2013, a year of extremes in pictures

I’m gazing out of the window, the rain is lashing down in ‘sheets’, driven by high winds that are bending trees at an alarming angle. Although only early in the afternoon, the light has already started to fail, making it seem more night than day. The traditional New Year’s Day walk has been postponed – in truth cancelled – due to a general reluctance to endure the terrible weather in person.

My mind keeps wandering over the year just past: this time last year we were celebrating the arrival of 2013 in Sucre, Bolivia, our home for a year. Although we would spend another few months in Bolivia, we were already planning a journey north that would take us through Peru, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, before returning to Bolivia. In between, we’d visit Argentina and Chile, Bolivia’s wealthier neighbours, for a change of scene and cuisine.

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

The Fiesta de Virgen de Guadalupe, Sucre, Bolivia

So, with one eye on the coming year, here’s my homage to 2013, a year which took us from the heart of South America to the heart of Central America. A journey from the high Andean mountains of Bolivia to the turquoise waters of Nicaragua’s Caribbean coast, and back again, before returning to Britain.

Adobe church and Vulcan Sajama, Sajama, Bolivia

Adobe church and Vulcan Sajama, Sajama, Bolivia

Siloli Desert, Bolivia

Siloli Desert, Bolivia

Salinas Grandes, Argentina

Salinas Grandes, Argentina

Cemetery in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Cemetery in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Fiesta in Cuzco, Peru

Fiesta in Cuzco, Peru

Magical Machu Picchu, Peru

Magical Machu Picchu, Peru

Oasis of Huacachina, Peru

Oasis of Huacachina, Peru

A woman sits on a Botero sculpture, Medellin, Colombia

A woman sits on a Botero sculpture, Medellin, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena, Colombia

The Panama Canal, Panama

The Panama Canal, Panama

The beautiful San Blas Islands, Panama

The beautiful San Blas Islands, Panama

The Pacific Ocean from La Cruz, Costa Rica

The Pacific Ocean from La Cruz, Costa Rica

The magnificent Granada, Nicaragua

The magnificent Granada, Nicaragua

The idyllic Pearl Keys, Nicaragua

The idyllic Pearl Keys, Nicaragua

Glorious Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

Glorious Little Corn Island, Nicaragua

…finally, returning to reality in London…un feliz y próspero año nuevo por todo.

Tower Bridge, London, England

Tower Bridge, London, England

La Cruz, beautiful views and wildlife en route to Nicaragua

We finally reached the tiny town of La Cruz on our fourth bus of the day after leaving our B&B in Monteverde at 6am. Our first bus, travelling over 50km of rough dirt roads, was a retired school bus without any discernible suspension that had five child-sized seats in a row. The last time I was actually able to fit into a seat that size was when I was seven years old. The bus was packed.

We had thought to press on to the border and cross into Nicaragua the same day, but the prospect of another bus and another Central American border crossing after a day of uncomfortable and hot, sticky travel was too much. So we put an end to the madness and spent the night in La Cruz.

Sunset, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Sunset, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Sunset, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Sunset, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Sunset, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Sunset, La Cruz, Costa Rica

In the end we were really glad we stopped in La Cruz. We stayed in a small hotel, Hotel Amelia, with the most extraordinary panoramic views down to the Pacific Ocean. With a cold beer in hand, we had ring-side seats to a wonderful sunset. If that wasn’t enough, the trees and foliage just outside the hotel are home to an incredible amount of wildlife, including Spider Monkeys.

Spider Monkey, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Spider Monkey, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Spider Monkey, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Spider Monkey, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Spider Monkey, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Spider Monkey, La Cruz, Costa Rica

It is amazing how much wildlife you could see from the balcony of the hotel. I was watching some birds early in the morning when a Coati suddenly appeared in a tree branch looking for food. A couple of Great-tailed Grackles didn’t like the Coati one bit and started flying around it, squawking and generally being very unhappy about its presence.

Coati, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Coati, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Coati, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Coati, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Other than that, there isn’t a huge amount to say about La Cruz. It is a friendly but work-a-day town that seems a long way off the gringo trail; it does have a very good seafood restaurant where I was able to indulge my love of ceviche.

Parrot, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Parrot, La Cruz, Costa Rica

White-throated Magpie-Jay, La Cruz, Costa Rica

White-throated Magpie-Jay, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Masked Tityra, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Masked Tityra, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Woodpecker, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Woodpecker, La Cruz, Costa Rica

After watching a lovely sunrise the next morning, we headed to the bus station for the short drive to the Costa Rican – Nicaraguan border crossing expecting a long queue under a hot sun…

Sunrise, La Cruz, Costa Rica

Sunrise, La Cruz, Costa Rica