The last few days in Nicaragua went really quickly. After an extremely long boat ride down to San Carlos (17 hours overnight arriving at 6am - thankfully will never have to make this journey again!), I had a quick bite to eat before catching the 10am river boat to a little town/village called El Castillo. The boat trip went through very scenic countryside with lush green rainforests, lots of wildlife and fat happy animals (rather than all the skinny, half dead ones I´d seen in the rest of the country!). El Castillo is very beautiful. It is in the middle of nowhere, with animals running free all over the place (pigs, dogs, chickens etc) and no vehicles. There is a castle on the hill built by the Spanish at the end of the 16th century to defend Granada against pirates. Even Nelson came up this river to get a piece of the action and only failed in his quest due to dysentry on board...
So, we arrived in the midday sunshine, with nothing but brilliant blue skies ahead and decided to explore the castle, after a quick cerveza first! Stupid idea. Within 5 minutes I thought I was going to pass out in the heat - must have been the hottest day so far - at least 35 degrees and there is no shade at the castle! I had met a couple of guys on the boat so there were a few of us on staying in the town - making things much more fun! In the evening we went for dinner at one of the restuarants on stilts overlooking the rapids on San Juan river. It was really pretty and very exciting to hear the sounds of the jungle all around you - if a little scary! The next day I managed to convince a couple of others to do the ´jungle tour!´ We had come all this way and it seemed a shame to just head off into Costa Rica straight away... The trip was great. We headed through the rapids and down the river which divides the two countries (Nicaragua very proudly own the river) and into one of the reserves. The weather was much cooler thankfully - however this made no difference in the rainforest due to the humidity - yuk! We saw a poisonous spider and nearly walked into it. Also saw and heard the very vocal howler monkeys. After trekking for about 1.30hrs we came to an opening and our little boat man picked up for a boat ride slightly further into the river to see if we could find any caimens... We didn´t but did see lots of birds and the scenery around us was really breathtaking if you have never been in jungles/rainforests before!!
The next day I headed to Costa Rica with the other guys. Despite being only minutes away from Costa Rica we had to take a 3 hour boat trip back to San Carlos to get an exit stamp, then another 1 hour trip down a smaller and even nicer river to the border town of Los Chiles. On the way we saw turtles sunning themselves on logs poking out the water, many more colourful birds and again howler monkeys sreeching and swinging in the trees!! Easily one of my most favourite moments and what I imagined doing in Latin America!
The border was the easiest and quickest to cross so far - mainly because not many people take this route. We queued for only a few minutes purchased a worthless piece of paper for a dollar and collected another stamp - passport is looking really good now!! For once all the connections worked perfectly and we never had more 5 mins before the next boat or bus was leaving. Next stop was La Fortuna! This is a very touristy town with everything at least 4 or 5 times the price of the rest of Central America (except the accommodation). The weather had turned and was raining, however as it was the evening we all just headed out for a cheap (but expensive) bite to eat. You can immediately see the difference as you enter Costa Rica. It is a much richer country and you could be mistaken in parts for thinking that you are in the USA. It really is very Americanised and lucky us - have timed our trip at ´Spring Break´!!
Yesterday due to the rain we sadly couldn´t see the volcano Arenal, however as I had seen lots in Guatemala I wasn´t too disappointed. Arenal is supposed to be great to see as it erupts constantly and you are supposed to be able to see the lava flow. So, instead I went to the hot springs with 4 others and spent the day moving from pool to pool and screaming down the stupidly fast and crazy slides that they have! It´s a hard life!!
Today arrived in Monteverde via a ´jeep, boat, jeep´ tour which took only 3 hours to get here rather than 9 hours by bus. Totally worth it and the scenery really is breathtaking! The weather improved and the sun came back out. Just been for a ´cloud forest´ hike including the swing bridges! Tomorrow is zip lining again (can´t wait) and then my plan is to head down to some white sandy beaches... Did I say that I missed home and would love to pop back for 5 mins, well, I am afraid I take that back - this is really cool and I feel like I could stay forever!! Women - always changing their minds!!
Off to the supermarket now to buy wine - it may be an expensive country but we can always find ways to be ecomonic!!