Arriving in Panama I reached my 50th country. While I certainly don't intend to stop now, as we farewell Central America I thought this would be a good time to reflect on a few things we've learnt over the last 3 months journeying through this beautiful part of the world.
- Central American kids are so chilled out
They never seem to cry on buses, complain when they are waiting in the hot sun and always seem to be willing to help out (even if it is cos they want a tip sometimes!)
- Ive never eaten so much fried chicken in my life
Pollo Campero and its copycats proliferate more than Dunken Doughnuts in New York City!
- Its really not that scary!
Central American horror stories that give mums nightmares abound, but bad news sells and we have met fewer people who have had bad things happen to them than the scaremongering leads you to believe. People, in general, are good; the majority of the locals we have met are friendly and more than willing to help us out. Be smart about it and you are unlikely to meet any problems
- Coca Cola and Pepsi Co have a lot to be held accountable for
Litter proliferates along most main roads and at the beaches (the exception being in Costa Rica). Everywhere we look plastic bottles and bags lay to waste. The fact that soft drinks in Central America have more sugar in them than in other countries is surely contributing to the traditionally thin peoples becoming 'gordo' (although the fried chicken doesn't help either!). Tiendas (shops) across the countries are painted the multinational corporations colours but what legacy are they really leaving?
- It's possible to get sick of mangos
Who'dve thought it - but at $1 for a bag of 6 they soon lose their novelty. Choconanas on the other hand, could definitely still devour those!
- Can i please have an orange juice
Outside of Mexico you'll be hard pressed to find a freshly squeezed, non pasturised, orange juice. For countries with ideal citrus growing conditions it baffles me.
- Everybody loves a hamburger
With western food's flashy marketing and increasing incomes people are moving away from traditional food staples. Although, when faced with rice and beans 3 times a day for 2 weeks it starting looking pretty damn good to us too.
In Mexico a banana is a platano, a plantain is a plantain, but when you cross into Guatemala a plantain is a platano and a banana is a banano. Kind of important as one you can eat raw and the other one may make you really sick!
- Wanna watch TV? Oh, you must want CSI
Apart from the dreary reality of CNN or BBC it seems the only thing Central Americans think us gringos like to watch, as its the only other choice in english, is CSI
- The wheels on the bus go round and round and round and round
Sometimes its better not to look at the tire tread, and the number of people you can fit on public transport is not defined by the number of seats in the vehice - silly westeners!
Ok, so outside of Cuba mojitos arent actually that easy to find, or that cheap to buy, but every country in Central America has its own brand of rum and the aged varieties at prices which mean we will need a detox when we get home (and have very expensive taste in future)
- This region is extraordinarily blessed
Lush tropical rainforests, turquoise blue waters, an abundance of wildlife and friendly people. Sure some places have their problems but so do western countries. I would return in a heartbeat, and encourage everyone else to come here
- Street food won't make you sick
Well, it might. For a few days. But if you're smart and eat where the locals eat you'll get to sample some amazing local delacacies and be nice to your wallet at the same time. So, pull up a stool, lean on the wall and tantalise your tastebuds
Buses run on island time (unless you're late), the scary man behind you in the alley is really a gentleman making sure you get home safe and the friendly stranger is a 'jinetaro' whose in it for the money you are going to make him. Nothing may be as it seems but opening yourself up to it and relaxing is what makes the journey memorable and gives you those great 'post travel' stories.
At first it is all infuriating but you soon get drawn into the laid back pace of life and I wonder how we will deal with transitioning back into the hustle and bustle of the western world. Still, a couple of months before we have to think about that...
Adios Central America - Muchas Gracias por todos!
Next stop: Colombia