Guatemala and Belize 14 Jan - 24 Feb 2015 travel blog

Now leaving Guatemala I can sum up my thoughts on the country.

Firstly, I loved the people who are patient, tolerant, don’t ever honk their horns or get impatient and, most amazingly of all, they don’t smoke – that must be unique in 3rd world countries. It is a habit nobody has, so nobody takes up and you never see a lit cigarette anywhere.

The country is varied with high mountains and rolling ranges, volcanoes, jungle and lots of bird life. It's very green with forests, banana plantations, Swiss-looking pastureland and agriculture. The avocados are among the best I have ever tasted.

To have such variation, its climate is also varied - as I have related. Guatemala City is smog-ridden, sits in a basin surrounded by mountains and is always windy. The high mountains are hot during the day but freezing at night - most villages in the highlands are above 2000 mts.

The population is young and, without precise percentages, would be the opposite to the demographics of UK. Few people live into a real old age hard work and, for women, child bearing, shortens life. At least they don't have to support the aged yet. They are quite poor and have to eke out a living in any way possible – selling sweets, nuts and fruit alongside the traffic, weaving or making other handicrafts – they have to be ingenious to survive. I did not see much large industry; there are lots of small workshops, mechanics, used car sales, second hand tyre fitters all along the main roads catering to the passing needs of motorists and truckers.

Most shops are small family run businesses and armed guards often protect them. In Antigua, the shop next to the hotel only held two people at a time, the shopkeeper sat behind a grille and he only sold small general store items - how he paid for the security guard is to be wondered at. Armed guards are in the most unusual places, besides banks and post offices - I even saw one guarding a field of small polytunnels. Violence is decreasing, but still a major problem.

We all got searched before getting on the Express bus to the coast, and the men were again searched after our stop.

Mayan ruins, their continuing traditions and their many different costumes, not forgetting the Garifuna around the Caribbean, make the population varied and colourful and I have enjoyed this experience immensely.

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