A guest post from Alex and Mireia; traveling the Americas with a Land Cruiser and 2 Montague folding bikes.
Our first stop in Honduras is Copan Ruinas, near the border. This tiny village is an excellent base to set up camp while visiting the similarly named ruins of Copan, which are absolutely spectacular. The main structures are vast and the detailing is impressive. On top there was a large group of Macaw parrots flying around the entrance which were truly beautiful and rare to see in the wild! We continued towards the Caribbean with the hope of visiting some nice beaches, but due to the rain (as with every time we go to the Caribbean coast) the road was impassable.
We decided to continue towards La Ceiba where there is a boat to the island of Utila, known for being one of the cheapest places on earth to learn scuba diving. Having found a safe place to leave our car for a few days, we head to the port of La Ceiba only to realize that there hasn’t been a ferry to the island in four days due to the weather. When we could finally departed the next day, we immediately understood why the ferry hadn’t been running. The waves we’re very high for such a small ferry, and half of the people on the boat were looking down with a plastic bag in their hands.
Once on the island, we decided to take our open water diving classes at the Utila Dive Center. The course costs 300$ a person for 4 days of training and accommodation, and allows you to dive to 18 meters on your own.
For us the island was a different experience than our normal travelling. Here we found ourselves more in a backpackers atmosphere with plenty of people around us and lots of places to eat and drink. The combination of the relaxed atmosphere and the excellent classes at the UDC made us decide to stay a bit longer, and to take an additional diving course (Advanced Open Water). This one allowed us to dive to 30 meters and focused more on specific skills like buoyancy control and navigation.
After ten days on the island we have had a great introduction into diving. We met tons of cool people and we had a lot of fun. We headed back to the mainland and continued our trip, which felt a bit strange after being on an island for so long.
Next stop is Lago Yojoa, a very nice lake which is mainly known for the birdlife. We stayed here for a couple of nights at a local beer brewery, which was a great place to do some excursions around the lake, and to the coffee farms in the area (plus… beer!). From here we go towards the National Park Celaque . The road toward the park was definitely a challenge with slippery mud and many washed away areas. The views were simply amazing as the steep hills in the surroundings were filled with coffee plantations.
After a couple of hours driving – and getting stuck in the mud on a dead end road, we arrived at the national park. In Honduras, a National Park doesn’t necessarily mean there is lots to see, rather that the area is a protected zone divided into areas where people can live, an area which can have limited infrastructure, and an area where no infrastructure is allowed. Still, we found a nice trail towards a waterfall and explored the forest with a very optimistic guide. The best part of our time here was camping with a coffee farmer. He gave us an introduction to the production of coffee, and we were finally able to buy some good coffee!
We left the park via a different road which was more accessible, and headed toward the Nicaraguan boarder, crossing the capital city of Honduras, Tegucigalpa. The next day we entered Nicaragua. It’s always amazing to cross the boarders in Central America, as every country has their own defining landscape. We leave the rainy hills of Honduras behind and enter the plains of Nicaragua, characterized by the occasional towering volcano.
We decided to stay on the Pacific side of Nicaragua, as there is much to see and at this point, we are in a ‘hurry’. On our first day we explore the northern peninsula, then head down towards the city of Leon, a beautiful colonial town which has some severe scars from earthquakes. While in Leon we visited our friend Sharon who we met on the island of Utila. Sharon normally travels by backpack so we suggested she join us in The General. This is what they call the Land Cruiser in Guatemala as generals in the army drive with them. We all decided this name was appropriate for our car.
We camped near the volcano of Masaya, where you can access the crater by car. Just make sure you have a getaway route in case of an explosion. The crater is continuously smoking, and a very impressive sight.
A quick stop in the colonial city of Granada, and we are off to the island of Ometepe, which is a very spectacular island in Lago Nicaragua consisting of two volcanoes. We buy the tickets to ferry our car and have some time left to eat and do some shopping for our time on the island.
Ometepe, is a very cool and relaxing place. We had sufficient time to check out the beaches on the pacific, including the surfer town of San Juan del Sur and the gorgeous beaches of Playa majada and Playa Madera. We had the excellent experience of camping right on the beach for a couple of days.
After almost 4 weeks together we have to say goodbye to Sharon, who goes back to Managua and we continue to Costa Rica. Having spent longer than expected in Nicaragua, we decided to quickly pass through Costa Rica. We are in a hurry to go to South America and Costa Rica is a fairly westernized country which is comparatively quite expensive. While traveling through Costa Rica we saw everybody we camped with almost a week before on the beach. Each encounter was quite a coincidence and rather funny given that Costa Rica has significantly more roads and places to go to.
After a stop in Punta Uva where Mireia has a family member who runs a nature reserve, we headed off to Panama to catch a boat to Colombia! After all the paperwork in Panamá city and finding a car to share the container with (another french couple of friends), we headed towards Colon. There we stayed again with the french family for 3 days. The nearby National Park of San Lorenzo provided beaches, ruins, forests, wildlife… and of course some riding with our Montague bikes.
The kids from the French family even joined us for some biking!
The folding feature of our Montague bikes make them perfect to travel with. With the limited space in our Land Cruiser (the General!), non folding bikes aren’t an option. Montague’s are the only folders made like real bikes so we can ride the rugged terrain of South America. On our next update: Stories from South America!