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RTW 7 1/2 – The Central America Edition

Beaches, Bug Spray, Boobies & Boats: Wrapping Up a Month in Central America

Posted by on Aug 24, 2012 | 0 comments

Beaches, Bug Spray, Boobies & Boats: Wrapping Up a Month in Central America

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Well, after a month of island-hopping around Central America & South America, I’m finally home! From huts to hotel suites, this one was a real adventure. There were lots of picture-perfect beaches, volcanoes and animals and more boats than I care to remember. In fact, in most places (Roatan, Guatemala, Corn Islands, San Blas & Galapagos) small boats were the primary form of transportation. In the course of the month, I went through several bottles of bug spray and sunscreen and one tiny bottle of Dramamine (and I’m happy to report they all performed admirably).

I slept in boats, bungalows, one very questionable hut (see above) and, thankfully, even a hotel suite or two. I trained dolphins, hiked volcanoes, visited a village shaman, did my first scuba dive and first sailing trip, reached my highest altitude ever, played photographer for an indigenous island family, stood on the Equator and swam with sea turtles, sea lions & sharks.

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Quito Ecuador: Top of the World, Middle of the Earth

Posted by on Aug 23, 2012 | 0 comments

Quito Ecuador: Top of the World, Middle of the Earth

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After a terrific 7 days in the Galapagos, we landed in Quito Friday night with a little over 24 hours to explore Ecuador’s historic capital. Surrounded by snow-capped Andean peaks creating a dazzling cityscape, Quito’s official elevation of 9,350ft makes it the world’s 2nd highest capital city.

For the last night of the trip, we were back in Sheraton-land at the beautiful Sheraton Quito Ecuador where they were kind enough to upgrade us to a roomy suite.

Exhausted and starving from a full travel day from San Cristobal (beginning with a 7am, 2-hour boat ride to Santa Cruz, taxi across Santa Cruz, boat across to Baltra, flight from Baltra to Guayaquil and then finally to Quito) we adjourned to the Club Lounge to eat, have a glass of wine and formulate a plan of attack for our full day in Quito.

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Land Based Galapagos: Island Hopping in the Land of Darwin

Posted by on Aug 21, 2012 | 0 comments

Land Based Galapagos: Island Hopping in the Land of Darwin

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Discovered by accident in 1535 by the Bishop of Panama when he veered off course on the way to Peru, the Galapagos Islands first appeared on a map some 35 years later as the “island of the tortoises.”

For almost 300 years after their discovery, the Galapagos mostly served as a safe harbor to a succession of pirates, whalers and sealers. The islands were a resource for fresh water and food for the sailors who caught thousands of giant tortoises and stored them in their cargo holds. Because the tortoises could survive for up to a year on the ships, they provided a long-lasting food source.

In 1832, Ecuador officially claimed the Galapagos and just three years later a British naval vessel brought Charles Darwin to the islands.

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First Up in Ecuador…Guayaquil!

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 | 0 comments

First Up in Ecuador…Guayaquil!

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For the final 9 days of this year’s summer-trip-extravaganza, I’ll be exploring Ecuador with visits to Guayaquil, the Galapagos Islands and Quito. We arrived in Guayaquil a little before lunchtime after the short flight from Panama City.

Our reason for visiting was primarily because Guayaquil made the best launching point for the Galapagos with regular flight service. With the rest of the day wide open, we didn’t have an itinerary planned out. So, we decided to hop in a cab and head downtown to get our first look at Ecuador’s largest and most populated city.

We started our self-guided city tour at the magnificent riverfront promenade, the Malecón. Considered one of the most extensive urban renewal projects in all of South America (and the largest architectural project in Guayaquil in the past century), Malecón 2000 stretches 1 ½ miles along the banks of the Rio Guayas. Lining the waterfront are shops, playgrounds, restaurants, ponds and gardens and you could easily spend an entire day exploring it.

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Kokomo, Kuanidup & the Kuna Yala: The San Blas Islands, Panama

Posted by on Aug 9, 2012 | 8 comments

Kokomo, Kuanidup & the Kuna Yala: The San Blas Islands, Panama

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After a night in Managua on my way back from the Corn Islands, I arrived in Panama City by mid-afternoon on Friday. In anticipation of the upcoming next few days of roughing it in the remote islands, I’d booked a room at the luxurious Sheraton Grand Panama to ease the transition.

From this point on in the trip, I am joined by my friend and regular travel-buddy, Shannon, who arrived in Panama City late Friday night. Thanks to a flight delay out of Atlanta, Shannon didn’t make it to our hotel until well after midnight. As any good friend would, I obviously had wine waiting and we toasted to our impending travel adventures!

There wasn’t much time for sleep, though, as our 4WD transportation to the San Blas Islands was picking us up at 5am. For the first of our two-part visit to Panama, Shannon and I had elected to spend three days visiting Panama’s isolated San Blas Islands.

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More Than Just a Canal….Panama City, Panama

Posted by on Aug 10, 2012 | 0 comments

More Than Just a Canal….Panama City, Panama

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After four nights of roughing it in the beautifully remote San Blas islands, Shannon and I couldn’t have been happier to return to the comforts of the plush Sheraton Grand Panama City. They were kind enough to once again upgrade me to a lovely suite with a bathroom bigger than every bathroom in San Blas combined and after marathon showers we were both starting to feel human again.

I had to spend most of that afternoon catching up on work emails and dialing into a conference call while Shannon checked out our options for touring Panama City the next day.

Since we’d focused most of our planning efforts on the logistical challenges of San Blas, we’d hardly given any thought to what we wanted to do once back in Panama City. We obviously wanted to check out the canal but other than that, we were out of ideas.

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From Pirates to Paradise: Corn Islands Nicaragua

Posted by on Aug 3, 2012 | 0 comments

From Pirates to Paradise: Corn Islands Nicaragua

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I got off to a rough start in Nicaragua.

Still reveling in the zen from my weekend at Laguna Lodge in Guatemala, I landed back to reality in Managua. First stop, immigration.

I was “welcomed” to Nicaragua by a gruff immigration officer who charged me a 2nd time for my CA-4 visa that I’d paid for in El Salvador and is allegedly supposed to cover Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua. Guatemala accepted it, Nicaragua wanted more money.

Fine. It was only $10 and certainly not worth seeing the inside of a Nicaraguan prison.

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Going Green with Glamour in Guatemala

Posted by on Aug 1, 2012 | 0 comments

Going Green with Glamour in Guatemala

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One of Central America’s most physically diverse countries, Guatemala is bordered by Mexico, Belize, El Salvador and Honduras and has both Pacific and Caribbean coasts. The country is home to 37 volcanoes, including the highest in Central America – Tajumulco at 4,200 meters.

Nearly a mile up in Guatemala’s Central Highlands, silvery Lake Atitlan is a natural work of art framed by three massive conical volcanoes. Lined with small Mayan villages, the sparkling lake is one of country’s three major tourist attractions (the others being Tikal and Antigua).

Scientists debate the precise nature of Lake Atitlan’s creation but it was likely the result of a significant volcanic eruption violent enough to create a huge cavity 1,000ft deep and 11 miles in diameter. Today, volcanoes Atitlan, Toliman and San Pedro circle the lake’s more than 95 square miles of surface area. While Toliman and San Pedro are inactive, Atitlan is still marginally active – though its last violent eruption dates back to 1853.

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El Salvador: Exploring the Land of Volcanoes

Posted by on Jul 29, 2012 | 0 comments

El Salvador: Exploring the Land of Volcanoes

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I was sad to leave Roatan but I still have so much left to see in the next few weeks so it was time to move on! I landed in San Salvador a little after 6pm after a lovely first flight on Taca airlines, El Salvador’s national carrier. To get from Roatan to Guatemala, a change of planes in San Salvador was necessary so I’d decided to spend one night there and try to see a little of the city.

Ironically, Central America’s smallest nation is also home to its largest economy. But densely-populated El Salvador is also the least visited country in the region.

Its war-torn history is partly to blame but the country has also been plagued by natural disasters like Hurricane Stan in 2005 which was immediately followed by the eruption of Volcán Santa Ana. Flooding from the remnants of Hurricane Ida also hit the country hard in 2009.

With two volcanic ridges spanning east to west, daily life in the country known as the “Land of Volcanoes” is anything but boring.

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Get Ready for the Summer of Central America!

Posted by on Jul 20, 2012 | 3 comments

Get Ready for the Summer of Central America!

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Well, if it’s summer time then obviously it’s time for some serious global slacking off. This summer I’ve decided to take my slacking off on the road to Central America. My summer work is done and now it’s time maximize the month remaining before another season of college football kicks off in late August.

As some of you may know, in addition to my annual January round-the-world trips, a few years ago I started a mid-year edition to combat the unappealing symptoms of passport-underuse and satisfy my summer longings for tropical islands, exotic foods and living out of a tiny suitcase for extended periods of time. Typically, for my summer trips, I choose a particular region of the world to explore more in-depth. My first summer trip took me through Central & Eastern Europe, the second around Australia, New Zealand & the South Pacific and the most recent was a fun-filled summer in the Balkans.

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Dolphins, Diving & Underwater Dating Dilemmas: All in a Day’s Work on Roatan

Posted by on Jul 27, 2012 | 2 comments

Dolphins, Diving & Underwater Dating Dilemmas: All in a Day’s Work on Roatan

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Arrayed in an arc roughly 30 miles off the Caribbean coast of Honduras, the Bay Islands of Roatán, Utila and Guanaja are known for spectacular diving, white powdery sand and turquoise waters. The islands have a colorful history of pirate raids and remained in British hands for more than 200 years before being ceded to Honduras in 1859.

Surrounding these picture-perfect islands is a magnificent reef second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. For experienced divers the islands’ draw is obvious, but for non-divers like me it’s also one of the world’s least expensive places to get certified.

A visit to the Bay Islands has been on my List for years and on this trip through Central America, it was tops on my priority list. The original plan called for 3 nights on Roatán and 2 on Utila (4 hours away by boat). But after researching the many things to do on Roatán, I decided to devote the entire 5 nights there not wanting to lose an entire day commuting between the two.

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