Report Card #1

So  now we’re home in the states for a week so we’ll take this opportunity to take stock of how we’ve done so far and what it is we need to change.  Overall, it looks like our preparation has paid off.  We’ve rarely been without something we’ve needed and have never been completely unprepared.  Since leaving the US we have not met another backpacker with smaller packs than we have (we do have the added benefit of being able to share a few things) but we have met many with things we wish we did have.

Our supplies have treated us well but we are swapping a few things out that don’t seem to be standing up to the wear and tear we put them through or just aren’t quite perfect enough for our uses.  Mostly this has to do with our  wardrobe…we’ve put several reviews up this week and several more are coming.  Once we’re done with all our trips to REI and repacking our bags we’ll update our gear page and link to the reviews we’ve written.

As for budget, which is what we are most concerned with on a daily basis, we’re spending less than we budgeted but a bit more than  we had hoped to spend.  All in all though we’re not in such a bad position.  Reminder, these numbers are updated each time we finish a country on the $$$ tab.

CountryDaysFoodLodgingActivityTransMisc*Daily Avg
Mex & C. Amr.111$17.76$10.33$23.31$20.50$7.35$79.25
Costa Rica10$18.88$15.28$12.60$11.60$6.25$64.61

MEXICO:  Our first country so we weren’t so savey yet.  Having said that, we didn’t so do badly.  We did some expensive activities, several of which we would not pay so much for now.  Overnight buses and couchsurfing helped to keep lodging low but those same buses made for some high transportation costs.

GUATEMALA: This is a very cheap country.  We could have lived there very inexpensively, especially given how long we spent there.  Spanish school is the sole reason for this being as expensive as it was.   Additionally, living with a host family proved to be far more expensive than had we lived alone.

BELIZE:  Only went here to visit some family and had a wonderful time staying at their fancy (free lodging) house.  Getting there and back from Honduras, by boat, proved to be a very expensive endeavor.

HONDURAS:  Another cheap country, but we spoiled the budget here by getting PADI certified.  How dare us!  Add to that the expense of transportation to some isolated villages in La Moskitia and the island of Utilia and this country looks more expensive than it really  was.

NICARAGUA:  Not really any cheaper than Guatemala and Honduras, but as we didn’t have any major adventures here we were more on target with our spending.  That being said, this spending still represents a few small splurges.

COSTA RICA:  Really proved to be too expensive for us to do many of the things we had hoped to do…so we visited some monkey infested beaches (mostly free) instead and continued onto Panama earlier than we intended.

PANAMA:  Home to our most expensive hotel room, two overnight (low lodging costs, high transportation costs) bus rides, and finally some awesome whitewater…oh, and a canal!

Central America Summary

Central America has been wonderful, but after almost 4 months (including Mexico) we’re itching to move on. By the time you read this we’ll be in the USA for a mini break. Yay!:) The timing and finances worked out so that we’d be able to take a week or so in the States before heading to South America. Fortunately for us it coincided with the 4th of July (my favorite holiday) and the wedding of our friends Aaron and Alexis. Sometimes the stars just align like that!

Anyway, we’re really looking forward to South America. (Really we just need to verify if the toilets do indeed swirl the other direction!).  We’ve met so many incredible people, other travelers, expats and locals each of whom has helped us adapt to life on the road. We’re pro card players at this point and play a mean game of 500. :)

We’re definitely looking forward to another continent and exploring new regions, hopefully with some different food (if I eat rice and beans one more time, arg!).  Our first stop will be Colombia and we plan to move south and east across the continent.  Send us tips if you have them!

So, drum roll please…. here’s our Central America wrap up:

# of chicken bus rides: too many to count

# of times we went through San Pedro Sula, Honduras: 5

# of natural disasters: 1

# of coup d’etats narrowly escaped:1

Most number of bug bites at one time on one appendage,: La Moskitia, Danny’s foot, approximately 50

Nights spent on overnight bus: 2

Most expensive hotel room: $30 Panama City, Panama

Least expensive hotel room: $7 San Pedro Sula, Honduras

Biggest surprise: The size and scope of Panama City

Favorite Country: Honduras

Volcanoes Hiked: 5

Monkeys encountered: tons! yay! :)

Hot springs enjoyed: 3

Items Lost: 2 more baseball hats, Jillian’s bathing suit (in Honduras), one yellow spork

Best Meal: Chicken, Rice and Beans on Ometepe, Nicaragua

Favorite Snack: Chicky’s!!!!

Belizean Adventure

Opening my email a few weeks ago I found a very welcome surprise, an invitation from my Uncle Gary to join him and the amazing Pam 2 in Belize. A very welcome invitation, we were unsure if we’d be able to make it to the house he had rented. Belize might be more touristy than the rest of Central America, but we are still in Central America so transportation information is usually not trustworthy until verified independently by several sources. Finally it seemed like Belize might be do able so we hatched a plan to get there.

Belize was a welcome break for us after moving in rapid succession from Antigua to Copan to Utila to Comayagua. We rushed to catch the weekly ferry from Puerto Cortes, Honduras to Placencia, Belize early Monday morning and in spite of our worries about missing the ferry, the immigration officers held the boat for two hours before letting us leave. If you ever want to take this ferry, be prepared to wait, and wait, and wait. Arriving in Big Creek Shipyard in Belize the captain told us it would be easy to catch a bus from Mango Creek (about a 5 minute taxi ride) to Hopkins. It was sort of like a transportation board game: taxi to ferry in Puerto Cortes, shuttle to immigration back to ferry, ferry to Belize immigration at big creek, taxi to mango creek, bus to hopkins junction, hitch-hike in the back of a pick up truck to Hopkins, and a 3 mile walk walk to the house my uncle rented…but they found us before we walked all that way. By the time we arrived we were exhausted and happy to soak up our first air conditioned space in several weeks.

We spent the next day hiking around Cockscomb Wildlife Reserve, the first jaguar preserve in Belize. Unfortunately we saw no Jaguars, only some bugs, birds and lizards. Besides spending time with family and soaking up the air conditioning, it was nice to be in a country where other people spoke English. We spent the rest of our time in Belize hanging out by the pool, walking along the beach and generally exploring the area. For me it was great to spend time with Uncle Gary and Pam without the rest of the family, we haven’t seen them since our wedding and we never got to spend a lot of time together outside of big family events. Sometimes I have these experiences where I actually feel like an adult. Sounds funny, but often I feel like I’m still just a kid moving along in life. I hardly ever think of myself as an adult, which is probably why I’m on this trip in the first place. Sharing a beer and the sunset with my Uncle was one of those “adult” moments.

A perfect week of relaxation, good food and good company until Thursday at 2:30am. You’ve seen our immediate post about the earthquake, but the earthquake truly was the defining moment of our trip to Belize. For those of you that haven’t experienced an earthquake, Danny made this video to share our experience with you. (No, we did not grab the video camera during the earthquake, this is a “made for the web reenactment. No one has been hurt in the making of this video. :))

Belize was a great re-charging mini vacation for us. Even though the earthquake was scary, we never thought twice about moving forward and continuing our journey. Sometimes things happen and as we keep telling ourselves, things happen every day everywhere in the world. Coming back because of an earthquake defeats the purpose of traveling in the first place, so we’re plugging along, moving forward and maybe inspecting structures a little bit closer from now on!

Shaken not Stirred

Survived last night’s 7.1 earthquake with no injuries or damages.

Although we didn’t feel our first two earthquakes in Guatemala, this one was unmistakable.  Shaken awake somewhere around 3am, at first we were unsure what was going on.  Groggy one of us finally said earthquake.  For what felt like minutes we held each other waiting for the shaking to stop, unsure of what else to do.  (They don’t teach earthquake preparedness in Elementary School in Pennsylvania or Florida!).

Even though it was dark we were jostled awake with such force and could actually see the house shaking.  When the quake started to subside we shouted for the others in the house and started to get outside but with everything still moving, only moving less, and things being so dark, progresss was slow.  We waited for aftershocks which never came as neighbors began walking up and down the beach checking on people.  One exclaimed….”I ain’t never seen anything like that before and I’m from California!”  Worried about a tsunami, we sat and waited for awhile until sleep got the best of us.  Unable to find any news on our radio, and realizing the worst was probably over, we cautiously assessed the house for damage (lost a few pieces of wall art and the toaster managed to make its way to the floor)  and eventually went back to bed.

Power was on again by the time we woke up this AM and we even have running water.  The Associated Press indicates that it was a 7.1 earthquake off the northern coast of Honduras, a few kilometers north of Utila, the island we visited last week.  More information can be found at the USGS.  We’ll check out our village and post pictures/video of anything interesting.