It seems, and is, a long time since the last post. That was San Cristobal, in Mexico, and since then we have been in Guatemala (twice), Costa Rica and now we are in Belize. Being an old-fashioned sort of chap I will deal with things chronologically. (Being an inconsistent sort of chap I will ignore, for the present, the glaring gaps of our trips in the South West USA. I promise, they will be filled sometime.)
Chris and I had decided that, since we had spent so long in Mexico, and we had a date to meet Alasdair and Emilie in Costa Rica, we would need to fly from Guatemala City to San Jose. You can take buses from San Cristobal to San Jose, but it would take about three days and a great deal of discomfort.
So we bought the air ticket and a mini-bus ticket to Guatemala City. The bus journey confirmed the wisdom of our decision to fly the rest of the way. We assumed it was one bus, door to door. It was door to door but it took four mini-busses and 13½ hours.
- One bus from San Cristobal to the Guatemalan border.
- Another bus from the border to near Lake Atitlan.
- A third bus from Lake Atitlan to Antigua.
- The fourth and final bus from Antigua to our hotel in Guatemala City.
It was rather uncomfortable but it was interesting to be back in “Backpacker World”. Chris got on rather well with a tired and emotional Californian whose cure for a hangover was Valium. While drunk he had had a tattoo about his waist so wore his trousers rather low. He became more interesting as he approached sobriety.
Anyway we spent the night in Guatemala City then caught our flight to San Jose, the next day. It was full of Mormon missionaries off to spread the word in Panama. The Mormons do rather well in Guatemala as they believe that the Maya are one of the lost tribes of Israel. There are not many career choices in Guatemala, missionary might be one of the better ones.
We stayed in a very good hotel in San Jose – the Hotel Milvia – but San Jose is not a town to delay the tourist. We did a city tour and thought it a waste of time and money. There are about two buildings worth seeing and even they re not very interesting.
The most interesting thing about San Jose is the way they write addresses. There are a couple of dozen landmarks spread about the city and all addresses are given in reference to them. So the street address for our hotel was “the XXX Supermarket, one block north, one block east, one block north”. Which is well enough except that when the landmark disappears, the address does not change. So you can get addresses referencing long dead fig trees, or the terminus of the tramway which closed 60 years ago. Street maps are useless as streets have names on the map but there are very few street signs on the ground. Best to use a taxi!
As you can infer San Jose is not very interesting.
We hired a four wheel drive car, after taking the advice of Steve at our hotel, and set off for Manuel Antonio. The road from San Jose to the Pacific is new and carved out of the mountains. Not long after we used it, it was closed by landslips. As we headed south along the Pacific Coast, we crossed an estuary which is renowned for its crocodiles.
But we soon got to Manuel Antonio which is one of the most beautiful places we have seen on our travels. Our apartment was high up overlooking the Pacific with views of the Manuel Antonio National Park.
In the steep valley below the apartment there were many trees, one of which was home for a three toed sloth.
This is quite a young one, so is not as moss covered as his elders.
Also there were squirrel monkeys which would move as a group in long expeditions through the treetops – occasionally encountering our sloth.
Nearby, in the National Park, is a colony of Capuchin monkeys.
The National Park is one of the smallest in Costa Rica but also one of the most popular. I am told that 37% of Costa Rica has protection of one sort or another and the country makes much of its eco credentials. It is certainly a beacon for the region.
By this time Alasdair and Emilie had joined us and we were enjoying meeting them again after nine months of being on the road.
We left Manuel Antonio and headed north towards Nicaragua, to which A&E were headed to continue their holiday on their own. But we left with fond memories of Manuel Antonio.
We headed for Liberia which is not far from the Nicaraguan border and also close to the Rincon de la Vieja volcano. The afternoon we arrived we decided to go to a spa on the flanks of this volcano. We were thankful we had got the 4 wheel drive as the road was rather rough. The spa was wonderful with the highlight being painting ourselves with hot mud. Chris took some photos and you can see them HERE.
The next day we were once more saying goodbye to the kids, but this time only for 2 months. We headed back up into the volcano.
It looks very normal sort of rain-forest, then you see that it is steaming.
The cause of the steam is springs of boiling water!
There were also lots of boiling mud springs.
We had enjoyed our enjoyed our experience of the spa so much that we decided to try another spa – a somewhat more sophisticated one and that will be the subject of the next post.