01 May 2008

Last but not least

The Caribbean coast of Costa Rica was everything that I wanted.

The general vibe of that region is very ¨Rasta-Man¨ like. The town of Cahuita is slow and mellow with Reggae music coming from the restaurants and stores. The food was excellent, the first night I had smoked chicken with a jerk sauce. Had to have been the spiciest food I´ve ever tasted.

The environment around the city of Cahuita is stunning. Nestled in the jungle with black sand beaches to the north, and white sand beaches to the south, you can walk for miles through the National Park of Cahuita. We saw a couple three-toed-sloths, howler monkeys, cappuccino monkeys, poisonous snakes, and a postcard perfect tropical coastline.

After the Caribbean it was back up to the capital to catch a short 30 minute bus to Alajuela. We opted to stay there for it´s strategic location to the airport and a nearby volcano called Poas. Poas was seriously shrouded in cloud and we could not see into the crater. The forest was superb, like walking through a fairy tale forest with gnarled moss covered trees, at times forming a thick canopy overhead casting an ominous glow.

I get home in two days and I am looking forward to it. As I look back on our trip I can say it was a breathtaking time. The sheer natural beauty of a continent always at odds against nations and its peoples struggling to create something for themselves. The process of nation development is a ruthless and unconscionable process.

Hope you have enjoyed the blog. Last two photos of Poas National Park, and the rest are Cahuita National Park. Click it enlarge:

Leaf Cutter Ants.

This sloth was so funny. He had an insatiable desire to scratch himself, constantly. Really adorable though.

Poisonous snake.

Poas National Park.

26 April 2008

Light at the end of the tunnel

Granada is special. But you wouldn't know from being there that Nicaragua is second to Haiti as the poorest country in Central America. The city rests beside Lake Nicaragua, which is huge, the biggest in Central America.

Only an hour away by boat we made it to the island of Ometepe. Essentially the island is made up of two volcanoes and a strip of land that connects them. We stayed a night on an "eco-farm"/ hippie commune and another night on the islands nicest black sand beaches. Unspoiled is probably the best description, only a few hotels and eateries.

We decided we needed more beach time so we shot over to the surf capital of Nicaragua, San Juan del Sur. While we're here I decided to take surf lessons, something I've never done before.

Coasta Rica tomorrow. More beach time. Want to be in a deep state of relaxation before I return in 7 days.

Granada, Nicaragua

Another view of the church from the cafe lined pedestrian street.

11 April 2008

Island Hopping

We have been on the island Roatan, off the coast of Honduras, for the past week getting our PADI scuba diving certification.

We got down to 60ft in the clear warm Caribbean waters. Tons of colorful fish, corals and sea plants. Had a chance to swim with turtles, nurse sharks, aggressive eels, and sting rays.

The trip from Guatemala to Honduras was a long one, but it was nice to leave the country. Between Guatemala´s non-existent infrastructure, bad food, and the threat of being kidnapped, it was a breath of fresh air to get to Honduras.

One of the highlights of our trip will be the week we spent on a Catamaran sail boat to the southern Caye´s of Belize. The Captain would go out everyday and spear fish for our lunch and dinner so the cook could whip up tasty meals. Lots of Grouper and Snapper.

The posts have been slim lately, sorry about that, but we have been on the go and in places that do not have good access to internet.

Stayed here in Rio Dulce, Guatemala. The place was built on top of mangrove canals.

Fishing early in the morning on the Rio Dulce (Sweet River). The river runs through steep jungle clad walls.

Rio Dulce at night from the Catamaran.

Typical scene at Livingston, Guatemala. Home to the Garfuna people, descendants of black slaves, who largely populate the Caribbean coast.

Kayaking through the Manatee Reserve.

Manatee Reserve.

Island in the southern Caye's of Belize. Lots of snorkeling and fresh fish.

On the Catamaran.

02 April 2008


Last half of the rushed update.

After a long and bumpy ride from Nebaj (they were literally building the road as we were driving on it), we arrived in the city of Lanquin to swim in the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey.

Surrounded by jungle, this area is known for it´s limestone rock formations, caves, and idyllic pools.

We opted to let our Hostal do the dirty work for us and went on a day tour that included caving, river tubing, and Semuc Champey.

The caves were fun and we found ourselves swimming through deep pools, climbing waterfalls and dodging rocks from above and below. A headlamp would have been a good thing to have, candles don´t do a great job of lighting the way.

Leaving Lanquin we took a ridiculous ride to the city of Flores, to get to Tikal. Between the vomiting, diarrhea (none of which was ours), yelling and deranged tourists, it´s a miracle we made it alive without somebody getting into a fight (or me for calling somebody a grandma).

Unfortunately we had to rush our trip up in the northern part of the country, but still our stay was special.

We spent a night in our hammocks in Tikal National Park listening to the howler monkeys roaring in the distance and watching troops of Codimundi (sp?) scavenging the jungle floor. They look like a giant raccoon with a really long tail, a ring tail monkey if you will.

We got up at 430am to walk to the tallest Mayan temple built and watch the sunrise. That was pretty awesome, watching night turn to day and hearing the jungle come alive. You can see forever in every direction, and the other temples reaching out of the jungle.

Click photo to enlarge:

Bottom view of Semuc Champey.

Top view of Semuc Champey. That shadow kills.

View from the Island Flores across Lake Peten.

Tikal. Temple in the Grand Plaza.

Tikal. View from Temple 5, second highest Mayan structure built.


We have been moving around quickly and often in places with no Internet, which doesn´t help with the blog updating. We leave Friday April 4, on a boat and will not have a chance to update for at least that time. So I am trying to squeeze out this update.

When I first started reading about Guatemala in my guide book, the city Nebaj and its surrounding region, known as the Ixil Triangle, caught my eye as a place to go hiking and have a real Guatemalan experience.

The Ixil Triangle (includes Nebaj and two other cities) was the worst hit during the very bloody and horrific 30 year civil war. The Gorilla army had their stronghold in this part of the Guatemala and innocent people got caught in the middle of a war between the Government and the Gorillas. In this region alone thousands of people disappeared to be tortured, and or murdered by the Government, if they were thought to be sympathetic to opposition forces. Click here for info on the Civil War.

After spending a night at Lake Atitlan, we make a series of van and bus transfers and finally get on the right track (transportation is a freaking nightmare in Guatemala) to Nebaj.

I had the authentic Guatemalan bus experience, including chickens running down the isles, burning brakes on steep and curvy mountain roads, engine overheating (stops in the middle of the road while driver splashes water on the engine to cool it down), just about everything you could ever want, minus pickpockets and lost luggage.

In Nebaj we decided to hire a guide and go on a hike to the village of Cocop, about 3 hours away by foot. The mountains are green and beautiful, but very steep.

Cocop has about 60 families living in it, all very poor. The guide arranged lunch for us in the house of a local woman in the village. We ate Boxboles with Salsa and a toasted corn drink. The Boxboles are, more or less, tamale meal stuffed inside local leaves and boiled for 30 minutes. They food was okay, the salsa was amazing, but the experience of eating lunch in her house is unforgettable.

Lake Atitlan.

Sunset at Atitlan.

Hence the name, Chicken Bus.

Typical house. Earth floors and wood fire to cook. Dogs and chickens share the living space of the house with the humans. Houses are crude and seem haphazardly thrown together. Walls consist of uneven wood planks, and roofs are generally corrigated tin or thatched palm leaves. This is the house in Cocop where we ate lunch.

View of Cocop. Said to be the hardest hit during the 30 year Civil War.