Tuesday, 17 June 2008


Well, after 3 1/2 months in Latin America, I'm back in the garden state with Mandy, Eddie and Ally. Its weird to be back, in some ways, it almost feels like I never left.

The weather here is a tad warmer than the snow and ice that I left a while back. I insisted on breaking out the pool, and used Ally as an excuse. She seemed to like it almost as much as me. I've also been gorging myself on all things American, to fatten myself up for my time in the Baltics. And I've been replacing my well worn clothes and footwear, its actually quite nice not to have to wear the same stuff for a change. And have a pair of sunglasses that don't break in 2 days.

Apart from eating and shopping, I managed to get in a bit of drinking. Including a night out in New York, which was fun. Even if my lack of a collared shirt meant we ended up in some of the more divey bars, instead of hob knobbing it with the celebs. Like I'm used to.

Before leaving Nicaragua, I spent a day at the beautiful Laguna apoyo. Its a crater lake formed from a volcano caldera, close to Granada. It's a very relaxing place, nice water for swimming and a little kayaking in the warm sunshine. A lovely way to spend my last day in Nicaragua.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Ticas, Nicas and Matthew McConaughey

My original plan (well, as of a few weeks ago) was to fly back to the states via Costa Rica, but I decided instead to see a little of Nicaragua and fly from Managua. It meant a longish trip from Boquete. After feeding the new baby parrot, Neimis kindly drove me to the border, where I made by way by taxi and local bus as far as San Insidro, only to find out that the road to San Jose was blocked by mudslides. Plan B saw me head via the coast, and the backside breaking road from Dominical to Quepos, to sleep for the night, then up to catch the 4am bus north to Punta Arenas, another bus to Liberia, and a final bus to the border of PeƱas blancas, leaving the Ticas behind.

The queues at the border were possibly the worst I´ve seen anywhere, but luckily most of the people were Nicas trying to go the other way. I met an English couple and after the heat and dust of the border, decided to share a taxi to San Juan del sur, getting there in time for sunset.

San Juan is mainly a surf town, with good beaches close by. I spent a couple of days mostly trying to get out the back, as the waves were pretty strong. I definitely need to move to a small board. Sharing the waves was Matthew McConaughey, on a boys break from his pregnant brazilian girlfriend. We met him in the pub later, and while I admit to having had a few, he was way more pissed. Quite amusing.

Enough gringofication, time to head north to Granada, the pride of Nicaragua. I have to say I'm a tad disappointed with it. It's a pretty town, for sure, but it doesn't have the wow factor I expected. Perhaps Colombia has spoiled me. Still, it has some nice restuarants and pretty churches scattered around, and the main square is very pleasant.

Theres plenty of natural beauty nearby, several lakes and volcanoes, including Nicaragua's most active, so I decided to visit it at night to see the glowing lava. It wasnt quite as dramatic as the brochures would lead you to believe, indeed the local fire dancers probably made a more impressive display.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Towards Panama

Leaving San Gil behind, eventually, I headed south towards the big bad capital of Bogota. To break up the journey a bit, I stopped off at another cute colonial town called Villa de Leyva. Up till now Id had great weather, but rain greeted me on my late arrival, so I didn't get to see the town at its best initially. Luckily next day was a good deal brighter. Its a pretty town of cobbled streets and lots of nice restaurants. A bit more touristy though than Barichara, but quaint nonetheless.

Bogota was similarly drizzly when I got there, and I also arrived at the end of a long weekend, so the place was a veritable ghost town, not the most pleasant for strolling around. Next day was a different story, the streets around the Candelaria area in the old town were full of people, and the place had an altogether much more pleasant vibe. Feeling like I needed to be more of a tourist, I made my way to the police museum, where the guide was amazingly helpful and pleasant. A lot of the stuff on display related to Pablo Escobar and his entourage, and made for a very pleasant couple of hours. I met up with Randy again, and he had enlisted the help of some locals to cook us some good Colombian food.

Well after almost a month it was time to leave Colombia, definitely a major highlight. A short plane ride and a longer bus ride and I was back in Boquete, Panama, to spend a bit more time there. A seriously heavy tropical storm was passing through the area, so Neimis and I headed east towards Santa Fe for a bit, and then south to the surf village of San Cristobal, where we had blue skies. Its a tiny place, hard to imagine it holds international surf contests. But the surf was about the best I've seen in Central America, clean, nice forgiving sets for a change. And the cerveza Panama was the perfect aperitif.