Thursday, 27 February 2014

Puerto Rico - Part 1, Getting There

Well as you all probably know we are now back in NZ, living in Whakatane and loving the sunshine capital of NZ.

But I haven't quite finished blogging.  Things got so busy towards the end of our stay and we got really sick at one stage so I'm afraid the blogging went a bit by the by.

Anyways, here we are, a bit more settled and I've been dying to find the time to do this blog of our trip to Puerto Rico as it was such a beautiful place and we met such lovely people on our trip there.

But speaking of being ill, before we get into the Puerto Rico trip, let me tell you, did we get sick!

Ok so you're in a third world country, you expect the odd parasite or case of the trots and you deal with it, no worries, but Porl and I actually got so ill, not long before we headed to Puerto Rico, that we thought we might not make it there or actually any where else, other than a pine box.

It started when we went for swim at the beach in the town, not far from home.  As we swam I commented to Porl that the water tasted yuk but it was so hot and we all know that exercise is good for us so we carried on swimming for 20 mins or so before heading home.

Oh btw if you don't like gore I should warn you to look away now and maybe skip ahead to the Puerto Rico part of the post ;)

So where was I, oh yes, swimming.  Then that night we got the runs.  Ok, no big deal, certainly not unheard of.  Next day the runs were worse, ok so maybe this is a bad case, maybe it'd pay to take it easy for a day or two.  But this went on for two whole weeks weeks without stop.

Usually when you get the runs you think ok, not nice but I'll just drink lots of fluids, flush the bug out and we'll be good to go.  Well not this time.  We just slowly got weaker and weaker, we had no desire to eat and in the second week we realised that we were hardly drinking either.

There we were lying side by side, wasting away with no energy and not getting any better.  (Gore warning ...)  I realized that we might actually be in quite serious trouble the morning that I came out of the bathroom and looked at my poor wizened up little husband and he looked at me and said, it's black isn't it, and I said 'yes'.  Neither of us had much strength but we really needed to do something, so I set off, very slowly, up the road to the doctors.  She said that we had likely ingested a nasty bacteria from the sea (probably from fecal matter) - I did warn you ... and what was happening was that our intestines were bleeding - nice!

So anyway, to cut a long story short we got on some heavy duty antibiotics and electrolytes and thankfully came right in time to head off on our trip.  So, back to the much more palatable part of the story ...

Although Puerto Rico wasn't exactly on our itinerary we were very excited when we received and inviation to be part of Ben Rutherford and Marielle Valle's wedding day, with the wedding being held in Puerto Rico.  The budget was pretty tight and we had some problems with the first airline we booked with, not mentioning any names (hhhrrrrSPIRIThhmmmm) but with a bit of help from Ben and Mari we managed to get things together and we were set to go.

So we said goodbye to our then housemate Dio who was loving the whole Nicaraguan 'no water, bucket bath' experience while living with us ...

We said goodbye to our lovely studies  ....  here's Jesus' little girl having her shower - such a cutie!

No day is complete without at least a mini-adventure in Nicaragua and sure enough on the way home our bus was stopped and searched by police.  Turned out they had been tipped off that someone was carrying a gun, and 'nek minnit' two girls were taken off the bus and when their bags were searched there it was!

Just another day in San Juan, Nicaragua.

The next morning we started our journey to Puerto Rico.

To get the cheapest ticket we had to fly out of Costa Rica so this meant catching a bus into Rivas (the opposite direction) to where we could pick up a Tica bus.

Waiting, watching ....

And here was our ride.
We stopped at the Nicaraguan/Costa Rican border for a customs check.

We stayed in an hostel in Costa Rica that I had found online with some rather amazing decor.

It also had two very important plusses ...

Hot water in the shower!!!!  
Ah our first hot shower for months, so nice!

And ... a pool table!!!  Also nice :)

There was also some very cute artwork.

Aren't sloths cute!

Then it was off to the airport to fly the long way round to PR
through Fort Lauderdale in the States.

Porl wasn't too impressed with the meal :)

But the important thing was that we were on our way to beautiful Puerto Rico, how exciting!

It was a pretty long trip, all around the houses ...

But we were finally on Puerto Rican soil and we booked into a very old building turned hostel kindly checked out by a friend for us. It had a rather rustic, rundown kind of charm and was run by an ancient and rather eccentric but kindly old gentleman.

The tiling was amazing as was the stair well, apparently the building was built in 1918.

The location was, as they say 'primo', right in the heart of Old San Juan.

The view from our balcony.

One of the locals having a wee rest :)

Our first morning in Old San Juan!

So we had arrived, now to explore!

Tune in next time for the next exciting episode of 
'Puerto Rico' Part 2 - Let the adventure begin!

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Run down stew, a let down with the rugby, Jesus revisited & farewell to Kieran

While in Bluefields you might remember us mentioning that we tried a delicious stew with coconut milk as its base - 'run down' (pronounced as 'rondon').

Well, each week Porl and I visit a lovely family here in San Juan to study the Bible with them and the gentleman, Elvis, is from over Bluefields way (actually a bit north of there, from a place called Puerto Cabeza).  We had told him how much we had enjoyed 'run down' while in Bluefields and one day when we arrived to have our study he had a surprise waiting for us.  He had kindly cooked us lunch of 'run down' - made with some locally caught little fish that were delicious.  He had also made gallo pinto but with coconut milk instead of just cooking the rice in water was usual.  He'd gone to a lot of trouble as it had involved getting coconuts, grating and squeezing them as well as all the other preparation.  Cans of coconut milk here are around $4 for just a small one so they are well out of range for the budget of most locals.

Here's Elvis in his kitchen, finishing off the delicious meal.

Elvis's wife Escarlet and their cute as a button baby.

The rainy season (not that there seemed to be much of that) seems to be pretty much over and we've had lots of beautiful weather lately.  Although it has to be said that some days have been a little to hot for comfort.  Thank goodness the beach is nearby and we swim most days to cool off.

Perhaps beacause of the heat, town has been quite quiet for a couple of months now with many less tourists than usual but the good weather has seen a return of the cruise ships with people coming in just for the day to stroll around San Juan or to take a day trip to Ometepe on the Tica buses.

The cruise ships dwarf the little fishing boats that moor in the harbour.

This week Gabby and I helped out down on the malecón with the literature display stand.
And given that it was such a hot day, when the coquero (Coconut guy) rode past on his bike, we happily treated ourselves to a 40c fresh coconut each for refreshment.

Later in the week it was Porl and Mel's turn to man the stand.  Here they are with a sister and her nephew who were part of a group of about 30 brothers and sisters visiting from Masaya.  The group spent the morning with us visiting local homes to share the good news from the Bible and then after an afternoon at the beach, swimming and relaxing, they once again boarded their bus and headed home.

 We had other visitors turn up this week too.  And just to show that it's a small world, it turns out that we know James' and his son Hemi's family who live in Kaitaia, about an hour from where we used to be in Kerikeri.

James and Hemi have been serving where the need is great in an English group in Mexico and they have carried around with them their All Blacks rugby shirts just in case they got to watch a game some time during their stay.  They were heading back to Australia where they live and hadn't got to use them even once, so you can imagine how excited they were when we said that that night we were going to watch what would be one of the biggest games of the year - NZ vs South Africa in the 4 nations championship.

Out came the shirts and off we set to one of the local restaurants that had arranged to show the game.
It was set to show at 7pm and as we waited for the game to begin Porl told Hemi that the beer mats were actually designed to be worn on the head.

Hemi of course, trusting child that he is, took Porl at his word and they both happily sat there for half an hour or so in their rather unusual headwear.

7 o'clock came and went and the restaurant owner apologized saying that he was having some technical difficulties.  Finally at about 7.30 he told us that the technical difficulties involved his 'source' not having loaded the game on to youtube for him to stream.  Rather than have us sitting their twiddling our thumbs he loaded up another game, Auckland vs Wellington.

That was kind of him but not quite what we'd come for.

 The poor guy kept trying to find the real game but to no avail, in the end we watched a few minutes of highlights but it just wasn't the same as seeing the game :(

In fact the highlight of the evening was an enormous bug that Kieran found as we were leaving.

This week was also a sad one because it was the end of Kieran's stay with us in Nicaragua.  The day before he left we went out for a goodbye breakfast at Gato Negro.

Here we are playing a game of Rummycub over breakfast, as you do.

Later that day, after Kieran had sorted out some odds and ends and got pretty much packed up and ready to go we decided to replay our mountain climbing adventure up to the Jesus statue. You may remember after the last one we had a home invasion and had our phone and camera stolen, so we had no pictures to show for the adventure.

The normal way to get to the Jesus statue is to stay on the road and head to the right in the picture below.  The road conveniently wends its way up the hill right to the statue.  But that's all a little ho-hum and we prefered to make an adventure of it.

... so we headed down the beach and went left.

Here's Kieran and young Ben who came with us.

 We went past some very interesting rock formations, something you never get to see on the road route.

We got to look back across the harbour into San Juan, a view that also wouldn't have been possible had we gone the road way.

We found some cute little bays ...

We got to see some cacti growing on the hillside ...

And then the best bit of all, we got to climb up some very interesting, rickety, tumbledown stairs.

The first bit seemed like normal, regular stairs ....

But halfway up you find out that the first half is not really connected to the second half and that's where things get a little more interesting, then you have to climb up the outside of the stairs to get to the next part.

The first time we came this way, after reaching the top of the stairs there was a kind of a path through the bush, this time it was rather overgrown.  Much more interesting :)

Eventually you get to see the path again ...

Then we popped out on a private road with some private estates and made our way up the hill, past some banks with lovely green moss ...

... and finally after a little more bush bashing we popped out right behind the Jesus statue.

There are some lovely views there out over another bay.

And then we found ourselves on the regular road that everyone else takes ...

 And out we went past the usually gun toting guard who on this day seemed unarmed and fairly friendly.

 Once back on the road we went to the regular lookout which has a spectacular view back over San Juan.

And here's one for the midgets, San Juan with a tiny town filter - loving your camera thanks Dio!

A well deserved few chips and an aloe drink got the energy levels back up ......

  and then all that was left was the descent, down the road to the beach for a dip.

That night, being Kieran's last we had a little farewell  ....

And then, Porl, being the lovely Dad that he is got up bright and early to make Kieran a farewell brekky.