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Category Archives: on da road – central america

As if my latest rant on the perils and stupidity of undertaking strenuous hikes for no apparent reason wasn’t enough fodder for my poor little brain to realise that said activity should henceforth be banished…it appears the central American heat has finally warped my mind enough that I decided to do it all over again…

And thus, in the quaint little mountain town of Boquete (panama) when some testosteroned up American said… do the quetzal trail… you don’t need a guide, it’s easy… only 4 hours, you might see quetzals (Guatemala’s national bird which as yet has remained elusive) it’s all signposted, you’ll end up in this gorgeous little village at the end…. I donned on my hiking gear once more and eagerly set to work at the task…

A taxi ride down washed away roads winding through the lush green jungle covered mountain sides, watching the white wash as the waves of the rivers pound worn and weary rocks, and assured by the presence of a “park ranger” and a somewhat sketchy free-hand drawn map at the start of the trail…

We commenced, amidst the heat and the humidity… a gentle incline, up, through the fields of farmers lazy cattle, over the simplicity of wooden bridges until… the real track began…

Now no longer within earshot of the “real” world… the quetzal trail is not a clearly marked meander through rolling hillsides, but is in fact a torturous, vine ridden, bug infested trail through thick uncompromising jungle that while at first gives the false illusion of a gentle stroll rapidly becomes a sheer cliff face scramble…

As   what once may have been ample stairways slowly turned into impossible vertical ladders, mounted precariously on washed away cliffs, and what may well have been a signposted trail in 1976 became an instinctual fight for survival we braved certain peril and pressed forwards, aware that mosquitoes that persistently hounded our sweaty worn bodies were merely waiting for their chance to infect, while the only bird life we saw was the presence of the ever ready vultures just awaiting our demise and their next meal…

Step after weary step we trudged on, and as miracles would have it… some 1000 m elevation gain later we broke through the jungle canopy and emerged at the other end… only to find an abandoned ranger station, no signage, no vehicular access points and gangrene the cat, who with his wicked green and puss infected eye socket was only marginally less terrifying than his malicious and evil twin brother, “fluffy”,  whom I firmly believe may have in fact eaten gangrene’s eye during a sadistic ceremonial killing…

So now, late in the day… it emerges the nearest village is some 3 – 4 hours from home via public transport (and this in itself is a death-defying feat) and we are stuck, hostage to a gangrenous cat on a lonely mountainside…

Our only hope… a worn little track down the sheer cliff to the promise of a village below…

Blindly we commence our descent, meandering, weaving between the mosquito infested plants… only to be confronted with the horrific fact that landslides have in fact engulfed our only hope of survival and all that remained before us was the gaping scars of a broken mountain…

With no means to reascend, we braved the crumbling earth and step after step hoisted our way down the vertical scale… fearing with each step that we were headed to certain doom and an impenetrable jungle with no more path…

With great intrepidation, we turned the final rocky corner, and relief, a field, the familiar sight of roving cattle, and the nicest of farmers willing to drive a Ute load of worn out gringos into the nearest town and commence their battle against the odds of public transport home…

Some 12 hours later… re-emerging in Boquete, we the victorious have survived another day.

May all your landslides be punctuated with generous farmers, wherever in the world they are.

Always,

L

despite being sideways, gangrene inflicts fear into the hearts of many

despite being sideways, gangrene inflicts fear into the hearts of many

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when in rome my arse….

seriously…what was i thinking???

for someone who gets enough kick just getting out of a warm bed onto a cold floor on a winters morning…this latest adventure is shaping up to be the one that shaves a further few years off my life…

but it is true… when you’re away…and the opportunity presents itself…for some mind boggling (sanity questioning) reason we feel compelled to do the daftest things…

and thus…over the last few heart pounding, breath taking weeks i have successfully managed to survive:

sharing a toilet with an icky big spider

a race car inspired chicken bus driver who swerved around pot holes bigger than the bus into the steady and chaotic stream of oncoming traffic

snorkelling in the open ocean (near to where i myself had sighted 2 amorous stingrays just hours previous) not to forget that said snorkel spot was also the start of the biggest ocean drop off i had ever encountered!

eating strange and exotic (read stomach churning) bug infested foods

standing beside the lava flow of a live volcano (and wiping the sweat off my brow as my face felt like it was actually melting off)

climbing a ridiculously slippery clay vertical volcano in torrential rain (for no apparent reason)

standing on an open cliff peering down (unharnessed) into the glow of the live lava crater below (bearing in mind said volcano last erupted a mere 9 years ago)

zipped through jungle suspended some 100m above the tree canopy supported only by a WET fraying harness

voluntarily jumped off a ledge in said harness to experience the “thrill” of a tarzan swing

endured the garggling panic of popping up under my submerged raft whist braving the rapids of the toro river

walked in open toed shoes at night on a road teeming with large (toe biting sized) crabs (and evil dangly spiders overhead)

and subjected my very winter white skin to extreme tropical sunshine all in the name of adventure…

and while i take this time…to stop, catch my breath and restore peace to my poor panic stricken heart i ponder…would i do it all again???

the anxiety, the butterflies, the sleepless nights, the toilet stops….

hell yeah!!!

for if you cant pretend to be lara croft and escape the mundane truth of the real world whilst on holidays when can you huh???

may you find adventure where you least expect it!!! for thus it what brings the zest to the living!

always.

l

just another day in paradise

just another day in paradise

The grand old duke of york….

He may have had 10, 000 men…but why on god’s earth did he march them all to the top of the hill just to march them down again??

In my infinite wisdom… i too decided that climbing a mountain (in this instance masaya volcano, ometepe Nicaragua) …for the sheer heck of it seemed like a good idea… And hence…at the wee crack of dawn… Donned in my best hiking gear, i braved the aftermath of the preceeding evening’s rather impressive (and destructive) tropical storm and further more braved a nicarauguan breakfast (thus far the food here has not done me any favours… see previous blog) and set out to hike Masaya volcano…

Now, ometepe is an island in lake Nicaragua that consists solely of 2 volcanoes and the narrow land mass joining the two… and the sheer creation of this island makes it a treasure to behold and an inspirational view to seek… And while you may call me soft in tackling the smaller of the peaks, nowhere in the brochure did it mention that it is in fact.. THE CLIMB FROM HELL!!! In fact…within just a few short minutes (of scaling what felt like a sheer cliff face) while enduring the Nicaraguan humidity i already had an inkling that this would perhaps not be a gentle little stroll…

An hour later… Now dripping with sweat… rueing my decision to wear a new t-shirt (to cover and protect the previous day’s sunburn…but in effect further rubbing and irritating it) and puffing like a steam train we managed to make our first pit stop… The view point… And looking down the vast green mountain side before us… you clearly could see the island…the narrow snake of land joining the mighty peak of conception volcano before us…

And thus, falsely inspired by this amazing view and the fanatasies of what may lay ahead at this summit of our own we pressed on… Pressed on through the drizzle. Through the forest of clouds that descended amongst the tangled vines and gnarled roots that consume the forest floor and mark the way for weary travellers to trip on..

Ascended up the relentless incline that squeezed the very breathe from my chest

Trudged on through the onset of drizzle that merely mingled with our already drenched sweaty bodies.

Rested breathlessly, excruciatingly, listening to the marching band of my heart drowning out all other noises as it beat right out of my chest… Still climbing further more… Grappling for grip as the clay beneath us turned to mud, wiping off the mud stained sweat as i stumbled and collided scathingly with the hard earth, Still hanging on to that promise of a crater lake with a view… 2 hours pass, 3 hours pass… still pressing forwards…

And finally, desperately, taking those last few stumbling steps around the summit corner, ready to catch my breath…as it is stolen by a brown murky mud puddle, probably full of leeches!!!!

 No view… just trees, rain, mud and a small clustering army of sweaty, dehydrated bodies…. And like all defeated climbers, i too joined the heap of disheartened souls… devoured my now squashed lunch and dreaded the return walk… 4 hours, 6 km and over 1000m elevation gain… in now driving rain on soft mud and clay ground can only mean potential for laurie landslides, further bruises and a few cuts on return…

And thus, still sweaty, still heaving for a full intake of air… i glanced once more at the disappointment of a crater lake.. forwent the opportunity to swim… and commenced the descent… Slipping, stumbling and sliding the whole way down…

listening once more to the incessant thumping of my worn out body, accompanied now by the sorrowful mourns of the howler monkeys as they bark their disdain at our encroaching on their mountain side… Sliding less than gracefully as my now mud caked shoes no longer grip the earth…

Trembling at the raised pincers of the toxic mountain crab that dares block my path…and then subsequently tripping over once more and entangling myself around a tree… Each step an effort, yet a step closer to home. Each step a torturous bolt through a tired body, a further encakement of mud on worn out boots and a reminder of just how unfit i am…

And while yes…there is (as with all climbs) some bizarre sense of accomplishment once one is safely back down… more so the realisation that all we ever really need to know in life…we truly did learn in kindergarten… And while the grand old duke of york did march those men to the top of the hill…what do you think they saw??? Quite simply…just the other side of the mountain…

May your mountain summits be easily reached, wherever in the world you come across them.

Always. L

volcano...sure i'll climb one

volcano...sure i'll climb onehow am i going to clean these???a view to inspirethe uninspiring crater lake

why tourists eat western food in foreign cultures

i try, really i do….

i try to eat like a local live like a local…

but i’ve figured it out..

i dont have local immunity…

and thus…

as the belly starts to rumble and the age old dilemma of needing to eat overseas starts to press its urgency… one is faced with the usual problems.. to play it safe and consume yet another fatty cheeseburger..

or go the road less travelled…

venture into that little stall and sample the mystery meat.

its half the price… but twice the outcome…

so as i nurse yet another dose of backpackers belly, the quesion becomes…

whats for breakfast thismorning??

bug stew lunch

bug stew lunch

the pan pipe people conspiracy theory

there are buskers all over the world

same as there are sparrows and pidgeons all over the world…

but look beyond the human statue, the jugglers, stilt walkers, sword swallowers, fire eaters and unicycle riders and you will realise their is one busker who is actually ALWAYS there…

in fact.

i think he may be following me…

you know him…

you’ve probably seen him when you’ve been out with me…

he wears a ridiculous brightly coloured poncho made out of what looks like cheap hessian sack material and he plays the most annoying tunes on his evilly hand crafted bamboo pan pipes..

the melodies dont change over the world.. in fact… if he thinks you missed his show.. he stealthily puts those blasted blowing notes on in elevators and doctors waiting rooms!

the more i stop to think about it..

the more i am sure he is after me.

maybe there is truly some subliminal message in those oh-too-mellow sounds he plays….

and thus… when at last i thought i had outsmarted him he showed up in a honduras shopping mall!!!

same dirty poncho, same crooked grin….

so when you see him next folks…dont stop…run!!! he’s after you and he will haunt you wherever you travel!

for now… i am hiding out in my room… just in case he;s out there…waiting… to play those infernal pipes at me!

kicking it in the caribean…

so we made it cross the country….

long sweaty bus drives…

and at last..

bliss…

a tropical paradise….

water so sparkling blue they could use it in a commercial, island breezes and an annoying island rythm from the stoned jamacain guy next door who persistenylu pumped out his shaggy (followed inevitably by bob marley) album all day…and ALL night!

and of course…as all good white skinned people who havent seen the sun do… i inevitably got roped into a “small” (10km!!) walk around the island minus my suncream….

thus, from the outset my wee little island paradise called utila was up against the odds of cranky, dehydrated severely burned laurie!!!

lets add to that some little known facts about the paradise of the caribean…

1) the entire island is alive… not in the party sense… but in the sense that there are crabs EVERYWHERE!!!! i mean it.. everywhere…on the streets in your lawn.. i swear if they got any bigger they would climb the stairs and be in your room!!! the whole ground seems to move constantly with their little scurrying claws (and by move, i mean not just move from the 15 earthquakes they have suffered in the last week alone!) evil icky crabs..that at night lurk menacingly…and having 8 legs and a decided scurrying movement shall hereby be placed in the same formidable pile as spiders…

2) spiders,

yucky icky spiders everywhere!!! and while i am sure they are harmless the very fact that they possess 8 legs, and scurry and build their bloody webs right at face height so as to give one a heart attack when one inadvertanatly collides with said web late at night makes them a definate no on the laurie list

3) randy stingrays

what originally looked to be a shark swimming at the end of our private jetty did in fact turn out to be 2 stingrays geting it on… sure… steve irwin couldnt survive one cranky ray… do you really think i would take on 2 if i had just disturbed them!

4) the eternal teasing of whale sharks… apparently they dont like wind!

so as we all know i have long been wanting my whale shark encounter and with the ridiculousness of the swine flu situation and mexico coming off limits my hopes were pinned to this wee small window of opportunity in utila to go and play with the big fishies…

but somehow…. a slight breeze makes it impossible to spot an EIGHTEEN METRE long fish!!!

go figure! thus lauries whale shark dream remains to be done another day

5) food poisoning… apparently, according to michael, it is not advisable to eat pecan pie prior to a snorkelling trip… and of course when you mix this with my personal favourite

6) heat stroke and sun burn!

the fatal combination of extreme heat, humidity and sun on bare white flesh!

my island utopia of utila sure proved an adventure to be reckoned with..

but yup, now the sunburn has faded (and is starting to peel) and michael has moved from throwing up to possessing the stinkiest ass in the world… i wouldnt have had it any other way!

may your tropical paradise be bliss despite the heat!

hugs

how can you not spot a whale shark in this?

how can you not spot a whale shark in this?

the effects of heat stroke....

the effects of heat stroke....

the fires of mordor

forget indemnity forms… forget legal liability waivers…where else in the world can you actually walk beside the flowing lava of a live active volcano??

and thus…with the promise of adventure… i rose for another pre dawn start and braved the humidity of guatamala to hike up a 2400 metre volcano in the pre dawn glow…

sweating and dusty labouring each step of the way in my typical cumbersome unfit fashion… little did i know that before me truly lay the burning fires of mordor…

as i stopped and admired the yonder distant rumblings, unbeknownst that i was heading exactly there… until at last reality dawned..

as sooty dust turned into molten rock…

a lunar landscape stretched before me..

where each step was a precarious balance listening to the tell tale crunch…and wondering, hoping one’s foot wouldnt crack through the creme brulee crust to the fires of hell below..

as each corner brought with it a new draft of toasted air..

until at last..

standing at the very tongue of the fiery beast…watching it drool its flaming lava down the defeated mountainside..

droplets of sweat pouring, as if my head was stuck in the oven cooking a roast on a warm summer’s day..

the sizzle as those sweat drops hit the scorched earth,

can i really be allowed to stand here??

is this really safe??

of course its not.

the very fires of the earth were at my toes, melting my shoes and flowing freely beneath the feeble rock below my feet.

but you bet i loved EVERY moment of it!!!!

if frodo baggins ever doubted his fears standing on mount doom my symapthy goes to him…. for i too would hesitate before leaning over that shaky edge and risking staring into the eyes of the beast below. and you bet i did hesitate!! faced with the task of standing beside the lava tongue for my epic photo…

but hey…if you cant fight your demons on holidays where can you huh??

and thus… the ring destroyed. my fear of fire conquered and i am safely back down the mountain on “colder” solid ground.

till next time.

hugs to the world.

l

couldnt do this at home!!

couldnt do this at home!!

welcome to the jungle.

well, after another whirlwind airport adventure…and more michael not being ready shenanigans (including this time his neglect to actually visit a bank to arrange the required u.s dollars for the next leg of our tour!!! talk about a sure fire laurie panic attack inducer!!!) we made it with a bump, a crash, a bit of turbulence and some attitude from a new york transit officer into guatemala…

my backpack still laiden with the gloves, neckwarmer and sweaters i so needed in canada now seems even more glaringly overpacked as i get my first real taste of humidity after nearly 18 months!!! and already i just know my lily white skin is going to be in for a hammering!!!!

so as we were whisked out of guatemala city amidst the usual haranguing of taxi drivers first impressions reveal a somewhat smaller version of bangkok…as families of 12 balance precariously on a motorbike flying at breakneck speeds down seemingly disorganised highways…all combined with the record time or pro-racer taxi driver managed to wrack up on the journey..

then suddenyl voila..

the scenery changes…the pace slows..

and antigua opens before us..

nestled in a valley of lush green jungles, shadowed by volcanoes that light the night sky an eerie pink and full of the charm of an old world cobble stoned city….

i love it already!!!

and despite my glaring lack of sleep and pending early morning starts of my tour… what better way to spend my one morning off tomorrow than with a 6 am hike up a live volcano!!!!!

so on that note my friends… adios from downtown antigua… bed is a calling and tomorrow starts a whole new day of adventure!!!!!!

antigua

antigua

sorry its sideways!

sorry its sideways!