Much to update you on – I am now three countries away from where I posted my last entry!
After the last entry in Antigua (Guatemala), we headed back to Zephyr Lodge and stayed there for four fantastic nights. It really is an incomparable place, so I’m delighted we had the space in our plans to return and spend some more time there. Our days were mostly spent doing what it’s easiest to do – lazing around the amazing pool and taking advantage of the all-too-convenient tab system for cold beers and great food.
On our second day there we headed out for some ‘tubing’ down the local river. It was much more tranquilo than the tubing that Laos is so famous for and, as I’m sure it isn’t hard to imagine, floating down a tropical river with cold beers in each hand was a fairly nice way to spend an afternoon.*
Of all the wonderful places we’ve visited so far, Lanquin and Zephyr Lodge probably sit atop the need-to-add-to-your bucket list list. I can’t guarantee you’ll get as lucky as we did with the awesome crew of volunteer staff that will be there when you go, but go you most certainly should.
After emotional goodbyes and not being quite as sound of body and mind as we could have been**, we transferred back to Antigua (third time lucky…) for a quick one night stay and then transfer out of Guatemala and into El Salvador the following day. We had been thinking about transferring straight through to Nicaragua and skipping out both El Salvador and Honduras completely, but thanks mainly to a fellow traveller vehemently extolling the virtues of a small surf town by the name of El Tunco, we decided to break up that long journey with a few nights on the beach.
El Salvador and Honduras carry a fairly bad reputation as the most dangerous countries in Central America, a fact that had contributed to our thoughts of getting in and out as quickly as possible. This is primarily isolated to the capital and large cities however, and our decision to brave the coast of El Salvador turned out to be a brilliant one.
El Tunco is famous for two things; strong breaks that provide some of the best surfing conditions on the Central American Pacific coast (so I’m told), and large expanses of volcanic black sand on its beaches. We settled into our comfortable hostel quickly on arrival, and headed out in time to catch one of the more spectacular sunsets of the trip.
The next day was a laid-back affair, checking things like laundry, toiletry shopping and admin off the to-do list, before heading down to check out the black sands and surf breaks in the daylight. After a few hours of Ben’s favourite activity (pratting around in the sea), we bought a couple of buckets of beer*** and took in another spectacular sunset.
We also found a lovely old señora churning out delicious papusas. These are the culinary king of El Salvador, and are flattened, fried pancakes of potato, flour and cheese that come with various extra ingredients and are entirely delicious. Creatures of habit that we are, we would return to this same lady for all three nights of our stay.
A trip to the local waterfalls was the order of the following day, so we dutifully packed up with snacks, water and can-do attitudes. After driving half an hour out of town, we trekked down into a valley (with our two local guides) and spent a pretty brilliant few hours climbing, jumping, paddling and swimming around a spectacular chain of waterfalls and natural pools. The trek out of the valley in 35ºc heat thoroughly kicked my arse to the point of stopping every few steps to consider the pros and cons of throwing up, but was eventually completed with the help of a very patient guide and failed to put a dampener on a fantastic day.
Another relaxed evening and third sunset later, our time in El Tunco was up, and yesterday we took the 8am transfer from there right through to where I’m typing now – León, Nicaragua. This transfer did mean that we drove straight through Honduras, having not received a particularly strong recommendation for a stop there. León, Nicaragua’s second largest city, seems to be a charming place so far, but I’ve rambled for quite long enough now so I will include some further impressions and pictures in the next entry.
All being well, this should come from Nicaragua’s infamous party town San Juan del Sur in around a week’s time!
Ta-ta for now.
*Even if the river does become inches deep in some sections, leading to some unwanted bum contact with some rather large rocks.
**That tab system, it’ll get you. Oh, and the continued games of Zephyr Dice, where everyone rolls a dice and the low roll buys all the other players a shot of tequila.
***Surely one of the best things to order ever; “Hmm, yes waiter I think I will have the bucket of beer, if you’d be so kind”
****Just 15 minutes from where a certain Aunty Sally used to live, for the family members that are wondering!