Did you know El Salvadors St Ana Volcano ?

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Central America the home to hundreds of Volcano’s. When staying in Ataco I had to chance to do a Volcano activity, it’s about 60km away and the biggest one in the country. It’s situated in the Cerro Verde National Park and it was about a 1,5 hour hike when I reached the top. This volcano is an active volcano which makes the hike even more exciting. In the centre of the volcano there is a turquoise toxic lake, you can smell the sulphur. It’s a great feeling to stand on top and look down at the crater, it’s perfect for some great photo opportunities, also the area around is stunning for its views. Lake Coatepeque in the distance with some towns around and a smaller volcano on the opposite side. El Salvador has a natural treasure here and for me it was THE highlight of my Central American trip. I am serious about this El Salvador surprised me positively.
I was hiking not by myself but with a group and we were escorted by a policeman, because in the past tourists used to get robbed by hiking the volcano themselves.
It is much safer now and I never felt unsafe in El Salvador during my entire trip.

Cerro Verde National Park ticket office

food and drink stands

police escort

First view of the crater

on top of the world (my feeling at that moment)

Sulphur Lake in the crater

the different layers of the stones

View on Lake Coatepeque

View of the smaller volcano

 

 

 

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Do you know Ataco ?

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Ataco

Ataco is a town in El Salvador that became very popular for tourists visiting El Salvador because of a great initiative by the government who sponsored it. The people of Ataco, not all of them off course but many started to paint the murals of their houses, the city changed quickly into the street art city of El Salvador. No graffiti but paint.

Ataco what you got ?

school

famous people (to name a few : Chavez,Castro,Mandela,Gandhi,Martin Luther King)

Man painting his house

I really liked walking around this town in search for great mural paintings. Can’t remember how many little streets I’ve done but I got enough pictures of some great Ataco art. There is also an art gallery in Ataco where you can paint yourself and one of the artists will teach you how, before you know it, you will have your own self-made painting and nobody will ever believe you made it cause the result is like if some local artist would have painted it.

art gallery where you can paint your own painting

Inside the art gallery shop

What else is there to do in Ataco, well Ataco itself is a small town good to spend a day , maybe two if you want to relax and take it slow.
There are craft stores, galleries, bars, restaurants, a market, more than one church and a nice park where you can chill.

touristic street with galleries and shops

Painting of the town Ataco

Church Conception de Ataco

Ave Maria Church

Ave Maria

 

 

 

 

 

Suchitoto’s Cornfestival

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Suchitoto my first stop in el Salvador. Suchitoto itself is a small little town looks like Antigua just smaller. After doing a little walking tour around town, I got to this amazing viewpoint over Lake Suchitlan with the mountains in the back it looked like the beginning of the jungle.

view over Lake Suchitlan

I would stay here for 2 days at the Posada Alta Vista and from the rooftop you could see the building that stands out the most in this town, the white church of Santa Lucia. I spend the weekend here saturday and sunday.

rooftop of Posada Alta Vista

Church of Santa Lucia

Sunday the church was packed with people, It was a special day and there was a special mass, much had to do with the corn festival, which is a very important food in El Salvador. The central square was full of food stands with off course drinks made of corn and variety of food made of corn. They sold t-shirt about the corn festival, all this to celebrate the beginning of the harvest of corn. Every year in August this festival takes place in Suchitoto. I didn’t attend the whole festival since in the afternoon I relaxed at a swimming pool at some restaurant not far from the hotel and it was more than welcome after some days of intense travel.

guys with corn festival t-shirts

food stands, serving corn drinks

souvenir stands

church with people standing till the door outside

police on horses patrolling the streets

relaxing at the pool

Santa Lucia church by night

 

 

 

Copan Ruinas

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The next country on my Central American journey would be Honduras. The most dangerous of all the countries is what you hear sometimes.

Honduras football flag in some restaurant in the town of Copan

The border crossing between Guatemala and Honduras went pretty fast, just had to fill in a few forms , give my fingerprints and then got stamped in. Before I forget I did need to pay a fee to enter the country, some kind of tax and you need to pay in local currency which in Honduras is the lempira. So i changed some of my dollars into lempiras. It was only 60 lempiras which is 2,5 Usd.

Street Art of the Copan Ruinas site in Copan

The Town of Copan Ruinas is very small, a peaceful place were tuk tuks were driving around town just like in San Pedro Guatemala. The main plaza with its church and a small archeological museum are the only places you can visit, next to the bars and restaurants.

small streets of Copan Town with tuk tuk driving down hill

The Church of Copan

The Central Plaza

The archeological Maya museum with the Honduras flag on top

The Copan Ruinas are not that big but worth a visit, I already saw bigger Mayan sites in Mexico like Chichen Itza and Uxmal but maybe it’s not right to compare since every Mayan site is nice in it’s own way.

Map of the site at the park entry

Parrot greeting me at the Mayan site

The First and last Maya Emperor

The way they build all this so many decades ago its amazing to see.
I always like to walk around more in these kind of places then in museums.
The thing I liked about these Ruinas as that it’s not full of tourists, even in town there were not so many tourists. Maybe it’s the reputation Honduras has in the outside world, I don’t know but this place deserves more tourists. You have the Ruinas which are surrounded by the green of the jungle for yourself, so great to make pictures without too much other people in the background.

The ball court with the main Pyramid covered by a sail

The amphitheatre

me at the amphitheatre

the pyramid stairs of the main pyramid that was covered by a big sail with the statue of the Maya emperor

 

Daytrip from Antigua to Lake Atitlan

While I only had a short stay in Guatemala’s city of Antigua which is a touristic place I wanted to do a trip not so far away. The capital Guatemala city didn’t really interest me that much, however Lake Atitlan with its tiny towns around the lake and its surrounding volcano’s was worth a visit.
A shuttle picked me up at Adra Hostel and took me to Panajachel which is the most important town at Lake Atitlan cause it’s from here you can take boats to the other towns around Lake Atitlan, also here you can get the better deals to do activities around the Lake cause there are many little tour agencies and besides that a lot of shops where you can buy cheap food and any other stuff you might need on your trips and tours.
I have been to many Lakes already in my life, I don’t get easily impressed. I’ve been at Lake Ritsa in Abkhazia, Iskanderkul in Tajikistan, Lake Powell in the US and for me the Lake of the Lakes, Lake Titicaca. Lake Atitlan is not going to top Lake Titicaca for me but I can understand why some flip-flop backpackers like to stay in one of these villages for several days, weeks and those who have a lot of time on their hands months.
I would not want to stay there longer than a day in each village just because I do think they all look pretty much the same. They are nice each in their own way, but all of them have coffee shops, bars, restaurants, souvenir shops, tour agencies. The difference between them is that some of the towns have nicer streets with nicer colors. The Lake itself and the volcanos that’s what makes it so nice. The nature that should be the reason to see Lake Atitlan. The small Villages of San Marcos, San Juan and San Pedro (referred as the party town) and Santiago was a nice bonus.
It’s also something different to go from one village to another by boat instead of a bus, which is the most common transportation used in Central America. I enjoyed my day trip and I understand the people who want to spend more days at the Lake and take their time to hang around in each village but also those who go there on a daytrip (me for example) and make a quick stop in a few villages on the lake just to walk around a bit to see what it’s like, experience the vibe and call it a day.
If you would like to hike the Volcano or do water activities your best option would be to stay a few days in the hostels or hotels at one of these towns around the Lake.
After I visited the towns that I mentioned above, the boat dropped me off from where I started in Panajachel from there a minibus picked me up at the agency of Adrenalina tours (the touragency I booked my tour with) in the calle Santander which is the main street in Panajachel with all the shops, restaurants, bars etc,…

Panajachel

Lake Atitlan

 

San Marcos

Arriving in San Marcos at Lake Atitlan the first village

Church in San Marcos

small streets of San Marcos

The local people

streets in San Marcos

fresh fish from the Lake

 

San Juan

San Juan 2nd Village

steep streets of San Juan

One of the Many Art Galleries in San Juan

 

San Pedro

3rd Village San Pedro

The most bussy town at Lake Atitlan

St. Peter in San Pedro

Church of San Pedro

Street Art

Coffeehouse of Guatemalan Coffee

 

Santiago

Spanish Plaza in Santiago with Spanish flags in the back

Church Spanish Plaza in Santiago

Antigua

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Antigua the city surrounded by volcano’s was my starting point of my Central American journey. It’s my first time in Central America and I was supposed to visit 5 countries, because of the violent situation going on in Nicaragua, I had to be satisfied with visiting only 4 of them. Nicaragua got cancelled for obvious reasons. Continue reading

Diving with Crocodiles in Zimbabwe

One of the activities which you can do exclusively in Zimbabwe when stayin at the Victoria Falls, is to dive with Crocodiles.
Crocodiles are my favorite animals since I been a kid. This was just something I really wanted to do, to have a close underwater encounter with these beasts. The only way to get this close face to face with the Crocs was getting into a cage that gets lowered into the pool with two of these predators.

the cage

ready to enter the cage

the crocodile is waiting

I’m ready

ready to get down

up close with two of these giants

In the cage you can observe the animal and even touch the animal, hi5 him or scratch his belly when he’s swimming on top of the cage.
In Darwin Australia you can have a similar experience, but you are not in a cage, but in a cylinderform glass tank. I prefer the experience in Zimbabwe as you are in a real cage like an animal and not behind glass, so you really can touch the animal., but only when the crocodile is on top of the cage, don’t stick your hand out when he’s in front of you or it won’t be a great experience at all 🙂

Hi5

belly scratch

the eye of the tiger, I mean Crocodile ! 🙂

I also got some cow liver on a stick and fed them, in no time it was gone, hold on very tight to the stick when feeding them cause when they snap the bait of your stick, you will feel the power of their jaws.
One of the crocodiles was a very rare one, albino crocodile, more white than green.
Not many albino crocodiles you can find on our planet so this is also one more reason to go and check this place out. Croc cage diving is located at the Elephant shopping centre in the centre of Victoria Falls Town. If you are familiar with diving and don’t have problems breathing under water than definitely you got to try this and don’t be afraid they can not bite you when you are in the cage and you don’t put your hands out.

The Albino Croc

 

Zambia the most peacefull nation

When I arrived at the airport in Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe, I bought myself the Kaza Univisa, which allows you to cross the border between Zimbabwe and Zambia as many times as you want during a period of 30 days, also daytrips to Botswana are covered by that visa. So that was my plan to not only visit Zimbabwe side of the Vic Falls but also the Zambian side. I stayed at the Livingstone hostel in Livingstone. Continue reading

Botswana stuck in the middle of Chobe River

BOTSWANA CHOBE NATIONAL PARK

Botswana Flag standing in the middle of the swamp – Chobe NP

First view of Chobe NP

During my stay at the Vic Falls in Zimbabwe, I planned on doing some activities and one of them is doing a game drive or safari in one of Africa’s greatest wildlife park Chobe NP in Botswana. It would become the highlight of my African trip, thank you Botswana ! The trip to Botswana was a bless, I saw more animals than I expected.
They say you got to be lucky well, if I get to see lions I consider myself lucky.
The day trip to Botswana famous wildlife park started with an early morning pick up at the hostel and then it went straight to the Kasane border. It went really fast and smoothly. After a short drive in through Kasane town, we entered the park.

Kasane Border Botswana

Consider yourself lucky when you see Lions

 

This trip includes the game drive which is off course in a safari jeep and afterwards you embark a small boat on the Chobe river to see the wildlife that lives in the water like Crocodiles and Hippo’s but also Elephants who like to cool off in the water. All of that I saw in Chobe and I could easily do it again, it was worthed.
While cruising for about an hour on the river looking for wildlife, it was time to have a lunch break, at the raft a floating restaurant in the middle of the river. great food, barbecue, vegetables, dessert and a variety of drinks to choose from.

the Raft floating restaurant

The staff welcomed us with a very catchy song that was in my head for the rest of my African stay. Stomach filled and back to the boat again to continue to spot some more wildlife and the best was yet to come :

Getting stuck in the middle of Chobe river

boat ride on the Chobe river

We were with 8 people in the boat and our guide, when suddenly the motor of our boat broke down, the connection cable was broke, unable to make contact and to steer the wheel in a proper way. There we were stuck in the middle of the Chobe river surrounded by Hippo’s, but they don’t eat meat so we didn’t worry, the Croc’s however do, but they were hiding under the water or maybe watching us disguised between the high grass plants in the water.

Hippo’s opening their mouth

huge Hippo’s

Thank God smartphones can save your ass one day, so after a call some other boat came to the rescue, we had to jump from one boat to the other and try not to fall in the water.
It just adds up to the great day it has been and another story to tell.
Ending my post about Chobe with the list of animals I’ve seen :
Buffalo,Elephants, Giraffes,Lions,Crocodiles,Hippo’s,Monitor Lizard,Fish Eagle,Marabou Storks and a lot of Impalas.

Buffalo in the shade

Buffalo staring from the bushes (try to find)

the longnecks 🙂

giraffes observing the lions walking in the distance

Giraf and Impala

more impalas

impalas crossing the road

Lions with Impala bone in mouth

Mother Lion in the shade, just before she got disturbed by the tourists and their camera’s

2 lion cubs

Marabou stork

 

Fish Eagle

Monitor lizard

Elephants taking a bath

The Elephant family

My all time favorite the Crocodile

Another Croc

 

Zimbabwe Vic Falls full throttle

Victoria Falls the natural border between Zimbabwe and Zambia is a well-known natural phenomenal waterfall. I decided to stay here for about 5 days. 3 days in Zimbabwe with one day going to Botswana and 2 days in Livingstone Zambia.
After visiting the Niagara Falls twice and the Iguazu falls in the past, the Victoria Falls were on my list for a long time. I visited the Falls in may, which means it’s the wet season where the water is at a high level, falling down at an enormous speed and with a lot of power, the whole falls going down the canyon are hard to see, because of the mist that is forming the view are not that great, but you get to see nice rainbows forming itself in the mist. On the Zimbabwe side you follow one long trail with different viewing points. I started from the Livingstone statue. There are 2 Livingstone statues at the Falls, one on this side and the other one on the Zambian side.
The park entrance fee was 30 usd and I got myself a poncho but I got soaked anyway.
Didn’t do all the viewpoints, I stopped at number 13, cause there was so much water at point 14 and beyond that I would have got my shoes completely wet. It was already enough for me that my clothes got wet, so I didn’t want to mess up my shoes. I got enough nice pictures of the parts that I could see of the falls, the parts where there was less mist forming, but I realize that one day I will have to come again in the winter season when the water is at its low and when you can see the depth of the Falls.
When staying at the Zimbabwe side you most likely will be staying at the Vic Falls village which is very clean, maybe a little to touristy but then again it’s not that crowded, in the evening restaurants are open but it wasn’t that alive the village, calm, not over crowded by tourists and actually a little bit death, like a ghost town not that much to do.
I went to a restaurant and tried crocodile and zebra steak and despite this great food it wasn’t even full. I thought there would be more tourist going out in the evening or having some African dinner at one of the restaurants, but it was relatively quiet.

Zimbabwe Flag

Entrance of the Zambezi Park Victoria Falls Zimbabwe

map of the trail on the Zimbabwean side

The difference in water level during the different seasons

let’s start walking

Livingstone Statue my starting point

First view on the Vic Falls

rainbow in the mist