Ecuador: 4/30 – 5/6

Tena >>> Banos >>> Latacunga

4/30 – White Water Rafting with 8th Graders
5/1 – Explore Baños
5/2 – Tree Swing at Casa de Arbol
5/3 – Ruta de las Cascades: Most impressive waterfall & most delicious empanadas of entire trip!
5/4 – Rest day in Latacunga
5/5 – Rest day in Latacunga
5/6 – Rest day in Latacunga and finally got the blog up to date!

Continue reading “Ecuador: 4/30 – 5/6”

Colombia: 4/16 – 4/22

Bogota >>> Leticia >>> Santa Rosa (Peru) >>> Tabatinga (Brazil) >>> Leticia (Colombia) >>> Puerto Narino >>> Leticia >>> Salento

4/16
Flew to Leticia, Colombia in the Amazon!
+ Slept in as long as possible due to our really late night ending only a few hours earlier. Then packed the bags, checked out, and caught a shuttle from the hostel to the airport.
+ Our driver dropped us at the Avianca gate, but after going inside to check in we learned that we needed another terminal for domestic flights (this one was only for international we guess). So after a lot of asking around and confusion, we finally found a bus to take us to the other terminal for free. However it was very slow and stopped frequently so we were worried we’d miss our flight by the time it got to the correct terminal.
+ Luckily, it finally arrived with enough time to not only check in, but even get some Subway for the plane!
+ We were very excited to be on our way to the Amazon Rainforest! This is a place we had both wanted to visit for a long time and we were looking forward to exploring as much as we could in the next 4 days!
+ This terminal was so small we were through the check in and security process in less than 5 minutes! To top it off, the free wifi was stronger than the wifi we’d had at our hostel! So before boarding, we uploaded some pictures to Facebook.
+ We have learned that each airport (even within the same country) is very different with what’s allowed on the plane or through security. Sometimes we have to take off shoes and have electronics out of bags, sometimes not. Sometimes you get a friendly pat down and sometimes they don’t even want to have anything to do with us gringos! In Latin America, they don’t even care if you have full water bottles or soda going through security!
+ We got to board the plane celebrity style by walking up the stairs and waving to our adoring crowd.
+ Planes in South America like to drive halfway to their destination it seems. Each time the plane seems to amble down the runway for a good 15/20 minutes before it even starts the take off process!
+ Our plane ride was only 90 minutes, but the plane itself was very nice. Lots of leg room, nice tv’s (with a remote!), and we even got some nice free headphones! Avianca is Corey’s new favorite airline!
+ When we arrived and got our bags, we were greeted by staff from our hostel,  Refugio Makuruma, holding a sign with our names on it! We really are celebrities!
+ Ron and Jessica are the couple that own Refugio Makuruma. She is from Colombia and he is from Holland. They just started the hostel 4 months earlier and they gave us possibly our best welcome we’ve ever received with a nice tour, a cold drink, and then sitting and talking with us for about 45 minutes on all the possible things to do in the Amazon.
+ Afterwards we started walking down the street into town until the local bus came and we hopped on. We arrived at one of the parks, got some street food, then promptly headed towards Santander Park to catch one of the most popular attractions of Leticia.
+ This occurs every day around 5/5:30 when tens of thousands of small parrots fly into the park to nest for the night. They were green and white for the first 30 minutes but then all the sudden different birds (still parrots, but black not green) started flying in by the millions it seemed! These black birds would seem to swarm from tree to tree! Definitely a unique and captivating sight!
+ We took advice from Ron and paid a dollar each to climb to the top of the Church Bell tower at the park to get the best view of the birds, the sunset, and the city.
+ When it finally got dark we climbed down and found a store to buy Liz a belt for her pants which were now too big for her! We’ve both lost a definite amount of weight since this trip started due to being more physically active and our sometimes  inconsistent eating habits. I’m sure we would’ve lost a lot more if it wasn’t for the beer and soda!
+ Dinner was at a cool place called Tierras Amazonias. The whole place was decorated very jungle-y, but not in a touristy way like you’d find at Disney. We both tried Giamatina, one of the special amazon fish you can only get here, and tried it with different preparations. While both were good, we still agree a well done steak beats the best fish any day!
+ After a quick stop at the super market to replenish our snack supply, we caught a tuk tuk back towards our hostel. It went most of the way, but we had to walk the final dirt (mud) road by ourselves because it was too rough for the tuk tuk.
+ After talking to the owners again for a little bit about our upcoming plans, we decided to escape into our room under the mosquito net as quickly as possible.
+ We watched a couple episodes of Daredevil while laying in bed and then turned it off and listened to all the strange jungle noises around us in the dark. We were definitely in the amazon jungle!

4/17
Jumped between Peru, Brazil, and Colombia in One Afternoon!
+ Our room surprisingly didn’t get much hotter in the morning than it was the night before. It just stayed at the same level of sweltering humidity as always! But we did sleep in a good bit to catch up on sleep and prepare for the next few days.
+ Caught a bus into town to grab some lunch. Ate at a place next to the docks that served us a tipico meal. No menu, just asked if we liked meat. We told her we wanted what the guy at the other table was having (fried chicken), but she gave us some sort of Carne (mystery meat) similar to beef jerky. Wasn’t the best meal ever, but it only cost $ 2.66 for both of us combined!
+ We then made our way to the docks as we prepared ourselves for the onslaught of fishermen yelling words at us we can maybe understand in an attempt to persuade us to choose them. That’s exactly what happened and we ended up choosing a guy who took us 5 minutes down river to Santa Rosa, Peru.
+ We were officially in another country, although at this tri-border area no one needs passports to travel between the other countries. After walking through town for a little bit, we had our fill of uncomfortable stares and decided to turn back towards the docks.
+ Since the robbery occurred, we are a lot more wary of young (15-20 years old) hooligans walking around that watch us a bit too long. We try not to be judgemental or have pre-conceived notions, but also keep our guard up among those that seem most suspicious.
+ Before leaving Peru, we stopped at a bar on the water and got a Peruvian beer to begin the “3 Beers in 3 Countries in 1 Day” challenge. Some people have accomplished this feat in 1 hour, but we were trying to take our time as this would be our only day to enjoy these other countries/towns. The bar had live music and it was blaring so loudly we almost couldn’t even hear each other, much less understand the waiter speaking Spanish! There were even little kids/babies sitting right in front of the speakers. Their poor little eardrums!
+ When we finished our surprisingly delicious wheat beer, we hopped in another boat and went 10 minutes down river to Tabatinga, Brazil. We told our boat captain the name of the bar/restaurant we wanted to go to and he said he could take us by boat, instead of us needing to grab a tuk tuk from the docks. So we agreed and he continued down river for another 10 minutes. We figured he would stop at a dock for us to disembark but as usual when we assume things here in Latin America, we are way off!
+ He actually stopped at a river bank where the walls went up 8 feet above water. We looked at each other bewildered and asked if this was the right place. He said yes we needed to climb up. So with his help and the help of every twig and piece of grass we could grab, we managed to get up there to find… nothing. He told us we now needed to walk across the (very wet and muddy) field to the road, then down the road to the restaurant. So much for taking us there!
+ So we played hopscotch the best we could across the field trying to find the dry spots, but each failed and eventually accepted the fact our feet were getting wet and muddy. Then after a little walk on the road, we did reach the restaurant.
+ There was yet another live band competing for the title of who can blow out the speakers first so we grabbed seats as far away from the stage as possible, but I don’t think it mattered. We told the waitress we wanted cervezas and off she went. She returned with some sort of liquor mixed drink and after a lot of confusion and the help of Google translate on my phone (since we couldn’t hear each other due to the music) we found out you can’t order just 1 beer each. You had to order a bucket of 10. So we did that and got to try our first Brazilian beer!
+ As we sat enjoying our beers in the chaotic music hall, we noticed some dudes working out nearby. Weird location for a gym but, oh well. We didn’t think much more of it, until those same guys appeared on stage now in red mesh outfits accompanied by 2 scantily clad women (also in red mesh)!! With the band still blaring, the 4 of them pranced around very provocatively on stage, even with lots of families in the audience!
+ We try to travel with an open mind without stereotypical expectations for people and places, but this first impression of Brazil seemed to live up to every Brazilian stereotype we had heard of!
+ We decided to save the last 4 so we didn’t become drunk in an unfamiliar town/country. So after viewing a nice pink sunset, we caught separate rides on motortaxis to the main area of Tabatinga. This was the first time we rode motorbikes on the trip! Corey especially loves doing new “firsts” on the trip. Liz clung to the driver for dear life.
+ In town we ate at a recommended restaurant (from both lonely planet and our hostel host). We split a giant seafood mixture and it was more than enough for both of us with leftovers to take home. From here, the plan was to walk back across the border into Leticia but along the way we were tempted by an ice cream store with wifi! Since our hostel didn’t have wifi, we decided to take advantage of it (really just an excuse for ice cream) and we were glad we did because we found out there had been an earthquake in Ecuador and our family had been trying to get ahold of us to see if we were ok. So we were able to contact them and use the Internet for half an hour.
+ Then we continued our walk back and once in Colombia again, we eventually caught a tuk tuk all the way back to our hostel.
+ After speaking with Ron to confirm times/plans for the next day, we packed our bags to prepare for the upcoming adventures. Then after a cold shower we laid down in bed and watched a couple episodes of daredevil before bed.

4/18
Kayaked with Pink Dolphins and Torrential Downpour on the boat in Puerto Narino
+ An early day today! We tend to alternate between sleeping in really late and waking up really early. There aren’t many in between time mornings, lol. So at 6 we woke up to the annoying sounds of roosters crowing outside our screen window, got our stuff and went downstairs for a nice free breakfast. We were only taking 2 small backpacks with us and leaving our 2 big backpacks and the other small day pack at the hostel. This is because we were going to be spending the night 2 hours up river in Puerto Narino, Colombia and returning to this hostel the next day. So we only needed a change of clothes and a handful of other items.
+ A tuk tuk picked us up and took us to a local guide’s house for a kayak tour. There, Liz and I shared our double kayak and explored around the Amazon Rain forest and different flooded lakes and rivers for 2 hours. Besides passing a lot of neat trees and plants, we also saw multiple Iguanas, different new types of monkeys (very small!), weird birds, a sloth crawling all around, and the animals we wanted to see most: Pink Dolphins! They are different from normal gray dolphins in Florida and don’t have as pronounced of a dorsal fin. They also seem slightly bigger and boxier. We were happy to spot the elusive animals!
+ After the tour we said goodbye to our Guia and then another tuk tuk took us to the port where we departed from Leticia for a 2+ hour journey upriver to Puerto Narino. We both alternated between sleeping and watching the various small villages pass by.
+ In Puerto Narino, we knew we may or may not be meeting a friend of Ron and Jessica who would serve as our guide for a boat tour later. Instead, we were met at the docks by a couple of young guys. One of them claimed he knew Jessica and so we decided we were supposed to follow them. They showed us a couple different hotels and we eventually decided on one that was mentioned in lonely planet and provided us with our own private room and balcony with hammocks!
+ After negotiating a deal and dropping off our stuff, we followed them to a lunch place where we got some tasty big chicken a la plancha dishes. We still didn’t know if/why we should be following them, but they seemed to be doing nothing other than being our personal tour guides.
+ After lunch one of the guys walked us back to the hotel, we awkwardly said goodbye (maybe he wanted a tip? We have no idea). Then we hung out in the hammocks for an hour until it was time for our boat tour.
+ Our guide’s name was something like Delfino which was ironic because we were going looking for wildlife, including the pink dolphins (delfino in Spanish). He took us out (along with his 6 year old kid) on a pecky pecky (long boat with a unique motor that is on a long stick extended way out behind the boat. Picture a weedwacker attached to a long wooden canoe ). For about an hour we went through the river and jungle and spotted monkeys, birds, and some pink dolphins before a wicked rain storm rolled in very quickly. With the rain coming in almost sideways we made our way to this floating office/checkpoint place and took cover from the rain. We sat there admiring the jungle and lake in the rain storm. It was so much rain it was impressive to watch and despite being soaked, we didn’t mind adding this to our  completed bucket list!
+ When it finally cleared (almost just as fast as it always does in Florida!) We took the boat back towards town and on the way saw some more monkeys, pink dolphins, and also some of the Amazonian Gray Dolphins! They were smaller than the pink ones but still weirdly shaped. It was hard to get perfectly clear looks at them and they would always pop up completely different places than before, unlike ocean dolphins that typically swim in 1 direction.
+ By the time we made it back we were freezing cold (polar opposite from lunchtime earlier!) and took a sort of over the water sidewalk back towards our road. It was interesting because due to it being wet season, a lot of places that are normally above water are completely flooded, including entire soccer fields and the town square, street lamps and roads, etc. Yet lots of kids were still playing water soccer on the few inches of water covering the field. Another lower field had been turned into a swimming pool! Would’ve been a great place for a water polo game!
+ Overall it was interesting to be on the amazon river and take the boats where the water seemingly ended into grass or trees only to find a passage and have the water continue on for hundreds or thousands of more feet. Many times we never even saw an actual shoreline, everything was just flooded for miles!
+ The rest of the day involved eating at a buffet style restaurant as the only patrons besides a 30 person group of teens from Cali, Colombia. That was followed by relaxing in hammocks watching Daredevil and Everest on the tablet and enjoying mildly cool weather in the jungle for once.

4/19
Boat from Puerto Narino back to Leticia
+ With nothing really left to do in Puerto Narino, we were headed back to Leticia today. So after some tiny bananas for breakfast, we bought our return ticket, wondered around town taking some pictures, then boarded the boat back to Leticia.
+ We met a few other gringos also taking the same boat and talked with them for a while to get some tips on where to go. One of them had been in Colombia for over a year! Sometimes we meet people who travel a lot faster than us, but mostly other people travel a lot slower.
+ In Leticia we grabbed some tipico lunch at a pizzeria restaurant (after finding out they weren’t offering pizza, lol).
+ We wanted to catch up on some stuff with the Internet so we spent some time in an Internet cafe trying to get our phones and their computers to work, but didn’t have much luck. After a couple hours we were frustrated due to the lack of productivity and headed back to the Tierras Amazonias restaurant to try our luck there with the wifi. It wasn’t any better so after some delicious Amazonian fruit smoothies, we headed back to the hostel.
+ After packing our bags for our hiking/camping trip the next day, we got some dinner at the Hostal. We ordered some unique food we’d never tried before: Casabes. These are basically the Amazonian version of pizza, but made with yucca crust, no sauce and sadly isn’t nearly as delicious.
+ We were free to relax for the rest of the evening and we watched a bunch of episodes of Parks and Recreation before bed.

4/20
Hiking into and Camping in the Amazon!
+ After some breakfast at the hostel, we caught a tuk tuk to the reserve  headquarters and met our guide, Rudolfo. We also got our hammock/tarps and some rubber boots to hike in. They didn’t really have any in Corey’s size and after trying on about 7 different pairs he found one he could tolerate for short periods of time.
+ We set out on our hike into the Amazon Rainforest and soon the well trodden trail turned into a small path through the brush which eventually turned into no trail at all. We learned that our guide likes to make his own route as he bushwhacked with his machete and we followed behind, often almost knee deep in mud or water. This was the authentic jungle experience we were looking for!
+ Every so often, we would stop and watch as our guide demonstrated some sort of technique he had learned. Often he would tell us to wait and disappear into the jungle for 10/15 minutes (without his shirt on!) and come back with some sticks, leaves or fruit he wanted to show us.
+ Using his machete, he stripped one of the sticks of it’s bark in a long, even rope-like way and made us a walking stick! Then he used that rope and weaved us a full size bag/basket out of a humongous palm frond! Very cool to watch how quickly and effortlessly he was able to do these things.
+ About 4 hours after initially departing we arrived at a huge hut in the jungle called a Malaka. This is where our guide’s grandmother lived. We were welcomed inside and greeted very nicely by everyone. Our guide started making us lunch while we got to relax in hammocks! Corey fell asleep while Liz took in the sights of how the native people lived and their daily tasks.
+ Lunch was a couple of fish (completely whole- heads, tails, and eyes included), rice, beans, plantains, and this type of bread type thing called Casabes that they dipped in juice from the yucca plant. We didn’t know what kind of fish we were eating, but they were some kind of unique jungle fish with teeth!
+ While eating, we watched another tour group perform some type of religious ceremony with the elder of the home where they snorted tobacco. We were invited to participate but we declined.
+ After some post-lunch napping from Liz’s food coma, we headed back out with the guide to keep hiking.
+ We spotted some tiny monkeys along the way. The first bigger animals we’d seen. Everything else had been weird bugs and birds. Corey spotted a weird looking ant that our guide told us was very rare and the most dangerous ant in the whole jungle! It was large, poisonous, white with black spots, and called a jaguar ant!
+ After a short time we reached a river where we would camp for the night. Our guide set up the hammocks and tarps for us while we gathered fire wood. Everything was extremely damp due to it being in the rainforest, but somehow he started the fire.
+ We had been practicing our Spanish with Rudolfo this whole time and answering his questions about some new English words as well.
+ For some reason,  the word “hangry” came up in conversation. Liz explained this to Rudolfo, who we think understood the meaning.
+ Hours later, Corey was helping Liz bend/break a thin tree near her hammock that was covered in ants. I suppose this was making a lot of noise because out of nowhere Rudolfo looked up and “Corey!!” — long pause — “Yes?”, Corey replied puzzled.
Then Rudolfo calmly asked in english “Are you Hangry?”. We all had a good laugh.
+ Corey and the guide went swimming in the river next to camp. The water was cold and brownish (who knows what lurked beneath!) and the current was decently strong. But our guide assured us there were no crocs, caiman, piranhas, anacondas, or other murderous animals waiting for us.
+ After swimming we laid in our mosquito net protected hammocks to escape the overwhelming number of the pesky bugs. Liz and the guide took naps while Corey played around on his phone listening to the jungle slowly come alive with all the different new nocturnal sounds.
+ A couple hours later everyone got up and went for a night hike. For about 2 hours we wandered around in the darkness (apparently lost for a while our guide later told us! Lol) and found many large and mean looking spiders, crickets, centipedes, bats, and other random critters. It was scary walking around in the dark knowing every plant you were brushing up against probably had some sort of poisonous creature on it (if the plant itself wasn’t toxic) but we made it back to the hammocks without any bites or stings.
+ We did however notice that Liz’s day pack that was underneath her hammock was completely covered with a swarm of ants! The ants had also done the same to Corey’s socks and the bag the hammocks came in. Apparently the ants really love sweat!
+ We found out there wasn’t any dinner to be had (it is common for lunch to be the biggest  meal here in Colombia) and so we munched on some snacks before retreating back to the hammocks for bed. After zipping ourselves in the mosquito nets, we methodically killed all the ones who managed to sneak in, many leaving big blood streaks on the fabric from when they got us earlier.
+ Before falling asleep, we played the “I’m going to a party” game for a while from our separate hammocks. Then the game was fall asleep as quickly as possible before a puma decided we looked like a delicious wrapped up snack!

4/21
Leave the Amazon and arrive in Salento
+ We managed to make it to morning without having to finagle ourselves out of the hammocks in the dark night to use the restroom (thanks to purposely dehydrating ourselves! Lol).
+ Breakfast was pineapple and cereal and some sort of special milk that doesn’t need refrigeration, at least we hope!
+ After packing up we hiked out for about an hour until we reached a rode and our guide flagged down a passing police truck and asked if we could catch a ride. The police man said yes and we managed to save ourselves probably an hour of walking along the road  to get back much quicker. Corey’s feet and calves were very happy to have less boot wear and tear.
+ At the hiking headquarters we turned in our gear and took some pictures with the guide before starting our walk back down the rode towards Leticia.
+ Knowing we had to catch a ride due to the long distance, we waited for a tuk tuk or bus to pass. Neither came, but eventually a personal car was coming so we flagged that down. So for 20 minutes we rode in the back of a pickup truck next to a bunch of eggs. Didn’t realize until 5 minutes in the bag next to us had live chickens in it! One of them stuck their head out to check out Liz, lol!
+ The guy driving was really nice and once we arrived in Leticia he wouldn’t even accept money for the long ride.
+ We got some money from the ATM then immediately caught a tuk tuk back to the hostel.
+ A cold shower was a very welcomed (though brief) break from the incessant heat and sweating. Then we repacked our bags, ate some leftovers and settled our bill and headed out on a tuk tuk.
+ Our driver could only go within 2 blocks of the airport (only taxis are allowed in apparently) and we had to walk the rest of the way. We managed to make it in the airport right before a downpour of rain started!
+ After the check in process, we sat in the waiting room for a long time due to a crazy rain storm delaying our flight by almost an hour! Even the baggage crew were taking pictures of the storm, so you knew it was abnormal even for them!
+ We finally took off, nervous that we would miss our connecting flight in Bogota since we only had a 1 hour 9 minute layover! We had some last sweeping views of the Amazon Rainforest before the endless jungle disappeared behind the clouds.
+ Despite being hot and almost constantly sweating, we enjoyed our time in the Amazon and who knows if/when we’ll ever see it again!
+ Luckily, we made our connection (though no time for subway or Dunkin Donuts, booo). And for the 3rd time in about 12 days, we flew out of the Bogota airport! This time the views were different but still beautiful as we got to see all the mountains lit up at sunset! We were off to coffee country!
+ We were happy to see our bags made it with us when we arrived in Armenia. We then caught a taxi from the surprisingly tiny airport to the bus terminal, and then got a bus from Armenia to Salento.
+ Both of us were starving and before the bus took off, Corey bought some empanadas from one of the restaurants in the terminal and we ate on the 1 hour bus ride.
+ By the time we made it to Salento, Corey was feeling awful. We thought it might be his first case of motion sickness (due to the extremely curvy roads), so we hurried down the giant hills to our hostel and checked into our really nice room in Posada Casa Salento.
+ Corey’s highschool-self would have LOVED this room. Everything was lime green! The bed cover, shower, walls, curtains,  pillows, etc.! It was awesome.
+ Corey was still feeling bad so he laid down and went to sleep and Liz joined shortly after.

4/22
Rest Day in Salento
+ We woke up to have our free breakfast on the patio that was right outside our room. It had some pretty overlooks and we would occasionally see a Mot Mot bird flying around.
+ Unfortunately Corey’s situation has only worsened overnight and his stomach was still no Bueno. Luckily, Liz avoided the probable food poisoning despite eating from the same food stand.
+ So the only time we left our guesthouse this day was to get a pizza to go and some drinks/snacks from the grocery store. Obviously the best medicine/treatment for Corey’s stomach was pizza!
+ Relaxation was the only thing on the agenda for the rest of the night and we enjoyed our time doing whatever we wanted without the need to do research/book something looming in the back of our minds.

Click here for more photos from Colombia!

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!