Dee Roche

Joined May 2016
  • Day126

    Santa Tecla & La Libertad - El Salvador

    June 24, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long - 3 weeks
    Stayed - all over
    Travelling with - solo y Céssar

    Back to El Salvador for a few weeks of rest and more exploration of this amazing country. Also time to try and improve my Spanish
    First off a night in San Salvador where I caught up with the boys that I met up in Juayua. Next day to Santa Tecla which is a lovely little suburb of San Salvador. It's the place where the San Salvadorians go to party at the weekend so there's some lovely bars and restaurants. Also a really nice street market. My return to San Salvador also coincided with Susan doing a fleeting return to El Salvador from Guatemala to see the port at La Libertad. So I checked into the hostal in Santa tecla and jumped on a bus down to meet her. Had a lovely afternoon strolling the fish market and the sea front. La libertad a bustling fishing port with market and great seafood. Lovely seafood lunch and a few beers with Susan and then back to Santa Tecla.
    Fun Friday night in Santa Tecla with the boys and their brother who had just arrived back from NY for a visit.
    Back to Juayua to hang out and chill.
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  • Day122

    Suchitoto

    June 20, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: 3 nights
    Stayed:
    Travelling with: Solo

    The multiple buses to Suchitoto actually didn't take half as long as expected and so arrived into Suchitoto mid afternoon. I immediately liked it. Bus dropped me near the central square and I set off to find my hostel. Lovely colonial little town with a really nice friendly ambience. Like a lot of towns in El Salvador its on a grid so not too hard to find your way around so found my hostel pretty quickly and checked in to the dorm to see only other person staying and although they were not there I recognised the stuff and laid a bet with myself that it was Wei.
    Just dropped my bag and headed out for a wander in this lovely little town. Although the guidebooks had said weekends were busy in Suchitoto I was struck by how quiet it was....even in the main square. There were some stalls out and a few people strolling around but all in all very quiet. Beautiful Cathedral overlooking the main square...which seems to be the template for most Central American towns and cities.
    Was wandering through the square and lo and behold met Quan....El Salvador really is a small country. He was with an an El Salvadorian girl who he had appeared to be driving him around the country! Another example of the amazing El Salvadorian hospitality...she wanted to make sure he enjoyed the country and had easy travel so she drove to one town to pick him up and drive him to another! Wish I had made a friend like that!! I do also think she fancied him quite a lot tho! :) So spent a lovely afternoon wandering with them and had a beer in the afternoon sun beside the cathedral. Went back to the hostel later to find that my roommate was indeed Wei.....and that we were only people staying there! Relaxed for a while and then went back to meet Quan for a beer and a pupusa.
    Next day headed off with the two guys to check out the lake. Ended up going down a random track to explore which brought us on a lovely trail down to the lake through woods ans maize fields. Stunning views and not a person in sight apart from a very helpful, friendly farmer. Walked for a few hours and then decided we wanted to try and get to the other side of the lake which was looking impossible until we spotted a fisherman in his boat who brought us across...and tried to sell us some fish which unfortunately we couldn't buy as no bag to put it in. Kept walking and then came to a group of shacks beside the lake which were restaurants so we stopped for lunch and had one of the best fish meals ever! So fresh and from a snack in the middle of a field!. Wandered home very happy with ourselves buying some more fresh fish on the way that we cooked up a storm with that night. On the walk home I noticed a lot of the houses had a stencil in different colours on the outside wall. It had a picture of the national bird and the words..."En esta casa queremos una vida libre de violencia hasia las mujeres" ....in this house we want a life free of violence against women. Great to see this initiative but very sad that it's necessary.
    Next day went to see the waterfall outside of town...which we needed a police escort for. These boys weren't taking any chances...three heavily armed police and army guys drove us out there and walked down to the waterfall with us. Unfortunately the waterfall was dry but there's an amazing rock formation there that reminded me very much of the Giants Causeway....more a vertical giants causeway. Very interesting...especially with our machine gun toting guides :)
    Next day I decided to move on to Las Palmas which would be a stop off on the way to La Frontera and Honduras. Quan heading same way so we decided to travel together
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  • Day117

    Juayúa, El Salvador

    June 15, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: 4 Nights
    Stayed: Casa Mazeta
    Travelling with: Solo and Tom

    Beautiful trip along the coast to Sonsonate. So many stunning beaches. Easy change in Sonsonate and on to Juayua on the hottest chicken bus in the world. Mashed in beside a poor little old man who I was sweating all over. Great chats and he offered to take me out driving following day and show me the countryside. Asked if I had friends in Juayua and when I said no that I was alone, I corrected me and said I had him as he was now my friend. So nice :)
    Arrived at Casa Mazeta early evening and met the only two other guests...Erin who I had shared a dorm with in El Tunco, and Kane...both Aussies. Lovely homely hostel....just like a cosy house share. Cooked for the first time in weeks (months) and spent the evening watching movies with my housemates. Kane was planning to do the waterfall tour next day so decided to jump in with him ....despite the lingering cold.
    Set off at 8am with Kane and our guide Elmer and Billie the dog from the hostel. Picked up out second guide Jose and 2 more dogs at his house and off we went. What a wonderful day! Hiking through coffee finca first and then through stunning rain forest to the first of the 7 waterfalls I the day. Elemer was very informative about the landscape and particularly the coffee finca. He's been guiding for 12 years....despite looking like he was still 12. For the next 5 hours we walked through stunning hills and waterfalls and even got to grapple down one which was great fun. At the last one the boys made us a delicious lunch and then we headed for home. Probably one of the most enjoyable hikes of my trip so far!!
    Flaked on the couch after a little walk around town to check out Juayua. My cold definitely catching up with me. Was still on the couch when Tom arrived a few hours later. Had a little wander with him and then back to the hostel to cook and slob some more.
    Next day headed off on the chicken bus with Tom to check out more of the towns on the Ruta. Beautiful drive through the countryside, unfortunately the flowers that give this route it's name are not in bloom at the moment. It's still very beautiful but i'd say when they are in bloom it is something else. First stop was Ataco. Beautiful little town about 30 mins from Juayua. Much more touristy but like so much of El Sal there were no gringos in sight...apart from us of course. We spent the next few hours wandering around and checking out all the beautiful murals. Small cobbled streets and colourful houses abound. Had lunch in a little garden place that I think was Italian and was bizarrely playing Christmas songs in Italian...Andrea Bottelli Christmas compilation is my guess. Very funny. Bit more wandering and souvenir buying and then jumped back on the chicken bus and made our way to Apanece.
    Much smaller and less cute than Ataco but still nice. Not much to attract the tourists so it was quiet. Had a quick lap of the town and then back on the bus for home. Juayua was bustling and people set up for the weekend food festival. Back to the hostel and the evening bus deposited 3 Irish (Eoin, Majella & Eilis) to Casa Mazeta. Yay...people to watch the match with :)
    Up at 7 next morning to watch poor Ireland getting hammered by Belgium. 4 very subdued Irish on the couch by the end. Then onto the rugby...more disappointment . Had planned to move to suchitoto but really couldn't manage to drag myself away from the home comforts of Casa Mazeta so decided to stay another night. Went to check out the food festival with the Irish and Tom in the afternoon and later that night roused ourselves from our laziness and headed out with Susanna (who jointly owns the hostel) and some of her friends. Live music and good company led to a fun night and of course bitter end Roche stayed on with the two local boys when the others very sensibly went home(the Irish were hiking next day so they called it a night at a very sensible hour). Had great Spanglish chats with Cesar and his brother Diego and then they walked me back to the hostel after we had exhausted all options to find some Bachata....me of course.
    Needless to say my plan to be up and out by 8am for the long trip to Suchitoto went out the window next morning. Finally got on the road by 10....long day and 5 chicken busses ahead.
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  • Day115

    El Tunco, El Salvador

    June 13, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: two nights
    Stayed: Papaya Lodge
    Travelling with: Tom

    El Tunco is the surfing capital of El Salvador and from what I have read is one of the only stop offs most backpackers make in El Sal....much to their own loss. So I was expecting somewhere overrun with gringos
    Tom was making his way up from El Cuco so a arranged to meet in El Tunco. I had planned to try my hand again at surfing but after one look at the sea knew this wasn't going to happen. Absolutely beautiful black sand beach with wild waves....certainly not for beginners.
    Met Tom and headed straight down for a battering in the sea! It was rough and wonderful and so refreshing after my journey. Grabbed a bite and headed back to hostel for an early night as bad cold coming on.
    Next day was sick so had a quiet day split between beach and hostel. Went for a walk along the beach and came across a group of very cute young boys playing in the sand. They gave me a great show of hi jinx and acrobatics when they saw the camera come out...very entertaining. Met Wei by chance and had lunch with her and Tom. She tried to tempt me to go to Suchitoto with her next day...which would be the most sensible direction for me but will stick to my crazy plan to go north(again) and check out the Ruta de las Flores.
    Thankfully it being off season the town (and hostel) was quiet and not overrun with gringos so it was nice to just relax and nurse my cold.
    Very quiet couple of days in "the party capital of El Sal" getting sensible in my old age :)
    Was tempted to stay a third night but forced myself up and out and hit the road for Juayua.
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  • Day113

    San Salvador, El Salvador

    June 11, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: 2 nights
    Stayed:
    Travelling with: Solo

    Had reservations about going to San Sal as it doesn't have a good rep. But had to head there for camera fixing and also my friend Jane had put me in touch with a friend who lives there so figured had to check it out.
    Easy hour and half bus ride got me bus terminal occidente and plumped straight for a taxi...there are times to try and navigate the local city bus transport but decided this wasn't one of them .
    Got to hostel and after quick rest headed off in search of the camera shop. Zona Rosa (where my hostel was) is upscale SS with lots of poshish shops and restaurants and even an Irish bar. Totally safe and really quite dull. Found the camera shop and explained and the looked and said no sorry we don't repair...then his colleague had a look and laughed and said it's the filter...not the lens!! So embarrassed but also so happy...my expectations of a possible $600 for a new lens became $25 for new filter. Kicking myself for not realising and thus causing an unnecessary trip to San Sal. Note to self....learn about your bloody camera!
    Caught in massive rain on way back to hostel so arrived like drowned rat! Part of life at this time of year.
    Natalia and her boyfriend Diego picked me up a few hours later and took me out for the evening. Such a lovely couple and so generous with their time. Had some typical el salvadorian food and then for some popular el salvadorian entertainment. ...karaoke! Not my favourite pastime but great fun to watch Natalia and all her friends have a blast. What a lovely bunch of 25 year olds....I really felt old.
    Sunday spent at museum and art gallery. Tried to get to a local market but rain came down like nothing on earth so after sheltering for about 40 mins resorted to jumping jnto a very expensive taxi and to a mall to pass the afternoon.
    Monday into Centro to check out the manic mercado central and the Centro historico, including Inglesia Rosario which is a pretty ugly looking church from the outside but step into a little stained glass paradise.
    A few trials with buses getting out of the city but eventually managed to get myself very sweatily into a bus to El Tunco. San Sal exceeded albeit low expectations but happy enough to be leaving it behind and heading for the beach.
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  • Day111

    Santa Ana, El Salvador

    June 9, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: 2 nights
    Stayed: Case Verde Hostel
    Travelling with: Susan

    Up early and after a delicious brekkie at Mama's we jumped on the chicken bus back to Ahuachapan and then got a mototaxi (tuk tuk) to Santa Theresa Thermales. These are natural hot springs about 7km outside Ahuachapan where we spent a very nice and relaxing few hours soothing out weary bones in the hot water. We then got a lift back to town from the owner who was happy to meet us as his hero...one Donald Trump was apparently from Irish heritage. He was not impressed with the ferocity with which this was denied. I couldn't get over how a Latin American could support that shit but when I realised he was also a staunch Arena supporter it made a lot more sense. I was unusually reserved in my politics tho....was happy with the lift and didn't want to be ejected into the rain :)
    He dropped us to the chaotic market where the bus for Santa Ana was departing and off we went on yet another packed chicken bus. Arrived in Santa Ana in early evening and made our way to Casa Verde with the help of many friendly locals...and I bought a $3 outfit along the way.
    Casa Verde turned out to be a really lovely hostel run by a great guy called Carlos who was super hostel. He recommended we eat in a place called Simmer Down and even got one of the guys working in the hostel to drive us there. Lovely meal and then home where we met up with Carlos and some of his buddies and had a few beers with them and checked out the roof terrace. Nice view of Santa Ana and we got to experience "Il Sereno" which is basically the neighbourhood watch and consists of a guy cycling around town all night (with a massive fun of course) and blowing a whistle every few metres to let the people know I is there keeping them safe. Apparently a lot of towns have their own Il Serena.
    Next day got up early and headed off to climb Santa Ana volcano with two guys from the hostel...Wei from Singapore and Juan from NZ. Caught a bus at 7.30 to take us to this national park where we had to wait til eleven for the tour to go up. Only one tour per day as you have to have an armed police escort and I guess they not into hiking too much. As we waited we saw 9 bus loads of teenage school kids pull up and as we tried to convince ourselves that there was no way they were doing the hike, the dread did start to set in. At 11 we saw them start to gather and panic set in so we went to investigate where we were told that they were doing a different volcano (phew) BUT the only two police there were going with them so we couldn't do Santa Ana. Gutted but no amount of pleading could change it. So we hung about despondantly for a while and were about to give up when a pick-up full of shiney new police turned up and after much pleading the boss agreed to take us up. So off we went (at a sprint) with our own personal heavily armed police man...who was evidently in a hurry as we did the two hour climb in 45 mins! But oh was it so worth it!! Such amazing views and a reminder...if I needed it...of why I was travelling. Another sprint back down and the 4 of us loaded into the back of the police pickup and dropped to the next town to get the bus home. A nearly disastrous day turned into an exceptional experience.
    Nice chilled night back in Case Verde to round off a really good day.
    Up and out next morning to check out the Saturday market in Santa Ana and then pack up and go out separate ways. Susan heading on to Honduras and I making my way back to San Salvador to try and get camera fixed and then decide where next for me in El Sal. So much to see in this wonderful country that I felt I couldn't leave yet so opted to stay longer. Susan unfortunately on a tighter schedule so she had to press on.
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  • Day109

    Tacuba, El Salvador.

    June 7, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: 2 nights
    Stayed: Mama y Papa hostel
    Travelling with: Susan

    Long old days travel but also quite enjoyable. El Salvador continues to surprise and impress with its amazingly friendly and helpful people.
    We got the chicken bus from outside Tortufa Verde to San Miguel, everyone we met saying hello and smiling warmly. In San Miguel we asked about our onward bus and were immediately snatched up and hurried to the waiting bus which was about to leave...fastest transfer in history. Reaching San Salvador a few hours later we were besieged by taxi drivers the minute we left the bus but they were not aggressive and when we decided to stop for something to eat one guy led us to a table at a nearby stall and left us with a polite "if you need a taxi later, remember me"
    Lunch was our first (of what was to become many) experience of the local dish "papusa" which is corn tortilla stuffed with local (salty) cheese and beans. Some places have chicken and fish or apoya (a spinachy type green) but cheese and beans is the standard. All served with pickled cabbage and a got tomato sauce. Served piping hot straight from the griddle and eaten with your fingers.....asbestos hands definitely coming in handy here :)
    Our lunch host was a lovely lady called Patti who we (Susan) had a great chat with and we ended up spending hours there chatting and deliberating our onward destination. Finally we decided to head to Ahuachapan which involved getting to one of the other bus stations in San Sal and getting the bus from there. Taxi man had hovered all afternoon and finally thought his luck was in when Patti whipped off her apron and announced she was driving us to the other station. And so she did!!! And came in with us and made sure we got safely on to the next bus....and checked in with us on facebook later to make sure we arrived safely! Such a gem!
    We changed in Ahuachapan and made our way to Tacuba on a very packed chicken bus where we were the center of attention....they don't get any gringos up there! Got off in Tacuba and were wandering a little aimlessly when an arm came out of a doorway and pointed us in the right direction. We arrived at Mama y Papas in the early evening and after a nice chat with mama we headed off to the local papusa place (daughters sent up to the hostel to collect us in case we got lost) and then had an early night ahead of our hike in El Impossible next day.
    Up and breakfasted and on our way mashed into the front of an old pickup by 8am. Eric our driver looked about 12 but apparently had been driving in the national park for 5 years....a fact I was very glad of as we were skidding all over the mountain track in a rain storm a few hours later. He dropped us off after about 30 mins and Avil took over....not a word of English so we were really going to have to test out limited Spanish. For the next 4 hours he walked us through the park through some spectacular countryside and gave us some facinating information on the local plants and their medicinal powers....none of which I can remember now of course. Absolutely stunning scenery but one really bad moment when i took out my camera to find that the lens was smashed! Trauma! And no idea when it happened!!
    After about 4 hours we got to the coffee finca belonging to mama and papa where the pickup would meet us. As we waited there we played with the 4 young kids of the couple who live there...the fifth was in school. Beautiful, well minded kids but they really had nothing. We found out later that the couple were both 26! According to mama there is a very high birth rate among the poor....the fault of which she lays very firmly at the door of the church....which was surprising considering her home was a mini shrine to the virgin Mary.
    After a very hairy journey where I did have visions of us plunging down a ravine in the deluge we got back to mamas and spent the evening watching the rain and the ducks in the back garden. Nice chilled evening and early to bed!
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  • Day108

    El Cuco, El Salvador

    June 6, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: 2 nights
    Stayed: Tortuga Verde
    Travelling with: Susan and Andreas

    Great journey to get here!! Woke up late after the excitement of the night before and headed off in the rain to find a way to get to El Cuco. We were told we had to get a bus to San Miguel and then another from San Miguel to El Cuco. Bus to San Miguel pretty uneventful but when we got there it as pretty clear that not too many gringos passed through that bus station. We were definitely the centre of attention....but in a very warm friendly way. We hung out waiting for the bus with every movement scrutinised and giggled about. The bathroom attendant even followed me in to make sure I was ok and that i found the soap dispenser :)
    Bus eventually arrived and then the fun really began. It was an old American school bus as many of the local busses in central America are. Colloquially known as chicken busses...for obvious reasons. This one was colourfully painted and at least 100 years old. Looked amazing. The next hour and a half were a riot as every single person on the bus was watching us and laughing at every move we made. Andreas made friends with a local guy called Gustavo who took a million pics of us and got our email addresses so he could send us "news". Even the bus driver was involved as he followed all the action in his mirror and shouted out comments to all his buddies...much to the hilarity of the whole bus. Probably one of the most entertaining bus journeys of my life. Everyone in El Salvador we have met so far has been amazingly welcoming and friendly. Off to a very good start!
    The Torture Verde is a beautiful hostel/resort . Right on the beach and all laid out beautifully with cabins and restaurant/ bar among coconut and mango trees. Spent two very nice relaxing days there and i had a wee surf but finding the waves in El Sal a bit tougher than Nica.
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  • Day106

    La Union, El Salvador

    June 4, 2016 in El Salvador

    How long: 1 night
    Stayed: Portobello Hotel
    Travelling with: Susan and Andreas

    Planes, trains and automobiles!! What a journey.
    Got a collectivo from Leon to chenindenga. We had to be in Potosi to get the boat at 10.30am but when we arrived in chenindenga at 8am we were told there no collectivos going there...just the big chicken bus and that wasn't going til 9.30. So we had to get a taxi...for $40. Needless to say this did not help my mood at all.
    Arrived in potosi which is a one street shithole to find that the boat we were supposed to be travelling on was not a ferry as I had been told...but a panga...fine for short trips but this was going to be over two hours. Then we had to wait for immigration to open and process our exit and then wait for a group of 14 people to turn up....which they did 3 hours later....by which time I was no longer able to speak with rage. One more hour to process them thru immigration and finally at 2.30 we set off. Straight into a massive storm. Driving rain, thunder and lightening and driving in circles to avoid capsizing. Joy. Arrived in La Union over 3 hours later soaking wet but thankfully alive. I was expecting an admission from Susan that maybe the shuttle might have been better..
    considering the journey we had just had. But no...the mad woman was elated!! Amazing journeym..loved it! More proof she is totally mental :) Made our way to immigration and our first taste of El Salvador.
    The rain as like nothing on earth so we were like drownded rats arriving into the immigration office. But they couldn't have been nicer. I was decked out in my sexy raincoat (black bin bag) and the immigration officer was loving it. Taking pics and generally acting the maggots. He even made us coffee as we were there so long avoiding the rain and trying to work out a way to get out of there. Certainly not what you'd expect from an border immigration office. We had planned to go straight from La Union to the beach at el cuco but cos of being so late the bus was gone and no taxi would take us cos of the rain and bad roads so we were stuck in La Union...which lonely planet had written off as one to avoid.
    Susan had met a nice Chilean guy (Andreas) in potosi and on the boat (i was too cranky to talk to anyone) and he was also stuck there for the night so we teamed up and went in search of a hotel...a search made so much easier as he was our translator. Eventually found somewhere and quickly changed and went out for a much needed beer and dinner. Went to La Bahia which is basically the only place in town and this was even deserted cos of the rain. But we had the most delicious seafood meal ever!! La Bahia also the town nightclub so after dinner we popped over for one beer and a dance. Very few people there but they all having a great time so we joined in. And what a night. Great dancing and lots of $1 beers. Susan won a dancing competition with one of the local boys even tho she didn't know it was a competition ....and the prize...more beer! :) straggled home in the wee hours after a really unexpected amazing night out in La Union.
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  • Day103

    Leon, Nicaragua

    June 1, 2016 in Nicaragua

    How long: 3 night's
    Stayed: Lazybones Hostel
    Travelling with: Susan and Tom

    Sadly said goodbye to Pete in Managua and after mucho haggling with the taxi driver we agreed in a price and hit the road for Leon, stopping off enroute to pick up Toms surfboard from the hostel.
    Arrived in Leon around lunchtime and immediately went for food in a great little place called San Benito. Less than 2 dollars for a feed. Was liking Leon already.
    Spent the afternoon wandering and exploring. Leon is the revolutionary home of Nicaragua. Here was the Sandinista stronghold and saw a lot of fighting during the revolution and subsequent contra war. It's a very beautiful colonial city with the biggest cathedral in central and south America. Probably not as pretty as Granada but I think I preferred it as it has a much nicer atmosphere and much less touristy. And a lot cheaper! First day a want to a really lovely art gallery in an old colonial villa...great selection of central American art. Following day we went to the cathedral and got to walk along the roof...which was really beautiful with great views of the city. Susan and I then got a tour of revolutionary Leon from one of the old Sandinista rebels (Jaime). Spanish only so we didn't get everything but what we did understand was fascinating and he was very passionate about the history. Reagan pretty much a swear word in these parts.
    Next day was sublime to the ridiculous as Tom and I went Volcano Boarding on the Cerro Verde Volcano. 45 minute truck ride at 8am out to the volcano and then another 45 minute hike up the volcano with your board on your back. Tough but beautiful hike and the views were amazing...especially into the smoking crater. Then you get togged out in a massive denim suit. Put goggles and a scarf over your face and then sit on your board and slide down a very very steep volcano. Totally ridiculous but great fun!! I was slightly terrified as it as sooooo steep but you can break with your feet so you can control your speed. Tom of course flew down but my decent was slightly more sedate! Got to the bottom and we all opted to go again. So off we went on another 45 minute hike to do it all again!
    Back to Leon in the afternoon to meet up with Susan and wash the volcano ash off. Covered from head to toe! Time to plan the next steps so Susan and I walked to the bus station to check out the transport options. That was an experience in itself as it was totally chaotic and was part bus station part market part general madness! Great to see and we definitely in a minority(of two) as this was definitely not a gringo hangout. Got some sketchy info about buses to Potosi which would have us up at the crack of dawn and home we went to pack and enjoy our last evening with Tom. He was staying on in Nicaragua to do some more surfing and we needed to start moving north as Susan was running out of time.
    There was a little bit of dissention in the ranks that evening as I was questioning the logic of the planned route...chicken bus to chenindenga, another chicken bus to potosi, boat to la union and another bus to our destination in El Cuco. When there was a direct shuttle from Leon to El Cuco for much cheaper. But Susan was determined to get the boat so I fell into line(not gracefully)
    Had a nice last evening with Tom and got at 6 the following morning, said our goodbyes and set off on the epic journey.
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