Thursday, July 23, 2009

Ya mon

Ya mon, we finally in Belize, mon.

Arriving in Belize was by far the most friendly and easiest country we have arrived in so far. We were greeted by George, our taxi driver, with a huge white smile contrasted by his lovely dark skin. Every other word was mon, ya mon.

He drove us swiflty to the boat dock in Belize City where we set sail to Caye Caulker, about a 45 minute boat ride. The day was unusually beautiful, the water was crystal clear, not even blue, clear mon! As soon as we got off the boat we noticed a sign on the ground "Caye Caulker - Go Slow". We checked into our lovely one bedroom house overlooking the soccer field and headed to the best beach/bar ever. It has picnic tables in the water and cheap drinks . . . nice mon.

We swam, drank rum punch, swam, drank rum puch, you get the picture right? Not a bad day mon. We snorkled and saw nurse sharks, Portugese Manawhars and many tropical fish.

Caye Caulker is a tiny island , only 8km long and about 50 yards wide. There are no cars, only golf carts and the streets consist of white sand and nobody wears shoes. We kept seeing the same smiling faces each day and made many friends. One of these friends was named Ras, who lives on the most amazing boat ever, he invited us up for a mango and a chat. We also met a man named Kenny who rescues animals on the island and has a vet come to him once a month to spay and neuter his new pets. This man must have about 35 cats and three dogs. We bought some big bags of dog and cat food and would visit Kenny and his animals each day we were on Caye Caulker.

Most of our days were spent diving off picturesque docks and drinking coconut rum and cokes. Mmmmmm. It tasted like the beach, minus the sand of course. We celebrated our one year wedding anniversary-yay!- at the beach bar and were treated to freestlyles about love from the locals, mon. Hahahaha, it's true! We had a yummy romantic dinner at Agave and then headed back to our cute little house . . .

The last day was by far the best. The rain had stopped and we decided to book a full day snorkeling trip on the second biggest reef in the world. The first place we snorkled was called "Shark and Ray Alley". Quite a fitting name I must say, mon. As soon as we dropped anchor nurse sharks and giant manta rays were circling our boat. We hopped right into the water and came face to face with some of the most beautiful marine life we've ever seen. Nine foot nurse sharks, manta rays about eight feet wide, huge colorful coral reefs and we even saw a few sea turles! It was one of the highlights of our trip by far, mon. We then went over to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye for lunch, not quite the isla bonita Madonna sang about. But it was cool enough, I think we were spoiled by the beauty of Caye Caulker.

We slept good that night and knew we had quite a journey ahead of us in the morning. Now it's off to San Ignacio, Belize to go caving and see some Mayan artifacts.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Puddle Jump No-More

Needing to get back up to the northern part of Central America we decided to fly instead of bus it. Our bus route would have taken us through the now unstable Honduras and it would also take us way too long. We booked our flight to Belize-leaving from Bocas Del Toro Panama. The only flight they had stopped first in San Jose, Costa Rica , then in San Salvador, (overnight) and then onto Belize city. Annoying flight but it was our only option.
While waiting in the terminal a storm blew in that would have frightened passengers waiting to board a 747. When our plane taxied up to our terminal a let it’s full load of 6 passengers off I knew we were in for a really rough ride.
We boarded in disbelief and silence. The half hour flight was one of the longest most uncertain times in my life. Brooke and I were holding hands and closing our eyes through the roughest plane ride ever. The engines were cutting out and the plane was bouncing up and down like a small boat getting tossed around by rough seas. I could see directly into the cockpit where the pilot struggled to keep his clipboard on the seat next to him. He even looked nervous. There would be clear skies as I looked out my window--then I would see a massive dark grey cloud and brace myself. Our heads were smacking the ceiling and I really did think we were going to crash. After dropping fifty or a hundred feet and hearing the engines sputter I just couldn’t make myself believe that the plane could take much more.
When we landed I was speechless. Maybe this was normal, maybe not, but it was new to me.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sloth and Frog

Bocas Del Toro-Last Day
Needing to move on but not really wanting to we decided to squeeze in one more activity filled day. We booked a tour over to some nearby islands to check out some dolphins, coral, and deadly, (but friendly) red frogs.
We started off by snorkeling some beautiful reefs at Caye Coral. Brooke swam right into a huge jellyfish and paid the price.After we had some lunch at a restaurant right over the same reef we snorkeled. Next we headed over to Isla Bastimentos for a beach day, (It made me miss Stonesteps). Bastimentos is home to these little cute poisonous frogs. We spotted one and promptly took pictures of it. I finished off the day by renting a buckled boogie board from the rental shack. It was about 4ft and breaking right on the sand, I was the biggest dork on the beach and couldn't wipe the smile off my face. On our way back to the boat we spotted a lazy little sloth hanging in a tree about 50ft up. I love sloths.

Bocas Del Toro

Bocas Del Toro 7/6/09-7/8/09
Puddle jumper from David to Bocas=30 minutes orBus ride/water taxi=6hours
Bocas Del Toro is a beautiful group of islands of the northern coast of Panama, really close to the Costa Rican boarder. We decided to come here in the initial planing of the trip back home, and we were really looking forward to it as this is our first stop on the Caribbean and our "u-turn" spot in Central America.
When coming to these places you never know what to expect. Photographs don't tell the story at all, you can never really get a feel for it until you are actually there. Flying in instead of busing it is a much better way of getting a perspective of the land. It looked amazing from the air and we couldn't wait to get on .
The tiny airport is only about a two minute walk from downtown and with all the accommodation in that area it wasn't too much of a hassle to be selective about where were stayed. We walked around and checked out almost every hotel. We finally decided on a place called Casa Amarilla--really cool place and it had a refrigerator, so important in this climate.
After we checked in it was only around noon so we grabbed a shuttle to the nearest swim able beach, Bocas Del Drago. We had lunch in the shade at a sand floored restaurant, horrible service, good food. This seems to be the norm in Bocas. After lunch we took a stroll along a beach front path past basking starfish and stingrays.
The next day we grabbed a water taxi and headed over to Isla Bastimentos about a 15min ride across the channel. We relaxed on an idealic yellow sand beach. I had rented a board b4 we took off a was hoping for some waves. It was OK looking, but the water was 82 and clear, hard to resist. I surfed for about 2hrs in absolute slop and had a blast. Later in the day/evening we went out on the town. We discovered a bar called Iguanas, (very original) and took advantage of ladies night. Free drinks for Brooke!
Next day was rained out and we were long overdue for a day of nothing so we decided to just plan the rest of our trip--oh and I think Brooke was a little hung over too...hah!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

I Still Like Buses...and Borders

San Jose, CR to David, Pamama
After a long horrible bus ride from Nicaragua to Costa Rica we pulled into to San Jose at about 4pm. Starving we found a great little Indian food place next door to our hostel/hotel and dug in. After we just went back to the hotel and decompressed from the most claustrophobic bus ride ever. All the seats were broken and the would recline all the way back--almost flat. They call the seats semi-cama which means semi-bed, this would have been cool if they worked. So for 10 hours every time the bus speed up the seats flew back, when it stopped they flew forward--it was rad.
So anywho, we went to bed and woke up only to have to get on another bus, this one bound for David, Panama. Yeah! another boarder crossing!
Boarder crossings in C.A. are terrible. This one bordering Costa Rica and Panama is particularly bad.I won't bore you with details but let say they modeled this crossing after a rubix cube. Pay this person $1 walk to a window, pay another person $2.50 walk to the corner, pay the guy in the food stand 75c and so on.... All this with no directions.Actually now that I think about it in hindsight it was kinda fun.
We arrived in David, Panama latter in the day and did the same as the day before--decompressed in the hotel. David is not the coolest city, it's just kind of a crossroads town with nothing much to offer, no matter, we just came here as a stop over on our way to Bocas Del Toro on the Carribean. So we had a day to kill and decided to head out to Boquete, a really beautiful mountain town about a one hour bus ride out of David. Not much to do in Boquete but cruise around. I now see why AARP chose it as one of the top 10 places in the world to RETIRE, not vacation--very quiet and geriatric. There was one awesome highlight in Boquete, an animal sanctuary called Paradise Gardens. It is run by expats from the US and it in inhabited by all native species. Highlights include a Jaguarundi, Toucan, Margay, Capuchins, Tamarins, Anteaters and tons of other cool animals, highly recommended.
Vamos a Bocas Del Toro manana!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

San Juan Del Sur

San Juan Del Sur

Leaving Grananda early in the morning we set off for a mildly confusing search for our bus to San Juan Del Sur. After a few shady characters directing us towards sketchy ally ways we found our way to the Rivas, the gateway to San Juan Del Sur.

San Juan Del Sur is a dusty little backpacker/surf town that sits in a small bay. There is no surf in the bay--but many spots are only a jeep ride away. Brooke and I checked into our hotel and cruised around town to find some food and a proper board rental for the next days beach day.
With the entire towns board rental options consisting of softtops I finally found a shop with something under 8 feet--unfortunately it was a 6' fish. This would have to do. On another note San Juan is home to Encinitas expat Tom Eberly, it was strange to see every kid on an Eberly surfboard, a sight that brought me back to the 80's

Later in the evening we tried out a delicious spot for dindin recommended in our guide book. A strange Indonesian decorated restaurant that served good Italian food and sangria. Super good and satisfying we turned in full.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Capital Cites

6/26 to 6/27/09

Leaving El Sunzal meant catching a bus to San Salvador. Not the prettiest of cities. With the assistance of one of our fellow bus passengers, (a women,usually the only trustworthy people in these cities) led us to the bus station that was to get us to our next capital city. We got to our bus station just on time, purchased our tickets and proceeded to to wait for a bus to Managua, Nicaragua. Our bus was suppose to arrive at 8:30am which would put us in Managua just before dark. Come 11am the bus pulls into the station--shit, this puts us in Managua well after dark. On the way to Managua we passed through Honduras--the medias newest favorite latin american country in turmoil. With their President hiding in Costa Rica and riots in the streets we opted not to do anything but pass though. Arriving in Managua we jumped in a cab and hightailed it straight to our hotel. There were signs in the lobby saying to not walk the streets at night, so we had the front desk call us a pizza--our first US style food since we left.
Managua is a gnarly city, not just in the crime sense but it's past is rather sad. The entire city was destroyed in 1972 by a massive earthquake that killed 10,000 people. It was then rebuilt only to be destroyed again by hurricane Mitch in 1998. In between that there has been a massive civil war.As of now there are no plans to rebuild the city and it remains a flattened mess of ghettos and open air markets. So we got the heck out and cabbed it instead of chicken bus to Granada, Nicaragua.

Granada, Nicaragua
We arrived in Granada late morning and checked into our hospedaje. A nice place run by a scantily clad Nica women named Valeria. We tossed our bags on the bed and went for a stroll around the city.
Granada is a beautiful
500 year old city set right next to Lago De Nicaragua. The town was never destroyed by earthquakes like Managua so all of the old colonial buildings are still intact. The next few days were spent exploring the region. We went to Masaya--a smoking crater of an active volcano, paddled and motored around Lago De Nicaragua and just enjoyed walking and eating the city. Oh and we also got to visit an island in the lake with monkeys--they jumped on our boat, let us pet them, and then stole our stuff.