COTTONTAILS AND CUPCAKES

The Land of Moomins.

by cottontailsandcupcakes

A quick 2.5 hour ferry trip and over to Helsinki we went. Given what everyone has said about the err. expensive nature of Scandinavia we got on the tram and first stop, Lidl. We filled up my case with breakfast items and snacky nibbles. Then I left Rafe with a coffee in the cafe and went shopping. My aim, Scandinavian Christmas decorations and all things Moomin. I found lots of decorations then found a moomin tea caddy and cookie cutter. Job done. Then back on the tram to our hostel and called it a day. The hostel had more of a family vibe than party town. Woop. There’s always the one though that insists on talking really loud at 12am.

We got up early and headed out the following day. At 8.30am it was still quite dark out. We got the ferry across to Suomenlinna Sea Fortress, an island 15 minutes out from Helsinki. We didn’t realise the Finnish were late risers and most of the museums were shut over the winter. We strolled around for an hour or two but it was baltic. Rafe got to play with the cannons for a while though.

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We headed back into the Centrum and went to Stockmanns, the Finnish equivalent of John Lewis. I picked up some more Moomin goodies, including a big Moomin print bath towel for Squirtle when he arrives. Then I needed to feed Rafe (as usual) so we went for a traditional Finnish lunch, Pizza Hut. Turns out that Finnish cuisine isn’t for us. The whole organic 3 leaves and a piece of raw fish just doesn’t do it for us. We stuck with what we knew.

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Back on the tram for more exploring, we went to have a look at the Lutheran Cathedral and Russian Orthodox Cathedral. They stick out quite prominently from the Helsinki cityscape. I managed to also find myself buying some wooden toys and a puzzle, and an advent calender, and a load of Finnish chocolate. I may in fact have to wear all the clothes I brought with me on the trip to fit the shopping in the carry on luggage.

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We decided against eating out again for dinner, we had a kitchen at the hostel so cooked Bratwurst and Potato Salad and gorged on chocolate. It’s more or less dark by 4pm in Helsinki and it really throws your day out. You start winding down at 2pm and want to get into bed at 4.30pm.

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Our last day today in Helsinki, we slept in, had croissants then a little explore around a market before heading to the airport. I managed to fit everything in my case somehow and it closed. I only had to wear one outfit too (well two cardigans but still). 

I am currently somewhere in the air between Finland and the UK. The plane has wifi, how fancy. I don’t miss much when I’m travelling apart from my bed and apparently the bump wants custard really bad.

Elk Soup and Wild Animal Pasties – Tallinn

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We’ve spent the last few days exploring Tallinn in Estonia. It’s backpacker and stag do paradise here but very few here at the moment. Great location for a cheap winter city break with no crowds.

After an awful flight, nothing on EasyJets part mind (shocker.), turns out being hot and tired and nearly 6 months pregnant makes you faint whilst hurtling down the runway at Gatwick mid take off.

We landed in Tallin and given its economy we took a taxi to our hotel. €8 is definitely worth 15 minutes of luxury, what a treat. We checked in to our room and went to bed. After our nap we went exploring.

It’s definitely what you’d call baltic weather. Five layers later we braved it, there was still snow on the ground from a few days prior. We went up to the old town and headed to the town hall. We had a look around the Christmas Market (bog standard european Christmas market) then went to a medieval style tavern for dinner. No lights, no cutlery, just wild animal pasties and elk soup. It was very touristy but good fun. Cheap too for the novelty. We did a bit of aimless wandering, grabbed some cheese pastries for the following days breakfast and headed back.

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The following day we went on the wander again. Headed up Toompea Hill to the lookout point. Strolled along the old cobbled steets and had pancakes for lunch. We then took a tour of the Bastion Tunnels under the old town. They go on for miles but most of which are inaccessible yet. We did a tour of the renovated section. It’s mad to think Tallinns homeless still live in some of these tunnels on the other side of the town.
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We had another look at the old town , found the Kalev chocolate shop near our hotel then decided on our dinner options. We went for dumplings in a studenty-cafe-diner type place. I’m not sure if they’re particularly Estonian but I’m not interested in the national dish of pickled herring.

Chocolate overdose and bed ready for the ferry to Helsinki that was today.
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Honduran Highlands.

by cottontailsandcupcakes

The last 3 nights of trip we headed inland to the Honduran Highlands and the Lake Yojoa area. After Roatan we needed something good again as we were left with a bit of a crappy feeling about Honduras. Well D+D brewery in the Highlands did just that. We had an amazing 3 days. D+D is a microbrewery, restaurant and lodge. Good beer, good food and loads to do in the area.

Our first trip was river tubing down to the lake. A tropical storm had passed through so we’d had alot of rain and the river was freezing cold. 12 of us and 2 guides got in our tubes and off we went. I’d never done anything like that before in my life. It was so much fun, well, apart from the part where I got trapped underneath a felled tree in the water and my rubber ring. It was a ‘life flashed before my eyes’ moment. Fortunately I’m here to tell the tale and no repatriation necessary.

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(Thankyou to the girl who sent me this from her go pro!)

The following day we headed to Pulhapanzak Falls. After getting on the wrong bus we eventually got there. We had a look at the falls then went in search of a guide. We did the trail up into the waterfall, it was amazing. We were stood near the top and right behind it. At some points you couldn’t even open your eyes.  It was just a guide, Rafe and I. You just can’t do stuff like this in the UK. You’d have the full safety gear, hard hat and they would have built a walkway. We then were able to cliff jump into the smaller pools.

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Full of beans we thought what shall we do now. Zipline. We then did the canopy zipline which took us right over the top of the waterfall. Thanks to the guide for managing not dropping my phone in the waterfall and getting lots of photos for us.

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Our last water based activity of the day was a kayak to the lake. We initially kayaked for 30 minutes in the wrong direction but eventually found the lake. It was really eerie being there as the sun was dipping. Lots of local people fishing in the lake, families of 7 on a rowing boat designed for two.

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..and that was it. The end of our trip. It took us 30+ hours to get home from San Pedro Sula, with two stops in the USA. It was like traveling in the stone ages with United Airlines.

It’s funny though. You have the most amazing trip, see things that most may never see, then as soon as you get back it’s back to the same crap that made you so eager to leave in the first place. A one way ticket next time I think.

See you Roatan. You miserable island.

by cottontailsandcupcakes

So we decided to leave Roatan a day early and head for the hills instead. Turns out that Roatan is a very unhappy island, everyone (aside from a limited few) are miserable. People working at the hotels, restaurants, supermarkets, the airports, you name it and they’re miserable. It put a real dampener on our time on Roatan.

We loved the beaches and relaxing but the food was poor and expensive for something not that enjoyable. It also cost a fortune just to get the water taxi anywhere. It was more expensive then Australia and that’s saying something.

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We changed our flight and took the tiny tin birdy back to San Pedro Sula and got picked up to go to Lake Yojoa, around an hour and a half out of SPS. Our view of Honduras was really tainted by Roatan but this place is different. The same vibe as Guatemala. The locals say ‘Buenas’ as you walk along and actuallly smile and give you the time of day when your Spanish is terrible.

We’re staying at a craft brewery near the lake. Rafe’s in his element testing all the ales brewed on site. We managed to go for a walk around a coffee plantation today before the rain set in. It’s tropical here. It is bucketing it down. Not even like Wales bucketing down. We’re sat outside under a hut eating our dinner, of actual good fresh food, we may need a kayak to get back to our room.

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We’re hoping to go river tubing, waterfall hiking and rowing on the lake over the next few days. Then the long slog home on Tuesday.

Postcard Beach.

by cottontailsandcupcakes

Today we took the water taxi to West Bay beach on Roatan. It’s your typical Carribean beach, white sand and clear waters. We found a shaded spot under a palm tree and spent most of the day
in the sea.

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The Land of the Monster Mosquitoes

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We’ve basically spent the first 3 days on Roatan doing nothing. Well apart from sitting on the beach and swimming in the sea.

Despite being part of a developing country Roatan is very expensive. It is definitely geared for tourists, and not backpackers, the carribean cruise sort. One meal here costs the same as 3 in Antigua, Guatemala.

We are in the last week of our trip now, a few days left on Roatan and then a few days in the Honduran Highlands before we come home. I could stay away alot longer maybe not on Roatan as I’d be poor and dehydrated. It’s definitely a tropical climate here. It’s 7pm and I’m still sweating.

The mosquitos here are like monsters. I react to bites too so they end up at around a two inch diameter. Not cool. The insects are really loud too, the grass hoppers actually woke me up last night, not to mention when a mango decides to fall off a tree and onto your cabana roof.

Tomorrow we are going to get the water taxi to the postcard beach and hopefully snorkel the reef providing the jelly fish keep to themselves.

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You know you’re going to one of the world’s most dangerous cities when..

by cottontailsandcupcakes

After Grandma Elenas breakfast of french toast, fruit and cake we headed to the Casasola bus station in Copan. Advertising themselves as a 2nd class coach is a bit much, it is another condemned school bus and we had 4 hours on it. Yay for us. We were just about ready to head off when the bus conductor pulls his gun out and stashes it in the cubby at the front. Let’s hope he wouldn’t be needing it eh? But seen as San Pedro Sula is about the 3rd most dangerous city in the world you can’t be sure. It was meant to be the direct express bus but it stopped ay every single village between Copan and San Pedro. God knows what the non express does then.

Eventually we got to San Pedro Station. Intact and with our luggage. Winning again. We then did the scary part of the cross city taxi. The drivers are scary enough never mind the amount of firearms shops. Considering San Pedro Airport is an international one, it was dire. There was one cafe airside, to the point where we went through security once then went back to landside to eat and back through security again.

We boarded our 3pm flight to Roatan. It wad the smallest plane I’d ever been on. It was a 19 seat propeller plane.

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An hour later we were at our cabana in half moon bay.

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Night night world.

Adios Antigua. Hola Copan.

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We’ve had a bit of a whirl wind three days so I haven’t had time to do a post. On Saturday we were in Antigua, Guatemala. Today we are on Roatan, one of the bay islands off the coast of Honduras.

Saturday we visited the market in Antigua, it was a maze of everything you could possibly imagine. We bought a hammock chair for £9, bargain. We also didn’t get pick pocketed, winner. We stopped for a drink, by drink, I mean the boys kept it classy and had 4 beers each before midday.

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We then made a trip to the supermarket to buy bus picnic food for our bus to Honduras the following day. A piece of information that wasn’t vital for you to have but I felt you needed to know. This van was parked up outside the supermarket which made me laugh.

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We did a walk around the streets of Antigua in the afternoon, theres ruins and churches on every corner. Then still keeping it classy we shared a take out pizza in Central Park.

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Child labour is big in Antigua. We went out in the evening to a bar to watch a gig and there was a vast amount of shoe shine boys and cigarette sellers. It was 10pm and at that time 4 year old kids should be no where but tucked up in bed. It’s so sad to see. Even little girls who could barely talk were running up to us in the street with necklaces.

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After few to many Vodka y Pinos at a Guatemalan lock in later, we retired to bed. Ready for our 6am bus to Copan Ruinas in Honduras. We had an hour layover in Guatemala City. In bus stations in Wales the signs say, no rollerskating, no smoking, dont feed the pigeons. In Guatemala they say, no guns. We’re sad not to have had more time in Antigua, it’s such a nice town if you can ignore the drugs scene. Where else can you buy wacky backy with your necklaces, spanish lessons and tacos?

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Sunday consisted of a 6 hour bus ride. It was a 1st class coach thank god. It was soul destroying. We did the border crossing quickly though. The scenery in southern Guatemala and into Honduras is amazing. It doesn’t even look real.

We arrived in Copan and took a tuk tuk to Casa Dona Elena. We have a habit of picking old peoples guest houses but it was lovely. She didn’t speak any English and our Spanish is poor but we got everything sorted. She is our Honduran Granny. The view from our room was amazing.

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We were cream crackered but ploughed on to explore Copan Ruinas. It is well worth the $15 entry fee. They are so well maintained and alot of work has been done there. It was Sunday afternoon but there was hardly anyone there. Lots of macaws there too. Who’s a pretty boy?

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We had a mega early night ready for another 5am start today. More on that in the next post.

Did you get the memo?

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We’ve left our little beloved Lake Atitlan abode and have moved on to Antigua Guatemala.

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We took the lancha to Panajachel this morning and the boy who was acting as ‘bowman’ was only about 12. It was the first time this week that we got a reasonable fare on the boat. It’s funny how it takes a child to give you near enough honesty. We then waited at the bus stop for a bus to Solola. Instead of a typical bus turning up, a pick up truck turned up, all the Guatemalans at the bus stop piled on, so we followed suit and got on to. The pick up truck took us as far as Solola where we changed to a ‘Chicken’ bus to Los Encuentros. It was market day in Solola so the bus was packed full. Seats designed for two had families of 5 on them.

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They are not called chicken buses because there are chickens on them, it is purely because of the volume of people. They should be called sardine buses. I finally managed to get a photo of the buses. Old USA school buses thay have been condemned but are perfectly safe for developing countries.

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We changed again at Chimaltenango before reaching Antigua. Antigua is an old colonial town that used to be Guatemala’s capital but it got wiped out by an earthquake so the capital moved to Guatemala City. It is full of ruins on every corner but the streets are still old cobbled streets and the buildings are still traditional.

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Antigua seems to be a really trendy place. The girls here are all wearing makeup and jeans. Though it is definitely a ‘tourist’ town. Street vendors everywhere and even McDonald’s and Subway have moved in. The McDonald’s is in the most impressive old colonial building you’ve ever seen. Haters gonna hate but we needed food and fast today. Guatemalan Maybe Time (GMT) just wasn’t cutting it today.

We then met up with our friend from Flores and her friend and got aquainted with the nightlife. I didn’t get the memo but it is a party town. 10Q drinks (55p) and happy hour all day. Ridiculous. Our friends hostel is party central and really loud, we’re staying at Grandma’s place around the corner and it’s peaceful bliss. I’m passed hostelling now.

Travellers flu and Lake Atitlan

by cottontailsandcupcakes

Air Con induced cold and sore throat  a.k.a travellers flu. Why does aircon give you such a stinking chest and cold. 8 hours on the linea dorada bus and I feel like I’ve swallowed twenty razor blades and my nose secretions are no one’s business.

Yesterday we had a mega lazy day. We had a little canon balling session in the lake in the morning. Rafe was practicising his diving for the 2016 olympics.

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We then walked to Santa Cruz and went for lunch, did a bit of shopping in the village then walked back. It’s a 30 minute walk each way so I don’t feel so bad for other wise doing sod all most of the day. We’ve made friends with the neighbours felines too.

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We were going to climb Volcan San Pedro today but the travellers flu continues and we were in no fit state for a 5hr hike. It’s a good job we didn’t anyway as a cloud has been sat at the summit all day long. I’ve actually felt cold today for the first time in two weeks. It’s overcast and a bit drizzly.

Instead we just bimbled to San Pedro by Lancha and had some lunch, got lost and did a bit of shopping. We have a full on kitchen so we have been buying breakfast and supper foods in to make ourselves then having lunches out. Seems as it goes dark at 18.30 and the boats stop about 17.00 anyway. The rest of the day we’ve just spent grazing on homemade cakes from San Pedro and drinking hot drinks.

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Tomorrow we are going to head to the tourist magnet of chi chi market. Knowing me I probably won’t buy anything as I’m really awful at haggling.

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