Sunday, March 29, 2009

Honduras - Utila - Tegucigalpa

I did end up making it into La Libertad in El Salvador, a nice town and more lively than El Tunco but I am pretty happy with the choice to stay in El Tunco. Also got in some more surfing no more injuries so all is well.

Next stop Utila Honduras. The folks that ended up in El Tunco who I met in San Pedo (3 of them) decided they too wanted to come to Utila so we all decided to go together. The buses to Honduras leave very early from San Salvador so we arranged a pick up truck ride in (takes about an hour) so we left at 6am. Since there were 5 of us we could not all fit in the cab so I drew the short straw and got the bed of the truck. It was actually pretty fun, most of the locals ride around back there and I made all sorts of friends on the road, people were waving and smiling, I got my royal wave perfected. The lady at the drive through coffee shop got a good chuckle along with the shotgun armed security guard.

From San Salvador we caught a chicken bus #119 from Terminal de Oriente to El Poy in Honduras for $1.75 (4 hour ride). People always joke that there are no chickens on the buses anymore but in this case it really was a chicken bus, a guy in the back had 4 crates of live chicks he was transporting, all the way to the boarder all you could here was chirp, chirp chirp. The bus lets you off on the El Salvador side and you have to walk across the boarder. Didn't have to check out of El Salvador but did have to check in to Honduras which was a $3.00 US fee. Caught a taxi up to a town called Nueva Ocatapeque that is about 10 minutes by car up the road. They have a bus depot in a hotel there, we caught a bus to San Pedro Sula for $120.00 Lps - $7.75 US (an 8 hour ride), so far all the buses lined up and we did not wait more than 1/2 an hour between transfers. We got to San Pedo Sula and the plan fell to shit. We were too late to get a chicken bus out to El Ceiba so the only option was the 1st class bus at a cost of @240.00 Lps $15.00 US for a 3 hour ride (note the locals pay a different rate it is $10.00 US). It was a very nice bus but after we had saved so much money by using chicken buses it was a little disappointing to have to cough up the cash.

Got to La Ceiba at 9:30 pm to find the hostels all full, we managed to get in at the Banana Republic but 2 of us slept on couches/the floor at a cost of $50 Lps. If you are going to have to spend the night in La Ceiba you should make a reservation as it fills up fast with folks having to spend the night before heading to/coming from Utila.

The ferry to Utila leaves at 9:30 but you have to be there at 8:30 to get a seat. Groceries on the Island are pricey so we did a food run at 7:00 am to get some staples and by that I mean mostly booze. The ferry costs $425 Lps - $23.00 US, the boat is pretty small but the ride across wasn't too bumpy.

I wanted to take the open water PADI dive course. 1 of the others is PADI certified so she wanted to do a few dives and the rest just wanted to snorkel. A friend from San Pedro was already here and she had just finished her dive course so she sent me an email while I was in El Salvador with the info on the place she was at. The place is great, it is called Paradise Divers and is located 1/2 a block from the ferry dock. This is the only locally owned dive shop on the Island and is owned by a lady names Rosa who is a great lady. Nice rooms and cheap diving, the course cost me $235.00 US and included free accommodations. The folks not diving paid $65 Lps - $3.00 US each for their dorm beds. They have a kitchen which helped to keep the costs down a bit, but the local street food is pretty cheap you can get Baliadas with meat for $20 Lps. The staff at Paradise are awesome and the atmosphere is very chilled. No hard sell here you either want to dive or not, no one is going to give you a sales pitch or try to convince you. They do several trips a week where they go out and look for Whale Sharks, they had 2 trips out while I was there and found them both times. Most of the Islanders have really cool accents, a cross between pirate and Jamaican. The folks on the island are a diverse people, a mix of just about every color due to British rule at one time, Spanish locals and the slave trade, they are a very resilient and down to earth bunch of people. They tell great stories about everything from fishing and diving to surviving hurricanes.

A word of warning, if you are not going to dive on the island odds are good that you won't be able to get cheap accommodations. The dive hotels are mostly reserved for people who are diving, understandable as that is how they make their money so you will probably have to go to a non dive hotel and pay a little more for your accommodations.

There are a few bars on the Island, somewhat like San Pedro in Guatemala they too seem to rotate which bars are busy on specific nights. There is one that I found fascinating, it is called Tree Tanic and is located in the branches of a tree in a hotel. I took lots of pictures and posted only a few here, to see more go to It took 10 years for them to build it up to this point, all hand made with bits and pieces of whatever they found to build with. They have the coolest bathrooms in Central America they even have toilet seats. One of the mysteries of traveling here.. Who keeps taking the toilet seats?

I ended up staying on the Island for 7 days, I had a great time and met a lot of new people as well as seeing some others that I had met in San Pedro. We did run into a little issue, there are 3 bank machines on the Island however they went down and for 3 days no one could get any cash out. So a suggestion if you go, make sure you have enough cash to get you through your time there just in case something goes wrong with the ATM's. The ferry will not take Visa, you have to pay cash to get off the Island, we had several folks stranded with out enough money to leave. Lots of sad people who couldn't afford to go to the bar or eat for a few days.

From Utila I headed off on my own to the capital of Honduras Tegucigalpa, in order to get to Nicaragua it is the easiest and most direct way to go. I caught a bus from La Ceiba to the capital, the bus was $120.00 Lps and took 7 hours. I got in at about 9pm and my taxi driver suggested a hotel, Los Primos. It is located about 2 blocks from them main plaza downtown, it was $120 Lps a night. Private room with a shared bathroom. I did get out and walk around to see the sites, there is a lot of history here. On night 2 I caught a show in the plaza that was a musical that taught about the African history of Honduras. Sadly I forgot to take my camera out with me so no pics. There was also a world cup soccer match on my last night there, Honduras vs. Mexico; Honduras won and the party in the city went on all night. They do love their soccer, the manager of my hotel and a few others got some beer and used one of the rooms with a TV to watch the game.

The bus to Nicaragua was $70 Lps, it was via the Mi Esparanza bus company. As I was sitting in the bus depot waiting for my bus a couple of travel friends from San Pedro/El Tunco/Utila showed up. A very small world indeed. There are a couple of routes you can take to get to Nicaragua from here, we chose the Rio Guasaule border crossing. A bizzar experience, we couldn't get off the bus as the locals swarmed us. There are guys with bikes who will take you and your luggage to the customs office and then the 3 km to the bus depot on the Nicaragua side. They are very pushy and fight amongst each other, almost had a few brawls break out. They also grab your backpacks and load them onto their bikes. A fun little game of where is my shit ensued as they steal it off each others bikes. I ended up yelling at a couple of them and strong arming my backpack back. End result a long hot walk through the boarder and to the bus depot so I would recommend that you use their services but don't pay more than $20 Lps. Cost to get out of Honduras free. Cost to enter Nicaragua $7.00 US. Pretty painless, I find it kind of funny that not once in my travels has anyone asked to see my backpack or searched it. Too used to going through the US/Canada customs I guess.
Next stop Leon Nicaragua.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

El Salvador - San Salvador - La Libertad - El Tunco

Caught a shuttle out of San Pedro that went through Antigua and dropped me off in Guatemala City were I caught a bus to San Salvador, cost of the whole trip was $300 Q. You can do it by Chicken bus a lot cheaper but I was being lazy. The bus terminal in Guatemala City was in a pretty sketchy neighborhood (the ticket counter was encased in bars) but they were some of the nicest people I've met on the trip. A guy that worked there stored our backpacks in his room for us and the folks at the cafeteria were great too. A friend from San Pedro was coming the same way so we traveled together for this part of the trip. The trip took about 7 hours including the 2 hour layover in Guatemala City. Crossing the boarder into El Salvador was very easy. You go into Guatemala customs to check out of the country and the El Salvador customs is a guy who looks at your passport and waves you through. No stamp which kind of sucked I would have liked to have had one as a souvenir.

We got into San Salvador at about 7pm, it was not at all what I was expecting. Very Americanized, Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, gas stations with real 7-11 like stores. We arrived the day after the elections, the rebels who fought against the government in the civil war won (FMNL). Lots of people/journalists in town to cover the election, kinda of cool to be there when history was being made.

We got bunks in a dorm at Ximena's Guest House which is located in a very nice area of the city, one of the safest places apparently. The cost for a bunk was $7.00 (the official currency of El Salvador is US dollars). It is also only a couple of blocks from the largest mall in Central America, visiting malls was not really in my travel plans but I needed to replace my running shoes which got stolen in Antigua (not by a local, pretty sure it was a tourist). The place is huge, I only saw about 1/2 of it I found the shoe warehouse at that point so got my new sneaks and got out.

We spent 2 nights in San Salvador. The first day we went for a walk, I forgot my camera, I left it sitting on my bed so I will get some picks off my travel buddy and post them in the next day or 2. I am pretty sure we logged about 20km. Started with the Zona Rosa District that has a bunch of Museums, we went to the Museo de Arte MARTE cost to get in is $1.50 (50 cents if you are a student). Great art all of it from El Salvador artists, some pretty angry stuff from the 1980's. We checked out the exterior of the theater which is beside it and then walked down to the Museum of Anthropology but that one was $3.00 to get in so decided to pass on it.

We then headed to the historic district, found a great little local cantina and had a beer then headed down to the cathedral and the National Palace where we found the local market. It is the biggest street market I have ever seen, it takes up about 8 blocks and it is jammed full of vendors and buyers. You can get pretty much anything you would ever need here. Movies are 3 for a $1.00, CD's, cloths, shoes, produce, fruit and all very cheap, a pair of jeans will run you about $6.00. During out 6 hour walking marathon I didn't see any other tourist which was kind of nice for a change. The locals in San Salvador are very nice everyone was smiling and saying hello, we didn't run into any issues in any part of town that we went to.

Day 2 we caught the chicken bus out of downtown El Salvador (60 cents) and headed to La Libertad (1 hour ride) for a chicken bus change then on to El Tunco (25 cents about a 20 minute ride), free if you can get a pick-up truck to stop and take you. We ended up checking into Papaya's which is a hotel/hostel. They didn't have any dorms available ($7.00 a night) but they did have a room with 2 beds and it's own bathroom for $16.00 a night which works out to $8.00 each. The place has free WIFI and a full kitchen including a fridge. El Tunco is a very small surf town, when we got in there were a lot of surfers, a swell had come in and they had all come up from Nicaragua, by day 2 the swell was gone and the hard core surfers were off to Nicaragua for a swell that was coming in there. The majority of tourists here are El Salvadorians, it is so close to the capital that it is very popular with them. There is also a holiday on right now, part of the whole 6 weeks of Easter thing so lots of them have this week off work.
The nightlife here is not an all out party, there are 4 or 5 restaurants/bars, a bonfire on the beach is about as crazy as it gets which after San Pedro is a nice change. Food in restaurants runs about $2 - $3 for breakfast, dinners can cost anywhere from $3.00 for a burger to $9.00 for seafood. I heard a rumor that there is a pupusa stand somewhere in town that you can get a couple of pupusa's and rice for $1.50, I haven't found it yet. The general directions given to me by a surfer are it's a shack over the bridge... Haven't found a bridge yet either but everyone at the hotel is looking for the place so one of us should find it soon.

I took a surf lesson yesterday, I have surfed twice before but I kind of suck at it so thought a lesson wouldn't hurt, and yet it did. It was $15.00 for an hour. My instructor didn't speak English so he had to put up with my Tarzan Spanish which resulted in much communication via hand gestures. I kind of thought he would take me to the nice little wave beach, I was wrong... I got to go out to the big kid waves which involved a great deal of paddling, something my scrawny little arms had issues with. The waves break on the reef, not something I knew so I didn't realize putting your feet down was bad.. Got some cuts on my feet out of the deal and lost some skin on a knee but pretty minor flesh wounds. Got a bit of a fat lip from the board in the face on one run, forgot to put hands in front of face when coming off. All in all it was awesome, got up on all but 1 wave (submarined it) it wasn't pretty and I didn't stay up for the full run on a few but did better than I have in the past. I will be getting in some more surfing while I am here the cost to rent a board for the day is $10.00.

Some of the folks from the hotel in San Pedro showed up here the yesterday. Hung out with them last night along with some Aussie surfers. We got interviewed for a documentary on tourism in El Salvador if I don't end up on the cutting room floor it could be my 15 minutes of fame LOL... And you all thought I'd get it by being on cops, bad girls bad girls whatcha gonna do....

Heading into La Libertad in the next day or so, there are no banks or bank machines in El Tonca or any real grocery stores, just little ones that sell very basic stuff.

If you are looking for people you met traveling visit Lost Trekkers a free international people search

I live up the river on the right

Monday, March 16, 2009

Escape From San Pedro Guatemala

Escaping from San Pedro is not as easy as one might imagine. There are some people there that have been trying to get out for months.. Everyone says that they are going but no one ever does. Unless you purchase a ticket you remain trapped in the Bermuda triangle of Guatemala. After 3 weeks of being there it was very hard to say goodbye especially with the awesome sunrise this morning.

I took 2 weeks of Spanish school while I was there, I'm not sure how useful it was they teach you things like how to say My Mom and my grandmother came to see me play chess etc.. Not really travel related so taking just 2 weeks didn't give me a lot of vocabulary I could use on my travels. If I was going to take 6 or more weeks it would have been great as they do teach the whole grammar thing. I am still trying to memorize verbs so who knows if I really need it my subconscious may be able to pull up the info.

With going to school it was hard to get out and see anything outside of town. I did make an excursion to San Marcos which is a town across the lake. There are cliffs to jump off of and a whole bunch of Yoga classes and spiritual healing centers. Maybe should have spent more time there and less time in the bars.

The last hotel I stayed at the Penelue was great. Really nice people who run it and the folks staying there where all there about the same length of time I was. Nice rooms and cheap they have dorms and rooms with shared bathrooms a private room with bath will run you about 30Q. I had some friends who stayed at the Pinnochio and they said it was great as well as a couple at the San Franciso which also got good reviews. Lots of us left today and it seems we are all heading to the same place so I"m sure I'll run into them on the beach in El Salvador.

Some great places to party in San Pedro; The Budda Bar, Barrio, Flying Dog and The Alegre. There is a system each bar seems to have it's night and the rest are dead and it rotates through the week so everyone gets a turn at having the crowd. There was a music festival over in Santiago however due to overindulgence the previous evening I was unable to attend however some friends went and said it was great.

There really is no way to describe what San Pedro is about, you have to experience it yourself but I highly recommend that everyone stop by for a week which may turn into a month, if you find yourself looking for a job it's time to get out, your liver will thank you.

Having escaped I have now arrived in San Salvador, El Salvador. Looking forward to exploring a new place.


Guatemala Reality TV - Pimp My Tuc Tuc - San Pedro