Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. 100% Aventura Ziplining

If you’ve heard of Costa Rica, you’re probably aware that it’s famous for it’s greenery, it’s happy residents and it’s mountains. There are adventures to be had in those mountains! Mountain adventures in Costa Rica are probably the main tourist draw of the country. While I don’t normally go for touristy stuff, I can’t resist adventures. So onto Costa Rica I went!

Crossing into Costa Rica

After an uneventful border crossing through the Peñas Blancas border, I continued on to the town of Liberia in Costa Rica’s northwest. It was about a 2 hour drive with some awesome scenery. I’d only planned a short stop in Liberia, as I wanted to get to the mountains as quickly as possible. I really do love mountains! I arrived in Liberia in the evening and it all looked very festive. That could’ve been because it was around Christmas time.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Festive Road in Liberia

Getting my head around the currency in Costa Rica proved a bit challenging. In Nicaragua, 100 Nicaraguan Córdoba are equal to roughly US$3, whereas 1000 Costa Rican Colones are equal to a little under US$2. It was at that point that I realised that I didn’t know the word for 1000 in Spanish! I had only learnt the numbers to 100, thinking that would be enough.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Festive Town Square in Liberia

So when I bought something at the town square, I sheepishly asked how much it was, knowing that I may not understand the answer. The reply was, ‘dos mil’. So two something.. mil must mean 1000, right? I handed the man two 1000 Colones notes hoping that I had guessed correctly. The man took my money and handed me my street food with a smile. I’d gotten a US$3.50 street meal and learned something new! Costa Rica had been great so far.

Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Getting to the Mountains

The next morning I got myself on a bus to the mountains. Sort of. Apparently there were no direct public buses available from Liberia to my destination. So I had to hop on a bus going to San Jose and get off at La Irma. From there I could get a bus onto the mountain town of Monteverde.

I grabbed a snack from the service station at the junction where I’d been dropped off. It seemed to be the only building for miles. I couldn’t see the bus stop that the previous bus driver had promised was there. I tried to ask the staff at the service station where I could catch the bus. As I only had about a week’s experience of speaking Spanish, it didn’t go as well as expected. It turns out that Spanish words spelt similarly to English words have different pronunciations. We all worked it out eventually though.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. La Irma

I made my way across the road to the bus stop, which was a small shelter surrounded by trees. It was barely noticeable from the service station. I started waiting there, not knowing when the bus would arrive. The fact that other people were waiting made me feel a bit more sure about the fact that the bus was running.

Riding with Locals

After about 20 minutes of waiting, I was the only person left at the bus stop. I watched as cars pulled up every few minutes and people waiting got in the cars. I figured it was just an easy place for people to arrange for their lifts to meet them. Then a car stopped and motioned for me to get in. There was a lovely bunch of people in the car eager to know all about me. The language barrier made things a little difficult but the occupants were still super friendly.

They took me a few kilometres up the road, but they needed to turn off the road that went the way I needed to go. By that point, I was only about 3km from Las Juntas, so I decided it was walkable. It wasn’t long before a man in a small red car picked me up and took me the rest of the way to Las Juntas. He dropped me off at the bus station so I could get a bus to Monteverde.

Las Juntas

I bought my ticket from a tiny little hole in the wall, which took me a while to locate. The bus wasn’t due to leave for another hour so I walked around the little town of Las Juntas. It was very quiet and very green.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Quiet Street in Las Juntas K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Greenery.

While I was walking around, a few locals stopped me and asked if I was looking for ‘agua caliente’. I guess that means that there are hot springs in the area. They’re really not my thing, so I continued walking and found the town square. It had a lot of interesting sculptures. Some with a definite Christmas theme.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Christmas Decorations K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Princcess K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Santa Train

Las Juntas de Abangares was a product of Costa Rica’s 1800s gold rush. It served as a major mining town and important stop for people seeking their fortunes. Its importance in history is documented at the Ecomuseo de Las Minas de Abangares, or Mining Eco Museum of Abangares. I guess that also explains this strange monument on the road heading out of town toward Monteverde.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Strange Monument in Las Juntas

Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Monteverde

The 30km journey from Las Juntas to Monteverde took just over an hour, because of the size of the bus, the incline and the winding mountain roads. Of course the scenery was awesome. I got into Monteverde just in time for sunset. A very early sunset. Apparently that’s a thing in Costa Rica.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Las Juntas Town Square Santa Train

I got lucky when I arrived to check in at my accommodation in Monteverde. Not only was it right near the bus terminus, but the lady at reception was super nice. She put me in a room by myself, but still only charged me the shared room price. As an extra bonus, the place had hot water! Everywhere I’d stayed in Nicaragua only had cold water. But then again, it was fairly hot there, so having cold showers wasn’t so bad.

After checking in, I booked my mountain adventure for the next day. I then decided to explore the town a little bit, only to find that almost everything was closed. It was also much cooler than the foothills and it was very hilly. This wasn’t a problem for me but I could see how it would be for some.

Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica – Ziplining Through a Forest Canopy

I arose bright and early, excited about my upcoming zipline adventure through a forest canopy. I would soon be zipping along the longest zipline in Central America! But first, we had a safety briefing.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Safety Briefing Platform K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Safety Briefing

Then spotted some local wildlife on the way up to the treetops.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Wildlife

Each of the ziplines started and finished at small wooden platforms throughout the treetops. As you could imagine, there are quite a few stairs to climb to get to the first platform. Then there was some waiting, because only one person is allowed on the platform at a time. I was excited when I was finally on my way!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Canopy Zipline

The park had a total of 11 ziplines, including the longest zipline in Central America at 1590m. 2 of those lines were superman lines. As the name suggests, you fly down the lines in a horizontal position, like superman. It’s a pretty awesome feeling. The staff member at the platform told us that we were around 2km above ground level at that point. You wouldn’t want to drop something from that height!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Suspension Bridge

After the superman lines, we ended up on a suspension bridge that lead us to the park’s peace de resistance; a 45m high Tarzan Swing!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde Adventure Park Canopy Tarzan Swing

It’s kind of like a combination of a small bungy jump and a swing, except that the staff are sneaky and will retract the platform you’re standing on with no warning. Which means there’s a lot of screaming.

So how do you end a hard morning of flying around a rainforest on ziplines? Steak and chocolate at a cute cafe with new friends!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. Monteverde. Steak and Chocolate After Ziplining.

Onto the Capital

My final stop in Costa Rica was San Jose, the capital. It is also said to be the safest city in Central America. The locals were very friendly. On my walk from the bus station where I was dropped off, to my accommodation on the other side of town, I was stopped for a chat a few times. One of the most notable of these chats was with a man named William. He had marched right up to me and put his hand out to shake and introduced himself. After the normal questions, he deduced that I mustn’t be married because I looked happy. I couldn’t argue with that logic.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose Church K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose Market K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose. Festive Trees

As I continued my walk through the city, the atmosphere was quite festive. I soon arrived at my accommodation. The staff were very friendly but didn’t speak much English. My crappy, but improving Spanish was really getting a workout. After sorting everything out, I retired to my room to see a sign with some bizare rules.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Mountain Adventures in Costa Rica. San Jose. Weird Accommodation Rules

Costa Rica had been amazing and beautiful, but it was time to move on. After a good nights sleep, I hopped on a bus for the long trip to Panama City in Panama. Keep an eye out for the continuing adventure in my next post.

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Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua

Why Nicaragua?

For some reason, people don’t often think about visiting the Central American country of Nicaragua. This made me very curious about it. I love visiting countries that don’t have much tourist pull. So I thought, why not check out some love and volcanoes in Nicaragua! Okay, maybe I just went to check out the volcanoes and the love followed me. Confused? Read on and all will become clear.

Getting to Managua, the Nicaraguan Capital

After spending a lovely, albeit cold, couple of days in Vancouver catching up with some friends, I’d hopped on an overnight bus to the airport at 2am. I had a 5am flight to Managua, the capital of Nicaragua, via Denver, Colorado and Houston, Texas. It was going to be a long day. So imagine getting to the airport at 3am, only to find that the first flight had been cancelled due to a snowstorm in Denver. Fantastic!

Luckily, the airline had already put me on another flight, to Chicago at 6am. Well, that’s not exactly on the way, but I was still going to make it to Houston in time for my flight to Managua.

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Managua

It was still dark when I landed in Managua, very early the next morning. After crossing 3 time zones and having 2 delayed flights. I was glad to finally be in Central America!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua Airport

The Managua International Airport was fairly small, but not so small that there wasn’t a lot of taxi drivers trying to get me in their cars. But after a whole day spent in airports or planes, I wanted to enjoy the fresh outdoors. Or the slightly polluted outdoors. Managua isn’t the least polluted city I’ve been to. Nor is it the most, but it certainly had its fair share on the day that I arrived. On the way out I saw a rather interesting road sign.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Weird Airport Sign

Managua definitely wasn’t a glitzy city. If I had to describe it, I’d say it was raw. While walking along I could see a fair bit of rubbish around. Especially in streams by the side of the road.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua

The city showed it had a penchant for giant colourful trees as well.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Big Green Tree K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Big Green Tree K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Big Blue Tree

Apparently, the city knew it wasn’t doing the best it could and promised that it would be better soon.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Managua. Now it Will be Fun Sign

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Leon

With almost no Spanish ability and a wonky map, I’d managed to get myself to a collectivo station. From there I had to wait about 30 minutes for the next collectivo (shared taxi) bound for Leon. I had to battle for my life to get into that van and secure a seat. 20 people were waiting for 10 seats, so no one was trying to be polite about it.

The little town of Leon, 2 hours northwest of Managua had drawn me in with the promise of adventure. A somewhat unique adventure that could not be had anywhere else. Volcano Boarding! On an active volcano!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Volcano Boarding Sign

When I arrived at my accommodation, I used my best Spanish accent to ask, “¿Dónde está el volcán?”. Luckily the staff at my hostel, which doubled as the volcano boarding tour operator, spoke English. They also humoured me and told me that my Spanish accent was good. I’d missed the tour for that day, as it was after midday by the time I got in. I booked myself a spot for the next day and decided to have a nap. Crossing 10 time zones in the previous 4 days had caught up with me.

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – A Love Story?

Unfortunately, that late-afternoon nap turned into more of a full-on slumber. A slumber I woke from at around 3am. To my surprise, the bar at the hostel was still open. I went and joined the 3 other people at the bar and started chatting. It was at that point that I became the love of someone’s life. The bartender had recognised my inner awesomeness and wasn’t afraid to let me know about it! Thankfully, he did it in the non-creepy way.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Hostel Bar at 4am

I was feeling kind of awake at that point, so I stayed and talked to the guys propping the bar up. They had been there a while and were at just the right level of inebriation to be hilarious. It took a while, but they finally noticed I wasn’t drinking, which prompted Ricardo, my new Nicaraguan husband, to say, “It’s 4am, where’s your beer?”. Then a local beer magically appeared in front of me.

I decided that it was best to go to sleep after the beer because I had a volcano adventure to experience less than 5 hours after that. Now that I’ve covered the love part of the trip, let’s move on to the volcanoes.

Cerro Negro

The next day, around 20 adventurers were piled into the back of a truck for a very bumpy 40 minute ride to the start of the hike to Cerro Negro, the volcano that we would be throwing ourselves down.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Cerro Negro Warning Sign

Cerro Negro, which means black hill, is part of the Cordillera de los Maribios Mountain Range. At the tender age of 169 years old, it’s also the youngest volcano in Central America. We were assured that there was no chance of an eruption, as the hill is carefully monitored and they have plenty of forewarning of eruptions. Plus, the last time it erupted was in 1999.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Volcano Boarders at Cerro Negro

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Hiking Cerro Negro

Although the hike itself wasn’t that long, we had to carry horrible orange jumpsuits and the boards up with us. The boards were old and rickety. And not all that light. There was an option to get them taken up to the top, for a fee. I’d decided that it’d make the experience much better if I did it myself. I’m sure it must’ve been amusing to some of the guys to see me trying to carry a board almost bigger than me up the hill. In fact, many of them offered to take it for me, but I’m stubborn.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Scenery Around Cerro Negro

I started to regret my choice when the winds that our host warned us about, kicked in about halfway up. It was a mission trying to position the board in a way that the wind wouldn’t catch it and blow you off course. It was definitely a struggle that slowed the group down considerably.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Scenery FromCerro Negro K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Scenery Surrounding Cerro Negro

Luckily there was some great scenery on the way up. The basaltic gravel of the volcano contrasts beautifully with the surrounding mountain range. Of course there was time to stop for pictures too!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Cerro Negro K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon - Hiking up Cerro Negro

Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua – Volcano Boarding

Once up the top, we had to change into the horrible orange jumpsuits we’d carried up with us. Then our host gave us a briefing on safety and how get the most speed out of the descent. She then rushed down the slope, with a radar gun in hand, to record our speeds for us. Cool. I had a theory that letting some people go before me would give me a more compacted and defined trail to follow. That would lead to more speed. I wanted to be the fastest!

Watching the people in front of me, I started to get worried that my dream of a fast descent was not possible. Everyone was struggling to get started, but I was learning from their mistakes. Once I had a pretty good handle on what I needed to do, I decided to give it a go. I launched myself down the hill at 40km/h, one of the fastest runs of the day. Although I definitely felt like I had achieved something that day, I was disappointed with the speed. It really didn’t feel that fast. I will return one day to feel the wind of a faster speed in my hair!

The Unexpectedly Quirky Town of Leon

After all the excitement died down, I decided to explore the town of Leon with someone I’d met at the volcano. We ended up at El Museo de Tradiciones y Leyendas, or the Museum of Legends and Traditions. The museum is housed in an old early 20th century jail, where some horrible torturing is said to have taken place. Despite how somber that all sounds, this may have been the most amusing place I visited on my whole trip through Latin America!

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions

To be honest, some of the exhibits were kind of horrendous, probably partly due to the terribly-put-together figurines used to depict them. The place is full of a lot of weird stuff. I don’t wanna give too much away, because you should really get there and visit yourself. So let me just whet your whistle a little. Here’s Dead Cheerleader Man.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions. Dead Cheerleader

Perhaps one of the craziest and most amusing legends explained in the museum was the one about the woman that roamed around putting her nipple in men’s mouths. That in itself sounds rather odd, but the figurine depicting it just added a whole other element to it. It was hilarious.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions. Crazy Legend K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon Museum of Legends and Traditions. Hold Your Tit

After laughing so hard our throats hurt, we headed back into the town just in time to see it at sunset.
K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Leon at Sunset

Onto Granada

I would’ve liked to have stayed in Leon for longer but it was time to head south to Granada. Yes, it was named after the Granada in Spain by the conquistador who ‘found’ it in the 16th century. It is situated on Lago Cocibolca, or Lake Nicaragua, which is the world’s 20th largest lake.

The place has a lot of colonial history and once vied with Leon to be the capital. Managua was eventually founded when neither could agree to the other being the country’s major city. Due to Nicaragua’s shakey economic history, some of the colonial buildings, like the Guadalupe Church in La Calzada, fell into disrepair.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Granada. Guadalupe Church

Granada still has a lot of narrow streets, owing to the fact that the infrastructure for the city was put in place centuries before the advent of motorised vehicles. The city has boomed in recent years, which has caused a lot of new areas to be erected to deal with the influx of foreign investment.

K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Modern Granada K in Motion Travel Blog. Love and Volcanoes in Nicaragua. Granada. Narrow Street

It was all a little more touristy than I was prepared for. Although it was a nice town, there was nothing about it that really grabbed my attention to make me want to stay. So with that I started heading south to the Costa Rican border, where my next adventure awaited.

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