Archive for the ‘Caribbean’ Category

April has always been my favourite month..not just because it’s my birth month, but also, because not one year has passed when I did not pull a prank on someone on April’s Fools day:)

This particular year I was looking forward to April even we decided with Richard to choose the USA as our holiday destination in April.

As a child I have always dreamt about visiting New York..and as strange as it sounds after all these travelling NYC was still on my list. I think I wanted to give New York a special time..when I can fully enjoy it as an individual trip with enough money in my pocket, that’s why I waited until now…and after what happened here, I don’t regret the decision for a minute as New York City  is in my heart forever…

We  left Heathrow on the 9th April around 11am on a BA flight to JFK. It was just under 9 hour, and fairly smooth, with the exception of an unexpected announcement above the Atlantic ocean half way between the two continents : ‘ATTENTION, ATTENTION! PLEASE PUT ON YOUR OXYGEN MASKS WITH IMMEDIATE EFFECT’. I was day dreaming and Richard was sleeping when this message echoed in the plane and my first thought was: ‘I knew..this moment had to come..this is my last day, but at least I will die while travelling’ 🙂 I was thinking of Lubitz and the German Wings catastrophy..I was thinking of those poor passengers having to live that 10 minutes terror when they knew they would least it should have happened suddenly but no..they had 10 long minutes to think over the best things that happened to them in their short lives…I guess there was no need to think about the worst.. thought funnel was ended by another announcement by the captain apologising to everyone and confirming that there is no need to use oxygen masks as the automatic announcement has been made in error.

We made it safe to New York and passed security fairly quickly, hopped in a taxi and around 4pm we were in the flat we booked from home a corner away from the Empire State Building.

Here is the view from the lovely room:

NYC Apartment 35th 5th View from flat

The owner, Serrana greeted us nicely and explained the house rules, we then went out to make the most out of the afternoon and evening. Saw the Public Library, Grand Central Station, walked up to the edge of Central Park and on the other side back on Broadway and through Time Square. Just as I was still fairly cold but luckily one of my pre-birthday presents from Richard, a pair of EMU ear muffs kept me warm. After our walk we met my colleague, Danielle who works in the New Jersey office and came into Manhattan just to meet me. She came with her friend Talia and we had a few drinks, chatted a bit, then around 11pm I was out..jetlag and general tiredness.

Grand Central station NYC streets Time sq Time square Danielle

On the second day we pre-booked from home a 6 hour walking tour around Downtown, 9/11 ,Soho, Little Italy and China Town, finishing up in Greenwich village and Chelsea market.

Our guide Onel was fantastic, originally from Puerto Rico living in Brooklyn. His enthusiasm and quirky comments made the trip amazing! What was even more special to it is that he discovered at early stages my keenness on the Sex and The City series therefore we made an extra stop at 66 Perry Street- Carrie’s apartment and the Magnolia Bakery:) I had shivers when I was standing by the stairs..where Mr Big was always waiting for her….oh..I forgot to mention that the day before in the Public Library I had similar feeling when I saw the staircase and remembered of Carrie running down the stairs when Big stood her up on the wedding!


9/11 Little Italy China Town Gay movement starting point 66 Perry street- SATC That famous staircase.. Chelsea market

After the walking tour we went to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMa) – it’s free on Friday afternoon therefore queues were inevitable.

You cannot leave New York without watching a Broadway Show…the last program for the day was to watch Chicago. It was very entertaining and superb!

On the next day we picked up the remaining tickets we needed which was tickets to the Empire State Building, as we bought these combined with Sunset Cruise tickets around Manhattan. Once we got them we took the subway to Downtown and walked through the Brooklyn Bridge…this was one of my favourite parts. Lovely sunny day..and breathtaking skyline….

MoMa Radio City Times square Brooklyn Bridge NYC skyline Arty




We spent the whole day in Brooklyn. First we walked on Brooklyn Heights to get a perfect view on Manhattan, then we went to the Brooklyn Flea market where we had a snack, then went to Williamsburg to have a pint of the famous Brooklyn beer and go around the quirky shops and take pics of the graffities.

In the evening we found a lovely restaurant, had dinner and headed to the night bazaar open from 7pm-1am. We got home around midnight…perfect day!

Brooklyn Flea Market Those amazing walls.. ...and shopping... Sunset in Willisamsburg Night bazaar

On Sunday we started in Central Park. Again weather was beautiful and the park was stunning. If we had a bit more time I would have loved to go for a run there. We then headed to Bloomingdales and I bought some lovely dresses and shoes..<3 awwww New York shopping:)

Central Park Ice rink in Central Park


Central Park

After this little shopping we went for more shopping to a camera department store called B&H. It’s a 3 level department store …if you can’t find the perfect accessory for your photographs it does not exist.

I got a flashgun and GoPro for my future diving here. Then we popped all the shopping home so that we do not need to carry it with us to the Empire State Building and on the boat.

It was handy having the flat right in the centre as we could have a 5 minutes break and unload all the stuff. Serrana was always smiling as she never saw us. We literally just went home sleeping hence why the flat was a very good deal.

The Empire State Building was one of the highlights….perfectly clear sunny weather and incredible!

Manhattan from Empire SB Manhattan Manhattan

By the time we finished..I was very tired..all I wanted was a coffee and a chair. But I only had 5 mins as we had to be at the pier to catch the sunset boat by 6.45. It was 6.20. After a bit of struggle we managed to get a taxi..we realised it was a bit late. What we did not expect was that a supposedly 10 minutes taxi ride will be 40! We got stuck at every red light..I was already pretty disappointed as I could see us missing the boat.

When we were about 500m away Richard jumped out of the cab and started running giving me the instructions to wait in the taxi till we arrive and he would hold up the boat. So I sat there nervously and almost crying when I saw a group running on my left on the pavement. So I jumped out of the taxi, paid and ran with the group the last 300m. The funny thing was that the taxi driver waved me when i arrived to the pier as we arrived the same time! damn it!:)

Richard came up to me smiling..he said we made it! And it was only because that group did not turn up in time.

So we got 2 seats..probably not the seats I would have chosen but the rest were taken and then the boat left. Manhattan in the sunset is stunning…our tour guide gave us a very comprehensive description of the main buildings.

Sunset cruise Sunset cruise Sunset cruise Statue of Liberty Statue of Liberty

When we came up to the turning point, we had a little break…when Richard suggested that I put down my camera and enjoy the moment for a bit…he stood up in front of me, then went down on his knees and told me:

‘Aliz, I know I have been chasing you today so that we can make the most out of it..but now I hope you understand what was the main reason….I wanted it to be perfect. Would you marry me?’

I felt so overwhelmed….I cannot describe the feeling of having your love on his knees in front of you (and other 100 people) asking you to spend the rest of your lives together….I said YES! The experience was enhanced by the other participants of the trip bursting out in cheering and applauding.. what a proposal!!!

Proposal Proposal

I do not remember much from the boat trip after I was mainly crying of joy and looking at him..trying to understand what happened and how it happened.. it was a proper movie scene..I was living the Sex and the City story in New York! So people, who told me in the past that do not imagine New York as it is in the movies I have to say you were wrong. My experience there was EXACTLY how it is in the movies…LOVED IT!

After the boat we went to celebrate with a lovely meal at Sushi Samba..Having been previously in the London one, I have to say in New York the place was not as glamorous as here in London. It was for me though. Free champagne and food was our engagement present from them.

Post engagement dinner

On the last day we checked out the Chrysler Building’s lobby, then went to Woodbury Common, a fantastic shopping outlet about an hour and half bus ride away in Jersey state. We went early in the morning ..and we did it so well as we spent the whole day there..incredible prices of the big brands…highly recommended to every shopaholic wanting to buy great brands for affordable prices.

When we got back to our flat it was late, we packed and next morning left for the Bahamas.

We flew to Miami first as we decided afterwards that it would be amazing to spend a few days in the Bahamas as well given that it’s about 45 mins away on a jet plane.

We got to our hotel, the Compass Point Resort in Nassau around 5pm on Tuesday, it looked just like on the website. We could even see the little huts from the plane when we flew into the island.

Compass Point The colour...

The room

The horizon...

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For the next day we booked diving as this was the only day we could do it (cannot fly for 24 hours after). We dived with Stuart Cove and we did not regret it. Saw some impressive shipwrecks, one was a scene in a James Bond movie. I would say it was a typical Caribbean dive site…I have done more than 50 dives in the Caribbean and it never disappoints me:)


Stuart Cove

After 2 morning dives and 2 afternoon dives we were literally wrecks, went back to Compass and indulged in the food. Bahamian people are very nice…friendly and open.

On the last day we decided to just chill..We did an hour island trip on the local bus, then Richard treated me with some manicure and pedicure at the hotel, and in the afternoon we had a happy hour bucket to enjoy the sun!

IMG_6767 IMG_6802

We had a lot of fresh fish and seafood ..yumm! So healthy.

It was time to leave the next day to the last destination of this trip, Miami! We got there on the 17th April, in a lovely hotel (Miami Beach Spa Resort)

Miami Beach Hotel Spa Miami Beach Hotel Spa

In the afternoon we did an ‘art deco’ walking tour in South Beach and booked a trip for my birthday to the Key West. The South Beach is tacky according to many people. I did not find it tacky at all. It’s a great day and night party scene..people dare to express themselves, money shouts at every corner, Lamborghinis and Ferraris and luxury! But it’s fun!

South Beach South Beach South Beach South Beach South Beach South Beach

Giant cocktail

Next day..the Key West…6am start. It’s a 145 miles trip on a narrow road into the Caribbean towards Cuba..4 hour trip there and 4 back. On the Key we went snorkelling to the third biggest reef in the was brilliant! On the way back happy hour on the boat..the breeze, the turquoise colours of the sea…my fiancé …there is not much more than one can wish for really. Perfect birthday! When we returned to the land we literally had to run to grab some lunch..lobster roll yumm! And then to check out the Southern Most Point of the USA where we were actually closer to Cuba (90miles) than to Miami…

Key West Snorkelling trip Key West Snorkelling trip Key West Key West Key West Key West Southern Most Point

The heat was incredible…only 29 degrees but the humidity made us feel as if it was 40!

Upon return to the hotel around 9pm we had some dinner and passed out.

Last day…but full day with an evening flight, the 19th April. We decided that Miami has so many parts, the best thing to do is to get a hop on hop off ticket and see the whole city with a few stops. It was a great way of seeing how it’s structured. We stopped at a lovely house that used to be owned by a Chicago business man called Vizcaya house and then in Little Havana….now that was like being back in January 2014..cigar, mojitos, lobster lunch, domino park and lots of Cubans! 70% of Miami are immigrants, mainly from Latin- America…probably that was one of the reasons why I absolutely loved Miami 🙂

Vizcaya Garden

Vizcaya House



Little Havana

Little Havana

Calle 8

DSC_5318 DSC_5350


The flight back was quick and easy, upon arrival a fully decorated room was waiting for me along with Sasha and Claudia, my Colombian friend! And I had an extra week with her to celebrate. On Sunday we went to Richard’s parents for some more celebration, my mum was super delighted for the news as well.

April was a fantastic month for me..and I shall never forget it. Thank you all who made it special and especially thank you Richard for making me the happiest girl!

birthday2 birthday1




The border crossing between Costa Rica and Panama was very smooth. All you need is 500$ cash, and an outbound ticket or at least a proof of some ticket that takes you home from either Panama or Colombia.

I left Corcovado at 7am and arrived in Sona at 7pm. Sadly from Sona there was no bus anymore to Santa Catalina but I met a taxi driver who gave me an acceptable price..i did try to look for accommodation is Sona but sadly it’s not a backpacker town so there is one or 2 hotels there for about $25 so I thought why not pay this for the taxi instead and stay in Santa Catalina. The reason I went there was to dive in Isla Coiba. In the end I stayed in a lovely place called Hibiscus Garden which is about 10km away from Santa Catalina. It’s owned by a German couple living there with their kids and there was a lovely Argentinian couple volunteering..they made my stay excellent! So diving was awesome there..I was with the dive master only. He is from Oz…I got slightly annoyed though cause during first dive he touched a coral and he panicked so after 45 mins we had to go up….even though my tank was half full but hey..rescue diver was doing what she was meant to do;-) On second dive he lasted 50 minutes (again half full tank)  cause he had to pee!!! I mean bloody hell pee in your wet-suit if you are a dive master and you are with only one person on the dive! I was really annoyed. But hey ho, we saw sharks, turtles, rays and amazing schools of fishes so it was satisfying in the end. In the hibiscus garden I also did some horse riding and engaged with the locals working on the farm. The food was excellent! Price was 11$ a night or so.

Hibiscus Garden Brekkie

Horse riding on the beach

You can actually stay on Coiba ..and I would recommend it as it’s beautiful:

Coiba Coiba Coiba coiba Coiba

After Catalina I headed to Panama city to spend the weekend there before starting my epic trip to San Blas and Colombia on 26th May. Panama City was about 7 hours away from Catalina, so I arrived there late afternoon. I got recommended to stay in Casco Viejo, so I picked the most popular hostel there called Luna’s Castle. It was a party hostel but I wasn’t too bothered as I stayed only 2 nights and I wanted to go out.

I really liked Panama city. It had a great vibe, nice buildings, nice people..and I felt very close to Colombia..In the end I opted to rest cause i was tired but at least I did some sightseeing:

Tom and Jerry Panama City Panama City Panama City Panama City

There is a great fish market where you can eat fresh fish and ceviche, there is a lovely Modern Art Museum that I visited, and I just walked around. It’s advisable to buy Metrobus card for 2$ and top it up with a few $. You don’t need much as a journey is 0.25$.

Panama City


I also visited the Canal. It was interesting to understand the history behind it.

Panama Canal Panama canal Panama canal

I only spent 4 days on Panama mainland. Sadly I didn’t get the chance to visit Boquete- fantastic place to do some trekking (although a few people went missing there recently) or climb the Baru volcano (where you get to see the 2 oceans on a clear day) or to visit Bocas del Toro..the Caribbean paradise of Panama. Knowing though that I will shortly go to the San Blas islands during my 5-6 days of sailing to Colombia made me feel ok about not going to Bocas.

So..the sailing trip started on the 26th May on a Monday. We got a transfer from Panama city to the San Blas islands by 4×4 and a little speedboat where our catamaran was waiting for us (Nacar 2).

Nacar 2 Nacar2

The name of the first island where we spent the first night (never on the island, always on the boat) was Analunega. This was a fairly developed island with the indigenous community (kuna) living there. If I compare them to the Tayrona people in Colombia the kunas are much more commercialised and charging tourists a lot for a necklace or any kind of handicraft.

Analunega Analunega Analunega Analunega

The first lunch was on the island, then Jonathan (sailor) cooked our dinner. Our captain was super cool- Jose. I almost forgot the story of how I got onto this particular sailing boat. I have a friend called Danila whom I met 2 years ago in the Bolivian jungle. She is Argentinian and she is still travelling since 2012! I can say without any exaggeration that she is a master of life! She found a job in Quito last year that allowed her to go to the Galapagos islands twice for free! And now she is working on the sailing company called Blue sailing (highly recommended if you are planning to do a trip either from Colombia to Panama or the other way round) so she booked me onto this boat as I had fixed dates.

So I got a fantastic bed outside..I knew this would be my best bet cause inside the boat you are more likely to get seasick during sailing, plus it can be a bit stuffy.

My bed

On the second day we moved after breakfast to the second island called Chichime. On this island I swam a lot! I was always in the water with my snorkelling gear and what you can see down there is a miracle. Not particularly because of the marine life as I was spoilt previously on my dive experience allover the world but this place is famous for its stunning sea stars..tons of them in the bottom of the sea and you can see them perfectly as the water is crystal clear.

sea star

On the 3rd day we sailed to the 3rd island called Huaisaludo. This was the least developed island, only one family lived here Julio and Laura. They moved 5 years ago from Panama City…cannot imagine a bigger contrast..but can perfectly imagine how a person can get to the point living 50 years in a big city to move to a deserted island. They are living from selling coconut to tourists for $1 each. They also sell empty beer cans to different commercial boats. They haven’t got much but what they have is worth more than any Versace bag or a super car. They see the sun rising above the Caribbean sea every morning and they see it setting every evening. We spent an afternoon with them drinking Coco Loco (rum in the coconut water).

Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo Huaisaludo

This 3rd night was the best night in terms of the group. Lobster dinner…(some killed the a diver I didn’t have the heart)



We all got to know each other by this time, all the alcohol appeared on the table which everyone brought with themselves, we made a fire on the island, instruments came was a superb night which ended with some skinny dipping in the 28 degree water.

Next day everyone was hungover and we all knew that we would pay for last night this day…We started sailing on the open sea..We all took our seasickness pill which helped but everyone was silent and sleeping most day.

The 5th day was the longest..we had enough water and food but the fact that we couldn’t move just sit or lay made it a bit hard. Also that we didn’t have wind! So the max speed of the sailing boat was 4.5 knot and we had 230 miles to do..That’s an average 5.1 mile/hour…Therefore we knew we wouldn’t arrive on Friday to Cartagena. On the last night people were taking turns in guarding while he captain and sailor were sleeping. My turn was from 10pm to midnight ..I had to check lights around, check the monitor to see if there is any boat nearby, check is there was a storm coming. I enjoyed this task immensely. I have never felt more free in my life than on this boat surrounded by only water and sitting by the steering wheel under the stars..I had time to think. About my life, and about the world. I felt incredibly grateful that i had the opportunity to travel such a big distance…already the second time ..And I was heading towards he country that I most loved on my first trip..Colombia…


I felt the excitement in my tummy..this was the first time for me to return to a country that I visited before as a backpacker..and because I had very strong memories I was very curious about how it would feel being back there.

On Saturday we had still a long distance to cover..sadly the engine stopped about 37 miles away from Cartagena. The captain knew immediately what to do. The dinghy boat pushed us until he called for help..and then we just got pulled into cartagena by a fishing boat.

being pulled by fishing boat

We arrived at 4.30pm.

In my next post I am going to write about Colombia, the last country I visited on this trip.

My first stop in Nicaragua was on the North, a town called Esteli. I planned to visit the Miraflores natural reserve to finally spot a quetzal but sadly my health decided for me..

After my recent Acid reflux I was not expecting getting one again!! But sadly it came back and put me in bed for 4 days. This  reflux is an awful thing..there is no relief. You should not lie down, you are too weak to walk though or even are hungry but you can only eat dry stuff that absorbs the acid..defo a good way to drop a few pounds down! I met some lovely people though in the hostel. Once I was strong enough I took the bus to Leon with Wayne.  Leon is an incredibly hot town..I’m talking about 35-40 degrees..The hostel we wanted to stay in was full so we stayed in Cerro Negro, just in front of the other one. I very much liked this apart from people it had everything..pool table, comfy chairs, hammocks, bamboo swing, and a rubber kids pool. This is where I spent my first afternoon.

Childhood memories

Leon is a nice little colonial town..there is an excellent juice bar just by the main park where you could choose among more than 50 juices.

with the clown Leon church Leon church

I was in Leon at the start of the biggest Latin American celebration, the Semana Santa. For us it’s Easter but they celebrate the whole week and there are possessions where they dress up and carry Jesus Christ on their shoulder..

semana santa

I met Nikki in Honduras and she said she might come to celebrate my birthday to the Surfing Turtle Lodge (Near Leon on the beach) and she came to the same hostel as me and Wayne so we hang out the 3 of us for a day before the Turtle Lodge.

Leon was memorable for me because I decided to go to the hospital and check if I have gallstones given that this acid pain usually moves to the back the last couple of days. The doctor sent me for blood and urine tests, and ultra sound (this latter was private).

So I spent a morning doing all these and turned out I had no gallstones. First thing I’ll do when I’m back in England is to do a helicobacteria test as I read it’s a common cause of acid reflux.

So after these adventures once I got better I went to the Surfing turtle lodge around the 16th of April to spend my birthday and the rest of Semana Santa there. It’s a little paradise..There is not much to do..only surfing if waves are good but while I was there they weren’t. The other activity is to watch turtle eggs hatch and when the sun goes down send the little turtles on their way to the ocean. It’s important to do this in the evening as they have more chances to survive.

sending off turtles to ocean turtle fun our lodge those gorgeous sunsets..


We played every day at 4pm volleyball and the losers had to go up to the bar and have a little dance for Ice Ice Baby and then down at one go a Smirnoff Ice..I was almost every day on the bar:)

So a few words about the group…I think Surfing Turtle was the foundation for the rest of my Nicaraguan travels when it comes to fun people to travel with! Ben and Imogen (Australian couple) is defo my fave couple, we shared joy, tears and beers in our Nicaraguan stay. Nikki I talked about earlier is a super cool chick, traveling with her little guitar, passionate about tattoos and has a great voice! She is from Canada..Kevin! He arrived! I met him in Copan Ruinas and although our ways separated for the rest of Honduras he promised he would come for my birthday and there he was! With a bottle of rum from Roatan and a bracelet and ring from another traveller friend of his! Sweet! Alina and Celine. I met Alina in Leon, we travelled together to the lodge and hung out there together. She was very nice and lent me her local phone so I could call La Costeña to book my plane ticket to the Corn islands (next destination, more about it later).Her friend Celine came only for the last night so I didn’t chat to her much that time. And an unmissable addition to our group was Wayne..well..he is a tough one. So Wayne was a great travel companion up until the Lodge..

He is one of those people who claims that he hates hang out with travellers but he still does and tries everything to appear cool and not a ‘gringo’ (Latin Americans call foreigners gringo. Originally this word was used for North American people but it seems to apply now to everyone.) His agenda for the 5 days in Surfing Turtle Lodge was to get he started drinking in the morning most days and finished last …unless he climbed on other people’s bed and was sick in them. By the end he managed to have more enemies than a way it was very sad and I felt sorry for him but he earned this for himself and somebody who doesn’t want to be helped cannot be helped.

After 5 days of fun we left the turtle and some of them stayed in Leon, I went to Managua, spent a night there just to be able to leave a few things before flying to the corn islands due to weight restrictions. That one night in Managua was fun, I went to the cinema and watched Rio 2. I miss cinema!!!!

Next day at 2pm I had my flight to Big Corn. I went to the airport on chicken bus..thought to save 20$ before the expensive Caribbean islands…

Flight was one hour, as soon as I arrived at Big Corn I took a boat to Little Corn island which is the backpackers’ favourite. Just a note on the flight..if you are planning on going there and you don’t know how long for do not book it on the website! call them or buy the ticket in an agency so you can get an open ticket for the same price (return 165$).

When I got off the boat I met Gil, lovely Canadian lady and then Nienke (The Netherlands). Lovely girls, great to hang out with! I shared a room in Cool Spot with Nienke so like this we paid 7.5$ each instead of 15$. We discovered some great restaurants, Happy hour in Tranquilo was a must every day. I signed up for a 10 dive package at Little Corn Dive centre but sadly I got sick (flu) so i could not continue diving there but I did 3 and I saw some nice things..but overall Little Corn diving is quite low key..

Few days after Nienke left and Immy and Ben arrived along with Alina and Celine so the turtle crowd was back!!! Except for Kevin and Nikki.

Here are some pics on Little Corn Islands:

First view on Little Corn Nienke and Gil :) glad they draw a picture to! View from Iguana Island pose

Internet on the island is not great..My internet strategy was ..breakfast at Iguana where I would connect with the world, stock up with water, play a little game where you had to hook to a metal ring on a string to a metal hook and have the best (and sweetest) French toast on the island. The last 2 pics above were taken at Iguana.

With Immy we discovered the most expensive resort on the island..300$ a night..great view and great little bungalows..but a little expensive in my opinion..

Yemaya life is good beach bar beach pose


Immy and Ben, and Alina and Celine stayed but I decided to spend a night (almost 2) in the Big Corn island.

I took the morning ferry to be able to explore the big island..There are more locals on the Big Corn and you can actually get some cheap local food not only touristy expensive one. I splurged though on my last night and I stayed in Paraiso Resort in a fantastic bungalow with a/c and comfort. Bear in mind at Cool spot I had a mouse on my last night so I really deserved a bit of a splurge!

I would say people who travel to the Corn islands..give a chance to the big corn as well cause it has more beautiful beaches than the little one ..yes you need to take a taxi after dark and during the day cause there are much longer distances but i walked around the island in a day with beach stops.

Few shots on Big Corn:

Caribbean Crystal clear Beach Like a pool Arenas Beach


Even though it wasn’t high season..I failed in my attempt to reserve a return flight to Managua. So the only solution was to go to airport on stand by and if people didn’t turn up for the flight I could go. There are 2 flights a day from and to the Corn islands. From is at 8.30 am and day for the 8.30 am I did not manage to get on. I did manage to get onto the 3.30 pm one though so it gave me the chance to return to my favourite beach (Arenas) and enjoy for another half day this paradise.

On the flight I met a couple (English boy, Brasilian girl) and as they were heading to Granada we decided to split a taxi instead of taking a bus. It was a total of 25$ for a 1.5h journey so it was well worth it. I picked up my stuff from the hostel and we arrived at Granada around 7pm. I was recommended a hostel called Oasis which had a perfect position and across the street there was an excellent Japanese restaurant where we had sushi…LOVED IT! I missed sushi so much!

I spent a few days in Granada, met Kevin again and then Immy and Ben too, I climbed Mombacho and Masaya volcans, went for a day to Masaya market (if you ever go there and want to buy things go to the old market which is about half price as the new market.) This hostel was excellent value..very spacious and free pancake and fruits for brekkie. ($9 a night)

At Mombacho I was climbing with a German guy who was travelling for 2 weeks with his mum! such a great effort by the mum to see his son in Nicaragua and climb a volcano with average inclination of 60 degrees.

At the Masaya volcan I was walking with a Nica boy and an El Salvador boy. They came to the market with me after. Nice people!

Granada parque central Granada Granada Mombacho volcan volcano climbing buddies Masaya volcan view from Masaya crater Masaya market giant papaya

I met Alex as well in Granada which was a great surprise ! We went for dinner ..big crew! I loved it then we went out partying. Sadly Immy and Ben didn’t come with us but it was an excellent night!! We started at a local place playing salsa, latin, 70s, rocky! Then we went to Granada’s greatest club called I ❤ weekend. What a night!

Alex Kevin fiesta

After Granada I went to Ometepe which is an island in one of Nicaragua’s big lakes and on the island there are 2 volcanoes. Concepcion (the higher one) and Maderas. Nikki booked a hostel for me ( Zopilote farm)..very organic and nice place. I got there, nice people in the dorm, we had a pizza night, met Nikki finally and Monica from Spain and we decided to hire a scooter for next day so we were cruising around the 3 of us on the bike. Loved it! The highlight of the day was Ojos del Agua natural pool from volcanic crystal clear water.

Ometepe bird Zopilote dorm Zopilote farm Zopilote bus Riding a scooter


Ometepe crew Juump!



The next day Monica and I decided to climb Maderas, muddy. Based on these take the necessary equipment. Great cloud forest though and I even saw the most dangerous snake on Ometepe, red and black colour which lets you live 2 hours once it bites you:) What a lucky girl I am not having got bitten!:)

hill fighters! lake crater With Monica chicharra


Getting around in Ometepe is not easy. There are some buses that are not very reliable. Hitching is a possibility, To get the ferry back to the mainland we had to hitch from Santa Cruz to Moyogalpa. Now that was a serious fun!

hitching in ometepe

I forgot to mention that while I was in Granada I discovered that someone scammed me…Probably one of the cash machines I used was read by hackers and they took almost 600 pounds from my account. I blocked it immediately and ordered a new card to San Juan del Sur (to where I had no intention of going cause it was known being a party town of teenagers hosting this fantastic event of Sunday Funday) as I didn’t know how posts arrive to Ometepe. I picked a hostel in San Juan and said to the customer service rep.  He promised 7 days so..I was hanging out a few days in San Juan staying at different places. Why?

1. Casa las Olas, owned by an Aussie couple in their’s a beautiful place with an infinity pool but there was a group of Aussies who were drunk every day pretty much during the day and night which took away the charm of this lovely place.

Casa las Olas

Next day we moved to the hostel I ordered my bank card to, Casa Oro. They mentioned to me earlier that they would charge me $5 for this post with is ridiculous. When we occupied our beds I found bed bugs!!! These are my biggest nightmare! I notified the staff so they came into the room with a special liquid which turned out to be tequila! so they got rid of the mattresses, sprinkled the frame and lit it up!

They suggested I do the same thing with my backpack without the lighting it up bit.

The process didn’t help. I couldn’t sleep because of the evil bed bugs so I moved downstairs to a different room in the middle of the night. Grrr

For the evening we hired a movie with Nikki (The shrink) it was a great movie and proves you can do different things in San Juan del Sur not only drinking.

Next day we moved to another hostel and went to a surfing beach called Maderas. It was a lovely beach but we didn’t surf so we came back next day to do a surfing class. This class gave me the final proof that surfing is not my sport. Too much hassle and once you stood up once it doesn’t give you that amazing feeling ..but that’s the case with every ‘non first’ I guess..

Travel to Maderas with daily shuttle Maderas surfer Bad Ass Eat With the girls Beach fun <3


The conclusion of my Nicaraguan trip was that my card never arrived so I blocked it (Barclays really should deal with situations that can occur during travelling) and ordered it to London. San Juan was not that bad although young travellers should watch out cause there is a drug problem there…2 travellers died while I was there.

Nicaragua was awesome! Very safe and fun! You always meet people and your money lasts long! Also true that I haven’t seen another country where so many T-shirt merchandise is being sold! Every other traveller has either a Lava shot or a Volcano boarding, a Toña beer or Flor de Caña rum T-shirt. I only bought a surfing turtle lodge one!

In my next post I’ll talk about Costa Rica and Panama. Stay tuned;-)


First stop in Honduras was the famous Utila! I remember this place very well from my first trip as my first open water dive instructor did his instructor course here (and he almost let me drawn). Also, Richard’s instructor Diego spoke very highly about UDC (Utila Dive Centre) so once the ferry docked I went straight to UDC. If you happen to be on this island and have no idea where to dive or stay don’t despair, there are plenty of people waiting by the dock selling their dive shop/hostel.

So at UDC I met Sarah (English lady, super nice), who gave me a brief intro about the dive shop and facilities. I was mainly interested in doing my Rescue Course here and she explained the structure. There were already 2 fellow divers just starting the course, Alex and Lisa, so I joined in the next day. In medias res! I like it! I got free accommodation during the course in the Mango Inn, official hostel of UDC which I very much liked..who wouldn’t like this?

Mango Inn

Just a bit more about Sarah..and there is a reason why I dedicate a separate paragraph to her. I think we were meant to meet as she fulfilled a big dream of mine..She and her husband were living in London having fantastic jobs, and a great lifestyle..but something was missing. And what is the rare thing..that for both of them the same thing! They were both freedom lovers. They realised that life is too short to live in a crowded big city that however offers so much to someone who is in great financial situation, it doesn’t offer sunshine, warm climate or freedom to keep a healthy balance between work and these two. They were both beach and sun lovers, so one day in their 40s they decided to pack their bags and move to Utila and dedicate their lives to their passion..diving!

As I am writing this Sarah just posted the most amazing thing on Facebook that I have to quote..

20 years ago today, I stood on a beach overlooking the ocean, with my soul mate beside me. In front of dear friends and family, I promised to love him forever…

Today I stand in our beach front house in the Caribbean, overlooking the ocean with my soul mate still beside me. 

To my darling D.D I love you more today than ever. We have had an amazing life together so far. We have lived, laughed and loved….here’s to many more years of that.

I love you forever…….’

She is an example for me ..and even if for now I made my decision to go back to London to the person I love, the dream of one day living on a beach and having enough sunshine that a human being needs in order to live a happy life with the person I love has not been forgotten…

The rescue course started with a one day EFR (Emergency First Response course). I did this for my driving license 13 years ago but it had to be within 2 years so I repeated it in English this time. During the rescue course the people doing their dive master courses are ‘helping’ by being victims. So during the 4 days we have about 2 hours theory and 3 hours in the water doing skills.

The 3rd day was the toughest but in the end I completed the course and I was very happy that I did it! The biggest challenge was not the course though but to resist the temptation of not continuing to next level. There would have been no point though if I wouldn’t work with I made my decisions. After my 2 fun dives I got a flu so couldn’t dive anymore..

Few words about Utila. If you are looking for a quiet island don’t go to Utila. It’s a party island where there is nothing else to do but diving. There are several people doing their zero to hero courses (Open water to dive master) in one go while getting hammered in the evenings.. It’s expensive, locals are not very friendly and all conversations are about diving. If you see the whale shark you are lucky! I was there in the right time but sadly did not see it..but there was always somebody coming back to the hostel super excited about seeing one or two. There are some good bars and restaurants like Munchie’s or an absolute must near Mango Inn: The Jade Seahorse. It took the owner 25 years to build the place (you can stay here but obviously prices are not on backpacker levels.

Few pics:

Jade Seahorse JadeJadeUtila highest point Utila public beach shower with beer- Utila style UDC!

After Utila I went to Copan. This was my favourite place in Honduras, lovely town, great variety of things to do. The ruins were not that great as I have seen so many by this time that I couldn’t appreciate anymore, but I went one day to the hot springs and one day horseback riding. I met some great people here too and stayed in a superb hostel called La Iguana Azul. Oh and by the ruins there are a lot of macaws. They are bright red and loud. Awesome birds!

Copan horse riding Honduran children San Lucas finca Chanti Chanti View over Copan Aguas Calientes Hot springs macaw

After Copan I went for a day to Gracias- recommended by Lonely’s a nice little town but unless you have a lot of time and want to see everything it’s not a must. There is a cute little jar shop though that is worth a visit (called Lorendiana), and some nice churches and a fort. There are no hostels, only slightly or very expensive hotels. (for a backpacker)


san marcos fort jar shop

After Gracias I chicken bussed it to Lago de Yojoa which I very much loved! I stayed in a microbrewery called D&D which had a pool, excellent beers, great tourist information and a bonfire every night. I met my friend Alex here (we did the rescue course together in Utila), we did a walk up to the view point over the lake, took a Flor de Cana bottle of rum and celebrated our efforts in 40 degrees!

Lake Yojoa rum team

I met a super nice girl here Nikky, we wanted to have an overnight jungle trip (Santa Barbara cloud forest) to check out this famous quetzal bird (official bird of Guatemala but can be spotted here too) but D&D was crap in organising tours..great info source but not great action behind.

I met Kelly and Wayne here too. I enjoyed their deep psychological conversations and debates by the bonfire every evening so one day we visited a national park together to watch birds.

Bird watching Kelly and Wayne

Just before the last night the brewery ran out of beer …so we were drinking wine…5 of us..8 bottle..NOT GOOD!

wine night in the brewery

that evil night after a few days just when I got to Nicaragua triggered my acid reflux so…next time I’ll think twice.

I also did an excellent trip to the Pulhapanzak waterfall. If you get the chance go behind the’s an adrenaline rush!! Walter, the tour guide took me there with his motorbike (unofficial tour lol)

Pulhapanzak Waterfalls Pulhapanzak Waterfalls with Walter


One day Wayne and I went to the coffee farm next door, it was a nice afternoon with some great scenery. Same day we saw a Mot Mot bird in the brewery!! Such great wild life here!

pink banana view over the lake coffee bird watching

Mot Mot

So a few words about Wayne. He is an English guy, very clever but a little bit of a lost soul. This hasn’t turned out just yet..he will be in my next blog too. Anyway he used to work as an IT consultant in England and had some hotel points accumulated. He kindly invited me to spend a weekend with him in the Intercontinental hotel in Tegucigalpa (with no bad intentions, purely because he needed company I guess) and I was thinking  why not splurge a bit for free and refresh in a nice hotel, dye my hair, have a proper shower etc.

We got a direct bus at 6am to the capital of Honduras (2nd highest murder rate in central america) ..and cause we couldn’t occupy the room yet we went across the street to a shopping centre. Wow..what a rush I had going through those amazing shops! too much time in basic places gives me back that genuine enthusiasm and appreciation for things we take for granted in the first world.

View Intercontinental Tegus Pool Intercontinental Tegus Sunset view

So after I did the ‘beauty session’ we went out with Wayne to the centre to check out a few bars and we ended up going with 2 locals to a Cuban salsa bar…I LOVED IT! Was dancing the whole evening. Wayne didn’t have this enthusiasm for dancing so he opted for drinking. We closed the night in a very fancy roof terrace.

Cuban bar Tegus

The next day I left Tegus and took the bus to Nicaragua. Next time I’ll continue from here.

In the previous post I already started talking about Guatemala. Flores, Tikal were amazing, Antigua..super rich city with many fancy cars, lots of foreign people studying Spanish etc. After Antigua I went to one of my favourite places in Guatemala to Lake Atitlan.

In Guatemala the majority of tourists are travelling with shuttles (you don’t see locals in these) just because it does not cost much more than chicken buses and long destinations can be reached much easier with a direct shuttle rather than having to change 2-3 times. This is what I took for 80 quetzales (about £6) for a 3.5 hour journey. The shuttle took me to Panajachel which is the main town around the lake, then I took a ‘lancha’ (boat) to San Pedro which was meant to be the most lively part of the lake with the most backpackers on it.  I found a hotel (Hotel Helen) with stunning views over the lake for about £3 a night..quite rare finding a place like this on these rates.

Hotel Helen View from Helen

In San Pedro there are some cool restaurants and bars to hang out, there is always a party somewhere and it’s easy to meet people. One day I bumped into 4 Canadian girls with whom we were doing a free Salsa lesson when Richard was still with me. It was a great surprise to see them again so we started chatting and we bonded in the evening during one of the ‘Ladies’ nights’ parties!

Crazy Canadians

One day I went to Chichi Guatemala for some reason buses always broke down…this is what happened on this day as well, and one other thing topped the experience..there was a Swedish lady on the shuttle who like hearing her she was singing along the great 80’s songs during the 3 hour journey…NOT COOL!

The market itself was a little disappointing after the Bolivian La Paz market…and it was i ended up buying almost nothing.

Chichi market


On the way back I took some nice pics of the lake:

Lake Atitlan

Atitlan DSC_1574

After San Pedro and the parties we moved to a way more chilled place called Santa Cruz where we stayed in a home-style hostel called La Iguana Perdida. I did a dive here with ATI Divers (part of TrekCats- Association of Central and South American Divers) could see houses, swimming pools, saunas under water and volcanic sand where we poached an egg. The lake is growing due to past earth moves this is why some houses are already under water. The Iguana was nice, dinner together, activities. It’s a tab based system. I had a hair cut here too:) Was a great experience. A travel buddy cut it for me.

After the Iguana I was done with the lake. My Canadian friends went to Guatemala City to catch their flight home so I carried on alone. Next destination was Semuc Champey but I had to break the journey in Antigua, where I spent a lovely afternoon, stayed in the same hostel I stayed with Richard at (Hostel Jacarnda, lovely people and great place!), and had a nice pancake dinner in the ‘Luna de Miel’.( )

Next morning I took the shuttle to Semuc Champey. The road is fine from Antigua until the last hour which is an 11 km dirt road…hence it takes an hour to get to the village of Lanquin. I decided to stay in El Retiro in Lanquin ( ), where I met a very nice group of people with whom we did the Semuc Champey tour the next day…well…it’s a beautiful place..

Semuc Champey SC


SC DSC_1917 DSC_1918

The tour was pretty hard core, we went to a cave first where all you need is a bikini and a candle and some courage:)

We climbed walls, swam through the cave, jumped off cliffs within the was a miracle if somebody finished the adventure without any injury. Then we hiked to the terrace pools, and spent the afternoon sliding down, diving in, having fun.

The day after I took it easy, just did some tubing on the river where i managed to hit a branch and go under my tube lol.

That evening I met an American man who was running a local NGO and explained me that he is recruiting volunteers who would be willing to donate 100 quetzal (around £8) meaning the volunteer would go to a pharmacy with a local doctor to buy medicine for people living in the mountains and walk with the local doctor to visit these families. I was very keen on doing something like this on my trip..well…I did it and i don’t regret it but it was a tough experience seeing some of those houses and generations living together along with the little pig…It put things in perspective and all of a sudden it won’t matter which brand of sunglasses shall i pick up next time when I’m in a department store..

sc DSC_2039 DSC_2052sc

After Semuc another 7 hour trip was coming up (originally 4 but because of the road closures it got extended:) to Rio Dulce. There is nothing in Rio Dulce just a river and a lovely hostel called Casa Perico where I made a new friend, a pet honey bear:)

rio dulce DSC_2080



Sadly During Semuc and Rio Dulce I was sick..(usual acid reflux) but after a few days I recovered and could continue to the last town in Guatemala to Livingston.

Livingston is influenced by Belize as it’s by the border and the people living there are much more Caribbean than the conservative Guatemalans. By the way in Guatemala I had to watch out for what I was wearing because sometimes I got some looks when I was wearing shorts..Very religious country, hence Easter (Or as they call it Semana Santa starting this year on the  14th April finishing on the 20th April) is the biggest celebration in Guatemala especially in Antigua.

The boat ride between Rio Dulce and Livingston is very nice..that was the reason I visited these places:

Rio Dulce, Livingston DSC_2117 DSC_2130 DSC_2136


I stayed only one night in Livingston because I couldn’t wait to get to Utila and dive! The epic journey from Livingston to Utila in one day has already been posted previously, in my next post I’ll share my adventures in Honduras.

As an overall closing line I was expecting a little bit more from Guatemala. I heard many good things about it but the level of development in certain areas was surprising. Still liked it though and would go back at some point.


So back to one post before the previous one..I am in’ s the 21st February. I took a flight from Mexico D.F to Cancun to meet Richard. I was super excited! I arrived at Terminal 1, he did Terminal 3 and the waiting time was only 1 hour for me. Dressed up as a Mexican cowgirl I was waiting for my cowboy in boots, denim shorts and sombrero. Just as in the movies..very emotional and happy meeting at the airport, then we took a bus to Playa del Carmen around 9pm. Upon arrival I couldn’t hide my disappointment..I totally thought that PDC was less touristy and it’s a perfect escape from Cancun but no..bazaar style main street with silver shops, souvenir shops, agencies etc. We got to our wonderful hotel which was booked by Richie as  a post-Valentine treat and roses allover..proper romantic. in the movies:)

roses on bed

1st full day in PDC we decided that on our route together there will be plenty of dive opportunities so Richard should do his open water certificate to be able to dive without limitations. After a tiring shopping around dive shops (which was quite off-putting for him) we found a very nice freelance instuctor, Diego (Argentina), and agreed he would start diving in a couple of days’ time, which then allowed us to have a mega night in Coco Bongo, the best nightclub in town (similar to cirque du soleil , crammed with shows) where you buy a fairly expensive entrance and have unlimited drinks throughout the night..fantastic night..super drunk:)

Video will be up soon. in the meantime so pics:

coco bongo spiderman coco bongo

Next day..absolutely dying of hangover we booked a tour to Chitzen Itza..7.50 am start..needless to say we did not find funny the Mexican guide’s forced jokes on the 4 hour minibus ride:) Once we were at the site we felt better. Had a stop at a little rather commercial Mayan village, then a guided and free tour on the archaeological site.

Chitzen Itza CI

On the way back to PDC we stopped in a ‘Gruta’ and swam in the natural pool …sadly it was packed with tourists but still was fun.



Richard did his open water in 2 days which is pretty impressive..i was concerned if he would like it etc. but he did!


diego and ingrid

We made friends with Diego and his girlfriend Ingrid and we went together after the course to the world famous dive destination Isla de Cozumel and did 2 dives where we saw Eagle Rays, turtles, Nurse sharks, lobsters, sting rays, trigger fish, cow fish, angle fishes and many more..It was an insane dive! Just to name them, the first one was Colombia deep dive and the second La francesa. If you guys get the chance, this is the place to go! Also very big surprise at Cozumel..Hagar, a friend with whom I dived in 2012 in Cambodia was sitting in the Blue Magic dive shop!!! What a small world..




We stayed only one night as we had a total of 17 days together and we had to move. Next stop was Tulum. This is an incredibly romantic place on the Caribbean coast..We stayed in Playa condesa in lovely little bungalow, visited the ruins, did some cave diving (Dos Ojos), and just hang out in the hammock sipping great cocktails. I truly loved this did Richard.

Tulum IMG_2522

Next destination was Belize for us. We crossed from Mexico in a town called Chetumel by ferry to Caye Caulker. At least this was the plan, until someone told us how great the carnival is in San Pedro (neighbour island where the only transport method is by gold carts) Well..San Pedro was not my favourite place, because it took us ages to find accommodation and it was super expensive (all booked up because of the carnival..) not only booked we pricey accommodation which was about 15 minutes walk from the centre but there was no sign of the carnival…So next day we did a trip to Hol Chan and Shark Ray Alley. In Hol Chan we dived and Shark Ray we snorkelled with sharks and a big could so easily touch them was an adrenaline rush! Loved it! The only thing that I was not quite happy with was that the locals were feeding the sharks..but otherwise they would not be approachable ..meh..this is one of those things you can either refuse to go because of the ethics just say whatever..I won’t miss this experience.

lobstercrab DSCN0673 DSCN0680

After the half day dive we took the ferry to Caye Caulker. I preferred it so much more! Smaller island and a bit less touristy and developed. Saying that..there was a Starbucks on the island where the only road available was dirt road. We booked a dive trip to the famous Blue Hole..

IMG_2644 blue hole

It’s a full day trip, as it takes 2 hours on a speedboat to get there..the journey is fairly rough, so consider taking pills if you are sea sick.  On the first dive we dropped down to 40 meter..sadly the visibility was not the could just about see the wall but I managed to see 3 sharks as well so I was still impressed. The other 2 shallow dives were pretty good with turtles, eagle rays sting rays, schools of  jacks and snappers and lots of fun in the water with Richie. Truly amazing day!

I have to stop here for a second and share a fairly funny story that happened just before we left Caye Caulker on the boat. A lady in her early 40s had to go to the loo after breakfast (6am) but the dive shop (Frenchie’s) did not have a toilet. I was in similar shoes and I was told to return to my guesthouse, the boat will wait. As I was on my way to our guest house this lady was running and said, come with me, this local man said there is a hotel where you can ‘borrow’ the loo. This hotel was very close to the dive shop so I joined her. It was too early, so we literally broke into this hotel but there was no toilet. So this lady decided that she will use the garden..she also added that she needed to do a number 2. I only had to do a number one but was not considering using the garden of a hotel. Especially after I bumped into a few staff members of the dive shop and turned out it was the official hotel of the dive shop! 🙂 I was offered a lift though to my guest house so i could go to my own bathroom. As we left the shore with the boat this lady came up to me and said how bad she feels about having to do a number 2 in the garden and she was considering going back and confess her ‘crime’ just in case she would be arrested..I was entertained by this story along with Richard for the rest of the day..

I miss those stunning sunsets of Caye Calulker..

Sunset Caye Caulker

The following morning we left Caye Caulker and headed to Flores, Guatemala. We arrived well in the afternoon and we did not want to rush around to organise our trip to Tikal the next day and given that Flores was a lovely little town with a huge lake we decided to stay there next day. Great decision! We hired kayaks, visited a museum and a viewpoint, met some locals who offered us beers in the heat. First surprise in Guatemala for us was a super developed shopping centre by the bridge between Santa Elena and Flores..western standards..western prices.

Flores DSC_0851

We decided not to do Tikal in the sunrise and what a great decision! There was no sunrise the next morning. We left Flores at 8am and returned at 4pm. Tikal was wonderful..a bit like Angkor Wat in Cambodia but with less tourists. Loved it.

DSC_0949 tikal

We took the night bus to was very smooth…we pretty much slept through the journey. From Guat we took a shuttle to Antigua which took less than an hour so we were there by 7am.

Antigua was the second surprise for us…I totally thought that Guatemala is still fairly undeveloped but Flores, Antigua and later on Lake Atitlan proved the opposite. We found some amazing bars and restaurants in Antigua but experiencing that our order at a place is taken by iPad…well..I can’t deny my disappointment. Antigua is expensive. A fantastic place to stay though is: Casa Jacaranda. Cheap and you get a choice of 5 different brekkies included. Has a superb garden with hammocks, and the owners when they are there love chatting to tourists.


One day we climbed Pacaya Volcano, which is a still active volcano and you can burn your feet on the volcanic rocks if you stand there too long but you can easily get lost in the fun of melting marshmallows above the heat of the lava. On the way back you get to pick avocados from the tree.  It’s a half day trip..not demanding at all. The rest of our time in Antigua we watched the Sunday preparation for the Semana Santa (Easter), walked around, visited markets ,went to Pastores the little leather town nearby where you can buy cheap leather boots, belts, bags etc.

If you like eco-lodges, pay a visit to the Earth Lodge, fantastic hideaway from the touristy Antigua.

The morning of the 11th March was sad for both of us as the dream travelling together came to an end. I was tempted to go home with him but I thought I might not have another opportunity like this to travel and to be honest I kinda had enough of travelling alone. Now that I experienced how great is to travel with the one you love and share all these adventures, feelings, moments, I don’t really want to travel alone anymore. I am really grateful to Richard that he made such an effort to take almost all his holidays of the year off to be able to travel with me and that he let me share with him such an amazing experience !

In the next post I am going to continue with Guatemala as after the 2 most touristy and developed places we visited with Richard I got a good insight into the ‘real life’ in Guatemala.

I decided to do a special post only about today as this journey was one of the most adventurous one crammed with adrenaline, getting helped by locals, almost like being on a mission ( with almost no reason though) and completing it!!

Just to be clear this post does not cancel the post promised in my last one;-)

Yesterday I celebrated my last day in Guatemala with a fabulous Sunday roast at Casa de la Iguana in Livingston and decided not to take the easy and quick route the day after ( today) to Honduras: La Ceiba.

Here is the visual of the route that had to be completed:

Aliz Chicken bus route


Options :

1. Buy a direct shuttle from Livingston to La Ceiba for Q435 (£40) that allows you to take the last ferry at 4pm to Utila.

2. Do it on your own with chicken buses and 5 exchanges until La ceiba and take the ferry to Utila the next morning. Lonely planet described it as the following: ‘ Please not even if you take the 6.30 am ferry from Livingston to Puerto Barrios , it’s almost impossible to take the last ferry on the same day.


This is how I prepared myself.

I crossed to Puerto Barrios ( as last passenger ) at 6.30. There was the shuttle waiting for people who bought the direct shuttle . The guy tried to do business with me and offered me the same package that other people paid Q435 for Q250 which let’s be honest is a good price but I was so involved in the negotiation that I walked away from this deal because the guy wouldn’t give it to me for Q 200..I mean we are talking about £4 difference for a 7 hour journey!! Sometimes I should really do that maths!!

So I turned around and made my way towards the main road to look for a chicken bus when I realised ..damn it I really don’t feel like changing several vehicles and being crushed in chicken buses!!! By the time I ran back to the guy  to accept the offer he was I thought ..I really screwed this up now!

So here the adventure began..took the first shuttle To the Guatemalan immigration where I got my exit stamp, then same shuttle took me to  Honduras boarder where I got my entry stamp . On the other side a chicken bus was waiting for me and took me to Puerto Cortez where straight away a shuttle was shouting : San Pedro Sula!!(most violent Latin American books emphasize to stay away)

This is when I saw a bit of hope of being able to catch the last ferry maybe to Utila!! I got to San Pedro at 11.30. I was told there was a bus going to La Ceiba at 11.40 and given that the journey is 3-4 hours, I was pretty confident that I would beat Lonely Planet and prove you CAN do it in one day!! ( again time was not an issue , I could have easily stayed a night in La Ceiba but I loved the challenge !!)

the San Pedro bus did not leave until 12.15 which made me sooo angry!! Especially because a local lady showed me this bus company – I could have chosen another one among 7 others! So as a ‘ punishment’ I did not speak to her:) I did tell off the driver too and emphasized how unacceptable it was to leave  30 mins later and told him he better off putting his foot on the gas cause I have a  ferry to catch at 4!  He smiled and said u will be fine:)

hahh! Typical Latin laid back individual – I thought..

Well it was a hell of a 3 hour ride ..imagine an old school bus speeding with 130km/h , overtaking cars and trucks in blind curves etc. I was even more resenting myself not taking the Q250 offer!

We got to the edge of La Ceiba at 3.35 pm. The local lady kindly made a phone call to the ferry company to ask them to wait for me but it’s like calling an airline to ask to wait for 1 passenger:)

So the very end just before the bus would have arrived at the terminal the police stopped us for passport control..driver ran to me and said to get off now if I wanted to make the ferry, take a taxi ..FAST!! It was 15.46…taxi hailed and imagine a Fast and Furious scene…shooting through the town decent traffic, overtaking cars from left and right, scaring off children playing on the edge of the road!! I was frozen in the car and had several colours during the ride..

When we got there, the ferry was still there. Taxi driver grabbed my big backpack, me the small ones and we ran…In this moment ferry started moving away from pier ..we were almost there …imagine this scene on a big screen in the movies..then 2 guys working there shouted: JUUUUMP! And yes..I had no other options..a big step wasn’t driver throw my back pack on ferry and I jumped with mine…I MADE THE FERYYYYYY!!!:)

Conclusion: Instead of Q 435 or second offer Q 250 I made it from around Q 150.. and instead of 7 hours I made it in 10 hours BUT…saved about 5 quid and had the time of my life on this adventure trip:)

LOL …that’s all I can say! Thank you locals for helping me with crazy drives, throwing backpacks, making calls…I made it to Utila, to the little seafood and dive heaven..and tomorrow I am starting my Rescue Diving course at the Utila Dive Center! Bring it on!

Oh and to close this post with a lovely I got to the dive shop early evening all I heard is the word : CONGRATULATIONS…

A diver guy proposed to his girl 42 meters underwater and she ‘nodded’ yes…LIFE IS GREAT! ENJOY IT!



After the hard but rewarding month in Cuba, I flew to Mexico City at 6am on the 3rd February. I was not planning on doing anything on that day given that for a month I  was cut off the world. I realised again how difficult is for me just to chill and do nothing apart from catching up with people and admin etc.
I needed that day off still I felt I was missing out. A great friend of mine Maszi introduced me online to her friend who lives in Puebla region so she suggested me to go first to Curenavaca. I was a bit disorganised and planned nothing at all for Mexico..all I knew was that Richard was arriving on the 21st February and by that time I should visit some great places.So I started with Cuernavaca as Ana suggested.
Cuernavaca is a lovely lively city only 30 mins south of Mexico City. It has 2 gardens, churches, a central plaza and palace. Each night of the week you can enjoy dancers, musicians, acrobats and a lot of locals who use the plaza both by day and night as a place to hang out, meet friends and be entertained by many local artists and entertainers. The square and adjacent area is full of street vendors selling everything from bead work to maize on a stick and tacos. Best juice in town can be found in front of Teatro Ocampo.


After Cuernavaca I went to Tepoztlan. The stunning ‘pueblo magico’ is surrounded by beautiful mountains- I climbed one to see the pyramid on top:

Oh I have to add a funny detail here about my iPhone. As some of you know on my first trip the second day of being in Brazil my phone died to I traveled a year without smartphone. On the second trip after 2 days my phone did not recognize any service in Cuba, but I thought it was just a ‘cuban thing’..well the problem persisted in Mexico as well and even though I made a couple of phone calls to my UK provider as well as Apple and tried to restore the phone it still showing me no service so please so not contact me on my UK number, and if you did and you are angry with me for not getting back to you now you know the reason why.
The other great iPhone illness that occurred was that first around 30% then 40 and finally 60% of battery the phone just switched off…again having spent a couple of hours online searching for solution, downloading an app and restoring my phone helped.

After Tepoztlan I went 2 hours south to Taxco. I will take my time here as Taxco was one of my favourite places in Mexico. Imagine a little white jewel built on a hill where the streets are so narrow that only tiny white Beatles can fit as taxis and normal car hardly any. People are very fit in this town as they have to go up and down with their baskets full of empanadas or ‘elotes’ (corn) or whatever they sell on a daily basis. The ‘zocalo’ as they call the central square in nearly every town in the center of Mexico is beautiful with a huge cathedral in the middle surrounded by silver shops. Taxco is nominated as ‘Pueblo Magico’ (Magical Town) with a reason.
taxco view taxco 2 taxco beetle
In Taxco I met a very nice local man called Evaristo and his sister Patricia. I just walked by their convenient store and we started chatting. In Mexico if you speak Spanish and are not from the US people are super friendly! They directed me to the highest point in town where a statue of ‘Cristo’ was guarding the town. A lovely lady joined me on my walk..just because she had nothing else to do. Again very nice chat. I had a private room with bathroom and kitchen 2 steps away from the zocalo for 200 pesos (9 GBP) called Hotel Casa Grande. When I got back in the evening, I had a pleasant surprise: Evaristo turned up and asked if I wanted to hang out. He remembered the hotel I stayed in and wanted to show me the town. So we went for a walk, got some beers and tequila and had a great night chatting. Next day I was walking around silver shops to get a nice memory from this beautiful town and I decided to order a ring that has a salsa dancing couple on it. Given that salsa and the latin culture is such a huge part in my life I wanted to create something that reminds me all time how much happiness Latin America, the people, the language, the
music and the dance gives me. I requested a ring from a silver shop by next day. I had to explain pretty well what I exactly wanted and even having done so, I was not confident they would make a ring exactly how I imagined. In the afternoon I went to a beautiful cave called:  Cacahuamilpa Cave where visitors are mainly Mexicans. Stunning place. It takes 2 hours to complete the visit of this cave..and this is what you can see:
IMG_2027 corona bottle
By the time I got back to Taxco my ring should have been well ready..sadly it wasn’t and it wasn’t even close to be.. So I had to look for another silver man to do one for me. I asked him to be ready for 11am the next day because my bus left for Mexico DF at midday..needless to say it wasn’t! Ended up running to catch the bus but I made it in the end. Moral of the story: Whoever want to have a ring done, STAY WITH THE MAN UNTIL HE FINISHES IT otherwise every other order will be before yours no
matter when they came in. Here is the art:

salsa ring

Upon arrival at Mexico DF I wanted to stay in the ‘Zona Rosa’ this time which is full of bars and supposed to be one of the nicest part of the city. Sadly they didn’t have a dorm but Line (from Quebec) offered kindly that she would share her double room with me. I was super delighted. This is the hostel where I met one of the nicest group of people that includes Line (mentioned above), Sean (US), Lucila and Flavio (Argentinian couple arriving a day after me). The day I arrived was a Saturday and I was dying to go out. Line and Sean were well up for it too so we went to the Condensa area crammed with bars and clubs and I truly had one of the best nights on this particular night in a Cuban bar and in a place called ‘Patas negras’.

aliz dancing on bar Patas Negras
The next day we wanted to take advantage of the ‘free museum Sunday’ but we were way too hungover so had brunch at Wendy’s then went to one of the most famous museums in MeXico DF :The Antrolpology museum. Sadly it was only free for locals so due to our hangover we opted for skipping the museum and visiting the Modern Art instead.
Good decision. Loved it. We bonded with the Argentinians who travelled with little money but great talent. Flavio is a musician and Lucila juggles with fireballs at traffic lights. The day after we went to one of the most important Aztec ruins near Mexico city : Teotihuacan. We spent a great day there climbing the Sun and Moon temples, fighting off the hassle of fake silver sellers..and had an average lunch..


Now I think this average lunch turned into a regret the day after when we went to Xiochimilco.I will explain why in a minute. Xochimilco is best known for its canals, which are left from what was an extensive lake and canal system that connected most of the settlements of the Valle de Mexico.These canals, along with artificial islands called chinampas attract tourists and other city residents to ride on colorful gondola-like boats called ‘ trajineras’ around the 170 km (110 mi) of canals.

xiochi 1 xiochi 2 xiochi 3
My breakfast was a melon juice..once we arrived at Xiochimilco my dear Hawaiana flipflops broke..along with my heart as those black flip flops walked a few miles around the world..oh well..sometimes you need to say goodbye. Flavio fixed it for the day anyway..if anyone has the problem here is a great way to a temporary fix:
On the boat I started to feel weak and sick..I knew something was wrong so after the boat and museum I made my way back to hostel..sadly I couldn’t go anymore on the metro because i felt too sick to travel, so I took a taxi with Chervel …umm..I didn’t make it to the hostel without being sick in the taxi 😦
The coming evening was the worst on this trip..I had pain, I felt sick..if these guys were not there and the helpful staff of the hostel I would have suffered way more. They called the ambulance and I had blood taken, blood pressure measured, I had fever so they prescribed a medicine that sent me to sleep and the day after I felt much better. Very weak because I could not eat anything the whole previous day and the following 2 days either but I made sure to drink a lot of liquid. I am not sure if I had a bug..probably yes ..and also maybe the spicy Mexican food did not do well to my tummy ..but hey, at least I lost weight and felt superb after I

I don’t usually like Latin- American big cities but Mexico City reminded me very much of Buenos Aires. Loved it!

Next stop was San Miguel de Allende. This little charming town (also Pueblo Magico) is a top American retirement spot therefore you hear more English than Spanish here. There are several hot thermal baths in the neighborhood to enjoy (Taxi is the quickest way to get to them but if you have time try the local buses! I boarded one and a national transportation control asked me if I was afraid to ride on this bus.), there is a huge handicraft market and design unit where you can get some inspirations, or just get lost in the bars and fine restaurants..I stayed in Hostel Alcatraz with kitchen facilities. Great staff and good atmosphere.

san miguel 1 san miguel 2 La gruta
After San Miguel I continued to Guanajuato. This town is slightly bigger than San Miguel but the centre is absolutely walkable. In Gunajuato you will find great street entertainment especially during weekends.

Guanajuato 1 guanajuato 2 guanajuato 3

To mention one and my favourite is to participate in the tradition of ‘callejoneada’ a type of “walking serenade”, during which local musicians dress up in traditional 17th century costumes and weave their way through the narrow alleyways of colonial Guanajuato while playing music, singing popular folk songs, telling stories and reciting local legends.

I was lucky enough to witness a proposal during the serenade which certainly doesn’t happen every day.
In Guanajuato I had a splurge by staying in a hostel called ‘Casa de Dante’..with superb breakfast, stunning views (it is on top of a surrounding mountain so a little bit far from the centre but great exercise opportunity!) and great company! I met Brian here, American photographer, reunited with Chervel again whom I met in Mexico and did Xiochimilco together and met Daisy from England with whom I spent a great day together visiting the Mummy Museum and the city and enjoying the traditional
serenade night.
Daisy and Brian
After Guanajuato I made my way to the last destination towards the West Coast: Guadalajara, the second biggest Mexican city. I found eventually my hostel stumbling around with my backpacks in the night: Hostel Tequila. At first glance I did not like this hostel even if it had a pool but as everything it needed time. First day I spent in the San Juan Market..This is the place to go if you want to buy cowboy outfit, leather stuff, cowboy boots, sombreros, or fruits, veggies, everyday clothes, souvenirs or if you just want to try the market food which is exceptional quality shrimps and fish prepared in white wine or garlic. Don’t ask me why they offer seafood, Guadalajara is not by the sea. I bought a pair of boots for myself and 2 sombreros for the arrival of Richard in a few days’ time!
On the second day I went to Tequila with 2 Brazilan bankers. It’s a 2 hour bus ride from Guadalajara and then a tour in one of the tequila factories. Jose Cuervo is certainly the most traditional and biggest but I went with rubio and I did not regret it! If you happen to be here make sure you eat before because there is some serious tequila tasting going on and you DO FEEL THE DIFFERENCE between a smooth gold tequila with least taste or the very tasty but strong white tequila!

After Tequila we wanted to go to the famous Lucha Libre (Wrestling) but tickets were sold out for that day so I just chilled. Ont he last day I went to Tlaquepaque (another part of Guadalajara), I absolutely loved the creativity of this place. It attracts loads of wealthy tourists from all over the world, lots of wholesale merchants and curious ordinary tourists like myself. If you want to enjoy the great nightlife Guadalajara offers head to Chapultepec, a famous road full of bars, restaurants, live music and every Monday free salsa on the street (alcohol consumption on street is prohibited).

guadalajara 1 guadalajara 2 IMG_2269
I had a night bus back to Mexico DF at midnight. The journey is 6-7 hours. I slept ok. Once I was in Mexico, I had to change terminals and head to Puebla, where I finally got to meet Ana Karen and her brother (as I mentioned at the beginning, a good friend of mine, Maszi put us in touch). Now..this is a welcome!
Welcome to Puebla
I spent 1.5 fantastic day in Cholula where Ana Karen lives. We drank Micheladas (beer with spicy lemony sauce, sometimes with tomato juice added), walked to some of the tons of churches Cholula offers, one is very pretty but you cannot take pictures called:Church of Tonantzintla, which means “place of our little mother” in Nahuatl, comes from the Aztec goddess Tonantzin, the earth mother who became the equivalent of the Virgin Mary when the Spaniards conquered the pre-Hispanic world.

In the evening we drank some Mezcal ( with Ana Karen then headed home to sleep.Next day she prepared a fantastic breakfast:

Tlacoyos with fresh orange juice then Memo brought down his tequila selection and the day has started very well! Ana saw me off to Mexico City Airport (Memo came with us as well half way) from where I flew to Cancun to meet my Love..but this will be a next story..guaranteed entertainment if you stay with me for the next time:)

Cuba has always been a great desire for me to visit..why? I could not tell..All I knew about it was, that it’s a stunning Caribbean island with some strange status in the world..all I heard..’go and visit before it changes’..I knew the famous Che Guevara ‘s face..I did not know what he did or why he was idolized…I knew Fidel Castro has done something great and once he dies things will change in Cuba. This is pretty much it.

The sad thing is that a lot of people who are going on holiday to Cuba and stay in the Cayos del Norte in an all-inclusive resort for 2 weeks will leave Cuba with similar knowledge..Cuba is a not straight forward country. I am not sure how much I know about it after having spent a month there and digging deep into the culture instead of having a comfy holiday..I have the feeling that there is so much more to have to visit a few times to really understand although speaking the language helps massively.

But let’s start at the beginning. I left London with a half heart as I updated on Facebook leaving behind the man I love..I did not know if it was a good idea having a second round of travelling but my latest job pushed me away from the UK again..I felt I needed to think and get away from the horror of 2013 in terms of my career.

So I boarded the plane on the 6th January at 10am, and landed in Cuba at 8pm ( Air Europe via Madrid). By 11 pm I was out of the airport! The frustration started right there..waiting for luggage, changing money (it is not possible to get Cuban currency anywhere else..the double currency contributes to the difficulties). Poor taxi driver was waiting for me since 7pm..he did not know the plane was delayed with an would he know it..he cannot go and check the status of the flight online…So after a whopping 3 hours ‘dicking around’ I met my taxi driver who drove me and another English gentleman who happened to go to the same direction as I did in an American car! My first trip was in a Ford from ’52 that was in pieces but still functioned. (I had to hold the door so it does’t open and gets smashed). He drove me to the historical center of Havana, to the casa particular Santy situation just by the church where the other national hero Jose Marti was babtised. Jose Marti is a pre-revolutionary here not only in Cuba but in Latin -America. He was a writer, poet, politician..a fighter for Cuba.

Santy welcomed me with a warm hug along with Ben (American boy having been in the house since Christmas 2013 speaking perfect Spanish). I felt I needed that welcome otherwise I would have collapsed and cried..none of my bones wanted the hassle of travelling again..not when i did not have the whole heart with me.

Santy's houseMy beautiesOld man selling nuts DrinksErnestoCoco taxiAliz, Santy, BenHavana Club

MalekonArchitectureEmilio y Milagros

I spent 6 nights in Havana, Ben was my bodyguard and friend, he started introducing me to this strange culture..he warned me from the ‘jineteros’ or male prostitutes who are targeting foreigner for their money or for their ‘hearts’..which for them means a passport ..a way OUT of Cuba. In Havana it was still a blur for me..why would they want to leave such a great country..with such a high level of patriotism and music, dances..a real Latin community . Ben showed me the places where I can eat cheap..from 2-3-5 moneda nacional. Right..I need to clarify this currency issue here.

Local money- or moneda nacional- Cuban Peso

Tourist money-CUC

1 CUC is worth 25 moneda nacional.  1 UK pound is 1.57 CUC. A dinner for a tourist cost more or less 5-10 CUC..this is budget meal….it can be even 15-20 CUC ..London prices..and as I said..there are places where local people are eating ‘criolla food’ taking their little plastic bowls with them..for 3-5 moneda nacional. which is the 5th of 1 CUC..I started to see the level of poverty certain people suffer from..but it did not become clearer cause some of them lived well..isn’t socialism about ‘equal distribution’? theory it is. Cuban people do not pay for their healthcare. They get the medicines for free.any kind..24 hours a day. They do not need to pay for their or their children’s education. Saying that..a professional working in the public sector (not much space for private sector at all) ..say a university professor earns 25 CUC a month. Yes ladies and gentlemen, that is about 14 UK sterling a month.


Let me share my itinerary at the beginning so it’s easier to follow:

cuba-my route


1. Havana

2. Viñales

3. Maria la Gorda

4. Playa Larga

5. Cienfuegos

6. Trinidad

7. Santiago de Cuba

8. Baracoa

9. Holguin

10. Camaguey

11. Remedios

12. Cayo Santa Maria

13. Havana

After Havana I headed to Viñales- Valle de Viñales is an UNESCO World Heritage Site crammed with caves, ancient wall paintings, hills where hardworking ‘campesinos ‘ (farmers) are making sure that they grow the best quality tobacco for the world wide famous Cuban cigars. This is where 90% of the tabacco comes from. I visited a farm and got a great idea on how they harvest then dry, then ferment the leaves. what machines are they using if its a lower quality..the best quality ones are rolled by hand. Best brand is Cohiba . Talking about cigars I visited the rum museum in Havana..they are very proud of their rum. You can get a bottle of rum from 4CUC (2.20 pounds )..most certainly it’s not the best quality white Havana Club.

In Vinales I did an afternoon horseback riding..again fabulous experience just like in Argentina 2 years ago..the horse represents freedom for me..I was running through the green fields with that beautiful horse..made me so happy..saying that i paid for it next day..moral of the story do not go horse riding in shorts no matter how hot the weather is!

Valle de VinalesVinales main street Baseball, the national sportThe farmer guide in tobacco plantationTabacco factoryLove40km bike rideBiggest cave in CubaPre-colonial wall painting

I did a day trip to Punta Maria la Gorda as it’s a world wide famous dive site. I have to admit it was not worth the hassle..3 hours drive down there, 3 back to Vinales for a turtle and a lion fish??oh well.

After Vinales I headed to Playa Larga. Lovely place and possibly the best Casa particular I stayed in. Oh yes..I don’t think I mentioned the casa particular concept. So. If you would like to experience the real Cuba plus save some money stay in private homes. The houses renting out rooms have the following sign on them: (blue little anchor)

Casa FrankPlaya Larga

You can just arrive at a place and start wondering around if you survive the gang of jineteros wanting to ‘sell you’ a casa particular and see if they have availability. How it works?

You arrive, they ask for your passport and visa (tourist card). They have  a little official book where they put how many nights you are staying, you need to sign and pay in the end. Most of them will offer you breakfast (worth 3-5 CUC including juice of Guava or Pineapple, Mango or Papaya, coffee, bread, salami or ham, and tortilla, some vegetables like tomato and cucumber) I always ate in the house..the reason behind it was that a night can range from 15-25 CUC for a single person. In Havana it’s the upper end. Outside you can bargain for less. I stayed most of the places for 15. They are making their money on breakfasts and dinners. Eating in a casa particular is not cheap but this is a great way of experiencing some different food than pizza worth 5 moneda nacional or criolla food. Also like this you are putting the money in the pocket of the casa owners and not the one of the Castro brothers.  In my whole stay in Cuba I ate about 5-6 times lobster..prepared by the casa owner in different ways. Dinner can cost from 7-10 CUC. Many of the  casa owners know each other. What happens in the end, you get the bill and an address wherever you go next. They send you to their ‘friends’ or relatives’ houses in the next city – bear in mind if you accept this and they make the reservation via phone usually you stay on the same rate as you were in the previous casa.

Tourism is very much controlled by the state..nobody can just easily make money of tourists unless they cheat..saying that there is always opportunity for that..Spanish is a weapon..

Internet: Cuban people are banned from the capitalist world. They cannot have internet at home..even in hotels wifi rarely exists. They sell these one hour or 30 mins cards where you scratch your username and password and you can use those in ‘Telepunto’-s. Hotels have different type of cards. The queue for the internet is usually minimum an hour. you need to find out who is the last one, once it’s done you let the person after you know that you are going to buy an ice cream or something but you will be back and your place is secured. Imagine being a university student..and you are deprived from the internet. You have out dated books written years ago since when the world has changed so much and you cannot access the latest information. Not great..

So In Playa Larga I did a day of diving. Saw some amazing things..did a cave dive which was a stunning experience! the way the sun is shining into that little whole ..It was quite scary jumping into the water as the walls were so close so you had to jump right into the middle in order not to hit the walls..

1,2,3 jump!Cuba Diving

I met a great group of people as well in Playa Larga with whom we went out for a night coconut hunt to the beach and had some ‘Coco Loco’ rum and coconut combination!

Next stop was Cienfuegos..famous jazz singer Benny More’s favourite city in Cuba. I stayed at Livia’s house..she was a kind of grumpy severe and strict mother type who said it was dangerous going out alone in the I stayed in all 3 nights and she was willing to chat to me very little..

On the last day in Cienfuegos I did a tour to El Nicho (land of waterfalls ) and met Andre very nice guy who was heading to Trinidad too. I was so happy, finally I could go out cause i had some male company. It’s not the danger that hold me back from going out but the guys (jineteros), I just knew as soon as someone talked to me that he wanted my money or make me fall in love with some stupid untrue story and i did not want to hear bullshit and be exposed to this. So i rather stayed in..but in Trinidad out of the 2 nights I spent there we went for a great latin night in the Casa de la musica and Casa de la Trova and then to the Cave disco up in the hills – shame the music was not great on this latest place cause they ‘venue ‘ is cracking.

Trinidad Trinidad drink Beauty

After Trinidad i took the bus to Santiago de Cuba – 12 hours only day bus, where I met my 2 little princesses, Christina and Clara from Denmark. Very young girls (18) with no Spanish..perfect target for jineteros..In Santiago I realised another layer of tourism..old European men having young 20 year old Cuban ‘girlfriends’..I guess it’s a mutual benefit..They get their fun company for the day and night..and the girls get the money, fancy dinners, presents..An English man shared his ‘love story’ with one of these Cuban girls who joined us on the bus for the last 3 hours of the trip..he had enough of the constant nagging for money so he packed and left..but realised later how miserable his life was without the young in great fear of being slapped he returned to Santiago as a ‘surprise’ sipping a whole bottle of Havana club on the journey to beat the fear..shame that the rum was stronger than him…he got absolutely hammered by the end of the trip and could not walk that deserves a slap…but not the reason I would think..but’s his life.

Santiago cannot be compared with Havana..Havana had authority and a charismatic elegance. Santiago was poorer but had some charm too. I met a doctor here..well ex doctor. Very sad story actually. I reminded him of his long lost Hungarian girlfriend, Kati which emotion triggered the rest. He was ‘celebrating’ his day of freedom from prison where he had to go because he spoke up when the government withheld the donations of his clients from him..He was sentenced for 1 year and 2 months..and was banned of being able to continue his career as a doctor..those honest tears in his eyes made me cry too..along with the Danish girls..all of a sudden reality hit me..I experienced this through a real example…a person deprived of his career wearing his elegant jacket and jeans..shame that they jacket had more holes than a piece of emmental cheese .

Dr and Danish girlsBookstore Main square Piedra grande

The next stop together with the girls was Baracoa. I was so excited about Baracoa. People were saying excellent things about it…the amazing cuisine, the charming little town, the national parks around..

Baracoa is famous for it’s chocolate..but if you go into the expensive chocolate museum where all you can do is buy chocolate you will see that there are no prices displayed..meaning they can price a little tiny chocolate as a CUC or 40 cents..and they will not remember what price they told you a minute i wasn’t impressed.  The town itself did not offer much apart from the charm of a little town. It had a castle with an expensive hotel in it, great view from there to Baracoa and the Caribbean sea. Another option is to hike the Yunque mountain for 13 CUC…I mean if it was a national park I would understand..I think I burst out at that point because you cannot charge someone to climb a mountain and then when refuse to do it and walk back towards Baracoa you run after them and give them a discount..not when you said earlier that these prices are government set prices..

Anyway apparently the view is nice from the top. Another option is to hire a bike and go to Playa Manguana (Manguana beach- 50km return). Enthusiastic chefs are waiting for you and offer you great lunch starting at 10 CUC..could go down till 5..make sure you fix prices of juice and everything you order cause if not you end up paying more for a juice than for a lobster:)


I spent 3 night here and the plan was to continue to Holguin on the north coast and stop by the Alexander von Humboldt national park but with an onward journey the same day. As most of you know I am not a big fan of organised tours so I found out that there are jeeps going to Moa every morning and the trip should not cost more than 4 CUC to the national park (Cubans pay 2 CUC till Moa and the national park is half way between baracoa and moa) and a tour costs 25 CUC more or less… All this information came to my knowledge through a ‘helpful’ man i was chatting to on the square. He told me all these budget options, in return I arranged a direct transport for the Danish girls in 2 days’ time for 70 CUC..I thought it was a good price between the 2 of them considering the’s about 6 hours from Baracoa on a very bumpy bad road. The girls were over the moon.

Next day I took an early jeep and got to the national park by 8am..there were 8 guides sitting there waiting for groups to arrive. There are 3 options in the national park. A 5hour walk, a 3 hour walk and a boat journey in the bay. I wanted to do the 5 hour walk. Turned out it starts 10 km away from the national park so I would need a car to get there…and even though the walk with the guide costs 10 CUC you need to provide your own transport..It was foreign to me..none of the countries I have previously been to ‘offered a guided tour’ with no transportation!! Anyway..I had to wait for the ‘organised tours ‘ from Baracoa to arrive..I was waiting till 11..the guides said even if a group arrives now they do not think that i can continue my journey after the walk to Moa and Holguin..I would need to sleep in the national park. I did not know that there was an option to do so. There was a big house with 2 dormitories and mosquito reminded me a tiny bit to the Lost City..I was very happy to stay there for 5 CUC a night. They warned me though that I would be the only person sleeping there and there is only the night guard apart from me but I was up for it! group arrived who wanted to do the 5hour tour the end I joined a German couple on the 3h tour. Very disappointing..all I saw worth mentioning was the smallest frog in the world and some to know a few types of plants national to the park. After that I did a boat tour as well and I saw some crabs and it was really tranquil and beautiful to swing in that boat. The evening was exciting once the sun went down..I started to hear noises so I prayed not to need the bathroom and to fall asleep quickly. in the middle of the night it started raining ..had no clue if the rain could go into the room or not cause it was hammering down. In the end it was all fine. My plan was to get up early and get on the road, watch the jeeps passing by cause I knew the girls left Baracoa at 7am so they were supposed to be there at 8am. pretty punctual! I got on the jeep and I started to wonder about this 70 CUC deal..cause I realised local people were travelling too again pulling out their 40 moneda nacional for the trip to moa (2 hours ) ..but the realization happened when the guy stopped at moa and said we need to change to another car to Holguin. I got so angry..started shouting at him. I said the girls paid 70 CUC for a DIRECT PRIVATE journey to Gibara..turned out it was arranged only till Moa..I asked the girls how much they paid and they gave the man 40 CUC who put in his pocket 20 and gave the driver 20 to take us to Moa..the rest was irrelevant to him. I felt betrayed and if there was a police man I would have definitely made a complaint about this..All we could do is look for a car to Holguin. Again we were not the only passengers in the car but the driver already knew what happened with the previous driver so he made it very clear that we are renting his jeep.we were already on the I said to him no Senor. If we were renting your jeep there would not be any other people apart from us in the jeep. He stopped and started shouting that he needs 30 CUC from us..of course he heard we were quoted 70 till Gibara and he wanted 30 till Holguin (Gibara is still another hour from holguin) I said we pay no more than 12 CUC to you ..he agreed to it in the end..and STILL upon arrival to Holguin I had to raise my voice again when we wanted more money than 12 CUC..he said..YOU RENTED THE CAR I said No..ask the rest of the money from the other 4 Cuban people travelling with us in your car..Of course he knew he couldn’t ask for this money..Cubans would never pay 4 CUC a head …so this is what pisses me off in Cuba..the 400% profit that they are working with..I know the reason is that their economy is screwed but still..cheating backpackers is NOT ACCEPTABLE AND I am confident to say that the level of overcharging I found in Cuba was this high in any other countries I travelled.


The girls were very grateful of might fight for wasn’t only for them ..I obviously contributed to the overall 70 CUC cost  too. That was the point when I was looking forward to arriving in Mexico.

I got to Holguin around 2pm and the next bus to Camaguey was at I had time to look around. Holguin is the city of parks. Very nice, I imagine has a great night life as well. Met a nice man at the station once i was done visiting who took me to a CD shop so I could buy a few Cuban CD-s. I cannot wait to listen to them!! took the bus and got to  Camaguey around 11pm. A motor taxi was waiting for me and took me to the casa particular where I was sent from Baracoa. Lovely big room with ArtEx design (Artex is a decor shop in Cuba..the only one:) and lovely owner. The strange thing is that in some places you have a completely different separated room/space but still you have no key to the front door only to your room. So if you come home in the middle of the night they rather wake up and open the door for you than give you a key. I had only in 2 places my own key to the front door.

So Camaguey..well..luck was not my best friend in that period of time..Camaguey was getting ready for its 500 years anniversary of foundation therefore all I could see is crains, dust, new asphalt on the streets (which I managed to get stuck in with flip flops ), a full day without water and electricity and I could go on…The next day I decided I will try the experience of travelling on a truck! There are these trucks on the road transporting around 40-50 people..incredibly uncomfortable but very authentic. You won’t see any tourist on these buses..You pay moneda nacional. I arrived at the truck station at 9am..was one of the first ones to board. Needless to say the truck wouldn’t leave half full..So..departure time was 11am:) 2 hours roasting in the sun in an iron car with wooden seats ..luckily there were some really nice people on the particularly liked speaking that the whole bus could hear him. Once he spotted me I was ‘dead’:) He was joking around, speaking loud to me, putting me in the spotlight while sharing his own little stories with tourists when he was a fisherman in one of the Cayos. I was asked about my daily salary, about the level of live in the UK and Hungary, about my boyfriend, we discussed how many times Cuban people make love a day..(this is an interesting point by the way and I shall address to people married for long time..there is no such things in Cuba like no sex without a month…or even 2 weeks..or even a week!!!) and many other topics occurred. At some point he pulled out from his ‘Mary Poppins like bag’ a great big knife..I kinda jumped a little..but then I realised, he is ‘only’ trying to sell these..well what are people doing for 2 hours on this bus apart from looking at me? Buying knives! He sold about 20..Quite random item to buy..’Hey, do you need a knife?’ ‘Actually..yes’ ‘Ah great! 50 pesos!’ 🙂

empty truck photo 2 photo 3 photo 4 photo 5

Upon arrival to Ciego de Avila I was very much counting on that 2pm bus that would have taken me to the closest town to Cayo Santa Maria..this is the island I booked back in Havana with Ben as a nice closure of my Cuban holiday. I was told that this was the only island where I didn’t need to fly to. So I planned to arrive to this town fairly early in the afternoon so I can arrange some kind of transport for myself to the Cayo for next morning. As we say in Hungary ‘ Ember tervez, Isten vegez’ ( Mankind plans, God executes). There was no 2pm bus..even though I read there was in Lonely Planet. They cancelled it about a month ago. So I could have gone straight to Santa Clara instead of bumping for 2 hours on a truck..although it was good as it was..the truck journey was one of the best ones I had in terms of chatting to local people.

So I went to Santa Clara this time on a local bus where in theory I am not supposed to board (mentioned earlier separate bus for Cubans and tourists because of huge price difference), so I paid what Cubans paid. For the first time nobody tried to overcharge me. The bus driver promised that he would take me to Remedios (another 43 km from Santa Clara) but he changed his mind in the end so had to take a taxi and the plan of getting to the place ‘early’ happened to be 8pm. I knew I wouldn’t be able to sort transport anymore but I had to talk to people cause the owner of the house said taxi is the only way…of course..what else should she have said..knowing that I am going to go to an all-inclusive resort..she will not say that ‘ Hey Senorita, why don’t you try to get on the bus what the workers take?’ I met an old man in a bar who was so nice..I bought him  juice and he was immediately in ‘helping mode’. He talked to a few friends of his who suggested all to go to the bus station the next day around 7am and try to get on one on the workers bus. So..this is what I questions were asked why am I boarding with 2 backpacks a bus where all inclusive resort people are travelling on..I just call it the bus of shame..cause I knew what was in their heads..they were all going to this place on the bus that we take?? to be honest..It was another experience. you see all these people in kitchen, garden, reception outfits heading to the hotel serving the guests..they only nice on them is the outfit..their backpacks have millions of holes and are ripped..yes, they earn 10 moneda nacional a day. That is about 20pence a day..why? Because the government knows that they will get tips from the hotel make sure that they will not get rich they almost work for free..

Cayo Santa Maria is a place that you see on the postcards. Turquoise water, lovely hotel with massive swimming pool..and all Canadians. Why? Cause US people cannot come:) They all go to Cancun. These people are arriving with 1 liter or 1.5 liter containers so they don’t need to go up to the bar every 10 minutes to order a Pina Colada or Mojito. I wasn’t this prepared considering that this was my first all inclusive experience. Set time for breakfast, lunch, dinner. It’s a little wonderland. The Cubans make sure to provide a full wonderland experience..while they are in hell:(.

All those people who were in those resorts had no idea about Cuba..about the double currency, about the propaganda which describes the country ..the frustration people are living on a daily basis.  The island is called the Island of the City people..cause all they want to do is relax..they don’t want to hear how bad the situation in Cuba is..they want to get their tan, eat, drink, sleep. During the night different entertainment is provided for the people in the Theater. On Friday there was a Michael Jackson show and on Saturday a Cuban show. Both very nice. I spoke to only Cubans in this place..Of course families would not talk to’s not backpacking scene:)

pueblo Beach from towerCaribbean resting

On the 2nd of February my transfer arrived at 2pm..I was leaving wonderland..and leaving Cuba. One more night in Havana..well half night because I had my plane to Mexico City at 6am on the 3rd February.

Would I agree with the signs below?

Our town is patriot or dead. Viva the revolution! Cuba will never gonna return to its old-self! DSC_6954

Definitely no! Neither Cubans do…but they cannot say it..or do anything about it.

This country touched me so much..I had such a mix of feelings travelling here..I had some very emotional moments listening to people’s stories..being ‘victim’ of no care..and tourist exploitation, having the frustration of not finding stuff, going around in Baracoa  a whole afternoon for a piece of cheese..waiting for my turn in the internet point..sometimes hours..

But the thing is Cuba is changing. It has already changed a lot. I saw a few Adidas shops..Cuba has to change and it will…the question is a Cuban man said: ‘Yes will change, but by that time my life is gone.’ So again we are here..cannot emphasize enough..People! Appreciate what you have..don’t be upset about small things and things you cannot change. Do whatever you feel like doing in the present because tomorrow might never come. Go to Cuba and dance..learn, help!