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Travel Experience – Central America
By Jacquey Turner
In March, I embarked on a reconnaissance journey of Central America and Cuba in preparation for the tour I shall be escorting in May 2020. I discovered that this is a most fascinating part of the world with every country being quite different, the only common theme being that all countries uspeak Spanish as their first language. However, the accents and dialects vary considerably.
My first port of call was Costa Rica, which is, quite rightly, renowned for its wildlife, birdlife and natural beauty. The capital, San Jose, is a very busy city with an interesting opera house, which is still in use today, and fascinating gold museum. My visits to their national parks revealed a variety of wildlife and birds with beautiful rain forests, rivers and landscapes and there are volcanoes everywhere!
From Costa Rica it was on to Guatemala where the Mayan people still live as they have for hundreds of years, with colourful markets and textiles, interesting rituals and beliefs and more volcanoes! The local public transport is made up of “chicken buses”, old American school buses which are shipped to Guatemala at the end of their school bus life and then painted in all sorts of colours and used for local transport. The historic town of Antigua has been well preserved and is very colonial in style.
Next stop was Panama City, famous for the Panama Canal. This city has two very different sides to it, the old colonial part and a very modern part with plenty of highrise buildings and modern architecture. The Panama Canal Visitor Centre offers a close up view of the canal and the history involved in its construction, right up to the present day. There is also a strong indigenous culture in Panama with more jungle to look for sloths and other wildlife.
From Panama, it was on to the extraordinary island of Cuba. This small nation has a very chequered past but the people are incredibly friendly, the sights and towns most interesting and the opportunity to travel in large American cars from the 1960s is great fun! Cigar production is still a major part of the economy and there are plenty of wonderful colonial towns to explore. The capital, Havana, is relaxed, with a mix of old and new and no traffic jams! There is always the sound of music around and plenty of opportunity to enjoy the local musicians.
Last stop was Mexico. This large country has so much to offer the visitor and I only scratched the surface. Mexico City is a big sprawling city but I enjoyed my couple of days there with the Archaeological Museum being one of the highlights. I also visited several ancient Mayan sites and each one is different with more being discovered all the time.
The accommodation everywhere was very comfortable and the food varied and delicious. There are plenty of local markets to explore and savour local fruits and the local beer everywhere is excellent!
With the memory of my recent visit still fresh in my mind, I am really looking forward to escorting a group to this fascinating part of the world in May next year. There are limited places available so please contact the office if you would like to me.