04 August 2009

Boca Brava Beaches

After Boquete, I bused and water taxid to the island of Boca Brava. There is only one hotel and restaurant on the island, and it was nearly empty. I arrive around 11 a.m. and immediately set off to find the beach. The lady said it was a short walk, that the first beach was a stony beach, and that the second was sandy. I walked for what seemed like hours through humid forest and came across the rocky beach. Small, pretty, yet not what I wanted.

The next trail, however, also brought me to the same beach! The third trail was what I wanted and led to a small sandy beach with hardly any waves--perfect for floating on the waves for hours. While sometimes it would be nice to have a whole beach to yourself, I didn´t feel safe swimming without anyone else nearby. Luckily, there was one other couple, and then eventually two couples more. I alternated tanning and swimming, until I eventually gave up on the tanning and just floated in the water for an hour or so. While I did apply sunscreen, I didn´t do it very well and have slight fingerstreaks on my sides!

After I had had my fill of sun, I hiked back, showered, and ate lunch. They had passionfruit juice (my favorite) and ice cream! There really wasn´t anything to do aside from lie on the beach, and only a few people to talk with. I ended up going back out to hike in the early evening and saw a whole colony of howler monkeys! I watched them awhile, then took lots of pictures of the crabs and insects on the beach, ate dinner, and went to bed at 9 p.m.!

In the morning, I awoke early to go kayaking before breakfast. After I ate, I boated and bused out to the Lost and Found Hostel that I had heard great things about.

30 July 2009

Value of Companionship

Wednesday: I awoke and walked up to a café that also gives tours of the coffee plantation. I didn´t take the tour, but I did have an awesome cappuccino and met a German traveler named Andrea. We then walked up to the Mi Jardín es Su Jardín, someone´s personal garden that they allow people to walk through.

The flowers were great, but so were the random statues of painted cows and flamingos, ponds filled with fish, and the small chapel in the middle of the yard. Mom, note the star pattern in the picture to the right--I thought you´d enjoy it!

I enjoyed Andrea´s company almost more than the garden, though. I think I´m finally learning the value of companionship. I think back to other travels and wonder why they were so much better than I think this one is going, and it all comes down to the friends I was with. I don´t think I´ll ever crave company as much as my sister does (love ya´!), but this might be my last trip that I go solo.

All that said, Panama is growing on me, and today I had a great time rock climbing. Not indoor fake wall where you can take the rainbow route up or follow the carefully marked holds, but the outdoor rock cliff where there are no indicators where to go (other than my guide) and there are bugs and dirt and rain. It was great! Don´t get me wrong, though--I´m not very good. The scale of difficulty goes from 5.6 to 5.11, and the gap between each level seems enormous.

Our crazy climbing guides first climbed without any rope at all so he could clip the ropes into the metal things drilled into the wall. There were 4 routes we could choose from: a 5.7, a 5.9, a mainly strength 5.10 and a technical 5.10. I started with the 5.9 and thought I´d have to quit at least 10 times. But with the patient guiding of Francisco, I rested my shaky arms and actually made it to the top! Right near the top I got stung 4 times by some kind of ant, but it was a great feeling to have actually done it. I then rested quite some time and scaled the 5.7 with relative ease (and the guidance of Marcos). After more waiting, I attempted the technical 5.10 thinking it would be easier to use my balance than my weary muscles. I got stuck 3/4 of the way up and, try as I might, could not advance, so I quit and didn´t feel too badly about it. All in all, I´d say it was a successful adventure!

After lunch, I set off to hike the Quetzal Trail, a trail where you might see the elusive tropical bird. It was misting lightly, but I was okay with that, so I walked and walked and walked for 2 hours. I saw signs for the trail "ahead" but I never actually reached the trail! It was raining harder at this point and getting darker, so I turned back and walked 30 minutes before a very nice farmer gave me a ride back into town! Sadly, I didn´t ever see a quetzal or any other spectacular bird, but I did see a nice waterfall, the river many times, and coffee and banana plantations the whole way.
I think I will put my timidéz aside and go out for dinner with a German, a Swiss, and two Israelis staying at my hostel. Good times.
Oh, and in one last note: the rock was basalt, which is a metamorphic rock caused by rapid cooling of lava, and you can clearly see that an uplift occurred at some point, too. Wouldn´t my geology teacher be proud?!

29 July 2009

Panama City

Monday: I arrived in Panama City and met a very nice Venezuelan with whom I shared a taxi (due to it being nighttime). My first impression was that it is HOT and HUMID. In fact, I think that was my second, third, and last impression, too! It doesn´t really cool off at night, so my plan of waking up at the crack of dawn to walk around in the cool of the morning didn´t really pay off. And in order to get my morning caffeine fix, I had to sweat a little more over a steaming cup of coffee! My hostel was clean, though, and had cold water showers and a great view of the city.

Tuesday: Though I had great plans for Panama City, I ended up doing very few of them. I walked around the old part of town in the morning, and then I took a taxi to the causeway that connects a few small islands. They said there was a lot of shopping there, in addition to bike rentals, but the shopping centers were expensive U.S. brand stores and the bike rentals are only on the weekends. The Museum of Biodiversity isn´t even finished being built yet, and I would have had to wait 2 hours for the Marine Museum to open. I did see a pretty cool fish in the water, though, so I guess it wasn´t all for naught.

I caught a bus to the terminal where I caught another bus to the Panama Canal. I would have had to wait 2.5 hours to see actual boats in queue for the locks, so I just took pictures of the lock and the canal instead. I bused back to town and walked around until I arrived back at my hostel where I took a nap. For once, my timing was great--a serious thunderstorm was just beginning, so I slept it out. Once awake, I walked around looking to buy a book or something to do, but had to settle with May´s National Geographic. I did come across a political march as I walked: the recently elected president hasn´t changed enough members of the cabinet, or something like that. After a dinner at the air-conditioned Café Coca Cola, I retired to read and sleep. I had originally planned to spend the next day hiking in a nearby tropical forest park, but seriously couldn´t imagine the heat.

Wednesday: The modified plan was to head to the Pacific Coast where I would spend a few days on an island lying in a hammock and hiking to see the wildlife. The town was 30 minutes before the last stop on an 8-hour busride, and though I reminded the driver twice to drop me off (I had no idea where it was and there were no signs), he forgot and I ended up at the terminal in pouring rain. Instead of backtracking, I decided to take another bus to the mountain town of Boquete where the climate is great. It´s still hot, but not nearly as humid and it will cool down at night. I have plans to rock climb tomorrow (on real rocks!) and hike up the volcano the next day or so. I may go back to the Pacific beach I had intended, or perhaps just move onward to the Carribean Sea side of the country. Who knows?!

Fast Forward

Well, since the last post there were 7 more days of the Colorado River trip, ending in the Grand Canyon. Then I visited my friend Amy in New York for 8 days, and then I rode my bike 512 miles across Iowa with my dad driving the support vehicle. Maybe one of these days I´ll get around to putting up pictures and stories. Until then, fast forward to Panama!

03 July 2009

Colorado River Trip Day 3

We set off in the morning for a full day of whitewater rafting. Sadly, the river was so high from this season's precipitation (usually much less), that the rapids were only class 1-2. We did get to use kayaks, and they were much more fun than the large raft.

At night we camped in Rifle Falls, with a close walk to the waterfalls nearby.

Colorado River Trip Day 2

We did more water testing by the river in Hot Sulpher Springs, and then we set off for Glenwood Canyon. We got a tour of the Power Plant and learned a lot about Water Laws and how the Colorado River is divvied up between states.

After another water study (I used probes this time), we set up camp. Ana and I stayed in Nancy's tent with her, which was great!

In the evening we hiked up to Hanging Lake, a lake that is surrounded by canyons. It was gorgeous, but the hike up was tough!

All night long we slept to the sound of the fast-flowing Colorado River and then woke up to the screeching sound of the trains that passed by!

02 July 2009

Colorado River Trip Day 1

Day 0: Ana and I drove from Minneapolis to Denver where her friends Kofi and Sylvia let us stay at their place overnight. Kofi made us this amazing dinner!

Day 1: We began our day in Dinosaur Ridge, Colorado where we could see huge fossilized dinosaur tracks. We learned about the basic geological events that led to such fossils, and then we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. Sadly, I'm still not interested in dinosaurs.

In the headwaters of the Colorado River, we performed our first water studies. Each of the 6 times we did different tests, and day 1 I got to study water quality. The water was freeeeeeezing, but very clean.

After our water study, we had time to drive/hike through the mountains. I must say, I love mountains! The Rockies were still snow-capped, so the views were incredible and the weather was perfect. The hillsides were so pretty with red and green pines, but the red pines were actually dead. The whole mountain range has been infested with pine beetles, an invasive species that they can't get rid of. The dead trees present great concerns for future forest fires because they will help it spread much faster.

That night we drove to Hot Sulpher Springs where we relaxed in the pools of varying temperatures!

06 June 2009

Summer Itinerary

Well friends, it's that time again. My students are gone and my wanderlust is in overdrive. So here's the plan for the summer (more or less):

June 12-14: New Berlin and Chicago: visit with parents, aunt, uncle, and cousins

June 16-19: Minneapolis: Lead a day camp for Latina moms through my church

June 21-July 3: Colorado to Arizona: Colorado River Trip class to complete my masters

July 7-15: New York City: visit Amy and tour the Big Apple

July 18-26: Iowa: bike 433.2 miles across the state in the RAGBRAI

July 27-August 17: Panama and Costa Rica: backpack through the countries sola and with
Christie, respectively

I'll be gone from the cities most of the summer, which is a bummer because I love summers in Minneapolis, but I guess all the other fabulous stuff will make up for it!

Stay tuned for updates about my upcoming travels, sure to be unique and exciting!

16 August 2008

Resolution kept...One year to go

Does anyone remember back when I asked for an ice cream making machine for my birthday? I had resolved not to buy any more ice cream, but instead to make it, savoring both the flavor and the effort of the process. Hopefully no one bought me a machine and is waiting until October, because my parents got me one and we just made chocolate ice cream! It was great fun, just enough work, and plenty of patience to wait for it to set.

It was a team effort, with my mamá y papá each doing their part to help me (ha! I actually helped them very little), and the $2 machine actually set the ice cream so fast we couldn't crank the paddles anymore after a few minutes! Not visible is the layer of frost forming on the outside of the pail. It was oh-so-tasty, just like a Wendy's frosty. Contrary to my Dad's pesimistic outlook, I fully believe I'll be able to keep this up for at least a year...or maybe I'll just give up ice cream altogether!
So if anyone wants to get together and have a blast with old-fashioned fun, come on over!

What do you think?

So, what do you think this sign is warning us of? Martial law reigning that corner of the road? Armed bandits ahead? What's your guess?

Another question: what would you do if you really wanted to eat your Chinese food leftovers, but you didn't have any utensils? I decided to fashion one out of the Styrofoam box. It worked great!

Lastly, what do you think the odds are of us getting bird flu? Christie's mom has been pretty concerned for our safety, and though we're not even remotely concerned, this rooster seemed to sense fear and taunt us...

Heat Wave

Thursday morning I set off up the Río Dulce, a long river that empties into the Atlantic Ocean at the town of Lívingston. We first passed an old Spanish castle, and then we passed various mangroves and little huts on stilts. More than anything, I loved the wind in my hair and the sun on my arm. Yes, my right arm got burned a bit while the left did not. Lucky me. I re-realized, though, that I love life on the water. BY the water is simply too hot and humid, but once you're either IN the water or breezing by on TOP of it, life is good again.

When we got to the beach, we had a few hours to explore, so I walked along the beach until I found a spot relatively out of the way of leering eyes. The jungle comes right up to the water's edge, and what beach there is is covered in litter, but I got some rays and headed back to catch my bus.

About that. The boat was supposed to get back to town by 3 p.m. and the last bus left at 3:30. Sounded perfect. But the boat actually left Livingston at 3 p.m. and we had troubles with water in the gasoline, causing us to arrive at about 4:20. Bummer. But I went and checked, and it turns out that the bus hadn't even arrived yet! I left for Guatemala City at 5:30 and rolled in at 11:30, resting one last night before flying home.


Wednesday morning we shuttled to the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. There you can climb and walk past at least 7 major temples, ranging from 25-60 meters high. We practically ran to get to the top of the first one before sunrise, and just barely made it. Luckily, we got a great show--yesterday's sun never did peak out behind all the fog covering the jungle. We then went much more calmly through the trails, seeing rubber trees and other flora. We hiked up the ladders and steep stone steps of various temples, and we saw spider monkeys and howler monkeys.

Honestly, I thought I would love it and I really just tolerated the second half of the tour. As Christie said earlier, once you've seen one ruin, you've seen them all. True, not false. Plus it was hot. Sitting-still-and-sweating hot. I was thrilled to get on the first bus out of there, though that did mean I had to depart Christie and Jess. They are on to Belize City, while I bused 4 hours to the lakeside town of Río Dulce. Tomorrow I will embark on a 2 hour boat ride to the beach town of Livingston, soak up some sun, and return to catch the last bus to the capital.

13 August 2008

Another Volcano and Paradise

Since my last post, Jess, Christie and I have traveled much more of Guatemala, enjoying almost all of it! Friday night I met them in Antigua, this apparently colonial and beautiful town. We were less than impressed by the gringo overload, though they had enjoyed a long day of biking. Saturday morning we woke up in the rain that thankfully cleared before we got to Volcán Pacaya. It is stunningly beautiful, sitting at 2500 meters and still active. The lava just constantly flows, rather than erupting violently, so the top layers cool and harden while the red-hot lava flows underneath. Where there are cracks in the lava you get steam and heat that is perfect for roasting marshmallows and sausages (we did the former, other guys did the latter). They were done really fast and tasted much better than those roasted over camfire coals!

We got back to Antigua for a hasty walk through town in the pouring rain. Here, at one of the largest fountains in Central America, Christie was let down by her leaky $2 umbrella!

Once in Guatemala City 2 hours later, I was incredibly impressed by the hotel there--spacious, clean, no cockroaches or mold = luxury! Early the next morning we set off for paradise--Semuc Champey. When we got to our hotel, we refreshed ourselves by swimming in the river, jumping off the rope swing, and tubing down the river. I put my practice from Maine into good use because the river was really high and I needed all the upper body strength I could muster! My arms are still tired, by the way.

The next day, we went on a tour of the nearby caves. This was no ordinary cave tour, though, because it started with jumps into the river on a rope swing--a swing that you actually sit on until you fly off into the middle of the river. We weren't worried about being wet, though, because the majority of the caves were covered in water. We spent about 90% of the time wading or swimming in the water, with our one lone candle held high above our heads. There was a giant waterfall we had to scale on a ladder or rope (we all chose the ladder), and a deep pool where we jumped off from the rocks and stalactites above. By the end of the tour, we were down to one candle for every 4-5 people, but it was one of the most fun things I think I have ever done!

After lunch and a brief rest, we set off for the real attraction of Semuc Champey--the swimming pools. Over the Río Cahabón, a series of over 35 natural pools are on top of a huge limestone bridge. The river passes under it into a cave and comes out the other side. The pools range from really deep to shallow wading pools, but they're all blue and green and incredibly clean. I could have swum there for days--it really is the closest thing to paradise that I think I've ever seen!

Sadly, we tore ourselves away wee the next morning to arrive in El Remate, a little town on the Lake Itzá in the northern part of the country. There we downed an enormous pizza and proceeded to swim in the lake with all the locals who were doing their washing. We went to bed bright an early in order to get up at 3:30 the next morning.