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Eight Central American Surprises: Quakes, Quinceañeras and Kenny G

By Hideaway Report Editor

March 12, 2018

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Experiencing the unexpected is one of the great pleasures of travel, and often it’s the memories of unplanned moments that I treasure most when I return home (even if they weren’t particularly pleasant at the time).

My recent trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua provided numerous such moments, and these are some of my favorites.

Yanni

While en route from San José, Costa Rica, to Hacienda AltaGracia, our driver suggested that we listen to some music. Since he said his parents were Jamaican, I thought he might play some reggae, but it was Yanni he turned on. “I love Yanni,” he explained, “because it’s relaxing, and it’s clean music. Boom boom boom, no, no. I don’t like rock music.” We listened for a while, and just as Yanni’s bland world-music sound was beginning to grate, our driver asked, “Do you like Kenny G?”

Spider

A spider in its web on Big Corn Island, Nicaragua Ramon-/Flickr

We had just started our horseback ride at Nekupe, deep in the Nicaraguan rainforest. I wasn’t paying close attention to my mount’s path, and we brushed against a branch extending into the gravel road. On that branch was a web, and in that web was a spider, and web and spider ended up on my face. What surprised me most about the moment was how I managed to retain some semblance of composure as I brushed a Nicaraguan jungle spider (venomous, nonvenomous … who knows?) off my cheek.

Kayak Surfing

Our kayaks on the beach in Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica Photo by Hideaway Report editor

I had never “surfed” a kayak before, but it is possible, and it is great fun. I caught a perfect wave, but it was a bit too large for my amateur paddling. The kayak’s bow dug into the water, and I was tossed out into the surf. I wasn’t so surprised that my kayak and I tumbled end over end, but my spouse’s delighted reaction at the sight was a bit unexpected.

Quinceañera

OXIGENO Lounge & Bar at Elements Hotel Boutique in Managua, Nicaragua Photo by Hideaway Report editor

On our last evening of the trip, we reserved a table for dinner in the restaurant of our boutique hotel in Managua, Nicaragua. We arrived to find that we were the only guests, aside from a 20-person quinceañera party. Our table stood between theirs and the swimming pool. During our dinner, various guests would come toward our table, glancing at us with puzzled expressions as they took photos by the pool’s edge. Most surprising was how quiet the whole affair was. I felt rather sorry for the guest of honor.

Earthquake

The view from the restaurant at Rancho Pacifico in Uvita de Osa, Costa Rica Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Another dinner was made memorable by a brief earthquake. We had just received plates of delicious eggplant Parmesan at Rancho Pacifico, high above Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, when a 20-second tremor struck, sloshing the water in the pool and clanking the glassware at the bar. Twenty seconds sounds brief, but it feels like ages if you happen to be sitting on a bluff that had been afflicted by mudslides a month earlier.

La Corronga

The interior of La Corronga café in Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica Photo by Hideaway Report editor

During our transfer from Hacienda AltaGracia to Rancho Pacifico, our driver suggested stopping for some coffee at a unique café. La Corronga felt as much like a museum (or junk shop) as a café, with an astonishingly large collection of obsolete technology: landline telephones, electric typewriters, record players, cassette decks, vacuum-tube televisions, etc. We had some superlative pour-over coffee at a rough-hewn wood counter overlooking the lush valley below.

Coffee Exhibition

The exterior of the spa at Rancho Pacifico in Uvita de Osa, Costa Rica, where we received our coffee scrub Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Since one can get a basic massage anywhere, I opted to try a coffee scrub at the spa of Rancho Pacifico. The scrub felt most restorative, but it left me covered in grounds. My therapist kindly started the shower and departed, to give me some privacy as I rinsed off. But the outdoor shower was quite the opposite of private, with magnificent, unobstructed views sweeping down the hillside toward the distant coast. Anyone who happened to be on the hillside below had equally magnificent views of the Harper corpus. Alas, I didn’t hear any cheering erupt from the forest.

Pheasant Tossing

A pheasant on the grounds of Nekupe in Nandaime, Nicaragua Photo by Hideaway Report editor

When I started writing the Hideaway Report, I never would have guessed that one day I would find myself standing beside a Nicaraguan pond, holding a live pheasant that I was supposed to throw. “When you release the pheasant,” my guide at Nekupe told me, “the pheasant takes all your bad energy with it.” I did my best to give the bird a gentle but firm boost into the air. It barely made it across the pond, landing awkwardly in the brush on the far side. But the rest of that day at Nekupe was absolutely splendid, so I think my guide must have been right.

Experiencing the unexpected is one of the great pleasures of travel, and often it’s the memories of unplanned moments that I treasure most when I return home (even if they weren’t particularly pleasant at the time).

My recent trip to Costa Rica and Nicaragua provided numerous such moments, and these are some of my favorites.

Yanni

While en route from San José, Costa Rica, to Hacienda AltaGracia, our driver suggested that we listen to some music. Since he said his parents were Jamaican, I thought he might play some reggae, but it was Yanni he turned on. “I love Yanni,” he explained, “because it’s relaxing, and it’s clean music. Boom boom boom, no, no. I don’t like rock music.” We listened for a while, and just as Yanni’s bland world-music sound was beginning to grate, our driver asked, “Do you like Kenny G?”

Spider

A spider in its web on Big Corn Island, Nicaragua Ramon-/Flickr

We had just started our horseback ride at Nekupe, deep in the Nicaraguan rainforest. I wasn’t paying close attention to my mount’s path, and we brushed against a branch extending into the gravel road. On that branch was a web, and in that web was a spider, and web and spider ended up on my face. What surprised me most about the moment was how I managed to retain some semblance of composure as I brushed a Nicaraguan jungle spider (venomous, nonvenomous … who knows?) off my cheek.

Kayak Surfing

Our kayaks on the beach in Marino Ballena National Park, Costa Rica Photo by Hideaway Report editor

I had never “surfed” a kayak before, but it is possible, and it is great fun. I caught a perfect wave, but it was a bit too large for my amateur paddling. The kayak’s bow dug into the water, and I was tossed out into the surf. I wasn’t so surprised that my kayak and I tumbled end over end, but my spouse’s delighted reaction at the sight was a bit unexpected.

Quinceañera

OXIGENO Lounge & Bar at Elements Hotel Boutique in Managua, Nicaragua Photo by Hideaway Report editor

On our last evening of the trip, we reserved a table for dinner in the restaurant of our boutique hotel in Managua, Nicaragua. We arrived to find that we were the only guests, aside from a 20-person quinceañera party. Our table stood between theirs and the swimming pool. During our dinner, various guests would come toward our table, glancing at us with puzzled expressions as they took photos by the pool’s edge. Most surprising was how quiet the whole affair was. I felt rather sorry for the guest of honor.

Earthquake

The view from the restaurant at Rancho Pacifico in Uvita de Osa, Costa Rica Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Another dinner was made memorable by a brief earthquake. We had just received plates of delicious eggplant Parmesan at Rancho Pacifico, high above Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast, when a 20-second tremor struck, sloshing the water in the pool and clanking the glassware at the bar. Twenty seconds sounds brief, but it feels like ages if you happen to be sitting on a bluff that had been afflicted by mudslides a month earlier.

La Corronga

The interior of La Corronga café in Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica Photo by Hideaway Report editor

During our transfer from Hacienda AltaGracia to Rancho Pacifico, our driver suggested stopping for some coffee at a unique café. La Corronga felt as much like a museum (or junk shop) as a café, with an astonishingly large collection of obsolete technology: landline telephones, electric typewriters, record players, cassette decks, vacuum-tube televisions, etc. We had some superlative pour-over coffee at a rough-hewn wood counter overlooking the lush valley below.

Coffee Exhibition

The exterior of the spa at Rancho Pacifico in Uvita de Osa, Costa Rica, where we received our coffee scrub Photo by Hideaway Report editor

Since one can get a basic massage anywhere, I opted to try a coffee scrub at the spa of Rancho Pacifico. The scrub felt most restorative, but it left me covered in grounds. My therapist kindly started the shower and departed, to give me some privacy as I rinsed off. But the outdoor shower was quite the opposite of private, with magnificent, unobstructed views sweeping down the hillside toward the distant coast. Anyone who happened to be on the hillside below had equally magnificent views of the Harper corpus. Alas, I didn’t hear any cheering erupt from the forest.

Pheasant Tossing

A pheasant on the grounds of Nekupe in Nandaime, Nicaragua Photo by Hideaway Report editor

When I started writing the Hideaway Report, I never would have guessed that one day I would find myself standing beside a Nicaraguan pond, holding a live pheasant that I was supposed to throw. “When you release the pheasant,” my guide at Nekupe told me, “the pheasant takes all your bad energy with it.” I did my best to give the bird a gentle but firm boost into the air. It barely made it across the pond, landing awkwardly in the brush on the far side. But the rest of that day at Nekupe was absolutely splendid, so I think my guide must have been right.

 Sneak Peek

This article appeared in The Hideaway Report, a monthly newsletters exclusively for members.

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