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: 4/9 – 4/15

San Gil >>> Bogota

Planning Day: Booked excursions in San Gil and researched next moves in Colombia.
+ Slept in late.
+ Booked excursions for the next few days.
+ Did research in little cubicles an Internet cafe.
+ Went back to Gringo Mike’s, ordered an appetizer of fries that was as much money as a burger but turned out to be very small. Corey politely complained and eventually they gave in and brought some more fries. First time we’ve had to do that in a Latin American country! So despite loving the menu, the place quickly lost it’s appeal, as well as all the additional future visits we were planning to make.
+ Spent the rest of the night frustrated with the hostel wifi as we unsuccessfully  tried to get planning done and book flights to the amazon. Then watched some tv before bed.

White water rafting on Rio Suarez!
+ Spent most of the day rafting on the Suarez river. Our tour was supposed to leave at 10 am but got pushed back to 12 pm. So that meant 2 more hours of sleep for us! Hooray! We needed it due to staying up so late the night before.
+ The tour group was split into 3 boats and despite multiple class IV and V rapids, no one fell out of the boats!
+ This was probably the most intense rafting we’ve ever done. The river was so high because San Gil had gotten a lot of rain recently. The day before our trip they had to cancel the rafting because the river was too strong!
+ After rafting we stopped for lunch of multiple fruits, tons of chicken, potatoes, cheese,  some type of dried guava snack, and beer. The guides kept bringing out more and more food! (The stray dogs hanging around certainly did not mind)
+ Not only did our tour include this huge lunch, they also included pictures and video for free! Corey and I agreed that Colombia has definitely presented the best value in their tours compared to other countries.
+ For a late dinner, we split a giant hamburger and hot dog at Mikasa near the hostel. Corey spotted an advertisement for their eating challenge and vowed to return before we left San Gil.

Mountain Biking Chicamocha Canyon
+ Checked out of our hostel due to nosy staff and very unreliable wifi and over to another hostel called Macondo. This is where some of our friends from the rafting trip the day before were staying.
+ Corey went Mountain Biking on a 50+ km trip through the Chicamocha Canyon! About 90 percent was steep downhill over rocky dirt roads and single track and he got going very fast at times! Total descent was over 3000 kilometers!
+ Liz spent the day relaxing in the cool shade of the hostel garden. She was also productive with the trip insurance and tax stuff.
+ At night, we hung out with our new friends in the hot tub at the hostel. Nico, Paul,(Germany) and Annemarie (Holland) had all gone rafting and also mountain biking with us.
+ We ordered pizza from a nearby restaurant called 7 Tigres. There was some confusion with our order and the restaurant offered us a free pizza the next day!

Caving and Tejo (The Colombian Gunpowder Sport!)
+ Swam, climbed and crawled through Cuevo de Vaca with Nico, Paul, and Annmarie.
+ Our guide was super nice and kept splashing us with the cold water. He was happy to take our picture and even hid from us to surprise us in the dark at one point! (Unfortunately these pictures were later erased from the SD card before we could upload them)
+ After Caving and a brief stroll through the market of San Gil, our friends went back to the hostel to watch a Futbol match. Corey and I stopped for what ended up being a huge lunch from Taco Federal.
+ Later that night, 7 Tigres invited us to come by to get our free pizza. Tonight was make your own pizza night! Yum!
+ After thanking the 7 Tigres staff for their generosity, we went back to the hostel to get ready for Tejo Tuesday!
+ Tejo is the national sport of Colombia. It is similar to corn hole, except you are throwing heavy metal weights instead of bean bags. And instead of throwing the weights into a hole, you are trying to hit these packets stuffed with gunpowder in hopes they explode on contact. Oh, and there’s usually lots of beer involved. It’s a very civilized game, obviously.
+ The hostel owner showed all us Gringos how to play and set us up in two “lanes” on the court with 2 teams on each lane. Tejo is played in a large warehouse type building with lanes side by side.
+ Our team was Paul, Corey, and Liz. We won the first match and then played the other winning team and won that as well! Woohoo!
+ Although the explosions were not nearly as frequent as we thought they would be, it was still a fun game!

Bungee Jumping and Our First Overnight Bus
+ Corey, Paul, Nico decided to do the 70m bungee jump just outside of San Gil. One at a time, they were each hoisted up on a platform on a crane above the Rio Fonce and jumped!
+ Corey sweet talked the staff to letting him touch the water on his jump as that is something that is usually only reserved for guides. So on his jump his head and chest  actually got dunked in the water!
+ The other 3 really enjoyed their jumps as well. It was Annemarie ‘ s first time!
+ After bungee, we all went back to the hostel and were planning to get lunch together.
+ The weather had been quite rainy the past day and half but it had suddenly cleared up this afternoon to be good enough for paragliding. Nico and Paul had not paraglided yet so they jumped at the chance with the break in the weather.
+ Corey and I stayed at the hostel to finally book our flights to and from Amazonas.
+ When Paul and Nico finally returned from paragliding there wasn’t much time left before their overnight bus left for Santa Marta. The 4 of us quickly went to Mikasa to conquer the food challenge Corey had told them about.
+ Unfortunately the food took a little too long so Nico and Paul had to get theirs to go and run back to the hostel to get their bags. We said our goodbyes and promised to look them up when we were in Germany.
+ Once Corey’s food challenge arrived, we saw why it was  a challenge. It was huge! 2 burger patties with pulled chicken in between with a ton of fries and a coke. All this had to be finished in 5 minutes!! with the reward being your whole table eats free.
+ Corey made a valiant effort and scarfed down the fries, the coke, and half the burger in about 4 minutes. To save himself the stomachache  he decided to save the rest of the burger. (This half of a burger ended being enough for lunch for the both of us the next day!)
+ After dinner, we walked back to the hostel and planned and got ready for our overnight bus all with a Game of Thrones marathon on the tv.
+ Our overnight bus left at midnight to make the 7 hour journey to Bogota. The rumors we had heard about Colombian bus travel were true! The seats were nice and reclined very far back to make sleeping pretty easy. However the buses are air conditioned to a freezing temperature. All the locals are dressed in their winter jackets and even hats and most people were wrapped up in fleece blankets as they slept. We were happy we had grabbed our rain jackets from our packs.
+ Because this bus had originally come from the north, we got the last 2 seats together… in the very last row.
+ With the mountain roads, the last row got some serious G’s going around the many, many curves. This was the quickest Liz has ever felt car sick. She tried to sleep and even took some motion sickness medicine. She got out a plastic bag and was ready if the worst were to happen 😦
+ About 45 minutes into our ride we stopped at one of the little towns and dropped off a few people and the driver got out to get a snack. We leapt at the chance to change seats! Luckily the couple didn’t get back on the bus and we were now firmly seated about halfway from the front of the bus. The swerving motion here was much more manageable and Liz promptly passed out followed by Corey shortly after.

Gold Museum and Drinks with Locals in Bogota
+ We sleepily arrived in Bogota at 7am.
+ After a short taxi ride to La Candalaria area, we checked in to Explora Hostel.
+ Enjoying the cooler weather we napped to recover from our overnight bus.
+ Spent the afternoon at the Museo de Oro. (Gold Museum) and looked at many different artifacts and learned about history of indigenous people of South America.
+ We stopped for a drink at Bogota Beer Company. Two 2 Colombians invited us to join them at their table. Very friendly people! One was a feminist and was appalled to learn about polygamy (one of the many subjects that came up in conversation)! The other was a gay guy and happy about how Colombia had just legalized gay marriage just a few days before but explained that it is still not widely accepted.
+ Back at the hostel we watched Star Wars on tablet before bed.

Explored Bogota: Graffiti Tour, Monserrate, Biking Tour, Andrés Carne de Res
+ Free walking graffiti tour around La Candeleria. Lots of interesting art and trivia about street artists.
+ Lunch at popular Colombian food place. For only $3.33 total!  We weren’t even sure what we were ordering as we are still amazed how different the Spanish is here.
+ Biking trip around Bogota for over 4 hours! We thought we would be in a large group but it was just our guide and the 2 of us!
+ Liz’s favorite part was our visit to a fruit stand where we sampled a lot of different fruits only found here in Colombia. We also visited a coffee shop and saw the coffee brewing process with all the coffee beans. Overall we saw many unique parts of the city that we would have otherwise missed and found out a lot of interesting history from our guide.
+ After the bike ride, we caught a taxi to Cerro de Monserrate. This is a hilltop with an old church and a great view of Bogota. We took the cable car almost straight up the mountain! It seemed so steep we’re not sure how anyone would have hiked this. The view was impressive even at night. You could really see how Bogota is on this plateau surrounded by mountains.
+ Because we had forgotten our jackets and were still wearing our biking clothes, we were quite cold up there. We stopped in a cafe and got a coffee, aguapanela (Colombian drink made with water and juice from the sugar cane- can be served hot or cold), and an arepa con queso (Colombian corn bread)
+ Went to Andrés Carne de Res DC which is a crazy restaurant/bar/dance club north of La Candeleria. Corey’s steak was really good, but Liz’s was phenomenal! Best steak either one of us had ever had and our most expensive meal of the trip by far!
+ This 5 story restaurant not only served top notch steaks but also had many places for dancing and people watching. After dinner we danced the night away laughing at how we might be the only Gringos here.
+ Caught Uber back to hostel and packed up for a flight to the Amazon tomorrow!

Click here for more photos from Colombia!

Honduras & Nicaragua: 2/6-2/12

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

+ 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!

+ 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.

+ 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.

+ 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.

+ 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.

+ 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.

+ 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!