Saturday, 14 August 2010

Welcome to the not so great side of travelling...

I started this blog with the intention of making it as real to those reading as possible (despite how rubbish my descriptions or writing may be) to give you an idea of the different aspects of travelling, the emotions involved, the happy sides and the not so happy sides, because so often people at home will only ever see the happy smiley photos and not see those not so great moments. Of course they are few and far between and often make great stories but they are there and they are a definite part of travel. I have tried to be honest so far and I feel todays little adventures need to go down as well. I think it would be wrong of me to skip them and miss them out because they are not your average happy smiley memory, so here is todays little experience...

I have been unwell for a while, and in my usual way have tried to ignore it, tried to carry on with life and hoped it would go away. And as usual when these things happen to me, ignoring it has not solved the problem nor did the issue go away, it got steadily worse until I finally grew up and went to the doctors. The issue was with my stomach, it has been in pain and affecting my hunger, energy, mood etc. So yet again I whipped out the travel insurance (I seem to end up in hospital most times I go exploring, for one reason or another). Sooo I had to find a hospital to go to before I could go, I had heard the private ones are slightly more money but apparently a lot better, so thinking my health is pretty important I headed off to find one. I wondered down to the side of Quepos where I have never been before, the first doctors I came to was shut, Saturday you see. The second was open but had a big black bow on the front door. I had learnt just last night what a big black bow on someones front door means... it means someone has died. I turned around and walked away immediately, I did not want to be visiting a doctors with a big black bow, I didn't feel it would have great vibes. Anyway I eventually found a good doctor close to my house and went in to speak to him. We went through the details, I'll spare you those and he gave me instructions to stop eating beans and rice (this is practically all they ever eat here so nice and simple) then he turned to look at me and said "...and I will give you a shot". Not so pleased about this I said i hated injections and held me arm, to which he said "oh no, not in your arm... in your but" Oh no, oh really no, no no and no once again, of all my little adventures with doctors so far in my life they have never led to an injection in the but, I have always managed to avoid this, but not this time it seemed. Sooo it turned out I could have it in my arm but he said this injection really really hurts and takes about 30 seconds to give, if I had it in the arm it would hurt soooooooo much but if I had it in my but it would only hurt so much. How to make a patient feel better about something they are scarred about... tell them just how much it really is going to hurt and then tell them to relax because "it's better that way". He wasn't wrong, it fricking hurt like crazy! I stood up and went to carry on my meeting with him at his desk but there wasn't a chance of me sitting down, no way, that wasn't going to be happening. Not until my head started going, I felt slightly sick and made a mentle note of where the bin was, just incase, not wanting to inturrupt him I politely sat down trying to ignore how bad my head was feeling but it got worse and worse very quickly to the point where I had to say I was feeling odd. That was it, that was the last thing I remembered before I was on a journey. A quick, crazy high speed journey, I don't know where I was going but I was with lots of people who I knew and the pain was quite high. Anyhoo next thing I know I was awake, no longer sat in my chair at his desk but in a bed with concerned faces rushing around waving more needles. If there is an inbetween part to being asleep and awake i forgot about it on this occasion because I did not want another needle stuck in me so very quickly woke up and said, "no not another needle, pleaseeeee no more needles". He seemed hugely relieved I was awake, he told me I had seriously worried him and that my heart was not working well. Good stuff, so we've solved the stomach issue but now have heart issues, isn't this consultation going oh so well. (of course I didn't say this I just thought it in a slightly comical way, I was able to be comical because I was lying down, everything is ok when you can lie down.) Anyway he didn't stick the next lot of drugs in me and I managed to persuade him out of the bag of fluids and settled for him syringing syringe load after syringe load of seriously stong suger stuff down my throat. He kept asking non stop "how did I feel, what was wrong?", it was now my head and arms but apparently that was the side effect to the other drug in the shot, drug number one affects the heart (if you react to the drug) and drug number two affects the head, but I was only having a mild reaction to drug number two apparently. It didn't feel to mild, my head felt pretty weird but I was sat upright having a conversation with him about what the big orange box was that was now at my side and my seriously low heart rate on the monitor so I guess my head was working pretty well to be doing this.

This went on for a while, us having interesting conversations about the various bits of equipment around the room, my heart rate, with the odd syringe load of sweet stuff down my throat until he let me stand up. It was a success so he released me like a wild animal back into my habitat and I am free to roam around until Monday morning when i have to go straight back. I have his number and at any moment if there is another reaction to my pills we need to ring and they will come but I feel that while I have had a broken wrist on my birthday in France that required 4 days in French hospital and a load of metal, two days in hospital in Peru for altitude problems and there was something else somewhere else but I can't quite remember right now all followed by this mornings Costa Rican episode I am aware when i go on these trips the importance of a good first aid kit and medical insurance. For anyone who is reading this and may forget such things can Lucy please have just 10 seconds of seriousness (I don't think I can do any longer) and say NEVER FORGET THESE THINGGGGSSSSS!!!

Just to let you know, I am free to wonder around Quepos, my stomach is feeling alot better my arms and head are feeling wild but all is hunky dory, so a success i would say. Maybe next time I will be adult and go to the doctors when i start feeling ill... maybe. I am now thinking of being in Cusco with Dot, Beth and Jane after ignoring the altitude problem for almost 2 weeks before we finally decided to go. It turned out to be quite an awesome experience, two nights of accomodation paid for on the insurance for all of us and between us we managed to flood out our entire room and woke up to my socks floating across the room. It was so funny and quite a memorable experience... I think Costa Ricas experience will add to Peru and France and lets hope it is the only experience here, I feel I have definitely had my fair share of doctors for this trip and made good use of the insurance for yet another trip!!

So be sensible travelling people, have insurance. Muchos love I am off to look at apartments. Hasta Luego xxxxxxxxx

Monday, 9 August 2010

Volcan Arenal and Monterverde Cloud Forest

Hola Chicosss. Wellll I am in an internet cafe somewhere in the cloud mountains trying to sort out my photos... apparently they are quite large files, I´m nearly onto my third memory stick and im not even half way through my time here... whoops! Anyhoo, memory issues aside this past few days have been awesome. Sooo we've survived an active volcano with all its explosions and lava, trekked through the jungle to waterfalls, ridden through the jungle to waterfalls where we even swam.

We left San Jose on the bus, it took a longggg time but the scenery was beauuttiful and so we eventually arrived in la Fortuna, the final stop on the journey and the village nestled below a very big, very active volcano. A volcano that had killed 86 people and 35,000 animals in one hit in 1968, so naturally we decided this was the place to hang out and explore for a few days. It turned out, after listening to the slightly concerned comments of the locals that while it had happily been exploding everyday ever since, the thing hadn't shot any lava out for nearly a month. This was bad, apparently because pressure is building and the fact it has gone so long without exploding means the thing is due to explode anytime now and when it does its probably going to be a big explosion. The locals would casually add this to their concerns and then say "but don't worry the lava always flows down the otherside of the volcano, so La Fortuna will be ok, that is, unless it decides to flow down this side... but thats nature". I did love our explorations of La Fortuna and Volcan Arenal but I am glad that it is now a story and that we are now safely far away from its base and out of line of any spewing lava!

The first day we were there we went on an afternoon trek through the rain forest (complete with a hell of a lot of rain!) we trekked down to the waterfalls and learnt about lots of flowers, both ones that we could drink from if we were lost in the jungle and ones that we could smoke if we wanted a stronger kick than marijuana... which is exactly what a bloke had done the week before following one of Williams tours to the rain forest, he had tested some for himself and been caught in the middle of town the following night completely out of his mind. Whoops. Anyhoo following the education of the uses of the jungle flowers we headed to a look out spot to see if we could see any lava, the volcano exploded, it was loud, and scary but there was no lava. So with the sun gone we headed for an evening of wollowing in the hot springs at Baldi - it was very nice and a lot of fun to relax after our trek.

The following day we were off again for horse trekking to some waterfalls. I was expecting the opportunity to elegantly swim through the deep blue waters of a waterfall and lounge effortlessly on the surrounding rocks as the animals skipped up to lap water from the edges to be quite relaxing and picturesque. The reality didn't quite ring true to the dreamy thoughts I had had before we left in the morning. We bounded out of la Fortuna in the truck heading for the horses, after meeting our guide we saddled up and powered off into the mountains. It was so much fun and my horse was frankly a dude. He was a legend. We trekked for about 45 mins before we left the horses at the roadside and started our trek to the waterfalls. This consisted of walking down, and down... and down a bit more. Eventually we arrived to the base of the hot steamy jungle to find a cool oasis of deep blue water and the most imressive waterfall. Off came the walking boots and we started the clamber across the boulders, it was awesome fun but definitely not elegant. We clambered for about 50metres before we got to the pool at the bottom of the falls, where we swam for about 3 mins. It was practically impossible, the force of the waterfall was insane and there was certainly not going to be any elegant floating, the thing almost pulled me back towards it and I was a little nervous of getting caught up at the bottom of it, the force was so strong. So after cooling down and being very impressed by its beauty and power we headed back up through the jungle for the horses. We found them all bundled together, with the exception of my horse. Being the dude that he was he was stood, uncaring face on on the otherside of the road, as if to say "yep, i'm a dude and I know it" he he he. So we headed back home via an indian village where we had to adopt their unusual greetings and were able to hear a little about the life of their tribe. If was an awesome morning and so much fun. I said good bye to my horse and he didn't wait for his saddle to be taken off, so desperate for grass he galloped off into the distance of his lush green feild and we were left to head back to La Fortuna and a long cold and refreshing shower.

The next day we took the well talked about method of boat-jeep-boat to Santa Elena and Monteverde cloud forest. While in La Fortuna we had been in a dorm with a girl who seemed fairly switched on, we thought wrong. My careful research on hostels before we arrived to each town had meant that so far on this trip I was successfully persuading mum that yes, this backpacking stuff wasn't all that bad afterall and actually quite sociable and fun. So after chatting to this american girl who had just come from Santa Elena and the cloud forest she suggested we didn't stay where I had planned for us to stay but instead head for a different backpackers. When our jeep rolled into Santa Elena and we saw this hostel I think both mum and I were quietly thinking WTF?! THe maerican girl was an idiot and clearly totally inept at finding decent ammodation and did a very good job of undoing all my hard work on persuading mum. Rant about the american girl over and back to the shit hostel we managed one night. Then the next morning, when we were meant to be going on a riding tour we looked at each other and decided to run away. We grabbed our bags unlocked the back door and made a ash for it up the street. I think it is safe to say it was almost worth the $16 we paid for the both of us for our private room (without toilet or shower, which we learnt afterwards that for another $1 we could have had our very own bathroom) for the amount of laughing we have done over this. Mum managed to find a very grand place with horses and four poster double beds, so we headed for the place on the hill and left the hostel behind. Today, after a couple of nights in the nice place we are back in the hostel I had originally planned for us to be in... surprise surprise, its actually nice! So let this be a lesson to you people, always always take your Lonely Planet guide book with you, don't forget to read it and read it carefully and last but certainly not least, if you run into a stupid american girl by the name of Alison never ever listen to her... she really doesn't know what she's talking about - ergh!

Monteverde and Santa Elena have been an awesome experience (apart from the hostel). Our first day we spent relaxing in our lovely beautiful room on the hill with the horses and the big comfy beds to get over the shock of the hostel. The following morning we were up bright and early for zip lining, it was sooo much fun and really funny. We met a Canadian fencing team who had been in Costa Rica for a competition and were now travelling for a few days, they were a little nervous of the heights and not afriad to say, so we all giggled and squeeked aour way around the zip lines, tarzan swings, rappelling, superman things etc. It was fairly chilled and relaxing for me, as nothing could quite compare in the fear factor to the bungee jump. Added to which I actually really enjoy high ropes things. Luckily the weather was perfect, being a cloud forest it has a tendency to not only rain alot but also be completely foggy and, well, covered in cloud. The weather was dry, cloud free and perfect so we could see how high up we were, and how fast we were zipping through the canopy, it was so much fun and really nice that mum got to experience it before she left for england.

Today we were up early again and off to horse riding, rain and clouds had returned so we had big pnonchos over our western style saddles. The guide was really nice and I chatted to him as mum led the way on her horse who seemed to know exactly where it was going and I think probably knew the faster it walked the faster it could be back to its grass. We were able t see all the zip lines from the day before over head and hear the screams of todays bunch of zip lining people which was quite entertaining. It was nice to be able to have a spanish cnversation with the guide though, i have been speaking a lot of english in the last few weeks and hardly any spanish so to be able to chat to someone who coudn't speak english was actually really good.

Now we are back in the hostel chilling, me with my new favourite llama wool jumper on (because it is absolutely freeeeeeezing up here in the cloud forest, mum says its actually quite hot but Im too cold and looking forward to the warmth of the beach!)Our last night in Monteverde before we head back to San Jose for mum to catch her flight I have had the most awesome last few weeks and it will be very sad to see mum go, will be a little rubbish lying on the beach without her but I am sure in no time we will be exploring other new and exciting places together again. Now it is time to head for Quepos and then next six weeks of LEARNING ESPAÑOL!!!!! Eeeep, back to my host family, back to my spanish lessons and back to the beach with my hammock and ukulele. I am hoping my spanish will get better, fingers crossed! So until next time lots of love everyone and i hope life is fabulous wherever you are xxxxxxx

Monday, 2 August 2010

Adventures in Costa Rica (rubbish title but I'm running out of ideas!)

¡Holaaaaa Amigooossss! ¿Como estan? Welll as promised a little post birthday blog. My week at home was lovely and it was nice that mum got to meet my Tico family and the americans, she had some Spanish lessons with my teacher and learnt why I love living there. We went to Coca Cola (yes I know, funny name) bus station last monday to catch the bus to Quepos only to miss it, followed by us rocking up to the hostel only for it to be full... lets just say things weren't on our side that day but all was dandy, we were in Quepos. So obviously quickly settled back into the routine of going to the beach, have a spanish lesson, followed by lieing on the beach for Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. However as my running trainers had arrived with Mum I was desperate to get them on and get out running, I have no idea why I thought I would be able to go 3 months without running because I hardly survived three weeks. Let me just take a moment to explain the bus ride from Quepos to the beach as i feel this is a detail I have yet to explain. It costs 24p, it goes every half an hour (Tico Time) and takes about 10-15mins to get to the beach, it takes this long because there is a fricking great hill in the way. When I mean hill think of the incline and then double the steepness... maybe even triple it, followed by doubling the length. When you think you're to the top you twist around yet another sharp bend only to see it climb a little steeper and go a little further. So naturally this was the very first place I headed for with my trainers. I'm not going to lie, I felt like I was going to be sick, or faint, or both. Because you need to remember I am in a tropical climate as well, around 30 degrees with heavy rain storms everyday, I can't remember the humidity levels but they're high. Theres a loop. I learnt, thanks to my Spanish teacher pointing it out on the bus one day on the way to class. Basically once you get to the top of the hill (although I feel a more accurate description would be mountain) you take a right and head down an equally steep loose stone track, I haven't fallen over yet, but then I've only been up there three times so far. I am absolutely confident I am going to go flying at least once before the end of the summer. Anyway back to the running, when you turn back for Quepos down this track the view is simply breath taking (ha ha, if there was any breath left to take after running up that hill) to the left I can see the coast stretching up towards Nicaragua in the distance, the sky almost purple, the waves crashing the shores of western Costa Rica, to my right mountains, beautiful clouds and infront of my, nestled at the bottom of this mountain that I am running down, my little village, Quepos. I LOVE RUNNING!! So yeah I took myself on this loop followed by exercises down on the beach front in Quepos, never have I recieved so many cat calls etc for looking so terrible. Following this little exercise session I could no longer walk for the rest of the week, I kind of waddled, a bit like a duck, it was so painful. So this is my new training plan, I have six weeks after I finish travelling to devote to my Spanish, lying on the beach in my hammock... and my fitness. Bring it on!

Wednesday night Quepos disappeared under water for a little while, we went out for dinner and in the time it took us to eat some salad and fish the centre had gone. We waded, nearly to our waists up the street to get back home, it was rediculous. Anyhoo the next day we only got half way to Manuel Antonio before we were all told to get off the bus and walk. There were land slides, and the road had disappeared. It had been replaced with a hole about 4-5 metres across and deep. The three of us trekked down to the beach for lessons marvelling at one nights work from the rain. It was a little alarming! Tony warned me that what we had planned for my birthday might not work because where we were planning to go was bound to have had worse problems than home. He wasn't wrong, Thursday night was another night of storms and the village called down to say there was no chance of us getting through. So my birthday was another day of go to the beach, have a spanish lesson, lie on the beach. It was such an amazing birthday. We had to go back to collect the cake, I had ordered a cake on one of the days before, amazingly it was nearly what I had ordered, it even had Feliz Cumpleaños on it! I took it round to my host familys house and then headed to the internet to speak to my Pitts cottage family in England. It was soooo goood to talk to them and even see them on the camera, but I did wish i had a magic wand to wave them all out here. I had a quick shower and we went over to my host family for a tea party, Edith had prepared a feast, the most amazingly yummy salad ever and lasange, I was positively over excited about it, followed by cake. It fitted perfectly, the Americans were leaving the following day so they were able to be there too. It was so nice having such a fun and happy mix of people from all over the world with different languages brought together for my birthday. I felt very lucky. After a lot of giggling and laughter I said fairwell to the Americans, the last time I would see them for a long time they were a little sad, I translated the card Edith had written to them, which made them even more sad followed by more hugs, I quietly said goodbye and slipped out to my next party. Bambu Jam! :-) Nearly at the top of the hill/mountain that I now run up is an open air bar with live music, a place I love. I met Tony and we headed to a bar in town to chat about my day and have a couple of beers and Birthday Gauro (i think thats what its called) before heading to Bambu Jam. My salsa dancing was rubbish, it turns out that leaving a couple of weeks between my salsa lessons and going out is not a good idea. We met this really nice Russian girl and guy from Southern California and it turned out her birthday was just two days before so we all got excited about that and had another Birthday Gauro to celebrate us having our birthdays. They were visiting just for 4 days but it was good to have met them. The Bambu Jam party came to an end and a few of us headed back to Quepos and another place where we found Jonny and danced for a while, we had such a fun evening and it was nice to chat to everyone and realise that I really was in such a friendly place, surrounded by such warm and welcoming people who all really do want you to have a good time and to be happy.

I had two hours sleep, because Mum needed to see the park the next morning. While in Bambu Jam the night before I had organised with one of Tonys friends to meet at the park entrance at 8am, yep, that did mean being up at 6am. Soo we went to the national park that has been on my dorrstep ever since I have arrived but I have failed to actually go in. It was beauuttiffuulllll! and soo funny to watch the racoons and monkeys steel lunch pack after lunch pack from the unsuspecting gringos on the beach. he he hee! After the park we wondered down the beach to the other end where everyone hangs out to have my first surf lesson with jonny. Lets just say its not as easy as England and I am glad Jonny is the life guard because I did feel a little out of my depth, however he kept telling me to not be nervous, that I was a natural and that I need to stop thinking and just do it. So by the end I was surfing practically every wave, he has warned that next lesson will be harder, my knee, which has been skinned and is multi coloured is a little concerned for the iminant difficult surf lesson, but I am sure we'll be ok... I hope!

Anyway after that we said goodbye to Manuel Antonioa nd Quepows for a while and in the morning were up bright and early for the bus to Jaco. We joined forces with a Dutch couple who seemed to have planned everything so well they even knew where they were going to wait for coffee. Although they hadn't thought of the toilet had they... no. That would be the moment where Lucy stepped in and led the way to Subway where we marched in and used the clients only toilets, me claiming that we were devoted clients of their Taunton and Holland branches. Not too sure that was the best line but we made our quick exit and headed for the boat. It was a speed boat, with an Italian dude at the wheel wearing a slightly camp hat with two helpe3rs who were immensly strong. They seemed to carry two people backpacks at a time, I quietly stood at the back as they did this display of strength, waiting with my pack wondering whether they would manage another bag alongside mine. They didn't. Infact the struggled as they loaded it impressively onto their shoulders and asked "what on earth did I have in my bag, my boyfriend?" We laughed and headed out through the crasheding waves to climb aboard the speed boat. Yep ladies and gentlemen you heard correctly, spped boat. And I discovere yesterday very quickly that my tummy is not a fan of travel by speed boat. Luckily I have a strong stomach and mind so wasn't ill but i sure did feel ill! It was more than worth it though, we saw two turtles, as the italian skipper put it "loving turtles, stuck together for six hours" We ruined their party and headed onwards only to find about 10 dolphins jumping in the waves and playing, I must say I was pretty bloody excited! Followed by not just one whale but a whale and her baby - we were incredibly lucky and crashed through teh "calm" sea towards our destination, Montezuma. Not quite as we expected, it was a tiny place but with a lovely atmosphere, after trekking up the sand to the town we headed off down the main dirt track towards our hostel, Hotel Lucy, where they were very excited to see I was called Lucy. We spent the afternoon wandering round soaking up the laid back atmosphere and had the yummiest pizza everrrrr!! We sat in the hammocks in Hotel Lucy, where it is literally on the beach, the waves crashing up we watched the storm raging out to sea when i noticed a twister. Steadily it grew, and grew, and grew until I was concerned enough to ask the dude at the desk if a) it was a twister b) if it was a normal occurance and c) whether we needed to RUNNNNNN!!! he calmly said yes and that it was a lot bigger than normal before turning around, promptly loosing his cool calm collected self and got on the phone to someone, only to rush back out and stare at it, looking very concerend while gabbling away. Thankfully after a while it disappeared and we weren't about to fall victim to a big menacing storm so headed off to bed.

The next morning we left the surfers paradise (yeah if you're looking for a surf place in Costa Rica, put this one on the list!) by the more relaxed route of ferry because I could not face a return by speed boat. The ferry was lovely and we tucked into bread which mum had ordered with her new spanish skills and took loads of photos. Another couple of buses and we are back in San Jose for the night, going to dump a load of stuff and head north for the volcanos and Monte Verde cloud forest, ziplines etc. Should be a fun few days but I have now been typing for far tooo long and need to go eat. I hope you are all happy and smilely and loving life in England, if not come here. Muchos love people xxxxxxx