Since we’ve started travelling we’ve taken quite a few flights and each one has been a totally different experience. When we arrived for our flight to Costa Rica we were tired, hungry and a bit grumpy. We’d just spent over £10 on a sandwich that was horrible – and I’d taken insulin for it, meaning I had to go and get an emergency butterfinger. Shame.
When we actually boarded it felt like we were the only people with an actual full row, meaning very little space for us when most people seemed to be lounging across three seats. They then kept us grounded for even longer because they’d decided to let some last minute ticket buyers on. I just wanted to go! I hiked my insulin back up to 150% in prep for the flight and tried to settle in. Halfway through ‘A Dogs Purpose’, with Alex sleeping beside me, a woman wobbled down the aisle towards the back of the plane. Next thing we knew she had absolutely floored it and collapsed. Alex sprung awake and conveniently said he thought he was hypo (great timing Alex!) I jumped out of my seat just as they were asking for any medically trained person on the flight to help. JALEX TO THE RESCUE! (I think the flight attendant actually said ‘Honey, take the floor’ to me). We did a blood sugar (obviously!), a manual blood pressure, Alex had a listen to her chest and quizzed her a bit. Turns out she was fine and we think she’d just had a faint. But still, the most exciting flight we’ve had to date!
We arrived in Costa Rica early morning and were immediately slapped in the face with the heat. Jesus. It’s unreal! You’re immediately drenched in sweat and there’s just no air! (Yes, Jordin Sparks comes to my mind too). We waited ages for customs (why do they insist on stamping my passport pages that already have stamps?! I even give them empty pages! So annoying!) and then headed out to collect our bags. We’d decided to enquire about hiring a car, mainly because it’s so convenient. I was a little bit concerned after our previous experience with a hire car (I really couldn’t have those conversations in Spanish if we lost the keys again) but we went for it and got a snazzy-super-off-road-four-wheel-drive kinda thing. I didn’t care about the four wheel drive thing, I just cared about the air con (ALEX TURN THE ENGINE ON NOW!). We started the three hour drive to our hotel, where I put the seat right back and slept and it was glorious. We arrived at our hotel later that afternoon and got our room upgraded, yay! Then spent the afternoon chilling. We had dinner at the hotel and I swear we were surrounded by the most intense thunderstorms I have ever witnessed. Lightening struck so close that the ground crackled. It was amazing! The storms continued through the night, with huge rumbles waking us up sporadically.
The next day I woke up feeling really rubbish. I think a combination of travel, heat and time zones had finally hit me. My sugars were up and I was really resistant to any insulin I gave, meaning I had to pretty much double my doses. I increased my basal again and had my sensor in to keep an eye on the trends (even though it’s still not 100% accurate). By lunchtime I’d started to feel a bit more human so we decided to venture out for some lunch. We chose a little Mexican place not far from us and I’m so glad we did. The hosts were so friendly, the food was great but most importantly we spotted some sloths! I got so excited that the owner started filming my reaction. It was so amazing!
I had a cocktail with lunch and I’m still learning how to deal with my blood sugars when drinking such delicious but sugary drinks. I’ve found that taking a pre-emptive dose of insulin to catch the sudden spike that will happen as soon as you start drinking a cocktail helps. So I tend to take 4 or 5u before I start to drink, to allow my insulin a head start because fruit juices etc are such fast acting sugar! I haven’t quite perfected it yet, but I think I’m getting there.
After lunch we explored and visited a little beach found at the bottom of a jungle track. We could hear birds and monkeys all around us, and the beach itself was very pretty, but we didn’t stay long as it was quite busy and I still felt pretty tired so we went back to the hotel and napped! Yay for napping.
The next day we got up early and headed for the national park – Manuel Antonio. Alex was excited, that kinda thing is right up his street (NATURE!). We’d read in the guidebook to ignore the street vendors telling you to park up and drive straight to the park. Turns out the guidebook was wrong again and we just got laughed at by some Costa Ricans. We joined a tour because although wildlife is absolutely in abundance in Costa Rica, most animals are really good at hiding. We saw multiple sloths, some monkeys rubbing lemon leaves on themselves to protect them from mosquito bites (anyone know the point in mosquitos btw), a blue crab, a tree frog, some tiny bats, multiple Jesus Christ lizards (they walk on water), lots of iguanas, a black squirrel, a snake, a HUGE butterfly and some cheeky raccoons. Well worth having a guide, although he did say that you get diabetes from having too many bananas….. I wish I’d known that when I was 10.
The tour ended at a beautiful beach. Guess which idiot forgot to put on her bikini or even bring a bikini? That would be me. So we just had a little paddle and then headed back to the hotel where we had more cocktails and nachos and then chilled all afternoon in the pool.
We went out for dinner in a tiny place that looks like your grandparents front room, but had some pretty incredible fish (still not quite as good as the fresh stuff we had in Auckland with family). The great thing about fish is that you don’t have to take insulin for it. The rubbish thing about fish is that it often comes with chips, which are still really difficult to judge unless weighed out (a bit awkward asking for your dinner to be weighed in a restaurant so I tend to avoid that). Another thing I’m learning, never underestimate the power of fruit! It has often caught me out because I think, ah I’ve only had fruit for breakfast, minimal insulin. WRONG. Pineapple and mango are super sugary – lots of insulin needed!
The next day we started our journey to the Caribbean coast! It’s a long drive (8hrs – I’m so glad we hired a car) but it was worth it. We arrived after dark at our hotel and once again, the heat was overwhelming. This hotel didn’t have any air con and I wanted to sleep in the car but apparently that’s rude. We went for Italian food that night and slept hugging an industrial sized fan, hoping that the temperature would drop (it didn’t). Heat and diabetes can be tricky. In theory heat can make any insulin given absorb much quicker due to increased blood flow etc, which can lead to lots of people having hypos whilst on holiday/needing to reduce their insulin. Me on the other hand, never one to follow the textbook, nope. My diabetes does what it wants it seems. I think exercise is the thing that makes my diabetes easier. Because we’d spent the day in the car, I’d needed lots of insulin and that stayed the same into the night despite the heat. Everyone is so different. Two people might have the same condition but it’s never predictable or the same.
The next day we went to The Jaguar Centre. This is a rehabilitation centre, run purely on donations and by volunteers and it was amazing. We had a guided tour and got to see a wealth of different animals, most of which will hopefully be released back into the wild at some point. The highlight was obviously the baby sloth garden. They are just so ridiculously cute. Their faces are the best faces of any animal ever and I love them. There was also a peccary (little pig) who was pretty full of personality and allowed to run riot in the reserve and a pelican named pistachio with a broken wing who liked to follow the tours around. The animals are clearly well looked after and I would recommend this place to everyone. We’ve been to a few animal ‘sanctuaries’ in the past and I’ve had to leave because it’s made me so upset but this place was different.
After the tour we went to the beach nearby, where I got absolutely savaged by sandflies (17 bites on one leg, I look like I have chickenpox!) before heading back and chilling out in the pool/venturing out for food. My sensor started falling off my arm because of the heat/sweat/chlorine/saltwater so I’ve had to secure it with a makeshift tubigrip armband type thing. It’s really fashionable and makes for a really interesting tan line. Argh. Stupid sensors.
The next day we went to Cahuita National Park – this park was nowhere near as touristy as Manuel Antonio, but it was equally, if not more beautiful. I did remember to put my bikini on this time, so we got to have some beach time on the beautiful, deserted sand. Aswell as wandering through the jungle looking for sloths and watching out for snakes. When in and out of the ocean it can be difficult to know how to manage blood sugars and pump. They say you can disconnect for up to an hour, but I unplug just before going into the water and then plug back in straight after. I also make sure I test and correct to make sure my sugars don’t rise too much due to being unplugged for any length of time. The beauty of the pump is that you’re given much more freedom with food and exercise but it means that you can get unwell quite quickly if for any reason the pump was to fail. It also means blood sugars are a bit more sensitive to rising when disconnected due to no background insulin being in the system. I love my pump and I think I’d struggle to manage my diabetes without it, but it requires attention and work every single day to work. It’s sometimes frustrating when people just assume that the pump figures everything out for you, when you’re the one calculating and inputting everything. Hopefully one day there will be something on the market that literally manages diabetes without a human thinking about it, but I don’t know how far off that is. For now, it’s down to me.
We had lunch at a place called ‘Bread and Chocolate’ (a diabetics dream right?!) and Alex and I both agreed that the brownies were the best we’ve ever had. I could’ve devoured everything in the shop but managed to walk away with just five little chocolates. I think that’s also known as self control. We then went out for the best dinner ever! We had starters and mains and were absolutely stuffed afterwards. Another thing I struggle with, when I’m super full I just associate that feeling with needing lots of insulin – obviously that’s not always true if you’ve not had lots of carbs. But often I will over shoot my insulin doses because I’m so full. The worst thing about that is having a hypo on a full stomach. It’s torture. Not only is eating anything the last thing you want to do, but it takes so long for any sugar to absorb because your stomach is so full! So I have to really concentrate on dosing correctly when eating big quantities.
On our last night, we stayed in the hotel/close by for the majority of the day. We hung out in the pool and talked about future holidays/plans. We went back to the same place for our last night of food in Costa Rica and to end our trip on a high, a baby sloth casually swung into the restaurant. I finally got the sloth selfie I’d hoped for, although it would definitely have been better if I’d had my selfie stick. Shame it’s now property of Disneyland California.
Costa Rica has been a whirlwind. Beautiful scenery, friendly people, horrible sandflies and suffocating heat/humidity at times, but I would recommend this country to anyone. We’ve loved it! Now, into Panama!