Morocco – Trip Report!

I finally was able to add photos to all 9 of my Morocco updates – woo! I didn’t post a ‘Day 10’ because all that happened was breakfast, finishing packing, hanging out for way too long at the airport (and trying to figure out how to spend the rest of our Dirhams) and then taking a taxi to our Airbnb (which was stocked with snacks and 3 large beers. Hooray!) Oh, I also bought a giant bottle of Amarula, which required me to check my bag from Frankfurt to Detroit. And then I got either the flu or food poisoning halfway through our 9 hour flight back to Detroit. That was awful. But I survived, and am looking forward to heading to Disney in a few days. It never stops!

So anyways, for ease of reading, I’m compiling links to each day’s review. Enjoy!

Day 1   Day 2   Day 3   Day 4   Day 5   Day 6   Day 7   Day 8   Day 9

 

 

Wanderlust Wednesday – 4/13

aquila game reserve - south africa - travel quote - helen keller
Aquila Game Reserve, South Africa

Love this quote. It wasn’t even in my official “for blogging” list, but decided it was deserving of a post!

Today I’m pulling another excerpt from one of Rufus’ emails (from his trip to the Solomon Islands) for your enjoyment:

The hotel I am staying at evidently was hosting on their hotel grounds “the Musical Event of the Century” (at least by Solomon Island standards). My hotel was a zoo as thousands of mostly young Solomon Islanders packed the grounds for this once in a life time event. At one point during the night and having nothing else better to do I wandered down to the concert following the very loud music and amazing light show. I walked right pass security despite not having one of the $350 tickets,  and what a sight! … There were 3 or 4 thousand young Solomon Islanders in a state of ecstasy. They were singing, dancing, gyrating, drinking, kissing, fondling, petting, hugging and packed like sardines in the concert area. The young gals had their lips, hips, and hands all over anyone and everyone. In fact I accidentally had sex with three different women just walking and trying to make my way up to the stage. Now if you want to imagine one of the oddest sites you can think of, imagine and older white man (Rufus), clueless as usual, who knows nothing of music, does not have one iota of rhythm in his body, now befuddled by the overt sexual energy and music he is bombarded by, discovering he has just entered a “Shaggy” concert. I had no idea who “Shaggy” was. I still don’t know who in the hell “Shaggy” is even after spending nearly two hours at his concert. But he sings and he is actually pretty good. He talks a lot about Jamaica, drugs, and sex.

But this story gets just a little bit stranger. I figured as long as I was at the concert, I might as well try to work my way up to the front and see if I could destroy what little left there is of my hearing. Believe it or not I got all the way up to the front..but there is a solid mass of security in blue uniforms and yellow jerseys stopping one from going any further unless you had the laminated VIP around your neck. I just kept moving forward attempting to move into the VIP area when one of the guards said, “Stop. Who are you?” I said,” I’m Rufus” and he allowed me in. It’s all in a name folks; that or someone has been impersonating me over here.

Go on YouTube and pull up a video of Shaggy’s tour in the Solomon Islands. You will see among the young, all black crowd of concert goers an older white man—I can assure you the only one at the event with a Medicare card in his wallet—walking about very confused and befuddled with a true Forest Gump expression on his face.

Oh, Rufus. So great.

I did my thesis project on his travels (in comparison-ish to mine) so I have 57 single-spaced pages of emailed trip reports, all equally as amusing.

Happy Hump Day!

honeymoon part 5

On our last night in Morgan’s Rock we began thinking of what we would do on our last night in Nicaragua (back at Hotel con Corazon,) and I remembered reading about one last tour that had piqued our interest when I was planning everything back in January. Ten minutes later (hooray for wifi in the bungalows) we were all set for an evening trip to Masaya Volcano on Monday night, complete with a trek into a bat cave at dusk!

Once we got back to Granada on Monday afternoon, we had to get ready for our excursion almost immediately since the sun sets so early. Joe donned his Sperrys, and I wore what essentially are glorified crocs. This is important, I promise.

Masaya Volcano is actually comprised of 3 different craters, one of which erupted in 2012 (causing a few trails to permanently close, and a few with huge warning signs that we walked right past, oops) I believe the other two are now considered to be dormant. We arrived just as the sun was beginning to set, which made for some amazing photos.

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After walking around the active volcano, we began a trek up to another crater. As we were heading towards the beginning of this trail, we saw a tour bus full of rowdy, loud, large American women. We had a chuckle with our guide and promised him that not all Americans are like that. Some stayed on the bus, unable (or unwilling?) to make the hike, but many were in the process of making their way down from the peak. On their butts. It should be noted that these trails are all made up of broken down volcanic rock, which for those that aren’t particularly steady on their feet is relatively precarious.

Steep incline + rubble + general clumsiness = bad news bears.

About halfway up I started feeling a little winded, and by the time we got to the top Joe and I were both definitely huffing and puffing – but we made it! This peak was significantly higher than the active crater/peak, with a great view looking over Nicaragua. I wouldn’t be able to point it out in a photo, but we apparently could see mountainous regions of Costa Rica from where we were standing, as well as the “White Towns” named for the pottery produced there. 

We took some photos and our guide told us some local myths/legends before making our way back to the car. Here is where our shoe choice comes into play (aka lack of traction.) As we were heading down, I gained some momentum and ended up practically (unintentionally) running down the side of the volcano, unable to stop. It probably only lasted 3 seconds or so before I was hurtling past our guide who grabbed my arm, stopping me from probably hurting myself pretty badly (or maybe launching myself into a crater?) I was actually a little surprised I didn’t end up with a bruise on my arm (I bruise like a peach) – he had to grab on to my arm pretty hard/tightly to stop me, but I’m quite glad he did. I think I scared him (and Joe) more than myself, my bad. Needless to say, I spent the majority of the rest of the way down on my rear – any judgements I had about the others I saw going down that way went right out the window.

The last part of this tour/excursion was the bat cave. By this point the sun had gone almost all the way down – perfect timing for the hundreds of thousands of bats to start coming out for the night. Before donning our hard hats and flashlights, our guide confirmed with me that I wasn’t scared of bats…I told him we would find out shortly. I guess he assumed Joe could handle it 😛 

As we made our way through the jungle towards the cave (created by flowing and cooling lava/magma,) we passed by one huge bat cave that tourists aren’t allowed to explore – the air quality is poor due to guano from tens of thousands of bats living in that cave alone. The cave we did go into was actually quite cool, and the dark scared me more than the bats.

It was so dark – without flashlights you couldn’t see an inch in front of your face, so feeling bats fly by, grazing your helmet or arm was a little startling. It was also relatively hard to see where we were going, despite flashlights being aimed at the ground the whole time, but we survived, and weren’t turned into vampires in the process 🙂 

We had some packing to do when we got back to our hotel, but first went out to the “main drag” of Granada to eat street corn for dinner and buy a couple of souvenirs from a small line-up of vendors for friends and family back home.

Our honeymoon definitely wasn’t what we would call relaxing (though we did do a bit of that!) – but we made so many memories that will last a lifetime, and it doesn’t get better than that! ‘Til next time, Central America!

Honeymoon – Part 3

Our second full day in Nicaragua (Wednesday) was spent on Mombacho Volcano, which started with an incredibly bumpy, jarring truck ride to the top! But, as with most touristy type things, we weren’t able to get to the top without a ‘sponsored’ stop at a coffee plantation (in Turkey it was rugs…) halfway up where we were semi-expected to buy some coffee/coffee beans. Luckily Joe and I had no need for coffee, and are pretty good at saying “no thank you” when we need to. The biggest plus though? The plantation had a restroom (the first half of the bumpy truck ride made me have to pee quite badly.)

Bumpy ride to the top of Mombacho
Bumpy ride to the top of Mombacho

Once we got to the top of the volcano, we were up in the clouds (which makes sense, being in a Cloud Forest/rainforest and all) it was a bit windy, and the temperature had dropped significantly. Far cry from the 90 degree 90% humidity bike ride from the day before, but it was manageable. Rather than going into the visitor center, our guide suggested that we start hiking the trail around the crater first so we didn’t have to hike with any other groups. We immediately started hearing howler monkeys, and although we didn’t see any, we did see a sloth’s butt (!!), lots of bugs, birds, and pretty flowers 😀 The actual crater was full of clouds 99% of the time we could see it, but it was awesome regardless. Apparently most of the animals live in the crater, including Pumas. Eep!

Parts of the hike didn't look like the 'typical' rainforest
Parts of the hike didn’t look like the ‘typical’ rainforest
A 'tunnel' created by the most recent volcanic eruption - in 1570.
A ‘tunnel’ created by the most recent volcanic eruption – in 1570.

After the hike, while we waited for a truck to take us back down (the road to the top of the volcano is one way) the employees of the visitor center started a game of baseball! It was apparently a slow day. We were invited to join, but declined – opting for snacks and spectating instead. We learned quickly that Nicaraguans love baseball, and although saying “we’re from Michigan” essentially meant nothing, “we love the Detroit Tigers” immediately cleared up any question of where we were from.

About 3/4 of the way down the volcano was our 2nd stop of the day – ziplining! Sidenote: Every local we met was beyond excited (almost honored?) to hear that we chose to honeymoon in Nicaragua. I suppose it’s not the most typical of choices, but it was definitely the perfect choice for us. Our ‘crew’ of 3 zipline employees (including one that used my phone to thoroughly document our zipping) were just as enthusiastic as everyone else about our trip, and apparently I was giving off some strong Disney vibes, because the our main ziplining guide sang ‘Let It Go’ at least 3 times during the hour or so we spent in the rainforest. No complaints. We heard more howler monkeys as we worked our way through the ziplining course, but still didn’t see any.

Going down the zip line upside down was fun, but a little bit painful on our hips.
Going down the zip line upside down was fun, but a little bit painful on our hips.

We got back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit before heading out to dinner, where we discovered the beauty of Nicaraguan Happy Hour. Buy one drink, get one free. Reminder: these drinks already only cost about $2 each to start with. And we didn’t have to drive. We also enjoyed an appetizer of tostones and queso…the best cheese in the world. We were SO happy to be able to find it back in the states at Earth Fare (very similar to Whole Foods) – it’s called Cotija. Go find it, fry it, and enjoy a taste of heaven. You’re welcome.

We learned we enjoy Mai Tais. Thank you happy hour.
We learned we enjoy Mai Tais. Thank you happy hour.
The most delicious thing in the world.
The most delicious thing in the world.

Day 3 – Friday – we decided to spend the day at Laguna de Apoyo, a crater lake, and the warmest in Nicaragua. We blindly chose a hostel to spend the day at – El Paradiso – mostly because for $10 a person, not only were we able to enjoy all of the amenities of the hostel, but we also got picked up and dropped back off at our hotel. We stayed relatively quiet on the van ride to El Paradiso as it picked up more day-trippers, but did a lot of eavesdropping. We were the only people picked up from a hotel, the rest were from various hostels around Granada. There was a group of (teenage?) Irish girls that were finishing up a month-long Central American trip, two sisters from Canada that flew into Mexico City, took a night bus into Guatemala, and had finally made their way to Nicaragua before finishing their trip in Costa Rica. There were also some surf bums, and another couple.

View from the steps of El Paradiso.
View from the steps of El Paradiso.

Laguna de Apoyo was beyond perfect, and we really enjoyed our time at El Paradiso. We had drinks on the beach, went swimming with old school inner tubes (one of which had a rusty inflation port(?) that gave my leg quite a good scrape…thank goodness for tetanus shots.) I got to catch up on a lot of reading, and we had a yummy lunch (I ordered bolognese pasta. In retrospect maybe not the best choice, but hey.) It was really amazing, and was nice to have a day of relaxing after so many adventures the previous two days. We slept like rocks every night – it was great.

I chose a drink with a cool name - never a good idea. It wasn't very good.
I chose a drink with a cool name – never a good idea. It wasn’t very good.
So pretty.
So pretty.

Whew! Two days in one post! Up next: my love/hate relationship with Morgan’s Rock (there really wasn’t much hate, just an epic anxiety attack.)

Nicaragua Honeymoon – Part 1

Why Nicaragua? 

Almost completely without fail, any time over the past 8 months when we’ve told someone where we decided to honeymoon, that was the response we got. Until 8 months ago, we had planned on going to Costa Rica…but my wanderlust got the best of me. I wanted to go somewhere that both of us could have new experiences together (I went to Costa Rica with my family in my senior year of High School) – and there are so many trips to Costa Rica on Groupon now, we wanted to go somewhere a little more special. So…on a whim one night in January, I booked the entire honeymoon. 2 flights, 2 hotels (4 nights in Granada, 2 nights in San Juan del Sur, and 1 more night in Granada) and 5 or so excursions/tours later, we were all set to go to Nicaragua!

A quick aside: In art school, we always joked about what we would do if the graphic design thing didn’t work out. Ignoring the fact that I already had switched majors after 2 years of Elementary Education, without question I would be a travel agent. I looooove planning trips.

We didn’t leave for our honeymoon until 3 days after our wedding, and since we were in the process of moving across the state, this meant 2 nights in my childhood bedroom. Right across the hall from my parents. Any time Joe has stayed at our house in the past he was in the back bedroom, which is essentially separated from the rest of the house…but we still had wedding guests staying back there, so my bedroom was the only option. It was weird, but we managed.

We decided that we were going to pack in relatively small carry-ons after reading about the long walk from the lobby to the rooms at Morgan’s Rock, where we would be staying for 2 nights. I’m a chronic over-packer, so fitting a week’s worth of clothes into my Kate Spade weekender was quite an amazing feat. But thankfully the honeymoon gods were looking down on me, and not only did everything fit, but I also didn’t forget anything!

Yes, we did end up with the room as far away from the lobby as possible. It's a good thing we decided to pack light.
Yes, we did end up with the room as far away from the lobby as possible. About a 10 minute walk! It’s a good thing we decided to pack light.

Well, I didn’t think I forgot anything, until we were sitting in the Delta Sky Club (I could go on for days about my love and appreciation for the Sky Club. Makes traveling SO much better/more relaxing) and I decided I wanted to put my hair up…but there was a problem. I had zero hair bands.

Cue: Me running through the various airport shops frantically asking employees if they sold hair bands while Joe enjoyed the loveliness of the Sky Club/watched our bags. My hair is the longest it’s ever been, and there was NO way I was going to spend a week in hot and humid Nicaragua unable to put up my hair. Thankfully I had the brilliance to pop into a spa, where a masseuse grabbed a hair band out of a drawer and gave it to me for free – hooray for not having to get an impromptu haircut on our first day in Nicaragua! 🙂

Our plane arrived in Managua in the evening, but it was already completely and unexpectedly dark. The sun set at about 6:30pm every day, which was weird to get used to, and threw me off from making any sort of map in my mind as we were driven to Granada, about an hour away. Since we couldn’t really see much, our sense of smell was way heightened. We smelled SO many unique smells during that drive, from yummy dinners being cooked to moist iguanas (weirdly specific I know, but that is exactly what it smelled like) and general farm smells.

Sunset at Morgan's Rock. Seriously amazing.
Sunset at Morgan’s Rock on night 5. Seriously amazing.

Once we were dropped off at Hotel con Corazon, we were informed (by the incredibly helpful staff) where we could go for dinner, but new place + traveling all day + darkness meant we weren’t completely comfortable wandering the streets of an unfamiliar city, so instead we ate some of the snacks I stowed away from the Sky Club/flight, and got a couple of beers from the bar (for the equivalent of about $1.25) before calling it a night in our adorably decorated room.

What honeymoon would be complete without towel animals?! The bouquet of freshly picked flowers was amazing.
What honeymoon would be complete without towel animals?! The bouquet of freshly picked flowers was perfecto!

Oy. I had planned on writing about our honeymoon all in one post. Clearly that’s not going to happen. Granted this was a lot of pre-honeymoon details/rambling, so I might be able to get the rest into one post! For now though, I should probably get back to freelance work and folding laundry.

xx
Claire