A Travellerspoint blog

Costa Rica shows us its coast of riches

Lush steamy jungle meets the warm Pacific currents

sunny 31 °C

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Border drama finally sorted, we are legally in Costa Rica. One problem though - the Costa Rica border is a ghost town and the road is blocked with semi trailers for as long as anyones guess. Getting late theres only one thing to do, pile the gear on ya back, pick up the boards and harden the F$%& up. The Nicaraguan officials were mentally draining, now the truck protest physically. With us all carrying somewhere between 15-25kgs the walk begins, we pass truck after truck after truck... middle of no where... hot and sweaty... creepy truck drivers hanging around... Can you see what I see??? A big hill damn! We pass a group of American backpackers walking from the other direction, they are red faced and look close to death. They tell us not to bother and to turn back as they have been walking for an hour and a half of road block. No way we are turning back!!!
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The minutes go by as do the litres of sweat and painstakingly we make it to the end of the road block. 6km, a new record for hiking with all the gear! With relief no words can describe we fall into a taxi and head to the nearest town, La Cruz, right on dark. We deserve a little bit of luxury, we choose a hotel with a pool and cable TV, treat ourself to dinner accompanied with top shelf Costa Rican rum. After dinner we find heaven. Round the corner a late night bakery served up the BEST custard croissonts EVER! Quisiera siete por favour...
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Next day we split from Christain and head to San Jose solo on an incredibly slow and very packed bus. All day on the road we reach San Jose in the dark. Stayed the night in a funky backpackers, Hostel Tranquillo, cool chill areas, bar, free internet, kitchen etc. Desperatly in need of ATM and dinner we walk gingerly through the streets to the main part (downtown) of the capital, not sure whether it was safe to do so but we were fine. San Jose is grimey and not too pretty, I couldnt really imagine wanting to spend much time there. Next day we destroy the free pancake brekkie and bus it to Jaco beach.
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Jaco is a happening beachside holiday destination with loads of bars, resturants, shops and accom (most on the pricey side) and creatures from every corner of the earth. We stay 10 mins walk out of town at Hostel Kangaroo (seemed fitting). Nice pad a stones throw from the beach, normally has a pool but it was being fixed whilst we stayed there. Hotel Kangaroo is owned by a Swiss guy and run by a very friendly German, Uwe (go figure?). The rooms are nice enough with private bathroom, free internet and kitchen use.
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We enjoyed being back in civilisation and spent our time shopping and cooking, the local fish was cheap, fresh and divine. Jess called home and weaped a tear in excitement at hearing Mum and Dads voice. It rained a little in Jaco and would continue to rain in the afternoon throughout most of Costa Rica. We welcomed the rain as we hadnt seen any since Hawaii, also the vegetation everywhere in Costa Rica is so lush and beautiful you couldnt possible be dissappointed by a little rain.
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Jess set Jaco beach on fire by pulling into solid 1-2ft foam straight hander barrells on a mal! She was tearing!!!!!!!Check it out!! Set after set she was DOMINATING!!!
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The only barrell that steve got while in Jaco....
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Behind the town of Jaco is a small mountain covered in lush jungle, we walked a trail that rounded the mountain to reveal view over Jaco beach. I think we must have made a wrong turn into private property though as our tourist trail turned into over grown jungle trail. We spotted some funky poisonous looking fluro green and black frogs, toucans, scarlet macaws, a troop of white faced monkies (Maxxies wild cousins) and fabulous butterflies. Steve brushed up against something nasty that came up in a stinging acid welt (that was still a scar a month on and has been made into a temporarynatural tatoo following some time int he sun). The forest floor is thick with leaf littler and dotted with disturbing little holes that look turrantula-ish. We hit a dead end/shear cliff face drop and backtrack.
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You can hire bikes in town to do a little exploring, we rode to the next beach round, Playa Hermosa (4km from Jaco) as we had been told the surf had been pumping and its one of hte best beachies in the world. No surf when we check it out but the swell charts predicted a pulse so we pack up from Hotel Kangaroo and head to Rancho Grande at Hermosa beach. Next day and still no surf, Steve walked 4kms down the beach in search of decent banks, the swell arrived but along the 8km of beach there were no good banks - what world class beach break???? World class shore dump!!! Depression starts to kick in as without wheels its hard to explore. Steve chatted to a guy that ran a surf shop, he had scored waves that morning at a point break you need a car to get to. Steve in a desperate hope to get some waves without walking 4kms asks if he could tag along the following morning. ¨Yeah sure, I have to talk to my friend, I will call over to your accom after work at 6ish¨. He never showed, depression in overdrive we hit the bottle for comfort, pack our bags and bolt south first thing in the morning to catch some swell at the famous Pavaonnes.
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Long day of travel, bus to Quepos, 2nd bus to Dominical, 3rd bus to San Izidro, 4th bus to Rio Claro, taxi to Golfito, arrive in the dark. Stay the night. Had dinner at Skyline Pizza, yum yum and we witnessed the mating ceremony of two frisky geckos on the wall. Next morning a bumpy bus/ferry/bus to Pavonnes. We bump into Christian again on the bus. The jungle meets the ocean, the water is sky blue and the surf is pumping. Long left handers snake around the point to form central americas longest most smashable left. Sorry, no photos, you will have to imagine steve getting waves for about 200m plus, red faced and frothing at the mouth. Ruler edged lines, rubber legs, 15 turns (wigles) a wave inbetween the speed trims.

The town at Pavonnes is small and cute, 2 grocers, a couple to bars and resturants, a soccor feild and a smattering of accom. We stayed at Billies cabanas, nice local surfer dude runs the place, about a 2min walk to the point. We arrived in Pavonnes for the weekend and there was a few people about, many to see the grand final of the local soccer tournament. The surf on the afternoon we arrived was 3ft, glassey and playful. Apparently in the morning it had been all time. The boys milk it and surf til sunset, lucky because by the next morning the swell had almost entirely dropped out, Pavonnes was pretty shitty with a cross shore wind. So we walk south towards a beach break 4km away. The walk was really nice, a dirt road hugs the coast, lined with jungle, the beaches fill the space between rocky volcanic outcrops and the palm trees shade the way.
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The beach break was messy but fun. Steve paddles out to an outside left reef and cops some mouth from a local girl ('dont surf my wave man' and shakes her head) who wanted all the waves to herself even though there was only her and steve out there, sheesh its not like 4 of them went out there and crowded her, and it was the only break working for 10km.
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No swell on the horizon we move on, bus back to Golfito, then a ferry over to Puerto Jimenez, the gateway town to Parque National Corcovado (National Geographic described as ¨the most biologically intense place on earth¨). 1.5 hours in the back of a truck along a bumpy dirt road we are in the middle of the forest in the beachside village of Matapalo. Apparently the home to an epic right hander, which wasnt working when we arrived due to the dropping swell.
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Matapalo is a group of eco accomadations spotted in the dense forrest. No running water, no power, no phone lines, we stayed in a jungle cabin with tiny solar power lights and rain water showers. We hiked through the forest to a waterfall that wasnt really falling due to it being the end of the dry season but it was beautiful anyway with not a soul to be seen. During the night time we walked around the property and witnessed the scurrying behaviour of thousands of crabs. Hermit crabs, red crabs, orange crabs, purple crabs, 3 types of monkeys, ant eaters and toucans!
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Nature fix satisfied we ride the collectivo back to town, ferry to Golfito and bus it to the border. Choa Choa Costa, Olah Panama!

Posted by jessnsteve 12:50 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Bienvenidos a Guatemala, pt2

Lazing around in crazy Lago de Atitlan, and then its volcano #2 folks - Antigua´s active Pacaya!!!!!!

sunny 30 °C

Guat adventures cont......
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After catching some of the Samana Santa parade its time to make a move from Xela all four of us pile into a shuttle bound for Lake Atitlan. When we finally made it to Panachel thankfully the scenery changed to rolling vegetated volcanos that formed a ring around the tranquil Lake Atitlan.
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Panajachel looked like a bit of a circus, Semana Santa and EVERYONE on holidays was there. The place was pumping. We head straight for the wharf to catch la lancha across the lake to San Pedro La Laguna. As we walk down the dock to la lanchas we see a big pipe of slightly treated sewerage pumping out into the lake in a bloom of blackish brown. Dammit, another lake that looks so beautiful that I dont really want to swim in. We see locals and tourists bathing in the lake a couple of hundred of metres away and the locals eat the fish. Still Im not convinced.

San Pedro has two docks, Pana and Santiago. Las lanchas from Panajachel cost 25Q and you arrive at the Pana dock. Off the boat with all the gear we head up the hill to be greated by many helpful locals who are keen on advising us on a place to stay for a small fee. We find a local that knows the location of the hotel we made a reservation for, we follow him pied piper style through the maze of streets. San Pedro was also very busy for Semana Santa and we must of got the last rooms. The cheapest room we have found during the trip AUD $10 a night and it was obvious why. Cement cell, stained crusty wall and ceiling, bed as comfy as a cardboard box and whats that smell? We hit the local corner store for some comfort in a bottle and two minute noodles.
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Wanting to defer going to sleep for a little while longer we wander up into the village for a peek at the Smana Santa parade preparations. The village is set on the hill overlooking the lake. The area has a strong indiginous maya population, the women wear traditional dress - hand woven patterned faldas, beaded belts and garishly beautiful embroidered blouses. The elderly men still wear traditional dress but the middle aged men opt for the macho cream cowboy hat, sharply ironed shirt, jeans and coordinated belt and cowboy boot combo. The teenage boys wear the same clothes as the kids in Aus, jeans and tees.
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The streets were lit up and work had begun on preparing the ornate carpets for the parade the next day. The carpets path was marked out in an outline of rope, the base layer was either dried grass or sawdust which was smoothed into the cobble stones for an even surface. Patterns of flowers, birds, crosses and butterflies were made from stencilled vibrantly coloured sawdust, seeds, grains, fresh flowers, fruit, vegetables and leaves. We watched a group of teenage boys painstakinly layer coloured sawdust with the care of a mother. They worked on their hands and knees all through the night. What was particularly amazing was that we were the only tourists having a peek and no one stared at us or even acknowledged us. When we did make eye contact we were greated with a warm welcoming smile.

Early the next day we head back up to the village to see the finished product before their labour of love is destroyed by the procession. The final touches were still being laid. The local stray dog population was feeling very unloved as they slinked down the street abuse was hurled at them from every direction along with the occasion kick to steer them away from the carpets.

The finished products were amazing but I will let the photos do the talking.
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Back to the hotel to grab our things and find another room which is not so depressing we end up in a sweet pad at the hostel San Fransisco. We score an awaesome penthouse room with private bathroom and deck complete with a hammock. A look around town reveals two very contrasting sections of town. Along the waters edge and a main thoroughfare at the bottom of town is gringo hippy wonderland. Tons of budget accom, funky cafes, resturants, shops and bars. Behind gringo land lies a residential maze with the villiage further up the hill. The villiage is very reserved, traditional and religious. Gringo land is overun with hippies and revelers keen to party their problems away.
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Our stay at the lake comprised of eating out at the resturants and bars, having shin digs on the balconies and alot of hammock lazing in the sun. We all did our bit ot help for the local economy, especially the lovely bloke at the corner store who was our best freind after several days of clearing him out of rum and ellotitos (possibly the best packaged snack ever made - crunchy corn kernals covered in a cheesey spicey coating). Steve was so hung up when the corner shop ran out that we hunted through every shop in town to find more.
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Goodbye hugs are exchanged with Oscar and Ellen then onwards to Antigua alone. The packed shuttle snaked up the volcanos behind the lake. Soon enough we are dropped in a street with our gear wandering towards what we hope is our accom. Luckily Antigua is pretty easy to get around and we arrive at the Casa Amarillo in no time at all.

Our room is very plush with carved wooden furniture, hand woven textiles and cable TV. A little bit on the expensive side but we soon realise that everything in Antigua is a little bit on the expensive side and our room is a good deal. The hotel has immaculate shard bathrooms, leafy courtyards with plenty of places to chill. Another plus was the free brekkie - eggs, beans, coconut porridge, spagetti, tons of fresh fruit, fresh bread, tea and coffee. AND free internet.
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Antigua is an obscure Guatemalan city. Its a place where building codes are adheared to, rubbish is actually picked up and the power runs underground. 17th and 18th century buildings line the streets, flowers are in every window and there are loads of resturants, bars and boutiques. All of the above draw a lot of tourists and things are a little pricey. To save some coin we shopped at the massive mercado for all our needs, fruit and veges were fresh and cheap. There was also an extensive area dedicated to local handicrafts of the artesanas.
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If you do find yourself in Antigua a must is a visit to Nim Pot, a shop that hosts a huge collection of Maya dress all arranged according to region. The sprawling space also has tons of wood carvings, masks, woven textiles and traditional jewellery. Its a visual overload, an explosion of patterns and colours in every direction. Fantastic.
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The main reason we went to Antigua was to arrange passage up the Volcan Pacaya, a very active volcano. Through the hotel we booked an afternoon session, pick up at 2.00pm return at 8.30pm. It took about 1.5 hours to get to the volcano. When the shuttle pulled up we were litterally assaulted by local kids forcing you to buy a walking stick. We are introduced to our guide and start to walk up to the volcano. The walk is pretty leisurely up a slight gradient in the misty scrub. The scrub cleared to reveal the slope of the volcano covered in volcanic rubble. As we scramble over the rocks we hear constant erruptions from the top of the volcano and the temperatue begins to rise. Further up we stop next to a fresh lava flow. As one would expect from molten rock it is incredibly hot. The skin on your legs feels like it is being slow roasted and your eyes dry out. Unfortunatley thats as far as we could go because of the constant explosions but the experience of seeing the lava was well worth it!
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After many weeks incland and craving the ocean its time to bail from Guatemala. Passage is organised through the hotel for a shuttle over the border then a bus though Honduras to La Ceiba on the Carribean. Carribean wonderland to be posted soon.

Posted by jessnsteve 09:44 Archived in Guatemala Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Nicaragua

Everybody's goin surfin, Popoyo peak, La Bocana, Swine flu, and manhandling maxxie....

30 °C

Up dark and early for a 2am departure, the Tica bus from San Salvador saw us cross back through Hondurus before entering Nicaragua.
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By midday we are passing Lago de Managua and arrive shortly after in the capital. We spend all of 5 mins in the capital and shoot a short cab ride from Tica depot to Mercado R Huembres for the bus to Rivas. As soon as we get out of the taxi we are swamped by half a dozen middle aged Nicas yelling what we could only guess to be what bus they think we should catch.....Rivas? Autobus a Rivas? They grab our bags, No Necessito Senor, Permiso, NO NECESSITO! Our bags are getting carried off by 3 men, shite! VAMOS, VAMOS!! Could have been very bad but it all was good, we were rushed and jagged the next bus to Rivas by about 10 seconds, all our bags were waiting beside the bus, but now we have to cough up the tip!

We get off the bus at Rivas and its an 'all in' on our bags round 2!!

INSERT STRESSED PHOTO OF JESS AND STEVE HERE

It was hard to handle second time round, but at least they listened to us this time and left our bags on the ground while still yelling over each other at us. One cab driver was just siting back watching, he must have seen this a thousand times, yep we get sick of all the Nicas yelling at us and take the mellow cab driver option. A set up?? Who knows but we take that option with result now being only one person telling us where we need to go rather than 5 all at the same time.

Its 3pm and we catch the cab all the way to Popoyo rather than another chicken bus to Las Salinas which would then see us having to hitch or walk the last 5kms to Popoyo. The VERY bumpy dirt road wound endlessly through hills and valleys, small local villages, and across dry river beds.
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When are we getting to the beach YO its been 15hrs in transit!? 1.5hrs later we come to a grinding stop and the dust swirls up around us. We had only passed just a few places that looked like accom in the last 500m and we find ourselves standing in front of only a couple more. Its quiet with hardly anyone around, and all of a sudden you realise that we are extremely isolated. The nearest town is no more than a few farmhouses, couple of corner stores and cows. The nearest ATM a 2hr bus ride away.

Absolutely knackered after 15hrs plus in transit, and slightly uneased at where we had got ourselves we hear a HEY STEVE!? Uhhh (like homer), turn around, What, ahhhh HOLA NIR! A familiar face! We settle into La Tica accomodation, open our account, have a bite and a beer, sit down and talk about what we've been doing since meeting in Rio Nexpa, Mexico. Arvo surf shortly followed out at a left (and right) reef break called Popoyo... Back at La Tica we meet up with another guy, Max, who we also met in Rio Nexpa, Max´s dad, Luis from Brazil and an Aussie guy from Melbourne, Christian.

We spend the next 5 days at Popoyo, however, we only stay 2 nights at La Tica and then score ourselves some beach front camping at the restaruant across the road for the next 3 nights.

The resturant is located right on the beach, next to the river mouth you cross to get to the surf break. The owners son Angel (friendly legend), arranged for us to camp in a partially built villa at the front of the property right on the beach! Apart from delicious food on tap the resturant was home to a menagerie of critters who we would call our neighbours for a few days. There was Roy and Brenda, a constantly scwabbling scarlet macaw couple, Scoobie the dopey hound and maxxie the white faced monkey.
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Maxxie was set up on a zip line in a tree close to our tent. He was amazing to watch, such agility, but it was all a bit sad. Numb skull surfers would give him a hard time with constant teasing, even the resturant staff razzed him up. We did see some tourists give him cuddles which he seemed to enjoy for 2 mins before he was back in attack mode.

One afternoon we shared some fruit with him. Jess fed him some orange but something else had caught Maxxie´s eye. SNATCH - within a split second Maxxie grabbed Jess´s perscription sunnies off her face and was making his way back to his tree house to begin the dismantling process. Quick thinking Steve grabed maxxie around the neck/chest, squeezed hime and with a squeel the sunnies were released and the monkey retreated. Who´s evolved now bitch! We make friends again with more fruit and we are back in the good books with our neighbour.
About 2 seconds before the drama unfolded....
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While at Popoyo the reef break remained at 3ft, got to 4ft on one day, and was absolutely smashable. The left was the pick but some naturals were also going right. As he does Steve wasted not a second and clocked up some serious surf tiempo all day every day.
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Small to no crowds for the early....
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In Nicaragua this time of the year the wind is offshore ALL DAY! You never think you would get sick of offshores but you do here. Just back off a bit! And because of the constant offshores their are upwellings and the water is at a cooler 20-21 rather than 26-27 back in El Salv.

To get to Popoyo reef you have to cross La Bocana, a river mouth. The tide differences are massive here. On low tide it is a slight trickle into the ocean, on high tide their is a sweet little 1-2ft right hander breaking along La Bocana sand bar with a 2m chanell!! GGGGET OUT THEIR JRAE!! Jess has her first surf in yrs and tears it up. Her best wave not caught on camaera but in one session she was standing up!
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Our days camping on the beach at popoyo were magic! Highly recommended if you are ever in the area. We explored rock shelves and beaches further to the south, beach fire parties, and surfed another break called El Rancho, or the wedge....
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Popoyo being pretty isolated, the only internet access was via satelite and was a wallet busting US $5 an hour. Not to mention some of the keys not working and the 20 or so mosies biting you at any one time....One afternoon we hear some surfers talking when they get back from the internet, the first news of the Swine Flu. Rumours spead like wild fire, we heard on guy say that 1500 were dead in Mexico. Neither of us slept well that night... Next morning we hit the internet first thing, 8 dead, 400 confirmed cases world wide and a lot of hype, fear and hysteria. What to do? It would probably be safe to stay in an isolated location but the funds are running low (been sharing the cheapest meal - desayuno Nica - BLD 2 days) we need to split and hit an ATM, may as well keep moving.

We score a lift with Dan into Rivas, Dan is flying back to the States from Managua. There are rumours that the airport if shutting down due to swine flu. Christian and Luis also hitch a ride. We all go our separate ways in Rivas. Swap contact details and adios! Our plan was to catch a Tica Bus accross the border direct to San Jose. At the Tica Bus office we get the bad news that no vehicles are crossing the border, hence no Tica buses are running. Shite. At a nearby service station (everyones wearing masks) a taxi driver informs us that apparently you can cross the border by foot and catch a bus at the other side. One problem though, there is a truck protest and no buses can get to the border so we will need to walk 1km to the end of the protest. Great... we will give it a go!

Cab to the border, there are abandoned semi trailers parked one after the other at the side of the road. On the way there we spot Christain in the back of the bus in front. 3 aussies take on the border. First go we talk to some Nicaraguan officials near the cargo gate, they are all wearing masks. We go to hand them our passports and they refuse to touch them, telling us that the borders closed, turn around. A local lady walking back from the border says with a dispairing look ¨impossible¨. Next we go to the border authority office where the entry and exits are processed. We line up only to be told that the border is closed. The official stamps Jess´s passport but no one elses? We decide to try another officer, line up again at the next window... same story, borders closed, and get the cold shoulder noticing its our 2nd attempt. We talk to a Canadian girl that crossed into Costa yesterday, and entered back into Nicaragua that day with no hassles. Others we getting entry into Nicaragua from Costa but no one was being allowed into Costa Rica. No cars, not by foot...we sit back and watch for a while and yep all the locals were getting turned away also.

To make matters worse there was a little bit of confusion as to why the border was closed. Trucks were blocking the border on the Costa side but there was also a suspicious sign on the wall that stated in spainish that there will be no entry into Costa Rica for 2 months due to the Swine Flu. What now? We aint giving up that easy. We huff, puff, scratch our heads, look at each other and agree to walk to the Costa Rican border. They check the passports and say that they will let us in if we get our passports stamped exit in Nicaragua. But they won't stamp it saying you are closed!! You need stamp!

OK then, we walk back to Nicas officials sweat dripping off all of us, its hot, and confront the office. The officials are not happy with us and our third attempt. Steve trys explaining what the Costa Rican oficial advised. the Nicas oficial says no, we stand our ground and ask again, the oficial turns to his amigos, chats briefly, then gets off his chair and walks to the door. Oh ow, did we just push things to far?? He calls us over away from everyone and says in broken english ''I will do this for you, pauses and looks around, BUT, if they do not let you through you will come back to me and pay me money'' - RIGHT YOU'RE ON! Gracias gracias gracias.....

After 5 minutes of paperwork we hand over our payment in US dollars and walk off with passports stamped. Sweet, now the Costa Ricans have to cooperate with the Ausies!!

It was like a ghost town, we were the only ones lined up to enter Costa Rica and there was only a few exiting...it took Nicaragua 2hrs to stamp our passports, it took Costa Rica 2 minutes no questions asked????????????????????

We begin our walk past the truckies protest and ask some tired looking backpackers that have just completed the walk and about to enter Nicaragua ´Is it far, how long have you been walking'?? Their answer 'Don´t bother, turn around and do it another day, we have been walking for over 1 1/2 hrs....' Ahhh ok, thanks, but that isn't an option, and on we go, walking past one truck after another........

Posted by jessnsteve 09:41 Archived in Nicaragua Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

Surfing El Salvador

Waves and finding new friends!

The bus ride on King Quality was great but the quality of the dvd player was shank - I Am Ledgend crapped itself from one to many bumps right on the sceen where the beast zombie was breaking through the glass to mash Will Smith!! AND this movie was actually in english!!! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO.

The border crossing into El Salvador goes without a hitch. We didn't even have to get off the bus this time, immigration officals checked all passports onboard. But no one received a stamp to say we had left Honurus and entered El Salv??? A quick 'dummy' bag check, more like checking to see if the zippers worked, then we are handed very glossy tourist maps and brochures.

The bus motors towards San Salvador and in no time we are in the thick of it. Straight away you notice a difference in the sercurity measures. More bars, barbed/razor wire and armed guards than any country so far. A large security gate opens to let the bus into the station then promptly closes behind. It was a tough decision to decide wether it was safe enough to travel in El Salvador. The Lonely Planet gives it a pretty harsh wrap and with 10 murders a day El Salvador remains one of the most violent countries in the world. That and its home to the Mara Salvatrucha, one of the most dangerous gangs in the Central Americas known for gruesome beheadings and machete murders. We chatted to a heap of surfers on the trip so far who had travelled El Salvador and said if you are cautious you can travel the surf areas at minimal risk.

Couple weeks previous we decided to contact a surfer on Couchsurfer (http://www.couchsurfing.org/), just to get some local information on the area of La Libertad. The guy we contacted is a surfer called Marco, who lived just outside of San Salvador with his partner Esme and his lil boy Sebastion. It was all too easy. An email to say we are coming, a call to say we are here and he picked us up from a cafe near the bus station. Straight away we got such a kind, easy going peacefull vibe. We piled our stuff and ourselves in the back of a pick up and soon enough we were on our way through the streets of San Salvador.
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Marco and Esme took us to their town house which was located in Santa Tecla just outside of San Salvador. Most of the residents of San Salvador and its surrounds live in walled communities topped with razor wire. The inhabitants drive through metal gates to enter their community that are guarded by armed private security. Apparently it is only $10US extra a month to live in a secure community so most people go for that option. The houses are also very secure, bars on all windows, even bars above courtyards to prevent entry from above!

Back at their pad we chatted surf and got to know each other. Thankfully both Marco and Esme spoke english. Marco was born in El Salvador then grew up in Germany with his German parents. He had also lived in Turkey and the Phillipines and travelled extensively with his German family before returning to El Salvador. Esme grew up in El Salvador and most of her family lives close by. Sebastion their little boy was almost 2 and cute as a button. We shouted everyone dinner and met one of Marcos friends, Felix the cat. Felix drove us to get takeaway for dinner - Pupusas (cornmeal pastery stuffed with farmers cheese and refried beans) and beers of course!

The boys talk surf and the swell thats on the horizon, La Libertad is 1 hour away and is home to the famous surf break Punta Roca. They offered us a bed and we stayed the night. We were complete strangers and they treated us like family. Their generosity blew us away. Good times.

The next day they had to go to Uni so we waited at their pad for a couple of hours and cleaned their house to say thanks. When they came back around 10am they took us down to the beach and it turns out that they have a property with accom that they are about to turn into a tourist lodge! On the way we pulled into the supermarket for supplies then we checked the surf at Punta Roca.

Punta Roca has a pretty bad rep for being dangerous to walk to and the locals can be a little menacing. To reach it by foot you have to cross abandoned property and a cemetry but the saftey situation has seemed to improve with police regularly patrolling the shore. The wave known as the best in El Salvador is described as a heavy reef break right hander that barrells and walls up similar to J-Bay. When we pulled up to check it out the swell was 5-6 ft, slightly on shore but pumping, and only a few guys out!!
First set..
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Second set...
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About a 2 min drive we arrive at ¨Mango Wald¨ the property soon to be a fully equiped tourist lodge. ¨Mango Wald¨ is located up on the hill behind El Sunzal which is 5-10min walk away. The lodge has several rooms with private bathrooms, kitchen facilities, pool, gardens, wide open decks with hammocks to chill in and all the mangos you cant eat! (plus a number of other fruit varieties). Because the property is up on the hill it is lovely and cool with the ocean breezes. All the trees provide greatly appreciated shade.
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El Sunzal has a couple of breaks, the main ones El Sunzal (big open right in the distant behind the rick) and La Bocana (river mouth reef).
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El Sunzal is set up for tourism with plenty of overpriced accom, shops and resturants. There's a main street that runs parralell to the ocean that all the accom branches off, stagnant water and worse provide a variety of nose curling aromas. Definately glad that we scored Mango Wald up on the hill! Theres not a great deal to do here other than surf, there's a good cafe that does a smokin iced coffee (too hot for hot coffee!!), but otherwise the beach is narrow black sand, rocks and cement, with armed guards every couple of hundred metres. We had lunch back at MW with Marco, Esme, Frank (Esmes Dad) and Sebastion before they left us to chill and headed back into town. Steve all excited and frothing at the mouth has his first surf in 2 months out at a 6ft plus El Sunzal. He comes in with mixed emotions. Great to be back in the water, not so great to fall off nearly every wave and have red raw surf lumps on his ribs......

The next morning Steve rises in the dark and heads down to the main road to catch a bus 8km to Punta Roca. He found a local guy waiting for the bus and stood next to him. Hola, Buenos. As the bus approached it slowed down just enough for the guy to run and jump in the door, speeding off leaving Steve scratching his head. Son of! Four more buses speed past not stopping to pick him up. WTF! SON OF!!!! Determined, he decided to start walking/hitch. Thankfully, a car pulls up containing a local and two Texan surfers. HI! You Australian? Yep, are you guys heading to Punta Roca?? Sure am, jump in! SWEET!!! Hahahah bus drivers!

The surf was insane. Long 4-5ft lines wrapping down the point, this right hander was breaking for I dont know how long but it had several barrell combo wall sections speeding down the line. light offshore not a drop of water out of place. Straight away I thought about all my natural footer mates at home. Sorry no photos, very dodgy place. I had to ninja kick a dozen thieves and bribe 8 cops to get that onshore shot the previous day. No, seriously not a place to be flicking ya camera out.....

In the afternoon we walked down to El Sunzal and hired a pushie (which won the prize for being the WORST bike in the world!) for the evening's and next days transportation to Punta Roca and back. The locals looked at him pretty strangely as all the gringos hire cars and drive, not ride pushies with surfboards. That and the bike which looked good - front and rear suspension mountain bike - turned out to be a whirring pile of crap. You could hear him from a mile away. Loose bearings, swaying wheel, noisey tires, and rode like a sideways crab like resistance bike.

Slightly onshore but no one out for the arvo session. Many waves later, and as many kook outs, Steve raced back home (top spead grinding along at jogging pace) grining ear to ear to only just retrun on dark for another lovely home cooked meal and wine in Mango Wald!
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Next mornin Steve set out on the bicycle towards La Libertad, PS a 16km round trip. Swell had dropped a little but the period was the same. Groundhog day but a tad smaller at 3-4ft.

The locals who had seen him ride to Punta and back a few times no longer stared in disbelief but yelled out hola and cheered him on whilst laughing at his stupidity. Returned bike in the arvo. Adios peiza de mierda!!

In the afternoon Marco, Esme, Sebastion, and Frank turned up to the lodge closely followed by the rest of the rellos for a weekend rello bash! We drank together all afternoon, Frank hit the vodka pretty hard, we all had a few laughs and beers. We made friends with a homemade salsa.

In the afternoon, we did a quick mission into La Libertad for more beer and some ingredients for dinner. We visited the fresh fish market which was located on a wharf. The wharf jutted out high over the ocean for about 200m, all the fishing boats moored at the end. On both sides of the wharf hundreds of stalls sold the fish, prawns, squid and crab fresh off the boats. Jess choose a nice slab of Red Snapper.

When we got back to the lodge the festivities stepped up a notch. We cooked the whole family a coconut fish curry with rice!!! We all got a few drinks under our belt and after we mentioned we were married the family started joking around with us, in spanish, about us having babies soon!!
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The next day everyone dusted off the cobwebs and was back into it, more drinks and more food! In between the festivities Steve cranked out three sessions at the nearby a frame peak - La Baranca (river mouth). Limited photos of the break again due to security reasons.
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All the family pitched in to make a massive brew of ceviche (traditional prawn salsa dish). Even though there was a lil language barrier with the family they were very patient, understanding and kind and welcomed us with open arms. Such wonderful kind people. We were complete stangers and they formally announced at the table welcoming us into their family.

Sunday afternoon and time to head back to San Salvador as Marco and Esme have study tomorrow. We cram all our junket into Marco's car and set off at dusk. Half way back the traffic stops, huge traffic jam and no one is moving. Apparently a car blew up in blames on the steep accent back up to San Salvador. Marco accidently nudges the car in front but luckily the car in front had been nudged in that same spot several tmes before so all was sweet! When the traffic finally started to move we found out that this was true, a burnt out wreck had been pushed to the side of the road.

Marco and Esme were kind enuogh to drop us off at the Tica Bus terminal and suddenly it was time to say goodbye to new friends. The feelings we had when saying goodbye to Marco and Esme were not unlike the feelings we had when saying goodbye to good friends at home. We thanked them once again for their generousity and kindess and watched their car disappear into the San Salvador traffic.
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Tica bus to Nicaragua was to leave at 3.00am so we grabbed a room in the hotel above the station. Nice room, clean bathroom, cable TV - time to veg out! ALARM 2.00am we sleepily walk downstairs and jump on the bus. Niccas here we come!!

Posted by jessnsteve 09:03 Archived in El Salvador Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Happy dayz in Honduras, Cruising Caribbean Style!

La Ceiba & the island of Utila

sunny 30 °C

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'Oiga, Aqui por favor, AQUI!' steve shouts as our micro bus tears around the corner that has the Headman Alas bus terminal, well more like a little office with a sign in the middle of nowhere. The driver knew he had passengers with connect tickets here but would have gone straight through to Copan Centro if we didn't say something, and we'd have missed our bus which was due to depart in 5 mins! Headman Alas is a luxury service and we are treated with movies and chips and soft drink! We only just make the connecting bus from the border town Copan, destination La Ceiba. Its amazing, as soon as you cross a border the scenery and the people change. Just like that. The buildings are in slightly better nick than Guatamala and as we get closer to the ocean the road is flanked by palm plantations and jungle. Our tickets state that we should arrive at 4.30pm....however the reality is that the bus arrives in La Ceiba at 7.30pm. When its dark its always harder to decide where to go, what are the better hotels and really scope the place out. Luckily we score a friendly cabbie who shows us several accomdations thoughout downtown and we pick the better of the seedy rooms on offer. Watch out for the homless guy there, and there, and there.....

On the street we meet a local guy called Kenneth who is slightly too friendly offering us info about the Bay islands, accomodations and resturants. He was born on Roatan the most built up of the islands and spoke english as his first language. Alot of the locals are of African decent and speak english with that unmistakeable caribbean accent as a result of British settlement. He hassles us to buy some weed in the middle of the street, we decline and back away into our accom. Downtown La Cieba is a bit of a dive, there are many homeless blokes out the front of our hotel and the streets are sprinkled with rubbish. We wander towards the ocean and its a little nicer, with resturants and bars. We have our first feel of the Caribbean as we walk along the beach and dip our toes in the water. Very warm. WOOOO THE CARIBBEAN! So excited about swimming again after the inland stint!

Early rise to catch the ferry but we need to find an ATM first. As soon as we step out of the hotel Kenneth is ONTO us. Sheesh. AND then a little kid comes along, drops in on Kenneth and starts beging for money. WTF we haven't even had a coffee yet. Here have 10c and PISS off gromet!. Now Kenneth, what can I do for you? He offers to show us to an ATM that 'works properly'. Thanks but no thanks Kenneth and walk towards one with an armed guard. The first screen on the ATM said ¨do not let anyone show you to an ATM.......¨. Who knows what Kenneth was up to and we try and lose him but he keeps hassling us to buy weed. We decline over and over. Then he hits us up for some money for his brekkie. Its only a couple of bucks so we buy our freedom. Far out now where's the coffee!!!
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The ferry (ours the smaller of the 2) is 10kms out of town, not really in walking range, so we catch a cab. Tie the boards on! After a debate with ferry staff on whether we paid money for the boards and if it was enough (they sting you wherever they can for the boards, everyone has a price!) the boat left on time at 9.30am half full. We cruised across the aqua water, there is a small 1-2ft swell along the way. A local, who was all dressed up from previous night out, and thought he was king ping, got sea sick and did a techni colour yawn off the side of the boat spraying a few unfortunates nearby. Hahahaha, it was coming out his nose and all! 1hr later and we pull into a palm tree lined island. Welcome to Utila. One of three bay islands, and the cheapest. We see some kids playing on the dock, jumping into the water. One of the kids notices our Australia flag on the backpacks and starts with 'you from Australia'. We have immediate friends. Two of the kids are from Aus, the other two from the states. Full of energy and very helpful the kids ask if they can carry our stuff (yeah sure here ya go!) and show us to 'the best accom on Utila' where they are staying which is cheap and cheerful, chewing our ears off ALL the way about surfing and travelling.
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And what a story they had to tell! The two Aussie kids (Jessie and Sam) had dutch parents (Micheal and Ciska) and were riding on tandam bicycles from LA to Chile! They had been on the road for 10 months and had backpacked Asia prior to this trip. The other kids were American, Daryl and Davey, with parents John and Nancy. They were riding from Alaska to Argentina!!!!!!!! They had been on the road for 18 months!! The kids showed a level of maturity beyond their years, knowledgable about the world and had traveled far more than us. It was great to chat to both of the families who were friendly and a wealth of information. You can check out their blogs of insanity at: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/4438
http://familyonbikes.org/index.htm

After chilling with the crazy bike families IT WAS TIME TO HIT THE WATER for our first swim in who knows how long!
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We hired some snorkling gear and hit the reef. A short walk away from our accom was a spectacular reef which had a mass of exquisite coral and fish. The coral reef continued for about 100m out from the shore before a steep coral wall dropped off into the abyss.
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Early the next day we hired a kayak and snorkling gear and made our way from Oyster Bed Lagoon on the south shore through a 3km long esturary canal to the north side of the island, Rocky Harbour. The canal was narrow in the middle with the mangroves creating a tunnel. With paddles touching the sides Steve thinks its a good idea to stand on the kayak like a paddle board. He fell in the drink in no time, smacking Jess on the shoulder with his paddle on the way down! The canal widened when we reached Rocky Harbour at the other side. We explored the white sand beaches by foot where we bumped into a local from the iguana research station who was catching pregnant iguanas for their hatching program. After he dissapeared into the bush, there was no one else in sight.....
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After a bite to eat the bay provided some more great snorkling. The coral was nicer on the southern side but the northern still had alot of beauty....
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Back through the canal to the southern side we hand in the kayak but keep the snorkling gear and hit the reef again!
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The town of Ultila is a sleepy caribbean villiage which has a tourism industry geared up for fishing, diving (apparentely some of the best diving in the world and the cheapest place to get certified), and killer whale spotting. There are an array of cute little shops and cafes and some killer cinnamin scrolls on offer.
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Although you could loose yourself here our Caribbean island fix was complete after 3 days and we ferry it back to the mainland and attempt to split from Honuras to El Salvador in a day. Need waves. We timed the Bus from La Cieba to San Pedro Sula straight up and were hopefull of a connecting bus to San Salvador. Dreams shattered as we are informaed that only 1 bus leaves daily at 7.00am despite the Lonely Planet saying there is one at 1.00pm. PS - lonley planet provide great guide books, BUT, from our experience they are about 80% correct and out date much quicker than they are up dated....We have to spend the night in San Pedro Sula (which is a lil seedy). DAMIT, chomping at the bit Steve is unhappy as he knows there is a swell in El Salvador and we look like missing the first day of it now...

In San Pedro Sula we find oursleves staying in the lovely Hostel Tamerindo, on a nicer part in the outskirts of town, housed in an old mansion and run by a central american pop star! We enjoy our stay, make the most of the kitchen and TV room facilities, share stories with other travellers and make for the bus early the next day... El Salvador here we come!!!!

Posted by jessnsteve 07:38 Archived in Honduras Tagged backpacking Comments (1)

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