Nicaragua & Costa Rica: 2/20-2/26

Granada >>> Isla de Ometepe >>> San Juan del Sur >>> Tamarindo

2/20
+ Woke up at the Treehouse Hostel to howler monkeys in the morning (and all throughout the night). If you don’t know what they sound like, look it up online. They’re impressively loud for their size.
+ Walked back up the hill to the bar portion of the hostel to check out. Glad to see many of our hostelmates were still alive, although many had no memory of their actions the previous 12+ hours (It was THAT insane last night).
+ Seemingly everyone was ready to leave on the free 11 am shuttle so about 15-20 of us crammed into the pickup truck and truck bed back to Granada. Since we skipped breakfast and wanted fuel for our upcoming travels, we got lunch with Jessie and Tanice and reminisced on the funny times from the night before.
+ After saying our goodbyes, we trekked to the bus station (through another crazy market) and eventually caught the bus to Rivas for connections on to Isle de Ometepe.
+ After a bus, taxi and a very complicated ferry ride (We watched as they loaded a huge semi carrying telephone poles onto the deck of a ferry. Not our ferry thankfully!) We made it to Ometepe!
+ Walked to our hostel as the sun was setting and checked in.
+ Caught our breath for a minute from our long travels all day, then walked back into town to grab dinner.
+ Back at the hostel, Liz passed out immediately while Corey researched on the tablet.

2/21
+ Originally the plan was to spend the day exploring the island, but we instead opted to spend it lounging in hammocks (our new favorite pastime) researching for our next city.
+ From our hammocks, 2 large blue and white birds flew over us. These large birds were so different than any other bird we had seen! They had these little plumes on their heads that made them look like some type of cartoon. Almost like a Pokemon! (Over the next few days we discovered these birds are called  Urraca (blue-tailed magpie) and are actually plentiful on Ometepe)
+ Not wanting to walk into town for lunch, we instead stayed at our hostel and depleted our snack reserves.
+ We did eventually head into town for dinner and went to a much cheaper, tipico style food place we had noticed the night before.
+ We also swung into a grocery store and replenished our snack supply (a must have on travels!)
+ Before sleep we watched the movie “Joy”, and prepared our bag to explore the island the next day.

2/22
+ After breakfast at our hostel, we hiked into town and rented a scooter/moped from a store run by 2 sisters.
+ The island is 2 big round volcanoes connected by a thinner isthmus. It looks almost like a pair of goggles from the air. We were on the far left end, but drove almost all around the island throughout the day! (Everywhere we could that there were paved roads)
+ We enjoyed great views both of the volcanoes and the local cities, houses, and shops.
+ Volcano Concepción is an almost prefect cone shape with clouds consistently swirling around the top. It almost looks like something out of a cartoon! Or like a vanilla ice cream scoop with chocolate on top, except the colors are reversed.
+ Volcano Maderas also has a cloudy top, but it is not nearly as perfectly cone shaped.
+ Because both volcano hikes end in the middle of the clouds with no views, we opted not to spend the money (or 8-10 hours of time) to hike them.
+ While driving we did see a troupe of Capuchin monkeys playing and eating on the roadside. So we pulled over and watched them for a bit (while making sure our phone and camera did not become their new play toy).
+ We also stopped to hike and explore a nature reserve called Chaco Verde, which had nice views of the lake and lagoon.
+ Another popular spot we stopped at was a beach called Playa Domingo. It was a nice beach and did not feel like we were on a lake at all, with the waves and sand. We got some smoothies and took in the sights for a bit before continuing on.
+ Our last stop on the island tour was a place called Ojo de Agua. While it was a nice shaded spot to swim and cool off from a natural spring, it was really just a big glorified swimming pool. We still enjoyed ourselves though and watched as people attempted a slack line above the water (and we even tried a couple times ourselves, with no success).
+ After we left there, we were headed back to our town, which was about an hour away. Around 30 minutes into our drive, the sun set and it got dark. Unfortunately, the scooter we rented did not have a right headlight and we were half blind while driving down the dark roads through unfamiliar territory.
+ After about 15 minutes of no problems (and all day driving it fine), all of the sudden about half of the road/concrete was missing on the right side of the road. Before we even saw that or knew what had happened, our bike fell over on the left side and we both skidded along the pavement for a little bit before stopping. Luckily, we were only going about 15/20 kph when it happened (not the 40-50 kph we were in the daylight) otherwise the injuries would have been much worse. Corey got the worst of it since he was in front, with most of his whole left side scraped badly, but Liz had a couple injuries too.
+ It happened in front of a couple shops and a number of people ran over to help us since they saw the accident (and pointed out how the road was messed up there, which we would have seen if we had a right headlight!)
+ Angry at the fact the scooter defect caused our crash and hurting from our numerous injuries, we gathered ourselves and counted injuries. Luckily the bike still worked (although it was scratched up too) and we continued the drive back to our hostel, hopeful that the rest of our journey involved no more spills.
+ Back at the hostel we showered and spent a good 40 minutes tending to and dressing our wounds.
+ We decided against riding the scooter back into town for dinner and instead walked. We went to the street food cart of a person we had met the previous day and got delicious Salvadorian food for cheap. (Turns out our friend was an El Salvadorian who used to live in the US.)
+ Walked back to the hostel and got ready for the next day while contemplating our conversation with the scooter company the next day.

2/23
+ Ate breakfast at the hostel.
+ Got our laundry we had turned in earlier and packed our bags and checked out.
+ Drove the scooter back to the agency and proceeded to have a not so fun argument/conversation with the workers. We approached the situation very calmly, recognizing both sides of the situation. While we were responsible for the vehicle when it crashed, we also acknowledged that the cause of the crash was entirely due to the defect of their rental product (causing us not to be able to see the road). If this had happened in the U.S. with a rental company, there would normally be lawsuits threatened against the company and demands for not only all money returned, but also the payment for injuries, etc. Unfortunately, this is not the U.S. It’s Nicaragua. So between pretending to not speak English well when it was convenient, the guy at the rental shop was very demeaning and dismissive. After explaining how we couldn’t see the right side of the road with the right headlight out, he proceeded to turn on the headlight in the shop, in broad daylight, and claim he could see everything just fine. What a joke! Of course in broad daylight you can see everything. We might as well inform all the car companies that they only need to make cars with 1 headlight on the side, since it has zero effect on the driving, according to him.
+ After almost an hour of circular arguing (and Corey managing to not punch the smug man in the face for his belittling comments and insults) we settled on them keeping our $100 deposit and paying an extra $5 (on top of our $30 rental). We were both very upset and felt like we maybe should have been much angrier and not reasonable (though in a foreign country, where people can buy off police, that’s never a good idea).
+ Still upset but happy to be done with the situation, we walked back to our hostel, gathered our bags, and then boarded the first ferry off the island. Eager to leave that situation behind us, and happy it was not worse physically or financially, we counted our blessings and put our focus to enjoying our upcoming travels.
+ Back on the mainland, we broke one of our travel rules and paid probably triple the price to make our journey to San Juan Del Sur much quicker and more convenient (as opposed to chicken buses). This was partially because we were so drained from the scooter debacle, and partially because our injuries (particularly Corey’s) left us a bit handicapped and wary of trying to get on/off chicken buses quickly.
+ Thankfully our taxi driver was very nice and took us all the way to our hostel, so we didn’t need to lug our bags very far. We checked in to Casa de Olas and were happy to be greeted by much friendlier people than our previous hostel.
+ Although we were in a party hostel, all of the crazy people from the weekend had checked out that morning. So we were given our own private dorm room, which was really nice.
+ We then caught the free shuttle into the actual town of San Juan Del Sur (we were staying way up a hill about 10 km outside of town). During the 2 hours we had before the return shuttle we grabbed lunch, checked out different tour/bus companies,  had some happy hour drinks overlooking the cove, and explored the town.
+ Rode the shuttle back and spent the next couple hours socializing, playing a new drinking game the Aussie’s call Downers, and eating a family style dinner of chicken curry.
+ Apparently Tuesday nights also have a pub crawl and nearly everyone was heading out. We would normally have gone with, but since we had just spent so much money on the scooter, we decided to be lame and hang out at the hostel instead. So the evening was spent browsing Facebook, Instagram, and enjoying the silence of what was now basically our own private beach resort.

2/24
+ Woke up to find Corey’s toiletry bag halfway through our window leading to the monkey enclosure, with all of the contents missing. We reasoned that the monkey must have reached his arm through the fence, in between the partially open slats and grabbed the toiletry bag from Corey’s backpack! We quickly surveyed the monkey enclosure and sure enough, stuff was scattered all throughout their messy playground. We spoke to the staff who escorted us to the gate and then he went in and recovered as many of Corey’s toiletries as possible. In the end, we got back about 1/3 of our stuff, and didn’t lose anything of great value that couldn’t be replaced.
+ We then ate our free pancake breakfast at the hostel and caught their free shuttle 10 minutes down the mountain and into town.
+ From there, we booked another shuttle to Maderas beach, where we happened to hang out with Emilie and Julia again-  two Canadian girls we have been running into multiple times in different cities on our travels.
+ We also ventured off up the beach to explore the jutting rocks, tide pools, and nice tranquil coves. The water in this area was super clear and made for great swimming. We would have loved to stay longer and enjoy the sights, but we had to catch our shuttle back to town.
+ After the 30 minute ride back south, we enjoyed a cerveza while watching sunset over an almost too perfect picturesque setting of little sailboats and houseboats in the cove, surrounded by cliffs. Although we’ve never been huge sunset enthusiasts, even we can’t stop ourselves from snapping way too many photos of the beautiful orange, purple and pink skies as the sun fades away.
+ When the hoards of people on the beach taking photos finally dispersed, we took it as our cue to leave as well and set off for our next stop for the night, a brewery!
+ As we mentioned in Honduras, finding good beer in Central America has been a tough undertaking. When we do finally stumble upon a brewery with delicious craft brews, it’s nearly impossible (and would be downright wrong) not to sample them all … multiple times.
+ So after we finished with our flights of their 3 different homemade beers, we went across the street to a good (an,d cheap) seafood restaurant that was recommended. Our referral source was spot on and we split a delicious seafood dinner, comprised of about 5 different types of seafood in a big paella-like mixture.
+ We caught the last shuttle back to our hostel at 8 and then spent the evening hanging out around the pool watching drunken debauchery from some of the Australian Amigos in town for their last night. The hostel had a policy where if you accidentally bumped into and knocked over the giant Jenga tower, you had to run around the pool naked. Let’s just say it happened often enough to question if they were all still accidents. Luckily, we kept our distance and made it to bed unscathed.

2/25
+ Today marks 2 months of travel!!! It’s hard to believe how fast time has gone by, and how many things we’ve done/places we’ve been to. We were nearing the end of our time in our 5th country, Nicaragua but had 1 more full day for exploring.
+ Hermosa beach was our destination for the day, about 30 minutes south and known for big beaches and lots of Surfing.
+ After 2 more shuttle rides, we arrived just in time to snatch up the last available hammock. The views were great and luckily we had a very strong ocean breeze to combat the oppressing heat. We didn’t laze around for too long though because we wanted to go exploring the tide pools while it was still low tide.
+ So we at off on foot again and for about 2 hours we wandered around on the perilous cliffs and rocky outcroppings. It was very similar to the coast of California with the huge waves crashing against the cliffs and various coves, just far less abundant sea life. We still managed to find a few different sea creatures before hunger drove us back towards the restaurant area. Unfortunately on our trek through a shrubbery area, Liz had her second bout of “I love to put my hand on a cactus” fever. So as her left hand was still recovering from the scooter induced road rash, her right hand’s jealousy led to Liz picking out about 20-30 little cactus needles from the folds of her fingers.
+ Lunch was surprisingly filling and afterwards we spent the rest of our beach excursion lounging in hammocks reading travel guides and watching surfers successfully (and some unsuccessfully) catch some gnarly waves.
+ There was another gorgeous sunset right over one of the huge rocks jutting out of the ocean and we managed to see it through just long enough before hopping on our return shuttle back into town.
+ We had 2 hours to kill (or so we thought) until our hostel shuttle came so we grabbed dinner at a cheap roadside Mexican restaurant, then stopped by the Brewery again for a blues fest they were having. We had heard they would have some different beers on tap, but we were forced to drink the same delicious ones from the night before. Darn.
+ The 8 pm shuttle that was supposed to pick us up never came. After 30 minutes of standing around waiting, we ducked into a different hostel to await the next shuttle at 10pm that headed right next door to our place. While we waited, we researched for our border crossing into Costa Rica the next day.
+ After finally arriving back at our hostel, we spent our last night there hanging out with people, swimming in the pool, and preparing for tomorrow’s travels. Luckily, we somehow still had the whole 6 person dorm room to ourselves this whole time!

2/26
+ In the morning after breakfast we booked flight tickets out of Costa Rica since they require you to show onward transportation when entering through customs.
+ We said goodbye at the hostel and then walked down the hill to the main road to wait for the chicken bus from San Juan Del Sur to Rivas, where we would catch a different bus to the border.
+ After standing around for a while with no luck, we finally agreed on a good price with a taxi driver to the border, skipping the backtracking to Rivas and saving some time. He was nice and gave us some helpful tips and info for Costa Rica. We’re really happy we took Spanish Lessons in Guatemala otherwise we wouldn’t be able to communicate well in these types of situations!
+ The border crossing was rather seamless and relatively quick, compared to other crossings we had done. We even got a good exchange rate from the Nicaraguan Cordobas to the Costa Rican Colones. Which is good, because we had been repeatedly warned by many other travelers how expensive Costa Rica is compared to other surrounding countries, so we would need every penny we could get!
+ We immediately caught a bus to Liberia, where we would catch another bus to our destination for the next few days, Playa Tamarindo. This place was recommended by Liz’s relatives so we were excited to visit some of the same places they had been.
+ Corey was particularly excited about Costa Rica, as it had been near the top of his bucket list for many years! Plus he read so much about the country in the guide books, he was anxious to do all the exciting adventures Costa Rica offers!
+ After arriving in the Liberia bus station we got our next ticket, but unfortunately the bus wasn’t leaving for 90 minutes so we plopped down in a bus station cafe and did more reading until it was time to undergo what was to be our most interesting chicken bus ride yet.
+ We sat in the back row bench this time to keep an eye on our bags, even though we knew it would be a bumpier ride. Although the ride was only about 2 hours, we had some very interesting characters sit next to us. The first was a drunk girl in her 20’s who was very friendly and even spoke decent English, but was very hard to understand due to the slurred words and erratic train of thought. The second was a large sweaty man in his 40’s who at first seemed angry and standoff-ish, but then also started talking to us about who knows what. We both tried our best to communicate in Spanish or English with him, but we were never sure exactly what he was saying. It turned into a 20 minute game of charades while we covered topics ranging from snow, Santa and chimneys, him maybe or maybe not liking various states (we’re not sure which) and smiling a lot. Or none of those are correct and we were as confused as we looked.
+ This “chicken bus” was different than most because instead of going on the most direct path to it’s destination (but still stopping frequently to pick up people) it turned on a bunch of side roads, and in and out of neighborhoods. So it took twice as long as it should have. We asked someone if this bus was indeed headed to Tamarindo and they just responded “Yes. Pura Vida” (Meaning relax and go with the flow).
+ After finally making it to the end of the bus line, we walked through town to Pura Vida hostel and checked into the last 2 dorm beds.
+ We quickly befriended a Canadian guy who had been staying in Tamarindo for about 10 days already and loved it. He gave us some tips and pointers about the area and then walked us about halfway towards a dinner spot he recommended before we parted ways. Liz was craving some southern style BBQ and she was in luck because Tamarindo was the most touristy place we’d been since we started in Cancun, so they had tons of American style restaurants and shops (at American prices) and huge resorts too. So we easily found a BBQ restaurant and indulged our nostalgic taste buds.
+ After dinner we walked around exploring the city and found another brewery! (One of the perks of the American influence in the city. ) We sampled some of the craft beers they had on tap, but chose to move along due to the small cups you got and the poor service. But the beer was good!
+ On our walk back to our hostel, we happened to see a giant movie projector screen on the top of a tall hotel showing the most recent Star Wars movie! We were both excited to watch it again so we hurriedly found our way to the top, only to catch the last 5 minutes or so. Although we were disappointed, they were about to start their second movie which was “The Revenant” so Corey talked Liz into staying and watching. We ended up being the only ones up there the whole time so it was like our own private rooftop theater! Complete with a cool ocean breeze and a cold beer. We were happy we were there for their weekly movie night.
+ Afterwards we went back to the hostel and quietly snuck into our dorm rooms, as usual being the last ones awake.

 

Click here for more photos of Nicaragua and photos of Costa Rica!

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Nicaragua: 2/13-2/19

Leon >>> Poneloya >>> Las Penitas >>> Granada >>> Laguna de Apoyo >>> Granada

2/13
+ Had to get up early for our Volcano Boarding excursion on Cerro Negro.
+ Our hostel, Tortuga Booluda, provides fee pancake batter for guests to cook their own pancakes. Liz lit a gas stove for the first time and cooked pancakes for us!
+ We walked to Quetzaltrekkers and met up with our group. Rode in the back of some sort of Army jeep for about 45 minutes out to the Volcano. On the way out, another Volcano nearby called Telica actually erupted right in front of us! We didn’t get to see any lava, but still watched huge clouds of smoke and ash bellow into the sky, which was pretty cool.
+ On our shuttle, we met some nice people from the states (NC, and CA) and a nice Swedish girl, Rebekah, who was actually staying at our hostel!
+ Our trek to the top of the Cerro Negro volcano took about 45 minutes and we got to view the crater and a few sulfur steam vents with all of the yellow stained rocks around them. The higher we got, the more windy it got. This made for some treacherous trekking with the boards strapped to our backs between our backpacks. (We each looked like Buzz Lightyear with the boards strapped to our backs) At times we felt like we were almost blown off the mountain with the 50+ mph winds.
+ It was finally time to go Volcano Boarding! After putting on our full body suits, safety glasses, gloves, and bandanas, almost every inch of our body was covered and we were ready.
+ They say opposites attract, and never have Liz and I had such opposite experiences as we did going down the mountain. Since you have the ability to control how fast you go (based on how much you use your feet to slow and stop yourself), it’s up to each person what level of daredevil they want to achieve. Liz set the record that day for slowest descent, seemingly slow enough to admire each rock and viewpoint along the way. Corey nearly broke the sound barrier and his rocket sled trip ended at the bottom after about 30 seconds, leaving a trail of dust and an avalanche of rocks tumbling down behind him.
+ Both of us had a lot of fun though and luckily our tour company was the only one to allow us to go down twice! So back up the mountain we went (although this time half the group opted to stay behind, content with only the 1 risky thrill ride). The hike up was even more windy this time, but we made it up faster with the smaller group. Our second rides down, Corey went even faster, clocking in around 77 kilometers per hour, and Liz may have gone even slower (but was still the prettiest and most graceful Volcano Border in all of Nicaragua!).
+ Afterwards we met up with the rest of our group and had a delicious lunch of soft tacos with a new fancy ingredient: refried bean paste! Despite the name (and look), it was actually really good and everyone at the table stuffed themselves.
+ The ride back to the hostel was fun and we were all good friends by the time we arrived back in León. Dirty, hot and sweaty we all said our goodbyes and raced back to our hostels to take showers and get the countless black rocks out of our hair, ears, noses and other various crevices.
+ After our showers, we stayed confined to sweat in our hostel and escape the sun for the remaining few hours of daylight.
+ In the evening we went out again and after a quick stop to buy shirts from our Volcano boarding experience, we headed down to get ice cream at a place we had been recommended to visit called “Kiss Me”. Although the ice cream was very good, we paid more than we normally do for dinner for 2 here.
+ While strolling through the city afterwards, we found a celebration concert taking place in Central Park. They were celebrating the 100 year anniversary of some famous freedom poet  (we think?) and there were various dancing and singing groups that performed. We stayed for about 90 minutes and alternated between watching the concert, the nearby wedding taking place at the huge cathedral, and just watching all the different types of people walk through the park.
+ We had heard about a delicious pizza place we needed to visit so we headed there for dinner. The place had funny drawings on the wall, but the food (and service) was a bit disappointing.
+ On the walk back to our hostel, we passed a bunch of crazy clubs and bars that rivaled Downtown Orlando!
+ The rest of the evening was spent lounging in hammocks at the hostel and planning our next few travel moves.

2/14
+ We slept in a little at our hostel and woke up just in time to have the last few pancakes.
+ It was time to head back to the Pacific Coast, our first time there since we were in Guatemala. We were going to a secluded backpacking lodge on the beach called the Surfing Turtle that was only about 45 minutes southwest of León.
+ The shuttle to the Poneloya beach was leaving from a different hostel so we packed up our stuff and walked over there in time to catch the bus with about 8 other backpackers.
+ When our shuttle bus went as far as it could, we had to then strap on our bags and walk a couple hundred yards through soggy sand (it was low tide so no boats or cars would work). We eventually reached a deep enough part that had a little river to cross so we paid a dollar, and boarded a boat for all of 30 seconds to go about 30 feet to the other side. Then it was another 15 minutes of walking to the actual hostel. There was supposed to be a free horse and carriage to pick us up and take us, but as usual in Central America, things are not always as advertised.
+ Covered in sweat from the almost nauseating heat, we checked into our dorm room and ordered lunch.
+ The last thing you want to do when you’re hungry, hot and tired is wait forever for your lunch. But that’s exactly what happened as we watched seemingly every other person in the hostel get there food as we sat there for over 2 hours waiting! We finally complained (for the 2nd time) and magically less than 5 minutes later we got our food. We assume they had lost our ticket. This experience, combined with some surly staff members, was not a very good start to our experience here.
+ After we finished our small and tasteless burgers from their overpriced menu, we could finally do what we came here to do and relax at the beach!
+ We relaxed in the hammocks and read the guidebooks for the upcoming countries.
+ The hostel was hosting a “speed dating” activity to celebrate Valentine’s Day. We did not participate but had fun asking each other the silly questions the organizer had selected.
+ After the speed dating the main bar closed and the beach bar opened up with a bonfire. Everyone moved down closer to the water to continue hanging out.
+ The surfing turtle is the only thing on this section of beach as it becomes an island with low tide. With almost zero light pollution, we could see the clearest night sky we had ever seen! So many stars! We felt like we could even see the Milky Way!
+ Went to bed in our 16 bed dorm on the 2nd floor of a thatched roof hut. We made sure to book this dorm specifically as we had heard great things from other travelers. The dorm was completely open air. (2 walls were only screens) this meant we had great ventilation and beautiful views to wake up to!
+ Corey’s bed was a top bunk closest to the screen. He definitely enjoyed his sleep that night!

2/15
+ Woke up to the beautiful view and packed up our bags since we were checking out today.
+ Ordered breakfast of pancakes and fruit. Liz says they were the best pancakes she has ever had!
+ All of our accomodations in Nicaragua have offered free organic coffee throughout the day but it’s been SO HOT everywhere that Liz had not even taken advantage of this!
+ Hung out at the beach for most of the day. Corey played KanJam (a frisbee game) with some Canadian guys and finally got to use his football he won from Miller Lite back in Honduras.
+ After a small lunch, we headed back into town to our next hostel. We eventually caught the local bus and rode it a short ride to the other side of the beach called Las Penitas.
+ We checked in to Barco de Oro and were greeted with free juice, friendly staff, and mermaid wall art! This hotel was not right near the waves but was actually right along the tidal flats.
+ We walked down the beach a bit to watch sunset and the waves splashing over the large rocks.
+ Back at Barco de Oro we ate dinner (another delicious and cheap jalapeño steak!) and planned out our next moves.

2/16
+ Corey decided to skip surfing lessons for now and wait for better waves.
+ Ate lunch at a nearby hotspot called the Lazy Turtle and had a lazy day researching how to get to Granada and where to stay once we arrived.
+ Caught the local bus back into Leon. This bus was much more crowded than the previous day and stopped on the far west side of Leon. Hired a taxi to take us directly to the bus station for Managua.
+ Rode in small minivan to Managua then on to Granada on the city bus. All for less than $3/pp!
+ Arrived in Granada around 9 pm. Had trouble finding our hostel because Google and Tripadvisor both showed incorrect addresses. After walking about 12 blocks with all of our gear, we finally stopped into Oasis Hostel  (not our original choice) and booked 2 nights. Oasis had tons of signs advising not to walk around the city at night.  Woops! We were glad we didn’t have any problems.
+ Got dinner at a tipico restaurant for really cheap and watched street performers.
+ Walked back to the hostel, set the fan on full blast, and tried to fall asleep as quickly as possible to escape the heat.

2/17
+ Spent most of the day lazing about in the hammocks and using the free computers to do research for upcoming travel and tried our best to stay cool.
+ Left the hostel in the afternoon and saw a long line of people waiting for something a few doors down from the hostel. Eventually a door opened and the waiting adults poured into the building. One by one each person  reimerged toting a little kid. It was the pickup line for elementary school! Most parents rode away on their bikes with the kid sitting sidesaddle on the bike frame. It was quite a sight with the bikes riding every which way on the sidewalk and down the middle of the road.
+ Talked to a few tour companies about activites for the next few days.
+ Ate dinner at Toritos and decided to take advantage of the promotion they were running for a good deal on a nice room. We made a reservation for a room for the next night with AC! Woohoo! What a luxury!

2/18
+ After another free breakfast of AYCE pancakes, we checked out of Oasis and moved our bags across town to Toritos.
+ Took the shuttle to Laguna de Apoyo and stayed the day at Paradiso Hostel.
+ It was so windy the lake was more like an ocean with waves! The cooler weather was a great escape from the Granada heat.
+ We spent a while lounging in hammocks, reading our travel guides, and sipping on a licuado.
+ Then we headed down to the beach (lake) where Corey got some use out of his football and threw around with some french Canadians for a bit while Liz floated in a tube on the lake.
+ Returned to Granada and headed back over to Toritos to shower and enjoy our AC!
+ Ate some disappointing pizza for dinner at a place that was popular, but not very well organized.
+ Met Rebekah (from volcano boarding) and her hostel mates for a drink.
+ Went back to Toritos and watched some spanish TV before bed. Corey really likes watching movies he’s already seen in Spanish and trying to figure out what they’re saying.

2/19
+ After breakfast we took a walk down to the coast of Lake Nicaragua. This is the largest lake in Central America! It was obvious the city had done some beautification of this area but unfortunately it was still not a great part of town.
+ On the walk back, we unknowingly walked under someone actively painting the ceiling of an overhang. Liz got a big drop of paint on her lip and quickly realized what was going on! We ran past the building and escaped with only a few drops on our clothes (including 1 big one right on Corey’s crotch area, so that will surely look weird every time he wears that shirt in the future).
+ Wanting to work out some kinks we had developed from these hard dorm beds, we decided to try a unique experience we had read about online. It was a place called the  Seeing Hands Blind Massage. This business offers cheap massages and a source of employment for the local blind residents of Granada. We each got a 40 min massage for $11 each!
+ Ate a quick lunch of leftover pizza and then caught the free shuttle to the Treehouse hostel.
+ Treehouse is exactly that! A treehouse built into the side of Mombacho Volcano about 30 minutes outside of Granada. A suspension bridge, lots of hammocks and thatched roofs and also a lot of climbing up and down the side of the mountain for the bathroom and private rooms.
It is a cool setting being in the middle of the jungle with monkeys all around but the hostel itself was overpriced and not very well managed.
+ Ate a communal, family style dinner the hostel workers cooked that consisted of chicken and rice. Corey sweet talked one of the staffers and managed to sneak in some seconds!
+ The place was also known as a party hostel and since it was Friday night, and the treehouse was offering free shuttles from Granada every couple of hours, more and more people kept showing up. Eventually drunken craziness was beginning to surround us and we were starting to question if this place was for us.
+ Luckily, right when we were considering escaping to our room to watch a movie, we met 2 Canadian girls named Jessie and Tanice. They ended making the trip out there well worth it! We spent the whole night talking and people watching. The now crazy party combined with the motor skills needed to get around to each part the treehouse made for lots of excellent people watching. Occasionally people needed assistance back to their room/bed (who knows if it was their bed!?)
+ Around 2am the 4 of us decided it was bed time and made the 10 minute climb down the rocky path to the rooms in the dark. Fell asleep listening to the crazy party still going on.
+ Liz woke up once or twice at night and early morning to the sounds of howler monkeys outside our room, but luckily they haven’t evolved enough to pick locks so we were safe inside our room and mosquito net.

Click here for more photos from Nicaragua!

Honduras & Nicaragua: 2/6-2/12

La Ceiba >>> Lago de Yojoa >>> Leon

2/6
+ Our hostel had a nice hearty breakfast ready for us in preparation for our White Water rafting trip we were to go on later in the day.
+ Luckily we weren’t the only ones signed up for the rafting today. We were joined by another nice couple staying at our hostel.
+ The 7 of us (including both guides and 1 of their wives) successfully navigated 2 small rafts through class 3 and 4 white water rapids down the Rio Cangrejal.
+ Maybe the highlight of the trip was when we had the chance to stop and jump off these really tall cliffs into the rapids below. Corey went first and when he resurfaced still breathing, the rest of us decided to give it a shot as well. After our 2 new friends jumping and the crazy guide back flipping into the river it was Liz’s turn. Thankfully Vegas wasn’t taking any bets at the moment otherwise Corey would have lost every cent he had because Liz actually jumped! From 40+ feet up in the air! While Corey thanks the influence of our new friends and some blatant peer pressure from the guide and group played a part, it was still so brave for Liz to jump! Way to go!
+ We were making small talk with our guide in between rapids. When asked our professions, Corey confidently stated he is a pharmaceutical fork!! (The word for sales and fork is very close) The 3 of us had a good laugh.
+ We then finished the rest of the rapids and survived riding on the rafts on the trailer back to the hostel (out of necessity, not just for fun).
+ We decided to explore up and down this only road in and out of the jungle here and ducked into a few different hotels and restaurants. Our favorite was a place called Pico Bonito, a fancy resort style lodge situated right on the river!
+ We ate lunch overlooking both the infinity pool and 100 foot waterfall down the mountain in the distance (not too mention the gorgeous garden that was perfectly manicured).
+ Just in our short time touring the luxury resort, we got the itch to take a break from our backpacking dorm rooms and splurge for a night here. We spoke to the manager who was extremely nice and we were able to land a room for the next night for 33% Off and a free room upgrade!
+ After lunch we walked up the mountain towards the section of the river containing class 5 rapids and were joined by a new friend, Ace, a very friendly German Shepherd. He left his animal oasis of a home and walked with us the whole time up and about halfway back. Unfortunately when we stopped to explore another hotel called Omega, he was chased off into the woods by 2 big (and mean) rottweillers. We were really worried he would get lost but the manager of Omega assured us it wasn’t the first time it had happened and that Ace always found his way home in the past.
+ At Omega, Liz lounged around in a hammock drinking a licuado while Corey went hiking at the hotel’s personal hiking trail for about 45 minutes. We then followed that up with some beers and chatting with other travellers before heading back to our Jungle River Lodge.
+ Liz then flexed her own bargaining skills and got us free use of the hot water showers to avoid another night of icy cold torture showers.
+ After another good dinner right there at the hostel, we watched “In the Heart of the Sea” with Liam (our dormmate) and then feel asleep listening to the rain and weird jungle sounds again!

2/7
+ The next morning we woke up to find out it had been pouring rain all night long and that the river had risen almost 20 feet from the day before! It was now much rougher looking and the river itself was brown instead of blue like before. We also discovered that the power at our hostel (and the whole mountain) had gone out and wouldn’t be back on for a while.
+ We ate breakfast at our hostel again, and then since it was still raining we decided to have a lazy morning inside and watched Bridge of Spies until lunch time.
+ We ate lunch there and then packed up our bags and moved down the road to Pico Bonito.
+ They also did not have power, but we explored their gardens for a couple of hours before we got ready to leave with the owner, Richard. He had offered to take us into town with him to a super bowl party at a cool restaurant right on the beach. This was perfect since there was still no power up on the mountain and there wouldn’t have been much else to do.
+ On the way to the party we stopped at a house owned by the people who worked at Richard’s place and hung out with them for a while. They were really nice and hospitable. We shared some cocktails while we used their Internet to book onward travel the next day. All of the people we’ve met in Honduras have been extremely friendly!
+ The superbowl party was a lot of fun and we met a lot of people, mainly ex pats from different countries (mostly U.S.) who now made their living owning different establishments around town. Plus the restaurant had an all you can eat buffet of delicious food which we (especially Corey) made sure to take full advantage of.
+ One interesting thing that happened was that a Miller Lite rep showed up and whoever was drinking a Miller lite got a free, regulation size NFL football! Although Corey was drinking a local beer at the time, he quickly switched to miller lite to get a football, and it worked! But who knew they had beer reps here in Honduras, how strange! (One of the bar patrons told Liz that the rep used to have sexy girl reps that came around with him until a couple of years ago when the girls were kidnapped by a gang. So they stopped doing that. No wonder Honduras has a safety travel warning.)
+ After the Broncos won we rode with Richard back up to his place (which still didn’t have power) and got ready to leave the next day before going to sleep.

2/8
+ Woke up a little early in Pico Bonito and got ready to leave. While waiting for Richard to take us into town to catch our shuttle, we spent the morning playing fetch with the dogs and admiring the beautiful jungle scenery for one last time.
+ Richard drove us the 25 Minutes down the mountain to Burger King (located in a very touristy part of town with Dunkin Donuts, Popeyes, Pizza Hut, etc. also around the area) where we were to meet our shuttle driver.
+ To make a long story short, the weather was still bad so they had initially canceled the ferry from Utila and our shuttle was going to leave with about 4 people (including us) towards our next destination, Lago de Yojoa. However at the last minute they decided to run the ferry (after some people on the island already bought a flight from the island to La Ceiba. So we ended up having to wait at burger King for almost 4 hours while the shuttle driver ordered another bus, and a couple cars to take all the new people that wanted to make the trip as well (since the ferry had not left the island in a number of days due to weather, there were a lot of people leaving now and wanted onward transportation).
+ So after waiting at Burger King for 4 hours we actually ended up riding with the shuttle driver’s wife in her personal car (a Scion, just like Marymom’s car!) To a halfway point where we got into a different shuttle bus for the rest of the trip. Plus, our bags were on top of a different bus the whole time, but luckily they did eventually arrive at the same destination as us.
+ We finally arrived at our hotel, D&D Brewery, the only brewery we’ve come across and it’s right in the middle of the jungle!
+ We checked in and spent the evening sampling the local craft beers by ordering flights and sitting around the camp fire to keep warm (it was much colder than our previous spot).
+ Went back to the room and watched the movie “Sisters” before falling asleep.

2/9
+ Decided to sleep in late and have a lazy day. Actually had to use our ear plugs for the first time due to all the noise outside by people who were getting up at a normal hour like losers!
+ Spent almost the entire day on our tablets around the main hangout area catching up on the blog and more importantly, watching hummingbirds fly around the area to all the different bird feeders.
+ Liz was very fascinated by all the different types of hummingbirds and their interactions with each other and how close they would fly by us.
+ Tried a couple new food dishes and beers from the bar and eventually headed back to the room somehow tired from perhaps our laziest day yet.
+ Watched “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” before going to sleep.

2/10
+ Slept in a little bit again today and while eating brunch we planned out the rest of our day.
+ Walked 30 minutes to the next town to try and get cash from the ATM. Unfortunately it didn’t like our card so we had to catch a bus to the next town after that to withdraw money there.
+ Finally got the money and then took a Tuk Tuk back south to our desired destination, a giant 43 meter waterfall called Pulhapanazak Falls.
+ We had originally intended to both not only hike to view the waterfall, but to climb behind it. Unfortunately we were not properly informed on just how wet we would get and once there we found out we would in fact get completely drenched and since we did not have a change of clothes or bathing suit with us, Liz chose to stay warm and dry while Corey stripped down to just his shorts and went in with the guide.
+ The waterfall was massive and extremely powerful up close, but a lot of fun to swim/climb up to and behind it. The force of the misty spray alone felt like I was being pelted with BB gun bullets. We viewed the caves behind the waterfall, but the openings were so tiny and pitch black that we didn’t go in.
+ We eventually made it back to the world class photographer, Liz, and Corey changed back into his dry clothes. We then explored the rest of the park before heading out with a little bit of daylight left.
+ Having walked back to the main road and no bus in sight, we decided to hitch hike back to town and hopped into the back of a pickup truck. Although not the most comfortable ride of all time, it was free and we didn’t get abducted/killed so we count it as a win!
+ Corey wanted something different than the same food we had been eating at our hotel so he grabbed some fried chicken from the little town on the way back.
+ Back at D&D, Liz got dinner and we decided it was time to move on to our next destination so we booked onward travel for the next day with the same guy who had brought us here from La Ceiba  (a little more expensive than the bus/taxi route option, but much more convenient and stress-free).
+ We finished the night sipping more of the local craft beer and roasting Marshmallows around the fire with some friends we met from the UK.
+ We did have 1 fun little surprise before the night was up however; the 2 local house cats each brought us dead/half dead mice as parting gifts and symbols of their eternal love for us. They then proceeded to toss them around in the air (as high as 5 feet up) while simultaneously performing acrobatic stunts. The cats were tossing the mice all around us! After watching and laughing for a while, we realized there was a very high probability at least one of us would get hit with this mouse corpse as it flies through the air.  Bed time, we decided- so we packed up and moved back to the room.

2/11
+ Woke up early on our last day at D&D Brewery to do 1 more activity before we left, and that was to actually see the lake (since we did travel all the way here to Lago de Yojoa)!
+ Rented a double kayak and a very, very, very old beat up truck took us to a nearby canal that connected to the lake. After about 25 Minutes paddling through the canal, we reached the lake which was teeming with many different kinds of birds. We explored the outskirts for about half an hour before heading back since we still had to pack up to leave.
+ Once back at the Brewery, we found out our shuttle was going to be arriving around 12 instead of 1 which put us into a mad scramble for the next 30-40 minutes trying to get everything ready. Luckily we were able to get everything together enough to throw it in the shuttle van, pay our bill, and grab a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches to go since we had skipped breakfast earlier and were starving.
+ Took off in the shuttle van with 6 other people to meet our main shuttle driver an hour away on the main road to our next destination: Leon, Nicaragua!
+ After about 7.5 hours in a shuttle bus with no individual seats or headrests we finally reached the Honduran/Nicaraguan border! (Would’ve been a lot faster if we didn’t stop every hour or so).
+ After exchanging money and getting politely ripped off with the exchange rate, as usual, we got our passports stamped and then hopped on the bus again for a few more hours to Leon.
+ Luckily the van came equipped with a dvd player and we got to watch movies the whole way. We watched Pain & Gain, Django Unchained, (most of) Steve Jobs, and Fast and Furious 6.
+ We finally ended our 10.5 hour journey in Leon around 11 pm. The bus dropped us off in front of a famous party place, BigFoot Hostel. We decided to just spend the night there instead of trying to trek across town looking for another hostel at 11 pm.
+ We opted for a private room to get away from the noise, but it was right next to the kitchen and due to some overly ambitious girls cooking about 7 lasagna dishes, our room was literally as hot as an oven.
+ After escaping our room, we grabbed some new Nicaraguan beers and talked with some people and then researched for our time in Nicaragua. We ended up staying up later than everybody else (as usual). Those youngsters just can’t keep us with us seasoned night owls.

2/12
+ After waking up sweating like we just finished a hike, we were already yearning the previous 6 days of cold crisp mountain air. We decided to check out of Bigfoot and hike to the other side of town and check into a nicer, cheaper hostel Liz had found called Hostal Tortuga Booluda. We opted for the dorm room this time since the people seemed more our style (tranquilo).
+ We gathered info from the hostess then set off to explore the city on foot. We grabbed some delicious tipico food (big plate) and 2 drinks for a total of $4! That includes both of us!
+ There is a really unique looking, historic Cathedral near Central Park that we visited after lunch. We climbed up the very tiny stairway to the roof to get sweeping views of the city. It was as if we were transported to Santorini, Greece because everything was white washed! (This Cathedral was built in 1747! Wow!)
+ It was a great view point to see other historic churches and the surrounding mountains.
+ Afterwards, to cool off (or at least that was Liz’s excuse) we stopped in a Smoothie shop and we shared a delicious Shake.
+ Now it was time for our regular interrogation of different tour companies that we do in each city to learn about all the different activities/excursions and price shop. We ended up choosing a tour to go Volcano Boarding down a Volcano called Cerro Negro. The company we chose was called Quetzaltrekkers. They not only had a great price and included lunch, but they were the only company that let us go down the mountain twice! And best of all, they donate 100% of their profits to charity.
+ As we wandered through town checking out all the different shops and restaurants, we were looking to escape the unbearable heat. We stumbled upon a movie theater and decided to watch “Deadpool”. Our first movie theater experience overseas! (Theater was the same, but the movie was only $3.50 and it actually started at the exact time listed! No extra 20 minutes of previews. Weird!) The movie was way funnier than expected and we were happy with our choice.
+ Only a block away was a cool place called Via Via that we went to afterwards to lounge around in the hammocks and enjoy some cervezas.
+ The dinner smelled too appetizing to pass up so we decided to forgo our original dinner plans (which included another 15 minute trek across town) and grab dinner here instead. Liz got some chicken fajitas and Corey got 1 of the best filet mignon steaks he’s ever had! It even included Jalapeño sauce! Soooooo good!
+ When we were finished licking the plates, we got back into a big hammock for 2 just in time for the food coma to set in. After an hour or so, we embarked on the walk back home and spent the rest of the evening lounging at the hostel and updating the blog/pictures.

Click here to see more photos from Honduras or photos from Nicaragua!

Honduras: 1/29 – 2/5

 

Antigua >>> Copan >>> Utila >>> La Ceiba

1/29
+ After only a few hours of sleep, our shuttle bus picked us up at 4am from our hostel for our 7 hour journey into Honduras.
+ We tried to sleep most the way but were not very successful.
+ Finally said goodbye to Guatemala after about 3 weeks and crossed the border and arrived in Copan, Honduras around 11am.
+ Explored the town and ate authentic street food for lunch.
+ Walked to different bus stations and mutual travel agencies to find out information about onward travel to Utila.
+ Napped back at our hostel “Berakah”.
+ Delicious (and fancy) dinner at Twisted Tanya’s. Corey had jalapeño filet mignon and Liz had ravioli.
+ Corey watched “The Avengers” in Spanish on TV while Liz organized pictures on the tablet.

1/30
+ Woke up to our hostel (and the entire town) not having any electricity or water. Fun!
+ Wandered around town until we found a good breakfast/lunch spot.
+ Afterwards, we had a 20 minute hike out to the main attraction of the town, the Copan Ruins.
+ Explored the ruins and surrounding nature trails for a few hours. We saw a few Agouti, a Honduran deer!, a Capuchin monkey (looked exactly like Marcel from “Friends”!), and tons of wild Macaws!
+ After finishing with the ruins, we sat under some trees and watched the Macaws eat, argue, and fly all around us. Really cool!
+ Walked back into town and caught a Tuk-Tuk to the “Tea & Chocolate Place”, a neat family run reforestation project.
+ After sampling their various noni tea, chocolate (with fresh cacao beans) and homemade hot sauces, we relaxed in hammocks, drank some delicious chocolate, and watched the sunset over the jungle.
+ Ate dinner at multiple street food stands  (tacos and kebabs!)
+ On a quest to find a shop willing to make change for our large bills, we met the owner of a dive center/hotel on Guanaja (the 3rd bay island). He was very nice and his hotel sounded great! Unfortunately Guanaja is very remote and only accessed via express air charter. So we don’t think we’ll get to it on this backpacking trip, but hopefully in the future!

1/31
+ Woke up early to catch 6 am bus to La Ceiba. We decided to forego the direct tourist shuttle because it was 3 times the price of the local bus. When we arrived at the local bus station, the 6am bus was not the same as advertised and was actually an old school bus with updated seats. Because of the savings, we hopped on anyway for the projected 7-10 hour ride.
+ We connected in San Pedro Sula (yes THE San Pedro Sula everyone says to avoid because of high murder rates) and boarded another bus for the 3ish hour ride to La Ceiba.
+ Liz somehow managed to sleep for the majority of BOTH bus rides! Now that’s talent! Corey caught up on a few movies (Daddy’s Home, Creed, South Park).
+ After arriving in La Ceiba a few of us backpackers all split 2 cabs to get to the dock for the Utila ferry.
+ The cab drivers dropped us off at the ferry for the Utila Dream. We all bought tickets and dropped off our bags to be loaded on the boat. Only after this did we all realize that there is a much cheaper ferry a block down the road! We were so frazzled from our long day of travel, that our whole group of backpackers did not even bother to look for other ferry options! Despite our online research about the ferry, nothing mentioned the 2 different companies with such different price points! We were frustrated that we had saved money on the bus but then lost it again with the more expensive ferry. Oh well. We live and learn.
+ We talked with a friendly traveller (Cait) from Massachusets on the 45 min boat ride to Utila on the large catamaran.
+ After arriving at the ferry dock, we found Captain Morgan’s dive center, checked in to stay, and signed up for dives starting the next day.
+ Ate dinner at the sports bar “Skid Row” so Corey could watch the Pro Bowl. It was awesome.

2/1
+ Woke up at 6:45 am and got ready for diving!
+ Dove 1 dive on the Northside and 1 dive closer to the Southside of the island. The Northside is supposed to have better chances for spotting Whale Sharks as well as better visibility for diving. This was Liz’s first dive in 3 years!
+ On this dive we saw a giant spider crab ( similar to those you would see in Alaska!), a lobster (possibly dead?), and tons of different kinds of fish.
+ Spent the afternoon exploring the rest of the island (looking for good, cheap restaurants) and talking with other dive shops.
+ Ate dinner at Munchies with super cheap pasta special! Yum!
+ Spent the rest of the evening talking to a really nice couple, Gio (a girl from California who majored in biology) and a local Utila guy.

2/2
+ Decided to snorkel instead of diving today to save some extra money, but still went out on the dive boat at the same time in the morning.
+ Snorkeled 2 different sites again (1 north, 1 south), saw a moray eel swimming along the reef, a bunch of trigger fish, and a huge nurse shark (probably 9-10 feet long) just hanging out under a reef shelf!
+ Back at the hostel we showered, packed up, and checked out of our hostel. (We decided that we wanted to try out another company while on the island to better our luck of finding whale sharks!)
+ We ate lunch at a local hotspot called Rehab (famous for their drinking challenge, though we did not partake).
+ Checked into our new place, Altons, on the other side of the island. Spent the afternoon watching “The Rock” in the hang out area and updating the blog.
+ Went out for dinner, stopped to check prices at a party restaurant called “Underwater Vision” and started talking with a nice older couple from Wisconsin! (Right up near where Liz’s family is from!). Ended up eating wings (the 2nd time in 1 day for Corey!) and staying the whole time.
+ Hung out back at our dive hotel and did some blog work while watching “Drive” on tv.

2/3
+ Woke up early again (like our 4th day in a row! Ugh.) to meet our new dive master and get gear ready for our 2 north side dives today.
+ Both of these dives were way more impressive than the 2 previous sites. We explored 2 seamounts with surrounding mazes. (Spur and groove reef)
+ Tons of schooling fish, multiple moray eels, 1 large burrfish (similar to pufferfish), 1 sneaky (and large) barracuda hiding behind the school of fish and 2 cow fish!
+ Corey was an expert at spotting the eels both sleeping and swimming! He pointed them out to the group multiple times!
+ In between the 2 dives, the boat captains are always on the lookout for dolphins, pilot whales or whale sharks to snorkel with. On this trip he spotted some dolphins! Corey and I thought it would be a huge group of dolphins hanging out but only after getting in the water did we realize it was only about 6 dolphins who were swimming by. Liz could see them but was no where close. Corey was able to swim along behind them for about 30 seconds, but because the dolphins were already on the move, none of us snorkeling were able to keep up. We all climbed back in the boat and continued on to the 2nd dive site.
+ After we returned to the dock at Alton’s, we changed and found lunch at a nearby restaurant.
+ We wanted to do a night dive, but Alton’s was charging more than we wanted to spend. We spent the afternoon price checking other dive centers on the island.
+ While diving can be awesome, it is a very expensive hobby! Utila is known for some of the cheapest diving in the world, but diving everyday can still far exceed a backpacker budget.
+ We stopped by the Whale Shark and Oceanic  Research Center here on the island to talk to them about looking for whale sharks. They explained that when pilots are flying between Utila and the mainland, they let the research center know where they have spotted whale sharks. The good news is the research center does not need to drive around randomly looking for the sharks and has a much better chance of actually seeing them. The bad news is no one has seen any sign of the Whale sharks for a few weeks.
+ Watched sunset at Alton’s in the chairs on the dock.
+ Ate dinner at stir fry place that is only open a few days a week. It was delicious and huge portions!
+ After dinner, we walked over to this dock people had mentioned had some wildlife at night. After looking around for a bit we saw tons of huge tarpon hanging out and a few spotted eagle rays swam by!

2/4
+ Ate breakfast at Alton’s and then lounged around in hammocks on the dock before checking in at Underwater Vision.
+ Took a tuk tuk to Coral View. (Small bar with shore access reef at the end of the Utila lagoon)
+ The snorkeling was way better than either of us expected! We were in the water for over 2 hours! The reef was very shallow in some areas and very deep in others. We saw multiple eagle rays, 2 puffer fish, christmas tree worms, TONS of different fish (wrasse, tangs, damsel fish, few groupers, etc.)
+ Caught a tuk tuk back into town and ate lunch of pizza and then split a lionfish burger! Yum! Tasted very similar to crab cake.
+ Came back to Underwater Vision and got fitted with gear for the night dive.
+ This was our first night dive since we got our Advanced Open Water certifications at FSU!
+ The night dive was really awesome and filled with all sorts of cool creatures that are more active and visible at night. We saw 2 octopus, a bunch of shrimp, lobster, a brittle star, and a tiny eel.
+ Throughout the dive we were all swarmed by fish that were attracted to our lights to feed on the illuminated micro organisms! The fish ranged in size from a minnow to the size of Liz’s hand! They were nibbling our hands and arms as they swarmed around us swimming at top speed and bumping into our faces. It was quite the experience.
+ The coolest part was when we all turned off our lights so that we could see the bioluminescence in the water! Simply by moving our arms and legs around, the water would light up with a glowing neon green color with all of the micro organisms that were being disturbed. Super cool!
+ After our dive was over, we all hopped right back into the water without our dive gear just to swim around and see more bioluminescence.
+ We spent the boat ride back alternating between staring at the bioluminescence from the boat disturbing the water below and the magnificent display of stars above.
+ After a quick clean up of our gear for the last time on Utila, we skipped the roudy party scene at our hostel in favor of hanging out with our friend Cait we had met on the way over to Utila.
+ We ended up spending the rest of the night talking with her, a nice girl named Lola, and the coolest bartender on the island, Tom(?). He even kept the bar open for us after hours since we were having such a good time hanging out.
+ On the way back home we grabbed a good street taco to supplement the pizza we had earlier, then packed up our bags back at the room to leave Utila the next day.

2/5
+ Our initial plan was to go snorkeling for 1 last time in the morning from the dive boat, but the water was too choppy and the bed too comfortable so we chose a lazy and relaxing morning instead.
+ After a quick ATM visit and settling up with our hostel, we ate lunch on the dock at Altons and then set off to explore the other end of the island.
+ Walked by some building with very large walls with barbed wire on top and the gate said “King Kong Gate” on it. We nervously chuckled at how that wasn’t possible, and then hurried along just in case.
+ At the end of our walk was a nice public beach/park with Iguanas and a nice snorkeling area, although the wind was still too strong on this day so we cut our visit short and headed back.
+ We spent the remaining hour or so before our ferry was to depart lounging in hammocks and soaking up the last bits of island life before heading back to the mainland.
+ Our ferry ride back was still very smooth despite the much larger waves and we were glad we were in the bigger, more expensive ferry to avoid any potential sea sickness (that we heard happens often with the cheaper, smaller ferry). Plus we still had our free sodas to comfort us.
+ We were met at the gate by our free shuttle driver to the Jungle River Lodge we would be staying at for the next few nights. We were joined by a nice British guy named Liam and after a brief tour of the city and a quick 30 minute taxi ride, we arrived at our new hostel in the jungle. The perfect weather we were blessed with in Utila gave way to about 18 hours straight of rain and much cooler temperatures at our higher altitude.
+ We ate dinner right at the hostel and caught up on work with the tablets before watching the final 80% of “The Fugitive” (Liz had only ever seen the first 20% about 5 different times).

Click here for more photos of our time in Honduras!

Guatemala: 1/22 – 1/28

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San Pedro (Lake Atitlan) >>> Antigua >>> Monterrico >>> Antigua

 

1/22
+ Woke up and had breakfast for the last time with our family. Some sort of weird hot oatmeal and milk soup thing that wasn’t good, but wasn’t bad, just a little weird.
+ Went to our last day of Spanish class and the school had a graduation ceremony for all of the students who were finishing their last day. Both of our maestras introduced us and we both spoke to everyone in Español about our experience in San Pedro.
+ We definitely made major progress with our Spanish abilities, especially Liz who started at almost zero. We are able to carry on conversations with our teachers for 20+ minutes at a time, entirely in Spanish! (Although we each make many many grammar conjugation mistakes) However, we know that outside the school people speak much faster and less clearly so we still tend to struggle to understand everything at times.
+ After class we gave our teachers their presents (little zip up clutch purses from a local tienda), took pictures and said goodbye to our school.
+ After eating 1 last time with our family, we packed up our stuff and moved out of the room/house. We said goodbye to the family members that were there, but most were gone so we promised to return the next day for a photo.
+ We then bought tickets for the boat to another nearby pueblo called Santiago to explore for the afternoon. While waiting for the boat we got some delicious licuados from a restaurant that the son in the family we stayed with manages, and talked with him for a while.
+ On the boat ride to Santiago, the water was pretty rough with lots of splashing into the boat so lots of people were wet by the time we arrived. Luckily it was hot and sunny outside so no big deal.
+ The town of Santiago was a bit disappointing with not much to do, so we just walked the streets for most of the time. We did however watch a large group of teens and guys playing some sort of soccer game with a mini sized ball where the object was not to get the ball in the net, but to hit the pole of the basketball hoop (they were playing on a basketball court). That was really interesting and entertaining.
+ On the way back to the boat, we stopped into a nice looking little cafe to get Liz a nutella cappuccino (and secretly needed a place to use the restroom). The barista was very friendly and also very talented at making drawings with the foam. He made Liz a cute bear that said “Love You”. Afterwards, he offered to let us make a drawing, but we declined the embarrassment that would have ensued to watch him make another one instead. Really cool! (Especially to Corey since he’s never in a Coffee shop)
+ The boat ride back was really intense with lots of major rocking and we were praying we wouldn’t capsize in our tiny boat the whole time (especially since it was very dark). Luckily, the boat captain took precautions and put up a bunch of tarps this time to block all the splashing.
+ Finally back on land safely, we checked into a new hostel we would be staying at for 2 nights on the other side of town (near all of the tourist shops and restaurants instead of the residential area we had been in).
+ Our hostel was called Mr. Mullets and is known as a party hostel, so we opted for a private room instead of a dorm so we could escape the madness when necessary.
+ Although quite a long day already, we wanted to celebrate the completion of our Spanish school, so we headed down the street to another hostel that was having it’s weekly trivia night (same as last week – Hostel Fe).
+ Luckily, we ran into James and Jonathan from our Homestay at trivia and we all teamed up again for the game. We tied with 2 other teams for 1st so to determine the winner, there was a chugging contest with 1 person from each team. James went up, but unfortunately didn’t win so we finished 3rd but were happy with our prize of 5 free tequila shots.
+ After many cervezas and Tequila there, we headed to another hot spot called Sublime. A really cool place situated right on the lake, the place was half filled with hippies vegging out and smoking weed and the other half with people dancing and drinking the night away. We situated ourselves in the middle at a campfire and talked to people.
+ We ended up meeting another guy who went to FSU the same time we did and talked about travel plans.
+ After some time we finally called it a night and luckily only had to walk a little bit back to our hostel instead of all the way across town again to the homestay.

1/23
+ Woke up with Corey feeling a little sick, but since it was our last full day in San Pedro, we wanted to make the most of it.
+ In the hostel garden we had our free breakfast of chocolate pancakes for Corey and an English muffin with eggs and fruit for Liz. Not half bad for a free hostel breakfast!
+ Afterwards we caught a boat to go to Panajachel for the day, another town across the lake. Panajachel is the biggest and most touristy of all the towns around the lake, but we were not interested in shopping the local street market stalls.
+ We quickly caught a taxi to the main attraction of the city, Reserva Natural. It is a big animal reserve with lots of cool zip lining through the jungle and over the lake!
+ Corey opted to do the most extreme zip lining option, while Liz was content with walking through the pretty gardens and looking at the various waterfalls.
+ After getting the harnesses on the whole group, we all walked up the mountain for about 30 minutes to the launch point of the first zip line. Along the way, we stopped to observe a bunch of Coatimundi and Spider Monkeys playing and eating bananas!
+ At the top, Liz said goodbye as Corey and the group began their zip line adventure. She spent the next couple hours hiking, taking pictures, observing the animals and talking with a nice Kentucky family she met.
+ Corey did a total of 8 different zip lines, ranging from a few hundred feet, to over 2000 feet on some of them! Amazing views while gliding over the lake of all the mountains, volcanoes, and the city!
+ At the end of the tour, we met up as Liz watched Corey (and the rest of the group) struggle through the little ropes course at the end of the tour.
+ We then headed straight for the butterfly garden which was very pretty with tons of different butterflies!
+ Next we hiked to the park’s private beach which was really pretty and had a lot of really cool looking, giant gnarly trees seemingly holding back the massive rocks from tumbling into the water!
+ Afterwards we decided to take 1 last look at the Coatimundi and monkeys and were delighted to find them much more friendly and abundant than earlier in the afternoon! They walked all around us (and some almost tried to climb on us!) and we took a bunch of photos and videos for a while until we said our goodbyes.
+ With no taxi or tuk tuks around the reserve when we left, we walked half an hour back into town. Luckily, we had amazing views from the road/mountain side of the sunset and various boats cruising the picturesque lake.
+ In town, we grabbed some delicious street food, said “No, gracious” to about 500 different street vendors, then caught a boat back to San Pedro (much smoother ride this time thankfully!)
+ As promised to our host family, we made the trek back to that side of town and said proper goodbyes and took pictures with them. We really enjoyed our time with them and felt very sad to be leaving them and San Pedro, both of which we had come to love and feel comfortable with.
+ San Pedro is definitely our favorite city we have visited so far! We would definitely come back to visit 1 day, and can see why so many tourists either spend a few months here, or end up moving to permanently and becoming ex pats.
+ We ended the night just hanging out in our hostel and readying ourselves for our first travel day in nearly 2 weeks!

1/24
+ Woke up for our last half day in San Pedro. Had some delicious breakfast at our hostel and then checked out.
+ Walked over to hotel Mikaso to take pictures of the city and mountains
+ Hung out at a nice restaurant on the lake called “Lake House” where we sat in swinging chairs, did research on the Internet, and had pizza and green tea.
+ Before jumping on the bus to Antigua, Liz made one last stop at a smoothie bar and got a oreo+banana+Nutella smoothie. IT WAS SO GOOD!
+ Rode in the crammed shuttle bus to Antigua and found our hostel named “Terrace Hostel” after arriving.
+ Ate dinner at Monoloco  (crazy monkey) where they were showing the nfl playoff games (with lots of American fans there too!). Food was very westernized- huge portions and much more expensive than we were used to in San Pedro!

1/25
+ Walked around the city and took pictures of the famed old churches of Antigua.
+ Decided on lunch at a Indian place. Delicious and cheap!
+ Booked a tour to Monterrico for tomorrow with a nice local guide named Pablo.
+ Made our way back to our hostel for the 4pm bar crawl!
+ Made new friends and explored 4 or 5 other bars and hostels as one big group. Played a hybrid version of Beer Pong and Flip Cup at one bar, and a funny game remembering alternate names for numbers at another bar.
+ After we got back from the bar crawl, Corey and I ate gourmet burritos at El Burro down the street from our hostel.

1/26
+ Shuttle to Monterrico picked us up around 8.
+ We arrived at Monterrico around 10:30 and were both groggy from napping in the shuttle.
+ After declining multiple offers of tours from locals, we made our way to Tortuguerio Monterrico, an animal nature reserve close by.
+ One of the same guides was there again and showed us around the small animal sanctuary. Iguanas, caiman, fish, freshwater turtles, and one very sad looking sea turtle.
+ Corey released one baby turtle into the ocean! They said it was an olive ridley but it looked just like a loggerhead to me.
+ Afterwards, we walked back down the beach and found a cafe with hammocks right on the sand. We both ordered a licuado and relaxed in the hammocks.
+ The sand here is black! I believe it is from the multiple volcanos nearby.
+ The waves are very rough here with multiple undercurrents. Swimming is not advised but it’s very pretty! Much hotter here than any other city in Guatemala so far.
+ Often when the large waves swelled before the break, you could see multiple sting rays in them illuminated by the sun.
+ Corey braved the waves and swam for a bit and body surfed the biggest waves he’s ever been in!
+ Caught our shuttle back to Antigua, and this time we were the only passengers in the whole van! (Often, the shuttle companies completely pack the whole bus to maximize their profit for the trip, so this was a pleasant new experience for us.)
+ Ate dinner at a cheap, Mexican restaurant.
+ Got late night coffee and hot chocolate at rainbow cafe. We just missed some cool didgeridoo music!

1/27
+ Explored the huge markets with everything from arts and crafts, clothes and underwear and even pirated dvds!
+ In the market, we were casually looking for a place for lunch. A local woman noticed we may be interested and started strongly pulling Corey’s arm towards her little food stand. Then another local woman from across the walkway started pulling Corey’s other arm across towards her cafe! Liz turned around and noticed Corey was being aggressively pulled in different directions! To settle this ASAP we said ok ok and went with the first local woman to her family’s table. The food (chicken, rice, and coleslaw type salad) was delicious and cheap and we were happy to finish the meal in 1 piece.
+ We had initially entered the market to find a new bathing suit for Corey. After asking a few guys in the market, we kept being directed “just around this corner” repeatedly. We eventually found our way to a large supermarket outside the traditional market and realized this was where they had been directing us just in very fast spanish!
+ Bought a few snacks and a new bathing suit for Corey.
+ On the way back to the hostel, we stopped to satisfy Liz’s soda craving at the fanciest McDonald’s we had ever seen. There were lush gardens and a fountain, along with a very European McCafe area.
+ Guatemala is known for their coffee and chocolate. Antigua has a whole museum dedicated to chocolate! We decided to not purchase a chocolate workshop where you learn how to make your own chocolate bar. Instead, we tried many samples and then got some fondue with fresh fruit. Yum!
+ After much deliberation about our next destination,  we decided to skip El Salvador this trip and head to Honduras. We would have liked to visit both countries but transportation between them seemed more costly and more complicated. We decided to head directly for Copan, Honduras from Antigua.
+ Before leaving our hostel  for dinner, we realized the water seemed to be turned off. Not thinking much of it, we set off for dinner.
+ Antigua has tons and tons of restaurants and bars varying from pretty cheap (<$5 per person) to very expensive for the budget backpacker  (> $20 per person).
+ We finally decided on a small pizza place and found out the water was out here as well!
+ After asking the waitress and later our hostel owner, we were told that Antigua will periodically shut off the water with no warning and for who knows how long. We were warned it may be  1 hour or it may be 12!
+ Luckily the water came back after about 5 hours. I have never been so happy to hear the sound of flushing toilets!

1/28
+ We checked out the artisinal “handicrafts” area of the market. No great finds. Corey did find even more DragonBall Z merchandise! DragonBall Z seems to be for sale everywhere but yet we don’t see anyone actually wearing it.
+ On the walk back to the hostel, we passed by a shop that advertised “sodas de americano”. They had a small fridge with Dr. pepper, root beer, and other sodas we hadn’t seen since we left the US! (In case you are wondering: you can always find Pepsi, coke, grapette, orange soda, 7up, and sometimes mountain dew). Liz got the Dr. Pepper she had missed so much!
+ Decided to continue the American Tourist theme and picked up a pizza from Little Caesars. As in nearly every store or business that handles a decent amount of money, they have armed guards with various large guns (such as sawed off shot guns) standing watch inside and/or outside the store. We’re not sure how often they have to use them, but it is a formidable sight.
+ Ate a quick lunch at the hostel of Little Ceasars pizza and Dr. Pepper. (Today was obviously not our most authentic Guatemalan day).
+ Caught our shuttle and rode the 1 hr ride to Pacaya volcano. Super curvy roads up the mountain.
+ Met our guide and hiked up to the base of the lava flow from the 2014 eruption of pacaya. Easy 1 hr hike.
+ No visible lava but awesome terrain and palpable heat from the geothermal energy! We were all able to roast marshmallows using the heat from underground!
+ Our guide showed us a rock that was pretty hot and handed it to us to hold. When it was Liz’s turn, the rock was much sharper and hotter than she was expecting so she accidently tossed the rock back at Corey! Corey had to jump out of the way. The guide thought this was hilarious.
+ After we explored the lava field, we hike back down to the base.
+ Corey and I talked with 2 girls from London on the hike down. Margot and Teresa. We gave them tips for visiting the Keys and they gave us tips on South America.
+ Back in Antigua, the power went off in the whole city for about 10min. Luckily it came right back on. Antigua is super dark without streetlights or anything!
+ Wandered around looking for a good dinner spot. Decided on Sky Bar Cafe. We had the whole 3rd floor to ourselves overlooking the city for dinner.
+ Stopped in to Cafe No Se for a nightcap before heading back to the hostel to shower and pack for our 4am shuttle to Copan, Honduras.

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Guatemala: 1/15 – 1/21

 

All week at San Pedro on Lake Atitlan!

 

1/15
+ Woke up and had a hearty breakfast at our Homestay before heading off to school for another 5 hours. Corey’s teacher is Chusita and is only 5 days older than Corey. Liz’s teacher is Evelyn and super nice and thinks Liz Is very funny!
+ We get to move to different private cabanas every day at different points around the lake. The school definitely lives up to it’s billing as having the most idyllic setting for studying Spanish in all of Guatemala!
+ Went back to our house and had a spicy lunch with our family and met some new students who checked in that day (James from London and Jonathan from California).
+ Spent the afternoon walking around San Pedro and exploring all of the fun restaurants, shops, bars and hotels. Found really unique and interesting places to go back to during our time here in San Pedro.
+ Had dinner back at our Casa and then went with James to Hostel Fe to play trivia (in English) with a bunch of American tourists and Ex pats.
+ During trivia breaks they had fun games to play. Corey participated in a beer chugging contest against 25 other people and barely lost.
+ Then we played a game where everyone stood up and guessed heads or tails when the host flipped a coin. If you got it wrong, you sat down. After 7 rounds, only James and 1 girl were left standing (out of about 100 people). James had picked heads every single time and somehow it was heads every time! James went heads once more and she went tails and James won! Our table won 3 free liters of beer and James won 100 Quetzals!
+ Afterwards we went to the town square because the town was celebrating the newly elected mayor with a live band and lots of dancing and delicious food and drinks. We only partook in the last 2!
+ Went back to house and passed out.

1/16
+ Slept in but Rosa had saved us pancakes for breakfast! Yum!
+ Ate all three meals with homestay and spent the day relaxing in the hammock.
+ Tried to upload pictures with still no luck!
We’ve tried different programs but they all seem to take forever and do not work!

1/17
+ Planned to go to Panajachel (another town on the lake) but Liz woke up very sick to her stomach.
+ After a few hours, we found a  local bbq place only open on Sundays.
+ The grill master was from Tallahassee!
+ Corey enjoyed the delicious food and humungous buffet of southern fare. Liz unfortunately had no appetite.
+ Stuffed, we waddled back to the house.
+ Liz took a siesta to try to feel better while Corey watched The Revenant.
+ Corey went to trivia in the evening as Liz was still sleeping to feel better. Corey teamed up with a only spanish speaking guy and they struggled to understand each other all game. Lol
+  Corey ate street tacos for dinner and we watched The Intern. Liz munched on crackers.
+ (Our homestay includes 3 meals every day except Sundays.)
+ Studied Spanish for a few hours until bedtime.

1/18
+ Liz woke up feeling much better and hopefully almost over her stomach bug.
+ Spanish school from 8-1
+ We took one more siesta to make sure Liz is over her stomach troubles.
+ After dinner, walked around town and found a nice cafe called Jakuu. Corey ordered Uno chocolate frio (cold chocolate milkshake). And Liz ordered a liquado  (smoothie) with melon and strawberry.

1/19
+ Woke up to another delicious Homestay breakfast of chocolate crepes with bananas!
+ Español Escuela de Ocho a Una
+ After lunch with our Familia, we decided to catch a boat on the other side of San Pedro to go to a different pueblo across the lake called San Marcos.
+ Walked around the town exploring the different stores and restaurants, but very small place and we walked the whole place in about 30 minutes.
+ Went to the main attraction of San Marcos which is a tiny national park with a little bit of hiking trails and a “trampoline” (really just a platform up high) to jump off of into Lake Atitlan.
+ Watched a group of Canadian guys try to outdo each other with various failed flips and dives (nearly all resulting in back flops).
+ Corey jumped 5 times, Liz jumped 50 times (minus 50)! She says someone had to be the expert photographer.
+ Watched the sunset from up on the mountain and then caught the last boat back to San Pedro.
+ Had dinner with our family and spent the evening talking with all of the NYU pre med students staying at the house.

1/20
+ The usual morning routine of breakfast with the fam and 5 hours of Spanish School, of which Corey and Liz are having very different experiences with. Liz loves her teacher and they spend about half of each day laughing and talking about life (in Español). While Corey’s maestra is much more serious and their 5 hours feels much more like intensive study boot camp.
+ After lunch we went to an Internet cafe to edit and upload photos, and also research for Antigua.
+ Went to Conversation club at the school, which is sitting around a table with 4-5 other students and 1 teacher playing games and discussing current event topics in Spanish. Very helpful and interesting to hear the perspectives of other people from other countries.
+ After some delicious Homestay dinner, we were in the mood for some more trivia so we headed over to a local bar with James, our British roommate. Much harder quiz than last Friday night! Corey was craving chicken wings and these were the best in town so he got to fulfill his Buffalo Wild Wings addiction.
+ After fun times, back to the Casa to do our Spanish homework, albeit slightly drunk.

1/21
+ After waking up, breakfast was a little late at the house so Liz and I rushed to school as quickly as possible.
+ Another different, yet very impressive lunch at the house afterwards. Corey’s new favorite phrases are “Tengo mucho hambre” (I am very hungry), and “Mas Por Favor” (more please).
+ Lunches in Guatemala are the biggest meal of the day and it is also common to put Salsa Picante on nearly everything, which Corey loves (but his stomach not so much!).
+ Corey was very tired (more so his brain) so he took a siesta while Liz was productive on the tablet.
+ Spent the rest of the afternoon walking around town buying gifts for our teachers, homestay family, and some school supplies for kids in a program called Ninos del Lago.
+ Tonight we chose to skip dinner with the family (luckily since it ended up being eggs and black beans – Yuck!). Instead we went to a really cool restaurant/hotel on the lake that was supposed to have an all you can eat pizza buffet. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in Guatemala, information is not always accurate. So no buffet, but we did still get a big delicious pizza that fed both of us for about $8.
+ Back at the house for our last night, we spent the evening talking with the family (and sharing a 2 liter of coke) and getting to know them better.
+ Corey also had Spanish homework to listen to songs in Spanish and deciphering as much as possible and writing it in English. So he thought of the slowest song he could think of to make it as easy as possible: My heart will go on, from Titanic! The girls of the family all knew the words and thought it was hilarious that I was listening (and trying to sing to) it.

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Guatemala: 1/8- 1/14

Semuc Champey >>> Xela >>> San Pedro La Laguna (on Lake Atitlan)

1/8
+ We were concerned we had missed our 8am shuttle to Semuc Champey when it had not arrived by 8:25. We are slowly realizing that Guatemala seems to run on “island time”… despite not being an island.
+ The 8hr ride to Semuc Champey turned into closer to 10 hrs with the multiple stops at convenience stores for bathroom/snacks as well as a stop for a flat tire!
+ When the shuttle stopped in the small town of Lanquin, (keep in mind, it is already dark now) we were met by teenagers yelling out each hostel name and the glamorous  amenities each offered. (I.e. “a bed!” “Water: hot and cold!”, etc)
+ A little bewildered, we found the teen shouting Casa Zapote ( the hostel reservations included in our Semuc Champey package). Our bags were moved to the back of a pickup truck and we were directed to climb on in.
+ We took off in the back of the truck for a 25 min ride up the very dark, pot-holed, boulder-filled road.
+ Arrived at our hostel to find the beds were actually only box springs in a loft in the middle of the jungle. All in the name of Adventure, right?
+ Spent the evening eating, drinking and meeting other travelers  during the hostel happy hour.

1/9
+  Toured Semuc Champey with 1 other couple from Costa Rica. Our guide was named Manu. He looked and acted like he was 16. He thought it was hilarious to repeatedly yell “What up mannggg!”
+ Hiked up to El Mirador (the viewpoint) to get aerial view of pools. The river runs from the mountains feeding the pools from underneath.
+ Explored the 7 cascading pools. Jumped from one to the next, slid down rocks. Swam around and talked with other travelers.
+ Joined up with other larger tour group to explore cave by candlelight. Swam, climbed, slid and jumped. Met expat from Kentucky who now owns hostel in Antigua.
+ Corey did a rope swing into the river!
+ Our group of 5 tubed down the river. Great views of the waterfall!
+ Corey did bridge jumping into the river. Manu only wanted to jump once but Corey called him a Rojo pollo! Lol! Then Manu shouted “No polloooo!” As he jumped off the bridge again.
+ Rode back to the hostel in the back of a pickup truck. Truck stopped halfway back to load up with firewood and many locals. Corey talked with nice guy from Switzerland who has biked entire west coast of US. He started biking in Vancouver and was now in Guatemala! That’s insane!
+ Met our new roommates in our boxspring-loft: a couple from Tasmania  (“Tazzy” as they called it) and a nice German guy.
+ Spent the evening comparing dangerous animals from our respective countries and learning new card games.

1/10
+ We were up and ready to go at 5am to catch a ride to Lanquin (nearby larger city) to catch the shuttle to Antigua and then onward to Xela. No hostel staff was up and we appeared to be only guests leaving that early. At 530, Liz had to wake the hostel staff who groggily called us a pickup truck to get to Lanquin. (We assume the hostel staff must have forgotten we were leaving at all)
+ Found the shuttle in Lanquin with a few other tourists from other hostels. Eventually left and rode 9hrs to Antigua.
+ After arriving in Antigua, immediately jumped on another  shuttle bus for 4hr ride to Quetzaltenango (Xela).
+  Half way there we stopped for bano  near Chicitenango. We had been eating chips and snacks all day and really wanted some real food. Corey ran across the street and found some delicious fried chicken and potato wedges. When we were done with the chicken, Corey fed some of the street dogs that were hanging around the gas station.
+ We arrived at Parque Centro in Xela after dark. (That’s over 12hrs of travel! ) We met our air bnb host, Rosita, at McDonalds and she led us back to her apartment.
+ Rosita and Irvin were great hosts during our stay! Very accomodating and friendly!
+ Ate delicious street tacos for less than $1.50!
+ Xela is known for their fresh bread and drinking chocolate. Yummm!

1/11
+ Explored historic Xela. Booked Tour for volcano hike the next day.
+ Stopped into Xelapan – a delicious bakery chain that offers everything from French bread, huge chocolate croissants, and even funny bread shaped like snapping turtles!
+ Refilled our snack arsenal at the local super Mercado.
+ Ate lunch at restaurant  tipico- authentic guatemalan food.
+ Did some research back at the apartment while Corey watched the 1st half of the national championship game in spanish. Lols
+ Went out with Rosita to local sport bar called “Playroom” to watch 2nd half of game. Very westernized with sports paraphernalia all over the walls from every sport or activity ever invented! (Even chess and luge!) Corey explained americano football rules to Rosita.
+ Irvin met up with us after he got off work. Drank local beers and then moved to another bar for local dark beer- Moza. It was served out of a carafe!
+ Walked back together late and had to avoid the street dogs. According to Rosita and Irvin, the street dogs are much more aggressive and territorial at night!

1/12
+ Caught shuttle to Santa Maria volcano at 5am
+ Began hiking around 5:30 am. Finally arrived at the summit (12,375ft) at 9am. We were above the tree line and clouds. We could see all the  other volcanos in Guatemala! (Lake Atitilan, volcanos bordering Mexico, etc) Stayed until 10:30am. Watched the nearby volcano, Santiaguito, erupt! Many locals also climb the summit to pray and make offerings.
+ Ate our chocolate croissants from Xelapan. Delicious!
+ Began climbing down at 10:30am and finally made it back to the shuttle at 1:30pm. We were completely exhausted and very dusty.
+ Ate lunch special at Giro’s gourmet pizza. Delicious and cheap!
+ Went back to apartment, showered, and napped for a few hours.
+  Liz got one last hot chocolate at nearby cafe. Yummm
+ Ate dinner tipico- soup, entree, tortillas, and drink for $6 total!!
+ Went back to apartment and researched transportation to San Pedro for the next day.

1/13
+  Hung out at apartment, packed up, and updated blog.
+ Ate lunch at Pollo  Campero- a Guatemala chain similar to PDQ.
+ Caught local city bus (collectivo) to Minerva bus station. Very hectic.  Everyone we asked for San Pedro directed us 2 blocks away from the bus station.
+ Confused and nervous with all of our gear, we walked through large local markets offering everything under the sun! from Holister clothes to raw meats! Eventually we came out on the other side of the markets, to see many more chicken buses. (We’re still not sure why so many buses were blocks away from the actual bus station!)
+ Hectic situation again, we eventually found one of the brightly decorated buses to take us to San Pedro on Lake  Atitilan.
+ Chicken bus dropped us off in San Marcos, caught another chicken bus to San Pedro.
+ Views coming into town of the mountains, volcanos and Lake Atitlan were INCREDIBLE!
+ Frantically jumped off bus with all our gear and walked through city to San Pedro Spanish school.
+ Checked in and were escorted to our homestay by the youngest daughter of the local family, Billie.
+ We have a nice size room with a private, albeit very tiny bathroom. The bathroom is about the size of one you would find on an airplane. Corey barely fits in bathroom sideways.
+ Met all the family members: Rosa (madre), 4 daughters and 1 son: Melissa, Lezlie, Linda, Billie, y Julio. 2 babies: Abigail and Guillermo (cutest baby ever! He blows kisses when you say hola)
+ Met 2 other students staying with same family: Yvonne and Alice both from Australia.
+ Ate a nice authentic dinner with the family and students.

1/14
+ Started 1st day of Spanish school at 8am in a beautiful garden right next to the lake! Corey and I have individual teachers.
+ Finished class at 1 (5 hours of study) and went back to our homestay and had a big delicious lunch with our family and other students. (Lunch is biggest meal of day in Guatemala).
+ Spent the afternoon researching online and having a siesta in the hammocks overlooking the lake.
+ Ate dinner with everyone and studied Spanish in the evening before bed.

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