Guatemala - Central America
May 23, 2014
|On the afternoon of Saturday 17th May we had a short drive, left Belize and crossed the border into Guatemala.
On the other side of the border we met up with our private coach and headed into our third country of the trip and to a small colourful town called Flores. This town was on an island in the middle of a lake that had a short causeway.
We booked into our hotel and later had a group meal together.
On entering Guatemala, Helen had visited her 50th country. (Nigel's not counting)
On Sunday morning the majority of the group took a trip to the Mayan ruins at Tikal.
The site of these ruins were deep in the Guatemala jungle and it took about an hour to reach the entrance. The site was spread over a large area of about 6 kilometres square. We walked and climbed around the site in very humid conditions and both felt this was the best of the 3 Mayan sites we had visited.
We had an excellent guide who corrected and clarified a lot of the information we had received from our previous Mayan visits. When he produced a very large and hairy Tarantula spider. Helen completed a 100m dash (in the opposite direction) in a time that even Usain Bolt would not have sniffed at.
The main temple at Tikal was apparently the highest structure in the Americas until the construction of the Empire State Building. The view from this temple was also used in one of the Star Wars films.
Just to demonstrate how uncertain the academics are about the Mayan civilisation there are apparently 104 theories as to why they died out. The 104th being that they all left in spaceships.
On our return to Flores we climbed to the top and also circumnavigated the island. The lower levels of the island have been suffering from flood damage due to the lakes water level rising. The towns colourful buildings and narrow lanes were wonderful.
Monday was another traveling day and we spent half the day in the coach heading south to a river called Rio Dulce (The sweet river). There we caught a ferry to our new hotel which was away from the local town, quite rustic and had a wooden jetty area that doubled as a bar and restaurant.
With reliable wifi we spent the remainder of the afternoon looking at hotels for the next sections of our trip
Tuesday was spent lounging around the hotel area where we had internet access. Here we did some planning for the USA leg of the trip.
Apart from landing in Miami and flying home from New York this part of our journey is still very much up in the air. We are looking at the possibility of an internal flight to San Francisco as this city is very much unfinished business from our previous travels in the USA.
We also booked hotels in Costa Rica, Lima, and Miami. We updated our ESTA for re- entry into the USA and made enquiries about viewing Manatees in the Everglades. Otherwise we had a quiet day.
Some of the group have caught a stomach bug, it seems to keep you awake with regular visits to the bathroom, last about 24 hours and doesn't appear too serious. With regular hand washing we have been lucky enough to avoid it so far.
Wednesday was another big traveling day with an early start, a quick breakfast and 7 hours In the coach. We've been trying not to comfort eat as there are a lot of opportunities to snack while in the coach.
There was a suggestion of a short tour of Guatemala City to break our journey but according to our guide the city centre was closed due to a demonstration.
We continued a little further west to a very pretty town called Antigua and moved into our hotel which was homely but also a bit of a fortress. This was where we said goodbye to our coach and driver. We had a short orientation walk around the town in the afternoon. As we were heading back to the hotel the heavens opened and a violent thunderstorm hit the town.
Antigua is in the shadow of a large volcano, built around the Spanish grid system and apart from every street looking exactly the same (narrow, terraced and with cobbled streets) it's not too hard to find your way around.
The town could be compared to a very large Guatemalan Covent Garden, but without the jugglers. Every other doorway is a shop, a restaurant or a hotel. We feel this tourist town is a lot safer than staying in the capital and have been warned not to venture outside of the town during the evening as we could become a crime statistic.
We dodged the rain and found dinner in town and then relaxed as this visit was only for the night. We will be returning to Antigua later in the trip.
On Thursday we set off to San Jorge Laguna for our home stay. We bought a few pastries as a small gift for our host family and broke up the journey with a stop at a local market where we successfully haggled for a piece of embroidery with both parties happy with the resulting price of about £6. While at the market the rain began. We had lunch and then continued our journey to our accommodation.
When our coach arrived in the village we were all met by our hosts.
Our Home-stay was with Mercedes and her young daughter Mercy had also come to meet us. Luckily we had a short walk in the rain and were invited into kitchen.
In an effort to break the ice we got the IPad out and showed Mercy and her mother some of our photographs. We think Mercy had used a tablet device before as she quickly got to grips with opening and closing windows.
When the rain had died down we were shown to our room and later invited to dinner with the whole family. We all had chicken, spaghetti in a tomato sauce and tortillas.
When we left the room we didn't know that it self locked and we had left our key in the room. We explained our predicament to Mercedes and she produced a second key which broke when Nigel tried to open the door. We had dinner and then the fun started with the whole family trying to gain entry to our room. We came to the conclusion that the lock was defective after they used a rather makeshift ladder to climb through the window and still couldn't open the door from the inside.
The solution was to rip off the whole lock.
The house cat gave Nigel a runny nose but other than that the home stay experience was quite eye opening, seeing how a Mayan family eat and live.
On Friday morning we had a simple breakfast of scrambled eggs, fresh tomato sauce and tortillas before saying farewell to Mercedes.
We then had a short minibus journey to Panajachel a local town where we all chilled out for the day and will be having a group meal in the evening.
Tomorrow will be Saturday 24th May and as we have a decent WiFi connection at the hotel in Panajachel its a good time to update the journal.
This is also good news for Helen as she is keen to see how QPR get on in the play-off final - back to the Premiership?
We will be heading back to Antigua where the group will be changing, some leaving and some joining as our journey takes us into Honduras.