Friday, January 28, 2011

Tramping Around Central America

I´m getting ready to fly back to society tomorrow after spending the past month or so exploring Central America. I´m excited to be heading home but it will mean transitioning from the traveling lifestyle to once again focusing on sponsorship and preparing for my world voyage.

Having already visited Costa Rica, I wanted to get a little off the beaten track and headed north to Nicaragua. Nicaragua is an incredibly poor country, but I found it to be the most unspoiled and beautiful of the three Central American countries I´ve visited.

After a long night at a bus station in the ugly, unsafe Costa Rican city of Liberia, I crossed the border into Nicaragua. A couple buses later, I took an ancient wooden boat that looked as if it would fall apart any moment to the Island of Ometepe on Lake Nicaragua.

The Lake is the largest in all of Latin America and was for the longest time chock full of freshwater bull sharks that swam up the San Juan river and found the lake to their liking. The Nicaraguan´s were understandably afraid of the water until they found a solution in the form of catching all the sharks and sending them off to Japan and god knows where else to be eaten. Now few sharks swim in the lake.

Ometepe is a huge island that was formed by two volcanoes connected by a narrow isthmus. It is covered in jungle and is an incredibly beautiful place. I spent five days here hiking, kayaking and exploring before returning to the mainland and exploring the colonial city of Granada and the ocean beaches at San Juan del Sur. There I went out at night to see turtles laying their eggs and babies hatching and that was quite incredible.

Back in Costa Rica a few days later, I headed for Corcovado national park with my Israeli friend Omer and we spent three days trekking through some of the last pristine rainforest in the country. National geographic called Corcovado the most biologically intense place on the planet, and everywhere we went there were all kinds of tropical animals. We traversed the entire Osa peninsula and crossed rivers up to our neck full of poisonous snakes and according to the rangers, crocodiles and bull sharks. Fortunately, all I saw was a small caiman.

All in all, I had a brilliant time exploring Central America and sailing there from the Bahamas. It was the longest solo sail to date and I feel more confident than ever with my sailing skills and with getting ready for my circumnavigation. Now I'm back in society and getting ready for once again focusing on sponsorship...



Monday, January 10, 2011

The Big Ditch

We made it through the canal and finished this trip in Balboa! The Panama Canal really deserves its reputation as one of the modern wonders of the world, but for sailors it is just a really convinent way to get between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. And quite pleasant, considering the alternatives are Cape Horn and the icy Northwest Passage. The canal itself is really a lot of concrete, it`s the dream of connecting the oceans and the sacrafices it took to build it that take your breath away.

Getting anything done in Central America generally costs twice as much and takes twice as long as was originally expected, and now was no exception. I ended spending several weeks in Colon waiting for the chance to go through and dealing with endless delays. Fortunately, my family decided to join me for this bit of the trip and we did a bit of exploring in Panama. As an 18 year old, the very thought of traveling anywhere, especially internationally, with my family sends terror into my very being, but the Canal was too great an opportunity for them to pass up. So we did some exploring while waiting for our go at thte canal.

And it was wet. So wet that flooding had closed the canal for the first time in decades due to the level of the water in Lake Gatun, and roads and homes were deystroyed all over the country. My 15 year old brother and I took a 28 mile trek in the jungle and it was the wettest, muddiest, least pleasant hike of my life. It was wet as it only can get in the Panamanian rainforst, a Bear Grylls would be crying right now type of experience. We made it almost all the way through to the end of the trail, but were unable to cross a swollen river and had to hike all the way back. We later learned that an expereinced jungle guide had died trying to do the same thing three days earlier.

But, in the end we survived and made it back to the canal for our sucessful transit. Our trip through went well and we were tied to another sailboat which made it quite easy for us. Now Im doing a bit of tramping around Central America before my return to society.

The canal down, now just Cape Horn to go!