The Amazing Race - Central America
Mar 7, 2016
|It feels like so much has happened in the past 17 days. Our usual relaxed travel pace exchanged for what became the amazing race throughout Latin America.
It still started with the same familiar buzz mixed with a healthy amount of anxiousness as we made our way to Sydney International Airport. I was sure by now I would be immune to the excitement and butterflies that the prospect of new adventures brings. It appears I'm not, that feeling never gets old.
The short break at home made it feel as if we were starting out on our adventure all over again. Next up in the excitement stakes was our first A380 airbus experience to LA, followed by Houston as we made the long journey to Guatemala. We had enough time during each transit for a bite to eat and people watch. The most interesting conversation we overheard was that of the United Airlines staff at the check in counter. One lady was telling her colleagues about a pair of shoes that she was intending to buy in her incredibly strong and exaggerated American accent. It went a little something like….
"Oh they is soooo cutttttttttte (pointing to the shoes on her phone)
I have to get me some of those.
Tomorrow after work, I will go to the store and they be coming home with meeeeeeeee".
Of all the countries we have travelled, it was in LAX Airport that felt the most surreal. Who knew that of all the places we’ve been the USA would feel the most foreign.
After almost 30 hours since leaving Sydney, it was a relief to finally land in Guatemala city. All we could think of was a shower and bed. After 14 hours of sleep we were ready to explore our new world and it started with a delicious typical Latin American breakfast of amazingly good coffee, eggs, rice and refried beans. This would fast become our staple breakfast.
It felt so good yet surreal at the same time to be here. In those first few moments after breakfast walking the streets we would look at each other in silence and acknowledge how special it was to be here. To be somewhere new but somewhere that felt familiar. After a day on our own to explore our surroundings it was time to meet our tour group who we would be travelling with for the next 17 days. Fast forward 17 days and we’ve formed some great friendships, shared amazing experiences and a near death experience together.
Mum, we’re sorry you’re only hearing about this now but we didn’t want you to worry and we needed to tell you only after we had fully processed what had happened. A few of our group were apprehensive about the rickety boat we were taking across the Gulf of Fonseca from El Salvador to Nicaragua at the outset but we all felt the fear and did it anyway. The waters were initially calm but the conditions changed drastically when we were miles from land. With walls of waves crashing into our boat soaking us all and settling in growing pools at our feet, we as well as the Captain knew that we were in trouble. With no other boats to be seen, no radio on board to call for help, and the wrong lifejackets for these conditions (we found this out later) there was fear, tears, prayers and a lot of profanity occurring. At times our boat couldn’t move forward as the waves kept crashing against us keeping us idle. After enduring these conditions for almost 3.5 hours (the trip was meant to take 2 hours), there was no doubt in anyone’s mind the captain averted a tragedy and we were all incredibly lucky to plant our feet on the black sand beach of Nicaragua. I did think about filming the experience but truth be told I was too petrified to let go of the railing beside me to get my GoPro out of my bag.
After the event when we debriefed our experience as a group over copious amounts of local rum and beer, there was talk about what the headlines would have been if we didn't make it. Needless to say we all slept incredibly well that night.
In every other aspect Central America delivered what we were expecting: cobblestone streets, colorful Spanish colonial architecture, amazing food, cowboys, the sweet sound of Spanish and Latin music and amazing sunsets. We’ve witnessed Easter preparations in Guatemala - up until then not realizing it was the biggest Easter celebration in the world. We’ve been surrounded by active and inactive volcanoes, swam in natural springs, hot springs and a waterfall, toasted over the most spectacular sunsets, zip lined, drank cup after cup of great coffee, eaten more black beans to last a lifetime, practiced our dismal Spanish language skills and met a 97 year old cigar maker from El Salvador who only recently decided to go part time from full time rolling. When she was asked the reason for her longevity she said she’d had never smoked or been married and she walks every day. She was so fit and healthy it was hard to believe she was a day over 80. There is no doubt Lauren and I have left a part of our heart in beautiful Granada and Costa Rica. Costa Rica at times reminding us of tropical Cairns and the Daintree with her lush greenery and rolling hills.
Then there were a few things we weren’t expecting like driving past a bar on the outskirts of town in Nicaragua and seeing horses tied up out the front waiting patiently for their cowboy owners. Then driving through the outskirts of San Salvador and seeing so many private security guards in front of businesses with pump action shot guns (we’ve seen guns before but never this many in front of tyre/ auto spares stores and even fast food outlets). I have to admit we were all feeling a little uneasy given there were guns and security everywhere, and we were told we couldn’t stop here for a pit stop as it was far too dangerous.
Needless to say we escaped Central America unscathed and added even more amazing experiences and blessings to our suitcase of memories. It may have been a short lived love affair but one we’re grateful to have had.
Muchas Gracias and Adios Central America!