Entries in central america (3)

Tuesday
Mar292016

Sophie Marriott - Central America Ethical Adventure Trail

Having never been to Central America before, Frontier's Ethical Adventure Trail in the region was the perfect opportunity for Sophie to experience whole new cultures, food and landscapes for 10 whole weeks!

1) Why did you choose to go on the trail?

Central America was always a place I had an interest in, the culture, language and scenery were so different to England. It was somewhere I had never been before and Frontier offered the chance to do an adventure trail there so it was perfect!

2) What kind of work and activities did you do during your time on the trail?

The trail was jam-packed with activities everyday ranging from sight seeing, exploring new cultures by getting to know the locals and trying amazing food. We also did a week teaching at a Red Cross Foundation in Honduras, it was exhausting but rewarding as the teenagers we taught knew very little English but were able to hold a conversation with us by the end. There was also the animal conservation project in Costa Rica, which was amazing! We saw so many diverse animals on the surveys including turtles, snakes, monkeys and literally hundreds of birds!

3) How did the culture and people differ to home, and what were the locals like?

The people were so laid back and extremely friendly. I was always comfortable, using my best Spanish (which has improved greatly since travelling!), to ask locals directions or prices etc. They were always willing to help and sometimes even knew a little English which was great for a group of tourists who didn’t know much Spanish at all! The culture is so diverse in Central America too; every country had unique aspects which made the trip all the more exciting. Expect to see lots of colours, dancing and amazing street food!

4) What was the accommodation like throughout your journey?

For the most part we were staying in hostels. They were all well equipped with kitchens and bunk beds; occasionally a bar or even a swimming pool! It was nice staying in hostels and sharing rooms with other backpackers because you get to know them which made you feel comfortable and safe.

5) What were the staff and other trail volunteers like?

There were 4 other volunteers in my trail group and we all got along really well. Everyone was so friendly and easygoing. As we were all from different parts of the UK and around the world it was great getting to know about them and their life at home. The trail leader and staff on the project were brilliant; they gave us independence to head out on our own or choose which activities to do whilst also looking after us and making sure the trip was as enjoyable as possible.

6) What was your most amazing moment or your best memory?

I couldn’t possibly pick one memory that was amazing as the entire trip was unforgettable! Although, one moment which sticks out for me was in Guatemala. We had just spent 2 hours climbing to the top of Volcano Pacaya in Antigua and after roasting marshmallows on hot lava rocks and riding a horse up particularly steep parts we arrived at the top of a very high, very steep hill consisting entirely of volcanic ash and small rocks. Our guide proceeded to explain to us we had to “ski” down it! Following his demonstration, we ran/slid/fell down this mountain getting dust and stones absolutely everywhere, resulting in us all being covered from head to toe in black ash! Now it doesn’t sound particularly fun, but it was one of the highlights of the trip for me.

7) Do you feel the work you were doing on your project placement was worthwhile?

Definitely. We did 2 beach cleans which were extremely satisfying as we could see an instant difference. It was crazy how much litter we managed to collect in such a small area. We were also given presentations at the beginning of the project telling us exactly what we would be doing during our stay on the project and how it was going to help in the future.

8) What sort of adventure activities did you get up to?

I’ve lost track of all the adventures we went on during the trail! Some stand out memories include climbing up the tallest Mayan temple in Tikal, Flores at 4am to watch the amazing sunrise, Semuc Champey which included caving by candle light, tubing and jumping off waterfalls, bridges and rope swings, getting our Open Water Diving PADI’s in Utila, Honduras and finally volcano boarding in Nicaragua! Leon is the only place in the world where you can volcano board so I would absolutely recommend it, it’s so much fun too!

9) What were you hoping to learn from this experience, and have you achieved those goals?

I wanted to challenge myself by travelling independently without my parents to become more responsible and being able to look after myself, make decisions and face challenges. I also learnt a bit of Spanish too which I’m positive will come in useful in the future.

10) Any tips and advice you might like to pass on to future trail volunteers?

Make the most of each place you visit, if you’re unsure whether to spend money on an activity, definitely do it because it’s a once in a lifetime experience that you’ll probably never get to do anywhere else. Make sure you chat with the locals as much as possible as they are such interesting people and have really fascinating stories to tell, and they are so friendly!

11) What do you have planned next?

I am planning to go on the South East Asia Trial that Frontier offer as well. I am so excited to experience completely different cultures and lifestyles compared to Central America!

12) Anything else you would like to add?

I would highly recommend this trail – it is not somewhere you’d instantly think to travel to but it was absolutely worth it. I had the best time in the world, met some lifelong friends and made memories that I will never forget!

By Sophie Marriott - Ethical Adventure Trail Volunteer

Find out more about Central America Ethical Adventure Trail. 

Frontier runs conservationdevelopmentteaching and adventure travel projects in over 50 countries worldwide - so join us and explore the world!

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Feb042015

A Day in the Life of a central america volunteer

It's hard to sum up an average day on the Central America Trail. Sometimes we may be having a long bus day, filled with chats, music, snacks and  scenery. Other days like today, we may be waking up on the Caribbean island of Utila to pancakes and a morning dip in the sea, followed by snorkelling off the boat whilst Amy and Reuben do their first Open Water Dive, indulging in the hostel's infamous chicken wing night and singing ballads under the stars at the end of the dock.

Last Friday was an equally enjoyable but a different day altogether. We were living in our homestays in La Ceiba and volunteering there for a week. Every morning we went to the high school and taught English to two different classes. That morning, a television crew arrived and filmed interviews with all of the volunteers. The translating kept me on my toes and come lunchtime there was great hilarity as we watched ourselves live on the news!

Our second stop each morning was at the town's community centre. Here we taught all ages and walks of life, from a 12 year old boy to a sweet shop owner, a judo teacher and engineers. They were great fun and hard to leave. After a quick lunch at home (and the viewing of our TV debut) it was time to head upstairs onto the roof terrace for the Spanish lessons we had arranged. Everyone made great progress during the week, whether it was with the basics or the dreaded subjunctive!

That evening, after the mandatory cuddles with the household puppy, Kelly and I went to do 'a big shop' ready for Utila. With a kitchen at our disposal, we stocked up on ingredients to take with us and carried them all home in our big rucksacks! Then all too soon it was time to pack again, off to our next destination!

By Rachel Bradley, Trail Leader

Find out more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.

Check out what trail volunteers are up to right now!

Thursday
Jan222015

Rachel's Top Five Travel Essentials

Six years ago I left my job in the city, opted for a life on the road and have since lead two trails in South East Asia and one in Central America. Having laid my head in tropical beach camps, lakeside cabins, jungle hammocks, ski resorts, mountain top tents, a fishing boat and in a Thai kitchen (long story), I have gradually fine-tuned the contents of my backpack for optimum performance. Here are my top five pieces of kit that I couldn't travel without!

The Snack Bag

Most travellers will concur (on the trail at least) that the snack bag is one of the most important pieces of travel kit. Eight hour bus journeys are the norm, but Welcome Break services are not. Food stops can be sporadic, non-existant, dubious or expensive and it's always great to have a back up. The stock items I carry include a bottle of water, oreos, peanuts, apples, crisps and mints. For daytime trips I usually have a bread roll or baguette - worst case scenario a crisp sandwich always goes down well, but my favourite on the road is avocado, or cheese and caramelized onions if I've been lucky enough to have a kitchen in the previous hostel. A jar of peanut butter or chocolate spread is a traveller's dream and a wonderful addition to a banana sandwich or a packet of plain biscuits. Meanwhile a tin of tuna complete with sweetcorn and ring pull is a welcome discovery and a packet of emergency noodles are great to have. More impressive bus snacks from the team have included lemon meringue pie, white toblerone, chicken strips, push-pops, beef jerky and a chicken vol-au-vent, with the current group favourite coming in at the sour cream pringle.

Sarong

Everyone loves a big fluffy towel, but space is not a luxury on the road. Cue the sarong... soft, stylish and quick drying, it serves a multitude of purposes. First and foremost it is a towel - large-sized, absorbent, easy to hang and quick to dry. On cold journeys or places without bedding it is a blanket and when ultra-light camping I have folded it up and used it as a pillow. When the sun is shining I can be found lying on it on the beach, and have even worn it as a skirt. Then finally, just when you thought there were no more uses you can put all of your old clothes on the sarong, grab the four corners, sling it over your shoulder and toddle off to the laundry. That's a LOT of uses for one such small item!

Bus Entertainment

During those long journeys it is imperative to have some form of entertainment. I love to crank up my iPod whilst watching the world whizz past the window and have a new found appreciation for podcasts. The only small problem that this poses (much to my long-time colleague Kelly's amusement) is that I can't help singing along and will sporadically erupt into laughter at something I'm listening to! If the road isn't too windy, if I'm awake early or enjoying a swing in a hammock I also love a great book. The kindle paperwhite is backlit so perfect for reading without the light on and despite my love for paperbacks, crams hundreds of books into such a small space, a brilliant invention for travelling!

The Utensil Kit

Complimentary to the snack bag is the utensil kit. A tupperware box is ideal for storing open biscuits, sandwiches or left over pasta and where there is no kitchen, doubles as a great cereal bowl. The spoon can spread peanut butter, scoop avocado as well as spooning yoghurt and the penknife's uses are endless. The corkscrew, knife and scissors are the most utilized, opening bottles, chopping mangos and cutting hair to name a few!

Headtorch

Have you ever tried to use a long drop toilet dug in the sand of a jungle clearing whilst holding a torch, or cook a meal for 15 by candlelight?! My final essential item is...  the headtorch! For all your hands-free lighting needs. The light just follows your vision!  You can hold the toothbrush AND waterbottle, hold the vegetable you're chopping as well as the knife and make any essential tent repairs in the middle of the night. Genious!

By Rachel Bradley, Trail Leader

Find out more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.

Check out what trail volunteers are up to right now!