Our Border Run to Panama Part 1

Border hopping…it’s one of those things that every traveller has to go through…and turns out…I’m not a fan.

As we were planning our trip, we knew that we would need to leave Costa Rica at least once to meet the Visa requirements. A Visa in Costa Rica is only 90 days, and since we are here for 5 months, we would have to leave the country in order to get ours renewed.

Although we originally thought our border run would be next month through Nicaragua, so many people told us how wonderful Panama was, we to do it early to see the sights.

I had done a lot of research about border hopping, and it all seemed like quite the ordeal. Since we are fairly laid back travellers, and like to avoid stress as much as possible, we opted to book a tour to take us from our hotel in Puerto Viejo in Costa Rica, to Isla Colon in Bocas del Toro, Costa Rica.

You can certainly take public transit to the border, walk across, then catch it again on the other side, but that seemed far to adventurous for us.

We woke up bright, and early to catch our shuttle, and by the time it made it to our hotel it was VERY full. It was lucky there were no tunnels to go through, because all of the backpacks and bags were piled sky high on top of the roof of the van. We were given wrist bands to wear so we could be identified by the shuttle driver and began our journey. We slowly winded our way through the endless banana fields, until we reached our first hiccup.

woops, road block!

woops, road block!

Yes my friends, that is a tree, right across the road. I am pretty sure that every shuttle we have taken through Costa Rica has involved some sort of strange occurrence, and this one was foliage based.

The shuttle parked, and everyone got out, while a maintenance crew worked away trying to clear the tree.

man down...he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks  tragic

man down…he was actually just watching ants, but this picture looks tragic

As you can see, Shaun was thrilled. It seemed like we were going to be stuck for hours, but they worked fast and It ended up only taking about 25 minutes. We all hopped back on the shuttle and carried on. Shortly there after, we arrived at the border.

This is where the my stress levels started increasing a little. Unlike Nicaragua, cars are not allowed over the border into Panama. Our van stopped just before the archway of the border, and we all got out. We were handed our bags, and an immigration paper. Our shuttle driver left, and we assumed we needed to find our next shuttle driver on the other side. Some of the people on the tour just started walking towards the archway, while a few of us stood on the side of the road filling out our paper.

Rookie move.

By the time we had filled out our paper, and started walking towards the archway, our group was split in two, as the rest of the tour group was much farther ahead in the line up. The remaining few of us gathered together on the hot pavement with all of our gear, and waited in line. I had been cold in the morning, so I had put my sweater on. Getting out of the van had happened so fast that I hadn’t had the chance to take it off. Now with Tatonka, Titty Tonka, and our food back lugged over my shoulder, I was a sweaty beast.

After about 25 minutes we made it to the front of the counter. This turned out to be Costa Rican Immigration. They stamped our passport, took our paper, and we left.

This picture doesn't even do it justice!

This picture doesn’t even do it justice!

Now, in doing my research, I had heard a lot of talk about this supposed “bridge”, and let me tell you, it lived up to all my expectations. To enter Panama, you have to walk across this rickety old railway bridge. The slats are loose, and there are gaps that a 7 year old child could easily fall through. Did I mention you have to do this while carrying all your gear? It was impressive to say the least.

Did we make it over the bridge you ask?

You will just have to wait and see, because this my friends, is a two parter.

Tomorrow on Hostels and Hot Rollers, Our Border Run to Panama Part 2

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress 

Leave a Little Sparkle Wherever You Go

sparkleA friend of mine posted this picture to my Facebook page the other day (thanks Michelle!) Normally these types of sayings make me smile, and then are promptly forgotten, but this one stayed with me.

I realized that this is something I’ve been trying to do a lot while travelling.

The people of Costa Rica have given us the gift of sharing their beautiful country with us. We’ve met so many people during these past two months, many of whom have gone above and beyond the call of duty to make our stay memorable.

If I can do something nice for them in return, then I’m going to do it. It’s all about the little things. Thinking back, these are some of the little things I’ve done to “leave my sparkle.”

  • Painting faces for free in Playa Coco
  • Leaving hand drawn cards for housekeepers with their tip
  • Baking cookies at Christmas for local businesses
  • Drawing up new signs the restaurant in Matapalo
  • Buying candy for the local kids outside the supermarket
  • Always offering to take photo’s of people who are taking selfies
  • Refusing change for people I buy Pipa’s or bracelets from
  • Leaving drawings in hostels to hang on their bulletin board
  • Getting blog posts about local businesses featured on town newsletters
  • And of course, lots, and lots of smiling!

How do you leave your sparkle?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

 

 

 

Coco Loco Lodge, Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

After our long shuttle from San Jose, we were so happy to arrive safe, and sound at Cocoloco Lodge in Puerto Viejo.

The entry to Cocoloco Lodge

The entry to Cocoloco Lodge

The first thing I thought when we pulled up to the lodge was how calm it felt. It was like they built the the lodge but left the jungle intact.The property is built around the enormous existing trees, many bearing incredible fruits, and gorgeous flowers. My favourites were the calabash. Although I had seen these fruits before, the ones at Cocoloco are gigantic. They look like huge watermelons hanging from little small trees. A calabash is similar to a pumpkin, and although most of the time you do not eat them, you often find them carved into lamps and candle holders in local souvenir shops.

The main reception area for Cocoloco is in the front of the property. Here you can book tours,

Banana's hanging outside the reception for the birds to eat. Such a great idea!

Banana’s hanging outside the reception for the birds to eat. Such a great idea!

look through their enormous book exchange, buy water, and borrow games. For an additional 7 dollars, they also serve breakfast there.

Cocoloco offers both rooms, and bungalows. We opted for a bungalow, and were pleasantly surprised with what we got. Each bungalow has it’s own bathroom, porch, hammock, safe, fridge, TV,coffee maker, and even a hair dryer! To bad we were only there for one night otherwise I would have definitely taken advantage of that! There are also several WiFi routers throughout the huge property. It was pretty amazing to have a perfect WiFi signal in the jungle!

The main reception house

The main reception house

The lodge is located on the far end of town, but is within easy walking distance to the beach, to restaurants, and everything else you would need for your stay. If you wanted amenities that allow to stay put at the lodge, they also offer one bungalow that has a full kitchen.

Not only is the location, and amenties great, but the staff at Cocoloco Lodge are amazing.

Our cute little room...first time with mosquito netting!

Our cute little room…first time with mosquito netting!

They helped us SO much with trying to book all of our shuttles. I can’t even tell you how many emails I’ve sent back and forth to them.They were extremely patient as we tried to figure out the logistics of travelling with our now infamous surfboard (but that’s a whole other post). I’m so grateful for their knowledge, because I would not have been able to navigate this portion of our trip without their help.

We feel pretty fortunate to have found Cocoloco Lodge, so much so, that we are staying there for another night on our way back from Panama. If you are looking to spend some time to Puerto Viejo, or just looking for a place to stay before heading to Panama, we would highly recommend Cocoloco Lodge.

Stay tuned for another post, all about the town of Puerto Viejo! I’ll write this one on our way back through

Have you ever seen a Calabash?

Pura Vida

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress.

Culture Shock in San Jose

After two months of being beach bums, we finally made the move inland to San Jose.

We were on the fence as to whether we were even going to venture into this area, but a couple things made us decide to stop for a visit. Firstly, the thought of taking a shuttle across to the entire country to our next destination of Puerto Viejo, seemed like a long daunting day. Second, and most importantly, I really wanted to opportunity to meet, and connect with the extremely fabulous Maribel from Stroller Adventures.

So awesome to meet amazing friends in person!

So awesome to meet amazing friends in person!

Maribel, and I connected months and months ago, when I stumbled across a blog post of hers about shopping for groceries in Costa Rica. Having recently moved to Costa Rica from the US, she has been an invaluable resource for us while we’ve been travelling. If you are looking for a fabulous blog, I would highly suggest checking her out!

It was so nice to have Maribel as the light at the end of my tunnel, as the journey to San Jose was exhausting. Our shuttle didn’t leave Domincal until 3:30, which meant we had a long sweaty 3.5 hour wait between when we checked out of our hotel, and when we got on the shuttle. Needless to say we were a hot sweaty mess by the time we got on board.

As our full shuttle slowly winded it’s way inland, we left the calm, and beauty of our beachside paradise, and replaced it with the pavement and tolls of a major highway.

We rolled into San Jose around 6:45pm, making our first stop to drop someone off at the airport. We were actually staying on the outskirts, in a town called Santa Ana. We sort of assumed that we would be the first to be dropped off, but as the shuttle drove endlessly through the confusing and cluttered streets of downtown San Jose, we realized we were going to be last off. Finally, at around 8:30pm, we rolled up to our hotel. We had made it, and we were exhausted.

Although I knew we would be moving inland, I was not prepared for the culture shock it evoked in me. Pipa’s and playa’s were replaced with McDonald’s and Burger King. Suddenly I was immersed in a very western, and very busy city.  I honestly wasn’t ready for it.

When we were planning the trip, I remember so looking forward to going to San Jose so I could get a Starbucks coffee, and go shopping in a mall. But yesterday, it was the furthest thing from my mind. Living in these little beach side towns, as forced me to stop relying on materialistic things to entertain me. Going to Starbucks or the mall has been replaced with beach walks, and reading.

It’s a change that I didn’t expect, and I didn’t even notice it had happened until we got here. It is a welcome change, yet I wonder how it will effect me upon returning home.

Ultimately I was glad that we drove around, and got to see what downtown San Jose is all about, but I’m also glad it’s over. One night was all we needed.

Now its off to the Caribbean coast, and then into Panama!

Have you ever had to adjust your lifestyle back home after spending time immersed in another culture? How did you handle it?

Pura Vida!
Kate
Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

A Quick Pit Stop in Domincal, Costa Rica

After our three glorious days in Matapalo, we headed down the coast a little further to check out the surf town of domincal

The town map of Dominical

The town map of Dominical

Hotel Domilocos

Hotel Domilocos

For some reason I was expecting Domincal to be bigger. Most likely because of the challenge we had finding accommodation. Trying to find our normal, mid-range private hostel room was impossible. All the choices were either cheap dorm style hostels, or hotels.

We ended up booking into Hotel Domilocos. It was over our price budget, so that ultimately sealed the deal that we were only going to be staying for the one night. We didn’t mind though, neither one of us were really prepared to leave the coast. We were really looking for an excuse to spend one more day by the seaside before moving inland.

The Lonely Planet book describes Dominical as a town full of pot, and surf. After cruising around a little bit, that seemed fairly accurate. Everyone is pretty chilled out. Even the surfing I watched seems more mellow down here.

The second little road. Shaun is checking out the surf

The second little road. Shaun is checking out the surf

The town is set up in two parts. The main road that runs through the town, then a small second road  that runs between the beach, and the main road. This second road is set up with all sorts of vendors, beachside hostels, smoothie shacks, and a couple bars. This area also sells the biggest Pipa’s I had ever seen!

Shaun, and I cruised around a bit, but ultimately called it an early night. We had air conditioning, and WiFi in our room, and planned on taking full advantage of it. In case you were wondering, we watched the Butler on Netflix.

Lots of people out for a sunset session on our first night.

Lots of people out for a sunset session on our first night.

The following morning, Shaun went our for a surf while I did my workout. He said the surf was mellow, but good. It wasn’t too busy for Costa Rican standards, but compared to the previous days when he had the surf to himself in Matapalo, it was much busier.

Although we were there for the blink of an eye, I’m glad we got to visit Domincal. It’s another place that we can cross off our list of places we’ve seen. If you are travelling down the coast, and looking for a place to stop along the way, I would suggest Domincal. It’s a sleepy little surf town, but worth checking out.

The travel inland, and to the Carribean coast begins today!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Healthy Hostel Meals Part 4- What do you mean there is no kitchen?

Well, after two months of travel, we’ve officially hit our healthy hostel life groove.

We have accumulated a little supply of spices, staples, and supplies, and can whip up some pretty great healthy meals in a flash.

That is, of course, until you take away a pretty essential necessity, a kitchen.

No-SCOBY-in-the-Fridge-300x297The vast majority of the hostels we stay in have great shared kitchens, with all the supplies we need. Other’s don’t have a kitchen, but we’ve got a little fridge. In those cases we just plan ahead, and bring some pre made meals, or stick with simple things like cereal or salads.

The most challenging places, are the places that have no facilities. No kitchen, no fridge, nothing. How on earth do you eat healthy, when you have absolutely no amenities?

Well let me tell you my friend, it requires some serious creativity.

If you are travelling short term, you could just go out for meals, but we’re on a budget. Homemade meals are a way of life here in the land of Hostels and Hot Rollers.
So today I thought I would share some tips on how I manage to stay relatively healthy when faced with the dire circumstances of having no food amenities. Let’s start with my supplies:

SHOPPING LIST

Peanuts, Almonds
Peanut Butter
Protein Powder
Canned Tuna
Canned Vegetables
Wraps
Bananas, Apples, Oranges
Oats

I usually try, and buy the supplies when I find them, and keep them on hand. It’s a pretty limited shopping list, so if we get to a town that doesn’t have one or two items, I’m pretty much out of luck.

Next up is meals. Shaun, and I will usually make something in advance when we know we won’t have a kitchen. That means, the first night we get there we will have something for dinner. Usually some sort of rice, veggie, bean concoction (stored in all the empty peanut butter jars we are accumulating!)

After that, the meals start getting pretty creative. Here is an example of what I ate during our last kitchenless day:

MEALS

Slop makings!!

Slop makings!!

Breakfast: Kate’s Magical Slop: Mmmm, doesn’t that sound appetizing? Don’t let the name fool you, this delicious concoction is both tasty, and will curb your hunger. I invented it by chance one morning by just throwing everything I had on hand in a bowl. So, my very precise recipe is: nut butter, oats, banana, almonds, protein powder, and a little bit of water. I like mine to look like a chunky cake batter. You can add whatever you want, coconut, raisins, granola…be creative! Be advised though, with all that protein, a little goes a long way with this concoction. A little bowl full can easily keep me going till lunch.

Lunch: Peanut Butter and Banana on (blank). Oh hello peanut butter, so we meet again. I usually smear some of this legume gold on rice cakes, and then slice some banana’s on top. Unfortunately, rice cakes aren’t always available. If all else fails I’ll use a mini wrap, or slice of bread, depending on what Shaun has hidden away in his carb stash.

I find preparing this delicacy in the bathroom really heightens the flavour.

I find preparing this delicacy in the bathroom really heightens the flavour.

Dinner: Tuna Vegetable Medley: When I first decided to try this concoction, I did not have high hopes. The thought of my entire dinner coming from cans made my stomach churn, but I forged ahead.

I was actually shocked at how much I enjoyed it! Maybe it’s just because it was a welcome change after a long day of peanut butter and banana overdose. Regardless, I actually look forward to this meal. 

I always have a small can of light tuna in water on hand. One that has a snap open lid so you don’t have to deal with a can opener. Add in a can of drained vegetable medley (my fave is peas, beans, and carrots), a couple dashes of lizano, and some pepper, and you my friend have yourself a meal! If I’m looking to mix it up, I’ll put it in a wrap, or grab a small head of lettuce, and make it into a salad. Either way, in a pinch, this meal will do. (Full Disclosure I’m editing this post three days after writing this…and am sick of this meal now! Glad we have a kitchen tomorrow!)

To curb any potential Hanger throughout the day, these are the snacks that I keep on hand, or I’ll pick up, during our kitchenless times:

SNACKS

Carrots, and Cucumber- Buy and consume the same day
Nuts- Keep them in your purse, for emergency Hanger!
Kale Chips- If you’re lucky enough to find them
Buy a Smoothie-Add some of your protein powder to it if you’re really clever
Side salads- Nothing beats fresh greens

Eating like this is certainly forces you to be creative, and is not something I can sustain for more then a day or two. I feel fortunate that this moments are pretty few, and far between during our trip!

How would you eat healthy when faced with no kitchen??

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Month Two-Travel Reflections and Big Ideas

Well we’ve passed the two month mark here at Hostels and Hot Rollers. Sometimes it feels like it’s gone by so fast, while other times I feel like I’ve been gone for years.

Although it is a long way off, thinking about coming home, and entering back into my lifestyle is becoming increasingly unclear.

Becoming immersed in a lifestyle so far outside what I have known, is causing a change in my perspective. My perspective on my life, future, and belief system.

There are some big ideas brewing in this picture

There are some big ideas brewing in this picture

Over the past year I have become increasingly aware of the need to create changes in my life. This trip became the fork in the road. The crossroads that would allow me to re-evaluate everything. As I got on the plane, I knew I was entering into both a physical, and emotional adventure.

Now don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend my days mediating under palm trees, but I have a lot of time, and I have a lot of inspiration around me. It has created the space, and mental clarity to reflect. It’s both a beautiful, and terrifying experience.

I have some big ideas. Big ideas about who I am, what I want, and what I believe. Big ideas that I didn’t even know I had. Big ideas that I don’t know what to do with.

As our adventure moves forward, my personal adventure moves forward as well. I have no idea where either of them will take me.

Slowly, this prospect is becoming less scary, and more exciting.

Thoughts?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress