Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Cities

Where’s My Backpack Travel Theme this week is Cities. We just returned from traveling through Ecuador for a month and the cities are spectacular. Here are a few of my favorite shots.

We huffed and puffed our way up a ladder to the rooftop upon arriving in Quito. With an altitude of 2,800 meters, we dizzily watched the twinkling lights of the city below and the beacon of light from the Basilica de Voto Nacional.

More city photos. Don’t leave yet!

The Volcanoes of Nicaragua

While I am traveling through Ecuador for the month of May, enjoy these photos of Nicaragua’s majestic volcanoes.

Please know that I haven’t fallen into a volcano, only off the blogging radar for a month. See you all at the end if the month. I can’t wait to share my travels, photos, comparisons, and thoughts of Ecuador.
Volcano Consiguina
Vulvan Cosiguina More beautiful volcano photos. Keep reading.

Travel Theme: Ready, Set, Glow!

Where’s my backpack? has a weekly travel theme. This week’s travel theme is GLOW and I have the perfect piece for this theme.

El Cerro Negro volcano in Northern Nicaragua is one of Central America’s youngest volcanoes. He ( Spanish El means a masculine volcano) was born in April 1850 and continues to be one of Nicaragua’s most active volcanoes. Currently his status is “restless”. His last major eruption was in 1999.
Eruption Cerro Negro

More glowing photos. Keep reading.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Bird’s Eye View of Nicaragua

The Weekly Photo Challenge is On Top. Whether you are a bird or a cat on a hot tin roof, the sights above Nicaragua are spectacular.

Come fly with me.Much more to see.Read on.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Four Three-Picture Stories from Ometepe

The Weekly Photo Challenge is: Three  In this challenge we are to tell a story in three pictures, increasing the zoom to hone in on the subject.

Hello World

The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it. ~Arnold H. Glasow 

Keep on reading. There are three more story pictures.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Layers of Lava

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua has two majestic volcanoes…Concepcion, the active volcano and Maderas, the dormant volcano.  Layers of lava, ash, clouds, and foliage add to the splendor of the ever-changing layers like a kaleidoscope.
kaleidescope explosion


Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise!

We are treated to surprises daily on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua. Whether the astonishing events are big or small, beautiful or ugly, dangerous or comical, we thrive on these delightful and sometimes bizarre moments. For living in the “land of the not quite right”, everyday is wrapped in a caught-off-balance, amazing moment.


We have an active volcano in our backyard. Imagine our surprise when she blew her top!

There she blows!

There she blows!

Then there was the day an island the size of a football field floated past our house…FULL of SNAKES!  El Gamolote-The Floating Island

Ron is tiny dot in the kayak.

Ron is tiny dot in the kayak.


This poor little screech owl made a surprise visit one night. He accidentally hit our ceiling fan.  Jungle Law

A dazed and confused Screech owl

A dazed and confused Screech owl

Last week, our local fisherman caught a Tarpon in his dugout canoe! Imagine the surprise when he strapped it on his bicycle and led it into town to sell. A Big Fish Story: How to Get a Tarpon to Town

How do you get a Tarpon to market? On a bicycle, of course!

How do you get a Tarpon to market? On a bicycle, of course!

You never know what surprises hide behind the tools in the bodega.

Ribbit! Croak! Surprise!

Ribbit! Croak! Surprise!

3. People Surprises

During the dry season, farmers become traveling salesmen. One never knows what the traveling salesmen will drag to our doors. Traveling Salesmen

The mattress man salesman

The mattress man salesman

The pots and pans salesman rattles though the sand beyond our house.

Bang, bang, rattle, rattle!

Bang, bang, rattle, rattle!


Everything in Nicaragua is sold in plastic bags. One day, we left our workers a cooler full of juice and an ice bag to keep everything cool. When we returned to the house, the workers had left for the day, but we noticed the corner chewed off the ice pack. Not able to read English, they thought it was juice and tried to drink it!

Danger! Do not drink!

Danger! Do not drink!

Then there was the time we bought paint thinner. The hardware store sells it in plastic water containers. I didn’t label it and sat it beside the workers’ identical water jugs. Oops! Jose took a big swig of it, but fortunately spit it out! After that, I was careful to label the jugs in Spanish for our workers.

Peligroso! No beber! Cener!

Peligroso! No beber! Cener!


This morning I awoke to pictures of snow posted by my stateside friends on Facebook. But, we awoke to a layer of purple petals on the ground from our blossoming Pera tree. A very pleasant Christmas surprise.

Happy holidays from our Pera tree!

Happy holidays from our Pera tree!

Wishing all of you happy holidays full of miraculous surprises!

Warning! Ultima Hora! Ultima Hora!

I thought you all would enjoy an email I received from my friend, Dr. Tabatha Parker, who lives on Ometepe Island.  She graciously allowed me to share her adventure with everyone. Thanks, Tabatha.

Dear Friends,

So I am hear to tell you about a recent event that happened to me.  Yes I am already completely embarrassed, but here it goes.

I am the first one to tell all foreigners to get a guide if your going to hike the volcano – don’t be a stupid gringo and think you won’t get lost.  I have told a thousand people this.
So last weekend I go to Maderas with a group of friends. Our mission is to hike to Las Cuchillas from Finca Magdelena. We have a competent group, guided by a very competent guide who is a friend of many of us. Great! We are good to go.
The weather was not good. It was awful in fact.  Nestor, my husband, in no uncertain terms is getting out of the car – he decides to stay in the car with Luna and wait for us all — he tries to warn me the weather is going to only get worse, but I am determined to hike, and so Maximo (my 3 year old) and I get the kids backpack on, grab a jar of peanut butter and get ready for the adventure.
mistake #1 (aka listen to your campesino husband who knows weather much better than you!)
For those of you who have done the Finca Magdelena petroglyph walk – well that is where we all started from. We hiked maybe 30 minutes – maybe 10 minutes past the petroglyph gardens, maybe less.  Regardless – we got to a point where it was very apparent that this had not been the best choice for me. Maximo was getting wet, it was raining on and off rather hard, and the nice petroglyph path had quickly turned to a muddy rocky mess that was getting more and more difficult to maneuver with a small child strapped to my back. We had at least an hour ahead of us, so I decided it would be best to turn back before we got too far out.
When I informed the group I was going to go back, immediately someone offered to come with me – but I assured them it would be quite easy for me to return and not wanting to ruin the day, I refused accompaniment and assured everyone I would be just fine.
mistake #2 (aka dumb white girl in the forest that thinks she can tell directions)

So Maximo and I turn around and head back. It becomes very clear to me very quickly that we are totally screwed. I come to the first fork……
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— I took the one less traveled by……

ah yes – the proverbial “oh shit” moment……..
I realize that this task is not going to be as easy as it first appeared. At first I think I am “tracking” our tracks well – looking for the dogs paw prints, boot prints. Who do I think I am “Indiana Jones?”  But with all the rain, it starts becoming nearly impossible to decipher the mud, a stick scratch, leaves, a footprint – it is all one big muddy mess.  The other problem was that due to it being so rainy our way out,I had my head down alot of the way. Now I couldn’t tell what was what…..was this familiar? had we come this way? I did not remember seeing x, y or z…but maybe that is because my head was down.  Was I THAT unaware. I kept looking for the giant Nettle plant that had been pointed out to me…..where the hell was that NETTLE PLANT!!
And then I suddenly realized I have traversed too many fields and fences that we DEFINITELY did NOT see and I had to accept I was completely lost.  I was so disorientated as to which direction was which, where would be best to walk – what to do….was it the duendes my husband had warned me about (the magical elves that get people lost on maderas?) that had gotten me so turned around?
Then it began to sink in. Lost with a 3 year old, with no water, a stupid can of peanut butter, pants that were now completely soaked and weighing about a ton covered to my knees in mud in a friggin tropical storm, no raincoat, no idea which way to go. How very white of me.
So I decided I should try and get back to where I knew we had been (if that was even possible at this point), maybe put up a shelter and wait for the rain to stop or my friends to return….visions of the headlines on canal 10 flashing in my head…….gringa doctora y su hijo perdida en cerro maderas…..ULTIMA HORA, ULTIMA HORA!

My heart at this point is racing and I start yelling AYUDA!, AYUDA!  Someone has to be out on this mountain somewhere!
And then between explaining to my son that his dad WAS coming to help us, that was why I was yelling AYUDA, trying to yell AYUDA in a happy voice so Maximo didn’t freak out, and trying to calm myself from hyperventilating while walking with my son on my back— I see a young man on a horse!!! AYUDA!!!! AYYYUUUUUUUUUUUDA! Can he NOT hear me???  I start running, and he stops and looks at the crazy white girl. Donde esta FINCA MAGDELENA?  He calmly points up the hill. Just up this road – just head that way. I ask him if he will please bring me, porfavor – that I am afraid I will just get lost again as I know I did not come down this road. He agrees without saying a word and I begin following him and his horse and his bucket of fresh cow milk, my legs sinking into thick mud with each step up to my knees. About 20 minutes later we come out under Finca Magdelena. I had completely overshot the farm… far south. WOW – I couldn’t believe where I had ended up. How did that happen?
When I finally got to my husband – he said in his so sweet way- I’m not sure why you don’t listen to me sometimes……then he laughed and said, “the duendes got ya!
So there you have it. I won’t ever again think I can figure the volcanos out on my own. Not even for what seemed like just a jog around the corner.  What couldn’t have been more than 20 – 30 minutes became a nearly 2 hour return….
plus its way cheaper to pay a guide $5 or $10 bucks than the $20 I paid the kid with the horse for saving our life.
Happy hiking,