Melissa MacDonald

Graphic Designer / Wanderer / Nature-lover Instagram: @thisismelmac
Living in: Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
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  • Day4

    Holiday Monday in Almonte

    May 22, 2017 in Canada

    We decided to pack up camp on Sunday morning and head home since the forecast was calling for rain all night Sunday, but neither of us were ready for our weekend adventures to end. So, we made a game time decision to hop in the car and take off to Almonte for the day on Victoria Day Monday.

    Upon arrival, our first stop was at the ice cream shop (of course). A little ice cream fuel for small town adventures is a must! Once I had my chocolate & peanut butter scoop and Dave had his chocolate scoop in a waffle cone, we took off down the Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a boardwalk and a series of bridges that lead you along the water line for fantastic views of the falls. It's only about two blocks in the length though so it didn't take us very long to traverse.

    Next up, the Mill Street shops! We popped in to a few antique shops, gift shops and outdoor stores. Even if you don't buy anything, the shops contain such neat little items that you can't find in the city! The architecture found in this part of town is breathtaking as well, lined with buildings that were constructed in the 19th century. The former Almonte post office and the Rosamond Woollen Mill are both designated as National Historic Sites of Canada.

    After a stroll through the park on the riverside, we hopped in the car and took a little tour of the countryside and then headed into Carleton Place to drive around town. About halfway through our tour it dawned on us... We were out for a Monday drive. When did we become our parents?!
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  • Day1

    Victoria Day Camping Weekend

    May 19, 2017 in Canada

    This weekend marked the official kick-off of camping season for us and we took off to Lac Simon, which is nestled in the heart of the Outaouais, a little under a two hour drive from Ottawa. While it got pretty chilly overnight and the black flies were pretty thick at times, we had an amazing time and it was wonderful to get out into the woods and away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

    A couple of takeaways from our camping trip:
    1. Keep the camping BBQ well away from the side of the screen tent
    2. Bringing two coolers is key - one for food and one for bevies
    3. Onesies are great for keeping warm, but not for middle of the night bathroom trips!
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  • Day5

    Jeep-Boat-Jeep to La Fortuna

    April 10, 2017 in Costa Rica

    Traveling from Monteverde to La Fortuna by bus or car is tricky, and can take up to eight hours because of the roads and lakes. We had heard about the "jeep-boat-jeep" tour prior to leaving Canada and we knew that this was going to be our means of travel between the two destinations. What we didn't know was how absolutely breathtaking this tour would end up being! Not only was the venture cut down to 3.5 hours, the initial "jeep" (it was actually a van) transfer provided fantastic views of the countryside, followed by an hour-long boat ride across Lake Arenal which awarded views of Arenal Volcano. The second jeep picked us up at the other side of the lake and dropped us off right at our hostel. Not a bad deal for $20 USD each!Read more

  • Day5

    Sky Walk in the Cloud Forest

    April 10, 2017 in Costa Rica

    As someone who loves nature and spends most of my weekends aimlessly wandering around in the woods, this tour was right up my alley. The Sky Walk is a combination of suspension bridges and walking trails through the Monteverde rainforest which provides some of the best views that we encountered on our trip. There are six bridges in total and the entire trek is about 2.5 km, it took us about 3 hours to complete, but we were continually stopping to scan the tree tops for sloths, monkeys, quetzals or any other critters that wanted to make an appearance for us - unfortunately on this particular day they were quite content to stay hidden. Despite this, we had a great time taking in our surroundings and enjoying the leisurely pace of this tour before setting off to our next desitination, La Fortuna!Read more

  • Day4

    100% Aventura Zipline & Tarzan Swing

    April 9, 2017 in Costa Rica

    If there's anything that I would label as a MUST DO in Costa Rica, this is it! Of course Costa Rica is known for its adventure tours, and there are many to choose from, so why did we choose this one? Well for one, 100% Aventura's course boasts the longest zipline in Latin America, coming in at a whopping 1,590 metres... that's 5,216 feet! Not only this, but you get to ride the zipline "superman" style, meaning face first - if you've ever dreamed of being a bird, this is probably as close as you're going to get. The second large draw for this tour is the grand finale of the course, the Tarzan Swing - I'll get into the details of this one shortly.

    After a run-through on proper procedures and safety, we set off to start the course. The beginning of the tour features 11 ziplines, a swinging rope bridge and a rappel from one of the platforms. There are staff stationed on every platform ensuring that you're properly secured and moving along at a good pace. Once you've zipped through this portion of the course, the staff gives you the option of opting out or moving on to the first superman line - we, of course, opted to do it! They quickly re-adjusted our harnesses and sent us speeding up a hill in an ATV to the base of the first superman line.

    There were two lines, so we got strapped up fairly quickly, you can see the video of my ride here:

    And then straight on to the second superman line:

    Now, I've never really been one for heights or free-falling, so this next part forced me VERY far outside of my comfort zone. But I hadn't traveled all the way to Costa Rica to back out at the most intense and extreme moment of the course and let my fear dictate my path (let alone the fact that a seven year old girl went before me)... bring on the MEGA Tarzan Swing. I cautiously walked the "plank" out to the platform, which sits approximately 50 metres from the ground, two staff members were re-setting the ropes from the previous swing. They motioned me forward, attached the ropes to my harness and helped me to the edge of the platform where they casually opened the gate in front of me. "Ok, now lean forward"... Umm ok. Three seconds of free-fall later the swing caught and I was swung 45 metres in the air. The sounds that came out of me are sounds that I likely could not make again if I tried.

    You can see the video of my Tarzan Swing experience here:

    Would I do the Tarzan Swing again? I'm not sure. Am I glad I did it? Definitely! Did the employees do a fantastic job despite most of them being at the bar last night? Well, despite them having forgotten to give Dave a trolley at the beginning of the tour, everything went off without a hitch!
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  • Day3

    Off to the Monteverde Mountains

    April 8, 2017 in Costa Rica

    After two days of relaxation on the coast, we were ready for a little more adventure... Enter Monteverde. After a trek down the beach to Tamarindo and a three hour shuttle ride (which included a travel break halfway where we witnessed a pack of howler monkeys and were treated to their distinct song for the first time), we arrived in the mountainous town in Northwestern Costa Rica.

    We arrived on the doorstep of our hostel/B&B and were immediately in awe. Camino Verde Bed & Breakfast is nestled on a hill with a beautiful view of the mountains all the way down to the Gulf of Nicoya, part of the Pacific Ocean. Since we arrived at the hostel at dinner time, we decided that our evening would be best spent exploring the town. Our first stop was at Soda La Amistad, which was actually only a few steps from our hostel, and this ended up being our favourite spot to eat of our entire trip (not to mention the cheapest!).

    With our bellies full of casada, we set off on foot to see what else Monteverde had to offer. It wasn't long before we could hear the thud of latin music in the distance, so we decided to check it out. We stumbled upon a small building perched alongside the river at the bottom of a hill, it had a constant stream of people arriving at its door, so naturally we followed suit. Upon closer inspection we realized that Bar Billa was a hot spot for the locals, and how could it not be? They had cheap drinks, free appetizers, fun music and all the doors and windows were open to the outdoors leaving patrons and animals alike free to come and go as they please. The dance floor was filled with locals soaking up the Costa Rican atmosphere, everyone seemed to be having a great time. I couldn't help but note that a lot of the patrons happened to be wearing 100% Aventura jackets, which I wouldn't have normally given much thought to, however that happened to be who our zipline tour was booked with the next day. Hmmm...
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  • Day1

    Kicking it off in Playa Grande/Tamarindo

    April 6, 2017 in Costa Rica

    Costa Rica has been on my bucket list for a while now, who wouldn't want to travel to a country with sloths, monkeys, some of the best ziplining in the world and a pipe house hostel located steps from the beach?! The decision for our first stop on this trip was an easy one and this hostel was the perfect way to kick off our two week Costa Rican adventure. Our main goal for our first two days was rest and relaxation, after a long Canadian winter it's exactly what we needed, and Playa Grande provided!

    After dropping our bags off at the pipe house, we ventured down the beach toward Tamarindo. At the end of Playa Grande is an estuary which is home to various flora and fauna, including crocodiles, monkeys, iguanas and a variety of birds. Some of the local surfers were brave enough to cross the estuary on their surf boards, we opted to pay $1 USD each to have the shuttle boat take us across. The town of Tamarindo is very much a surf and party town, with no shortage of restaurants and bars lining the beach, and people coming and going in every direction with their surf boards, boats, ATVs, horses or zipping around on motor bikes. We decided to set up camp on some loungers on the beach taking in the sights and sounds, and this is where we remained for the majority of our two days.

    Some notable spots in Playa Grande/Tamarindo:
    1. NOI Bistro - A small café that has fantastic breakfast, baked goods and iced coffee
    2. Supermarket 2001 - A larger supermarket that contains a great selection of fresh fruit, vegetables and baked goods.

    Take aways from this part of our trip:
    1. Restaurants and supermarkets in Playa Grande are significantly more expensive than in Tamarindo
    2. While staying in the pipe house was an unforgettable experience, the estuary shuttles only run until 5 pm, so we had to remain on the Playa Grande side in the evenings (or take a 30 minute cab ride around the estuary)
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  • Day1

    Welcome to Costa Rica!

    April 6, 2017 in Costa Rica

    After an overnight flight from Ottawa through Calgary, we made it to Liberia at the break of day! We actually had to circle around above the airport for a few minutes because we arrived too early and they weren't ready to accommodate our arrival. Our first order of business upon landing in Liberia was to find a ride to Playa Grande. It just so happened that the moment we walked out the doors of the airport to the shuttle/taxi hub, there was a fellow traveler looking to catch a ride to Playa Grande as well, more specifically to the exact same hostel as us... mission accomplished!Read more

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