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Cactusflavour

San Andrés Semetabaj, Guatemala

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 16 Mar, 2010 22:18:25

Some days ago I got this mail from a friend back home (Berit) that I should go and visit an orphanage drifted by two Norwegian women in San Andrés Semetabaj. I made contact and I was on my way, according to Lonely Planet it was supposed to be an easy, getting myself to Chimaltenango and then follow the Interamericana the entire well. Turned out that Lonely Planet made a mistake (found out on bus number two), and I was on another Chicken-bus-blues rally. “El route”: Antigua-Chimaltenago, Chimaltenango - Interamericana junction, Interamericana junction – Patzun, Patzun – Gobinez, Gobinez - San Andrés Semetabaj

It was interesting enough; I even got to spend some time in Patzun (Fredrikstads friendship city). But from Patzun the only mean of transport was a truck. I met a family and joined them on the trip onwards, great fun, and great views! I even think the mother tried to pair me up with one of the daughters; however I pretended to didn’t understand the Spanish – sometimes a white lie is allowed :)

In San Andrés it met Unn-Lisbeth who took me to the orphanage. And after a while some of the kids were climbing on me, they were just soooo sweet, and I could easily spend longer time there. Later in the evening I also met Else, and they told me that they have 14 kids living there, all with different stories, stories that have now turned into happier tales. I also got to learn that they are looking for a partner organization that could run a “youth”-home, at the moment, they didn’t know what to do when the kids reached the teens. So if you by any chance know someone who is within volunteering and are interested in starting a long-term project, let Unn-Lisbet and Else know. Anyway you should check out their web-pages: www.guatemala.no and www.casahogarfeliz.no



Volcán de Pacaya, Guatemala

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 16 Mar, 2010 22:08:47

When you were younger, were you one of these kids that were amazingly fascinated by lava? I was, and according to most people I meet, I still am! In the beautiful city of Antigua, Guatemala you can by paying 14 USD join a trip up on what is claimed to be the most active volcano in the world!

For those that are curious, this kind of trip would not have been allowed in the States, maybe in Europe, after some kind of liability-contract. But it felt secure enough, 300 people (if not more?) do this trip daily, and I consulted the national travel information office in Antigua.

After a gently 3km climb we reached the “point of no security”. This lava flow happened three years ago, and was the starting point of touristic climbs of the volcano, because in the same eruption lava now started to flow gently out from some cracks in the lower east slope of the mountain.

Still as a friendly reminder of the fact that you are climbing a volcano, each minute or so you’ll her an explosion from the peak, and you’ll see rocks that is thrown 30m up in the air!

Then up at the lava site (in a safe distance from the crater, no rocks thin the head), you can actually see the REAL lava seeping out. In fact there is not only lava, there is heat as well. Because of that; those facebook profile-pictures were tried taken in a rush. If you have ever worked at a pizzaplace, the heat is similar to the heat experienced when the oven is wide-open (at least experienced from the Vertshuset pizza oven). The favourite activity among those 150+ people on the site was to grill marshmallows and to poke the lava with your newly bought stick. You could walk around and do whatever; I enjoyed just being so close to one of mother earths mysteries, but also I was amazed by the fact that none got injured (the terrain was rough and the lava obviously hot)

Tikal, Guatemala

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 06 Mar, 2010 17:01:18

As you remember I was unlucky and couldn´t make it to Machu Picchu when I was in Peru. BUT luckily I was able to visit the other grand ruins of my trip: that be Tikal.

The site itself was amazing, enourmous temples scattered around. But what made it magic was the fact that the site was set deep inside of the jungle. So we heard Howler Monkeys, and spotted many Spider Monkeys.

What destroyed the feeling a bit a was my overprice unknowledgable guide, 15 people that "gustan" A LOT to take photos of EVERYTHING, and 4 Israelis in flip-flops (I mean, who walks in the jungle and climbs on ruins in flip-flops)

Still when the group and I walked eachothers way at 10 o´clock - I was able to let my inner Indiana Jones come alive and I had great fun!

Utila, Bay Islands, Honduras

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 03 Mar, 2010 01:42:30
Utila was one of my two goals for the 3 week Central American leg (The other one – being Tikal, Guatemala). I really wanted to come here for the scuba-diving, which is world class! On Utila you are living on a small Caribbean island, with Bob Marley music and a Caribbean-English (really cool, and really difficult to understand) – speaking population. The days are lazy and mostly devoted to scuba-diving, everyone scubadives here (well obviously apart those that work with other businesses). But scuba-diving is the “reason to be” for Utila.


I decided on taking my PADI Advanced Open Water Certificate here, it’s the certificate after the ordinary Open Water Diver (which I took in Turkey August’09). And yesterday I graduated (Hurray!) Now can go down to 30 meters and I can learn more about the specialities of Scuba Diving.

Despite the fact that I scubadived (7times in total: night dive, deep dive, current dive, navigational dive, peak performace buoyancy dive and 2 fun dives) for eduacational purposes, I still got to see a lot of the Caribbean under water! The visibility was good, and there were a lot of interesting reef formations. But surpricingly not that many fishes (compared to Turkey and Brazil) yet still a fair share of interesing colorful stuff.

The most interesting, and the fish that makes every scubadiver I talk with jealus was the whale shark we spotted today! I have seriously snorkeled 4 meters from a whale shark! Between the two dives (the so-called surface-intervall), the captain got a report that a whale shark was spotted som miles away. We rushed to the site, and snorkeled into the water. The whaleshark swam just below us! Amazing! The biggest fish in the sea!

(All the photos are from the internet, but really when you scuba-dive you do get as close to the fishes as in the photos, and you do see fishes on every dive! So go Scuba-Dive)


Esteli, Nicaragua –> La Ceiba, Honduras

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 03 Mar, 2010 01:12:08

I was determinded that this leg I wanted to do in one day! Mostly to “save” Honduras for a later occation, and the fact that driving busses is not allwas fun.

Due to strange(timewise, who wants to arrive Tegucigalpa at 11pm?) (and expencive) international buss-services I decided to do the trip across the border myself, starting at 5am.

This post might not be the most interesting one, but it shows you the backbone of central america – Namely, the chicken busses:

(Internet-photo)

They are old american schoolbusses (for children) therefore there’s not much space between each seat (in fact A LOT smaller than Ryanair). And when you are maybe a head taller than the average centralamerican, and the busses fill up with the amount of people in a half filled ryanair cabin (90). The personal space is limited to say it at least

I had the pleasure of riding 5 (Esteli – Ocotal, Ocotal – Los Manos (aka the border), Los Manos – El Paradisio, El Paradisio – Danli, Danli –Tegucigalpa)of these busses on my way from Esteli to Tegucigalpa. All with Reggaeton music! One with a crazy driver!

Yet I made it to La Ceiba (18 h in total) in one day – shaken and Central-Americanized.

Somoto Canyon, Nicaragua

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 03 Mar, 2010 00:47:49

In the travellers bible, the Lonely Planet I found something cool: “Quetzaltrekkers” Its an organization build up by volunteering travellers, and all the profit (I was told over 50% of the tour price) goes to a project called “Los Tios”- a school that helps street kids in Leon. When the company offers amazing (trekking) tours with camping under the stars, public transportation and local food, could you think of a reason to not go with them?

I couldn’t find any, and I decided to go on to a three day trip to the Somoto Canyon!

On route to the Canyon, the guides (Conor (Ireland) and Amy (England)) took us to a tour to a cigar factory as well. And it was interesting, I cannot see to much more, it was just interesting to see the big big process of cigarmaking. Acutually over 100 people worked on that factory, and they all looked pretty happy (Allthough maybe not in the moment when a gringo turn up with a camera)


(the man rolls, the woman fineadjust and puts on the high-quality outmost layor. There were allways a man AND a woman for this task)



After some chicken busses and a bit of trekking we reached the canyon and the “miraflor” (A platform 100m above the canyon – on the edge) where we slept under the stars, and under the noise of my loud sleeping bag (Quetzaltrekker’s, so no worries if you are going to host me in the future)


(Imagine early-bird sunrise from this spot! Unfortunately I overslept it)

Then there was the canyon! We used 6 hours to swim and walk through it. Mostly swimming actually! Sometimes the walls reach 120m to each side, with only a 7m gap between and an emeral green stream/river you will understand the amazingness! In addition there was opportunities for jumping (I love to jump of cliffs – to water). I aimed for the perfect facebook profile picture, but I was unlucky.


(Kelsey (USA), Valerie (Belgium), Amy (England) and me)


At the end of the canyon we were asked to take a shortcup UP the 100meter wall, climbing! A strange thing, I enjoy jumping off places which Amy couldn’t stand at all, but I actully really disliked climbing up the wall, which Amy quite liked. Hurray for diverse fears!

The night under the stars were again perfect, homemade torillas the following morning made it even better

Thanks to Conor and Amy and the Quetzaltrekkers!





León, Nicaragua

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 26 Feb, 2010 05:01:59

I really loved León! It was a nice cultural city (much like Granada). But with a high focus on the environment as well, in addition I met some cool people! Maybe I was just lucky with the hostel? Who knows? At least I have never had som much organic food nor contributed to reforesteation for two days before.

Have you ever heard of volcano-boarding? Probably not! The idea is that you climb the volcano (in this case – Cerro Negro) And you slide down on a board/sledge. I have done sledgeing (=aking) in downhillskiing slopes and in various hills around Torsnes, so I was sort of familiar with the concept, but it was really something different to sledge down on ash/rocks/gravel on a volcano (and when you are supposed to go down 300 m you do sledge for a bit longer than the 5 seconds of “blaaveislia”). It was good fun, and I got high speed (in fact I was the one that made it farthest away at the botton – a bit proud yes), maybe around 60km/h and I was among the dirtiest, ash and rocks everywhere.

Because of the nature of flying gravel and ash I didnt dare taking photos during and post-sledgeing

If you are going to León, make sure you do the volcanoboarding!

(on the way up)

(The standard jumping photo - with a bad photographer. From left: Lian (Canada), Helene (Norway), Karen (Holland) and me (Norway))

This video gives you the exact idea of what we did:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4zYYMXjsXw

Granada, Nicaragua

UpdatesPosted by Karl Kristian Larsen 21 Feb, 2010 03:50:27

Granada, Nicaragua

Not to be mistaken by the Spanish city in Andalusia. This Nicaraguan city was the first one settled the Spaniards 1524 AD – And besides, since Granada has survived a lot of earthquakes and volcano eruptions you will find a lovely colonial city. I spent two nights here, and when not viewing old buildings I did a volcano trip and a canopy tour.

The Volcano-tour started with a visit to the “interesting-if-you-have-space-in-your-backpack-marked” in Masaya. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of space in my backpack, so I couldn’t buy too much of the handicrafts. Then we went up to the volcano, actually on the crater edge. Could you be able to stand on the crater edge of an active volcano in Europe/USA? – Most likely not! The national-park leaflet claimed it to be “adventure” tourism and advised you to hide under the car in case of (rock) eruptions. The only eruptions we got to see were gas-eruptions. Basically the smokes you see in the pictures are some kind of sulphur-gas. At the edge you felt an urge to cough. But no more problems than that, and when the leaflet told you not to stay at the edge for more than 20 minutes you don’t do so. The Volcano trip continued with a close-by bat-cave, some bats were seen in the 150m tunnel, but I have had bat-encounters (literally – collisions) before (in Ecuador), so no goose bumps (worth mentioning that my current on-the-road lecture is “Dracula”)

(on the way up - someone seeing the resemblance of a Windows XP desktop?)

Then they next day: A canopy tour! If you are unfamiliar with the concept of canopy; it’s a zip line (actually several) in the trees. You strap yourself up in the zip line and fly through the forest. The Mombacho canopy “garden” had 16 platforms, making my flying distance more than 2km. As recommended at the hostel I did the stunts as well. A rather strange experience to be hanging and flying upside down 10 meters above the ground.

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