300 Elephants

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Not only is it the only thing that connects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but the lock gates of the Panama Canal weigh equivalent to about 300 elephants!

It felt like I was a part of the Titanic set, amidst something grand, as I stood upon the railing like a little girl waving down at the big ship slowly passing by.

The men on deck were smiling up at the crowd and taking photos of the waving strangers. I wondered how long it had been since they had seen people other than each other.

I never understood what an engineering marvel the canal is, until I met the head engineer of the Panama Canal Expansion project. His name is Michael and he and his wife Nina were my first ever couch surfing hosts. I hit the jackpot.

Panama City gets a bit of a bad wrap from the nomads. Its definitely the most cosmopolitan city in Central America but it still has it’s little gold mines, even if it isn’t hipster central.

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“Welcome to my Office”

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Pura Vida. Pure Life. This is used to say hello, goodbye, thank you. Anything. And when you get to the jungle…

“Welcome to my office”, they say. For most of the people who work around Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, their office consists of luscious jungle. Of ZipLine Canopy crossing, waterfalls and white water rafting. In their office, plants close at your touch, mouse ears grow off trees, the trees walk and the lizards run on water.

Literally, this is called a walking Tree; it uproots it’s roots to move itself and ends up ‘walking’ one metre per year. They walk to wards the sunlight.

And these and Jesus Christ Lizards, they can run across water.

This is a touch me not. When you touch it, the leaves close up. And will open again about an hour later, if there’s enough sun.

When I first touched this fungi, it was handed to me “This is a mouses ear”. I really thought it was a mouse’s ear. It feels like one. And when they grow bigger they look like human ears!

Little things seem more dangerous in this kind of office. This little snake is a Viper. And it doesn’t grow much bigger than this. But it can kill you within hours if you don’t find a hostpital. This little frog will only make you reallllllllly really sick if you eat the whole thing. So don’t eat little frogs you find in a costa rican jungle.

While we played with barbies and paint, the guys of the office grew up playing with plants that grow with a white type of powder under their leaves. They would take a leaf, place it on someones back onto their t-shirt, and slap it, leaving a powerdery white leaf tattoo.

The office prodcues citronella, licorice, even deep heat, that muscle rub. I smelt it all. And also had a little facemask from a clay stone called clay of gold.

I found my happy place in Manuel Antonio. Literally a place I will revisit in my mind to find peace again. It was a waterfall in the depth of a jungle, about a 50 minute walk from the roads. There was no one there and I stayed and swum (naked like a forest nymph) and hung out and climbed and hiked and listened to the cicadadas- which are not all that quiet. It was amazing to find a place so untouched and undiscovered. Butterflies bumped into my face and I wove my way through fallen down trees and across the running river. Birds fly just meters above my head and spider webs surprised me inches in fron of my face, often making me stumble back and nearly fall.

I had many a hard day at the office, ziplining, then abseiling down waterfalls, then ziplning again, free falling into water falls, white water rafing and cruising around the beach. And did it for next to nothing, all thanks to my friend Miguel of Hostel Pura Vida, though it was more like Home Pura Vida. Because of the puppies and the people.

I woke up in the mornings to sometimes find 10 monkeys on my balcony, and at times handed them bits of bananana which they took right from my hands. I watched humongous sunsets, the ones where you feel like if you just swam 400 meters straight ahead, you could be swallowed by the sun, but instead you just watch the sun get sucked through the plug hole in the distance as it disappears behind the horizon.

And it was here I studied. And ghekos fell from the roof onto my study notes. It was the perfect place.  Until the puppy jumped right off the balcony and broke her hip! I don’t know how she survived, but she did.

So whoever would like to join me in returning to Costa Rica- let me know! Because I am going back for certain.

Time to Take 5

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Now that Ness (featured above) is gone, i’m flying solo! It’s a strange feeling…

Im in Quepos, Costa Rica now, taking the chance to stay in one place for a week and sort out my life. I’m staying in a hostel by the forest with comfy outdoor chairs and a puppy. Not to mention the national park and the beach. Pura Vida!

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Photo Booth Shots

If I could Fly Away

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Leslie, the owner of Costa Rica’s first Toucan Rescue Ranch, has created such a beautiful home for injured and abused wildlife, that even when one of her owls flew away when the roof came off in a storm,  the same owl returned at 2am 8 days later, and was found sleeping amongst the chickens. We went to a her Toucan Rescue Ranch and met 3 baby sloths and countless owls, porcupines, toucans, and scarlet macaws.

Leslie runs a private rescue ranch and has rescued (not to mention released) so many birds that have been brought in from the black market, been hit by cars and trucks or left homeless after deforestation.

Click here to see more about what she does.

She told us stories of how wild owls still come to visit the owls at the ranch. And horror stories of the black market and abuse.

And this is Andy. His mum ran (by ran i mean moved away veryyy slowly) away after two males were fighting over her, and he was left all by himself. He’s the first 3 toed sloth they rescued.

How good is a hot shower?

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So good. I could count on my hands the amount of hot showers i’ve had since leaving Guadalajara. And i used to laugh at the signs in front of hotels that advertised “Hot Water”. But turns out you ARE lucky if you get hot water, even it it says they’ve got it.

But upon arriving in San Jose, there was a hot shower like none other waiting for us at the home of Nessa’s family friends. I’m talking steaming up the glass hot, none of this luke warm, hot for 3 minutes business.

San Jose is your average city. But all the beautiful houses are hidden by gates and/or fencing. But its surrounded by mountains and i bought my first pair of hiking boots. they are horrid looking. but i love them.

We were meant to go bungee jumping. But woke up with the severe trots and stomach cramps. And we were told that 30% of people shit themselves while bungee jumping, it was not the day to risk it. We then found out that is a total lie.

El Salvador and Nicaragua

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Didn’t quite work out the way we hoped it would.. After just one day (2 nights) in San Salvador, we got news that the bus had mechanical issues and couldn’t leave to Grenada, Nicaragua, at all. So we ended up on a 5am bus to Managua, the notorious capital.

We ate dinner with an american, and two canadians on our last night in San Salvador. One had cycled for something like 7000km. And the other two filled our heads with instances of rape that they had come across in El Salvador and Costa Rica. Then we had to walk home.

View from our crater climb

So after just a day in San Salvador (climbing another volcano type crater in the forest and an amazing coffee), we had to move on. Upon reaching Managua, we met our Danish friend Andes, pronounced Anus. Ironically, he turned out the have the most foul smelling feet in the world, never has my my nose has been subjected to such an atrocity- and I’ve caught overnight busses with hippis.

We ate at a little local bar that night which was nice. A very kind man showed myself, ness and anus to his corner bar. He was so kind and also warned us several times about the dangers of where we were. That didn’t feel so good.

Then we found out there were no busses AT ALL until the 23rd from Managua (the day ness needed to fly out of San Jose) and our Grenada day trip dreams were ruined by having to get up at 6am (after the 5am bus) to wait at the station for some poor barstard to miss their bus from Managua to San Jose.

We decided to wait until the last bus at midday, and if we got no luck, we would embark south and some how get to the border via chicken busses or otherwise. That prospect actually excited me a bit.

Our main tourist sight in Managua, Tica Bus Station

Turned out there was ONE spare seat from Managua to San Jose. But Señor Fuentes from TicaBus was an angel disguised as a latino man. He organised for me to sit in the jump seat of the bus with the driver, then the step at the back of the bus, and then take the seats of those who get off. This is one of the many reasons I love central America.

But as ness said, “So Nicaragua was nice.. Particularly the view from the bus station.” What a damn shame, because Nicaragua actually IS amazing. So I’m going to vow to return to central america with more time.