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From One Colonial City to Another

NICARAGUA | Sunday, 25 January 2004 | Views [546]

Well it has been 2 weeks since the last update and i've got a reason why it has been so long.
After arriving in Antigua, we decided to climb Volcan Pacaya the next day (after being promised amazing scenery and chances to see the lava from the crater). After getting up at 5am and taking an old US school style bus (which if I had had to take one of those every day, I think I would have ended up being a lot more truant as a child), we arrived at the bottom of the climb.  Pacaya's summit is at 2500m and although very cold that morning, the first 2200m to the base of the crater was steep, but not particularly difficult.  The views over the other volcanoes (Fuego, Acatenango and Agua) were impressive and got some good pictures.  However, after 2200m, the terrain and conditions changed and the final few hundred metres were really hard to get up as every time you moved up the scree, you'd just slide straight back down.  Clare got about half way up but then turned back (along with a few others - 1 woman who had climbed to the base camp on Mt Everest included).  Out of stupidity, I carried on and seemed to perfect my ascension technique - sprint for 20-30 metres and then rest for a while.  The wind was unbelievably strong and the rocks were very sharp - got grazes, cuts and bruises all over and lots of volcanic dust in my eyes.  Eventually, after about an hour of this ascent, we reached the top and needless to say were unable to see anything - so the hardest climbing I have done for nothing (however, at least it had been good training for Machu Picchu) and sliding down the scree on the way back was fun (if not a bit dangerous).
The next few days in Antigua was very relaxed, but unfortunately Clare came down with a cold, so we were unable to go and do our Spanish course (somehow we are managing to get by on a strange blend of Spanish, French and English).  On the 14th was my birthday and went to a really nice Irish bar in Antigua to get a good bit of stodge into us (Irish Stew - beautiful and only $2)before taking another long bus journey the next day.
So after just under a week in Antigua (which was really enjoyable and a beautiful colonial town with amazing architecture), we caught a 4am bus over to Copan in Honduras.  Remarkably, managed to cross the border with ease and arrived in Copan at about 10am.  As we were on a tight schedule, went to the ruins that day and they were my favourite that we have seen on the trip so far - as they were far more intricate than any of the others that we had been to).  The ruins date back to 600AD and it was nice and quiet (and not filled with American day-trippers).  In the evening, we went to a wonderful restaurant run by an English woman who has been in Honduras for 8 years setting up and selling businesses.
The next day was another ridiculously early get up to go from Copan to San Pedro Sula to La Ceiba to Roatan (on the Bay of Islands).  It was a very long day of travel (about 14 hours) and after taking the last boat out to Roatan, jumped into our taxi to West End with a couple of American doctors we had met (who were the first Americans along the way that had been pleasant and were really nice).  It was quite dark by this time and the driver managed to get a puncture on the way, which he helped sort out (though got no discount).  Booked into a really nice cabin with views over the sea for a week.
On the Saturday went and met my father at the airport (first time I have seen him for 5 years). He smuggled us into Fantasy Island (not some dodgy porn resort, but an all inclusive place that really wasn't that nice) and were given welcome drinks and dinner - Clare and I were more concerned about getting kicked out by the armed security guards.  While there and waiting for my father to finish some dive initiation thing, one of the guests wandered out, fell down a ditch that looked like a path (badly lit) and broke his toe.  We managed to calm him down and get him off to the hospital , but the management didn't seem too concerned (perhaps it happened all the time there).
The next few days were spent doing my PADI Open Water dive course.  Clare started the course, but couldn't get her head around flooding the mask underwater and decided not to do it in the end.  I did get it and after doing 4 Open Water dives am now certified (which basically means I can go diving in the Leeds-Liverpool Canal and search for bodies if the mood takes me).  I think I'll only be diving if I happen to be somewhere that has very good sites and wouldn't be making any special journeys just to dive - as it all seems a bit fake and not natural with all the gear that you have to use.  Met my Dad a few other times and was surprised that he didn't want to know more about me and talking exclusively about himself.  The sand flies in Roatan were awful and got bitten everywhere, which was a bit of a pain.  On our last day in Roatan, had quite a few mojitos (starting to become addictive) and managed to upset one of the American ex-pats by apparently sitting in his seat (even though he obviously wasn't sat there at the time).  He started bragging about having 20 guns in the back of his truck and starting talking to the locals.  He then went into the back of his truck and pulled out a bag that ended up being full of American passports.  Roatan was an alright destination but lacked any real culture and was full of loud mouthed Americans and I couldn't imagine wanting to go back again.  However the dive course was really cheap ($150) and the people at the dive shop were really friendly (they were English).
We then took the bus to Tegucigalpa (capital of Honduras) and spent a night there (at the cheapest hotel of our trip so far, which had the hotel name written in black pen all over the sheets - just in case we fancied stealing them), before catching a bus yesterday to Nicaragua.  After a weird situation at the border (where all the passengers passports were taken off them for a couple of hours along with a vastly inflated amount for 'entering' Nicaragua), we arrived in Managua before catching a minibus over to Granada (where we are now).
Granada is a really nice colonial town and quite similar to Antigua (without as many tourists).  Today we took a trip on the Lago di Nicaragua (which is one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world - and about the size of Wales) and the locals are very friendly here and you don't feel like the only reason is to get your money, but out of genuine interest.
Anyway, that's all folks - keep the updates on what is happening back in Blighty coming.

Tags: I should have known better!

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