Shall we have a taco in Ataco?

This post is originally from February 13, 2013
So much to tell about the last few days…406795_10152639611720434_1893520363_n
I will start with where I left off (how appropriate). Back on San Braziles Island I forgot to mention a proposition that one of my friends got. So this place that we were staying was a hostel which had other traveler there with our group.   On the second day,  a skinny french dude in dreadlocks with fingernails that were super long showed up. He seemed nice enough but there was something kind of dodgy about him. The Australian couple who we’ve really become good friend’s  (Tom and Katherine)  were talking to him about their upcoming travels. They are heading to Cuba. This dude was like “I know of a way that you can get a free flight to Cuba”. Oh really how???? “Well all you have to do is carry a bag full of clothes and they will pay for your flight”. Obviously he wants them to be drug mules and when they questioned him on it, he insisted that it was totally legit and legal. He insisted and gave them the email of the lovely fellow who could get them into Cuba for free! Hmmmmm. That’s a first.
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That’s me trying to tempt a small child into my snare…

The night before we left a friend and I went to the beach to see the phosphorescence glow in the water. I am not sure if you have experienced this before but it is absolutely amazing. I remember seeing this in Australia. I am unsure of the scientific explanation but basically the algae in the water glow when you move in the ocean in the dark. It kind of looks like when you are in the dark and your blankets spark with static. With the stars shining so bright above me and the moon shining off the wet sand I felt like I was in a dream. Did I say it was beautiful there?
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The next day we set off on a 14 hour journey. The day was long, but it was such a great day. When we had to cross from Nicaragua into El Salvador we actually crossed a bay that from the centre we could see Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras at one time. We took a speed boat across the bay and about an hour and a half later arrived in El Salvador. Our first stop was a town called Suchitoto. With a name like this I thought I had arrived in Japan. But domo arigato Mr Robato…no, it was El Salvador.
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Yesterday we moved on to another town called Ataco. Here is another sleepy town, and by that I mean that hardly anything is open. Tourism has really not touched this country and we are definitely seeing the back roads of Central America. Last night we ate a typical Salvadorian meal of pupusas. These are little cakes the same shape as a green onion cake that in the middle have a variety of things in them (cheese, spinach, beans, squash). They are then fried and you eat them with pickled salad and some sauce. Delish!!!!!
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This morning we drove about 2 hours in a 4×4 vehicle to a remote area. Here we hiked where literally there were no trails. We were told that we are probably the first tourists in the area. Ripping down trees and branches to get through, as well as crouching under huge branches were not an uncommon occurrence.
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At one point we had to pull ourselves up by the roots of the trees. Hiking in my Toms shoes was a bit of a challenge once again, but I made it out in one piece. The scenery was amazing. There was even a place we could see that had Mayan ruins that haven’t been excavated.  Because the country doesn’t have the money to uncover the ruins it lays there untouched. It would have been a 15 hour hike to this site, but we could see the views from where we were. From there we made our way to El Salvador’s most beautiful beach. 28 km of soft sand. Again, getting to this location you needed a 4×4 vehicle and also a guide as it is so remote. Driving past little villages was very cool. Here the guide actually fished himself and served the food for us. Being vegetarian I obviously I opted out of the fish but was impressed, all the same. The waves had some major undertow, but it was hilarious to be pummeled by them.
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Paradise off the coast of Nicaragua

This post is originally from February 9, 2013

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Our knight in shining armour and his chariot!

Well, well, well…

Yesterday we traveled north through the town of Leon and then to the Pacific coast. Here we took a sketchy little boat and got off  among the mangroves which apparently is where the crocs live. As we got off and waded through the water I couldn’t help but picture the scene from the movie Crocodile Dundee,  where the woman is bathing in the water and the croc jumps out and grabs her from the purse around her body. My story is not as interesting as this…we got off and our chariot awaited… a starved horse with a cart behind him to take our bags. We walked for about 15 minutes to our hostel. This island is called San Brasiles and is totally remote. There are only a few locals and this one hostel on the entire island.  The beach is such a long stretch where you don’t see another person in sight. It is gorgeous. The sand is so soft and black, which makes walking on it a bit of torture test.
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The view at Surfing Turtle Lodge

Yesterday we basked in the sun, got pummeled by the gigantic waves and watched the most beautiful sunset. My group got nice and friendly as all 14 of us shared a dorm room. This morning Michelle and I went on a long walk along the beach. It is literally paradise. Fish jump as the tide comes in. I go to my ‘special place’ when I can pick shells off the beach and watch the pelicans fly so close to the crashing waves. At about mid day a few of us took surf lessons. The waves are incredibly fast so once you get crashed by one, there is literally no  time recoup. It was tiring and frustrating. Finally by the end when I was ready to give up –  I finally stood up. Thank the good lord.
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My meager attempt at surfing

After lunch I fell asleep in a hammock, and later it was time for another swim. Damn life is hard!   Michelle and I got pulled far out but at least this way we were past the break. It was completely surreal when about 15 pelicans flew right over our heads.

Then there was the sunset…ahhhhhh. I wish I could put life on pause for a while.
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Adios from paradise

Voted off the island…

This post is originally from February 7, 2013

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The universal sport and laughter of children!

Ok, ok, so I said good bye from Ometepe Island, but I have to rewind here… On our last night on the island Michelle and I pass a sink on the way back to our Homestay house.  In the sink are at least 5 roaches, and Michelle turns to me and says, thank god our house doesn’t have a roach problem like that. Little did we know that soon we would be part of a losing battle. We get in our room and it is literally swarming with roaches. You know, the flying kind that hit the wall and make noise and then dive bomb you??  And no I am not exaggerating! So here we are in our room trying to dodge the dirty suckers while wiping off our beds from the other random bugs. Then once we lifted our pillows there were more roaches hiding and waiting to pounce. It was freaking insane!!! Michelle probably killed about 15 herself. I was a little quicker on the war and got my mosquito net around my bed and tucked in. I sat in my safe haven and watched the spectacle as poor Michelle kept up the fight. Literally she would get one off the bed and two more would reappear. I couldn’t contain myself – laughed my ass off. We probably woke up all the neighbors since our walls didn’t touch the roof. Finally the piece de resistance in Michelle’s fight was a lizard in her bed. Eventually she got herself all tucked in when she realized the last remaining roach was tucked right in with her she didn’t have the gusto to fight any longer. Roach vs Michelle…Roach is the winner!

Hours later and I have to pee. Now the toilet is not connected but around the corner outside. After I waited until the very last moment and my bladder was about to burst I decided to risk it. I untucked myself from my netting and got the courage to go outside in the dark. Mid pee I look down and there with my own two eyes I see a freaking SCORPION. This isn’t just any ordinary scorpion – it is literally the length of my middle finger. Its clampers were in full view and it was literally going towards my feet. Mid pee I jumped up and it changed direction and went towards me as I threw myself against the tin door. Now remember…this is about 3am and I know everyone is sleeping so instead of a full on scream I am gasping in fear. This scorpion was after me!!! Again I am not making this shit up. I changed directions and it would too. I flew out of there as fast as I physically could but opening a tiny metal latch at top speed in the middle of the night while taking a piss isn’t my forte!

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The picturesque town of Grenada

Alas, I was ready to be voted off that island and very much welcomed moving on to our next place. We boarded something called a chicken bus. This is an old yellow school bus that is painted vibrant colours on the outside and CRAMMED as full as you can get. Standing in the aisle is just another space for more passengers. Thankfully I got a seat but 2 hours on such bus was far from comfortable. My favorite part of this ride was at the beginning when random people would board the bus and try to sell  things such as underwear, popcorn, drinks in a plastic bag, remote controls and plenty of other random shit! They would creep along the crammed aisles yelling out what they were selling. So entertaining!!!
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We arrived in the city of Granada. It is a cute colonial town that has a lot of character. This is definitely a place that I could spend a lot more time in.  This morning we went to different lookout places so that we could see the views of this area, and then we went to an oasis. Here was a lake that sits in the middle of a volcanic crater. It was seriously so incredibly beautiful. The water was so clear and untouched and there are very few places around the lake where people can get to. We went to this one area with a dock and a floating dock and soaked up the sun in the most remote and beautiful place. I wish I could stop time and stay here much longer!
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After this amazing place we went to a market. Unfortunately the lovely ‘Nords’ we are traveling have a problem with being on time and because of them we missed out on prime shopping time. I had only 45 minutes to power shop. Dear lord, this is pressure. Pedal to the metal. This is the first time I have had the opportunity to shop since coming and I tried to make the best of it.
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Even though I could have shopped for hours we had to leave in order to get to the Masaya Volcano in time for the sun to set. We drove to this volcano and once at the top it was insane. The volcano had so much smoke coming out of it because part of the volcano blew just last April. The smoke was so intense that you couldn’t help but cough. The scenery surrounding the volcano was again so gorgeous and I just feel so lucky to see all this amazing beauty.
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I am loving my group that I am traveling with. I know I spoke badly of the ‘Nords’ but they do provide a hell of a lot of entertainment.
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Ometepe Island

This post is originally from February 5, 2013

Yesterday it was a 530 am departure…We had to drive to the border of Nicaragua, but before we reached that point our van got a flat tire. Our driver, Mario became Super Mario when he took off his shirt to change the tire. Just picture a robust 60 year old man with a nipple ring. Badabing badaboom!

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Super Mario and his nipple ring!

Soon we were on our way, and crossing the border wasn’t too much of a hassle. I think I expected the worst from my experience between Cambodia and Vietnam.  Although we had to walk quite a ways with our packs on our back and the sun was pelting down, it was quite easy to get through. After another bus to Latin America’s 2nd biggest lake (Lake Nicaragua) we boarded a ferry that looked like it was going to sink. We literally sat on the top of the boat where there were no seats. Just hung on and enjoyed the view. It  is difficult to imagine this water being a lake as it is so massive.

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I wish I could have captured a picture with all of us squished on top like sardines!

We arrived at Ometepe Island. This island is made up of two volcanoes that when they erupted formed a land mass in the middle. I knew as soon as we got here that I would love it. Unlike the developed country of Costa Rica this felt more cultural and what I usually love to experience on my trips. Don’t get me wrong, I love Costa Rica and its ease, but experiencing something completely different from home is something that I truly cherish and thrive on. Here we were brought to a community to live in a Homestay. This community started as an income generating project for a few of the women in the area and now is completely self sufficient. We have two nights with our host family and I completely feel like a tool when it comes to speaking Spanish. All those classes that my dad and I took together should have come in handy in this situation, but unfortunately all I know is siesta, salsa and taco! Not gonna get me far when speaking to my family. They served up our dishes and put our dinner plates in front of us. I had to try to tell the mother that I was vegetarian. I said “vegetariano” It worked. Maybe if I just add an “O” to everything it will be understood…or then again, maybe not. At one point Michelle and I were left at the table alone. We came to a consensus that we both really didn’t like these plantain chips she made. Michelle was quick on her toes and quickly poured her chips back into the serving dish. I quickly followed. We felt like naughty school children!

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Our rooms are pretty clean but definitely not comfortable. Even though I am completely out of my comfort zone I have to say this is an once in a life time experience that I will always hold close to my heart.
Yesterday evening we went to the Ojo de Agua; a natural spring made by the volcano. The water wasn’t hot, but it was so stunning. Unfortunately at dusk this beautiful area became a hot spot for all sorts of biting bugs and when we left my legs looked like I have the case of chicken pox. I feel like the blind could read brail  on my legs! Note to self: insects here are called ‘no see ems’ and even though you can’t see them, they bite like hell…wear bug spray!

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Our sleep was not to shabby. We have mosquito nets around our beds and mine is placed so that it literally rests on my head. Here I was reading before falling asleep,  when a cockroach crawled on to my face – thankfully it was on the outside of the net, but JEEZUS! Again out of my comfort zone, but really,  I love this shit.

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Today some of the group climbed the volcano. It is a ten hour hike straight up and down. I can’t imagine this being fun at all so I chose the lazy man’s activity… something much more chill …go to the beach. Again, it is hard to believe this is a lake when the waves come crashing in like the ocean. It was lovely to relax and listen to the waves. Am I making you jealous?

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Anyway, In am going to lay in the hammocks and watch the sun set now.
Adios from Ometepe!

Off to Central America

This post is originally from January 28, 2013

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Hey Everyone,
Well, it is that time again. Time when the excitement of Christmas and holidays have worn off. When icy roads and bundling up becomes old news. And when all my scrimping and saving has come together and I am lucky enough to head somewhere warm and full of new adventures. Yes my friends, I am traveling down to Central America tomorrow. I am going with a friend of mine, Michelle – and we will start off in Costa Rica where we will meet up with another G Adventure tour. From there we will travel through Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and finally Guatemala. The last week will be solo…or should I say duo – and the two of us will have to make our way back to Costa Rica; but in the mean time we will go where ever the wind may take us.
I am pretty sure there are no camels there, so you don’t have to worry about me falling off again. And after my near sexual assault disaster in India I have learned to never go into a dressing room alone with a man. So hopefully my stories can take you on a ride with me sans near death or dismemberment. 🙂
Tally ho, or should I say Adios!
The G Adventures Tour I will take – Backroads of Central America
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