A Travellerspoint blog

Wildlife and Waterfalls

semi-overcast 26 °C
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I continued my surfing education over the following days, though after being stung by stingrays (once in each foot) I decided to try again on another beach, another time.

Before leaving San Juan del Sur I joined an expedition to watch sea turtles lay their eggs on the beach at night. The sheer size of the turtles and the effort they would put into digging a hole for a nest was incredible.

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I also helped to release baby sea turtles on the shore - though their failure to appreciate the direction of the sea helps to explain why only 0.1% ever reach adulthood!

The morning after I travelled inland to Lake Nicaragua where I stayed on Isla de Ometepe - an island formed when two volcanoes erupted and the resulting lava created an isthmus joining the two volcanoes.

Arriving by ferry the most striking observation is the dense, lush foliage of the rainforest on the island. I stayed in a remote farm accommodation which made up for its inaccessibility with stunning views.

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The cost of lodging ($2 a night) was great too. However, this was partially explained when I found rats had created a hole in my rucksack and eaten the bread inside whilst I was away.

In order to see as much of the island as possible, over the next two days I hiked and cycled over fifty kilometres of extremely difficult, uphil terrain. I just about managed to haul myself up to a 150m waterfall in the rainforest before the forest lived up to its name and I, following Humpety Dumpety's example, had a great fall as I slipped in the mud and had a spectacular, slow motion tumble to the soggy ground. Luckily, I managed to put myself back together again without the aid of all the kings horses and continued on my way. As I did I saw several eagles, lizards, exotic birds and butterflies and, best of all, howler monkeys.

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However, by my third day on the island my saddle sore body could take no more, so after a gentle stroll around the farm I caught the bus towards the port in preparation for the 5 30 boat to the mainland the next morning.

A day I had long been dreading was spent crossing the border into Costa Rica, and after numerous bus connections, I eventually reached the town of La Fortuna which lies in the shadow of the active Volcan Arenal. Here I joined a tour to watch the lava flow from the volcano, but due to the increased use of common sense in Costa Rica we observed the lava from a distance of 600m, as opposed to the 15m I had experienced in Guatemala. Nevertheless, we were able to listen to the ominous eruptions of gas from deep within the volcano. Trekking to the volcano was an adventure in itself, as we hiked through the very noisy rainforest at night and, by torchlight, examined small, colourless frogs that clung to the trees around us.

The tour also included a visit to the nearby natural hot springs. In my head I conjured up an idyllic, relaxing scene of geothermally heated water. However, the reality proved quite different. Just downstream from a local resort we were escorted by the guides to the river - surrounded by litter and old pipes. The water was indeed wonderfully warm - akin to stepping into a bath - but the scene was similar to an M25 underpass. Moreover, because of the dark we had no idea how clean the water was. It was certainly an interesting experience!

Yesterday I hiked to another waterfall and swam with the fish in the beautiful, milky blue water...lets hope the water at the hot springs looked the same!

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Posted by chris89 15:01 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Leaving 2007 behind

A volcanic lake, a cock fighting tournament and learning to surf

semi-overcast 28 °C
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As part of my time in Granada, I spent a day at the nearby 'Lago de Apoyo' - a large lake formed in a volcano crater. Due to the heat originating deep underground, the water was delightfully warm and armed with an inner tube and a kayak I stayed on the water for hours.

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The following day I headed north to Leon - Granada's great colonial rival. Almost immediately after my arrival I was whisked off to the local cock fighting tournament. A couple of hundred locals surrounded the rooster penn, keen to see if they had backed a winner. After the formalities of the weigh in and the checking of the knives, the fight began and usually lasted for about seven minutes. Although both birds would be bloodied, the end of the fight was often not when one of the roosters was dead but when it simply gave up.

It was good to experience the occassion as a local tradition and I am glad I went, but having been unable to watch many of the fights, I don't think I will be returning to watch similar events.

On New Years Eve I wandered around the streets of Leon and observed the extremely weathered exterior of the largest cathedral in Central America, before celebrating the start of 2008 over several cervezas with other travellers.

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The next morning I endured another bus trip, this time accompanied by a piglet, before eventually reaching my beach destination of San Juan del Sur on the Pacific coast.

I marked a month of my travels with my first surfing lesson. I suprised myself by managing to stand for up to six seconds - undoubtedly progress, though I think I may have to wait for the sponsorship deal from Quiksilver.

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Posted by chris89 07:19 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

The police, corruption and lengthy bus journeys

'If you want to be powerful...run for president, if you want to be rich...work at a border crossing' (Chris Atkin 28/12/07)

semi-overcast 28 °C
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I was threatened with the police today for my refusal to pay the equivalent of about 12p.

Despite being on a budget I am not so stingy as to withhold 12p, but the scam demanding the money was so thinly veiled that I felt compelled to challenge it. It was not the first time I have been scammed and as always it is the knowledge that someone is attempting to exploit you that is far more infuriating than the actual loss of the money.

I was eating some traditional food (called vigoron - crackling, potatoes and coleslaw) from the area I now reside (Granada) with a local and having finished the local paid 25 cordobas (about 70p). Upon finishing my meal, I was informed the price was 30 cordobas - an additional, mandatory 20% tourist tax had been added.

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On my refusal to pay the excess, the 2 women who had served me proceeded to do a good cop, bad cop routine with 1 sympathetic to my plight and almost admitting they were trying to con me, whilst the other became hysterical and threatened to call the police. I wasn't keen on their involvement and in the end I gave in and paid the extra 12p not for fear of 'la policia', but because I knew that as I did not have the exact change to give 25 cordobas, the only way I would receive the correct amount was by taking the 12p from the woman's lifeless hands and even though I did not like her much by this point I still valued her life as worth more than 12p. If she had tried to scam me for 20p though she might not have been so lucky...

Whilst talking about dodgy money transactions, I need to vent some steam about my growing dislike of border crossings, and in particular the immigration officials. There is obviously an official figure (usually about 1 pound) that everyone entering the new country must pay and then the officials appear to create an extra cost that must also be paid, the exact nature of which depends upon how much money they want in their back pocket at the end of the day. Some travellers claim that these extra costs can be negotiated but I have yet to see anyone achieve this.

Anyway, on other news, the two days immediately after Christmas were spent travelling on local buses, getting up at 5am and feeling the effects of cramp for hours on end. The lack of space in the buses was the result of seats for one being filled not by one person but by one family - usually a mother with several children - and on one occassion a squawking bird who, by the end of the coach ride, was fortunate to still have its head attached to its body.

The long journey was worth it though as I am now in Granada, Nicaragua - a pretty colonial town similar to Antigua in Guatemala which I visited at the start of my trip just less than a month ago.

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Posted by chris89 15:56 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

All out at sea

sunny 23 °C
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Happily, since my last post the weather has improved and I have become a certified scuba diver!

Learning to dive was not as easy as I had first thought, something I contemplated as I grappled with 'neutral buoyancy' (staying at one depth). Regardless of how hard I tried I always found myself either shooting up to the surface of descending rapidly to the depths below. This problem was compounded by my lack of body fat which not only meant I sank easily, but also that I quickly became cold.

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Nevertheless, despite these problems I enjoyed swimming with, amongst others, a large barracuda, moray eel and a sand ray. In the evening there was the dive company's weekly barbeque with the snorkel tests (where alcohol is poured into the snorkel until the wearer can drink no more) being almost as comical as the extremely masculine waitress who served my fellow divers and I the following night.

The next day, having finished the scuba diving I returned to the sea by kayak. With the sun overhead it was fantastic to enjoy such solitude after the relative chaos of the cramped diving boats. I saw numerous flying fish around me and one huge tuna leap out the water before resting at my own private beach I found along the coast.

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Nevertheless, there were problems to be overcome kayaking too, from the frequent cramping of my left leg to the kayak having a large hole in the nose, a fault that perhaps explains why it was free to use! That night I marked my 3 week anniversary of my trip by finally treating myself to a meal (nachos with cheese, chicken and vegetables) that actually filled me up!

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas. My Christmas Eve was certainly one to remember... a kind Russian offered to cook, and provide drinks, for twenty other travellers from ten different countries at a small cost. I am spending today, Christmas Day, recovering in the sun!

Posted by chris89 13:13 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Sick in Guatemala and soaked in Honduras

rain 15 °C
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Although I am now in Honduras, my time in Guatemala was to have a final twist - food poisening.

I am blaming the fried chicken I ate in Chichi. Subsequently, I have been sick ten times, most notably from the first floor window of an internet cafe, which caused a fair degree of comotion on the street outside. After being sick the first time I considered the worst to be over and promptly bought my 4 am bus ticket to Honduras the following morning. However, far from marking the start of my recovery, I soon detiorated further. Nevertheless, I managed the trip across the border intact and arrived near the impressive Mayan ruins of Copan.

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The following morning I set off from Copan on the bus for the coastal town of La Ceiba on the Carribean coast. Despite a ticket fiasco, the journey was in relative comfort, except for the last leg where I had to endure a large, perspiring hobo practically sitting on my lap.

I arrived late into La Ceiba, but struck up with two Germans and after finding a room we sought out the only place open on Sunday night...Pizza Hut - my first proper meal for 3 days!

The problem is that La Ceiba, like Utila (an island off the Honduran coast where I am now) seems to have a rainy season during the rest of the region's dry season. Indeed the boat trip from La Ceiba to Utila became an experience itself, with the boat resembling a see saw as it was carelessly thrown around by the sea. Numerous times huge waves hit the flimsy plastic windows and twice the waves breached the broken plastic door, drenching a signicant number of us passengers. It was a minor miracle that I did not continue my trend of the last few days and be sick during the ninety minute journey. Anyway, I am now settled in Utila where it has rained almost non stopand the water in the streets is frequently ankle deep.

Consequently, my dream of spending Christmas sunbathing and learning to scuba dive appears to be restricted to the latter. Lets hope the weather improves!

Posted by chris89 10:00 Archived in Honduras Comments (1)

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