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Central America

travelling through central america

After we made it to Panama, from where ship to Colombia, time to review. Due to time restrictions, and regulations around pets (Layla), we haven’t been to Belize and El Salvador. In the other countries we stayed 4-5 days each. Travelling through Mexico and Central America was great, where sometimes our expectations were met, but not always.

We were most excited about…

Guatemala. Definitely our highlight for sure! Here our surroundings became green and mountainous again. We found a nice mix between spending time at the lake, and in the mountains. Plus, Guatemala was much safer than expected!

We were least excited about…

Mexico. Unfortunately. Although we had a very warm welcome right at the start, we didn’t find it very spectacular. Of course this is partly a result of our expectations, which were based on other peoples experiences. A little too much dry, flat, desert land and too many terrible roads with way too much toll and totally useless and destroying speed bumps. Accompanied by an endless garbage on the side of the road. Surprisingly, the roads in all the Central American countries were way better.

The hardest part…

The heat. Of course we knew it was going to be hot, but the experience is always different. Especially for winter people, with 7 years of back to back winters, the 30+ temperatures with high humidity were quite the change. For Layla in particular, this was sometimes not too pleasant. But also for us it was hard, sleepless nights or waking up soaking wet.. knowing it’s only getting hotter. This was incredibly exhausting on the long haul.

The easiest part…

All the check points. We’ve hardly been checked at all, and we could have smuggled anything down to Panama. At border crossings Grisu never got inspected for more than a few seconds, just a very brief look inside and the question where we were going. Also on the road, although we’ve passed by many checkpoint, we’ve only been stopped and asked for papers twice.

The funniest thing…

We saw a family that had driven their car, just a regular vehicle, into a shallow stream/river to give it a wash. It was in a riverbed in Honduras that only had a small stream of water flowing through this time of the year. The riverbed was actually also used as a road, and since we arrived in the dark and we couldn’t see well, we parked on the road that night.

The most annoying thing…

The border crossings with Nicaragua, both in and out. Going in the lady thought it was (therefore) necessary to ask countless questions that were just a waste of time. It got stuck where she wanted our itinerary, which we didn’t know at that time. Eventually, her shift ended and she wanted to go home, so she stopped asking. Leaving wasn’t much better, when another lady refused their own currency! Yes, they only accepted a foreign currency (USD) and refused their own. Highly illegal of course, proven by the sheet she had to give us, but that didn’t change anything. We had the exact amount needed in the local currency, and only wanted to use that money. (Since across the border it would have been useless.) So we changed the money for basically no fee, just another waste of time, but it worked.

What we wish we should have at home too…

The Guatemalan bus system. The buses drive like crazy, as if all the retired Formula 1 drivers moved to Guatemala as busdrivers. They race around in old American school buses dressed up for Carnaval. But not only are they fast, it’s exciting too. They seem to pick you up and drop you off everywhere, without actual designated stops. You just raise your hand. Most of the time, the bus won’t even fully stop, just slow down enough to jump on and off. If it’s busy, luggage goes on the roof and to make it quicker somebody sits on the roof the entire time to help get the luggage on and off. Making bus rides exciting, that would solve many public transport issues in Europe!

This describes how “easy-going” life in Central America is, and this reminded me of how poor we are in Europe with all our uunnecessary complicated rules. Life is practical and pure. This was what summarizes it for us and wish we would have a little bit more at home.

In the end…

What made the overall experience, was the contact with the local people. People who it’s hard communicating with sometimes, but are almost always super friendly and very willing to help with anything. Apart from our Mexican story we had awesome contact with locals every day. From the guy in Nicaragua on the beach who offered us to camp at his place even before we had parked, to the security guard at the gas station in Honduras who we shared food with, to the people who’s car broke down in the pouring rain in Costa Rica who we could help with our jack to replace a wheel.. All things you’d not experience in most of Europe, that what I liked the most travelling through Central America!

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