Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica
Jun 7, 2014
|When we left you it was shortly before Saturday 31st May when we had the earliest start of the trip so far. We left the hotel at 5.45am to catch the early ferry back to the Honduran mainland.
The ferry crossing was very smooth and everyone was very grateful.
On disembarking we drove to a local Wendy's fast food restaurant and ordered some breakfast which consisted of fried brown food that came with overcooked eggs. This unfortunately sat in our stomachs for most of the day.
The rest of the day was in the coach as we headed to a town called Comayagua which was a bit of a non event. It was raining very heavily when we arrived,
We all went out to dinner together and had a quick overnight stop in a very basic hotel.
When we got to our room we channel surfed on the TV and found the Incredible Hulk movie which was dubbed in Spanish. If you ever try watching this film you'll find it really doesn't matter.
On Sunday we had another early start, rising at 5am and continuing our coach journey to the Nicaraguan border. This was the first time we felt that our guide seemed to have concerns about one of our border crossings.
From reports it appears there is an element of the Wild West, with border officials having an unofficial arrangement to make your crossing more difficult if don't pay a tax (for 'tax' possibly read 'bribe'). According to our guide all the bags could have been removed from the bus and then been subjected to individual searches. This would have caused a lengthy delay to our plans.
Thanks to our guide we had an uneventful boarder crossing, probably because we paid the 'tax' which for leaving Honduras and entering Nicaragua came to a total of $25 (£15) each.
This must be considered good value as it has previously cost us over £100 for visas into some countries, we have probably supported several Nicaraguan families and It would cost more to park a car in central London for the day!
We finished Sunday's 11 hour coach journey driving through a thunderstorm and arriving at a town called Granada which is situated on the shores of lake Nicaragua. This lake is more like an inland sea and apparently has fresh water Bull Sharks in it.
There is possibly a plan to dig some canals and then use this lake and the adjoining rivers systems to create a rival to the Panama Canal.
Today was the longest day of the Central America trip and we were very happy that we didn't have another coach journey and had a day to explore Granada.
On Monday the whole group signed up for a guided trip around the area. This involved a trip to a volcanic museum a drive to the top of an active volcano, a swim in a crater lake and a boat trip around the immediate shore line and some of the small coastal islands of lake Nicaragua.
We all had a great day and towards the end our guide turned bartender and mixed a cocktail. We both watched this lethal concoction being made in large plastic containers. There was little measuring involved with the main ingredient being Nicaraguan rum. We also think there was some orange juice in there somewhere.
We decided to stick to water as this orange cocktail was served up over ice in large plastic cups. We were quite happy to watch as the majority of the group tucked in and the participants were very quickly effected by the alcohol.
It's Nigel's sober observation that its very strange how the women in the group think they are great singers when they've had a drink!
In the evening we all went to a quiz night at an Irish pub in the town (not an Irishman in sight!). We split into an Australian team and a Rest of the world team. We named our team "The Empire strikes back" and consisted of English, Scottish and a Canadian.
Unfortunately we didn't strike too well and came 5th out of the 12 teams.
The victorious Aussies came an impressive 4th.
(We still haven't recovered from the cricket and ashes defeat, this was just rubbing salt into our wounds)
On Tuesday we had a late start and stayed in town until lunch time. Helen allowed a local hairdresser to cut her hair for the sum of $5 and then we had a short 90 minute coach transfer to catch a landing craft ferry to the Maderas volcanic national park (on the Island of Ometepe) which is basically two volcanos that have created the Island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.
As we sailed towards the island we got impressive views of Concepcion volcano which is the taller of the two and has a classic volcano shape. The summit is 1647 meters and this would be our goal tomorrow.
We had a short coach journey to our hotel and an interesting dinner with bugs, bugs and more bugs on the tables in the dining area.
When the options for the next day were explained to the group five of us (the others being Liz, Cindy & Ben) opted for the climb to the top of Concepcion volcano.
On Wednesday we had a 5am start for the ascent of the volcano, we picked up our guide on the way and were walking by 7am. Unfortunately the mountain was in cloud for most of the day which reduced the possibility of good views. The cloud was a bit of a blessing however as it reduced the risk of sun burn and our need to take on water from the intense sunshine. It also meant that we couldn't see what was coming up. The walk commenced at a height of 33 meters and went initially up a farm track. It then started to climb through rainforest, it finally involved scrambling over rocks and a fine scree. On the way we saw Howler monkeys and white faced Cappuccino monkeys. We had a rest stop at a lookout point where another guide approached the group and looked Helen up and down and said rather bluntly "What age are you"? Helen lightheartedly reprimanded the guide for asking 'A lady' her age and then replied 49. He responded "You're doing very well - for a woman of your age". In the interests of international diplomacy Nigel then separated the two of them as Helen was going to physically harm him.
As we finished the 1614 meters (5295 feet) of ascent and reached the summit we got the sulphurous smell of rotten eggs and as it was covered in cloud the summit was only obvious by the fact there was no more ascent.
We celebrated conquering this monster of a climb with the standard group photograph.
Having reached the top we then had a very slow and challenging descent. We found it difficult with boots and walking poles so you can imagine what it was like for some of the group who were wearing approach shoes or trainers as these weren't really suitable for the terrain.
We all made it back to the rainforest path, some of us with very muddy backsides and a few scratches but more importantly with no incidents or accidents. During the descent through the rainforest Helen let out a cry of disgust as a very naughty bird had deposited its lunch on Helen's head. Nigel came to her aid giving her a quick wash and shampoo with the remaining water.
We all reached the road very tired and with our knees aching. We had completed the ascent and return in under ten hours which according to the guide was quite an achievement.
On our return to the hotel we had a couple of beers and were greeted with the news that we had another early start the next day for our transfer into Costa Rica.
On Thursday most of us got up very early to get transport to the ferry for the 6am crossing back to the mainland and transfer to the border to cross into Costa Rica, our last country of our Central American leg.
Two of the group had a power cut in their room, their alarm didn't go off and they slept in. They just managed to get themselves up and ready so that we all got aboard the ferry with seconds to spare.
During this transfer the volcano climbers were all discussing which muscles weren't aching and showing the effects of their exertions with a variety of strange walks.
The border crossing into Costa Rica from Nicaragua was probably the worst on this trip. To say it was organised chaos would be giving it credibility. To leave Nicaragua we had to pay an exit fee, but to enter the area where you pay the fee it cost a dollar. On reaching the queues to submit your exit form there weren't any forms, however there were people who would sell you one. After several requests at the counter, free forms were forthcoming and we managed to get out of Nicaragua.
The distance between the two border stations was about a kilometre and we all had to carry our luggage. One of the group was using one of the cheaper more fragile wheeled cases and had an extendable handle malfunction but eventually we all made it to the Costa Rica immigration office. Now this looked more like it - we were ushered into a series of queues and handed the form we required but we shouldn't have counted our chickens as the man in front of us was in a very frank and animated discussion with immigration for what felt like ages.
When it was our turn we sailed through and Helen was so happy she forgot to put her bags through the X-ray machine and got called back.
We met our next coach at the border and then drove into the mountains.
The ascent to our mountain resort was on a bendy dirt road to a town called Monteverde. This was a Cloud Forest nature reserve where we hoped to see Sloths.
On Friday we booked a couple of activities, the first was a pure adrenaline rush as we went hanging from a variety of zip wires, hanging vertically or horizontally. The largest of these zip wires was called "The superman" and you had no control on this 1.5 kilometre slide and were just suspended in a lying position as you flew over the Cloud forest canopy. The last ride was optional and called "The mega Tarzan swing". This involved having your harness attached to a rope and falling 40 meters before the slack was taken up and you swung out in an arc. Helen decided this was a ride too far for her but Nigel had a go.
After the zip wire rides we took a break and had a wander through the town which resembled a down market Queenstown in New Zealand.
In the evening most of us went on a night hike to see the nocturnal wildlife and especially the Sloths. Unfortunately due to the weather and the reliability of wildlife in general this trip wasn't all it could have been. We did see two Sloth's but they were very high up in the canopy of trees and obscured by branches. The guide tried his best to locate animals and we walked around the forest for over two hours and we saw some spiders, frogs and leaf cutter ants.
Today is Saturday 7th June and we're still in Monteverde, but just for the morning. We're then heading to La Fortuna which will be our last stop before finishing and parting with our group in San Jose.
We fly from Costa Rica on 11th June and the next edition of our journal should be coming from somewhere in Peru, South America.