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Nicaraguan adventures

Granada and Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua

sunny 30 °C

Our trip from Roatan through Honduras to Nicaragua can best be summed up the following way: One flight, 3 buses, 4 taxis, stopping overnight in grim Tegucigalpa where we got the advice not to leave the hotel if we could avoid it, and in Managua where we were totally surprised by the aggressiveness of the touts working for the local buses (taking your backpack right out of the trunk of the taxi before you have even openend the door to get out). What a tour! We were so happy and so tired when we finally arrived in Granada, Nicaragua.
Nicaragua reminded us a lot of Cuba: From the landscape, the way people go about their daily businesses, to the rocking chairs found in every house. We stayed for two nights in the colonial city of Granada which reminded us of Trinidad: A pretty town of little, colourful houses and churches. The heat was crazy so we just spent our one day in Granada walking around from one church to the next cafe to the next shadowy spot. Here are some impressions...

Originally we had planned to fly to the Corn Islands for some beachtime, but the weatherforecast was so dramatically bad that we had to change our plans. We decided to travel to Isla de Ometepe after two nights in Granada, so the next morning we set out for what would be an amazingly long journey (so unexpected!) during which we spent 2 hours waiting for the bus from Granada to depart, another 2 hours on that same bus, fifteen minutes in a taxi with 5 people, 1 hour on a ramshackle lancha to the island, and another 1,5hours in a taxibus to the hostel (we had never imagined he island was that big!). Check out how we sat in the most crowded chicken bus ever!

We had what turned out the be two very active days on the Isla de Ometepe, right in the middle of the Lago de Nicaragua (the biggest lake in Central America). On the bus we met our friends Mel and Jenny from Canada (we have run into them along the road through Guatemala a few times) and their friend Stephane from Switzerland (No, not pronounced as Stephanie!We do not pronounce the e!), and decided to tag along with them as they had a hostel reservation for the Hacienda Merida. Good choice! They luckily had a bed for us in te dorm and we had a great time with the 5 of us on the island.

On our first day Mel, Stephane, and us decided to hike up Volcano Maderas. It was an 8 hour trek, basically 4 hours just climbing up, up, up...the last hour was so difficult, the landscape changed into dense cloudforest and we had to climb through mudpools and drag ourselves up on branches and trees. Quite a challenge! Malka found out she is not a natural hiker ;-) but made it up to the top nevertheless (Karin, your little backpack looks kinda muddy now...ehem...). On the top we were a bit disappointed by the big cloud blocking the view, but the hike was an adventure in itself and the changing landscapes were fascinating!

Of course we were so tired afterwards we fell into our beds at 8pm and slept for 10hours straight...the next day we spent relaxing in the morning and then going on a 4 hour kayaking trip in the afternoon with Mel and Jenny. It was a beautiful trip, along the shore of the island and into a river with the Volcano Concepcion on the other half of the island as a dramatic backdrop. We saw lots of beautiful birds, turtles, and even howler monkeys in the trees over our heads. When we went back we had to fight strong winds and an approaching dark cloud, but luckily we made it back in time (with sore arms though!).

After two days of full programme we decided to hit the road together the next day, Mel and Jenny going to Masaya and Stephane and us traveling into Costa Rica...

Posted by pimenmalka 18:31 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged granada isla_ometepe Comments (1)

Underwater love

Diving in Roatan, the Bay Islands, Honduras

sunny 30 °C

After a few days of lots of travelling, we had finally arrived in the Caribbean island of Roatan in Honduras. We found a cute little cabana that would be our home for the next week. Our first day we spent walking around and finding a great diving school, being amazed at the prices (diving is cheap, but hell, everything else is so expensive!), and enjoying the Caribbean bliss and the beautiful weather on the West Bay beach.

The next day we started our 4-day Open Water diving course together with our friend Jens at Reef Gliders diving school - the coolest school in town. Here we are with our awesome diving instructor Jen from Melbourne!

So this meant 4 full days of classes, exercises, watching PADI videos ("Go places, meet people, do things"..."Fact 1: Scuba Divers have more fun!"), learning theory and so on and so forth...so exhausting! And it is so hard to imagine how cold you get during the diving classes when the water is 26degrees warm...but really, we were shaking sometimes. We went to bed at 9pm every night, with the PADI book under our pillows, after just one beer and watching the amazing sunset!

For Pim the course was a bit boring of course since he had done the classes before (long story...), for Malka it was mainly a bit thrilling as she was not the biggest fan of some of those exercises we had to do...like taking off your mask underwater! Bleeeeeh, horrible! Lots of confined water dives and theory later we finally went on our first real open water dive and it was very cool. So this is the reason why you have to go through those tiring classes! ;-) The reefs around Roatan are just beautiful...we saw so many different coloured and sized tropical fish, glowing corals, sea turtles, squid, and so on. Amazing! (Another diving group from our school actually saw a hammerhead shark but Malka is not too sad we did not meet him, haha)

Jens left us on day 3 after finishing his scuba diving certificate to travel on to Cuba, so it was just us and our instructor for the last part. We finished off on day 4...after our last open water dive with exercises when at a depth of 16m Jen wrote on her underwater writing slate U R CERTIFIED YEAH! and we did a little underwater dance :-)))

The next day we went on two more fun dives to get everything possible out of our stay and it was so worth it! We met even more seaturtles who passed us by very closely and found ourselves in the middle of the most beautiful schools of fish. We realized that time goes so fast and we had spent almost a week on the island (but mostly in our wetsuits out in the ocean)...so it was really time to take it a bit slow on our last afternoon and finally get to enjoy the beach a bit more...and so we did, prepping ourselves for a long two days of travelling to Nicaragua.
Thanks Reefgliders and Jen for the amazing time!!!

PS: Most amazing photos thanks to Jens!!!

Posted by pimenmalka 08:06 Archived in Honduras Tagged roatan bay_islands Comments (1)

Sit tight, buckle up, let's hit the road

from Lago Atitlan via Antigua and Guate, Rio Dulce and Livingston...and into Honduras

semi-overcast 30 °C

Leaving San Pedro, we headed for Antigua for one night just to cut our travel time in half and send home some parcels with souvenirs and stuff we would not need anymore (like warm clothes, yeah!). We left early the next morning to head to Rio Dulce town. From Antigua we took a minivan to Guatemala City which actually did not look as grim as we had imagined, and then switched to a bus to get to Rio Dulce town. The latter trip was supposed to take 4 hours...as you might already guess, that did not really work out as planned. About halfway there was a gigantic accident on the road and we got stuck in the traffic jam for 3 entire hours - 3 hours in a bus with no airconditioning at a temperature of roughly about 30 degrees, watching a horribly bad movie, with no drinks or water and no shops anywhere in sight, and crying toddlers (we cannot blame them, we felt the same way). This was all we could see from the window as we got closer...

We actually passed the accident a little later and we can assure you: it was not a pretty sight. Two big trucks crashed frontally while one was trying to take over another car. There was nothing left of the drivers cabins except for black crumbled metal and oil, and since the road was blocked and there were no ambulances or police cars anywhere, we were pretty sure the bodies were still in there - and lots of local men just hanging around, watching, doing nothing, taking pictures. Just awful.
The only good thing about this episode was that we made new friends on the bus, Noor and Vincent (Dutchies!) who own a beach bar back home in Holland (we know where we will be begging for free drinks this summer!). We arrived in Rio Dulce town in the dark, much later than expected, and stayed at a very rustic but nice place run by a local orphanage right on the river shore.
Superhappy to have made it, we definitely had one too many beers with our new friends before falling into a deep deep sleep...just to get up early the next morning to go yet on another trip, namely taking the boat down the Rio Dulce into Livingston.
The Rio Dulce was just beautiful! So green, beautifully calm waters, huge birds everywhere...every now and then a cute tiny village along the shore...a real pirate fortress from back in the days...and nice little hotels in the middle of all of this, cut off from everything...we were very tempted to just get out and stay there but decided we better move on and save this for another trip. Just see for yourselves!

We arrived in the ramshackle harbour town of Livingston around noon. We just spend the afternoon walking around and trying to arrange our onwards trip (yes, more time on the road!). Livingston was not really a very interesting town and even a bit dodgy at times, so not worth lingering. But we ran into our friend Jens we had met in Lago Atitlan and we decided to hit the road together the next morning, leaving with the boat at 6 am....(not this one :-)

So the following day we took a boat to Puerto Barrios and from there a shuttle to La Ceiba in Honduras. On our 6 am boat we got into a terrible shower which basically meant getting our backpacks soaked, screaming and laughing...check out Malka's face! hahaha

And here an illegaly taken photo of us at the border crossing :-)

We arrived in La Ceiba around 1pm and had some time to kill waiting for the afternoon ferry to the Bay Island of Roatan, so we mostly hung around with everone from the bus, played some cardgames and taught the other how to play Regenwormen (yeah!).
We had already been warned about the ferry, also known as the "vomit comet", and yes, the ride was definitely very very bumpy! But we took some seasickness pills (always make Malka fall asleep within 10 minutes) and after one hour, we had passed the rough seas.
So there we were, finally, on Roatan Island in Honduras! YEAH!
(more about our amazing Roatan adventures coming soon...)

PS: Our contest winner is Tessa! Great souvenir coming your way! Ehem actually we did not buy it yet but it will definitely be AWESOME!

Posted by pimenmalka 17:10 Archived in Guatemala Tagged livingston rio_dulce Comments (0)

Last night I dreamt of San Pedro...

Lago Atitlan, San Pedro de la Laguna, San Marcos de la Laguna

all seasons in one day 26 °C

It's Monday evening 7 o'clock and we are soooo happy to be arriving 'at home' in San Pedro because right away we can feel this is a good place! (Might have been the man at the boat dock yelling "Welcome to paradise!" as soon as we arrived).

Despite the discomfort of Pim's ears and the absence of sun we made the best of our first day in town. We walked around to discover a whole new part of town we didn't see the night before, ran into our Australian friends Kate & Bianca from the sailing trip in Belize, found a nice looking Spanish school and went to the Panajachel market in the afternoon to do some souvenir shopping. Don't get your hopes up, we came back to San Pedro with mainly gifts for ourselves, hahaha...

The best thing we did the first day was definitely to find the nicest Spanish school in town, San Pedro Spanish School (who would have guessed the name...). At first we were to go for two days of 'refreshing our memories' of the Spanish introduction classes but in the end we booked a third day of 4hour class and ended up learning mainly new stuff....soooo much: new verbs, two past tenses, San pedro/Guatemalan culture, and much more than we could sum up here.
Here is Pim doing his homework over lunch!

Since classes were from 2 to 6 in the afternoon we had the mornings to ourselves (although doing your homework on holiday mornings felt extremely weird for Pim, Malka of course liked to put in the effort, hmmmhmmmhmmnerdhmmhmm). On Thursday we took an early ferry to San Marcos town for some views of the other site of the lake. Here we had a relaxed morning in the sun doing some swimming and homework and just hanging around with our new-found-dogfriend who scared the vultures away for us and walked us to-and-from the dock to the look out points (this dog tried his best to be in every picture and he succeeded).

On Friday we left our bed real early to see the sun rising on the top of one of the mountains around the lake called the 'Indian Nose'. At 10 to 4 we were supposed to meet our tourguide for the day, but he didnt show up and around 4.30 we were lucky enough to be picked up by another tourguide and his taxi! We were still the first to be at the top which at first sight was...
... incredibly cold!

Luckily, after about an hour waiting the sun was starting to show and was presenting us some incredible views (and warmth!). The pictures below say enough...

Saturday was our first day without classes...we went for a big breakfast on the docks where we met Jens from Germany and spent the morning chatting and making plans to travel together later on. We had tried to arrange going Paragliding, but the first days the winds were too strong, so when on Saturday we heard in the morning that we could not go, Pim decided to quickly arrange a guide and climb up volcano San Pedro, while Malka decided spending some hours in the hammock and going for a swim in the lake were not a bad idea either.
While Pim was gone, Malka exprienced the fate of a lonely blonde girl walking around Guatemala: A little too much attention and several marriage proposals...

On Sunday we awoke to a perfect day with blue skies and a lake so calm and peaceful...and YES, it was time for Paragliding! Our instructor Guy, a Frenchman who has lived at the Lago Atitlan for 22 years, picked us up with his motorboat and we went to the landing spot (Mind you, that spot has been minimized by 200m as last year's rainy season was so bad, the water went up by 4m and has not gone back yet!) We hitchhiked up the mountain with our gear and from there first it was Malka's turn, then Pim's. It was absolutely amazing...a bit scary at first, jumping over the edge, but as soon as we were in the air it was so peaceful and the view was just beautiful. Fantastic!!!
Very peaceful indeed until Pim's landing...

We enjoyed the rest of the day just hanging out and swimming in the lake. When at night we went for a meal in town we ran into our friend Catherine from the Belize sailing trip and we ended up having dinner and drinks together, a really nice evening! (Catherine, we know you are reading our blog, so let us know about your classes and the homestay! Enjoy Lago Atitlan!). On Monday it was time for us to leave and it was really not easy...Lago Atitlan is a special place to be, we will definitely be back!

PS: The first person who sends us an email with the singer and song that match the lyrics on the title of this blog entry wins a souvenir! ;-)

Posted by pimenmalka 20:13 Archived in Guatemala Tagged san_pedro lago_atitlan Comments (3)

The beauty and the beast

Getting out of Xela and into paradise at Lago Atitlan

overcast 13 °C

Or to put it in the right chronological order the beast and the beauty. We left Antigua early to go to Xela. From there it was our plan that Pim would go on a three day hike to Lago Atitlan, and Malka was going to stay to take a few language classes. Because everyone told us the tour was only for very experienced hikers, plus the fact that Malka has been ill for the last week, lead to the decision that Pim would go alone and we would meet up a few days later.

However, things turned out differently...

... when we arrived in Xela we soon discovered that this was going to be our first really disappointing stop in our travels. We came to Xela on a Sunday and in contrast to all towns we have visited so far EVERYTHING was closed from the market to shops to restaurants and tour agencies. The disappointment grew even bigger when we found out that there were no tours leaving AT ALL on weekdays, not even a little hike. So having absolutely nothing to do, we mostly hung out at the only pretty spot in the city, the central park, eating ice cream like the locals and getting free hugs (regalo abrazos!) from this bunch. But after our first (and last) day we were totally bored already.

To make matters worse it turned incredibly cold, making Pim a bit sick, so we decided that Xela was absolutely not for us and we had to get out of there quickly. This trip actually made Pim's cold even worse: During the travel from Xela to Lago Atitlan we had to drive up from 2000m to 3500m and then down to 1200m above sea level, making Pim's ears go crazy. Once we arrived in Lago Atitlan Pim could hear only blunt sounds, and felt like living in a bubble... on the bright sight it's probably a good thing he did not go on any hike!

After all of this, just the view of the famous Lago Atitlan brought back the smiles to our faces... but more about that in the next post (coming soon!)

Posted by pimenmalka 17:02 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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