Chasing Waterfalls in Tamanique

Although it’s tempting to spend every possible moment basking in the sun and infinity pool at the hotel, we’ve managed to be very active during our time here. On Monday, we drove away from the resort to explore more of the countryside. We were dropped off in the town of Tamanique, and our guide led us down a dirt path to hike to a waterfall.

El Salvador

It’s the end of the rainy season, so the scenery is lush and vibrant. We hiked for about an hour, winding down the hillside and listening to the sounds of the rushing waters below us.

Tamanique waterfalls

Once we got to the waterfall, don’t tell my mom and dad, but we jumped off the 20 ft. cliffs into the waters below. Our group of 12 was finally all together, after a few late arrivals due to varying travel plans and work schedules. There were a few different heights, but everyone ended up jumping off one of the cliffs! It’s been a blast to be with such an adventuresome crew.

Tamanique waterfalls

We could hear the sounds of an afternoon thunderstorm rumbling in the distance, and our guide urged us to get dressed quickly so we’d have time to visit the second, lower waterfall. We hiked a little further down, and jumped in to swim underneath the cascading streams.

Tamanique waterfalls

I almost didn’t go in on the bottom level, because I’d dried off and didn’t want to get wet again. That would have been a mistake, because it started raining heavily while we were all in the water. The guide rushed us out and warned that the waters could rise quickly. We scrambled to put on our clothes and shoes, then slid over the muddy rocks to pull ourselves out. After a fast and breathless hike up the trail, we were back in the town, soaking wet but smiling. It was a sticky and soggy ride home in the van, but we all made it back safe and sound to Puro Surf to dry off.

Tamanique

We made it to El Salvador!

We made it to El Salvador this morning, and things are looking bright! I’m going to be here for the week teaching yoga on a retreat with Surf Sweat Serve. Today we’re finalizing the details of the itinerary, getting settled in, and eating lots of yummy fruit for second breakfast.

I’ve already seen chickens wandering in the road and a mid-day parade featuring fireworks, because what else would one expect in Central America? It’s the perfect mix of sun and clouds, humid (how I like it), and gorgeously green!

Puro Surf El Salvador

i can’t wait to see what surf lessons have in store for me!

Ciudad de Mexico

I’m still in Australia, yet still behind on everything I’ve wanted to share since the beginning of the year. Getting out of the ordinary routine and into the sunshine has given me a renewed source of energy to put it all out there. I shared in a video a few weeks ago that I’d written an intention for the year to travel internationally at least three times. The first of those trips came at the end of February.

CDMX

My friend Karina asked if I wanted to join in on a surprise birthday trip for her boyfriend, Trevor. The two of them are living in Mexico for a while, but he had no idea anyone else would be coming. La Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX for short) is a hop, skip, and jump from LA, so I was in. Somehow, ten of us were able to gather in the same time, same place to make the whole event happen, and Trevor was, as you might expect, very surprised.

Barcas de Xochimilco

I was surprised as well, at the amount I was about to fall in love with Mexico City. I knew it would be modern and sprawling, and was likely to be full of nice people because most Mexican people I’ve met so far in life have the most kind and generous hearts, but I didn’t know it would hold so much beauty and zest.

Panaderia Rosetta

The streets are lined with green spaces and parks, and the Spanish Colonial architecture calls to mind gorgeous Southern US cities like Charleston, Savannah, or New Orleans. The restaurants range from greasy street taco stalls to the most upscale dining experiences. The Friday night Lucha Libre wrestling is enough to convert even the least likely wrestling fan.

Castillo de Chapultepec
Lucha Libre

It is enormous and some parts are dangerous, but I felt as safe as I have in most Central and South American countries I’ve visited. It’s important to take precautions anywhere, but I didn’t find that Mexico City was any extra exception to the general rules of watching out for yourself while traveling.

Mexico City

Since this was a party-celebration-friends reunion trip, I left wishing I’d done a bit more sightseeing, but that only gives me more of a reason to get back soon, as if I needed an additional reason for that at all.

Mexico City

On the Zipline

During this trip to Central America, I made the tough and boring decision not to go ziplining. For me, it was one of the more expensive activities, and I had already done it a couple of times before in Mexico and Costa Rica. We took a day tour on Ometepe Island, where our hostel owner drove us around to stop at different sights to see, one of which was a ziplining course because Andrea, my newfound travel companion, had her heart set on soaring through the canopies.

It was hard to resist saddling into the harness once we were at the sign-in booth, but the guides told us we could all hike up to the first platform together to check out the views from the top. Even though we were walking up the steep sides of a volcano, hiking felt so refreshing after a few days of traveling and typical holiday overindulgence. As we climbed higher, I could feel the crisp air invigorating my lungs as my body worked toward a physical goal.

Ometepe zipline

Once we slowed to a stop at the lookout point, my racing heart and the awesome view reminded me that I could enjoy hiking just as much as ziplining. I could find these same sensations while kayaking, jumping off a rope swing at a swimming pool, or simply on a brisk walk through the woods. Our bodies crave movement, and almost any activity can provide an adrenaline rush if your brain is fully attuned to what you're doing. You can even find a sense of awe in the changes of your heartbeat and the rhythm of your breath. Of course, there are some adventure sports that seem unmatched in their sense of excitement, but a lot of the time, our level of attention is what makes the difference.

Lake Atitlan

Wow! Full disclosure, my visit to Guatemala was pretty rapid-fire and based purely on pictures I had seen of friends visiting the area. I knew I would have a little time left after my yoga trade ended in Nicaragua, and I wanted to be able to "check off" another country while I was in the area. I am sometimes guilty of being a checklist traveler; I even have a scratch off map that I keep updated every time I go somewhere new. This is a silly way to go about things--there's so much depth of experience that can be gained by staying in one country for longer amounts of time--but it is the way of the Enthusiast and it is the way of me.

I planned to spend an extra week heading to the island and coast of Nicaragua, and then found a one-way flight from Guatemala back to the U.S. Initially, I tried to beg my Guatemalan roommate to meet me that week, but she had some January work travels to attend to. I couldn't shake the idea of going, and the international flight price was right-- Interjet is a real legitimate airline with real cheap Central American flights-- so I scrounged up some credit card points to help me get to Guatemala and there I went.

Antigua was a lovely stopping point, but magical Lake Atitlan had been calling me to it, so I decided to make the 3-4 hour shuttle-then-boat journey there, which was reasonably bouncy but not so much that I couldn't eat Pringles and a chocolate bar and think that everyone else needed to settle down and enjoy the views. The small girl in front of me got sick two times, and while I wish I were the type of person who, when a child gets sick near me on the bus, thinks "Aw, poor sick child", instead I am the type who wonders why a person decided to bring their family of four on a windy, bumpy shared shuttle bus when every single member gets horrendously carsick, and when that person also needs to periodically change and feed their baby all across the seat next to me. Anyway, compassion; I am working on it and the lake was a good place to do so:

Lake Atitlan

The shores of the crater lake look like what I imagine parts of Italy look like. Tiny towns are built into the hillside, and the only sane way to travel between them is by very efficient and entertaining boat taxis. You could spend a month or more visiting each of them and uncovering the gems in each one. I only had a day and a half, so I went to the one for the yogis and spiritual-minded community, drank some golden milk turmeric tea and jumped off a platform into the chilly waters. Jumping from high places into lower wet places is a favorite of mine, so it was a very delightful day.

San Marcos Guatemala nature preserve

Hola Antigua

There comes a point in any backpacking trip when the obligatory introductions get really worn out, and you just can't bring yourself to listen very hard to where people live and how they got here and where they were before this and where they're going next since you know it's all going to blend together anyway, and you'll probably forget everything five minutes into the conversation. It was a nice change when, at one hostel in San Juan del Sur, we agreed to skip that stuff and didn't even learn each other's names until two days into the visit. We still shared plenty of stories and joked a lot, and our time together seemed to offer a deeper and more enjoyable connection than when you're talking just to talk and your consciousness feels like a floating alien presence watching your mouth go through the motions of trying to detail how long each bus ride was or how many days you spent in which part of the country.

Antigua, Guatemala

Guatemala has been like that, too. Once I've stopped looking up and tripping over stone streets long enough to go into a place, everyone I've talked to has felt like a familiar friend. I've noticed that here, versus in Granada, the expat community seems to be a bit younger and more in favor of befriending locals. I enjoy seeing this blend, where foreigners have come to fully participate in the culture rather than create their own separate scene. Antigua's parks and plazas make it feel European, but the colors, crafts, and markets remind of the indigenous peoples who were here long before. The air is fresh and crisp, and there's a whole bunch of beauty to breathe in.

Cerro de la Cruz Antigua, Guatemala

Namaste Nicaragua

Getting out of Nicaragua turned out to be a very Nicaraguan experience. It took about 40 minutes to check out of my hostel because it was the receptionist's first day, and she had to do a lot of reconciliation between a paper notebook and the computer system. I didn't mind too much because I was recovering from a multi-day stomach situation, so I was just existing in a fog while waiting until the next time I could sit down again. I lugged my backpacks and yoga mat over to a different hostel to catch the airport shuttle, happy to sink into a new seat for a couple hours. Unfortunately, after leaving on time at 9:30am, we had made the journey out of town and then back again to pick up a new rider, so by 10am we were on exactly the same street as where we had started. There was a man from Toronto sucking on a lollipop while yelling at the bus driver to let him off so he could get a taxi instead and a Spanish couple telling everyone to shut up, "¡Dale gas!", and get a move on. It was all quite a sight to see.

Since the only shared and affordable shuttle left at 9:30 and my flight wasn't until 4:15pm, I had a lot of time in the Managua airport to feel sick and poke at a soggy Subway sandwich. Then there was a flight where i had the whole emergency exit row to myself and I used electronic devices the entire time even though they told me not to and didn't tell anyone I was sick even though the safety pamphlet told me to. Later, a talkative taxi driver rolled me through a new Central American city with more reminders of the comforts of home, like how someone had peeled off the "Mc" letters in the golden sign so that it only said "Donald's" which I thought was funny in an ironic way.

Cobblestone streets told me that we were in Antigua, and I was dropped off in a much nicer hostel than any in which I've ever stayed. One of the very friendly desk employees showed me my capsule bed (in three stories of bunks!) and the bathrooms, including a (hot!) shower. Then he took me up to the rooftop terrace where it was dark, but I found out the next day that it looked like this:

Hostel Cucuruchos, Antigua, Guatemala
Hostel Cucuruchos, Antigua, Guatemala

There was a lot waiting for me here.

Sun, Sand, San Juan del Sur

I was told to skip right through San Juan del Sur and head to less college-party areas, but whoever told me that must have severely underestimated this girl and her affinity for the vibes of a small beach city town.

San Juan del Sur

I found out where it's at, and it's here. It's been here all along. People are walking around barefoot, riding from beach to beach in the back of pickup trucks, and, yes, occasionally passing out facedown in the street after too much of their famous "Sunday Funday". I was feeling under the weather for the two days here, so I missed out on all of that.

San Juan del Sur

SJdS is like a tiny California with way fewer cars and celebrities. And since the college and college-minded people are getting messed up, there are always good drink specials and cheap tacos. For bonus points, there are also howler monkeys and iguanas. I'm ok with it. 

Sunset San Juan del Sur

Adioses Agridulces

It's coming down to the end of my stay in Granada. Today was the last morning of teaching at the hotel, and this afternoon I'll be on a ferry to an island of big volcanoes in Lake Nicaragua. Even though the days were slow and hazy, the whole of this month has really flown by. I packed my (somehow heavier) backpacks, and I'll be heading out with a grateful heart.

Casa Lucia Granada Nicaragua

I never want this page to be somewhere where I only tell you the rosy side of things and leave out the parts that don't fit with that view, so I want you to know that I'm leaving Granada with some mixed reviews, and I feel ready to move on to other parts of the country. I loved being here to work; my first time teaching yoga internationally truly blew me away. The guests were kind, interesting, and into the classes. Eloisa and Danilo were so helpful and accommodating; they made it easy to feel at home around the house and the hotel, right from the beginning. And the hotel-- wow! I can definitely recommend somewhere to stay if you're ever looking to treat yourself well in Central America.

Granada and its surroundings are gorgeous and very easy to get around. I was surprised at the amount of activities there were to do, because, before I got here, I had worried about spending a whole month in a small city where almost everything is in walking distance. Eloisa knew that we traveling yogis are the roaming type, so she usually recommends that teachers only sign on for a month at a time. That made me a little nervous, but I definitely felt that there were enough new things to maintain my adventurous spirit during the time I was here.

Yoga class at Casa Lucia Granada

The only complaint that I kept coming back to day after day, or really every time that I left the house, was that the catcalling got old pretty fast, and it was hard not to let it spoil things for me. Granada is a safe city, and I'm sure there are plenty of women who will say they felt perfectly fine traveling alone here or that it's all just another part of the culture, but I quickly grew tired of getting whistled, hissed, or blown kisses at whenever I stepped out the door, and that men ages 13-80 would make comments whenever I passed by them. One girl told me she tried to take them as compliments or was able to ignore them. Unfortunately, it made me uncomfortable being on my own, and it kept me from taking day trips to nearby markets or, I felt, from fully experiencing the local culture. After about two weeks, I started spending longer hours in cafes, the touristy ones, with the wifi and organic fruit bowls, where I wouldn't stand out so much. I got a lot of reading done and the smoothies were always delicious, but I normally love walking around as a way to get to know a city, and my discomfort kept me pretty sedentary here.

IMG_E0512.JPG

On the other hand, I wouldn't want that impression to discourage anyone from visiting Granada. The discomfort didn't really start to put me in a sour mood until the second half of my visit, and I don't think a short-term visitor would be as bothered by it since they wouldn't have to hear aggressive remarks at 7am on their walk to work or on a sweaty haul back from the grocery store. I still think Granada is a marvelous place that is not to be missed, and I hope more Americans come down to see it soon because the Canadians have been arriving in droves. I am so thankful for the job here and the graciousness of the people I met, and I'll bet plenty of foreigners visiting the US have felt uncomfortable for some reason or another. And I can tell you where to get any type of refreshing mixed fruit concoction as soon as you step out of the cab here. So, ya know, mixed feelings!

Christmas at Casa Lucia

"Are you sad to be spending Christmas away from home?" Everyone has asked me since I found out I'd be spending December here. And yes, of course I'm a little sad! Of course I would rather be at home hanging out with my family! I love my family! My family is awesome! I miss them!

Christmas in Granada, Nicaragua

But you know, getting a job teaching one of your favorite things in a pretty cool place doesn't come around every month, so even when I found out that month was going to be enveloping December 25th, I had to say yes. It's my first time being away from home at this time of year, but it makes me happy to be in a country where the holidays are a pretty big deal. I still get to see lights, Christmas trees, and other decorations in the streets. Eloisa and Danilo have added some sweet little touches around the hotel, too.

I'd always rather be spending Christmas Eve and Day eating pierogi, watching A Christmas Story six times, and catching up with the loved ones I don't get to see very often, but the rest of the month hasn't been so bad. We're working by the pool and playing in the sun-- if it weren't for the ornaments, we might not have known it was winter at all!

Amigos de Austin

I traveled to a whole different part of the world and where do you think the first estadounidense I met was from? No place other than Austin, Texas! Yee-haw!

Sara is super nice and welcoming. She moved down here to start a bakery and a pizzeria. What a fine place to do just that. Pan de Vida is a relaxed respite off busy La Calazada street with great pizza, plenty of hammocks, and cinnamon rolls that I am not going to say whether or not could come close to my grandma's because sometimes she reads this! You'll have to try them for yourself.

Pan de Vida Granada, Nicaragua

I'm glad to have met Sara early in the trip, because she told me an easy way to remember the money exchange rate when I kept forgetting which ones were from Asia and which one was for here. The next day that knowledge saved me when the street converter tried to rip me off 200 cordoba. But all I had to do was correct him and he gave me the difference plus a little more. Sometimes it really pays to talk to strangers.

Pan de Vida in Granada, Nicaragua