Monday, February 09, 2009

Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras

Two weeks ago I arrived in Guatemala but first I would like to give you some kind of summary of the countries I visited so far. Next time more about Guatemala. So lets begin with Nicaragua. In my opinion Nica is a very beautiful and nice country! People are very friendly, it is a lot less touristy than Costa Rica and a lot cheaper as well. My trip to Nica started with Isla de Ometepe, that´s a little island formed by two climbable volcanos. I hiked one of them (only up the the cloudline) and I tell you - I have probably never ever been so exhausted in my whole life! I was really happy when we arrived at the top! After Isla de Ometepe I took a bus to Granada. It´s a very nice colonian style city. I liked the city a lot, but I was pretty bored because in the hostel I´ve been to there was NOBODY else. Especially if you travel by yourself you appreciate a little company. So I left the city pretty soon and went to Leon, another colonian style city. There I met a Swedish guy who convinced me to go to the Corn Islands. The Corn Islands belong to Nicaragua, are in the middle of the Caribbean Sea and easy to reach by plane. First I really wanted to go by bus, boat and ferry (that would have taken about two days of travelling), but then I found out that the ferries only leave about twice a week and I just missed one of them. So within an hour I told myself "You know what, I´m flying!". Its only a one-hour flight and a lot less complicated. So the next day I took the bus to Managua, the capital, a very ugly, dangerous city and tried to get out of there as soon as I could. From there I flew to the Corn Islands. The Corn Islands consist of two islands, the "Big Corn" and the "Little Corn". Everybody recommended me to go to the smaller one as it doesn´t have any streets and cars and seemed to be a lot less touristy than the bigger one. If you would like to have some kind of impression, take a look here. I tell you, so far, that was really one of the most beautiful places I´ve seen in my whole life! I spent about 5 days there and I really met a lot of nice people on the Island.
All in one I had a great time in Nicaragua, everything was a lot less touristy - what I liked - and a lot cheaper. I never felt any danger or uncomfortable situation (besides the fact that I had to wait one day for my luggage and the 10 minutes I spent in Managua) and people were really, really friendly and helpful.

El Salvador
After the relaxing Corn Island experience, I was ready for some more action. I wondered: Should I go or shouldn´t I? It really took me a while to decide to visit the country El Salvador. Why? Maybe I should give you some more information about the country: The country is the smallest of Central America (about the size of "Hessen") and at the same time it is the most populated (about 7 million live here). Well, so far, that´s nothing frightening. But if you start reading the information from the embassy you might guess why I was thinking about it a lot: The country has one of the highest crime rates, has about 10 murders a day, a bunch of weapons and especially the capital has a serious gang problem ("Mara Salvatrucha"). Well, honestly I didn´t feel a lot better in the country when I bought a newspaper saying that about 336 people were murdered in the first month of the year 2008. I just looked up the number of murders in Germany of the year 2007 (source: Bundeskriminalamt) and I am talking about the whole year not only the first month: 339 people were murdered in Germany in the year 2007. So about the same amount of people dying in Germany within the whole year die in El Salvador in a month! Besides that shocking fact I finally decided to go anyway. I went to the village "El Perquin", in the Civil War it was the headquarter of the Guerilla and you still see some damage of the bombs. After that I went to "Playa El Tunco", that a really nice, black sanded beach on the Pacific Coast. Most people don´t know that El Salvador is pretty famous for surfing. Close to el "Playa el Tunco" is supposed to be one of the best and longest waves in the world.
I stayed there in a really nice hostel with a surfer as the owner. I had the pleasure to take a surf lesson (my first one!) which was more a disaster than a pleasure! I really want to do a real surfing course about the length of two weeks. Its just impossible to learn how to surf within an hour. At least it was for me :-) At least I got a taste of it. I will keep you up to date with my surfing progress :-)
On the way back to Honduras I had to switch buses in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador and I tell you guys - I´ve never seen so many electric fences in my whole life! The city was really big, pretty crowded and loud. I wish I could have taken a few pics, but I was too afraid to take my camera out (being kind of blond, blue-eyed and with my backpack I seem to be quite vulnerable sometimes, so I am always afraid they could rob my camera). As always I tried to avoid the capital as much as I could (the capitals of Central America are all nasty places, maybe of the exception of Panama City). Summary: El Salvador was a really nice place to visit and I am glad I went!

After a few beach days, I went all the way to the border of El Salvador/Honduras and went straight to the "Copan Ruinas", what Honduras is really proud of. The Copan Ruinas are famous Mayan Ruins. Unluckily it was raining the whole day (I shouldn´t be complaining as I only had about 3 days of rain of my whole trip!) but a girl from Brasil and me we went anyway. I was really impressing to see all this over 2000 year old ruins and to imagine how the Mayans life was as that time.
I could have done a little more in Honduras, for example Honduras has the Bay Islands, good place to dive and learn diving and snorkeling. I decided not to go there because I already spent more time than I thought I would be spending in all those countries, secondly I am not (yet) into diving really and one open water certificate costs about 250-350 dollars which is too expensive for me. And having this certificate only means you are allowed to dive but still you have to pay for every dive you do, which are also pretty expensive. But who knows, I might change my plans again :-)


I would like to tell you some general info about my travelling.

Some people ask me, how can you afford it?

Honestly, it´s not that expensive! I´m lucky to travel in cheap countries. The only country that was really expensive and had about the same prices than I have in Germany was Costa Rica. Every other country was pretty cheap. Pretty cheap means: a bed in a hostel or hotel between 3 and 6 dollars a night. I also try saving money by using the local buses ("chicken buses"), that might take longer but are a lot cheaper than the airconditioned tourist buses (I hate air-con anyway!). The other good thing how to save money is: Cook yourself! I eat rice (really cheap), eggs and fruits and my great hot spicy salsa sauce fills ever little boring rice corn with a lot of flavour.

How do get along by yourself?

Actually, I can´t complain! The good thing is (and I am really happy to be able to speak it now) that I know Spanish. It makes things a LOT easier. Some Americans really have some problems here because people barely speak English. It´s great for me though, so I won´t forget and keep on practising.
The other thing is, it´s easy to meet people when travelling alone. There are many people travelling by themselves and sometimes I think it´s even easer to meet people travelling alone than to be in a group. The bad thing is that I never stay more than 3 nights, so mostly it´s just a short pleasure. But sometimes you meet people you meet coincidently again. Life is full of surprises!
But travelling alone is not always fun. Sometimes I came to lonely hostels with no guests, but that´s why I carry a lot of books with me so I´m never really bored :-) What´s really annoying is that I have to take care of my stuff ALL THE TIME! If you travel with somebody else he/she can keep an eye on it. Also pretty annoying is arriving at a new city. I look so different and touristy (blond, blue eyes, tall) that as soon as I step out of a bus, people jump over me to offer me 1000 times "Taxi, taxi, taxi". I sometimes really get angry and shout at them "No, No, No, No, No!", otherwise they won´t let you go. Being different is also funny. Once a nicaraguan man came up to me - fully surprised seing me alone riding a bike: "Where is your husband and where are your kids??". I said I had no husband and no kids. I think he was shocked the whole day... :-D And I get so many compliments here... From "chica guapa" to "te quiero" up to "mi amor". I tell you guys, I never felt so pretty ;-)

Anyway, now you guys are up to date again. Keep me up to date as well! I´m looking forward to read your comments! Next episode: Guatemala, Belize, Mexico.

Hasta luego,