Wednesday, September 27, 2006
After a long day travelling we were dropped of "near " our accommodation, after donning our packs , which by the way are very small compared to the rest of our travellers, we set off ,it was so hot and humid 20 mins later we arrived after passing by the most beautiful streets and buildings. Every building was painted a different colour and very brightly. We couldnt wait to get to our hotel to explore this city. It was Sunday.Our lodging for the next 3 nights was upstairs ,just enough room for our bed and a fan . As we walked around it was so quiet a bit like Adelaide on a Sunday . We sat in their central park for some time to observe, every one was so friendly again. Nicaragua was proving to be relaxing as well. What I mean by that, is we felt safe even at night .Did I mention it was hot. The hottest we have felt anywhere. We will never complain about our humidity again. Next morning we set out in search of breakfast ..on the way we visited the local market... talk about smells not nice before breakfast. Fish by the hundreds , raw meat hanging in the sun, people yelling , chickens being cut up , So cool no-one even noticing us or hassling. Great experience , the thing we like to watch in a new place is the start to the day for the locals ... means early starts though ..and then to walk around their homes in the early evening to see how people come home, eat, school kids playing etc.Granada is easy to get around by foot so much to see. It reminded us of Europe. All the buildings are flat fronted and terracotta tiled roofs but quite decayed but charming. Walked for hours , not as humid until 2-3 pm .
That night after struggling to sleep with the lack of air even with the fan, the power went out oh my god was it dark and stifling hot . The whole city was out ...they do it to save money... they also turn off the water supply which is not fun. We should not complain.It was a fun night. Third day was a tour of the Volcanoes here .You would think we would be tired of them by now but every experience is so different. We arrived at the top of our Volcano after travelling in the back of a tray topped ute, it was cheaper ! Before that we visited a fort that has played a huge part in Nicaragua´s history .These countries have done it tough and still are .It has been so interesting visiting the areas that we have heard about over the years and try to make sense of it . I doubt we ever will because they can´t either . I digress sorry about that .
We were able to look right over this active beast , man was that an incredible moment . The smells of sulphur. I wish I had a thousand words to describe seeing the massive forces at work . It is so emotionally moving . I then had to summon up the courage to do some caving in would you believe Lava tubes , those that know me know I have a fear of enclosed spaces ,armed with our trusty head lamps and helmets we entered the cave ...unbelievable that we had the opportunity .Only other place in the world is in Hawaii. Finished the day with the group swimming in the lagoon filled crater of another volcano.
As you can see no view. We started back down and it was wet and slippery, so took us a long time.
Gabrielle had enjoyable time just lazing in a hammock, read a whole book, had a few dakaris and walked on the beach for an hour and a half and only saw 3 kids and a horse.
In our rooms there were geckos crawling the walls and I cannot believe how noisy they were. There was no need for an alarm clock, but not all night.
We left early next day to go to Granada. One hour bus to the port, hour and a half ferry trip then half hour taxi to the bus depot. We were heading to a beach called San Juan for lunch before a local bus ride to Granada.
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
We were in Nicaragua. The taxi drivers jumped us. We were the most popular people in the country. Finally after some heated discussion we crammed into 4 taxis and were off to San Carlos. They drive on the other side here, except the roads are so bad that the drivers roar off at 100kmh and then weave all over the road trying to miss the pot holes in the bitumen and the drivers in the other direction are doing the same. we feared to watch. We arrived at San Carlos on the shores of Lago Nicaragua, a huge, huge lake. About 45 rivers feed into it. We were heading to the island of Ometepe, which has 2 volcanoes on it. We waited for the boat to load and headed of for our next adventure. We were staying on the other side of the island and our plan was to climb the big one. Volcan Concepcion, both were dormant, however this mountain had decided to blow some steam and over the last couple of weeks, the steam and smoke was increasing. We were advised not to climb it so we had to settle for the smaller one.
After an hour on the ferry, we arrived on the island and were met by a Toyota not too many seater and not a 4WD. The driver started the van, it decided not to go. He tried again and it spluttered and coughed and died. We had been on the road since 7am and it was hot, it was humid and we were tired. It started and spluttered and died on the first uphill slope. He started it again and splutteringly we drove over some extremely shocking roads for another hour until finally arriving at the hotel. But the journey ... oxen pulling carts, cattle and pigs wandering over the road, children playing everywhere, pushbikes travelling faster than we were. Yes the road was that bad. And always looming over us was that 1850 metre volcano.
It was worth it when we arrived just on sunset with a view through the palms to the tranquil lake. AAHHH!!! That is what our life is about at the moment
This is us walking through the trucks in no man's land between the Costa Rican border checkpoint and the Nicaraguan side. It was Hot. It was Humid
Friday, September 22, 2006
photo ... Gabrielle and 19yr old Liam on a cloud forest bridge
Wowsers!!!!!! What a day. We had a day of activity. Nick had a try at canyoneering which was a mix of canyoning and rapelling down a few waterfalls. Taken by 4wd up a mountain and then hiked through the jungle to a beautiful stream, puta on all the safety gear and then briefed about what was to happen next. A small drop of 20 ft for a practice into a waist deep pool and the water was pleasantly warm. About a 10 minute walk through the river canyon often steep and narrow and often needed 5 contact points, both hands, both feet and some other part of the body. Then the next falls were a vertical 80ft drop, it was difficult getting the hang of stepping into the air, then again repelling down other falls and rapids and canyoning through sometimes waist deep water until the final falls which were the highest 180 feet. What a buzz. I had the rythm and was able to drop to about halfway and then swing through the cascading water of the falls.
photo ... Gabrielle swinging free on a zip line
We travelled to Monteverde by local bus and boat and what a great place Monteverde is as well. The adventure capital of Costa Rica. We went on a canopy walk and went Zip lining. Gabrielle who was apprehensive as she was worried about propelling herself off a 480ft high mountainside along 2310 ft long cable also tackled the 11 zips and was dying to do it again and again. She was right out of her comfort zone and loving it. Nick was loving it.
The wildlife here is great. This animal was walking across the road.
Thursday, September 21, 2006
We were on a bridge. See how many iguanas you can see in this picture.
This is what they look like
Last time we updated we were off to the springs. We ate our pizzas while viewing Volcano Arenal from the roadside, at night. Boy was that surreal. It was slightly drizzly after pouring solidly for a couple of hours. We now know what a tropical downpour is. They usually have rain everyday but it is has been dry ..they were getting worried. So I guess they needed it. It cleared and we could see huge boulders flying out of the top [by the way it is the third most active volcano in the world] and careering for a long way. Everyone was awestruck. By the way the pizzas were great. No bread and dripping for us yet. No one is allowed to climb this volcano too dangerous even for scientists. Again we can't download photos yet. The Hot Springs were at a resort, it was posh there were 19 pools in total, ranging from cool to bloody hot. It really was incredible to sit in the pools watching the lava flow, talking to people from all over the world sharing the same feelings. Early next morning after again gazing at this wonderful sight it was so clear, we drove to La Chile where we boarded aboat to travel on a river called Cano Negro. We headed to the Nicaraguan border and on the way saw several caimans on the river bank, lots of birds, howler monkeys, these are the ones that make all of the noise at the zoo, the guide was so excited to spot a rare howler monkey that was orange all the rest are black.
Usually they don't accept abnormalities and the guide hadn't spotted it for a long while. We also saw white faced monkeys and also a 3 toed sloth. That was exciting as it moved as we watched, and was it slow. We also had a chance to nurse a 2 toed sloth baby whose mother was killed by a car and the guide was looking after it. It was so gentle and cuddly.. At night we hiked 3 kms around the base of the volcano through the rain forest. The guide was very informative about the forest plants and animals. We had a spectacular view again of the volcanic activity from a viewing point at the base, while drink a special brew called Lava juice. Great finish to a great day.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
We hiked onward to the crater and at 2708 metres or 8883 feet for you oldies, (no snow like the other travellers in Europe) we reached the lip. What a view. An active volcano. All that was happening today was there were a couple of treams of sulphurous fumes pouring skyward and there was also a lake which must have been very acidic, which was boiling in a couple of places and plumes of steam were rising. Clouds flowed over the mountain top and it started to drizzle, then there were brilliant flashes of lightning and deafening thunder, almost instantaneous and then it rained and rained and.... well it was a tropical downpour. We moved as quickly as the cloud and torrential rain would let us until we found the cover of the information centre.
We caught the bus and headed back to our accommodation
We arrived in La Fortuna around 2.30pm after a very hot and sweaty 4 and half hour local bus ride. As usual they overcrowd the buses but that is half the fun, watching the locals get on and off with shopping , kids and whatever else they can carry on. We have been surprised , the Costa Ricans as a whole seem to be fairly well off. The scenery is speccy to say the least .It is a very mountainous country , roads are pretty good... but I would like them a little wider thank you very much. Again Nick and I are 20 to 30 years older than the other 7 with us.The tour leaders are also much younger.We are lucky to have two leaders, one is training. 3 guys and the rest girls...... well I don't know what else they would be. Great group from Ireland,England and the States.Now the best part of today ... as we drove into our town we spotted the Volcano Arenal. Boy was I excited, even more than the Pyramids I can't describe how we felt as we walked around the town and everywhere we looked was the Volcano, looming out from under the clouds.When you get to see the photos you will see what we saw . It is the most active Volcano in Costa Rica. Smoke was coming out the top of the crater. Awesome!!!!Tonight we are going to the Hot Springs to watch the Lava flow. We are having beer and pizzas pool side.Someone has to do it.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
A couple of Australian Dorks at Playa Jaco
The morning was much better we wandered off towards the city, about a half hour walk and we were stopped by some police who looked through our bags and wanted to know if I had a gun. With a negative answer they let us pass and we walked into a square where hundreds aof people, mostly school kids had gathered. It turned out that 15th Sept was also Costa Rica´s Independence day. We watched the speeches, well heard them anyway, watched the celebrations as the President was there and then continued on to the city where there was crowds and crowds of people. The population of San Jose is 400,000 and they must have been all in the city. It was great festivity with bands dancing as they waited their turn to march forward. What a great place to people watch. The pants and top sizes here are also 1 (maybe 2 or 3) sizes short.
Later at night as we looked for a coffee and found a little place a few streets away and after Spanglishing our way to a couple of cappuchinos, we discovered they could not change the 10,000 colone note which we presented ($1 US = 500 colones). So they said we could have it for free. A taxi driver tapped Nick on the shoulder and with more sign language held out some notes and changed the 10,000. 2 caps and 2 little cakes 1300 colones.
We decided to go to the beach, the Pacific Ocean this time, so we went to the bus station and for 2,500 colones, the 2 of us travelled to Playa Jaco, about a 3 hour trip, but only about 90 kms.
It was slow going through the mountains.
Watched the sights, had a great seaside meal, fish combination, which was a whole crayfish, prawns, squid, octopus, mussels, fish, rice and salad for 9,000 colones, a bargain we thought.
Sand was black, photos will follow.
The place we are staying at consists of about 36 rambling rooms each with a shower and toilet, and abuffet breakfast is included. Internet is free but there are no USB ports to download pictures.
Saturday, September 16, 2006
But next morning in daylight things were brighter, but more on that soon
Friday, September 15, 2006
Another interesting place and yes it is the home of that little yappy dog, but they say they came from Spain.
It is Mexico's Independence day 15/9 and it is huge over here hence all the flags, but we will be in Costa Rica by then. These dogs line one of the streets, must be a dozen or so. That's their claim to fame. We have noticed an interesting effect of westernization. As we visited towns on the weastern end of the Copper Canyon, where it was still more rural and no western take-aways like KFC, Macs, Subway etc, the people were of moderate build. They still had take-aways but they were local foods, questiriddos, burritos, tacos etc. As we were travelling by bus, people boarded the bus with coolers full of food, but it was burritos and they sold them for about 80 cents and they were filling. On the streets it was very rare to see anyone actually eating while walking
Photo This is one of the many happy dogs on the streets
When we sat and watched the people in Chihauhau we were soon aware of the greater size, most were walking with food in their hands and eating as they walked, KFC chips, soft drinks. Hmm food for thought .. excuse the pun..
A wasted day really we were to catch a plane at 1130 am so had to leave the Hotel Radisson Casa Grande (we were not really roughing it. It was part of the tour package) at 930 am, for all those airport checks. After a 2 hour flight we were in Mexico city, add on an hour for Daylight saving and it was 230 pm and our flight to Costa Rica did not leave until 8pm so we just hung around the airport. Can't wait until they ban smoking at airports. Finally we boarded and off to San Jose we went
Thursday, September 14, 2006
Here we are in cowboy country, a walk down the main street greets us with cowboys dressed in big hats and pointy leather boots, big belt buckles and that is just the Mexican cowboys. And Wow the American cowboys accent and all are so cliched. Pick up trucks are huge. Indians also are walking the streets, not the bow and arrow type, the native Tamahumara
Once again we walked for ages, hiked to a waterfall, some 3 kms and at times it was tough because of the altitude, very alpine scenery.
We were on the local bus to Chihauhau and a cowboy jumped on the bus at the outskirts and held up our name, so he collected our luggage and hopped into his van and he took us to the hotel we were to stay at. Such service. We don't know how they even knew we were on the bus as we were supposed to be on the train and there are 2 bus companies and many buses a day. This is one of the more famous restaurants of Creel. All the locals use it for breakfast after a night on the tequila
We arrived at our hotel. The view was .. well.. absolutely awesome. It was right on sunset.
Divisadero is perched on the canyon wall and the canyon is 1760 metres deep at this point. We were extremely lucky to have been on the train at all as this was the only day it ran all week. We could not believe the views that greeted us every time we looked out of a window. The food once again was fantastic, even if we did have refried beans with every meal including breakfast. We hiked, we sat, we drank. What`s new!
We went for a hike to some caves where native indians called Tarahumara lived. They lived as they have been for centuries, no power, no phone, no TV no gameboys for the kids, a real lesson in humility. During this hike we met Jeff and later back at the hotel he kept us entertained with stories of deer hunting, guns and life back in Texas where he lives, south of Houston. We also met Doctor Tom, who some 17 years earlier started a clinic for the local tribes and volunteer professionals donate their time and treat the needy for eye problems, cataracts, cleft lips, plastic surgery and other vitally needed services. Doctor Tom, Jeff and a mexican called Jose had just returned from adding 4 fully functional operating theatres to the clinic.
Their service is called Operation Compassion. As we had to move on to Creel the next day they volunteered a lift for us in their van, we accepted. It was a very entertaining drive and Doctor Tom informed us of the services they provided, on this trip 2200 consultations in 4 days, some workload and long days. Jeff kept us entertained with life back home, how he and his family hunt deer, jack rabbits and wild turkey in the forest and also about the US gun laws down to having a hand gun in the kitchen cupboard. We arrived at Creel
When we met in the lobby in the morning, all the staff could provide us with was that the train would be travelling but they were not sure to where. We went to the railway station in Los Mochis with the people we had met the previous day, Deb and Pete and their lovely daughter Abby. Abby who is nearly 15 is extremely lucky to be travelling as she is with her parents. Would you believe they were from Melbourne.
The Copper canyon is a system of canyons 4 times the size of the Grand Canyon in the USA. The train goes through86 tunnels, some of which are a real test for claustrophobia as some are over a kilometre in length. The highest point is 2338 metres, so hiking uphill was a bit of an effort, the canyon at its deepest point is 1879 metres, so it really is a big hole. From the train we could see sheer cliffs, cascading waterfalls and wonderful views.
There was good food and good drink on the train. We stopped in a little town called El Fuetre for 1 and a 1/2 hours. Why? There really was no answer, so the train just waited and waited. We travelled on for some time and finally the train stopped. We all alighted from the train in the middle of somewhere and confusion reigned as a lot of Mexicans tried to direct us to the right bus or van or pickup truck. We ended up at a hotel, which was not the one we were supposed to be at and at last convinced the owner to transport us to the hotel we were booked in to.
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Well it was like this. It was the night of Gabrielle´s birthday .(no chocolates, no flowers)...........
The reception had informacion for us. The train through the copper canyon would not be departing as there had been a avalanche that had hit a goods train on the track. Here we were stuck in the most uninteresting place you can imagine, we struggled through one day and we were now going to fill another day. No one knew when the train was to travel again as they had to do a "Work Safe" investigation as someone died in the accident. There had been a 2 year drought and the skies opened up and all the rain caused the avalanche.
We slept poorly wondering what, when and how we were going to continue on. after a few frantic phone calls to plan the next day we decided to try to make the best of a boring place.
After walking across town in the heat and humidity 36C we travelled by local bus to the coast, well we thought the beach was called Topolobampo and as we alighted from the bus we realised "No beach here", luckily the lady behind the driver saw our predicament and we travelled further to the beach, playa el Maviri. The English speaking Mexican lady was Maricaz, she was travelling alone and was very interesting and helpful to us as she kept us informed
Not a great beach but great food. It ended up being a great day.
We went back to Los Mochis to be greeted by the news that we would be moving on to somewhere by bus or train the next day.
Oh Well that´s Mexico
Friday, September 08, 2006
I don,t think Nick sent out the invitations.I´m still waiting for everyone to come to my party.We have to keep trying out the Corona´ where ever we go taste pretty good so far and they only cost $1.50 each.Our day started with a 4.30 wake up call to catch a flight to Los Mochis.The plane we caught only held 50 passengers but was the fastest in their fleet... a cool 833kmh.I was apprehensive at first but it was´nt as claustrophobic as i thought.We flew very low over the islands and mangroves it was spectactular.Los Mochis is an unusual town nothing to do, ah well there is always the trusty Corona.The food here is so delicious and sooooo cheap .Lunch today was $68($6.00 our money) that included drinks. I wonder if I will be surprised with a cake.Rachel you would have loved being here with us today Breakfast was Yummy warm cinnamon buns with sticky caramel sauce at the airport.Never mind , we walked all day again. No rain yet very humid.
Thursday, September 07, 2006
|We crossed the equator and now we are officially no longer Downunder|
We also crossed the International date line which has confused poor Nick as we left New Zealand at 7pm Tuesday night and arrived in Los Angeles at1235 pm on Tuesday afternoon and had a bit of a nap on the plane. We saw the Hollywood sign as we approached the airport
Arrived late in Mexico City 1130pm and by the time we had a tea and settled it was 1.30am.
From the air Mexico city is a huge sprawling city
Today up at out and have been walking and looking for7 hours, it is very relaxed and friendly, no one hassled us, the buildings are beautiful and some are strange. The traffic is chaotic, but manageable
There are elections here 16 Sept and there are rows of tents and marquees lining the main road for kilometres. Nothing like our elections, every one is involved, the candidates and followers look like they eat, drink and sleep in the tents. Posters and banners everywhere for the party hopefuls and there was music blaring and spruikers everywhere
Went to the Museum of anthropology it was exceptionally enlightening
Food is cheap Bananas were 15 cents for 2 big ones, we will eat some for you.
Had a coffee and cake at Starbucks .... They use Mexican coffee beans.. for 72 pesos which is about $7
Steve Irwin is all over the news they even had a Marathon TV event. They have opened a "crikey" research fund..serious.
Tomorrow 5 am start, to fly north to Los Mochis for Gabrielle's Birthday to start our train trip through the copper Canyon Lucky lady.
Slow computer and sticking keys making hard work of our first overseas blog, no USB port so no photos as yet
Thanks for your cards and wishes
Monday, September 04, 2006
Will 3 months of clothes and goodies really fit into 2 backpacks, Gabrielle's is 32+8 and Nick's 35+8, not a real lot of room, but the rule has always been "pack what you need, then halve it". It is difficult though when you start from half