After leaving from Lago Atitlán I made my way to the obligatory Guatemalan tourist destination of Semuc Champey (the other being Tikal, some impressive Mayan ruins), a set of limestone waterfalls that split from and are elevated above the river that feeds it. Half the ride there was kept busy by a clearly and admittedly post traumatic stress disorder-suffering American vet of Iraq/Afghanistan who had a strong scent of rum on his breath at 9am in the morning. He had no reservations about getting teary-eyed while recounting stories during the war and how he was injured and sent home to pass time on the streets of Boston before getting himself together. Although, not all of his stories were war-related, the one coming to mind about his brief romance with the Nicaraguan finance minister´s daughter (the image of him brashly holding up his hand in an okay sign while half-yelling, "Mmmm, tight as a whistle!" with a bus full of Nicaraguans staring at the scene will remain comically stuck in my head). Needless to say it was an intense bus ride, and he definitely left an impression on
- $7,035.57 = How much it costs to travel around the world through nine countries over five and a half months
- Revisited: How to pack for an independent traveler with no set return date
- A glimpse in the thoughts of Bolod Namkhai Mukhadi
- Beijing to Ulaanbataar Mongolia: The nitty gritty of independent travel
- How to get Chinese and Russian visas as a United States citizen: My experience
- Writing assignment: "Inside The Candelaria Festival of Puno, Peru"
- Marathon hitchhiking: Southern Mexico to Michigan in 7 days over 3,400 mi
- Mango Surprise: Being the victim of a random, delicious act of kindness
- Legendary Vagabonder Rolf Potts with priceless advice on travel
- Fire juggler in San Pedro de la Laguna, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala
- Romania: WWOOFing in Transylvania and back to the US
- Bulgaria: Nice cities, tipped off about an isolated beach, and getting perspective from a prostitute's cigarette burns
- Kazakhstan Pt. 3: Almaty, where kids watch pole dancers, and joining the family
- Kazakhstan Pt. 2: Astana, WTF? Diagnosis: major inferiority complex
- Kazakhstan Pt. 1: Whoa Aunt Jemima's!, the Darth Vader Mosque, and a failed haircut
As happens often when traveling, I met a few people in the hostel and the bus towards Lago Atitlán from Antigua and we formed a ragtag ad hoc travel clique consisting of Alen the Slovenian/Aussie, Jean Cristophe (aka Volkan) the Frenchman, Sally/Steve/Laura the Britons, and Florian the German. We all ended up staying in the same place and kayaking the next day (we bargained hard and got the kayaks for two dollars for half the day) to a nearby town on the lake where there was a nice view and a 12 meter cliff to jump off. At night there was quite the impressive fire throwing show at one of the local tourist bars. Pictures below.
As I was slowly coming to find out, tourists are quite scarce in El Salvador and my visit to Lago de Coatepeque was no exception (I was the only one at the guest house I camped at there, and I saw no one else in San Diego and one other tourist in San Salvador). I ended up putting my tent at the end of the guesthouse's dock since camping was half the price of the dorm room, keeping it secure on the legs of a table and chair and yanking a few pads from the couch in the guest house's TV room to sleep on in the tent. Swimming the the perfectly clear water of the lake
I made my way to the coast in El Salvador after spending a chill day and a half in the capital, San Salvador. The capital seemed nice and I was suprised by its modernity, but hearing stories from a taxi driver about the gang violence from Mara Salvatrucha and MS-18 (when they robbed him, they even took his shoes) I was not planning to linger around. It was also off-putting when, accidentially knocking on the wrong door while looking for the hostel in the captial, I was greeted as door opened with a revolver and a "What do you want?". Oh right, and while riding the bus I could see from above that about half of the car drivers had a pistol of some sort on their laps. It seemed like a tormented city. In any case, the beach town I stayed at in the department of La Libertad
After leaving from Lago de Yojoa I took a short bus ride to some waterfalls near the lake to camp. Although I left my passport near the lake and had to go back, I still had plenty of time to wander around the falls. It was packed since it was a Saturday and also the Honduran Labor Day, but around 4ish everyone started to leave and I more or less had to park to myself. I hopped over the barbed wire fence to approach the waterfalls and take a little dip, and I quickly found out why they closed off the area to people going alone. The rocks were slippery, the water moved fast, and I got more than a few cuts and scrapes scrambling up there. The power of the falls were immense, and it was awe-provoking to stand underneath. Despite the crashing of the water, it felt like everything went silent when I approached mother nature's less than subtle display of her power. I was a feeling I won't be fogetting soon. Pictures are below.
Leaving from Leon and arriving after what is now appearing to be the characteristic dusty Nicaraguan bus ride, I was disappointed to feel the unrelentless heat in Matagalpa much like in the lower areas. Supposedly it´s "cooler" here, but I can´t imagine by more than 5 degrees. I was hoping to hike around some coffee farms in the area, which the region is known for (I´ve tasted some damn good coffee in Matagalpa), but the heat has sucked any motivation for physical activity out of me. Instead I made my way to a big waterfall in the area called Cascada Blanca, and had the good fortune of being the only visitor the entire day. It was quite the treat during the thermal peak of the day. Besides that visit though, the weather is very conducive to sitting around all day and reading, so not much exciting report (although I would HIGHLY recommend reading In Defense of Food: An Eater´s Manifesto by Micheal Pollen, click for the Amazon Link). Pictures are below.
Arriving in Leon from Granada, I was disappointed after seeing the Laguna de Xiloa en route and being told by several people that I would be robbed if I walked up to the supposedly nicer laguna, which was my real destination (the entrance was barbed wired anyway). Anyways, I grabbed this video after arriving on the bus and in transit on a bicycle rickshaw towards my hostel. I was hoping to do a volcano boarding tour near Leon supporting street kids, but they needed a minumum of three and I was the only one that had signed up for the next day given it´s the low season. With time contraints I moved on, so this video is the most interesting part of Leon that I´ve got. It´s a street scene that gives a nice look at the no-so-photographed part of town. Sorry for the shakiness, and the lady´s voice you hear in the beginning is a vendor selling water (¡agua!).
The island of two volcanoes (Ometepe) and another colonial city (Granada) (and not the one in Spain)
After a mad dash from the overpriced Costa Rica to take refuge in Nicaragua, my first stop after a dusty border crossing was Ometepe. Formed thousand or millions or billions or however many years ago by two volcanoes rising almost symmetrically from the island, it sits imposingly as the largest freshwater island in the world in the middle of the huge Lake Nicaragua. I took a boat over the island and met a French Canadian named Usagi who had been living on Ometepe for years and had a nice little hostel near the dock. He told me all about the local folklore along with another Nico who had been living in Miami for years and was planning a move back to get into the tourism business. Folklore slowly led into indigenous rights (which don't exist on the island) and inevitably to
- Quick and dirty travel tips
- Costa Rica for me = Beaches + Waterfalls (video of jumping in post) + Way too expensive
- Getting some cool weather in the Panamanian highlands (Boquete)
- Panama City. ´Nuff said.
- How to wash your clothes by hand while traveling quickly and effectively
- Step 2 in getting to Panama (the hard part): Nausea-inducing island hopping (Kuna Yala/San Blas) with the tuberculosis researchers
- Step 1 in getting to Panama (the easy part): the last few jungle and beach towns in Colombia
- Couchsurfing in Barranquilla and an unexpected detour into rural Colombia
- Crazy skilled soccer juggler in Medellín Colombia
- Wasn`t really expecting to like Bogota that much...
- First stop in Colombia: Checking out Popayan and the weirdest desert I´ve ever seen (Tatacoa)
- Does this make me a travel writer/photographer?
- The quickest pass through Ecuador, ever
- Last few days in Peru: Sun and mountains
- Joining the parade during La Fiesta de la Candelaria
- Video: Inflating sheep´s lungs by mouth after the slaughter (Huañuscuro, Peru)
- How to get the local price for anything while abroad
- How to pack for a trip with no set return date (with post-trip comments)
- Tips to turn a long bus ride into an unforgettable time
- "Gas jugging" and coke dealers: hitchhiking for the first time (Ann Arbor, MI to Chicago)
- Who's site is this, anyways?
- A quick peek at the Zona Cafetera/Coffee-producing Zone