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A Guatemalan Adventure and a Belizean Dream

Updated on March 14, 2014

From November 2013 to January 2014, Andy and I traveled through vibrant Guatemala and laid back Belize. These pages share the stories of our journey- by Jodi Stolle.

Guatemala's People

"Guatemalan's are short, round and friendly" - Andy.

Despite Andy's succinct view of the Guatemalan's, they just can't be summed up in a few words. They are many things. They are cowboys and rebels. They are pious and hard working. They are laid back and easy going. They are polite and friendly, but shy and modest. They will go out of their way to help a stranger, and do anything for their family and friends, and God they love a chat. It doesn't matter if you speak their language or not. They are patient people and proud of their country. They are talented weavers, carvers, farmers and gardeners, and are some of the happiest people you are likely to meet. But behind the smiles and generosity of many exists struggle. Families outside the city and wealthy towns have lots of mouths to feed and many go hungry. The effects of drinking and poverty are a common sight on the streets. However, despite the many things these people experience and represent they all have one thing in common, and that is that they are all the heart and soul of Guatemala.


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People on the streets of AntiguaAndy and guide on Volcan Pacaya.The cross on the hill watching over AntiguaChildren selling baskets, jewellery and shells on the Rio DulceAn old woman carrying a sack of wood strapped to her head for her stove (San Antonio, Lago de Atitlan)Life on the river. Wash day on the Rio DulceMayan weaver in Santa Catarina, Lake AtitlanPollo Campero - Guatemala's biggest export. It's like a fancy McDonalds serving only chicken products.
People on the streets of Antigua
People on the streets of Antigua
Andy and guide on Volcan Pacaya.
Andy and guide on Volcan Pacaya.
The cross on the hill watching over Antigua
The cross on the hill watching over Antigua
Children selling baskets, jewellery and shells on the Rio Dulce
Children selling baskets, jewellery and shells on the Rio Dulce
An old woman carrying a sack of wood strapped to her head for her stove (San Antonio, Lago de Atitlan)
An old woman carrying a sack of wood strapped to her head for her stove (San Antonio, Lago de Atitlan)
Life on the river. Wash day on the Rio Dulce
Life on the river. Wash day on the Rio Dulce
Mayan weaver in Santa Catarina, Lake Atitlan
Mayan weaver in Santa Catarina, Lake Atitlan
Pollo Campero - Guatemala's biggest export. It's like a fancy McDonalds serving only chicken products.
Pollo Campero - Guatemala's biggest export. It's like a fancy McDonalds serving only chicken products.

Estudio de Español

During our first week in Guatemala we stayed at a Spanish school in the pretty town of Antigua. For a small price, we spent a week in a little castle surrounded by balconettes, a rooftop terrace and a glass wall that overlooked the magnificent Volcan Agua (one of the three volcanoes that surround Antigua).

For four hours each morning, we studied Spanish in the gardens. Our tutors, Rebecca and Lily, would teach us so much more than just the language. They would teach us about their lives, the lives of the Guatemalan people, and their culture and their history.

With afternoons off, we spent time discovering the town and it's hidden courtyards. We searched through the markets, sat in Antigua's social centre - the park, and watched it all happen around us, we listened to preachers frothily deliver the word of God, and, of course, tried to find the best mojito and practise our crap Spanish.


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Andy and his Spanish tutor RebeccaMe and my tutor, LilySan Jose El Viejo tutors, Rebecca and LilyAndy on the rooftop terrace pointing at Volcan AguaThe Fountain room in the castle at San Jose El Viejo Spanish schoolThe school's gardensTaking a walk through the gardensThe little castle.Looking at Volcan Agua from the room.
Andy and his Spanish tutor Rebecca
Andy and his Spanish tutor Rebecca
Me and my tutor, Lily
Me and my tutor, Lily
San Jose El Viejo tutors, Rebecca and Lily
San Jose El Viejo tutors, Rebecca and Lily
Andy on the rooftop terrace pointing at Volcan Agua
Andy on the rooftop terrace pointing at Volcan Agua
The Fountain room in the castle at San Jose El Viejo Spanish school
The Fountain room in the castle at San Jose El Viejo Spanish school
The school's gardens
The school's gardens
Taking a walk through the gardens
Taking a walk through the gardens
The little castle.
The little castle.
Looking at Volcan Agua from the room.
Looking at Volcan Agua from the room.

Antigua

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The Spanish colonial style architecture in Antigua's central squareCentral park, where the whole town comes to connect.Old church next to the Spanish school, San Jose El ViejoInside the old church next to the Spanish school.Antigua's yellow iglesia, Convento de Nuestra. South side of Antigua town.Andy walks on what is left of the top floor of Convento de Nuestra after earthquakes destroyed it.Convento de Nuestra cloisterThe cloister of the old convent, Convento de NuestraInside the Convento de Nuestra. A picture of the monks that built the convent hangs in place of a giant tapestry. Overlooking the cloisterGuatemala's iconic structure, the Antigua archRuins of the Cathedral de Santiago in Antigua. Destroyed by earthquakes.Cathedral de Santiago in ruins. Central Antigua town.The sky shines through where the roof used to be .Architecture inside the Cathedral de SantiagoFallen bits of roof remain after Antigua's most recent earthquake.What was part of the main cathedral is now an open garden after a roof collapse.Ruins of the Cathedral de SantiagoHorse parking. AntiguaThe cross on the hill. AntiguaVolcan Fuego erupts in the distanceOne of the many mercaditos (small markets) in AntiguaMojitos at the Rainbow CafeWheelchair basketballWine bar
The Spanish colonial style architecture in Antigua's central square
The Spanish colonial style architecture in Antigua's central square
Central park, where the whole town comes to connect.
Central park, where the whole town comes to connect.
Old church next to the Spanish school, San Jose El Viejo
Old church next to the Spanish school, San Jose El Viejo
Inside the old church next to the Spanish school.
Inside the old church next to the Spanish school.
Antigua's yellow iglesia, Convento de Nuestra. South side of Antigua town.
Antigua's yellow iglesia, Convento de Nuestra. South side of Antigua town.
Andy walks on what is left of the top floor of Convento de Nuestra after earthquakes destroyed it.
Andy walks on what is left of the top floor of Convento de Nuestra after earthquakes destroyed it.
Convento de Nuestra cloister
Convento de Nuestra cloister
The cloister of the old convent, Convento de Nuestra
The cloister of the old convent, Convento de Nuestra
Inside the Convento de Nuestra. A picture of the monks that built the convent hangs in place of a giant tapestry.
Inside the Convento de Nuestra. A picture of the monks that built the convent hangs in place of a giant tapestry.
Overlooking the cloister
Overlooking the cloister
Guatemala's iconic structure, the Antigua arch
Guatemala's iconic structure, the Antigua arch
Ruins of the Cathedral de Santiago in Antigua. Destroyed by earthquakes.
Ruins of the Cathedral de Santiago in Antigua. Destroyed by earthquakes.
Cathedral de Santiago in ruins. Central Antigua town.
Cathedral de Santiago in ruins. Central Antigua town.
The sky shines through where the roof used to be .
The sky shines through where the roof used to be .
Architecture inside the Cathedral de Santiago
Architecture inside the Cathedral de Santiago
Fallen bits of roof remain after Antigua's most recent earthquake.
Fallen bits of roof remain after Antigua's most recent earthquake.
What was part of the main cathedral is now an open garden after a roof collapse.
What was part of the main cathedral is now an open garden after a roof collapse.
Ruins of the Cathedral de Santiago
Ruins of the Cathedral de Santiago
Horse parking. Antigua
Horse parking. Antigua
The cross on the hill. Antigua
The cross on the hill. Antigua
Volcan Fuego erupts in the distance
Volcan Fuego erupts in the distance
One of the many mercaditos (small markets) in Antigua
One of the many mercaditos (small markets) in Antigua
Mojitos at the Rainbow Cafe
Mojitos at the Rainbow Cafe
Wheelchair basketball
Wheelchair basketball
Wine bar
Wine bar

Antigua Tuk Tuk

Miguel, the Tradesman, the Father and the Widower

On the third day of our lessons, Lily told me a story about a man who lost his wife and was left to raise his 10 children on his own. She began the story by telling me that a few days earlier, her water heater had broken and that yesterday, Miguel the repair man, looking thin, pale and drawn had shown up at her door with three children in tow to repair it. Concerned, Lily asked Miguel if he was sick and that's when the flood gates opened. Miguel broke down and wept.

You see, Miguel had just lost his wife whilst giving birth to their 10th child. Her heart couldn't take any more and so now he was a single father with 10 kids to feed. In order to cope, he was forced to send his eldest son to the city to find work, the next three eldest were taken out of school and sent to work with him each day to learn the trade, the youngest five were at home alone and the newborn baby was given away.

As sad as this story is, unfortunately it is also a common one for many Mayan families in Guatemala. Its traditional for Mayans to have big families. They have little money, access to education and medical.

Volcan Pacaya
Volcan Pacaya

Volcan Pacaya - A Trip to the Dragon's Lair

"A good trip with dogs and explosions" - Andy.

Highlights: Over a packet of M&Ms, Andy makes friends with a local dog.:: Dog becomes Andy's personal tour guide.:: Eating volcano steamed marshmallows on a stick.:: A one person volcano sauna.:: Volcano surfing.:: Awesome tacos for lunch.

Feature: Watching the dragon breathe, cough and spew molten rock from its gaping mouth hundreds of metres into the air.

Lowlights: Eating lunch in front of starving animals and children in the village at the base of the volcano. You would think that living at the base of an active volcano was bad enough.:: Offering our uneaten biscuits and chocolate to the children and having the food desperately snatched from our hands like it had been days since they had last eaten. It looked more like weeks.:: Knowing that whatever food or money you did offer wasn't enough.

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Looking up at Volcan PacayaLava crackAndy and his guide dogVolcano saunaMoonscapeEruption of molten rock (pic taken from 1km away)Volcano surfing
Looking up at Volcan Pacaya
Looking up at Volcan Pacaya
Lava crack
Lava crack
Andy and his guide dog
Andy and his guide dog
Volcano sauna
Volcano sauna
Moonscape
Moonscape
Eruption of molten rock (pic taken from 1km away)
Eruption of molten rock (pic taken from 1km away)
Volcano surfing
Volcano surfing

Finca El Paraiso's Hot Waterfall

"A really pretty place and a lovely day" - Andy.

On the 8th of December, we arrived at our first tropical destination, the Rio Dulce (sweet river). The rio is hot, wet, full of mosquitos and is still a beautiful place to relax. When you come to the rio there are three things you have to do before you leave. You have to cruise the rio, check out the Castillo de San Felipe and visit the hot waterfall at Finca El Paraiso.

To get to Finca El Paraiso, you've got to hop a collectivo from town, pack in the van with 50 or so locals, half of which are hanging out the slide door and hang on while the guy at the wheel redlines it to your destination only slowing down to pick up or drop off literally anyone standing on the side of the road. The regular slowdowns for pick ups and drop offs are probably the only reason the collectivos and their passengers make it to their destinations alive.

After the collectivo drops you off at your stop on the road, its a short walk through the jungle to the hot falls and swimming holes that are fed by a thermal spring. Local families come here on weekends to relax, socialise and bathe in the mud. So, when in Rome.........

Then after a really great day, when you're all talked out, mud mask fresh, and have a thermally singed backside, its back to the road to flag the next death wish collectivo into town.

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Finca El Paraiso's hot waterfallJodi under the falls. There is a space in the rock that allows you to get behind the falls in your own private steam room. Inside a collectivoBreak necking it down the road.
Finca El Paraiso's hot waterfall
Finca El Paraiso's hot waterfall
Jodi under the falls. There is a space in the rock that allows you to get behind the falls in your own private steam room.
Jodi under the falls. There is a space in the rock that allows you to get behind the falls in your own private steam room.
Inside a collectivo
Inside a collectivo
Break necking it down the road.
Break necking it down the road.

The Rio Dulce

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On the Rio DulceEl Tortugal River LodgeThe jetty and swim pontoon at El Tortugal.Andy sitting in the bar at El TortugalCaribbean yachts take safe harbour in the Rio Dulce and El Tortugal's marina.Bath time for El Tortugal's property manager and guest liaison, Jeffe."You're next to scratch my butt."Our room at El Tortugal. The mosquito net, malaria pills and a greasy slather of Bushman's heavy duty insect repellent were a must. Getting in the lancha at El Tortugal to cruise the Rio Dulce.Andy and lancha captain on the Rio DulceAndy in a natural thermal sauna on the Rio DulceInside the bat cave.Fossil of a prehistoric bird inside the cave. Handprints of the archaeologists that discovered the cave system and thermal springs on the Rio Dulce. Clouds roll in for the day's stormCruising the Rio DulceRelaxationMan and his canoeJodi and captain.Life on the Rio DulceFishermen on the Rio DulceRio Dulce townShores of the Rio Dulce town.If God is with me, then who is against me?
On the Rio Dulce
On the Rio Dulce
El Tortugal River Lodge
El Tortugal River Lodge
The jetty and swim pontoon at El Tortugal.
The jetty and swim pontoon at El Tortugal.
Andy sitting in the bar at El Tortugal
Andy sitting in the bar at El Tortugal
Caribbean yachts take safe harbour in the Rio Dulce and El Tortugal's marina.
Caribbean yachts take safe harbour in the Rio Dulce and El Tortugal's marina.
Bath time for El Tortugal's property manager and guest liaison, Jeffe.
Bath time for El Tortugal's property manager and guest liaison, Jeffe.
"You're next to scratch my butt."
"You're next to scratch my butt."
Our room at El Tortugal. The mosquito net, malaria pills and a greasy slather of Bushman's heavy duty insect repellent were a must.
Our room at El Tortugal. The mosquito net, malaria pills and a greasy slather of Bushman's heavy duty insect repellent were a must.
Getting in the lancha at El Tortugal to cruise the Rio Dulce.
Getting in the lancha at El Tortugal to cruise the Rio Dulce.
Andy and lancha captain on the Rio Dulce
Andy and lancha captain on the Rio Dulce
Andy in a natural thermal sauna on the Rio Dulce
Andy in a natural thermal sauna on the Rio Dulce
Inside the bat cave.
Inside the bat cave.
Fossil of a prehistoric bird inside the cave.
Fossil of a prehistoric bird inside the cave.
Handprints of the archaeologists that discovered the cave system and thermal springs on the Rio Dulce.
Handprints of the archaeologists that discovered the cave system and thermal springs on the Rio Dulce.
Clouds roll in for the day's storm
Clouds roll in for the day's storm
Cruising the Rio Dulce
Cruising the Rio Dulce
Relaxation
Relaxation
Man and his canoe
Man and his canoe
Jodi and captain.
Jodi and captain.
Life on the Rio Dulce
Life on the Rio Dulce
Fishermen on the Rio Dulce
Fishermen on the Rio Dulce
Rio Dulce town
Rio Dulce town
Shores of the Rio Dulce town.
Shores of the Rio Dulce town.
If God is with me, then who is against me?
If God is with me, then who is against me?

Castillo de San Felipe

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Castillo de San Felipe on the Rio Dulce was the town's defence against pirates yet, the fort itself was destroyed and looted by pirates many times.Inside the gateAndy in the old kitchen.Andy in the courtyard.Roof access in the fort. Climbing to the roofLooking down the manhole from the roof of the old fort. The roof of Castillo de San FelipeDungeon stairs of the fort.
Castillo de San Felipe on the Rio Dulce was the town's defence against pirates yet, the fort itself was destroyed and looted by pirates many times.
Castillo de San Felipe on the Rio Dulce was the town's defence against pirates yet, the fort itself was destroyed and looted by pirates many times.
Inside the gate
Inside the gate
Andy in the old kitchen.
Andy in the old kitchen.
Andy in the courtyard.
Andy in the courtyard.
Roof access in the fort.
Roof access in the fort.
Climbing to the roof
Climbing to the roof
Looking down the manhole from the roof of the old fort.
Looking down the manhole from the roof of the old fort.
The roof of Castillo de San Felipe
The roof of Castillo de San Felipe
Dungeon stairs of the fort.
Dungeon stairs of the fort.

The Garifuna town of Livingston, Guatemala

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A lone fishing boat comes back into Livingston early one morning after pulling in the night's haul.Arriving by lancha at Hotel Villa Caribe, LivingstonAndy congratulates himself on his swim in the pool View of Amatique Bay from Hotel Villa CaribeOn the beach at Livingston looking out to Amatique Bay and the Caribbean SeaLivingston is a small fishing village with a colourful Garifuna culture, full of great Caribbean seafood, Garifuna music and a good share of street hustlers.Shopping on the main street of LivingstonAndy on the main street.The hustler:: What would you do if; your family had been murdered, you had taken your revenge, an eye for an eye, had fled your country and now you are chosen for God's plan?........... ask for money and get high that's what. God's got it sorted.
A lone fishing boat comes back into Livingston early one morning after pulling in the night's haul.
A lone fishing boat comes back into Livingston early one morning after pulling in the night's haul.
Arriving by lancha at Hotel Villa Caribe, Livingston
Arriving by lancha at Hotel Villa Caribe, Livingston
Andy congratulates himself on his swim in the pool
Andy congratulates himself on his swim in the pool
View of Amatique Bay from Hotel Villa Caribe
View of Amatique Bay from Hotel Villa Caribe
On the beach at Livingston looking out to Amatique Bay and the Caribbean Sea
On the beach at Livingston looking out to Amatique Bay and the Caribbean Sea
Livingston is a small fishing village with a colourful Garifuna culture, full of great Caribbean seafood, Garifuna music and a good share of street hustlers.
Livingston is a small fishing village with a colourful Garifuna culture, full of great Caribbean seafood, Garifuna music and a good share of street hustlers.
Shopping on the main street of Livingston
Shopping on the main street of Livingston
Andy on the main street.
Andy on the main street.
The hustler:: What would you do if; your family had been murdered, you had taken your revenge, an eye for an eye, had fled your country and now you are chosen for God's plan?........... ask for money and get high that's what. God's got it sorted.
The hustler:: What would you do if; your family had been murdered, you had taken your revenge, an eye for an eye, had fled your country and now you are chosen for God's plan?........... ask for money and get high that's what. God's got it sorted.

Into Belize

Green Parrot Resort, Maya Beach, Belize
Green Parrot Resort, Maya Beach, Belize

Belize Fast Facts

Population: 334,000 people = lots of space.

Weather: Tropical

Armed Forces: A heafty 1,000 personnel, deployed to protect Belize's borders from the Mexican and Cuban drug traffickers and from the Guatemalan's trying to reclaim what they lost.

Food: Fried plaintains (Andy's favourite), rasta rice, creole fish, lobster and shrimp till you burst, jerk chicken cooked by big mamas, and an endless pie list; sweet potato pie, caye lime pie, coconut pie, sweet rice pie....... Result - no skinny people but everyone has a smile.

Culture: Garifuna, Rastafarian/Creole, Mayan, Amish and Mennonite.

Transport: Buses, water taxis, tiny planes and hitchin a ride are the way to go in Belize. Buses are the most commonly used mode of transport. They are slow but cheap, dependable and easy to catch, just stand on the road and stick out your arm. With the exception of Belize's three highways, roads outside of the city are generally unpaved, and all, paved or not, resemble a heavily bunkered golf course with the added butt bruising fun of regular speed humps used as an alternative to traffic lights.

Beaches: With a Pina Colada in hand, Belize's gorgeous, laid back Caribbean beaches give you the serenity you've been searching for....... just as long as you brought the insect repellent because the 'no-see-ums' will eat you alive.

No-see-ums: Invisible biting midges.

Population of 'no-see-ums': More than you could count even if you could see um.

Number of tourists covered in angry no-see-um bites: A lot.

Oddities: Skinny white boys with a Rasta accent.

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Tropical storm coming in over Punta Gorda, BelizeA Rasta coffee break at Punta GordaLife in BelizeEating plantain chipsTub of cholesterol anyone? Readily available at any supermarket.Happy BelizeBelize according to Apple Maps Catching James' Bus to Independence.Belizean school kidsLife in BelizeCatching a water taxi at Independence
Tropical storm coming in over Punta Gorda, Belize
Tropical storm coming in over Punta Gorda, Belize
A Rasta coffee break at Punta Gorda
A Rasta coffee break at Punta Gorda
Life in Belize
Life in Belize
Eating plantain chips
Eating plantain chips
Tub of cholesterol anyone? Readily available at any supermarket.
Tub of cholesterol anyone? Readily available at any supermarket.
Happy Belize
Happy Belize
Belize according to Apple Maps
Belize according to Apple Maps
Catching James' Bus to Independence.
Catching James' Bus to Independence.
Belizean school kids
Belizean school kids
Life in Belize
Life in Belize
Catching a water taxi at Independence
Catching a water taxi at Independence

Maya Beach and Placencia

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Omar's Creole Grub House. Seafood caught fresh every day by Omar and cooked by his wife. The best grub in town. Andy chugging Marie Sharps hot sauce at Omar's Creole Grub HouseAbove Grounds Coffee House. The only place to get good coffee in Belize because its Guatemalan coffee.Placencia beach path. The road to the Barefoot Bar.The Barefoot Bar. Stiff Drinks - Tasty Food - Good Times!Kicking back at the Barefoot BarStraw hat man, PlacenciaSun goes down at the Barefoot BarMain street PlacenciaBoy on bike, PlacenciaGreen Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya BeachGreen Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya BeachGreen Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya BeachKayaking Maya Beach
Omar's Creole Grub House. Seafood caught fresh every day by Omar and cooked by his wife. The best grub in town.
Omar's Creole Grub House. Seafood caught fresh every day by Omar and cooked by his wife. The best grub in town.
Andy chugging Marie Sharps hot sauce at Omar's Creole Grub House
Andy chugging Marie Sharps hot sauce at Omar's Creole Grub House
Above Grounds Coffee House. The only place to get good coffee in Belize because its Guatemalan coffee.
Above Grounds Coffee House. The only place to get good coffee in Belize because its Guatemalan coffee.
Placencia beach path. The road to the Barefoot Bar.
Placencia beach path. The road to the Barefoot Bar.
The Barefoot Bar. Stiff Drinks - Tasty Food - Good Times!
The Barefoot Bar. Stiff Drinks - Tasty Food - Good Times!
Kicking back at the Barefoot Bar
Kicking back at the Barefoot Bar
Straw hat man, Placencia
Straw hat man, Placencia
Sun goes down at the Barefoot Bar
Sun goes down at the Barefoot Bar
Main street Placencia
Main street Placencia
Boy on bike, Placencia
Boy on bike, Placencia
Green Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya Beach
Green Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya Beach
Green Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya Beach
Green Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya Beach
Green Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya Beach
Green Parrot Beach House and Resort, Maya Beach
Kayaking Maya Beach
Kayaking Maya Beach

Marie Sharp's Hot Sauce

"She's the hottest girl in Belize and everyone's tasted her" - Andy.

You can find her all over Belize, in every restaurant, every market and in every cafè. Marie Sharp's hot sauces are a national icon.

Her sauces range from mild to comatose. XXXXX rated for a comatose heat is Marie's hottest sauce, BEWARE, which comes with it's own beware warning, not to be given to the young, old or frail.

However, no matter which sauce you choose, mild, comatose or somewhere in between, you won't be disappointed. Marie Sharp is very, very, tasty.



Hopkins Police Station

Hopkins Police Arrest Procedure

Step one: Ride solo police bicycle to scene.

Step two: Cuff perpetrator,

Step three: Walk perpetrator and bicycle back to the abandoned looking building that is the Hopkins Police Station .

Step four: Arrest success!

Hopkins

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Kids playing in HopkinsDriftwood Beach Bar and Pizza ShackNothing like beer and pizza on the beachThe beach at the Driftwood BarCaribbean paradisePizza and beer at Driftwood. All that is just Andy's share.The fence of lost soles at the Driftwood BarNight falls at the Driftwood BarBest way to get around town. On the bike.This one's for dad. Conch shells.Cooking dinner.Hammocks on the beachHopkins beachHamanasi treehouseInside our Hamanasi treehouseKids playingThe God houseLife in HopkinsCocktail by the poolYacht on the Caribbean
Kids playing in Hopkins
Kids playing in Hopkins
Driftwood Beach Bar and Pizza Shack
Driftwood Beach Bar and Pizza Shack
Nothing like beer and pizza on the beach
Nothing like beer and pizza on the beach
The beach at the Driftwood Bar
The beach at the Driftwood Bar
Caribbean paradise
Caribbean paradise
Pizza and beer at Driftwood. All that is just Andy's share.
Pizza and beer at Driftwood. All that is just Andy's share.
The fence of lost soles at the Driftwood Bar
The fence of lost soles at the Driftwood Bar
Night falls at the Driftwood Bar
Night falls at the Driftwood Bar
Best way to get around town. On the bike.
Best way to get around town. On the bike.
This one's for dad. Conch shells.
This one's for dad. Conch shells.
Cooking dinner.
Cooking dinner.
Hammocks on the beach
Hammocks on the beach
Hopkins beach
Hopkins beach
Hamanasi treehouse
Hamanasi treehouse
Inside our Hamanasi treehouse
Inside our Hamanasi treehouse
Kids playing
Kids playing
The God house
The God house
Life in Hopkins
Life in Hopkins
Cocktail by the pool
Cocktail by the pool
Yacht on the Caribbean
Yacht on the Caribbean

The Drumming Lesson

"It was interesting" - Andy.

A 13 December bike ride through the cratered sandy roads of the Garifuna town of Hopkins ended at a little hidden bar where the best Garifuna drummers in Belize were waiting to give us a private lesson in how to carry a rhythm.

Things started off ok. Basic one-two beats weren't a problem, but when our drummer boy, Warren, began to up the tempo, things came undone. My lack of coordination; my frustration; the fact I was white, limited my drumming abilities. So when we hit the fourth rhythm, the cracks opened, the dam burst and everything fell apart including our guide, Neil, who found it very difficult to keep himself upright and on his chair laughing at my attempts to hold it together. Warren says, "relax man". I say, "you trying being uptight and white".

That fourth rhythm. I hate that rhythm! Even as I write this, Andy is drumming it. That bastard.

"Its only three beats!" - Andy.


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Andy and Warren, our tutor and one of the best Garifuna drummers in BelizeAndy and Neil riding to drumming lessonsAfter drumming hands
Andy and Warren, our tutor and one of the best Garifuna drummers in Belize
Andy and Warren, our tutor and one of the best Garifuna drummers in Belize
Andy and Neil riding to drumming lessons
Andy and Neil riding to drumming lessons
After drumming hands
After drumming hands

The Snorkel Trip

"Good. Lots of fish."- Andy

It was the first sunny day that we'd had in Hopkins, so we were down at the jetty first thing for a snorkel trip out to the reef.

The Belize Barrier Reef runs the length of the country and is one of the largest barrier reefs in the world. It is home to reef sharks, rays, turtles, conch, squid and thousands of tropical fish.

Our first snorkel site took us through underwater canyons and valleys and was spectacular, but being on the exposed side of the reef made things a little rolly. About 30 minutes into it, I started to feel, couldn't quite put my finger on it ..... odd. Then at about the 45 minute mark, I puked a little in my snorkel. Woops, too many eggs at breakfast? At the hour mark, the call to return to the boat was made and as soon as I set foot on deck, my legs went and I nearly lost it all over the side. That's when I figured it out, seeeeasick. Thankfully it was a short ride to one of the cayes whilst everyone besides Andy and the crew, lost theirs over the side.

Land! Beautiful, solid, stable, non-moving land!

After everyone had made a full recovery on stability, fruit, biscuits, and juice, it was back on the boat to snorkel site two. Thankfully this site was on the sheltered side of the reef. Lovely, calm, non-rolling water, a turtle, and beautiful rays made it a gorgeous site and all in all a great day. Even after I discovered that the sunscreen I had chosen wasn't the waterproof one. Oops.


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Heading for a snorkel from the Hamanasi jettyHamanasi jetty, snorkel boat and captain Neil.Frigate island out in the cayes.Frigate birdFrigate birds
Heading for a snorkel from the Hamanasi jetty
Heading for a snorkel from the Hamanasi jetty
Hamanasi jetty, snorkel boat and captain Neil.
Hamanasi jetty, snorkel boat and captain Neil.
Frigate island out in the cayes.
Frigate island out in the cayes.
Frigate bird
Frigate bird
Frigate birds
Frigate birds

The Belizean Air Cab

"Not as terrifying as expected" - Andy.

On the 15th of December, we decided to cut some time off our travel and fly from Dangriga to Caye Caulker saving us a couple of hours on our trip. However, the anticipated short flight turned out to be a multiple stop cab ride.

It began with a short 20 minute flight from Dangriga to the first stop, Belize International Airport, to drop off everyone on the plane bar us. Then off again for a five minute flight to the second stop, Belize Municipal Airport, so we could watch the movie Click in the lounge. Then it was back to the first stop, Belize International, to pick up more people, pack 'em in like fat sardines and finally, finally off to our intended destination and the fourth stop on the joyous up-down cab ride, Caye Caulker.

15 minutes later we were on ground and watching the 'US super size me's' that we left on board take off again for a more 'bigger is better', American style caye.

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Maya Island Air sky cabFlying out of DangrigaFlooded flat, sandy plains of Belize after the rainy season.Caribbean coast of BelizeFlying over the cayesSecond stop, Belize Municipal AirportComing in to land, Caye Caulker
Maya Island Air sky cab
Maya Island Air sky cab
Flying out of Dangriga
Flying out of Dangriga
Flooded flat, sandy plains of Belize after the rainy season.
Flooded flat, sandy plains of Belize after the rainy season.
Caribbean coast of Belize
Caribbean coast of Belize
Flying over the cayes
Flying over the cayes
Second stop, Belize Municipal Airport
Second stop, Belize Municipal Airport
Coming in to land, Caye Caulker
Coming in to land, Caye Caulker

Going Slow on Caye Caulker

"If I went any slower, I'd still be going" - Andy.

The Belizean island of Caye Caulker prides itself on it's laid back lifestyle. Here, the locals spend their days sitting under a coconut tree, selling conch shells, coconuts and chatting.

The island is only three miles long, so you don't have to go far to get what you want and that leaves plenty of time for hammock swinging, drinking pina coladas and watching the sun go down at the Lazy Lizard. The island has three main streets that run the length of it and are practically named, front, back and middle street. There are no sidewalks or paved roads, it is all just lovely white sand. No cars are allowed on the island, people get around on golf carts, bikes or on foot.

Caye Caulker is the island of chill, and to make sure that you don't forget, there are 'Go Slow' signs everywhere. The best snorkelling in the country is also found here at the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and there are plenty of tours falling over themselves to get you on their yacht for the day.

A person could spend a lot of time here, swinging in a hammock, swimming off the jetties and chasing the big rays.

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Hammock swingingBarefoot Beach Belize jettyAndy buying lime and coconut pie from Caye Caulker's pie cart ladySitting under a tree with the localsCaye Caulker jettiesMaries LaundryPizza Caulker has good pizza and free shots with the owner.Rasta  boatSunset drinks at the Lazy LizardTop end Front Street Bottom end Front Street
Hammock swinging
Hammock swinging
Barefoot Beach Belize jetty
Barefoot Beach Belize jetty
Andy buying lime and coconut pie from Caye Caulker's pie cart lady
Andy buying lime and coconut pie from Caye Caulker's pie cart lady
Sitting under a tree with the locals
Sitting under a tree with the locals
Caye Caulker jetties
Caye Caulker jetties
Maries Laundry
Maries Laundry
Pizza Caulker has good pizza and free shots with the owner.
Pizza Caulker has good pizza and free shots with the owner.
Rasta  boat
Rasta boat
Sunset drinks at the Lazy Lizard
Sunset drinks at the Lazy Lizard
Top end Front Street
Top end Front Street
Bottom end Front Street
Bottom end Front Street

Chaa Creek and San Ignacio

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Toucan at Chaa CreekChaa Creek horsesIguana at Chaa CreekSaturday markets, San IgnacioThe Amish at the Saturday markets, San Ignacio
Toucan at Chaa Creek
Toucan at Chaa Creek
Chaa Creek horses
Chaa Creek horses
Iguana at Chaa Creek
Iguana at Chaa Creek
Saturday markets, San Ignacio
Saturday markets, San Ignacio
The Amish at the Saturday markets, San Ignacio
The Amish at the Saturday markets, San Ignacio

The Ball Game

"It sounds like an incredibly difficult game of hacky sac which results in the loser having his still beating heart ripped out of his chest." - Andy

An integral part of the ancient Mayan civilisation was the ball game. The ball game was used for amusement, to settle differences, to determine life or death, or most importantly, it was used to determine whether a city's ruler, who had been captured in battle, would reclaim or lose his city to the rule of another. Because the outcome of the ball game for a captured city meant so much, the best ball players were often also the city rulers.

When a city was taken by another in battle, the captured ruler was given a chance to keep his life and win back his city in the ball game. However, no victorious ruler would want to risk losing the city he'd just acquired, so before the ball game was played, he spent time getting to know his prisoner and lulling him into a false sense of security. The captive ruler was treated like royalty, afforded every luxury except freedom and studied very closely. When his capturer decided that he had learnt all of his captive's strengths and weaknesses, the ball game was called.

To win the ball game, the players had to manoeuvre a rubber ball across the ball court using their elbows, hips and knees, without it touching the ground, and eventually, through a stone hoop or target. The loser of the ball game would lose his city and his life. Death would be a sacrifice to the Gods by decapitation, the removal of all limbs or have their still beating heart ripped from their chest.

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Enter the ball court, Cahal PechRuins of the Mayan satellite city of Cahal Pech.The royal living quartersSacrificing Andy. Cahal Pech sacrificial altar.The seat of the king.
Enter the ball court, Cahal Pech
Enter the ball court, Cahal Pech
Ruins of the Mayan satellite city of Cahal Pech.
Ruins of the Mayan satellite city of Cahal Pech.
The royal living quarters
The royal living quarters
Sacrificing Andy. Cahal Pech sacrificial altar.
Sacrificing Andy. Cahal Pech sacrificial altar.
The seat of the king.
The seat of the king.

ATM Cave

ATM Cave
ATM Cave | Source
Source
Source
Source

Some of the best things that happen on a holiday are those off the beaten track. They take you away from it all and allow you to lose yourself. For Andy and I, that was Belize's ATM Cave.

The ATM Cave in the jungle is a 5km underground river and cave system used by the Mayans to perform religious ceremonies and sacrifices. To this day it's still very much undiscovered with an unknown quantity of sacrificial and ceremonial artifacts. The small portion that has been revealed hosts skeletons, clay pots, tools, and jewellery.

When we arrived in San Ignacio the cave had been closed for a month due to heavy rain. With only three days in the area before we had to cross back over the Guatemalan border, we thought we were going to miss our chance. But on our last day luck was on our side, the rain stopped and they opened the cave. Hallelujah! However, everyone in San Ignacio had been waiting for the cave to open, so when it did, every van going out there was filled in a heartbeat. It took some doing but we found a guy who could take us out and we were off.

On arrival after an hour and a half's drive, our guide instructed us to dump everything except our water bottle, took us through a safety briefing and hiked us 45 minutes through jungle. The safety briefing went something like: "Stay on the path and don't touch anything - everything bites and stings. Do what I tell you, you are going to get wet, so get used to it. And don't pee in the water- the fish will swim up your whatsit and you don't want that."

So after the 45 minute hike and three river crossings up to our necks in flood water, holding on to each other for dear life in an effort to not to get washed downstream, we made it to the mouth of the cave. We still had a 1.5 km trek to go inside before we reached the site, and due to the recent heavy rains the water was high, cold and moving fast.

We plunged into the cold water and began swimming and scrambling upstream, pushing against the current, sometimes dragging each other through tough spaces like a monkey chain. After an hour or so, shivering from the cold water, we finally climbed out onto a cavernous dry space littered with artifacts. Making our way slowly along the scratched out path in single file and wet socks, trying not to step on anything was difficult.... artifacts were literally everywhere- including under the clay beneath our feet.

The best finds were the skeleton of a 14 year old boy still lying in the position he was sacrificed, and the misshapen skull of another.

The Mayans were avid body sculpters, binding babies heads at birth to create a cone shape skull as they grew, filing the teeth of warriors into sharp points to make them more fearsome, and embedding jade stones into the teeth of royalty. The misshapen skull I mentioned earlier was flat and wide instead of a cone shape. The parents of this boy hadn't bound the head correctly causing it to grow sideways. This boy didn't look like he was supposed to and that may have played a part in the decision to sacrifice him. It's an eerie feeling, standing in the place where people suffered pain and death and others had tried to alter their states of being.

With that creepy feeling, it was time to get our shoes back on and leave. Getting out was infinitely faster and easier than getting in. All you had to do was lie on your back and let the current rush you out. Emerging from the cave and the cold water, we welcomed the heat of the jungle..... until the mosquitoes found us. Then, it was a race back to the van, with everyone trying to outrun someone fatter and juicier than themselves.

The ATM Cave is, hands down, the best adventure you could have in Belize.


Skeleton of a 14 year old boy sacrificed to the gods. No evidence of missing limbs or trauma to the head leaves one method left.... removal of his beating heart.
Skeleton of a 14 year old boy sacrificed to the gods. No evidence of missing limbs or trauma to the head leaves one method left.... removal of his beating heart. | Source

So what did we do, while we were waiting for the ATM Cave to open? We visited the Amish.

Amish farms at Lower Barton Creek. No photos allowed. :(
Amish farms at Lower Barton Creek. No photos allowed. :(

Return to Guatemala

Flores Island

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Shores of FloresSwimming at the lancha dockFlores IslandStreet foodVoguing in FloresSunset on the lakeColoured buildings of FloresCobbled streets of Flores IslandFlooded streets of Flores due to heavy rainsGuatemalan lanchaShot drinking kitteh sitting at the bar at Il Terrazo. You can find him there on the same stool, every night at six.Beers on the balcony at Casa AzulTowel elephant, Casa Azul
Shores of Flores
Shores of Flores
Swimming at the lancha dock
Swimming at the lancha dock
Flores Island
Flores Island
Street food
Street food
Voguing in Flores
Voguing in Flores
Sunset on the lake
Sunset on the lake
Coloured buildings of Flores
Coloured buildings of Flores
Cobbled streets of Flores Island
Cobbled streets of Flores Island
Flooded streets of Flores due to heavy rains
Flooded streets of Flores due to heavy rains
Guatemalan lancha
Guatemalan lancha
Shot drinking kitteh sitting at the bar at Il Terrazo. You can find him there on the same stool, every night at six.
Shot drinking kitteh sitting at the bar at Il Terrazo. You can find him there on the same stool, every night at six.
Beers on the balcony at Casa Azul
Beers on the balcony at Casa Azul
Towel elephant, Casa Azul
Towel elephant, Casa Azul

Is There Something On My Face?

As you walk through what remains of Guatemala's largest ancient Mayan city, Tikal, you are awestruck by it's beauty and immensity. Enormous temples peak through the jungle canopy casting shadows that stretch for kilometres, beautiful green plazas separate stone buildings, and jungle Coatis run around your feet looking for ants. As you climb to the top of the stone temples the view of the ancient city, now partially swallowed by the jungle, is breathtaking. Tikal is truly a beautiful and wonderous place................. and then someone sticks a tarantula on your face!

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Andy panicking calmly. Very, very calmly.Looking a little calmer here.Don't worry folks. They aren't poisonous. They just have very, very big fangs. Look what our guide found! A Mexican Red Rump Tarantula in the grass.Our guide calming the tarantula before he puts it on Andy.Afternoon in the plaza at TikalClimbing the temple stepsStanding on the temple stepsExploring the garden Inside the royal living quarters.Exploring the garden Inside the royal living quarters.Jungle CoatiEntering the main plazaInside the main plazaCoati looking for antsWhere Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmedFront of the royal living quartersRemains of the royal living quartersConversations with our guide in the main plazaTikal temple peaking through the canopyTemples rise above the canopy. (shot taken atop another temple)Up on a temple, watching the sun go downA Guatemalan sunsetNight fallsTikal at night
Andy panicking calmly. Very, very calmly.
Andy panicking calmly. Very, very calmly.
Looking a little calmer here.
Looking a little calmer here.
Don't worry folks. They aren't poisonous. They just have very, very big fangs.
Don't worry folks. They aren't poisonous. They just have very, very big fangs.
Look what our guide found! A Mexican Red Rump Tarantula in the grass.
Look what our guide found! A Mexican Red Rump Tarantula in the grass.
Our guide calming the tarantula before he puts it on Andy.
Our guide calming the tarantula before he puts it on Andy.
Afternoon in the plaza at Tikal
Afternoon in the plaza at Tikal
Climbing the temple steps
Climbing the temple steps
Standing on the temple steps
Standing on the temple steps
Exploring the garden Inside the royal living quarters.
Exploring the garden Inside the royal living quarters.
Exploring the garden Inside the royal living quarters.
Exploring the garden Inside the royal living quarters.
Jungle Coati
Jungle Coati
Entering the main plaza
Entering the main plaza
Inside the main plaza
Inside the main plaza
Coati looking for ants
Coati looking for ants
Where Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed
Where Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom was filmed
Front of the royal living quarters
Front of the royal living quarters
Remains of the royal living quarters
Remains of the royal living quarters
Conversations with our guide in the main plaza
Conversations with our guide in the main plaza
Tikal temple peaking through the canopy
Tikal temple peaking through the canopy
Temples rise above the canopy. (shot taken atop another temple)
Temples rise above the canopy. (shot taken atop another temple)
Up on a temple, watching the sun go down
Up on a temple, watching the sun go down
A Guatemalan sunset
A Guatemalan sunset
Night falls
Night falls
Tikal at night
Tikal at night

Lake Atitlàn

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Andy takes the plunge in San Marcos against the backdrop of the lake's three volcanoes.Packed into the lancha on the way to the lakeside village of San Pedro.Approaching San Pedro in the lancha.Andy's favourite village and new hometown, San Pedro.Best bar in San Pedro, Hostal FeSan Pedro cowboys and tuk tuksStreets of San Pedro and Volcan San Pedro in the background.Exploring Andy's favourite village, San PedroStreets of San PedroSomething for Geoff's bucket list, San PedroNight markets, San PedroNight time and tuk tuks in San PedroMini Super Andy mart, San PedroHippies Land non-stop music fest! One optimistic tripped out hippie, a goat, a drum, and a very small island. Zoola, the best place to chill out at the lake. San PedroJodi in Zoola heaven, San PedroThe view from the top of Volcan San Pedro.Waiting at the the half sunken jetty in San Pedro for our lancha to take a Xmas Eve tour of the lake.First stop Santiago and a visit to the local markets.Andy at the markets in the lakeside village of SantiagoTomato sellers at the Santiago market.Sitting with the holy maximon (smoking man) in a house in Santiago.Inside the catholic church built on top of a Mayan temple in Santiago.Second stop, San AntonioView of the lake over the roofs of San Antonio village.An evangelist church in San AntonioTamales by the lake in San Antonio.A view of the volcanoes from San AntonioSan Antonio jetty.Third stop, Santa Catarina. Roofs of Santa CatarinaCobbled streets of Santa CatarinaAndy in the main square of Santa CatarinaKids on the streets of Santa CatarinaAndy returning to the lancha in Santa CatarinaLancha waiting for us at the Santa Catarina jetty. View of volcano in the background.Fourth stop, Santa Cruz. Climbing the hill to the village.Standing in the main square in Santa Cruz after a steep climb up from the lake.Local church ready for Navidad (Xmas) in Santa Cruz.Santa Cruz livingHouses in Santa CruzHaving coffee lakeside in Santa Cruz.Me and an actual friendly cat. La Paz restaurant in San Marcos.Fishing in San MarcosFishing in San MarcosView of the lake from Hotel Aaculaax, San MarcosWaiting for the lancha to leave San Pedro.
Andy takes the plunge in San Marcos against the backdrop of the lake's three volcanoes.
Andy takes the plunge in San Marcos against the backdrop of the lake's three volcanoes.
Packed into the lancha on the way to the lakeside village of San Pedro.
Packed into the lancha on the way to the lakeside village of San Pedro.
Approaching San Pedro in the lancha.
Approaching San Pedro in the lancha.
Andy's favourite village and new hometown, San Pedro.
Andy's favourite village and new hometown, San Pedro.
Best bar in San Pedro, Hostal Fe
Best bar in San Pedro, Hostal Fe
San Pedro cowboys and tuk tuks
San Pedro cowboys and tuk tuks
Streets of San Pedro and Volcan San Pedro in the background.
Streets of San Pedro and Volcan San Pedro in the background.
Exploring Andy's favourite village, San Pedro
Exploring Andy's favourite village, San Pedro
Streets of San Pedro
Streets of San Pedro
Something for Geoff's bucket list, San Pedro
Something for Geoff's bucket list, San Pedro
Night markets, San Pedro
Night markets, San Pedro
Night time and tuk tuks in San Pedro
Night time and tuk tuks in San Pedro
Mini Super Andy mart, San Pedro
Mini Super Andy mart, San Pedro
Hippies Land non-stop music fest! One optimistic tripped out hippie, a goat, a drum, and a very small island.
Hippies Land non-stop music fest! One optimistic tripped out hippie, a goat, a drum, and a very small island.
Zoola, the best place to chill out at the lake. San Pedro
Zoola, the best place to chill out at the lake. San Pedro
Jodi in Zoola heaven, San Pedro
Jodi in Zoola heaven, San Pedro
The view from the top of Volcan San Pedro.
The view from the top of Volcan San Pedro.
Waiting at the the half sunken jetty in San Pedro for our lancha to take a Xmas Eve tour of the lake.
Waiting at the the half sunken jetty in San Pedro for our lancha to take a Xmas Eve tour of the lake.
First stop Santiago and a visit to the local markets.
First stop Santiago and a visit to the local markets.
Andy at the markets in the lakeside village of Santiago
Andy at the markets in the lakeside village of Santiago
Tomato sellers at the Santiago market.
Tomato sellers at the Santiago market.
Sitting with the holy maximon (smoking man) in a house in Santiago.
Sitting with the holy maximon (smoking man) in a house in Santiago.
Inside the catholic church built on top of a Mayan temple in Santiago.
Inside the catholic church built on top of a Mayan temple in Santiago.
Second stop, San Antonio
Second stop, San Antonio
View of the lake over the roofs of San Antonio village.
View of the lake over the roofs of San Antonio village.
An evangelist church in San Antonio
An evangelist church in San Antonio
Tamales by the lake in San Antonio.
Tamales by the lake in San Antonio.
A view of the volcanoes from San Antonio
A view of the volcanoes from San Antonio
San Antonio jetty.
San Antonio jetty.
Third stop, Santa Catarina. Roofs of Santa Catarina
Third stop, Santa Catarina. Roofs of Santa Catarina
Cobbled streets of Santa Catarina
Cobbled streets of Santa Catarina
Andy in the main square of Santa Catarina
Andy in the main square of Santa Catarina
Kids on the streets of Santa Catarina
Kids on the streets of Santa Catarina
Andy returning to the lancha in Santa Catarina
Andy returning to the lancha in Santa Catarina
Lancha waiting for us at the Santa Catarina jetty. View of volcano in the background.
Lancha waiting for us at the Santa Catarina jetty. View of volcano in the background.
Fourth stop, Santa Cruz. Climbing the hill to the village.
Fourth stop, Santa Cruz. Climbing the hill to the village.
Standing in the main square in Santa Cruz after a steep climb up from the lake.
Standing in the main square in Santa Cruz after a steep climb up from the lake.
Local church ready for Navidad (Xmas) in Santa Cruz.
Local church ready for Navidad (Xmas) in Santa Cruz.
Santa Cruz living
Santa Cruz living
Houses in Santa Cruz
Houses in Santa Cruz
Having coffee lakeside in Santa Cruz.
Having coffee lakeside in Santa Cruz.
Me and an actual friendly cat. La Paz restaurant in San Marcos.
Me and an actual friendly cat. La Paz restaurant in San Marcos.
Fishing in San Marcos
Fishing in San Marcos
Fishing in San Marcos
Fishing in San Marcos
View of the lake from Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos
View of the lake from Hotel Aaculaax, San Marcos
Waiting for the lancha to leave San Pedro.
Waiting for the lancha to leave San Pedro.

How to make a Traditional Mayan Headdress

La Navidad (Christmas)

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Xmas Eve morning. Breakfast in the Hostal Fè bar in San PedroLa Navidad celebration and nativity in San Pedro La Navidad celebration and nativity in San PedroLa Navidad nativity.
Xmas Eve morning. Breakfast in the Hostal Fè bar in San Pedro
Xmas Eve morning. Breakfast in the Hostal Fè bar in San Pedro
La Navidad celebration and nativity in San Pedro
La Navidad celebration and nativity in San Pedro
La Navidad celebration and nativity in San Pedro
La Navidad celebration and nativity in San Pedro
La Navidad nativity.
La Navidad nativity.

A Xmas Eve Fiesta

Space Turkey

"How much Space is too much Space?" - Andy

On Christmas Day, Andy and I attended a Christmas turkey banquet put on by expats for the crowd away from home. At $20 a head we stuffed ourselves with fruit punch, canapes and a buffet that the Roman's would give up their empire for.

Mouths watering, we lined up at the buffet table and wondered how we were going to get it all on our plates. The chef had been cooking for days and was standing at the head of the mile long table looking chuffed about the result. When it was our turn, the chef asked us if we were doing Space. With no clue what Space was, we said, "yes, of course." We made our way along the table filling our plates and eventually reached the gravy section. There were a number of marked jugs on the table. One of them was marked 'Space', so we kept our promise to the chef and covered our plates in it.

Returning to our table we wolfed down the first round and just as Andy was chewing on his turkey leg the chef approached and asked if everything was ok. "Beautiful" we said. "Delicious." Chuffed again, he smiled and we asked, "Sooooo, tell us. What's Space?" Grinning wider now, he replied, "It's gravy infused with marijuana and it's all over your turkey. So, don't worry, it won't be long until you have space for more." Things just got interesting.

Some time later, the owner, doing his table rounds, comes over and asks if we'd like more Space. Of course we did! Give it to us, and put it all over our turkey.The owner visits us again and again offering more Space and each time he found us greedy and waiting. Maybe it was on his second or third visit to our table, time was no longer clearly defined, that Andy looks up at him and says, "How much Space is too much Space?" Far out, I fall off my chair in a fit and the owner points to me and says, "that's too much Space. You two aren't going anywhere for a while." So that freaked me right out. What did he mean?

After I pondered what he could have meant for a few minutes, or maybe it was a few hours, we thought it would be best if we left before things got weird, so we bolted down the street back to the hostal bar. It was only a block away, how could it have taken us a couple of hours to get there?............

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Delicious Space gravy and Andy has dressed up for the occasion. 4th helping and I'm still so fricking hungry.
Delicious Space gravy and Andy has dressed up for the occasion.
Delicious Space gravy and Andy has dressed up for the occasion.
4th helping and I'm still so fricking hungry.
4th helping and I'm still so fricking hungry.

Chi-Chi Markets

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Offerings on the steps of the Chi-Chi churchOfferings on the steps of the Chi-Chi churchChichicastenango markets. The biggest and best markets in Guatemala.Chichicastenango marketsJodi and her scarf selling shadow at Chi-Chi
Offerings on the steps of the Chi-Chi church
Offerings on the steps of the Chi-Chi church
Offerings on the steps of the Chi-Chi church
Offerings on the steps of the Chi-Chi church
Chichicastenango markets. The biggest and best markets in Guatemala.
Chichicastenango markets. The biggest and best markets in Guatemala.
Chichicastenango markets
Chichicastenango markets
Jodi and her scarf selling shadow at Chi-Chi
Jodi and her scarf selling shadow at Chi-Chi

Do I Take a Chicken Bus?

The pros and cons of the buses de pollo. You decide.

Chicken buses - suped up old US school buses.


Cons:

  1. They stop wherever you don't want.
  2. They're full of thieves.
  3. Their number one favourite thing is driving on the wrong side of the road at break-neck speed.
  4. Their number two favourite thing is overtaking in the face of oncoming vehicles.
  5. No one on them speaks English.


Pros:

  1. They stop wherever you want.
  2. They provide opportunities to meet interesting people.
  3. They're cheap.
  4. They go like the wind.
  5. They're indestructible and colourful.
  6. Loads of opportunity to practice your Spanish.

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Muchas Bombas

Guatemala is the 'land of bang'. They bang in the streets, the squares, the parks and their houses. Its a Guatemalan past time and they make the most of it.

Banging is a group activity, children run through the streets with fists full of explosives throwing down bangers at the feet of passers by. Old men giggle in their doorways after letting off a good one. Banging activities are stepped up during Xmas and New Year. No one gets any sleep then, the streets are covered in bits of exploded paper, the dogs become a quivering mess, the place sounds like Beirut and everyone has a great time.

At Lake Atitlàn, neighbouring villages challenge each other by exploding canon-like bombas that echo off the surrounding hills and volcanoes. One town sets the challenge by letting off an explosion that sounds like it cleared a small block and is soon answered by an equal or greater explosion from a neighbouring village. The back and forth continues until there is a winner that cannot be matched or someone runs out of bombas. Its very entertaining.

These people don't need tickets to a fancy show or an expensive dinner to entertain themselves, they have something better. They have explosives!

Bombas seller in San Pedro
Bombas seller in San Pedro

Return to Antigua - Casa Santo Domingo

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Grounds of Casa Santo DomingoWorship in the old dominican monastery, Casa Santo Domingo AntiguaInside the crypt.Remains of an old monk inside the crypt.Evil resides at Santo DomingoFire worshipAndy has just seen the food bill at the restaurantOld cloister in the Casa Santo Domingo grounds.Casa Santo Domingo groundsPool areaWishing well inside the monasteryTiny viaduct
Grounds of Casa Santo Domingo
Grounds of Casa Santo Domingo
Worship in the old dominican monastery, Casa Santo Domingo Antigua
Worship in the old dominican monastery, Casa Santo Domingo Antigua
Inside the crypt.
Inside the crypt.
Remains of an old monk inside the crypt.
Remains of an old monk inside the crypt.
Evil resides at Santo Domingo
Evil resides at Santo Domingo
Fire worship
Fire worship
Andy has just seen the food bill at the restaurant
Andy has just seen the food bill at the restaurant
Old cloister in the Casa Santo Domingo grounds.
Old cloister in the Casa Santo Domingo grounds.
Casa Santo Domingo grounds
Casa Santo Domingo grounds
Pool area
Pool area
Wishing well inside the monastery
Wishing well inside the monastery
Tiny viaduct
Tiny viaduct

Un Dia Mucha Peligrosa (A Dangerous Day)

30 Dec 2013

8:00am: The news reports that a chicken bus has run off the road and down a ravine killing or seriously injuring everyone inside.

10:00am: We spend the morning blissfully discovering the ruins of Antigua's monasteries and cathedrals.

1:45pm: We are told that our mountain bike ride has been called off because the ride that went out four hours earlier had been held up by a man and his two sons with guns and machetes.

2:00pm: Disappointed that we couldn't do the ride but relieved that it wasn't us that had been held up, we get on a different ride going out to a local coffee plantation.

3:00pm: One of the guides on the ride gets hit by a drunk driver in his pickup truck.

5:00pm: Frightened, three people in the group decide not to return to Antigua on the bikes.

7:00pm: We run into Andrea (backpacker from London) for the fourth time on our tour of Guatemala and Belize and join her on a pub crawl.

10:00pm: A nearby volcano rumbles in the distance, reminding us that it is very much alive. Andy worries about his volcano climb the next morning.

Footnote: The guide hit by the car was not hurt.

Jodi and Andrea on pub crawl
Jodi and Andrea on pub crawl

Huevos con Salsa de Tomate

In Central America, all eggs come with tomato salsa. Not like the cold salsa we have at home that goes on bruschetta or nachos but a delicious warm salsa sauce. All eggs come with it on the side and they are delicious.

Why don't we have this? Our eggs are plain. They are boring and lifeless without this kick. Do we know what we are missing for breakfast? Are we destined to suffer boring eggs for the rest of our lives?

New Year's Eve Climb up Volcan Acatenango

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Volcan Fuego eruptsDawn breaks at the start of the climb.Inside the twisted tree on way up Acatenango.Guide takes a break.Nearly at the summit.Surface of Acatenango.Reaching the summit of Acatenango.Nearby Volcan Fuego covered in ash.
Volcan Fuego erupts
Volcan Fuego erupts
Dawn breaks at the start of the climb.
Dawn breaks at the start of the climb.
Inside the twisted tree on way up Acatenango.
Inside the twisted tree on way up Acatenango.
Guide takes a break.
Guide takes a break.
Nearly at the summit.
Nearly at the summit.
Surface of Acatenango.
Surface of Acatenango.
Reaching the summit of Acatenango.
Reaching the summit of Acatenango.
Nearby Volcan Fuego covered in ash.
Nearby Volcan Fuego covered in ash.

New Year's Eve Antigua

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Kicking it off with mojitos and echiladas at our favourite taco place.Burrito burrito!Andy on the rooftop bar, LavaAntigua street partyStreet party
Kicking it off with mojitos and echiladas at our favourite taco place.
Kicking it off with mojitos and echiladas at our favourite taco place.
Burrito burrito!
Burrito burrito!
Andy on the rooftop bar, Lava
Andy on the rooftop bar, Lava
Antigua street party
Antigua street party
Street party
Street party

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