Friday, September 13, 2013


In the last five years, I've spent 15 months traveling, so that means 15 of the last 60 months (which, somehow, sounds like more to me) were spent with passport in hand. That, of course, doesn't include long weekend jaunts here and there.
(Bocas del Toro)
The title of the post - 22 - comes from the number of countries I've visited on my own now. In case you're keeping track or need a refresher, they are: Mexico, Spain, Czech Republic, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, India, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. Besides the US, there are four others that I've visited with friends: Canada, Jamaica, Bahamas, and Scotland. I miscounted prior to this trip and for some reason thought my Central America travels would bring my country count up to 30. I was wrong, so it looks like I'll have to keep trying. :-)

My passport only has three blank pages in it now and it doesn't expire for four years, so I'll probably end up needing to have pages added before too long.
(Pink sunset at Bocas)

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Water activities

I've officially been back on US soil for about 24 hours now, but because my last few days in Panama were spent on a sailboat I didn't have tons of internet connectivity to let you all know of my comings and goings. Here's how it played out...

Last Friday I met up with a couchsurfer who'd invited me to stay on his boat that he had docked at the Isla Carrenero marina in Bocas del Toro. There were three beautiful, lovely days of hanging out in the cockpit, taking the dinghy to go snorkeling, diving, and spearfishing for lobsters, with liberal amounts of Panama beer and rum cocktails taking up the time in between. I even went wakesurfing for the first time! The guys had much better runs than me, but they surf and I've never even come close to standing on a surf board before, so I consider it a success. :)
I had the opportunity to meet friends and be introduced to people I never would have met otherwise. We were all invited to dinner one night - the house was gorgeous and right on the water. The food was simple but very delicious (I was considering my third plate when I decided that might be a bit much!), and the company was great.
(My home was the boat second from the right)
It's strange because for at least a week I'd been really ready to head home. But here I was, days away from being back in the US for the first time in months, days away from seeing friends and family...and yet I was wishing I had another week to spend with my new found friends. Just such a good vibe, ya know?
I have a sister sitting here anxious to pull me away from the computer so we can go hang out and do sisterly things, so that's all for now. But I'll have a bigger update/change of plans in a few days, once I've worked out the details...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Miss, Part 2

As my 12 week Central America adventure begins to come to a close, I was inspired by my original "I Miss" post to share some of the things I'm looking forward to once I return home. This will be bullet-style since there's no rhyme or reason to this list of randomness. :-)

* Brunch - This will never change, I don't think. I love brunch and doing it the way we do it in the US is hard to come by when I travel.
* Lack of humidity - San Diego has me spoiled now. There have been a few days here and there when I was at a high altitude and had some periods of coolness, but for the most part it's been hot and humid. Me no likey.
* Good beer - Again, I have San Diego to thank for this. So many good microbrews and Central America has had me drinking "national" beers, their version of Bud or Miller Lite.
* 2-ply toilet paper - No commentary necessary! Along with this is the ability to throw used tp in the toilet instead of the trash can.
* My bed - No commentary needed here either. 
* Jeans and Converse - Just as a change up to what's currently in my pack.
* Mexican food - San Diego, what have you done to me?!
* Trivia nights - It's one of those new(ish) routines I had of the last 9-10 months and it will be fun to get back to it. We'll still lose lol, but at least I'll be hanging out with my buds.
* Phone connections - I've been lucky enough on this trip to have access to free texting and phone calls, but those connections depend on wifi and it will be nice to have a call without echoes and weird long pauses.
* Veggies! - Rice and beans are good and all, but damn do I miss good produce.
* Working out - Yep, I miss it. I'm ready to get back into the gym.
* Talking without thinking - It's tiring having to translate everything in your head before you say it. My Spanish just isn't good enough yet that I can talk without having to think it through first.
* Not needing to worry about bites - sand flies, mosquitoes, bed bugs, mosquitoes, no-seeums, spiders, mosquitoes, ants, mosquitoes. I'm WELL over the bug bites.
* Iced coffee - You just never know what you're gonna get when you order an iced coffee here and I just miss the real deal.

As usual, this list seems to be dominated by food and drink...what can I say? I like eating and drinking! This time one week from now I'll be back in SD and getting started reacquainting myself with all the things on this list that I've missed.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Spanish by the Sea - Bocas del Toro

For the past two days, I've stayed at Spanish by the Sea, a cute hostel slash Spanish school in the center of Bocas del Toro. Check out my full review here.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Puerto Viejo, Part II

Whereas Friday and Saturday in PV were somewhat cloudy and overcast, Sunday was beautiful with clear blue skies. I was glad I'd chosen that day to rent a bike and make the 25km round-trip trek to Manzanillo to check out some of the area's beaches. I passed by Cocles, where I'd went the day before, and on to Playa Chiquita, Punta Uva, and Manzanillo. I chose Chiquita to be the place I actually hung out for awhile because it was the quietest (no good surf here) and (I thought) the prettiest. Plus, I was treated to howler monkeys in the treetops right above me. :-)
(My own little, well, big section of Chiquita)
Monday, today, also dawned clear and blue and I thought about renting a bike again to go to the Jaguar Rescue Center and then to a chocolate tour, but the hostel owner recommended against it for the chocolate tour portion because he said that people with machetes have robbed tourists on that particular portion of road. O-K. So, no bike. :-/ It didn't seem worth it to me to just rent the bike for a couple of hours and since the center was only a half-hour walk away, I decided to just walk. 

I should do as the guide at the JRC did and explain that the animals at the center at any given time are rescues, so they've been seized by people who were keeping them illegally as pets or they are injured/being rehabilitated in some way, so...I didn't actually see any jaguars. It's okay, though. I saw LOTS of super adorable baby sloths, cute owls, a baby caiman, a pretty eyelash viper, a deer that wouldn't stop licking my legs (uh, they were salty with sweat), and...we got to play with baby spider and howler monkeys. Squee! As always, below is just a sampling of pictures, more can be seen here.
After all that, I ended up not doing the chocolate tour. The "30 minute walk" was actually closer to 50 minutes (one way) and my shoes are from the devil so I ended up with the biggest blister known to man. Seriously. I'd show you a picture to prove it, but it's just that gross. Those shoes will be thrown away before I leave for Panama tomorrow. Instead, I realized chocolate wasn't going to be enough for the hunger I'd worked up anyway, so I hobbled to a place for a casado for lunch:
(Typical Tico meal consisting of meat - in this case, chicken - plantains, rice, salad, and beans, sometimes red but obviously black this time)
Tomorrow begins my last week before I head back to the States...

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Puerto Viejo, Part I

A number of people got a random text from me the other day asking for their assistance in helping me decide what to do with my last remaining days in Costa Rica. There's quite a bit to do in the area, but it's not all cheap so I have to choose wisely. Yesterday, Saturday, I did a lot of walking and wandering, exploring the town and my options. I think I've officially decided what to do, but you'll have to check back in a day or two to see what that decision is. ;-) For now, I'll just fill you in on my wanderings from yesterday.

After popping into some tour places in town to check out their offerings and see how prices compare (hint: they're all in cahoots - prices are the same everywhere), I found myself walking along the road that hugs the beach. I had reached out to a couchsurfing host in PV and an offer had been extended to stay with him, but for various reasons I decided to just stay in a hostel instead. On my walk, however, I realized I was right near his house and I thought I'd see if he was in. He was and we chatted for about an hour before I left to let him get on with his day. Not before he told me about a trail through the woods that led to a pretty little beach and also lent me a book on Guatemala, however. (I'm racing through the book because I have to give it back before I leave on Tuesday, but that's not a problem because it's really interesting.)
It's kind of wild because the jungle-y forest goes right up to the beach here. I kept going back and forth between walking along the beach and walking through the woods, just to see how the scenery varied. Some sections of the beach have what I believe to be volcanic rock formations (seen in the middle right part of the photo above) that have tide pools in them. (Kathy, you would have loved it!) I saw things like this bright orange (empty) crab shell:
 And also this weird sea cucumber looking thing (you can't really tell from the picture, but it actually is in water:
Then, back on the trail, I saw big-ass spiders:
...and a dead baby sloth (linked instead of embedded in case you'd rather not have that image in your head). :-(

Once I got to the beach that had been my destination, I sat and alternately watched the surfers and read before grabbing a beer from a nearby bar. I got back to my hostel in time to beat the rain and cook dinner. Interestingly, I think that grocery shopping and cooking even a simple pasta dish may be a sign that I'm ready to go home. It's kind of hard to believe that two weeks from today I'll be back in San Diego...