Latin America picture ToDo-list

This is my “ToDo-List” for Central and South America. Covered are 19 countries so far, but I am open to your suggestions! The pictures I used are all from artists of the twenty20 community and I have to thank you guys at this point for taking such great pictures! Please feel free to leave suggestions for me, what I should not miss out when I travel Latin America the next time.

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Pictures tell stories better than a thousand words. This is an old wisdom and it’s actually true. You might have read my report about my relatively short travel to Panamá, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. For me this was the first contact to this beautiful and magic piece of land on our planet and it is not the last time, that I have been there, promised. Since pictures express much more, than text ever could, when it comes up to the description of the beauty of places, people, nature and everything else but the lyric itself, I started to create and build up a Twenty20 Collection. In this gallery I collect pictures I like and worship, and included are pictures of 19 countries so far, here presented from North to South.

Central America

Cancún in Mexico, by @soniamchopra
Somewhere in Guatemala, by @s_cavazos
Belize and the Maya temples, by @_melche
US Embassy in Honduras, by @cellalaaa
Surfing the Pacific in El Salvador, by @gerardoch10
Vulcano Concepción on Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua, by @benicoma
The cloud rainforest Costa Rica’s mountains, by @benicoma
The Islands of San Blas in Panamá, by @benicoma

 

South America

Medellín in Colombia, by @vcostaphoto
Morrocoy in Venezuela, by @erickmendez9
The highlands of Ecuador, by @puapv
Machu Picchu in Peru, by @corrine_t
The death road in Bolivia, by @birgitry
Jesus statue over Rio de Janeiro, by @nanohooligan
Isla Fernando de Noronha of Brazil, by @joneliabe
Somewhere in Paraguay, by @jcibils
Surfing the beaches of Uruguay, by @marcbaechtold
The Iguazu falls of Argentina, by @kauaitraveler
Chilenian part Patagonia, by @birgitry

 

People

A vendor in Bolivia’s capital La Paz, by @raulbarnoir
The lovely people of Costa Rica celebrating their football team in the World Cup. The contribution goes to my friends in Costa Rica!
A mayan child bathing in a creek, by @andrewqholzschuh
Tango in the streets of Buenos Aires, by @mackeykatrina
Salsa and Bachata, by @hurpatty
Mother and child in Mexico, by @whiteraslion
Carneval Samba in Brazil, by @jealston
Guna Yala
The Guna Yala and me on San Blas in Panamá, by @benicoma

 

This collection features great pictures from all over Latin America, from diverse artists and is something like a ToDo list for me, when I travel to this region the next time. I will need plenty of time to do that of course, since there are already 19 countries included and by far not everything worthwhile to see…

What I have to do:

  • Surfing all along the Pacific coast, from Baja California in Mexico down to Chile, wherever I come by
  • Visit the Maya tribes of the Mexican desert for their cult, and experiencing it
  • Visit the plantations for cacao and coffee in different countries
  • Visit the places where medical plants are cultured in a fair trade principal
  • Visit the Maya Temples of Mexico and Belize
  • Exploring the Amazonas of Brazil and Bolivia
  • Sail to Cartagena via San Blas in Panamá
  • Dance Tango Argentino in Buenos Aires
  • Dance lots of Salsa
  • Snorkel and Dive in Central America and Venezuela
  • Visit the Carneval in Rio de Janeiro
  • Go diving on Coiba Island of Panamá and on Isla Fernando de Noronha of Brazil
  • Go snowboarding and hiking in Patagonia
  • Finish Pacific Coastal Highway 1 – called the Panamericana in Latin America

When you are on Twenty20 yourself, have pictures of those regions which might fit in and you are willing to get them featured in the Collection, please comment under them with the hashtag @benicoma and I will consider to take them in as well. And when you read this blog entry and want to share great places to visit, please leave a comment, it is highly appreciated!

My journey to Latin America

This is a guide to my entries about my short travel to Panamá, Costa Rica and Nicaragua. It was an awesome experience, it lifted prejudices for me and the “fear” I had before I went there. I expected much more crime to face, couldn’t imagine, how beautiful the stay really would be. To sum it up, it was an awesome experience, that made me learn Spanish and I will defintively come back, most likely for a longer stay.

Those are my entries about my stay in Latin America. They are sorted in chronological order and reflect just a tiny part of the whole experience. I will definitively come back to those places and want to learn more about the other countries on this beautiful strip of land between South and Northamerica.

Adventure here I come: My way from Florida to Panamá City and my first impressions of Latin America

Panamá Viejo, El Valle, Santa Catalina: A roadtrip of its best, with a car everything is possible…

Santa Catalina: Santa Catalina is a hidden surfer gem of Panamá and gateway to the island of Coiba

Paradise is here – San Blas: Our splendid trip to San Blas and the awe of nearly unspoiled tropical islands

Chillout in San Blas: The farewell to those stunning islands

Panamá to Costa Rica: An endless busride and the most challenging border crossing of my trip

Costa Rica Pura Vida: Where do you have it all? Ziplining the big trees with stunning views, before you hike into the green paradise… That’s to be found in CR

Mysterious mountain cloud-rainforest: My report about hiking the rainforest of Costa Rica, discovering all its beauty

Santa Elena aside the tourism: A walk through a village, living from its tourism, from a non-touristic point of view

My way to Nicaragua: Making the border from Costa Rica to Nicaragua, mainly a travelers report on what to obey when you cross Latin American borders

Surfing Playa Gigante: My report about my two days in a secluded little surfers nest at Nicaragua’s Pacific coast.

Isla de Ometepe – Visit to a place without paradigm: When you are to Nicaragua you have to visit Ometepe, it’s a unique experience

Adventure calls I follow – Back to Costa Rica: I return from Nicaragua to Costa Rica to meet up with Dani and get to know the locals of Costa Rica

Journeys End: My way from Costa Rica to Nicaragua and back to the USA

When all comes to an end

My last journey in Latin America starts in San José and ends in Managua the same night. On my way I visit Granada, way too short. I decide to return to Latin America as soon as possible.

My last three days have been the most adventurous, passionate days of my life. I experienced the new, the unknown, the life I always dreamed of but never was able to capture. When I recapitulate that on the bus towards Nicaragua, which I took from the San José station of Ticabus, I start to realize it. I feel empty, I smile, I dream… That gathering with Dani was one of a kind, something very special, an adventure, you would normally read on romantic booklets, which are sold everywhere for desperate housewifes, who are bored of their everyday life with their ever working husbands…

In the morning I had to say goodbye. A goodbye that didn’t feel like one, knowingly we would see each other again. I just followed the orders Dani gave me, taking the bus to the National Stadion of Costa Rica, from there the taxi to the station, close to where we arrived the night before…

The district of San José is not very nice, I go quickly into the station, buy my tourist tax voucher, to leave Costa Rica and reenter Nicaragua. I sit on the bus, it’s cold. The aircondition does its best. You really have to bring long sleeves and a jacket for those bus rides in Latin America. The ride takes forever, until we reach Peñas Blancas again. Every now and then a guy comes into the bus to sell food or coffee, a convenient and welcomed service for a good buck. The passage of the border is easy this time, it will be easy every time I do that in the future, since I know the how-to. Out of the bus, baggage check for drugs at the border, buying the taxes for Nicaragua, reentering the bus, after the merchants could sell some food and beverages to us, or even merchandise like hammocks or bags in many different colors. Then it continues, the aim is Managua and I would be there around 2 p.m. That’s too early for my liking, my flight goes 12 hours after that and I still want to get an impression of Granada on my way – so I leave the bus in Nandaime and take the chickenbus to Granada, where I arrive around 2:30 p.m. About two hours to discover this gem at Lake Nicaragua!

The busy streets of Granada in Nicaragua. The houses from the times of Colonization are most beautiful and all offered goods crafted in the region.

The time flies by. I get a little nervous since I haven’t found the station from where the private shuttles to Managua leave. I stroll around, enter two different manufacturing sites for hammocks. It’s a pity I ran out of funds, since those guys knitting and weaving, are truly doing a fascinating job. I want to come back here, to buy one of those hammocks one day. And I missed the legendary salsa night at Lake Nicaragua as well, I want to experience that, so I promise to myself to return to Granada one day. At the church on the picture is a big ceremony going, I guess it’s a funeral. All the people are singing, the voices fill the air with a saddening melody. You can truly feel the mood and I get the feeling that I should not disturb them by taking pictures… I find a bakery, it’s so cheap to get decent food and I buy a softdrink, which is very tasty and which is served in a plastic bag. I decide to take a taxi to a bus station and finally am on a shuttle to Managua, which is still a 90 min. ride away. And the shuttle fills, it’s totally crowded when we reach the suburbs and I wonder how the guy, who collects the money for the ride from the passengers, manages to keep the overview. At around 6:30 p.m. I am in the middle of Nicaraguas capital. It seems to be ugly and the people are staring at me, at least not like they stare at the other tourists, who are obviously Americans, but they do.

Sunset over Managua, Nicaragua’s capital. The rays of the light have been stunning, like on the bills of the Nicaraguan money – the Cordoba’s.
Walter White is omnipresent everywhere, since the successful TV series Braking Bad launched.

I decide to take another taxi to the airport. There seems nothing I want to see before I leave and the city doesn’t seem to be very safe either. It is stretched out and it’s already getting dark. My last Cordobas are well invested in the taxi and the driver goes through some kind of favelas and tries to pick up locals to join the ride, but nobody seems to be interested to go to the airport. In the dark I am there, time to leave, time to say goodbye to Latin America. I am sad, this is the end of an awesome trip, an awesome time. Tomorrow I will be back to Florida, in two days I have to return to Europe.

The way to Nicaragua

Traveling longer distances and making the border is always an adventure in Latin America. When you plan to leave Costa Rica via La Cruz don’t forget to buy the tax to leave the country. It’s interesting to see all the vendors in the border area and you can change your money on the streets or get yourself your lunch from one of the vendors…

It’s 6 am in the morning while I enjoy some scrambled eggs, the bus to Tilarán leaves at 7 am, like always very early and it’s the only bus of the day. The managers of the hostel El Tucan speak English and gave me some advice how to continue the trip. From now I am on my own – without Stefan who speaks fluent Spanish – expecting to meet few people who can speak English, so gestures and my little knowledge in Italian and some words in Spanish should hopefully help to get me to my destination this day. I plan to reach Rivas in Nicaragua and want to continue to Playa Gigante the next day for some decent surfing, with the first bus of the day.

The bus is on time and I meet an American and a Canadian from Alberta, who I already met a couple of days ago in Panamá City. The guys have different plans. The American ran out of money but does not want to return to the USA, so he is looking for a job in the Tilarán area for some work on a farm, the Canadian guy wants to make his way to the beach of Costa Rica.

The ride is sloppy and for some time there is no pavement and the bus goes over a dirtroad. It’s an old school bus from Canada and I open the windows and enjoy the great fresh air and the stunning views over Costa Rica‘s highlands. I fall asleep several times, it’s like in a crib and as if you are cradled the whole time. The little Tica who is riding the bus with her dad seems to enjoy it as well. This kid already knows how attract and entertain people. Very cute.

When the bus reaches Tilarán I’m somehow disappointed since I saw on the map that there should be some big volcanos but I didn’t see them on the way and I can’t see them now… but there is no time to further think about that anyways. The bus to Cañas is already waiting to leave and I hop on. “¿Para llegar a Cañas?” The bus driver nods and replies with a short “Si”. And there we already go. Another two hours later I’m in Cañas and just five minutes after I hit the Panamericana I flag down my first bus to continue to La Cruz, close to the border of Nicaragua. The country changes a lot. It’s very dry here and there are lots of plantations along the road. It’s like in a dream to see all this going by. Around two pm I’m in La Cruz and find my way, mainly with gestures, to the next station where the busses to Peñas Blancas stop. This is the town on the border, Maxim told me to go this way and I’m glad for this information since it would not have been easy to find it on my own.

I pass the border walking, but don’t have the tourist leaving ticket, so I have to return to a little house on the Costa Rican side of the border to buy a ticket for ten dollars that grants me eligibility to leave the country.

There is lots of traffic (mainly pedestrians) at the border and lots of people try to sell food and drinks, merchandise, cloth and other goods, like hammocks. As soon as I pay my twelve dollars of taxes to enter Nicaragua, I’m allowed to pass a simple gate into the country and immediately find the bus to Rivas. It’s much louder here. Very busy indeed. All the people who try to sell something yell what they offer, repeatedly and the whole time. Even the bus drivers yell where they will go after departure. What I immediately recognize is that the Nicaraguans look totally different than Costa Ricans. They are much darker and look more like Indios.

Around four pm I’m in Rivas and since everything worked out so great I decide to take a cab to Playa Gigante which costs around 20 dollars. At five pm and some never ending discussions with the cab driver, who decides the negotiated payment is too few – four km before we are actually there – in a wild mixture of Spanish and English, I’m there. Have not expected to do this all in one day and am happy about it. Time to relax!

Santa Elena, aside the touristic center

Santa Elena has its parts without tourism. You can be lucky and have few clouds, under those conditions you can witness the sunset over the pacific from some elevated parts…

It’s early afternoon and I just had a power nap. Was necessary after those seven hours of hiking. Beeing back to Innsbruck’s alps will be challenging, I can feel that. I am happy, dreamed of the light of the rainforest, its smell and sounds.

I start hiking up the street, on which we left Santa Elena in the morning. I ask some guys and they tell me, you might have a great overview over the country close to the hospital.

The city part where mostly locals live is a little bit uphill. I pass a school and make a left at the soccer field to get to the clinic and directly beside that you find the local firefighters. The station looks cool, the guys have their own gym directly besides the big firefighter truck.

The view up into the mountains is stunning and from a spot you have the perfect overview over the touristic part of town. The grave-yard is special with all those tiled boxes and in general everything is colorful.

I want to see the sunset, but the incoming clouds steal my show. From the upper part of the city you have a tremendous view over the whole valley. It’s a great atmosphere with those clouds as well and I appreciate it, although I miss on the sunset over the Pacific…

Mysterious mountain cloud rainforest

Hiking the unique and mysterious mountain cloud rainforest of Costa Rica’s Monteverde is stunning. It’s a peaceful and calm forest and hiking there is a beautiful experience. I recommend to start alone and ennjoy the plants and animals you will see there, without the necessity to talk, it’s worth it!

I have booked the early shuttle to the cloud forest reserve. Getting up early in Latin America is easy, compared to our western world. I have not figured out why but I wake up every morning around sunrise with no problems. It’s 5:50 am and my shuttle to the Santa Elena reserve will pick me up at 6:30 am. I plan to spend lots of time wandering the rainforest and have no other plans for the day. Sven, Jochen, Maxim and his girlfriend are on the shuttle as well and we arrive there at 7:00 am, at the gates of the Reserva Bosque Nuboso Santa Elena.

It is quite cold compared to all the other places I visited so far, maybe 22°C and I have to wear my jacket – it rains from time to time and the clouds crawl through the trees. The guys take the tour but I decide to go for myself since I want to enjoy the calm of the forest. I receive my map at the gate and start immediately and directly into the long tour and I am alone for the next four hours, without meeting a single person, which is great and somehow meditative.

I discover the observation deck of the reserve and climb up there. It’s quite high and the wind goes strong. Sitting there, listening to the surrounding is great. I enjoy some left over souvenir I still carry from San José and the mood of the rainforest which surrounds me even more… The clouds open up and close again, allowing deep insights into the forest every couple of minutes. It’s a unique and mysterious mood over the treetops and I hear lots of different voices of different animals, mostly from birds.

From time to time humming birds come along the way. They are cool, fly in front of you, standing in the air for some seconds, watching you and depart back into the forest. There are plenty of blossoms everywhere and different types of insects feed from them, as well as the humming birds. After a good hour I continue to hike. I just let the pictures talk for what I see…

And then there are some animals I can observe and actually take photos of. It’s not so easy after all since it is quite dark under the trees and clouds and most of the birds are fast – especially the cute humming birds. I see a big bird spider, several centipedes, butterflies and the highlight is a nest with fledglings, which I discover while I observe an adult bird, which doesn’t fly away when I approach it…

After seven hours of hiking I decide to take the shuttle back to the village. It was long enough but very relaxed and a mysterious but most beautiful experience. I am happy and plan to discover the village later. I hope to get a view down into the lower land and to the ocean…

Latin America, mi amor!

Before I continue writing about my Latinamerica travels, I want to give you a short audio visual version of my most beautiful impressions. I just bought the song In Love (Bernard’s Extended Club Mix) by Bernard Badie on Amazon today. Great how this system works, you get the song, you make a video (it’s really easy) and you upload it, done. I have all my CDs I bought – all time – as digital copy on Amazon! I appreciate these features of the web 2.0 and it’s quite convenient… But now to the video.

I hope you enjoy it, you can find further songs, which came along the way in my YouTube Playlist! It’s also a promise to discover everything south of Latinamerica, hopefully soon.

Costa Rica Pura Vida! Ziplining in Santa Elena

Monteverde and Santa Elena in the highlands of Costa Rica offer diverse activity. I came there to go hiking in the rainforest and for the Canopy Extreme ziplining, which is one of the best you can probably find on planet earth. It was an outstanding experience with lots of adrenaline and stunning views over the countryside of this most beautiful country.

After the tour I regret to not have taken my camera… but more about this tour: It’s zip lining and you go on some of the tracks 100+m high over the ground and quite fast. Sometimes together with another person, on some lines up to one Kilometer in distance. Pure adrenaline awaits you on the Tarzan swing where you have free fall first and then swing up into the trees. The last activity is superman. You go head forward from the highest point with a tremendous view over Costa Rica. You see the volcanos, the mountains, the Pacific and the sun going through the clouds and painting the country in tones from white, grey, over Amber to gold.

Breathtaking to go towards that view with about 70 kph and head forward. One of the most intense experience I made for some time…

This is the view you will experience head forward while doing SUPERMAN!

And we have a colorful and most beautiful visitor, when we return from the tour, a red ara who seems to be free but quite tame.

What could be better than seeing one of those creatures as a finish of a perfect day. The evening is calm. I am still exhausted from the long ride the day before and while I relax in the hammock in front of the hostel, I get to know two Francocanadians, Maxim and his girlfriend. They travel since one year and made all their way down from California through Baja California of Mexico down to Costa Rica.

They invite me for dinner, it’s a very nice evening and we enjoy some tasty Fleur de Cana, the seven year old rum, dark and mild, from Nicaragua. Tired I go to sleep, the next day will start early again…

Panama to Costa Rica

The way from Panama City to San Jose takes us a full night and passing the boarder with the Expresso bus is no joy. It takes long, nearly 3h, until we have done everything. I observe the locals, they get out of the bus at the border and make it on their feet. As I realize later, it’s way faster. I decide to stay in San Jose at night and continue to Monteverde the next day… A good decision since catching a bus would have been difficult, the border took us too long.

Stefan joins me to Costa Rica, we want to go to Monteverde – we get a cab and go to the bus station of Panama City (ciudád de Panama). There is a huge shopping mall and we stroll around. The ticket is 40$ for the over night bus to San José from there we have to catch the bus to Monteverde, but the time is very limited to actually do that – we better get over the border in short time.

Panama City and the Casco Viejo, view into the favelas.
DSC_0461
The main terminal of Panama City, Alemendro. You find a huge shopping mall there as well.

We attend the fish market a last time for a last Ceviche (for me, Stefan will be back) and another great plate with fish, patatas frijas (a special kind of fried banana) and great salad, spiced with estragon and salsa picante.

Camarones con patanos frijas , yummy!
Ceviche con camarones

Panama really has it all. We continue to the Panama channel but the museum is already closed that sucks so we find another cab driver who brings us to one of the watergates.

Back to the hostel I start boozing and we meet yet another German, Basti from Munich – I start to wonder wether there are just Bavarians? We find out that there will be no chance to catch the connecting bus to Monteverde anymore… Stefan seems a little pissed about that, but agrees that it is a good oportunity to wash cloth and relax for one day. Around 10 pm we are back at the bus terminal. We meet 2 girls from San Blas who go to San José as well. The ride seems to take forever and it’s freezing cold. I barely can sleep, at least there are not too many people so you can stretch out a little bit. In the morning we have to wait 3 hours at the border. We meet Dani, a cute latina from Costa Rica, who we met initially on our first day on San Blas. This time the friend of her is not with her, she tells Stefan, that he is Costa Rican as well but works in Panama City. She goes to San José as we do, that’s where she lives. I am happy to see her, and she gives me her number and I have to promise that I contact her. She is very cute… It’s hard to do conversation, she doesn’t speak any English, I don’t speak any Spanish, but somehow we understand each other, say goodbye and promise to stay in touch via WhatsApp.

Costa Rica from the bus Windows looks less polluted than Panama. And there seems to be much more forest. I think of those last days in paradise, of my salsa night in Santa Catalina, of the cloud rainforest which is up to come, of the underwater world, and I finally fall asleep. After another stop I talk to a nice girl, Kelly, from Florida. She lives here since eight month, mainly in Panama but visits some friends in Costa Rica. She recommends me to stay at Jáco at the beach and continue to Monteverde the next day. Later I decide to go to San José for one night with Stefan and Dennis, to get the cloth washed and relax one night. We met Dennis on the bus and he is from Munich… – hmmm. He invites us to come with him to his hostel, the Love Hostel 2, which is a bit outside in San Antonio of San José, in a safe area. So we follow him there and it’s a really nice hostel, hidden quite well and the owner is a hobby DJ with talent, as we find out during the evening.

The atmosphere there is great and I chill with some other guys from Germany since one of them has his birthday. It’s time to say good bye to Stefan, was fun traveling with you lad! Totally destroyed I fall into bed and hope that my laundry will be done the next day and that I make it to the bus to Monteverde on time. Still wasted I get up, 5:30h – wahhh – like all the last days. We just start at 5:48h by car to the station… I’m a bit in worry I won’t catch my bus which leaves at 6 am. Manuel speeds through the city with probably 80 kph and at 5:59h we are there and the bus is already going to leave but for my luck a cab blocks the way and I catch it last second. It makes its way into the highlands of Costa Rica, it’s beautiful!

Around lunchtime I’m there, get a comfortable room in the hostel El Tucan and book the Canopy Extreme Tour for the afternoon. I meet two Canadians, Kylie and Simon who travel together. There are two German guys as well who look really tired and obviously suffer from their jetlag. Sven and Jochen, and they join for the ziplining tour in the afternoon.