So where to begin since we last left off!?
Over the past month we have been on the move, experiencing lots and meeting many great people. After leaving our lovely little beach town of Monterrico we travelled to Antigua, a city in Guatemala. This beautiful colonial city had a sort of European feel about it, with endearing cobble streets, beautiful cathedrals and a backdrop of breath taking volcanoes it was another place I felt very lucky to be in.
We met our group and began our tour with our 1st stop in Honduras being a small town called Copan. Here was home to some of the most magnificent ancient ruins I have ever seen. This was from the Mayan people, a range of Native Americans originating from southern Mexico, northern Central America regions. After our interesting little history lesson and a few days exploring the town we headed to what can only be described as paradise! A small little Island called Roatan, part of the bay islands off Honduras, showed us a good few days! The island give us a real holiday feel; snorkeling in the 2nd largest barrier reef, relaxing in hammocks in the ocean and even a karaoke session! As great as our time in Honduras was I am very aware that from the 2 locations we spent most of our time we did not get a true experience of the country itself. I have heard Honduras being described as a poverty stricken, dangerous country however while I lay on the white sandy beach looking out into the aqua blue waters, surrounded by American tourists, I didn’t feel like that was the part of the country I was experiencing. Driving through the country I got more of a feel for what it is really like. We did survive what is known as the most dangerous city in the world with an average of 3 murders a day (I was unaware of this while in the shop on our pit stop!) but really we were sheltered from the authentic Honduras. I find it difficult to be shipped in and out of tourist destinations without getting a real feel for the country or talking to the local people but I guess on a tour that’s the way it goes – I`ll just have to return to Honduras another time!
Nicaragua was our next stop and thankfully we got a taste for the culture and the people on our first day. While our group went Volcano boarding (unfortunately our tight budget didn’t allow us!) but this also meant we had a bit of time to explore a small city called Leon. I had read before that this city had a big part to play in the Nicaraguan revolution which was clear to see as soon as we walked down the street. Politically charged murals lined the streets of the city and lead us to a revolutionary museum. We got a fascinating tour by a very sweet local man who gave us the low down on the many international influences Nicaragua has experienced over the years and their resistance to occupation which held them as one of the leading revolutionary countries of Latin America. Our new friend was very open about the problems Nicaragua still has and his own fears on the vulnerability of his country particularly when `developed` countries show an interest; such as China who are playing a heavy part in the reconstruction of the canal running through Nicaragua. I couldn’t help but think back to China`s heavy influence on Tajikistan`s infrastructure and once again wondered what is in it for them. After a few days in the Capital city Granada, we then headed off land to Ometeppe Island where we stayed for a few days with a local family. Once again we were welcomed into the home of a mother and her two sons; although the little boy made angry noises and faces at us, I think the rest of the family enjoyed our presence! These few days were a great way to get to know the Nicaraguan culture by eating the local food, talking (in our very broken Spanish) to the community and even got a great performance of the local dancing.
So for the last 2 weeks we`ve been in Costa Rica having lots of fun times; zip lining, magnificent waterfalls, volcanoes, natural springs, party times, sloths, tropical thunder storms, monkeys, too much jungle juice, the Caribbean coast and a lovely visit from crazy Ruth! The first month has gone in so fast it`s scary but also feels like we`ve done so much already. I definitely think our time has been made all the more fun and our experiences all the more memorable due to the amazing people we have spent our time with. Meeting strangers from all around the world who quickly become friends really reminds me why I love the weird and wonderful world of backpacking.
Tomorrow we are flying from Costa Rica to Ecuador to begin the South American leg of the trip. We are excited and looking forward to all this fascinating continent has to offer!