A Travellerspoint blog

Part 13: Belize, the Last Stop

Cave Tubing and Pine Forests (including the Attack of the Ants); Belize City and Belize Zoo; Caye Caulker (for the snorkelling and the diving); and the Final Goodbye.

sunny 30 °C

After leaving Guatemala we stopped first in San Ignacio, a little Belizian town close to the boarder, whilst here we went on two tours. The first day we went on a caving tour via tube (the inflatable tire type). It was lots of fun, we floated through two large caves, and got off in the second one for a short hike, and then we floated for half an hour more through the jungle, a very relaxing and yet fun filled day.

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...before we got in...

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...us in the caves, and then in the forest...

For our second day tour we went with the same company to a different area of Belize, to the Pine Ridge Forest, and we stopped firstly at the Rio Frio Caves which were very pretty.

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Us and the Rio Frio Sign

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The View from the Cave

Following this we stopped at two different water falls, the second where we went for a lovely refreshing swim.

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Us enjoying the waterfall

On the way back from our swim, we stopped to take a photo by the sign (as you do), and I got attacked by fire ants! I have about 40 bites on my arm and they stung like crazy and then itched like crazy for days, was really rubbish, they are only just starting to fade now!

After San Ignacio we stopped in Belize City, we’d been trying to avoid it because we heard it was not great, but Helen really wanted to visit the zoo, so we didn’t have a choice. The city did not disappoint, it was horrible in every way, from the taxi driver and the hotel man who tried to scam us, to the food and drink. It really was not the best place and to add insult to injury it was expensive; but the zoo made it worth it. We saw various big cats as promised in a lovely leafy setting whilst eating ice-lollies.

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A Big Cat

The next morning (Thursday 30th May) we happily left Belize City on the first ferry across the water to Caye Caulker (another Caribbean Island) and I have been here since.

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The streets of Caye Caulker and Me and Helen at the Split

The first day we wandered the streets, visited the shops and swam in “The Split”, the second day we went on a snorkelling trip and saw turtles, huge sting ray and sharks, the third say three was another lazy day and on the fourth Helen left early in the morning for her flight back to Costa Rica, was very sad to say goodbye we have had an amazing three months together and then next part of my trip with seem strange without her.

So I’m now on day three without Helen and I have for the most part been relaxing; catching up with people on the internet, writing my blog, enjoying the warm weather, watching films and eating Cadburys chocolate (which they have in Belize, and it is the real stuff!)

Yesterday, I dived the Blue Hole, which was one of the main reason I wanted to come back to Central America in the first place and it was awesome. The dives were great, the company I dived with was very professional and I had a really enjoyable day (apart from the sea sickness on the way out, and the inevitable putting on of the still damp wetsuit). But the food was great, the dive sights were brilliant and I saw two huge sharks (which were thankfully swimming in the other direction), we stopped at a beautiful little desert island for lunch, and we got rum punch to celebrate when we came up from the last dive. It was the perfect end to my three months of travel.

Tomorrow is my flight to Costa Rica where I start on my charity project with Raleigh. The first three months have been a lot of fun, but I am ready to put down my bags for a while now, and I am excited about doing Raleigh again! Wish me luck for my first day!

Posted by marajade1_200 09:09 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Part 12: Saving the Best of Guatemala till Last

The beautiful Semuc Champey and a lovely cheap sleep; a hellish bus journey and a lost book; and the pretty El Remante with the amazing ruins of Tikal...

sunny 30 °C

Semuc Champey really was beautiful, a bridge of limestone pools formed over a madly gushing river, it is an amazing site from high up and we trekked up some step steps to the view point to get some fabulous pictures.

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Me with the sign, and the view from the view point.

The water was cool, refreshing and beautiful to swim in, and it was an exciting adventure to clamber down the steep steps and mini waterfalls into the various different pools. We clambered down twice, following different routs each time, and eventually swimming in 14 different pools.

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Us at the top where the main river was gushing into the cave underneath

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Us in the top pool and me posing on the way down

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Another photo (of me posing) on the way down

We also stayed in a fantastic hostel, our cheapest sleep yet (at 40Q a night / £3.50) we got a private room (well a dorm room to ourselves), really good and clean showers and standard, but tasty no frills food which was also very well priced.

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Our wondrous room and the whole hostel sight.
(the first use our mossy-nets have seen).

Leaving Semuc we took a mini bus up to Flores in the north, a horrific 8 hour drive, made worse by a very uncomfortable bus, inconsiderate (and hungover) bus companions, an awful driver and me leaving my book (about 50 pages from the end) on the bus! But despite all we made it up to Flores and changed bus for El Remante, the “enchanting” lake side village half way to Tikal.

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Sunset at the posh hotel in El Remante
(We went there for dinner the first day, before we went back to our horrible hostel...)

Unfortunatly whilst the lake was pretty, for us our enchanting village turned out to be a few hotels lined along the main road, which we didn’t love as much as we thought we would, but the lake was undeniably a pretty sight. We found another super cheap hostel (at 50Q’s a night), this one however, we did not love, in fact we loathed it; we left after one night because of dirty sheets, a dirty bathroom and dirty towels, we moved 20m down the road to a lovely hotel three times the price, with a swimming pool. I have the feeling I am not the true budget traveller I used to be.

This morning (at a time in the morning that should be reserved for sleeping) we visited Tikal, the very famous and amazing Mayan ruins in northen Guatemala. I am not much of a ruins person but even I thought they were spectacular, and we had a very good guide, who told us all the facts in a straightforward and interesting way.

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Us with the Tikal sign
(we like posing with the signs, as if it somehow proves we were there)

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Some of the ruins in the main square and Me looking out over the sight from the tallest tower

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One of the temples in the main square and some monkeys we caught lazing in the nearby trees
(Such posers, me and the monkeys, both)

By midday we were sweltering and very glad for the early start, so we were able to retreat back to our lovely hotel and lazy by the pool, dip in the lake and enjoy some good food and drink.

Posted by marajade1_200 18:45 Archived in Guatemala Comments (1)

Part 11: Lots of Guatemalan Water

It all started with a bus in the rain, then there was a mix of rivers, the sea waterfalls, thermal baths, and quite a bit more rain...

rain 30 °C

Monday to Thursday went similarly to last week, café hopping in the mornings and school in the afternoon, interleaved with various errands, meant the days went quickly. Family life quietened down after the business of last week, the food improved and we spent more time with the family in the in the evenings, watching Guatemalan telenovella’s (soap-operas) whilst doing our homework and practising our verbs.

By Friday we were both eager to be on the road again, but we made a bad choice of bus. We decided to take the 9AM, rather than the 4AM – it sounded like a good choice to me, who would want to get up at 3AM if they didn’t have too? Unfortunately it didn’t quite work out as planned, we got misleading information, missed our connection in Guatemala city and at 6:30PM that evening, we were looking out of the (still moving) bus window at the dark, drizzly, and particular seedy, port town of Puerto Barios, about 2 hrs too late to get the last boat to Livingston, the touristy-town that should have been destination.

Puerto Barios was grim, the hotel was expensive and worse than many we’ve stayed in, the roads had looked dark and dingy from the taxi window and I stuffed money in my sock as we prepared to brave the streets in search of dinner. But luckily, on the way out, we met the hotel owner and she made up for all the rest; she was absolutely lovely. She ferried us out to dinner in her posh car and came to pick us up again afterwards (free of charge), and she took us in a reasonable restaurant as well. I tried the local speciality; Topado – a fish soup – which was absolutely huge, containing a whole crab, a whole fish, pieces of octopus, lots of king prawns, half a sweet plantain, a full green plantain and some yuccas, all cooked in a coconut broth that was absolutely delicious.

In the light of day on the Saturday Puerto Barios looked less scary (though no more appealing) so feeling more like our normal adventurous-traveller-selves, we strapped on our backpacks and walked the block-and-a-half to the port, for the early boat to Livingstone. On arrival, we headed straight to the office of Exotic Tours, where we grabbed breakfast, dumped our bags and were quickly off on our pre-booked day-tour of Livingstone. We first walked through the town, passed the church, through the cemetery and out into the jungle.

We had a little adventure crossing a deep stream, where our guide balanced a log over for us, and we wobbled across, and we had another little adventure crossing a bigger river; jumping from stone-to-stone.

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Me wobbling across, and me and Helen triumfant afterward.
(having only just managed not to fall in)

Safely on the other side of the river, we snacked on baby bananas as we waited for our lift…

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Us and our boat driver.

We took a lovely little dug-out canoe half-an-hour down the river, back to the coast. We then walked along the coast for about an hour but we quickly left the beach again, to climb a slope up to a beautiful set of waterfalls; Los Siete Altares (The Seven Alters) where we had a well deserved refreshing swim under the falls.

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Me on our walk to the falls, and the view at the end.

It was absolutely freezing, but the cold was a well needed reprisal from the stifling heat here and the setting was absolutely beautiful, well worth the hike.

We’d heard great things about the boat trip to Rio Dulce, and it was pretty but nothing like it had been made out to be by other travellers we’ve met. We saw “the graffiti wall”, we stopped an some “hot water baths” which were interesting, we saw many cute little houses along the river, we saw lots of wild life and we saw an area of beautiful river lilies, followed lastly by an old restored fort from the times of the pirates.

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Me in the hot water pools, and some of the boat traffic on the river.

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The waterlillies and the fort.

Arriving in Rio Dulce we picked a beautiful little hotel and jungle lodge, with a large pool, huge grounds and lovely little wooden huts with bright white linen, the first large white fluffy towels I’ve seen since home and amazingly hot showers, with two taps!! (Hopefully my excitement indicates that the two-taps phenomenon is not the normal state of affairs here in Central America). A little luxury is a necessity once in a while.

We spent the afternoon relaxing in the hotel, and went on a walk of the grounds with the resident guide between 4-6PM when it was a little cooler; the hotel grounds cover forest, and a rubber plantation and they have handing bridges (more scary than the ones in Costa Rica) and a lovely old lookout tower with beautiful views, unfortunately the rain and a little thunder and lightning sent us running back for the safety of the jungle lodge, but it didn’t scare me and Helen out of having our evening swim before dinner!

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The handing bridges and Me and Helen looking out the window of the lookout tower.

Today, Monday we visited two of the highlights of the region. We first went to El Boqueron, a beautiful little canyon, were a grumpy-little-boat-man took us down the river for a few dollars and, becoming less and less grumpy throughout our twenty minute ride, he pointed out turtle and crocodile head shapes in the rocks, helped us spot monkeys and positioned the boat so we could hop off and snap some good photo’s.

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Us in the middle of the canyon, and a view down the river

We then went on to Aguas Calientes; walking down a lovely little forest path you come to a pretty waterfall, which you can swim out to and then swim under which is when you find that the water cascading down the waterfall is actually hot water.

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Us on the top of the waterfall, and us in the hot water pools.

You can then climb a steep incline at the side of the waterfall and bath in pools of hot water that collect there before cascading down; also in these pools you can find giggling Mexican girls with wondrous tips on how to take a good mud bath (and how to choose the right mud!).

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Our love-able mudbath induced posing.
(we were high on the hot water, let's not talk about it further)

After mud-bathing with them, and getting them to snap the obligatory photo’s of us posing we left with our skin feeling ever-so-smooth and heading back to two for a good lunch and an afternoon of relaxing at our lovely hotel.

And if that is not enough water for you; Helen has promised that she is going to introduce me to the art (or addiction, depends who you talk to) of skinny dipping this evening!?!. Wish me luck!! xxx

Posted by marajade1_200 16:32 Archived in Guatemala Comments (2)

Part 10: “Helen, why did I buy a frigging table runner …”

Seven towns in seven days; a story of Spanish, coffee, cake and far too much shopping

overcast 20 °C

Antigua (town one), our first stop in Guatemala, was all we expected it to be and more. Having decided to spend two weeks here studying Spanish we were happily surprised.

Arriving on Saturday we were led straight to the home of our new family, by the grinning Uncle Techo (who never stops talking). We were quickly introduced to Mama Cornelia and Aunty Irma (who make us feel instantly at home).

The rest of the weekend we spent exploring Antigua; visiting two artisan markets and the local food market; taking-in the beautiful churches; walking down the elegant main street and admiring the town square; visiting the ruins of a ancient school building; and gluttonously trying out three restaurants, a café and a chocolate shop.

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Helen and me on the main street in Antigua

Monday to Thursday flew by; we spent the mornings in different cafés studying, whist drinking nice coffee or juice and munching pieces of cake. The afternoons were filled with lessons; and then the evenings we spent at the family home, a hive of activity. The four days went super fast and before we knew it, it was time for our weekend away.

We spent Friday in Panajachel (town two), a beautiful little lakeside town with small craft shops, and lovely restaurants. This is when the crazy shopping started; I bought earrings, a necklace and a table runner (I still do not know why I have a table runner).

Then on Saturday we took a boat tour out onto Lake Atitilan, which visited four lake side towns. San Marcos (town three) had a very hippy feel to it, with lovely little winding streets, cute coffee shops, and pretty little restaurants; we stopped at one and shared a delicious cake whilst I slurped a strong dark Guatemalan coffee; a heavenly combination.

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One of the winding little streets and our coffee and cake

San Carlos (town four) was up a steep incline from the dock, giving us a lovely view onto the lake, but we were quickly distracted by a host of painting and crafts shops where we continued our spending spree in style; I bought myself a new hat and both Helen and I bought paintings and continued to add to our – now extensive – present collections.

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The beautiful view out onto the lake and a local lady setting up to start weaving

San Pedro (town five) was bigger than the first two but still beautiful. We walked a large circle through the town, first plunging up through the busting main street, to discover the tranquil and beautiful town square, garden and church. We then wandered the winding lake-side road, popping into the cute restaurants and cafés, to admire the lake-side view.

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The beautiful town square and another nice lakeside view

Santiago (town six) was much bigger and noisier than the previous three, it was a proper little working Guatemalan town, complete with traffic, pollution and ciaos. It was a far cry from the peacefulness of the earlier, but the sprawling market filling the docks was intriguing and we grabbed lunch in a local café. We finished the day back in Panajachel with a little more shopping, some more delicious food, a nice cup of tea and a good gass.

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A local girl carrying her wares to market

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A beautiful painting stall on the market and a view of the docks

Sunday was spent at Chichicastenago (town seven), the famous Guatemalan craft market, which was an elbow jostling experience. Though the heaving mass of locals, selling their wears, was definitely a sight to see, the sprawling market place was heaving and unforgiving, the opposite of the tranquil and enjoyable experience of shopping in the lake side towns. Despite the craziness, we still made many small purchases, before sitting ourselves in the lovely garden of a nearby hotel to while away a few hours with a coffee, and a postcard writing session, whilst waiting for the bus back to Antigua.

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More market stalls

We arrived home travel-weary on Sunday night, with just enough energy for a delicious Mexican dinner and a nice glass of red wine before walking up the hill to our little family house and falling into our beds.

Posted by marajade1_200 08:22 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Part 9: The Real Honduran Experience

Visiting mayan ruins, making clay pots and cooking tortillas

sunny 28 °C

Copan Ruinas has been my favourite stop in Honduras, and we have spent an interesting and more gentle paced few days here.

The travel day to get here was hideous; our worst yet, but it was worth it … we were up at 5:20AM for the walk-boat-taxi-bus-bus-walk-walk-walk journey all the way over the other side of Honduras, and we didn’t arrive at our hotel (the third one we walked to, carrying all our bags) until after 6PM. Needless to say we vacated very quickly to find dinner in a very cute little restaurant.

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The three days have passed very quickly. The first one spent having a nice lie-in; walking around town; visiting the numerous little shops along the sides of the road; going out for breakfast, coffee and dinner; and on the whole having a relaxing day.

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The second day we spent at the ruins, which were spectacular, though unfortunately we paid through the nose to be there and we had the most uninspiring guide. But the walk through the ruins was pretty, the museum was good, and we did more shopping at the gift shop (it is unfortunately that our love of shopping does not really match well with the size of our bags…)!

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On the third day we took a tour out of town into a local village where we learn the art of making tortillas from a local expert, in her own kitchen.

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We helped grind the flower, make the dough, and shape the tortillas before Lucas (the lovely lady of the house) cooked them on a heated plate.

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We them spent a good half hour gobbling down our creations along with some delicious home grown black beans and ground roasted squash seeds (that we also helped to grind).

Following this early lunch we were then shown and explained the local methods of making pottery, after which we got to shape a clay-pot ourselves (using our newly acquired knowledge and technique).

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She discussed with us the whole process; from where she found the clay, how she carried it back, to how she softened it and processed the raw clay, to how she then dried, sanded, painted and finally fired the beautiful clay pots, jugs, plates (and even ovens) that she made. It was an awesomely interesting morning, and we learnt so much about the local culture, about this lovely ladies life, and about the making of tortillas and clay pots!

And tomorrow? Onward into Guatemala; another country, another currancy, another boarder crossing!

Posted by marajade1_200 20:32 Archived in Honduras Comments (0)

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