Peru & Panama: 5/21 – 5/27

Huaraz >>> Lima >>> Panama City >>> Cruise Ship!

5/21 – Planning Day in Huaraz
5/22 – Snowfall and Avalanche at Pastoruri Glacier
5/23 – Hike Laguna 69
5/24 – Planning Day in Huaraz and night bus to Lima
5/25 – Explore the Miraflores district of Lima
5/26 – Flight to Panama City
5/27 – Board the Cruise for Portugal!

Continue reading “Peru & Panama: 5/21 – 5/27”

Ecuador: 5/07 – 5/13

Quilotoa >>> Chugchilan >>> Isinlivi >>> Guayquil >>> Puerto Lopez >>> Salinas

5/7 – Explore Quilotoa Crater Lake
5/8 – Hike from Quilotoa to Chugchilan
5/9 – Hike from Chugchilan to Isinlivi
5/10 – Transport from Isinlivi back to Latacunga and then on to Guayquil
5/11 – Driving to the Coast and Arriving in Puerto Lopez
5/12 – Isla de la Plata: the Poor Man’s Galapagos
5/13 – Travel Down the Coast to Salinas

Continue reading “Ecuador: 5/07 – 5/13”

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!