As I sat in the tightly packed minivan, watching it chug desperately up the hill under the weight of its passengers, limbs flailing out of windows, legs propped up on the dashboard, squashed next to the driver picking his teeth as he drove, having had an average of 4 hours of sleep in five consecutive nights, hungover, sweating, aching… I couldn’t help but think about how lucky and grateful I was.
I was in Panama, having just left some beautiful people in the even more beautiful Bocas del Toro–the epitome of white sandy beaches, crystal blue seas, palm trees and fresh coconuts. Between fresh happy hour sushi, creamy pesto pasta, and the constant parade of ladies nights, I ate and drank well. The only thing to complain about was the one ATM on the island always ran out of money, sandflies, the sun was too hot, the trampoline wasn’t bouncy enough, and the wifi wouldn’t load videos in HD #stupidtripadvisorreviews.
Panama was the first country this trip I hadn’t treaded on before, and like most other Central American countries, it offered the full flavour of landscapes on its menu. I sampled the classic umbrellas-perched-in-your-cocktails beach holiday in Bocas. I tasted the mountains and fresh air up in the treetops of Lost & Found. A delicious treasure hunt awaits you there; a sweaty and satisfying hike through bearded trees and winding streams holding precious clues to guide you to your next destination. The main course was the full, bursting city experience that is Panama City. Most of our time was spent in the beautiful old colonial quarters of Casco Viejo, it’s weathered low-rise buildings and cobblestoned streets in stark contrast to the collection of grey, rusty skyscrapers and highways stacked just across the bay.
While technically I had stepped foot in Honduras before 2 years ago, it was merely a necessity passing through between El Salvador and Nicaragua. Like many before us, we had decided to skip it having heard tall tales about the dangers lurking in its corners. This time round, I was determined to wade through its waters. And like Panama, I found Honduras to be a highly underrated piece amongst the Central American puzzle. Copan Ruinas is a tiny town up in the hills, where cows and horses wander around lazily in paddocks, completely peaceful and idyllic. It’s main attraction are these fantastic Mayan ruins, tucked away behind a gas station just out of town. Kat and I literally had the whole place to ourselves, a spread of ancient temples and preserved heiryoglyphics just for our viewing pleasure. We climbed to the top of the highest pyramid and read on stones thousands of years old. Afterwards, we ventured to La Esperanza, a town so off the beaten track, it had no hostels and required taking three different local buses to get there. The journey was nothing but smooth though because there were people willing to help us every step of the way. Of course other people may have had vastly different experiences, but for us, the monsters in the closet were just silhouettes of jacket sleeves. We made our way there for a friend’s house party, adorned with fairy lights, costumes, beer pong, good people, and a kickass dance floor. As it turns out, house parties look the same all over the world.