Monday, November 30, 2009

El Salvador -> Honduras -> Nicaragua bus itinerary just about to begin

Trying to get frst to Honduras. On the weekend the border was closed due to Presidential elections and buses were turned around from the border. Now the border should be open and I´m waiting a bus in San Salvador in El Salvador to get to Tegucicalpa in Honduras. I´ll try to just quickly pass these two countries El Salvador and Honduras and change the buses and get to the Nicaragua. These long bus drives, big cities and bus terminals are really boring. Not the highlights of the trip :) I hope to be in Nicaragua by tomorrow. Hoping fast and safe trip...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Volcanos at Antigua

 Sunset in Flores, Guatemala

I stayed one night in beautiful small island (La Flores) in Lago de Peten in Guatemala. Then I had a long 10 hour traverse to another side of the Guatemala. I was not having any christmas party feeling at the bus, but I know it´s just christmas party time at it hottest in Finland. Therefore my greetings to all who have had fun parties and probably some kind of hangover next day.

My christmas greetings together with Guatemalan snowman

Now I´m at Antigua, a small pictoresque town near the capital Guatemala City. Antigua is located next to three volcanos Agua (Water), Fuego (Fire) and Acatenango. There are 63 volcanos in Guatemala and three of them are active: Fuego, Pacaya and Santiaguito.

Volcanos Fuego (on the left), Acatenango (middle) and Agua (right)

Today I climbed (or actually walked) to active Volcano Pacaya to see the lava and feel the heat. It was amazing 2 hours climb from 1900 meters up to 2400 meters. Pacaya is 2552 meters high, but it was not safe to climb up to crater. At 2400 meters we saw just a few meters away lava flowing and heat burning our feet. Wooden sticks started to burn if they were sticked to lava. Heat was nearly unbearable.

Volcan Pacaya in action

Lava flowing towards just few meters away

Antigua is nice town and the area pretty much cooler than in caribbean side, because of the elevation. Nights feels even a bit cold up here, when I have already used to tropical climate in Mexico and Belize. Anyway I´m going to stay in Pacific side for a while and continue tomorrow to El Salvador.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Once in a lifetime experience: ATM cave

It has been unbelievable gorgeous in Belize. I traveled to Western Belize to town called San Ignacio, which has some caving experiences to offer. The most famous one is ATM (Actun Tunichil Muknal), which was amazing experience. Wow!!! First we hiked 45 minutes in the jungle and rivers to reach the entrance into the cave.

On the way Carlos, our guide was telling about plants and trees, how they can be used for medicine as learned already by Mayans. We ate termites, they tasted like carrots, but full of proteine. There were couple of Americans and couple of Canadians in the same group. Eventually we got to the gave, we took all of our clothes of except short trousers and swam into the cave.

Then we negotiated ourselves through tiny holes upper and further to the cave when finally after couple of hours entered into huge cathedral, where there were archeologically remarkable artifacts of Maya and bones and skulls.

This cave is protected and only limited number of visitors is permitted to enter the cave with certified guide.

Still at the same day my trip continued to Guatemala and after border crossing I headed to Tikal, the most famous Mayan ruins in Guatemala. Temples were pretty much similar than in Chichen Itza, but the environment was totally different. Tikal is in the middle of jungle, whereas Chichen Itza is not. Chichen Itza is archeologically more interesting, but Tikal for it`s location. The photo has been taken on top of Temple IV and you can see Temples III, II and I.

As a summary for Belize I would say it is a country, which everybody needs to experience. It is great and awesome! People are friendly, they are really investing in eco-tourism and country has something to offer for everybody. It is a paradise for divers, sailers, snorklers, kitesurfers and windsurfers. It has beautiful islands and beaches. Maya ruins and caves are offering once in a lifetime experiences. I just love Belize from now on...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


Today I rent a kayak and paddled around the north part of the Caye Caulker island. There were sunshine, heavy showers and strong wind. The north island is pretty much in natural state and there is no habitation. I found some nice small sand beaches, where to stop over.

Tomorrow heading again to inland towards San Ignacio town, which is near Guatemala border. After Belize I will be crossing to Guatemala...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Caye Caulker

This is tropical paradise! Caye Caulker island is a sand bar with no cars on the white sand streets. I got a room from Tropical Paradise Hotel, it has even Wi-Fi and good views to Caribbean palm beach.

I'm going to hang-out here couple of days just relaxing and loading my photos to Picasaweb. You can do kite surfing, snorkeling, scuba diving, surfing, sailing, kayaking, swimming, etc... pretty much everything you can do in the water in addition of laying on the beach and taking sun. There are plenty of small hotels, hostels, lodges, guest houses and restaurants, which offer the services for mainly North American tourists.

Let the sun shine!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Crocodiles, monkeys, maya ruins & circus

The big surprise was that circus has been coming to town! It was Russian circus, which I could believed to see in Helsinki, but not in Orange Walk town in Belize. However it's not my thing and I just skip it. Instead I was having a Lamanai tour today...


Boat trip to Lamanai Maya ruins were amazing. Carlos was a really experienced guide. He could see and point out the animals from the boat so far away. On the way to ruins we saw Crocodiles, Spider Monkeys, which we feed with the bananas. They were coming all the way down to the boat.

We saw some giant orange Iguanas, and lots of different birds, like black vultures and Jesus Christ birds. There are four different species of vultures in Belize and black ones are most common. King vulture is rare and is as big as condor. Jesus Christ female bird is going from male to male and giving eggs to each of the male to nest and raise baby birds.

Local fisherman on the river had bunch of fishes and there were even a rifle on his boat. Carlos was explaining that hunting is allowed as well and the locals take the guns with them when doing fishing and hunting.

On the site saw some howler monkeys, which were howling like a wolfs. Lamatai Maya site is quite remarkable, only 2% of it's buildings has been restored. There are over 1000 buildings and the area is large, where they have been living. There were couple of nicely restored temples, mask temple and jaguar temple. the highest temple reached 33m high.

When coming back to lodge there were this 4 meter long crocodile on the shore just 10 meters away the terrace of the lodge and the local guy was feeding it.

So I had to do it myself as well...

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Orange walk, Belize

Welcome to Belize. Walk slower, take your time, smile, be friendly. Don't worry, be happy. I found Belize a great place to visit. People are friendly, athmosphere is laid-back, great places to see, weather is perfect, food is excellent... Orange walk is a small town and I will be doing tomorrow Lamanai boat trip to Maya ruins in the jungle. Orange walk name comes from the fact that people were walking through orange plants when going to the center of town.

I was surprised for another thing as well. English is the official language of Belize and people do speak fluent American english in addition of spanish. I think I'll spend here a little bit more time than was planning to.

There are Amish settlements around Orange walk and you can see lots of them here. Tomorrow when doing the boat trip we are passing some Amish settlements along the river.

I'm staying at Riverside Lamanai Retreat. I can recommend this place for everybody, it has only three rooms, but what a location!!! Friendly stuff and great service. It looks like this:

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Chichen Itza

Maya ruins were impressive, but still I was more amazed Macchu Picchu years ago. Anyhow last evening there were light show over the ruins and I managed to get few photos, even I have only my small pocket size Canon Ixus and 10 cm tripod with me. This morning I entered the ruins again, when there were not many people. The very same "building" in daylight:

All tourist buses are coming after 10AM, but I was staying in a Villas Archeologicas just few minutes by walking from the ruins. I recommend :) There were even pool at the front of my room...

Now I'm at Valladolid and waiting the bus on the way to Belize.

As a summary Mexico has a very good bus network, you can get anywhere very cheap. Cancun is like Canary islands, spoiled in 70's when all the hotels were built there. It is not beautiful city at all. Visit Isla Mujeres instead.

At first night on the island I realized I forgot my earplugs at home. Hopefully I'm able to find and buy them on the way. The noise level is something else I have used to in my apartment. On the way to Maya ruins I met a couple from the USA, Alaska. Their family name was Vainio, which was funny coincidence, cause their grandfathers have been coming from Finland. They gave me some good hints for the rest of the trip.

On Chichen Itza I met Swiss guy, who has been sailing now over 1 year in Mediterranean, Atlantic and in Caribbean, and is planning now to continue to Cuba and then via the Panama channel to Pacific Ocean and Polynesia. Great stories and interesting people...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Turtles, beaches, sunshine, ice cream

Rent a bike and did a visit to the southern tip of the island (which is by the way the most eastern point of whole Mexico). Didn't see Cuba over the Caribbean sea, though. On the way went to see some turtles (green or white turtles) on the incubation farm. The smallest ones were 10 days old and the biggest ones 25 years, weighing about 120 kg.

Sun has been shining and temperature has been above the comfort zone occasionally. Therefore I had to :) go to swim on Playa de la Norte. White nice sand beaches from which to choose one...

Check today's views from here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


6 hours flight from Chicago to Cancun, Mexico is over. Flight was not non-stop, but I had to change the plane in Mexico City. Tropical weather was hitting my face when stepping out from the plane at Cancun airport. I headed straight to Isla Mujeres island, 15 minutes by ferry from Puerto Juarez. Found a decent hostel and planning to stay in the island two nights, before heading to Chichen Itza maya ruins. It was already dark when I get to the islandm so it's nice to see tomorrow on the sunlight what kind of place this is. Need to dig out suncream and sunglasses from the backbag and head to the beach. I wonder how cold water there are in Caribbean sea...

Sunday, November 15, 2009


Sears tower was renovated from the previous visit 10 years ago. This June on the skydeck level, they have been building glass "boxes", where visitors can go to see how much space there are under your feet, if you dare to look at down to the street. These glass boxes are over 400m above the street level and you can get quite impressive photos (I would say quite airy).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

3rd time

I have been in Latin America and in Andes 2 times before.

It was 11th of September in 2001. We had had a nice 2 weeks hiking around Peru's highest mountains, Cordillera Huayhuash was the name of the trek. We had just returned back to Huaraz and today there were a plan to go to see Pastoruri glacier. When I step into the bus at around 9:00 AM, I see from the TV, that aeroplane is just crashing into the tower in New York. Terrorist attack is ongoing.

It was 26th of December in 2004. I was climbing on the slopes of Aconcagua. Christmas Eve were spent in Base Camp, Plaza Argentina, at 4200 m. On 26th we are climbing to camp I (5100 m) to leave some gear and come back to Base Camp to rest and sleep. I'm climbing 4 hours to reach the camp I and I'll leave some food, climbing boots, my ice axe, crampons, small and big bag with clothes in the camp and return in two hours back to Plaza Argentina. It is not earlier than on 6th of January 2005, when I have returned back to Finland, I heard there has been a huge earthquake in Indian Ocean on 26th of December resulting huge tsunami, which has killed lots of people. It killed nearly 230 000 people and it caused the entire planet to vibrate as much as 1 cm!

Now I'm going there 3rd time. I know a Finnish saying, which says that if something has happened two times, there will be third time as well. I really do hope, this saying is not going to be true this time. But if it turns to happen, then I need to consider to visit Latin America and Andes never again...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


American Indians had a close relationship with the nature. I'll try to experience the same and hopefully will have good memories of Central- and South-America nature and people. I'll try to avoid big metropolis and cities and concentrate more on small picturesque villages with mountain sceneries and white sand beaches next to royal blue sea.

But at the same time I'll be travelling to see again how beautiful place Finland is to live. Hopefully I'll understand it once again. Sometimes you just need to travel far away to see very near. Things, which I consider as self-evident, will be definitely re-evaluated and the real value of those things will be enlightened...

One of the wisdoms from the American Indians, how we try to escape the nature and move away from it:

"Tipi is a good to live; always clean, warm on winter, cool on summer, easy to move. White man builds big houses, like a cave, they are expensive, not lighted by sunlight, difficult to move and white man is always sick."

Indian chief - Flying Hawk (1852-1931)

Monday, November 9, 2009

Tampere City Hall

On a weekend I had a chance to visit City Hall of Tampere. I was invited as a guest to the event arranged by Tampere city, where all those persons were awarded, who did "Pirkan kierros" this year. "Pirkan kierros" is a series of excercise events (4 different long distance events nearby Tampere : Skiing, cycling, rowing and jogging) and everybody who finishes all those events during one year has achieved the title "The finisher of circuit of Pirkka 2009".

Vice mayor of Tampere "Perttu Pesä" had a welcoming words and we all had a chance to see beautiful and renovated city hall and feel it's athmosphere. There were even some snack and wine served during the evening.

At the very same evening I had farewell parties at my home and we had even more wine and some snacks during the evenning and night. At some point of time there were mysterious relaxing exercise ongoing, how to relax with your hands up. You can try it as well....

5 days and counting. There are still something to do before the trip...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Endemic species in Caribbean Islands

Ground was white when I was taking my bicycle from the storage in the morning. Slowly winter is taking a firm grip of autumn and inevitable turning the scenery into snowland!!! Cold wind was blowing from the north when I cycled towards the hospital with woollen hat and gloves to warm my head and hands.

When waiting my turn for the doctor I happened to read magazine "Suomen Luonto" (Finnish Nature), which had plenty of interesting articles. There were one article about new endemic species, which were named after national heroic epic of Finland "Kalevala". I was amazed, when I realized there are some species in Caribbean Islands, which are named after Kalevala. Trinidad has one endemic butterfly species, whose latin name is "Archaeoprepona demophoon ilmatar" and Lesser Antilles has endemic fern called "Danaea kalevala". Kalevala epic has been inspirer to biologists in addition of J.R. Tolkien, who read Kalevala even in original language, finnish!

Oh, I nearly forgot. The results of the health check was OK. There were even 3 doctors (2 of them just graduated and learning), who made the examination. One of them even said to me, "You have a good heart" :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


I have been sitting on front of my PC whole day writing a story of kayak trip from the last summer. I made the longest and the most demanding kayak trip so far by paddling from Stockholm to Turku in 14 days. Alltogether 391 kilometers on the Baltic sea and crossing of Åland sea between Finland and Sweden. It was successful and rewarding trip, but next summer I'm planning to do even more demanding trip. My aim is to paddle both Swedish and Finnish coastline in a row, about 3600 kilometers during 3 months. I'll be starting the trip from the border between Sweden and Norway in the beginning of May and ending the paddling on Virolahti on Russian border on August.

Today I have been finalising the booklet for Annapurna circuit hike, which I'm planning to lead just before the kayak trip. If I can get minimum the group of 5 people for the 3 weeks' trek, then we'll head to Nepal on beginning of April to experience spring in Himalayas with brilliant Rhododendron forests and gigantic peaks of seven and eightthousanders. This would be my fourth time in Nepal, and third time in Annapurna, which is definitely my favourite one of Nepal tea-house treks.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Medical check-up

It was time to check my physical condition again (fortunately not the mental :)). Blood test, ultrasound and X-rays in a hospital are familiar to me as an yearly check-up procedure in recent years. The feedback will be given by my doctor on Thursday, when I need to go back to hospital to meet him for a medical check-up and analysis of the test results.

Meanwhile arrangements for the trip are fluently proceeding. No problemos, nada !

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Voluntary work "Talkoot"

Yesterday the kayaking club had a gathering for combined work and enjoyment. There were over 20 club members eagerly gathering together already at 9:00 AM in the saturday morning.

We headed to the island owned by the club and the purpose of the day was to start the construction of the "Laavu", which is kind of a shelter with a sloped roof. There will be room for 4 people to sleep.

We cut the trees and started to build a base for the laavu. The actual logs, from which the laavu will be built, will be cut in near future and will be floated to the island still before the lake will get frozen. During the winter logs are carved and lifted to build a walls and floor. The roof will be built on spring and laavu should be ready by the next summer.

Unfortunately I'm not able to participate next voluntary work events, and next time when I have the chance to kayak to our island, laavu will be ready. Then I can enjoy the view from laavu to the lake and watch the beautiful sunsets over the Näsijärvi lake.