We are in the Caribbean. Life is easy. No stress. The days go by quickly. We bike, we swim, we surf, we play, we laugh. Oh, and we hike. More about that in the next post.
After many months on the road, several friends and family who have been waiting for an excuse to come to Central America have asked us: “When is the Honeymoon-part of your Honeymoon over?” indicating they don’t want to crash our Honeymoon, but would like to visit. We always reply: “Our Honeymoon will never be over, it’ll last for the rest of our lives, but you are welcome to join us!” So, as you know, our wonderful friends, Ellie and Todd, have been traveling with us for the past four weeks and on Sunday we met up with Kyler’s mom, Arlene, who flew in from the cold, white north (Calgary, Canada) to join us for a week.
Monday morning, we left the Costa Rican capital and drove to the Caribbean coast, to the little village and popular traveler’s destination of Puerto Viejo. The drive took us a little over five hours, including a lunch stop at a local soda (the name of road side restaurants serving local cousine). We all had a typical Costa Rican casado, which is some sort of meat, chicken or fish with rice, beans and other sides, usually fried plaintains, cabbage or a salad. They are usually your safe bet – not overly exciting, but always a solid meal.
Being a group of five, we had pre-booked a cabin outside Puerto Viejo, to make sure we would have a place to stay. The cabin is most definitely what can be considered rustic, but has an outdoor kitchen, bathroom with toilet and shower and two bed rooms – way beyond the standard of many places Kyler and I have stayed in the past! We are only about 150 meters away from the beach, and surrounded by palm trees and all their wild life. At night, we can hear the howler monkeys near and far, along with the waves crushing as they hit the sand.
The cabin is frequently visited by various bugs and geckos. This bug is rather impressive! Good thing we all have insect nets we sleep under!
We have rented bikes for the next few days. It is flat and easy to move around here. We biked 8 km to the end of the road, to the village of Manzanillo to a soda for lunch. Guess what we had? Yup, you guessed it – a casado!
On the weekends, the Costa Ricans really come out and enjoy everything there is to enjoy about a beautiful beach. They roll in, like a boss, onto the beach in their swanky 4×4 vehicles. Then, they turn up the tunes to immediately set the mood and claim their immediate area. A whole family plus some extended relatives exit the vehicle, before emptying the trunk of all the essential beach gear. This is including, but not limited to: Coolers filled to the rim with beers, sodas, ice cubes, rum and mix. Inflatable mattresses, rings, whales. Bikinis, sarongs, speedos. Chairs, hammocks, pillows. Full meals: meat, chicken, rice, beans, pasta salads, fried plantains, chips, salsa, tortillas. The list goes on. On our drive from Manuel Antonio to San Jose, we stopped at Esterillo Beach and soaked it up. Just another beautiful day!
As we continued our drive to San Jose, it was noticeable that many drivers were not focused like they should be. Traffic towards the capital was plentiful and we were in a horde of weekend beach-goers returning to the big city. After a day (or weekend) of drinking and enjoying themselves (no drink and driving for us!), driving seemed challenging to many. Perhaps that is why the entire main divided highway – both directions – were dedicated to the beach-goers returning to San Jose that Sunday evening? …we were not sure what was happening and decided to stay on the right side of the road – you know, just in case!
We knew we were lured into a tourist trap, but it is not every day you get to eat, drink and dance in a real airplane – that is permanently on the ground. Curiosity and general corniness got to us and we just went with it.
El Avion (the airplane), was part of one of the biggest American scandals in the 80’s called the Iran-Contra Affair. Today, it is a restaurant and bar.
From the restaurant’s point of view, the story goes:
Our Fairchild C-123 was a part of one of the biggest scandals in the 1980’s. The Reagan Administration set up a bizarre network of arms sales to Iran designed to win release of US hostages held in Lebanon and raise money to fund the Nicaraguan, counter-revolutionary guerilla fighters, commonly referred to as the “Contras.” By artificially inflating the prices of arms, NSA official Oliver North, was able to reap profits that could be diverted to fund the counter-revolutionaries of the Cuban allied Sandinista government. Of the $16 million raised, only $3.8 million actually funded the Contras. With the CIA’s help, they purchased several items, including two C-123 cargo planes, two C-7 planes, a Maule aircraft, spare parts, and munitions. They also built a secret airstrip on an American-owned, 30,000 acre ranch in northwest Costa Rica.
On October 5,1986, a US cargo plane, the twin sister, of El Avion’s own Fairchild C-123, was shot down over Nicaragua. A crewmember, C.I.A operative Eugene Hasenfus, parachuted to safety and was captured by the Sandinista army. Led out of the jungle at gun point, Hasenfus’s existence set in motion an incredible chain of cover-ups and lies that would mushroom into one of the biggest scandals in American political history known as the Iran-Contra Affair. As a result of this successful Sandinista strike on our Fairchild’s sister plane, the cargo operation was suspended and one of the C-123s was abandoned at the International Airport in San Jose.
In August 2000, we purchased the abandoned Fairchild and shipped the pieces of the Iran-Contra relic to Quepos. The fuselage was shipped via ocean ferry because it was 10 inches too wide for the antiquated Chiquita Banana railroad bridges! After hauling seven sections up the Manuel Antonio hill, the C-123 finally found its current cliff-side resting-place.
After a thorough photo shoot in and around the airplane, we had a decent meal, followed by a few drinks in the Contra-Bar. I thought that was a pretty clever name.
Weirdly, Forrest Gump – the movie, was being screened in the bar while the music was pumping. It caught a lot of people’s attention. Even when we attempted to turn the cargo bay area into a dance party, nobody seemed to notice. Perhaps for the better?
We left Dominical around 11am, after a run and breakfast. The drive to Manuel Antonio, where we are now, was not far. Only about 42 km lies between the the coastal towns. Manuel Antonio is incredibly hilly. It is one of those hills where you encouragingly pat the dash of your vehicle to show you care (and really hope to make it to the top).
After pulling into our hostel for the next couple of nights, I was happy Honeyvan’s work was done. When we headed to the beach, we decided to give Honey a break and hop on the local bus. Due to our surfboards, two buses refused us. We realized we would have to get a cab. When this little taxi showed up, we did not consider it fit for the task. Five people and two boards later, we were on our way!
This past border crossing went by like a pleasurable dream. Who would have thought our past vehicle permit had been saved electronically? The border patrol found it in a matter of seconds! All we had to do was to reactivate it, get a couple signatures and a stamp, and we were good to go! Our insurance from before was still valid, hence we did not have to figure out where to go and get it. Less than an hour after leaving Panama, we were in Costa Rica. Definitely a new Central American border crossing record!
We have spent the last couple of days and nights in Dominical. It is a pretty chilled out beach town with some surf, fun and lots of Americans (much like all of Costa Rica). The beach line is stunningly beautiful due to Costa Rica’s restrictions on building by the beach. Good thing!
We are now in the process of packing up our Honey. We are heading up the coast!
Magasinet Reiselyst har kåret Norges beste reiseblogg og jeg kom på en fantastisk 5. plass! Silje, som står bak bloggen “Den afrikanske farmen” vant velfortjent med sine flotte bilder og skildringer fra sitt liv i Namibia. De andre bloggene på topp fem listen er “Bobleliv” som skriver om reising med fokus på dykking. Birgit og Anders er to spreke folk som er på en to år lang sykkeltur i Europa og Amerika. Nina og Mads reiser jorden rundt og er for øyeblikket i vakre Argentina. Jeg er utrolig takknemlig og veldig stolt for å bli nevnt i dette eksklusive selskap!
Stor takk for oppmerksomheten til Magasinet Reiselyst med redaktør Torild Moland i spissen, sammen med blogger, fotograf og journalist Johnny Haglund, samt markedssjef i Solia AS, Cecilie Gilhuus Jørve!
Til dere som har fulgt med oss på bryllupsreisen så langt, tusen takk! Til nye lesere, velkommen ombord! Vi er bare halvveis (på denne turen), så følg med videre!
Funlovingliving has been voted Norway’s fifth best travel blog by the Norwegian travel magazine Reiselyst. I am very thankful and honored to have made it to top five! To those of you who have been joining us on our honeymoon so far, thank you! To new readers, welcome onboard! We are only halfway (on this adventure), so keep following!
Since Kyler and I got married in our love celebration fiesta last July, Ellie has been holding off on her present, awaiting our traveling times together.
A couple nights ago, while Kyler and I were watching the last couple football games before the Superbowl, she came bursting with excitement into the pub. The present had been decided on and was to take place here – in Boquete! The following night, the gift was revealed: We were to scale Volcano Baru, Panama’s highest peak, not by foot, but by a specially outfitted Jeep the very next morning! What-a-Whaaaat?
4:30 am the next morning, the alarm goes off and four excited travelers rise to the adventure! Our only previous four wheel drive experience was 90 mile beach in New Zealand. Even though that was fun, this was about to blow our minds.
As is obvious from the picture above (as well as the early start), it was dark for awhile after departure. The very first part of the trip was on paved road. As we neared the volcano, the speed came to an abrupt halt and the adventure began. What had been a road turned into what I would consider a poor path for hiking on. I did not believe that any vehicle could make it’s way up there. I was wrong…
The Jeep been through a few minor modifications in order to perform like the star it did. I wish I could say I rembered the details, but I don’t. Mainly, it has some higher clearance than original, as well as different tires with only 20 psi to really grab hold of the rocks. Steven, our great guide and a Canadian expat, told us that the off roading up to the volcano is challenging because it consists of several different types of off roading. There are (many and massive) rocks, there is potentially very slippery mud (especially in the rainy season), it is steep and tight. Occasionally, one must use a winch to get make it up. Let me tell you, I am happy I was not driving!
After a couple hours making our way up (while passing some hikers on our way – Ouch – we were the assholes today!), we eventually got to the top of Panama! 3475 meters above sea level in a car. Mind blowing! (However, I am happy most hikes cannot be driven…!)
The summit of Volcano Baru is one of few (if not the only one?) places where one can see both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean sea. When we first got up, it was rather cloudy on the Caribbean side, but after a bit of hiking around, a warm coffee and some jumping photos, Bocas del Toro started peeking out from underneath the clouds!
By now you might have thought to yourself: What the heck is on Kyler’s head??! Some of you might be familiar with this longtime favourite of his, the moque. For the rest of you, let me introduce the mask-toque, the moque. Kyler found unique piece of accesorie in a market in Ecuador a few years ago. It is a mask on side and a toque (Canadian word for a beanie, hat, lue) on the other. In addition to these two qualities, it has two handles for easy carrying purposes, it keeps the neck warm, and it is of course, very stylish. Hopefully that would have answered your questions.
The road down was no less bumpy than the way up, except we could really see the lack of road we were on! I have huge respect for 4WD vehicles and their operators. It obviously takes a lot of concentration, skill and focus. It does happen that vehicles tip over on this trail, and appearently four vehicles have driven completely off the trail! Luckily that was not us!
Todays adventure was unlike any other heart beating adventure I have done in the past. It was a blast! Thank you for the wedding present, Ellie!
With a stop and a night in Santa Catalina on the coast, we continued on to Boquete in the highlands. Boquete’s claim to fame is its stunning nature, exquisite coffee and outdoor activities, as well it’s numerous North American and European retirees. The climate is cooler than most other parts of Panama, making it a rather exotic destination for Panamanians. They come to Boquete to sport their winter apparel and buy gloves and fancy toques. However, Norwegians and Canadians would agree that Boquete’s climate does not qualify as glove weather!
We sort of rushed to Boquete to make it in time for the annual Flower and Coffee festival in town. We rolled in on Saturday afternoon and went straight to the festival area, where we mingled among flowers and drank some coffee.
As we got deeper into the festival area, we saw a big structure ahead. It was quite obviously a Latin American portable club blasting the tunes. Out of curiosity (and the fact that it was free), we peeked in. What was inside was a massive, daytime dance party! Some drink producer was promoting their new invention and was quite literally throwing the drinks at us! For free! Yay! At 7pm the party was over, we had drank our share of pre-mixed cranberry vodka vodka and were invited to continue the party with a group of our new friends from David. With 80 free cans in tow, we found the closest agreeable spot to hang out. Somebody rounded up glasses and Kyler went and got two bags of ice, and the party continued. We tried our best to keep up, but around 9pm, we were obviously no match for the Panamanians! After some meat on a stick, we called it a good day and returned to Casa Honey.
From fun in the sun at Playa Venao for the past week, we decided to head for the hills. Santa Fe is a smaller mountain village boasting stunning nature, hikes and a cooler climate. The drive was a mere 233 km North.
In order to really see the area, we decided to go on a medium length (5-6 hrs) hike through nature and a few villages. The ultimate destination was a waterfall called Bermejo. It can be viewed at the very top of the Santa Fe map below. The area is off the main tourist trail and we were therefore four out of very few visitors in town. On our hike we only met locals, and they are as friendly as can be!
Cascada Bermejo was a beautiful waterfall with several smaller pools below. The water was definitely what can be considered frisk, but made for a refreshing dip after hiking in the sun. Kyler and Todd explored what could be explored, including scaling down a cliff with a bat flying between Todd’s legs at the end!
On our way back to Santa Fe, we met these two kids who really wanted our attention. First, they showed us a dead snake in the stream by the road. When we had looked at that for a while, you could tell they were trying to think of something else to show and tell us about. Oh, look at the chicken guts over here! We came and we saw, before we said our goodbyes and continued on.
The road back was very hilly. We slalomed down the hills for a while.
Towards the end, the hills were so steep we walked backwards. It helped!
As we arrive in Santa Fe, we found the one and only bar in town and had one, two, three, four well deserved beers. Not bad when the beers are 65 cents each! Cheers!