Panama is Paradise!

We have made it to Panama and it is the paradise we have been waiting for! We are in Bocas del Toro, a group of islands off the East coast. The water is crystal clear, the beaches are beautiful, and it is much cheaper than Costa Rica was.

We went on a boat trip and did some snorkelling (for the bargain price of $15 for an all day trip!). We saw a huge grouper, a shark, and coral in so many colors you couldn’t count them! We also visited one of the other islands and there are huge starfish everywhere.

We are really enjoying this part and I think that it will be hard to leave this area. But there are other places in Panama to explore and we can’t miss them so we will have to move eventually. But for now….I am heading back to the paradise beach!

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Costa Rica

Well where to start…

We drove into to Costa Rica and were going to do white water rafting. Unfortunately it is dry season and it was also right before Semana Santa (the Easter weekend) so we decided not to and we will do it in Panama instead.

We headed straight for the Caribbean Coast and stayed in Puerto Viejo, a little Caribbean town but one that caters to tourists (how nice). We had to camp over the Easter weekend as there were no hotels. But it was right on the beach. I also turned 33 during that time (ugh) so got to have a nice meal out! We also went down the coast to Manzanillo where Matt caught his first fish spearfishing. (see pic) He was very pleased with himself and got to BBQ it on an open fire on the beach (dream acheived).

We were going to shop the car back to Florida, got all of the paperwork done, went to drop off the car and only then did they tell us we couldn’t send out things in the car (yay third world business). So long story short, after looking at our options, we had to pay a carpenter to build us a wooden crate to send our things. So we are now carless and a few hundred dollars less rich, but the car will be there hopefully when I arrive back in Florida on May 6th..

We also got to stop at a sloth sanctuary and see rescued sloths and baby ones. They look like little aliens but in a cute way. We also managed to catch one in a tree on the side of the road (see pic).

We both have a cold at the moment, but will be moving to Panama (finally) in the next day or two. I iwll fly out on May 6th and Matt may stay a few extra weeks as he wants to go into Colombia (he was a better saver than me).

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Back in Business!

Well it looks like things are back on track for the travels. No more wsiting around for papers, laptops, or anything else. We made it to Costa Rica today after a 4 hour border crossing experience! It was harder getting out of Nicaragua than it was coming in to Costa Rica! But we did it. We are in a town called Liberia tonight, just to stop and rest, and will be headed on to either Monteverde or Turrialba tomorrow. We will see where the road leads us!

I have attached some photos of a cigar making factory we visited in Grenada, Nicaragua. It is called Dona Elba’s cigars. They hand roll cigars using tobacco inside and out grown in Nicaragua. They even let me roll one and we got to try them for free. Needless to say I don’t make a very good cigar smoker, but good for the experience anyways!

Thanks as always for reading the blog!

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No we´re not lost!

I know we have not posted in awhile. Alot has been happening and we lost a little steam for awhile. After sitting in the terrible little town of San Miguel, El Salvador after waiting for our car registration, we finally made it into Honduras. The cops there stop you every 10 minutes and we had to dodge paying a few bribes, there are dodgy dudes! We got out of Honduras as fast as possible and made it into Nicaragua which was quite a nice, fast, smooth border crossing for a change. The first cop that stopped us there was amazing and friendly and was very proud of his country and how the police in Nicaragua were honets people. Well he obviously didn{t know the other cops in his country because we got stopped on our way into Leon for bribes and on the way out. Nice.

Leon was a little bit of a disappointment. The guidebook describes it as a place you fall in love with. Ummmm, no. It was very hot, Matt was dying there. There are a few average restuarants and bars, but otherwise it wasn´t much to write home about. We also realized at that point that we left the laptop at the hotel in El Salvador. Luckily we had a very honest hotel manager and we arranged for DHL to pick it up and deliver it to us in NIcaragua. It wasn´t that easy, see below.

We left Leon and headed for Granada which we love. It is a sweet little city on Lake Nicaragua. There is a large expat community so they know the meaning of good food and customer service. We knew we had to wait a few days for the laptop here so we rode the bus down to San Juan del Sur on the coast. Hmmmm what to say about it… Well they seem to enjoy pumping their sewage into the ocean and you often get whifs of it through the town. It seems to be emerging as an expat cruise port so that is bad news. But we went to one of the other nearby beaches which was cleaner and less crowded, but lots of surfers. So we weren{t too impressed with it.

Now for the DHL fun, I emailed to make sure it would be in Grenada when we returned on Wednesday. well they told us that they never even picked it up but no good reason why. Long story short, we now have to drive back to Managua to pay customs for our package and pick it up there, only to drive back down to the border of Costa Rica to cross over. No first world customer service here. of course I threw what Matt likes to call one of my ´American style strops´ and I managed to speed things up, yay me.

So now, we are headed to managua tomorrow to get the laptop by bus, and then on Saturday driving to Costa Rica. the plan is one night in La Fortuna to see some hot springs, we are volcanoed out. We with the go to Turrialba to do some white water rafting, Matt´s idea of course.  And then to the Caribbean Coast for some beach time. It looks like I will be turning 33 in Costa Rica…sigh but I guess it is a pretty sweet place to do it!

On a different note, we have decided that travelling with the truck has been alot more effort than we thought and than it was worth, maybe. We haven´t been able to camp as much as we would have liked, and safety is always an issue when parking the car somewhere over night. So we are trying to decide if we did this again would we have brought the truck. the jury is still out but it is leaning towards old fashioned backpacking.

Otherwise we are alive and well and moving on to Costa Rica hopefully on Saturday!

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The El Salvador Saga

Well, I will try to give a non-biased report on El Salvador….

We came through the border with “no problem” from Guatemala. We read in our guidebook about a beach called Los Cobanos which was quoted as having “idyllic white sand beaches, etc”. It also had a rreef so matt could do spear fishing. Well….wen we got there, it was a trashy little town with 3 hotel options: 1 was a dirty room I wouldn’t keep my garbage can in. The other 2 were ok but $35 a night. The beach had trash on it and the sand was brown and rocky. A very bad first impression of ES. So stayed the night only out of necssity and then decided to move on.

The countryside of El Salvador is pretty unremarkable but not in a bad way, just nothing special. Lots of people look at us, they don’t seem too used to white people, again not in a bad way, more out of curiosity. We drove to a little town on the coast called El Zonte and stayed on the beach there. It is a surfing town with lots of local surfers right on the Pacific. It was pretty but the beaches here are a weekend destination for the locals, so during the week, the restaurants close early and there wasn’t much to do.

We decided we would just get out of ES after a few days, but we wanted to see the place so we could give an opinion. Now for the crazy part:

We got to the border of El Salvador and Honduras. We checked out of ES no problme but on the Honduras side we discovered our car registration was out of date (oops) and they turned us around and sent us back to ES. We had to get stamped back in and get a new car permit- even though we never left the country! When we went to get the permit, they told us that it was cancelled and you can only drive through ES once with a vehicle. So we had 24 hours to get out of ES and either get to Honduras or drive all the way back to Guatemala! We were very unhappy with that. After negotiation we discovered that we could indeed get an extension on our permit, the guy was just giving us a hard time for his amusement. We waited 2.5 hours while the customs guy had luncg, chatted to his buddies, and then bothered to call and get the permit. Let’s just say being on my best behaviour was no easy feat. In the end we got the permit and went back to San Miguel in ES where we are now. Luckily Vn got our registration renewed and is DHLing it to us here in ES so we should be out of here Tuesday or Wednesday. But we are in a less than spectacular town, armed guards at every store (including the Burger King etc) and not really many restuarants. We did find a movie theatre that was showing one Englishmovie with subtitles- some new Mel Gibson deal. So we at least had that. Otherwise we will just spend some time “getting to know ourselves” while we wait. Very frsutrating but part of the travels I guess.

The plan now is to try and cross through Honduras again and straight into Nicaragua. We decided not to o more of mainland Honduras as it is alot of driving and the things we wanted to see we are’t dying to see. So Nicaragua it is.

I have said it before and will say it again, I am very glad I know some Spanish or we would have been in big trouble at the border. It is very frustrating sometimes as people think because I speak some I speak well, but I am getting better as we go along- Matt isn’t doing half bad either! But we are alive and well (and bored) in San Miguel at the moment- feel free to Skype us!

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Just a few more things about Guatemala

In case I haven’t made myself clear, we absolutely love Guatemala. It is an amazing country with so much to offer. A few things to remember though:

1. Just because it’s listed on the menu, doesn’t mean they actually have it

2. Never, Ever walk through any clear liquid substance on the sidewalk, even if you are almost positive it is just water

3. If you come here, you had better learn to love black beans

But it is a fantastic place that everyone should visit. We are off to El Salvador in the morning….

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Poking Lava With A Stick

OK- the moment you have all been waiting for. Matt finally got to poke his lava with a stick. We climbed for one and a half hours up the Volano Pacaya and literally were able to stand 3 feet from the lava. Matt got a stick and was able to poke it and set things on fire. Oh the joys of life! It was actually pretty amazing to stand next to an active lava flow. The health and safety standards were pretty much absent.

Otherwise Antigua ha sbeen great. We were here for the celebration of the beginning of Lent. There was a parade and lots of people in the street with sweets and toys for children. It was interesting to see. Antigua is an old colonial town but with a great market, some great restuarants and cafes, and it fairly first world compared to some of the places we have been.

Tomorrow we are heading to El Salvador just to check it out, and then continuing south.

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