Somoto, Nicaragua (With a baby)

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We had not planned to stop here at all but after hating Esteli plus all the hotels being full we had to find some place not too far away. At the end we were super glad that the misfortune of Esteli gave us the fortune that was Somoto.

Somoto is most famous for the nearby Somoto Canyon which was discovered I believe by Czech and Nicaraguan scientists and has only recently become a visited sight. We originally decided not to come here thinking it would be heard to reach, expensive and not possible to visit with a baby, but boy were we wrong. Not only did it take less than 1.5 hours to arrive from Esteli but we were able to visit the canyon with a baby too!

We loved Somoto from the moment we arrived. It was small, cute, and friendly. Plus, we only saw a handful of other tourists the whole time. There was a small local place that was always packed that made specialty. 

Beer on the balcony

Where to stay: We literally checked out EVERY hotel in town (to husband's chagrin, and wife's usual on a mission to find the cheapest and the best). As often happens we settled on the first hotel we visited (after visiting 20 more haha and returning to the first). Take a left out of the bus station and it is directly on the left. It was 400 cordobas per night that we negotiated down to 700 cordobas for two nights in a country extra hard and not so the norm to negotiate this made bargainer wife happy and merited a short eye roll from annoyed after walking 10 km to find a hotel only to return to the original one husband. In Nicaragua we learned most hotels would rather lose $15 per night instead of $2 by a simple negotiation. Anyway, the room we ended up with was HUGE with a private bathroom and even a nice sitting are on the second floor. It was brand new.

We did some early research on this website and found out that the easy tour with a 6 km walk would be possible for us. When we did the tour not only was it beautiful, not only was it only a 6 km walk which is better with the baby but our guide used blow up rafts that are provided and literally pulled us through the water and we just walked the difficult parts so that we were actually floating through the canyon. I think it was $30 or $40 for the two of us but it was definitely, definitely worth it, amazing and awesome to do for kids or with babies! Leila loved it too.

Verdict: Don't miss Somoto and bring the little ones there. Read about Nicaragua with kids here.

Have you been to Nicaragua? What was your favorite place? We hope to go back again soon so would love any new places we may have missed! :)

Traveling During Covid-19

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 Empty airports, face masks, and social distancing

Very few people are traveling now. There’s a world-wide pandemic of a fast spreading corona virus. But greater than the virus itself is the new world-wide fear. Thanks to an unlimited access to media including TV, social media, etc the fear has spread everywhere, as if the actual fear was the virus itself.

Our arrival to Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport we were in shock at how empty the airport was compared to what we expected. There were no lines and hardly a soul walking around. It was almost like we stepped into some dystopian film. Our flights were less empty though probably at 30% capacity. We first flew to Amsterdam an 8-hour flight approximately, an 8-hour layover there, and then a second approximately 9-hour flight to Dar Es Salaam. On our first flight things were a little lax. Masks were not really enforced, and food service was limited but we got two hot meals and snacks. No alcohol unfortunately. On our second flight we were given a bag of awful sugary snacks and Diet Coke and masks were enforced.

At Atlanta Airport, most people and employees wore masks, though not everyone did. In Amsterdam on the other hand, all passengers wore masks, and signs everywhere told us to wear masks, but almost zero employees wore masks which was odd to us. Luckily, in our lounge where we spent our 8 hours most people didn’t wear masks and we felt comfortable. We get to have unlimited lounge passes thanks to my Chase Sapphire Reserve Card’s Priority Pass, which I fortunately learned about when we spend $200 for a 24 hour lounge pass when we came a day early for our flight one day accidentally and a guy gave us information on a whole new world especially for people who fly super often with cheapo tickets and many long layovers. So, I realize our view isn’t the same as everyone’s when it comes to mask freedom. We respect the rules and wear our masks when required and if masks aren’t required AND most people aren’t wearing a mask we won’t.

Once we arrived in Tanzania the Covid-19 requirements were so strange and almost felt like a show. Enforced 1.5 meter social distancing, employees checking that everyone had their masks securely, mandatory usage of hand sanitizer, and temperature checking. The show part was that there were a large handful of maybe employees filming and taking pictures of this. Totally seemed like a photo op to show how well Tanzania is responding to the Corona Virus. But as soon as we passed the doors to the arrival hall we did not see a single mask! 

Tanzania is one of the few, maybe the only country that never closed its borders, businesses, or prevent tourists from entering. In banks and public institutions masks are suggested and there’s a temperature check at the front door and hand sanitizing station but other than the occasional person you will not see anyone with aa mask or social distancing or distancing at all haha. So as each month brought our dreams of an annual summer backpacking adventure to an end, some vigorous research later we found a super cheap flight to a country we always hoped to visit and one that would allow us to do so during a time when so few feel safe to venture past their front door.


11 reasons to travel Ethiopia

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Ethiopia is on one hand one of the best countries to travel and on the other hand at least for those who want to get off the beaten path one of the more difficult ones.

First why you would want to visit Ethiopia:

1)      It is SUPER cheap. 30-50 cents for a large beer even in the fancy places, 15-30 cents for the most amazing coffee prepared right in front of you, less than a dollar for an amazing meal, shared taxis across town less than 10 cents and hotel rooms for less than $10 and all of this without another tourist in sight.

2)      The food- not only is it super cheap but it is so amazing, varied and delicious. Forgot about the daily rice and beans of Central and South America the Ethiopian cuisine for the price is on par with our favorite foods of South East Asia and India. There is so much variety from vegetarians to meat lovers you can find something to excite your palate. Each meal you can try something different and never get bored. Also, we loved feeling like we were getting so much healthy nutrition with each meal as there was such a variety of vegetables and legumes. When you want meat it is taken off the goat, lamb or chicken in the entry of the restaurant (I guess to prove its freshness) and cooked directly in front of you or in some instances put in a stone bowl on the table with herbs and spices. 

3)      The coffee. I do not care where you've had coffee in the world, but you haven't experienced coffee until you've had true Ethiopian coffee. It is the best coffee in the world that we've tried from the famous Sumatran coffee, to the Honduran coffee, Vietnamese coffee, Lebanese, Turkish, Italian, nothing compares. The green coffee bean is roasted fresh each time they make a cup of coffee. It's roasted in a special pan until the beans become perfectly roasted with a coat of oil. They are then hand ground and then prepared with a special coffee urn and hot water. Oh and the macchiatos- the super strong coffee with a touch of milk are also perfection. And all this at a few pennies. Also, each time the traditional coffee is made incense is burned at the same time and popcorn popped fresh because popcorn and coffee honestly two of my favorite things why not enjoy them together? 

4)      Beer- Do you like beer? We LOVE beer. The beer here is not only mega cheap from 15 to 50 cents even in a fancy place but decent too and with a range of selection from their quite delicious lager to a nice dark beer. Also, people are always out drinking with their families, little ones, and friends so we enjoyed being able to go out for a beer feeling comfortable and not getting the “’Oh, you bad parents’ stink eye”. And unlike in many Asian countries the women drank as much as men often going out just women which was a bonus for me.

5) The fresh juice and smoothies! Fruits are plentiful here and for less than 50 cents you can get a huge glass of fresh juice. Papaya, mango, avocado and more! 

6)      Wherever we go as obvious foreigners there are people who try to rip us off, charge us a bit more and as super frugal backpackers our main goal is to avoid it at all costs. In Ethiopia NO ONE (except one random lady at a coffee stand who charged us 15 cents instead of 7 cents) tried to rip us off. Hotels, transportation, restaurants, shops event though we did not speak the language or look like a local we were always charged the same as locals and no one even assumed it would be otherwise. Now we visited the southern less touristy part of the country so we will have to return and explore the touristy north to see if the same holds true there.

7)      The history! Ethiopia has such a unique history with being the cradle of civilization, the connection between the Arab and African world, and having such a tolerance and mix of religions and peoples. This can all be seen and easily discovered while exploring this unique country.

8)      The people- friendly, lively, and interesting. We were never hassled or hustled. When we went out we were not given so much attention as in Asia. People pretty much ignored us or were just super friendly. We were left at peace in public places without the usual gawkers, not that we have a problem with that it was just a nice change especially when we were in places that obviously weren't used to tourists we were still treated equally. They are also so beautiful and unique in appearance with subtle but amazing differences between regions.

9)      Unique culture: As the only African country not colonized by European powers (minus a brief 5-year stint with Italy- thanks for the Macchiatos?) their culture remains their own. The languages, the writing, even the way of thought is more Ethiopian than influenced by the outside world.

10)      Safety- probably one of the safest country in Africa.

11)  Transportation- Cheap, easy, and effective.

Though for the most part Ethiopia is one of the best places to visit there are some things making it difficult, especially for budget travelers. As off the beaten track travelers there is not much to see or do without a guide or a lot of money and the tourist infrastructure just isn't there. Also, tourist sites are few and crazy expensive considering the prices of the county. As a side note, we didn't visit the more touristy north so there it may be a bit different.

We do highly recommend visiting Ethiopia and think no one would be diappointed!