FOR professional photographer, Lisa Nardella of Shepparton, visiting Central America for four months was a dream come true.
Lisa and friend Tralee Reeves decided to do the trip after hearing so much about Central America from their friends.
They had been told to stay away from the big cities because of the crime and the fact that they were two girls travelling together.
They decided to spend their time in the smaller coastal towns, beach resorts, and the fabulous mountains they would encounter along the way as their travels would take them to Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.
In Mexico City they stayed for only two days, but had time enough to visit the famous Pyramids of the ancient Mayan Indians.
Lisa says the Pyramid of the Moon and the Pyramid of the Sun were magnificent. The pair decided to climb to the top of the Pyramid of the Sun, it was rough going. The steps are big and uneven, it took a lot of effort but when they arrived at the top the view was spectacular.
Their first beach stay was at Puerto Escondido, the pacific coast is a surfer’s paradise, massive waves and a great place to hang out.
Lisa and Tralee felt quite safe, although someone told them a man had been firing a handgun in the area the day before they arrived.
It was time for some adventure, the Cenotes are a series of underwater caves, you can snorkel through them and it’s like another world.
The freshwater caves are vast and the clarity of the water means you can see a long way, you just had to remember to come up for air.
The next stop was Isla Mujeres, an island where you could go swimming with the sharks. These were whale sharks and vegetarians so they won’t harm you as long as you don’t touch them.
Lisa was in the water and this huge shark was heading straight for her with its mouth wide open, it turned just before it reached her, it seemed the whale shark was scouping up plankton from the sea.
Moving onto Belize they had been told you could go swimming with the stingrays. Now stingrays do have a barb on their tail so you have to be careful, it appears they are sensitive to how you feel, so you have to relax and just go for it.
The water was very shallow so you could stand up, but with hundreds of stingrays you had to be careful not to stand on one.
At first Lisa decided to stay in the boat but seeing the others enjoying themselves she joined them in the water, the stingrays were all around her, she managed to stay calm and really began to enjoy the experience.
Then she noticed there were sharks there too, they were nurse sharks, they had no teeth but you still had to be careful not to let them lock their jaws onto your arm as they were hard to get off.
Next they headed for Guatemala. Lisa was in love with the wonderful scenery, the mountains and the valleys below were so photographic.
At Semuc Champay you could swim down a waterfall, which formed a series of ponds down the mountain, with a small waterfall between each pond so they swam from the top to the river below in the cool crystal clear water.
Antigua is an old city small enough to be safe and the people were very friendly, they went shopping in the markets, walked the cobblestone streets and enjoyed the great food, you could buy everything from Spanish cuisine to Sushi.
A must do was to climb the active volcano, it was a long way to the top so you just hop on a horse taxi and you are soon there.
The guide was handing out marshmallows, with the aid of a long stick the girls cooked them on the heat of the volcano.
Arriving in Honduras, the girls decided to do a diving course. It ran for five days and gave them a chance to get to know the world below. The diving was great, Lisa says you could see so much, wonderful coral, colourful fish everywhere and the water was so clear.
In Costa Rica, the girls discovered the natural hot springs surrounded by active volcanos, there were 24 in all at the location they visited. It had been raining so the hot springs were a wonderful way to relax with the rain on your face. Central America is hot so the last thing you would expect to enjoy were hot springs, but Lisa says it was very relaxing.
In the mountains, they went ‘zip lining’, Lisa says it was a real buzz as you zipped through the trees on the wire reaching incredible speeds.
They had many more adventures including boarding down a volcano, literally surfing on the loose ash of the volcano.
Now back in Shepparton, Lisa has all her photos to help her relive that wonderful experience. She would like to thank Hannah at Flight Centre in Shepparton for arranging the adventure of a lifetime.
Until next time,