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The Viñales Valley

By September 3, 2015 Central America, Cuba

After several days in hectic Havana we organised a day trip to the well renowned valleys of Vinales, located in the north of Cuba. We set off early in a private car and after 3 hours we arrived within the peaceful farming village.

20150122-IMG_7454Our first stop was at a beautiful look-out which showcased the green valleys with the little romantic farming shacks dotted around. The town mostly consisted of one-story wooden homes with front porches and their horse and carts, however im not too sure Vinales can be classified as a ‘town’. Its tiny. Im glad we only went for a day, that’s for sure!

The Viñales Valley is actually a world heritage site, mainly because of the cultural landscape. The land is enriched by traditional farms with original pre 1950s architecture. Old-fashioned farming methods are still used in Viñales, notably to grow the world famous Cuban tobacco. We visited a tobacco farm and were able to see the fine cigars being carefully rolled from the dried tobacco leaves first hand… and bought a few samples.

Holly.

Havana, Cuba

By September 1, 2015 Central America, Cuba

After travelling for seven months through Latin America I have had my fair share of frustrations. None of these places were communist run and all had ATMS and the Internet, which are both very helpful when travelling. To be honest I was equally as nervous visiting Cuba, as I was excited.

In Cuba, the cars are from the 1950s, the food is less imaginative than two minute noodles, the lines at the bank are longer than a freight train and something as simple as booking your next nights’ accommodation is extremely difficult. All character building stuff though.

We arrived early evening to our humble little home for the next six nights in the city of Havana. After our hour-long journey from the airport, our 1959 taxi pulled up into a dark, poorly lit street and stopped outside a rundown three-story building with architecture trying to replicate the London Blitz. I was not feeling too confident and at this point I turned to Holly and said “Did you book us into a gangster area?” with distaste. Shortly after that I realized that this was just Havana. Debris and decrepitated buildings three stories high surrounded us whilst we stood in the dark streets of Havana with everything we owned and a smiling Cuban taxi driver standing next to us holding his hand out for payment. He barely said a word the whole hour from the airport. This is going to be fun.

As soon as the door opened, Havana’s appeal greeted us a warm and welcoming ‘Hola’. This is the beauty of Cuba; you must look deeper than the surface, much deeper, for its superior side. Our accommodation in my assumed ‘gangster’ area was a beautiful casa (family run home) built in 1932 and made you feel just like the door behind you was the entrance to a time machine. Our new best friend and host Louis welcomed us with an icy beer and a 3-course lobster dinner in a dining room filled with relics from the last century in Cuba. This was just the beginning of the kind hearts that are customary to Cubans. When in Cuba, hotels do exist but only for the wealthy short-term travellers, your only other option is a casa particular. This is a home, opened by the family, but heavily controlled by the government. When you rent a room within their house you are there guest, although they would have you believing you were their king.

The next morning Holly and I woke up well rested and ready to explore the unique and peculiar city of Havana. We wonder the streets visiting Havana’s main plazas that were full of grand and decayed stone architecture that couldn’t hide it’s Caribbean past. Weaving through a constant flow of classic 1950’s American vehicles and splitting through the bank lines. All our senses were stimulated. Music bounced off the colorful walls, cigars filled the air with their distinct smell and ice cream enlightened our taste buds while we wondered in and out of the culture packed streets that make up Havana. Like any city, Havana is packed with history, but the thing that sets this city apart is that the landmarks you visit are completely original and have been untouched since they were famed. It’s just like looking into a crystal ball, but not crystal at all.

Twenty minutes out of the city is Playa del Este, a beach, and if you would agree with me from the photos it is absolutely flawless.. We had a good day for it. It was five miles of Caribbean perfection, with the clearest water I had ever seen. We spent the day swimming in the sea and being offered every ten minutes beers and mojito’s by a fine but crafty Cuban with our friends Matt and Kim.

Here are a few things to get you started:

See:
• Walk around Old Havana / Havana Vieja
• All of the old squares & plazas – it’s easy to do a walking tour on your own
• Playa Del Este – catch the bus from the main square in town, it takes you directly there, don’t miss the last bus!
• Hop in as many old cars as possible!
• Head to the Fort
• Walk along the Malecon
• Museo De la Revolucion – a great museum and will give you a complete summary of the history of Cuba
• We did a day trip to Vinales from Havana and were able to split it with another couple

Eat / Drink:
• Where you can! Food is scarce.
• We were regulars of the beautiful tapas bar – El Chanchullero – super cheap, amazing food, and delicious rum. Be careful, it is easy to get smashed.
• Enjoy a cold drink and the sunset at Hotel Nacional (at the end of the Malecon)

Stay:
• Casa 1932 – owned by the lovely Luis. We found his place on Trip Advisor, and were able to email him (very rare!), get in quick, he books out quickly! All casa’s are roughly $30/night. We loved it here and he was extremely helpful.

Tips & Hints:
• Get out money as early as possible in the day. Throughout the day the banks get busier and busier. Try to get as much as possible; it’s a real nightmare going to the bank so best to stash away a large amount if you can. You’ll need your passport at the bank too.. Something we learned the hard way.
• The Cubans are extremely lovely. We never felt threatened or scared. They are genuinely really lovely people and are really patriotic of their country.
• Be prepared to be scammed… always! Double check everything.
• There are 2 types of currencies = the tourist and the local. Try to get onto the local. It’s SO cheap if you can. Restaurants / hotels / taxis ONLY accept tourist money. Head to supermarkets and you will be able to trade in the local currency.
• Buy a big container of water when you see it. Water is hard to come by. The water bottles only come in 600ml, and in the Cuban heat, you need a lot more than this. Head to a supermarket and buy a big 5L one.
• The food is tragic. Be prepared to get skinny. If you are on a budget, like we were, expect to go hungry. It’s hard work finding something good and healthy. It’s best to ALWAYS take the breakfast option at your Casa’s. Its only $5-10each, and well worth it!
• A taxi from the airport to Havana town should be roughly $30.
• It’s a tiring city, and you’ll need a nap most days!

Enjoy. It’s a funny place, full of history, lovely people, a beautiful culture, zesty cocktails, and some of the most interesting buildings I have ever seen. It’s honestly a different world.

Brad.

Mexico City

By February 9, 2015 Central America, Mexico

Our next stop was big old Mexico City, a city of chaos and commotion. Upon arriving here we were somewhat nervous of the obvious crimes rates, poverty and disarray the city is known for. 20150112-IMG_0031Hopping off the bus was chaotic enough, and then claiming a ‘secure’ taxi took over an hour, this city at first, had my heart going and the locks on all of my bags were double-checked. We drove through the city, seeing the poverty versus the privileged and markets setup anywhere there was a free spot on a road. A lot of plastic junk filled the streets in hope for passerby’s to purchase yet another Frida Kahlo tote bag. You would think they would take the initiative to sell something different from the other 1000 market neighbours. My image of the city started to turn when we came across the main city center with it’s beautiful colonial buildings, a huge parliament house and loads of gothic churches dressed in festive lights surrounding the main square that was turned into a ice rink. We had a few days here to kill before our flight to the Caribbean side of Mexico. And we sure did kill them.

First up I had to see what was going on in the main square. It looked like some sort of exhibition was happening, and sure enough I was right. Since it was New Years the government setup a huge ice rink for free in the middle of the city, and it was only open at night. 20150111-IMG_9962So at 9pm we got amongst it, collected our skates and pursued the line of keen kids. Safety was not a concern here, loads of children running around in bare feet, whilst others tramp through the crowds with their skates on ready to go. Madness. Two hours later we had skated to our hearts contempt between three ice rinks that were connected by little paths. It was the most interesting night we had had in a while! The main square was filled with fluorescent lights celebrating Feliz Navidad (Happy Christmas) and Feliz Ano Neuvo (Happy New Year). On our way home from the ice rink we stumbled across some friendly people riding a five person bike and there was conveniently two spots left. How could we not! It was eleven a night and we were on a tour of Mexico City with three others all on the same bike. It was as entertaining and random as it gets. I totally recommend it.

20150113-IMG_0088Next, we made the effort to go on our own expedition to the Teotihuacan Pyramids. It took two hours on public transport; it saved us some bucks by doing it ourselves rather than through an organized tour. These pyramids are located just outside of the city and showcase the ancient people who ruled the Mayan world. These pyramids are the largest in Latin America and were really interesting as you can climb to the top of each one and see the surrounding local towns and mountains. Brad envisioned how they would cut off their heads and roll them down the pyramid slides, just like in the movies, he wished that there were live demonstrations with some of the annoying tourists.

Whilst in Mexico City we also endeavored to a match of Mexican wrestling, known as Luche Libre. We had two other guys with us from our place that wanted to join, and since we were catching the subway at night it was a safety in numbers game and one was from Argentina with fluent Spanish in his tongue. This is very convenient in the back suburbs of Mexico City. Although it didn’t really work seeing as on the way there a couple of thugs tried to pick pocket our Argentinian. Lucky enough they were pretty horrible at it and we saw it happening from a mile away and nothing was taken. It was a bit of a Mexican job at pick pocketing. Who is the gringo now? We arrived at the ‘stadium’, bought the funny masks, and asked for a beer, only to be served two coronas in a huge cup… Brads dream.5 rounds of Mexican wrestling and beer stood before us, with characters pretending to wrestle, being hit, getting bloody, the local Mexicans were going mad and cheering whole heartedly for their man… or woman. Yes there was a round of women’s wrestling too. No cameras were allowed inside unfortunately, so no pictures for you.

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With the food, chaotic streets, packed buildings and first world shops (including a Zara and Starbucks somewhere where we could finally get a coffee with milk) we managed to fill our days here… just. Mexico city was seriously full on and made me tired at the end of every afternoon, a nanna nap was a daily necessity. The streets are dirty and there were lots of petty crimes happening constantly which left me always on my toes and ready for an argument. It was an interesting week here, way too long, but a city that was good for a tourist to see.

Holly.

Oaxaca

By February 7, 2015 Central America, Mexico

20150107-IMG_5898Oaxaca (pronounced WAH-HA-KAH) is a town in the central highlands of Mexico. We took another overnight bus from San Cristobal and arrived in Oaxaca eager to see what all the fuss was about.

The town itself is small but is filled with cafes, churches, cobblestoned streets and loads of artisanal shops where you can buy interesting and unique pieces traditional to Mexico. Oaxaca is known for their textiles and handicrafts so here there were many markets all competing with each others styles (to be honest I couldn’t see what everyone was on about). We explored them all and sifted through the heap of trinkets and beautiful food produce, including the local delicacy, dried spicy grasshoppers that only Brad was game enough to sample.

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Along with textiles and coffee the state is well known for the dark and rich drink, Mezcal. Mezcal is a strong liquor made from agave plants, a bit like Tequila although Mezcal is distilled in large barrels so the flavour has quite a distinct and woody taste. Whilst here we visited a Mezcal distillery nearby. We roamed through the Agave plants, witnessed the overall process and obviously tried the types of Mezcal… which was very strong and made the chest warm, not my kind of drink to have at 11am.

20150108-IMG_6488Whilst in Oaxaca we also went on a trip to a beautiful waterfall. The waterfall was unusual as it was completely petrified. The pools surrounding the waterfall were stunning and replicated a giant natural infinity pool. They were made from volcanic pressured water rising to the surface and were filled with limestone and other natural minerals that came from deep below the earth’s surface. We roamed around the area, walking to other water pools and viewing rocks to see all angles of the petrified limestone waterfall and the green mountains surrounding us, whilst Brad was looking for scorpions under dark rocks. No success there.

The food within Oaxaca was interesting and abundant. Whilst strolling the streets, we found some lovely ladies cooking home style tortillas; these were filled with chorizo and Oaxacan cheese and became a daily staple. The Oaxacans have several dishes they like to proudly call their own.

1) Mole – a black bean sauce, mixed with nuts and spices. It is a nice taste, but the overall appearance of it is off putting as it literally covers your plate in a black mess.

2) Dried grasshoppers, spiced to your liking. WTF!

3) The harsh and hearty drink of Mezcal

4) Hot Cocoa – a delicious mix of pure cocoa mixed with hot water, cinnamon and chili

5) Oaxacan Cheese – a delicious stringy cheese which they put on everything, a little bit like Mozzarella

6) Chorizo – Here they like to put chorizo on most things, which is fine by me. Chorizo tacos, gringas, tostadas. The chorizo isn’t like we get at home, it doesn’t come in sausage form, and it’s a lot spicier and meatier.

20150108-IMG_6406Overall we enjoyed our stay in Oaxaca, sampling all the traditional Mexican foods made by the local people and also having the chance to get out of the cities and visit country Mexico. I found that Oaxaca was very much ‘true Mexico’.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention that we visited the widest tree in the world. It’s called El Tule, meaning the tree of Tule, named after the city it’s in. It’s more than 2000 years old, and that’s the reason for so many pictures of the same tree in this post.

Holly.

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San Cristobal De Las Casas

By February 5, 2015 Central America, Mexico

The state of Chiapas, located in the south of Mexico is surrounded by stunning mountains and valleys, with the help of the traditional Mexican cultures and indigenous roots the state has kept its look, feel and style very distinct from the rest of Mexico.

20150103-IMG_5364The town of San Cristobal is surrounded by lush green mountain ranges, bringing with it the cold weather and icy fresh air. It sits at 7000ft above sea level hence why the need for scarves, jackets and the occasional beanie. The streets are filled with quaint colourful houses and numerous Mayan natives wearing their homemade threads, and selling their arts and crafts or delicious foods.

We arrived by overnight bus from Puerto Escondido and checked into our hostel. We were in a great location, near all of the hustle and bustle. San Cristobal is a town where you can walk to anywhere and everywhere very quickly. It has a beautiful temperature, making it idyllic for long walks and yummy picnics. The local markets are a must, filled with artisan products and probably the best tortillas known to man. Brad devoured 5+ right after having breakfast. How could you possibly say no to the 0.40c tacos on a handmade stand run by the macho Mexican men?

20150104-IMG_5817The colonial streets and alleyways, lined with the red roof tiles and white washed walls captured Brad immediately. This is a photographers dream. Brad was keen to practice his architecture snapping and here was perfect. Picture perfect. The town begs you to wander and explore, to discover the alleyways and the multiple hidden nooks and crannys. The cobblestoned streets lead you to charming plazas, churches, museums, restaurants, the best tapas bars, workshops, food stalls and the freshest coffee shops going round.

Whilst here it would be rude not to indulge in the many types of coffee and a sneaky hot chocolate made from 100% cocoa. Chiapas is one of Mexico’s (and the worlds) premier coffee growing regions and the cafes here did not disappoint. As Brad is a sucker for a good cup we made sure we treated ourselves to a few of the local, organic and exceptional blends on offer.

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All in all, this was probably one of my favourite little towns hidden in the south of Mexico. With beautiful people, a cooler temperature and delicious food promenades I thought 3 full days was plenty to soak up this interesting mountain lifestyle and explore the art deco architecture throughout.

Holly.

Puerto Escondido

By February 3, 2015 Central America, Mexico

Our first taste of Mexico happened to be a well known wave haven, Puerto Escondido. A rather small town situated in the Oaxacan state below a series of mountains on the Pacific Coast. For quite some time now it has been on my bucket list, with one failed attempt already due to the possibility of contracting swine flu in 2009. This was my second attempt.

Before I arrived here it seemed like the place was cursing me as every time we tried to organize our arrival it did not go to plan, this included failed accommodation, loss of spirits and the worst of all no spots left on our desired bus. The night before arriving to Puerto Escondido we were in a small town in the south of Mexico, just over the Guatemalan border called Tapachula. It was here that we received the information that there were no more buses going to Puerto Escondido for the next four days, which included Christmas day. Lucky for us with our limited Spanish we managed to negotiate an overnight bus trip that involved four separate buses and a visit to the Mexican desert, arriving in Puerto Escondido 17 hours later.

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The next day after our overnight hell of a bus ride we arrived at the somewhat illusive Puerto Escondido, bags under our eyes, plaque on our teeth and in desperate need of a shower. But before that could happen I needed to pay the pumping surf a visit for a few therapeutic barrels. I had made it here at last.

20141225-IMG_3245Once we checked in, showered and rested, reality sunk in that I was going to spend the next 10 days in our comfortable accommodation out the front of the famous Mexican pipeline. Whilst here fortunately for me it was necessary to camp out for 10 days over the Christmas and New Years holiday break as travelling within this time proves to be very difficult.

Puerto Escondido for me was a breath of fresh air from travelling. Everything I loved was in arms reach, we were living in pure comfort. Our place that we stayed at, Aqua Luna, was run by a friendly Australian, which in fact attracted many other likeminded Australians who became our friends and family over Christmas. Holly and I spent our days swimming in the pool, eating Rosies fish tacos, fishing for Marlin, drinking beers (or margaritas) watching the sunset, playing pool with our friends, reading our books and sampling every beach surrounding Puerto Escondido.

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The main attraction for me being in Puerto Escondido was Mexican pipeline and I was lucky enough to receive 3 really fun days of surf which I was very grateful for considering as it was not the perfect season.

On New Years Eve we were invited to a small privately run music festival that was half an hour down the coast. Holly and I and our friends from Aqua Luna filled two eskys full of beer and fireworks and we made our way down to see what all the fuss was about. When we arrived there was not a lot going on at that stage but we had two eskys full of beer on the beach and an idyllic Mexican sunset was about to start. We drank into the early evening letting off all of our fireworks before 8pm when things started to pick up and the party turned on.

Brad.

A Hidden Paradise

By February 1, 2015 Central America, Guatemala

It had been a long time coming, the amazing limestone pools of Semuc Champey, deep in the Guatemalan jungle. This small piece of paradise was high on our list right from the start of our trip and when we finally reached it seven months in it was definitely worth the wait. What a gem. Fresh turquoise water flowing over limestone bridges, from one pool to another nestled in between jungle-covered mountains.

20141219-IMG_4335Our stay at Semuc Champey was made much easier by staying at the beautiful Zeyphr lodge, although the staff were rather too cool the place was incredible. Perched on a mountain crest that was lower than the surrounding mountains and with a strong flowing river carving out the valley floor below that wrapped around our accommodation. It was one of the more beautiful places we have ever stayed. From our three story thatched roof shack the views across the valley were stunning. Everyday we woke to the sun lighting up the neighbouring hill with bright orange hues that reflected back into the room.

The day after arriving at Zephyr Lodge we set off for the full day adventure to Semuc Champey. From the lodge it was a bumpy 14-kilometer ride in the back of a truck, which by the way is the preferred method of transport by the locals, usually with twenty friends. After our entertaining truck ride we arrived at the wide fast flowing river that is fed from Semuc Champey where we got changed into our board shorts and sneakers which for the boys is not so bad, but for the girls this meant bikinis and sneakers. I felt every last bit of embarrassment for them. This was not a good look, no matter how pretty they were.

Once the girls suppressed their embarrassment we climbed up a small cliff face into the opening of a cave that that was filled with water knee deep. Our guide for the tunnels then lit candles that would be our only source of light for the journey in. Meanwhile I put my hand on a nearby rock for support when a spider the same size as my hand crawled over it. Yeah I squealed and everybody laughed. After my near death experience we ventured into the dark abyss with only candlelight wading through waist deep water in sneakers and board shorts or bikinis if you were unlucky.

Waist deep then turned into “shit I cant touch the bottom deep”, treading water awkwardly with sneakers hoping to stay afloat so your candle, the only bit of light does not go out. We swam like two year olds through the dark cave until we reached a waterfall cascading from five meters above us, this would form the next part of our cave adventure.

It was light like the 900’s, Game of Thrones style, candles slowly burning either side of the waterfall jammed in crevasses giving it an authentic cave look. Shadows were flickering on the cave around us from the wave of the candlelight that is being blown by the water rushing by. We took turns in scaling the waterfall climbing up a rope that was thoughtfully placed directly in the center of the water flow to make life hard. It was challenging but we all made it and no one died.

I was having the time of my life by this stage, it was unbelievable, I had never experienced anything like this before, and it felt like another world. Swimming through caves was way better than I had anticipated. Our cave adventure came to an end 1.5km inside the cave where a pool just large enough to fit a reasonably sized human in if they decided to jump off a 4 meter cliff. It just so happens there was a 4-meter cliff above it and we were in Guatemala where safety is at least 10 years off being a thing. So, one by one we took turns at risking serious injury for a small amount of thrill. It was so worth it.

By now I have probably lost you, but if you are still reading this I guess not yet, please don’t go I promise I will get to Semuc Champey, after the swing and the bridge jump. So much action in a day, I know! Ok so briefly between our crazy cave quest and the wonderful Semuc we swung on this outrageous rope swing that flung us between metal poles out into a murky rushing river. Like I said safety is coming to Guatemala. Holly and I politely let the others have their turn first and they did not hit the horizontal metal poles and cause themselves any horrific injures so we had a go! It was a blast and we each had three goes before heading to the next dangerous activity, jumping off a huge 12-meter rickety bridge. With adrenaline pumping through the body it was time for a lunch stop and then a hike up to the peak that over looked the star attraction of the day, Semuc Champey.

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We made it the top of the mountain that overlooked the series of limestone pools at the bottom of the deep valley. After numerous photos and stares of amazement we descended the mountain as quickly as possible to reach the edges of the turquoise pools. It was as pretty from the bottom as it was from the top. The only thing left to do was to strip off and frolic, bathe, swim, jump, laze and any other synonym to do with enjoying beautiful fresh water lime stone pools in the middle of Guatemala. It was a set of natural infinity pools linking each other by waterfalls and natural slippery slides. Pure bliss.

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Brad.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

By January 8, 2015 Central America, Guatemala

Before going to Lake Atitlan I read a few articles about what to see and do there and I came across quotes, more than once, claiming it was the most beautiful lake in the world. I thought this was a big call considering Lake Como in Italy exist and so does Narrabeen lake…

20141216-IMG_9726We arrived by a small van from Antigua that reached the edge of one of the high cliffs that surrounded Lake Atitlan and I started to agree with this quote, A LOT! It was absolutely breathtaking. From the van window as we weaved our way down the face of the cliff I witnessed a scene from heaven, if that exists. There below, was a deep blue lake that was at the center of a ring of giant cone shaped volcanoes some active and some dormant. At the base of the hills lining the shores of the lake beyond the low clouds in all directions lay different villages, all with their own unique vibes, cultures and communities.

We visited the town of San Pedro, which was situated across the lake accessed by a small speedboat. We stayed in a hostel with a view; from our $12 room we had million dollar views. Up on the hill, looking across the glassy lake towards another town at the base of a towering cliff. This never got old.

During our three day stay we went kayaking across the lake, gliding through the glassy waters to where we could pull the kayak up on the rock to swim in the fresh waters without another human in sight, just volcanoes.

Brad.

Antigua

By January 5, 2015 Central America, Guatemala

Wow, what a town. Antigua is stunning. The clean cobblestoned streets lined with an assortment of different colored houses boarded by active volcanoes spewing ash into the sky as regular as the sun comes up.

20141213-IMG_4119We spent three peaceful days in Antigua enjoying the relieving cold temperatures that come with the higher elevation and we enjoyed every moment of it. Antigua is the little posh brother of Guatemala City, it’s the place that every person makes a mad dash to, when they find themselves in the dirty big capital of Guatemala. It’s filled with modern cafés and restaurants, trendy bars and hundreds of foreign students learning Spanish accompanied by rich American tourists being catered for to the tiniest detail.

Whilst in Antigua, after a nice morning coffee from one of the great cafes in town, Holly and I were walking home when I spotted a near by mountain peak spewing ash high into the sky, forming a perfect mushroom cloud. After a quick cuss to direct holly’s attention towards the erupting volcano and also to express my amazement I ran down the street like I was being chased by robbers to get my camera for the shot of my life. 20141213-IMG_4183Unfortunately by the time I had returned the eruption had stopped and all that remained was the ash being carried away the breeze high in the sky.

Our accommodation actually ran expeditions to the top of this very volcano that had just erupted, but after our exhausting experience in Nicaragua a twelve-hour return trip up a volcano didn’t seem that fun anymore.

Brad.

A quick visit to Isla Ometepe

By January 4, 2015 Central America, Nicaragua

In the middle of Nicaragua sits a giant lake unimaginatively named Lake Nicaragua. In the middle of lake Nicaragua, well a bit on the left of the lake is an island called Ometepe. Here we spent two days exploring the dirt roads that circle the island creating a figure of eight shape between two giant and perfectly shaped volcanoes.

20141206-IMG_3939On our first day, we visited this amazing natural spring that we swam in. The water had made its way down the step volcano and had been trapped in a gorgeous rock pool that was bordered by thick trees filled with tweeting birds and a rope swing. The water was crystal clear and super refreshing after our hiccup about deciding to walk there (6kms later). It took us an hour each way in the blistering sun whilst being passed by more informed travellers with their push bikes.

The next day we arranged with a local guide to take us up the neighbouring volcano called Maderas. This one was the smaller of the two on the island and luckily for us also the dormant one of the two, it also gave great views across the island towards the larger active volcano. Our morning kicked off at 5:30 with a six-kilometer ride to the base of the volcano where we would meet our guide. From here it was a 5.5-kilometer hike up, and not surprisingly the same distance down. It was going to be tough. Being lazy backpackers as it is, the bike ride to the volcano had Holly and myself puffed out already, even before we had began. This was amusing to our guide. It was 4 hours to the top, and we were met with some of the muddiest terrain we had ever walked with each of us having our turns at flailing in the mud, me with my DSLR camera in hand.

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We eventually made it to the top and descended down into the crater where we rested at the shores of a lake where the caldera once sat. It was beautiful, if a little cloudy but it always is up there, which was the reason behind the intense mud and lush moss covered jungle that surrounded us.

20141206-IMG_3965Coming back down was just as hard and we still had to climb out of the Crater with the help of ropes and a push from behind. We were exhausted, by the time we reached the base everything hurt, not a muscle was left unstrained. Our clothes and my camera where covered in mud and we were glad it was done. Now for the 6km bike ride back into town.

Brad.