67. COSTA RICA – Caňa Castilla a Swiss paradise

Costa Rica as Christopher Columbus named it The Rich Coast. In Central America Costa Rica has the most to offer as far as landscape, environment and wildlife are concerned . Volcanoes, cloud forests, rainforests, white and black sandy beaches, Caribbean tropics, Pacific surf and offshore islands. Costa Rica has over 615 species per 10.000 sq km which is extraordinary compare to the USA’s 104 species. We were looking forward to see some of these.

Approximately 20 km’s crossing the border from Nicaragua we knew of a nice sounding place. Caňa Castilla, a Swiss owned piece of paradise. It is conveniently located a few km’s off the highway on a dirt road, through a tiny village crossing two rivers till you arrive to a wonderful, lush forest-like place with lovely cabanas with hammocks on the riverbank, a little restaurant/ cafe and all facilities a camper need.

Here we bumped into the lovely French Family (as we, travellers like to call them, although Andreas, the husband, is actually Austrian and the children (3) are super multi lingual little cosmopolitans and could fit in any countries in the world) It was very nice seeing them again after 2 months meeting them briefly in Antigua, Guatemala.

We parked up on a grassy patch surrounded by enormous gorgeous trees inhabited by spider and howler monkeys who gave concerts of roaring every sunset and sunrise. There were also endless species of birds and butterflies and crocodiles in the river.

Cana Castilla, Costa Rica February 2014

Cana Castilla,
Costa Rica
February 2014

Guido and Agi the owners are also happy surrogate parents to a 10 months old orphaned two-toes sloth, Linda. Linda was found on the ground in the bush, exposed to all sorts of danger, her mummy rejected her (i.e. it is common that sloth mums, when they have twins rejects one of them) Guido and Agi took her in and now Linda is part of the family. She loves hanging (haha) out on the mango trees that happened to be right next to Burt so we had our personal little sloth amazes us every day.






We liked it here so much that we actually stayed 6 days. Partly because we really needed to recharge our batteries (our own ones, not Burt’s!) Didn’t realised how exhausted we were till we got here, let our guards down and slept for two days and Caňa Castilla was just the place for this. Partly because we met a holidayer couple from Germany, Kerstin and Rainer. We met one evening, when we decided to have dinner at the restaurant (we heard that Agi’s cook really worth a try) We were seated next to Rainer and Kerstin. The rest is history. They were here for 3 weeks and just flew in. we stuck together for the rest of our time here and we were visiting the beaches and went for little walks together with their rental. They were wonderful companions and liked to spend and after-dinner drinks with them (note: try Guido’s passion fruit wine!)

At one point The Dutchies ran in but sadly they left the following day. Then Mire and Alex arrived and stayed two nights which added to the party-like buzz at Caňa Castilla.

Here there were several holidayers like Rainer and Kerstin who were staying at the cabanas, also there was one German/Canadian gentleman, Achim a wildlife enthusiast and amateur photographer who stays here every year for 6 months. He knew every hidden little gem places in this area. On his recommendation the four of us one day drove to a river to watch crazy wildlife of birds and crocodiles munching on unlucky fish pushed in by the tide. It was a fantastic place to just hang out and watch.

Every morning John and I, then found out Rainer and Kerstin too kept deciding to stay one more day. Until it was really time to move on and discover other beautiful places in Costa Rica, although easily could’ve stayed a few more days here. With our new friends we decided to meet up again, perhaps. We both wanted to check out the southern Caribbean side at some point so that seemed like a good place to meet up again if all goes well.

On our leaving morning we said our goodbyes to Guido, Agi (who gave me a loaf of her gorgeous home baked bread as a leaving present) and Linda and moved further in to Costa Rica.

Next, Lago Arenal and Vulcán Poás…


After two long days of driving in Honduras from Trujillo to the border we finally crossed to Nicaragua.

Perhaps we were exhausted from a few long days drive and, I suppose from a week-long worrying about Burt, time, finances and keeping up with all, our impressions of Nicaraguan people, at first might have not been as accurate as it would have if we are in a more…. tranquil state.

Straight at the border we felt a huge difference between Honduran people and Nicaraguan people’s attitude. They seem to be rather unfriendly and unhelpful, almost looking out for problems so they can enjoy a bit of “fun” with dumb tourists. It might sound a quick judgement but as we refused them spraying lethal chemicals inside our truck (outside had to be done regardless) they let us go with no problem but they reported us at the police. The transport police, of course couldn’t wait to grill us a little and have a few “inside” jokes on our account. So this didn’t go down too well as a “welcome to Nicaragua”.

As usual, John did his homework and looked up areas and places to visit in the country so we headed to a national park. We knew there were much to see there. Volcanoes, hot springs, national parks, lakes and so on. We were looking forward to visiting a few of these.

At first glance Reserva Natural Tisey Estanzuela didn’t look much to me. It had a lovely waterfall though, which we had a chance to have a quick dip (well, I did. John decided to stay away from the water) before headed up the top for the famous 360 view. We found a couple of rather grumpy people at the gate. No matter how much we tried being friendly and smiley, it didn’t do it. So after a slightly disappointing and only 160 degree view we jumped back into the truck and headed back to the little village we drove through earlier. There we found a friendly (!) lady who let us stay at her property which was great and we thought, “OK the unfriendly people are behind us”.

The next day we drove hundreds of km’s visiting places we looked up but just couldn’t connect with the people. Somehow everyone seemed quite sad or uninterested and somewhat bothered. So we kept moving on and on until we found ourselves in the south (where we meant to be at least 5 days later) But we were here, found a place to stay for the night. The following day we visited Masaya a bigger town in hope to find a few necessities but it was hopeless.

Another place we wanted to stay was at the Masaya Volcano where, we heard from our friends, we could park and camp right at the rim of the crater. It was the No.1 thing we were looking forward to in Nicaragua. As we arrived at the park entrance and found out the ridiculous various fees, which adds up to be way over than a US national park entrance is, we also found out that parking overnight at the volcano is no longer allowed.

I believe up to a point that “what I get from the world is a reflection how I am with the world” But we were trying very hard to be very friendly, possibly even more than in other countries but all we got was a “couldn’t be bothered” attitude almost everywhere we went.

After one more try to get to a place we wanted to but didn’t get anywhere, Johnny and I decided to pack up, head down to the beach for a night and cross the border to Costa Rica the following day.

It was getting late in the day, trying to get to places coming across difficult people we were tired and all we wanted is to get to the beach, get some breeze a couple of cold beers at the end of the day and an early night.

There were a couple of choices of beaches to stay. First we drove to the further one which sounded remote and very nice. When we arrived, it was sure lovely but the lady who meant to own a cabanas/campground was downright rude to us so we didn’t have a choice but leave. We also asked a couple of more cabana/ camp places to stay but they just could not be bothered. So we left for the other beach another 10-13 km back.

Finally arrived at this beach just as the sun gone down. It was a small perhaps a bit more lively beach with a couple of palapa restaurants, a surf rental and just enough surfer dudes to create good vibration. One guy ran up to us as we rolled up, and asked if we were “…with them?” pointing at the direction of the beach where we saw campers on the beach; The Overlander Family, The Dutchies and Mire and Alex -who we met in Antigua, Guatemala -they picked up a backpacker Sharon in El Salvador a month ago so now they were travelling as a threesome.

Now this was great news! Just what we needed. I ran up to them, while John drove around and parked up as the 4th vehicle next to Panda (the Dutchies rig) right on the beach. We were very happy to see old and new friends. They were just getting ready for dinner so we joined them and it was brilliant.

We ended up staying for 3 nights and so did the Overlander Family who meant to leave the day after we arrived but decided to stay 2 more days. It was brilliant to catch up with he Dutchies to see Dunya, also catching up with Mire and Alex and making friends with Sharon -sassy Brit with excellent sense of humour. We had a wonderful couple of days having a bit of fun, relaxing and recharging.

Playa Maderas, Nicaragua February 2014

Playa Maderas, Nicaragua
February 2014


On the third day morning we were ready to move on and cross the border. As a farewell to us, the Nicaraguan border authorities made our exit, once again and for the last time, a long and unpleasant experience being as disorganized and miserable as it was on the way in. Once we were done and crossed to the Costa Rican side for entry the sun came out and we couldn’t have received more polite and friendlier welcome from the Costa Rican people. The entry was busy and involved a lot of walking back and forth between offices but everyone was very helpful and all went smooth.

Next, Costa Rica…

65. HONDURAS -in a nutshell

Our impression of Honduras and its people was very good. Possibly our favourite country so far. We had a chance to boon dock a lot, always finding local villagers, farmers to get permission and we always got gentle curiosity, a nice welcome and friendliness from them.

Honduras’ nature or point of interest (apart from a few obvious ones) isn’t as exciting as its neighbours’ but its people’s kindness certainly makes up for the plainer vista.

64. HONDURAS – Trujillo

or BURT’s backbone surgery.

We arrived to Trujillo in the afternoon hours. We read about a couple places to stay here and one appealed to us. It was called Casa Kiwi and we knew that Kiwis have a good reputation around the Globe, besides the description of the place sounded lovely so we headed there. Meanwhile the other, Casa Alemania was advertised everywhere and if you even wanted to you couldn’t miss it. Unfortunately we found Casa Kiwi shut down. As a business, for 2 years now (so that’s it for the updated Lonely Planet book) Not having other choices we headed to Casa Alemania, though we tried one more hotel on the way but that turned out to be a drug laundry-type of business so we ended up not staying there either.

Arriving at Casa Alemania (Note: English people, this does not mean “someone who obsessed with Ale” -which I thought it was at the beginning of my Spanish studies, it only means “Germany” in Spanish) So arriving at the place was slightly underwhelming. (John only agreed to stay here because it had wifi so I can do writing and we can catch up with family and friends on Skype)  The whole place is actually right on the beach and would be very nice if it wasn’t right in-between a stinky chicken farm and dug-up harbour construction.


Günter, the host rushed out to order us where we can stay, even before we could check prices, nights of stay etc with him. He already sorted us out. Despite of the peppery price he asks for a night -that is outside of his gated property, it swamped by his laundry room’s water, plus we had to “fight for” electricity and water hook up, and the biggie for me was that the wifi is a bag of poo and doesn’t work. Besides he was in quite a grumpy mood. Hm…


We however met a super great Swedish guy here, Magnus. We spent 3 days with him. He knew his way around here, spoke fluent Honduran and took us to some authentic places around town. Magnus is a Swedish business guy in his early 50’s, very friendly, very relaxed and great fun. He was here to check on his woodlands (he’s in forestry), look for new ones and check up on two of his hotels (he owns around here) We had a great time with him and Johnny spent a couple of days with him going around his land looking for equipments and such.


The day before our leaving, John looked around and under Burt and noticed a crack on the chassis.

the crack

the crack


He let me know and we were crushed. This was caused by a job (couple of bearings or bushes under the middle of the box) we had have made in Mexico which was to cover or support a stupid mistake that our engineer made right at the beginning with the front bush. Without any boring details, we now had actually a serious of problems which involved: The front bush needs to be fixed (though it is a major job and very difficult to get to), fixing the crack itself, and then adding new and much stronger bearings under the middle of the box (but where you gonna have new bearings here??) It wasn’t our finest day.

what caused the problem is this crossbar

what caused the problem is this crossbar

Have to give it to Günter; when John mentioned our issue Günter knew just the right man for us. The following morning, we hardly finished our second cup of coffee (very important), he brought Jorge and his first man, William aka. “Gordo” to meet us and have a look at the chassis -without having to move the vehicle. Günter insisted coffee and breakfast for all of us, which during we “discussed” (well with my 15 words of Spanish) the possibility, capability and availability of the job. Jorge assured us that they can do the job and could start tomorrow morning at 8AM.


We spent the afternoon in an internet cafe (have I mentioned that the wifi at Casa Alemania was down the loo?) so we were at this cafe, researching solutions for mending cracked a chassis and getting in touch with our friend, Clive, a legendary truck traveller (happened to have an identical truck to Burt) and mentor to John. We got in touch with Clive and he sent us EU/ Mercedes specification drawings to patch up the crack and lots of suggestions for solution.

The next morning we moved in at the workshop. I knew it will take 4-6 days and we will be camping at the workshop so I wasn’t entirely on top of the world. John, on the other hand was quite switched on and Jorge and the guys were willing to cooperate with him. They started the job with lifting the front of the box to work on the front bush first of all.


Empresa Transporte Martinez

Empresa Transporte Martinez aka. Jorge’s shop has 18 trucks on site and another 15 rented out in for the nearby mine and palm oil companies. He has this large workshop with facilities they need maintaining all 33 trucks. They don’t usually take-in jobs from “outside” but I think they were up for the challenge that was also a breeze of fresh air for a change.

None of these guys spoke English so we were brushing up our Spanish and regardless the language barrier, soon the boys started to clicked with John aka. Juan. The first night was go-out night and we were treated with endless beer, seafood and live mariachi music who were following us from the petrol station to the beach restaurant where we ended up.


Throughout the 5 days we were treated as respected clients and friends by Jorge and his boys. We got into the routine of making coffee and pancakes in the morning, then getting ice-cold water and coke and ice-cream for everyone in the afternoons. Even the 4 guard dogs warmed up to us and guarded Burt fiercely throughout the nights.


three out of the four

The job was done in 5 days and we decided to go for a test drive to the beach a few hours from here through rough roads which was perfect for the test.

Drove through 10’s of miles long palm plantations by the Caribbean beach till we reached a wonderful deserted beach. There was a couple of km’s long beach with no one around. As the sun was setting fast we decided to stay here. Eventually a lone horse appeared who decided to spend the night between us and the water.

Beach camp

Beach camp

As much as we would’ve loved to stay, we had to head back to Jorge’s workshop as we noticed that the middle bushes -we decided to put in were actually very week and just after the few hours drive they came loose and started wearing out.

So back to the shop. John was a little uneasy returning, first of all because we needed a new, stronger solution and had no idea where we are going to get some, and secondly because you never know what the reaction will be as we return. They might had enough of us…

But far from it. The boys greeted us as old friends and wanted to know the details of the job. We told them that everything else they did (front bush and patch-up work) were perfect, but needed a better solution for the middle bearings. They immediately reorganised their schedule and made Burt’s work priority.


They job started first thing in the morning. After a thorough inspection of the issue everyone had a better understanding and a better idea now. Luckily the shop’s yard was full of old truck parts and after a couple of hours searching the boys found the perfect parts. Then it took one and a half days solid work for 3 guys plus John to change the bearings.

you never know where the next good part is coming from

you never know where the next good part is coming from

few adjustments

few adjustments



when one man isn't enough

when one man isn’t enough


The following day afternoon we were done. They even had a quick look at the breaks and the steering, tightened a few bolts, greased a few things here and there and we were done. We knew this time that we won’t need a test drive.

After a heart-sinking feeling 7 days earlier we had an absolute brilliant experience. Most importantly the war was done as perfect as it is because of the humanity of these guys. They welcomed us and allowed us to be involved where from it was just a matter of a short time to bond friendship. Really, friendship. We are still, and hopefully will be keeping in touch with Hector who we celebrated his birthday, met his family and looked after us throughout our time at Empresa Transporte Martinez.

Thank you All.



63. HONDURAS – on our way to Trujillo

One of our favourite camps…

I would skip this part how we got to Trujillo but during that 360 km (that took us 2 days) we had one of our best boon docking/bush camping place. Between Yoro and Olanchito there’s a quite a dirt road but through a pine forest and I love pine forests. It smells good, it is familiar, it indicates coolness and rain, it’s evergreen. I love it. And it was very wet and rainy. The rain was on and off constantly. We were driving quite slowly by this point and realised we will never make it to Trujillo (not even half way) so by 4PM we were keeping an eye out for possible campsites. This area was clearly a logging forest and there were a lot of mud roads off this main “highway” though most of them fenced and gated off. But eventually found one that looked perfect for us.

In just 5 meters or so, it lead us to a clear area with 3, even muddier, roads to all sorts of directions. After exploring all and serious consideration we decided on one. It was the steepest, muddiest, with ruts that swallows Burt’s wheels but we made it up. to the area we picked.

It was wonderful. Lovely view. Right in the middle of the pines and seemingly no one’s around for miles and miles.

I was nervous, and the first time, I think John was too. Once we were up it was only down in the morning but, man I was praying for a dry night.

But it wasn’t./ Every time it started raining, it poured and it kept me awake thinking “we’re never gonna make it down.

It was only 533 meters to the dry area but it was probably the most challenging one. (I didn’t even have the nerve filming it or take pictures) We had our morning coffees, took a deep breath and went for it. John was brilliant. Very gently, slowly letting Burt’s weight lead the way with slight steering control let us down on this extremely deep muddy, slippery nightmare. I did not take another breath till we were down and from on, it was a piece of cake.

Next Trujillo…

62. HONDURAS – Lago de Yojoa

I admit, I do get in to a stinking mood sometimes, not often but I do. Just grumpy, tired not up for things certainly not up for challenges. And this was one of those days. We knew it was going to be a long day. We knew we needed to change the cash at the border, we needed to stop at a bigger town to hunt for the inflator part we didn’t find in El Salvador, and I knew it will be a good old bumpy ride for the second half of the day.

We arrived at a bigger town, Santa Rosa. A good old, sweaty commercial town. Always a good bet finding parts. And it was. First shop we walked into had it. So that was done, but needed some fruit and veg so visited the local busy market. Then we were heading south for about 10 km to our turn off.

This was a dirt road. but not just a dirt road, this area was a cloud forest area (without the forest, I mean once it must’ve been but now it is deforested and agricultured) Still cloudy though, moist and rainy most of the time. Actually, as deforestation goes, it was very pretty.


This was towards the end of the day and towards the end of my tolerance of a perfectly normal day yet seemed so hard to me for some reason. The road was very bumpy, steep and winding and on top of all super slippery, plus as being the end of the day, people and animals walking along and across the road. Now when a 9 tonne vehicle starts slipping sideways and downward my concerns rise up to the roof. I was holding my breath for minutes without realising it. John was handling everything absolutely brilliantly. He is a pretty confident driver on slippery roads, plus I think, secretly he even enjoys it. Unlike me. People, not aware of our ice-skating manoeuvres, wouldn’t move so I got extra nervous up to a point when I just cried out loud “STOP!!, I want to stop. Now!”

Just 20 meters round the corner was a turn off to a small community, Communidad Cacao. We pulled up there and asked the first house for permission. It was fine. Of course, it always is. Again, very friendly people. Within 10 minutes we had the whole village around Burt. We were chatting to them for a while and felt very welcome. Had a lovely peaceful night.


The next morning we thanked the family for their kindness and we were moving on. We noticed that just 50 meters from where we turned off last night the road became pretty dry and passable with no problem, beside I was myself again so err… happy travels all around.

Stopping for lunch

Stopping for lunch

It took a few hours to get to the lake where we heard of a couple of places to stay quite near one another. A brewery and a Farm-hotel-complex (They call it Finca Hotels which is a working farm with accommodation or camping and facilities) We decided to stay at this second place but, surely pop in to the brewery for a sharpener before we park up.

The brewery was really cute and seemed well run though we could’ve not fitted in with Burt even if we wanted to. They had a few homemade beers. They weren’t good but it was fun to be here and have some homemade stuff, even though it was cloudy and sweet. Plus we bumped in to the same couple of couples we met in Copán 2 days ago. Tried a few beers, chatted a little then it was time for us to head to our camp.

As soon as we arrived we noticed it is, again a touristy, expensive place with no personality or friendliness. It was quite pricey but at this point there was no other choice so we decided to go for it just for one night and leave tomorrow morning (even though we were keen to park up somewhere for a few days after a few weeks of moving-on’s and kind of hoped this was going to be a good place) Anyhow after a sloppy welcome at the reception we parked up on a grassy area next to the restaurant, hunted for electricity and water ourselves and had an early night. We woke to a microphone test at 6.30 in the morning! (which involved playing full blast classical-pop of Vivaldi, The Four Seasons) then full buses of people arrived to start some kind of a party at 7.30AM. This was kind of weird but we were packing up anyway and without finding out what the party was about we left Finca Las Victorias behind us and headed to the Caribbean side of Honduras.

We knew about a German guy who runs a beach hotel and welcomes overland travellers with full facilities. On the map it looked 2 days drive away, again through cross country roads but we didn’t mind.

Next. Casa Alemania, Trujillo

61. HONDURAS – Copán

John and I crossed the border at San Ignacio with no problem, all went smoothly so it only took 2 hours. We headed up north to Copán near the Guatemalan border.

The paved road was in a much worse condition and it was more winding than thought so it took over 5 hours to get there before dark. We found our place to park up for the night, opposite the Copán archaeological site and only a few minutes walk to Copán the town. After the long day, we felt like treating ourselves with a few beers and pizza in town.

The next day we visited the site which was great and it was very nice to see one more ancient Mayan city before we leave this area and there will be no more. On the site there was also a Mayan medicine trail which we really enjoyed walking through as the finish of our few hours visit here.


P1150214P1150205P1150245P1150247 Panorama01P1150278

Sort of needed to hurry up as we wanted to get to a hot spring in the hills and it was apparently through a difficult road + needed to do some shopping for essentials.

Eventually we got to this hot spring/natural spa only to find that it was a tourist trap and it would’ve cost us a fortune to stay there for the night (on their dirt car park), besides it was run down and the welcome had a hint of “can’t be bothered” attitude. The price would’ve been 800 lempira ($40). This was slightly frustrating, we were very much looking forward to soak in hot spring water. But you see the problem with these tourist traps is that they have a hugely unreasonable set price, they not up for negotiating and above all, we find them unfriendly, fed up with tourists. So it would be wrong to support these places. Actually -never let a lie get in the way of a true story; they did drop the price by 50 lempira (so it would’ve been 750lmp) but that way we were only allowed to use their horrible dirty pool in the back garden, instead of the further 3 or 4 natural pools in the hill side with a view.

This was very disappointing and now we didn’t know where to go, it was getting late and it was another hour or so drive back on this unpleasant road to Copán. No choice so we started driving back then in about a 100 meters from the “Trap” we saw a private land next to the river with a few houses and a swimming pool (which we guessed was hot water pool as this area is full of them) So I asked John to stop and I jumped out to ask the owner of the land if it would OK to park up. He was happy to have us and showed us where we could park up comfortably. This was right between the pool and the cold water river and he invited us to use the pool -that was fed by the hot spring water from the top of the hill as much as we wanted. We offered to pay for the camp and he was happy to take 100 lempiras.


It was actually such a nice experience. This patch of land next to river had a few cars parked as well. We found out that the cars belonged to the workers of the coffee farm up the hill. They drive to here in the mornings leave their cars and walk over the bridge and up the hill for the day. We were about to cook dinner and open a couple of cool beers when they were getting back down the hill at the end of their day. They were so surprised to see Burt and us. Very curious, they gathered around the vehicle and peeking in the doorway. Particularly one lady was so fascinated by us. Me sitting at the doorway, Johnny cooking but peering over my shoulder, we offered her and the young men gathering around her beer and had small-talks -as much as my Spanish let us, but in situations like this understanding one another is no problem. One guys spoke a couple of words of English and was so happy to say these words and get a response from us. They were so friendly and nice. Then the horses arrived from the hills with the day’s harvest and they got the sacks of their back, loaded the couple of pickups and left. Johnny and I decided to have a plunge in the hot spring after dinner. It was dark by then and just as we got our swimming suits on and hopped out of Burt we (couldn’t see but) heard that someone just jumped into the water. Feeling a bit shy, we were there already so went ahead. It was the wife of our host, who was also a coffee farm worker and was having her daily bath. It was dark, so couldn’t see well, but she must’ve been in her early 50’s. A very nice lady who, despite the darkness, the two strangers, the language barrier and despite the fact that she was naked she was so happy to chat to us. For her all this was just natural and part of everyday life, and somehow these two skinny aliens are in her pool I thought she might feel awkward or intimidated but she couldn’t be more relaxed and friendlier.

In the morning we asked our host if it was OK to promote his place for other travellers. He was very happy for that. Now this place is worth driving up here.

We left shortly after breakfast. First headed to the border (Guatemalan) to change the 1700 quetzales -which is the Guatemalan currency, we found tucked in to one of Johnny’s trainers the other day. At the border there are plenty of money-changers and we got a reasonable rate which was good. Then we had to drive through Copán again then back on the road we came on a couple of days ago. We bumped into 2 couples overland travellers from Switzerland and Germany and after a quick chat we headed in to the Midlands, cross-country to get to the big lake, Lago Yojoa.

Next Lago de Yojoa.

60. EL SALVADOR – Northern El Salvador

I (and the lonely planet) calls Chalatenango area Northern El Salvador, though I got confused the directions here -I always felt East was North and so on. Anyhow, after the balmy cool temperature, we spent a sticky, hot, sweaty afternoon in a big town hunting for a part (our inflator thingybob broke so needed a new one soonish) -which we didn’t find at the end of the day, though for Johnny’s biggest joy we found a horn! We were planning to get a horn with a proper sound, as oppose to the original goat’s squeak we have, as it is a “currency” for travelling in South America. Apparently you gotta match the sound to the size of your vehicle so the opposite traffic knows what to expect round the corner.

Being towards the end of the day, with the Dutchies and with our new horn (still in the box) we were now hunting for a place to stay. After trying a nice looking, public swimming pool/ water park -we didn’t fit, we ended up on a dusty, dirt flat next to a petrol station. It was still hot, hot, hot. And it didn’t cool down throughout the night so we were eager to move on as soon as possible in the morning as we knew where we are going is, again in the mountains and it will be a lot cooler.

After a whole day drive in the windy, uppy-downy roads we still weren’t at the place we were aiming so stopped at a mountain village’s large grassy patch over looking to a breathtaking scenery with hills and mountains. It was a lot cooler and very very windy.

The next day we had only a few hours drive ahead of us so we left early. The road was even more winding and steep but when the pine trees appeared I knew it would be gorgeous and cool up there. We arrived in Montaňona in the early afternoon hours.

Montaňona is the very last little community in the Northern El Salvadorian mountains (before you’re practically in Honduras) tucked away in a rugged, wild pine forest. It also have history of the civil war and has a few things to offer. With a few hours hike in the forest, you can get to see an underground hospital (well, a carved two rooms cave that was more like an emergency operating room) and a guerrilla radio station, antenna and such. The hike itself is very nice, just to enjoy the smell of the pine and the view but the interesting tatus were bonus. We got a guide, Cezar Alas (!) to take us around.


The village is very small and modest. We had no problem to park up on the football pitch where we had a constant stream of visitors, kids checking us out. It was really nice and Erica and I had small chats with the kids.


We stayed 2 nights here and decided to move on. The Dutchies needed work on their brake pads so left on Saturday in the hope to find a workshop to solve the problem.

Arrived to the capital of this area, Chalatenango at around midday and found a mechanic to help Erica and Michel meanwhile John and I went to hunt for water to fill up and change the oil in Burt.


Both jobs took several hours but we were done on time to get going on towards our final destination before the border crossing tomorrow.

We got ourselves a beautiful spot by the huge lake (Lago Suchitlan) for the night. Though we didn’t know about the millions of morning bugs yet. The view was wonderful and Dunya loved the water.


The next day we headed to La Palma a few km from the Honduran border. There was a small hotel with wifi and facilities where we parked up. Erica needed to catch up with writing and they planned to stay for a couple of days, and we were keen to move on and cross the border the next day. So we had our last supper together with the Dutchies -at least till we see them again.

The following morning Johnny and I packed up, said our “see you later’s” to Erica, Michel and Dunya, and headed to the border.

Next, Honduras

59. EL SALVADOR – Morazán

After leaving the dusty, hot beach we headed north to the Morazán area. There were a couple of communities we were interested to visit, besides the supposedly cool climate attracted all of us.

Morazán is the hilly, north-eastern corner of El Salvador and is known for being the area where the former FMLN guerrilla headquarter was based during the time of the brutal El Salvadorian civil war. There was the most northern town, Perquín that had a post-war museum and guerrilla camps, and El Mozote that had displays of remembrance. John did the research and we all were up for the visit.

We arrived to Perquín in the late afternoon hours and found a small, family-run hotel where we could park up, tightly with both vehicles. The following day we visited the museum and a reconstructed camp which was fascinating. At the museum we had an ex-guerrilla guide and with Erica’s translation we understood more about the war and post-war situation. The museum was small but had enough pictures, documents, histories of those who died, anti-war posters, display of the old equipments, weapons and vehicles to remind the visitor about the war and its struggles. I think all four of us were fascinated by it all and I certainly was very pleased to visit this part of the country.

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El Salvador, wrongly has a reputation of being dangerous but we only experienced the opposite. Where ever we went and who ever we came across with was friendly and helpful. In Guatemala we came across other travellers and they were planning to miss out El Salvador completely because they heard it was not safe, or some who were planning to spend the necessary 2-3 days only and scoot through it. It is a pity. There are so much more to this country.  El Salvador certainly has a different vibe from Mexico, or Guatemala. I could sense that the civil war made an impact on the infrastructure and the people. No one wants it to happen another revolution ever again so the government tries to live up to its pledge ever since and the people appreciate it and take care what they have now. Even we, as foreign travellers had more respect here than in the countries before.

We spent a couple of nights in Perquín at this little hotel. It had high speed wifi (which become a quite valuable thing, as we haven’t found wifi since in El Salvador) So we caught up with emails, skype and the blog and decided to move on the third day morning but stay in the area.

Hotel de Don Manuel Perquin January 2014

Hotel de Don Manuel
January 2014

John read about another town, El Mozote that had a history of a devastating event in December 1981. Government soldiers marched in to this town on 11th of December in ’81 and executed everyone one in the village. Today El Mozote has displays, bright paintings on the walls, there’s a plaque with name who had died back then. We thought we could stay in the area somewhere in the wild and visit the town.

10 minutes after we left the hotel we bumped into a very lovely little coffee farm (finca) that welcomed visitors to stay, and it was about 5km from El Mozote. They had a little cafe on site, a couple of swimming pools and a trailhead leading down to a valley to a river and a waterfall. It could have not been more perfect, and with Erica’s negotiating skills we only paid half price to stay.

The following  day the boys, John and Michel walked in to El Mozote and back which took the whole day. Erica and I stayed back at “home” and did some long-waiting domestic duties.

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This was a very nice place to stay but we decided to actually move on, as there were many boondocking (wild camping) opportunities in this rugged and beautiful area.  The following day we packed up and off we went to find a good spot by the river -Río Sapo.

Which we did. A remote, gorgeous spot, parked on large black rocks right by the river. A few people who were, at the end of the day driving back from a swim in the river, stopped and chatted to us, saying that we choose a very fine spot for camping and to enjoy ourselves. It was a lovely night with full moon and, still with cool temperature.


The following morning after Dunya had enough of swimming in the fresh cold water, we packed up and headed back south to the midland just to head back up to northern area of the country to visit some remote places before we say goodbye to El Salvador.

Next, Northern El Salvador

58. EL SALVADOR – El Salvadorian beaches

After crossing in to El Salvador in the north we meant to stay there in a nearby National Park but as it was still quite early in the day (besides we heard that dogs aren’t allowed in the park) we all decided to head down to the Pacific side and enjoy the beach for a few days. (We really liked the black sandy beach in Guatemala a week or so ago)

After a long afternoon drive we arrived at El Zonte, one of the most recommended surfing spot. This part of the coastline is hilly and the road winding above the beach opening up some gorgeous views of the beach below. (slightly reminded me of Big Sur) So when we arrived at El Zonte the boys parked up by the side of the road and Erica and I walked down the small street to the actual beach-village to see where and how we could fit. Despite El Zonte had a groovy atmosphere and some nice looking cabana/backpackers places it seemed very crowded but above all too tight for us.

We moved on but only in a few km’s we found a wide enough dirt road leading down to the beach. This was another small village with nothing much but a few houses and restaurants with locals. This road ended into a large pond that seemed as though it was created by the high tight through the decades. there was a narrow footpath that leads through to the sandy beach. John and Erica walked down the small beach surrounded by high cliffs where were a couple of little fish restaurants and a couple of wooden huts with hammocks.

While waiting at the vehicles people walked up to us and offering to stay at their property for some fee. It was quickly getting dark and I was getting nervous about just driving up on to the beach. To me, it looked complicated and risky besides, by this point we were surrounded by whole bunch of onlookers which, for me, it’s always more stressful.

When John and Erica came back they thought we could drive through the pond on to the sand and stay there. A local man came up to us, Thomas who, we found out owns one of the restaurants and the wooden huts down the beach and invited us to stay in front of his place.

The boys discussed technicalities how to drive through the pond and through the sandy bit to the restaurant without getting stuck and off went Panda first. It looked all effortless and no problem (as always with their 6x wheels and light weight) then John drove Burt in to the pond and pushed through on the sand to the spot. We nearly got stuck but again, let some air out and that did the trick.

Crossing over to the beach near El Zonte January 2014

Crossing over to the beach
near El Zonte
January 2014

Within a short time we had a prime spot on this lovely beach and could relax with a few cold beer and ceviche at Thomas’ restaurant.

Campsite near El Zonte January 2014

near El Zonte
January 2014

I have learnt something; if we were just the two of us (John and I) there is no way I would’ve let us drive on to the beach under these circumstances. I would’ve gotten in to a fit and made us park up on the dirt parking lot between those rundown buildings, and John would’ve been very upset with me and not talk to me for two days. Instead, I was amazed by Erica’s confidence in Michel and Panda, plus how she was very friendly with our host, Thomas. Everything actually was effortless and fun for the whole village to watch us. So it was happiness all around. Johnny really enjoyed the challenge of the parking us and I admit I have to show my trust and respect for John -who is undoubtedly the best driver of a 12 ton truck with the size what we have and his instinct never lie in a situation like this.

We had a wonderful two days here. Dunya was getting better too and enjoying the water. There were enough breeze to have good night sleep and Thomas made sure we are OK.

Campsite at Thomas' place near El Zonte January 2014

Campsite at Thomas’ place
near El Zonte
January 2014

Back to the land near El Zonte January 2014

Back to the land
near El Zonte
January 2014

On the third day morning we moved on and decided to stay on the coastline but much further and have a few more days by the beach with a different scenery.  Besides the Dutchies were thinking to visit a vet just to check up on Dunya -though thankfully she was doing better and better each day, and we needed a new vehicle battery! It blown off the morning we crossed the border and we are starting Burt from the leisure batteries (which is OK for a few times but for too long)

There were a few towns marked on the way and as always Johnny had his good feeling about finding batteries. Of course these are truck butteries, which with luck you can find in odd shops but we also have a size restriction due to one of many silly battery-box design our engineer did back in England. Anyhow a couple of hours stops and search with Erica’s interpretation we found the right size batteries in a busy town by a busy road and John and Michel were on the case to change it. Just when 3 overland traveller vehicles pulled up next to us. We had a quick chat then they were off. Within minutes there was another overlander form Switzerland. Suddenly it felt super hectic. But the batteries were swapped, dog was fed and had some drinks and we were ready to move on.

New batteries

New batteries

We arrived to this beach which was at the most southern part of the coastline near the Honduran border to find that the spot we thought we could park up was full of all the overlanders we met today and some we met in Antigua! It was great to see many people together but it seemed far to crowed for us , besides due to the overhanging top of the entrance gate we wouldn’t fit. Though Panda would have fit through, the Dutchies decided to come with us.

Just a few meter down the road was the end and a large gate lead down to an open beach. We asked permission from the next door restaurant and we were in. Well for $5/night but still it was spacious, we had a palapa between Panda and Burt and we had the whole beach.

Campsite near El Cuco January 2014

near El Cuco
January 2014

near El Cuco January 2014

near El Cuco
January 2014

The first night/day was nice, we chilled out, went to say hello to the fellow travellers etc then the second night was so hot and airless and we woke to a penetrated smell of rubbish burning. John suggested to move on to the mountains, which isn’t that far but we have a chance for fresh and cool air besides this is the area that is very important of El Salvador’s history and we could visit the museum and the area to learn more.

It is great that the Dutchies were up for the sudden plan-change and with no problem and after we packed up, filled up with water we headed north to the mountains.

Next Morazán…