Having just read my last blog I realise I have a lot to update as the last place I wrote about was in Costa Rica!
So… we went to Puerto Viejo for a couple of nights which is close to the border with Panama, unfortunately we hit a weather storm which was going to stick with us for far too long! The area was really nice and when it wasn’t raining we managed to have a mooch around- it had so much potential but the rain definitely put dampener on things (excuse the pun). After our second night we decided to move on and cross into Panama and head to Bocas del Toro. We were picked up at 7am and got to ride up front in the mini-bus, always fun! Not always for Vic as she can speak Spanish really well so she gets all the small talk whereas I can just ignore it- she got asked about her ideal boyfriend, what a shame I don’t speak much Spanish…not!
The journey to the border was only about an hour and we had been told that it is a nicer border crossing than the main one as it’s quieter. Wow it was laid back. We arrived immigration to be stamped out of Costa Rica. Sat behind the window but on the next desk was a guy reading a newspaper- he was the guy to stamp people into Costa Rica, he had no queue but he would not slide his wheely chair one foot to the left in order to stamp us out of the country. We had to wait a good half hour waiting for the “exit Costa Rica” guy. Seriously- you would think they would be able to cover both positions, all you do is slide the passport across the keyboard, pretend to look at the stamps in your passport and stamp a couple of times, simples! Eventually our guy turned up, faffed for a good 5mins and then decided to actually do his job, meanwhile other dude is still reading the newspaper, grrrr. Getting stamped into Panama was also great fun…not, but we got through much to the dismay of immigration lady that you really didn’t want to mess with!
Our destination was a group of islands not too far from the border so after another hour ish in the minibus we took a boat over to the islands- it was raining. We found an absolute steal in the way of accommodation- a dorm room was going to cost us $13US each, but we managed to find an A/C private room with fridge, a laptop, a safe and private bathroom for $25US- luxury or what?! Unfortunately the storm was still with us so we didn’t see the island in the greatest light. We did go and watch a band play in a bookshop/bar though which was pretty cool though.
We decided to spend our last night on a nearby island, but as we got to the dock we actually changed our minds and booked a night bus ticket to Panama City and just spent a rainy day on this other island.
We arrived in Panama City at 4.30am with no reservation but with a hostel in mind- we definitely should have reserved a room as once we had arrived at the hostel at 5am after getting a taxi there was no space and Panama City isn’t exactly the kind of place you want to hang around at that time in the morning. The taxi driver took us to another place and completely over-charged us for the cab ride, but nothing we could do as we were more concerned for our safety. But we got there!
In Panama City we found a shopping mall- this made us super happy as we haven’t shopped, well ever on this trip apart from second hand shops. I treated myself to a vest top and t-shirt from Zara as all my vest tops have holes in- I am starting to look a tad homeless! We also went to Panama Canal- amazing place, I was really impressed. We got to watch a 3D movie and they had a museum too. It was a proper boys day out watching boats. We started off by watching a little tourist filled boat go through, that was fun, and then by the afternoon the big ships came in. There was a huge container ship that went through the canal, it cost $391,000US to pass through Panama Canal!!! Insane!!!
We took the local buses as they are really cheap and it’s more fun, but one trip we did very wrong and ended up god knows where, after doing a complete tour of the city we headed straight back out of the city. Then a chap said to us after about 45mins of being on the bus ‘where are you going to?’, we told him and he just put his face in his hands and shock his head- whoops! Vic and I’s thoughts were that if we got the wrong bus then it would eventually turn around and end back up at the bus terminal and then we would either get a taxi back or try again. Yer, this bus was not going to be doing a loop- double whoops. The kind man got off the bus with us and hailed us a taxi as we were getting to dangerous territory and it was getting dark. It was a fun experience and very nice of the man, I’m sure he would have told his family at the evening meal that he met some dumb-arse gringos trying to ride the public bus.
Our final day in Panama was a long one. We got to the bus terminal at 8am hoping that we would be able to upgrade our bus ticket for an earlier one as ours didn’t leave til 11.55pm- the lady behind the desk said the guy that does the ticket changes was on holiday until Thursday- this was Sunday…not helpful. The next three days was going to be spent sitting on a bus as we were going Panama – Costa Rica – Nicaragua – Honduras…check it out on a map, it’s bloody far! It cost us just $86US/£57, a flight was going to be £250+.
So we had just over 15hrs to burn at a bus terminal/shopping mall with our backpacks. We got through the day by sitting and eating in food courts and going to the cinema (I watched my first ever Die Hard film!). I was coming down with a cold too so made the long day that little bit more unbearable. Anyway we did it, and after 15hrs of sat in a bus terminal we then had 15hrs on a bus, but we arrived into San Jose in Costa Rica and went straight into a hotel. We didn’t explore much of the city as, well we couldn’t be arsed to to be honest. The next bus wasn’t until 12.30pm the following day so we managed to have a lie in. We arrived in Managua (Nicaragua) earlier than expected, maybe 9pm, and decided to get a hotel- we originally planned to hang around the bus terminal until our 5am bus but it didn’t look like the safest place just to hang around in. After about 5hrs sleep we were back on the bus and heading for Tegucigalpa (Honduras). This was one city that I was a bit sceptical about as it’s super dangerous. So as soon as we arrived at 2.30pm we got a taxi to another bus terminal and off we went on another 6hr bus journey to the coast- this was going to be the last stop! When we arrived at our hostel in La Ceiba we were zonked!! We would have happily slept forever but the next day the boat to Utila, in the Bay Islands, was leaving at 9.30am which meant the alarm was set for 6.45am, yay!
The weather in La Ceiba was crap- it was raining when we arrived and we had a downpour as soon as we woke, not quite the exotic weather we were hoping for, it was the weather that we were trying to escape, it seemed to have followed us up Central America. It meant the boat crossing was choppy. Well probably a bit more than choppy, as soon as we left the harbour it was crazy, a guy gave out sick bags immediately and you had to hold on to the table to stop yourself falling off the seat. We sat with a Scottish couple that we had met at our hostel, they were really cool, but Lyndsey does not travel well on the sea, her husband on the other hand got out his travel pillow and eye mask and attempted a nap. I was alright- I was very glad that I didn’t have breakfast though. The journey was about an hour and we went through a storm which was quite fun (or at least I thought it was!), and we only had one puker on the boat which was shocking.
Once we had reached land with our wobbly boat legs we were greeted with a washed out island that just looked miserable- not quite paradise! I also heard a guy who lived on Utila that he was shocked that the boat actually went that morning. The hostel we ended up staying in was also a dump- prison toilets would have been nicer than the ones we had! It was a cheap place to stay though and we just needed to recover from the epic bus journeys. After a couple of hrs in our room we realised that we were opposite a water refilling building so it was very noisy and fumey from the vehicles stopping- we were definitely going to move the next day. And we did to a really nice hostel for only $5US more and it was closer to the beach with private bathroom and two big double beds- perfect.
The weather was still rubbish but we were going to hold out this time for the sunshine. After two days of rain and an overcast day, the sun came out and the island was beautiful! Everything was so much nicer and everyone was in much better spirits. The first day of proper sun was on a Saturday so the beach was full of tourists, travellers and locals which gave a good vibe. There was also a bar, called Skid Row, doing drinking challenges on the beach, there was a piñata for the kids and other stuff going on. That evening we went to a tree house bar which was great, on the way in though there was a girl puking at the bar…it was about 9.30pm- terrible. Anyway, we just stayed well clear of that area. Later in the eve we went to a bar/”club” over the water which was really cool.
The next day we hired motorbikes- fear not I was not the driver! Juan, a guy we had met in Nicaragua had caught up with us on the island so I was his passenger and a guy from our hostel, Steve, came with us too. I wish I could tell you the technical stuff about the bikes but they were dirt bikes, one was yellow and one was red, they were shiny and clean too So Juan, Steve and I explored the island. It was fun, pretty hairy in some places especially as you are in zero safety gear but Juan is an experienced biker and after taking motorbikes in Port au Prince in Haiti I’ve learnt to have faith in my driver. Later on we went to meet the Scottish couple at their diving hotel as there were Paddy’s day Olympic games taking place. They involved a lot of drinking from the contestants (and on-lookers, naturally) and various games- volleyball, chicken fights, mud wrestling, boat race and limbo. The hotel was lovely and I got to watch a gorgeous sunset which always makes me happy!!
Another day I went snorkelling straight of a pier, it was beautiful. I would put it on par or possibly better than the snorkelling I did in Belize and that cost $65US and this was free! Ok, I didn’t see turtles, sharks or sting rays though so the $65US is justifiable. I couldn’t tell you what fish there was as it was guideless, but there were big, bright, beautiful fish, some huge sea urchins and loads of corals. The sea was so clear too. Just writing about it makes me want to go back!
I also got to have a parrot on my shoulder at a private beach- I wasn’t going to go to this beach as you had to pay to get in and the free public one was gorgeous. But one day when I went to the beach on my own I had a horrible sleazy man being gross and hugely inappropriate. After about 5mins of telling him to go away I got up and left, then an Irish girl caught up with me to check I was ok, I was fine- more pissed off that I had to leave when I was perfectly settled, but we decided to go and check out this private one. So as creepy as that guy was he did make me see a beach that I wouldn’t have gone to and I got to have Chico the parrot on my shoulder. Silver lining and all that!
After 8 days we had to drag ourselves away, sad to leave but I’ll be back! The ferry crossing on the way back was calm, and slightly dull… Next stop was Copan and now we were travelling with Juan who has a car so ROADTRIP!! I started off as navigator but quickly retreated to the back seat and demoted myself. Navigating without a proper map is not my idea of fun. A guy from the ferry ended up coming in the car too so he took the navigator role whilst Vic and I could just chill in the back. The drive was really good, we left the ferry port at about 8am and got into Copan at about 3.30pm. Crazy to think how far you could get in the UK if you drove 6hrs.
Copan is lovely- a bit too hot for my liking as it’s so humid and I’m constantly sweating but the town itself is really nice. Copan gets put on the tourist map because of its ruins. The plan was to go, but with mis-communication between the four of us meant Vic went on her own before it got too hot (I didn’t see the note she left me) and the boys went whilst I waited for Vic… so I haven’t actually been to them. But it’s $15US to get in and after seeing everyone’s pics I don’t think it’s actually worth the money- I think these would make the 5th set of ruins that I would have gone to and these maybe the most expensive and none of them were wow’ed by them.
Yesterday I went to some hot springs about an hour away from Copan. Wowzers, they were so so beautiful. They are natural hot springs that they have been made into a spa. The temperature of the water at the source is 80c- mental! So at the top of the series of the pools you get a sauna, you basically sit/stand at the source and just soak up the steam- it was so hot. The next pool down was too hot for me, I think the first one that I could get into was 40c. From the first pool though the water comes out through a spout and you sit under it for a head, neck and back massage- amazing right?! There was a mud bath too- so here you wipe the mud/clay on your body and sit for 20mins whilst the mud dries and stiffens and then wash it off. It was lush. Whilst I was letting the mud dry I made little clay models, one of a hippo and one of a man with a big belly- I was going to take a pic, but as I was washing the mud off myself, the maintenance man came over and asked if he could move my figures back to the mud pile, I said yes, and he put them in the water and squashed them and threw them back on the pile- it was so mean!!
There was another series of pools where you have to start at the bottom where it’s cooler and work your way up to the top one, the boys did it whilst just chilled (it was so super relaxing). I could just hear these manly grunts as they got into hotter pools- when I did it there was no grunts just a bit of under-breathe swearing as it was so hot. The hottest pool was too much for me though. After you do them there was a cold pool to plunge in. The whole place was phenomenal and nothing like I expected, I’ve been to hot springs before but this was an actual DIY spa and cost just $10US- in the UK I reckon you would pay over £100 in imitated hot springs. What finished it off for me was that it was all outdoors in the forest so you could just relax in a thermal pool and stare up into the trees and listen to the water and wildlife. We were all super relaxed when we left. The ride back to Copan sat in the back of the pick up truck quickly woke me up, and to finish off the day we got to see sunset over the hills from a castle. Pretty good eh.
One thing was missing from the day though…the Vickster, she’s moved on to Guatemala- her favourite country, she started the trip travelling on her own and now she’s having a bit of time going solo again- you can’t blame her… 6months of me everyday!! I’ll be catching up with her soon but for now I’m road-tripping with Juan in his car- tomorrow we’ll be heading into Guatemala too, the border is only about 10km away and we’re starting at 4.30am(!) so will hopefully reach Antigua in good time and possibly Montericco tomorrow- this is a place I’ve been before with Vic and before we fly home we will be going here again, it’s lush.
So I think that’s all from me- quite an update right! I think tomorrow is the start of Santa Semana which translates to Holy Week i.e. Easter and everything grinds to a halt by the sounds of things. I feel this is an appropriate time to put in my request for Easter eggs…! Please can the Easter bunny save me a crunchie one and maybe a dairy milk? I don’t even mind a battered box if you get it in the sales…THANKS
Oh, incase you are wandering about the reference to the baked beans, well Vic gave me an early birthday present (yes that’s one month from today people!)- a can of HEINZ baked beans that she’s been carrying since Belize! That means it’s crossed borders 10 times, she is a legend. Now I have the tough decision is whether to eat them or keep them?! I reckon beans on toast is on the cards followed by cheesy bean jacket potato, ummm….
That’s all from me, not long left, maybe 6 weeks, eek!! Hope you’re enjoying the snow at home