Tag Archives: exploremore

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua.

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We took The Globe Trol on a ferry to head to Ometepe Island, Nicaragua
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Islandtime in Nicaragua

We had about a week left in Nicargua before we had to be at the border to cross into Costa Rica.  Without hesistation we decide we should ferry over Lake Nicaragua and spend our last week on Ometepe Island.  Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes in the middle of Lake Nicaragua.

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This was our first stop on the Island is located in the isthmus at Ojo de Agua.  This was/is one of my favorite places that we spent any time at.  We again had zero expections driving up the dirt road wondering what was going to be at the end, the pictures above is where we found ourselves.  We spent the whole day here swimming in the these natual fed spring pools surrounded in the jungle.  Monkeys came out for a visit when the sun was setting and pretty soon we had the place to ourselves.   The next morning we left this paradise looking for garden to spend the next few nights at.  We drove towards Volcan Manderas, the smaller of the two where we found a hippie-garden-farm.  It’s run by an ex-pat couple who have nightly family-style dinners and cocktail hour before dinner.  Thier space was beautiful and The Globe Trol was shaded by fruit trees, flowers and herbs  perfect enough for us.  They called a guy down the street and got us hooked up with a dirt bike to rent within an hour of being there.

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We rented the dirt bike for the day and took it around the entire island.  It took us over six hours to ride around both of these islands most of the way the road is dirt and in terrible shape.  We took our time and stopped several times to take in all the great views, passing countless farm animals, plantain and banana plantations and a stop for lunch halfway around the island.  We stopped for lunch at a mexican restaurant in Nicaragua owned and run by an ex-pat African.

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Hiking up the volcano towards the waterfall

The following day the hippies’ neighbor offers to take us up the smaller volcano for a waterfall hike.  It was an interesting hike, she takes us through locals yards where we are interrupting their family lunch to ask if we can pass but apparently this was her usual route.  We walk past a small coffee plantation, cocoa trees, all types of fruit trees and underneath aggitated howler monkeys.  Halfway up about an hour and a half she looses the trail and we were in someone yard again.  For about fourty-five mins we are walking back and forth through this persons land looking for a specific trail.  From this yard you could find at least eight split offs and finally we just pick one and go.  Another hour and half go by and our neighbor-guide is iffy on the trail the whole way until we find the waterfall or whats left of it.  It was wiped out by an earthquake a few weeks before and barely anything was left of it.

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one of the volcanoes on the island

We had some beautiful weather during our stay on Ometepe Island and stunning views.

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Where to next: El Salvador and a drive through Honduras, visa deadline coming in hot.

We spent over two months in Guatemala most of that time was spent in Antigua where we were taking spanish classes and I was catching up with good ol’ buddy.  When we entered Guatemala we were given a 90 day visa for four countries called the CA-4, which includes Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.  We had to do some trimming and quick moving to get to Costa Rica in three weeks.  I had a list of to do’s that I wanted to check out in Nicaragua and two weeks was barely enough time.  The plan was to spend about four nights on some beaches in El Salvador and drive through Honduras in one day in order to get to Nicaragua in five days.

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El Tunco, El Salvador.   A black sand beach.
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Sunset at El Tunco
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The night Christian wanted a van-kitten

When looking at the map and our route we had to stay on the Pacific side in order to make this timeline.  After a little bit of research it looked like all of the cool places and things to do in Honduras were all on the Carribbean side.  Unfortunalely we spent only four hours in Honduras and stopping once for gas.  Most of our time in Honduras was spent driving to and through the two borders or waiting in lines.

We arrived in Leon, Nicaragua after a nine hour drive from El Cuco, El Salvador driving through Honduras while crossing two borders and three countries in one day.  Here in Leon, Nicaragua we found one of the hottest and most humid places on Earth.  Let’s find a parking spot and a very cold drink, like one that has ice in it!

Part 2 Guatemala Adventures continue to… TIKAL

Just a short two day and eleven hours northeast from Antigua is Tikal, now a National Park that was once a Great Mayan City set way back in the jungle.  Cheers to Guatemala City for showing us the worst traffic that we have seen in five thousand miles.  We got so far behind schedule that it turned dark before we could get anywhere safe to stay the night, for hours we were in the middle of nowhere.  We did our first nighttime drive for three hours and with great luck the road was in decent enough shape to make it ro Rio Dulce without getting a flat.  I was stressed!

We finished the long drive to Tikal the next day early afternoon.  We found a great little spot to camp just outside the park gates to rest up for an early sunrise hike in the morning.  5:15am still dark the alarm goes off and I hear the jungle breathing above the van.  We gathered the camera, a fresh made thermos of coffee and a couple of granola bars to make the long trek through the jungle alone and looking for the tallest ruin.  There’s no short of wild animals on our walk; greeting us right away were a couple of coatimundis wrestling eachother on the trail, then a colorful wild turkey guarded the restrooms, and a couple of monkeys accidentally I assume drop mangoes a foot from our heads.  After an hour and a half through the mayan city, Tikal we arrive to the tallest ruin Temple IV there standing 212 feet high.  We climbed the side of it, grabbed a seat at the highest step, opened the coffee and took in the unprecedented view.  We were sitting above the clouds and waiting for the sun to appear while toucans were flying below our feet.  Virtally we had this park to ourselves, there was a quiet moment had while listening to the howler monkeys travel around us and off deep into the jungle.

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Christian descibes the sound of the howler monkeys like this “imagine King Kong angry and ripping through the jungle heading right for you!”  Their sound together is like one giant beast, it was beautiful.  No jaguars were spotted on this adventure.

On the way back to Antigua we stopped at Rio Dulce for a few nights during a monsoon.  However it’s hard to complain when you camp at a place on a river with a pool, bar and restaurant in the jungle.

Our Last Bit of Mexico, Chiapas

 

We left the insanely hot beach of Oaxaca, Mexico and headed straight for the Aguacero Waterfall in Chiapas.  It’s 742 steps down in 98 degree weather to a creek bed.  We walked through and across the creek bed and looked up at a breathtaking waterfall.  It pooled in several places covered in moss, plants and purple flowers.  The water was crisp and cool.  “We found Fern Gully!”  Christian gave me a hand and helped me up the slippery moss covered boulders to make our way to the bottom of the cascada.  We played under the chilling fall until our feet went numb.  Okay Chiapas, you got our attention, you are beautiful.

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That night we took a short drive to find the Sumidero Canyon.  We arrived after dusk and when everything was closed so it was diffilcult to find secure parking right away.  After an hour we found a locked gate fence where some guys where chatting under a street light near possibly the opening.   They figured out what we needed through some rough spanish and whislted for the night guard to let us in the parking lot of the canyon because we wanted take a boat ride the next morning.  We read other overlanders had done the same in the past and it seemed like a safe camping option for the night.  The next morning we headed down to the dock for a giant speed boat tour through the canyon.

The walls of the canyon were towering above us at 3,280 feet in some places.  This canyon is thought to be as old as The Grand Canyon.  The canyon was started by cracks in the earth’s crust and the Grijalva River dug its way for 35 million years.  Flying through the canyon our captain would abruptly stop for wildlife and the first stop was “Vulture Island.”  I don’t know, but to stop for a hundred vultures at once was probably the least appealing thing for me.  Moving along our next stop was a tree where two monkeeys were wrestling and showing off.  This was our “first monkeey sighting of the trip!”  Half way through the two-hour tour I notice that all of our life jackets have crocodiles on them and we haven’t seen one yet.  We get all the way down to the dam and pull up to a boat that is selling fruit, chips and soda.  Latin American culture “never miss an oppotunity to sell something” I believe is their moto.  For the return the captain speeds back through the canyon and then all of a sudden we come to an aggressive hault and a sharp turn.  I’m thinking “Hell yes, this must be it, the Crocs!”  This captain has laser eye sight or something?!  He pulls the boat right up alongside the croc so we all can bend over the side and take a million pictures, and nicely enough the crocodile stays motionless.  “How cool, it’s like he is posing!”  Them we speed off and head to another favorite spot for the captain where the next croc is out of the water and is also posing for more pictures.  A few minuets later a crocodile is actually moving and he swims by our boat for 10 seconds and then poof, gone.  The group is now satisfied and we head back to the dock.  When we got back I couldn’t let go of how strange our crocodile show was and I mentioned to Christian ” Do you think those crocs were real or staged? ”  Oh well if they were fake, they were really good ones.  Weeks later we ran into friends who had also done the tour a week prior and we compared our photos and had the exact same two crocs, same spot, same pose, same same.  However they never saw a crocodile swimming, Yea we saw a real one.

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Our last stop in Mexico was a spanish colonial town called San Cristobal de Las Casas.  It’s set way up in the mountains so the air was a lot cooler, and less sweating for us.  It rained a few hours every late afternoon, just enough to cool you off.  We found a campsite a mile outside of town and took the scooter back into town for sightseeing, groceries, chocolate and beer runs.  Our campsite was underneath tall evergreens, I absolutely loved it here.  I loved being in the woods but also only a mile to town, five days here flew by.   Chocolate shops, cheap decent wine and coffee everywhere, my little heaven and not a bad spot to spend a few dollars and a couple of days.

Next stop…Guatemala here we come.

Oaxaca City, Mexico…mucho culture

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Oaxaca City, Central Park

A walk through the park on a Wednesday afternoon looking for our friends and we stumble upon this lovely orchestra performing.  This city was beautiful and full of handicrafts of all kind.  However, by the time Christian and I arrived we were over crowded cities.  We just didn’t have the energy to explore more while we were here, so we looked for a camp spot nearby.

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Wednesday afternoon in the park in Oaxaca.

We had two choices here in this area for camping.  We could park in a gated gravel lot in the middle of the lively city with no shower or bathroom.   The other option was a campground twelve miles outside the city that had WiFi and a bathroom however it was located between abandon buildings and in the middle of nowhere.  We chose the latter.  The next morning with our WiFi we found out there was a small public water park within walking distance.   PERRRRRFECT it was 100 degrees with no wind, and we were in the dessert.

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On top of Monte Albán, alone!

Now that we are seasoned tourist of Ruins, we got to the top of a small mountain range where we found Monte Albán before it opened.  Monte Albán sits 1,300 feet above the valley of Oaxaca and it’s City at an elevation of 6,400 ft.  This humdinger was inhabited for over 1,500 years by at least three different civilizations who literally chopped off the top of the mountain, almost as it stands today.  This site contained tombs, temples, inscriptions and it even had a ball court!

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friends buying crickets-snacks at the market

This is Josh and Jenna (from Travel Amateurs) they are our overlanding friends that we met along the way.  So glad we did.  While in spanish classes in Guanajuato they heard that crickets are a greeeeaaat protein (as Tony the Tiger would say).  Some really took this info to heart, like Josh and Jenna.  On the other hand Christian and I decided that if chicken or any other food was more accessible that we would choose everything else.

The next day six of us overlanders went up a 10,000 ft mountain for the Oaxacan experience.  The six of us hiked for four days and did 35 miles at 10,000 to 8,000 feet depending on the next town’s destination.  I wish that I could say that hike was glorious and maybe for some of the other five it was. My experience was…”Stay alive, don’t fall it will hurt, eventually this will end!”  One day for about 1,000 ft we slid down a “trail” with 40lb packs on our backs.  Tons of Fun.  This hike wore us all out so much that we never had the energy to check out the waterfalls, caves, and view points.  Pro-tip: Drive to the small Eco-towns and hike to the cool stuff.  Ex-pro Tip: Anything tastes better than crickets, like CHIPS or peanut butter or real trail mix.

Teotihuacan, our first Pyramids and ruins.

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Pyramid of the Moon

This photo was taken from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun (third largest pyramid in the world) looking across the way towards Pyramid of the Moon which mimics the Mountain Cerro Gordo that rests behind it.  The Pyramid of the Moon (151 feet high) is actually seven pyramids built on top of each other which kept growing and growing and now is filled with tunnels and human sacrifices laid into the walls.  Hundreds of years separate each stage of construction.

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Early birds, get better photos.  Behind us is what remains of the Plaza of the Moon.
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Behind me is part of the Avenue of the Dead and The Moon Pyramid.  8 days sick here, still worth it.

This was when I first got sick the first time.  The nights before leading up to this day were awful and many rough days and nights followed this moment.  I was so weak here, climbing this pyramid was no easy feat.  I suspect I picked up salmonella or E.coli from the town before this and it lasted about ten days.  The morning of and the night before Christian and I were trying to figure out our plan of action in order for me to not miss this opportunity.  I decided I wasn’t going to miss these pyramids, I would suck it up and do as much as I could stand.  I climbed both of the Pyramids and then headed straight to bed which we conveniently parked right outside the gate.  I’m glad I did because I get to keep that memory forever and soon I’ll forget being sick and the terrible feeling.

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Pyramid of the Sun (246 feet high) and the Avenue of the Dead.

Teotihuacan

A beautiful Mesoamerican city located just outside of Mexico City was thought to have been built here around 100 B.C.  Some believe it was the sixth largest cities at its peak with a population of around 125,000 people up to 250,000.  This site was around thirty sq miles, we had to drive twenty mins to get around to the other side to get more exploring in.  We arrived before the gates opened because of a couple of reasons; One, this site will bring in thousands of tourist just that day and also to beat the extreme heat at midday.  We arrived there an hour before it opened and we were still the tenth car in line.  At this site there are two overwhelming-monstrous pyramids that will have you gasping at their incredible size and beauty.  Our imaginations ran wild standing in the middle of the Avenue of the Dead just conceiving how busy and lively this place was just a few short thousand years ago.