A Travellerspoint blog

September 2013

Sur la route de Panama


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

Après avoir donc fait mumuse avec les petits poissons, fin août approchant, je décidais de me diriger vers Panama le plus rapidement possible afin de pouvoir passer assez de temps plus tard en Amérique du Sud. Malheureusement cela me contraignait à ne pas visiter des pays comme le Nicaragua ou le Costa Rica, mais bon même un an est vraiment trop court pour parcourir le monde et il y a de durs choix à faire de temps en temps. Ce sera pour un prochain voyage....

66D78AE92219AC6817D55BDFE465BCC1.jpg

Repartant d'Utila, il me fallut donc 4 jours complets de bus pour rejoindre Panama City pour la modique somme de 100$ US. Enfin quand je dis "complets", cela n'inclut pas les nuits et je passais donc une nuit à San Pedro Sula (Honduras) avant de prendre le bus, plus une nuit dans la capitale du Nicaragua (Managua) et enfin une autre à San José (Costa Rica) avant d'atteindre le jour d’après Panama City.

Donc vous l'aurez compris, 4 jours bien fatiguants car il est quasi-impossible de dormir correctement, assis dans des bus plus ou moins confortables, avec la climatisation réglée au maximum, et chaque journée comprenant le passage d'une frontière pour passer d'un pays à un autre. D'ailleurs c'est vraiment les moments les plus ch**** du voyage, quand il te faut faire la queue pour faire tamponner ton passeport pour sortir du pays où tu te trouves, puis faire de même 50 mètres plus loin de l'autre coté pour entrer dans l'autre pays, et enfin se faire fouiller son sac pour que les douanes soient sûres que tu ne transportes pas d'armes, de drogues ou autre chose d’illégal.
De plus à chaque frontière vous vous trouvez toujours confrontés dès la descente du bus à une horde de locaux voulant vous vendre tout et n'importe quoi et voulant essayer de vous échanger la monnaie du pays d’où vous venez pour celui où vous allez pour un taux de change assez bas... Bref, c'est loin d’être un moment agréable...

Carte de l'itinéraire suivi, à partir du Honduras

Carte de l'itinéraire suivi, à partir du Honduras

Enfin le passage Honduras-Nicaragua et Nicaragua-Costa Rica se passèrent plutôt bien mais comme disent les anglais, il y a toujours un moment où "the shit hits the fan" (comprenez: "où il y a une merde qui se produit"). Et pour moi cela se passa à la frontière entre le Costa Rica et Panama...

Pour sortir du Costa Rica, pas de problème, un petit coup de tampon, aucune question posée, et hop roulez jeunesse... Par contre du coté Panaméen, ce ne fut pas du tout la même histoire....

Moi: (avec mon espagnol hésitant)
" Bonjour monsieur
[pas de réponse...]
(il feuillette mon passeport pour voir si tout est en règle et me regarde)
- Où est votre billet de retour?"
- Heu... Je n'ai pas de billet de retour, je fais un tour du monde et je compte aller en Colombie dans moins d'une semaine en bateau.
- Pas possible, vous devez avoir un billet d'avion pour retourner dans votre pays.
- Mais je n'ai pas envie de retourner en France tout de suite moi, je n'ai pas de billet d'avion!
- Donc vous ne pouvez pas passer
- Mais de toute façon, j'ai pas envie d'y rester moi dans votre pays à la c**!"
(Ok bon ça c'est ce que j'aurais aimé lui dire mais je n'ai pas osé...)

Et après 5 minutes de la même discussion où il était clair qu'il n'avait rien à faire de ce que je lui disais, il me fit signe de me mettre sur le coté pour pouvoir laisser passer les autres personnes derrière moi.
A ce moment là, je dois avouer que je commençais à stresser, il nous avait fallu 8 heures pour arriver à la frontière depuis le Costa Rica et je ne me voyais pas du tout, mais alors pas du tout, repayer la compagnie de bus et me refaire tout le trajet en sens inverse.

Panama_immigration.jpg

Regardant autour de moi et demandant aux autres touristes -qui je l’espérais, étaient dans le même cas que moi- j'appris qu'en effet, depuis quelques semaines, pour entrer au Panama, il vous faut montrer un billet de sortie du pays (bus ou avion) ainsi que prouver que vous avez au moins 500$ US sur vous... Et apparemment tout le monde était plus ou moins au courant, excepté pour l'histoire de l'argent...

"Ok bon ça ne sent pas bon tout ça..."

De plus, essayer de parler à l'agent de contrôle était comme essayer de parler à un mur, il n'avait visiblement rien à faire d'un touriste français qui ne s’était pas trop renseigné sur le passage au Panama. Le stress continuait de monter... Et pour ne rien arranger, le bus avait maintenant déchargé tous nos bagages pour que l'on puisse les faire fouiller par la douane avant de les remettre dans le bus. Et bien entendu le bus n'allait pas attendre éternellement que mes problèmes s'arrangent par miracle... Il était 8h du soir, il faisait complètement noir et l'endroit n’était clairement pas le plus sûr au monde...

Et c'est là que parlant avec un autre touriste, il me donna l’idée de trouver un cyber-café et d'essayer d'acheter un billet en ligne.

"Vous avez 15 minutes, me dit le chauffeur du bus. Après je m'en vais...
- Ok, sympa...."

Là un peu en panique je dois l'avouer, je fonçais vers l'endroit où je croyais avoir vu un cyber-café plus tôt, entrais en trombe, me connectais sur un site de voyage et décidais d'imprimer un faux itinéraire Panama-Paris (je n'allais pas acheter un vrai billet d'avion pour ne pas pouvoir me faire rembourser après...) et comme je n'avais pas 500$ sur moi bien sûr, je décidais d'imprimer la première page de mon compte bancaire en ligne, espérant que cela ferait l'affaire. Dix minutes plus tard donc, je ressortais en courant et fonçais vers le guichet où le même agent attendait...

"Hum re-bonjour, alors je sais que je viens de vous dire que je comptais faire le tour du monde, mais en fait je viens juste de changer d'avis et je rentre en France dans dix jours, voici mon billet d'avion (qui ne portait absolument pas mon nom ou de preuve que j'avais effectivement payé) et voici un relevé de banque qui prouve que j'ai assez d'argent."

Le gars me regarda bizarrement, regarda les papiers que j'avais juste imprimé (je suis sûr qu'il ne parlait ou ne lisait même pas l'anglais) et décida sans doute que j’étais un touriste qui maintenant l'ennuyait trop et me tamponna mon passeport... Yes!! Panama me voilà!

Et après avoir fait fouiller mon sac, je remontais dans le bus qui démarra 15 minutes plus tard... Bon, tout est bien qui finit bien mais quand même, il me fallu un peu de temps pour me calmer et arrêter d'insulter mentalement l'administration Panaméenne et ses agents pour mettre en place des règles à la con qui en fait ne servent strictement à rien!

Quelques 6 heures de route après, nous arrivions a Panama City...

Et l'aventure continue!

Posted by manolo84 14:08 Archived in Panama Tagged buses french immigration Comments (0)

Utila, Vingt mille lieues sous les mers...

Utila, Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea...


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

AS I mentioned before my main aim by going to Honduras was to dive! Indeed all along the Caribbean coasts of Mexico and Belize, there is some amazing reef which I couldn't wait to explore in other ways than with a snorkel, this time not by going twenty thousand leagues under the sea (I wish...) but only at a maximum depth of 30 meters.

For a bit of geography, Utila is one of the Bay Islands, off the coast of Honduras, with the other ones being Roatan (bigger, better reef but also more expensive) and Guanaja (smaller but a bit far to reach). Utila is also home to more than 20 dive schools and a lot of tourists are going there to dive. Actually if you do not dive, there is little point to go to Utila, Roatan is a better option though more expensive. This was actually one of the point which I didn't like too much about the island, that there are definitely too many "gringos" and that you lose the local feeling that you can have in other places in Central America.



Utila__6_.jpg

After making my way to Utila, going through hectic towns like San Pedro Sula or La Ceiba in Honduras, I had to choose a diving school in order to pass the PADI Advanced Open Water certification. 15 years ago, when I was in high school in France (my god it's already that far away....) I had passed the french level 1 diving certification, although it was only in a swimming pool so I was hoping that they would accept this as a valid certification and that they would allow me to try straight away the Advanced Open Water without having to do first the Open Water one which is more for beginners.

Diving spots around the island

Diving spots around the island

So lying a little bit about the number of dives I had done in the sea (actually they never asked to see my French license), I registered in the Utila Dive Center, not the cheapest place to dive in Utila but one of the most serious with lots of instructors and students instructors (dive masters). The whole course was about 300$ for the certification (7 dives) + 30$ for a refreshment course (which I really needed anyway). And there we were, after practising again the basics, I was taken for my first dive to a ship wreck, down to 30 meters (100 feet)!

Actually this was a bit scary because it was my first dive ever in sea, and we were going to the maximum depth you can reach when diving for "fun" (once down at 30 meters, you cannot go up when you want if there is a problem, you first have to do a safety stop at 5 meters for 3 minutes, to eliminate the excess of nitrogen in your blood. Taking a deep breath, I then jumped into the water, only to find out that my mask did not fit and that it was impossible to clear the water out of it. Of course the others had more experience and were already going down so I was starting to think "ok, this doesn't start that well"... Fortunately the instructor realised what the problem was and going up to the surface (we were only a few meters down at that point), we exchanged our mask and I made another attempt to go down. Second issue though, I had not taken enough weights on my belt to allow for a smooth descent (I found out later that I needed 4.5 kilos of weight to compensate for the wetsuit and gear which always make you float) and I was getting stuck at a few meters below the surface, incapable of going down by myself. Once again the instructor helped me (nice guy from New Zealand btw) by pulling me down to the bottom and a few minutes later I could reach the bottom of the sea where the others were waiting, 30 meters down, near the base of the wreck. Phew!!

My camera not being water-proof, I could not take any footage which would have been really nice, but instead I have found this video of the same wreck on Youtube. This is actually exactly how I saw it, very impressive...

The rest of the dive was totally fine and we could do a few tests to see what are the consequences of the pressure when you are at this depth. For example the colours start to look different (well I am colourblind anyway so not a lot of change for me...), or we even took some eggs with us, broke them and we were playing with the yolk (the yellow part) like a ball with no gravity!

One of the other dives you need to complete as part of this course is a night dive, when you jump into the water armed with a light torch because it is completely pitch black! The wildlife at night is also very different and this was an amazing experience.

And after 7 dives in total (5 are required to be certified), I was officially an Advanced Open Water diver, which means that I can now dive in any dive spot around the world! I had definitely a great time and I am now looking forward to dive more in South America or Asia later on, if my bank account allows it...

large_Utila__1_.jpg
Captain Cookie, the coolest captain...

Captain Cookie, the coolest captain...


Everybody is quite tired after diving

Everybody is quite tired after diving


large_Utila__4_.jpg
My diving equipment

My diving equipment

Posted by manolo84 14:59 Archived in Honduras Tagged islands diving Comments (1)

Copán Ruinas


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

After spending then a week in the wonderful and quiet environment of the lake Attitlán, I was happy and relaxed but was really looking forward to come back to civilisation. I had seen most of the places and things I wanted to see in Guatemala and time had now come to carry on down south, to Honduras.

During my travels in Mexico and in Belize, I had had several opportunities to go scuba diving but the high prices for the certifications had discouraged me slightly. Besides everyone was saying that Honduras and the Bay Islands are one of the best places in the world to dive (thanks to the coral reef) and probably one of the cheapest as well. So it is with this intention that I was leaving lake Atitlán and the very nice people I had met there, to head off straight to the Caribbean coast of Honduras, to resume my scuba diving practice that I had stopped 14 years ago.

Unfortunately even though it looks quite close on the map, I had to go back and stay in Antigua for a few nights (and recover from a food poisoning I had experienced when leaving Atitlán) then make a stop in Copán Ruinas in Honduras near the border, before eventually reaching Utila, one of the Bay Islands in Honduras.

But whilst the bus journeys are most of the time long and boring, they are also a fantastic opportunity to meet people. In Antigua, I could meet again a couple of friends I had met in Mexico a month and a half earlier (by the way Maël and Suna, we didn't even take a picture together!), which is always fun and nice, and in the bus journey to Copán, I would meet my companions for the next week to go (same thing, Thomas, Patty, Roscio and Chris, who forgot to take the group picture !? ;) )

And as I had to stop for the night in Copán, I took the opportunity to visit its famous Maya ruins, which are not the biggest ones ever, but the ones with the most preserved carvings, which actually look quite impressive. When looking at the pictures below, you also need to realise that all these statues and stelae were full of colours, which over the time faded away...

large_Copan_Ruinas__3_.jpg
large_Copan_Ruinas__5_.jpg
Another field to play the famous "Juego de pelota" (Ball game)

Another field to play the famous "Juego de pelota" (Ball game)


large_Copan_Ruinas__16_.jpg
Chris, I'm sure you are trying to say something very important here... Roscio seems captivated as well... <img class='img' src='https://tp.daa.ms/img/emoticons/icon_smile.gif' width='15' height='15' alt=':)' title='' />

Chris, I'm sure you are trying to say something very important here... Roscio seems captivated as well... :)


large_Copan_Ruinas__31_.jpg
Three macaws posing for posterity near the ruins...

Three macaws posing for posterity near the ruins...

Posted by manolo84 09:48 Archived in Honduras Tagged ruins pyramids mayas Comments (0)

Lago de Atitlán


View Around The World on manolo84's travel map.

The next step of my travels took me to the Lake Atitlán, one of the most beautiful lake in the world, according to Aldous Huxley. I had several purposes for going there, the first of course was to admire the lake and its wonderful scenery (the lake, located at an altitude of 1500m, is surrounded by 4 volcanoes which give a surreal atmosphere to the lake), to relax and spend a week in a quiet place to try to do a bit of yoga, and also to take a week of spanish classes.

Guatemala is one of the cheapest places to learn Spanish (20h = 80$ with an individual teacher) and Santa Cruz de la Laguna, around the Lake Atitlán seemed to be the perfect location. Besides I had the opportunity to stay the entire week with a local Maya family, living and eating with them every day.

The whole experience was indeed really interesting, the family I stayed with was really nice and I now feel that my spanish has improved a lot, which is definitely going to help me for the next months when I will be travelling in the rest of Central and South America.

There is not much else to say as it a very quiet week so I will just let you admire the different photos I have taken that week, including a bonus video, lucky you! :)

large_Santa_Cruz__13_.jpg

large_Santa_Cruz__18_.jpg
The morning were dedicated to study spanish, with an healthy breakfast and amazing view

large_Santa_Cruz__33_.jpg
large_Santa_Cruz__39_.jpg
large_Santa_Cruz__44_.jpg
large_Santa_Cruz__51_.jpg
large_Santa_Cruz__55_.jpg

large_Santa_Cruz__61_.jpg
A little puppy which crossed my road one morning as I was hiking around the lake

large_Santa_Cruz__69_.jpg
large_Santa_Cruz__77_.jpg

large_Santa_Cruz__115_.jpg
Making tortillas with the family I was staying with

large_Santa_Cruz__126_.jpg
A part of the family which offered me shelter that week

large_Santa_Cruz__129_.jpg

Posted by manolo84 16:25 Archived in Guatemala Tagged lakes nature volcanoes Comments (3)

(Entries 1 - 3 of 3) Page [1]