Vultures in Panamá

Panama City is better than I expected. It would be worth coming back here to see more.

Cinta Costera, Panama City, Panamá

Sadly, I don’t think I could live here. It’s nice and it’s modern, but it’s very car-dependent and it’s difficult being a pedestrian here. I can’t stand countries that consider pedestrians as an afterthought. Plus, it’s hot here and extremely humid.

Cinta Costera, Panama City, Panamá

Nice place to visit, tho’ 🙂

Tomorrow, Bogotá, Colombia

Cinta Costera, Panama City, Panamá
Vultures resting on a river bed. If you click on the photo and look on the far left, you’ll see a big iguana. One of the vultures is trying to make itself look very big to scare the iguana off 🙂
They use the U.S. dollar in Panama. Very sweet. The bills are the same as in the U.S., but the coins are a mix of U.S. and Panamanian. They have Panamanian equivalents to pennies, nickels, dimes, quarters and dollar coins. A dollar is a “balboa” in Panamá.

Panamá

Panama City is better than I expected. It’s fairly modern and there’s a lot to do here. Plus, it feels very safe.

A ship being towed through the Panama Canal, Miraflores Visitor Center, Panamá

This is where my great-grandfather Frank Taylor disappeared from our family history. He had fought in World War One in France. Later, he went to work on the Panama Canal. The last time he was seen by anyone in my family was in the 1950s. After, only vague rumors and guesses about him maybe marrying a Scottish woman. Then, poof! Gone.

Where did you go, Grandpa Frank? Did you go to Scotland? Did you die in Panama?

Multiplaza Mall, Panama City, Panama

Today was a good day. I got to a coffee shop at 7:00 and relaxed until about 9:00. Then it was Uber time. My driver took me to the Miraflores Visitor Center where I got to see some ships being towed through the locks – after paying a $20.00 entry fee. It was worth the fee. Good times.

Miraflores Visitor Center, Panama Canal, Panamá

Then, as I was leaving, I figured the exits would be packed with taxi drivers looking for fares. I felt kind of weird ordering an Uber. I don’t know why, really. In any event I got ready for the haggling. I priced out an Uber fare to my next destination. After I had the number, I headed towards the exit.

Catedral Metropolitana Santa María De La Antigua, Casco Viejo, Panama City.

Sure enough, before I even got to the bottom of the escalator a guy in a yellow taxi shirt was asking, “Taxi? Taxi?”  Below is the conversation. Email me if you need a translation, or there are online translators available 😉

Casco Viejo, Panama City

Him – “Taxi?”

Me – “Pues, depende…cuánto me cobra hasta Casco Viejo?”

“Quince”

“Quince??? Pero desde aquí Uber es solo seis”

“No…bien, lo hago por diez”

“Diez? Hmm, okay, diez”

It was fine. I can’t blame him for trying to gouge a gringo. They have money he doesn’t have 😉

Casco Viejo, Panama City

He walked me through the parking lot to his private vehicle. Shit! He’s not even a true taxi driver. In Central America these guys are called, “piratas”. You probably don’t need a translator for that. But, it was cool, his pickup was brand new with very comfy leather seats. He was also a very good conversationalist. He told me all about the places we passed along the way. I had told him about my long-lost relative and he pointed out the American cemetery. Two miles further on he pointed out two huge government buildings that house the records documenting the workers involved with the Panama Canal. Interesting. I might want to come back here and do some research. That, or maybe hire a local pro who might do it for me. Something to think about.

Casco Viejo, Panama City

Casco Viejo is very nice. There are plenty of tourists there, but not too many. I counted maybe 15 of them. That’s the largest number I’ve seen in one place since beginning my travels in Mexico in July.

Casco Viejo, Panama City

Tomorrow, a coffee shop to start, then more Uber adventures!

Chicken bus near Estación Cinco de Mayo, Panama City.
Chicken bus near Estación Cinco de Mayo, Panama City.

Next stop: Panama

Have you ever tried to contact me via this blog? The blog page had some bugs.  I made a post and it disappeared. Messages sent to me never arrived and then the blog went offline for about a week.

In Costa Rica I met the largest ant I’ve ever seen in my life. This girl is a monster! Parque Sabana, San Jose.

I changed the contact form to a simple email address. If you sent me a message, I never got it. Please try again with the email listed on the contact page.

Beans and rice are known as “Casamiento” in parts of Central America. Here it’s called “Gallo Pinto” – painted (spotted) chicken.

As of today I’ve spent about a month here in Costa Rica and it’s time to move on. Costa Rica was great. I’ll have to come back and explore it some more. I mostly spent the month here just relaxing and not doing much of anything. It was good for me 🙂 Early tomorrow morning I’ll be on a short flight to Panama City, Panama.

Squirrels here are very reddish-brown and dark grey. They’re also keen for a treat. Parque Sabana, San Jose.
Christmas parade float. Parque Sabana, San Jose.
Christmas parade float. Parque Sabana, San Jose.

Haven’t missed a workout since 3 October. Feeling good 😉

Costa Rica

Not surprisingly, Costa Rica is fabulous. After visiting Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua for about a week each, I need a rest. Costa Rica is a good spot for it. 

Every country in Central America is covered in green. Parque España, San Jose, Costa Rica.

The people are chill. They have an attitude of, “pura vida” and “tranquilo”. Pura vida roughly translates as an attitude of going along with the flow; enjoying life as it comes at you. Tranquilo is an attitude of being calm, no matter what type of troubles come at you.

Near Parque España, San Jose, Costa Rica

In the four countries I visited before coming here, drivers were constantly at each other. Traffic was insane and honking horns was a way of life – especially in Guatemala. Here in Costa Rica, it’s uncommon to hear someone honking a horn. So nice 🙂

Haven’t missed a workout since 3 October. Feelin’ good! 🙂

I arrived here a week ago. You might have expected to hear about my visits to beaches, jungles, volcanoes or flying down zip lines. Nope. Like I said, I needed a rest. Being a full-time traveler is hard work! Maybe I’ll do some day trips in a few days. We’ll see.

A few days ago I needed to buy a t-shirt to replace one that I’d stained. I took an Uber to a nice mall. I found a shirt I liked and asked the girl, “Dónde se puede probarlo?” (where can one try this on?) She smiled and said, “Ah, quieres probarselo!” (oh, you want to try it on)

Costa Rican flag. Plaza de la Cultura, San Jose.

I laughed at myself as I do whenever I make a mistake in Spanish. I made a point of repeating her correction back to her. “Si, por favor, quisiera probarselo” (yes, please, I would like to try it on). I said it in a funny way and she laughed.

One of these is a conquistador. Parque España, San Jose.

After I tried it on and decided it was what I wanted to buy, I took it to her register (she was damned cute, by the way). I chatted her up for a while talking about Spanish and, jokingly, about my poor command of the language. I chided her a bit on the “vos” form of Spanish they use down here. I think I was doing pretty good with her, but I didn’t pursue it. I just don’t feel like getting involved, even so much as a dinner date. I’m too lazy for that right now 🙂

The view from my 17th floor Airbnb rental looking south. Nunciatura neighborhood, San Jose.

Could I live in Costa Rica full-time? I think I could 😉

Last day in Nicaragua

Asses are not an uncommon sight in Managua, even in the city center.

Early tomorrow I take a 56-minute flight to San Jose, Costa Rica. After Costa Rica, I’ve already made reservations for Panamá and Bogotá, Colombia.

The four nations of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua were very interesting and I enjoyed myself, but now I’m feeling like I need something a little more modern. I miss Starbucks 🙂

Walkabout Managua, Nicaragua

In 1972 Managua was almost completely flattened by an earthquake. The country is poor and the city still has not recovered. Large areas of downtown are flat and devoid of buildings.  Poverty is a real issue in Nicaragua. 80% of Nicaraguans live on less than two dollars a day 🙁

Sidewalks can be hazardous in Central America

Be careful when you walk the streets of Central America. The sidewalks are often in very poor condition – or non-existent. I can’t count the number of times I’ve tripped and almost fallen; that includes this morning’s walk.

Watch your step!

While in Managua I intended to do day-trips to León and Granada. I may not do that. I’m feeling a bit lazy and I’m enjoying staying in the gym and exercising 🙂

This church was completely gutted (and still is) as a result of the 1972 earthquake; 46 years ago. Catedral Santiago de Managua, Managua, Nicaragua.
One of the many, many “trees of life” in downtown Managua; 42 feet tall (13 meters).
Malecón de Managua
Lake Managua “Lago Xolotlán”
Presidential Palace, Managua, Nicaragua
Avenida Bolívar, Managua
Rotonda Hugo Chávez, Managua
Managua used to be plagued by power outages. Apparently, this problem isn’t completely resolved. This is downtown Managua during a 3.5 hour outage.
These shacks lining the road are part of the UCA bus station (pronounced “ooka”) – Universidad Centroamericana, Managua
The chunky milk I poured on my cereal. Ugh. Time to do some more grocery shopping.
This is a typical Nicaraguan breakfast in my favorite Managua coffee shop. Two tostadas topped with beans, scrambled eggs, salsa and avocado slices on the side. Yummy. Molino Coffee Shop, Reparto Lomas de Guadalupe, Managua.

Managua

When I arrived in Managua I walked directly to a nice looking hotel for a beer and a nice dinner. I had worked out the walking route to my Airbnb. I verified the route with my waitress. She was very troubled by it. She insisted I take a taxi. I was surprised. Really? It’s only a 15-minute walk.

She went and got two other waiters to back up her stance. They all insisted I should take a taxi. They said it was far too dangerous.

A welcome sight on my dinner table

Dangerous? No way. I had no idea what they were getting at, but it seemed ridiculous to me. A 15-minute walk in a taxi? That would be what? A three-minute drive? Silly.

I sat and ate my meal. 30 minutes later I was finished, paid the bill and prepared to leave. My waitress asked if I’d reconsidered the walk. I said I was sorry, but I was going to walk, “para ver lo que sea”. In order to see whatever there was to see. She wished me luck.

One of my favorite coffee shops in Managua. Click on the photo in order to see the guy upstairs looking at me. Nicaraguans will not stare at you if you are facing them, but once you walk past they can’t control their curiosity. I do get stared at a lot here. Casa del Cafe, Planes de Altamira, Managua, Nicaragua.

She was worried because it was the beginning of the weekend – late Friday afternoon. I didn’t know it, but government opposition parties were planning a weekend of marches. The president of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, said there would be none of that. All major streets in the city, including the area I was in, were packed with all-black clad riot police with guns, batons and plexiglass shields.

You don’t see vegetation like this in Colorado during November!

I spent three days walking the streets and quite a few times I walked right past them. I always greeted them and they greeted me back. No problems 🙂

View from the rooftop deck of my Airbnb rental. Very nice. Aparta-Estudios Orión.

Sadly, no photos of the police here. I almost got arrested in Morocco once for taking a photo of a policeman and I don’t want to repeat that.

Another view from the rooftop deck
Lomas de Guadalupe, Managua, Nicaragua

From Honduras to Nicaragua

I set my alarm to wake me up at 03:30. My bus from Tegucigalpa, Honduras to Managua, Nicaragua was scheduled for a 05:00 departure. I planned on a 40-minute walk to the station. So, I wanted to be out of my Airbnb rental by 04:00. As I was leaving the flat I looked at the time: 04:15. Shit!

I needed to get moving. I walked onto the street and it was really dark. There were no people and no cars in sight. I started to walk fast.

KFC, Tegucigalpa, Honduras

Ten minutes later I see in front of me, on the left side of the street, a group of five guys and one girl smoking, drinking and yukking it up. Directly across the street from this group on the right side of the road there were about five other guys doing the same. Each group was talking to the other and they seemed to be friendly towards each other.

I thought, “This is not my finest moment of planning”. I’m running late, I’m in the #2 murder capital of the world at 04:25 in the morning and I’m about to walk through a large group of thugs on a pitch-black street. Great! Why aren’t these guys in bed?????

There was a side street on my immediate left, but I figured it was best not to take a detour. It wasn’t really on my route, it would delay me, plus I would look to them like I was afraid and that’s a bad idea. I decided to keep walking forward through them to show I wasn’t concerned.

They didn’t do anything. They just watched me walk by. About ten steps past them a car approached me from ahead and it gave the international “beep-beep” that taxis use to let you know they’re available. I put out my hand.

Sweet!!! I scored an unexpected taxi. I was going to make it to the bus on time. Of course, I always barter a price before I get in, but I would have paid whatever he wanted. I just really didn’t want to walk the next thirty minutes in dark and dangerous Tegucigalpa.

My bus at the border crossing, near Las Manos, Nicaragua
There was a line of about 150 people in front of me waiting to cross from Honduras into Nicaragua

The only downside was that he was a HUGE Jesus freak. It wasn’t a long ride, but I got to hear all about how Jesus saved the world and paradise was awaiting for all true-believers. He even gave me a pamphlet to study on my bus ride.

Thanks, buddy. I appreciate the reading material 🙂

Central America is green and lush, border crossing near Las Manos, Nicaragua

Tegucigalpa

Honduras has an edge to it. In general, the people are nice and friendly. But, it pains me to see how they treat each other when they’re behind the wheel of a car. They have little courtesy to spare for one another. Walking in traffic is horrible. There are no pedestrian crosswalk signals. Crossing a street means constantly risking your life. It means tempting fate to deal you a serious injury. Drivers see pedestrians as something beneath them. Woe unto the pedestrian who gets in their way.

The view from my flat in Centro Morazán. Bulevar Francisco Morazán looking east.

I could go on about my experiences trying to walk in Tegucigalpa, but there’s no point. It’s not good. I can’t recommend Honduras based on my experience. I’m sure there are much nicer places in Honduras than Tegucigalpa, but I like big cities. I feel the character of the people in the city is a reflection of the character of the nation’s people as a whole.

The flag of Honduras, Centro Morazán, Tegucigalpa

I found a nice coffee shop near my Airbnb rental. It opens at 6:30 every day and the baristas are great. But, the wifi is shit. You sit there waiting and waiting for a single page to load. Total crap. The music in the coffee shop, “Coffee Lab”, is very nice, but between each song they play an extremely irritating disco-style advertisement for the very coffee shop you’re sitting in. What is the purpose of that? If I’m sitting in Coffee Lab, apparantly I’m already aware of its existence. I don’t need an add every three minutes reminding me of where I am. I’ll be looking for another coffee shop tomorrow.

The gym in my Airbnb building. It’s the nicest one so far on my trip through Latin America. I haven’t missed a day of working out since I started lifting again on 3 October.

Today I had to walk to the office of “Transnica” in order to buy a ticket for my trip to Managua, Nicaragua three days from now. I could have taken a taxi, but I wanted to understand the route from my flat to the bus station for the 0500 departure. I can’t guarantee I’ll find a taxi that early in the morning, so I want to be able to walk to the station and know the route well. It was a 40-minute walk. The walk from hell. The auto traffic was ridiculous because it was, “la hora de pico” – rush hour. Traffic was heavy. On my travel day I’ll be starting the walk at 0400. The difference between rush hour and 0400 should be considerable.

Paseo Liquidambar, Tegucigalpa

I’m not looking forward to the bus trip. It’ll be about an eight-hour bus ride. But, with a 0500 departure, I’ll arrive in Managua around 1300, so that’s the good part. I also plan to buy two seats so I have room to spread out a bit and not be cramped next to someone. It’s 30 bucks a seat, so a total of $60.00 USD.

Paseo Liquidambar, Tegucigalpa

Frankly, I’ve never had a huge desire to see El Salvador or Honduras. On Friday I’ll be in a much more interesting country – Nicaragua. I have hopes it’s better than El Salvador or Honduras. After Nicaragua, I’ll be in Costa Rica and Panama. I have even higher expectations for those two countries. I plan to spend a month in Costa Rica just relaxing and recharging my batteries. With luck, it’ll be nice.

Downtown Tegucigalpa is gritty

Right now, I’m sitting by the pool of a cheap hotel. Hotel Alameda is attached to the bus station office. I had no idea when the ticket office might open and I got here about an hour too early. Luckily the restaurant was open and I was able to have a small breakfast of “casamiento” and orange juice. Casamiento is lovely. It’s rice and beans mixed together. Casamiento is the Spanish word for marriage – rice and beans are married to one another to make the dish. It’s a tradional food in Honduras. Love it.

Looks like the devil is in trouble. La Estatua de San Miguel Arcángel, Plaza Los Dolores, Tegucigalpa.

On a related note, “huevos divorciados”, is a Mexican dish – divorced eggs. It’s a dish of two eggs and each egg has its own sauce. One egg in green sauce, one egg in red sauce. The eggs are separated, or divorced.

On Thursday I’ll buy a few pupusas (see previous post) and some bottled coffee drinks for my Friday bus ride. Pupusas are a great food for traveling. You don’t need utensils (cubiertos) and they’re not messy. Pupusas and cold coffee drinks – yum.

La Iglesia Los Dolores, Tegucigalpa

I feel a bit under duress in El Salvador and Honduras. The two countries are a little gritty. I’m eager to get to Nicaragua. I need a change of pace.

Well, the bus office should be open by now. Time to get my ticket and get a taxi back to my flat. I have absolutely no intention of walking back through that urban nightmare. Taxi! Taxiiiiiiii! 😉

Like I said, Tegucigalpa can be gritty. Not all Hondurans seem to like seeing me on the streets. The sign says, “Gringos Out!”