Thursday, October 31, 2013

By boat into Costa-Rica (29.10.2013 - 31.10.2013)

We had decided to leave Nicaragua by crossing the huge Lago de Nicaragua, 40 times as big as lake constance between Germany and Switzerland.
In the early afternoon we boarded the ferry and just 15 hours later, we arrived in San Carlos on the other side. During the ride we had a clear view of the surrounding volcanos, the sunset and sunrise. Definitely a great way to head into Costa-Rica! The boat stopped three times to load and unload goods in the middle of the night. But we had our comfy sun chairs and even got some sleep. 
After hanging around for 4 hours in San Carlos we could get our passports stamped and board the little river boat which would take us upstream into Costa-Rica. The journey upriver was dotted by trees laden with birds, little houses/shacks, howler monkeys in the trees and the odd turtle slipping back into the muddy river. In Costa-Rica we caught a bus and a miserable hot 4 hour ride later we ended up in Ciduad Quesada, which everybody calls San Carlos. There seem to be only about 30 different town names in all of central america... Another 2 hour ride, express this time, we arrived in San Jose. 
A refreshing shower later we splurged on the argentinean restaurant next to our Hostal Van Gogh. A wonderful tenderloin to forget all the deep fried pollo, rice and beans, tacos and all the other maize based things. Central america isn't a place you visit for it's food...
After a healthy breakfast cooked by our host we headed of to visit the different parques and plazas. We even did some shopping: I have now two pair of shorts again, the other reeked so bad I couldn't wear them anymore ^^. 
Of course there was time to stop and have a cold Imperial, it has been a while since the last ;)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Volcano Boarding, Leon

Bigfoot Hostel & Volcano boarding

Leon is a nice little town and famous for the volcano boarding. Bigfoot was the first shop who offered this adventure and is probably the best organised one.
The view from the top of the black gravel volcano is phenomenal! This volcano spew the last time in 1999 and you can still see fumes in the crater.
For 25$ they transport you to the volcano, get you a board, a fancy orange overall and a cool beer after the crazy ride. They have a laser speed gun, so you know how fast you were! The record is 93km/h for boys and 91km/h for girls. The fastest per day get a free night at their sister hostel at las Penitas.
Bigfoot offers daily tours and leave at 9am. It's not necessary to stay with them to go volcano boarding.
In case of an emergency...
Marcial was the fastest of the day with 69km/h

Leon and Granada (22.10.2013 - 28.10.2013)

In Leon we stayed in the recommended Bigfoot Hostel, the hostel which started the volcano boarding madness. Being the lazy kind we postponed this and went to the beach first ;) Seeing the power of the pacific again was quite a difference to the calm caribbean sea we had on our doorstep in Utila.
After a day of rest and sightseeing we jumped on the truck and headed to the Cerro Negro for some volcano boarding. Our two guides equipped each of us with some protective goggles, an orange jumpsuit and a board/sled after arriving in the national park around the volcano. It took us about an hour to climb Cerro Negro, including some stops for rest, water and taking pictures. From the top it looked quite scary, our bright orange truck just a tiny speck in the moon like landscape below. Our driver had a laser speed gun, so the competition was on! Having been on a sled since a little kid I expected to break my neck on such a steep and long decent. But of course, gravel doesn't slide as good as snow and ice and the speed wasn't was as crazy as expected. The gravel, dust and dirt hitting you in the face where another story though. Having braked at the beginning I only ended up with 69km/h, still the fastest of the day, wohoo!
The next day we left for Granada, the big rival city of Leon. A bumpy ride and stop-over in Managua, another ugly central-american capital, later we entered the colonial city of Granada. Sadly our first choice of hostel was booked out and the next three options where quite disappointing. So we ended up at Hostel Oasis, which turned out to be quite nice! 
Feeling entitled to another day of rest we headed to the Laguna de Apoyo. The lake inside an old volcano was recommended to us by a young couple we met on the bus from Honduras into Nicaragua. We spent the day relaxing in the hammock or sun chair, swimming in the lake or just hanging in the water in one of the tire tubes. 
Of course we had to visit the old colonial town and do some sightseeing. Having access to a kitchen we cooked a decent meal and had some leftovers for our big sea adventure the next day. 

La Merced - Granada

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Friends - Cass & Cam

On our travels we meet many other like minded people on big journeys as well. As a reminder for us and to give you the chance of more travel stories and pictures we will list them here. 

We met Cassie and Cameron on Utila at Underwater Vision. They where fellow dive masters in training and had the apartment right next to us. This of course meant many crazy parties and awesome dives together! The two Aussies left the island shortly after us but returned at the beginning of the year to work as dive masters at Underwater Vision.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Leaving Utila and entering Nicaragua (20.10.2013 - 22.10.2013)

To get to Tegucigalpa you would have to take the ferry to La Ceiba, a bus to San Pedro Sula, stay a night there and then leave early the next morning to arrive in the evening in Tegu.
Another option is to take the plane, which we did! At around twice the price of the ferry-bus-overnight-stay-bus combo we had the opportunity to see Utila and Roatan from our tiny airplane ^^
The airport is just a strip of concrete and a little shack. There are some army guys sitting around but besides a senorita walking around with a piece of paper and checking if our name was on it there was no security procedure. Thats how flying is supposed to be! 
Sadly the more developed Roatan, where we did a stop-over, wasn't as relaxed and they confiscated my swiss army knife and the rest of the rum I had in my backpack! Really uncool... =(
After arriving in Tegu we took a cab into town and stayed in a run down hotel in the city centre. The centre didn't look any better during the day but at least we could do some shopping. I have proper shoes again ;)
The next day we took a TransNica bus across the border into Nicaragua. We hopped of in Estreli as the bus continued directly to Managua. Estreli was again a poor/dirty/rundown town where the only thing you could by on the streets was plastic crap and cellphones... Some food/fruit would have been nice.
So we left for Leon!


Friday, October 25, 2013

Underwater Vision, Utila

Utila has plenty of different dive shops, our choice was Underwater Vision one of the biggest dive shops on the island.
The shop has a bar/restaurant (always look for the daily special), hammocks and a volleyball field. All the staff are kind of a family, so be open and they will welcome you.
Underwater Vision offer all courses from Open Water until Instructor and higher. Every course includes a few days free accommodations otherwise you can stay in the dorm for 5 bucks a night. All prices and details about the courses and more can be found online.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Rio Coco Cafe, Utila

Rico Coco Cafe is a small Coffee shop close to Underwater Vision run by a very friendly american couple. She bakes every day different fresh cakes, muffins an other delicious things - my advice, try the chocolate cake! And most important, they have the best internet on the island!
The Rio Coco Cafe is part of an no profit organisations, witch run's schools along the river Coco in Nicaragua.

Utila (30.08.2013 - 19.10.2013)

Melanie and I had thought about doing the divemaster training (DMT) for a while now. As our divemasters/instructors in Mexico told us about Utila, one of the cheapest places on earth to do the DMT, we decided to check it out.
Both of them, Nathan and P-O, recommended Underwater Vision to us, so thats were we headed first and got stuck ;)
During the training we were treated as part of the team, helping and assisting the instructors. We had to perform certain workshops, trainings, skills and exams. Most of it was done assisting on Open Water, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Courses. Also if there was free space on the boat we could just go fun diving! ^^ All in all, including the time we assisted, we did ♂ 55 / ♀43 dives. Including a couple night dives! =)
The first three weeks of accommodation were included afterwards we moved to a little flat right next to the dive shop. Having a kitchen again was great, we could cook some decent meals and save a bit of money. The army guys staying below us were a bit scary though, waving their assault rifles around before they would go on patrol on their golf cart. And of course we had some crazy neighbours, Cas & Cam ;)
Our daily routine would depend if we would go out with the morning or afternoon boat. Morning boat meant helping loading the tanks and setting up the gear at 6:15 (THE MIDDLE OF THE NIGTH!) So mostly not much party on the night before. The afternoon boat would leave around 12:30, loading meant being there half an hour earlier. Of course this is still a 3rd world country, a power cut usually delayed the filling of the tanks and therefore the boat ;)
Internet was unusable at our home and not much better at the dive shop. Which made us regular customer at Rio Coco, a coffee shop with the best internet connection on the island! =)
Nightlife would usually evolve around the same places and bars. Tequila tuesday would lure all to Tranquilla Bar (why?!). If we had a group of students getting certified we headed mostly to Skid Row Bar to do the Guifitiy Challenge. For which you had to drink 4 shots of cheap rum which was spiced with all kinds of "healthy" herbs. After the first 3 shots you had to take off your shirt, do 20 spins in the street in front of the bar (luckily there is next to no traffic ^^), drink the last shot, do some laps around the pool table and then choose one of the singlets. Other classics on the island were Rehab Bar or Treetanic.

As Utila is part of the Bay Islands, where the inhabitants descend from english pirates, woodcutters and slaves the main language is english, of some sorts. Which took quite a toll on our spanish =(