A Travellerspoint blog

San Pedro Sula, Honduras

A dangling semi and a broken window.

semi-overcast 28 °C
View Sinusoidal Planetary Circumscription on olin's travel map.

Leaving Lazybones for Honduras we picked up a fifth member named Foeke (pronounced foo-kah), a dutch dude traveling alone. We had a long ride head of us and were hoping to get to San Pedro Sula by 4pm, in time to make a 5pm bus to Copan Ruinas. The bus picked us up at 6am at a Shell station just outside town. I guess that's how it works in Nicaragua. Bus ride was ok until we hit some serious traffic, apparently caused by a truck cab that was hanging off the side of the road.
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They had two tow trucks trying to pull it back up which narrowed the road down to one lane. Our hopes of making the connecting bus quickly faded.
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Approaching Tegucigalpa we had one of the bus windows implode. Not 100% sure but it seems that someone may have thrown a rock, perhaps as a gesture of welcome. We had heard Tegucigalpa was a good place to get chopped up by thugs with machetes and did not bother to find out whether that was an exaggerated report. Arrived in San Pedro Sula around 6:30pm and had no choice but to stay the night. We had met another fellow on the bus named Hebert from San Francisco so that made us 6. Got a hotel near downtown (Hotel Real) and went for dinner nearby at Hotel Terazza. The waitress handed us an impressively extensive menu and after everyone had decided what they wanted she told us we could either have grilled shrimp or grilled beef. Aside from the prostitutes hanging outside our hotel, that was about it for San Pedro. We were glad to be heading to Copan the next morning, bright and early.

Posted by olin 22:25 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

Leon, Nicaragua

High school sweethearts

semi-overcast 26 °C
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Spent a few days in Leon, a colonial town, at Lazybones hostel. First hostel we've seen with a pool, although it's not a particularly large one. Also had a pool table, although not a particularly straight one. There was a cool mural painted on the wall by two or more artists, some spraycan graffitti and the rest in marker. I really liked the style of the marker artist.
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We were here checking out the town, as well as letting my friends from Montreal, Jon and Mike, catch up with us. They had landed in Costa Rica and were working their way up through Nicaragua so we could all travel together through Honduras and Guatemala. I t was a great surprise to see their familiar faces sitting at Lazybones after we had come back from a late lunch.
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Before Jon and Mike arrived we also spent a night in Las Penitas, a beach town about 1.5 hours away by chicken bus.
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The town is not particularily pretty, and the water was pretty turbulent for the most part making me wonder why people talk about learning to surf here. It might have just been a bad day, though. I still had a good time testing myself against the powerful waves and current doing some bodysurfing, but did not venture out with a surf board. The other notable thing was the inexplicably persistent kids trying to sell shell necklaces and other outdated trinkets and souvenirs. I guess since its low season and there's nobody around they just ask the same people over and over, all day long.
One night was long enough there and we headed back to Leon the following morning.
Leon is a university town and there are quite a few different types of schools, students, and of course bars.
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Being old wet towels, we didn't bother checking out the bars, but we did go to the movie theater one night and saw the new wolverine movie for $2.50 each. Waste of money, even at that price.
Feel compelled to mention Cafe Vida, next to the Bigfoot hostel, where we had some of the finest chicken quesadillas we've ever tasted. And yummy Tona. Mmmmm, Tona.
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Posted by olin 22:01 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Big Corn Island, Nicaragua

Of men and turkeys.

sunny 29 °C
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Spent the first night on Big Corn at Silver Sand. Basic rooms, and an assortment of farm animals including a cow, some turkeys, a bunch of chickens, ducks, and a small puppy. We had a bit of a misunderstanding with one of the turkeys, probably due to our lack of experience with them. This particular one was strutting around and puffing up his feathers, making himself look bigger. We found it amusing and were imitating his behavior with our arms. Apparently he mistook this as a challenge to his dominance and promptly rushed us. Nelly did the sensible thing and ran. I, however, perhaps in an effort to redeem previous cowardices in the face of bullies, decided to stand my ground. The turkey was neither impressed nor feeling charitable and lunged for me, bent on teaching me a lesson with his pointed beak. I panicked slightly, but managed to smack him square upside the head mid lunge, sending him backwards, squawking and a-flutter. I was a little embarrassed and spent the remainder of our stay looking over my shoulder in case he tried to get revenge from behind.
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Nelly was enjoying playing with the little puppy, whom I dubbed "backbiter" since his idea of play involved going behind you and biting your legs or back, depending on what was available.
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The ocean was quite reefy and did not look too inviting for swimming. We were also very limited in our dining options and decided to look for a different spot the next day.
We moved to a place called Picnic Spot Hotel on the opposite shore. The water here was unbelievably calm and flat.
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Nelly loved it, and although I missed having waves to wrestle, we kept ourselves entertained by jumping off the military pier a few hundred meters south. We also had an opportunity to try "rondon", or "rundown", a local fish stew which was both delicious and filling.
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Posted by olin 21:37 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Little Corn, Nicaragua

A remote paradise

sunny 30 °C

Because we had no internet access in Little Corn (and no electricity), I fell behind on the blog, and the further I fell behind, the more daunting the task became. Well, I am now going to try to catch up on the last month of experiences.
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We flew in a Cessna Caravan (small plane, maybe 18 people) from Managua, landing on Big Corn island about an hour and a half later, then took a water taxi (called a panga) to Little Corn.
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This small island off the eastern coast of Nicaragua in the Caribbean sea is one of the remotest places we have ever been. There are no motorized vehicles on Little Corn besides the fishing boats, water taxis and occasional small cargo ships that visit the dock. There is one main path, which branches at the school, one path continuing through the Spanish part of town and ending at the police station, and the other heading to the north coast of the island, about 30 minutes through light woods, where we eventually ended up spending six nights at an interesting little spot called Ensuenos. Because we were not able to contact Ramon, the owner and host at Ensuenos previous to our arrival, and we had arrived shortly before sundown, we ended up taking the shorter walk to the east coast hostels and staying at Carlito's place the first two nights.
It was a nice clean spot, good mattress with a mosquito net and a servicable shared bathroom that doubled as the shower. In the morning I was surprised to find that the beach was littered with plastic bottles, caps and other bits. Allie, who had originally greeted us at the dock the previous evening had shown up to sell coconuts and rake the beach. I decided to giv e him a hand and spent about an hour picking up all the plastic in front of our hostel as well as the three adjacent ones. I later realised that this stuff washes on shore everyday.
We met a Dutch lady named Leo who had been living on the island for the past year or so and was currently occupying one of the cabins at Carlito's. She was trying to make efforts to help clean up the island, encouraging kids to recycle and even see trash as a resource, making dolls out of bottle caps and other creative reuses of the plastic that currently covers many of the beaches there.
She lamented the difficulty in getting the point across, and I had seen an example of the mis-education firsthand when originally waiting at the dock on Big Corn. A van had pulled up which had a kid with what I assumed was his dad. The dad was sitting near me while the boy picked up a couple of empty plastic bottles and brought them over to him. He asked the man something, the man seemed disinterested and dismissive. The boy then threw one of the bottles back on the ground, then ran to the dock and joyfully tossed the second into the ocean. He then proudly ran back to his dad who did not have a single word of disapproval to offer. It is not surprising much of what we saw of Nicaragua was covered in trash.
Our first day we explored town we walked down into the Spanish part, past the fork at the school. On our way back we encountered the local security force, AK's (the kind with no buttstock) slung across their backs, escorting four prisoners, one of which had handcuffs, the others their hands bound with rope. The path is quite narrow so we were within inches of these gentlemen, and I remember a particularly uncomfortable moment where Nelly passed between the four prisoners and the guard. I couldn't help but picture one of them throwing his arms over her head, choking her with his bonds, using her as a hostage and human shield. Thanks Hollywood.
We soon found that vegetables and fruits (aside from the coconuts and mangoes) were not easily procured on the island since they had to be flown in from Managua, then brought over by water taxi. For the hostel owners, they would then also have to pay someone to carry them from the dock, along the small paths to wherever the hostels happened to be. Apparently, farming was on the decline on Little Corn due to several factors including crop theft and a lack of interest on the part of the new generation.
After two nights at Carlito's we went over to Ensuenos on the North shore of Little Corn. Unlike Carlito's, Ensuenos did not offer electricity and was more than double the cost. However, the beautiful beach, the complete isolation, the amazingly unique hut and the very friendly and interesting host, Ramon, made it more than worth it. Even though there were no waves here (like everywhere in the Caribbean), this was my favorite spot so far.
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The absence of electricity made us follow the schedule of the sun and for the first time in my life I saw a sunrise without having stayed up all night. I very much enjoyed the pace here, keeping myself busy by husking coconuts with the pen knife I had purchased at one of the small stores in town for $4.50. There was also a mango orchard near the baseball field, so we kept ourselves in good supply by grabbing the freshly fallen ones every time we would walk to town for a meal. I would also make sure to grab an extra mango or two for the monkey that was in the yard we would pass on the way. I learned that he preferred firm mangoes and would not eat them once they got overripe. He was a very interesting creature and Nelly would have to eventually pull me away every time we passed him.
The shower and toilet at Ensuenos were somewhat unusual in that they were pretty much open air, no true walls enclosed them. Sure there was some effort to create privacy by means of some palm fronds and such, but overall it was a degree of exposure that I have never previously experienced during that most intimate of moments, defecation.
The water was courtesy of a well with a rather clever pump system that involved a hand crank which drove a rope that had these small cups tied at regular intervals along it. The cups and rope would pass through a pipe and drive water up to the tank on top, and gravity would then provide the water pressure at the shower. The shower was simply a half inch pipe end, so I fashioned a shower head out of an empty plastic bottle by cutting off the top and bottom, rejoining them by cutting tabs on each side, then drilling some small holes in the bottom. The mouth of the bottle happened to fit perfectly over the pipe, and made the shower a little more pleasant while also reducing water usage.
I ended up making a few more of these shower heads and giving them to a girl we met named Emily who was doing a knowledge/skill share project. In retrospect, I should have asked her to teach me the Cirque du Soleil acrobatic tricks we saw her doing with her Nicaraguan wife.
We also did a little snorkeling in front of Ensuenos since there was quite a bit of reef just a ten minute swim out from out hut. We saw the usual assortment of Caribbean fish, including parrotfish, sargeant majors, damsel fish and wrasses. We also saw a rather large stingray which had sneakily shaken some sand onto its back in a somewhat rudimentary effort at camouflage.
We also made frequent trips to Gorgina's, a rickety shack on the beach that you would not expect to get food, yet Gorgina was in the back baking some delicious treats daily, from coconut bread, to beef patties or my personal favorite, casada (probably not spelled like that) which was some kind of flavored coconut pulp in a bread-like shell.
Oh, and Ramon's dogs love coconut pulp. In fact, if you crack it for them, they'll clean out the shell without a problem.
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Posted by olin 16:11 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (1)

San Juan Del Sur,Nicaragua

sunny 29 °C
View Sinusoidal Planetary Circumscription on olin's travel map.

After a long day of travel, we arrived in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua just before sunset and booked ourselves into Hotel Estrella. At $8 dollars per person per night, we were surprised to find that our room had a corner balcony with a 180 degree view overlooking the ocean. Unfortunately, the beach was littered with trash and the room didn't have a fan, which we sorely missed during the hot nights. We were happy to find that food and drink are substantially cheaper here than Costa Rica, with beers costing $1, dinner $4 and a 750ml bottle of rum $6.
The following morning we took a shuttle from Casa Oro (a hostel around the corner) to Maderas beach, one of the popular surf spots about a half hour drive north.
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On the shuttle ride over we met a Swiss girl named Lynn we had seen the previous day at the Cruce de Barranca bus stop. She had rented a surf board for the day and was kind enough to share it with us. Nelly and I managed to ride some wake, but didn't get up the courage to try dropping into the head-high waves that the other surfers were enjoying.
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I saw Josh out there tearing it up, and he managed to ride one wave directly towards me, throwing a fat turn about 15 feet away from me.
We had a nice lunch with Lynn and Josh joined us a little later for some beers. After a little more time on the water in the afternoon, we took the 5pm shuttle back to town, with the intention of coming back to the beach the following day and taking Josh up on his offer of a free surf lesson for us.
Woke up before sunrise feeling ill. May have come down with a mild case of food poisoning and spent the entire day either in the room or in the bathroom. So much for our surf lessons. After a gruelling day and night, we woke up at 5:45 to grab the express bus to Managua, where we currently find ourselves in the airport, waiting for our flight to the Corn Islands.
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Posted by olin 11:15 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (2)

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