Keeping Busy in Toronto

Since this blog is mainly a travel blog, I haven’t written since my return to Toronto two months ago. Here’s a bit of an update on my Toronto life.

I applied for two jobs since I got back. Neither panned out, probably from a combo of over and under-experience. I am not trying to do anything related to past careers. Both jobs had one thing in common: cycling; and neither contacted me. As a result, I am starting my own cycling related business.

Yes, Me. It’s called Cycle Tours TO and, using bike share, I lead tours through west end Toronto neighborhoods, including my own, that have a lot of history and fun events. Cycle Tours TOWhen you visit the city, I’ll give you a friends and family rate on a tour! The weather is beautiful this week so do a tour with me!

So far, it’s not easy. I am trying to get listed as an experience on AirbnB, but there’s a 3 week review process. One week down. I’ve posted as a PWYC offering on Couchsurfing. Yesterday, 3 people signed up, but none showed.

Today, I spent a few hours cycling around Toronto dropping off postcards to different hostels. I biked 20KM and went to 9 hostels. Maybe I’ll get a couple emails! Hope so!

I love cycling around Toronto. And I love learning about and sharing my love of Toronto and all the great things to do and see here. I have been on lots of tours of different cities, and have taken away what people like to hear about those cities and am trying to incorporate that knowledge into my tour.

Here are some photos from my visits to the hostels today. I talked with staff at each hostel and they were generally friendly and supportive.

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After today, I can recommend which hostels in Toronto to stay in and which to avoid. There’s one particularly grotty one I almost didn’t leave cards it was so disturbing.

This weekend is a holiday weekend and the weather looks good so maybe I’ll get some customers, starting tomorrow at 11am. I am getting outside, talking to people and riding my bike. It’s all good!

Diving Corn Island

Dive Sites Corn IslandsWe read in advance about the scuba diving in Corn Islands- big fish, uncluttered sites, nice reefs -and we have enjoyed 5 days of diving here.

It didn’t start out great – on Sunday and Monday,  the wind and waves were very strong – and even with Gravol, it was tough being on the boat. Below the surface, the waves affected visibility and moved us around a lot. But, we kept with it, and the last few days have been great!

We dove with Dos Tiburones the entire time at several different reefs – 8 dives in total. We saw sharks, rays (no photos of the rays), lots of massive lobsters, eels, schools of fish and some beautiful reefs. This is a very heavily fished island so there weren’t a LOT of big fish as we’ve seen in other places like Cuba or Galapagos (but Galapagos isn’t a fair comparison anyway), but it was still fun.

Starfish Corn Islands
Starfish

Continue reading “Diving Corn Island”

I Like This Place! Corn Islands

Corn Island Beach
Corn Island Beach

Brian and I made it to Corn Islands on Saturday morning, and it’s very relaxing. There are a few things to do here in Corn Islands: scuba dive, lie on the beach, drink beer and/or rum, eat seafood, relax in the sun and/or shade, repeat. That’s been us for the first 2 days of our stay here. We like it.

We are staying in a really cool “eco-cabin” up a hill with a nice view of the sea. This is our view from the deck/patio, and from our bed.

Los Escapados Corn Island
View from our patio, Corn Islands

Continue reading “I Like This Place! Corn Islands”

Solo Travel

Selfoe
It’s only been a week and a half, because I don’t count my time at Spanish school as solo travel. For one, I wasn’t travelling; I was living with a family. And, for another reason, there were other students to hang out with all the time. I was rarely alone. So, I have only been travelling alone for about 10 days, and I am glad it’s almost over.

There are a lot of things to like about solo travel. I was able to go see some amazing places that no one else I knew had the time to visit with me! I did it anyway. Plus, when alone, I can do what I want when I want. I generally don’t sleep late, so not having to wait for anyone in the morning is a plus. I also don’t take long to get ready, so not having to wait for someone else is good too. I can get up and go – get coffee, breakfast or start a tour at 7am. That’s nice. I also can decide on a whim to go to a museum or on a tour and not to have to sell anybody else on it. It’s all up to me. I also got to spend my downtime however I wanted. I got some good night’s sleeps (not easy with all the noisy animals in Nicaragua) and read a lot of good books on my iPad.

A lot of the time, for me at least, solo travel meant being alone. I don’t mind being alone. It gives me the opportunity to watch what’s going on around me and experience the world. But then it can also get boring. Or lonely. Meals especially. Who wants to read during every meal? Not me. I am done with it. The good thing in Nicaragua is a lot of the interesting sights involve tours. (You can’t visit most of the volcanoes on your own. They don’t allow it.) And most of those tours have involved other people. Volcano hikes, coffee tours, all of those have included other tourists to talk to. Most of the people who tour around Nicaragua have been very interesting too! I met a Belgian coffee processor, a Kentucky documentary filmmaker, Australian backpackers, an American retiree who volunteers to teach Nicaraguans sustainable farming techniques, and more. There was also my last night in León, where I spent a couple hours with Silke, my friend from Toronto, who had just arrived to town! That was a treat!

But most of the time, I was eating alone, riding buses alone and visiting museums alone. I got to see a lot of cool things, and I don’t regret it. I just prefer company! I am ready to end the solo travel and go back to being social.

Good timing too! Brian is almost here! Technically, he should be here already, but he wandered too far in the Mexico City airport and missed his connection. I really don’t know how it happened, but for me, it meant another night of meeting new people at the Managua airport hotel and reading my book. It’s been fun, but I am ready for company.

Today I head to Corn Islands. Hopefully Brian will be there too. It looks like a paradisiacal Caribbean vacation spot, with diving, lobster and beachfront relaxing in our future. Check here for photos.

Somoto Canyon Day Trip

Somoto Canyon
Somoto Entrance Sign

Ever since I read about Somoto Canyon, I have wanted to visit. As you know, this trip was supposed to happen on Wednesday, but I messed that up big time! I tried again yesterday and the day started fine; I got a taxi and held onto my wallet and bag for dear life. Once I boarded and  saw a woman carrying actual chickens onto the bus, I knew it was a good sign! Some people go whole vacations without seeing a chicken on the chicken bus, and I got two chickens on my 4th chicken bus! The day was going to be good!

Chicken Bus
The woman with 2 chickens on the chicken bus to Somoto
Chicken bus
Zoom in on the chickens

Continue reading “Somoto Canyon Day Trip”

Exploring Estelí

Estelí is a big city in the northern highlands of Nicaragua. It feels smaller than León, but I think that’s mainly because the traffic is better. In León, I always felt like I was about to be hit by a car (pedestrians do NOT have the right of way here!). Estelí traffic is better because the streets are mostly one way.

I had plenty of time to get to know Estelí today, so I walked around town for a bit, went to a museum and visited the cathedral.

There is a quite a bit of street art in town. I am not sure if it’s a direct result of the political importance of this town during the revolution (it was a Sandinista stronghold), or just lots of artists. The variety is really engaging and it made for a fun day looking for more murals.

Mural Esteli
Mural Esteli
Mural Estelí
Robot Mural Estelí

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On Making Stupid Mistakes and Dealing With Them

That was not how I planned it! Yesterday I took the bus from Matagalpa to Esteli. The main reason I came to Esteli was to see the Somoto Canyon to the north, so I booked the tour yesterday from my hostal.

Today I had to get up early to catch a taxi to the bus station for a tour of Somoto Canyon. Instead I got money out of the ATM and left that money and my ATM card in the taxi. I realized it at the bus station but the cab was already gone. So I had to walk back to my hostel (fortunately only a 15 minute walk!) and cancel the tour and my ATM card. Do I feel like an idiot right now? YES I DO!

Negatives: Continue reading “On Making Stupid Mistakes and Dealing With Them”

A Day on a Coffee Farm in Matagalpa

Matagalpa is coffee country, and it was recommended I visit a coffee farm while here. I took the chicken bus north out of town and visited the organic coffee farm known as Selva Negra, or Black Forest.

The farm, and eco-resort and restaurant, is a self-sustaining business with it’s own town. As well as offering coffee tours, there are a lot of hiking trails, so I spent an entire day there. It was beautiful and interesting.

Matagalpa is at a higher elevation than anywhere else I have been in Nicaragua, and the weather is a bit cooler. It’s generally been in the mid 20s with a nice breeze, so really enjoyable. It still felt hot climbing the mountain on the hike at Selva Negra though! Continue reading “A Day on a Coffee Farm in Matagalpa”

Made it to Matagalpa: Facing My Solo Travel Fears

Leon to Matagalpa
Leon to Matagalpa

I asked around and did online research, and the only way to get to Matagalpa was 2.5 hours on the chicken bus. I barely slept on Friday night I was so nervous about the morning bus ride. Things I worried about: not getting a seat, losing my bags, missing the bus, getting robbed. You know what? It was awesome!

I got to the bus station early so I could get a good seat, and it worked. The bus driver gives out assigned seats! I got a window seat (score) near the back door (double score!). I was able to put my bags above me and a woman sat next to me and that was it for the whole trip. Easy peasy. Nothing like Rivas! I had worried for nothing. Continue reading “Made it to Matagalpa: Facing My Solo Travel Fears”

Another Volcano Hike: Telica Sunset Tour

Telica Volcano
Telica from below

On Thursday night I did a twilight hike at Volcano Telica, part of the Maribios volcano chain, same as Cerro Negro.

The key reason for the “sunset” or “twilight tour” is because you have a much better chance of seeing lava. I know I already saw lava last weekend, but I am hungry for more! It’s so cool, it’s hot!

I signed up for the tour through Quetzaltrekkers, mainly because they are a non-profit organization that puts on various hikes and donates all proceeds to helping local communities. I was very happy with their work. It was a well run hike. Continue reading “Another Volcano Hike: Telica Sunset Tour”