Tag Archives: homeiswhereyouparkit

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.

On to Guatemala, it only took 4 months

We took a two hour drive from San Cristobal to get to the chaotic insane small border of Guatemala, after spending four months in Mexico.  The border town was wacky and swamped with vendors leaving us barely enough room to squeeze The Globe Trol through.  It it two days to get to Lake Atitlan.  Our midway stop along the highway was at a fancy hotel’s gravel parking lot for the night.  In the morning I watched their gardener mow the entire site with a weed wacker for hours.

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I read ahead and told Christian that the road down to our next campground in San Marcos, Lake Atitilan might be narrow, steep and in complete shit condition.  So we decided right before it goes to shit we will take the scooter down and drive them seperately.  I was more than nervous to drive the van-haus so I opted for the scooter.  OH MY LORD!  Driving the scooter down a mountain covered in trees, surrounded by Volcanoes heading towards a lake…was phenomenal to say the least.  On top of that I was manuevering around pot holes a foot-two feet deep some the size a small car could fit into.  Total breeze on the skoot-skoot.  An hour later we make it to a sleepy little town called San Marcos and head just outside the square down some “road” of holes and gravel to a incredible campsite with an even better view.  The owner of the grounds Pierre sells steak, prawns and a great priced wine.  Sweet we never have to leave.  The next afternoon we hopped on a water taxi and shimmied off to another little hippie town called San Pedro that you could tell had been overran with gringos.  Ah whatever lets buy some souvenoirs and grab a drink on a deck.  It rained everyday we were there and we could just barely see the volcanoes that surrounded the lake.  After a few hours we hopped back on the water taxi and rushed to take shelter when the storm came in.  The storm was here for the night so we grabbed a bottle of wine, sat under the awning and binged watched on some Game of Thrones.  After three more days of dodging the rain we were ready to head to Antigua and finally meet up with Lori, eight years waiting to visit her here.

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.

A tale of two cities, Morelia y Guanajuato.

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Our dear friends who are traveling faster than us mentioned that the city of Morelia is beeeeeautiful!  With their advice The Globe Trol hastily heads towards the gorgeous city that fell straight out of the 17th century Europe and place perfectly in the middle of Mexico.  This city is as far from home as I have ever been, I love it and it’s only been fifteen minuets.  We rushed to find a hotel and park the van-haus so we could get the skooter detached and start exploring ASAP.  We drove into a hotel where you park inside their courtyard and pull up next to your hotel room door.  We backed the kitchen right up to our room, how cool is that?!  A hop onto the skoot and we were off, off to tour this historic and enchanting place.  Morelia has the facade of a city and the heart and pace of a small town.  I was prepared with my guidebook covered in highlighted notes of every place on a long to do list.  “Ok, Christian get your game face on, we have a lot of skooting to do!”

First the Chocolate Museum for tons of treats, down the road a walk hand-in-hand along Lover’s Alley, and a stroll through the Garden of Roses where local artists were displaying their work.  All of the buildings were well preserved and some with new purposes.   The Cultural House used to be a former monastery established in 1593 and now houses multimedia artwork.  We found churches on every single block and corner and on Sunday at 5 o’clock we found ourselves at The Cathedral that was built in 1577 at the start of mass.  The Cathedral has a working organ of 4,600 pipes, however we weren’t’ fortunate enough to catch a song.   We drove the skooter the length of The Aqueducts while waiting for the sun to set and light up it’s 253 arches. Christian spent hours trying to capture its beauty in a photo that we were blessed to witness.

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After an awesome weekend we headed north to meet up with some fellow overlanders in Guanajuato.  We were told it’s a “must-visit” type of town like no other.  We navigated ourselves through the hills and tunnels of Guanajuato to find our new home for a week.  The Globe Trol forges up the narrow, steep and winding road before arriving to Morril RV Park.  We exercised the skooter daily here like it was training for a marathon along a road called The Panaramica.  Our fifteen minute ride on the skoot to spanish school started the very next day.  That night Christian was concerned, “I can’t believe we are setting an alarm for school!”  “C’mon, our classes down start until 10am.  I think we can make it” I said.  He lasted ONE day, I may have finished an entire week.  At school we learned that we arrived on a fantastic week in a few days begins Dia de la Flores (Festival of Flowers).  This festival is significant solely to Guanajuato and is also the kick-start celebration for Palm Sunday and Semana Santa (Saint’s week/Easter).  A group of us head to the center of town to observe mesmeric chaos that unfolds the night before.  On the hunt for Mezcaleria’s we find the streets to be packed with baskets of painted eggs in every color filled with confetti.  Children were running around smashing them onto each other’s for colorful explosions.  Hundreds of vendors lined the streets and flowers real and fake filled in the gaps.

I dragged Christian to visit a gory mummy museum, which was a mistake.  I pictured a place out of classy museum like ones I have been to before where you visit ancient Egyptian mummies.  Instead it was a dark place where the towns people dug up their late townsmen to make room for more.  What they dug up were mummified people and babies and they placed them in a building for people to pay money to see.  The Mercado (market) was located in a train station that was never used for trains and instead housed a place where you could get a tasty cuban sandwich, buy a chicken, t-shirts, crickets, fruit and veggies and hear the locals giving speeches who were I assume running for office.  The day before the festival of flowers the locals arrived early in the morning to the Mercado buying as many flowers as one could hold to decorate their home with.   Pick up trucks would deliver flowers stacked ten feet high and drop them off to vendors and return with another load thirty minuets later, an incredible site.  To say the very least Christian and I felt after spending a week here that we got a sampling of rich community that was tough to leave.

Next chapter…Mainland Mexico

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Things have been anything but dull on the road with The Globe Trol.  Our first week on mainland we spent in Mazatlan with some of our favorite fellow overlanders who we traveled with for about a month and a half.  We feel so lucky to have met so many great travelers and locals on this trip so far.

While in Mazatlan we camped on a beach that for the most part we had to ourselves in front of a “pizza” place that only sold coconuts.  At night it had a different vibe, it was an open air place where people sat in the dark with piles of weed in front of them while they rolled and smoked joints all night.  We were never offered any, but we camped there for free.  One person per vehicle was sick for most of those days, strange odds.  We took a golf cart taxi tour of the city together that promoted day drinking.  Since we camped on an island while in Mazatlan we would take a water taxi back and forth to the city for 43 cents per person.

We finally move south down the coast and end up in a tiny fishing village called Santa Cruz/Miramar.  We found a beautiful resort like grounds to camp at for four days.  This place was originally built a few hundred years ago for German miners who stole the land and the natives eventually took it back by force or so the legend has it.  We stayed there for four days, a gorgeous garden with five small pools looking over the ocean for $11.  Awesome.  Time to find some free camping again though.

Strolling down the coast a little further we stumbled upon San Pancho just north of Puerto Vallarta.  The RV camp spot tell us it’s 300 pesos for a dirt lot and cold showers, no thanks!  Well what about the town plaza and for free?   Yes that’ll do.   We end up hanging out in this swanky town where we find 50 cent killer tacos, a free music festival all weekend in our new backyard(great timing), bathrooms and showers at a near by fish house!  What a blast.

We came to Puerto Vallarta to get some major errands taken care of.  Our fridge still isn’t working properly, recharge the a/c and pick up a new credit card because ours was compromised.  Lesson learned: Dont use ATM’s in dark alleys. It’s also been pretty warm here so we decided to get our A/C recharged and find out that the compressor had a leak and needed to be replaced.  Luckily for us we met a mechanic named Jair who spoke great English and had tons of recommendations for destinations while traveling in Mexico.   Jair is almost finished with his law degree and then he said he was going to take the same trip to Argentina was he is done.  He gave us bottle of Don Julio to take down to South America after he fixed our van.

Christian is screaming “I love Mexico, I never want to leave and if that clown Trump is elected I’m buying a house here!”

Food! Food in Baja…

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Everyone loves food!  I would consider ourselves as amature foodies, who also love to cook and creating new drinks.  In our tiny home on wheels we made sure there was enough room for a two burner stove top, sink, full spice rack and the Vitamix.  We also brought a dutch oven along, which is a new for the both of us.  Food in Baja has been great whether we made at home out of the van or gorging on street cart tacos.  Surrounded by water the fresh fish, seafood and shrimp have been plentiful.  So much ceviche! A regular stop for pastries is new to our diet; cherry turnovers, chocolate croissants, cinnamon rolls, cakes, donuts and obviously much more.

Breakfast usually consists of last nights dinner plus eggs and all wrapped in a tortilla.  I figured out a really easy pancake for us and now that it’s turning out consistent I’ll share: I mash one banana (the soft old brown ones are the best) until it is like baby food, add and  whip two eggs with the banana.  Next I throw in about 1/4c of flour (I use coconut flour), a tsp of vanilla ext and sprinkle some cinnamon in and mix it all together.  Chocolate chips are awesome in these  but it’s hard to find chocolate chips here in Mexico.  We have been topping our pancakes with peanut butter and agave maple syrup.