England vs Costa Rica – a good excuse to make gallo pinto

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I don’t ever need any forcing, but the Costa Rica vs England match was the perfect impotus to get some gallo pinto on the go. I cannot actually claim any authenticity we didn’t even have any pinto beans and kidney beans is no substitute. So it was more middle of nowhere Bolivian rice and beans than decent Costa Rican cuisine. The plantains weren’t even ripe either but who cares when you have Lizano Salsa Inglese. I’m trying to ration the sauce to the best of my ability because who knows when we’ll get it again, but boy oh boy it makes anything delicious. With chilli chicken, sour cream and a fried egg it was as close to the real thing as I could get. Makes losing that little bit sweeter, not that I’m remotely interested!

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Stand up paddle yoga in Bocas del Toro

SUP yoga

If you are proficient in yoga and you feel like you would like a new challenge, or if you simply want to try something fun on the water than stand up paddle (SUP) yoga is for you. Never have I had my balance tested in such an intense way before until I tried doing a round of sun salutations on a paddle board. I was practicing alone on an absolute mill pond, but the slightest of waves or wake from a passing boat is enough to throw you off entirely. Luckily it combines 3 of my favourite things, swimming, yoga and surfing all in one package.
I was fortunate enough to try it out by renting an SUP board for an hour in Bocas del Toro, Panama on boxing day. The bay on Isla Carenero  has absolutely perfect SUP conditions with seemingly never ending flat ocean and the views are breathtaking. So after you have finished a session you can paddle around and explore the surrounding area. What’s more the water is really shallow with a sandy bottom so if you fall off its really easy to push yourself back up on to the board again.
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Guest blog post: Sebastian takes the Panamanian floor

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Kate noticed that there has been a lot of viewers in Switzerland, so she suggesred that I write the post about glorious Panamá. Unluckily I have to write about the Country where we confessed the most sins. The days around Christmas and New years where when we upturned all our efforts in abstaining from alcohol.
So we came into Panama on the 24th of January. We had the Fondue, the chocolate and the presents in our bags that my mum brought from home. The border was probably the coolest in the whole world and awakened a lot of good feelings when we crossed it. It is an old train bridge with wooden boards nailed onto it, so that you don’t fall between the gaps.
We arrived already in the afternoon in Bocas del Toro because we treated ourselves for once to a shuttle instead of a converted American schoolbus. A Panamanian guy called Johnny brought us to our hostel but as usual when you book a Hostel online you get disapointed (that’s why we normaly don’t!). But at Christmas you have no option to risk not having a bed on a tropical island. The light in the room wasn’t working and the ceiling had to be fixed. It took an hour until “the boy” had sorted it and we were able to enter our room.
Immediately we put our swimming gear on and took a collectivo to Bocas del Drago. The beach was nice but I started moaning and dreaming a bit that I’d once really love to see a beach like they have in the holiday brochures. We got around the corner of a resort and there it was, absolute paradise! It made it easily in my top 5 beaches I’ve ever been.
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The palms lean into the water, the white sandbank is no wider than 3 meters and behind it the green jungle starts. The sand is soft as silk and the water smooth and turquoise.We walked along the beach and watched the sunset before we headed back to the main town. As Kate was under the shower the hostel manager decided to put a new wardrobe in our room and install curtains. So “the boy” who wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer began working. He put the pole for the curtains so low that over 20cm of the lenght was touching the floor. The dust of the holes he drilled was all over our bed. Please don’t forget that Kate was at this point still under the shower metres away from the noisy drill.
Our traditional Swiss Christmas eve dinner was at least delicious. We ate the fondue and had a good bottle of red wine with it. After we opened our presents we went to Iguanabar. There we accidentally met my friend Valentina from home! We spent the rest of the evening in the sitting area which was open and on wooden stilts out in the sea. We dangled our feet in the water and drank the best beer so far we had on this trip, Balboa.
Christmas Day we started classy with peanut butter jelly toast, boiled ham, homemade cake and Mimosas. English folks might know this under the name bucks fizz. The only other hostel guest joined straight in when he saw us on the balcony. Together we took a watertaxi to Isla Carenero to the famous Aqualounge. The outside area was also on stilts and had an amazing trampoline and swings to jump directly into the water.
Back on our island we met two other guys who told us about a party at Estrella beach, the paradise beach we went the day before. One of the guys, Jordan, told us that he used to date one of the main characters in the series that we’re watching right now, Treme. Kate Googled his name the other day and found out that he was the producer of the Black Dahlia!
We grabbed some Balboas and took the collectivo. There were a lot of people there but I wouldn’t have called it a party as it was so relaxed. We sat in the sea and enjoyed life catching starfish. As we sat in the shallows there two men staring at us. When i asked them what’s wrong I got a curious answer. They questioned back to ask if I am a glasses model and if not, that I should become one. First I was a bit confused about that statement but when I realised that they really meant it I was quite flattered. Back in town we met my friend again for a Christmas dinner. The food wasn’t great, it took hours to be served but at least Valentina was good company.
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The next day we took a watertaxi to a beach at Hospital Point and spent our afternoon snorkeling once more on this trip. We both saw squid for the first time in their own environment. They are actually really cute with massive eyes.
We returned and were quite surprised that people had actually checked in at the hostel. The simple reason that this happened was just, that it was the only one with beds left. The rest of the island was fully booked. After we had cooked and eaten dinner we got to meet some funny people from the hostel. Three other Swissies were part of that too! We played drinking games together and discussed ways to smuggle drugs from Mexico to the States via carrier pigeon for hours. Way too late into the evening we decided to swim to the Aqualounge where there should have been a party. On the way to the pier we met Johnny again who really reminded us of Mr Chow from the Hangover. We dragged him along for the ride. There one of the group had to take the watertaxi to carry all our belongings. We found a volunteer who joined Johnny on the boat.
The distance between the two islands is no more than 120 meters. We swam under the stilts and got directly to the swings and the trampoline. There was not a single soul there, absolutely no party, but what happened there was unreal. All the six of us turned into children. We shouted and laughed when we used the trampoline and the swings. It was so loud that the night guard came. He put half of our group on a watertaxi. One of the Swissies, Kate and me jumped off the deck and swam directly to our island again. Unfortunately the other half of the party had our clothes and room keys. On Isla Colon we weren’t able to find anyone from the rest of the gang. We searched in clubs, the hostel and the park. The only guy we found was crazy Johnny on the dancefloor in Iguana bar. The people were staring at us because we were in our swimming costumes and wet from head to toe. He told us that everyone was there two minutes ago and that they went to another club. He wanted to bring us there. Naturally not a soul was in the other place too at this hour. Disappointed by Chow we got back to the hostel where everyone was waiting for us. They filled us in that they hadn’t been to any clubs and had left Johnny straight after the ferry…
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(The distance we swam!)
Next morning we had to check out because our room had been reserved. We tried to find a hostel all morning without any luck. There was absolutely nothing available due to the arriving NYE crowd. There was no ther way than leaving the island. So we went to Isla Bastimentos which has a completely different atmosphere. It’s relaxed and quiet. We tried paddle boarding that day and landed on another beautiful beach. Bocas del Toro really is paradise.
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Before we headed to Panama City we had a stop between Bocas and David in the rainforest. We heard about the Lost and Found Hostel with a funny treasure hunt there. It is NOT worth going there for the hunt as its just impossible to finish. They claim it to be around three hours. It took us already almost four just to get to clue number three out of seven. At one point we nearly gave up completely when a massive snake blocked our path. I poked it with a stick before we both ran away. At least they have Rocky the bear, but be warned the bunk beds are crazy, the top one is 4m high.
We arrived at 5 o’clock in the morning in Panama City. That’s the worst time you can wake up in a capital. Too late to find a hostel and too early to start the day. So we slept a few more hours in the terminal before being woken up by security. Then I called my friend Sebastian who is a good friend of my Costa Rican exchange brother Andres. He showed us a big part of the city. We slept at his house outside of the city centre. The next morning he brought us to the canal with all our stuff that security kindly looked after. The museum itself wasn’t too spectacular but the canal is an impressive construction.
We checked into a really cool hostel in the old town. It had a terace which was perfect for the upcoming fireworks that night. We prepared ourselves well for that night because it was new year’s eve. It was good fun to watch the fireworks and to celebrate with all the guests on the roof. We knew it wouldn’t top Christmas because that was just perfect but we had a great night out in a really cool club that was a derelict warehouse.
The next day when we went to downtown it was eerily cool. It’s tradition for Panamanian people to go to the beach on the first of January. This meant that the city was completely empty. It was like being in a ghost town. Our first meal for 2014 was McDonald’s. Not because that was our desire but because it was the only ‘restaurant’ open. It was just dead. Sometimes we walked for about ten minutes without seeing someone else. And that was right in the city centre! At least we had fun watching the police catching pregnant lizards and a crazy old man making meow noises in the park.
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We slept again at Sebastian’s that night and the next morning he drove us to the airport. We were sad to say goodbye to Sebas but really excited for the second half of our Journey. New year, new continent!

Costa Rica, the Switzerland of Central America

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It was always a given that Costa Rica would be vastly different compared to the other central American countries but the shock factor was imminent.  Crossing the dustbowl border was straightforward enough but we were welcomed by the attitudes we were warned about.  I was forewarned that Costa Rican people can often be quite indirect when disagreeing with you, especially with business transactions. Within hours of arriving a man at the border refused to discuss currency exhange due to a minor language miscommunication, a taxi driver slammed the door and drove off after refusing to charge by the meter and another driver scammed us out of a walking distance fare. A nice rude awakening in a new country, but we weren’t going to let it affect our judgement of the rest of the country, everyone else has been phenomenal.
We arrived in Tilaran in the wind and rain only to discover that there is only one bus per day to Monteverde so it was necessary to stay the night. But it was a pleasure to stay somewhere with the luxuries of carpet and hot water. Luckily Seb’s sister spent a year living nearby so we spent the evening trying to track down her host family. We found some leads using a photograph and a list of names, sadly the village of Sabalito was too far to venture too without an address so we headed to Monteverde the very next day. The roads were terrible, a 40km journey took 2.5 hours thanks to a road block from a tractor on a single lane track, so we sat and waited for it to finish the road builing so we could continue. We found a place with a kitchen and cooked up a storm during a storm, turns out the weather can be quite the swine during rainy season. But we were up early enough in the morning to spot a sloth before a zipline adventure. It was a pricey treat of an activity but just think of it as Go Ape on crack, because this was a whole new ball game of tree top advenures. Some of the wires were up to a kilometer long across the valleys on rainforest canopy, and because they we so high the views were incredible. Weirdly I found the small height rappelling one of the most frightening because you had to jump off and defy your instincts of a lifetime. But it didn’t come close to the pure fear of a Tarzan swing, which is a mere few seconds of solid adrenaline as you swing 20m at full speed hoping that you’re not the heifer that becomes a tragic statistic. The final superman line is insane. You’re suspended by a harness secured on your back and feet this time, so you get more of a sense of truly flying, arms out face first, the photos won’t do it justice.
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We met up with our travel family one last time before we set off on different paths for Christmas, and before we met families of a different kind. We headed back to Tilaran and were picked up at the bus station by the host family of Seb’s sister. It was indescribable how good it felt to be in an immaculately clean and cosy home after so long. The tiny village of Sabalito is home to less than 200 people, so there were no tourists in sight, we had a few days of pure relaxation, learning how to salsa, getting a haircut with the aid of a translator, and playing football in the rain with the whole youth population of the village. The whole family were amazing hosts, we didn’t stop eating homemade food all day, which was wonderful but I was gaining weight at a rate of notts. We borrowed the car for the morning to drive to a yoga class at a retreat in the forest. The studio was a wooden platform suspended over the river below which made a nice setting with the pitter patter of water dropping all around. Driving on unpaved roads was worlds away from the comfort of the states, which must have been an initial shock to the expat masses in the area. I can’t believe how many Americans were living around the lake. Nicas had referred to it as ‘Costa Gringo’ on numerous ocassions but we thought that was an exaggeration and part of the general banter between the nations. We were obviously really sad to leave our new comfortable life but we had to make it on the road in time to visit families number two and three.
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We headed south towards San Jose and got off at the crossroads heading towards Grecia, where we were met by the lovely Gonzalo, the father of Seb’s exchange brother to head to our second cosy home in this green nation. We were treated with exactly the same exceptional hospitality, it was fast becoming all too tempting to cancel the newly rebooked flights and stay put for the duration of the trip. What’s more the house pets were amazing, Lolita the talking parrot was hilarious, and went bezerk every morning. Gatillo the world’s best cat was also becoming my favourite animal of the trip so far, I just couldn’t put him down. We had plenty of day trips from Grecia to entertain us, one was to spring clean the holiday house in the mountains, we explored our way down to the river macheteing our way through the dense greenery, really doing our bit for the rainforest. I normally swell like the incredible hulk after mosquito bites, but throughout the whole of central America I’d had no issues until now.  Costa Rica has some sort of mutant strain that destroy you in one bite, so I was back to looking like a diseased mess again. We also headed to the entertainment complex on the outskirts of the capital to see the second instalment of the Hobbit. Can’t believe mister Jackson and his cronies have dragged this out into a three parter. We then went to Hooters, it was a really surreal evening trying to convince ourselves that we were still in latin America rather than any generic US out of town development. The following day we headed to the beach via the infamous crocodile river. I’ve never seen reptiles quite like these before, they were enormous basking in the sun waiting to eat an unlucky person falling off the bridge above to take a photo. The pacific coast could’ve easily been Florida but the surf was brilliant.  We also ate delicious fresh grilled fish which reminded me of the sunny state too. Our Spanish developed more in two weeks by staying with families and practising all day, than it had in two whole months which was a lovely kick start before moving on to South America. So we will forever be grateful to the families for their patience and teaching. Once again the time came to leave our hosts but our sadness was subdued by the excitement of meeting more people at the airport.
We met Seb’s mum and sister at arrivals in San Jose, a really nice new experience being the collector for once. It feels amazing to see familiar faces after such a long time, particularly just before Christmas. It was well worth the hassle of changing the flights to spend a couple of days with them in the city. We even got presents and Swiss treats to make tropical islands feel a little more festive. I wish we could’ve stayed with them a bit longer but Panama was calling and we didn’t want to spend Christmas day on a bus or at a border crossing so we headed to Puerto Viejo to see the Caribbean side of things for Christmas Eve Eve. Our faith in human kindness was boosted before we got onthe bus. We were desperately trying to exchange our left over Nicaragua Cordobas but the massive queue at the bank would’ve made us miss the bus we bought tickets for. A man in the queue overheard my explanation of our lack of time to the security guard and swapped my note for a Costa Rican one, a coupleof dollars above the going exchange rate. Good guys exist and we made our bus to the beach.
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We only stayed the night at the beach, at Rocking J’s in the most expensive hammock in ‘a place where crazy paving went to die’. It was literally like a bunch of terrible artists with limited mosaic skills were let loose and paid only in acid tabs, something they used to fuel their decorating creativity. We weren’t too impressed by PV and were glad to be heading to paradise islands, but were now a little apprehensive that it wouldn’t be all it was cracked up to be.
So our time in Costa Rica was over, the biggest impression it made is that unlike many of its neighbouring countries, it seems to be nearly entirely devoid of its own culture. Not because it never had one to start with, but simply because its heavy influence from the US has eroded any evidence to be gleened from a fleeting visit. However despite all of the Americanisms, the traditional native cuisine is unbelievably good. We’d had gallo pinto before but nothing compares to a Costa Rican breakfast. Chifrio was also a nice intersting take on the same usual ingeredients that we’d become accustomed to but with tons of flavour. The tamales are also worlds apart from the rest of the region and especially eaten during December, whatsmore we discovered that they’re even better with salsa inglese, quite possibly the worlds most delicious sauce. So we stocked up on bottles whilst we could, along with packets of manzanilla tea. Now under usual circumstances I would turn my nose up the offer of camomile, but manzanilla is an entirely different cup of tea. Its nothing like the stuff your nan drinks before bedtime, its absolutely delicious and I’m now drinking it like its going out of fashion, which comforts me in my distinct lack of green tea.
The nicest thing about it besides the amazing people we stayed with, was its lush greeness. The nature really did live up to its reputation,  we were shocked to learn that this timy landmass boasts 5% of the world’s biodiversity, for that reason alone I’d be quite happy to go back and see even more of it.

Mystical yoga at Mystica in Lake Arenal, Tilarán, Costa Rica

Mystica yoga
If ever you find yourself in Costa Rica and exploring Lake Arenal, then it is worth stopping by Mystica in Sabalito. They have beautiful accommodation and great food in their restaurant but for me the selling point is obviously the yoga studio.
The studio is tucked around the back of the large site in lush green surroundings and sits on a platform with the river running beneath. The sound of the water is hypnotic and in rainy season makes for a lovely haven with the pitter patter on the roof. For more details visit the website or Facebook

Nica chica

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All we have heard along the gringo trail is people banging on about how amazing Nicaragua is. I had not planned any time in Nicaragua as it seemed more important to make a beeline for Costa Rica where there was apparently a lot more to see and do. Turns out there is a surprising amount in Nicaragua, and because it was so cheap it made sense to hold out a while longer and shave some time off expensive Costa Rica. We started out in Leon which is weirdly another one of those reported Mecca hubs for travellers, and I really can’t understand why. Its an ok city but its filled with party hostels and lots of nightlife so that is probably the main attraction. Everyone probably meets like minded party people, has a great time drinking, gets sucked into the ‘staying in the hostel all day’ lifestyle and develops a biased opinion.
We arrived late on the first evening and were the only guests at a tiny hospedaje with our newly aquired Portuguese companion. It was one of the most bizarre places we stayed. There were treturous spiral staircases that the disabled owner couldn’t climb so she shouted continuously from her wheelchair downstairs whilst we tried to find a room that didn’t have animal poo on the bed. There were roaming animals everywhere, cats, dogs and squirrels in a cage!
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We ended up at Big Foot Hostel, probably the most notorious party place but a better recommendation would be Oasis, a much nicer smaller set up with a pool in the courtyard. Big Foot had some pretty good rooms though with beds in nooks tucked into high ceilings, we however ended up in a room with two young obnoxious German girls who seemed to have never stayed in a dorm before. I woke up one morning and the first thing I did was narrowly avoid stepping on a tortoise! We met our friend Sam from our surfing family in El Salvador, this time he had two lovely Swedes accompanying him so the family grew. Leon’s biggest asset was by far its food, the bbq set up in the market behind the church in the main plaza was fantastic. They grilled local fresh salty cheese until it was crispy around the edges which when accompanied with the ‘hot as ****’ sauce – a newly coined term, was on a par with halloumi and chilli jam. Needless to say I was eating by the plateful like a fat kid let off a diet. We took a day trip to Turtle Lodge, a fairly hard to reach beach outside of Leon with good surf, it was really peaceful but in the middle of nowhere.
We then moved on fairly quickly from Leon via Managua on to Grenada, my new favourite Central American colonial city. Its so underrated compared to Leon, it has so much to offer and is really pretty both by day and night. We arrived right in the middle of the December festival so every night felt a bit like dodging hand grenades in a civil war whilst kids through fireworks in the street. They are the kind of fireworks that are just pure noise, no colours or displays just continuous loud bangs that set off every alarm in the vicinity. We had a great hostel with loads of potential but with idiots for owners, its redeeming features were its sun trap pool and roaming pets of turtles, friendly rabbits and a talking parrot.
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We spent the first night at a baseball match, the Grenada team was destroying the visitors, but the biggest entertainment was a huge guy that did a truffle shuffle style dance to the music each time a home run occured. The food was great and drinks were brought up to your seats at your request, this is the kind of spectator sport I could get used to. We spent one afternoon on a boat trip hopping around the tiny islands in lake Nicaragua that was more like a sea, home to the nation’s most rich and famous. One island was inhabited solely by monkeys that were adept to jumping onto boats to try their luck for food, but my favourite was by far the 1960s caravan turned into a house all alone on a tiny plot. We invented a new game that day, known only as extreme hammocking. It involves a large hammock, at least two people laying side by side and a third person to swing it hard enough in attempt to either spin 360° or spill someone overboard. Its amazing how adventurous and creative you can become in the rain.
The time came to reluctantly head to San Juan del Sur, a town whose reputation preceeded it thanks to the swarms of people we had encountered along the way in Sunday Funday t-shirts. We had arrived on a Friday night so most places were booked up with visiting Managuans and people ready for the infamous pub crawl. Needless to say we were left with the only unoccupied accommodation, and spent the next few nights playing such delightful games as ‘detect the animal from the poo found in your bed’ and ‘did you get those bed bug bites somewhere else, or do we have a problem on our hands here?’
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We escaped the Funday adventures after visiting the source of the crawl, it looked like a ‘Shagaluf’ esque set up where you could get pregnant just by swimming in the pool. Instead we befriended a couple that run a surf shack and headed to Playa Hermosa to surf for the day. We spent the evening before with them, drinking beers on the roof and playing with their tiny kittens before heading out to play overly competitive pool and learning to salsa. That got Seb hooked on surfing again so I took the opportunity to go horse riding into the hills in the surrounding Pacific bays. The horses were the most responsive I’ve ever ridden, one slight move of the hand and they would immediately turn, which would have made for an easy ride if mine wasn’t so frisky. We spotted all of the new housing developments commissioned by wealthy Americans setting up luxurious holiday homes, and taking advantage of cheap land with breath taking views. San Juan itself is nothing to write home about but the surrounding areas are really worth visiting. We spent our final day walking up to the statue of Christ that looms over the bay and watched the tenders bring day trippers in from the huge cruise ships. Turns out that my aunty and uncle once took the same route and ended up in town. We spent the rest of the bus journeys on to Rivas assisting cruisers with Spanish and currency conversion. We made it on to a rickety old lancha with a drunken expat shouting revolutionary remarks until he fell and badly knocked his head. Once on the island of Omoteppe we had to travel to the other side by school bus. This one was so packed that there was barely any breathing space let alone standing, and I witnessed some encounters in exchange for a bus fare that no respectable traveler ever wants to experience. We found lovely bungalow to stay in and watched the sun set between the two volcanoes. The following day we rented bikes and pedalled our legs off up and down the hills to get to the natural springs. The pool felt anything but natural as it was all set in manmade boundaries, but the fresh water was cold and refreshing and I could do 100m uninterrupted lengths to cool off from cycling. Quite possibly one of the best pools I’ve evef swam in, and Seb and I managed to touch up our newly acquired balancing act. The cycle home through swarms of insects and stampeding horses was an interesting one, but got the heart racing faster nonetheless. That was our last night in Nicaragua, as the following day was spent on 7 forms of transport to make it across the border to Costa Rica. I really enjoyed this country and I’m really glad we took the time to see it instead of simply passing through.

Thanksgiving on Utila – I’m thankful this year for charter planes

sGetting through Honduras on chicken buses was relatively easy, we spent the night in San Pedro after asking the bus drivers where they were staying and following a suit. It turns out that the city is not a place you want to be on the streets late at night it has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, so asking the drivers for advice is always a good tip, they will always know cheap places to stay near the bus terminals. We hitched a ride really early in the morning to the bus station to head for La Ceiba and managed to get on the second bus of the day which put us a mere 30 minutes late for the morning ferry to Utila the next one wasn’t until 4pm so we ditched our bags in the pouring rain at the terminal and sought entertainment in town in the pouring rain. The only indoor rescue was a shopping mall, with kids riding around inside on motorised stuffed animals, so surreal. This time it was Seb’s turn to get his cards blocked and none of the banks were open in the mall on a Sunday. We amused ourselves by writing our diaries in the western fast food court listening to pan pipe interpretations of Bryan Adams played by an old Honduran DJ. Some personal favourite finds during these 6 never ending hours were…an interestingly named cologne
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and a horrifcly named burger joint, where I come from a ‘lady burger’ means something entirely different.
The boat crossing is a bit of a horror show at the best of times, the old boat is accustomed to bouncing about all over the shop, but add some bad weather and its a real adventure. We made it to the island in one piece and dodged the hoards of dive shop touts who wait at the pier for new arrivals. Picking a dive shop is a tricky business, we wanted small dive groups and a decent divemaster to accompany us back in the water after a long absence. People will say anything to sell you some fun dives and even barefaced lie to you to get your business which makes the process all the more difficult. Luckily we found one we liked on only our second attempt. We chose Captain Morgans to dive with, they turned out to be fantastic and ended up with a five bed dorm to ourselves.

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We had five dives in total all on the northside of the island except the nightdive in the bay. The nightdive was absolutely incredible, the sunset was perfect and there were no other boats at our dive site so no light pollution. The luminescent plankton were beautiful, we spent a chunk of the dive without torches just to enjoy the green glow but this meant that thousands of fish were swarming around and bumping in to us. The highlight of all the dives was the dolphins, there was a huge pod of at least 30 swimming alongside the boat and spinning in the air, so we stopped and got in to snorkel with them, the noise was amazing whilst they were chattering away to each other.
The only major thing that put a downer on our time on Utila (besides the savage sandflies) was the week long storm that flooded the island. Most houses without stilts were bailing out water and crates were in place to navigate the deep rising waters by the time we were up to catch the morning ferry off the island. We were told that ‘some weather’ was on its way but we were not expecting rains of such epic proportions. There were to be no ferries in and out of the port indefinitely and we were advised to check back regularly to see if there was any change. There wasn’t!
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Whatsmore the food on the island is absolutely abhorrent, the small restaurants are expensive and cater to American clientele so lots of mayonaise and kraft cheese. The only estabilshment that redeemed the reputation of Honduran cuisine was a tiny place called King. It had the most delicious baleadas and we literally ate there at every possible opportunity. They knew us on first name basis and only managed to disappoint when we would turn up and they had shut up shop from the rain, at which point we had a breakdown trying to find alternative food. The saving grace was a collective effort to cook a full Thanksgiving meal. We had a full on spread with 4 types of potatoes, we were the health police and brought the only vegetables to the show, whilst others brought swedish desserts, we even had proper gravy! The chickens were cooked in several ovens around the island but sadly 2 didn’t make it in delivery. They were piping hot freshly cooked and en route down the road when the quadbike skidded and careered into a ditch knocking them into the mud. A tragic waste but luckily there were several others also on their way. It was the only time I had celebrated the festivities and it was a really nice way to overcome the tragedies of being trapped. For those people who vehemently believe that it would be paradise to be stranded on a tropical island, they should think again. When islands flood and there is no way on or off and you have played enough rounds of Tichu to fry your brain, you start losing the plot a bit. Besides we had left a really angry note with the lady who charged us five bucks to poorly wash our laundry (she rinsed half the bag without soap and didn’t touch the rest leaving it all smelling of wet dog) so we were dodging her house in fear that she would do us in. In the end we resorted to chartering a plane to get us out, I couldn’t take another day with intermittent power supplies and sand bags. So we waited at the airport for a break in the crosswinds and took a tiny 5 seater single propeller plane back to the mainland. The pilot told us it would be the last flight of the day because the winds got too strong whilst we were in the sky and he couldn’t fly back to the island, so we had seriously good luck in timing.
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We then took a chicken bus to the capital to get close to the border. Tegucialpa was absolutely freezing, we’re talking full on winter clothing and blankets for bed cold. The hotel we stayed in was hilarious, it sold comdoms in reception and rented rooms by the hour which was a dead giveaway, but the hotel manager gave us a room with a double bed and only one pillow. So we went to one of the several unoccupied rooms on our floor and found a spare pillow. Five minutes later there was a knock at the door from the manager and a couple who were not in the room previously and they requested there pillow back. We were politely informed that we had only paid for one pillow, so that was our slap on the wrist. Another five minutes later the manager knocked again, this time with an extra pillow in his hands, I was cracking up after overcoming the confusion. In the morning we asked another guest where we could catch the bus to the border, he kindly offered to drive us there but only after he showered, at his house. So we drove round the corner, a mere 300m, why he was staying at the hotel I am still uncertain and his family entertained us whilst he smartened up and gave us drinks. Turns out he was a local polotical figure on his way to a post electoral victory meeting. We grabbed delicious breakfast baleadas and he delivered us to the bus we needed. We changed only once in a small town near the border and the journey was painless. But then we met another traveller who made us truly question our faith in humanity. We were quitely eating a delicious chicken dinner in a tiny comedor on the border when a distressed Canadian girl bowled in, in floods of tears rejoicing at the very sight of us. She had run out of money and was unable to pay the entrance fee for a Nicaraguan passport stamp. We of course offered to help, we already had some cordobas and always carry some spare US dollars so it was no problem to escort her over the border with us and get her on the bus to the next town. We asked why she had encountered such problems and we were dumbfounded by here answer. She had arrived from San Pedro de Sula and told us that the buses were fully booked and she had to get to the Corn Islands within 3 days to start her new job. She instead paid for a private taxi all the way to the border, at a grand total of $350 leaving her penniles. We were baffled as to why she didn’t take public buses but asked no more questions, we just got her to a taxi, collected the money she owed us and got her on the next bus she needed. You cannot install common sense in people tragically born without it, sometimes you feel urged to help travelers who are down on there luck, but in this example you just have to hope that they have enough survival instincts and cash on Daddy’s credit card to get by.
So that was the first of many hours on our journey across the border, I’ll explain the other side in post all about Nicaragua.