A Travellerspoint blog

Skipping Costa Rica

sunny

Costa Rica was a bit of a flash in the pan given the price of, well, everything. And also our usual unpreparedness.

After five countries where an exit ticket was not necessary, we mistakenly assumed Costa Rica would be the same, unfortunately not the case, so we were forced to purchase a bus ticket from San Jose to Panama upon entry. This in turn meant that unless we wanted to forfeit the ticket, we would essentially be skipping the entire country. So unless it wasn't already obvious, its always best to check these things before arriving to a border.

Pal had gotten sucked back into the San Juan del Sur trap for what turned out to be just one day before he realised he really just couldn't live without us and joined us in San Jose.

We spent a few days enjoying the creature comforts offered by our hostel; hot showers being the standout, before moving south to David, Panama. For anyone travelling to San Jose, I would absolutely recommend staying at Trip On Open House Hostel. This place felt like a hotel to us.

Although Costa Rica is an expensive country; from what I have seen in books and on online, it is a beautiful country and somewhere I will return in the future. Albeit with a bigger bank balance and a planned exit ticket.

Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 08:55 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

Fun and games on Ometepe Island

sunny

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Dragging ourselves out of the San Juan del Sur vortex, we headed for Ometepe Island; an island formed by two volcanos in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. The boat ride over from the mainland was dodgy at best, nothing quite puts you at ease like being forced to wear a lifejacket on a ferry and water leaking in from the above deck.

But thankfully, we made it, once off of our floating death trap we were in decidedly better transportation around the first volcano of the island; reclining back with the driver blasting the latest Triple J top 100 album we were at Little Morgan's Hostel in no time. A place we had heard many great things but still unsure of what to expect, we were greeted by 3 dogs, 2 cats, a pair of ducklings and a pig (much to Pal's delight. I have never met a man so into swine). We were shown to our room, directly above the bar! We were in for some late nights, especially since the main speaker was 2 metres from where our heads would be.

Hiring bikes we thought we would explore our part of the island and find a nice place by the beach to enjoy a few refreshing beverages. Racing each other was fun, not seeing the speedbump at the bottom of Ometepe's steepest hill was not fun. All I can say, in that moment, was the most blessed I have felt to have been born a girl.
Our bikes cost us all of about $5 for a few hours, so they weren't exactly state of the art. Issues with the gears of my ride soon had the chain come off, not a problem to fix, but of course with Murphy and his bloody law, I was wearing a white t-shirt and the chain was black with oil. Even Mum's magical mum powers will never get those grease stains out!

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The next day we thought we would give a few horses a go and off we set to the nearest volcano. The best part of this was that Pal had never ridden a horse before, and he ended up with the most stubborn horse the man had. Pal got left behind a lot. Apparently his steed was hungry.

With Cats manky toe getting mankier by the minute (we still to this day, do not know what she did to it or how) we headed to the nearest pharmacy in search of antibiotics. As they will give you pretty much anything over the counter, what followed was a shopping spree at the drugstore. We returned to the hostel quite tipsy after a day at Ometepe's cheapest bar with everything from Cats antibiotics to a small bag of diazepam.
In the words of Ice Cube. It was a good day.

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Upon our return that night, it was clear it was going to be a big one at the hostel and since we wouldn't get much sleep anyway there was no use in even trying to escape. I'd fill you all in on what happened that night, but aside from somebody getting a homemade tattoo, it was your standard hostel party with too much tequila and not enough adult supervision. I will say the ride back to the mainland the next day was a bit of blur, probably a small blessing as this particular ferry was somehow even worse than the original. The Costa Rica border crossing was beyond a struggle, word of warning, don't commit to that much tequila when you have to speak to customs officials the next day.

Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 07:29 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged animals bikes horses volcano bicycle volcan ometepe caballo "ometepe_island" "little_murphys_hostel" Comments (0)

Volcano Boarding and Beaches

sunny

Having to force ourselves to leave the beautiful island of Utila, afraid we'd stay forever; we were off to Leon, Nicaragua. After the strangest border crossing yet, where we were not allowed in the customs office and the bus driver had to process us all, each person heat tested for illness, the van checked thoroughly for presumably bombs or illegal immigrants and the entire van sprayed down with chemicals, it all left us with one question. They know it’s a land border crossing right?

Our first day in Nicaragua we went volcano boarding. That's right, we scaled to the top of an active volcano, only to climb onto a plank of wood and hurtle back down to where we started. Without a doubt one of the best trips of this entire tour. Going 50KM/H down a volcano is not something I will forget anytime soon. Unfortunately for Cat her speed strip came off half way and she had to push the rest of the way.

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That night, still on a natural high from the boarding, we hopped onto an old school bus with a bottle of rum and 30 other backpackers and headed to a beach party on the coast. Something we well and truly regretted the next day on our chicken-bus ride to San Juan del Sur. I don't think the Burger King staff enjoyed it either as Cat threw up on the sidewalk out front.
We didn't party that night in San Juan.

The next day we explored the tiny markets of San Juan, played board games and drank red wine in the sunset while watching a rather great game of beach volleyball. As the party started to get rowdy in the hostel and the Hawaiian flower lays came out, I decided it would be a smart idea to go to bed; a day without a hangover is a good day. Until Pal came in in outrage at my absence and made me feel left out. Therefore 5 minutes later I was beer in hand trying to avoid the acid tripping 50 year old throwing glitter at everyone.

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In order to sweat the previous night’s toxins from out systems, we made the roasting-in-the-sun walk across the even hotter sand in order to hike a ridiculously steep hill up to the lookout over the bay of San Juan del Sur, the Pacific and the Christo Rey Statue. Well worth it, definitely recommend it but don't be like us and actually bring some water with you.

The next day was the famous Sunday Funday. An aptly named Pool Crawl Party, going from hostel to hostel all over town, sporting DJ's, free shots, pat downs, a stunner of a sunset, riding on the back of Utes (not the best idea having already visited multiple hostels) and as expected, lots and lots of drunk people. Oh, and a free t-shirt we will all cherish as part of our year in Latin America.

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Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 10:06 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Utila

Caribbean Dreaming

sunny

After over a month in beautiful Guatemala, it was time to move on to Honduras, heading to the picturesque Caribbean island of Utila, part of the Bay Islands, to become certified scuba divers. Funny how you live in the Whitsundays for years and wind up getting certified in Central America. #whywouldntyou

A 4am bus pick-up is always a great way to start a 15 hour travel day. All in all it was your standard Central American bus journey; we bartered our Guatemalan "exit-fee" down to a 2 for 1 special at the boarder, froze our butts off on the Honduran buses, Cat stepped on a sleeping homeless man and then to finish the day right in La Ceiba (the port city for the Bay Islands), I received an email from my Brother-in-law letting me know my car had been rear-ended by some Muppet in a Hilux doing double the speed limit. Expect to see me rocking a bicycle when I return to Airlie.

Thank goodness the next day brought almost sunshine and a boat ride to Utila, although the in-float movie choice was a little questionable, Hilary Swanks "Homesman" wouldn't normally be considered suitable for public viewing. Luckily there weren't any children on board.

Utila's draw card is diving and the backpacker friendly tourism; with some of the best and cheapest diving in the world, you can't miss it if your anywhere near here. The course was four days of diving, classroom and exams. The only downer was the water temperature, it was the coldest our Instructor had felt it in six years. Just our luck right.
We did get to see some beautiful coral, many a fish and make a few new friends.

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We planned to only stay a week on the island, but a place like this is hard to leave, made even more difficult by the storms responsible for cancelling the ferries back to the mainland. After two weeks spent in the water, exploring the island (and getting lost), cave hunting, bar hopping, breaking hearts and strangely enough, slack-lining, we finally managed to make it off the island.

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Sad to leave but a little thankful at the same time as it is clearly a place that is easy to get stuck. It would be great to return one day, especially for the Bloody Mary's from Rehab Bar (yes they have a bar called Rehab and I love it there!).

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Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 19:20 Archived in Honduras Tagged caribbean scuba_diving honduras bay_islands utila Comments (0)

Uncovering Antigua - Part Two

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Volcan Pacaya: Outside of the city of Antigua is a collection of volcanos, Pacaya being the smallest of the group. Still an active volcano, you can take a tour to hike the volcano at either morning or sunset. Definitely something of value, especially if your not ready to scale the big guys.

Volcan Acatenango: The granddaddy of hikes in Antigua, this puppy is not for the faint of heart. Something I chickened out on last swing in Guatemala, I was determined to tick this off the list.
After two weeks of Spanish school, one week in the gym, a killer flu and some serious mental self-syking, we booked the tour, bought some energy bars and mittens and we were set to go.

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Volcan Agua

Waiting an hour for the pickup and then another hour or so stuck in road works was not a great way to start the day. We bought some sticks from the local kids to use as hiking poles and off we go. What followed was a lot of panting, sweating, red-faced, questioning-our-sanity backpackers trudging up the side of a volcano.
We made it to base camp just before dark, in time to watch the sunset and set up our tents.
The view from base camp really makes you forget the last 5 hellish hours, especially as you sit around the bonfire drinking hot chocolate and watching the aptly named Volcan Fuego erupting next door, spewing its lava about every 20 minutes.

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Volcan Fuego at sunset

At 4am the next morning, we were all woken up and led up to the summit of the volcano to watch the sunrise. It may be the coolest place for a sunrise, but the stiff muscles and freezing limbs are all that's on your mind as slide around getting to the top.

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6am & -2 degrees

Obviously there are many, many more things to see and do in Antigua, including all of the top restaurants, chocolate stores, museums, churches, city bicycle tours, five star coffee shops and parks, but there is a limit to my creativity and your attention span. Without a doubt, Antigua never disappoints, there is something for everyone and I challenge you to tell me I'm wrong.

Posted by TakeOnTheWorld 09:56 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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