Tag Archives: Central America

Ow pet, don’t knock over me fish cart, ooooo-oooh!! Margaritas, Mariscos and Maudlin Moodbyes – Panama City, Panama

We were up and about in good time to catch our flight to Panama City (with only mild hangovers and slight lack of sleep due to the lairy drunken young men and women that had rolled in at god knows when and continued to drink and splash about flirtatiously in the pool and were still going when we got our taxi to the airport – oh the exuberance of youth!

On arrival in Panama City our first stop was of course the Panama Canal, where we had a couple of overpriced beers on the viewing terrace on the roof of the visitors’ centre hoping to see some ships coming in and going out again. A few little boats came through, but we really wanted to see a massive ship going through the huge lock. We retreated down to the next level where there was a posh restaurant (where the waiting staff eyed us with suspicion/disapproval as we trundled in with our scruffy backpacks) and a proper terrace with seats on as we’d both just been paid and fancied treating ourselves on our last day. Unfortunately there was no menu on, only a buffet which we didn’t really fancy (and the whole roast piglet sat on the table as a centre piece offended Susan’s vegetarian sensibilities) so we just found ourselves a table out on the terrace and enjoyed a couple of bottles of prosecco while keeping an eye out for some big ship/lock action. Unfortunately we were big ship denied, and as we were getting a bit peckish, we got a taxi to the next stop on our itinerary – the Mercado de Mariscos (the fish market),
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Splashing Around, Funfairs and Car Shows. A Joyus and Way too Short Evening – David, Panama

Our bus journey to David was long and uncomfortable – the bus itself was nice enough (typical big coach), but alas there was no air conditioning and it was an absolutely sweltering day. It was supposed to be a 10 hour journey to start with, but road works on the Costa Rica leg meant that we were sat there moving maybe an inch every ten minutes in the traffic, in the scorching heat for a few hours. Opening the window was no use when the bus wasn’t moving as the air outside was just as hot, and even though we could step off the bus while it was stuck if we wanted, that was pointless too as it was just SO HOT. It was a horrible, restless bit of the trip  – we tried to get some sleep but couldn’t due to the stifling heat and being soaked through with sweat. Finally we passed the road works and got moving again and the open windows offered us a slightly cooler (but still pretty warm) breeze.  We really wished we’d managed to get onto that night bus!

Thankfully there was a stop at a little service station (well, there was a little shop/restaurant with lots of food on hot plates that looked nice but we couldn’t face hot food in the heat so just grabbed ourselves several cold beers (for now and for the bus), and had to hide the bus beers as the driver had been glaring at us and shaking his head when we came out of the shop with our arms full of bottles, so we assumed that you weren’t allowed to drink on the bus.
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Zip Lining Adrenaline and More Adrenaline when our Night Bus Plans are Scuppered – Monteverde – San Jose, Costa Rica

We were up early the next day and were relieved to find that Aaron’s money had gone into Susan’s bank (so we could go to the zip-lining ball), so celebrated with our tasty free taco breakfast (we got a token to use at the kiosk next door) before wandering up to the bus station and buying tickets for the 3pm bus to San Jose. The woman at the hostel had said we’d EASY be back from the zip-lining by then and have no problem catching the bus. There was no sign of Gabriella, and we even walked by her hostel to see if we could see her but just assumed she had met some new friends there and decided to go zip-lining with them instead.

We were picked up in a little minibus from the tour company (that was doing the rounds of all the hotels in Santa Elena picking up zip-liners) and drove further up some more windy mountain roads before we arrived at the zip-lining place, where we were harnessed up and sent on our merry way to zip between platforms in the forest canopy. It was great fun and the scenery was stunning  – we did buy the DVD of us doing it (they must have had cameras around the forest at various points) but we’re sad to say you probably won’t get to see it as we both decided that we look too fat in it for it to be shared on the internet. There are photos though! And I do believe that rascal Mandible turned up and made a spectacular superhero entrance! Put the rest of this in your face

Farewell Volcano Land, Hello Massive Mountains – Ometepe, Nicaragua to Monteverde, Costa Rica.

We woke up in the morning, refreshed after a nice sleep (…well Jill was refreshed but Susan had an upset tummy and was feeling decidedly fragile) and enjoyed a nice Central American breakfast (egg, rice and refried beans), coffee and breakfast beers on our own personal little patio outside the hotel, enjoying the fabulous view of the lake and plural volcanoes and using their wifi to see if we could find a later bus to catch to Monteverde so that we could enjoy a bit more time on this beautiful and friendly island. PS and find some monkeys to touch.

Unfortunately our quest was in vain and we’d wasted quite a bit of time on it, so had to hurridly pack up and flag down a taxi to the ferry. We managed to flag one down, sharing with a lovely American stoner (who was there with a load of his mates – they’d hired a 4×4 to see the island and upon boarding the ferry this lad had realised that he’d left his passport in the hotel so had to leave his mates with the car on the ferry and get a taxi round trip to get it) and got to the ferry terminal, bought tickets from a dubious little cafe and sat outside intently watching everyone else to see when they started moving (we’d already headed to the ferry only to be shooed away), drinking beers and swatting away all the zillions of flies that seemed to like us.
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IN WHICH LADY LUCK IS ON OUR SIDE FOR ONCE, AND WE GET BACK ON SCHEDULE (LIKE A BOSS). LEON TO OMETEPE (NICARAGUA)

Adventures continued (sorry for the delay, we both have back at home depression!): after the volcano boarding we arrived back at the hostel looking like black and white minstrels, we were so covered in ash. Had a quick chill in a hammock and a mojito before going to find the bloke who was sorting our car hire out, only to find that we couldn’t get one from Leon to drop off at the border and would have to go all the way to Managua for one. This wasn’t really an option as it would have taken forever and we were already half a day behind schedule! Instead the hostel man sorted us a shuttle to the ferry port and said we had to leave NOW in order to make it to San Juan del Sur in time for the last ferry to Ometepe at 5:30! Susan had time to grab a quick shower while Jill was packing up, and we were again bundled into a van with seats down the side for the next leg. Despite our rush we of course made time to stop off for some road boozes and stretched out on the long seating (Jill firmly pressed up at the front end while Susan had fun luxuriating in leaning against the back door and scaring Jill (what with her fear of falling out of car doors, at her time of life and with her knees) enjoying a few cold ones and delighting our eyes with he gorgeous volcano dappled scenery along the route. We had sewious weservations (Paul Bawwon) about making the ferry, as the roads were horrendous and our bloke was driving like a nana (despite Susan banging on the window yelling “Vamos! Rapido! Rapido!”) and we had pretty much written it off as a failure and started rejigging our proposed trajectory when we arrived at the port shortly after six. To our amazement though, the ferry still hadn’t left, and our van screeched into the landing spot beeping its horn and yelling at the ferry men, and we made it on board just as they were pulling up the gang plank to shouts of ” Chicas! Chicas! Vamos!”.

The ferry ride itself was absolutely gorgeous! We parked ourselves on the front deck, opened our last two beers and relaxed enjoying the amazing view of a hazy sunset over Lake Nicaragua and the spectacular twin volcanoes of Ometepe. It really made all the day’s stress worthwhile and we couldn’t believe our luck and that we had actually made it! Our smiles have never been wider.

We’d decided on a hotel in Chaco Verde, a beachy place between the two volcanoes, so grabbed some more beers from a kiosk and jumped in a taxi. It took about 45 minutes to go the 10 miles down the road due to them being tiny cobbled tracks, having to circumnavigate volcanoes and more impressively, we had to stop as a tree had fallen blocking the road and within fifteen minutes the driver and a load of local lads had set about it with their machetes and cleared us a path. Susan offered to help, informing them she was a qualified lumberjack, but they were adamant that it was ‘mens work’. The comaradary of the whole thing was lovely, and the more we saw of the island (lots of poky little bars by the roadside and always something going on even in the middle of nowhere) the more we loved it!

Our hotel was lovely and right on the lake (complete with swan shaped towels and a complimentary gecko) and after a much needed shower and nap, we found a nice little beach bar for mojitos and fresh (but fiddly) fish for dinner before walking back having a paddle in the lake. Our luxury room even had a little TV and a DVD player so we settled in to watch the 1 DVD provided, curiously titled “Resident Elvis”. To our dismay it was neither Resident Evil or anything about Elvis, but some forgettable romantic comedy. Being the troopers that we are we still watched it and then fell asleep to the sound of the waves lapping against the lakeshore. Tomorrow – we try to touch some monkeys!

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Utila – Roatan – Tegucigalpa – Leon – OH MY!

It’s been a mental few days! Our Paddys Day bender was a hoot, didn’t end up seeing any whale sharks due to all the boats having left by the time we sorted the flights out, instead we had a gorgeous day on the beach with our new friends Laird and Bonita who kindly lent us their snorkelling gear so we could a least get in the water and try to touch some animals. Retired back to the hotel to get changed and ended up drinking rum on the balcony with more awesome Canadians until Susan transformed into Mandible who demanded we headed down to Skid Row to do the Guifity shot challenge. Which we did. Can’t remember much else apart from riding around the island on a scooter and some fat american trying to kiss both of us.

The next day (Jill’s birthday) started with hideous hangovers at 7am when we had to leg it down to catch the boat to Roatan, where we met MORE great Canadians (Audrey and Janine) whose arms didn’t take much bending to persuade to join us in a mender on the boat ride, which Susan spent the best part of hanging over the side trying not to vom.

We ended up having a hoot on Roatan with the lasses and after sitting drinking and giggling for a couple of hours in the bar (Susan was miraculously revived by a margarita, after poopooing a variety of other boozes in favour of a nap). Roatan was absolutely stunning and we were glad we got to spend an afternoon here with the most amazing company (we had so many funny things in common with the girls and they were totally our sisters from other misters). We were all well topped up so wandered the five yards to the beach to have a dip and spent the rest of the afternoon swimming about, eating road barbecue and  snoozing under a palm tree until unfortunately it was time to taxi to the airport. Roatan airport is so tiny it makes Teeside look like LAX  and we were dismayed to find when we got through security (which was less secure than the flipping BUS had been!) that there was NEE BAR there! We had got there really early so it was an anxious hour to wait without boozes. Our plane to Tegucigalpa was also really wee and the flight over the mountains and rainforest was gut-wrenchingly beautiful.

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A slight hiccup on route from El Salvador to Utila, Honduras

Well, we’ve had a logistical nightmare of a couple of days but can confirm that we are in Honduras and still alive. Our sunrise hike to the highest point in Parc Nationale Impossible was amazing (although we both nearly died – we were gutted we didn’t have time for the full day hike but are now glad we didn’t do it as it would have taken twice as long due to us having to stop every 10 minutes to have our hearts restarted), saw the sun come up over the volcanoes and the view was incredible – you could see as far as Antigua in one direction, Honduras in another and the Pacific in the other. Irene (the legendary Manolo’s lovely little Swiss missus) made us coffee on the fire in their little mountain cabin and set us up some hammocks and blankets to get cosy and enjoy the view. After the company we we’re hoping to book a shuttle from Santa Ana to Copan with refused to answer the phone or emails (until THIS MORNING!) we decided to head back onto the chicken buses to take a ‘slightly’ less direct route. The duck was especially sad to see us leave, and kept trying to grab us by the shorts on the way out.
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Into The Wild – Flores, Guatemala to Tacuba, El Salvador

We had no trouble having a nice nice t night bus sleep after a couple of Bill’s complimentary Gallos (and not having partaken in any special white stuff at a dubious ranch) and as requested, the driver woke us up when we got to Rio Hondo. We got off the bus and looked around and there was NOTHING there. It was pitch black, there was a shop but it was closed, and we were going on the vague internet rumours of a collectivo stopping there that went to the El Salvador border. We sat on the floor and opened a beer each, and smiled and acknowledged the two men that were pacing around with machine guns.

Susan went for a wander in search of a toilet and managed to find a little cafe that was (astonishingly, at 4 am in the middle of nowhere) still open, and luckily we succeeded in scraping together the couple of quetzals they were charging to use the facilities each. Jill returned from her toilet trip jubilant – “Haway! This minibus is going to the border!”. There was a collectivo parked outside the cafe, and Jill had approached the gaggle of people hanging around asking “Frontera El Salvador?” that was greeted with nods. Yay! Escape from Rio Hondo accomplished! There were only two seats left on the bus (and we had to pay with our emergency US dollars having still not located a cash point!)- Susan had to squeeze in the back between two blokes and Jill sat on the seat in front next to a couple of young lads. We opened another couple of beers to toast our departure. Jill ended up chatting to the lads as they spoke a bit of English, and were mainly telling her how much they both love white girls and that “your eyes are beautiful” and “your hair is so pretty” despite a) her being old enough to be their mother b) her eyes were as bloodshot and puffy as you would expect at 4 am and her hair looked like it had been chewed by a dog and c) the Pickwick Papers. In the meantime, Susan had dozed off, spilling her beer all over the sleeping man next to her and was nonchalantly trying to dry him off with her Delta blanket without waking him up.
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In which your two girls commit crimes (but not cards) against humanity – Tikal, Guatemala

It will come as no surprise to you, that we had quite a nice lie in until about 10am and missed the last bus to Tikal, so decided to have a wander around Flores and get some breakfast and hopefully happen upon some kind of tour company that could get us there that day. We walked along the lakeside and the only place we could find with a breakfast menu was the unimaginatively named “Bill’s Place”. We ordered traditional breakfast (Jill getting very excited about the accompanying Guatemalan tortillas, freshly made and kept warm in a basket wrapped in hot tea towels, bringing back fond mammories of her previous adventures in these parts) and a couple of Gallos. Bill himself, a domineering but friendly American ex-pat, came and introduced himself (breaking the ice by scrounging our cigarettes as he was supposed to have quit), poured himself a breakfast scotch and joined us on our table. We mentioned we’d just come from Caye Caulker and he told us that he’d wanted to open a bar there, but they’d wanted a million US dollars for a tiny tumbledown hut on the beach and he was having none of it, so opted for Flores instead. He’d ran bars all over the shop, in Jamaica, Cuba, and Belmopan in Belize, which was quite an impressive feat, especially since he spoke NO SPANISH. He came across as quite ignorant in this respect, barking his requests to the Guatemalan girls behind the bar in English but they were obviously quite used to this and usually laughed at him before going about their business.Conveniently, the bar lead through into a tour office that opened onto the main street, that was also owned by Bill, and after hearing of our plan to visit Tikal he shouted through to the lady to come through and talk to us and within 10 minutes we’d got ourselves booked on a shuttle to Tikal and back, entry to the ruins and tickets for our planned night bus to Rio Hondo (from where we would continue on to El Salvador). We were a bit reluctant to resort to a tour company sorting our stuff out, but it was a weight off our minds to know that our onward journey was all booked and taken care of, so we could enjoy Tikal without the stress of worrying about having to sort it all out once we got back. So we happily supped on a few cold beers and Susan got to touch a really cute dag.
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