Tuesday, January 29, 2008

La Fortuna

La Fortuna, the end of my trip except for two more nights in San José. Staying in the Arenal Backpackers relaxing, enjoying the weather, the views of the Volcano. This region with all its hotels is one of the hotspots for tourists. One reason are its parks, its hot-springs, the good climate, the facilities. Though one of the main attractions is the Volcano. An active volcano with a 'constant' flow of lava.

My primary purpose of being here is to relax, the last days before going home. Reading a bit, visiting a nearby waterfall (video will follow of me on a rope, swinging and dropping in the fall) where primarily locals (yes) go.

On the clear days you have a great view of the volcano, even from the hostel. It was one of these days I booked a tour, together with two Canadian girls I first went to do a hike near the volcano, seeing some wildlife (monkeys, birds) and having great views of the volcano. After that first hike we went to the other side of the volcano. Watching the sunset on one side and after sunset seeing huge bricks of lava go down the volcano. It was agreat experience seeing the lava come down.

This tour ended with a visit to the Tabacón hot-springs. We had a package that included the hot-springs and dinner at this five star resort where hotel rooms start at 240$ a night and go up to over 400$ a night. So I can imagine you don't want to use the link to the resort. It was really amazing there, a good atmosphere, very good company, and an exquisite buffet after the relaxing baths.

This will be my final post from here, returning home on Friday, arriving Saturday. Photo's will be added later, when I'm home since the facilities here don't allow me to add them.

Thank you all for following my adventures on the road through Latin America.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Welcome to the USA, hmm, oops, I meant Costa Rica. It really is so easy to get confused, since there are more Americans around then Costa Ricans.. But, well, in the USA there are no Toucans, so this must be Costa Rica..

A bit of Sarcasm from my side, but it practically feels like that. A touristy place,
primarily oriented in the American tourist that is here for a few days. If I hadn´t had my flight from here I´d probably be on my way to Nicaragua and Guatemala by now. It is not about the country, its beauty (eventhough I´m probably a spoiled bastard, since compared to the others Costa Rica is less fascinating), but about the extreme commercialization.

Monteverde, one of the primary cloud forests of Costa Rica, a rich vegetation, a windy place. There are two parks here, the Monteverde and Santa Elena Reserve. Yesterday I walked up the Monteverde Reserve, 7 km there, 7 km back and an approximate 11 km around the 15$ entry park. At the park I did not spot any wildlife, neither did most people. Just flowers, amazing winds and clouds raging past me. The views were good, but there is an architect walking around creating ´interesting´ passes for tourists, while most of it is really paved. To me a disappointment, since all I´ve been through.

The hike to (I was the only idiot that did so, steep hills, everyone else took a taxi or jeep) and from the reserve was about best. Merely because here I spotted wildlife, a Toucan, Bobo and Sloth (luiaard).

Today I had another shorter hike and tomorrow I´ll be off to Arenal/Volcano, even more touristy. Here I´ll stay here for probably a week, since I don´t want to visit the beach. (I want to go home with the image of the San Blas in my mind, the best memory of the beaches) Then two more nights San José and fly home.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Panama, Boquette

After the San Blas, what else can a person do? Another beach can only end up in a deception. Well, arriving to Panama city was arriving to the states to me, huge skyscrapers, malls, all the American fastfood chains were represented.. And, Panama City is one of thew best shopping places, so that is what I did..

Last Wednesday I left Panama City, going to David for a hike in Boquette. At the purple house hostel I met Yuriko from Japan, with whom I went to Guadalupe for a night to start early the next morning the Questzal hike. It was a nice hostel/lodge, where we already spotted some hummingbirds...

Starting the hike it was first a long way up to the ranger station. There enjoying the views before starting to walk to Boquette through this beautifull jungle. Awesome views, waterfalls, small bridges that became one with the tropical forest. Simply great!! Luckily quite different again. At Boquette enjoying a fresh regional coffee before moving on.

The next day I left for Costa Rica, spending two night in San Jose, I just arrived in Monteverde. Here I am going to do two more hikes, hopefully sportting quite some wildlife and then moving on to Volcano/Arenal...

There is one big difference between here and the other countries. Over there you primarily met travellers, only a few tourists. Here there are loads of tourists, relatively few travellers.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Just another day in paradise

´How would you like it to spend another day here,´ Féderico asked. Who wouldn´t, just another day in paradise...

The fifth on January, around noon, we left Cartagena. A day later then scheduled, since the wind was too strong. Even the fifth, the wind was still too strong. A rough sea, 36 hours of sailing to the San Blas Islands. Within the first five minutes at sea the first person started to vomit. It was like a domino effect, one by one each of us followed. I stayed ´ok´ for about three hours, then it hit me... (Even the captain got sick, which never happens to him.)

During the night it was impossible to sleep, my bed (the coach on deck) was used by the people sailing during the night, sitting, trying to stay calm, not vomit constantly. Then a huge wave came aboard, soaked, like I just took a dive in the ocean. The girl next to me was taken by the wave, in just a split second. Ending up on her but, drenged in water, not realizing what had just happened to her.

36 hours later, past midnight we arrived, complete darkness, clear stars, Isla Holandés. Just imagining what it would be like here the next morning. Impossible to imagine... The San Blas Islands, we were there, being described as the most pure, best islands around. Inhabited by Kuna Indians, who still live in quite a traditional way, are open to visitors and preserve the islands well. According to many boatsmen, these islands are the best they experienced, in 15-25 years of saling/navigation. And I was there, in the complete darkness, trying to imagine what it would be like, waking up.

Around six I woke up, to be the first, the first to enjoy the magic of the islands. A little indian cabin, palm trees, five small islands within sight, the rising sun. A magical moment. (these first three pictures are from Holandés) We took it easy, the captain told us we would take more time, since it was a hard trip to recover. We didn´t mind, how could we! Visiting the island, swimming, snorkling, relaxing, great food, catching up some sleep. Awesome.

The next morning we left the Isla Holandés, setting out for Povenir, for our ´official´ entry to Panama at the customs office. We had a lunch stop at the Isla Limon, there were quite some boats here and on one of the islands there was a miniature resort for some rich, spoiled tourist. Well, who would blame them, I couldn´t. The place simply looked magnificent, a great beach, comfort, silence, another paradise. Having lunch, snorking amongst star fish (zeesterren) and enjoying the sunshine. After lunch we continued to Povenir where the customs formalities were amazingly simple (stamped without even seeing us). Here we spend the night.

The next morning we first walked into the village, seeing how the people live here. Playing a bit of football with some indian kids, and also experiencing the difference between the people living on the islands from the ones living in the village.

After the visit we went to Chichimay, the favorite place of our captain. Once we arrived there it was clear why, another paradise. Even more amazingly looking then the other places. Yes, life is hard, I bet all of you are feeling sorry for me that I had to be in this place... Having to eat fresh octopus, trying some lobster which the indian fishermen just caught, walking on the beaches, the bleu, emerald, azur waters, palm trees, clear nights with bright stars.

Our five day trip was already extended to a six day trip at the moment that the captain offered us a deal which was impossible to decline, one additional day for 20$ more. Just another day in paradise. The San Blas Islands, an unforgetable experience. The first 36 hours were like hell, but sometimes you need to go through hell to get to paradise.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Cartagena de Indias

Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, part of the Unesco world heritage and an amazingly beautifull old colonial city. Rich by its history, one of the mainports in the old days. I´ve been here now for a week, first spending two nights on a big yacht, then turning back to reality in a hostal.

This is THE city for the rich and famous, the Colombians with money. I practically bumped into Juanes, the presidents sons are hanging around and a lot more rich people, not only from Colombia, but also other South American countries. Especially around this time of year it is the place to be. Everyday 35 degrees, sunshine allover and a pleasant temperature at night. A little paradise... For the rich... Though there is a contrast, walking from the hostal is it is first a five minute walk through the real world before making part of the rich and famous. Enjoying the luxury. Never before has the contrast been this strong, rich-poor, famous-dirtbags.

The city is lovely, the buildings, houses with lovely balconies, amazing doors, streets, the atmosphere. Butt, from the city wall you can sea a second Miami beach, skyscrapers, apartments for the fortunate ones. Not improving the views.

Here I spent New Years, being on the streets, not at the crowded resstaurants, but enjoying the life, the people. The last hour of 2007, when it was already past five in Holland. Sitting there, some drinks. The Aussie dropped the question, well question... Taking it out: "you guys won´t mind me taking some coke"? We ignored the question, watched him take it and looking around for police. 2008, in Cartagena! Amazing firework shows, crowded streets, having a great time.

Tomorrow it is scheduled to leave to Panama, though today boats couldn´t sail out. The wind is too hard, hopefully it will turn better towards tomorrow. Nevertheless, life is good here, good food, great weather and having a great time.

Cartagena and Colombia, also known for other things. In general most local people don´t like it at all, but here coke is normal, especial amongst tourists. I´m sharing my room with some others, two british girls go on for nights. Acting as if they are not using a thing, but sniffing, their bleedy noses, their attitude and eyes. Coke... Last night two American girls came into the room for the night. One was having a bad night, really in need of.... coke. Available, cheap (only 5 usd per gram) and people live on it. Hard to watch them, but life is full of choices, Enjoy Cocaine...

Well, probably I will be in Panama City the 9th or 10th, see you soon!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Ciudad Perdida

Tayrona National Park, La Ciudad Perdida, 21-26 Dec. 2007

Starting on the 21th of December, 6 days in the jungle of the Colombian Sierra Nevada. A hike to the lost city. Crossing rivers, mountains, and then finally entering the city that has only been rediscovered 30 years ago.

The first day, meeting the group, Christy from New Sealand, Keiron from Australia and Brad and Dan from the US. a trip in the Chiva, over a mud road, through the mountains brought us to the start point. Ready for the first day hike, up the mountain, getting wet feet after five minutes, slippery, mud, rocks, rivers. An amazing hike, ending up at a river, with a swimming pool. That implies a waterfall, jumping off 5 meters from a rock to get in... Simply brilliant.
The second day we got up early, being treated with a great view (pic1), followed by a visit to ´the factory´... A small place where an old man makes cocaine and shows the process of doing so to the tourists (pic2). Afterwards we started todays hike, uphill, some slippery parts, again some river crossings. The views, well, one you can see in the third pic. Later on we walked through some indian villages (pic6) before arriving to the camp, preparing for the third day, arriving to the city.

After another night of playing domino´s, we turned into bed early. Leaving for the final stage to the lost city. First along some slippery rocks, being carefull, next crossing a river in which I was in up to my waist. Then a long walk crossing rivers, enjoying waterfalls, ending up at the start of 1200 stairs (where also the waterfall of pic 5 was), leading to the first platform. It was hard, but good! The city is pure, between trees (top picture) and while arriving I shot some pictures, keeping the best for the next day.

At night it rained, a lot, even the next morning, my camera was a bit moist, though the view from the bed was amazing (pic 4). We walked around the rainy city, keeping my camera in my bag, segure. The hike bag was amazing and challenging... Crossing rivers using ropes, one using a little cart/wagon with loose planks, hanging high (20 meters) above the river, ending up at a big rock, no security, slippery. A kick, but also a bit scary to cross. (mom, you´d have freaked out)

The last two days we walked back, took our time, enjoyed the amazing views and sunshine. During X-mas it was a 4 hour walk, though we did not really celebrate it. Looking back it were an amazing six days, wicked moments, a great group of people, poor food (my stomach has been better).. The Ciudad Perdida, a brilliant hike!
Hope you guys had an amazing X-mas and already all the best for 2008!!!


Monday 4.30 am, arriving at Bogota, the capital of Colombia, a huge city, a more dangerous place. At this time I did not want to look around for the hostal, so I decided to stay another two hours in the terminal, and there also already book my bus ticket to Santa Marta.

Around 7 I checked in at the hostal Sue, two locations, one of the best hostals around in Bogota. Taking a hot shower and orienting about what to do. At that moment two people came in, one of them was also dutch (Linda) and had the same schedule in Bogota as I did, solely two days. So we just made plans together. The first day walking around, exploring, museums, etc. The second day, Zipaquira, the salt cathedral.

In Bogota we had a great time, eventhough it rained, ending the day with making something for dinner together. The next day would be a long day. Zipaquira and next a long bus trip to Santa Marta.

Zipaquira is one of the main tourist attractions, all made out of salt, amazing to walk through this mine which is made into a Cathedral. An interesting day an surely worth the visit.

San Agustin 2

This second day in San Agustin, having a great jeep ride, amazing view, landscapes, past waterfalls, more statues, just amazing around there. Here some pics...

Saturday, December 15, 2007

San Agustin, horse riding and statues

Leaving Popayan, for San Agustin. All through a lovely landscape, amazing views and one of the most bumpiest roads you can imagine. After six hours it is a relief to arrive in San Agustin, but not before we travel the last five kilometers in a jeep, sitting in the back with nine people. Though the comfort zone does not extend beyond 5 persons.

The first thing I did arriving was the booking of a tour, through the hills and seeing some ancient statues, made from lava rock.. This was not just a tour, but one on a horse (Cavallo). On a horse through amazing landscapes, up, down, through mud, small streams, etc. During the trip we stopped at a small museum. Amongst the things there was figuring out my Maya birthday (sign). Very interesting!!

These statues we (me and a Swiss-Colombian guy I met on the bus here) saw during our horse ride:
It really was awesone, especially the landscape, riding in between coffee fields, suger plants, just having an amazing time!!!

After the horse ride we were dropped off at the national park. Here we walked around more amazing statues and even enjoyed some of the views better!! Along the walk there were also other sights, e.g. flowes, butterflies, small falls.

Tomorrow I will be on a jeep tour, engaging the best landscapes, waterfalls and much more. Later in the evening I will be in the bus to Bogota, arriving there Monday morning early, staying for 2-3 days before moving on to Santa Marta for the Ciudad Perdida.