Hiking to the Christ of the Mercy Statue in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua

One of the first things I noticed when exploring San Juan del Sur, was the colossal statue of Jesus that sits high on the hills overlooking the beach.

There it is!

There it is!

From the beach it looks like it is miles away, so when Colleen mentioned she wanted to try to climb up to it, I thought she was loco. But, Colleen and I are FAMOUS for our attempts at adventure (insert story of how we once randomly ended up on the set of the X-Men move). Given our history of adventure success, I figured we would give it a go.

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There were lots of jokes about our tans that week!

We decided to try and beat the heat, and got up bright and early to start our trek. We knew there was some sort of path as Colleen’s Mom had taken an ATV to the statue in the past. So we wandered in the general direction of the statue, glancing up occasionally to ensure we were still on the right path.

ya, it got a little steep

ya, it got a little steep

As our adventure progressed, the road started getting steeper, and steeper. I guess that is the thing with going to see a statue that rests high up on a gigantic mountain, you’re going to end up with some hills to climb. As the heat and the hills continued to climb, our little stroll turned into a  full on sweaty workout. As you can imagine, some of us (me) were more excited about that then others (Shaun and Colleen). I ran up a couple of the big hills, and it took 3 days for my calves to fully recover. Woops!

 

 

We made it!

We made it!

After an endless winding road of hills, and lots of sweat, we turned a corner and saw the backside of the statue looming before us. We found a sign the explained it was a 2 dollar entrance fee to go in. We sort of hummed and hawed as to whether we were going to pay to go in, but after doing such a big hike, we sort of felt like we had to.

In the end we were so glad we did. The view was absolutely breathtaking.

The statue looks out over the beach and entire town of San Juan del Sur. It was the perfect vantage point to see the town that we would spend the next four days exploring. Colleen and her Mom are just putting the finishing touches on their house in San Juan. We were able to spot it from way up on the hill.

Checkin out the view

Checkin out the view

The money from the entrance fee is used to maintain the area surrounding the statue as well as the small church/museum underneath the statue. It was really great to be able to learn a little bit about the statue, and the whole process that they went through to build it.

The statue was built in 2009, and has quickly become one of the most notable statues of Jesus in the world. It’s about 25m high, making it one of the largest in the world.
P1020927It is without a doubt, one of the more impressive touristy attractions I’ve seen during this trip. When you stand at its base it simply towers over you.

We spent about 30 minutes wandering around, exploring and enjoying the gusty wind that was rushing by. It was a perfect way to cool off our sweaty selves before the walk back.

I would say it was about a 2km walk from the heart of San Juan del Sur to the base of the statue. Leave early in the morning so it is not to hot, and wear good walking shoes. The road is paved, so it is an easy hike, but the hills make it a doozy. Make sure you bring lots of water too!

P1020944All in all, I would say this is a very worthwhile little adventure. If walking is a problem, lots of companies in town offer ATV tours that will take you up to see the statue. Regardless of how you get there, I would say that walking up to the Christ of Mercy statue in San Juan del Sur is well worth it.

 

Have you ever seen a statue that is really impressive? Where?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Rio Celeste, Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica Part 2

Now where were we…

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

The view from the mid way point of the stairs, lots more to go.

There are five different things to see during the Rio Celeste hike: the waterfall, the lookout, the hot springs, the blue lagoon, and the river mouth.

When we left off, we had just arrived at the staircase down to the waterfall. The stairs are well maintained, but there are A LOT of them. Many guidebooks I’ve read suggest skipping the waterfall at first, and visiting it on your way back. The idea is that the will tire you out for the rest of your hike. I disagree. I was so tired by the end of the hike that I don’t think I would have fully appreciated the sight of these majestic falls at the end.

Killer boots man

Killer boots man

As I made my way down the steep slope, and caught my first glimpse of the water, I knew going on this tour had been the right choice. Never in my life had I seen water that blue. It didn’t even seem real. Jessica was kind enough to take a picture of me, and my wicked boots.

The famous tapir photo

The Blue Lagoon

After spending some time enjoying the falls, we made our way up the zillions of stairs, and back onto the trail. We had about 750m to go until the lookout. Jessica was right in encouraging me to rent the gumboots. I watched so many people trying to dodge the puddles and thick mud. It was so nice to be able to just trudge right through the muck, and not have to worry about getting dirty.

The next stop was the lookout. On some days you can see the volcano mountain range in the distance, but today it was too cloudy. It was however, a good vantage point to catch my first look at the wispy rain of the cloud forest dancing through the trees, a sight I would become all too familiar with in the days to come!

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The famous Tapir photo…to be clear, this is not my photo!

Another 250m down the trail, and we arrived at the Blue Lagoon. Jessica asked me if I’d ever seen the Blue Lagoon movie, because it was filmed here. I totally believed her until she started laughing. Silly tourist. I could hardly imagine Brooke Shields trudging through the mud every day to get to set.

While we were there Jessica told us a story about the infamous Blue Lagoon Tapir photo. A Tapir is an animal that sort of looks like a cross between a gray pig, and an ant eater. They live around Rio Celeste, but are fairly elusive. Seeing one on this tour would be like striking gold. I had noticed in the advertising for the tour that the photos of the blue lagoon have a Tapir front and centre. I assumed it was photoshopped, and was used to lure tourists into thinking they would see one.

Well apparently the photo IS real (see above) and was actually taken by one of the women who works at the soda we had lunch at. She was hiking the trail one day, got to the blue lagoon, and there was a Tapir, taking a dip.

Egg Salad anyone?

Egg Salad anyone?

Luckily she had her camera with her, because now this photograph is famous, and used all over Costa Rica!

Not far from the Blue Lagoon was the hot springs, a bubbling corner of the river that wafted the smell of sulpher into the air. I knew I was getting hungry as it made me want an egg salad sandwich really bad!

Although everything we’d seen was really neat, I thought the final stop was the coolest.

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

Wonder if Shaun thinks this is up to code?

We crossed over a couple rickety bridges, and came to the river mouth. This is where two rivers converge, and the chemical reaction that creates the colour occurs.

Okay, so here is my attempt at a chemistry lesson, bare with me:

People used to believe that the colour is caused by a chemical reaction between Sulphur, which is emitted by the volcanic activity, and Calcium Carbonate. This is the information you will find all over the internet, but it is wrong. A study completed in September of last year found that the colour is actually an optical illusion.

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If you look at the photo, you’ll see two river intersecting, one straight, and the other off to the right. Take a look at the whitish hue that covers the rocks on the bottom of the river. This is a combination of Aluminun, Oxygen, and Silicon, and its suspended in the water. When the sun hits it, it creates the illusion of the celestial blue waters we see with our eyes. That’s why if you take the water out of the river, it looks clear.

Clear as the mud on my boot eh? You can read more about it here.

I much prefer the legend which believes that when God painted the sky, he used Rio Celeste to dip his paint brush into. A much lovelier sentiment if I do say so myself.

After taking it all in, we started the big hike back to the van. Although the trail is only 2.5km both ways, the terrain is challenging, and with the rain it made for a long haul. By the time we got back, washed the mud off us, and got in the van I was exhausted, and SO ready for lunch.

I did bring my camera to the restaurant, but was so hungry by the time it arrived I snorfed it up before remember to take a photo. It was salad with fish, and vegetables.  After lunch we got back into the van for the 2 hour drive back to La Fortuna. I’m pretty sure all the guests, including myself, napped the whole way.

If this is a hike you are interested in doing, here are a couple tips:

  • Wear long pants, and bring rain gear, regardless of the season there will be mud
  • Rent the boots, not having to deal with muddy shoes when you get back to your hotel makes it well worth it
  • Bring a snack, an apple of something small will help keep you stamina up during the long hike
  • Although bugs weren’t a huge problem, it’s probably good to have some bugspray handy just in case.
  • Get a good guide. Jessica was amazing, and I would highly suggest requesting her from Canoa Aventura.
  • Ask your tour company about the conditions of the river before booking your tour. You want to make sure it’s in its brilliant blue form.

wowza!!!

wowza!!!

So there you have it, my first big epic tour adventure. I’m so glad I went, as it was truly a once in a lifetime experience.

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress

Rio Celeste, Tenorio National Park, Costa Rica Part 1

With our adventures in Panama fading into the distance, our journey continued inland to La Fortuna, which, in my opinion, is the busiest tourist hub in all of Costa Rica.

After an early morning shuttle from Puerto Vijeo, we landed safe, sound at our hostel. I wasted no time in booking my first tour.

It has become clear to me that the following day Shaun would be glued to the boob tube watching the Superbowl. As appealing as eating greasy pizza in a hostel while watching Spanish dubbed football on a grainy TV sounded, I figured I would embark on a solo adventure. So, I booked a tour to see Rio Celeste, a waterfall that had landed on my bucket list ever since I read about it in our guidebook.

Rio Celeste is in the Tenorio Volcano National Park, about 1.5 to 2 hours away from La Fortuna depending on traffic. What makes this attraction so unique is the colour of the water. Looking at pictures of it, the light blue colour of the river makes it seem like something you would see in Oz, or Neverland. It was a sight that I just had to see to believe.

Despite its majestic nature, experiencing the wonder of Rio Celeste can be tricky. There is actually only a small window of time that the water emits its brilliant blue hue. During the rainy season, the water can be a muddy brown colour. The best time to visit is in dry season (December-March). That being said, with enough rain, the colour of the river can change at any point throughout the year.

I would suggest asking the tour company about the condition of the river before booking as the tour will still happen regardless of the colour. If it the wrong season, or if it’s been really rainy, you might run the risk of hiking all the way just to see a muddy brown river. Believe me, I’ve heard from people who it happened to, not fun.

I was told that the river was in good shape, so I booked a full day tour that would pick me up in the morning, drive me to the park, have a guide tour me through hike, and drive me home. Oh, did I mention a typical Costa Rican lunch was included? That was a pretty big selling feature!

My tour started bright, and early the next morning. I left Shaun snoring away, and went outside our hostel to meet up with my guide Jessica from Canoa Aventura. Together with three other guests, and our driver Ronadl, we set out on the drive to the Tenorio National Park.

There is a toucan WAY up top of that tree...don't worry, better toucan pics to come in later posts!

There is a toucan WAY up top of that tree…don’t worry, better toucan pics to come in later posts!

Throughout the drive, Jessica pointed out key features about the area, including fruit plantains, history, and other interesting facts. We even stopped on the side of the road when she spotted a toucan in a tree. All of the information we were getting made the ride fly by.

We arrived at our lunch destination first to pre-order our meals, and to rent gumboots if we wanted to. I had worn runners, and I asked Jessica whether she thought it was worth it. She said it was up to me, but the mud could get pretty deep in some areas.

I know you are jealous of my style!

I know you are jealous of my style!

The thought of getting back to the hostel, and having to deal with washing and drying muddy runners seemed like no fun at all, so I forked out the 3 dollars, and got to sport these stylish boots.

Now, I must point out, I don’t know what compelled me to wear my jean shorts to hike through the rainforest, especially when I had a perfectly good pair of dry wick zip off pants at the hostel. I blame to much sun giving my beach brain. I would highly suggest long pants for this trek, especially if you are going to be sporting the stylish gumboot number. At least I had a waterproof rain jacket! (thanks Mom)

The park ranger office. Don't forget to pay before you go in!

The park ranger office. Don’t forget to pay before you go in!

So, once we were all geared up, we were off. A short 2km drive brought us to the park entrance. Jessica paid our park entrance fee of 10 dollars, which was included in our tour package. Just as we started up to the trail, the rain started to pour, luckily we were headed into the forest where we would be covered by the trees.

I really tried to remember the name of this bird, but It's gone.

I really tried to remember the name of this bird, but It’s gone.

The forest of Tenorio National Park is considered a transitional forest. This means it is half rain forest, and half cloud forest. Although you get the heavy rains of the rainforest, the distinctive wispy mist of the cloud forest becomes more apparent as you most higher up the trail.

As we carried along the trail, Jessica talked to us about various plants, and birds. Never in my life did I think I would become such an expert on ferns, but l could tell you a thing or two! (I won’t, but if you are interested just ask 😉 )

We hiked for about an hour before we made it to our first stop, the waterfall…and  I’m going to park it there for now, otherwise you’ll be reading this post for days!

I won’t leave you empty handed though, here is a little teaser of what’s in store tomorrow!

wowza!!!

wowza!!!

I know right!

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter:@caketress

Exploring Montezuma, Costa Rica Part 1

With excitement of Christmas coming to an end, I thought I would catch everyone up on a couple things before everyone got here… Enjoy!

What a day!

I feel like we lived three days in the past 12 hours, Montezuma just has so much to offer

If you’ve read my Must Sees post, you know I’m a gal who loves her waterfalls, and Montezuma has one that they are known for! Shaun, and I planned on getting up bright and early (not uncommon for us), and hiking out to see it. We ended up dilly-dallying, and left the hostel around 7:45.

The trail head was about a 5-10 minute walk from our hostel, just at the bridge you go over to enter Montezuma. There is lots of parking, and often guides waiting to try and sell you on a tour. Luckily, being early has it’s advantages, and no one was there to bother us.

That being said, Shaun, and I only planned on going to to the lower waterfall. There are two other levels to the Montezuma waterfall, and apparently the trails can be a little dicey, and hard to find. It’s highly suggested that if you are going on the big adventure, to hire a guide.

The sign at the trailhead should probably be taken seriously.

The sign at the trailhead should probably be taken seriously.

The hike, is just that, a hike. You’ll climb rocks, navigate through tree roots, and even cross a river. It’s highly advisable to wear water shoes or running shoes, or something with a little more grip, as the rocks can get slippery.

The path is marked with yellow paint, so just keep your eyes out. It’s pretty self explanatory. It reminded me a lot of the harder parts of the Mt. Finlayson climb, in Victoria!

This doesn't even begin to do it justice!

This doesn’t even begin to do it justice!

Iphone is broken so we are learning master the selfie on an old school camera

Iphone is broken so we are learning master the selfie on an old school camera

After about 15 to 20 minutes of hiking, we made it. Piece of Cake! And let me tell you, it was GORGEOUS. My biggest suggestion is to get there early. We got there around 8:15, and had the place to ourselves for about 20 minutes or so. After that, it just got busier, and busier. Having those moments to enjoy it all to ourselves was such a beautiful way to start the morning, and a moment that seems rare given the popularity of the attraction.

We stayed for over an hour, taking pictures, and watching a group of people dive off the cliffs. Oh, that’s another thing. If you are looking at this majestic waterfall, and the first thing you think of is, “oh man, how great would it be to jump off that thing” think again. No one has ever jumped and survived. The fall looks straight down, but when you look at it from the side, you realize it juts out juts out quite far. If you are looking for places to jump in, just watch the locals. They know the places that are deep enough, and sage enough to jump in from.

A guy pre-belly flop

A guy pre-belly flopside,

After a short time, we started the hike back. We had brought plastic bags to put our shoes in, but had managed to navigate the slippery river rocks without getting them wet…that is, until Kate, the clutsy wonder, misjudged a step, and plunged both feet into the river. Sigh….of course. Luckily Shaun was there to catch me. No harm done, just bruised my pride. Despite walking home in squishy shoes, it was a morning full of memories that will stay with me for a lifetime.

We did a lot more exploring that day, but I’m going to break it up into two posts. Mainly because I think we are going back to keep exploring mid January. So I’m going to have even more to talk about!!

My early morning zen moment.

My early morning zen moment.

What’s the most amazing waterfall you’ve ever seen?

Pura Vida!

Kate

Follow me on Twitter: @caketress.