Monday, February 27, 2006

Month One

I honestly did not know what to expect coming into this little trip that I am currently on. One month ago as I was flying from Halifax to LA my stomach was in a knot and I was having a mild panic attack thinking what in the world have I got myself into. Now a month and one day into my travels I have settled into the zone and God truly has made my travels an extremely enjoyable and rewarding experience. I have been able to do and see so many more things than I thought possible at the very quick pace that I have been traveling at. To date I have only felt ill once (5 nights ago) and was able to go right to bed and woke up feeling great. I still don't know what to expect as I will be moving into South America in the next few days, but I know that I am excited. I'm ready for the Andies. I ask and thank you all for your prayers.

Volcan Arenal

Volcan Arenal is another very active volcano that I was able to visit. Every 10-15 minutes while I was hiking some trails around the base it would have what seemed to be mini eruptions. It would make a loud noise (like that of a jet engine taking off) then spew out a lot of gas and some rocks that you could watch fly down the mountain side. For this reason you can't climb up to the top of the volcano, but can get some great views from the trails around the base. I was told that on a clear night I would have been able to see this activity from town (glowing rocks and lava flying about), but unfortunately it became overcast in the evening so all I saw was greyness. La Catarata waterfalls on the other side of the volcano was a great place to cool off at after hiking about 20km throughout the day. In the evening I was able to make it to Tabacon Hot Springs. I thought about not going since the admission was pricey, but I have to say in going it was worth every penny. This place was like a maze of trails and streams with waterfalls throughout leading to pools of hot crystal clear water. It is very developed, but still extremely beautiful. I would have to say of all the places I have visited so far this area (La Fortuna/ Monteverte) would be right at the top of my list to go back to someday for some more great adventures. It is expensive, but of everything I have done so far it has been worth it. There are so many activities to get involved in (Rafting, caving, waterfall repelling, volcano hiking, jungle hiking, zip lining, hot springs, horse riding, ATVing, fishing...... to name a few things I saw that where available). Another bonus is that it is very safe and most places have people that speak English. Today I made my way by bus-boat-bus to Monteverte were I was able to go zip lining (11 long flying foxes). It was really neat to zip back and forth through and over the jungle. The longest zip line was 770 meters long. This activity is definitely not for the faint at heart (if you don't like heights I wouldn't recommend it, otherwise you should try it next time your down here).

Saturday, February 25, 2006

The Rich Coast

I have to say the first time I went to a bank machine to withdraw money here in Costa Rica it really feels strange. This is because the exchange rate is like 450 to 1. This means If I want about $250 CDN I have to withdraw about 100,000 colones. Typing that you want 100,000 dollars at the bank machine really feels strange. I had to do the math in my head a few times to make sure I was not taking out like $5 or even worse $5,000. The first town I stopped at in Costa Rica was Playa Tamarindo. I saw a number of people surfing and wanted to try myself, but again for the second day in a row along the coast the waves were so small I really was wondering what the people out there were doing. In the evening the sunset over the beach made up for the lack of surfing. This was a really fun town that is still not too developed, but I have a felling that in a few years that it will be, so take it as advise to visit soon.

Isla de Ometepe

From Granada I made my way down the coast of lago de Nicaragua to San Jorge where I was able to take a ferry to the Volcanic Isla de Ometepe (I am using the term ferry very loosely). On a calm day on the lake the small wooden boat I took may have been acceptable, but it was windy and the waves were big, however is was a buck cheaper and leaving right off so I took it. I will just let you know on the way back I paid the extra dollar to get on the "big" ferry that I knew was not going to fall apart. The Island was interesting, but there was not that much to do there so I moved on quickly (I saw some ancient sculptures). The lovely Pacific town of San Juan del Sur is were I ended up for the day. This town reminded me very much of a miniature Zihuatanejo. A horseshoe bay with cliffs guarding the entrance on both sides. I was hoping to do a bit of surfing (was suppose to be some of the best surfing in Nicaragua), but unfortunately the waves were not that great the day I was there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

El Pital

El Salvador is a country that many tourists miss out on. While there are not as many major attractions as the surrounding countries there is still a lot to do and see. In the short time that I was there I was able to hike El Pital (the highest mountain in the country at 2700 odd metres) then spend an afternoon and night in the Capital, San Salvador. El Pital is tucked away in the mountainous northeastern part of the country. Thankfully I was coming into El Salvador in that area or I most likely would have missed out on this hike. The hike itself was not too strenuous (just over an hour to the top) since there is a crazy road up the mountainside to two little villages perched there. The most interesting part of the hike was at this place I have a picture of on the left. The only way to get out onto this outcropped rock was via a fallen log (seen in the picture). I have to say I was a bit timid walking across as I looked down to the bottom of the crevice about 100 feet bellow. From El Pital I made my way to the capital to enjoy the multitude of markets before I went to bed early to catch the 4:30 am Tica bus to Nicaragua. Currently I am in the lovely colonial town of Granada on lago de Nicaragua.


Copan Ruins in Honduras is the site of another famous Mayan ruin that I was able to visit. This site has the most detailed carvings that I have seen of any of the ruins. The structures themselves were impressive also. Nothing to the magnitude of ruins at Tikal, but still worth the visit. The mountainous area that surrounded was beautiful as well (especially as I headed westward) to La Entrada.


As you can see at the top of the Volcano there was a lot of gas being emitted. To see the lava you had had pier down through the pungent gas while holding the hand of another person so a gust of wind wouldn't push you in. This area of Guatemala seemed have have volcanoes strewn about everywhere. Not sure what the name of the volcano in the background is (I'm sure I could find out if you are really interested), but it looked like a good pict so I took it. If you are ever in Antigua it's well worth the trip to see Pacaya.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Volcan Pacaya

Today I had a great time climbing Volcan Pacaya.  I really wasn´t expecting too much.  I was told that this was the only active volcano in the area so I thought it would be cool to go up non-the-less.  I was wrong in not expecting much.  When they say active they mean it´s spewing out gas and lava.  When I reached the top of the volcano (2552 meters) it was chilly and windy so to stay warm I was able to sit by a hot vent while I was waiting for the others that I was with (to an excellent view of Guatemala City and the Pacific Ocean).  The guide that went with us (despite not speaking a word of English) showed us a bunch of interesting spots such as the lava flow in the creator and how to stay warm using the heat vents.  I made my way to Chiquimula (where I am currently) from Antigua through Guate City this afternoon.  For the few hours I have been here I have really enjoyed it.  I´m away from the major gringo path so things are a lot cheaper than in Antigua. (Single hotel room $4.  A full sit down meal with coke $2.75. A 4 hour bus ride $5).  Well off to bed (for $4 hopefully there are not too many cockroaches nibbling on my toes tonight).  Thank you all for your prayers as I move about.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Lago de Atitlan

Guatemala has been a beautiful country to be busing through. With the its jungles, volcanoes, lakes and rolling hillsides. This morning I was able to spend a couple hours walking the streets of Guatemala city. I really don´t know why most people stay away from here. It seems to be a lovely city (at least at that time of day and in the places I went). From the city I headed to Panajachel on Lago de Atitlan. Panajachel is a small touristy town right on the lake with some great views of the lake and surrounding volcanoes. I had a good time sitting by the lake eating a whole pineapple I purchased at the local market for 75 cents. Another short bus ride later I arrived in Antigua. This city is surrounded by volcanoes and what I have enjoyed most about this town so far are the incredible Saturday markets. You name it I´m sure I could find it at the markets here. I´m excited for the volcano climb I have arranged for the morning. Hopefully it will be a good day for some picts.


After paying a lot of fees at the Belize boarder and some unofficial fees at the Guatemalan boarder I headed for Tikal. Tikal is an impressive ruin that is deep in the Guatemalan jungles. It was a lot of fun getting there. I had a taxi ride from the boarder where the driver dropped me and the others I was with at the wrong location, then I had my first "chicken bus" experience, followed by somehow getting a combi to myself and finally driving the last 20km in the back of a pickup. How it all worked out I have no idea but it did, and I made it so, I was happy. The Ruins at Tikal would be the most extensive set of ruins I have seen so far. It is so hard to compare any of the ruins I have seen to date since they have all been in such different settings. Tickal is situated on a small hill in the middle of a vast jungle. On the top of a couple of the largest ruins you can look for miles and miles in every direction and see nothing but jungle. I´m glad that it worked out that I saw the ruins in the evening, because the whole jungle came alive around 4:00. It was really cool walking thought the jungle trails with the monkeys and all sorts of other exotic animals flying around the treetops and the noises they all made, wow. I would have went there just to be in that setting. Having the ruins was just a huge bonus.


The snorkeling tour that I went on in Caye Caulker was really cool. I thought maybe we will see a few fish and a stingray passing by quickly. There were so many fish around the reefs we boated out to. The reef was a colourful one also. Then when we got to shark & ray alley there must have been a dozen sting rays that hung around. I am not sure if I was suppose to, but I grabbed onto the big ones and they would pull me along for a few feet before the had enough of that and shook me off. There were not as many sharks around but we saw three, two of which I was able to swim with and give a little pat on the nose. After spending 3 hours in the water with the fish I headed back for lunch then caught the water taxi to Belize City. In Belize City after a bit of walking here and there I was able to find Malcolm´s parents place. It was great to meet them and I found out a lot more about Malcolm that I did not know before (he is quite the artist for one). They fed me some great food then toured me around the city. I was wonderful to sleep in a real bed in my own room in a quiet place (it has been a long while since I have had that). In the morning they gave me a lift to the bus so I could be off to my next destination. Overall I really enjoyed Belize. It felt like a vacation away from my travels to a great extend. Some day I will have to go back to Belize with Malcolm so I can really explore the country. There is so much to do, but unfortunately for most things you need to go with groups and spend a few days to do it safely.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Caye Caulker

Stage three of my trip has officially commenced.  (Stage one was the US, Stage two was Mexico, Stage three is the rest of Central America).  I got into Belize without any difficulties and made my way to Caye Caulker (a well know backpacker Island).  It's a fun place, very laid back with lots of long term travelers.  The streets are sand and everyone has a place on the beach.  I plan on doing a snorkel trip in the morning then back to Belize city area.


Tulum was my next stop. This area was more my style. The beaches were undeveloped with simple palapas that could be rented out to a weary traveler for a bit of shelter. There is so many things to do around Tulum that I could have spent a week and still had more things I could have done. The first thing I did after taking a quick dip at the beach was to check out the Mayan ruins in the area. The ruins themselves are small in comparison to the others I have seen, but who cares with a location such at this. Perched on a cliff just above the Caribbean with sandy white beaches below. In the evening I was able to talk to a few people to see what else I should do in the area and they gave me a few great ideas. In the morning I started early because I knew I had a lot to get in. I started by going to Xca-Cel, this is a beach just north of Tulum were the coral reef is only 20 meters offshore. I got there and I had the entire beach to myself. The snorkeling was by far the best I have done to date also. Throughout the day I was really wishing I invested in a waterproof case for my camera. The coral and the fish, Wow. It was fun chasing schools of a thousand fish and the colors of other fish were amazing. I could have spent the whole day in that one location. After a long walk I made my way to El Gran Cenotes. A cenote is an underground river cavern that has collapsed leaving a hole that you can get down into and access the network of rivers. El Gran is a must see if you are in the area. The water was crystal clear and schools of friendly freshwater fish chase you around as you swim about the caverns. The second Cenote I did was called the Temple of Doom. It was well worth seeing, but the snorkeling was nothing compared to El Gran. However this place was great for jumping in and having a good time.


Heading south again I made my way to Playa del Carman. It is said that this town is the fastest growing city in the Americas. For me it seemed like a mini Cancun so I quickly jumped on a boat for Cozumel to try to get some world famous snorkeling in. In Cozumel lodging was expensive so I opted to rent a scooter and head for the east coast of the Island to find a secluded camping spot. Well that is exactly what I found. I was expecting to find a couple camping grounds, but everything on the east coast of the Island was destroyed so I parked the scooter in the bushes and slept on the beach. It was an incredible evening going to sleep with the sound of the waves crashing against the shore and a full moon to glisten across the water. In the morning I woke to a beautiful sunrise that got my on my way for the day. I was able to find a couple good places to snorkel, but unfortunately a few others places that I wanted to snorkel at were closed due to storm damage (the parks were closed). The Coral and the fish were really interesting in the areas that I saw.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza is a very popular Mayan ruins site (mainly because of its location close to the very much touristed Cancun). Again it was amazing to see these structures that these groups were able to build. I was disappointed to find out that the ruins have been closed to the public for climbing up them. I was temped to jump the fence for a quick jaunt to the top for a few pictures, but my better senses stopped me. There were a few places at the site that some of the original carvings were still intact and in good condition. Normally the bulk of the structure is still in place with the original plaster layer with the carvings having been peeled off over the years. I can see why so many people head to Cancun. The water is warm, the beaches are great and most people speak English so it's easy to communicate. The hurricanes this past year have really damaged the place greatly. It seemed like about half of the hotels were still closed with severe damage. Also there was this huge pipe on the beach. I have no Idea why?? From Cancun I took a ferry to Isla Mujeres to get away from the busy Cancun to find a place to stay for the night.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Isla Mujeres

The Cafe is closing so this will be short, but it was another interesting day. The bus dropped my off early at Chichen Itza (another huge Mayan ruins) then I headed to Cancun for a stroll along the beach and after a short boat ride I am now chilling on the Isla Mujeres.

Friday, February 10, 2006


If anyone ever wants to visit a lovely colonial city go to San Cristobal de las Casas. The cobblestone streets, Mayan markets, lovely buildings and of course diverse places to eat add to the appeal of the city. The streets had many tourists (seemed like mainly European), but it somehow only add to the flavour of the city. Palenque was my next stop of the journey. This is another place that deserves a wow. The city itself is nothing extra special but the surrounding area is very much so. The ruins of Palenque were truly incredible. The Mayans truly knew how to pick a good spot. They build on the side of the hills in the jungle on the edge of a large fertile valley. The feeling of being there was something special. My biggest problem was leaving my pack in town and running out of batteries not long into exploring the ruins. Misol-Ha, just south of Palanque was my next stop. It´s the site of a beautiful waterfall. It may be hard to tell from the picture but you can climb behind the waterfall then just out of the picture to the right there was a cave that goes into the side of the hill with much more water flowing out of it. The cave wasn´t huge but it was still fun to explore and find a waterfall flowing into it at its end. Agua Azul was another waterfall about an hour south of Misol-Ha. This waterfall had much more flow, but I didn´t find it as impressive. It is still a must see especially with the drive there and back through the hills filled with Mayan villages and the jungle vistas.

Distrito Federal (Mexico City)

Mexico city is a happening place with lots to do and see. Initially I was planning on spending a couple days in the city, but as I quickly checked off everything from my to do list for the city it only took 16 hours. Early in the morning I visited the ancient Aztec city of Tenochtiltan. It is incredible to see what these early civilizations were able to create from pure brute human muscle power. After spending a number of hours baking under the sun I returned to the city core. While there I spent a few more hours in the Bosque de Chapultepec, which is the largest city park in the Americas. In the park I spent most of my time at the Zoo and the National museum of Anthropology. These where both great sites to see (and cheap) it was the first time I have seen a lot of the animals they had there, such as the pandas, monkeys and giraffes to name a few. From there I had a fun time trying to squeeze into the subway. I am not kidding here. It was literally crazy. It took 4 subs to go by before I was able to squeeze in and I mean squeeze. It was like playing sardines, how many people can we get into a subway car. With that experience I made my way to the Zocalo (Plaza de la constitucion). This is was another very interesting place. It had everything from native singers and dancers, to protesters, to religious groups and of course lots of people trying to sell stuff. Around the Zocal were a few buildings and sites of interest. The most enjoyable thing in the area was the absolutely huge market that covered I would say over 50 blocks (it felt like it at least). After that full day of exploring it was another night on the bus making my way to Tuxtla Gutierrez.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

The Coast

A few of the statues that line the coastal walks of Mazatlan.
Puerto Vallarta in the evening hours. It was a bustling town. For some reason beyond my imagination everyone walks along this extremely crowed walkway along the coast when they could simply jump down and walk along the beautiful beach basically all alone (well at least 30 feet from the crowded walkway) .
Zihuatanejo was a great town. Much more laid back and take it easy compared to the other cities I had visited. Before I left I was able to take a boat ride across the harbour to a "secluded beach" were I was able to go snorkeling. When I got there I thought of my brother Ben since there is this old, now basically washed away, wall that was build by some king back in the day to keep out the sharks. (for the uninformed Ben does not like sharks very much)
Acapulco (population 2 million) was another fast paced city. However this time it was from locals not gringos so it was a different fast pace. I could see how back in the day while it was still a fishing town that it would have been amazing, but now the slums climb the hills in the background.
The famous cliff jumpers of Acapulco were crazy. They jumped from a 35 - 40 meter cliff after they climb it. Not only that, they jump into a small area that the waves are crashing back and forth with great force. I sure wouldn't jump it.

Along the Way

The ferry ride from La Paz to Los Mochis was lovely. A great sunset along with seeing some huge Wales. It reminded me of the good ol´days of taking the ferry to and from the mainland. The only thing was that this was a bit longer of a boat ride (a little over 8 hours).

The train ride "chepe" from Los Mochis to Creel was simply amazing.

It would have been interesting to spend more time in El Divisadero to hike down into the canyon.
In Creel I rented a bike for the day with a few guys and biked around. This is in the Valley of the Monks.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Zihuatanejo (See-wah-tah-NEH-ho)

Since leaving the rugged beauty of the Copper Canyon I have been exploring the Pacific coast before I head inland for a short time. (Pictures are still to come, still waiting on a place that I can get my USB key to work-Hopefully I´ll find a place in the morning.)   My first stop was in Mazatlan.  Overall I enjoyed the city even though the beaches are nothing overly special.  I thought it was unfortuanet that there was an extremely heavy fog going on for the majority of the time I was there, but I feel I got some fun pictures non-the-less.  Next stop was in the ever popular Puerto Vallarta.  All I have to say is "gringoville".  I had a good time, but the streets were simply packed with gringos.  The beaches were nice, but all backed by huge hotels (not exactly my style).  Manzanillo, well I did stop there very shortly.  I didn't see much.  I would have to have gone out of the city to see good beaches so I simply moved on and hoped to see them on my bus ride to Zihuatanejo.  Well that I did and more.  The 9 hour bus ride to Zihuatanejo was extremely beautiful.  Weaving though the hills that cut right into the Pacific.  The views were incredible.  However for most of the other passengers in the bus I think they would have preferred an easy straight road to the constant tight, hilly corners because almost everyone was throwing up (it was gross).  At first I heard people throwing up, but wasn't sure what it was.  Then the lady next to me did it and when I looked, yikes I quickly clued into what that noise that everyone was making was.  About half way through we had to stop and mop the bus then pass out new barf bags (good times).  I'm Currently relaxing in Zihuatanejo with the locals.  I am really enjoying it here.  There are not nearly as many gringos.  It seems to be more of a tourist spot for Mexicans (possibly from Mexico city). Tomorrow I plan on stopping at my last beach on the Pacific side of Mexico before I head inland and onto the Yucatan.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Copper Canyon

The Copper Canyon is simply amazing. I can easily see why it is such
a popular attraction for so many tourists. The Chepe train goes
through the canyon with over 7 hours of breath taking views. During
the course of the track there are 87 tunnels and 37 bridges. This
trainride should be on everyones todo list.
On the long ferry ride from La Paz I met a Brit (he has been traveling
for 2 years now) who I have been traveling with for the past couple
days. We stayed in Los Mochis then caught the train to Creel (where
we are now). Today we rented some bikes and toured around a few areas
of interest here. When I get to a better internet site I will try to
upload a few pictures, but for now you have to trust me that this is a
beautiful area.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

San Jose and San Lucas

Oop it´s sideways. If you look hard you can see a few surfers waiting for a wave.

There are beautiful beaches all along the coast.

I would like to say that that is me, but I wasn´t quite up to that skill yet.

El Arco or the Cabos Arch was just off the end of this outcrop of rock. It was a fun time to climb and swim out to that area. It would have been nice if I had an underwater camera to get a few shots of the fish in the area.


Playa Los Cerritos, this is such a beautiful area. The waves were huge so it is a very popular place to surf. Although the surfing was mainly done in the other direction as to what the photo was taken from mainly so if you take a fall it doesn´t hurt as much.

This is the little palapa that some of the locals said we could stay under. The guy on the right taught me to surf and the two guys on the left that are trying to make tacos are the guys that I went out there with.