How I Met Your Monkey! – Nicaragua, Costa Rica

Nicaragua

Where should we start for this post? Hm, i think the welcome sign to Nicaragua is a good start. Although, when we were there we felt anything BUT welcome.

So after spending an hour in a line to get our exit stamp from Honduras, we were happy to get to the Nicaraguan side of the border, hoping that things would be better, more organized here.

Why did we think that? Because we thought it could not get any worse.

We were wrong. The process of crossing the border is straightforward – 1) get your passports stamped then 2) import the car. DONE, right?

The guy stamping our passports, i thought was illiterate, no really…he could barely write and re-did our forms at least 5 times each. Then the lady importing our car messed up our license plate, instead of 5UIZ559, she wrote SUIZ559. And we had to wait another 40 minutes for her to redo it.

Oh and did i tell you, i had beginnings of a cold and Hyein was recovering from Chikungunya? yeah…that border crossing sucked.

But i digress – Welcome to Nicaragua!
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The ABSOLUTE FIRST thing you notice upon entering just how clean is the country. It looks like the asphalt roads were washed and then cleaned by hand. The side of the roads were picked clean of any garbage and the grass was gelled and brushed like 90’s hair.

Oh, and also. NO MORE GUNS. It seems as though we entered a different realm, where people dont kill each other and dont need guns…i wish such a place really existed. But seriously, we did not see a single gun in our whole time in Nica (that’s what people affectionately call Nicaragua).

Our first stop was close to the border in Somoto Canyon. We parked on a large grassy area of a farm, haggled with the owner a bit about the price and set up camp.

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Oh and we finally learned how to do long exposures on our camera. Pretty cool stuff, right? Bottom right of the image is a cloud coming in from the hills.

Since there was not much to do at the farm, next day we packed up and moved on to Laguna de Apoyo.

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It is a volcano crater that has naturally been filled with water. The hills you see in the background of the image are the walls of the crater and they go all the way around in a circle.

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Thatched roofs, palms, warm water, nice weather…what more can you ask of life?

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OMG this place is awesome it even has kayaks and paddles boards you can use for free??? NICE!!!

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Dinner with a view.

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Seal of approval for this place. If you haven’t realized by now, i sound a bit over the top…a bit even bitter in my description.

That’s because we barely got to truly enjoy this place and everything it has to offer.

Remember that cold that i mentioned earlier? Well, it got pretty bad…fever and all. And Hyein’s chikungunya had more surprises in store.

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So instead of enjoying the water activities….

we would drag ourselves out of the room just to get some food.

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I have to admit, waiting for the food with such a view makes you feel better even if you have a fever!

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Our breakfast.

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During each and every one of our meals, we would were surrounded by local animals…some of them were cuter than the others.

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Mom, Polya and Andrei, doesn’t he look like Tegresha’s latin cousin? Or is it his brother that is in hiding from the law in central america?

After a couple of days of nothing but sleeping in our rooms and eating food, our respective diseases were not getting much better.

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Btw, that’s Hyein’s ankle…looking like it just came from a set of a zombie movie.

So, what do we do?

Yup, time to go to the hospital! Yay, sounds like fun 🙂

Side note: Our Honduran host, Anisorc, told us that people in Nicaragua don’t really use addresses to give directions. It’s more of old school – “turn right at the big tree and when you see an old house take a left and go another mile.” We laughed and skeptically nodded in agreement. I remember thinking to myself – “that can’t be right, not in this day and age”.

Well here is our “address” for the hospital that we got from the hostel’s reception.

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Also…why couldn’t she draw it in the center of the paper?

We were told that the hospital is free for anyone…wait WHAT? “ummmm, like even tourists?” …”yeah, like totally free”. Wow, okay lets go.

We waited in line to be examined in a large common room. We tried to explain our situations as best as we could. The doctor told me I have a cold and prescribed some antihistamines and ibuprofen. And for our dear Hyein she confirmed that, indeed, she does have Chikungunya. Remember, that we were self-diagnosing this up until this point. Hyein also got prescribed ibuprofen for pain. And both of us had our blood work done.

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And as ALWAYS they screwed up Hyein’s name. From this day forward she will be “Hge-in Grim”. I swear she should start collecting these.

If you are worried, don’t be, our blood work came back normal, phewww.

Another cool thing about Nicaragua is that they have Russian cars.

Trust me, i was just as surprised to see them in Nicaragua as you were surprised to find out that Russia even makes their own cars.

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Beautiful, isn’t it? I think we actually owned the same model but in a beige/cream color in Russia in the 90’s.

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Look at that styling, this is a piece of artwork that belongs in a museum.

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Full body shot…oh yeah!

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I know you are dying with questions, like “what is it” … “how much is it and where can i get one?” So here it is – this is the LADA 2107 or colloquially referred to as just “semerka” i.e. “seven”.

It has 57 hp, or something like that. Made from solid steel…er, thats good for the safety. Of course, this thing doesn’t need airbags cuz its made like a tank.

Anyway…enough about old soviet relics, back to our story.

So after 6 days of laying in bed and nursing our various diseases on Day 7 we finally felt well enough to pack up and continue our journey.

Honestly, it sucked being sick in such an awesome place. If you guys think that our trip is just all fun and games – well, it is, but not always.

It also sucked that we only saw a bit of Nicaragua, before having to move on. Remember, we have to be at the End of the World (i.e. Ushuaia, Argentina) before the penguins move back in.

Side note: Oooh, i just thought of this. How come Hyein didn’t get my cold and i didn’t get her chikungunya? If you are wondering, it is possible for a mosquito to bite an infected person (Hyein) and transfer it to another person (me). But we didn’t cross-pollinate our viruses…I dont know, seems oddly unlikely…but i’ll take it. Can you imagine being sick with both diseases at the same time? Screw that. 

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Our fearless driver for the day is…Hyein. I still felt a bit sick and wanted to relax in the passenger seat.

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Views on Nicaragua on our way South.

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Wind turbine installations on the shore of Lake Nicaragua. This is almost at the border with Costa Rica.

That is it for Nicaragua. Sorry we couldn’t explore you more. Thanks for cheap and clean hotels, great food, awesome people and welcoming country.  Aaaaand free healthcare!

Costa Rica

It is interesting to see how quickly things change from one country to the next.

At the border crossing into Costa Rica the immigration officer sat in an air conditioned room and used a computer to scan our passports.

The car import steps were straight forward and fast and most importantly…inside air conditioned rooms. The whole process took about an hour, one of our fastest.

Side note: we saw a lot of Cubans sleeping/waiting at the border to Nicaragua. Apparently, they are all trying to get North to United States, where if they manage to get in, can stay legally. Nicaragua for some reason is not letting them pass through their country. So they just sit and wait by the hundreds at the border. Sleeping on cardboard boxes and playing checkers on the street. And i thought we had it rough…

We drove for another 30 minutes and stopped at a small finca (i.e. farm) with various animals.

First thing we were advised NOT to do is to go into the river…why? Cuz there is a big…okay, medium sized, crocodile just chilling there. The host said that there are usually two of them.

Since we couldn’t see the other one, we stayed away from the water’s edge 🙂

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Okay, crocs are big, dangerous and cool…but you cant really get close to them or even pet them.

You are forced to just take photos from a distance…kinda lame.

No worries! The Costa Rican jungle is actually one of the most bio-diverse places in the world (in the top 20 countries in the world – wiki reference: Wildlife of Costa Rica).

Sooooooo…we saw other cool animals.

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Baby sloth, doesn’t he look cuuuute? Just chilling there, smiling 🙂

Next morning we were also visited by some spider monkeys (wiki – Spider Monkey) who came by the finca to feast on grapefruits.

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In the above photo, you can actually see the green grapefruit that the monkey is holding.

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Close up of the monkey taking the grapefruits from the tree (above) and then going back to a taller tree (below) to eat it.

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In this group we counted a total of 6 monkeys.

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The largest member of the group, hanging by the tail and one of the arms.

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I was trying to make my famous monkey noises. But i dont think they understood my American accent 🙁

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This one was just hanging by its tail.

And I SWEAR, it was trying to chuck the grapefruit peels at me.

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This asshole started the song of his people at 4:30 in the morning and kept it going for a few hours. Just in case someone DIDN’T HEAR HIM THE FIRST 100 TIMES!

But DAMN, he is pretty and colorful.

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OH JES, its the baby sloth again!

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I think he knows that he is cute and quite enjoying himself in the morning sun.

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Two cuties in one photo…sadly, i’m not talking about myself. Hyein, are you poking the sloth?

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He is definitely enjoying all the attention…hm, reminds me of someone.

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For being so damn cute we gave him a flower, which he proceeded to munch on instantly. Why is he soooooo cute?!

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Less exotic, but an animal nonetheless,  i give you – turkey. Hyein confessed that she has never seen one alive and didn’t know they made those funny “gobble, gobble” sounds.

Well, now you know, dear wife where those delicious drums come from.

After the hot and humid jungle we wanted to explore the mountain region of Costa Rica and take in the beautiful landscape.

Omg, who am i kidding…i just read on some blog that the town of Monteverde has some of the worlds best coffee. Thats enough reason for me to go pretty much anywhere.

The last 20 miles into town were unpaved, but provided some of the most amazing views of the trip.

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The views are very pretty, feels like you are driving on the Windows desktop background the whole time.

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Cows hanging out on the top of the hill.

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More green and cows.

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One of my favorite shots…clouds rolling in from the hills into a little green valley.

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As usual, we bring to you the local currency. Costa Rica has really colorful money, you can see the spider monkey and the sloth that we saw.

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And as usual, the other side is filled up with some dudes’ head shots. I’d rather be looking at the monkeys.

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Finally, where is that world renowned coffee…?

Okay, i have to admit that the coffee was really good…but not the best cup of coffee in my life…at least i dont think so.

Was it worth driving to this town? For the coffee alone – NO. But to enjoy the cool mountain air and nice views, then a resounding YES!

At night we decided to do some cooking in the hostel we were staying. Okay thats a lie, since we splurged on a hotel room, we felt bad spending more money on dinner and decided to just cook.

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The local grocery store had terrible, rotten veggies and some old korean drama playing in the background. So, the store gets -100 points for shitty produce and +5 points for the k-drama. Overall score…dont go there.

Cooking before you had some wine:

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After wine:

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Another example of local wildlife:

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Doesn’t he look majestic? Also, the largest cat i have ever seen. There are many dogs in the world smaller than this guy. It can destroy a chihuahua, easily.

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After the mountain we decided to visit the Pacific Coast and enjoy some beach time.

The gravel road from the city had a rockfall the night before and a crew was cleaning it up.

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Somehow this made me feel like a real adventurer. I know it is silly, but you always see these kind of things on adventure/travel blogs. Where people go on the most dangerous road in the world, deep in the jungle, with the real possibility of road collapse at any moment…

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You can see our little Hodori (remember? thats what we are calling our car), patiently waiting his turn to cross the rockfall.

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This road is full of surprises…the next obstacle was navigating a small herd of cows.

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Slowly, but surely we made our way through.

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And drove the rest of the way to the Pacific side without major complications or adventures…

Stopped for the night just south of a little town called Uvita. The campground was empty except for another young couple. We decided to join them for a beer…one thing led to another and here we are 3 hours later, drinking rum and having a good time.

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Turns out are Emilie and Alex are French…but they live in Switzerland. By this point I KNOW i have met more Swiss or people living in Switzerland than every in my life.

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Obligatory selfie. Next day Hyein had to drive…because i didnt feel 100% 🙂

Here is my quick opinion on Costa Rica:

  1. Really green, jungles, lots of animals
  2. Very clean and safe
  3. The most expensive country so far – California level or more
  4. Worth a visit

We are sad to have traveled through these beautiful countries so fast, but we still had a good time.

Next up – PANAMA!

6 Comment

  1. Veronika says: Reply

    Hey Ivan and Hyein I love reading your posts. Sorry about your sick times I hope you are both feeling better. At least Hyein can say she had a tropical disease (but I do hope she is all better now). I like reading about the different countries and your opinions of them. How do you communicate with people- what languages do you use? Some places look amazing- I love seeing the photos- you both look that you really enjoy it. Salute to Hyein for driving that big car kkk. Do you go inside the jungles- is it not dangerous? What about which food was so far the best in what country? And why did not you take the little sloth with you he was adorable and he would not run away kkk.
    Stay safe, and healthy and have many more amazing adventures.
    Bye Veronika

    1. irazinkov@gmail.com says: Reply

      Hi Veronika, i hope that will be the end of exotic diseases 🙂
      When we left San Diego, we knew two phrases: “No tengo dinero” and “Donde esta la biblioteca?”
      The geography after Guatemala changes very slowly, so basically its like El Salvador, Nicaragua, Honduras and Costa Rica are one big zone. The main difference being is the vast jungle in Costa Rica.
      There are usually nice trails in the jungle, otherwise its is really hard to walk through, not like the forests of our homelands.
      Mexico overall wins for amazing food – specifically Oaxaca: mole, tlayuda, grilled meats.
      El Salvador had amazing pupusas, that we wrote about.
      I really wanted to take the sloth, but when he poops it just sticks to his fur…so i thought he is not the cleanest of pets 🙁
      Thanks for reading,
      Ivan and Hyein

  2. Катя says: Reply

    Ваня и Хейн! Привет! В Коста Рике реально классно, и столько животных. Ленивец меня сразил наповал, но он и вправду грязноват, я бы даже его не трогала, ибо мне брезгливо. Но он лапочка! Выздоравливайте быстрее. Мы все переживаем за Хейн!!! Береги жену!
    Катя.

    1. irazinkov@gmail.com says: Reply

      Privet Katuh! Zhenu beregu, ona nas vseh eshe perezhivet 🙂
      Segodnya zapechativaem mashinu v kontejner dlya perevozki v Kolumbiju!
      A potom sami na lodke tuda edej.

      Vanya

  3. Andrei says: Reply

    Hyein and Ivan,

    Sorry to hear that you are still sick. Hope you will be better soon.
    Did not have a chance to tell how wonderful your blog is.
    I really enjoy reading. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
    Zhenya and Polina join greetings.
    Call Mom when you have time.

    Hyein, be brave.

    Andrei.

    1. irazinkov@gmail.com says: Reply

      Thanks, we are much better now! Happy New Year!
      Hyein is always brave 🙂

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