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Seasquirt

The adventures of Fe & Chris

Archive for Guatemala

Places we don´t like in Central America

At our last stop in Belize we met an American chap who was amused to listen to Fiona´s positive reviews of all the places we have visited. He exclaimed “Oh come on! There must be somewhere you didn´t like!”, so in response here is a list of the worst places we have visted:

  • The Mexican/Guatemalan border near Tapachula - rather like a James Bond arms bazaar.
  • Lake Yojoa, Honduras - not all it´s cracked up to be. Impossible to explore without a vehicle. D&D´s gave us D&V.
  • San Pedro Sula, Honduras - a big horrible city.
  • Palenque (the town, not ruins), Mexico - a small town with no redeeming features.
  • Santa Elaena, Guatemala - A terrible place. Kids threw soil at us. Little sh*ts.
  • Puerto Cortes, Honduras - nothing to detain the tourist and unreliable/unsafe boat services to Belize (Puerto Barrios/Livingston is a much better route). It´s only redeeming feature is a cinema.

Curiously there was nowhere in Belize we didn´t like. It´s a lovely country. We didn´t spend any time in Belize City, but from the bus it didn´t look too bad at all.

The final frontier…

Our journey between Flores in Guatemala and Palenque in Mexico was well researched. Several of our Guatemalan border crossings had been a little bit fraught so we were keen to find the easiest option. A travel agent in Flores was offering cross border bus-boat-bus tickets but is notoriously unreliable so we reluctantly opted for the chicken bus.

The journey took just over four hours to the tiny Guatemalan village of La Tecnica. Whilst en route it seemed the entire population of one village boarded the bus. The Guatemalan border post was in the middle of nowhere and amazingly there was none of the usual people trying to rip us off. Except for the border guard himself, who successfully ripped us off to the tune of 20 Quetzals each (They do have you rather over a barrel. Sods.).

The bus dropped us right at the river bank where a long wooden boat happily took us across the river to Mexico. We wanted to get a bus to Palenque so we intimated this to the small number of taxi drivers lurking around. One of them took us to a minibus and agreed to convey us to our destination for a reasonable price. We´d heard strange stories about the immigration office here, but our bus man pointed us in the right direction and it turned out to be easy to find, quick, efficient and didn´t even try to exort money from us.

All in all this was probably our easiest land border crossing yet despite all our apprehension and with some relief, I have to say, our last.

We now seem to have left the land of chicken buses and are disappointed to report that on all our chicken bus journeys, we have not seen a single chicken on the bus (though other travellers we´ve met have, so the name remains justified).

Monkeys tried to poo on us

We are currently back in Guatemala for a flying visit. Today we visited some more Mayan ruins (we seem to be doing this every other day at the moment) called Tikal. These ruins are set within a huge area of jungle and have some of the tallest structures of the Mayan world. The temples tower out of the trees and make an amazing sight once you have climbed up them to see the view - we have done a lot of climbing today - one set of steps were so steep it was practically a ladder - I tried my best not to be too scared!

Along with the amazing ruins, we also added a lot of animals to our tick list - we are being so lucky I know! As we arrived in the park we were greeted by some oscillated turkeys which are very colourful and pretty compared to the turkeys people eat at Christmas. A group of Coatis were also hanging around near the entrance and seemed fairly unperturbed by our presence. We also heard the sound of Howler monkeys for the first part of the monring (we arrived at 6.30am, urgh!). As we approached the tallest temple which we thought we should start with we got our best views of wild keel-billed (Guinness) toucans yet - they look so odd in flight!

As we were wondering through the jungle in search of some more ruins we came across both Howler and Spider monkeys, both of which seemed to enjoying trying to poo on our heads!! We managed to avoid the unpleasant bombs (although there may have been some wee at one point) and got some great views as they swung through the trees - some with babies attached - so cute. As we continued round the site we saw another couple of troops of spider monkeys - they´re so graceful and quiet compared to the noisy, and slightly clumsy howlers.

Having climbed our last (and scariest!) temple we headed back towards the exit and saw a Trogon (sp unknown as yet) and then a guide pointed us in the direction of a “muy grande aves”, thinking it was just the turkeys again we were a bit blase, but thought we should show some interest - the guide got frustrated with our inability to find the turkeys and pointed up at a tree where a Harpy eagle was cocking its head at us - this bird was indeed very big, and a bit scary looking, especially its huge talons. A local boy went past and obviously taunted the bird because as he walked across the road, the bird flew down and straight at the boy - needless to say he fell to the floor and then ran for cover - I don´t think these birds are to be messed with!

After such a long and exciting day, we have now headed back to our current place of stay, Flores, to investigate how to get across the Mexican border - sounds like it should be an interesting experience, so we shall keep you posted!

Three countries in one day

We left Belize, crossed the Caribbean, passed through Guatemala, and returned to Honduras all in the space of three hours. Quite remarkable.

A busman´s holiday

We arrived at Puerto Barrios in Guatemala just too late for the boat to Belize, so took the boat to the charming town of Livingston in Guatemala instead - a town that can only be accessed by sea or river - just my kind of place!

We found fine accomodation on the cliff top overlooking the Caribbean and splashed out on a room with a balcony to enjoy the pelicans, frigatebirds and were pleasantly surprised by an evening roost of several hundred Aztec Parakeets.

We went on a small boat cruise up the Rio Dulce. It is a beautiful steep sided wooded gorge. The boatman was competent, his patter even seemed quite good, but it was hard to tell as my Spanish is still very poor. We travelled close under the cliffs, up little creeks and even stopped for a swim in some thermal pools (just like Deception Island, but properly hot!). All in all, a fine day. 

A sleepy border crossing…

After the immigration office in San Pedro Sula rudely refused to extend our Honduras visa - we would have to go to the capital, Tegucigalpa for such a service - we opted to make a run for Belize and re-enter Honduras three days later, thus gaining a new visa.

We bussed our way along the bumpy coast road to the Guatemalan frontier and arrived in the heat of the midday sun. Where the bus stopped we continued walking - there was no obvious guidance or directional aids, but Guatemala is west of Honduras, so that is the direction we went. Eventually we chanced across what appeared to be the immigration buildings - an elaborate collection of modern, yet completely unused buildings.

We found the immigration officer asleep on a concrete plinth in the shade. Fantastic!

Across the border…

Our departure from Antigua was slightly delayed due to my gut situation (see the comments on the previous post - six hours in a minibus might just have been too much). We started waiting for our bus at 0345, as instructed and 45 minutes later it arrived. By 0930 we were at the frontier of Guatemala and Honduras in glorious sunshine and unbearable heat. The highlands of Guatemala enjoy a rather pleasant temperature, now we are in real tropical heat.

The border was a quiet affair compared to our last crossing from Mexico - just a few eager beavers attempting to induce us to change currency - all terribly civilised. The one curiosity was that the Guatemalan immigration office towards the Honduran side of the border and the Honduran office on the Guatemalan side.

How queer.

Musical experiences

Whilst in Antigua, we came across three different live music events - the first was an outdoor classical music affair in Parque Central and was very nice (especially the fairy lights). We then moved on to Rikki’s bar where we had previously seen a poster advertising “Ignacio” from Buena Vista Social Club, playing with two other blokes. We duly stood for an hour in the Rikki’s bar section of a building containing a couple of other bar areas, waiting for the ‘gig’ to start. Yes, you’ve guessed it, we were in the wrong place - we finally looked at the poster again and realised it was referring to another section of the place. Ah well. We did manage to catch over an hour of their music however, and I even got the occasional wink from the man himself (suitably dressed in white shirt and trousers and shoes, and gold chains, lovely!). We then saw him on the street the next day disappointingly only in scruffy jeans and t-shirt. The music itself was great - he played the bongo/drums things extremely well. All in all an enjoyable evening (we even treated ourselves to Mojitos, how decadent!).

The next day, having been followed by Mr Ignacio, we came across a group of 8 men playing xylophones and drums - it was very cool, and perhaps known as ‘Marimba’, but not entirely sure…

Antigua Guatemala

Our current position, as surmised by Chris’ mother is indeed the Antigua in Guatemala! It is a former capital of Guatemala, from when the Spanish first invaded (colonised?). It is a lovely place full of old buildings, churches and ruins of churches due to earthquakes over several hundred years, enough to make the Spanish abandon it for Guatemala city. It is also surrounded by three volcanoes - one of which dominates the town (photos to come…) and the other two I think must be hidden in clouds and behind the other hills that surround. All in all a nice, relaxing town.

We will have been here five nights in total, which has taken us on a tour of three hostels - due to funny smells and bad bookings (i.e. getting kicked out!). Tomorrow we leave for Copan Ruinas (missing accent due to american keyboard!) in Honduras - 4am start, urgh! There are ruins of Mayan origin there which should be very interesting too.

Sorry this is a bit brief, but we need sleep now…!

More to follow - including a run down of Chris’ gut situation ;-)

Earthquake

Whilst enjoying a quiet rest in our happy little house in San Marcos La Laguna the foundations shook. It was quite a noisy thing, went on for a good 20 seconds or so, and it would have spilled your soup, should your bowl have been full.

Fiona rapidly pondered what one is supposed to do during an earthquake - only when all became quiet did she remember we should hide under a table.

 We didn’t have a table.

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