Sunday, October 25, 2015


To be honest, getting to Nicaragua was a little bit of a nightmare, with delayed flights, missing taxi drivers, and lack of sleep to wrap it all up. But since all's well that ends well, we were glad to find ourselves in Managua on a sunny Thursday morning. Now, Managua itself can only be described as a hell-hole of a city, so after a quick stop at the Tica Bus station to buy tickets to El Salvador, we were happily on our way out to the capital and headed towards Leon.

Leon is a quiet town about 90 kilometers northwest of Managua which was built up as the first capital of Nicaragua in colonial times. What makes Leon special is that most of that architecture is preserved and many of the churches especially are still in use.

The lovely hostel Casa Ivana in Leon, Nicaragua
During our meanderings around Leon, we especially enjoyed the raspadas sold on the streets, which are desserts of shaved ice with sweet milk and raspberry syrup - yum! 

The woman selling them even let us take a picture :)
While in Leon we took the opportunity to have our clothes properly washed at a laundromat. Since we were traveling with really the bare minimums, some of our things were really starting to stink. We wrapped up our evening in Leon by cooking a nice dinner and were on our way to Granada with our new Kiwi friend in the morning.

At least our clothes could get cleaned...
Can you see which city it is from?
The happy cook
To get to Granada we had to pass back through Managua, but thankfully we didn't have to change bus stations and could just hop on over to the Granada-bound departure zone.  On the way to Managua we had a nice chat with a young local who could speak fluent English due to having some British family ties and was just as crazy about rugby as our kiwi travel companion.

Our time in Granada didn't exactly get off to a great start, as it was brutally hot and I was suffering from a bit of a summer cold with sore throat, stuffy nose, and stopped-up ears.  Once we had relaxed a little bit and got some warm food in us, however, I was feeling up to adventure again.
Vegetarian Tacos

Our lunchtime view
While in Granada we decided to splurge on an evening tour. Granada is situated on the Lago Nicaragua and due to a volcano eruption thousands of years ago, the lake has 365 small islands.  Some of the islands are privately owned and are used as weekend getaways by some of the country's richest families. Our guide told us that one can buy an island for about $300,000 and Mario and I decided we'll just buy an island in Lake Nicaragua instead of a much more expensive flat in Munich ;)
Heading out on our adventure

This island can be rented out for private parties

Care to buy an island, anyone?

While visiting the monkey's and swimming in the lake were both great features of the tour, the very best part had to be the sunset view over the lake before our boat headed back to shore and our driver met us to take us back into the city.

Hungry monkies

Taking a swim in the lake

sunset on our way back to shore

Happy adventurers
Since Granada is a city with a vibrant night life, we took the opportunity to go out for a bit at night, as this isn't really an option in many of the cities which we visited due to safety concerns after the city dies down.

Traditional dancing in the city - a nice surprise!
The next morning we were up again early for breakfast and a quick walk around the city before heading to Masaya Volcano National Park, Now, let me tell you, this was a bit of a misadventure.  On the way there, we asked the bus conductor to stop at the entrance to the national park.  This is common practice in Central America, as there are very few official bus stops and every passenger simply let's the person on the bus collecting the money know when he or she wants to get off. Well, it seemed that our conductor was a bit forgetful and instead of admitting his mistake, simply let us off somewhere and told us that it was at the entrance to the national park. I was really angry that someone would be such a jerk to two tourists who obviously had no idea where they were, but in the end we made it to the national park on the next bus headed back towards Granada. 

The hike itself up to the volcano was rather brutal in the humidity and heat.  Which may have been the reason why we were the only ones making the treck by foot. Every single other tourist which we saw made the journey by car or bus. But we made it to the top by foot and the views were well worth it! 

In the afternoon it was back to Managua to stay in the Tica Bus hotel before our 5:30 AM bus to El Salvador the next morning. We knew that we needed to stay near the station because it's not safe to travel around the city before the sun comes up, but even the thought of walking from the hostel to the bus station creeped us out a bit too much, so we opted for the guarded hotel attached to the bus terminal.  To be honest, the hotel was rather depressing and almost unbearably hot, but at least it was safe. 

Right around dusk we ducked out of the hotel quickly in hopes of grabbing some food since there wasn't anything for sale inside of the hotel. The area around the bus station gave me the creeps like no where I have ever been before and even though we were just across the street from the hotel I wanted to get back inside as soon as possible. In the end we got some warm food in our bellies and drank our cokes in a bag, but I don't think either of us got much sleep that night. 
Dinner, coke in a bag, and a very weary traveler

Enjoying my own coke in a bag
In the morning, however, it was onward to El Salvador!

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Boquete, Panama

When we headed back to Panama from Costa Rica we mede our way to the quiet mountain town of Boquete. There we were greeted with the first cooler temperatures of our trip, which was actually a very welcome relief.

Our hostel was extremely quiet (as in, there were only 1 or 2 guests there besides us), but it made for a relaxing stay.

Our time in Boquete was mostly spent exploring the surrounding countryside and doing some hiking. Here are some snapshots from our first day of hiking, exploring three waterfalls.

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I'm not so sure why they are ''lost'' because we certainly found them

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We were even brave (crazy) enough to take an icy dip!

On our second day we headed out for a slightly longer hike and ended up with a bit of a misadventure on our hands.  Several kilometers in the rainforest decided to live up to its name and the skies opened up and dumped buckets of water upon us.  Now, this wouldn't have been such a huge problem, except that the trails are extremely sensitive. Just the slightest bit too much rain and they are transformed into little more than a shallow river.  So as we slipped and squished our way a couple of kilometers back to the nearest shelter we had seen along the way, I have to admit I wasn't amused.  Yet, looking back on it, I suppose it wasn't all that bad.  Even if our shoes were still wet well into Nicaragua and I'm pretty sure that special kind of stink is never going to quite leave my shoes. 
Setting off in the morning, completely unsuspecting of the storm to come
Shortly before the rain began

And after

Leaving Boquete was also quite the adventure, as the buses could hardly make even half speed due to the rain and we were quite certain we would miss our flight out of David. But luck was on our side and we made or way to Nicaragua via an overnight in Guatemala City and the adventure continued!