Location: San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua
With possibley the shortest day of travel so far (about 2 hours in total) we got to the surf beach town of San Juan del Sur, It is everything we had been told it would be..sunny, laid back, party place. Having now added our two English mates whom we first met back in Antigua a few weeks ago to our travelling crew, we decided to cook a massive meal for the 6 of us in our hostel kitchen...one of the ironies of travelling is that to cook is a treat as I get to do it so little whereas at home to eat out is a treat!
We had an amazing first nite in San Juan, chatting to Nicas and Chileans on the beach, having our favourite song ´No Se Manana´ sung for us under the moonlight, being taught salsa in the local club, drinking quite a lot of rum and getting home at sunrise. So we figured if we were to get any surfing done we would be better to move to the beach so we found a hostel on the beach about 5 meters from the surf...we spent 3 days catching the waves and the rays, drinking rum (seems a theme running through my trip) having a bonfire on the beach and unfortunate incidents with rodents in our room! However our stay in Maderas was amazing im still no closer to being a surfer than i was when i first tried to learn 4 years ago in Australia but i still enjoy trying and looking cool with my board!!
Back San Juan we met up with some more Candian mates, we met in Flores and had an equally awesome last nite in San Juan which had us dancing on tables!
So its with sore muscles from surfing and sore heads from partying we make our way towards Costa Rica
Location: Ometepe, Nicaragua
And then there were two...well four really as myself Steve and our new found Aussie mates bused and boated to the picturesque Ometepe.
It is an island formed by two volcanos which erupted (a long time ago) in the middle of the lake, it looks spectacular on the boat ride in with the mist rolling in and covering the top of the volcanos.
I was first off the boat so was suitablely harrassed by every taxi driver in town , but managed to bargain one gut down to $2s which was a far cry from the $20 per person scare stories we were hearing so it was a bumpy ride which brought us to a little eco lodge on the lakeside run my an Irish expat who was an interesting character to say the least, the place had lots of rustic charm with snkes winding their way through our treehouse bedroom roof! However the place was situated ina spectacular location, the company was good, the beers cold, the food delicious and the pool table playable if a little lobsided!
The island although most definitely on the gringo trail still keeps its small town charm, barefoot kids waving from the porches, chickens and pigs wandering through the field where a baseball game is in progress and locals coming to view the game on horseback or bicycle.
There main thing to do on Ometepe is to hike the ´smaller´ of the volcanos which is about a 10 hour roundtrip..which i momentarily considered before talking to the people who had just done it! So we swang in hammocks went for walks and generally ate amazing food...a few days well spent I think before heading to the party town of San Juan Del Sur
Nicuragua is named the land of Volcanos and Lakes and it does not dissappoint!
Our first stop was the little town of Leon where the main activity is volcano boarding...basically you hike for nearly 2 hours up the side of a volano carrying your board, looking into the crater, watching smoke come out in places, and then you don a very 'fashionable' jumpsuit strap the board to yor feet snowboard style and 'attempt' to board down the mountain! not quite similar to snowboarding but great fun nonetheless!
After Leon we headed to the very picturesque Granada which is very similar to Cuba, It is set on the edge of the lake so the temperature is perfect, the streets are wide, the houses colourful, horse and cart seems the main mode of transport with lots of bicycles and classic cars thrown in for good measure, the locals sit out in their rocking chairs on the porch or footpath in the evenings, and inside most houses there is a courtyard filled with plants.
We spent our days exploring the markets in the nearby town of masaya ....quite a lot of my clothes have been sacrificed to make room for stuff!...
We also spent an exhilarating few hours zipling through the trees, I was very brave, if i do say so myself, and even managed to do the 'superchica' which basically means face down hands out zipping along superman style...quite scary but fun!
So after a lovely few days in Granada it is times to say adious to Dave who is homeward bound and myself and steve are off to Ometepe, an island formed by two volcanos in the middle of a lake...it really is the land of volcanos and lakes!!
Location: Utilla, Honduras
At this stage I haven been totally spoilt in the most privillaged sense of the world to have had the opportunity to visit (in my opinion) some of the worlds most beautiful islands and beaches, that is not to say I cant be wowed anymore because i can but my wow standards are pretty high.....so it was with these well travelled eyes I first viewed the carribean island of Utilla, initial appearances didnt win me over. However this little island with its eclectic mix of creole, reggae, ameican and german influneces worked its charms on me!
Despite first impressions there is a lot to love, the bars are set on piers jetting out into the water or built in treetops ( not dissimilar to Park Guelle in Barcelona crossed with a scene from Alice in Wonderland) and we just happened to land when Carnival wa getting into full swing so lots of rum fuelled fun was had, we met up with friends of old and as always picked up some new ones along the way with whom we shared some rum, played some cards, danced and swam the nights away.
My favourite day was when we rented some bikes and cylced the entire island (as much as was accessible in all directions) I felt I was in some wholesome American movie cycling down picturesque palm lined roads with my snorkel in my basket ( oh yes my PINK bike had a very pretty and useful basket...the boys were very jealous Im sure) It was good to get away from the busy center and find some good snorkelling off the pier and see the random sights like a man gallopping at full speed past us with a very large machette in hand!
And for once we honoured our 3am decision to stay another nite and waited for the finale of carnival, before risng early to get on the 6.20am boat that didnt leave until 8.30 (the whole dock was nursing hangovers and begrudging the lost hours sleep they could be having ) so two days of travelling later, the 2nd day when we managed to travel on 8 different modes of transport to bring us to a new country, a new town, a new currency, a new adventure, new memories and new friends...Nicuragau is waiting to be explored what shall we find...
Location: From San Pedro To Utilla!, El Salvador
It was a long few days and a variety of buses that brought us from San Pedro back to Antigua in Guatemala to El Tunco in El Salvador( not a fan of the rain so moved on after 2 nights) to the blue skies and crystal waters of Utilla off Honduras. For a variety of reasons we decided not to go the easy shuttle bus route and the more interesting chicken bus/hope for connections type journey...everything went incredibly smoothly to the point that every time we arrived somewhere we had somebody running towards us shouting the destination few where we had planned to go next and directing us on to the bus that was about to leave(it is as if the could read our minds or more likely we are following the well worn tourist trail!) either way it was incredibly helpful and i really cant picture anyone in cork bus station doing the same!!
Driving through the lush green Landscapes of three very different countries its all the small things you notice, the differences in dress from the traditional in Guatemala to the western in Honduras, the changes in skin tone from country to country.
Of course there are the expected changes like currency and language (even thou everyone speaks Spanish, there are different dialects and many different other native languages)
I love driving through the small villages and getting a window into locals lives, from the absolute lack of every thing health and safety related, old women to young children carry machetes, people spilling out of the back of trucks, luggage and boxes thrown on the roof of the bus, bus drivers leaping from the still moving bus to round up passengers to the locals piling on the bus at every stop to sell food and drinks (which i can understand) to the more obscure like t shirts and pharmaceuticals!
A lot of the local buses seem like old American school buses which have been revamped by Pimp my Ride with a we love Jesus twist.
It is the local women carrying everything on their heads, to the tired man having a siesta in the shade underneath a truck, to the kids sitting beside me on the bus staring at me for an hour that makes me remember why i come travelling in the first place
The scenery is amazing the locals are colourful, happy and unique the food is deliciously spicey and at last the sun is shining what is not to love about Central America!
Location: Antigua to San Pedro, Guatemala
Antigua is very different to the rest of what I have seen in Gautemala and due to a series of disasters def not my favourite place...I lost my camera (through sheer stupidity) I got stung by a wasp..which really hurt, the volacano I wanted to climbe erupted (thou the boys still climbed it ...i didnt really want to tempt fate at that stage!) it also rained alot which meant we had a very large puddle in our room....that said it is very pretty nestled between the mountains/volcanos, the people are lovely and we had a great night out Antigua is very popular for spanish schools so lots of travellers staying there which alwasy makes for a good nite out!
It is the first place i havent been sad about leaving so we contorted our bodies to squeeze ourselves into the collectivo to bring us to San Pedro on lake Atilan....coming round the mountain my first impression was that of the beauty of Queenstwon minus the snowy peaks
Our days have been activity filled...we kayaked across the lake to san marco, which we were told would take half an hour and and hour and a quarter later we arrived! Some braver people than me (everyone!) jumped off the cliffs then we kayaked back, we also did a horse trek up into the mountains through coffee plantations which was spectacular thou my favourite bit was riding the horses through the narrow winding steets of San Pedro ducking my head to avoid the signs and trying to avoid the tuktuks..i felt like i was in a western ready to ride my horse up to the saloon for a beer!
Our nights were spent drinking enormous bottles of rum , 1.75 L bottles for 10 quid, either in the hostel or in the ´hot pools´ which are basically small concrete baths filled with very hot water!! Yet again it is time to say goodbye to San Pedro and sadly at this stage also to Guatemala...next destination El Salvador
Location: Lanquin, Guatemala
We spent a lovely last night in Flores having a few beers with friends on the pier which ended in an inevitable swim! It was an early rise to gather our damp clothing and board the bus for Lanquin I somehow managed to snag the front seat so had a more pleasant journey than the others crammed in the back with the bus drivers dad we picked up enroute for ´a few minutes´ and dropped off six hours later! The scenery was absolutely stunning and the 8 hours actually passed by easily....passing high into stunning rainforests interspersed with rural villages busy with life. Our hostel in Lanquin was a collection of huts nestled by the river overshadow by mountains covered in mist. We had a fantastic day wading through the caves at Semuc Champey with a candle ...definitely one of the most bizarre caving experiences i have had ..especially trying to swim while keeping the candle out of the water, this was followed by tubing down the river which had left my body aching today ( it was no leisurely float like laos!) after a spot of lunch we hiked in the rain to el mirador and then down to the pools for a well deserved swim! we were returned to the hostel by means of and open air collectivo which basically means we all stand in the back of a truck and have to duck regularly for fear of being beheaded by branches! This morning we said goodbye to our good friend LS and boarded a bus for Antigua...slightly more crazy driver but less passengers so more leg room! always a silver ling somewhere! SO far Antigua looks good...must go explore xx
Location: Flores, Guatemala
Flores is fabulous....it is a little island connected to Santa Elena by a bridge. It took us about 7 minutes to walk around the island in total, it is in the center of a fresh water lake and the main means of cooling off in this incredible heat is to take a running jump off the pier into the warm water! It goes without saying that is what we spent yesterday doing. The streets are cobbled and the buildings brightly coloured and altogether it is incredibly picturesque and tranquil. The short walk across the bridge is like a different world and more the central america i was expecting...beeping cars and tuktuks, food and market stalls lining the roads, the general hustle and bustle and dirt and grim that is part and parcel of life here.
We rose early this morning to catch the 5am bus to tikal to check out the Mayan ruins in the jungle, I found it all incredibley fascinating but wont bore you with the details here (at a later date perhaps in person i will bore you with them!!) Needless to say there were ruins to be climbed and clambered upon, some a bit scary when you had to come back down! still after 6 hours of exploring we were ready to catch the bus back and grab some hammock time, in the morning we say adious to flores and board the bus for our next adventure ...
Location: Caye Caulker, Belize
So the swimming with whale sharks didnt go quite to plan ...to say I was seasick was a slight understatement, 6 hours of my life I never want to repeat! Everyone else enjoyed it by all accounts thou! However once back on dry land I perked up and we travelled via boat, bus, taxi, border crossing, taxi, bus and boat and then some 14 hours later arrived in the idyllic Caye Caulker in Belize. If I had my way we would have stayed there for the entire trip..
We literally stepped off the boat and walked into a great hostel, met a cool bunch people, spent our days snorkelling and swimming, swinging in hammocks and eating lobster that was cheaper than making a sandwich!
Belixze is what i have always imagined Jamacia to be like (think mailibu ad...any malibu ad!) Reggae beats, Rasafarians everywhere, rum, white sands crystal water, everyone speaks english which makes it so much easier to hang out with the locals
Life is so laid back...´Slow down Man you walking too fast´ is a regular utterance by the very chilled out locals
Main means of transport on the tiny island (1mile across 5 long) are bicycles and golf buggys!... golf buggies are the cop car, the taxi´s, the delivery vehicles and the rentacar
Highlight of our few (too few) days there was a snorkeling trip out to the reef in a big old sailing boat, where we got to swim with manatees, nurse sharks, sea turtles to name but a few!
So to some up Belize was amazing I definitely want to go back...however after a long day on the road which again went along the lines of boat, bus, taxi, border crossing, collectivo, tuktuk (no i havent suddenly found myself in asia!) We have landed in the picturesque town of Flores in Guatemala.....to be continued!
I have arrived and so did my luggage which was an unexpected bonus, I know it was my own choice to put in under the plane rather than carry it on but goddammit for once i wanted proper size toiletries (i am after all travelling with boys so the normal borrowing privilages are gone out the window)
So I was overjoyed to see it come rolling around on the carousel!
First impressions of mexico have been good....it is hot, the food is spicey and people chilled and friendly
It will however take some time to get used to putting my toilet paper in the bin again and not leaving the hostel without being armed with sunscreen, mosquito repellent, lonely planet and a giant bottle of water!
So I survived the tackiness of cancun and whisked myself off to isla de mujeres to find the boys sunning themselves on the beutiful white sand beach, and went for a long dip in gloriously warm water (a far cry from a brave dash unwetsuited into the sea at garretstown a few weeks ago!)
Heading snorkelling with whale sharks tomorrow before making our way to belize
Photos and more to follow soon i promise...
hasta la vista