21/12/2014 And finally… the last update about Maya ruins in Mexico! It ended with my favorite of them all, the city of Becan. Located very close to Xpujil, it is not as remote as Calakmul, but nevertheless only a few people go there. Check out this post to find out why it turned out to be my favorite in the end.
Part of our deal with the Taxi driver was to spend about 2 1/2 hours in Becan on our way back from Calakmul. It is very close to Xpujil and you could even bike there if you wanted to, but well we already had the Taxi for us The first thing that I noticed about that site was that everything just feels much more like it used to be during the times of the Maya. You can even walk around some small corridors and rooms and everything is in a very good shape without over-restaurating it like Chichen Itza for instance.
I especially enjoyed the main temples. One of them (as seen on the cover picture on this post) just looks awesome thanks to it’s shape and the fact that it is still surrounded by trees. And the other one (from where I took the cover picture) is half collapsed and allowed me to do some climbing while offering the great view. Becan just felt right, it is hard to describe but for some reason it was my favorite even though it is not as big as Calakmul or as famous as Chichen Itza. You should check it out if you make it down to Xpujil!
30/12/2014 Yesterday I arrived to the currently famed “most dangerous place on earth” and my second stop in Honduras: San Pedro Sula. I was supposed to leave to the Cusuco National Park today, but due to my slight delay and a booked flight to Utila tomorrow, I decided to do it after my return from the Island in order to spend two nights in the remote jungle. I will use the extra day to check out the city today and of course update my blog, reporting “live” from Guatemala for the first time. Coming from Belize, it was obvious that I would have to stop in Tikal, one of the most famous Maya sites in Central America!
Joined by Philip, a German guy I met before in San Ignacio to explore the ATM Caves, we made our way to the Border in a taxi and successfully dodged the extra fee that they are trying to squeeze out of tourists while entering Guatemala (just ask for a receipt and you won’t have to pay it). We missed the last bus due to the public holiday and were forced to take a more expensive private shuttle directly to Tikal, ending up paying a bit more than 200 Quetzales each. We arrived at 3pm and were just in time to get the 150Q entrance ticket that would be valid for the next day as well, so we wasted no time to drop our staff at the Jaguar Inn Hotel and made our way into the rainy jungle that surrounds the mighty ruins of Tikal!
Having not purchased either the Sunset or the Sunrise tour for an extra 150Q each, we were making the most out of our time anyway. The rain provided a great atmosphere and a good alternative to boring blue sky ;-) It got dark very fast and the ground was very slippery, nearly dropping us a few times. We headed straight to Temple IV, which was supposed to offer the best view. They built some staircases to reach the 64m high top plateau and the view is somehow limited as you can just see other temples peaking out. Before coming to Tikal, I was hoping to see some bigger structures from there but it was great in any case.
We only met two other people during the late hour of that day and joined up together on the way back, walking through complete pitch black darkness as the sun was gone around 6pm. Joined by the rangers that clean out the park so nobody sneaks in without having paid for the Sunset ticket – which would not have been great in that weather anyway – we made it back to the Jaguar Inn to have a suprsingly good and well portioned dinner there. Sleeping in tents they provide for “just” 15$ seemed like a good deal considering the fact that we were staying in the middle of the Park and right next to the Entrance gate. I could hear all kinds of monkeys and other animals (and also the snoring tour guide Caesar in a tent next to us) while trying to fall asleep.
The next morning, we woke up at 5:30 to make it to the entrance as early as possible to get in without the special sunrise ticket, meaning 6AM. The weather did not change since last night, so we were happy that we did not spend all the extra money. The sounds of the awaking jungle were still clearly present at 6AM, even though it should probably be even better getting in at 4AM. We walked a slightly different route this time and headed to the main plaza including the famous Jaguar Temple. Certainly a pretty cool structure to look at and a shame one is not allowed to climb it up! Some people have died doing so in the past after slipping down.
We returned to Temple IV again and had slightly better weather this time, still clouds dominated the sky though but I think it makes for a great atmosphere. Overall we spent nine hours in Tikal on both days and the rest of the second day was spent walking around through all different corners. Arriving at the Lost World Pyramid aka Gran Pyramid, we were waiting until everyone around us disappeared (it was not busy in that part of Tikal luckily) in order to climb it up. Climbing it is not allowed, but it is a very easy and safe climb, so we could not resist the temptation. The view from up there was amazing, actually it was my favorite view of them all because you could see all other major temples from a much nicer perspective compared to Temple IV. Just when we arrived to the top, some guy was waiving at Philip and we could hear a starting car engine, so we got down pretty soon after again. Turns out the waiving guy was just a Japanese tourist and not one of the guards when we saw him five minutes later to say hello :-)
It was already pretty late and we wanted to head back to the Hotel in time to catch the bus to Flores. However, Tikal made it really hard to leave as we spotted even more great places on the way out, for example Temple V, the second tallest structure at 57m and just very impressive to look at. All of the sudden, the sun came out again and we took some more pictures from the Jaguar Temple again. Even after nine hours, I could have stayed some longer and have to say that visiting Tikal is an absolute must for anyone interested in the Maya culture! One more Club Sandwhich and a nice shower later, I was headed to Flores to stay with a new Couchsurfer and relax a bit after all the walking at Tikal…
03/01/2015 It’s pretty damn early here in Honduras now and I only have twenty minutes to get this update out, so gotta keep it short again. Semuc Champey in Guatemala was one of those things that I only heard about while being on the road already. It’s a serious of pools in an awesome jungle setting between Flores and Guatemala City. Takes a while to get there, but it’s totally worth it!
The shuttle left Flores at 8AM and I got a very good price of just 50Q for the long journey, maybe because I got in touch with the Company beforehand via mail. After a stop in Coban, we arrived in Lanquin at 3:30PM, where I was supposed to be picked up from a guy of the Greengo Hostel. He told me that he wants to wait another 15 minutes for the next shuttle to arrive, which eventually turned into a two hour wait and then another hour until we finally arrived at the hostal, leaving me a little bit pissed since it already got dark by the time and I couldn’t explore the area anymore.
The next morning started early for me, hoping for the pools to be not so busy already. First, I went up to the Mirador though, a high point overlooking all the pools and according to the sign, over an hour hike which I eventually finished in less than 15 minutes, so it’s not that bad Getting down to the pools, they were luckily not so busy and it was easy to put my stuff somewhere along the side while going in for a swim. This would have been a bit more uncomfortable if it would have been more busy.
The pools in Semuc Champey are indeed great, amazing views around on the jungle and you can even find some small fish in there that like to bit your leg, which is a pretty funny feeling. I spent about three hours just in the pools, reaching a waterfall in the end which was worth the extra small hike on the way back. In one of the lower pools you can get into a small cave, having just enough space for your head to pop out of the water. The hostel was in walking distance, so I could come back there easily to get my stuff and get back to Lanquin, about a 45 minutes 4×4 drive away. I quickly ran up the hill to get some pictures from above before hitching back down on a pickup truck.
Back in Lanquin, I checked in to the El Muro Hostel, a much nicer place with a cool Atmosphere and friendly people. I got back just in time to visit the Bat Cave, about 15 minutes walking distance from Lanquin. Every day at 6PM, you will encounter all the bats flying out of the cave while you walk in to it. It has been extremely muddy inside and the bats are not coming in swarms, still a cool side trip from Lanquin.
I got up at 6AM for the sunrise and was ready to leave Lanquin again in the 10AM shuttle. However, thanks to some drunk tourists and their late checkout from another hotel, we were two hours late to depart and then got stuck into a massive three hour traffic jam due to a landslide on the highway in the brutal heat – good times! At least I got a good price for the shuttle again and only paid 75Q instead of 150Q I was the only one to leave the shuttle in Guatemala City while everyone else headed off to tourist friendly Antigua…
Hope you like my next video, covering the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. I managed to get everything in while staying under half an hour: Cancun, Tulum, Coba, Gran Cenote, Valladolid, Ek Balam Maya Ruins, X’Canche Cenote, Merida, Dzibilchaltun, Uxmul, Campeche, Calakmul, Becan and last but not least: Bacalar!
10/01/2015 I’m still in San Pedro Sula and tried everything to get into the Cusuco National Park and to replace my broken lens. Unfortunately, both did not work out in the end and I will now move on to Lake Yojoa without a working camera But let’s talk about the past, Lake Atitlan. When I first did my research about Guatemala, I quickly came across Lake Atitlan and ever since had the strong desire to go there. A lake surrounded by three volcanoes sounded and looked great and it was so worth going there in the end!
The chicken bus got me into Panajachel, the main tourist hub around the lake. The complete town is based on tourism and I was glad that I would not stay over there and instead go to the less touristic spots around the lake, hopefully getting in touch with the locals during my two scheduled couchsurfing occasions as well. Taking a lancha over to Santiago Atitlan, I immediately liked the atmosphere there much better.
Instead of all the backpackers walking around, I could now spot a lot of friendly locals on the way to my Couchsurfing place, which was pretty interesting and hard to find by the way! After making my way through a bunch of bushes and back alleys, I eventually made it to the Hotel which was supposed to be just next to the place and got picked up from there Their house looked great and my lovely host even let me use her room since they had another guest at the same time, already occupying the couch.
On the next day, I walked around the city to find the Maximón. Not being able to do so, I had to use my superb Spanish skills to ask the local people and eventually made it there. They wanted to charge me to take pictures inside, so I only got one from the outside instead. It was lunch time afterwards and I got four empanadas and a bag full of fruit for just 21Q (~2,20€) – streed food is just awesome!
Another great source for food was located just five minutes walking distance away from the Couchsurfer place: Las Lagartijas. Located in a small booth outside of town, it provides delicious food and you should check it out if you are in the area! After a cold swim in the lake here, tucked in between the three volcanoes, I eventually had to move on again, this time to another smaller village on the other side of the lake: Santa Cruz.
The prices for the lanchas were recently raised apparently and the information I got on the internet was not valid anymore. Now you have to pay 25Q (or 20Q if you negotiate like I did) to cross the lake. I had to change boats in Pana again and used the opportunity to buy a new mouse there since I had just broken mine a day before. Getting to Pana was a wild ride actually, the boat took on a bit too many people, leaving me without a seat in the front on the by far bumpiest ride ever! I had to hold on with both hands and was still jumping half a meter in the air while sitting on the ground and everyone was screaming as if they would be in a rollercoster. Just thinking about it makes my ass hurt again!
When I finally arrived in the small and relaxed Santa Cruz, I was picked up by my next Couchsurfer and his guest. A japanese couple decided to use this village as their base in Guatemala and I can totally understand why! It was just great there and thanks to my hosts, I could make the most out of my time. We walked around the town and had a great dinner together in the evening. Ironically enough, their guest used to be a korean WarCraft 3 programer as well and it was funny talking to him about the good old times with players like SlayerS_BoxeR, which we both knew from our time as a gamer. At that moment we wished to have two computers to play a round haha
On the next day, we had lunch in Posada Jaibalito, run for over nine years by a German guy called Hans. If you go there, say Chris said hi, you will easily recognize him thanks to his immense white beard He offers traditional German food and even bread for a very low price, definitely a highlight and hidden gem! The village of Jaibalito is great as well, no road is leading there and you either have to walk or take a lancha. The locals here are even more friendlier it seemed and you will see lot’s of kids playing around on the street. This afternoon was one of my highlights along the lake!
The next and final stop was the backpacker village of Lake Atitlan: San Pedro. I liked it much more than Pana, because despite having the same amount of backpackers, the village itself was just more pleasant. After staying in a pretty cheap place somewhere in the back of the village, I moved over to Hotel Mikaso for the other two nights. This place was perfect, located outside of the busy area but still close enough to walk everywhere. You will have some great views from there and even be able to enjoy the hot pool for free! They also had good Internet there and I could follow my team Frankfurt win against Dortmund with 2-0 in the German Bundesliga What a good day it was… >> All Pictures
This Video is actually pretty short – just under ten minutes! Check out how I was swimming with Sharks along with some Snorkeling in the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. And don’t forget to Go Slow… since we are talking about Caye Caulker in Belize https://vimeo.com/116928793
19/01/2015 Time for a new Live Update after finishing some videos. Sadly Vimeo causes problems with Copyright violations, so I might have to look out for another platform. If you have some suggestions, put it in the comments please! Currently I am in Granada, Nicaragua and will head to Isla de Ometepe tomorrow morning. This update will be the last from Guatemala and it is safe to say that climbing the 3,976m Volcán Acatenango was one of the highlights of my trip so far. Getting to the top requires some effort, but the reward is incredible: Witnessing the super active Volcán de Fuego right in front of you during night, erupting car-sized rocks every 5-10 minutes.
I arranged the overnight tour to climb Volcán Acatenango from Antigua and got a decent last minute deal. The good news was that the other two people in the group cancelled, so it was just me and the guide! I got picked up in town and was transferred to the guide’s private house close to the Volcanoes entrance trail. Having a local guide actually helps against the occasional robberies, which only target tour companies that are not supporting the local guides and thereby the community’s job industry. At least that is what the owner of the company I used told me. Another group just got back from the mountain and was waiting for my car for a ride back into town. They told me I’d better have a sleeping bag and good jacket because it was so cold on the top.
My guide Eddie and I started walking up the street for a few minutes to reach the path leading to the Volcano. His dog Tarzan joined us all the way and was a fast and pleasant third member of the team, not slowing us down or being annoying like other people could have been It just takes five minutes walking on a gravel path until we reach the first group gasping for air. It was pretty hot that day and the gravel makes it hard to walk, but I was still very surprised to see the first girl crying out of exhaustion after a distance that took us just five minutes to walk! Anyway, I was looking forward to the rest as the climb was supposed to be one of the hardest you can do in the country.
Passing one resting point after the other and actually only using one of them for ten minutes, we make it to the summit of Volcán Acatenango in just 3 1/2 hours. It was great to have a good and fast guide with me and being in a good shape as well as the mountain really will challenge you, especially if you do not rest a lot in between. I could feel my heart pumping really hard on the last steep gravel part up the top, each step sliding down half of the previous step again. It’s been a while that a mountain required this kind of effort and I really liked it! Once on the top, we waited for all the clouds to disappear until I could finally see (and not just hear) the first eruption of Fuego just meters away.
Luckily the clouds vanished even more and I could get some great shots of the crater and the landscape around us before we were running / skiing down the gravel on the other side to reach the camp spot, which was already prepared by Eddie’s dad. Just before we got there, Eddie climbed a high tree to cut off branches with his Machete for our bonfire. Having it set up, I felt in great company and even part of the family by now, even though my Spanish is not good and all of them spoke no English at all, we still found a way to communicate, sometimes using a stick to sketch drawings in the ground
As it got dark, the real show started. Volcán de Fuego showed off his angry face and instead of grey smoke in front of blue sky and white clouds, we would now witness a red and yellow light show in the pitch black darkness every 5-10 minutes. Surprised by how active that Volcano actually was, it produced really big explosion every 20 minutes or so. The view on Volcán de Agua to our left side of the camp spot was great too, being surrounded by all the yellow lights of the cities such as Antigua and even Guatemala City in the back. But back to the main attraction! I switched my location to get rid of some trees in front of me and spent ten minutes looking for a good spot to sit down and lay my camera on something to do long exposure shots. I eventually found a cut-off tree that would suit me as a natural tripod and even though it was very tiny and I had troubles to keep my camera on it, I still managed to get a few decent shots.
Spending three hours just sitting and watching Fuego errupt, I finally made it into my tent. I could still hear all the eruptions from there and in a reflex, would constantly open my tent to check if it might be an even bigger one than before. Eventually, I had to force myself to get some sleep around 1AM though, having had one great new experience that I will never forget in my life. I woke up just in time for a nice sunset and after breakfast, headed down together with Eddie and Tarzan while his dad stayed at the camp spot to clear the fire. It only took us 1 1/2 hours to return to his house, resulting in a pretty long two hour wait to get me picked up since we were just way too early. Eddie’s place and lovely family made my wait very pleasant though and I enjoyed the view on Lake Atitlan’s Volcanoes in the distant while having a nice hot tea…
Pictures >> Link
28/01/2015 The 15th of January has been a very special day for me. I met 75 year old Alberto Gutierrez, also known as the Stone Man, in his beautiful home deep in the Tisey Estanzuela Natural Reserve. He has been carving stones there for almost half of his life and will proudly present his work, should you make the effort of paying him a visit. It is not the easiest place to find and certainly off the beaten path, but if you ever get near Estelí on your Nicaragua trip, I would highly recommend to make this experience on your own. If not, just check out my report, pictures and the video here
About three months ago, I started to research Nicaragua and stumbled upon Nomadic Matt’s post about Alberto. What I have read was so fascinating that I had no other choice than putting it on my list. Now I can proudly say that I am yet another person privileged enough to meet this character. To be more precise, I am number 61 in his most recent visitor book. Only about 1000 people have met him ever since he received his first guest in 2006. Fellow bloggers have documented their time with Alberto, providing great information on how to reach him (such as yet another Matt right here) and thereby making it easier for all of us to get there. In my case, it was really easy thanks to my Couchsurfing host Jhon. This is my story of meeting Alberto…
I arrived in Estelí in the pouring rain and while I had no intentions of doing any sightseeing here, I couldn’t wait to get out to Tisey, hunting down the Stone Man Alberto Gutierrez. Getting deeper into the Tisey Estanzuela Natural Reserve, my Couchsurfing Host and I got both more excited the closer we got. One of his friends knew Alberto, so we had a good idea how to get there. You first drive into La Garnacha and follow a dirt road until you see a sign saying “Bienvenidos. Finca: El J Lacate, Dist 1Km”. You then cross the gate and keep on walking down the hill for about twenty minutes until you reach his home with a sign saying “Bienvenidos A Galeria Esculturas en Piedras”. Just go in and call out for him!
Alberto is growing all kinds of fruits on his property and will probably give you some of it too, we got some lemons. If you are lucky you might also get a pineapple For the next hour, he showed us around all his stone carvings. It starts off with bits and pieces until you eventually get to the top of a hill with a nice viewpoint, featuring the highlights such as an huge Elephant! He started his work 38 years ago on October 17th, 1977 and since then is carving different landscapes, animals and historical moments into all kinds of stones. I was surprised by seeing the World Trade Center as one of his sculptures!
All of his work has been done with the same tools: two metal chisels and a hammer. He also has a fixed schedule, only working between 6AM – 9AM, enabling him to greet visitors coming during the day. He was also featured in a documentary, which resulted in his bigger popularity, but visiting him still feels like a very unique and special thing to do! I have read that he would be too proud to accept money from his guests, this apparently has changed now since he gladly accepted ours I also gave him some sunglasses from Ray Ban, which he really seemed to like and they suited him much better than me >> Pictures and Video (If vimeo is not causing troubles again!)
02/02/2015 I am just about to head into Corcovado National Park to our Lodge in the jungle. Since their website states that they don’t even electricity over there, I figured to give you guys another update while I am waiting for the bus in Puerto Jimenez. Actually it’s the very first one from Honduras! Coming in from Guatemala, the first town on my route was beautiful Copan Ruinas, named after the very close by Maya ruins. On my first day there, I started off with a really cool activity: visiting the Macaw Mountain with their amazing display of Parrots, Tucans, Macaws and other birds
Copan Ruinas is covered in cobblestone streets and ranks in the top 3 of my favorite villages visited on this trip so far. Juayua is still no.1 on that list, partly also because Copan Ruinas draws in many more tourists. I came without any reservations and the only hostel I had gathered some information before was fully booked. I ended up staying in Don Moises for the first night, located very close to the center. It has a really cheap restaurant for food just in front, providing excellent value for the money spent.
After checking in, I stopped a Tuc Tuc in front of the Hostel and told him to bring me to Macaw Mountain. I would walk the way down again because getting there is all up hill! Not long after, I find myself in my bathing shorts talking to the receptionist, only to be told that the swimming hole there is closed! Well, it’s down to “only” watch the birds then. As time passed by, I was more and more amazed by those birds actually. They put up a circuit for everyone to follow and you see all kinds of Parrots and Macaws before heading into the Tucan cage. Having them so close was really nice as I only saw them inside a cage so far. One of them even landed on my hand, apparently being very interested in my plastic bag – or maybe the marsmallows inside? Other people got jealous and wanted a picture of them and the Tucan though, so my plastic bag was passed on to everyone but he would never sit on anyone elses arm
I walked the Sendero National Trail afterwards but other than walking through a lot of spider webs, nothing else really happened there. I would say you could skip that trail and head straight to the end point of the standard route instead. If you come to the right time, somebody will be there to place a Macaw on your head. I was there at the right time just before they would go to sleep and my Macaw friend was really active, screaming at me so we ended up in a little battle haha. Back in town, I naturally had to check out a German bar called “Sol de Copan”. The German owner imported everything he needs to brew his own beer there according to the German purity law. He served me a Christmas beer, which tasted like a normal lager though. Nothing special but it was nice to talk to an authentic German “Gastwirt” again >> Pictures
The first out of two Videos from Guatemala features Tikal, Flores, Semuc Champey & Guatemala City. All the volcano action from Antigua and Xela will be featured in the next one Hope you like this one for now though, I will soon start working on the second part!
09/02/2015 I just came back from the Cangilones de Gualaca, close to David in Panama, and am so happy to finally use my climbing shoes again! You should check out that place, it’s a mini canyon just perfect for deep water bouldering. This update has a relation to water as well, featuring Utila and my PADI Open Water Course there. I even saw a little shipwreck on the second fun dive, pretty cool
Heading to the airport in San Pedro Sula, I wanted to get out of the car and explore the nature, which gets nicer the further you get out of town. Unfortunately, the area also seems to be pretty unsafe according to my Taxi driver, so staying in the car to catch my flight seemed the better idea I missed to buy food in the morning, forcing me to look out for some at the airport. The only thing I could find was a bad looking sandwich which tasted even worse, but I was so hungry and nothing else was available, so I decided to eat it anyway. A big mistake as I would learn a few days later.
While the first flight was in a medium sized propeller machine, the second one was certainly the tightest aircraft I have ever been. Just getting into my seat required to climb over the it from the back since there was no aisle or space on the sides. The ride was short and upon arriving on Utila, I had to wait half an hour until my dive center (Parrots) sent someone to pick me up. I arrived at the main part of town and Utila seemed to be like a bigger, uglier version of Caye Caulker. It is still kind of nice, but if you are looking for a more relaxed vacation, Caye Caulker should be your choice.
The Parrot Dive center is located close to a nice bar at the beach and has two options to dine just meters away. A cheap fast food like bistro and a more expensive Chinese restaurant. I decided to treat myself with the second option on my first night and had a nice 12$ dinner. I actually could not finish the portion and was a bit confused first, but the reason for that was not the size of the portion but rather the fact that I got myself in a nice diarrhea situation thanks to the delicious sandwich at the airport. The following four days were really unpleasant for me, having to use the toilet all the time and not eating anything at all for four full days. (This is the reason why I am now looking like a skeleton!) The timing could not have been any better as well, on my first sick day it was New Years Eve and I was not really able to enjoy it. The parties on Utila seemed to be a bit less wild than I thought they would be as well, so I think I didn’t miss out on too much.
The room I was staying in the first nights did not have a fan for my bed, but thankfully I could be transferred to a different room on the third day. The heat and humidity on Utila really made me struggle with my sleep, ending up not just not eating for four days, but also barely getting any sleep at all. All that aside, I had one task to finish here: my PADI Open Water Course! Utila is one of the cheapest places on earth to get the certification and i paid 269$ for my course with the Parrots. This also included four nights for free in their dorm room. We were a group of six people and had a great teacher called Daniel.
There were five chapters of theory, all pretty easy with a final exam in the end, two confined water sessions followed by two open water sessions. After those, you would complete the course and then receive two free fun dives as well. By the time we hit the water for the confined sessions, I slowly started to feel a bit better and was really happy about it. Getting under water for about one and a half meters, it was a strange feeling breathing air under water for the first time. We practiced skills like removing water from a filled mask and other tasks that Daniel explained to us before hand. Since you can’t hear, you need to observe and follow the hand signs of your guide. This worked out very well since Daniel was really good and we always got what he wanted us to do.
On the evening before the open water dives, I was getting out to the dock to take some shots of the sunset. Just when I wanted to return to the bar, I dropped my camera and barely got hold of it before dropping down further into the ocean. Still, the lens and battery caps were broken and it really pissed me off, begin unable to take any more photos or videos!! I found a guy on the island who was good repairing notebooks but we failed to repair the lens after breaking it down to its pieces. Anyway, my GoPro fake would be the camera from now on and I have to use it anyway for the dives, but I would need to find a replacement lens very soon after leaving Utila again since the Picture Quality of the GoPro is really bad.
Back to the dives! The two open water dives on 12 and 18 meters were really nice, we could get down to our depth limit but still would have to practice all of the skills like removing water from the mask and others. One of them was navigating with a compass. My dive buddy received one at the surface and under water we had to switch them, something Daniel did not tell us before sadly. I could not check the compass and it turned out that the metal clip was defective, eventually leading to the fact that I lost the compass at some point without realizing it because I was focused on the tasks we had. In the end, I had to pay 50% of the price for a new compass, combined with the fact that I would need to get a new lens as well it kind of dropped my mood a little bit.
Last but not least, we all passed our final exam and were ready to get down for our 18 meter fun dives! Those were certainly the highlight on Utila. We saw much more fish and had nicer landscapes compared to the dives before and for the first time ever, we could actually concentrate on the stuff around us rather than doing all the exercises! On the second fun dive, we even came across a little ship wreck, which was really cool because in the beginning it just looked like a black dot in the back but the closer we got, the more you could see until finally realizing that it is actually a sunken ship!
Walking back to the airport was interesting as well, having two roads to choose from, I apparently picked the wrong. It was pitch black since my flight left at 5AM and the road I picked was more like a muddy cow field. I slipped a lot and had to make sure that I wont fall down with my stuff. Eventually, I made it to the airport, my shoes being completely dirty. I washed them quickly and enjoyed the sun rise at the airport before heading back to San Pedro Sula again, this time sitting right next to the pilot in the tiny propeller machine
13/02/2015 Panama City has been a pleasant surprise so far after checking out Casco Viejo, the Miraflores locks and Amador Causeway, all of which I can only recommend! Today marks the beginning of the carnival season here in Panama and I will head town to the Las Tablas area to celebrate it. This update features Lake Yojoa in Honduras. I still can’t pronounce the name correctly, but can certainly summarize that I had a great time exploring the area without a guide.
Lake Yojoa was a must see for me since I really like nature and the lake provides some great spots to see both wild life and amazing landscapes. My first stop coming from San Pedro Sula was the Pulhapanzak Waterfall. Using the direct shuttle for 35 Lempiras, I arrived around 3:30 PM and had enough time to see the falls before heading onward to the D&D Brewery, located closer to the lake. The waterfalls were really nice and it was the first time to use the “new” used lens that I bought the day before. Not the best, but certainly better than my phone or GoPro camera!
The D&D Brewery offers all sorts of beers from around the globe, as well as a few self brewed. The Raspberry beer was nice but nothing spectacular. The normal lager tasted like other lagers as well, but I think I just don’t have a good enough taste to tell big differences between all the lagers, they just taste pretty much the same to me anyway The D&D also has a pool, which was pretty dirty sadly and no one really used it. During dinner I was consulting the local guide for some advice on getting to the lake on my own. He told me that it is not possible without a guide in this part of the lake, giving me even more motivation to head out on my own the next morning.
Getting up around 7AM, I decided that it would be time for another run, the last one being in Cancun, Mexico months ago! The run was pretty nice actually, crossing the village to reach the river and then from there making my way towards the lake. Eventually though, the ground became pretty muddy and it was not possible to reach the shore from that end, so I decided to cross the river and make my way up the mountain to get a good view from the top and then make my way down to the shore. Some locals pointed me in the right direction.
Even though the direction was right, it was pretty hard to get to the top of the mountain though. Obviously, I was not on any sort of path but still tried to make my way through the thick forest. This must have been the third time I’ve done that on my trip so far actually! In the end, I made it to the top but could not find a good spot for a view, so I decided to head down again. Getting out of the jungle after roughly twenty minutes, I found myself in a beautiful spot that must be used by locals, judged by the boats that I could spot along the shore.
The scenery there was just amazing and I was completely alone, giving me a nice happy end for the tough hike before. I made my way along the shore to reach yet another great spot that was even good for swimming in the cold, refreshing water. At some point I had to force myself to stop taking pictures though, trying to catch the next bus to the east part of the lake. My hostel there was called El Cortijo del Lago and I liked it much more than the D&D Brewery. There were only three other guests around, I had the dorm room completely for myself and could even watch some birds before the sunset. The food there was much better as well and having a parrot around always adds some value I made friends with a couple from Argentina and we decided to explore the PANCAM parque together in the next morning. More on that in the next update!
And here is the second video of Guatemala, one of my favorite countries in Central America! You will see a lot of volcanoes in this one Lake Atitlan, Xela, Antigua Guatemala and, as the highlight, Volcan Acatenango with a top notch view on Volcan Fuego are all featured in this video. Hope you like it!
08/03/2015 I’m sorry for the limited internet access in the last days; now I am back though and can deliver some pictures from the Volcano Boarding on Volcan Cerro Negro in Nicaragua. Later today I will leave Colombia behind and fly from Bogotá to Buenos Aires in Argentina!
I wasted no time after the wonderful climb to Volcan Telica and started the next trip to Volcan Cerro’s Volcano Boarding on the very same day. This time, our former guide Bismark was now the driver and we had a new guide taking four other people and myself up the mountain. Everyone had to carry their own board while we could enjoyed the views on the black lava fields from the 1999 eruption around us. It was pretty windy up there and I had to hold on tight to the board from time to time. The hike in general is pretty easy though and you will find yourself at the top after around 45 minutes.
Before it was time to slide down again, we were headed to the very peak to take a look into the crater. After ten minutes, everyone put on the extra clothes and protection gear that were provided in a small bag and the full outfit including an overall, gloves, buff towel and goggles looked pretty funny. The others went town first and seemed to have some problems getting the board started on the first meters. Eventually though, everyone was on the way down and in the end it was just me left on top because I wanted to take videos from the other guys first.
My ride had a slow start too, I was actually stuck in the ground and had to walk a few meters forward to get to a steeper part. From there, it worked better and I slowly began to pick up speed on my way down. Soon after though, the board drifted to the left on its own and despite my efforts on keeping it in a straight line, I eventually lost speed and stopped half way through. The same thing happened closer to the bottom and it turned out that my board was not the best according to the guide. It was a shame because It would have been cooler with a speedier board I suppose! Still, it was a great and fun way to end the day and I can just recommend it to anyone, even though it is a pretty touristic activity.
14/03/2015 I had a great day hiking to Laguna Torres yesterday and then up one of the higher mountains in the area today after sleeping at the camp ground. The wind nearly blew me off my feet this time and it was a shame I could only take pictures with my phone and GoPro fake, the views were just amazing even though I could not see Cerro Torre. The internet here is very bad, so I’m keeping the update very small as well. But at least I can get an update out
There is not so much to say about Laguna de Apoyo in Nicaragua anyway. I think going down to swim in it for at least 6$ or more is not really worth it, but I really enjoyed the viewpoint up the road, so if you are passing through you can at least check that out and go swimming somewhere else for free
17/03/2015 Good news! Thanks to Couchsurfing, I will have a new camera similar to my old one just before I depart to Antarctica. The weather here in Patagonia is not the best right now anyway, so I have time for some Bouldering in the area and to plan the rest of my South America trip. As the Internet is still very bad, I can just provide small updates and it takes me nearly a full day to upload those pictures from Granada in Nicaragua.
Nicaragua offers a lot of beautiful towns and Granada is one of them. I liked it more than León, mostly because it is closer to the lake and a bit less hot. By “a bit less hot”, I’m actually still talking roughly 28-30°C. Add a little breeze from time to time and it makes walking around the streets much more comfortable. I was also trying to get a boat to La Isletas. However, there was only one boat waiting at the harbor and the guy wanted way too much money. Instead, I walked around closer to the islands and eventually came to a group of homeless people. There was also a police guy and he told me I should better not walk around here. But I really wanted to get a nice view on the islands, or at least get a bit closer to them to see if there is any view at all from the mainland. In the end, the police guy escorted me a bit further down and gave me some advice in Spanish, half of which I could actually understand
Walking back towards the center along La Calzada, I discovered the prettiest supermarket I have ever stepped into. Everything was so clean and well placed and the whole area was extremely spacious. Even though I did not buy anything there, I really enjoyed just walking around in it For the night I actually had a Couchsurfer to stay with in Rivas. He picked me up at the Parque, where I could enjoy the free WiFi while waiting for him. We had dinner together with his other two guests from Argentina and ended up watching some of my travel videos on the street before his house. Getting up early the next morning, I walked towards the harbor at 5:30 AM to catch the 7:00 AM ferry, which was eventually cancelled and it took another hour before I could finally get to my highlight in Nicaragua: Isla de Ometepe.
22/03/2015, 23:30 I have had a lot of time to plan the rest of my time in South America thanks to the bad weather in El Chaltén. At least now I have a pretty good idea about what to do in Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. First though, I will head to the Lake District near Bariloche before getting to Buenos Aires. See if you have some feedback for me
Travelling from 26/04/2015 to 23/06/2015
This is just the first draft and I think I have to change a bit more. My main questions are how to spend the time in Pantanal as some people say it is not worth going to both entry points? I will be coming from Paraguay, so getting in from the land via Bahia Negra sounds like a nice adventure but I’m not sure if it will delay me a lot? Seems like flying from Asunción is pretty expensive, so I guess the weekly 8:30 bus on Saturdays is the only option?
Also, which of the many national parks could I skip because they are similar to others? I need to get rid of at least one Pedra Azul is a bit out of the way but looks to good to skip, I can’t decide so help me please! You can see all the upcoming destinations in that map, marked by the yellow stars:
I'd suggest not to go to Buenos Aires, It's really a disappointment to most tourists I ever met or talked to over the internet. If you can you should try other cities. I'm from Córdoba, so I have a bias, but Mendoza or San Luis are really great also.