Off the backpacking trail

The last leg of my trip – it came up so fast. Reading my notes, it seems these plans hit me in the face out of no where. When I was in Belize, I learnt a group of my guy friends were going to be in San Juan around the same time I was. And the plans worked out! I love traveling for that, I only really knew one of them going into it, and now to this day I consider them great friends.

Anyways… these guys really knew how to take a backpacker off the ‘gringo trail’. The house they rented was amazing. Absolutely breath taking. The views, the pool that looks like it rolls over to the ocean. Having a shower you don’t need flip lops in. Sleeping in sheets you know are clean. It was a fantastic end to my trip. I was able to relax and completely ground myself before heading home again.

The house was actually in Mederes. Therefore, I did miss some of the hostel shenanigans and Sunday Funday. How I went to San Juan and didn’t hit up Sunday Funday is beyond me but I guess thats why I have to go back.

We did some legit surfing lessons here. I thought I could get into it with being taught everything but I just couldn’t. I was getting up and ‘riding’ the waves. The guys were killing it too. But I just couldn’t get over the wave beating me up the second I fell off the board. I gave up to go drink on the beach, typically.

Checked out a show, The Funk Hunters, in San Juan the one night too. Great party scene, and good DJ show. I actually ended up flying home with the DJ’s and we all had our luggage lost together. Small little world (and the first time I ever had luggage lost).


Volcano boarding

I only stopped through Leon, Nicaragua, for 2 nights. There isn’t too much going on their in my opinion. Except for Volcano Boarding. Making a stop through Leon is well worth it for this activity. I thought it was going to be all hype, typical tourist draw. That being said, it did teach me to do all the ‘silly tourist things’ because tourist do them for a reason.

I stayed at the Big Foot Hostel and booked the volcano boarding through them. Of course the night we got in, we partied, so the whole adventure day was a little ruff at moments. The night life was pretty good. We found a few clubs to hope around. I ended up walking home alone, not the smartest, but it happened. Despite my friends efforts to make sure I was ‘looked after’.

Anyways, turns out this adventure is rated in the top thrill seeking adventures around the world. The record on the site we were at was 97KM per HOUR. Note, your literally just sitting on a board. You are not strapped in, you do not have breaks or steering. We had sexy orange jump suites and the plastic goggles you get in science glass across all high schools.

Now for my bragging part… I went 54KM! I was the second fastest girl of the group and only lost first place by 2KM. I was very excited. Especially when I learnt I beat all the guys I had been traveling with. Typically, after their the ones making bets with each other on speeds and being big tuff guys.

The only other piece I would say about Leon is stay on the beach! I went to the Big Foot Hostel on the ocean for drinks one night and wish I stayed their. This is also the area that Surfing Turtle is located. Its an eco lodge you have to walk out to when the tide is low… lots of really cool stuff going on. I need to go back to Central just to spend a few months in Nica. It seems lots of Canadians are doing that these days, so I am sure I will find my way back there.


The best change in plans yet!

Throughout all of my planning and reading I didn’t see myself going to El Salvador. Firstly, as I was travelling alone, I was told it was one of the least countries to hit in Central. I was going to bus straight through it to Nicaragua.

All that said, it turned out to be one of my favourite spots I hit – ironic how that happens. Mel said she was on her way there to learn to surf, so I jumped on that plan pretty quickly. Immediately after crossing the boarder from Guatemala you could tell you were in a different country. The men were taller, the women dressed differently and the heat hit you like a wave. I have never experienced heat like that.

I only had time to hit one area, El Tunco. I stayed at the Papaya Lodge for 4 nights (when i planned to stay for 2). The place was perfect. The exactly combination of pool side relaxing, fun party guests and friendly locals. El Tunco is poster area for surfer bums. I knew this going into it, a girlfriend of mine actually got ‘stuck’ there for several months shortly before me.

We also seemed to find the best food here. It was the fresh fruit, smoothies, vegetables and healthy food I imaged Central to have (that I didn’t find until here). And they have Papusas. This is their ‘local’ food. You pay pennies for a little fried pastry filled with meat and veggies. Yes, they are as unhealthy as they sound. The only other thing I will say about the food here is a panini shop Mel and I found. We couldnt get over how good they were – so good in fact we ordered one each for the bus ride out of their at the end of the week. Its a few shops down for Papaya Lodge if you go looking!

This is where I first gave surfing a whirl. And when I say ‘whirl’ I mean i just drowned in the ocean for an hour. Consuming so much saltwater I actually ended up getting heat stroke (heatstroke in 47 degree humidity is possibly the worst experience as far as illnesses go that I have been through). Anyways, prior to that, I had a great time. We had linked up with a few guys who actually did know how to surf and give me a bit of a lesson.

Of course, no ocean side stay would be complete without drinking buckets of beer as the sun sets. This quickly became my favourite travel tradition which I ended up taking home with me. I often drive to a look out in YYC to watch the sunset now. Its almost as satisfying as a hot yoga class at the end of the day or something.

After extending this trip as long as I could, I was off to see Nicaragua. A few of us actually kept on together, and the yarns continued…

Antigua has a fantastic private hospital.

Unfortunately that’s one of the few statements I can say about the beautiful historic city. Antigua was a few day stop over as we made our way from Semuc Champey down to El Tunco, El Salvador.

The group I was traveling with seemed to have drank the river water in Semuc and was dropping like flies. Luckily, I didn’t get sick. I recommend the Private Hospital there though if you need any care! We showed up later in the evening, knocked on a sketchy door and entered a clean and quite facility. We seemed to be the only people there. After a quick doctor check up, a large scary needle and a shockingly small payment – we were back on our way to the hostel.

The sick one was still well enough for snap chat yarns!
The sick one was still well enough for snap chat yarns!
It did smell weird...
It did smell weird… 


I highly recommend El Hostel as well. They were a fantastic Bed & Breakfast style hostel. We were able to do laundry and sort our selves. Felt good to have a few down days.

Although I would have loved to do some of the volcano hikes. I didn’t pack the appropriate clothing, nothing warm at all in fact. Bring your sweaters, it gets cool at night! You could see a few volcano’s from the city though, Fuego Volcano actually erupts every twenty minutes or so, you can watch from the cobblestone streets!


I did make it to the Chocolate museum though – YUM! They even had a gluten free brownie – double YUM!

I can not wait to go back to Antigua, one day. It truly was a beautiful city. I also met lots of travelers there who were taking English courses. They offer one on one sessions, for a few weeks, at a great price. I certainly have kept it in mind for my next adventure.

The cloud blocked my photo moment!
The cloud blocked my photo moment!

Semuc Champey, where soul searching is conquered.

I decided at 6 a.m. it was time to move on, to the water taxi back to the mainland and onwards it was. This is where I learnt how incredibly freeing it is to be a solo traveler, although I do wish I had said good-bye to a few people.

Heading to Flores, I was planning on seeing Tikal the next day. I wasn’t sold on it though. I was going because it was the ‘sight to see’. It seemed there was another plan for me though. The bus stopped for two girls hitchhiking and they turned out to be the two awesome girls I met in Caye Caulker. I quickly learnt they were heading to Semuc Champey, after a night in Flores as well – that instantly sounded much more appealing! Trust your intuition and follow where your soul goes, you wont be disappointed.

Flores, Guatemala
Flores, Guatemala

Flores is this adorable little island town, or the ‘old’ part of the city is on an island rather. It felt very calm and homely compared to Belize. We ended up staying at the Aurora Hostel – it wasn’t top rated but we wanted something cheap for the night and it was actually pretty nice. Quiet, private washrooms, really cool rooftop area! I did hear from other travellers though that one of their favourite hostels was Hostel Los Amigos in Flores. Perhaps we missed out there.

Lake life, Flores.
Lake life, Flores.

Here is the first (and last time) I got ripped off by a local shuttle bus driver! He sold the three of us bus tickets to Semuc Champey for the next morning. Now he also talked me into buying a ticket from Semuc Champey to Antigua. As this was my plan, and I thought why not – he is offering me a cheaper price. There was a poster in the Hostel lobby showing shuttle prices from all over, one of which was Semuc Champey to Antigua. He also added one night free at the hostel I was heading too. Anyways, I learnt later that I paid way too much, and the hostel I went too wouldn’t take his note as a comp for my stay (shocking, right? Sounds brutally obvious talking about it now) and I hardly got my bus out of Semuc at the end of the trip anyways. Just buy your bus tickets as you go, unless there with a larger company I would say!

Anyways, off on an eight-hour bus ride adventure to Semuc Champey. When I jumped on the bus, I believed it was around four hours. I think someone told me it was only 300 Kilometres. Turns out its closer to 8 hours because of the roads, oh the roads! The roads a filled with potholes and drivers on a mission! The drive through Guatemala was beautiful though. Lush, vibrant green rolling hills. The last bit seemed to have taken the longest, as it was all unpaved down a windy canyon. It was clear we were headed for more remote land than I anticipated – after all, I decided to make the journey the day prior, no time to research.

Bus ride views.
Bus ride views.

When we got to Lanquin, we were bombarded with young children yelling in the vehicle offering hostel accommodations and transportations. It was a quick change of pace form our quiet bus ride. We finally sorted out who was taking us to El Portal hostel. We had to transfer here to small, tiny, trucks as they were the only vehicles that could handle the rest of the road terrain. There was six of us, and of course us girls voted to pile in the back of the truck – open to the adventure right! We had a blast trying to talk Spanish to locals hitching a ride and high-fiving backpackers as they pass in similar trucks. But after thirty minutes, 11 whole kilometres, of this we were excited to stand on solid ground.

The hostel was amazing. It was eco friendly, cute little bunks, no power in the rooms – in fact the generator was only turned on from 6 p.m. – 11 p.m. for power in the . Best of all, no cell phone service! The moisture was so intense that it almost ate my cell phone though. I was tempted to buy a bag of rice for all my electronics. A few cell phones did die, and a friends eReader.

El Portel

I would recommend going to this hostel because you can walk up to the pools, caves and jump off the bridge! If you stay in Lanquin you have to take the trucks back and forth.

We decided to do the pools our selves, without the tour guides – and that was a good call! We hit the pools first thing in the morning, almost had the whole place all to our selves. I am almost certain this was the most beautiful place I have ever been. The water is crystal clear, and the trees lush green, amazing viewpoints from the hiking trails. I could go on and on! Catching some sun rays in the water that morning, while the little minnows bit at my feet was a highlight from my whole trip. I think I could have day dreamed here for days…

The cave journey that afternoon was quite the change of events. A group of around 15 of us head into this cave with our bathing suits on, runners for our feet and candle stick in hand for light and one guide who only spoke Spanish. Needless to say I was feeling anxious. I did find a limit of my own – must be in control of my own safety and wellbeing! To sum it up, I had a few tears of joy when I made it back into the open air.

Fake smiles!
Fake smiles!
Much better!


After tubing down the river from the caves, I was still holding onto some negative energy. I had to shake it off. What better way than to jump off a bridge that’s 50 feet (12 meters)!

Jump it off.

After two nights it was time for me to head onto Antigua… after the eight hour delay due to a local protest. The locals barely let us through. They parted ways ever so slightly, I thought the bus was going to run them over. They would have defended themselves I am sure, as they made their machetes and machine guns very visible.

It was this bus ride that I decided every experience was one to take note on, even in the most uncomfortable seats possible. I had been meeting the most amazing people all the way through, and this was no exception. The poor Kiwi sitting next to me had a seat made for a child, a child that had the short end of the stick at that. She was lovely though! We ended up traveling for about a week together. After a very short time on the bus it was clear we must have met in another life. Great vibes. Lots of yarns.

Photo 2015-02-20, 5 44 27 PM Sleeping hutCouldn't find more peace & quiet.

Semuc Champey

These lovely humans <3

Its unBELIZEable

After landing at the Belize City airport, and coaching myself through my first realization of, “you are now alone in third world countries for 3 weeks. You committed, love it or hate it – can’t back out now”, I hoped in the front seat of the cab and took off to the water taxi terminal.

Figured now was as good a time as any to learn how to strike up random conversations. My cab driver, a devoted husband and father of two (he was friendly to say the least), went on to warn me about the dangers in Belize City and to watch out for the ‘Reggae Men’. I had to convince him that I had my head on my shoulders and I wouldn’t be paying the way for any local who wanted to follow me along my journey.

Belize City was not pretty or welcoming. I was happy to wait only a few minutes before jumping on board the water taxi (headed for Caye Caulker BTW!). I snagged the front seat, opened the window and breathed in the salty air and felt at home. Words cannot describe how the water makes me feel, any body of water really. A piece of my soul is water molecules I think, I feel complete when I find myself in the area.

It was here that I met two adorable German girls; they were headed to the same hostel as me (perfect!). For the record, it’s that easy to make friends while traveling solo. The three of us ended up spending the first few days together, before they moved on to the next island and I stayed put.

A kind local walked showed us the way to Bella’s Hostel. Thinking about it now I am not sure where he came from or what was in it for him. I assume he worked for a hostel on the island. I had emailed Bella’s Hostel, so I had a dorm bed ‘reserved’ for me, the other two were out of luck and had to stay at Dirty McNasty’s across the street. Yes, that’s an established business name. From the stories I heard, Nasty does paint an accurate description. Fun party hostel thought!

Bella’s was a perfect first hostel experience for me. It had the chill local vibe I was looking for. Hammocks on the deck, bikes for you to take as you please, water access with canoes to use out the back, busy little kitchen-living room area and dorm style bunkrooms. It was $12 American dollars a night, 25 BZ Dollars.

Caye Caulker for me was all about the water sports. I was there to do my Open Water, PADI certification. Decided I should get out into the water before I actually try to scuba, so snorkeling it was! I have never experienced snorkeling like that. The amount of marine life you see is mind blowing. This was out on the Belize Barrier Reef, which I learned is the second largest reef in the world – Great Barrier reef in Australia being the only one larger. The boat took us out to 3 spots, one of which being ‘Shark Ray Alley’ and holy was there sharks and rays. Nurse sharks, the ‘gentle’ ones; come up to the boat like kittens in the kitchen when you open a can of Tuna. They swarm when they hear the boat engines, because they know there is food for them. The captain throws a bunch of dead fish in the water for them and says – JUMP IN! I jumped off the other side of the boat, naturally. The rays actually bothered me a bit more than the sharks. They come and swim so close to you, and stare. I think they were checking me out more intensely than I was checking them out.

The third stop was where I saw the Green Turtle. Finally, my bucket list item, ‘swim with turtles could be checked off’. They were so CUTE. This area was far to over crowded by tourists, most swimming after the turtles, naturally scaring them off. There must have been 20 boats anchored off the reef, and all taking snorkeling groups through the waters. At one point I brought my head up and realized myself and another girl were in the middle of some other tour group. Took us five minutes to find our guide again. Amazing there is so much wild life when so many humans were out there daily. I did ask my dive instructor later that week about the animals. He said at night they all leave and go about their business, so they are coming to these areas of the reef by choice. Maybe they like to people watch.

Now all night, all I could think about was starting my PADI the next day – I was like a kid waiting for Santa. Went out for dinner that night, I was amazing how much ‘American’ food there was everywhere – sandwiches and burgers, expensive one at that. Caye Caulker wasn’t cheap in general though. I ended up buying food to cook in the hostel for most of the week. Lived off of eggs – which by the way, you buy from the shelf. That was weird to me!

One food highlight was making fresh Conch Ceviche. We brought up a few Conchs from our dive (so cool!) and Joey and the guys at the dive shop cleaned it up, chopped up the veggies on the dock and there you had it. It was delicious, and obviously very fresh. Ceviche is a big ‘local’ food in Central so having a cool story behind it made a good memory.

Anyways, I highly recommend doing your dive certificates in places like this – the ocean is your pool! When I signed up online, it said 4 days and made it sound intense. It wasn’t. It was SO easy. Ended up being two and a half days too, which was awesome. I also highly recommend Frenchies Dive Shop. They were fantastic, and my instructor, Joey, well he was exactly what I hoped for in a dive instructor: Confident, relaxed, knowledgeable, patient, friendly and cute.

Immediately finishing my last dive I was already talking about my next one. I need to time my next trip so that I can find the whale sharks – that’s a check mark waiting to happen for my bucket list as well. I did see a beautiful Spotted Eagle Ray on one dive. It was beautiful how it ‘soared’ through the water. And the fish – I felt like I was in the Finding Nemo. Every time I blinked I was amazed by a new species.

Last note – the party scene! It was solid, as you would expect. I group of us ended up trying to drink all of the rum on the Island, a few nights in a row. I highly recommend a day in the sun at The Split (remember H2O), than heading to the I&I Reggea Bar for some dancing and bad decisions. Watch out for those from Australia, the UK and Canadians – especially when we make up a group together. I think combined we partied harder than the locals.

Now, 5 nights and 4 beautiful sandy island days, I am off to Guatemala…

Note: this follows the party night I mentioned above; hung-over boat rides may beat any hung-over car ride I have suffered through in the past.

Enjoy the pictures.