El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica

Published: November 1st 2011EDIT THIS ENTRY

Woke up, weather still really bad. Grey, windy and rainy but not cold still 28d. Had a typical Salvadorian brekkie of scrambled eggs with tomatoes, peppers and onions served with refried beans and some salty cheese like feta. You also normally get fried plantain as well but they must have ran out as had papaya. The coffee was bad. Got a lift to El Cuco a village a 15 min drive away down a bumpy road. The town is pretty shoddy, we went to a place to use the internet and managed to check the weather and surf forecast but the internet was really slow and we had a power cut three times so we gave up in the end. We did manage to find out that we’re in a tropical depression as there’s a couple of storms in Mexico. It looks to last a week or so, which sucks! Walked from there to Playa Flores, went past some sleeping pigs on the way. Rich hired some dodgy surfboard (“like hell! It was a Gerry Lopez 9ft big wave gun, god knows what it was doing there but it worked a treat in the conditions, see photo of green board”) and went for a surf in the somewhat dubious waves but still managed to have fun and catch a good few. Sat and had a coconut and beer with Zen and then plucked up the courage to walk back to town (it took longer as the tide was in so we couldn’t cut across the beach). We have been having heavy downpours all day so luckily we managed to make it without getting wet. Tried to find somewhere to eat, went to one place that was really quite expensive and they sold turtle eggs (not good for the species) and the toilet had no door just a curtain hanging over and no light, I had to borrow a torch it was not a pleasant experience. Decided that place was a dive so tried to find somewhere else, not much to find apart from bored locals. Just as we were about to give up we found a lady with a couple of tables who said we could have fish, rice, tortilla’s and salad for $4. She cooked that up whilst her five children ( she was probably only my age or younger) were either helping her or looking after their baby brother. The food was good but we managed to have a cat (in good condition) and a dog (in manky condition) constantly staring at us and then being shooed away. By the time we were finished it was now dark and I really didn’t want to walk for an hour down a dark road in the rain in fear of being mugged with a machete so luckily the woman managed to find a friend who could drive us back for a small price. Back in our room now and it’s still raining outside-booo! Luckily an English couple we met let us copy loads of films from their hard drive so it’s movie time! Planning on leaving tomorrow and heading for Nicaragua, either Managua or Granada.

Went on a mission to get to Granada, Nicaragua. Weather was still bad. Left La Tortuga at around 10ish. The bus wasn’t leaving until 11am so we just had to hang out on the curb, the good point was that our bags could go in the bus! It was a really slow bus so it took about 1 ½ hours to get to a place called San Miguel. We then had to get another bus to La Frontera (the border) this one took about another 1 ½ hours and didn’t even go right to the border which meant another bus! We finally got to the border and took a pedicab to the paperwork part. Had to pay $3 to enter Honduras. By now it was about 3pm and by the time we got across there were no more direct microbuses (junky rusting Toyotas) even though the Lonely Planet said they ran until 5.30 so we had no choice but to get a chicken bus to Choluteca in Honduras and stay the night there as it was going to be dark in a couple of hours. Managed to find a cheap room and then ate a real nice meal consisting of steak, ribs and prawns. Yum yum.

Chicken bus border mission day 2. Torrential rain all through night and it was still tipping it down when we woke up. Bought a big brolly, got a super cheap breakfast at Wendy’s and then stomped it through the rain and torrents of water to the bus station. Found a microbus going to the border of Honduras and Nicaragua. It was a really rubbish bus, the interior was falling apart, the seats broken and the sliding door was broken. Had to wait for about 30min for it to fill up until it was crammed and then we were off! Got to the border and as per usual it was not an enjoyable experience. We got mobbed by a load of blokes trying to get us to pay them to get a pedicab across the border, they told us it was 3km, we told them to do one! Actually Rich said Senor, no and shoved the brolly at them, they were laughing. Walked to the border (not 3km) got passports stamped to exit Honduras, then walked to next bit (was a bit of a walk but not 3km). When we got there they told ud we had to pay $12 to enter which we were not expecting. $10 for a tourist card and $2 for admin. I argued as well as I could with my dodgy Spanish and even got the woman to show me it in writing and the receipts, so we just paid. We spoke to other people and they all had to pay as well. We then had to walk again and find a bus. We found one down a side road which took us to Chinandega, we had to put our bags on the roof and it was chucking it down with rain, not happy! We had been travelling for about 30min when we had to stop because the river had burst its banks and the road was flooded. It was pretty deep and the driver was worried in case it was going to get worse. We sat there for about 20min waiting for the driver to decide whilst we watched trucks, buses and people on bicycles go through. The driver then decided it was ok and very slowly off we went. Everywhere was really flooded, including peoples’ homes. Some parts of the road had also been washed out and there were two big trucks on their side as they had come off. Got to Chinandega safely then took a chicken bus to Managua. We got to Managua at about 5pm and it was really hectic as the bus station is next to the market. We then had to get a taxi across the city to another bus station and get on another bus to Granada. Bus was horrible, really busy and hot plus traffic was bad. We had to stand the whole way and couldn’t even move our feet! Finally arrived in Granada at about 7.30pm. Checked in to Hospedaje Cocibolca, and had food and mojitos, 2 for £2-bargain! Watched some street performers juggle fire and break dance (not at the same time!)

Rich woke up at 4am itching like hell. I checked out his back and he had loads of bites on him. We turned on the light and I found a bug running across the wall and bed-BED BUGS! Changed rooms got into our sleeping sacks and hardly slept a wink. Rich refused to pay for that night. Rich’s bites came up really bad so I scanned the new room for any evil critters and found three living in a small hole in the wall. By now I was freaked out so we asked to change rooms again. After inspecting a few more rooms we found one that was ok and moved there (probably should have moved hostels). No more bed bugs in that room. The cheeky hostel kept putting people in the bed bug rooms despite us telling them. Must give them a bad review on trip advisor! Went for a wander and took a small boat trip around the islands on the lake. It rained for a bit but cleared up a bit after. The islands were really pretty. Most of them are owned by rich Nicaraguans and have houses on. We also went to monkey island which is actually a tiny island with seven monkeys on. We threw them some coconut to munch on. Treated ourselves to a nice meal, had delicious steaks and a bottle of wine. . It was fairly pricey but still 50% cheaper than back home. The annoying thing is that they add tax and a tip on after (25% in total!).Went on to a bar and had some mojitos and listened to a band and some street musicians.

Didn’t do a great deal today. Weather pretty pants again. Woke up late and had a really nice breakfast at the Garden Café. I then spent ages wandering around town trying to find a decent internet café that had headphones to Skype mum. Couldn’t find any so gave up and used my laptop with wifi back at the hostel. Went to the crazy market to get some eggs etc for brekkie and Rich got a lopsided haircut! Had pizza for tea and then went to see a band called Los Gringos Rockueros in a bar called Imagine.

We had organised to go to Laguna de Apoya by shuttle but the driver was sick so Rich, myself and a group of others decided to bus it without much of an idea of where it was. Got dropped off on the main road and then had to walk along a small road. After walking for at least 30min we saw a sign that said 5km to the lagoon, doh! Luckily for us a chicken bus came around the corner so we hopped on. We went to a hotel/hostel on the lake called The Monkey Hut where we chilled out on the lake floating around on inner tubes. It was really tranquil and the water was really dark blue and clear. The weather even cleared up so we had a bit of sun!

Weather pretty pants again. Wandered around Granada checking out hire cars. Found out you can only get to the beach in a 4X4 and they cost $550 so that idea went out the window. Wanted to go to see Volcano Mombayo but got told the weather was too pants and you wouldn’t see anything. Felt the need for a bit of relaxation so had a splurge. I booked in for an hour long massage, facial, manicure and pedicure and Rich and a massage, acupuncture and a hot stone scrub/massage. Whilst we were waiting for our appointments went to a museum that used to be a convent. Checked out a model of the whole town and also some large stone sculptures that were pre Columbian and found on an island in the lake. The massages were great, felt really good afterwards. Spent the next evening cooking, eating and working out where to go the next day.

It was raining again. We had decided to try and get to Playa Popoya for the surf. We got on a bus to Rivas to then change for the beach but got told the bus wasn’t running as the roads were so badly flooded and washed out. A couple also on the bus were going to Isla Omotepe (an island with two volcanoes on) so we hopped in the taxi with them to San Jorge where the ferry leaves. Missed the ferry by 3 minutes so had to wait 1 ½ hrs for the next one. Chatted to the other couple called Dominique and Kaveh who were from Canada. Ferry was rammed full of locals (there must have been something happening on the mainland) and it smelt of a cross between babies poopy nappies, wet wipes, sick and stale sweat-delicious! Got to the island at San Juan port (still raining). All the locals were cramming into trucks and we couldn’t find a taxi or bus. Caveh spoke pretty good Spanish and managed to find out there was a bus but it wouldn’t take us the whole way. Got the bus and then sweet talked the taxi driver (who just happened to be at the junction) into giving us a cheap taxi to a place called Santo Domingo. In the summer there is a beach there but because it was wet season it was just part of the lake but it was still really beautiful. Checked into a nice room, with a free gecko at Buena Vista Hotel and had some food at a rather strange eatery sat in chairs on sand next to the lake. I had the lake fish which was really scrummy and only cost £3! Played whist with the Canadians and the girls won, rock on!

In the night I strange dreams where I swore I could see leaf cutter ants on the wall (I even turned on my head torch and there was nothing there!) and thinking a bat had swooped across my head. Where we were staying was in the middle of the jungle with loads of crazy noises and bats flying around. We decided we wanted to hire quad bikes so Kaveh, being the hustler that he is managed to get them for $25 for the day instead of $40 so being here in the low season does have some benefits! The weather was looking ok so we set off to head around the island. Most of the roads were really dodgy so it was a bumpy ride and I also got covered in mud! Went up to a really nice viewpoint and then went off and drove around the big volcano called Concepcion. Dominique and I even had a burn on it, it was hilarious! The quads weren’t in the best of shape, one didn’t even have off road tyres on so kept slipping and the other had dodgy steering. On the way back home the clutch broke on our quad so we were stuck in 4th gear having to fly over speed bumps with me nearly flying off! I had some good bruises the next day. We had to stop to fill up the quad with some petrol. Kaveh managed to get it going again but couldn’t get it out of 1st gear! Rich and I sped back to the hire place and the owner went to rescue them on his motorbike. We dropped off the quads at 4pm (part of the cheap deal) and then walked to Ojo de Agua (eye of the water). It was a natural pool which water rich in minerals runs into from the volcano. We walked in through a horrible muddy track which I’m sure was infested with mosquitos. We got our feet caked in mud and I ripped my shorts on some barb wire but it was worth the walk as the water was really cool and refreshing. Walked back a non-muddy way and saw loads of fireflies in the bushes. It looked really magical and like someone had strung up some twinkly fairy lights. Found a massive stag beetle on the road which was about 10cm long. Ate some more lake fish and swung around in the hammocks on the porch.

Listened to howler monkeys howling in the night, they sound quite eerie but I love listening to them. To leave Omotepe we had to get a bus to the different port called Mayogalpa. The bus took ages so we missed the big ferry and had to get a small one called a launcha. Waited for about 45min before the boat left whilst they loaded it up, they were even putting motorbikes on the roof. It was really loud and fumey but got us back and only took 1 hr. We then got a taxi to Rivas and said our goodbyes to Kaveh and Dominique who were heading to Costa Rica. We found our bus but couldn’t find anything decent to eat, the fruit looked manky and the other choice was fried chicken in a bag with some tortillas, salad and most probably dysentery. Went to San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua on the bus which took only about an hour. It is a pretty horse shoe shaped natural harbour. A cute little lady on a bike found us and showed us her hotel called Mama Sara’s, we decided to stay and within a couple of minutes of us being there she had brought up some nice cold fresh orange juice. San Juan is a small town full of travellers, the majority of them being surfers and at the weekends it’s quite a party town. A couple of girls who were also staying at our hotel said they were going up to a hostel called the naked tiger at 6 so we decided to join them. We thought we could get food there but at the shuttle stop (you have to get a lift there) we were told to get food from the taco stand and take drinks as well. A couple of burritos and bottle of rum later we were on our way in the back of a pick-up crammed in like a load of cattle, it was pretty funny. The story about the guy who fell out the back and skinned his face wasn’t so funny. The Naked Tiger is just a hostel but it’s quite high up on the hill so has a good view of the town. It seems to be quite a party hostel so it was nice to visit but wouldn’t want to stay. The people there seemed to be just interested in being as cool as possible so we left at 10 and headed back down to town and had a few more rums and a boogie in the bar.

Woke up feeling groggy from booze at 7am as we had to get a shuttle to the surf beach, Playa Maderas at 8am. I was not in a good mood thought it was going to be raining and was wingeing like a wuss but Rich told me to sort it out and eventually I did. Lucky I did as it was sunny, yay! You cannot get to the beach by bus as the road is really bad nor walk as you might get robbed so you have to pay $5 return to cram in a rusty old 4X4 that drives you there in ½ hr. When we arrived the waves were small and it was quite busy already. We didn’t manage to sort out breakfast so had some food at a beach shack. I then found a small patch of sand to lie in amongst the rocks to read and watch the hermit crabs wander by and Rich went for a surf. Rich will have to tell you about the surf. (it was 2 to 3ft and a little onshore but good practice for what was coming!) Met up with Wade and Debs, an Aussie couple that we had already met in El Salvador who we had bumped into again and had drinks whilst watching the sun go down. That night we had a really scrumptious pizza made by an old Italian guy that looked like Luigi, it was blimen lovely. After we went to a bar called The Black Whale for a few more drinks and then onto another bar where ladies got free rum, bargain!

23/10/11 Sunday
Rich wanted to wait until the swell kicked in so no surfing today. We had a lie in, wandered to the supermarket to buy some bits and bobs, booked a sunset booze and fishing boat trip and then decided to walk up to the viewpoint that has Jesus on it. Whilst at Mama Sara’s on the balcony I spotted Zen across the street who was with a girl who was visiting from L.A. Had a quick chat but he was off to the beach. On the way to Jesus we bumped into some people who told us not to take anything up there as a couple got mugged at gunpoint the day before. We went and dropped off our stuff at Mama Sara’s. I even took my watch and sunglasses off and changed my flip flops to my rubbish Matalan ones as apparently they even stole their flip flops! Walked across the suspension bridge at the end of town (it’s been painted like the golden gate!) and then a 20 minute uphill slog to the viewpoint. It was a really good view of the bay and coastline beyond but unfortunately have no photos. We couldn’t see when the people were mugged as it’s a paved road with houses on (although pretty quiet) and there’s a security guards around. We then had to rush back for our boat trip. The trip was really great, we saw seabirds hovering so headed over that way to hopefully catch fish. Unfortunately we only caught one fish which they call mackerel but it’s big and has white meat so is not the same as our mackerel. It may have been my fault as I brought bananas which supposedly is bad luck for fishing, if you’re superstitious! We did see a hump back whale and about 15 sea turtle though so that made up for the lack of fish. After the trip the other couple on the boat invited us back to theirs for a fish supper along with two others who were staying in their apartment as the fish was big enough to feed 6. The other two were Israelies, one of whom Rich had met in San Pedro La Laguna and we had also bumped into him on Friday night. The town is very small so you always bump into people you’ve previously met. The Israelies cooked us up a lovely fish supper and then taught us an Israelie card game called ‘Yaniv’. It’s a really good card game that I’m going to have to write down so I can remember how to play it when we get back home.

Got the 8am shuttle back to Playa Maderas. The waves were big today, Rich can tell you about it. (Rich: The surf was brilliant left hand point from the rocks which you could ride across the bay when it shaped up, quite big too 6ft plus, clean up sets huge! Had some beaut rides and came home happy! Although I did snap 2 leashes and ripped off the rear stomp pad of the 6’6” board I was riding, really good board I need to get one. After my first leash snapped a strange thing happened, some too cool for school surf types asked where I was from then quizzed me on my last couple waves? They then looked at my board and begrudgingly said I got some of the longest lefts that day and even a girl in front had said that was the wave of the day, ha hilarious. They then talked to me as an equal! Kinda feel like something from a Californian high school drama? Zen turned up about 2ish but did not bring his boards he was gutted and hired a Christian surfer/ ice cream stickered board, he hated it. We were out for 45mins when my 1st leash snapped. When I finally swam in linz said that the board zen had was not the hire shops but someone else’s? I found another leash and told zen and the only other guy out on the point about the board…. Very funny, we pissed ourselves laughing. Zen got a couple more then went in and replaced the board none the wiser? Me and the other guy had the break to ourselves, then my 2nd leashes crap Velcro ripped off in a big bail out, I called it a day). Linz: I did my usual thing and chilled on a patch of damp sand revising my Spanish. That evening I cooked some grub back at Mama Sara’s. Mama Sara was so nice every day she would bring us up some kind of food or drink to eat. That evening we went out for a couple of drinks with Wade, Debs, Zen and Steph.

We had arranged to go on a surf boat trip at 8.30 and after a bit of faffing (surfing always involves some kind of faff!) we left the harbour at 9.30 along with Wade and 5 other people who got roped into coming. I just chilled on the boat gazing at the beautiful coastline whilst chatting to another girl who was only a beginner surfer and the waves were pretty heavy and big and tried fishing all day as the boat couldn’t get onto the beach as the waves were big. I’m too wussy for this surfing malarkey! Rich can tell you all (South from san juan to passed where we saw the humpback on Sunday, costa rica in the distance. We got in at El Yankee 4 -5 clean fast, good fun 2hrs there then back north to Hermosa’s. Jumped in and paddle shoreward, turned to the noise of linz screaming to see the boat pointing skyward on the face of a big one that we were definitely not going to paddle over. Linz and boat disappeared over the set, I duck dived the first but the second was bigger and pitching heavy. My premature duck dive brought me up inside the beast and my board smashed me in the head so hard I saw stars and heard my neck crack, in the following washing machine I actually felt fairly worried! I had a little talk with myself and swam to the surface. The next 4 duck dives were good, SAFE. Even though I could no longer look left without pain in the neck and shoulder I had some good waves for the next 2 hrs, you have to make the most of these kind of days.) We did catch some fish on the boat including a small tuna so we arranged to meet up with the others (Americans and one Canadian) on the boat to cook it up for tea. That evening we grabbed some drinks and snacks and headed to the place where Ben the Canadian was staying. The place was a bit out in the sticks but he pretty much had a whole massive house with pool to himself. Ryan attempted to fillet the fish and after lots of mess and splattering we didn’t end up with too much but it was tasty. Got home 9 and chilled, then bed. (Rich: I went and found Zen in his hostel down the road and got pissed, learned a new game which involves a lot of plastic cups filled with all the boos (equal measure in each) left around the table, 5 cups and 2 ping pong balls. You have to bounce the ball into your own empty cup before the next guy, if you do you knock the other guys cup away and he has to drink from the many others on the table. The ball then gets passed on around the table until no more booze, then its bar/clubbing time!)

Rich had an appointment with a chiropractor in the morning to try and sort out his injured neck and back so by the time we left San Juan it was 11am. Took a taxi to the Costa Rican border as we couldn’t be bothered to faff with slow buses. Once again the border crossing was stressful and confusing and we just stood there arguing and falling out because we couldn’t find the office to get our passports stamped (you’d think there would be signs). We were going to go to El Tamarindo which wasn’t that far but someone told Rich to go to Santa Teresa and that you could get a bus from La Liberia which was where we had to head to anyway. It took 1 ½ hrs to get to La Liberia and from there we found out there wasn’t a bus direct to Santa Teresa, we had to get a bus to a port called Puntarenas, then a ferry then a bus. By this time it was 2.30 so we got on a bus heading to Puntarenas. The bus went on for ages, it was on the Inter American highway but it only consists of one lane and lots of mountainous landscape. We arrived at Puntarenas at about 5.45 and got a taxi to the ort only to find out that there wasn’t a 6.30pm ferry like the book told us. The next one was not until 8.30pm. By now it was pitch black and we didn’t like fancying our chances trying to get to Santa Teresa so late so the taxi driver took us to a hotel. On first inspection the room seemed ok apart from two had drainpipes in and one a pole (poledancing?). We found an ok room but on closer inspection (after we had eaten a Chinese dinner and got rained on) found that it was pretty disgusting. It was un-clean, smelt of damp, the sheets were dirty and the pillows smelt. When I looked at the pillow inside the case it was brown and looked like a dog had been living on it! At this stage after the rubbish day of travelling and then having to sleep in a dive which might have been a prostitution hotel I had a bit of teary break down and really started missing home and everyone there. Rich gave me a cuddle which helped me feel better and gave me some wine. Rich then got a clean sheet, I made a pillow out of my body warmer and neck pillow and had a cold shower (haven’t had a hot shower for 3 weeks now) got into my sleeping liner and wrapped myself up like a cocoon. Had a pants night sleep full of nightmares.

We had planned to get the 5am ferry but when we awoke at 4am it was pitch black, I’d hardly slept and we didn’t fancy our chances of getting a taxi to the ferry plus wandering around in a dodgy place in the dark, so we decided to stay in the pit hotel for a bit longer and get the 9am ferry. Got a bus to the ferry and I also finally got a bag of these hairy red fruits that are like lychees. I have been wanting them for a couple of weeks now but couldn’t find them anywhere in Nicaragua! The ferry crossing was good and very scenic. Once we were on the Peninsula de Nicoya we took a bus to a place called Cabano (1 ½ hrs). When we got there we were supposed to change buses but the bus we wanted left without us. Luckily we bumped into an American guy who was also heading to Santa Teresa so we got a taxi with him. It took 30min along a bumpy unpaved road and I saw some howler monkeys in the trees. He recommended a place called Don Jon’s so we followed his advice and checked it out. Accommodation and food here in Costa Rica is twice that of Nicaragua! Don Jon’s was really nice and I really fancied the apartment with air con and a kitchen after having to sleep in such a dive before and also not having slept with air con for weeks! Rich managed to get the room for $35 a night which is still cheap compared with staying somewhere back home, you can pay that for a camping pitch! I also thought we could save money by cooking our own meals. We wandered to the beach which is 3min down a sandy jungle track with Iguana’s rustling and running out of the way. The coastline is stunning, the sand is just off white and made of crushed shells and the beach is backed by almond and palm trees. There is a lot of driftwood including big tree trunks and logs on the beach which have been washed down the rivers into the sea so you have to be careful in the water that one doesn’t hit you. It was too rough to swim as it was high tide so we just dipped our feet and wandered along the shore so Rich could check out the surf. Rich then went and hired a board and I went shopping for some fairly expensive food. Cooked some food and now sat in our luxury apartment, catching up on writing this blog whilst evacuating some massive ants that keep finding their way in! (head high plus faces sun set perfect A frames coming in and a nice man called Tommy Lopez with a professional camera with a flash, he took one photo of me please have a look! I’m riding a 6’4” fish, really good session)

Additional photos below
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4th November 2011
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Santa Teresa
Nice beach shot, of a perfect day on the playa :) Cheers, Tee Tee is Senior Editor of digital magazines http://CostaRicaCLOSEUP.com

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