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Wednesday, January 07, 2004

In a crowded internet cafe in San Salvador; it's the nicest part of the city I've found. I was never likely to fall in love with the crowded, polluted and dangerous capital of El Salvador but the place and I got off on the wrong foot. Immediately on arriving I went for a walk to get some money and to locate the park I planned to run round. The bank wouldn't take my card and the park is closed for two months. Things have been a little better since, I eat a very tasty lunch for 50 cents, but I'm still keen to leave. Tomorrow I will spent 12 hours on a coach that takes me to Managua, by contrast the crowded and polluted capital of Nicaragua, but things should improve after that.

Had a very sober New Year in Quetzaltenango. Guatemala's second city is not a party town, and apart from the inevitable fireworks there wasn't too much happening in the streets. The day before I climbed another volcano, Volcan Saint Anna, from the peak of which I reckon was possibly the best view I've ever seen. Below us another active volcano, the name of which escapes me right now, was giving off small eruptions every 15 minutes, and we sat and watched the plumes of smoke raise into the sky. To our left was the extraordinary sight of a whole volcanic chain stretching into the distance. The effect was if anything highlighted by the covering of mist around us, meaning that we were only granted fleeting glimpses of all this.

After new year headed to Coban in northern Guatemala. Did the tourist things up there, met some nice people, and came back again.

It's getting dark outside and I have at least 50 yards to walk back to my hotel, if reports are to be believed about this city this is taking my life into my own hands. Might grab a cab.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

In Granada, Nicaragua. The couple of days I've been here have been interesting.

Took a 12 hour coach journey from San Salvador to the Nicaraguan capital, Managua. Next to me sat a Nicaraguan who claimed he had just been robbed of 2000 dollars while in Guatemala. Apparently his mum owes a hotel in San Juan del Sur, a place I was intending to go. Thus a deal was struck in which I lent him 15 dollars to pay the various entry taxes that the journey required, and I am to stay with his mum for free. I was convinced the whole journey that he was leading up to some sort of bigger sting, the conversation kept reminding me of an incident that once happened in a certain North West African country, but if he was it hasn't come to pass yet. I won't know for a week or so if I'm going to see my 15 dollars again.

In Granada I'm staying in a near empty hostel, but the few occupants and staff that are there are very odd indeed. Some of the strangeness you would need to see to appreciate, but there is certainly circumstatial evidence that it is operating as a brothel. The room opposite us seems to have one permanant guest and a rotating list of other occupants, and on returning last night my room mate and I were asked by a member of staff if we minded if a local girl also slept in our dorm. Of course not we responded, that's the very nature of dorms. However we failed to pick up on the subtext, which was that he was going to go with her to the room first. We sat and watched a film, until he returned half an hour later. Throughout this time the hotel also seemed to be operating as a makeshift gambling den. My bed is possibly the most uncomfortable I've ever slept on, but I'm about to spend my third night on it unable to leave the place because it's so entertaining.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

So I guess it was a scam. Phoned the number I was given, and it did connect through to the named hotel, but they had never head of the guy. As expected really. I was unconvinced when he said he was phoning his mum from the Nicaraguan border, he didn't put any money in the phone for a start, and it didn't look to me as if he had given the $15 to immigration. A very disappointing scam though, didn't involve drugs or any threat of violence, just a simple "cheque's in the post" style lie.

I've just arrived in Costa Rica, quitting Nicaragua ahead of schedule. Never really liked the cut of Nicaragua's gib, and things just never worked out there. There was persistent cloud cover on the volcanos I intended to climb and hurrican Mitch's younger brother hit the beach when I was there. It's also the only place that running has drawn anything but the odd cheer or utter indifference from the locals. It Nicaragua they either stared at me like I'd grown another head, laughed or attemped to get my attention; all of which encouraged me to run twice a day to prove I didn't mind.

I've slipped back into my old habit of staying in the absolute cheapest accomodation. The reasoning is that you spend very little time there, and most of it is asleep, but it has the inevitable consequence that I've spent nights in some real dives. The worst was probably the room with en-suite that cost less than 2 quid. The bathroom consisted of a broken toilet and shower that stopped working after the first time I used it. There was no sink; not sure how I was supposed to brush my teeth or shave but I improvised. The walls were painted green so at night even with the dim energy saving light on you couldn't see; there was no towel or toilet paper and the room wasn't cleaned while I was there. Resolved to bite the bullet and pay enough to avoid this type of squalour from now on.

I have a week to play in Costa Rica but haven't quite worked out how to spent it yet, but the national parks appear to be the places to go.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Oh dear, seem to have fallen behind rather on the blog. Since I last wrote I've "done" Costa Rica and Seattle, have flown half way round the world to find myself in Auckland and I haven't been robbed. Feeling rather tired: I left Seattle monday Morning and have only just arrived on Wednesday morning. The International Date Line played its part here, leading to the interesting problem of what to put in the training dairy for Tuesday 27th January. For me the day never happened.

Still haven't quite adjusted to the new world after spending a prolonged period in Latin America. It all seems a bit easy now, with no need to converse in Spanish all day and surrounded by the familiar trapings of western life.

Costa Rica flicked my switch. Spent time in a couple of national parks: Rincon de la Vieja and Monteverde. The country is flooded with national parks, around which a whole tourism industry has been developed. As a result I feared that I'd be fighting for space with truckloads of tour groups on short breaks from the States, but in fact it never felt crowded. In both cases the parks contained interesting and varied wildlife and were situated within spectacular mountain scenary. Unlike its immediate neighbour (see below) it is also a runner friendly country, kind of. I asked where the locals went running in Liberia, a modest sized town to the north. I was directed to the 'plaza', a block of around 200m circumfirence that did indeed accomodate a large local jogging contingent. Well, when in Rome....I finally called it a day after 38 laps. Overall a really enjoyed the country and it let me finish my Latin American adventure on a high.

Though a little colder, Seattle was great too. I think I got a rather favourable bias of the city as I was so warmly accommodated by friends Dave and Sarah in their lakeside apartment (this cannot be taken too literally, Lake Washington virtually laps against their front door). I saw a surprisingly good live show from Travis, practised falling off a snowboard and generally had a great time hanging out (in Starbucks of course).

Just a short update as I'm suffering right now. Tomorrow I fly to Wellington to check up on Donald and his training regime.
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