SPOTLIGHT: BACKPACKING IN CENTRAL AMERICA
This week’s spotlight doesn’t have much to do with Portland, but we wanted to do a brief recap of our visit to Central America for those that might have ever considered a trip down south and need a little more inspiration. If you are not interested (and that’s perfectly okay!), please skip down to a listing of things to do this weekend, of which there are plenty!
Central America countries visited: El Salvador, Honduras & Nicaragua.
We chose this region because we’ve been to Guatemala, Belize and southern Mexico’s Tabasco, Chiapas and Yucatan Peninsula—and had some great adventures and positive experiences. We also had better than basic Spanish language skills, airline miles saved up to fly us into San Salvador for cheap, and the costs of traveling within the countries is relatively inexpensive.
Budget: $50 per day for two. This was to cover food, lodging, transportation and activities. In the end, we went over our budget, spending around $60 per day for the both of us.
$35 Zipline tour per person
$7 Twenty-four hour bike rental
$6 Thirty-five minute massage though the Seeing Hands organization
$15 Entrance fee per person for Copan Mayan Ruins
$2 Admission to first run movie “Knight & Day” at local multiplex
$2 Mexican torta
$175 Two-day scuba diving certification course
$250 Three-day open water diving certification course (with 3 bonus fun dives)
$10-$22 Private room in a hotel or hostel with our own bathroom
$.50-$1 Rate for hourly internet access
$4 Plate of chicken, gallo pinto, salad, plantains and tortilla from street BBQ
$1-$2 Bottle of beer
$1 Transportation on the chicken bus between cities
$2-$4 Taxi cab ride in-town
$7 Admission per person to Lancetilla Botanical Gardens, the second largest tropical botanical garden in the world
$.50 Bottle of Coke
$1 Fresh sliced pineapple, a whole papaya, or fresh fruit licuados
$6 Guide and armed escort for a hike up Volcan Santa Ana
$20 Cost per person for guided kayak trip through mangrove rivers
There’s plenty to see and do in Central America: climbing volcanoes, scuba diving, surfing, hiking…there’s also plenty of history to learn about: Maya archaeological sites, banana production in Honduras, the coffee industry, civil wars and each country’s internal struggles. Many of the activities we did were free and low-cost such as walking around the towns, strolling through the public markets, trying out new foods, visiting churches, people watching in Parque Central and relaxing on the beach while being amazed by surfers.
The region is fascinating and still off the radar for many tourists. Before leaving, friends and family had concerns for our well-being due to warnings of danger and the memory of wars. We too had our doubts about our safety. But what we encountered were some incredible people, friendly, hard-working and proud of their respective countries.
It is a hard life there; people are poor, and many are without steady employment, and so their livelihood depends on what they are able to sell on the streets. In the countryside, we couldn’t count the number of times we’d come across old men and women hauling firewood on their backs or carrying jugs of water on their head to their homes. Riding the chicken buses and witnessing every day scenes of people making their living really put a perspective on our own lives.
Ultimately, the real value from our Central America travels isn’t the money we saved to travel on the cheap. Instead, the value is measured on a personal and interpersonal level. It is the gratitude for what we have here in the US, as well as the awe and appreciation of the human spirit. Our fondest memories are not of the places we went to, they are about the people we met with the stories told, embarrassed laughs, and the experiences shared. This is why we love to travel. Whether it be Central America, Europe or part of the US, we have a wanderlust about the world near and far and are thrilled for it.
“Travel is more than the seeing of sights; it is a change that goes on, deep and permanent, in the ideas of living.” – Miriam Beard
WEEKEND ON THE CHEAP:
– Gardenpalooza, calling all gardeners September 9th – 12th at Cornell Farm with free demonstrations, discussions and discounts, see web site for schedule.
– Volunteer Expo 2010 this Friday at Pioneer Courthouse Square, 11:30am – 1:30pm. Meet with over 100 non-profits to learn about volunteer opportunities and collect stamps to redeem a free scoop of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.
– 2nd Annual Sandy Oktober Festival this Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Sandy. There will be music, dancing, food, car show, beer and more.
– Vancouver Sausage Fest this Friday, Saturday and Sunday with music, carnival rides and food. Admission is $2 or $1 with a non-perishable food donation.
– 35th Annual Harvest Bazaar this Saturday and Sunday at the Elsie Stuhr Center with a bunch of items for sale, barbecue, pancake feed, music, raffle and more.
– West Linn Arts Festival this weekend at Willamette Park in West Linn. Features 85 artists, music, food and silent auction. Admission is free.
– 17th Annual Oregon Small Business Fair this Saturday from 8:30am – 4:30pm at the Oregon Convention Center. Free admission.
– Macy’s 5th Annual Spelling Bee, 2:00pm at the Washington Square Mall location, all kids 8-10 are invited to participate.
– 6th Annual Widmer Brothers Oktoberfest, starts at 3:00pm. Free admission, but bring cash for the beer and food.
– Belmont Street Fair this Sunday from 10:00am – 5:00pm with craft booths, free music, free shuttle and more.