taxi from Rivas to Popoyo beach. I closed my eyes for a moment and pictured what everyone would be doing at home and the holiday hustle and bustle. In that moment I missed seeing everyone at home that I love and hold dear, but I didn't feel like I was missing out on any Christmas activities as my mind couldn't quite fathom being anywhere else than where I was right now. That moment is when I understood what Travis had been talking about. We love our families and have many great people in our lives at home, but the scenery and intrigue right in front of us was too intoxicating to allow ourselves to get wrapped up in what was going on at home.
When we arrived in Popoyo we quickly met up with our Swiss friends again at our beach front hostel and stood in awe of the beautiful scene before us; gorgeous blonde sand, large playful waves and hardly anyone in sight (not quite the same scene as home). At first the waves made me nervous to go in but eventually I made my way out with Travis's encouragement. The hostel we were staying in left a lot to be desired. Our room came with two single beds, so sharing a bed for Christmas was out of the picture, but our biggest adjustment was finding out they didn't have any fresh water for showering, so salty became the new clean.
The morning of Christmas Eve Michelle (Swiss friend) and I went for a barefoot run on the beach, talking as we ran in the cool ocean breeze brought me Christmas joy. During our run together I was able to share my faith and encourage Michelle to seek her own and in doing so I instantly felt that this was exactly where I was supposed to be. Our time with our Swiss friends was short lived as they moved on later that day, however this allowed for more time with new friends which now includes two great guys from Sweden, a girl from the U.S. and a fantastic Irishman. With everyone away from home and yet happy to be at the beach we all kept each other company, laughing and talking until midnight. At which point the hostel staff set of a few weak fireworks in the sand and everyone went around hugging and wishing each other a "Feliz Navidad", even the armed security guard with his loaded mossberg shotgun slung over his shoulder!
Christmas morning we all walked down the road to our favourite breakfast place where we had a special meal; scrambled eggs with ham and hash browns. The day proceeded as it normally does on a perfect beach; jumping in the waves, swinging in the hammocks and watching the sunset. With no stores around it was easy to follow through on our rules of spending no money and adding nothing to our packs as gifts. Travis gave me a beautiful gift through words that made my heart smile and I made him a picture in the sand with seashells which he said was the best gift he's ever received. The day was capped off as we read the Bibles account of the birth of Jesus Christ, filling our hearts with gratitude and love.
While at the beach we took a surfing lesson from a very chill kiwi. After gaining knowledge of waves and currents, followed by dryland practice it was go time. We carried our boards down the beach and into the white water. It was incredible to feel the power of the waves pushing me as I stood gliding across the water, even if it was just for a few moments before falling in. Thankfully, we both stood up on the board a number of times and it definitely piqued my interest enough to want more. Finally, it was time to say good bye to our Christmas home, grateful for our time there and excited for a fresh water shower in Granada.