A Travellerspoint blog

South America Adventure Starts....in Colombia

sunny 27 °F

So after nearly 6weeks I have completed my 1st leg of Central America. The best places that I enjoyed were Oaxaca, Lanquin, Semuc Champey (Guatemala), Granada, Isle de Ometepe (Nicaragua), Panama City…oh yes Tulum! I was not impressed by Managua or Leon probably due to the rain.
I was picked up by this really nice Panamanian cab driver who loved my accent lol who had dropped me off to the airport and I was very upset that I was leaving so early…but onwards and upwards. Checked in, looked around, grabbed a coffee and I couldn’t resist but to buy myself an authentic Panamanian Jack hat! The flight was so quick that I didn’t even get to see the end of The Bad Teacher. I arrived in the cocaine country Colombia. Surprisingly I stayed in the airport most of the day because stupid me I didn’t do any research of what to do but I knew I had to get to Santa Marta to meet up with a volunteering group. Finally got to the bus station in Bogota and found my bus to Santa Marta and it should only take me 16hours. 24hrs later I got to Santa Marta where I was greeted by Bridgette and Cerys the girls from the volunteering group. Shattered, hungry and cold, I finally got to La Brisca…my hostel. I had dinner with some of the girls and was looking forward to my sleep but by now I was so wide awake. The currency is so weird I was told for one night at the hostel would cost me 15,000 pesos which obviously messed around with my head to say the least – it works out to be like £5.00.

Santa Marta has nothing to see apart from being a main hub for getting to and from local places. I also started to find out that the living cost here is pretty high. I went to the local supermarket to buy some essentials (eggs, cereal, tuna, crackers, soya) all came up to £7.00 compared to the 50p worth of fruit and veg that I got when I was in Nicaragua. At this point I decided to let the volunteering group that I can no longer take part as I had to pay for travel, accommodation and food and I felt I it was not practical to just do it for a week in a area where there is nothing to do. Street corners have the odd prostitutes, drunks and drug dealers. Finally, I met Jeten who is a New Zealander and we decided to travel to an area 600m above sea level to a place called Minca. We met a couple from bonny Scotland Gillian and Mark and walked around Mica and came across a several waterfalls weird and wonderful flowers, colourful birds and big butterflies.

Halloween was spent here in Mica and it was so cool to see how the 500 habitants celebrate. There was a small disco with children dressed up from soldiers to crocodiles, loud music and during our evening meal of Pizza we were approached by the kids singing a song which by the sounds of it was a how we say ‘Trick or Treat’. As the evening drew closer and the kids went home the adults came out in full costume glory. In Mexico they will be celebrating the day of the dead which is something I would have loved to have taken part in.
I have decided to stay another day here in Minca just to gather my thoughts and figure out what my next action plan is gonna be. Jeten left today but I will be travelling to Cartegena with Mark and Gillian.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 12:31 Archived in Colombia Comments (0)

Panama City Baby

sunny 33 °F

I got on couch-surfing and was lucky enough to meet up with Jose Chandler an air stewardess. He had picked me up from my hostel and showed me Panama. We went to the renowned canal which was cool to see nothing exciting but one of those things if you don’t go you will probably regret. Inside there were a few mini museums on the canals itself and also aquarium/local wildlife. I was lucky enough to see the local tribal people here but obviously could not take a picture :o( After here he had taken me through a mini jungle looking park which took me (where I came across frogs, water tortoises, jesus runners and mango trees) to the highest point so you can see the whole of the city. Again as the weather was unpredictable it was ok when we were down but as soon as we reached to the top I could just about see the city – it was nice!
Once back down Jose took me to a local eatery place where I had a chicken soup dish which I hate to say it but my dad is so much better hahaha. The day was drawing to an end and we finished off at the old town which was so beautiful and romantic – just wished Wentworth Miller was there lol. I grabbed some coffee and a chocolate brownie and we sat in the Plaza which overlooked the skyscrapers from downtown. I have not been to Tokyo but from images that I have seen this just looked crazy you could barley hear all the traffic and on the other side you could see the Canal where all the boats where coming in and going out. Just beautiful – I was glad that Jose showed me around – thank god for Couchsurfing!

In my research I found out that there was a Sikh community in Panama and was excited to locate the Gurdwara (temple). I got hold of the address, took me ages to get a cab but finally was in one. In my Indian suit I was ready to celebrate Diwali Panama style. Was excited to see the Gurdwara and was greeted with a ‘Sat Sri Akal’ from the priest - I felt back at home. Unfortunately the Diwali programme of prayers was going to kick off at 6pm and I had arrived at the temple for 8am. I was grateful when I was invited to stay at the priest house (which was adjoined to the temple) for the whole day. His wife had made me a proper desi breakfast which was masala tea, 3 chappatis, mango pickle, yoghurt with a medley of vegetables…oh was I happy. During the day I was constantly given Indian sweets such as gulum jamun, ladoos to mark this special occasion. Around about midday I helped out preparing the evening meal with local sikh women. This was so much fun, felt like I was back at home. From 12pm till 5pm I had peeled and roughly chopped 20-30 odd onions, 2 dozen tomatoes, washed big utensils and prepared over 100 chappatis. We had a break where we all hurdled together munching on some samosa and tea…oh yes the wife is a chief at an Indian restaurant…sweet. I also watched her make jelebi. Come 6pm their 2 sons came back from school 5 and 10yr old who spoke the amazing Spanish and Punjabi that was so sweet to see. I was gifted with a pair of really nice shoes as I was only wearing flip flops and I’m glad because I felt underdressed. The evening was followed with some prayers, Kirtan (holy hymns), an amazing firework display and then we all sat down to eat what was we had prepared during the day. I was given 2 days worth of food for my journey – an amazing day!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 12:28 Archived in Panama Tagged diwali 2011 Comments (0)

Passing thru Costa Rica

18hr bus journey and I have entered illegally lol.

semi-overcast

This leg of the journey was tough I was so glad that I bumped in to a group of Germans who I met when trekking up the Volcano and they were also going in the same direction as me. Travelling on your own is cool in some parts as in you can do whatever and whenever but the downside that I have experienced is the long haul travelling and the boarder crossing can be daunting if you are on your own. So we had to get to the Costa Rican boarder which was so relaxed that they did not even stamp my entering stamp. We got on a bus to ‘’ and then from here we got on another bus towards San Jose. The boys had got off half way and I was left until I got to my destination. I was grateful to have met a local who spoke really good English and helped me to get to the Tica bus Terminal in San Jose. Had my left over pizza for dinner at the bus terminal and Ricardo who worked at the terminal was helpful and gave me wifi to use as I was without internet for a couple of days….and trust me you feel so unconnected with everyone. I was also glad that I only had to wait 2hrs until my bus had left Costa Rica towards Panama City. So arriving at the boarder was not a breeze we were there for a good 4hrs! When leaving the Costa Rican boarder they said I had come in to the country illegally as my passport was not stamped and I thought oh shit! But thank god the guy allowed me and let me go. Finally I arrived in Panama City, where Prison Break was filmed I was so looking forward to seeing this country but I was hit with some serious traffic…I was back in a metropolitan city. For 10 minute journey it took me 30minutes and the guy did not drop me to the right place lol. Eager to just get in a hostel I managed to locate one and I was glad!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 12:26 Archived in Costa Rica Tagged - costa rica pura vida Comments (0)

San Juan de la Sur & the beautiful island of Ometepe!

Nicaragua - last minute changes

semi-overcast

Leaving Granada and making our way to San Juan de la Sur with the gang was standard on a chicken bus and arrived at the most loud annoying market/main hub for all bus terminal ‘Rivas’. As soon as we stepped of the bus we were hounded by dozens of cab drivers literally taking our bags and ushering us to their cars – we had no time to think let along to breath! Due to the rain we had to make a quick decision and got in to 2 cabs and made our way to San Juan. When we arrived in this small surfing town we had to cross over this foot bridge which kind of reminded me of the San Francisco Bridge but in a smaller scale. We arrived at our hostel all soaking drenched lol this was nicely followed by a cold shower! Didn’t do much in San Juan it was a more and less place where I could get my head around on what just happened (being made a lone traveller) so it was more of case of ‘me time’ I did go around the town bumped in to past travellers and even hit the only night-bar which was nice. After a few days I decided that I had to make tracks as my flight to Panama City was approaching very quickly and I wanted to go to Isle de Ometepe.

Leaving very early I made my way to the bus stop jumped on and was dreading going back to Rivas. I took a deep breath and off I went. Go to the shit hole and the only way I was going to the port boarder was to take a taxi. The cost should have been $1.00 but being a effing backpacker they bumped up the price and even through some form hustling I was getting no where and the wankers charged me $4.00. As you can imagine I was pissed and upset but I had learnt that this kind of shit is going to happen throughout this trip. I was approached by a nice guy at the tourist information who had calmed me down and helped me get on the boat and had provided me with other information. Approaching the Volcanic Island just made everything worthwhile. I was happy when I saw other travellers on the boat who I got talking to and I also tried out my Spanish with a local old dude. Arrived at the Island a within an hour and got on to mini van which was rammed full of bags and people. It was about an half an hour bus journey to Charco Verde a further 10minute walk towards my hostel I finally made it. The view was divine, on a small island surrounded by clear waters and the sounds of howling monkey’s lol. I went in to my room and I was glad to see bags…only to suggest that I had company. Once I settled myself in my roomies turned up. Kris and Tom were from Alaska and they had invited me to go a local cold springs. They hired bikes for their stay in the island so I excited and jumped on the back of Kris. My 1st time on a bike and I had such a great time. We were joined by Keeley and her bfriend Mark. Got to the cold springs, it was small hidden gem where I witnessed the fresh water appearing from the ground…does that make sense? I had to make a small video so I can show rather then describe it. Me and Keeley were also interviewed by the tourist police…we went for a long bike ride and saw amazing wildlife, loads of bird spotting, I also came across a coil snake and very loud monkeys. We had dinner at Santa Domingo nothing special just a sandwich but had great company. The ride back was crazy as we were caught in heavy rain that felt like glass (weird) big dragonflies and mosquitoes all hitting your face. Ended up chilling in the bar next door to our hostel where I felt Kris was being rather nice towards me lol.

I had arranged to meet up with another couple who were planning to hike up Merida (one of the Volcanoes) so I had left my hostel for about 7.30 hoping to catch the bus to their hostel. I ended up walking 6km, then I hitched-hiked twice until I managed to hopped on the bus by the time I got to the hostel the owner told me that the couple had already left…arrrgghhhh so luckily the guy decided to take me there obviously for a fee. So the trek/hike I thought it’s going to be more and less straight forward right…I mean I trekked up Volcan Masaya… It took us an hour to just reach the foot of the Volcano at this point I thought this is going to be hard. To cut this log short it took me a whole 8 hours…yes 8 bloody hours to the crater and back. I was going through jungle like conditions combined with rock climbing and being short didn’t help, slipped a few times, very steep going up, slippery coming down, narrow gully’s I mean I felt like Bear Gryrils lol all in humid conditions. When I did reach the crater it was worth while as it was a lagoon – pristine clean waters and I couldn’t wait to get in as I was so hot and my shoes were full of mud and crap. Once I made it down all the other groups and gone their separate ways and I had to figure out how to get back. By this time I was starving as I only had fruit during the 8hrs. The buses are so unreliable and the girl at the bus stop had been waiting for nearly 2hrs. She also surprised me when she did not know where London was! I ended up walking towards Santa Domingo managed to hitch again until I spotted Kris and the other guys…so relieved as it was 7pm and the buses had stopped at 6pm. I ended up going in to town with Kris to get a well deserved pizza. The ride back to my hostel was amazing as the roads were pitch black, scary when going past the cemetery but the night sky was so beautiful as the stars were so bright. I was glad that I got the courage to leave on my own.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 12:22 Archived in Nicaragua Comments (0)

Next stop El Salvador...

rain

El Tunco was the area that we stayed in. A very small area that had more and less everything that you need but a lack of fresh veg..oh yeah another thing you would expect being so close to fresh fish that seafood would be cheap...well think again ££££. I did get crazy over black sand...I remember taking a trip to the beach in the evening and it was bliss. Ok this is gonna sound so corny but what the hell. Imagine a warm breeze, the stars glistening brigtly against the full moon against the strong\wild crazy waves. The size of the pacific was mahussive and powerful no wonder this is one of the best places to come and surf.

Leaving Antigua in an 11 seater we met 2 Canadians Bengy and Alex who were crazy and extremely tall...nothing important just thought I would mention that lol. The border crossing for leaving El Salvador was a breeze but entering Honduras was a joke as we blatantly were ripped off for the entry fee. We then had to leave Honduras (like seconds later lol) so we had to pay the exit fee and the entry fee for entering Nicaragua…phew! Finally in Nicaragua, the journey towards our 1st stop (Managua) was embraced with loads of green scenery but as we entered at the most smallest bus station, Managua reminded me of Hackney/Whitechapel. An area that is close to the city but you can see that the area was still stricken of poverty. We actually decided to use couchsurfing for a couple of nights in Managua. Our host was a 28year fire fighter – to be honest his house was interesting…the walls of each room were not completely intact with the ceiling…does that make any sense? I ended up making the most of our stay there by participating in a bit of break-dancing with his friend’s haha it killed time. Not a place to go out in the evenings. I went to the supermarket to get a load of fresh veg and stuff and it only came up to 50p!!!! I got at least weeks worth as well quality! Anyways, we had left Managua and decided to go to Leon. A colonial place not that far from Managua. When we arrived the weather was shit again…a lot of the activities were cancelled due to this. I basically got to see the whole of Leon in one afternoon so pretty small. I met this couple that had an amazing story which I just so need to share. So they sold more and less everything they had back at home and purchased an American school bus. They had converted this bus in to a caravan/hostel bus which had 6 beds, kitchen and a bathroom; they basically would take on travellers and move around to certain places whilst getting paid! I attended an evening of live jamming session that was also organised by this wacky couple in a small hidden bar. It was amazing…a French rapper, a Brazilian singer, a bongo player, an acoustic guitarist and Jamaican singer…crazy night!

We hit Granada next. Again another colonial town which reminded me of Antigua but slightly nicer. I indulged in some traditional Gallo Pinto (rice and beans) which was rather bland but it’s everywhere so I thought I’d give a go. I met some really cool people at Hostel Oasis…best hostel so far. It had an indoor swimming pool and a whopping 15 pc’s! The weather picked up as well :o) I checked out with Marc (Trinidadian 6’3 dude – who everyone was obsessed with) and Imbla (Israel chica) the nightlife in Granada was happening - a lot of reggae-ton and salsa beats. We stayed in Granada for a few nights and visited Masaya Volcano, Masaya Market and Lago de Apoyo. The volcano trip was crazy we basically hiked up to the crater which was oozing out some heavy sulphur dioxide so we were given gas masks and protective eye gear. We also went in two caves. One that had bats flying around everywhere and the other was just dam scary filled with water, lizards and other creepy crawlies lol. The market was nothing special to be honest but we did come across a school band that was practising. I made a recording of this – I felt I was in the Rio carnival.

Set in a picturesque valley brimming with wildlife, the lovely Lago de Apoyo Crater Lake was wicked. I was kayaking around for a bit, then decided to get in to one of those rubber dingy thingamaging finishing with a bit of tanning (not that I need anymore). The whole day spent was so chilled out – I had a great time.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 22:32 Archived in El Salvador Tagged and - granada nicaragua honduras leon managua Comments (0)

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