Nicaragua and Costa Rica Written 14th August 2011

'Our Hotel Suite, Praying for a Dry Night!'

As I look out of the window of our wooden mountain hut in Santa Elena, Monteverde, Costa Rica all I can see is the canopy of the rain forest, a perfect view to enjoy on a long over due lazy Sunday. I landed in Nicaragua about five weeks ago and I have been on the move ever since. It’s been a long five weeks of hard work and some seriously early mornings it’s had it’s ups and downs and I have been pushed to my limits of exhaustion but it’s been a fantastic experience. I was invited by Raleigh International to travel into remote areas making some promotion pictures for the charity. I volunteered for them in India before Christmas it has been very rewarding to be invited back to work for them here in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. I had no Idea when I agreed to come how much traveling it would involve and how little time I would have at each project but I have to say there is not much of the country I haven’t seen and now I am on holiday here on the typical tourist trail I fully appreciate the unique experience you get when traveling and working in these environments for Raleigh. I have climbed volcanoes, stayed in indigenous reserves on the Caribbean Coast, trekked through the jungle and enjoyed turtle conservation projects on the beaches of the Pacific coast. I have slept on floors of old prisons on deserted Islands, in barns, farm yards, schools and strangers houses every night and day  bringing a new adventure here are a few of my highlights.

My First of Many Raleigh Rations Breakfasts

Landing in Managua, Nicaragua I made the typical tourist mistake of been totally unprepared and relying on the Raleigh International guys to collect me without any problems at all. Not a wise move when landing late at night in a city known for it’s high crime levels. The Raleigh Road trip scheduled to pick me up did not arrive I waited for two hours in the airport with no communications no Spanish and not a clue of where I could stay or how to contact the Raleigh team I hadn’t even written down the telephone number of field base. Not at all like me I am usually fully prepared with a back up plan when I travel alone. As it got later and the airport began to close down for the night I realized I was going to have to come up with a plan. I was in a capital city so what do all capital cities have? A Hilton Hotel? Hoping this was the case I got into a car disguised as a taxi and said ‘Hilton Hotel Pour Favor’ in a perfect English accent. The driver said something in Spanish, I have no idea what!, I replied ‘C’ and we set off to what I hoped would be the Hilton Hotel where I could use the Wifi to contact the Raleigh field base. Fortunately for me, although the taxi driver charged me $15 for what was probably a $5 taxi ride he delivered me safely to the Hilton hotel where I happily walked through the revolving doors into a familiar land of the international five star hotel. It was to be the last time on this trip I would have that familiar feeling, I have to say it was quite a relief! I was able to collect my emails and instructions from field base and get the address of the hostel I was to stay in and further instructions. I have to say the Hilton staff were amazing they even gave me a lift to the hostel where I was collected the following morning. It wasn’t a great start to the trip but I survived with out incident.

'The Road To Quebrada Hunda'

Traveling through Nicaragua in the Land Rover I could not get over how beautiful the landscapes are and also how remote places are. There are very few tarmac roads and when it rains you can get seriously stuck in mud, even in a 4×4. The local maps make little sense and bridges have often been destroyed by the amount of rain fall, It really is quite a difficult place to travel around, but it’s never boring and every journey is an adventure. I think it is probably one of the most remote places I have worked. The people are so welcoming and friendly they would go without food to make sure you ate well and would give away their last drop of clean water. Most of the projects I visited involved a two to three hour hike though some difficult terrain to access the areas I found working in the wet season makes managing your equipment really challenging, however I have truly enjoyed the challenge.

Here are a few of my favorite pics from one of the community projects I visited Miraflor Natural Reserve Nicaragua …

Miraflor Natural Reserve

Miraflor Natural Reserve

Miraflor In The Kitchen

Miraflor for Dinner

Miraflor All Caged In

Free Range

As part of their adventure volunteers with Raleigh undertake a 19 day trek across their country of choice. I joined one of the treks for the last four days which gave me the opportunity to really see some of the dramatic scenery Nicaragua has to offer. Our first night was spent sleeping in a farm yard under a tree with only my mosquito net between me and the elements I was relieved the rain stayed away as it was too hot to sleep in the tents. The rain stayed away for the four days it was so hot that carrying the 25KG on my back and my camera on my front became increasingly difficult a little rain would have been very welcome. I was so pleased to reach our final camping spot at the top of Cerro Hoya just below the creator there was a refreshing breeze I hadn’t felt for a few days. The view was simply stunning looking across the volcanoes beyond Managua Lake towards the capital, it truly made the heat and pain of the journey worthwhile. The cooler temperature thankfully enabled us to sleep in the tents. That night my friend Amy was sleeping at the edge of the tent and awoke me in a panic late in the evening screaming ‘cow cow’ at me I wondered what was going off … she grabbed my hand and pushed it against the side of the tent, there was a cow laying happily on our tent and when Amy awoke she had been snuggled up to it. We tried encouraging it to move but every time we gave it a prod I just Mooed at us …  so funny! In the end we moved over to give it more room and hoped it would have the sense not to rollover and squash us!

Here are a few shots. I can really recommend the last two days of the trip we made the ascent up Cerro Negro a famous volcano you can actually snowboard down, sadly I didn’t get to board down but running down was just as much fun. We then hired a guide to carry our water via horse back to the camp site at the top of Cerro Hoya well worth the effort!

Cerro Negro, 'The Hosttest Day Of My Life'

Cerro Negro

Cerro Negro Early Morning Hike With Out Packs

Cerro Negro Sun Rise

Hike to Cerro Hoyo

View From Our Final Camp Site, Lake Managua

Just above our camp site the Crater pumps out sulpher

Our sleeping partner eyes us up ...

Costa Rica beckoned as I traveled by bus back trough Nicaragua down to central Costa Rica It was obvious to me how much more developed Costa Rica is as a country. However the projects I have been to were still far off the beaten track in the Indigenous reserves, I also spent three nights on the deserted prison Island of San Lucas in the gulf of Niclola. A truly unique experience with incredible sunsets but my favorite part of this trip was two nights on the famous Hermosa beach the turtle conservation project here really surprised me we spent our nights watching turtles lay eggs on the beaches before collecting them up and putting them safely in the hatchery away from predators and poachers. During the day we released the new hatchlings back into the ocean a really rewarding project that any one can get involved in . The beach by the way is simply incredible the black sand and crashing blue waves make the Ideal surf spot.

Playa Hermosa Near Jaco

The team placing the eggs in the Hatchary

Releaseing the baby turtle

Almost there ...

one of many sun sets ...

The view from Isla san Lucas

I have another week in Costa Rica I intend to relax but I know I won’t be able to resist the early mornings to get those elusive beach shots, I am looking forward to photographing the surfers too, just for fun of course.