October. It kind of blows my mind to think that last year I was just starting out my life in Madrid and was so shy when speaking Spanish, and now I’m having full conversations with locals and Spanish-speaking travelers in Central America without batting an eyelash. As I sit at my hostel in Granada, (Nicaragua, not the Granada in Spain that I absolutely adored) I’m excited for what’s to come as I’ve only begun exploring this country that I so eagerly waited to visit.
But before that, here’s what October looked like through my eyes.
I became one with nature in Guatemala
After a week in Antigua, I set off to hike Volcán Acatenango, Central America’s third highest volcano at an elevation of about 13,045 ft. It was no small feat. In fact, this hike was probably one of the most physically challenging activities I’ve ever done. My travel buddy and I were really lucky to get set up on the hike by our Airbnb host, who lent us her camping gear and made a call to her friend who is a guide. The hike was steep, slippery, exhausting, but incredible. We spent the night camping on the mountainside and watched as the neighboring Volcán de Fuego erupted all night. Reaching the summit as the sun rose was the most rewarding feeling I’ve had on this trip so far.
Next, we set off to Lake Atitlán, visiting Panajachel, San Marcos, and San Pedro. Each lakeside village was very different: Panajachel was touristy, San Marcos had a relaxed, hippie vibe, and San Pedro was for the partiers. I was happy to spend a week exploring all the villages, especially hiking to the top of Volcán San Pedro and watching the sunrise from San Marcos.
The sunrise was one of the most magnificent that I’ve ever seen.
I couldn’t believe my eyes as the colors changed!
After a week bouncing around Lake Atitlán, we took some time to relax in Quetzaltenango (Xela). I didn’t find Xela to be too exciting, but I did enjoy not feeling like I had to see the sights every day. I took advantage of having a kitchen at my disposal at the guesthouse, went to some yoga classes, and just relaxed. We hiked the nearby Chicabal volcano to see its crater lake, a sacred spot for the local Mayan people.
Between September and October, I spent a full four weeks in Guatemala and I absolutely loved this country. It was exactly the experience I wanted to get out of this trip with ample time spent in nature and learning about this culture.
El Salvador was…okay
I was reluctant to travel in El Salvador because I’d heard that it was unsafe, but overland travel required me to pass through anyway. During my week there, I didn’t experience any unsafe situations and enjoyed most what I saw of the country, although I admit I didn’t spend enough time to get a good feel for it. We spent a few days waiting out the rain in Juayúa, a tiny town in the mountains. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to visit the coffee farms we wanted and spent most of our time eating pupusas (corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, and meat) and not much else.
San Salvador was another letdown. We didn’t hike the nearby volcano and the city itself didn’t have too much to offer besides it’s churches and gigantic street market in the center – which actually was very interesting. Though I didn’t see all that San Salvador brings to the table, I don’t really feel like I need to return.
El Salvador’s real gem was on the coast. I saw the Pacific Ocean in El Cuco for the first time since I visited California as a kid. El Cuco is strange in that all the travelers stay at the same resort, almost 2 miles from the town of El Cuco, which doesn’t have much of anything in it. The sunsets, however, were stunning. The beach compensates for the rest of the week, but I have a feeling the coast in Nicaragua will be just as amazing.
Nicaragua welcomed me with open arms
Aside from Guatemala, the other main event for me in Central America is Nicaragua. I’d heard amazing things about it, and so far, Nicaragua is living up to its reputation. In León, I volcano boarded (basically sledded) down Cerro Negro and was the fastest girl to do so that day! 30 mph never felt so exhilarating!
León itself was a cool, colonial city with a gorgeous cathedral and interesting revolutionary history museum. My favorite thing was seeing the views of the city and surrounding volcanoes from the roof of the cathedral.
I don’t know how I ended up spending three nights in Masaya, but I did. There’s nothing to do in this small town besides hike the nearby volcano which has a crater that spews sulfuric gas, but that was a lot of fun, and beautiful.
I spent the last two months mostly with a travel buddy, but once again I’m traveling solo. I’ve almost forgotten what it feels like, and I kind of think I don’t know how to do it anymore! Of course I know this isn’t true, and I’m determined to look deep into myself to pull out the part of me that is great at traveling solo and being independent.
Blog-wise, I aim to focus a lot more on my writing, which I’ve been slacking on as it’s been extremely difficult to focus while on the road. Now that I’m solo, I *hope* I’ll be able to pick up the pace! I will admit that I indulge way too much in “normal life” things to cope with the difficulties of long-term travel – namely watching Scandal – and I have no self control, but blogging is my priority for November! In all honesty, it’s easier to be motivated to write when I’m happy with where I am in my life. The long-term travel blues definitely got me down and finding my groove is still a work in progress.
Most of November will be spent in Nicaragua and I’m really excited to check out Isla de Ometepe and go surfing on the coast! This country already has my heart.