Rocks, calories, hallucinogenic drugs, weird fish and several countries

After a few days suffering with loo problems, we decided to head from the coast to the mountains for our final few days in Costa Rica. We waited for the early bus, which wasn’t running (Tico time, again) but finally got to the ferry, and picked up another bus to Monteverde.

We planned to spend a few days walking in the mountain tracks, but ended up spending most of it in the hostels. Chrisie picked up a weird tropical disease, possibly from a bus seat, as it started on the back of her leg. She said the red patch felt really hot, and so I touched the area with the back of my hand. 5 minutes later I had a red patch on my hand too, exactly where I touched her leg. The next day Chrisie had streaks and other patches on her other leg and one arm, and they were beginning to blister. It got a lot worse before it got better, and she couldn’t walk for a while. Since we couldn’t do much we didn’t get to do any walks, although on the last day we ventured out to climb a hollow tree. It was like a step ladder inside with lots of branches and roots creating an easy climb (VS 4c…?) up inside, even if you couldn’t bend your legs much. We climbed the whole way to the top and had a great view, 40ft up.

We flew from San Jose to Fort Lauderdale, Miami, in the US. We nearly didn’t get on the flight in Costa Rica, as we had no record of our ESTA numbers, and they wouldn’t let us on the plane without them. We ended up asking a guy with a laptop to help us out. We wrote down the numbers and showed them to a woman on the gate. She glanced at our page and said “cheers”. She didn’t need to plug them into a computer, just see that we had them. Us telling her we had them wasn’t enough!

The flight was really delayed, and we nearly didn’t make our connection to Los Angeles. Thankfully US immigration was surprisingly easy, and customs almost non-existent. That said, the USA now has records of our fingerprints, facial measurements, eye colour and retina imprints. When we arrived in LA at 11 that night, it was rather chilly compared to the heat of Central America. We found some food in the only thing that was open, Maccy D’s, as there was no food on our flights and we were starving. We spent the night on the bench in the airport, getting a few hours sleep, before jumping on the metro to our couch surfing host. We had a deadline of 10am; we started at 7am thinking this was plenty of time to get there before Lorenzo left for work, but got off the tube in Hollywood, and ended walking a few miles to his place. It was rather more difficult to navigate in LA than we expected, but we eventually found his place with seconds to spare.

We spent our time in LA walking the walk of the fame, seeing the famous Hollywood sign, and dandering up Broadway. We even got a day out climbing at Joshua Tree National Park. Lorenzo kindly took a day off work and drove us 3hrs to get to this massive park, with thousands of stacks of boulders. It has over 10,000 routes from 1 to 10 pitches. After crapping my way up “the easiest route on the crag” (HVS 5a), almost getting the 4×4 stuck (we passed a Hummer and wondered, but thought the Toyota could take it!), and scrambling up a huge boulder pile to watch the golden sunset on the rocks, we stopped at Famous Dave’s BBQ Joint for a meat fix.  A massive feast was served on an old style bin lid, more than 2 ft across! The three of us couldn’t finish it all in one meal.

All too soon our time in LA had to finish, but we were flying to Fiji, and losing a day in the process. Friday 25th November 2011 did not exist for me and Chrisie as we left on Thursday 24th, crossed the date line, and landed on Friday 26th! Serious body clock malfunction.

When we arrived Fiji wasn’t quite what we expected, certainly on the main island, at least. Not the crystal clear waters, nor the fine golden sands and nor amazing reefs, just the hot sun and humidity. We didn’t find the things that we imagined Fiji to be until we hit the Yasawa islands, and it was all there. We explored 4 different islands and stayed at 5 different resorts. We swam through underwater cave passageways and did a lot of snorkelling exploring the reefs and seeing so many colourful fish and some amazing marine life, including Nemo and giant clams. We also got a chance to snorkle on an outer reef with reef sharks; Chrisie even got to touch one. After a week barefoot, lounging in hammocks and drinking out of coconuts it felt weird going back to the mainland and having to wear flip flops again.

It was certainly an experience going to the local markets, fending off the local stall owners trying to convince them that you didn’t want to buy something from their stall. They acted so nice and friendly and welcoming at first, and told you to come in and take a look, no pressure, but yet they follow you and tell you to buy this, or that. “I give you good, price.” “If it’s too much, tell me how much you want to spend”. One coached us in inviting us to have a Kava ceremony, we weren’t sure if it was ok to say no, as we had already tried it and didn’t like it. So we reluctantly accepted then he tried to pressure us in buying a necklace for 50 Fijian$, which is about £25 for a necklace that’s worth about £2. The Kava drink is a local custom – It is served up in a big wooden bowl, and looks like a dirty puddle. It is made from powdered Kava root, which after 10 or so half-coconuts full is a serious hallucinogen. It was banned in Europe decades ago, apparently, because of people tripping out, and because it causes liver disease. The locals seem fine, though.

New Zealand next and arriving in Auckland we ended up crashing in a hotel apartment with a boyfriend of an English girl we met in Fiji. She was in Fiji a few days longer but she warned her boyfriend Ben that we might turn up for a place to stay. We stayed until our campervan was ready. Luckily we found one on the first day, as we are eager to get our trip in New Zealand started, but we’ve had to wait around Auckland for a bit while the mechanic did his stuff.  We’re  currently staying with Kirsty and Cathal near Whakatane (They’re ex. BAC for those who don’t know) while we’re doing up the van and doing a bit of gratuitous freeloading to save cash, then we’re planning to go to the northernmost tip of New Zealand, and travel slowly south for the next 11 weeks.

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