One of my clients is Blue Dolphin Sailing and over the last few weeks, I’ve made several trips out on the catamaran to work with the team and take photos for marketing the tour. And while I may have mentioned in my last post that the average daily temperature lately has been in the 90’s, the water temperature has actually taken a huge drop. I don’t understand why, since you’d think the hot sun would heat up the water. Normally the temperature is about 84 degrees, but on Wednesday and Saturday’s tours, Surfline was reporting 79.8 and while that doesn’t seem like a large drop in temperature, trust me, when you get in the water, it’s cold.
But Wednesday’s temperature was a lot colder than Saturday’s, almost icy in certain areas (and no, I’m not exaggerating). My mask kept getting fogged up, I’m assuming from the difference in water and air temperature. And I swear, if I could have breathed out under water, you would have seen my breath. It really was that cold.
But being on the water is such a nice way to escape reality and with so much work on my plate these last few months, I’ve really enjoyed my time away from land and my home office. Wednesday’s tour was the first time I had seen marine life in the water (not including the fish you see while snorkeling). We saw dolphins, a huge turtle and flying manta rays. None of which I got photos of. And while snorkeling that day, a huge manta ray swam right below me. It was wild. I never realized how big they are! And so graceful as they glide through the water.
Saturday’s tour had a lot more fish being seen in the water as well as a great display of flying manta rays both on the way out to the snorkeling site as well as at sunset. The photos of the ray resting on the sand were taken by Jonathan (one of the crew members). I gave him my camera…might as well let the professionals handle the up-close shots of large wildlife.
Well, we’re about halfway through summer here and the wind is still blowing, thankfully. They died down for a few days last week and I have to admit it was quite hot. But even with the average daily temperature being 90-95 degrees, I still haven’t had to use the air conditioner. I’m told my house stays cooler because the building is made of concrete. It could also be that I have never turned off the fan upstairs and the fan downstairs is on during the day. But still, the temperature is comfortable inside the house and I’m grateful for the cool breeze.
Walking on the dirt road has become more challenging since they didn’t spray the molasses everywhere and the dust really kicks up a storm when a car drives by. I don’t know which is worse – the mud that you can easily slip on in winter or the dust that gets into my eyes in summer, even though I’m always wearing sunglasses. Also, if there’s no wind, you can really feel the heat from the sun…yes, I do miss having a car with air conditioning. And it doesn’t help that most of my walks into town lately have been around 11 or 12, right when the sun is blazing hot.
But then I take a photo like the one above and remember how grateful I am to be here now. Harmony, on the other hand, is not so grateful. Most days, I find him upstairs on the bathroom tile floor. I’m sure if he could speak, he’d tell me to turn on the air conditioning.
So backing up the story to when I found the lemon seeds in late November…
I had pretty much given up on my little lemon seeds. I googled how long it would take to germinate and everything I read said 7-10 days. I was caring for it every day, making sure it had enough water and even talking to it – telling it how much I wanted the seeds to grow (really, it was borderline begging)! I fertilized it with my coffee grounds (I read that those made a good fertilizer and it’s better than putting it down the drain). But two weeks in, there was still no sign of any green sprouts.
Then, on Day 21, I looked inside the pot and much to my surprise, there were two little green stems popping out of the dark soil. I was so excited! When Kevin showed up that morning to work, I told him, Tengo buenas noticias!!! (which of course he had to correct my pronunciation of noticias). And I dragged him over to the window to see my two little sprouts. He was just as amazed as I was!
And since then, another two have sprung up out of the soil!
Of course, now it’s time to practice patience. I’ve read it could be years before I see any actual lemons produced. But that doesn’t matter. Just knowing that I’ve got at least four lemon trees growing in a country where they don’t exist makes me so so happy!
Note from Chrissy…Since I’ve already talked about my travels in Nicaragua extensively and Kevin just wrote one about our October trip, I asked Pablo to write this blog about his experiences from our most recent trip there in January…
Well the day started at the border after a short drive from Guanacaste, Costa Rica and if you are used to crossing international borders, you know that extra patience is required. But this day, it all went smoothly and without hassle for an international border in Central America. Once we finished all of the paperwork, the driver from Jicaro Island Eco Lodge picked us up and we were on our way to Granada.
Before this trip, all that I had heard about Granada was that it was near the lake and a very nice place. But upon arrival, I felt very welcome; the place has a really good energy and I couldn’t wait to discover more, eagerly wanting to get out of the car to explore. By the time we arrived at the hotel, we were really hungry so we asked for directions for some vegetarian food, and the directions were: “ok go up the road, take a right and you will find a nice place”. Good thing Granada is not that big and it was only a few minutes of walking before we found a really nice cafe with a beautiful garden inside an old colonial house. And yes, the cafe was called the Garden Café…imagine that. The food was good and the people very friendly.
The sun was very strong so we decided to take some coffee and rest for a while before heading out again to unveil the beauties of Granada. After sunset, the town turns into this magical place where people gather in the streets outside the restaurants and cafes and local people perform right there in the middle of the road. The moon was on its way to being full in a few days so it gave the place a more magical feeling.
The people in Granada are all very nice and respectful. The old houses and buildings provide you with a sense of being in a different century…something not many places can do. Granada was one of the first cities to be conquered in Nicaragua, and not only conquistadors but pirates also loved the city.
The night ended with Jorge, a cool kid that tends to go around with his friends performing and selling their art in the streets. He made us a grasshopper with some type of palm leaf, and in return we gave him something to eat because he really looked hungry. He was a really nice kid.
The next day, we walked around Granada to see its colorful infrastructure and people. The Granada Cathedral is nice and the cool part is that you can go up to the bell tower and admire the landscape from up above. Next, we walked through the town market. I really liked it here as you can find a lot of stuff from toys to meat to getting your hair and nails done! But what I liked the most was the people, who have such great character and so happy – a great combination!
Now off to the lake and Jicaro Lodge where the water takes over and the sunsets are amazing. Living a few days surrounded by water really makes you feel calm and relaxed. The hotel is very beautiful, made in harmony with nature and the architecture was made from wood from fallen trees that Hurricane Felix took down a few years ago.
Here you can see all kind of animals throughout the day. And the flora found on the island and the surrounding areas is just breathtaking. Food is good but it’s the view that makes it so great. As I mentioned, the moon was getting bigger and bigger by the days, and from the mirador, located on the middle of the island, it gave me a great advantage point to see the moon as it fullest as well as the greatest sunrises and sunsets. From here, Mombacho volcano is in full view and a great subject to photograph. It was this volcano that created the islands on the lake when it erupted many, many years ago.
The trip ended all good and sad to return home but happy to have seen new places and met new people. I was very thankful for all the things I saw and so I returned home with a smile. And really, what else do we need?
I’ll have one of my team members write more about his experiences in Nicaragua in the next post but I did just want to mention one thing that happened while we were there.
On our first morning at Jicaro, I took my phone and went out on the balcony to check email and enjoy a cup of coffee as the sun rose over Lake Nicaragua. After seeing nothing of importance in my email folders, I then went to Facebook. And the first post I read was from my cousin and although she didn’t come right out and say it, I could tell from her words that her dad had passed away a few hours before. My uncle. My dad’s brother.
Finding out through Facebook that a family member has died is not a pleasant experience. Especially when your family’s time zone is 2 hours behind you and it’s 4 a.m. where they are. And being on a small island where there is really no privacy does not make it any better.
I went to several places around the island, trying to find a little bit of privacy where no staff members or guests were. After 3 attempts of moving around, I finally ended up at the spa where there was a small sitting area overlooking the lake. And that’s where I sat for the next 90 minutes, in total shock, not really knowing what to do and just waiting for the hours to go by so that it would be a more reasonable time for me to call my parents.
I kept telling myself…find your yoga breath, Chrissy. Find the peaceful serenity in the sadness. The beauty amongst the uncomfortable rocks.
When I lived in Sonoma County, there were a lot of hills and cows. And one time as we were driving around, my dad told me that Uncle Freddie used to joke with us when we were kids, asking the question: How do cows walk so easily on steep hillsides? His answer was that the cows on the hills were special cows and they could easily walk on them because one side of their legs was shorter than the other. And every time after as I drove around Sonoma, I would see the cows and laugh, thinking of Uncle Freddie and the cows funny, short-sided legs.
If you recall from my list of “to-do’s” in 2013, going to Nicaragua again was not one of them. Not that I don’t like Nicaragua. It’s a lovely country and I always return with good memories. But getting there is a gigantic hassle. As I mentioned to one of my neighbors upon my return, it takes over 5 hours to drive to Granada from Tamarindo, including the border crossing. I compared this to flying from Liberia to New York or California to New York and that really put it into perspective for him (since both of those flights are also 5 hours). I’m not sure of the actual distance but my guess is it’s right around 150 miles. More or less. Compare that to the 3000+ miles for the flights I mentioned above.
This time we stayed one night in Granada. I took both of my team members with me – to help them understand the “experience” that we want to create for guests and clients when we’re working with them in online marketing.
At the recommendation of a friend, we had lunch at the Garden Cafe and it was amazing. I really can’t say the same for the dinner we had that night or the breakfast the next morning at the hotel. I had ordered “pesto pomodoro pasta” and eagerly anticipated pesto and tomatoes on pasta. Do you see something missing in the photo below? The server swore there was pesto in it but…??
At breakfast the next morning, I very specifically requested “no chorizo” with the typical gallo pinto. Of course, there was chorizo basically sitting on top of the plantains when the dish arrived. So all I could eat were the rice and beans. And I’m not even really sure if it was chorizo as it looked more like a hot dog cut in half. (which made me even more nauseous).
Anyways, it was interesting to see the nightlife in Granada. Lots of culture, street art and kids trying to earn a little extra money by making roses and grasshoppers out of palm leaves.
I’m really hoping that I don’t have to return to Nicaragua. The expense to get there is just too high – both financially and in time. And then of course there are the payoffs of police officers and border agents. They’re minimal but still annoying.
But I had to quickly leave the country and it was the only place I could afford at the time. My residency attorney told me that since my Visa was up at the end of January and my documents from the US still hadn’t arrived, they were not able to file my application. I don’t really understand why the documents weren’t shipped via UPS or DHL, especially since they were sent during the holiday season (when all government offices close for a few weeks here) but there I was again, having to leave the country and not really happy about it. But as was mentioned many times that weekend by my team members who are both Tico…Welcome to Costa Rica.
The next day we went to Puerto Jimenez to do a tour of a sanctuary but first we went on a boat to look for dolphins in the peninsula. We only could see one dolphin so that was a little bit sad because we had hoped to see more but you know…mother nature does not always do what you want it to do! So anyway we enjoyed it because for me it’s always fun to be in the water on a speed boat or any kind of a boat! After we searched for dolphins, they took us to the sanctuary to see the animals that they take care of there. We arrived at the beach and met our guide and the founder of the sanctuary, Ms. Carol. She was a really special lady that loves immensely all the animals. They have several different animals there…we first saw macaws that are not able to fly anymore, then a spider monkey call Sweetie who is the most friendly monkey in the world – she is always asking people to scratch her and she shows you where she wants to be scratched! I never saw anything like that in my life, it was such a funny scene. We also saw Kinkajous, a toromuco (sort of like a weasel) and some wild pigs.
Then we went to see the white face monkeys. One of them looked a little crazy, kept rocking back and forth like something was wrong but it’s because of all the suffering caused by humans who held her in captivity in a box. Next, we fed the sloths with some veggies and puppy chow – what they really love to eat. It was one of my best experiences hanging out with animals. They also have a lot of other different animals but the visitors who go to the Sanctuary are not allowed to see them in their cages because they want to keep them as wild as they can be so they cannot interact with humans. Only the first ones that I wrote about can be around visitors because they cannot be released back into the wild again. This is because they have various issues with them like diseases or having been held or born in captivity and that makes it impossible for them live on their own and survive. That’s why they are cared for at the sanctuary and Ms. Carol educates the public about why it’s so important to leave wild animals wild.
The next morning was horseback riding and we went to a place called Finca Bijagual to take the tour. We started the tour by riding through the farm and alongside the mountain so it was like the real jungle we were passing by, eventually arriving at a virgin beach, where we saw a lot macaws on the trees. We stopped at some natural tide pools on the rocks and rested for a little while. It was really fun and wild to go horseback riding there. I always love riding horses, anytime I can, it brings me so much joy.
So what I can say in general about my visit to Lapa Rios is that it is just phenomenal being there and to be able to see all these kinds of animals around and do all these tours without having to go far away. The hotel is excellent quality and same for the people who work there. The food you can get there is amazing, they have the most delicious desserts, all kinds of meats, ceviche cocktails, and a really tasty meal with gallo pinto, cheese, eggs, and whatever else you want – the most typical breakfast in the area. What an amazing week it was at Lapa Rios…all of the awesome things we saw and did. Experiences that I never had before and look forward to having again.