Santo Domingo, Super Bowl, and Tamagringo, Costa Rica!

So much has happened since the last blog, it’s hard to keep it all straight! From last Monday to Saturday, we stayed at Hacienda Merida where Ali taught English while I putzed around the hostel/the town of Merida and kept myself entertained. We found out some interesting things about Hacienda Merida, owned by a wealthy resident named Alvaro Molina who we weren’t too impressed with. After some chatting with him and others around town, we came to the conclusion that the English school he was running, seemed to be for his benefit, as he recruited English-speaking volunteers to pay him to teach local kids English(with a discount on lodging/food), so that the kids would eventually work for his hostel and write grants for him. So, he had quite a few 14, 16, 17-year-olds working 7 days a week, all day for next to nothing!  All while he lays in hammocks and jumps on every tourist that comes in, asking what they do and seeing how they can benefit his business… needless to say, I can’t believe we lasted a week there! Ali, however, was a great teacher and got pretty close to the students, so that made it all worthwhile!

In our downtime, we walked around the tiny town of Merida taking pics with some cute pigs, taking in the AMAZING sunsets there, and enjoying the gorgeous greenery. We also made some friends with Ali’s co-teachers and some other tourists that were staying at the hostel. Our friends from New York that we had met in San Juan del Sur ended up coming to our hostel, so we hung out with them and all went on an amazing hike up to a waterfall last Wednesday. It was an hour walk to the park and then another 3 miles or so up a volcano(literally up – it was all uphill and mostly steep) until we came upon a beautiful waterfall. As it was a clear, hot day, we all jumped in with all of our clothes on – my first shower in a waterfall – amazing! Of course, we had to hike back down as well… so that was annoying. 🙂 I was sore for days after!

On Saturday, we said goodbye to Merida and headed to a place that was supposed to be a bit more happening, Balgue… after a bus ride there and a 10-minute walk around the “town”, we realized that there was not much there, including hostels, so we headed on foot(with our giant backpacks on) to the town of Santa Cruz where we found a hostel called Little Morgan’s. We stopped there for lunch and a cocktail, and after some back and forth decided not to stay there, as there were gnats flying all over us and our bags. We instead hopped on yet another bus to Santo Domingo Beach, where we immediately found an amazing little hotel on the water, where the lakes crashing waves(yes, it had waves) lulled us to sleep.

On Sunday, we headed out on a walk to a natural spring called Ojo de Agua(Eye of Water). Again, it was hot, so by the time we arrived at the beautiful, green spring, we got right in! There were quite a few Nicaraguan families there, so it was fun to watch the kids playing in the water, along with a few gringos. We lazed around there for a few hours and then decided to head back to Little Morgan’s for a Super Bowl party(Ali’s idea :D). As the island is pretty spread out, we had to hire an ATV driver to drive us to Little Morgan’s, in hopes that we could get a taxi back to our little hotel later that night. The party ended up being a blast – Ali and I hardly watched the game, but instead had some drinks and met a bunch of traveler’s from all over the world. Funny enough, Ali’s friend Katie had been to Nicaragua a few weeks before us and told us to find her 2 Canadian friends at Little Morgan’s – we indeed did(what a small world it is) and hung out with them most of the night – definitely a fun night on Ometepe with a great group of people!

The next day, we headed back to Santo Domingo and napped and relaxed again by the beach – not a very productive day! Yesterday, we decided it was time to leave our lovely little Ometepe Island and begin our trek to Costa Rica. We woke up fairly early, then took a bus to a ferry to a taxi to the border of Costa Rica… where we wandered around until we found the long customs line to exit Nicaragua and eventually, the entry to Costa Rica – so confusing! After eating a lunch of chips and cookies(no restaurants in sight), we hopped on another bus to Liberia, Costa Rica, where we had planned to stay the night. 2 hours later, we were in Liberia and saw that there was a bus in less than an hour to the destination we were actually headed to – Tamarindo Beach! It was now 6 pm, but we were on another bus to the beach! Another 2 hours later, we were finally in the town of Tamarindo, where we were dropped off in the middle of nowhere… and then hailed a taxi to a nearby hostel. Let’s recap the itinerary that day: bus>ferry>taxi>border crossing>bus>bus>taxi>hostel!!!

Anyway, upon arriving in Tamarindo(or Tamagringo as the nickname goes), we were completely overwhelmed by the neon signs, Vegas-y looking clubs and restaurants and SOOO many gringos! We found a hostel laden in surfboards with available dorm beds for $15/night, which is actually the most expensive night we’ve had since we’ve been traveling, but as it was 8:30 pm, our options were limited. We then went out to check out the town a bit, and were still overwhelmed at the crazy development, super high prices and the amount of white people! Nicaragua is sooo different than Costa Rica(or at least Tamarindo)! We eventually found a place to grab a drink, then of course found a karaoke bar where I sang some Gloria Gaynor and Rihanna and Ali sang an awesome rendition of “Total Eclipse of the Heart”. I would say, if you like Rocky Point, Mexico or Las Vegas, you will likely like Tamarindo Beach…

Today, we found the local supermarket and bought some food, to avoid paying the high restaurant prices and headed to the beach! It’s a big surf town so there are surfers and surf schools everywhere. We decided not to surf, but instead laid on the beach and worked on our tans(which are getting scarily dark). We then walked around town, looking for something to do, but as Wednesday’s are pretty dead here, we only managed to find a small casino to lose some money in. Tomorrow, pending availability of shuttles, we plan to head to a town pretty south of here called Montezuma – woo!

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