Day 88, Sat 4th May
Thought we would try an afternoon dive today to cement our knowledge, but it is pretty rough on our side, so decided to have another leisurely breakfast and do a yoga lesson, except I managed to be in the bar when it started. Oops.
Tom left today, so we took Eleanor out to dinner to cheer her up, found a lovely restaurant called The Flying Dog at the Oasis Roatan, run by a lovely Scottish lady and her husband, this is undoubtedly the best meal we have both managed to have on the island, food does not seem to be a strong point here; the cocktails are better
Another day of chillin & domestics; nice meal out with 2 gorgeous ladies – it’s turning out to be a great day
Day 89, Sun 5th
Managed to get a 9am fun dive in on the other side of the island today and saw the smallest seahorse you can imagine, and a large transparent spider thing which turned out to be an arrowhead crab – not all underwater creatures are that appealing…
Eleanor still here as the boat she was due to leave on had apparently left without her! Bizarrely it later turned out to have still been there, though apparently invisible as none of us could see it… Found another amazing restaurant called the Lily Pond, and the owner turned out to be inventor of the rather good Zack Attack cocktail – Vodka, lime and coconut milk – I don’t know the quantities sadly, will have to experiment… Gabriel – do you want to have a go?
The fun dive cemented our PADI knowledge & T loved it – so a great result. Saw lots of amazing sea life & had a trip around half the island to get to the site – wonderful.
Spent the afternoon over at West Bay chilling on the beach & beating Tracey at Giant Jenga… then letting her win at Giant Connect 4 (honest Guvn’r – otherwise she would have had a tantrum!).
Got back in time for Sundowners at ‘Sundowners’ bar – poetic really… going to miss this island life.
Day 90, Mon 6th
5am alarm for the ferry back to La Ceiba and onward transport to Copan – it seems our next door neighbours are up to and had very fortunately already booked a taxi, thus saving us the problem and half the fare.
Got the posh Hedman Alas bus through to our favourite city, San Pedro Sula, and then onto Copan. I have to say that the ride was very comfortable, but for some reason every stop was rather lacking in food options; come on guys, we have to eat, and preferably before 3pm!
Arrived at our hostal in Copan and went for some food at La llama del Bosque. Cute town, useless waitress; 15 minutes to bring Keir a beer and then another 30 for the food, and there was no-one else in the restaurant L
Travelled, drank beer… bed.
Day 91, Tues 7th May
Went to the butterfly garden, which frankly had fewer butterflies than you generally see in the woods, low season apparently… then to Macaw Mountain -which was great, but sadly marred by Keir mentioning, and then forgetting to pack, the insect repellent – I sustained 17 bites in the course of an hour and had to spend the afternoon shopping to take my mind off the itchiness.
Am in the dog house, again!
However, I loved Macaw Mountain& we saw some beautiful Kingfishers as well. Copan town is quite nice & pretty; glad we came.
Day 92, Wed 8th May
Copan Ruinas today, the most expensive of all of the sites we have been to, $15 for the ruins, $7 for the museum and another $15 dollars for the tunnels, we decided to eschew the latter is a display of protest against the outrageous fees – we are not in London for Christs’ sake.
Got to the park early when the macaws were still around, and it was quite glorious to see them in this setting. Unfortunately, Keir is complaining of man flu this morning, I was hoping the macaws might perk him up, but after breakfast he started behaving like a recalcitrant child and lying down on the benches of the museum… took him home (thus foregoing the opportunity of the remaining ruins). Actually, as Keir refused an ice cream, he must really be feeling ill, hopefully a nap will help…
Feeling knackered, Man flu has knocked the stuffing out of me after a bad night’s sleep. As Tracey has failed to understand that Man flu is almost on a par with child birth, I’m getting no sympathy from Obernsturmführer Cox who’s suddenly got a renewed enthusiasm to see every ancient stone in Copan ‘Bloody’ Ruinas.
One brief moment of light was seeing the Scarlet Macaws out in the wild, literally flying around us – magical. We kept both Scarlet & Hibiscus Macaws at school when I was a kid, so to see them in their natural environment has ticked off one of my bucket lists.
Day 93, Thu 9th May
All day travelling to Suchitoto via Guatemala – numerous border crossings & usual extortion of immigration taxes… & therefore usual battle of wills between T & said officials… entertaining to watch!
Lonely planet said that Suchitoto comes alive at weekends – which is why we’ve come all this way & planned to arrive for the weekend. Hostel owner, who apparently is shutting up shop after we’ve booked in cos he has ‘woman’ problems…?!, tells us that the only bar still open shuts every night at 9… Bugger… Lonely planet has been telling us porkies!
Had a lovely walk down to the ‘dry’ waterfall (Los Tercios) with our fellow hostellers who’d been abandoned by the owner as well & then we had a lovely dinner out with one of them – Nina. Can’t believe how much travelling she’s done around Central/ South America/ SE Asia on her own – v impressive. Made our little jaunt seem fairly insipid in comparison!
Lonely Planet – what the..? There is really nothing happening here at all – Los Tercios was nice, the people were nice, but not really a place you would choose to visit unless you have a major interest in the FMLN – it was lucky that we met some other similarly duped travellers really…
Day 94, Fri 10th May
My tour manager (T) has done a quick re-org & we head off to San Salvador, after initially getting on the wrong bus! Lots of shouting & shooing by the locals who sensed that we were going in the wrong direction & actually got off in exactly the right place to get the correct bus… definitely luck over judgement!
Supposedly San Salvador is one of the most dangerous places in Central America – after San Pedro Sula – but we’ve been there already – twice!
Had dinner out – crappy Chinese- & then a few hours restless sleep before the 02:30 a.m. bus to Nicaragua.
Losses cut, quit exit made. We should have gone to Juayaya instead though perhaps that too would not have been as advertised.
Day 95, Sat 11th May
Not a great night’s sleep, but the bus can drop us off at León, rather than carrying onto Managua & then coming all the way back – believe me, it makes a difference after half your life on a bus!
Again T’s amazing organising skills (are you missing them by any chance girls?!) have come up trumps & we arrive in Leon on time & hop in the pool at our Hostel – bonus.
Ticabus, well, it was okay, but no toilet paper(??!) which meant that the bus loo was really not in a state for me to use even 1 hour into the journey, meant that I had to maintain a state of extreme dehydration for much of the journey. Oh, and the surprisingly thoughtful question from the bus conductor, of whether I was vegetarian, prior to buying me a ham and cheese croissant from Burger King as that was all they had. FRIES, man, FRIES! All I have to say is why bother asking?
Still, a welcoming dip in the pool assuages most discomforts. Except those involving a close shave with drowning, I suspect…
Day 96, Sun 12th May
Up early to go Sand boarding down Cerro Nergo – an active volcano. When I say Sand boarding, it was actually tobogganing, or in my case, going very fast & coming off a cropper. I looked like Sooty & Sweep combined by the end of it!
T’s descent was more sedate, but the scariest bit was the journey there & back on the back of motorbikes slipping & sliding across the sandy paths… squeaky bum time for me… I was just glad to get back in one piece!!!
I enjoyed the motorcycle ride far more than Keir, clearly. Though being in the front undoubtedly helped, Keir looked like a chimney sweep after his combined fall and motorbike tailgating, hilarious. I thought the volcano boarding would be scary, but it seemed difficult to pick up any speed, probably for the best…
Day 97, Mon 13th May
Up early again to see the view from the top of the church before catching the transport to Granada. Loving this place already; much prettier than Leon & it has a nice vibe.
Last morning in Leon, went to see the roof view from the beautiful cathedral, I loved clambering over the roof; it reminded me of roof walking in Canterbury :). Keir seemed less keen. I forgot that he doesn’t really like heights….
Day 98, Tue 14th May
Day spent sightseeing in Granada – it’s a lovely old colonial town; very happy here. Tracey is doing a bit more Spanish. I managed another lesson but it wasn’t much cop, so Tracey’s volunteered to teach me… what can go wrong..?!
Lot’s more churches…. I didn’t realise there could be sooooo many!
Nice hostel in Granada, at the back of a shop which randomly sells Banksy t-shirts and other East London paraphernalia – like a home away from home :). Granada is very pretty. Managed to squeeze in an afternoon Spanish lessons entailing interesting conversations around gay rights, child abuse and domestic violence, not very cheerful I will grant you, but very interesting to find out about Nicaragua’s social issues and clearly my Spanish MUST be improving!
Day 99, Wed 15th May
Day started well with me in the pub watching the Gooners dispose of Wigan whilst Tracey had a Spanish lesson. Beer at 9 in the morning is never a bad thing! Roll on the Geordies on Sun & that should put Spurs Champion League aspirations to bed… at least I hope so, otherwise I’ll never hear the end of it from JJ, Gary & Frazek. There won’t be a stone I can hide under where they won’t seek me out & remind me!
Boat ride in the afternoon around the local islands – managed to sneak another fort in! Lovely little wooded islands, one with monkeys on (Tracey’s happy!), that a lot of the wealthy families of Nicaragua have bought & developed. Could see us with a little island….Bond style of course; with a little henchman (job for you there Frazek?!) & the obligatory cackling villain… step forward Odd job; I mean Gary!
Fabulous breakfast in Kathy’s waffle house (again), followed by Spanish, boats, islands and monkeys. It is a shame that the lake does not look very clean on the Granada side, it would have been nice to cool down with a swim.
Day 100, Thu 16th May
Another day of sightseeing topped off (for Tracey) with a ride in a Horse drawn carriage… she’s been nagging me about it since we got here! The carrot was that I would get to see the fort… it was shut (15-love to Tracey – I won’t forget).
A final Spanish lesson – I have to say that the Guatemalan accent is MUCH easier to understand than the Nicaraguan – religion and the early life of my teacher today… Then on to negotiation for the caleche ride (with both Keir and the driver), finally managed to get into the iglesia San Francisco while it was open – my fourth attempt – and it was…ok. Oh well, I enjoyed the ride
Day 101, Fri 17th May
Up early the next morning for the chicken bus down to Rivas, followed by a taxi then ferry across to the Isle de Ometepe; an island created in Lake Nicaragua by 2 huge volcanos.
The lake is almost an inland sea – it’s huge, & has quite a large swell when the wind gets going – as we found out on the way across… with all our gear loosely strapped to the roof of the ferry.
Island was beautiful & after another chicken bus around the island we arrived at Finca del Sol, Santa Cruz. Bit of a hike up the extremely long, rocky uphill drive… but the room was well worth it – beautifully decorated adobe hut with an en-suite – Tracey broke the budget for this one.
Christiano & Sheri have built a beautiful eco lodge complete with sheep & dogs… absolutely lovely.
Nice dinner at Coco’s with miniature parrots, dogs, cats, pigs… the whole 9 yards. Literally yards from miles of sprawling black & white sanded beaches.
Yes, I know, early morning again with no time for breakfast… some hot bus rides, a ferry, which was actually just a very small boat, and then the bliss of La Luna cabin Finca del Sol, this place was a treat, but beyond expectations, it may even be nicer than El Tortugal….
Day 102, Sat 18th May
After advice from Christiano & Sheri we gave up on the hike to the volcano top lake (no water & clouded views) or the San Ramon Waterfall (no water in dry season) & opted for the hike to the Jerusalem waterfall. This did involve me riding a motorbike up to the start of the trail. Tracey had the option of going on the back of my bike or the guide’s (Alexis). She wisely chose the latter; I’ve always maintained the saying that ‘4 wheels good & 2 wheels bad’. This was borne out by my biking skills & Alexis eventually took pity on me & said we could dump the bikes early & walk. Can’t say that I was too upset!
Hike was hard, hot, & the eventual waterfall was quite puny… but, that was the exercise for the day. The rest of the day was lazily spent on the beach playing in the fresh water lake – a real bonus… beats salt water any day. The funny thing is that it was really shallow & all the horses & cattle kept wandering down to the beach to grab a quick drink. They seem to spend half their time either on the beach or wandering around the roads.
It really does look like paradise here.
Paradise it was not at 3 in the morning as I stepped out of bed onto an Army of Ants… ouch! These buggers can bite! They’re everywhere, it’s an Ant Invasion (cue Adam ant)!
The famous ‘Cleaner’ ants had obviously heard that Tracey was in town & decided that she needed a little help… a huge task, even for thousands of ants!
Slightly disappointing trek to the waterfall as we had thought we would be able to get in to cool down, but apparently it is also the towns water supply. Sorry town, but I had to put my feet in it – Keir fortunately did not immerse his.
Keir woke me up in the middle of the night shouting about ant bites, we then spent an hour paranoid about them getting into the mosquito net – I was reminded of that Army Ant film I saw as a kid – fortunately these ones merely bite rather than devour you…
Day 103, Sun 19th May
Got up early & headed down to Little Morgan’s (Grandad would be pleased) to watch Arsenal try & secure a Champion leagues spot. Another 9 O’clock beer, covered in flies… but at least everyone is happy (apart from certain North London rivals – boo hoo). I’m ecstatic & so is Tracey (no more football for the summer).
Would like to say that we breezed it… but as ever, the Gooners kept me on tenterhooks until the final whistle. If Wenger doesn’t get the cheque book out over the summer & bring in some real quality I will personally come back & shoot him!
With the management merry –go-round of all the top teams (no, that doesn’t include Spurs Steve – they’re not a top team), I think next season may be our best bet of actually competing & winning something.
The other sad bit of news for Spurs fans was Bale’s last game & goal for the Spurs… I bet on either Real Madrid or Bayern next season…
Afternoon was cool as we hired bikes & headed over to the Ojo de Agua (a beautiful fresh water swimming hole) for a swim followed by a beautiful dinner at the Café Campestre; a lovely place about 30 mins walk from our place in Balgue.
Fortunately the ants are mostly cleaning the outside of the cabin now so took the opportunity to do some much needed exercise, I am at risk of not being able to do my clothes up, I blame Granada – that very nice breakfast place, and the rather nice lime cheesecake I found at Margarita’s.
Followed the morning workout with a bike ride (!?) to a swimming hole and then a further cycle to check out the restaurants in Balgue. I seem to remember riding my Grifter was a lot easier than this… mortified to be caught walking my bike up the hill by a bunch of backpackers, it must be the gears.
Day 104, Mon 20th May
A day spent walking miles along unspoiled stretches of beaches before catching a 10hr overnight ferry to San Carlos… Tracey got the bench to sleep on; I got the floor!
Lovely walk to Santo Domingo along the beach, after a 10am check out – now this is one thing I would change about Finca del Sol – tasty lunch and then a lift from Cristiano and Sheri to the port for the overnight ferry, which was of course leaving an hour later than we were told. Met some nice people during the wait. The overnight was not so bad as Keir gallantly gave up his spot on the bench so that I could sleep full length, well almost, I guess a few people did trip over my feet :).
Day 105, Tue 21st May
Arrived at San Carlos at 6 in the morning; time for a quick bite to eat then another boat – a slow boat – down the Rio San Juan to El Castillo. This one was for me… a fort built by the rapids to stop pirates (Henry Morgan, William Dampier, etc) sail up river & ransack Granada – which they did a number of times. Horatio Nelson (not Goatblower, Mr Cuckson) took this fort then had to depart it rapidly as his troops succumbed to Malaria. The river was said to be full of bloated English bodies being ripped apart by the Bull sharks. The aforementioned sharks still populate the river & the lake, but in fewer numbers after 50 years of commercial fishing. I can’t say I was too keen to swim in the river!
Well, El Castillo is certainly a one horse town – no internet (about the first place we’ve come across so far) & lots of empty restaurants that sell either chicken or fish. Tracey wasn’t greatly amused. It either must be hugely different in the major tourist season or this is just turning into a ghost town.
Checked out the fort with some friends we’d met on the boat down – about the only other tourists in town – & then the cemetery before getting back under cover before the rains came… & boy did they come!
Rainy season has certainly started with a vengeance!
Luckily the lack of things to do in El Castillo was offset by hanging out with the guys we met on the boat, Uzoma and Nicole. Saw the fort, got wet, had some fantastic Pineapple juice in Borders and managed to see the fort in one day. We are here for 2 though, and there is very little to do apart from visit the Indio-Maiz biosphere – normally a great option, but it will entail another early morning and a lot of mud – we decide we are not up for it.
Day 106, Wed 22nd May
A day chilling, do the domestics & wandering around town. I managed to get a game of football with some locals – jumpers for goal posts. The boys will be happy to know that I kept up the great English presence in the game by opening up the scoring… The boys will be even happier to know that this was at the wrong end!
However, a little bit of footballing magic from the aforementioned & we ran out 2-1 winners before bad light stopped play.
I know this will sound high maintenance, but it is rainy, there is no internet, nothing to do, and I am a little bored. After a thorough search of every eating establishments in town, some of which have no food, chicken only, steak only, or are not open, we end up in Borders for brunch again – it was not that it was a bad option, but none of the eating establishments are particularly budget friendly and it would have been nice to try somewhere else…
Try some old fashioned travel research, completely fail to do yoga with Nicole and only manage to paint my nails instead. Then it dinner-time, chicken or fish?
Day 107, Thu 23rd May
Up at 4 a.m. for another day of travel – Boat back up the jungle river to San Carlos, another boat down the Rio Frio to Los Chiles & then 2 further buses to reach San Juan – capital of Costa Rica.
Trip was uneventful apart from the first boat breaking down after 10 mins mid river. Dad will be pleased to know I whipped out the Swiss army knife & once the driver had used it to replace a faulty fuel pipe that was sucking air into fuel system we were on our way up the rapids again.
Another very long day of travelling, 2 boats, 2 buses, 12 hours of travelling and then we reach Costa Rica, where it is also sadly raining, I knew we would have to pay for the 3.5 months of sunshine L
Day 108, Fri 24th May
Spent the day sightseeing in San Jose in the rain. Met a lovely couple – Ozzie & Margel with the latter’s son Samy – who we had lunch & saw some sights with. They kindly sent us off to the cinema to see Star Trek (in English with Spanish sub titles) to get out of the rain – Tracey managed to jam in a bit of shopping in the Multiplex Mall.
2300 – an overnight 15 hr bus journey through Costa Rica back to Panama City… my what fun!
Another rainy day, but we saw the lovely theatre and then Margel took us to the museum for children after lunch, I was disappointed to learn that it was too late to play – of course the bureaucrats who frequently prevent me from having fun would have undoubtedly told me I was too big/ tall/ old to go on anything anyway – but it was a really interesting building set in a former prison, and we also saw some art, of varying levels of skill. Then Star Trek (it was great, didn’t realise how much I had missed the movies!) and the 23:00 bus; it is going to be a long one…
Day 109, Sat 25th May
Arrived in Panama City late afternoon, dumped our gear & grabbed some food – that’s about all we could manage. Found that the train for our next leg didn’t run on a Sunday – so we’ll stay here tomorrow then.
A very nice man on the Ticabus actually got me a McDonald’s salad rather than a chicken burger, this put me in a great mood, well needed due to the 2.5 hour border crossing at 4:50am… clearly we arrived there far too early as no other bugger was there. I miraculously managed to sleep for the majority of the other 13.5 hours, all of these early mornings are clearly wearing me out.
Day 110, Sun 26th May
A day just spent chilling – Tracey found some nice (but expensive – as ever!) restaurants for brunch & dinner.
Well, as my former colleagues, and many of my friends, have realised by now, whilst I may be great at picking good restaurants, cheap ones are not my forte …
Day 111, Mon 27th May
Cool train ride alongside the Panama Canal to Colon, followed by a chicken bus to Portobello – originally the jewel of the Spanish empire where treasure ships departed the new world for Spain. That’s until the good old English (Sir Francis Drake then Admiral Vernon) kept destroying it so much that the Spanish decided to send the treasure back the long way round via Cape Horn (S Africa) to avoid them.
A small sleepy town with lots of forts (I wonder why we came here….?! :)) on the beautiful Caribbean coast.
Spent the afternoon exploring ruined forts – happy days… at least for me. Dinner at Capn Jack’s – a hostel restaurant run by a cool old sea dog who seems to be perpetually drunk…. I can see my future laid out before me…!
The train to Colon was nice, not the best train I have ever been on – obviously the Orient Express, thanks Mum & Dad – but it was a beautiful ride along the Panama Canal and assorted lakes (actually it may have been one…). I have seen 3 forts today, I wonder if that is a world record? Possibly not for Keir…