A Travellerspoint blog

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Day 36: Santa Rosa de Copan – Gracias (Honduras)

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Despite yesterdays comments about the hostel we have to be fair and we did get a good nights sleep. The pillows were of a standard well beyond the rest of the place!! Suitably rested we made an early morning trip into town to find breakfast and some coffee before getting a taxi to the bus terminal. Since arriving in Honduras we seem to have encountered two types of Honduran. Type 1 will be greet us with a cheery smile, a friendly ‘buenas dias’ and will generally be a delight to be around. Type 2 will stand and stare at us without a word and will not avert their gaze until we are out of eyesight. It is a bit weird!

The journey to Gracias was very pleasant, with mountains all around and a nice mountain breeze through the windows. Gracias is steeped in history as it is a former capital of the whole region. It has pleasant cobbled streets and is a nice quiet place.
Parque Central, Gracias

Parque Central, Gracias


Iglesia La Merced 2, Gracias

Iglesia La Merced 2, Gracias

We enjoyed a stroll around town taking in the sights before spending the entire afternoon at our hostel as it is absolutely amazing! It is set halfway up a hill and we have a room on the top floor with a stunning view overlooking the entire town with mountains in the background.
View from Hotel Guancascos, Gracias

View from Hotel Guancascos, Gracias


We have a balcony with chairs, table, hammock and water cooler, and the room as a very comfortable bed and hot water. Such luxury compared to last night and for only a few pounds more! We also have a TV so have the alarm set early to wake up and watch Andy Murray in the morning.

Come on Murray!!!!!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 09:30 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Days 37 -38:Gracias – Comayagua(Honduras) – Leon (Nicaragua)

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The alarm was set super early ; British Grand Prix followed by the Wimbledon Final, on a tele, in our own room! What a treat! Grand Prix, most enjoyable; tennis getting going – what an exciting game....Murray one set up....then the power goes off. Completely. The whole town is out!! Unbelievable! We skulked around for a good hour or so being very unimpressed by Gracias’ power supply – our lovely room with cable TV and hot shower suddenly had no cable TV and no water whatsoever. We packed everything up ready to leave and then would you believe it the power returned! So exciting. Tele goes straight back on only to find the channel we were watching has disappeared!! After another half an hour of skulking the channel appears again and we are able to watch the last 15 minutes of Murray losing. Good good!

TV dramas over we jumped in a tuk tuk to the bus station. After a number of exchanges with locals who wanted us on their bus we discover we are at the wrong bus station. Thanks tuk tuk man. Another tuk tuk and we arrive at the right station to find there are no more buses to our destination. But we can take a bus so far, then change, then another bus, then change.....so two tuk tuks, one chicken bus, a terrible road combining mud and rockslides in pouring rain, one minibus (in which Sarah was squidged in the smallest seat buried under bags), one coach (very comfy seats), two shuttles and a taxi later we arrived in Comayagua with both ourselves and our bags intact – excellent work! Comayagua is the former capital of Honduras; as it was evening when we arrived it was all rather closed up other than the lovely plaza with it’s lit up cathedral and music piped into the benches. Just lovely! We checked into our less than lovely hotel of which the walls appeared to crumbling in front of our very eyes and got an early night for a very early start!

4:30am the alarm goes off but this time not for the excitement of a Wimbledon final. We leap out of bed and run (using this term loosely as running and 17kg backpacks don’t go together all that well) down the road to catch the first bus to Tegucigalpa, the capital. As we approach the bus terminal we hear the familiar roar of a chicken bus driving off....turning the corner there is our bus driving down the road, would you believe it leaving 5 minutes early! This is Central America...nothing happens early! Except our bus leaving obviously...we picked up pace and sprinted down the road. When they noticed two westerners approaching the locals started shouting the bus down and the bus reversed to rescue us. Thank you locals and bus driver. So we had decided to get the first bus to the capital so we could then get a direct coach right through to Leon in Nicaragua. Two and a half hours later we arrived at the quite plush TICA coach terminal very pleased with ourselves for getting there so early. But our mornings luck was not to be continued as we find there are no seats left on the bus. Oh dear. Again this is Central America....we didn’t realise booking ahead happened! We have two options – we can go on the waiting list in the hope someone else has missed the bus...or we can chicken bus the journey. After much deliberation we decide we should embrace the chicken bus and save some pennies at the same time. And then begins another day of ridiculous travel.....five buses, three taxis, a tricycle, a border crossing and 12 hours later we arrive in Leon, Nicaragua! Despite the slightly less relaxing element of the journey it in fact went quite smoothly. As soon as you get off one bus and mention where you are heading your bags are whisked away to another bus before you have a chance to collect yourself – and then begins the chase to ensure bodies and bags arrive on the same bus. Again, we arrived in Leon with ourselves and bags intact – excellent work!

First impressions of Nicaragua are that there are a lot of horses, a lot of volcanoes and it’s very hot!! Leon seems a really nice city and we are staying at a lovely hostel with intact walls and no cockroaches. We are also booked onto a Volcano Boarding trip tomorrow. We like Nicaragua!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 15:43 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Day 39 & 40: Leon (Nicaragua)

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An early pancake breakfast was in order as we were picked up at 8am for a trip to Cerro Negro, one of the most active volcanoes in Central America. It last erupted in 1999 and erupts on average every 9-10 years... our maths may be a little rusty but it appears Mr Cerro Negro is overdue an eruption! At the base of the volcano there is a 3 month old baby volcano which is growing rapidly but is a small hill for now – interesting to think that one day it will be huge and will erupt!
Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (2)

Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (2)

Our guide, who was excellent, supplied us with our volcano surfing boards – essentially a plank of wood with a handle and some metal on the bottom to help us go faster! We were given the option of a seated toboggan or a stand up board similar to a snowboard. Given that neither of us has ever snowboarded and we value our lives we decided to opt for the toboggans! It took an hour to climb up the volcano, passing through big and small rocks, all of which had erupted from the crater just 13 years ago! From the top there were stunning views of the surrounding landscape.
Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (9)

Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (9)


Green fields in the distance, but black ash closer to the volcano. We could also see a number of other volcanoes in the distance, including Volcan Telica which we are climbing tomorrow! At the top of Cerro Negro we looked into the crater which was pretty amazing and played with the hot and steaming rocks at the top. Then it was time to head to the edge of the volcano for the days main activity!

Standing at the top of Cerro Negro, the ground looks a long way away, and the way to get there looks incredibly steep! Sat in a bright green and yellow jump suit on top of a plank of wood, this steep path downwards looks even steeper. Instructions were given by our guide, explaining the high tech braking system of digging your heels into the ash and to lift the front of the board to go faster.
Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (23)

Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (23)


Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (22)

Cerro Negro Volcano Boarding (22)

The sensation of flying down the side of a volcano on a plank of wood is very surreal! It is similar to sandboarding (bodyboarding down sand dunes), but involves the added complications of ash and small rocks flying into your face the whole way down! It was near impossible to see anything on the way down but the speed we got up was very impressive. It was great fun!! No injuries were suffered other than mental suffering of discovering bits of ash in various areas of the body for the rest of the day. After surfing down the side of an active volcano we decided to have a chilled out afternoon, strolling around the city of Leon and relaxing in our hostel. We didn’t have the energy to do much else as Leon is without a doubt the hottest place we have been in so far – the heat is stifling!!

The next morning we awoke to more of the same heat and so spent the morning relaxing as we were climbing another volcano that afternoon and evening. At 2pm we set off towards Volcan Telica, another extremely active volcano near to Leon. Volcan Telica last erupted in May 2011 and the tour is popular as you hike up to the crater in the late afternoon and can see magma when the sun goes down before hiking back down in the dark. We were told that the chances of seeing magma were 9 times out of 10 and so were confident!

The journey from Leon to Volcan Telica was an experience in itself - about an hour of driving in a 4x4 over rocky and seriously undulating terrain was terrifying. Often the driver had to get out and remove rocks from the road, or take his machete to the trees which were hampering our progress. Several times we became convinced the vehicle was going to topple over into the small ravines and what made the trip most exciting was that we coming back the same way later when it was pitch black!

Volcan Telica

Volcan Telica


We made it to the base of the volcano in one piece and set off towards the top. En route we passed a small green snake which our guide explained was not dangerous. He then proceeded to tell us that there are several lethal snakes in the area including boas and rattlesnakes, and some coyotes have also been spotted. Our guide also had his machete and so we stayed behind him from then on!
Volcan Telica (9)

Volcan Telica (9)


The route to the top was longer than Cerro Negro – starting in fields, we headed up towards the crater where we then had to pick our way through big rocks which had been deposited from the crater very recently. Exciting stuff. On the way, our guide mentioned again that 9 times of 10 we should see magma – we began to get a bit suspicious and concerned about this one time in ten when magma takes a holiday.

As we neared the crater we could hear a sound similar to large waves breaking... as we got closer it got louder and louder. When we got to the edge of the crater it was unbelievable.
Volcan Telica (14)

Volcan Telica (14)


Volcan Telica (20)

Volcan Telica (20)


The crater is 700 metres in circumference and 120 metres deep, with sheer cliff edges all the way round. It is an awesome sight and the roaring sound from below left no mistake about the forces of nature at work here! From the top, there were large clouds of sulphur and no magma was visible but the sound and energy was incredible. We lay on our stomachs and peered over the edge into the huge crater, such an incredible feeling!
Volcan Telica (19)

Volcan Telica (19)

Our guide advised that the conditions were good and that come nightfall we should see the magma. We went to watch an amazing sunset with Leon and the Pacific Ocean visible in the background before returning to the crater in the dark.
Volcan Telica (31)

Volcan Telica (31)


When we got back it was just amazing. Looking back into the crater again we could see magma below and complete with the roaring sound it was one of the most incredible experiences we have had. Just amazing - difficult to put into words and even harder to photograph but truly awesome.
Volcan Telica (36)

Volcan Telica (36)


We sat overlooking this stunning sight for over half an hour with a traditional volcano feast of coffee and custard creams before we had to leave. We then hiked back down in the dark (with torches) and enjoyed a very exciting night drive over the crazy roads back to Leon. Amazing day!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 21:29 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Days 41-44: Leon – Granada – Isla de Ometepe

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After a good night’s sleep (volcano climbing is tiring!) we had a slow start before making our way to Granada, Nicaragua’s oldest colonial City – a relatively easy journey (other than Sarah’s dash back to the hostel from the bus terminal to look for her lost mobile phone which later appeared to be in the rucksack all along...silly Sarah) of only 1 chicken bus and 1 shuttle. First impressions of Granada were good – it’s a very attractive looking city with a lovely Parque Central and very impressive cathedral, however much more touristy than most other cities we have visited, with a big American influence. We set about hostel hunting; first stop was what appeared to look like a prison cell on the edge of a scrap yard (not the description used by our Guide Book). Joe had to be dragged from here as he was very attached to the minimal price, but Sarah decided an extra pound or two would be well spent in this situation. A stone’s throw away, across the road, there was another hostel, lovely, very pink, nice kitchen and less prison like rooms – so we were sold! We spent a little while exploring the city before sampling our first Nicaraguan Rum in the form of a Mojito and a Caipirinha – excellent!
Granada main strip (1)

Granada main strip (1)

Next day we made an early start to visit Masaya; a town about 40 minutes journey from Granada, famous for its markets. After getting hopelessly lost around aisles and aisles of tomatoes, bananas, pigs and fish we gave up and took a taxi to Malecon which is on the edge of the town and the edge of Laguna de Masaya for some pretty impressive views of Volcan Santiago.
Volcan Santiago and Laguna de Masaya, Masaya

Volcan Santiago and Laguna de Masaya, Masaya

Volcan Santiago and Laguna de Masaya, Masaya (3)

Volcan Santiago and Laguna de Masaya, Masaya (3)


We then set about a spot of hammock shopping in the hammock workshops. We obviously have nowhere to hang a hammock in England and have no spare luggage space at present which means extra bags so getting on and off chicken buses will be even more exciting than it already is – but, we were exceptionally pleased with our purchase. We spent a little time wandering the Mercado de Artesanias before trying a couple of local dishes for lunch – not the best local delicacies we have sampled (Sarah essentially has a bowl of big pork scratching whilst Joe has something that looked similar to a cows tail).
Vigoron and Baho, Local dishes in Masaya

Vigoron and Baho, Local dishes in Masaya

Back in Granada we visited the very grand and huge cathedral before having a little wander around the square. Granada is a very pretty city with lots of colourful buildings, looking particularly pretty at night. The centre is unfortunately a little lifeless as a lot of locals have been pushed further out due to rising property prices due to the influx of foreigners moving into the area which is sad.
Cathedral, Parque Central, Granada

Cathedral, Parque Central, Granada

Another day of travel took us from Granada across to Isla de Ometepe – an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lago de Nicaragua. The lake is huge, so big it has little waves! After an hours choppy boat ride we arrived in Myogalpa, the larger town on the Island.
Volcan Concepion, Ometepe, from the boat

Volcan Concepion, Ometepe, from the boat


Despite the constant bombardment of sales pitches we turned down an offer of a luxury jeep ride to our hostel opting for a much cheaper chicken bus. Just prior to the bus leaving the whole population of Ometepe appeared to get on – it was without a doubt the busiest, hottest chicken bus we have been on and definitely confirms that chicken buses can never be full – there will always be space for Mrs Gonzalez and her 11 children, 14 bags of flour and wooden table! Feeling pleased with surviving another epic chicken bus journey we arrived in Santa Domingo, a small town of the lake side and found ourselves a lovely hostel equipped with hammocks-a-plenty to take in the lake and volcano views.
Playa Santa Domingo, Ometepe (3)

Playa Santa Domingo, Ometepe (3)

After much deliberation of whether to climb a volcano or not we decided to opt for not and hire a quad bike to explore the island on our own. After a morning dip and breakfast on the lake we collected our bike. Joe underwent a thorough training session in full Spanish on how to work said bike – a manual, rather powerful, quad bike. After numerous stalls and a rather jumpy start we were on our way; not totally in control, trying to avoid cows, horses, pigs, dogs and humans whilst at the same time trying to negotiate rather large rocks and boulders which appeared to be in our “road”. We both generally got the hang of driving until we needed to stop – this resulted in a definite stall and at least three attempts to get going again!
Quad Bikers (2)

Quad Bikers (2)


During our full day of driving we were able to visit San Ramos waterfall and Ojo de Agua. The waterfall is half way up Volcan Maderas and after negotiating our way 2 km up the track we then had to walk the last kilometre through impressive jungle.
Volcan Maderas Jungle (3)

Volcan Maderas Jungle (3)

Cascada San Ramon, Ometepe (Jolly cold!)

Cascada San Ramon, Ometepe (Jolly cold!)


The waterfall is 35metres high and is very picturesque, although lands in a somewhat small slightly muddy looking pool. As we arrived the heavens opened and we had torrential rain so were soaked whether we were standing under the waterfall or not! On route back down we came across a huge crab which tried to pincer Joe’s leg, a Howler monkey and the world’s biggest beetle.

After another very bumpy two hour drive we took ourselves to a natural swimming hole which was very lovely although a little nippy but equipped with a rope swing which was a lot of fun.
Ojo de Agua (1)

Ojo de Agua (1)


We spent a little while relaxing and sipping coconut milk before getting back to Santa Domingo and rather happily handed back the quad bike. Very bumpy roads and a very heavy quad bike make for quite a workout and we both feel a little like we have been beaten up!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 06:11 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Days 45 – 49: Isla de Ometepe – San Juan del Sur

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The journey from Ometepe to San Juan del Sur was quite an experience. We first boarded the busiest chicken bus to date (yes, even busier than the one two days ago!) and amid the scramble for standing space we got separated – Sarah finding some space at the back whilst Joe somehow ended up next to the largest bottomed lady in Central America. Most uncomfortable. The bus took forever to get to the ferry port and so we missed our boat to the mainland... but not to worry, the shabbiest looking boat was available for us to board. It was half the price of the other boat and the price was reflected terrifically through heavy creaking timber noises for the duration of the crossing. We decided the boats out here probably keep carrying passengers until they sink – we give this particular vessel 2 months - tops.

Safely ashore we splashed out on a taxi with a nice Danish couple to take us all the way to San Juan del Sur. San Juan is one of the places we have been hugely excited about seeing and it has not disappointed – we have spent 5 days here and is a lovely place! It is the most popular beach destination in Nicaragua. San Juan itself is a fishing port with a nice beach, calm waves and many restaurants and hostels. Luckily we arrived on a Monday so have had the whole week with it not being too busy! The reason for it’s popularity is it’s close proximity to several of Nicaragua’s finest surf beaches.

On the first day we arrived late afternoon and found a lovely hostel named Mama Sara House. It is one of the best places we have stayed! There are only 4 rooms, a small kitchen, a lovely balcony, and Mama Sara provides us with a daily ice cold Limon drink – perfect when returning from the beach! One day she even made us banana chips with salsa as well. She is amazing. The first evening in San Juan we went for a sunset dip in the sea before enjoying a cocktail on the beach – Nicaraguan rum is wonderful!
San Juan beach evening 1 (2)

San Juan beach evening 1 (2)

San Juan sunset

San Juan sunset

The next day, Sarah finally got to make use of a birthday present surf lesson.
Sarah's surf lesson, El Remanso (4)

Sarah's surf lesson, El Remanso (4)


We headed to a beach called El Remanso which is without a doubt the best beach for learning to surf we have encountered. A stunning beach with medium to small waves and there are no scary currents such as in El Tunco, El Salvador. Sarah was outstanding in her lesson – standing up immediately and catching lots of great waves throughout the day – including one monster wave which came from nowhere - Sarah stood up against all odds only to face-plant into the water moments later and then surfacing with a smile. Great fun! (Although later realised a small whiplash injury may have been sustained during said face-plant. Ow!)
Sarah's surf lesson, El Remanso (19)

Sarah's surf lesson, El Remanso (19)

The next day was Joe’s birthday. For those who have not been using the zoom function on our photos, Joe’s hair seems to have been misplaced throughout our trip and after a birthday haircut has considerably less volume than it once had – 2 years to hold on to some before 30!! Hairlines aside, Joe had a wonderful birthday! Sarah had bought a Nicaraguan cake with a candle and some birthday decorations for the room.
Joe's Birthday morning (4)

Joe's Birthday morning (4)


We then went out for a pancake and bagel breakfast before heading back to El Remanso for a whole day of surfing. Joe had a birthday surf lesson (courtesy of Jane & Katrina – thank you again!) where coach Jose tried to teach Joe how to turn the board with the wave once caught. After an hours lesson and a whole 4 hours of practice, it was achieved at least a couple of times!!
Joe Surf lesson, El Remanso (2)

Joe Surf lesson, El Remanso (2)


It was great to spend the whole day in the water and Sarah also spent hours developing her wave-carving skills! We then enjoyed a few more cocktails and a lovely dinner.
San Juan sunset, Joe's Birthday (3)

San Juan sunset, Joe's Birthday (3)

The last couple of days we have spent visiting beaches, surfing, eating, surfing and not sleeping – it is extremely hot here and sleeping is a struggle! We tried a different beach called Playa Maderas – bigger waves and a lovely beach but absolutely heaving with people (by remote Nicaraguan beach standards; i.e. we had to share the waves!) and so less relaxing than El Remanso!
Playa Maderas (3)

Playa Maderas (3)


We had a little surf there which was great fun but headed back to El Remanso today (our last day here) as we love the place. Our surfing skills have certainly improved and we have identified future improvements – Sarah can stand up on even the biggest waves but sometimes struggles to catch them. Joe can catch waves but gets a bit excitable and falls off regularly. Sarah also needs to find a cure to sore eyes with all the sun, sea, salt and suntan lotion inflicted on her retina’s! All in all we have had an amazing time in Nicaragua and particularly San Juan del Sur. It is sad to be leaving tomorrow... but then again we are heading into Costa Rica and for our final few days in Central America we have a canopy tour and white water rafting planned!!

Posted by Joe and Sarah 19:08 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

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