New Zealand: 4/9 – 4/15

(New Zealand) Bethlehem >>> Thames >>> Whangerei >>> Matapouri >>> Wellsford >>> Titirangi [Housesit with Scooter and Gypsy]

4/9- Frisbee Golf with Sheep and Cathedral Cove!
4/10- Humongous Ice Cream Cones and Exploring the Northland
4/11- Kayaking the Bay of Islands and Mountain Biking in Waitangi!
4/12- Snorkeling the Poor Knights Islands and Exploring Abbey Caves!
4/13- Drive to Titirangi and Start Housesit
4/14- No More VanLife! 😦
4/15- Showcasing Bingo Bongo and Rugby Match in Auckland

Continue reading “New Zealand: 4/9 – 4/15”

Australia: 12/10 – 12/16

Cairns >>> Great Barrier Reef >>> Cairns >>> Cape Tribulation >>> Innisfail >>> Airlie Beach >>> Mackay

12/10 – Boat trip out to the Great Barrier Reef! Snorkeling and Diving from aboard the Live-aboard Reef Encounter!
12/11 – Full Day of Diving and Snorkeling and Eating on The Great Barrier Reef!
12/12 – Final day of Diving and Snorkeling and then Drinking with the Crew back in Cairns!
12/13 – Picked up our Jucy campervan and drove from Cairns to the Daintree Rainforest!
12/14 – Daintree Rainforest Hikes and Doing the Waterfall Circuit
12/15 – Drove and hiked through different areas along the East Coast in search of Cassowaries!
12/16 – Corey’s Birthday!!! JetBoat Tour of The Whitsundays and Whitehaven Beach!

Continue reading “Australia: 12/10 – 12/16”

Israel & Jordan: 11/26 – 12/02

(Israel) Jerusalem >>> Tel Aviv >>> Eilat >>> (Jordan) Aqaba >>> Wadi Musa

11/26- O, Little Town of Bethlehem
11/27- Floating in the Dead Sea and Hiking in the Ein Gedi Reserve!
11/28- Bus to Tel Aviv, Walking Tour of Old Jaffa, Delicious Mexican Dinner!
11/29- Hang out and Research in our fantastic Hostel, Bus 5 hours down to Eilat
11/30- Snorkeling in Eilat, Cross Border to Jordan, American Food in Aqaba!
12/1- Aqaba South Beach Snorkeling Trip and Jeep Tour of Wadi Rum!
12/2- Minibus up to Wadi Musa, Petra Visitor Center and Museum

Continue reading “Israel & Jordan: 11/26 – 12/02”

Panama: 3/26 – 4/1

Santa Catalina >>> Valle de Anton >>> Panama City

3/26
Scuba Isle de Coiba National Park
+ Woke up sweaty and covered in mosquito bites with the power still off.
+ Walked into town to Scuba Coiba and checked in for today’s dives.
+ After an hour on the boat,  the engine made a stranged sound and we lurched to a stop. We had arrived at Isle de Coiba National Park (The national park includes the reefs and surrounding islands) but unfortunately the engine gave out about 100 meters from the dive site.
+ While we waited for another boat to pass and rescue us, Corey and I jumped in the water and snorkeled for a bit.
+ Another boat came by and we rode to the 1st dive site with them.
+ Over both dives, we saw over 17 white tipped reef sharks all clustered together, multiple turtles, multiple eels, tons of fish especially puffer fish, and a few crown of thorns starfish! Awesome!
+ Both dives sites had a very interesting thermocline, where you could actually see the warm current and the cold current mixing together. It looked very similar to the heat above a sidewalk on a hot day. As we were swimming along, one side of your body would be in the very cold current and the other half would be in warm water like a bathtub! It was very interesting!
+ Because of the boat trouble we all had to change plans and shuffle around a bit. We didn’t get to go to the actual Isle de Coiba. Instead we ate lunch at Playa Canales  (another island inside the national park) This was disappointing but the dive master said Coiba would have been crazy packed with people today because of the holiday. So maybe it is for the better.
+ Caught a ride back from the dive shop to our hostel with another diver from China who is also staying at Jammin. We arrived to find the power is still off!! The rest of the city’s power returned very early this morning!
+ Walked back into town to try to find somewhere to use wifi and charge our devices. Found spotty wifi at a near by hostel and charged up our phones for a bit.
+ Ate a steak dinner at a place listed in lonely planet.
+ Walked around town trying to find another spot with wifi (we need to book a plane ticket to colombia asap!) But we were not successful.
+ Came upon a church service where everyone was clapping loudly and singing upbeat music. The happiness exuded by the church attendees was contagious!
+ Walked back to Jammin only to find the power IS STILL OUT!
+ Watched Straight outta Compton before bed.

3/27 (Easter)
Drove with friends to Valle de Anton
+ Woke up to find the power turned on sometime during the night.
+ Our Chinese friend, John, offered to drop us off in Valle de Anton as he was driving to Panama City. We took him up on his generous offer!  Our other dormmate, Marcella, was also headed back to Panama City. So the 4 of us who had been dormmates in Santa Catalina took off towards Panama City!
+ With all the traffic from Easter (many Panamanians were returning to the city for work on Monday after the long holiday weekend) the 4 hr drive to Valle de Anton took about 6 hours. John even insisted on dropping us off directly at our hostel!
+ After getting off the main highway with stop and go traffic we drove up and through the scenic mountains into Valle de Anton.
+ We arrived at Bodhi Hostel, checked in, and grabbed a very late lunch with John and Marcella at a local Panamanian restaurant.
+ After saying goodbye to John and Marcella, Corey and I spent the rest of the evening catching up on wifi things: blog updates, looking at plane tickets, etc.
+ There was a fair complete with rides and games right across the street from our hostel. We walked over around 945 and Corey got a late dinner.
+ Stopped at a bar down the street and got a few beers with Teenage Ninja Turtles playing in the background.
+ Headed back to our hostel for bed. Bodhi hostel is really nice! There is one big room with 27 dorm beds! That sounds absolutely awful but it is actually the nicest dorm beds we have stayed in so far! Each bed has their own fan, reading light, electrical outlet, new mattress and pillow, and curtain for privacy! And the best part… it’s not hot here!!!

3/28
Enjoyed a break from the heat in Valle de Anton
+ Woke up (not sweating!!) And rolled into the kitchen for the free breakfast (all you can eat pancakes, coffee, tea!).
+ Liz is excited to actually drink the free coffee! Many hostels offer free coffee but it’s usually way too hot to take advantage of it.
+ Met some other travelers and volunteers from the US and Germany. Got some tips about Colombia and gave some tips about Costa Rica.
+ Decided to go on a hike to the popular waterfall of the area: Chorro El Macho  (Manly Falls – named after Corey).
+ The walk there was a scenic 45 minutes and the waterfall itself was a bit disappointing due to it being dry season. There was also a small man made pool at the bottom of the falls but we decided against swimming since we were by ourselves and it was going to be closing soon anyway.
+ We chose to walk home a different way so we could see more of the neighborhoods surrounding Valle de Anton.
+ Back at the hostel, we went next door for dinner at a place called Munchies. Arabic food we think. It was absolutely delicious, the best thing we’d eaten in a while. We vowed to return the next day for lunch, only to find out they would be closed. Oh well, next time!
+ That night in the hostel we chose to enjoy the cool weather and sat outside in the patio area watching House of Cards. We were cold for the first time in a few weeks!

3/29
Arrived in Panama City and attended our first Futbol match
+ Checked out of Bodhi and jumped directly onto the bus for Panama city!
+ On the way into Panama city we got to drive over the Bridge of the Americas. Looking down, we saw many small boats and large ships waiting their turn for the canal passage.
+ The bus dropped us off at the Albrook bus station/mall and it was the largest/busiest place we had been to in quite a while. It’s funny how quickly something like a big mall with A/C and a food court and movie theater can become so foreign.
+ After a quick lunch of McDonald’s, we caught a taxi to our hostel (after bartering with him down to half of his originally quoted price).
+ Checked in to our dorm at Magnolia Inn and met the 4 other people staying in our room: Wes and Matt from Colorado, and Andy and Jessie from Switzerland. This was the first dorm where all the other people had been traveling long term, and we’d all come in the same direction from Cancun and we all left that area at roughly the same time! Crazy!
+ After getting settled, we all decided to venture across town to see if we can get tickets to the Panama vs Haiti World Cup qualifier match!
+ We used Uber for the first time on our travels and we had a very nice driver named Jimmy. We all practiced our Spanish for the hour and a half it took with all the heavy traffic.
+ Outside the stadium, the 6 of us got tickets for general admission for $16 each! While waiting in line to get in, we ate some cheap mystery meat on a stick from a roadside stand and drank some beer.
+ The game itself was a lot of fun, even though nobody scored until almost the 7th minute. Still, everyone was having a ton of fun chanting different cheers (we tried to join in despite not knowing the words)
+ When Panama finally scored a goal, the whole stadium went crazy! They threw beer everywhere (luckily not on us) and celebrated like they just won the championship! The energy was awesome! Comparable to some of the better American football games I’ve been to.
+ After the game, we got some spiral hot dogs on a stick, then crammed 6 people into a tiny taxi for the ride back to the hostel.
+ Before going to sleep, we finished the last 2 episodes of House of Cards.

 

3/30
Visited the Panama Canal with friends
+ In the morning, Laura and her husband Johannes (who had flown in from Germany a few days earlier) met up with us at our hostal. Laura had gotten sick and needed antibiotics. So after watching some YouTube videos on how to properly use the foreign medical products, Liz gave Laura an injection!
+ Afterwards, all 6 of us (Laura and Johannes, along with Andy and Jessie) walked along the Cinto Castera to the fish market. After wondering through the maze of stinky exotic fish, we all had a nice fresh seafood lunch.
+ Up next was a visit to the famous Panama Canal! The 6 of us walked a few blocks to a bus station, bought a bus card and then road the bus to the main terminal (same mall we originally arrived at) and then caught a different bus to the Miraflores Locks at the canal. We watched the large cargo ships go through and how the locks operated. The canal was just wide enough for the ships to just barely squeeze through! The mechanical “mules” on each side of the canal were very interesting as they follow a sort of train track and are used to help keep the boats centered in the canal. We also walked through the on site history museum and watched a short 3D film.
+ We stayed til close, then eventually caught buses back to the Cintro Castera to watch the sunset over the cityscape. It was a very pretty site and reminded us a bit of the Miami landscape. We also saw some of the native Kuna Yala people from nearby San Blas islands hanging out and selling souvenirs.
+ Corey got a delicious snow cone for 50 Cents and best of all, it was actually made from shaved ice right in front of us. Not like in the U.S. where a machine spits out the ice. The man would actually shave a huge ice block right in front of us!
+ Andy used his nice camera and expert photography skills to take some really nice pictures of each couple with the city scape in the background
+ We all wandered around Casco Viejo, at least the parts we were allowed to since the President of Panama’s house/mansion was in that area. The area was a little upscale, but very picturesque with unique old buildings and colorful murals and graffiti.
+ One of the places in the area recommended by Lonely Planet was a bar called Mojitos sin Mojitos. We all got a drink but were underwhelmed by the atmosphere (we later found out we were too early and it got extremely crowded later on) so decided to move on.
+ Up next was a visit to La Rana Dorada brewery with Laura and Johannes. They had delicious craft beer and pizza! Although it was probably our most expensive meal in Panama, it was unique pizza and it even provided leftovers the next day!
+ Laura and Johannes had to get some supplies (alcohol) before their San Blas trip was to depart the next day, so we went to the grocery store with them. Then we said our goodbyes and we headed back to the hostel.
+ The rest of the evening was spent researching Colombia and logistics.

3/31
Rest and Planning Day in Panama City
+ Today was a “take care of business” day, so we headed to a nearby internet cafe to print some stuff, make some copies and scans, and take care of stuff that’s easier to do on a computer as opposed to a tablet.
+ The early evening was spent booking our flight to Colombia and gathering tax stuff. So much fun! 😦 Not all days traveling can be spent relaxing in paradise or exploring new and exciting places.
+ Around dinner time, we headed out to walk around Casco Viejo more and see what we could find to eat for reasonably priced.
+ We ended up having ice cream for dinner! From a shop that hand made gourmet ice creams.
+ Afterwards, we stumbled upon a festival near the ministry of culture. There were a lot of different groups that would take the stage and different performances involved traditional dancing and crazy monster/demon outfits. We think they were celebrating Verano (summer) and various Legends of panama? Corey even got a free Panamanian energy drink while we watched! It was a nice way to spend the evening watching the different dancing even if we didn’t totally know what was going on 🙂
+ We walked by this area that was haphazardly blocked off with caution tape and realized the metal pipes immediately behind the tape were the setup for a very large firework display! We walked a few more steps and saw a guy sleeping on a park bench holding what appears to be the remote for the fireworks! Only in Central America!

4/1
Dinner and a movie at the mall!
+ Ate lunch in the park from some sort of hole in the wall (literally) restaurant. It was some kind of meat that we weren’t able to identify by look or taste… hmmmm. But it filled us up!
+ Now it was back to the internet cafe for a repeat of yesterday and to upload pictures.
+ Later that day, we walked 45 min on the Cinta Costera to the Multicentro mall. This place was 4 stories tall and had crazy stores! After some unsuccessful shopping, we ate some burgers in the food court. They were delicious!
+ Now it was time for the main event of our outing: Batman v Superman! Our movie theater had assigned seats, but wasn’t full at all. There were a bunch of silly commercials before the movie that had us laughing and guessing what product or service that was trying to advertise.
+ The movie was good but it didn’t get out until almost 1 am, so we opted for an Uber as opposed to risking walking. The uber car was super fancy (some make/model we had never heard of before) and the seats even had tv’s on them!
+ As we laid in our separate dorm beds trying to fall asleep, Corey geeked out and watched different YouTube videos about the Batman/Superman movie while Liz probably looked at instagram!

Click here for more photos from our time in Panama!

Panama: 3/19 – 3/25

Uvita >>> (Panama) David >>> Bocas del Toro >>> Santa Catalina

3/19
5 hour Panama Border Crossing!
+ Checked out of Flutterby. Said our goodbyes to Laura and caught a taxi to the bus station.
+ After the very confusing bus station with multiple rude staff members, we FINALLY boarded the bus to David and took the very last seats. Because we bought the ticket directly through the conductor and not the office, when Corey gave him money and asked for change, the guy simply said it was his propina (tip) and kept it all. Not wanting to get kicked off the bus, there was little we could do so we just boarded.
+ After an uneventful ride, we got off the bus and began the process to cross the border. We ended up being at the border for just about 5 hours! It would have probably been much longer if the bus driver had not kept taking groups of 2-3 of us up ahead and skipping a bunch of people!
+ After the border, our bus continued on for a quick 45 min to David.
+ The international fair of David was happening this weekend. Tonight was the grand finale- a horse parade! Citizens from David and the surrounding area parade through the streets on horseback! Apparently there are hundreds of horses!
+Our taxi driver was driving us through the remainders of this parade. There were people on horseback everywhere! And many of them were obviously drunk! Others were riding up to beer stands and buying a few brews without even getting off their horse! We were bummed we had missed the actual parade because even this was such a site to see!
+ We made small talk with our taxi driver and learned that even he owns two horses. And he thought it was preposterous that we asked what their names were. “They have no names.” (followed by a weird look)
+ Arrived and checked in to the dorm at Bambu Hostel. Our dorm had AC. It was glorious!
+ Spontaneously ate dinner with 3 other travelers from Stuttgart! Talked about what we learned about Germany from Laura and Marius (i.e. fressneit). Also talked about lego movie theme song. Hagen thinks all Americans always say how “everything is awesome” ! Lololol
+ Corey had fried fish and Patacones (squished plantain patties) for less that $4! Liz was adventurous and tried some octopus stew! It was delicious!

3/20
Rest and Planning Day in David
+ Checked out of dorm, moved into private room with AC and very small TV from the 90’s.
+ Spent early part of day checking email, talking to family/friends
+ Walked 15 minutes to town and ate lunch at Dairy Queen.
+ Stopped into the Super 99 grocery store and picked up some drinks and ramen for dinner that night.
+ Walked back to hostel and spent the rest of the day researching Panama and Colombia.

3/21
Rest and Planning Day in David
+ Corey woke up and watched a movie while Liz played on her phone.
+ We then spent most of the day planning our next moves and deciding which places we were and were not going to.
+ Booked accommodation for our upcoming places and researched flights to Colombia.
+ Watched Zoolander 2 and relaxed by the pool.
+ Ate dinner at the seafood restaurant across the street again. We both got the fish special and  an appetizer of fish ceviche. They were both delicious and big portions for very cheap prices.
+ Spent the rest of the evening soaking up our last night of AC and watching our tiny TV.

3/22
Arrived in Bocas Del Toro
+ Woke up and checked out of our room, but had already missed the free breakfast.
+ Caught a taxi to the bus station and then the first shuttle bus headed towards Bocas Del Toro. On the 4 hour shuttle ride, we passed many interesting landscapes and little villages. Some little kid on the bus got sick and threw up in the van, but luckily it wasn’t near us.
+ During the ride, we watched Trumbo and then Corey watched Beasts of No Nation. Liz skipped that one so she didn’t get more car sick and end up like the little kid from earlier.
+ When we arrived to the town of Almirante, we got off the bus only to find that our bags on top were never covered and the rain through the mountains got them soaking wet.
+ No time to linger however as we were quickly ushered into the first taxi and driven to one of the boat docks. After 10 minutes we loaded up, strapped on our life jackets, said a prayer we weren’t going to need them, then started our 25 min journey over to the main island called Bocas Town.
+ Checked in to South Beach Hostel and then headed for an early dinner since we had skipped lunch.
+  Ate dinner and had a few drinks at happy hour. Then walked around town and talked to a few tour operators about tours or at least locations to snorkel tomorrow.
+ Ended the night at Bocas Brewery sampling their beers and playing ladderball.
+Corey tried to teach Liz how to do the Runningman. It was not a successful lesson. 🙂
+ Caught a taxi back to our hostel and did some more planning since Semana Santa is SO busy here in Panama.

3/23
Snorkeling at Blue Coconut with over-water hammocks
+ After leaving the hostel, we took a water taxi to Blue Coconut- a waterfront bar/restaurant of off Bastimentos. This bar had free snorkel gear and hammocks hanging in the water. It was a very cool place!
+ The snorkeling was good. Half coral/sponge and half sea grass bed near the mangroves. We saw tons of fish and sponges, free swimming jellyfish, lots of brittle stars, a skate, and a yellow sea horse!
+ Spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing in the hammocks over the water and watching the owner’s dogs fetch sticks from the water over and over.
+ Ate street food for dinner and watched House of Cards before bed.

3/24 (Our 3 year anniversary! 😊)
Snorkeling at Hospital Point- cove all to ourselves
+ We moved to a new dorm (same hostel) yesterday that may be the smallest dorm we’ve ever seen! 4 beds, no windows, but it has AC!
+ Because there were no windows we slept soundly in our little AC box and woke up with no idea what time of day it was.
+ Turned in laundry, and then hired a water taxi out to snorkel Hospital Point.
+ Hospital Point was not the most amazing snorkeling we had ever done but it was still a nice cove with grassy cliffs we had almost completely to ourselves. It was definitely a nice place to spend the afternoon.
+ After we got back to the hostel and showered, we set off to find dinner. The power went off for the whole island shortly after we left the hostel. We ended up having a hodge podge dinner of street food, Liz’s leftover chicken sandwich, and ice cream with chocolate cake!
+ Back at the hostel, we checked out and packed up to leave on our long travel day tomorrow. We are traveling from the Caribbean coast to the Pacific coast!

3/25
Traveled 13 hours! From Carribean Coast to Pacific Coast of Panama
+ Woke up very early. Grabbed our clothes that had been hanging to dry only to find they had been soaked by rain overnight.
+ Left Bocas del Toro on the 630am boat. Little did we know this would be one of our longest travel days yet.
+ Almost 13 hours later we finally arrived in Santa Catalina. We took a total of 7 different vehicles to get here.
— Water taxi from Bocas to the mainland — Taxi to bus station
— Bus from Almirante to David
— Bus from David to Santiago
— Bus from Santiago to Sona
— Bus from Sona towards Santa Catalina but only part way
— Old, stinky beat up SUV the rest of the way into town to our hostel- Jammin Hostel
+ Needless to say, it was an exhausting day.
+ After we checked into our hostel  (which is also a pizzeria) we ordered a cold drink and some pizza!
+ In the middle of dinner, the power went out for the whole town. Corey and I had a lot of things to do online, but unfortunately the power never came back on before bed.
+ Instead we watched Parks and Rec in the moonlight outside our dorm room.
+ There are multiple kittens here running around and wrestling with each other. One of them very much reminds us of Tumbles. He is super playful and also likes attention.
+ Still no power, so we settled in for another hot sweaty night in our dorm beds.

Click here for more photos from our time in Panama!

Costa Rica: 3/12 – 3/18

 

Puerto Viejo >>> San Jose >>> Quepos >>> Manuel Antonio >>> Uvita

3/12
Travel to San José and say goodbye for now to our German Friends
+ We all met up in the hostel lobby at 7:30 ready to leave Puerto Viejo on our last day together.
+ On our 4+ hour drive to San José, we were driving through that same place we’d been before so… we made our 3rd and final stop at our favorite Costa Rican restaurant, that same Taco Bell! Since it had been almost 72 hours since indulging our appetites there, we didn’t feel too guilty. Besides, it was practically tradition now!
+ It rained almost the whole drive and at one point, we noticed that in a passing car the guy was leaning out his window and physically moving the wipers back and forth to clear the rain! Lol. We still continue to be amazed by some of the crazy things we see in Costa Rica.
+ When we made it to San José, Marius graciously dropped is off at what would be our fanciest stay of our travels, a Holiday Inn right near downtown! Using some of the free IHG points we had earned back home, we booked 2 nights to catch up on some of the work and research we had fallen behind on.
+ Laura was headed to the San José bus stop to continue onward to the Montezuma area of Costa Rica, and Marius was going to meet up with his brother and 16 of his gay friends. They were staying at a super “schmancy” place near Manuel Antonio to celebrate his brother’s birthday.
+ Our room was also vastly different from the hostels and dorm beds we had been sleeping on and we were happy to have some little luxuries, like soap, hand towels, big soft pillows, and even A/C!
+ We spent the rest of our day lounging in the room using the phones and tablets and watching random movies in Spanish on the tv.
+ We also continued the trend of eating American food and got Pizza Hut for dinner since it was the closest take out to the hotel.

3/13
Rest and Planning in San José
+ Corey woke up early and watched a movie while Liz enjoyed our lush bed a little while longer.
+ We had a very lazy morning and afternoon, spent hanging out in the room and doing research.
+ We eventually ventured out for lunch and to run some errands. We stopped by a few stores and picked up snacks and ate lunch at a restaurant we hadn’t been to since Xela, Guatemala: Pollo Campero. Although it wasn’t quite as nice as before, it still hit the spot.
+ On our way home we passed through the park and watched a live band play as many locals danced. We decided to use the excuse of carrying grocery bags to not dance and went back to our room on the 14th floor, where we could still hear them anyways.
+ San José was definitely the biggest city we’d been in since Orlando (with 1 million people) and neither one of us had missed the crazy hustle and bustle, nor the McDonald’s on every street corner.
+ Back at the hotel, we went downstairs to use their computer room and spent the next bunch of hours researching and planning on those, as well as finally updating the blog which we were weeks behind on.
+ We ended the night by watching more parks and recreation until the wee hours of the morning.

3/14
Rest and Planning in San José
+ Slept in late today since we had decided to use more of our IHG points and extend 1 more night here.
+ Lounged around in the room watching various movies in Spanish before our growling stomachs told us it was time to leave for lunch.
+ Grabbed a quick lunch of more fast food 😦 There were no cheap Sodas within walking distance of our hotel.
+ After trying 2 more shops, we were FINALLY successfully in finding the special batteries we need for our Steripen (water sterilization light). If we had realized the Steripen takes such unique batteries we would have DEFINITELY brought spares from home!
+ Headed back to the hotel to do more planning and make some big decisions that will steer our travels over the next few months.
+ Later, we grabbed dinner of traditional Casados at a cafe . We were happy the cafe was not too far and hurried home after dinner. San Jose is definitely not nearly as bad as other central American capital cities, but still not a great idea to walk around at night.

3/15
Reunited with Laura and Marius in Quepos!
+ Reluctantly checked out of the Holiday Inn and walked across town to catch the 2:30 bus to Quepos.
+ Hopped off the bus in Quepos to discover our hostel, Villas Jacquelina, was very nice but a far walk outside of town.
+ After checking in, we saw a HUGE gecko on the outside wall. The gecko was black and at least a foot long! It didn’t even look real!
+ We walked into town and met Laura at her hostel! Later, Marius joined us and we were all reunited again! 🙂
+ Spent the evening socializing, boozing, and playing Hot and Cold (or Heiss und Kalt). Apparently this is one of Corey’s favorite games.
+ After the long walk back to our hostel up on the hill, Corey passed out in the hammock for the evening.

3/16
Beach day in Manuel Antonio with Laura and Marius
+ Corey and I overslept our alarms and were a bit late getting over to Manuel Antonio to check in to our new hostel (Backpackers Manuel Antonio) and meet Laura there. We decided to save exploring the national park for tomorrow  (to make sure we could get our money’s worth of the $16usd entrance fee)
+ Met Marius and went down to Playa Espadilla right before the entrance to the park.
+ We haggled with the vendor and got a good price on 4 beach chairs and a large tent for shade. We appreciated the shade as it was very hot!
+ Played frisbee on the beach. Liz finally successfully caught the frisbee under her leg! Corey was crazy impressed and wishes his frisbee skills were up to par with Liz’s.
+ The 4 of us watched sunset together and then caught the bus back up the hill into town.
+ After showering, Corey and I ate dinner at the pizza place next door to our hostel
+ Marius joined us after dinner at our place and we hung out the rest of the evening.
+ When it came time for bed, we said our goodbyes to Marius as this will probably be the last time we see him.

3/17
Manuel Antonio N.P. and travel to Uvita
+ After our free breakfast of pancakes and pineapple,  the 3 of us caught the bus to the manuel antonio national park. We all agreed, if we had not already been to other parts of Costa Rica, this would have been our favorite park. Lots of animals and relatively easy to find! However, in all of Costa Rica this park is by far the most crowded with tourists.
+ We saw tons of animals… multiple sloths, squirrel monkeys, baby deer with spots!, howler and Capuchin monkeys, nice Miradors. And Very hot everywhere.
+ After sweating out every bit of moisture from our bodies, the three of us caught bus in to Quepos and then caught a second bus on to Uvita.
+ Arrived in Uvita and checked in to the Tucan Hotel. Corey and I got the last 2 dorm rooms and Laura chose to sleep in her hammock for the night.
+ We ventured our to find dinnner only to discover most places were closed already! It was only 730 on a Thursday night. Corey decided on Chinese food for dinner! Liz tried this Costa Rican ice cream sandwich called TRITS that other backpackes had been raving about.

3/18
Snorkeled Whale Tail beach in Uvita
+ After a quick breakfast of granola bars, we checked out of Tucan Hotel and locked up our bags.
+ We walked 15 very hot minutes up the dirt road to a local waterfall.
+ Luckily, the water was ice cold and very refreshing. Much better than the ocean which feels more like bath water here.
+ Corey joined the other locals and tourists who would climb up to the top of the waterfall and jump into the pool below.
+ After our trek back to Tucan, we grabbed lunch at a local place advertised as a “beer garden”. Unfortunately the beers were so expensive we didn’t partake but we did eat some delicious burgers.
+ Grabbed our bags at Tucan and rode the short taxi ride over to our next hostel, Flutterby House. This hostel had a treehouse feel and was much closer to the beach.
+ After storing our bags on our dorm beds, we walked out to the beach and found Laura.
+ Uvita’s beach is well known for its whale – tail shape when the water is at low tide.
+ We walked down the beach and out to the whale tail. With the afternoon sunlight      looking back to the shore was so beautiful. Seeing the lush green Costa Rican jungle meet the sand and ocean here was definitely the most impressive beach we had seen in the country.
+ We had been warned this stretch of beach was prone to robberies and to not bring any valuables. We were disappointed we didn’t have our camera to capture the beautiful coast line.
+ After reaching the end of the Whale tail, the three of us snorkeled until sunset.
+ We saw Moorish Idols (yellow and black fish from finding nemo) for the first time among many other fish and we hung out with a turtle as he grazed on the reef for a bit.
+ The sunset was a fiery orange as we climbed out of the water and found our shoes.
+ After making our way back to Flutterby house, we enjoyed a huge dinner of fish, yuca, and salad.
+ Corey and I stayed up late planning our next moves in Costa Rica.
+ We eventually decided to give our wallets a break- it was time to move on to Panama.

Click here for more photos of Costa Rica!

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!

Belize and Guatemala. 1/1-1/7

Belize City  》》》Caye Caulker  》》》San Ignacio  》》》 Flores, Guatemala

 


1/1
+Louis,the owner of Red Hut Inn, drove us to the water taxi
+Took water taxi to Caye Caulker
+found the last 2 beds in Dirty McNasty hostel. (our room is very cluttered, messy with condoms in shower. Yuck. From what we hear, other rooms are actually nice)
+ Went walking looking for a tour for Blue Hole. Most businesses are closed due to the holiday.
+Found the very last reservations at Blue Sea for diving/snorkeling tomorrow!
+ Walked more of the island. watched sunset at “The Split”.
+ Went back to hostel and socialized with people thanks to the nightly free rum punch.
+Left and went to restaurant. Split yummy jerk chicken. Shared table with Jake- fashion designer from NY.
+ went back to the  hostel to post on blog

1/2
+ Met at Blue Seas at 530am for breakfast (Forgot our mask and snorkels, rashguard, and go pro! Ugh!) (Packing up for the day in a completely dark hostel dorm makes it very easy to forget things!)
+ Left for 3 dives by 630am: blue hole, half moon caye, long caye (Corey dove, Liz snorkeled)
+ Got soaked in the back of the boat. But at least not sea sick!
+ Blue Hole snorkel: AWESOME! Cuttlefish, 2 stingrays, TONS of fish, healthy brain coral, airplanes flying low overhead.
+ Blue Hole dive: ~150ft deep, Super awesome! 3 sharks, stalactites, grouper, tons of fish
+ Half Moon Caye dive: ~90ft deep, 3 sea turtles, lots of sharks, starfish, unique fish, big coral reef wall
+ Half Moon Caye snorkel: super shallow, right up close with fish! Tiny little lionfish, sea cucumbers, HUGE nurseshark ~9ft long, tons of Queen conch, beautiful sea anemones of all different colors
+ Delicious lunch of rice, chicken, coleslaw on  Half Moon beach. All the water+coke we can drink.
+ Water came in little bags! Like a juice box but with no form! Had to bite it open with your teeth
+ Bird tower on Half Moon Caye. Nesting grounds for great frigate birds and red footed boobies! (We were told this is the only place to see them besides the Galapagos)
+ Met nice mom and daughter from San Diego area. Will need to email them pictures
+ Long caye dive: coreys favorite, 2 turtles, 2 moray eels swimming, maybe octopus?,  huge tarpon, stonefish, big lionfish
+ Long caye dive: too deep for really great snorkeling visibility . But still lovely to roll about in the water!
+ Talked with nice Australian couple on way back to land
+ Made it back to hostel around 5pm and showered successfully despite yucky shower.
+ Ate dinner at hostel. Fresh lobster tails and rice and beans for  $7.50 us!

1/3
+ Ate breakfast and checked out of hostel
+  Said goodbye to my bunkmate, Frankie  from UK. Will probably see her in San Ignacio in a few days.
+  All Atms out of money on the island!
+ Caught 12pm water taxi back to Belize city.
+ Briefly walked through Belize City to find ATM after getting off water taxi. Everything was closed as it was a Sunday. Lots of unsavory characters out and about.
+ Caught taxi from water taxi to bus station.
+ Found chicken bus to Benque and hopped on.
+ Jumped off at Belize Zoo. Zoo was small and quaint. Filled with native Belize species. Most were rescues from the pet trade. (see facebook for pictures)
+ The onward bus to San Ignacio comes by the zoo every hour. When we got to the bus stop, we were informed we had JUST missed the bus by a few minutes. Waited at the bus stop for another hour as it was getting dark for the next bus to come by. Don’t worry, we had our bug spray!
+ Hopped on the bus to San Ignacio and continued our journey for the next ~2hrs.
+ Arrived in San Ignacio and found Bella Backpackers hostel. Rooms got a bit mixed up so we were assigned a loft.
+ Split a quick dinner at Han-Nah’s of quesadillas and chamomile tea for Liz. (Liz caught a cold in Caye Caulker. ugh)
+ Talked the evening away with a nice guy named Brady from Arkansas with similar camping interests as Corey.

1/4
+ Slept in and found lunch at Eva’s
+Booked Tour of Actun Tunichil Muknal (ATM) for tomorrow
+ Rainy day in San Ignacio so we relaxed and researched. Talked with some fellow travelers we had previously met in Caye Caulker.
+ Ate dinner at same place and had delicious pork tacos this time!

1/5
+ Woke up and checked out to meet at tour at 7am.
+ Toured ATM caves. Our group had 8 people and 1 guide. It was a fantastic tour! Swimming through the cave, scrambling up rocks, under formations and through seemingly impossible gaps. Really interesting artifacts and skeletal remains (!) from 600-950 AD.
+ The tour included a traditional Belizean lunch where we met 2 Americans, Sarah and Cliff, following a very similar itinerary as us.
+ Traveled the 1hr ride back to San Ignacio. Checked into the Old House Hostel. Complete with dog and kitten.
+ Ate dinner at local pizza stand.

1/6
+ Checked out of the hostel and went to Pop’s for lunch to try to fry Jacks we had been hearing so much about. Fry jacks are like airy, fried croissants. Yum!
+ Took a taxi to the border. Crossed into Guatemala but had trouble finding the bus.
We ended up on a sketchy collectivo but arrived in Flores safely.
+ Rode in our first Tuk Tuk! The collectivo dropped us off in the city of Flores. The tuk tuk took us across the bridge to our hotel Villa Del Lago on Isle de Flores.
+ Walked around the island and had a few beers at local happy hours. Ate dinner at roadside stands: empanada, plantains?, huge piece of chocolate cake!
+ Met up with Sarah and Cliff again. Chatted about their adventure getting into Flores as well.
+ Before headed back to hotel, we stopped by the city square. There was a very rowdy rock concert just starting. Guatemalan group singing mostly 80s American songs all in English. Very odd. But everyone seemed to love it!
+ Did “laundry” in our bathroom sink for the 1st time!

1/7
+ Spent the morning finalizing plans for our homestay with San Pedro Spanish school.
+ Our shuttle to Tikal picked us up at 1pm from our hotel.
+ Guided tour of Tikal! This complex was much larger than any of the other ruins we had visited in Mexico. Lots of turkeys and spider monkeys. Enjoyed sunset views from Temple IV. That’s the same viewpoint used in Star Wars episode IV!! (It’s the scene where the Millennium Falcon is approaching the rebel base.)
+ Ate dinner at Cool Beans Cafe. Chupo, the owner, is super accomodating and friendly ( and spoke good English). Cool Beans had a lot of coffee and beer varieties to choose from.
+ Went home to get ready for our long day of travel to Semuc Champey tomorrow.

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