Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cloud Forest, Hot Springs

Costa Rica is the last leg of our Central American journey and everything's changed: a new arrival brings a new dynamic, we've rented a car and are armed with a faulty road map, we've picked up two stranded travelers we recognize and the weather turns to torrent rains. Our bodies are a rainbow of bruises and bites and at the pool we point them out, play a game and sport them as badges of honor, can we name that injury on eachother? This sprain, that gash, where did it come from and who has the best, the biggest? We don't mention by the time we're healed, we'll be far away from the storymakers and street chickens, Imperial beer and the British we keep bumping in to.

Prices are up and we're counting our colones there enough for rice and beans and ziplining both? It's hard to break the mold of cheaper places, we decide that we'll do whatever we want, a rule that should have gotten us into a lot more trouble by now.

So we walk in the clouds and slip in the mud, fly down lines over green valleys and turkey-necked cows, shacks and barns, coffee farms, we jump into the Tarzan swing and into a freefall and the forest echoes our screams. We get lost, we get found, leave blood all over the ATVs, Pina Colada glasses on the edges of beautified hot springs until the dignified waiter takes them away, eat mealy corn cakes at the Volcano Festival, drive many hours to find that the lagoon at the top of the crater's edge is closed and the view is sparse. We fight, laugh, shake our heads, sadly pack our bags and then, get on with our real life and try to remember how it felt when our biggest worries were how we'd ever manage to find a shower...

Friday, July 25, 2008

San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua

Black sand beaches, tidal pools and breaking surf surrounds us around here. Surfers from every corner, overtanned Brits, natural Californians, one amazing guy from New Mexico with a tattoo across both of his knees (admittedly done whilst incredibly drunk) in gangsta font that says on the right one ¨Save the¨...¨ and on the left one ¨ dude!!!¨

There is the trio from Oxford who played their instruments on the black sand beach while twelve of us drank beers, then got stung by a sting ray. There is the rock skipping contest, of which my traveling partner is disarmingly good at, and the Nica local who says I look like his ex-girlfriend and then teaches me the word for cool. The bumpy path here is only 8 KM from town but it takes more than a half an hour because of the horrible state of the road, a boa constrictor stopping taxis, and when seventeen school children in uniform scream out as we pass, joyfully jumping on the back of the open truck just to get a ride. The air smells like burning wood at night, there is no fog and the sunsets are saturated orange, waves crashing, everyone hugging their knees on flat rocks, perfecting Spanish, perfecting the art of downing buckets of rum and Coke until 4 AM and then jumping up at five to catch the chicken bus, to sleep while standing like a horse would, walk across a border with our bags sticking sweat to our backs, our feet are dusty, our fingernails are dirty and we only have one week of wonderful discomfort of sandy beds and random conversations left...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pass the Dutchies

Dutch boy #1: Yah, you understand what I am saying to you? If you haven´t tried Holland man, then you don´t know what you miss. You have to try all the flavors, you see? Sometimes you get mushroom, sometimes you get strawberry. You like another drink now?

Dutch boy #2 (whispering): My friend, he likes you. But he has many STD.

Dutch boy #1: What you say, Chuck Norris?

Dutch boy #2: No-ting. I like to be architect.

Dutchies together: Ah hah hah hah hah!

Love. The. Dutch. In Nicaragua on chicken buses eating 50 cent food out of a plastic bag that will surely make me ill, in a far too party town, on surfing beaches, on world politics, meeting everyone in the world I never could have at home, wondering how I can possibly extend this, and finally, realizing that I have lost my phone and all of its numbers of course. If you´ve texted me in the past month and a half, I didn´t get it, so send me your number and an email please! And I will report more from the most beautiful trenches in the world soon...

Saturday, July 19, 2008


Sunburned and flipped on our inner tubes along the floating dock, today was spent at the swimming hole, all green and blue, all lapping waves and clear water jumps, all our new Irish friends pushing us over and now back to the hostel for the world´s best burrito...and the only thing we can afford...we´re supposed to rest up because it´s Saturday night, and regardless of the fact that every night seems like Saturday night, we´re expected to show up in full form at the Beach Party where locals grind to blasting beats and gringos sweat it out just trying to keep up.

Yesterday´s bottle of tequila at one PM on a rainy day must be put far behind, and the British guy who was crafty enough to take evidence, more than fifteen pictures of me, in various states of card games and sugary shots. Who won and who lost is one and the same...

In Nicaragua there have been steam venting volcanos, my purchase of Nica punk rock CDs, the guard yelling at us for jumping on a plastic sheep, the worst milkshake in the history of milkshakes, the crumpled pages of so many books, swapping stories and countryside pictures, fans and open air, and very long open nights. Our clothes are in a rainbow jumbled corner, we´re sleeping in a loft where the rain crashes down, if you could call it sleeping at all, and there are less than two weeks left and all I can think is how I can manage to miss my plane home.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Vamos, Panteras!

Things that I have learned on this trip:

Do not assume that just because a boy is under seven years of age that he is incapable of wiping the floor with you via the worst chess game of your life (he plays professionally! What a little hustler!! Acting all cute so I would play with him). Castling? WTF is that? Has anyone heard of this move? I feel like I´m in the outtakes of Searching for Bobby Fisher over here. You beat me in eight moves, huh? Well you know what kid? There´s no Santa. Yep, it´s all made up. How do you like me now? Hey! There´s no crying in chess, buster.

No worries, only the biggest and hairiest spiders can swim.

Vamos, Panteras! is an exceptionally cute saying when shouted by a native Guatemalan guide who takes us into a volcano, with a gold tooth and her hands wrapped around her only nutrients for the day: a bottle of orange soda.

Sleeping is optional.

Stereotypes ARE hilarious. As in, the British can have a forty five minute discussion about the proper cake to serve with tea and then devolve into a near brawl over it. I met the most British guy of my entire life and he was such a foppish dandy hiking up his black socks and his little shoes and calling himself The Tulip Man that I could barely stand it. Also the Irish drink an astounding amount and call mushrooms ¨mushies¨, the Dutch can swim really well and have bad shoes, Kenyans run really fast and the Swedish do not smile at other people on the street. Please note, all these hilarious tidbits were actually brought up by the individuals themselves, and when I asked what their American stereotypes were, one paused before shouting ¨You go girl!¨.

Coconut bread is an acceptable meal. Also, gum, popsicles, or a mouthful of salt water.

While we´re at it, jumping into a body of water is an acceptable shower.

Cranium is a really great game for when it rains. The footnotes of Crime and Punishment? Not quite as fun.

I do not need, nor want, a cell phone, email address, or calendar. I do need, and want, a new sweatshirt, as this one should be burned immediately after what it´s been through.

Snorkeling in a thunderstorm in Nicaragua is the coolest thing you can ever do.

It is not, under any circumstances, a good idea to buy hot sauce and then put it in your bag and then break the bottle all over everything unless you want to smell picante. Really, really picante. All the time. So much so that stray dogs approach.

Accidentally leaving important personal items in every country you visit does not make your bag any lighter.

Taking the time to get away from your daily grind, and yourself, is actually easier done than said. So do it whenever you can, no matter what the monetary or supposed drawbacks, because your life is only your own, and no one else will ever make it as meaningful for you as you can, all by yourself.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grit and Bear It

The Corn Islands in Nicaragua are sloping green, with frothy waves every shade of blue, barefoot children with monkies as pets, little thatched jungle bungalows and communal dinners, free-flowing rum drinks at 2 PM, downpours every day at 3 PM, crowing roosters, and unripe mangoes hitting the dirt with a thud as we trek to the lighthouse to view it all.

Also, the walk around the deserted beach, untouched by tourists, unknown by most and the narrow path that leads into the forest. And in the water's edge, a dead dog being lapped by the waves, entangled in a rope.

We walk around it and assure ourselves that the dog died of natural causes before scurrying away...and I can't help but joke to myself the next wave of tourist ads for here.

Welcome to Nicaragua. Come for the waves, stay for the dead dogs.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Quote of the Day

Upon viewing the unbelievable, candlelit, devolving party before us, where the boys were wearing miniskirts without underwear and the girls were dancing dressed as pirates and everyone was falling on slip and slide scale tiles of vodka and mango juice...

"I knew I should have gone to State school."

Bye bye Guatemala, next up, Nicaragua.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pineapples are juicy, but prickly f$ckers..

What adventura we´ve been getting into:

The deepest lake in Guatemala, a kayaking accident extravaganza where I was the most awesomest and nearly helpful in my entire life, jumped out to help an overturned passenger, then jumped back in my kayak like a spring, was then overturned by the effort of said person getting back into theirs and using me for leverage, and then a huge jungle spider jumped on my shirt scaring the bejeezus out of me, and then I plunged once again into 900 feet of dark blue water fabled to have an enormous sea snake that swallows swimmers, and then both kayaks were too full to get into, so I swam three-quarters of a mile, in my clothes, towing the boat and, for part of the way, the person as well. And finding it hard to swim because I was laughing so hard.

I am rewarded by the following prize; even more Irishmen (different ones) at our magical little hostel on the lake with family-style dinners, learning some fabulous and hideous slang that cannot be spoken in mixed company, a game of story telling that resulted in the new phrase PINEAPPLES ARE JUICY, BUT PRICKLY F$CKERS and a game of pool that I helped win, and four that I helped lose. Plus a cool looking bandage on my wrist from the battle of the day...

Backpacking stories are cliche for sure, but damn if they aren´t the most fun to tell later...

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

The lake in Guatemala

is described as Italy´s Lake Como, but with volcanos. There are women selling chocolate cake and will come by as you are sipping your tea on floor cushions under a bamboo roof. There are hammocks everywhere, ex-pats and plantains. There is more than one tourist who bought a wooden flute and this, somehow, is very, very funny. Bright bags, little kids with firecrackers and hot vents in select parts of the lake steam out.

There are also old men talking about their favorite mushrooms. I´m waiting for the girls to catch on up, it was a long journey getting here, riding in the back of a Guatemalan truck with a bunch of men who thought we were hilarious, blue green secret pools, a cloud covered ride through the mountains, and of course, a bout of bedbugs for one of us in the hostel in Antigue (not me! I spent that night hanging out until way past twilight).

We still have a few days left here, and it´s more beautiful than I ever thought it could be, and then we´re off to Nicaragua where we´ll part with all the kids we keep bumping into and even one of our traveling companions and trek out to beaches and this time I swear I will learn a little bit at least, how to surf. I know I´m supposed to be learning a lesson, gleaning some sort of true self, furiously scribbling in my journal and becoming some sort of young woman. But I´m too busy counting the robots painted in my room and passing bottles over guitar circles and my inescapable ability to devolve into laughter about jokes that no one at all understands. (Are we the only animals that hold it (aside from domesticated pets)? I wonder aloud as a horse lets forth a river of urine on the volcano.) Right. No actual world revelations yet I suppose...

Until then, I am thinking about what we´ve seen and done, mossy Mayan ruins, a lava river of red, an inordinate amount of time spent with the Irish football team I keep running into and all the days I have left...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

This is why everyone hates Americans

Our two players enter. A good looking and yet extremely intense and creepy Israeli soldier aged 25 years and your intrepid reporter...our scene begins in a coed hostel bungalow in the rolling hills of Guatemala, overlooking a raging river, a happy community of hippies, and one of the most beautiful limestone pools ever known. It is now eleven PM.

Me, sleeping, drooling, having not showered in at least three days/ ZZZZZZZZZZZZ

Israeli soldier/ Koi? Koi?

Me, sleeping/ Uh, are you talking to me?

Israeli soldier/ Yes, Koi, are you sleeping?

Me, sitting up/ My name is Kay, not Koi.

Israeli soldier/ I am being very brave to tell you this. I would like to give you many kisses. Your hair is a beautiful condition and your eyes are the big circles.

Me, trying not to laugh/ Uh, dude?

Israeli soldier/ Or we could talk perhaps. I just want to sit near you because you are so full of laughter.

20 minutes later...

Me/ So that's how, in my opinion, the actions immediately following Hurricane Katrina ended up being a microcosm of an overlying disease, one in hindsight that was nearly entirely preventable, within America's governmental infrastructure.

Israeli soldier, looking agitated, finally storming off to his own bed/ Yes, you are funny indeed. I come for kisses and you want to give speech about f$cking politics!!!

My apologies to you, dear Emmanuel. I didn't tell you of my hidden superhero ability to repel unwanted advances with an unending force of steely, boring US centric opinions...I am American, and this is the only way I know...

Thursday, July 03, 2008


The hostel has swinging branches, little corner patches of wood and bright striped cloth, palm fronds and rope chairs, a canopy of cover. There´s an old guy with two parrots on his shoulders who doesn´t even work here and all the inhabitants look like they´re sharing blue mushroom teacups. The walls are moving man, the music has colors dude, the commenters have skinny limbs, the good sunglasses and the interesting haircuts and there are almost as many half eaten bowls of rice and beans as there are half-baked philosophical conversations.

Yesterday, six hours on the horses through the mud and jungle road and I pulled the brown one into a canter and nearly got bucked right off, then our crazy Swedish guide suffering perhaps from a touch of Tourette´s called her own horse an asshole, took us into a tomb with bats and proceeded to tell us about the three children found sacrificed with their skulls bashed in and hoped aloud that the cave would not collapse and bury us all.

Tomorrow we leave at 3 AM to see the sunrise over the ruins and then run our packs to Semuc Champey, where green pools sit in limestone and only those that can make the difficult trek can even hope to catch a glimpse, let alone jump in.

I´m missing July 4th, but I hope you have a good one while I remind myself it´s not a bad consolation prize to be in I got the good bunk bed this time and I´m not giving it up...not for anything in the world...