Yep, this will be a short update. We stayed only 4 days in Belize and we loved every moment of it. Sure, 4 days is really not enough to explore a country but it is enough to explore one of its pretty little islands. Nothing against Belize, but it was not in our initial plans to visit it, mostly because we wanted to spend more time in Mexico and because it is an expensive country. It turned out, we needed to cross Belize in order to enter Mexico anyway (because we are leaving Rusty in Quintana Roo) and then it felt wrong to just cross the country without seeing at least a bit of it.
The Guatemala / Belize border was the easiest and fastest border to cross; basically no one asked us anything, they just stamped our passports and wished us a nice stay. Three hours after crossing the border we were on the Caribbean again, and parked our van in a marina of Old Belize, Belize City. Yeah, sleeping right at the ocean seemed like an amazing idea, initially. We felt safe and left our van doors open so we can cool down but it turned out to be the worst idea… Sand flies, or whatever the freakin’ insects were they, bit us all night long and we barely slept at all. Little did we know, this was our last night in Rusty. Either way, we got to see this fairy-tale clouds and say goodbye to sleepless nights caused by heat.
The second day in Belize, we headed to Caye Caulker, one of the prettiest islands we have ever seen. The boat ride was beautiful, incredible turquoise waters of the Caribbean were giving us that “isla bonita” excitement. I learned, by the way, that this song – La Isla Bonita, is about San Pedro Island placed right next to Caye Caulker. We decided to go to Caye Caulker for its more relaxed vibe (we have been told San Pedro is more of a party-kind of place). The moment we stepped on the perfect white sand of Caye Calker and felt the breeze of its pretty palm trees, we knew that it was a good decision to see at least a bit of Belize.
It was a big change from the rest of the trip. Suddenly, everyone spoke English (it is one of the official languages of the country) and many people tried to make us buy “funny herbs” explaining how it is completely legal to do that in Belize (not really true though). We couldn’t really tell if people we interacted with were nice and kind or just sarcastic or all of the above. In the other hand, we did not have enough time there to really tell… We did enjoy eating lobster snacks served on the small tables in the water, biking around the island, buying some really good spicy salsas and enjoying some very nice live music in one of the many many bars. All in all, we are happy that we could see another Caribbean paradise island before getting to Mexico where many beautiful things expected us. Belize stays on the list of countries that we need to explore more and we could really see ourselves traveling to Caye Caulker or San Pedro with a group of friends for an unforgettable experience. Who’s in? 🙂
El Paredon – Antigua – Hobbitenango – Atitlan – Chicicastenango – Lake Izabal-Livingston- Rio Dulce – Jungle – Flores – Tikal
We travelled for a month all over Guatemala, from Pacific to the Caribbean and everywhere in-between. From around 38 degrees in El Paredon to using a thick blanket in Chici, Guatemala gave us everything: all kinds of weather, all sorts of landscapes, millions of colours, two food poisonings but also some of the best food we ever tried, many many crazy roads and tons of amazing people and experiences. Our Guatemalan adventure started at its Pacific coast, in a small surfer village called El Paredon. This place was daaaaamnnn hot and did not allow for more than being lazy in hammocks watching the sea. Watching the sea was the only option involving the sea because the waves there were absolutely huge and violent, difficult to master even for experienced swimmers (which is not me). Three days of beautiful black sand, impressive waves and beautiful sunsets were enough and we decided to move to higher lands where the temperatures are bearable.
Off we went to Antigua Guatemala, probably the most beautiful city we have seen on this trip. Antigua used to be a capital of the country but, it being surrounded by impressive (and active!) volcanoes did a lot of damage to the city at some point in history. It was, however, rebuilt and stands beautifully surrounded by volcanoes offering tons of pretty cafés, restaurants, nature tours, volcano climbing adventures and simply relaxing strolls through its beautiful streets. No, we did not climb the volcano to see the impressive Fuego erupting – we only had broken sandals and summer clothes, not to mention only as much energy at this point to let ourselves go on a what many people describe as “one of the hardest things you’ll do in life.” So climbing the Acatenango volcano is now on our “to do list” (after getting a little more fit LOL). Temperature in Antigua was perfect and we slept very well in our van, on a parking lot of a hostel. Antigua is also great for shopping, full of colourful markets selling traditional clothes that almost all women in Guatemala wear. This makes people watching activity so much more interesting, you can’t stop admiring their masterfully embroidered and colourful outfits. Of course I got some of those outfits myself (and was dressed by Guatemaltecas themselves).
Some 5-10 kilometers uphill from Antigua, the narrow and curvy (sometimes scary) roads will bring you to a fun village called Hobbitenango. Its name says already what the village is about 🙂 We had loads of fun visiting little hobbit houses and enjoyed the views over Antigua and the surrounding mountains before heading to Lake Atitlan, one of the spots I was most excited about to see.
We had a very adventourous road to reach Lake Atitlan. It’s as beautiful as it is scary at some point; some parts are really really steep while others indicate signs such as “bridge does not exist, cross the river.” We first thought it was a joke but not at all; the sign was very honest. Rusty did not disappoint though and crossed the river like a champ. We arrived to Atitlan right at the sunset and had this magnificent view of the lake and surrounding volcanoes.
But Atitlan was not really what we expected it to be. It was beautiful and magical, yes, but people kept pushing us to buy things (and sure enough we did, mostly because we wanted to help a family owning a small business), we got loads of warnings about bandidos on the road, and then I also got a food poisoning which made us book a hotel and stay in the room (well, close to a toilet LOL) at all times for one entire day. It was beautiful and it was fun trying on the traditional Guatemaltecan clothes but we decided to move on to a calmer place to recover some more. And we found just the perfect spot in a city whose name is complicated to pronounce – Chichicastenango. That’s why everyone calls it simply Chichi.
Chichi is especially visited on Sundays when all the city center streets become one huge market where one can buy basically everything and enjoy watching the crowds walking through labyrints of beautiful handicrafts. We had a fun day exploring the market but we had even more fun staying in a beautiful camping spot that gave us the best sleep we had in a while. Chichi is on nearly 2000m altitude which makes it significantly colder than other places in Guatemalan flats. It was around 16 degrees at night and we took our blanket out to sleep and it was a comfy feeling we did not have for a while. We stayed 5 days in this place, enjoying home-made food, hot shower, talking to Luis – a kind young man that manages the camping spot, making fire, playing cards, playing guitar and singing, and observing Mayan rituals that happened daily right next to our van.
Now that we were well rested and experienced cold weather, we were ready to continue and explore Guatemala’s jungle and all those other HOT places. We headed to Rio Dulce and the huge Lake Izabal before travelling to other places accessible only by water. That meant that we would suffer the heat again, but we could park Rusty right at the lake which was our only refreshment even though the lake water was super warm. In Rio Dulce we met Mario, the manager of the camping spot, and his son Isac who came for a chat every day, took us on boat ride and taught us how to fish with a net. We cooked a Peruvian dinner for them not only to thank them for their kindness but because the food always tastes better when shared. Also, some great hair days happened here and I felt like a lioness. LOL
Mario and Isac took us across the lake on their fishing boat so that we can catch our next ride to Livingston, a small village on the Guatemalan Caribbean accessible by boat only, special for its Garifuna culture. Garifuna people are a beautiful mix of African, indigenous American and Caribbean cultures that gave us not only great vibes but also one of the best meals we ever had called “tapado” – a kind of fish/seafood soup cooked in coconut milk with some herbs that, they told us, remain a secret. We will try to recreate the recipe but we do know that it will never taste the same as the one we had surrounded by smiling women and served on the terrace of a small family restaurant.
The way to Livingston was a beautiful journey through a fifty-shades-of-green breathtaking jungle. We were excited to stay in a small cabin at the beach that we found on Booking, but, as it turned out, some things on this website can be a little deceiving.
So, Livingston gave us mixed-up feelings. Garifuna culture is beautiful, food even more. The village is very relaxed, the music is great, people seem to like to party and many people will offer you to smoke funny ‘herbs’ on the street. So far so good. On the other hand, a big part of the beach is basically a trash dump. We were so disappointed to see how little effort is taken to clean up what otherwise would be a paradise beach on the Caribbean. We walked through piles of plastic everything on the way to our cabana that looked nothing like pictures on Booking, and when we met Patrick, an old French dude who owns the cabana, we offered to clean up the beach and asked him to give us some plastic bags. Here comes the moment we met the ONLY unpleasant person in this entire trip. Patrick gave us a lesson of how it doesn’t make any sense to clean up because the trash will just reappear again, how he gave up on that and how naive we are thinking something could change by trying to clean up. I didn’t like his attitude at all and his attitude became even worse as the days went by. If everyone would think like him, I guess we would all just be ok with destroying our nature.
Anyway, the Patrick experience gave us a lot of food for thoughts and also mixed-up feelings about Livingston. The last night there we went to another place for another ‘tapado’ experience and as it turned out… I got another food poisoning. It’s something I have to check later on when we’re back home, but based on the 3 food poisonings in this trip I guess I might have an allergy to crustacea. At least this time I could recover from this horrible thing in one of the most beautiful places we stayed at. Some 30 minutes boat ride from Livingston, there’s a Hotelito Perdido (Lost little hotel), in the middle of the jungle. And this place is cure for soul and body. Look at it:
Once I regained my strength and was able to eat again, we went on the most relaxing kayaking through the mangroves, enjoyed reading in the hammocks at the lake, and sharing meals with some wonderful fellow travellers we met at Hotelito. We loved it so much there that we decided to stay a day longer and enjoy the peace only jungle can give you. Our Guatemalan adventures were coming to an end but not before we saw Flores and Tikal, one of the most beautiful and biggest Mayan ruins sites in the region.
Isla de Flores is a small island ‘city’ surrounded by water, sometimes referred to as “Venice of Guatemala.” Flores is beautiful and walkable in 30 minutes and a great spot for a day before going to see the magic of Tikal. Tikal is a huuugggeee and impressive site of Mayan ruins and just like Copan in Honduras, it completely dehydrated us. We were really really having a hard time walking there in humid, probably 38 degrees weather surrounded and bitten by hundreds of mosquitoes. But the sights of beautiful temples and the jungle surrounding them stays in mind, mosquito bites are (almost) forgotten.
With hearts full and with loads of memories of a month-long beauty we have witnessed in Guatemala, it was time for the last jump in the lake and the last beautiful sunset before heading to Belize. I can say with certainty that Guatemala is one of the most beautiful places I have seen and its people some of the kindest I have had a privilege to interact with. This country really has it all: two beautiful coasts, mountains, jungle, cultures, colours, art, music, incredible food, people… It’s also one of the cheapest countries in Central America. So, go ahead, book your flights, there’s no reason to wait any longer 🙂
Lake Yojoa, Pulhapanzapak Waterfall, Tela, La Ceiba, Utila, Rio Congrejal, Copan
Honduras still has this bad reputation of being one of the most dangerous countries in the world. We have been warned by some people, in a friendly manner, to take a real good care. We tried not making any assumptions about Honduras, and we avoided reading too much online (if you listened to these official e.g. US and UK government travel advise you probably would never go anywhere). So let’s get over with it and answer the question: did we ever feel in danger in Honduras? We’re happy to answer with a big NO! That being said, we should tell you that we didn’t go to the cities like Tegucigalpa or San Pedro Sula which are very often described as the most dangerous places in Honduras and even locals told us they don’t go there unless they really have to; they also told us their experiences of being robbed in those cities.
From the moment we crossed the border from Nicaragua, we were very positively surprised with Honduras. We were suddenly driving on the most beautiful highway I have ever seen. Surrounded by big mountains and stopped by military who basically just wanted to wish us a good day, first impressions of Honduras were just WOW.
It was time for our first stop in a camping before making the way towards the Caribbean coast. Another surprise: it was the most beautiful camping we have stayed at until that point. Huuuugeee area with swimming pool, lake, restaurant, bbq spots, tables and chairs, and most importantly, clean showers and toilets. We loved Honduras already. The next day, we made our way to the beautiful and serene Lake Yojoa. A warm and sunny day called for a visit to a local brewery (expensive but the most beautiful brewery setting ever) and then for some more refreshment by kayaking on the lake. Kayaking seems to have become a recurrent activity for us; I love it way more than Jorge; there’s something about the exercising and enjoying the serenity at the same time but Jorge always complains how kayak hurts his back. I guess we’re in that age now LOL. Well, we did have to kayak on the canal for a good hour before reaching the actual lake and we did get caught up in a huge rain on the way back but it was absolutely beautiful and worth it nevertheless.
We then had another surprise on the way back from kayaking, not the nicest one this time. Camping at the lake proved to be a bit challenging; we found a spot near the lake but it rained so much that we got stuck in the mud and had to ask for help to get out. It’s funny to look back at it now but at the moment it was pretty shitty. Our amazing pilot Jorge got Rusty out of mud and we went to search for a less muddy sleeping spot. We were faced once and again with the kindness of people of Honduras. We found a nice café which was about to close and asked if we could camp there. They allowed us to their property for free and even excused themselves for toilets not being super clean (and they were spotless, in comparison to the many toilets we have seen before). We’ve spent a calm night and I woke up well rested and smiley. It was time to visit the Pulhapanzak waterfalls, an incredible nature park close to Lake Yojoa. Imagine falling asleep with the sound of a waterfall and then wake up, have coffee and swim in the river next to the waterfall. Don’t even get me started on the views and the fact we had the entire nature park to ourselves that night.
Every day in Honduras brought beautiful places and people. Soon enough, we have arrived to the Caribbean coast and decided to spend 3 nights in the parking lot of a hotel in Tela. Parking lot doesn’t sound super attractive, but… add an amazing swimming pool next to it, hammocks, access to a private beach and many conversations with a nice lady working there and you have the winning combination. On the negative side, Honduran mosquitos seemed to have LOVED us in Tela and it was, as you can imagine, really really hot but what else can you expect from the Carribean? We couldn’t complain at all.
It was around this time when we decided to visit the Bay Islands and then I convinced Jorge that he has to have another adventure (without me this time) and get his diving licence. We joked later that I was “pushing him” to do this so I can spend some time on my own, but the truth is that Jorge knows me and that’s exactly what I wanted. LOL. No. I just knew he can’t miss the opportunity of diving in one of the most beautiful reefs in the world, learning diving in a very professional school and in the cheapest place in the world to do so. So, off we went to Utila, one of Honduras’s Bay Islands.
Utila is a small island that can be (mostly) explored on foot or scooter. We got to the island on the fanciest (but shakiest) ferry I have ever seen and as soon as we arrived we loved the vibe. Most of people there are divers and divers seem to be chill and cool and know how to party. Jorge started his diving course the day after our arrival and I started my own little routine: coffee, swimming pool, beach, book, blog. We both loved our days in Utila and Jorge, up to this day, cannot stop talking about diving. As the matter of fact, he is diving right now as I am writing this (in Mexico). I guess planning our future trips will also depend on the diving sites but that is totally ok for me; it means that there is a beach and, while I don’t like tanning and spending hours in the sun, watching the sea and listening to waves is one of my favourite things in the world.
Jorge made many bubbles in the water, I read many chapters of my falling-apart book and it was time to return to the mainland. Upon the return from Utila, we visited the largest botanical garden in Americas in La Ceiba; we saw many beautiful and many poisonous plants, got bitten by a thousand mosquitoes and then left for Rio Congrejal, world-famous for rafting. At this time, we have had enough of water sports so instead of rafting, we spent time talking to people and playing with the cutest animals, while having amazing views.
The last stop in Honduras was Copan – a famous site of Mayan ruins and a beautiful little town. Mayan temples were super impressive but the temperature was crazy: we couldn’t stop sweating and couldn’t spend more than 3 hours on the site. We were happy but absolutely dehydrated. That’s a good way to shortly describe Honduras, it will make you happy and thirsty for more.
So for all of you still leaving Honduras at the bottom of your travel lists, please move it up. This country has everything; the most beautiful highways, great food, very kind people, great art, history, nature… something for everyone really. Don’t be stupid and get wasted in San Pedro Sula on your own at 3 AM and you will be totally fine. We said goodbye to Honduras in Copan and crossed the border to a very colourful Guatemala where we stayed for a whole month.
San Juan del Sur – Isla de Ometepe – Laguna de Apoyo – Masaya Volcano – Granada – Leon – Esteli – Somoto Canyon
Nicaragua… it’s a beautiful country with kind and welcoming people, despite its complicated political and social situation (if you’re interested, the UNHCR report on Nicaragua from 2022 explains this better). It took us ages to cross the border from Costa Rica to Nica, but after 4 hours of walking from one immigration officer to another, we headed for the beach and went to see what is the fuss about San Juan del Sur, the touristy city close to the border. Apparently it used to be kinda hippie town that attracts young (and beautiful, they say) backpackers and surfers. It was okay for a day or two but we didn’t really get what the hype was about. There is a nice-ish beach but nothing compared to the beaches we have visited until then. In all fairness, we didn’t bother to visit the beaches around. Rusty went to a mechanic for a little check, we went to see some nice bars and restaurants and that was kind of it for us.
We decided to move on to a more laid-back and more nature-surrounded place, Isla de Ometepe. Island of Ometepe is the largest island on a lake (Lake Nicaragua) and it is basically comprised of two huge volcanoes that provide amazing views all around the island. We decided to leave Rusty on the mainland, on a ferry parking lot, since it was a lot cheaper too to park it there than transporting it to the island with narrow and bumpy roads. Now, Ometepe is not a small island so if you wanna see it, you gotta get yourself a ride. Few minutes upon arrival we already hopped on our small rented scooter and went to see Punta Jesus Maria (below on the pic), a beautiful place to see the sunset and the volcano while having impression you’re walking on the water (therefore the name, I guess).
We originally planned to stay for 3 nights in Ometepe but we decided to stay extend our stay very quickly. We moved around on our scooter and stayed in different nice and cheap hostels, waking up with the sound of lake waves and views of surrounding volcanoes. Moreover, everything we ate was so yummy. We especially enjoyed Nica breakfasts composed of eggs, gallo pinto (rice and black beans mix), cheese, avocado and banana: a great fuel for the entire day. We got to chat with locals cooking food in their simple, outdoor kitchens, and were even more impressed with the kindness and generosity of Nicaraguans.
But, as usual, we didn’t stay lazy (too much). We also got back into our hiking spirit and decided to hike to the waterfall of San Ramon (we didn’t dare to hike the volcano – for the lack of physical readiness and the equipment: we basically had brought one shorts and 3 t-shirts with us). It turns out, this hike, which was supposed to be an “easy” 4 km uphill was absolutely crazy, the trail was destroyed after the storm and it was impossible to approach the waterfall even though we were like 10 minutes away from it. As many times before, here’s Jorge’s smiley face since the hike was much easier for him and then there’s mine… It was worth the sweat, I saw some more monkeys on the way and monkeys can make any day happy for me 🙂
Ometepe is nature lovers’ heaven. You take the kayak out on the like in sunset and it feels almost surreal, spiritual in a way. You go swim in the volcanic pool and sip on “coco loco” and observe the forest around you. You talk to people and eat Nica food. You see magical rainbows. You touch butterflies. More than enough to fully enjoy life. I mean, look at this:
Ometepe left some sweet feeling inside: some places just have that power. We knew then that we will love the rest of Nicaragua and that’s exactly how it was. We felt safe and welcome, the roads were better than in Costa Rica and the camping spots, even more scarce, were beautiful. We felt safe even in the wild camping. This was especially the case at the Laguna de Apoyo, the volcanic lagoon with warm and crystal clear water, perfect for swimming and chillin’. We stayed on a public parking for a night but finding (cleanish) toilet turned out to be tricky at night so we moved to a parking lot of a popular hotel. The views from there to the lagoon were absolutely amazing and we could use kayaks for free and chill in the hotel’s lounge areas. We had amazing 4 days in this spot enjoying playing cards, swimming and playing with our new furry bestie. I think we were so chill there that I forgot to take pictures, so there are only these two below (I only made videos, it appears LOL).
Things were getting better and better and then the time had arrived for us to see, for the first time ever, real volcanic lava at Masaya Volcano. This experience was surreal! The viewing deck is super small and you can imagine that a bunch of tourists had the same idea of seeing boiling lava, but nevertheless the experience was absolutely incredible. That night we stayed the parking lot, in front of the entrance to the national park of Masaya volcano and slept really really well.
The next day we took off to Granada, one of the oldest and prettiest towns in Nicaragua. With its colonial, colourful architecture, pretty squares and a fun chocolate museum, Granada did leave a nice impression on us. We got to learn about cacao plantations and production and taste cacao tea and liquors, all yummy. But again, we never stay in the cities too long. Two days in Granada was enough so we headed towards the beach again but only after visiting a small town of San Juan del Oriente, the center of ceramic art in Nicaragua and region. We were lucky enough to talk to many artisans, see how they produce their art and got some very nice pieces for us. We met Mr. Helio Gutierezz, a well known artist whose ceramic pieces are in museums around the world; even Pope himself got one from the Nicaraguan government. Great experience, learning and exchange. Bag full of goodies, too ;).
The ocean was already calling us so we wanted to see how is the Nica’s Pacific coast. We went to Peñitas beach but it was tough to find a spot to sleep and it was impossible to swim because the waves were crazy and violent and might have taken my swimsuit away at some point (LOL). We slept in the backyard of a very kind family and had a long and very insightful conversation with them. But it was hot, full of mosquitoes and no way to refresh in that crazy ocean so we moved to Leon, one of the prettiest towns in Nicaragua. Pretty it is but it was so damn hot that we couldn’t stay too long.
We then moved north towards the Somoto Canyon, one of the best things we have done in Nicaragua. I read a lot about this place and I knew I really wanted to see it but I admit I was a little scared knowing that I will be in the deep water most of the time (deep water being my crazy fear). We booked a tour with a really nice local family that let us stay at their finca and assured me I will be fine and with life jacket all the time. Let’s do this then. I didn’t regret for a second! I quickly relaxed and swam and floated with my pretty little life jacket and felt super zen until… the guide explained that the only way forward was to actually jump from the rock into the deep water. Well shit then, I had no choice so I did it. I did it!! That jump was ridiculous for Jorge (as you can see in the pic, he jumped from much higher rocks) but for me it was a big achievement, even though I hated those 3 seconds being drowned in the water. LOL. But yes, overcoming fears, or at least trying to overcome them is another amazing thing this trip gave us. So, Nica and Somoto will stay one of my favourite memories. I don’t even need to talk about the visual pleasure it gave us:
The family we stayed with was so kind and welcoming, they showed us how to cook local food, gave us some spices and sauces for the way, fed us very well and gave us the best goodbye to Nicaragua.
Ah, before I forget… Jorge really found himself in Nica LOL
Somoto is only 4 km from the border of Honduras which was our next stop. I know, I know, everyone said Honduras was dangerous. Is it really? We will tell you soon.
So, our new way of traveling started the moment we arrived to Costa Rica. We arrived to San José, the capital, late at night and already the next morning at 9am we met a very cool Spanish Couple, Raquel and Mikel, who travelled for 8 months in the van that we will call home in the next 4-5. They started their trip in Canada and finished it in Costa Rica: now we’re travelling the opposite way bringing the van up north all the way to Mexico, and who knows… maybe someone will drive it back to its motherland again. So, how do a Brazilian and Bosnian acquire Canadian van from Spanish couple in Costa Rica? I know, it sounded crazy to us too but it was pretty easy and straightforward.
The first time ever we thought of travelling in a van was at the very beginning of our trip, as soon as we landed in Brazil. We somehow gave up the idea along the way, probably because we were a little afraid of how all that could happen since we never really travelled in a van before. But somehow, the idea of having a house on four wheels started to shape again in our minds already in Uruguay when we met a couple who told us about their adventures of travelling the PanAmerican in the van. It’s the first time we heard about the ioverlander app (great and essential tool for any van traveler in Central and South America) and how easy it was to actually travel this way. I don’t know about easy but it is exciting and convenient, that I do know now. Further on, travelling in a car through Central America made us realize how much we loved the freedom the car gave us: we could stop when and wherever we wanted, and we didn’t need to make loads of plans in advance. Sure enough, once we got back to Brazil and left Cabron, we knew we wanted to have that freedom again also in Central America. That’s when our little home on 4 wheels, became a reality. Ladies and gents… meet Rusty:
Voilà, we call it Rusty for obvious reasons. We closed the deal with Raquel and Mikel before ever seeing the van and they were really helpful arranging necessary meetings for the van documents. The process with documents was pretty much straightforward, and civil servants in Costa Rica very nice and professional. There were a few minor setbacks that made us stay in San José way longer than we wanted to but all in all… it was a painless and pretty quick process. And so, Rusty took us to many wonderful places…
San José is a very unimpressive city and big cities, especially capital cities in Central America, are not our cup of tea so we try to avoid them altogether. We did see some nice street art and had some very nice food at the San José Market but other than that… we slept in a parking lot and didn’t find this city interesting. Moreover, it is rain season in Costa Rica, and our days in San José were mostly rainy so we were not really into trying to explore further.
What we were really looking forward to was exploring Costa Rica’s nature and discovering the magic of “pura vida” you hear so much about in this country. We found a really nice place up in the hills where we could completely empty, clean and arrange our van. We went to see the beautiful Poás Volcano (it’s an active volcano that erupted last time in 2017), and then headed for the beach for some sun.
Our beach life and sunny mornings, waking up to the sound of waves, had started. The first official camping we stoped at was 50m from the beach, mangoes and avocados were literarily falling off of the trees next to us and we had some very nice visits by monkeys and beautiful birds. We were slowly learning how is it to live in a van. Now, Rusty is not a fancy camper-van with solar panels, AC, toilet or shower. None of that. It does have a huge bed, a cooler, equipped kitchenette, portable fans, loads of charm and well… that’s all we really needed for 4 months. The most precious of all is waking up to the views like these, over and over again:
Pura vida it is, we got it. We drove along the Pacific coast of CR for about two weeks, stoping on the beaches, sipping coconut water, doing yoga, eating great food (casados mmmhhhmmm), amazing fruit, cooking food, enjoying the simplicity and feeling free and happy.
Somewhere in between, a huge storm (later named Cyclone Bonnie) was brewing on the other side of the country and heading towards the region we were at. That’s when we met Carlos, one of the kindest people we have ever met in life. He not only gave us a very useful information about the cyclone but took us in, gave us his cabaña and amazing coffee produced at his finca and all he wanted in exchange was absolutely nothing. He just wanted to help and wanted more people to visit Costa Rica knowing that good people live there. Oh boy, some ABSOLUTELY GOOD people live in CR and we were really happy and lucky to have met them. We can never thank Carlos enough for his kindness and friendship; people like him are a loving and living reminder of why we all travel, and of what is the biggest value of seeing the world. It is not only about discovering beautiful places and taking instagrammable pictures; in the essence it’s really these human exchanges that teach us what in the world is the most beautiful – our connection to other people. It is so heart warming to be reminded again and again that strangers can become your best friends in a minute; that we are all so similar, that we want, dream of and hope for the same things. Gracias, Carlos!
In this trip, I found and re-connected with my soul sisters and brothers; people that felt so familiar after knowing them for less than an hour; people that taught me so much about life and myself. I will forever be grateful and I know that because of them, I am a better person. Ohh, I am getting sentimental and starting to miss LOADS all those beautiful souls. It’s time for a coffee break.
Speaking of which… we cannot get enough of the amazing coffee we bought at Carlos’s finca (If you want to try it yourself, it’s called BATSU – you can order it and have it shipped to your home. This is unsponsored content, we just really do love this coffee). The finca itself is gorgeous, it was the best spot to sit the storm out.
Surrounded by coffee plantations and incredible nature, we listened to the rain pass, relaxed, recharged, happy to have made another friend in the world. Luckily, Bonnie did not do too much damage in CR but because of it some roads were closed so we had to tweak our travel plans and we went to the beach again. After the storm, the weather got much better and it barely rained for weeks. We could go back to beach life and enjoy cooking simple but good food, play cards and most beautiful of all, see this almost every night:
Our last few days in CR gave us the most gorgeous beaches. One of them was apparently proclaimed the most beautiful beach in the world but the one we found later, Playa Rajadita, was our absolutely favourite one ever. So many times we were alone and had the beach, the waves and the sunsets just to ourselves. We woke up so many mornings with the sound of waves crushing against the shore and little birds singing around us. It felt like parraa paaarraaa paradise 🙂
So, that was it. We were officially in love with Costa Rica, and with travelling in our van so much so that we want to buy one once we’re back to Lux.
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies though: there were tough days too. There were days when the rain just wouldn’t stop – we were just constantly wet, improvised a shelter to be able to cook something and washed dishes in the rain (Jorge had a great little dance while doing it too). There were days when it was so hot that we couldn’t sleep – we were just tired and a little grumpy the day after and sometimes checked into a cheap hostel to recover. There was a time we got stuck in mud – we asked locals to push us out and found the most amazing place to camp after that. There were moments of toilet emergencies- nature is your friend. There were and there are tons of freaking mosquitos – we made it into a game to kill them before sleeping and choke in repellent smell. But none of this diminished the beauty of waking up early surrounded by beautiful nature and not knowing where you will actually wake up the day after. Pura vida.
From Brazil to Luxembourg to Dominican Republic and Colombia
04.05.2022 – 16.6.2022.
Long way back to Brazil
It’s been over two months since we last wrote about our adventures in Peru, and so many things have happened since then. This period following our Peruvian trip brought many crazy ideas, several mini and long-distance trips, and new adventures that changed the way we travel, possibly forever. We took several flights from Peru to Chile in order to get back to the Atacama desert where Sr. Cabron Porsupuesto was patiently soaking up the desert sand and heat before going back home. We’ve spent a few more days in Atacama chilling (or more like freezing at night) under the starry desert sky, and enjoying the Chilean wine again accompanied by the little barbecue dinners. The borders finally opened and it was time to start the 3000 km long way back to Brazil. The way to Curitiba was an exhausting adventure on its own; we got lost, almost ended up in forests of Paraguay, the hotel we booked (and had the confirmation of booking) was closed (and it was the middle of the night); we ended up eating dinner during someones’s wedding party in a random restaurant, and had to search for border police (at the border itself) in order for me to get a stamp in my passport. From the north of Chile to the south of Brazil, besides the beautiful memories we made, we also we brought loads of mud from Argentina, and salt and desert sand from Chile. The car was so dirty it really needed the deepest of cleaning to be put back into the state we have received it in. It was time to say goodbye to Sr. Cabron and return it to its owners. You served us well, Cabron! Gracias.
In Brazil, as usual, smiley faces welcomed us back. It was nice to spend some more time with friends and family before starting new travel adventures. It was a creative time, Jorge was working on his music album and I got to try, and fell in love with, making ceramics. We took a quick trip to the beautiful Ilha do Mel that gave me another not-so-beautiful food poisoning. I still love you, Ilha, I just will never ever eat shrimps there again.
After 2 weeks in Brazil, Jorge had to go back to Luxembourg to fix a few documents and he had the nightmare two days, stuck at the airport, before he could actually get back to Lux. Thanks for that, KLM. Jorge spent two weeks in Lux with our friends and I decided to enjoy Brazil a little more (also, it was really expensive to go back for this very short period of time) but I admit, I was a little sad to miss the great moments Jorge had with our crazy friends in Luxembourg. To make myself less sad… I took another trip, I was on my own this time and I can’t complain at all. I’ve spent four amazing days in Rio, which is probably my favourite city in the whole world. I was wandering Ipanema, Leblon and Copacabana, enjoyed açai, people watching and reading my book on the beach. I’ve been to Rio 3-4 times before so I also wanted to see something new. I went to Ilha Grande, a beautiful island south of Rio and enjoyed very relaxing time on the beach listening to bossa nova coming from beach bars. But then the days spent alone started to be long…
Both Jorge and I realised that two weeks without each other is at least 12 days too much.. we realize that this is pretty much crazy since we have been spending ALL the time with each other in the past 8 months. It’s crazy but it’s amazing at the same time, so it was time for us to meet again. And what’s a better meeting point than a beautiful Caribbean island country? Dominican Republic it is!!!
Dominican Republic: A tropical paradise!
Before meeting in the Dominican Republic, we have already made a crazy plan of how the rest of our trip would be – we basically had bought a van in Costa Rica! We found the add in a Facebook travel group, and made a deal with them without actually ever seeing the van (well, we did see some pictures of it). Then we figured that in the next almost 5 months we will be living in a tiny metal box with no shower nor toilet and so we decided to treat ourselves first with something quite the opposite. And kids… that is how we ended up booking four days in an all-inclusive resort in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
This was the first time for both of us to stay in a resort, since we’re not the kind of vacationers that will only sip cocktails and stay on the beach. But OMG, we might become just that in future since those four days were a total bliss. The hotel is like 20 meters from the beach, it has many restaurants, three huge swimming pools, pool bar, daily entertaining activities and well… as many piña coladas as you wish. It was a perfect spot to recharge batteries, do stupid dances at the pool, walk on the perfectly white sand beaches and just relax.
But ok, we couldn’t stay too lazy. After four very relaxing days at the resort, we decided to book a cheaper accommodation and visit more things. We went to the Saona island – it’s basically paradise on Earth with the greenest and the bluest and the cleanest sea water we’ve ever seen. The little boat taking you to the island stops at the natural pool with transparent, incredibly green water, in the middle of the sea, and then the crew serves the well known Dominican rum while you chill in the water. I mean… can it get better than that? Short answer is yes. After that amazing swim, we reached the island bordered by perfect palm trees, and were served the finest piña colada in its original pineapple recipient. The lunch was also included in the price of the excursion but it was probably the worse food I tried in the Dominican. Who cares, everything else was absolutely heavenly (obsession with the pineapple pictured here below).
The Katamaran ride back to the mainland was amazing too, pure pure joy and relaxation (Jorge was probably too relaxed and slept most of the trip). The endless blue sea, nice music, perfect wind that takes some heat away and thoughts of : shit, my life is amazing!
Perfect beaches and paradise islands are not the only thing Dominican Republic has to offer. We also decided to visit Santo Domingo, the capital of DR. The beach days were over since one needs to go outside the city to enjoy the beach but we did enjoy wandering the streets of Santo Domingo, visiting museums and trying local food. It was nearly 40 degrees outside which made our air-conditioned museum visits even more pleasant.
Beautiful and colourful city of Santo Domingo counts with loads of colonial and resistance history visible in its architecture, nice food scene and food markets, and beautiful nature around the city. We visited the “3 ojos” park with cave pools whose colour is totally surreal. It was so damn hot that day, we almost fainted but it was well worth it!
All in all, Dominican Republic was amazing and we decided to go back every time we need to recharge batteries and enjoy the magic of the Caribbean. Our next stop was supposed to be Costa Rica, but we decided to first spend a couple of days in Bogotá since our layover was there anyway.
Layover in Bogotá
It was raining cats and dogs when we landed in Bogotá, but the day after the weather was perfect for exploring the city. We got loads of great tips from our friend Carol who lived in Bogotá until recently and enjoyed thoroughly the food scene, the gold museum, wandering colourful streets of Candelaria and seeing at least a tiny bit of what Colombian life is like. We got incredible views, incredible food and met some really kind people.
We got only a tiny taste of what Colombia offers: it tasted reaaallly well so we cannot wait to have the opportunity to explore this country more. Our trip to Bogotá was very short because we had to be in San Jose, Costa Rica, to take over our van and arrange all the documentation we needed to cross many borders in the upcoming months. Our new, crazy and simple van life had started with the most magical sunsets. More about that… super soon!