After somewhat "settling down" for 6 months, it was time to say goodbye to Honduras and the friends we had made there and begin the final chapter of our Central American tour.
We had just under 3,000km's to travel in 4 weeks from Tela to Bogota, Colombia, and this is our adventure.
First up was a taxi to San Pedro Sula, 90km from Tela. Buses weren't running on this particular day and we were lucky to be picked up for 100 lempira each (the bus is normally 90 lempira). After a quick stop at the terminal to purchase our onward tickets for the next morning, we settled in for the night at Tamarindo Hostel with our housemates and fellow English teachers, Hannah and Caitlin.
At 5.30am we boarded the Tica Bus (USD $36.00) to Leon, Nicaragua arriving just shy of 12 hours later. Justin and I headed straight to the bar for a nice, cold beer, which quickly escalated to a beach party at Bigfoot Hostel's sister accommodation in Las Penitas, a 20 minute shuttle down the road after Caitlin convinced Justin and I we should party on.
The beach party was messy. Being a little older and I like to think, more responsible with our alcohol, we watched and laughed as people stumbled in the rain, relieving their stomachs of excess toxins. I even had to help one girl to the bathroom as she was barely able to walk and her squeeze for the night was struggling to keep his own feet on the ground, let alone keep her upright.
By 2am the shuttle had returned to take us back to the hostel. The combination of booze, lack of sleep and the bumpy road, soon had a few party-goers hanging their heads out the windows for a good ol' spew. One douchebag however was not quick enough to maneuver himself, power chucking all over a sleeping Caitlin and just missing myself and Justin. Back at the hostel, we threw Caitlin in a shower, where she apologised for what she thought was her, and we had to say, it wasn't her vomit, but someone else's...pretty sure if it was me, I would have begun convulsing, but she handled it well, discarding her ruined shirt and heading to bed.
There is never any rest for the wicked, so Sunday morning we were up and pumped to go volcano boarding. This extreme sport requires participants to carry a heavy ass plank of wood up a volcano to use as a sled back down the gravelly slope. From the moment I saw the volcano, my stomach started with butterflies and my nerves became quite intense. I'm not going to lie to you, I did not enjoy this experience one little bit. Being 5"2, heights and I have never seen eye to eye, so sitting on the precipice of a giant mound of volcanic ash and rock looking down at the tiny specks of people at the bottom was quite overwhelming!
I don't recommend screaming on the way down either, or like me, you'll get a mouth full of gritty rock and sand! It literally gets in everywhere, regardless of the suit and goggles, so just be prepared. I do recommend plastering yourself with sunscreen - I did and still got burned to a crisp and if you're allergic to bees, take your epi pen. They swarm at the top, attracted by the bright orange jumpsuits you're fitted out with for protection.
Justin on the other hand, had an amazing time and thought flying down a volcano was great fun. His only regret was not going all out from the beginning, as his ride ended all too soon. This experience will set you back about USD $35 and includes goggles, protective suit, board rental, guide, park entrance, a cookie and a cold beer at the bottom.
Back at the hostel, it was time for a quick nap before once again sampling the local beers and playing a couple of games of pool. Before this night got out of control, I went to bed, leaving Hannah and Caitlin to the giant-sized jenga game and Justin to supervise.
After a brief sleep-in, we spent the morning walking around Leon before boarding another bus to Managua, Nicaragua's capital, and another from there to Granada, the first European city in mainland America.
Granada is a kaleidoscopic city with streets of colonial buildings in every colour under the rainbow. It's history too is very vibrant, with tales of civil war and pirates sure to be heard on any tour you decide to take.
A good starting point to see all the main highlights and to gather your bearings, is a horse and carriage tour. Prices start at USD $5 per person depending on the length of your tour. Our carriage took us along the shores of Lake Nicaragua, past the cemetery, old train station and other historic buildings, as well as a cigar factory where you can watch cigars being hand-rolled and packaged. Justin received a free sample, so he was content.
Back down to the Lake, and you can take a ferry to see the islets including one nicknamed Monkey Island, where I was lucky enough to hand feed a baby Spider Monkey! The monkeys here were rescued by a local vet and rehomed on the islet, now a major tourist attraction.
The highlights for me personally, would have to have been the people watching in the square, eating dinner at an Irish restaurant and climbing the tower of Iglesia de la Merced for a bird's eye view of this beautiful city. We spent a few days here just relaxing and it's a great mid-way rest point between Leon and Costa Rica.
Just a note on visiting on Granada, it isn't cheap. The prices here are targeted at the tourists following the "Gringo Trail" through Central America. While there were numerous other activities in the area, our budget and time restraints meant giving some things a miss on this tour.
Our next stop was San Juan del Sur, a small coastal town on the Pacific Coast, designed for backpackers wanting to party, surf and enjoy the beaches. Again, nothing was cheap here, but we did enjoy free live music at the Cervaceria and a free game of Name that Tune at Republika. Our team even came third!
We chose to spend a day here chilling at Playa Hermosa, roughly 30-40 minutes by shuttle from town. No public buses run to the beaches so be prepared to pay USD $8 and up for return transportation...each. We found Playa Hermosa to be very peaceful and without a huge crowd, it was easy to find some shade. You can hire surf or bodyboards if you're up for catching a wave (USD $8-10) or even an instructor if your a first time wave crasher. The cafe, while providing delicious food, is over priced and the service is pretty ordinary. Keep an eye on your bill too as they tried to charge us for food we hadn't ordered.
That afternoon, the four of us, along with our new friends, Cara and John, headed up to the statue of Jesus, overlooking the bay for some sunset shots. Unfortunately our timing was off and the park closed at 5pm, leaving us to take our photos on the beach instead. After some quick goodbyes, followed by some AMAZING gelato at Super Frutto (a must if you're visiting this area!!), it was time to head home and pack, ready for a new adventure in Costa Rica.
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