Archive for June, 2008

A Very Merry Mexico !! – The Final Days…………..

June 16, 2008

Hola from Mexico

Pics to follow..

So I’m actually typing this from Mexico City airport whilst waiting for my flight to London. I have had an absolute blast in my last days here and leaving Guatemala was the best decision I ever made, on to the story……

The bus left Flores at 5am, you have to transit through Belize and as you have to pay $15 for the privilege I decided at least to step on the soil in Belize City. A few people got off there and a few other people got on and we were suddenly in Chetumal, Mexico by around 3pm – not bad seeing as we’d already been in 3 countries that day !! We then had to get a further bus to Tulum (my tonic of a place I’d visited in February) which didn’t leave for 2 hours. So we all went for food and the usual get to know each other session. I have decided basically to have fun and not try and really do any new sights in my last week, I mean I could but I think a rest would be better – famous last words !!

We arrived in Tulum around 9pm and all headed to the Weary Traveller again, with their famous mandatory “I’m not a tourist, I’m a weary traveller” bracelet that you have to wear. This time it’s clear rather than purple in colour. I was amazed that at that time on a Saturday night they had beds for us all. Maybe the bed bugs have been deterring people !! As I walked in I heard “Sally !!”. Some how Lucy had managed to get there before me. Then bizarrely she’d bumped into a girl there that she’d met in Bolivia a year before – as we say, it’s a small world !! I checked in and had a beer. Then headed next door for tacos before we all went over to the bar across the road. At this point, Rhonda, a girl I’d met on the bus had officially made us a threesome.. as we’d got there late the 2am finish seemed really early but we ended up chatting to a lot of people and it was a laugh.

The next morning I woke up around 10 and relaxed after breakfast. I caught the 12 noon free bus back to that absolutely stunning beach and we found Rhonda and some of the others. The sea was gorgeous, and I spent the day sunbathing, reading and chatting – yes, I am officially back in traveller’s heaven !! We went out for dinner with a couple of people and had a few beers back at the hostel before bed, I think we were all tired after not having seen the sun in so long.

Back to the beach the next day aswell and I spent most of the day chatting to an Aussie guy called Nick. I feel like I’ve got a cold coming on so had some rather expensive but delectable coconut ice cream to help my throat. That evening everyone seemed to be keen to go out. After a few games of pool and more tacos I led everyone to a sign I’d seen earlier in the day which said “disco”. Unfortunately it was closed, so we found another bar but the drinks were expensive. On our way back we asked the security guard from the hostel if there was anywhere we could go and he directed us down the opposite end of the street to another place. I think apart from the taco place I’d never walked that way. There was indeed a bar full of locals. Suddenly it all turned in to a dance fest. We were all up and there are some funny photos. I am used to Columbia where all the locals dance so I asked who would dance salsa with me (got to get those last Latin American moves in while you can !!). Apparently the only man in the whole place that could dance salsa was the DJ. I therefore had to make him keep putting on very long records so I could get some more practise. He was okay, but I’ve had better partners. I think Tom then decided he was going to learn so he became my partner for a while. We then all headed back for a game of spoof !! Why oh why, I have no idea. We played twice the same people went out in exactly the same order, which meant Tom and Rhonda lost and the fine was one us girls used to use. I’m not going to say what it was, it wasn’t that bad (or maybe it was….), just very funny (you had to be there) !!

Needless to say I was up a bit later the next day. I went to the beach with Rhonda around 1ish and as she went to see the local ruins (I did them last time) I went to the beach. It’s raining !! I waited for a while and then Rhonda came back and we found Sam and Tom and chatted to them until we could take the rain no more. We taxied back. I read for a bit and then we met up and went for dinner with a couple Rhonda had met in Belize. Lucy had very kindly invited a guy called Emile along who was on his own. Okay, I think she thought he was cute (sorry Lucy) !! She taught us a childhood game she played called the “Scar” game. You basically pick a scar on your body and make up 3 stories about it, one of which has to be true. The others players have to guess which the correct story is. I went first and they guessed the story correctly, my poker face let me down big time !! On Emile’s turn, Lucy and I both guessed incorrectly. Mainly because his scar was caused by a package when he worked on the graveyard shift at the post office and the package contained synthetic wolf sperm. There is a bit more to the story but needless to say it’s probably the only time I’ll ever play that game as I don’t think there can be a better story so it will never be the same. It has of course also ruined Lucy’s childhood game for ever – thanks Emile !! We ended up back in the hostel with the boys and had a few drinks, shared some more hilarious stories and then had a relatively early night. Well, after Lucy and I had our nightly goss first !!

It’s raining today, Lucy and I basically had no plan apart from to meet in Tulum, so after a bit of a discussion last night we’ve decided to leave with Rhonda to head to Isla de Mujeres – translation, Island of Women. I have to say it’s rather a better location than the Isle of Man (no offence !!). The journey involves a 2 hour bus ride to Cancun and a 20 minute boat ride, so all pretty easy. Imagine our initial disappointment when we get there to find that men are actually allowed on. Oh well. We walk towards the main hostel and get offered a shared apartment. It’s very clean and we have a TV and a lounge to share with a few guitar playing, shisha smoking Israeli’s. We can do that, gives Lucy a chance to practice. The island is very touristy and feels like you’re on holiday from a holiday but as it’s low season it’s actually okay. We chill for the afternoon and then head out for food. We are immediately accosted by some Americans who insist we eat where they are. We do and then head back for an early night and fall asleep watching a film (my cold has also developed so I’m not feeling the best).

The next day my cold has gone and left me with a rather deep and not completely unsexy voice. We go for a little walk and then have breakfast. The sun has returned so Rhonda and I go to the beach. The sea is really calm here although the beach is busier than I’m used to. We head back later and get Lucy so we can enjoy cocktails at sunset from our swings at the bar – oh yes this is the life !! Lucy and I stay out and it seems that the bars take it in turns to have live music. At least that way the profits get shared I guess. We stay out until 1am and she made me dance to “I will survive” (I never do that !!!) before we went to bed.

The next day I picked up my flight ticket. I’ve decided to risk flying from Cancun to Mexico City and home all in one day. There’s a big gap in between so it should be okay. The flight is $20 more than the bus but 22 hours quicker, i.e. a no brainer !! That way I get an extra day in Cancun which is where we are off to next. The boys went to Puerto del Carmen so we said we’d all try and catch up in Cancun to watch the rugby together. Rhonda is a Kiwi and the boys are English so I need to meet them to have moral support for a predicted thrashing. Well when you continue to play that muppet at no.10 what can you expect !!

We checked in to the Weary Traveller in Cancun and the room was so much better than last time I was there. Then we decided to go shopping. I even bought a couple of dresses. The boys had checked in by the time we got back so we arranged to meet later. As it turned out the Scottish boys I did Tikal with Rich and Tony, or I should say Antonio and Ricardo (as their bracelets now refer to them) were also there. This is bad news as they are obviously supporting New Zealand. We combed the internet and came up with a place we thought we might be able to see it playing (unrealistic to say the least). The game didn’t start here until 2.30am so we didn’t leave until after midnight. We had to got to the hotel zone. I didn’t make it here last time and it feels like I’ve walked in to Las Vegas. It’s horrendous !! The bar we want is closed so we go to another one and have a very expensive beer. Ummmm, not very backpacker land !! We then come across a bar called “Dos Equis”. It’s 2am and they tell us we can get 2 hours partying including all drinks at $10 for the girls and $15 for the boys. Yes, sometimes I do love being a girl !! We all agreed and then I think we just went for it. Sam and Tom have a ping pong ball they bring out for fun, the balloons arrived and then I discovered we could get shots as well as drinks, and then I’m afraid Priscilla just took over. I don’t really remember too much. I know I was dancing on stage with some people, then a pole was involved, but apparently I was quite good, and the ping pong ball joined in to but not in a bad way. Then I threw up in the toilets…classy !! Lucy got me home bless. I put it down to it being the end of my trip and just having a complete blow out and I think Priscilla wanted one last night out aswell.  

Yes, I feel truly awful today. I blame the Scottish, they are animals and I’m sure they encouraged me. Anyway everyone said it was hilarious and I’m not bad around a pole. Photo’s NOT on facebook please !! After food and yet another sleep the gang have decided tonight is the night to go to Coco Bongo’s. I’ve heard that it’s another one price drink all place – help !! However, it’s my last Saturday night so there’s no question, I’m going. In fact I think the hair of the dog helped !! We left just before 10. There are 17 of us going in total. It’s basically $50 to get in or $60 for VIP. I am amazed that this many backpackers are prepared to pay this much for a night out but we do. I guess we are all getting to the ends of our trips so the budget goes out of the window. As a concession we catch the bus down. Getting of the bus there is an albino burmese python – because there would be wouldn’t there ?? So I get to stoke him, he’s gorgeous !! There is a rather long queue for Coco Bongo’s so half of us VIP it and the other half queue. We are let in, the boys are frisked (the ping pong ball is damaged !!) and then we are all handed a rum punch each. We are the first in although it starts filling up really quickly. Now I’m going to say if you ever get to go to Cancun you must do a night here. I think it’s the best night I’ve ever had in a club. It’s like free drinks and constant cabaret. Lucy feels a bit aggrieved as she’s only 23 and doesn’t want to think that she’s now been to her best club already but doesn’t see how she can top it. At least my clubbing years are nearly over !! Everyone’s faces were just a sea of smiles, it was all so happy….

The girls also had to get on the bar to dance, although I have to say it gave you a great view of the cabaret. Then we had to do the conga around the bar and then yes we really really had to have Tequila tipped into our mouths, you weren’t allowed to say no. The cabaret started with some dancers and then they had video footage of Robbie Williams, my heart started beating quicker, I knew he was trying to break in to the States but surely he’s not here ??? He wasn’t, it was an impersonator. Then we had Elvis, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Guns ‘n’ Roses, Beyonce, Moulin Rouge, Beetlejuice and as well as other acrobatics, Spider man chasing the green goblin around the stage. Each act seemed to be getting better and better. I really paced myself and stayed sober. After the acts, everyone got handed more illuminous green head wear to dance around in the dark in and it did start to turn in to a bit of a meat market so I left at 3.30am with Rhonda as she had a flight to catch and I didn’t want her leaving and getting the bus back on her own. We got back on a high, she grabbed her back and left (no sleep poor thing !!), oh well I shall see her in London in a few weeks anyway.   

I woke up early the next day and said goodbye to the boys, they are now off to the Island of Women. Lucy and I are spending our last day together in Cancun. After food we say goodbye to Harry and then go to the mall. We want to try and catch “Sex in the City”. We could find a schedule on line and end up having 2 hours to wait so wandered around. Yeah, it’s starting and 20 minutes later we have a power cut, it affects the whole cinema and so we have to get our money back. So there’s no sex in this city this evening !!

I said goodbye to Lucy today and am now as I said in the airport waiting for my final flight included in the transport count below. I’ve had the best last days……the trip has been amazing, there are more funny stories from the last few days but I’d miss the flight. There have been lows as well as highs throughout the year and you can get lonely sometimes, it would also be great sometimes to have been able to share the experiences with someone from home, so that I don’t bore everyone to death when I get back. On the flip side, I’ve been able to do what I want when I want, which hopefully has not turned me into a spoilt brat !! I think if I’ve learnt anything at all it’s that if you really want to do something in your life then you really should try and do it. I’d had a difficult year and really my purpose was to go away become brave again and rediscover my sparkle, it’s worked………. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone and I can’t wait to sleep in my own bed. Of course there’s going to be a job to find,  housework to do and I just hope I can remember to put the toilet paper down the toilet and not in the bin next to it, it’s been a while !!

I’d also just like to thank the people who’ve supported this blog and the people who’ve kept in touch with me whilst I’ve been away, it’s meant a lot !!

Time to go and catch the flight……………. in terms of favourites

1) Borneo 2) Columbia 3) Argentina

the misses………….. equal last places – Cambodia, Guatemala and Chile………everywhere else I really enjoyed too….

 

 Final Transport count:

Plane = 28, Bus = 128, Train = 2, Boat =24, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 11, Books Read = 35 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all for the last time

Sally xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

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Tingly Tikal !! – Guatemala

June 16, 2008

Hola from Guatemala

pics to follow..

By going to the office I was definitely on the shuttle which went via Antigua to Guatemala city. I have to say the capital looks a rather scary place at night, there’s hardly anyone on the streets. I upgraded my bus ticket to get a slighty better seat and then settled in for the night. Narnia the film did the trick, I was asleep immediately and woke up at 1am and then again at 4am when we had to get off so the fruit police could search the bus…and you think I’m joking. Of course, we could have got away with some secretly concealed apples or arms for that matter as our bag search involved just a slight squeeze. At 6am we arrived in Flores. Flores is a little island with a bridge that connects to Saint Helena (not so nice). It feels very safe and has lots of cobbled streets and colourful buildings. I headed straight to Los Amigos (the hostel), although the door was locked I could see that I’d be able to get in soon so waited in the street. Sure enough I was eventually let in and had a fab breakfast whilst waiting for a room to come available. Overnight bus journeys seem to take it out of me (or am I just thinking about home and not feeling verty sociable at the moment ??) so opted for the room over the dorm, sometimes it’s just nice to have your own space – must be thinking about home then. Los Amigos is a fab hostel, great food, very sociable and would highly recommend. The main reason people come here is to do Tikal. You can also stay at Tikal or El Remate but as the weather is still looking iffy I’ve decided here is a better bet. Today is all about relaxation and I think I’ll go to the ruins tomorrow because, yes, guess what it’s raining !!

The next morning I’d opted not to do the 3am sunrise tour, mainly because I’ve heard at this time of year it’s misty and you don’t get one. So I leave to catch the 7am bus to the ruins. This does not appear. In fact when I asked for the second time what time the bus would be arriving the man went in to the back office to go to sleep – I have to say I haven’t found the Guatemalans that endearing !! If he’d have just said sorry it’s not coming, I’d have gone for some breakfast. In the end it turned up at 8.20am. I got chatting to a Scottish guy and after a very knowledgable introduction from a guide, 5 of us decided to do the tour with him. His name is Caesar and I said I’d plug his company on the blog – it’s “Little Caesar’s travels” and worth every penny, so there you go.

We bought our tickets and were immediately shown a dead tarantula. It had been stung by one of those huge Tarantula Hawk Wasps and hadn’t made it back to the nest before it had died. It was still completely intact and thank goodness they’d told me it was dead before I saw it, my snake phobia has been cured the spider one still needs some work !! After that we saw some great Weaver bird nests which are really long and made of a straw like substance. Then we passed a whole load of Howler monkeys, who didn’t seem to be hiding as much as usual. Oh well on to the ruins…..

Tikal is set in the midst of jungle. Several thousand Mayans lived there even though we weren’t really sure how they survived on so little water. They definitely had a caste system in place with slaves having to build some of the incredible structures, which included narrow passage ways so the rulers could see what everyone was doing. Every block of stone seemed to be exactly the same size. We walked through to the main area and got to climb some of the pyramids, conveniently now fitted with wooden staircases. They are huge. After studing some further structures which have been left as is so you can get more of an idea of how the site would look now if there had been no renovations it was time to go to Temple IV. On the way we got to see some local birds, I think it’s the nature here that makes this place special.  

Temple IV is a 70 metre climb. We said goodbye to Caesar and then the heavens opened. We waited for a bit and then made our way up the steps. Okay now I’m not in to sci-fi but I am a bit of a Star Wars fan. At the top is the view of the scene from the 4th film where they are leaving the rebel base (or that’s what the boys told me). The view across the valleys was spectacular, and the best bit of the day for me. Apparently Apocalypto was filmed here to, which is one of the first films I intend to rent when I get home. We did of course get absolutely soaked so a week earlier than I thought I am leaving Guatemala.

My highlights here were Tikal, Pocaya and I did like Xela, but overall I have to say I’ve been rather underwhelmed with Guatemala. In fact I cannot wait to get back to Mexico and I think I’m going to catch up with Lucy who I last saw in Nicaragua. For me there’s just been too many gringos, not the friendliest of locals and too much rain. I think for my last 9 days I need fun, fun and more fun, after all I have had the odd adventure along the way. Guatemala – sorry but for me you’re down there with Cambodia and Chile. 

Transport count:

Plane = 26, Bus = 125, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 11, Books Read = 35 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Leaky Lago Atticlan – Guatemala

June 4, 2008

Hola from Guatemala

Pic to follow

It’s still raining. In fact it rained since I left Xela and it hasn’t really stopped since, or only for miniscual intervals. So that’s it I’m coming home white. The journey here was pretty bleak, at some points the air was really misty so the bumpy roads make that really interesting !! I arrived at Panachel on Lake Atticlan around 4. Due to the rain I decided to stay here and found a room in hotel El Viajero which comes with TV, hot water and your home comforts. Little Luis Miguel is about 14 and he showed me to my room. A huge amount of children seem to work here unless they just can’t go to school because of the weather.

The next day I decide to stay in Panachel. I could go over to the villages across the lake but it’s so wet and it’s way too muddy to go hiking, plus you can’t see anything. Lago Atticlan is a very old hippy hangout, San Marcos is supposed to be one of the most spiritual places in the world !! A lot moved on during the troubles but as usual in Guatemala there are plenty of Gringos around. Luis Miguel tells me there’s been a landslide nearby and it’s killed around 23 people although I can’t see anything on the internet about it. Actually, another bonus point for my hotel, is it’s down little lanes and surrounded by other concrete buildings, there’s no mud getting to me that’s for sure.  I walk down to the lake and take a picture (above), I can’t really see anything. Most people aren’t that keen on Panachel but I quite like it and the people here have been really nice. It’s full of restaurants and mayan traditional tourist products but it’s okay.

I would love to have gone to the lakeside villages but not in this weather. If it got worse I wouldn’t want to be stuck. However, I have heard and noone can tell me the name of the village that there are some real hippies living somewhere. I’ve heard they had surgically enhanced ears, speak elvik and dance around to tambourines or often no music at all. I really just wanted to come here so see that, but even the hippies are staying inside, and who can blame them !!

The forecast for the weather is more rain so I was supposed to leave this morning. I was at my allotted pick up point at 5.55am but no bus turned up. In fact there was one but he said I wasn’t the person he was looking for. I’m pretty sure I was. Anyway no harm done, I got my room back until 11am, was surrounded by goats in the alley, found tampons in a shop (they are in such short supply here I’m thinking of selling them to travellers, I think I could make a fortune !!) and changed my bus ticket to leave in about 2 hours. Which means I’m doing an overnighter and I didn’t really want to do that but I’ve heard they’re ok.  

So that’s me for now. I’m sure the Lake is wonderful when the weather’s nice but it’s all been a bit leaky !! I’m off to find sun and I have to confess I’ve started to get very excited about coming home…….

 

Transport count:

Plane = 26, Bus = 123, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 11, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally

Quaint Quetzaltenango !! – Guatemalan Highlands

June 4, 2008

Hola from Guatemala

Pic to follow

So on to Guatemala’s second city, luckily for me there aren’t any other places on my trip beginning with Q or I may be in danger of running out of titles !! Of course it’s also known by the name Xela (a shortened version of it’s Mayan name) but Xela has the X factor is a rubbish title !!

Pigwatch

Firstly I had to leave Monterrico and before I did I felt I had to introduce a new paragraph for the blog to cope with my current obsession, not unsightly ladies but my latest animal obsession – well actually it’s been going on for a few months now (so here’s pigwatch)!! As I made my way back to the hotel for lunch a dog chased a pig out of one of the restaurants – they do that here if the pig or other animal doesn’t belong to that particular establishment. Monterrico is an incredibly quiet place so for the pig to run out in the middle of the road and in to the path of a huge lorry was incredibly bad luck, in fact it was nearly a case of smoky bacon !! The driver slammed on his brakes and the pig ducked, went under and then came out of the other side. He had a little mark on his back and obviously shaken went to the side of the road and knelt down on his trotters. He looked so scared. The next moment a girl came from the opposite side of the street, called him and off he gaily went trotting behind her, they are just so endearing. The bus came to pick me up and then as we were going a long the road, we suddenly screeched to a halt, pigs are obviously like buses here and one had charged in front of our bus, again luckily we missed it, I wish they’d stop trying to play chicken !!

Back to the blog…

The bus dropped me back in Antigua, so I ended up back in Los Amigos, it was raining so there was nothing to do apart from go to the “El Chillout” bar in the hostel. We were joined by 2 Danes who were there when I last left, 2 Americans who live in Costa Rica and a local Guatemalan guy who’d moved to Antigua that day. I became the life and soul of the party and staggered to bed around midnight. Actually it was a good night, I know porn names were revealed and I don’t think I’ve been that drunk since Panama, so I guess it’s  allowed every once in a while.

The next morning I felt awful and apparently one of the Americans came to say goodbye but I hadn’t woken from my pit at that stage. I went out for some food, skipped my market stop and then boarded the bus to Quetzaltenango. The roads were particularly muddy and windy, but eventually I was dropped off at the Black Cat hostel. I still felt tired so I spent the evening quietly just watching films with some of the other inmates.

Sunday, it’s time to go out and explore, and surprise surprise it’s raining !! I’m back at something like 2000 metres so I didn’t get a good night’s sleep (I hardly ever do at altitude). It’s the first Sunday of the month and today is market day, it’s the only day in the month that the Mayan’s come down to sell their wares. The market was quite small so I didn’t really buy anything. The centre of town has a beautiful square and some very elaborate buildings but apart from that I can’t really find much to do here. There’s still a few gringos (but not as many as Antigua) and I think it would be a good place to come and study Spanish although a little cold. Actually I wanted to come here and climb volcanos but the rain has put paid to those plans. There are lots of colourful houses down the narrow cobbled streets and others up high in the hills. Yes, indeed, it is very quaint. Again, had the weather been better I would have done a few days of volunteer work, there’s a great women’s organisation here that has lots of opportunities, in fact the city is run by women !! Later that evening I went out for some beers with my dorm mates – nothing too heavy this time, hurray !!

This morning I woke up and discovered that I’d managed to lose the padlock keys to my locker. They must have come out of my pocket at some point, luckily the ingenious receptionist had a screwdriver to hand and managed to bust the locker open. So I’m just finishing this page as I wait for my bus to take me to Lake Atticlan. Apparently we are in the midst of the first tropical storm of the season, well the bus is here so it’s time for the off !!

Transport count:

Plane = 26, Bus = 122, Train = 2, Boat =22, Sunglasses = 9, Mosquito Repellant = 11, Books Read = 31 1/2, Bags lost and then recovered = 2.

Take care all

Sally