A Travellerspoint blog

Picturesque Panamá

sunny 36 °C

On the Caribbean coast of Panamá, in the province of Bocas del Toro, the Bocas del Toro Archipelago is located consisting of a series of nine islands just off the mainland. Bocas del Toro is also the name of the main city on the Isla Colón, located on the southern peninsula of the island. Bocas Town is one of the main tourist attractions in Panamá and we were excited to journey there, back to the Caribbean beaches and warm waters.

From David, we caught a mini shuttle-bus for five hours to reach the port town of Almirante. Almirante has little to boast other than being the main hub to and from the Bocas del Toro Archipelago. From Almirante we boarded a taxi speed-boat that took us the 30 minute journey through mangrove sheltered waters to the Isla Colón and the city of Bocas. Nearing nightfall and with heavy packs weighing us down, we searched for a suitable accommodation to spend the next week in and lucked out when we discovered Los Delphines –a simple but clean private room with bathroom, AC, TV and Wi-Fi for one of the cheapest prices you will find on the island at $25. Immediately we were befriended by a local named Daniel who beckoned us to the bar across the street for $0.50 beers and we soon increased our circle of friends by meeting the funny UK duo of Patrick and Tiff. Andrew realized that the ever important Playoff Hockey Canucks game 7 was on that first night and with friends in tow we found a local sports bar full of die-hard Vancouver fans and settled in for the nail-biting over-time game. Upon victory and screams of delight –drowned out only by a raucous rendition of “Oh Canada” – we found ourselves with two Vancouverite girls, Alanna and Jessica, and all went out to explore our dancing options at the Iguana bar. A late night of laughs and silliness ensued with instant friendships forged.

We spent our first full day in Bocas walking around the streets and orientating ourselves. There is one main street that runs through the town, lined with restaurants, hotels and hostels, corner stores and souvenir shops. It might sounds like Bocas is over-run by tourism, but somehow this little town retains such a peaceful and relaxed Caribbean vibe that you can feel your pace slow the moment you step off the boat. The back streets are full of local family houses painted in bright colours and full of colourful gardens that thrive in the endless 35 degree sunshine. While taxi’s are easy to flag down to take you to the opposite end of the island, the main form of transportation is bicycles that lazily wobble past you with baskets full of the daily food supplies. A central park with playground is located in the middle of the main street and a soccer pitch is found only a few streets back. Bocas is full of locals and backpackers with ready smiles and sun-kissed faces. We discovered a little van that has been converted into a restaurant selling fresh wraps and were instantly hooked on the simple quality food. With a fruit-shake in one hand and the camera in the other, we wandered around aimlessly toasting ourselves pink in the scorching heat.

Bocas Town

Bocas Town


The Iguana Bar

The Iguana Bar


Bocas

Bocas


Lazy days in Bocas

Lazy days in Bocas


Bocas del Toro

Bocas del Toro


Good food served at this bus turned wrap restaurant

Good food served at this bus turned wrap restaurant

The following day, with a crew of our new found friends and countless places to explore, we set off for a day tour of the nearby coastline. The first stop of our tour took us through narrow passages between the mangroves to the secluded Dolphin Bay, suitably named as this is where countless dolphins come to feast on jellyfish and find mates. Breathlessly we waited until a fin appeared in the distance, only to be followed by a tail flip and lean bodies gliding by our boat. Unsure where to look we soon realized that the bay was full of dolphins frolicking in the fertile waters.

Our group heading out for the tour of the surrounding area

Our group heading out for the tour of the surrounding area


Narrow passages through the mangroves lead to the Dolphin Bay

Narrow passages through the mangroves lead to the Dolphin Bay


Gliding by our boat

Gliding by our boat


The tail flip

The tail flip


The dolphins putting on a show

The dolphins putting on a show


Andrew going for a bite of the jellyfish

Andrew going for a bite of the jellyfish

After the dolphins we were taken to a shallow coral area where we were left to snorkel and splash before docking at a little hut for lunch. The turquoise waters swarm with colourful fish, eager to nibble at any crumb that falls into the water.

Ana snorkeling

Ana snorkeling


Lots of bright corals

Lots of bright corals


Purple corals

Purple corals


Green

Green


Coral

Coral


Andrew snorkeling

Andrew snorkeling


Stopping for a snack at a little store along the mangroves

Stopping for a snack at a little store along the mangroves


Wooden Canoe

Wooden Canoe


Large starfish

Large starfish

We were then dropped off on Isla Bastimentos –one of the largest islands in Panama with a large part of the island encompassed by the Isla Bastimentos National Marine Park. On the western coast of the island there are numerous unspoiled beaches which were the reason for our visit. We went to Red Frog Beach, so named for the Red Poison-dart frogs that inhabit the area and were amazed by the beauty of the quietly perfect Caribbean beach. With powder-fine golden-white sands, indescribably clear turquoise waters and lush jungle surroundings, Red Frog is the epitome of paradise. The six of us –Alanna, Jessica, Patrick, Tiff, and us- splashed in the waters and suntanned for a couple hours, only pausing to find the little frogs the area is named after.

Red Frog Beach

Red Frog Beach


Love in Panama

Love in Panama


Andrew at Red Frog Beach

Andrew at Red Frog Beach


The older boy saw me trying to take a picture as they walked by and he grabbed his younger brothers hand to turn him and pose for me before continuing on their way

The older boy saw me trying to take a picture as they walked by and he grabbed his younger brothers hand to turn him and pose for me before continuing on their way


The two brothers continuing on their walk

The two brothers continuing on their walk

The Red Poison-dart frogs are so named because of their bright red colouring with black spotted backs, as well as being extremely poisonous. The frogs are impossibly small, only the size of the first joint of your pinky finger; however, these little creatures have such a potent poison in their skin that the native people squeezed them to release the venom onto arrowheads of their darts and would use this to shoot monkeys from the treetops. Holding one of these little frogs is not the danger, unless you have an open cut, as the poison enters only through the blood stream. After finding and holding one, I was told to immediately wash my hands as touching my eyes would lead to a severe and painful allergic reaction. These frogs are known for over thirty different colour combinations, though the red or Strawberry Poison-dart Frog is the most poisonous.

Hard to spot these tiny frogs at Red Frog Beach

Hard to spot these tiny frogs at Red Frog Beach


The tiny Red Poison-dart Frog

The tiny Red Poison-dart Frog

From Red Frog Beach we were dropped off at Hospital Point which has a coral wall with an abundance of small marine life, making it an ideal spot for diving and snorkeling. We spent the end of our day searching the corals for interesting creatures, like the octopus I found changing colours to blend in with its environment.

The following day we all decided to catch a boat to the other beach on Bastimentos Island, called Wizard Beach. The beach is a long stretch of equally stunning sands and water and being dropped off by the boat we found ourselves to be the only people on the beach. Having told our boat captain to come back for us at 5pm, we spent a day enjoying the quiet peace of a deserted tropical beach.

The deserted Wizard Beach

The deserted Wizard Beach


Wizard Beach on a beautiful day

Wizard Beach on a beautiful day

Another day in Bocas, Andrew and I explored the northern tip of Isla Colón where we heard of a beach known for its abundance of starfish. We arrived to Playa Bocas del Drago and caught a little speed boat along the coast to the starfish beach –Playa de las Estrellas. Not to disappoint, the once again perfect coastline and white sands were only interrupted by orange splashes of colour from the large bright starfish that litter the shallow warm waters.

Ana heading to Playa Bocas del Drago

Ana heading to Playa Bocas del Drago


Playa Bocas del Drago

Playa Bocas del Drago


Catching a boat to the starfish beach

Catching a boat to the starfish beach


Crystal blue waters full of starfish

Crystal blue waters full of starfish


Ana and the starfish

Ana and the starfish


Starfish

Starfish


Pretty beaches

Pretty beaches

Beach days in Bocas were only broken up by nights out at different, funky little bars. We became regulars at Mondo Taitu where the happy-hour beers were irresistibly cheap. We visited the Toro Loco sports bar whenever a game was on or the UFC fights were being shown. The Iguana is a fun little bar that plays horrible music but is always lively, and the Barco is the late night hangout for locals and tourists alike. Our favourite by far would be the Aqua Lounge which requires you to take a taxi boat across the water to the nearby tiny island of Carenero, only a minute away from Bocas Town. The bar plays lively dance music. With an open patio over the water and a hole in its center for late night swimming and swings into the water, the bar draws a crowd especially on Wednesday ladies-night. Though, it seemed as if every night was ladies-night somewhere in Bocas.

Our Bocas group on a night out dancing

Our Bocas group on a night out dancing


Andrew, Alanna and Ana dancing

Andrew, Alanna and Ana dancing


Alanna, Tiff, Patrick and Ana

Alanna, Tiff, Patrick and Ana


The boys out dancing

The boys out dancing


Ana, Alanna, Jessica and Patrick out dancing

Ana, Alanna, Jessica and Patrick out dancing


Catching a boat back from the Aqua Bar after a night of dancing

Catching a boat back from the Aqua Bar after a night of dancing

The week in Bocas del Toro was gone before we knew it and while both Andrew and I would have been content to stay longer, our friends continued on their journeys and with our vacation quickly coming to its end, it was time to journey on towards Panama City. We spent Monday in Bocas Town until 5pm before we caught our water taxi back to Almirante to get on our 7pm night bus for Panama City. The eleven hour drive is best done overnight and the cost of the bus takes care of a night’s accommodation. Arriving in Panama City in the dark morning hours we had a taxi driver take us to a few hotels before we settled on a cheap one in the heart of the city. While the neighbourhood was not the most desirable, we found the location close to the main streets and in walking distance to many of the things we wanted to see. We slept a few more hours that morning before heading out to enjoy a full day walking around the enormous city.

Almirante

Almirante


Heading back to Almirante

Heading back to Almirante

Panama is split into two noticeable sections –the new financial district full of impressive new high rises and the old town district of Casco Viejo with crumbling facades seeped in history. We walked down Central Ave until we reached the old quarter of Panama, marked by the remnants of a wall that was built around the city in 1671 to prevent attacks from pirates. The area was made into a World Heritage Site in 2003 and is one of the main draws for tourists to the city besides the canal. The aged buildings are in the process of being restored and large redevelopment projects are visibly underway, where the insides of buildings are completely gutted, leaving only the eerie shells of once grand buildings still standing. Old churches, theaters and Plazas are scattered around Casco Viejo with expensive chic restaurants tucked between old brick walls and along brick paved streets.

Charming old streets in Casco Viejo

Charming old streets in Casco Viejo


Crumbling walls and old men

Crumbling walls and old men


The Plaza de la Catedral was once the center of Panama City until the early twentieth century

The Plaza de la Catedral was once the center of Panama City until the early twentieth century


Very old church in Casco Viejo

Very old church in Casco Viejo


Large arches in an old church in Old Town Panama

Large arches in an old church in Old Town Panama


Only facades remain for many of the buildings in Casco Viejo

Only facades remain for many of the buildings in Casco Viejo


Iglesia de Santa Ana was originally the parish church for the area outside the walls of Panama City.  The Plaza de Santa Ana was used for bullfights and as a market, but in 1890 was turned into a park.

Iglesia de Santa Ana was originally the parish church for the area outside the walls of Panama City. The Plaza de Santa Ana was used for bullfights and as a market, but in 1890 was turned into a park.


Old buildings in Casco Viejo

Old buildings in Casco Viejo


Walls of buildings remain

Walls of buildings remain


Old facades

Old facades


A street in Casco Viejo

A street in Casco Viejo


Old buildings in Casco Viejo

Old buildings in Casco Viejo


Church in Old Town Panama

Church in Old Town Panama


The flat arch built in the Church St. Dominic is unusual for its shape and age.  Legend has it that the Panama Canal was built in Panama instead of Nicaragua because this flat arch proved there was little earthquake activity in the area.

The flat arch built in the Church St. Dominic is unusual for its shape and age. Legend has it that the Panama Canal was built in Panama instead of Nicaragua because this flat arch proved there was little earthquake activity in the area.


A central square in Casco Viejo -the statue was given as a gift from France and below it are a series of tunnels that connect different parts of the city

A central square in Casco Viejo -the statue was given as a gift from France and below it are a series of tunnels that connect different parts of the city


Traditional Panamanian women wear red bandanas over their hair, bright woven skirts and shirts, and a series of orange beaded anklets which run from their ankles to their knees.  Many also have their nasal septum pierced.

Traditional Panamanian women wear red bandanas over their hair, bright woven skirts and shirts, and a series of orange beaded anklets which run from their ankles to their knees. Many also have their nasal septum pierced.


Run down buildings are scattered between the heritage buildings in Casco Viejo.  A large redevelopment project is currently underway to help revitalize the old town Panama.

Run down buildings are scattered between the heritage buildings in Casco Viejo. A large redevelopment project is currently underway to help revitalize the old town Panama.

From Casco Viejo we walked away from the old district along the waterfront all the way to the financial district which, already enormous, shows no signs of slowing in its development boom. We were amazed by the sheer size of the skyscrapers, towering over 80 stories high. The famous spiral building is visible from most points in the city, with each floor shifted from the one below to create a unique spiral effect.

Andrew in Panama City

Andrew in Panama City


Ana walking around Panama City

Ana walking around Panama City


Walking along the water from old town to the financial district in downtown Panama City

Walking along the water from old town to the financial district in downtown Panama City


Entering the financial district

Entering the financial district


Panama City

Panama City


The spiral sky scraper is dwarfed by giant towers

The spiral sky scraper is dwarfed by giant towers


The impressive spiral sky scraper -each floor sits slightly askew from the one below to create this effect

The impressive spiral sky scraper -each floor sits slightly askew from the one below to create this effect

The following day in Panama we took a taxi to the Miraflores Locks –one of the three set of locks along the Panama Canal. On the Pacific coast there are two sets, with the Miraflores being the larger of the two. We were able to see large ships passing through the incredible system of water-elevators, watch a movie clip about the building of the canal, and explore the canal museum.

The Panama Canal was envisioned as early as the 16th century but construction began in 1880. The initial conception had the canal dug through the narrowest part of Central America completely at sea level, but as excavation began and hardships ensued plans were soon revised. Countless workers from Central America and the West Indies toiled at digging the 77km long canal, only to die from malaria, yellow-fever and rock slides. The original plan would have had the canal completely at sea level, but this meant having to channel deep through steep mountain side. With workers dying from disease and the enormity of the undertaking realized, a new idea was proposed. An ingenious system of locks and dams was designed and approved and construction of the canal resumed from 1904 with final completion in 1914. The final project allowed for ships to pass between the Pacific and Atlantic Ocean without making the perilous journey around Cape Horn. With new steam technology employed in digging machinery and the discovery that mosquitos spread malaria and proper mosquito abatement projects put into place, one of the greatest modern accomplishments of mankind was achieved.

Andrew at the Panama Canal

Andrew at the Panama Canal

If a ship now starts on the Pacific side of Panama it will travel up the canal to the two-stage Miraflores Lock system, passing under the Bridge of the Americas. The ship enters the first set of locks and large gates close around it. Water from the higher set of locks is then gravity released, lifting the ship as the water rises. Once the water level in one set of locks matches that of the second set, the gate is opened and the ship passes to the second stage. This first set of locks will raise the ship 54 feet above sea level before the ship enters the artificial Miraflores Lake. From here, the ship proceeds to the single stage Pedro Miguel Lock which will additionally raise the ship 31 feet, for a total of 85 feet above sea level and the main altitude of the canal. The natural waterway then carries the ship to the large artificial Lake Gatun (which, at its creation was the largest artificial lake in the world) and on to the three stage Gatun Locks which drop the ship back down to sea level. This process is so important for shipping around the world that most large ships are built with the canal dimensions in mind. Ships pay to use the Panama Canal based on their weight, with some of the largest ships paying up to $300 000 US, with the least expensive passage going to Richard Halliburton who paid $0.36 to swim the canal in 1928. In 2007 building began in creating a third set of locks that are wider and deeper to allow for larger ships to pass. While a ship can now take around 430 shipping containers through the canal, the new passage will allow over 1200 containers to pass on a single ship, increasing cargo shipments by nearly three times. The new set of locks are scheduled to be completed in 2014, for the 100 year anniversary of the Panama Canal. Needless to say, we learned a great deal visiting the Panama Canal and were amazed by the process that occurs in shipping anything from food to cars around the world.

A ship enters the first stage of the Miraflores Locks.  The gate closes and water will fill the lock and lift the ship as if in a water elevator to the second stage.

A ship enters the first stage of the Miraflores Locks. The gate closes and water will fill the lock and lift the ship as if in a water elevator to the second stage.


The Miraflores Locks

The Miraflores Locks


Ships are tied to trollies that travel along a track the length of the locks.  They ensure that the ship stays aligned while in the lock system and while passing through the gates.

Ships are tied to trollies that travel along a track the length of the locks. They ensure that the ship stays aligned while in the lock system and while passing through the gates.


The second set of locks fills with water to raise the ship up to the level of the Miraflores Lake

The second set of locks fills with water to raise the ship up to the level of the Miraflores Lake


Ships exiting the second stage of locks at the Miraflores Locks.  After the water reaches the same level as the Miraflores lake the gates open and release the boats to a height of 85 feet above sea level

Ships exiting the second stage of locks at the Miraflores Locks. After the water reaches the same level as the Miraflores lake the gates open and release the boats to a height of 85 feet above sea level


Ana guiding a ship through the canal -Ok, it was a simulator in the museum but it was fun trying!

Ana guiding a ship through the canal -Ok, it was a simulator in the museum but it was fun trying!


A large floating crane does maintenance on a section of the Locks

A large floating crane does maintenance on a section of the Locks


The Bridge of the Americas which crosses the Panama Canal

The Bridge of the Americas which crosses the Panama Canal

While Panama City is a large concrete city, compared as the Miami of the south, we read that in the middle of the city a large area of protected parkland remains. The Parque Natural Metropolitano boasts over 250 bird species along with other indigenous animal life within its dense rainforest. We took a taxi to the park entrance and then made the 150 meter ascent to the mirador, or lookout point. From the lookout we were able to see the entire city of Panama, from the new high rises, the old town, and the line-up of ships in the Pacific Ocean awaiting their turn to pass through the Panama Canal.

Andrew overlooking Panama City in the Parque Natural Metropolitano

Andrew overlooking Panama City in the Parque Natural Metropolitano


A great view over all of Panama City

A great view over all of Panama City


The island that is found just off shore from Panama City and the line-up of boats waiting to enter the canal

The island that is found just off shore from Panama City and the line-up of boats waiting to enter the canal


The financial district of Panama City seen from the mirador in the Metropolitan Park

The financial district of Panama City seen from the mirador in the Metropolitan Park


Panama is known for an abundance of colourful butterflies

Panama is known for an abundance of colourful butterflies

With a day left, rain and thunder constantly threatening and little else to do, we spent our final day in Panama shopping. The stores have shoes and clothing for such ridiculously cheap prices that we couldn’t help it and spoiled ourselves with a mini shopping spree –as much as we could cram into our backpacks. Fully stocked with new outfits, bags overflowing full, thousands of photographs taken and memories gathered to last a life time, our time in Central America has finally come to its end. We rose at 6:15am to get our taxi to the airport to catch our flight to San Jose, Costa Rica, only to connect to Toronto, Canada. We will spend a week visiting Andrew’s family in Ontario before making our final flight back to the beautiful West Coast of Canada on May 15th.

From diving, to volcano hikes, rainforest jungles and white water rafting, endless beaches and stunning lakes, snorkelling, zip-lining and leapingl of waterfalls, endless history lessons and beautiful people met along the way –we have been blessed to experience all we have. I close this blog with a thank-you to all who have taken interest, sent encouragement, and followed along in our incredible Central American journey.

Sending love from the A-Team,
Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 23:38 Archived in Panama Tagged landscapes beaches skylines people parties night Comments (0)

Central Highlands of Cartago

sunny 28 °C

From Puerto Viejo we traveled to Cartago, which once was Costa Rica’s colonial capital and only a 30-minute drive south of San José. While in Tikal, Guatemala, we met Hellen and her mother Yamileth who were kind enough to invite us to spend a few days visiting them in Cartago over the Easter holiday. Hellen is from southern Costa Rica but came up to Cartago to her mother’s home to see us over Semana Santa (Holy Week). The very religious countries of Central America celebrate Semana Santa with a week of family time, food and church ceremonies. Most stores shut down for a few days, buses stop running from Thursday to Saturday, and prices for all accommodations sky rocket. We felt very lucky to have a nice place to stay and were spoiled with amazing hospitality, food, and company.

Our amazing hosts -Yamileth and Wilfred, Hellen and Samantha

Our amazing hosts -Yamileth and Wilfred, Hellen and Samantha


Hellen, her parents and their Siberian Husky -Max

Hellen, her parents and their Siberian Husky -Max


The beautiful view of Cartago from Yamileth's backyard

The beautiful view of Cartago from Yamileth's backyard

Yamileth built her dream home in the hills above Cartago and the view overlooking the city is beautiful. Her backyard is full of fruit trees, orchids and vegetables which she proudly shows off. We arrived to find our own private guesthouse made up to give us privacy and comfort and after dropping off our belongings we headed out for our first full day of touring around the city. Yamileth, Hellen’s younger and older sister, brother in law, two friends and their nephews all piled into three cars and drove to the Monumento Nacional Arqueologico Guayabo. Guayabo is the largest and most important archaeological site in Costa Rica, and though it lacks the grandeur of other Mayan sites of northern Central America, it features cobbled roads built sometime between 1000BC to 1400AD, ceremonial mounds and a few petroglyphs. Archaeologists are still uncertain as to what this site was used for, but think that it may have been a resting area for people moving towards the larger northern cities. We walked around the site before getting together to have a picnic in the park. They packed all sorts of goodies and we enjoyed being taken in as part of the family. After our picnic we drove through Orosi, a district of Cartago, to see the white washed adobe church built in 1743 which is the country’s oldest functioning church. From here were taken to the first church built in Costa Rica, and though the park was closed by the time we reached it, they allowed us to sneak in and take a quick look. The day was full of history and family, only to be topped off by a lovely vegetarian dinner awaiting us, being cooked by Yamileth’s husband Wilfred.

Hellen, her family and friends, all taking us out for a tour of Guayabo National Park

Hellen, her family and friends, all taking us out for a tour of Guayabo National Park


The only Mayan archaeological site in Costa Rica

The only Mayan archaeological site in Costa Rica


The site where Mayan's set up temporary camps

The site where Mayan's set up temporary camps


A tomb in Guayabo National Park

A tomb in Guayabo National Park


The ancient cobblestone streets that remain intact at Guayabo National Park

The ancient cobblestone streets that remain intact at Guayabo National Park


Ana swinging from vines at Guayabo National Park

Ana swinging from vines at Guayabo National Park


Samantha, Ana, Yamileth, Hellen and Andrew at Guayabo National Park

Samantha, Ana, Yamileth, Hellen and Andrew at Guayabo National Park


A mural in Orosi of the 5 colones bill that is no longer in circulation which depicts the first coffee export from Costa Rica -this bill is a collectable and I was honoured to have one gifted to me by Yamileth

A mural in Orosi of the 5 colones bill that is no longer in circulation which depicts the first coffee export from Costa Rica -this bill is a collectable and I was honoured to have one gifted to me by Yamileth


The oldest church still in use in Costa Rica, found in Orosi

The oldest church still in use in Costa Rica, found in Orosi


The first church in Costa Rica

The first church in Costa Rica


The archway of the first church in Costa Rica, still intact

The archway of the first church in Costa Rica, still intact

The next day Yamileth and Hellen acted as our tour guides as we drove to the Volcán Poás. We drove north of San José, 37 km outside of Alajuela up a scenic winding road. Poás is an active volcano that allows you to drive to the top, and, unlike some of the volcanoes we have climbed, allows you to look into its sulfurous steaming crater. Another 30-minute walk through a forest growing from volcanic soil we arrived at Laguna Botos. The cold-water lake is fed by rain water and fills an extinct crater of the volcano and is surrounded by lush cloud forest.

Yamileth, Andrew and Hellen at the entrance to Volcán Poás

Yamileth, Andrew and Hellen at the entrance to Volcán Poás


The crater of Volcán Poás

The crater of Volcán Poás


The sulphurous steam rising from the crater of Volcán Poás

The sulphurous steam rising from the crater of Volcán Poás


Hellen, Ana and Yamileth hiking on Volcán Poás to reach Laguna Botos

Hellen, Ana and Yamileth hiking on Volcán Poás to reach Laguna Botos


These broad-leaf plants are found all over the Volcano and are called `The Poor Man`s Umbrella`

These broad-leaf plants are found all over the Volcano and are called `The Poor Man`s Umbrella`


Ana entering Laguna Botos

Ana entering Laguna Botos


The rain-filled volcanic crater lake of Laguna Botos on the Vocano Poás

The rain-filled volcanic crater lake of Laguna Botos on the Vocano Poás


Hellen, mi amiga y yo en Laguna Botos

Hellen, mi amiga y yo en Laguna Botos


Hellen and Andrew

Hellen and Andrew


Hellen, Yamileth, Ana and Andrew at Laguna Botos

Hellen, Yamileth, Ana and Andrew at Laguna Botos

After the volcano we went to Zoo Ave, a bird sanctuary and rehabilitation center. I have been on the hunt to see a Toucan and was told Costa Rica is the place to do so. Andrew and I spotted the smaller Toucans with less colourful beaks on our bike trip in Puerto Viejo, but were hoping to spot the larger birds with distinct yellow beaks. The park is located just outside the city of Alajuela, but upon entering its gates you find yourself in the midst of a rainforest. We were able to see countless colourful Macaws, ranging in every colour combination possible. We saw monkeys and turtles and finally, to top it all off, the Toucan I had been so excited to see.

Beautiful Macaw at the Zoo Ave bird sanctuary

Beautiful Macaw at the Zoo Ave bird sanctuary


The golden Macaw

The golden Macaw


Macaw

Macaw


Turtle family

Turtle family


Turtle

Turtle


Large Lizard

Large Lizard


The amazing Toucan

The amazing Toucan


The curious Toucan flew to a branch right infront of me and showed off his colourful beak

The curious Toucan flew to a branch right infront of me and showed off his colourful beak

Our final day with our fantastic tour guides took Andrew and I to the Volcán Irazú. With the company of Hellen, her younger sister Samantha, and their brother-in-law, we drove the 30km north of Cartago to Costa Rica’s tallest active volcano, towering at 3432m. The last major eruption occurred in 1963, blanketing the Central Valley with volcanic ash, causing deaths and crop failures. Since this eruption the volcano only has mild tremors and hisses steam. We arrived to a completely fogged in crater and just as we thought we would be unable to see within, the wind cleared the area and we were allowed the most breathtaking view of two craters with bright turquoise waters. Stunned by the colour and the unobstructed view of these craters, we took countless photos. On the way back to the car we came face to face with a Costa Rican Pizote, which is a bit smaller than the Guatemalan Pizote with its curled tail. We bought some hot-chocolate (the high altitude makes this a chilly outing) and had a little picnic before starting the winding drive back down the volcano. Along the way we stopped off at what once was a mental hospital and is now open to the public with rumors of ghostly sightings. We were surprised by the number of people who were visiting the dilapidated buildings, but giggled as we hid in corridors and took turns scaring each other around every corner.

Andrew at Irazu as the fog begins to clear

Andrew at Irazu as the fog begins to clear


The crater of Volcán Irazu -the highest peak in Costa Rica

The crater of Volcán Irazu -the highest peak in Costa Rica


The incredible turquoise waters of the crater lake in Volcán Irazu

The incredible turquoise waters of the crater lake in Volcán Irazu


Hellen, Ana and Samantha at Volcán Irazu

Hellen, Ana and Samantha at Volcán Irazu


The Pizote

The Pizote


The adorable Costa Rican Pizote

The adorable Costa Rican Pizote


The abandoned haunted house -It started as a jail, was turned into a hospital for people with TB and then ended up as a mental hospital.  Local youth visit it for a scare and a laugh

The abandoned haunted house -It started as a jail, was turned into a hospital for people with TB and then ended up as a mental hospital. Local youth visit it for a scare and a laugh


Inside the haunted house

Inside the haunted house

Our friends took such good care of us and we are thankful for the lovely memories and hope to have them visit us in Canada one of these days soon. After three days of being spoiled it was time for us to work our way south into Panama. We had to catch a bus south to Paso Canoas, cross the border and get another mini-bus to the city of David where we found a hotel near the central park to rest for the night.
With only 12 days to spend in Panama, we will split our time between Bocas del Toro and Panama City. I’ll write one more blog to update our travels of Panama, but we will be home soon and are excited to see all our friends and family!

Sending love,
Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 15:13 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Jacó, Majestic Manuel Antonio and Pura Vida in Puerto Viejo

sunny 32 °C

From Montezuma, the bus dropped us off in central Jacó (pronounced Ha-ko) in the pouring rain, with packs on and no idea where to begin; the hunt for accommodation began once again. There is one main road in Jacó that has very touristy stores and restaurants running on both sides. You can find anything from a Subway and Quizno, to a KFC and again we felt we had left the charming Central American towns for a touristy version of the United States. From the main strip there are many roads running down towards the long stretch of beach, but upon asking at a few hotels near the water we realized that prices here are even higher than those in Tama-”gringo.” We worked our way back from the main road until we found a reasonably priced room where we could hide from the torrential downpour and feel comfortable.

Our hotel with a little pool

Our hotel with a little pool

The next morning we awoke to a sunny day and went to inspect the beach town. It is hard to describe it as a beach town because, while located along a stretch of beach, it lacks the tranquil laid-back feeling of most surfing towns. The modern buildings and hotels along with countless tourists were really not what we were looking for and we decided immediately that our time in Jacó would be short-lived. The long stretch of beach was crowded on the Sunday with both local families and tourists alike, making the endless stretch of sand feel crowded. We enjoyed time sunbathing and honing our tans.

Blue skies and long beaches

Blue skies and long beaches


The crowds at Jaco beach

The crowds at Jaco beach

From Jacó we had to catch another bus further down south along the Pacific coast to reach our next destination –Manuel Antonio. We were told buses ran often, but ended up waiting at the bus stop for nearly two hours for the bus to arrive, making the otherwise relatively short trip needlessly longer. The local bus system in Costa Rica is actually quite well managed with clean buses usually running frequently and cheaply, making travel around the country inexpensive, though time consuming.

Manuel Antonio is a national park in Costa Rica known for its stunning views, wild life and beautiful beaches. The park itself is such a draw that the road running down to the park is full of expensive hotels bringing in the one-week tourists and honeymooners. There is no real town center to Manuel Antonio; rather, the 7km long stretch of winding road between Quepos and the park is littered with countless accommodation options and before the park entrance a few restaurants and stores can be found. From Quepos to Manuel Antonio a bus service runs every fifteen minutes and the 25cent cost makes it an easy way to get to and from the park. The bus winds its way up the hillside to where most of the $300-$500 a night hotels are located, taking full advantage of the incredible views of jungle hilltops and palm-fringed coastline seen from any vantage point along the road. From the peak of the hill the road begins its descent down towards the water’s edge and to the beach. There is one long stretch of public beach. Only a short distance inland from the beach you find the entrance to the national park which is really the reason to visit Manuel Antonio.

A view from the road above Manuel Antonio National Park

A view from the road above Manuel Antonio National Park


Lush and green Costa Rica

Lush and green Costa Rica

We caught the bus from Jacó to Quepos and then transferred buses for the short ride towards Manuel Antonio, getting off 3km before the park entrance. We went to a few of the hopelessly expensive hotels to see the prices and see how the other half live, amazed by the views from these suites and the grandeur of the rooms. Obviously most of the places along this strip were far above our means and we soon realized that to stay here there are only a few options for the backpackers budget; even these are pricey compared to ones we have stayed in along our travels. We found a small suite with its own private kitchen that also boasted a pool and included a simple tea, toast and fruit breakfast for $40 a night. While this price is one of the highest we have paid, the kitchen allowed us to make our own meals which in the long run help our wallet.

Beautiful views everywhere you look

Beautiful views everywhere you look


A view from the hills outside Manuel Antonio Park

A view from the hills outside Manuel Antonio Park


Cliff top views of the ocean around Manuel Antonio park

Cliff top views of the ocean around Manuel Antonio park

For our first full day in Manuel Antonio we packed our day bag with a picnic and decided to explore the Parque Nacional Manuel Antonio. As the surrounding lands became developed because of the beauty of the region, in 1972 this area was declared a park so as to not be turned into another all-inclusive resort. It is the country’s second-smallest national park at only 16.25 square kilometers, but has so much natural beauty to offer as it bursts with wildlife.

We walked the 3km down to the park entrance, enjoying the scenic views along the entire stretch of road. The entrance fee for the park is $10 per person, but the chance to see wildlife in the midst of the jungle was reason enough to pay the fee. Upon entering there is an immediate quiet as the humidity and heat of the jungle envelope you. Monkeys can be heard grunting in the distance as constant scurrying is heard in the underbrush of the forest. Almost immediately we came upon Sloths, lazily hanging from tree limbs –hardly moving, only to scratch or slowly shift their wait. Neither Andrew nor I had ever seen a Sloth and were excited to have the opportunity to spot many hanging out high above us as we walked further into the jungle. The key to the walk was to stay quiet, go slow and search the trees for movement otherwise it is easy to miss the abundant wildlife. You can hire a guide that is trained to spot the animals, but the $40 price-tag deterred us and we ventured into the jungle alone.

Andrew and Ana in the National Park

Andrew and Ana in the National Park


Andrew in the jungle of Manuel Antonio Park

Andrew in the jungle of Manuel Antonio Park


The jungle canopy

The jungle canopy


A sloth just hanging out

A sloth just hanging out


Sloth

Sloth

There are trails that circle the small park and we ended up exploring each trail, making it a long and exhausting day of hiking. We found small remote white sand beaches where groups of capuchin monkeys foraged in the overhanging trees. The little white faced monkeys have so much personality and if you stand quietly they will come quite close to you. We watched them searching for food, little ones play fighting on the forest floor, and after their fun we watched as they lay down on tree branches and took turns grooming each other in the hunt for flees. One monkey would put its head on the branch and close its eyes in pleasure as a friend would pick through its hair. After a few minutes they would switch spots, making sure everyone got a chance to be groomed. In this private little beach we sat down to enjoy our picnic and swim around before heading back into the jungle for some more hiking.

Ana and Andrew on the beach in Manuel Antonio

Ana and Andrew on the beach in Manuel Antonio


A little beach in the midst of Manuel Antonio National Park

A little beach in the midst of Manuel Antonio National Park


White faced capuchin monkey

White faced capuchin monkey


The capuchin and his little tongue

The capuchin and his little tongue


They're so cute

They're so cute


Three capuchins grooming each other

Three capuchins grooming each other

We walked up to the mirador –a lookout high in the jungle that overlooked the water and other distant beaches. The trail was actually closed off, but we ignored the sign and ventured upwards regardless. The trail is starting to be overtaken by roots and branches and obviously the park needs to perform some maintenance, but otherwise the 2km hike was relatively easy if not extremely hot. The hike up to the lookout brought us face to face with hundreds of these strange little crabs. Hearing rustling along the forest floor we assumed they were little geckos and lizards, which are visible everywhere, but suddenly these red crabs with large purple pincers came scurrying from the forest and crossed our path. When I bent close to take a photo I watched the defensive pose of the little creatures as they spread out and show off their large purple claws, attempting to look menacing. There were so many that it was important to watch your step lest you stepped on one of them. Reaching the mirador we could look out upon the ocean and far off towards the further stretches of southern beaches. The view was breathtaking.

Sweaty after the hike up to the mirador

Sweaty after the hike up to the mirador


Ana at the mirador

Ana at the mirador


A view from the mirador

A view from the mirador


Red crabs with big purple pincers and live in the jungle

Red crabs with big purple pincers and live in the jungle

The crabs defensive pose

The crabs defensive pose

We came to the main beaches within the park to find pristine white sands and turquoise blue waters in a sheltered bay. The beaches here were so clean and unspoiled by the tourists that visit them that it was like finding an area of Costa Rica untouched by the ever growing tourism industry. We splashed around the waters and laughed as a raccoon came from the forest to brazenly pick through a backpack on the beach to take an apple before running away with its prize. We saw agoutis, deer, and even a red eyed tree frog. These frogs are bright lime green with orange toes and large red eyes, but since they are nocturnal and sleep during the day, we saw it with its eyes closed and feet tucked in as it tried to blend in with the foliage. We would have missed it completely if a kind guide that was passing by didn’t stop to point it out to us.

One of the quiet beaches in the Manuel Antonio National park

One of the quiet beaches in the Manuel Antonio National park


Ana and the good life -Pura Vida

Ana and the good life -Pura Vida

The private beach of Manuel Antonio National Park

The private beach of Manuel Antonio National Park

Beautiful colour of the Pacific Ocean

Beautiful colour of the Pacific Ocean

Andrew at the beach

Andrew at the beach

Ana goofing around on the beach

Ana goofing around on the beach

A red eyed tree frog, sleeping during the day

A red eyed tree frog, sleeping during the day

The following days were spent on the public beaches of Manuel Antonio. Each day we chose a different beach to explore. Our time in Costa Rica is marked by the deepening of our tans and all the time relaxing on white sands. The lazy days blend together with sun, swimming and food.

Ana and Andrew happy at the beach

Ana and Andrew happy at the beach

After three days in paradise we had to move once again, and this time the travel day would be a grueling 12 hours as we headed across the large country to the Caribbean coast. From Manuel Antonio we had to catch a bus to the capital city of San Jose, take a taxi to a different bus station, wait two hours for our connecting bus and then take another five hour bus in to Puerto Viejo.

We arrived on the Saturday before the week long festivities begin for Easter. While we are used to a couple days off work, some chocolate and maybe an Easter-egg hunt, for the people of Central America Easter still holds its religious meaning and is one of the largest holidays of the year. Buses stop running for days and prices of everything skyrocket as local Tiko families go on vacation. We came to Puerto Viejo near sunset to find nearly every accommodation full and outrageously priced. Thankfully, after the incredibly long day of travel we found a clean room, an expensive meal and an early night’s sleep.

The streets of Puerto Viejo

The streets of Puerto Viejo


Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo


Ana under the mosquito net -SO many mosquitos in Puerto Viejo

Ana under the mosquito net -SO many mosquitos in Puerto Viejo

Puerto Viejo is a charming little Caribbean beach town, with colourful wooden buildings selling trinkets, rich Caribbean spiced foods and playing Reggae from every shop. Rastafarian souvenirs can be purchased everywhere with Bob Marley T-shirts. Most people are seen riding bicycles up and down the streets, splitting their time between the beach, bakery and grocery store where beers are cheap. There is a bigger backpacker scene in this town since it still retains its peaceful charm and simple life. There are a few stretches of palm-fringed beaches along the coast, where surf boards are rented out and the base of palm trees are painted the Rasta colours of red, yellow and green. One large bay is known as Playa Negra with black sands, yet down the road and around a point the sand changes to a light golden hue.

Puerto Viejo beach on a cloudy day

Puerto Viejo beach on a cloudy day


The grey sands of Playa Negra

The grey sands of Playa Negra

Our first day in Puerto Viejo was a cloudy rainy day, so we spent our time exploring the town’s center and walking along Playa Negra. The next day, however, the skies cleared and we packed ourselves a picnic, rented bicycles and headed out to explore the coastline. Outside of the town center one main gravel road snakes along the beach-lined coast and dense jungle canopy. Eco lodges are found along the scenic ride, along with cocoa farms where chocolate is made. We rode the 13km coastal route to Manzanillo, passing sleepy little villages along the way. Manzanillo is a small town that is actually part of a national refuge. The stunning trail takes you to a long stretch of pristine beach which stretches all the way to Panama if you continued to follow the coast. We parked our bikes and splayed out on the pretty beach, tanning, eating our picnic, splashing in the waters and enjoying the sunshine. After the sun began to drop in the sky, we hopped back on our bikes and began the 13km ride back towards Puerto Viejo, hearing howler monkeys deep within the jungle and finally spotting toucans in the overhanging branches along the pothole filled road.

Heading out for our ride on my pink bike

Heading out for our ride on my pink bike


A ride to Manzanillo

A ride to Manzanillo


The beach at Manzanillo

The beach at Manzanillo


Riding along the beach in Manzanillo

Riding along the beach in Manzanillo


Playing around on the beach

Playing around on the beach


Andrew playing around at the beach

Andrew playing around at the beach


Andrew on our bike ride

Andrew on our bike ride

With one final day in Puerto Viejo, partially cloudy, we are spending time lazing in the hammock in front of our cabina door, walking the town and the beaches. We discovered a strictly vegetarian and vegan restaurant last night called “Veronica’s Place,” and are biding our time until dinner and another delicious meal. Endlessly spoiled by beaches, hot sun and now some good food, we are loving our time back on the Caribbean coast. As our holiday sadly starts to wind down, we need to continue working our way through Costa Rica and Panama, so tomorrow we move again. We are heading inland to the town of Cartago, about 45 minutes south of San Jose. Here we will be reunited with the lovely mother and daughter duo that we met in Tikal, Guatemala, who are showing amazing hospitality, taking us in over Easter and giving us a local tour of their surrounding area. We can’t wait to see them. We hope to have lots to write about after our visit… until then…

Love love

Love love

Love to friends and family –we will see you all soon.
Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 20:24 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged landscapes beaches animals Comments (0)

The Land of Gringo in Tamarindo and Meditation in Montezuma

sunny 32 °C

From Nicaragua we crossed into Costa Rica by bus, pulling into Tamarindo near 7pm, and in the dark with our packs on we began the hunt for a place to stay. Andrew had been to Costa Rica ten years prior and remembered a quiet strip with one hotel and a few restaurants along the beach, but the now overpopulated and touristy Tama-“gringo” is nearly unrecognizable. With large hotels, resorts, bars and expensive restaurants, the quiet charm of Central America is somewhat lost in this one-week get-a-way tourist town. While Tamarindo is a beautiful place, perfect for the easy and mindless vacation, we felt a shock after having spent our time in much less developed countries for the past three months. Prices rival those at home and the gringo population far outnumbers the locals. When a hostel room with no amenities was quoted at $25 we began to worry that Costa Rica may just be too expensive for the long-term traveler on a backpacker budget. We worked our way off the main strip and couple of blocks away from the beach, finding an apartment that, while above our needs and means, boasted a kitchen, living room, balcony and pool. For the slightly higher price we jumped on the deal as preparing our own meals not only saves our wallets, but as vegetarians in a meat and fish eating part of the world, we often eat much better when we prepare meals ourselves. Settling in to the room we decided to make the 20 minute walk out of town to the large supermarket, stocked up on a few days’ worth of groceries and came home to crash on our couch and relax after having spent over ten hours traveling that one day.

The white and black sands of Tamarindo -they don't mix, rather form striations in the sand

The white and black sands of Tamarindo -they don't mix, rather form striations in the sand


Long beach in Tamarindo

Long beach in Tamarindo


Andrew in Tamarindo

Andrew in Tamarindo


Tamarindo

Tamarindo



Tamarindo is located on the north end of the Península de Nicoya. This peninsula is known for long stretches of tropical beaches fringed by lush jungles full of wildlife. The idyllic beauty of this coast line once was the place where turtles returned for a place to give birth but with tourists soon catching on to the splendor of the Nicoya peninsula, the leatherback turtles have mostly stopped coming to the populated shores. The main problem of the area is sustainability with the incredible growth of the tourism industry with little thought to environmental concerns. Tamarindo is one of these long stretches of white sand beach that once was a paradise, and for some may still be if looking for a short-term vacation spot. Full of beginner surfers learning to stand in the white wash, with bath-warm waters and endless room for tanning, crowds are drawn to the area as the turtles once were. We walked as far as we could down both ends of the beach and on to the further beaches south of the main stretch, only to find that around every bend another section of perfect white sands exists.

A beautiful day in Tamarindo

A beautiful day in Tamarindo


Long beaches all to ourselves if you walk far enough in Tamarindo

Long beaches all to ourselves if you walk far enough in Tamarindo


Ana and the good life -Pura Vida!

Ana and the good life -Pura Vida!


Tamarindo

Tamarindo


Sunsets and beaches... our daily routine

Sunsets and beaches... our daily routine


The red sky upon sunset in Tamarindo

The red sky upon sunset in Tamarindo

Sunsetting over Tamarindo

Sunsetting over Tamarindo

We spent our few days here taking turns between sunning on the beach and beside the pool, making ourselves the meals we have been missing after weeks upon weeks of burritos, and enjoying the relaxed pace of having little else to do or worry about. In the evenings we wandered the town to find little restaurants and bars crowded with tourists drinking overpriced cocktails and decided “When in Tamarindo….” treating ourselves to a few drinks too. We are constantly reminded how small our world is as walking down the street we heard someone yell out “Eric?” and soon realize that it was a guy Andrew’s brother had gone to high school with, but in recognizing Andrew had guessed the wrong twin. We met him and his lovely girlfriend for an evening of drinks and laughs, marveling at how often we run into people in the most unlikely places.
We stayed in Tamarindo for three days, reveling in having our own kitchen and plenty of sun and beach time. Our next stop took us from Tamarindo to Montezuma, another beach town further south on the tip of the Nicoya peninsula. Inquiring into shuttle buses that would take you directly to Montezuma we were baffled by the $100 price tag for two travelers and opted for the local bus system, ignoring the long hours this would mean on the road. Rising at 4:45am (and wondering why we ever do this whilst on vacation), we took two buses until reaching the bus station in Puntarenus –a port town used mainly as a stop-over for the local ferry services to and from the Nicoya peninsula. From here we took a taxi to the ferries, a one-and-a-half hour ferry boat to Paquera, and then another two hour bus to Montezuma, arriving nearly ten hours later. The longer route saved us approximately $70 and we felt this was worth the long day of travel.

Montezuma beaches that remind us of the West Coast of Canada

Montezuma beaches that remind us of the West Coast of Canada


Andrew in Montezuma

Andrew in Montezuma


Montezuma

Montezuma

Montezuma has all the charm that Tamarindo lacked. A tiny town that has similarities to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island, what with its health food restaurants, countless yoga classes, surfers and dread-headed hippies that are permanent fixtures to the area. The town feels like a place where doors wouldn’t need to be locked and everyone knows everyone’s name. Unfortunately, the simple life-style still comes with a hefty price tag, but we managed to find a reasonably priced hotel room after a bit of searching.

Our first day in Montezuma we decided to walk to the large waterfall, only a twenty minute hike up a river into the jungle. The 75 foot cascade drops into a greenish, cool pool that is perfect for swimming; unfortunately, all tourists think so and this swimming hole can be overcrowded when trying to snap a photo of the falls. We splashed around, climbed under the falls and leapt from rocks, enjoying the sunshine and waiting out the tourists to find a lull of people and a moment of quiet. From here, another twenty minute hike upwards takes you through the forest above the first large waterfall, only to bring you to two more, slightly smaller, falls that each forms a swimming hole below. The second set of falls, an approximate 50 foot drop, has a ledge ideal for jumping if you are brave enough to make the leap. Andrew, reveling in such adrenalin rushes, made the jump repeatedly. The third, smaller set of falls has a rope swing from a lower branch of an overhanging tree, which made for the perfect place for Andrew to practice his backflip techniques.

The large waterfalls of Montezuma

The large waterfalls of Montezuma


The first set of large falls in Montezuma with a nice swimming hole

The first set of large falls in Montezuma with a nice swimming hole


Andrew leaping from waterfalls

Andrew leaping from waterfalls


Ana under the waterfall

Ana under the waterfall


Ana and Andrew under the waterfall in Montezuma

Ana and Andrew under the waterfall in Montezuma


Andrew taking a shower

Andrew taking a shower


Andrew getting ready to jump from the second set of falls

Andrew getting ready to jump from the second set of falls


Andrew makes the jump

Andrew makes the jump

The next day in Montezuma we decided to walk down the coastline, reading that the nice beaches are found to the North of the town. A small stretch of white sand beach had a rocky point at its end and we thought we’d walk to the point and see around the corner, only to find another similar stretch of beach. We continued walking; finding that after a few beaches there was another set of small waterfalls and an enormous stretch of endless beach with nearly no one there. The rocky points of shoreline are so similar to the west coast coastline, with their tidal pools and crashing waves, that only the white sand and palm trees remind you the beach is not Long Beach. Finding pretty shells and a sand dollar and nothing but peace and quiet, we hiked nearly 7km of beach and felt what this coastline must have been like before the tourists took over. As we settled in for the evening, heavy rains began ending in a lightning show, making a great excuse for a night in.

The long endless beaches of Montezuma on a cloudy morning

The long endless beaches of Montezuma on a cloudy morning


Andrew, on middle ground in Montezuma

Andrew, on middle ground in Montezuma


Fresh water springs feed the large waterfalls in Montezuma

Fresh water springs feed the large waterfalls in Montezuma


Ana at the smaller waterfall

Ana at the smaller waterfall

From Montezuma we needed to retrace our steps back across the water on the local ferry, and then catch a bus further south to the next beach town –Jacó (pronounced Ha-ko). Again, the option of taking a fast tourist ferry for $40 a person (for a one hour ride) existed, but we took the local route and made it six hours later for only $16 for the two of us. Arriving today, I’ll leave details of Jacó to the next blog, but I’ll give you a hint –more beach time!

Andrew on the ferry, heading for Punteranus

Andrew on the ferry, heading for Punteranus


The ferry ride from the Nicoya Peninsula

The ferry ride from the Nicoya Peninsula

We hope everyone is doing well back home. Sending love to friends and family,
Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 20:22 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged waterfalls beaches Comments (0)

Sunny San Juan del Sur and Obscure Ometepe

sunny 35 °C

From Granada we journeyed to San Jan del Sur –a long stretch of beach on the southern pacific coast of Nicaragua. We ended up staying in a cheap hotel the first night, which was likely the worst accommodation we have stayed in to date. With bugs crawling everywhere and wind shrieking through holes in the roof, we dropped off our bags and went in the search of a nicer place for the following day. Finding a great little apartment over the quiet and mostly patron-less Irish Bar, with a kitchen and balcony, we were happy to move first thing in the morning after a restless first night.

The streets of San Juan del Sur

The streets of San Juan del Sur


Andrew on the beach in San Juan del Sur

Andrew on the beach in San Juan del Sur


Long expanse of fine sand beach

Long expanse of fine sand beach

Settling into San Juan del Sur is easy to do. The quiet and peaceful town is easy to walk around, with colourful one-story buildings and little shops. The town is situated in a large, horseshoe –shaped, sheltered bay. With high cliffs shielding either side of the bay and an enormous statue of Jesus peering down over the town, San Juan is protected from all sides from wind and large waves. The bay is full of little fishing boats, tour boats and some sail boats, but with these vessels further out in the water there is plenty of room for swimming all along the coast. The dark fine sands of San Juan del Sur are full of locals playing soccer, volleyball and splashing in the waves. The beach is lined with rustic restaurants, full of people crowding on the beach patios enjoying a snack and mid-day drink. Primarily, backpackers come to San Juan del Sur for the great surfing located at beaches north and south of the town, but with a $5-$10 price tag to simply reach these beaches each day, we felt that the main stretch of sand had plenty to offer without making a daily trip up or down the coast.

The beautiful beach

The beautiful beach


The suspension bridge in San Juan del Sur

The suspension bridge in San Juan del Sur


Andrew and Ana in San Juan del Sur

Andrew and Ana in San Juan del Sur


Andrew in San Juan del Sur

Andrew in San Juan del Sur


The sun setting over San Juan del Sur

The sun setting over San Juan del Sur

Our days began to blend together, mostly spent sunbathing, swimming, watching the sunsets and planning what meal we could make in our tiny kitchen. A lazy week on the beach was only broken up by going out for a few drinks in the evening as San Juan has a lively nightlife for the backpacker crowds, or walking around the town and exploring. One morning we took on the mission to reach the large Jesus statue that is visible from any point in San Juan. Following a road that takes you over a small suspension bridge, we walked our way out of town on a dirt road only to realize we had missed the turn off. Determined, we tried the hike again in the afternoon and found the narrow road up the cliff, and with some huffing and puffing we clambered up the mountainside to reach the stunning views of the town and bay below. The Jesus statue towers over you at nearly 50 feet high, overlooking the cliffs edge. We marveled at the blue waters and perfect beach below, taking countless photos and deciding to spend one extra day on that lovely beach.

A view of the northern beaches from the cliff-top lookout

A view of the northern beaches from the cliff-top lookout


A long hike up was well worth the beautiful view

A long hike up was well worth the beautiful view


The horseshoe shaped bay of San Juan del Sur

The horseshoe shaped bay of San Juan del Sur


The 50 ft Jesus statue

The 50 ft Jesus statue


The large cross and Jesus statue that lookout over San Juan del Sur

The large cross and Jesus statue that lookout over San Juan del Sur


A birdseye view of San Juan del Sur

A birdseye view of San Juan del Sur


Andrew playing volleyball on the beach

Andrew playing volleyball on the beach


Going for a swim at sunset

Going for a swim at sunset


Sunset

Sunset


Sunset in San Juan del Sur

Sunset in San Juan del Sur

From San Juan del Sur we caught a local chicken bus back to Rivas, and then a taxi to the pier on Lake Nicaragua. On the bus we sat beside a single traveler and soon realized he was also from Victoria BC. The three of us boarded the ferry that takes you the hour trip over to Ometepe. The large Lago de Nicaragua has turbulent waters, making the ride across to the island a very rough ride sitting out in the middle of the strong mid-day sun. Not far into the boat ride one lady began vomiting into the wind and on people around her, making the trip more uncomfortable than it already was; however, the view of Isla de Ometepe soon makes you forget the rough ride. With two large volcanoes on either end of the island and a central strip that connects the two, the island formed from volcanic explosions is about 90 km all the way around.

Isla de Ometepe

Isla de Ometepe


Andrew on the boat, arriving to Ometepe

Andrew on the boat, arriving to Ometepe

We landed in Moyogalpa, the largest of the towns found around the island. Unsure where the best place was to stay, we decided to take a room in this town and rent some motorcycles to explore and see if the following day we should move. The one main road on the island forms a figure-eight around the two volcanoes, but with only one section paved it is difficult to explore some areas. This first day we drove along the stretch of paved road as our friend Jacob had never been on a motorcycle, but he picked it up quickly. We visited Playa Santo Domingo, a strip of beach found along the land that connects the volcanoes. Normally this town has the best beach, but with the waters of Lake Nicaragua being unusually high, most of the beach is underwater. Getting lunch here, we moved on to the Ojo de Agua –a natural volcanic spring that feeds into two large pools of water. The mineral water is cold, refreshing, and incredibly clear; it is said to have healing properties so we spent some time splashing and washing away the days travel from our tired bodies. We then drove to Charco Verde and Punta de Jesús Maria –two small beaches along the lake that boast beautiful views. After touring around part of the island, we realized that staying in Moyogalpa was the best choice as a main base since most restaurants, accommodations and bike rentals are found in this town.

Andrew and his bike infront of Lake Nicaragua

Andrew and his bike infront of Lake Nicaragua


Playa Santo Domingo

Playa Santo Domingo


Playa Santo Domingo

Playa Santo Domingo


A view of Volcán Concepción

A view of Volcán Concepción


A lush forest covers the Volcán Maderas

A lush forest covers the Volcán Maderas


Sunset at Charco Verde

Sunset at Charco Verde


The volcanic water of Ojo de Agua

The volcanic water of Ojo de Agua


Andrew swimming in the healing waters of Ojo de Agua

Andrew swimming in the healing waters of Ojo de Agua


Andrew and Jacob at Punta de Jesús Maria

Andrew and Jacob at Punta de Jesús Maria


After the sunset in Ometepe

After the sunset in Ometepe

The following day we found a guide to take us up the Volcán Concepción, the larger of the two volcanoes. It rises over 1600 meters and is still active, having erupted large gassy puffs of ash only three months ago. The full hike to the top and back takes around ten hours, but due to the last eruption it is not advised to look into the crater with vapors still rising. We decided to hike the five hours to the 1000 meter mark where stunning panoramic views of the island, lake and distant mainland are possible. In the scorching heat, we questioned why we were doing this hike until finally reaching the lookout with triumph and awe at the incredible view. We were able to stand at the edge of the large chasm carved into the volcano from the rivers of lava that tore through the land last, in 1957. Our seventeen year old guide, Jonathan, made the difficult hike with barely breaking a sweat and joking with us the entire way up and down while sweat-drenched we tried to keep up. Feeling proud of our accomplishment, the day was ended with a drink, a nice dinner and an early bedtime.

Andrew, Jonathan and Jacob, climbing Volcán Concepción

Andrew, Jonathan and Jacob, climbing Volcán Concepción


Jacob and Ana hiking the volcano

Jacob and Ana hiking the volcano


Volcán Concepción

Volcán Concepción


Jacob, Ana and Jonathan, hiking Volcán Concepción

Jacob, Ana and Jonathan, hiking Volcán Concepción


We made it up the 1000 meters to the lookout

We made it up the 1000 meters to the lookout


The large chasm carved by a lava river in 1957

The large chasm carved by a lava river in 1957


Ana looking over the edge of the abyss

Ana looking over the edge of the abyss


Andrew looking at the chasm

Andrew looking at the chasm


A view from Volcán Concepción

A view from Volcán Concepción


The national bird of Nicaragua

The national bird of Nicaragua


It is so hard to capture this view in a photograph

It is so hard to capture this view in a photograph


On the distant mainland the Volacano Mombacho is visible

On the distant mainland the Volacano Mombacho is visible


A panoramic view

A panoramic view

For our final day on the Isla de Ometepe we decided to rent bikes again and this time took on the entire 90km road around the island. Some areas of the road were simply sand and gravel, but around the other volcano, Maderas, the road became so rocky and slow going that it took nearly three hours to get around just the one side. Volcán Maderas is a non-active volcano rising 1394 meters and is covered in a lush rainforest, a stark contrast from the dry and hot Concepción. The center of this volcano has a green crater lake, but the eight hour hike up and down takes you through muddy paths and we decided that simply driving around to take in the small villages was enough for the day. Much of Ometepe is covered in farm land with large banana plantations being the main crop. There are countless horses, cows and pigs running around the dusty roads of the rough terrain. With sore bottoms from the bumpy ride we ended our day back at the Ojo de Agua for another healing soak and to rinse off all the dust from the days riding. Ometepe is a quiet island that is known for its many birds, monkeys, hikes and small beaches, though it has little to no nightlife. We ended up going for a few drinks and played pool to conclude our time on the island.

Ana and Jacob in Ometepe

Ana and Jacob in Ometepe


Andrew and Jacob riding around Ometepe

Andrew and Jacob riding around Ometepe


Ometepe

Ometepe


Watch for these road hazards while driving around Ometepe

Watch for these road hazards while driving around Ometepe


A view of a volcano from every point on the island

A view of a volcano from every point on the island


A night out in Ometepe

A night out in Ometepe

We left the Isla de Ometepe on the 9am ferry, running into friends from Victoria on the boat, we counted six people from Victoria (including ourselves) on this tiny ferry, as well as a guy from Vancouver –what a small world it is. From the ferry we had to take a taxi to the border crossing of Costa Rica, and a couple bus transfers, making for a nearly ten-hour travel day to reach the very developed beach town of Tamarindo. I will leave Tamarindo for the next blog... until then…

Sending love to friends and family,

Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 18:10 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged landscapes beaches volcano lake sunsets Comments (2)

Greetings from Granada

sunny 35 °C

We pulled into Granada in the middle of the day and started the search for a place to stay. As we get closer to April and further down south, the temperature is rising and with backpacks on in the mid-day sun, we were exhausted. We were told that there are many accommodation options in Granada, but being dropped off in the central park we were unsure where to begin. Many of the cheap options were dirty and cramped, while the nicer places were far beyond our price range. At the verge of throwing our hands up in despair, we stumbled upon Hotel Valeria, only a block off of the main tourist street. We were sold immediately by the friendly owner and the large, bright and clean rooms. Dropping our bags we went in the search for food and ended the day with an early bed-time after a long day of travel.

Hotel Valeria

Hotel Valeria


The lovely hosts of Hotel Valeria -Eva, Valeria and Franco

The lovely hosts of Hotel Valeria -Eva, Valeria and Franco


Granada

Granada

We decided to spend our first full day in Granada walking around the city. The large central park is full of vendors, selling drinks and food, as well as trinkets, hammocks, and horse carriage rides. A fountain and large gazebo-like building are central in the park, with local children running around and playing between the structures. The main focus of this center plaza is the vibrant, large, yellow cathedral that is visible from most areas of town. The streets of Granada are full of character with the brightly coloured buildings clustered together, boasting many little shops and restaurants. The main tourist street is lined with bars and coffee shops with the streets cordoned off for walking, with tables and chairs set out for those looking for a rest and drink throughout the day.

Granada's central plaza

Granada's central plaza


The main tourist street of Granada

The main tourist street of Granada


Carriage rides down Granada's streets

Carriage rides down Granada's streets


Colourful streets of Granada

Colourful streets of Granada


The yellow cathedral

The yellow cathedral

Granada was founded in 1524 at the foot of volcano Mombacho on the Northwestern banks of Lago de Nicaragua. The convenient placement made it a central trade center in Central America with the Rio San Juan connecting the lake to the Caribbean Sea. The city was destroyed and rebuilt a few times before finally being burned down in 1856 by William Walker, leaving the famous placard, “Here was Granada.” Since Granada was rebuilt it continued to flourish and is now a thriving mecca of tourism. There are many Americans buying property here, which brings wealth to the city but also widens the poverty gap for the locals.

A rooftop view and Volcano Mombacho puffing in the background

A rooftop view and Volcano Mombacho puffing in the background


Rooftop view

Rooftop view


Mary looking out over Granada

Mary looking out over Granada

This little guy asked to have his photo taken -so cute

This little guy asked to have his photo taken -so cute

The walk down to the edge of the large Lake Nicaragua brings you through the poorer parts of town, and while the buildings lose their grandeur there still remains a charm to the busy streets. Sunday is obviously a time spent with family as well as cleaning, with many sweeping sidewalks, cutting hair in barbershops, fixing cars and kids giggling as they run into shops for a few candies. Basketball courts are full of teenagers and the baseball field was being used by the younger children for practice. The pretty walk along the water’s edge is spoiled only by the fact that the water is a murky and muddy hue; however, locals still gather with their children for picnics or a stroll along the walkway.

The murky waters of Lago Nicaragua

The murky waters of Lago Nicaragua


Horse drawn carriages in the central plaza

Horse drawn carriages in the central plaza


Andrew holds a little piece of Granada

Andrew holds a little piece of Granada

On our second day in Grenada, we took a taxi to the nearby Laguna de Apoyo –a crater lake surrounded by thick forest and a few tiny restaurants. The mineral water is meant to be some of the best swimming in Nicaragua, but we spent our time basking in the sun and enjoying the complete quiet of the area.

Laguna de Apoyo

Laguna de Apoyo


Ana at the crater lake

Ana at the crater lake

The following day we signed up for a canopy zip-lining tour from the volcano Mombacho. The drive takes you up the active volcano, which is inhabited and full of farms; the people are sure that the volcano will not erupt any time soon. The rich volcanic soils and high altitude make the volcano a prime area for coffee plantations and the zip-line course ran above one of these fincas. We were given an opportunity to try the coffee produced on the large farm and given a tour of the plantation. From plants to flowers and then red berries, workers wait until the berries are just ripe enough before hand-picking them. During harvest there will be over 250 workers, working ten-hour days, and getting paid by the weight of coffee they are able to pick in a day. With heavy baskets the workers climb up the hills in the scorching heat, making only around $5 US a day. We asked about “Fare Trade Coffee” and were told that many farms work towards this certification simply because consumers happily pay more; however, often the money does not go back to the workers. This particular finca is working on making conditions better for workers and making conscientious efforts to be ecologically friendly. Berries are dried in the sun and the methane gases that are released are captured and used in the farms kitchens as fuel. The husks of the coffee beans are used as mulch and line the pathways to the zip-lines. With many different lines that allow you to see the beautiful views of the landscape below, a rope swing, trapeze line and repelling rope, the course was a great way to spend an afternoon amidst the shade of the large trees.

All geared up for zip-lining

All geared up for zip-lining


Andrew zip-lining over the coffee plantation

Andrew zip-lining over the coffee plantation


Ana taking in the view from the zip-line

Ana taking in the view from the zip-line


Andrew repelling down

Andrew repelling down


Walking the trapeze

Walking the trapeze


Our zip-line guides

Our zip-line guides

We met a group of travelers at our hotel that were in Nicaragua building a school for a rural community and we all went out for dinner and drinks with the hotel owner. Sitting outside along the busy tourist street we were greeted by a mariachi band that serenaded us with song after song for our entire meal. There was also a group of young Nicaraguan men that did the most incredible break-dancing tricks we have ever seen on the concrete streets. Add some drinks and a great group of people and we had a lovely evening out in Granada.

Out for dinner in Granada

Out for dinner in Granada


Going out in Granada

Going out in Granada


Valeria and Eva

Valeria and Eva

Our final day in Granada was spent exploring the many churches. With stunning rooftop views of the city, we stayed in the bell tower of one until sunset, covering our ears when the large bells chimed every half hour.

A Church in Granada

A Church in Granada


Church

Church


An old church in Granada

An old church in Granada


One of the many churches of Granada

One of the many churches of Granada


The central cathedral visible from every part of town

The central cathedral visible from every part of town


The yellow cathedral

The yellow cathedral


A sunset from the bell tower

A sunset from the bell tower

The days in Grenada were full of walking and taking in the beautiful city, but after our four full days here we were ready to move on towards the beach once again. Loading onto a bus we headed towards the city of Rivas where we connected to another bus taking us to San Juan del Sur. This idyllic little beach town is known for surfing, beautiful stretches of beach and a lively nightlife. We are staying here for five days to simply enjoy doing nothing but work on our tans. It’s a hard life!

We hope all our friends and family are doing well back home. Sending love,

Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 06:55 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged churches buildings skylines people lake Comments (0)

Languid in La Ceiba, León and Las Peñitas

sunny 35 °C

We left Utila early in the morning by ferry and were picked up by a taxi on the other end, heading towards the Omega Tours jungle lodge along the Congrejal River. The company was recommended by travelers, friends and the Lonely Planet as one stop that should not be missed while in the La Ceiba area. The drive took about half-an-hour out of the city into the jungle along the river, just outside of the protected park reserve. During the rainy season the Congrejal River rages with so much water that it moves boulders the size of houses, altering the direction and flow of water constantly. It can be a very dangerous river, having claimed lives in its forceful current and rapids; however, with just the right amount of water it becomes a playground for white water rafting and swimming.

The jungles of Honduras

The jungles of Honduras


Ana in the jungle

Ana in the jungle


The Congrejal River

The Congrejal River


The Congrejal River

The Congrejal River


Ana at the river

Ana at the river


A river in the jungle

A river in the jungle


All geared up and ready for the rapids

All geared up and ready for the rapids


Ana going river rafting

Ana going river rafting

We came to the Omega Tours Lodge, which has a hostel, restaurant, and a pool fed from river water. The company organizes tours through the protected park and to distant waterfalls, but is mostly known for white water rafting and kayaking trips. We dropped our bags off and immediately joined in the morning rafting trip. If you do one of the tours, your lodging and lunch are free, making the tour well worth its cost. After gearing up in our life jackets and helmets, hiking down to the river and listening to safety instructions, we started a journey up the river, only to splash our way back down. The water rushes at such an incredible force that we had to aim our bodies diagonally up the river and swim hard to make it across to the opposite bank. We hurled ourselves off different rocks, played in currents that held and spun us, as well as floated on our backs to have the water push us back downstream. Andrew was in his element, leaping from dizzying heights into the white waters below. Finally, we reached our rafts and began the rafting part of the tour. We learned the commands for when and how to paddle, and then set off for an incredibly fun adventure. Often having to throw ourselves into the boat and lean from side to side to avoid hazards, we zipped through rapids and small drops with shrieks of delight, feeling proud that we never flipped our raft. At the end of the river tour, when the water became shallower, a truck awaited to take us back up to the lodge for lunch. Andrew and I went back down to the river’s edge after lunch and basked in the sun and watching the local children throwing themselves off of boulders that seemed impossibly high.

Ana and Andrew playing in the river's strong current

Ana and Andrew playing in the river's strong current


Ana and Andrew going river rafting

Ana and Andrew going river rafting


Going white water rafting

Going white water rafting


Aim up stream to cross down stream

Aim up stream to cross down stream


Srong rapids

Srong rapids


Andrew making the crossing

Andrew making the crossing


Andrew getting ready to leap into the white water below

Andrew getting ready to leap into the white water below

The next morning we woke up early, packed our bags and left them in the office, before heading down to the river one more time for Andrew to try some of the daring jumps the locals did. After a couple hours enjoying the morning sunshine, we grabbed our gear to attempt hailing a local bus that runs down the dirt roads back to La Ceiba. When we realized we missed it, we walked down the road and were soon picked up by some friendly locals in the back of a pick-up truck and got all the way back into the City for free.

Andrew getting ready to leap of the massive boulder -in the rainy season the Congrejal River rises so high that it actually moves this boulder!

Andrew getting ready to leap of the massive boulder -in the rainy season the Congrejal River rises so high that it actually moves this boulder!


Another boulder to leap from at the Congrejal River

Another boulder to leap from at the Congrejal River

The traveling day between La Ceiba, and our desired destination of Nicaragua took the better part of two days. From La Ceiba we took a bus into San Pedro Sula, an overcrowded, dirty and extremely dangerous city. This city is one where you do not want to spend any time in, let alone look for accommodations in, but arriving at sundown left us little choice. Our taxi driver took us directly to a cheap hotel that had barred doors and all-night security and we were warned to not walk the streets at night. We ordered a pizza and dozed for a few hours before the same taxi driver picked us up at 4am to make it back to the bus station in time for our connecting bus that left at 5am. The journey from San Pedro Sula to Léon, Nicaragua, took twelve long hours.

León was once the capital of Nicaragua and the center for the arts, for politics, as well as the ecclesiastical center. Boasting numerous grand churches, León is a great place to do a walking tour, though, the main draw to this city are the numerous nearby volcanoes ready for exploration. This region of Nicaragua has the most volcanoes in Central America and with many being active there is a large draw for tourists looking to hike up these giant mountains. We found a quiet guesthouse and spent the following day walking around the city and taking photographs. We inquired about the volcanic tours but after learning that most of the hikes were two day trips carrying heavy packs in 35 degree weather, we decided to pass on this and rather head to the beach, only 20km west of León.

Andrew in Leon

Andrew in Leon


Andrew infront of Leon's large cathedral

Andrew infront of Leon's large cathedral


Leon's central square

Leon's central square


Ana and Andrew overlooking Leon

Ana and Andrew overlooking Leon


Leon

Leon


Leon

Leon


Leon

Leon


The roof of Leon's large cathedral

The roof of Leon's large cathedral


Beautiful cathedral of Leon

Beautiful cathedral of Leon


Leon's Cathedral

Leon's Cathedral


One of Leon's many churches

One of Leon's many churches


Sun setting over Leon

Sun setting over Leon

Two beaches are found near León along the Pacific coast of Nicaragua, separated by a rocky point. The southern end, called Las Peñitas, is a long stretch of beach that is best for swimming and draws in the backpackers. The fine golden sands stretch endlessly with small homes and hostels along the beach edge. On weekends the beach fills up with tourists and locals but midweek there was only the sand and crashing waves with a few people trying to surf. The waves along the coast are powerful and the undertow strong, but the brave and determined few still paddle out hoping to catch the perfect wave. We spent two days perfecting our suntans, walking the beach and admiring the nightly show of a perfect sunset. The only problem we found was the lack of food options; for fish eaters this beach is a mecca as the locals are mainly fishermen and restaurants sell little else. We ended up eating breakfast for most meals before deciding we had to move on simply to find other food options.

Las Penitas is a little fishing village

Las Penitas is a little fishing village


Las Penitas, the Pacific coast of Nicaragua

Las Penitas, the Pacific coast of Nicaragua


Las Penitas, Nicaragua

Las Penitas, Nicaragua


Long stretch of beach at Las Penitas

Long stretch of beach at Las Penitas


Ana happy at the beach

Ana happy at the beach


Sunset at Las Penitas

Sunset at Las Penitas


Watching the sunset

Watching the sunset


Sunset at Las Penitas

Sunset at Las Penitas


Sunset

Sunset


Waves crashing and sun setting at Las Penitas

Waves crashing and sun setting at Las Penitas


Another sunset photo

Another sunset photo

We hitched a ride in the back of a large truck into Léon, from where we had to get a taxi to the bus terminal, a shuttle to Managua and yet another shuttle bus so Granada. Travel days are always long and tiresome, but the experience of cramming 25 people into a minivan with half standing between the legs of those who are sitting, always proves to be entertaining even whilst uncomfortable. We reached Granada mid-day and plan on spending five days in the beautiful colonial city and will update about it in the next blog.

Sending love to friends and family,

Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 09:46 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged beaches river sunsets Comments (0)

Underwater in Utila

sunny 30 °C

The Bay Islands are found in the Caribbean Sea, just off the coast of Honduras. With an hour-and-a-half ride on a passenger ferry, we left La Ceiba to arrive in Utila around sunset. There are three main islands that make up the Bay Islands: Roatan is the largest island and is more of a resort destination; Utila is the third largest island of the Bay Islands, only about a quarter of the size of Roatan, but is the area where backpackers stay and boasts countless dive shops; the final island of Guanaja is rarely visited and remains a haven only for the very wealthy. These islands are found at the south end of the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, which is the second largest barrier reef in the world after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. For many years fishing has been the main industry and food supply for the local people, but with an increasing population and tourism turning into the future for the islands, sustenance fishing is becoming a problem with waning fish stock for the main tourist draw –diving. There are more than sixty dive sites in the area with flourishing bright coral and marine life, including the elusive Whale Sharks that feed on krill in the area from March to April.

Utila

Utila


Beautiful blue water and sky

Beautiful blue water and sky


Happy in Utila

Happy in Utila

Utila has one main road that runs parallel to the ocean with many restaurants and accommodation options. Dive shops sit along the water’s edge with their own piers and dive boats. Immediately after stepping off the pier from the ferry, dive shop touts swarm tourists aggressively, trying to draw you to their shop. Most shops offer free accommodation in their dorms if you take a dive course or a discount at any of the nearby hotels. After a ten-hour journey we were tired and ready to settle in for the night, so we allowed one tout to take us to Parrot’s Dive Shop and set us up in a private room at the Bay View Hotel. The hotel is directly on the water with its own pier and picnic area, and the clean large rooms include a small fridge. We dropped our bags and then went to sign up for our dives the following day.

Utila's Beach

Utila's Beach


Ana in Utila

Ana in Utila


Andrew in Utila

Andrew in Utila

I have been very lucky to have quite a few dives under my belt, but have always wanted to get my Advanced Open Water dive ticket. While I have done all the dives without restriction thus far, technically you are not allowed to dive deeper than 18 meters without the advanced ticket. Utila is known as the cheapest place to dive in the world and seemed like the perfect opportunity to complete my course, which gave me five skill dives and two extra fun dives. Our time in Utila was spent primarily diving, every day.

Heading out for the first dive of my Advanced Open Water course

Heading out for the first dive of my Advanced Open Water course


Going down

Going down

On my first day of diving, I did a wreck dive where 30 meters down the Halliburton sunk twelve years prior. With coral growing from its sides, it is a unique experience to watch the steel deteriorating and the once manned ship turned into a home for sea life.

Wreck Dive

Wreck Dive

The second dive that day was a navigation dive where I learned to use a compass underwater and by counting fin-kicks and paying attention to the compass reading, had to make a perfect square and triangle swim that returned me back to the original location. It is easy to get lost in the great expanse of blue and so knowing to find your way back to the boat or back to a reference point is very important.

My third dive that day was a night dive. I have never been diving in such pitch-black conditions. Submerging into the dark waters with only a flashlight, you find a world of sleeping fish and nocturnal creatures that are hard to find during the day. Large lobsters scurry along the ocean floor, numerous shrimp climb over the corals, and a large and nearly translucent octopus showed off its tentacles as it squirmed away from our bright lights. After viewing these creatures, we turned off the flashlights and swam in perfect darkness only to witness the beautiful phenomenon of phosphorescent lighting up around every movement made. Waving our arms and fins sparked little lights all around us as if we were orchestrating a light symphony.

The following day I completed a deep dive, going down to 30 meters and testing how nitrogen narcosis affects me. At these depths enough nitrogen enters your blood stream that many people get a feeling of being inebriated. Rising only slightly from these depths will make the drunken feeling go away, but this experience could be dangerous as divers loose sense of direction and often stop adhering to safety rules. We did a test on land, touching our nose and then touching the number one on a board, then back to our nose and back to the number two, all the way to twenty. This test was timed on land and then re-administered underwater to see how much slower thinking becomes with the effects of nitrogen narcosis. While the effect was not great for me, I was about 10 seconds slower. At this depth colours look very different, so we viewed colours and saw them change at these depths. We also took a bottle full of air down with us and saw it completely compress. We filled the bottle with air at the 30meter depth and upon re-surfacing the bottle had expanded so that the top just exploded off (a neat little physics experiment to show what can happen to your lungs if you hold your breath on ascent).

After these five dives I became a certified advanced diver! The following day I had my final two fun dives that Andrew joined in on. The dives were beautiful and allowed us to see the beautiful corals and fish of the area.

Excited to go diving

Excited to go diving


Diving

Diving


Andrew and Ana diving

Andrew and Ana diving


Fishies

Fishies


Moray Eel

Moray Eel


Brain Coral

Brain Coral


Why so angry?

Why so angry?


These Lion fish are easy to spot, but they are overpopulating the area and eat the delicate reef, thereby destroying it.  Local divers go down with spears and catch as many as they can to cull the growing numbers.

These Lion fish are easy to spot, but they are overpopulating the area and eat the delicate reef, thereby destroying it. Local divers go down with spears and catch as many as they can to cull the growing numbers.

The highlight of the day actually happened between our two dives while waiting out our surface interval on the boat. The captain of the boat spotted a disturbance in the water where many fish were feeding, and then suddenly we circled to find ourselves right beside a whale shark! Quickly throwing on our snorkeling gear, we slipped into the water and had the amazing opportunity of swimming with the rarely seen enormous creature. The whale shark is a filter-feeding shark and the largest fish in the ocean, growing as large as 12.65 meters and weighing more than 36 tones. These sharks live up to seventy years. While it is a shark, it is named a “whale shark” appropriately due to its incredible whale-like size and filter-feeding. There is little known about whale sharks as they dive to incredible depths with only brief surface intervals. Biologists are still not certain of their numbers or exact migratory patterns, but for two brief months they feed between Utila and Roatan and the lucky few have a once in a life time chance to see and swim with them. We were on a boat with a dive master who had never seen one in months of diving these waters, but there we were three days in Utila with this sighting. When the whale shark swam off, we clambered back on board and circled the area again, only to spot the creature again. We were able to jump in and swim with it three times before other dive boats came to the area. It was an incredible experience.

The incredible Whale Shark -what a rare and breathtaking experience!

The incredible Whale Shark -what a rare and breathtaking experience!


Whale Shark

Whale Shark


A video of our beautiful Whale Shark sighting

After seven dives in three days I needed a day off from the water and we spent the next two days walking around Utila. One day we went all the way to the east of the island and the next day all the way west, exploring the small beaches, sunbathing and watching the beautiful sunsets.

Utila's small beach

Utila's small beach


Utila

Utila


Utila

Utila


Ana pretending she can model

Ana pretending she can model


Utila

Utila


Sun setting

Sun setting


Sunset in Utila

Sunset in Utila


Utila's Sunset

Utila's Sunset


Sunset

Sunset


And another sunset picture

And another sunset picture

After five days on Utila, we signed up with Captain Morgan’s Dive Shop, which is the only shop that takes you out to stay on the small Cays and dive the north side of Utila’s waters. Utila has a series of smaller islands or Cays that are found on the North West side of the island, only a twenty minute boat ride away. We came to Jewel Cay to find a tiny island with only one little sidewalk stretching from one end to the other. It is possible to walk from one end of the island and back within ten minutes, yet there are 500 people that live here. Jewel Cay has one school, four tiny restaurants and four tiny stores, but it has five churches. Everyone knows everyone on the island and the small community is a beautiful and peaceful place to spend a few days. We spent the first day sunbathing on the pier and enjoying a quiet piece of paradise.

Jewel Cay upon arrival

Jewel Cay upon arrival


Jewel Cay

Jewel Cay


Small Cays off the coast of Utila

Small Cays off the coast of Utila


The Cays

The Cays


Andrew enjoying the view

Andrew enjoying the view

We went diving the following day to see some North dive sites. Again, we saw beautiful aquatic life but the surface interval between dives proved to be the highlight once again. As we cruised from one dive site to the next we were joined by nearly 100 Spinner Dolphins, frolicking in the wake of our boat. Laying on the bow and reaching down, the dolphins played and jumped, letting as brush our fingers against their sleek bodies. All around us the dolphins leaped and spun in the air happily, putting on a show for our awestruck dive boat, living up to their name.

A Video of the Acrobatic Spinner Dolphins

Ana diving

Ana diving


Angel fish

Angel fish


Parrot fish

Parrot fish


Andrew floating

Andrew floating


Lobster

Lobster


Coral

Coral


Fishies

Fishies


Not sure what this little guy is called

Not sure what this little guy is called


Spotted Eagle Ray

Spotted Eagle Ray


Andrew blowing rings of air underwater

Andrew blowing rings of air underwater

Today we awoke to rain and are waiting for a boat to take us back to Utila for the night before we head back to the mainland tomorrow morning. We will travel back to La Ceiba and venture to the jungle lodge run by Omega Tours, known for incredible white-water rafting and canopy zip-lines. We plan on spending a couple days in the jungle before making our way out of Honduras and into Nicaragua.

We send love to friends and family and hope everyone is doing well back home.

Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 11:12 Archived in Honduras Tagged diving Comments (2)

Captivating Copán

sunny 30 °C

Rising early, we were the only ones in a small shuttle bus, headed for Honduras. The five hour journey took us across the El Saladorian boarder back into Guatemala, only to cross the ten minutes back into Honduras, arriving into Copan in time to enjoy a full day. Andrew and I had packed three peanut-butter sandwiches and offering the driver one we were surprised by his delight in his first tasting of mantequilla de mani (peanut-butter). We are constantly reminded of how lucky we are to have all we do, especially when seeing the joy in such small and, for us, ordinary things.

We were dropped off at the Via Via Hostal and took a room for the night. We walked around the small town, with narrow one-way streets criss-crossing with old cobblestone. Tuk-tuk taxi's zip through the hill-top town, offering to take you to the numerous highlights of the region. Little bars, shops and hotels cluster in the little town. With no building over two-stories, bright colours of chipping paint and windows full of flower-boxes, Copan is a cute and sleepy place to stay while taking in the local sites. During the mid-day the town is quiet with few people wandering the streets, choosing to stay indoors to avoid the hot sun, but in the evenings people venture out and street vendors start selling barbecued meats and fresh fruits.

Copan streets

Copan streets


Copán windows

Copán windows


The road to the Chorti village, beside the Copán river

The road to the Chorti village, beside the Copán river

Having arrived to town early, we decided to make the most of our day and signed up for a horseback ride. The traditional indigenous Mayan people reside in hilltop villages near Copan. With only a short horseback ride into the hills, you can tour the small village of La Pintada. where corn-husk dolls are made and sold and young children play amongst the adobe brick housing. We mounted our two horses, and while they were beautiful and strong, both Andrew and I felt guilty riding the slightly skinny animals and vowed to not do this again; however, we continued the journey with our guide and learned that we were his first business in the past two weeks and that today was a good day for him. Crossing over the small Copan river, we learned that over the wet-season the area floods with water. Rich farm lands are located on either side of the river and all types of fruits and vegetables are harvested here, from tomatoes, corn and beans, to oranges and coffee -found higher in the hills. We arrived to the village of La Pintada to be surrounded by children, all thrusting the corn husk dolls in our faces, shouting over each other for you to please buy. With a few lempiras (the local currency 1US=18Lmps), we handed them our change, a few candies, and walked around their village. We saw men piecing together an adobe house, proud to tell us how strong it was, tough enough to last through the rainy seasons. The children followed, just as curious about us as we were about their way of life and soon two brave little ones approached our guide to ask if we'd like to hear them sing a song in their native tongue -Chorti. The Mayan dialect is nothing like Spanish and impossible for us to understand, but their proud voices rang in unison as they sang chorus after chorus.

Chorti children from the village selling corn husk dolls

Chorti children from the village selling corn husk dolls


Chorti woman crafting a corn husk doll

Chorti woman crafting a corn husk doll


Andrew and the two Chorti singers

Andrew and the two Chorti singers


Proud men building their strong adobe house

Proud men building their strong adobe house


Adobe housing in the Mayan villages

Adobe housing in the Mayan villages

The Maya-Chorti Indigenous people have been struggling for land rights in the area for many years, attempting to reclaim their ancestral lands. There has been both historic and recent turmoil between the people as the Chorti were turned away from their land claims and used as farm hands for years on prospering Honduras fincas (farms).

After spending some time in the village, we headed back towards the town of Copan on our horses, laughing at my silly and strong-willed horse that insisted on being the leader at all times and would not allow Andrew's horse to pass, under any circumstance.

Copan lies only 1km North West of the only Mayan site in Honduras -the Copan Ruins. We moved hotels the following morning after a loud and restless night at the hostel, and then hired a tuk-tuk to take us to the ruins ($1). The entereance to the ruins is a "pricey," $15 per person, but the World Heritage Site is a must-see when in Copan. The site lacks the grandeur of Tikal's towering pyramids and wide scale, but the Copan Ruins boast incredibly intact carvings and some of the world's best preserved stelae -intricately carved stone sculptures similar to a short totem pole, depicting past leaders in the Mayan civilization. We toured the area, marveling at how detailed the carvings were and how such a feat was possible so long ago. With the Mayan people inhabiting the site from approximately 1400BC through to 100AD, it is remarkable that these carvings are still so intact today. On the way out of the site we found nearly a dozen Macaw's flying between the trees. The park sets out food for these beautiful birds and so they sleep and stay in the immediate vicinity, but with unclipped wings they fly freely and show off their stunning primary-coloured wings. While eating we could walk right up to the birds, obviously comfortable with the tourists that visit the site.

Copán ruins

Copán ruins


Andrew at the Copán ruins

Andrew at the Copán ruins


Mayan carvings amazingly intact

Mayan carvings amazingly intact


Mayan carvings

Mayan carvings


Dragon carving

Dragon carving


Ana and the Stelae

Ana and the Stelae

Copán Ruinas carvings

Copán Ruinas carvings


Stelae

Stelae


Beautiful carvings

Beautiful carvings


Hieroglyphic staircase at the Copán ruins

Hieroglyphic staircase at the Copán ruins


Macaw

Macaw


Ana and the Macaws

Ana and the Macaws


Thank-you to all those who told us our "bunny-rat" was an Agouti, we knew him this time when he scurried near us.

Thank-you to all those who told us our "bunny-rat" was an Agouti, we knew him this time when he scurried near us.

On our third full day in Copan, we hired a tuk-tuk driver to take us to the hot springs. We were told repeatedly by travelers and locals alike that these were something not to be missed, but the hour long trip and high tour pricetag was a deterent. We found out that entereance was actually inexpensive, but that the ride out could range as high as $55US. After haggling with our driver, we settled on something we deamed resonable. A 24km drive north of Copan will bring you to the quiet jungle Aguas Termales making a relaxing day trip to the natural spa. The volcanic hot water comes from a water fall into lower pools, as hot as 85 degrees celsius. Small pools have been built from rocks, but done very tastefully and organically, allowing the hot water to mix with the cool river water that runs further down the hillside. With water cascading over falls that can massage the neck and shoulders, steam rising as if from a steam room and clay for natural mud masks, the visit to these hot springs was like a visit to the spa, We lazied away a few hours enjoying the tranquil quiet, with next to no one there.

Cascada de agua caliente

Cascada de agua caliente


Andrew at the spa

Andrew at the spa


Natural mud masks

Natural mud masks


Tranquilo spa

Tranquilo spa


Andrew getting a neck and shoulder massage

Andrew getting a neck and shoulder massage


Ana at the Aguas Termales

Ana at the Aguas Termales

After our three days in Copan, we bought tickets for our journey north to the Bay Islands in the Caribbean Sea. We had to rise early, once again, to catch an 8 hour ride to the coast. From mainland La Ceiba's bus depot we caught a taxi to the ferries and waited an hour for the boat that leaves twice daily for the islands. We will return to La Ceiba on our way back to do some other sightseeing but were tired and ready for some diving on the islands. The rough boat trip took us an hour-and-a-half out to the island of Utila, but was well worth the long and taxing journey... but I will leave that for the next blog. Stay tuned.

Love to friends and family,
Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 14:56 Archived in Honduras Tagged children birds ruins Comments (1)

Elusive El Salvador

sunny 32 °C

From Antigua we took a five hour shuttle bus to El Salvador, which crossed the boarder and dropped us off at our chosen destination -El Zonte. Knowing we had to meet our friend Jen, from Vancouver, we felt it was easiest to arrive in the country early and find accomodations for her to have a safe place to arrive. We picked El Zonte as it is described as the place for beginners to learn surfing, but soon realized that this little beach town is a gem of El Salvador which many miss for the more touristic spots further down the coast.

Endless black sands

Endless black sands


El Zonte

El Zonte


El Zonte

El Zonte

El Zonte boasts only a handful of accomodation options and some private housing, but largely remains an underdeveloped stretch of beach with a quiet charm perfect for finding tranquility and a frolick in the waves. We spent time looking between the few accomodation options until finding the French Canadian, family run, El Dorado. Out of our price range, the friendly owner dropped the price for four days until a large group was expected to take over every room. We were spoiled by having a little pool, a beach front lounging area, hammocks, and a small bar and eating area. The main and most important draw to this place was the friendly group of locals working here which we soon befriended. They tought us Spanish, joked and laughed with us and were what made our stay in El Zonte so memorable. (Galang galang Jen -private joke just for you).

El Zonte

El Zonte


El Dorado's pool

El Dorado's pool


Our local friends, Evelyn, Gato and Christina (after making lunch)

Our local friends, Evelyn, Gato and Christina (after making lunch)


The crew at El Dorado

The crew at El Dorado

For the first few days we simply suntanned all day, getting up to get a drink from the bar or jump through the large waves to cool down. It was quiet and uneventful, but exactly what we were after. El Dorado caters mainly to the French Canadian tourists with a charter flight bringing them directly in to El Salvador, with the owners advertising mainly to the one-week surf package tourists. At the time of our stay there were four, friendly, French Canadian guys staying and the combination of great people and beach was a perfect set-up for Jen to arrive to. We arranged for a car to pick her up from the airport as her flight arrived late into the crowded San Salvador, and she made it without a hitch.

Jen after a dip in the ocean

Jen after a dip in the ocean


Andrew and Jen

Andrew and Jen

The first night with Jen happened to be a Saturday evening and the locals had a party down the beach which we all attended, having a fantastic time goofing around and dancing. Jen had no problem making friends with our local "crew" and we danced the night away all together.

A night out in El Zonte

A night out in El Zonte


A night out with our French Canadian friends and Santiago

A night out with our French Canadian friends and Santiago

The following day we needed to find another place to stay as it was our last night in El Dorado, but we were lucky enough to be able to move one door down to Olas Permenantes. This beachfront accomodation is a busy hang-out, especially right before sunset as everyone gathers to see the bright red sun rapidly dropping into the ocean and the surfers catching their final waves before dark.

Olas Permenantes in El Zonte

Olas Permenantes in El Zonte


Ana waiting for the sun to set in El Zonte

Ana waiting for the sun to set in El Zonte


Andrew enjoying a corona and waiting for sunset

Andrew enjoying a corona and waiting for sunset


El Zonte's sunset

El Zonte's sunset


El Zonte's sunset

El Zonte's sunset


El Zonte's sunset

El Zonte's sunset

The beach in El Zonte is a stretch of fine black sand that glitters in the sunlight. I have never seen sand like this, resulting from the volcanic activity in the region. Little children roll around in the dark sands, looking as if they are covered in mud, but a quick dip in the water leaves them clean and repeating the process of covering themselves in the black sands with glee. The Pacific Ocean that runs the coastline of El Salvador made me think of our cold waters back in Canada, but we were amazed by the bath-water temperatures. A dip in the ocean was only slightly cooler than the 30+ degree weather and strong sun. The waves are large, but half the fun was jumping over, diving through them, or riding them back in to the beach.

Kids rolling around in the black sand

Kids rolling around in the black sand


Andrew loves Ana

Andrew loves Ana

We had two of our lovely local friends teach us to surf, and while Gato and Mojo tried their hardest to teach Jen, Andrew and myself, we realized just how hard this sport is. The waves are very strong and there are only two times in the day when they are ideal for beginner surfers learning to ride the white wash. Half the battle was trying to get our boards out past the crashing waves, but with multiple attempts and failures we were all successful in standing up and riding the white waters back to shore (which might sound impressive but only lasted for a few fleeting seconds and squeels of delight). We tried again the following day with another friend, Santiago, but now know that the only way to learn is to have one-on-one teaching -learners really need someone helping to get the board out past the waves and to give a little push until you figure out how to jump up fast enough. Obviously we just need to give surfing some more effort, but we had fun all the same.

Waxing up the boards

Waxing up the boards


Andrew in the white wash

Andrew in the white wash


Jen standing up in the white wash

Jen standing up in the white wash


Andrew surfing

Andrew surfing


After our first surf lesson with our instructors, Gato and Mojo

After our first surf lesson with our instructors, Gato and Mojo

Other than our lazy days, we did venture out on the chicken bus to the bigger town of La Libertad -the only place with an ATM and groccery stores. It is obvious that El Salvador is making a large effort to attract tourists as a walkway along the ocean is being built and accomodations and restaurants are just beginning to take off. The destructive civil war ended 20 years ago, but the people have had many difficulties with government and violent gangs since. It is unfortunate that many tourists skip El Salvador on their tour of Central America as the country gets a bad reputation for a lack of safety, but we have nothing but amazing memories of the kind and generous locals. The people of El Salvador are the real treasure of this country. They are hard working and eager to please, always smiling and joking. We had strangers approach us just to ask where we were from and to welcome us to their country. The people are happy to see tourists in their country and all understand that this is the only way to improve life in El Salvador. Two years ago, with a change of government, improvements have slowly started, such as elementary schools becoming free and the immediate rise in enrollment. While highschool is still costly, it now includes a lunch and glass of milk for each child and most children are making it at least through a highschool education. There is a minimum wage in El Salvador, but after inquiring we realized that most people make under two dollars an hour and work 50 hour work weeks. The currency in El Salvador is the American dollar, so their meager wages do not go far with the price of living being quite expensive. Locals do get a small break on prices as there is an inflation for tourists, but after going out for dinner with Santiago, we realized that for him to be able to eat with us would cost him almost a days worth of hard work; yet, the people here are very proud and he insisted on paying his own meal and was just happy to be out with us.

La Libertad

La Libertad


Andrew Relaxing

Andrew Relaxing


Catching the sunset in El Zonte

Catching the sunset in El Zonte

After over a week lazying around El Zonte we decided it was important to see more of the country and the three of us caught a bus down to the more tourist oriented beach of El Tunco. El Tunco is full of young travelers as this beach has more of a night life on the weekends, with many people coming in from San Salvador to party on the beach. We moved here on a Friday and were able to go out on the Friday and Saturday night to have a few drinks and people watch. We found a nice place to stay that included a small kitchen, so we ventured back to La Libertad to get food and spent our days eating, reading and being lazy.

Moving day

Moving day


El Tunco's beach

El Tunco's beach


Ana and Jen at El Tunco

Ana and Jen at El Tunco


Sunset at El Tunco

Sunset at El Tunco

From El Tunco we were able to rent a car and made plans to explore some of the interior of El Salvador. It is harder to get around El Salvador than it was around Guatemala, with no shuttle busses available the only option is to transfer from one over-crowded chicken bus to the next. We took a two-day road trip, heading to see some of the recommended sights of El Salvador, including Lago de Coatepeque, Ruta de las Flores and the Parque Nacional El Imposible. The volcanic lake Coatepeque is located in a valley surrounded by mountain peaks and the clean waters which attract many wealthy San Salvadorians for private vacations. The lake has countless homes around its waters edge, but all have high, closed gates, and we found it hard to find any accomodations. There is no town to speak of and it seems to be mainly a haven for the wealthy. After driving around we decided to head up through the Ruta de las Flores to the town of Tacuba, which is just before the enterance to the national park. The 'Flower Route' is a stretch of winding road with little towns scattered along the way. On weekends there are food fairs that happen in these little towns, but mid-week the drive was a quiet one which let us take in the view of inland El Salvador. The hills of the area are covered with coffee plantations as this is one of the main exports of the country. Reaching the quiet town of Tacuba we searched out the Hostal de Mama y Papa, known for the warmth of Mama and Papa, and their son Manolo's knowledge of the surrounding area.

Road trip

Road trip


Lago de Coatepeque

Lago de Coatepeque

We dropped our bags and then had the opportunity to go to the local hot springs, a 40 minute drive away. Loading up with drinks, we arrived at the volcanic thermal pools in the middle of a private coffee plantation just as dark enveloped us, and just as we sunk into the relaxing heat the heavy rains began. It was a lovely way to spend the evening, soaking away our aches and pains after the day of driving and waiting out the rain in the warmth of the pools.

The following morning we signed up for the four-hour waterfall tour in the Parque Nacional El Imposible. We were driven an hour into the park, from where we then hiked another hour into the jungle only to find a river that flows to create a series of waterfalls. Working our way down the river the guide pointed out where to stand and throw ourselves into the icy pools below. Some of the heights were dizzying, but we all made it, shrieking with joy after conquering our fears. Andrew pushed it further, always taking the highest jumps possible, spreading wide in mid-air so I could capture him in every photo. The final waterfall was a 60 meter drop (which you obviously jump from lower levels) and we lay on the rocks to heat up and eat a basic lunch while Andrew and our guide climbed the face of the waterfall. To end the tour we had an hour hike back up the mountain and while we were hot and tired, the guides were eager to show their knowledge of the area and local plant life, and with the addition of their humour we had a wonderfully adventurous day.

The view from a peak in the Parque Nacional El Imposible

The view from a peak in the Parque Nacional El Imposible


The jungle hike

The jungle hike


Jen's jump

Jen's jump


Andrew leaping

Andrew leaping


Andrew leaping

Andrew leaping


Ana looking over at the final waterfall

Ana looking over at the final waterfall


Jen at the last waterfall

Jen at the last waterfall


Andrew and our guide

Andrew and our guide


Andrew making the final leap

Andrew making the final leap


Andrew and Ana at the final waterfall

Andrew and Ana at the final waterfall


The three friends

The three friends

Needing to return to El Tunco to take care of last minute arrangements before leaving the country, we made the two-and-a-half hour drive back to the coast in the dark, quiet after a long day. We needed to drop Jen off back at El Zonte where she will remain for three more days learning to surf at the safe and friendly El Dorado. We then had to return the car to El Tunco, arrange our bus for the following day and find our own accomodation for the night. It all worked out after all the scrambling and with a sadly quick good-bye to our friend, we settled in for only a few hours of sleep. We needed to rise at 5am to get our five hour shuttle bus out of El Salvador, crossing into Honduras to the city of Copan. We just arrived and will stay here for a few days to take in the famous Copan ruins and the extremely popular hotsprings.

We hope to be able to post again soon... until then, we send love and hope everyone is well back home.

Ana and Andrew

Posted by A-Team 16:39 Archived in El Salvador Tagged waterfalls lakes people sunsets beachess Comments (3)

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