Published: November 30th 2007November 30th 2007
Sunset over the lake on our first evening
Well, am alive and well in Guatemala which is quite an achievement given the road rules in this country, or more accurately the lack of them!!! I have never come across anything quite like it! The roads in general are two lane, but somehow they manage to fit in about 4 vehicles across all going about 120kms an hour and size doesnt seem to matter, you can fit trucks, buses, minivans into those two lanes...... Overtaking is extremely common and seems to be best done while turning a blind corner.... needless to say I have been bloody scared and now just take to closing my eyes. It doesnt help when you see the traffic accidents and left behind axels on the side of the road. But, apart from that have been loving Guatemala!!! We arrived in Flores, Guatemala about 6 days ago. Flores is a small island in the middle of Lake De Peten Itza and has a bit of a spanish feel with the cobblestone streets, but with a number of funky little restaurants and bars. The town itself isnt that big, but is the main point for visiting the ruins of Tikal. The first day we arrived
Sarah´s birthday dinner!
was Sarahs birthday, so we celebrated in style at a gorgeous little restaurant on stilts over the water and then hitting the local nightscene which was one nightclub. Being our first night in Guatemala we were pretty keen to meet the locals, but unfortunately the first one that approached us while in the bar only approached us to tell us to leave his country. Thankfully we havent come across too many others like that, but you do sometimes feel here that your presence is only tolerated and not really welcome... The next morning was a 6am start to make the drive to the ruins of Tikal which were about an hour away. Tikal is one of the largest ruins in the Mayan world and span hundreds of kilometres although we only covered a few. We spent about 5 hours there with a guide walking through the rainforest and climbing up the ruins. The rainforest was amazing and full of monkeys and I saw my first wild tucan!!!! The ruins themselves were huge and most we were able to climb up. If they had a rope across the bottom of the ruin it actually meant that someone died climbing it recently
View from our hotel
and you cant climb it. This year there have been five deaths. This seems like quite a small number to me given how steep they are!!! I climbed the largest one and almost friggin died of fright once at the top and refused to leave the back wall of the standing area which was only about 1m wide. It ended up taking me double the time to get back down the rickety stairs as I was so petrified if I let go that I would fall. Apart from that it was fun though!!! I didnt mention to Sarah at the time that the trip into Tikal is actually where most of the tourist kidnappings occur, but we got out of there safely!!! :) After two nights in Flores we made a long trip to Rio Dulce in the pouring rain. We stayed at another ecolodge called Hacienda Tijax which was a 200m boat ride across the cove. It was set in the middle of the rainforest and we all had little huts to sleep in with mozzie nets to cover ourselves. Given that it was absolutely pouring down we all ended up huddling in the restaurant for the night and
View from the top of one of the ruins
hoping that the rain would eventually let up. Unfortunately the next day there was also pouring so several of us just sat in the common area overlooking the river and had a lazy day. It was a shame that we couldnt really do much because of the weather as the place itself was lovely except for all the spiders on your way to the toilets at night..... The other fear was the entire place was set on wooden ramps which were extremely effective, but also very slippery in the rain, but I didnt stack it!!! :) After our second night there we then made the trek into Antigua first thing the next morning. This was our first experience on the local buses as we had only used minivans up to this point. What a shocker!!! I managed to score a seat, but was right up the back over the exhaust pipe and had hot air blowing up my legs for a wild trip that involved all the overtaking I care to see and with me sliding back and forth in the back seat with my eyes closed absolutely convinced that we would topple over. It was a hellish 8 hour
bus ride with limited stops where all the local stall owners would jump on trying to sell you food so you could not get off the bus for the loo even if you wanted to. After 8 hours we arrived in Guatemala City and all jumped into taxis for a transfer to our next bus. Along the way we managed to lose a backpack from the boot, but thankfully we retrieved it before it was stolen. Half an hour in Guatemala city is more than enough given the amount of bars on windows and guns in the street.... Anyway, we made it to our next bus which was an infamous chicken bus. The chicken buses are old american school buses which have been fixed up with new engines, flashing lights and loud horns which people jump on and off when they want. It was a crazy hour to Antigua in this bus, which made the first bus ride seem tame and the entire time I was holding on for dear life again convinced that I wouldnt make it, but I did! We arrived late afternoon in Antigua and the place is just divine!!!! Cobblestone streets and little shops all again
I climbed those stairs!!!! Scared the life out of me!
give it a spanish feel. Such a great little town!!! And the shopping!!!!!! We only had one night there this time as we are returning there to finish the tour. So again we were on the road the next morning with several hours of chicken buses and me with extremely tired arms by the end of it. The aim of the day was to get to the Chichicastenango markets in time to have several hours there. The Chichicastenango markets are amazing!!!! All sort of textiles, paintings, bags, hangings etc, etc can be bargained for there and the haggling was a laugh!!!! I ended up covering all the purchases I wanted for a great place and am now hoping Sarah will be a dear friend and take some home with her when she goes next week! :) After three hours of shopping we boarded a minivan (some of the group did not want to chicken bus again that day) and headed for Panajachel where I now am. Panajachel is a small town on the edge of Lake Atitlan at the base of a number of volcanos. Such a beautiful town!!!! And such amazing scenery!!! And more markets!!! We arrived here yesterday
afternoon and had a night of checking out each others purchases before an early night. This morning we had another early morning and hired a boat to take us out for a tour of the lake. We arrived at another small town and spent the morning having breakfast in a spanish style hotel and jumping off the balcony into the lake :) So beautiful!!!! From there we headed across the lake to a small local town where we had two little boys take us on a tour and again, more markets!!!!!! I´ve just arrived back after a great day on the lake!!! We are heading back into Antigua tomorrow morning (more chicken buses to get there :() and I´ll most likely update again once I get back to Cancun next week. Guatemala is quite an amazing country to visit, so much natural beauty but also so much poverty and rubbish..... It has been an experience!!! Hope everyone is well and will write again soon, once I survive the final chicken run.... kidding!!!!
Love Jack xoxoxoxoxox
PS the internet here is extremely slow, so will update this entry with more pictures in a couple of days.
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