David J Grinter


David J Grinter

I'm a 29 year old psychologist travelling South America for 9 months with my wife (Eleanor). This blog is, hopefully, a decent account of our trip and may provide some perspectives or insights for others hoping to do a similar trip or for friends and family to catch up what we've actually been up to.

We came to Xela (officially Quetzaltenango - pronounced Ket-zal-ten-an-go) primarily to have Spanish lessons and do some volunteer work. It's a small town (a city) in the Highlands of Guatemala (2300m elevation) and is reknowned for it's language schools and temperate climate. So this was to be our home for 5 weeks and the school started at 8am. It was wierd being back at school, meeting new people, having a routine and generally trying to avoid detention. I really enjoyed the classes and found that from the first week that I was able to have conversations with the locals. I'd acquired a rather large lexicon over the previous 6 months, but actually being able to form a coherent stream of words was not so easy and by the end I was able to have full conversations ... read more
Lakes and Volcanoes
If Heaven...

As far as unpleasant cities go, Tegucigalpa probably jumps to the top of my list. I just want to get the negativity out of the way first because Honduras, the little I've seen of it, is a beautiful place. But the capital is pretty grim, it's polluted, disorientating, seemingly very dangerous (police are in teams at al times with fully automatic weapons like AK-47s) and full of horrific taxi drivers. I'm pretty sure the taxi drivers are criminals protected by the law, after getting off the bus from the border we were given several farcical quotes for a journey of 2km ($25 anyone) and derision and aggression when we refused to take up the offer. We'd missed the connection to our intended destination by about 30 minutes and had the unenviable choice of catching a night ... read more
Sculpture at Gracias
Mayan Pyramids

Nicaragua was a country that I knew very little about before embarking upon this trip. It probably gets overlooked because it doesn't have a famous canal, a reputation for eco-tourism and hasn't had a civil war for a while, well relatively speaking (read Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras). It turns out it's a beautiful country, with the cliched friendly people, but it's not without it's problems, namely poverty (I'd read a statistic that Nica is the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere after Bolivia). The guidebooks make a big deal about the town of Granada on the banks of Lago Nicaragua. Now, it's a quaint place with some rather neat, picturesque colonial buildings, I don't think it really warrants it's reputation of a "lovely little colonial town" or the next Antigua (not that I've been to ... read more
Volcan Concepcion
Isla de Mono

Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum! We were sailing to Panama, albeit a day late due to a cockup by the captain of the boat we were supposed to be going on. But the Almande was a fairly large boat with two French seadogs, Loic and Franck, to keep her on the right path to the San Blas Islands off the coast of Panama. There were 9 of us on the boat; Vicky and Ed were a couple from Essex doing a similar trip to ourselves (always a wonderful thing to meet likeminded people); Jo and Jade an Anglo-Australian couple who were both big characters (if you are an 18 stone, tattooed, ginger beared, Australian bloke with a girls name you are going to be an awesome person, you don't really have a say ... read more
If I could come back as anything....
Sailing is a hard life.
This occurred every morning.

South America » Colombia » Cartagena » Sogamoso February 17th 2013

From Bogota we made it to the Caribbean coast. Santa Marta was our first port of call and that's about all I can say about this town. There's little wrong with Santa Marta, but then there's very little worth going there for. There's the obligatory street vendors which do some good food and it's chilled enough for you to wander the streets supping a cool, refreshing beer. But the beach is not particularly clean and it's next to the busy port. There's a couple of decent restaurants, Lulo did great lunches and we had amazing coconunt lemonades at Tierra Negra (probaby the best non-alcoholic drink ever invented). We just used it as a base for doing the things we really wanted to do. THe first stop was Tirona National Park. It is amazing here as the ... read more
Pozas Azul
Finca La Victoria
Santa Marta

South America » Colombia » Quindío » Salento January 25th 2013

The Colombian chapter of our South American adventure got off to a very slow start. Slow is an understatement, we didn't move for 2 whole hours at the border. There as no explanation forthcoming but the queue for immigration didn't move an inch. It turns out the staff we taking it in turns to work, rather than all working at once. Crazy. We been on the road from northern Ecuador since 8am, and didn't make it in to Colombia until gone 2pm...it was less than 150km to travel. To compound the misery once across the border there were no buses travelling to our preferred desitination (Popayan), well none that would arrive at a feasible time and we had to change plans and head to Cali, arriving at 6am. This probably ranks as the worst journey for ... read more
Coffee Valley
Humming Bird

South America » Ecuador » North » Quito » Papallacta January 17th 2013

A new year, a new country. We spent the best part of a day travelling into southern Ecuador from Piura. The ride was particularly scenic, with the landscape crumpled up like the front end of a Renault Laguna after a ram raid, there were plenty of valleys to navigate. It's all very green, some greens look a little surreal, like, they'd been added by a special effects team at a Hollywood studio. The whole place reminded me of Wales or Lake District, except on steroids and scaled up to gargantuan proportions. And there was't anyone called Dai with an abundance of sheep following him. And with sunshine and 25C heat. The border crossing was no problem which I'd not expected, and we got chatting to an Argentine priest who pointed us in the right direction at ... read more
Donkey Effigy

South America » Peru » Trujillo January 1st 2013

I'm not sure why Lima get's such a bad reputation amongst travellers. I can only assume that those who espouse that it's a horrrible place haven't actually spent any time here or have gone to the wrong part. We spent Christmas in Miraflores, which is a bit like the west end of London or Glasgow, in that it has too many people with too much money, but is also rather pleasant. Lima seems to be quite Americanised too, I managed to get a root beer in a supermarket and we even saw a Dunkin' Donuts somewhere, they also drive stupidly large cars here. But it isn't all bad, the Italian Plaza in the centre of town has a great selection of food vendors on the weekend, choose what you want and have a seat, a bit ... read more
Colonial Houses
Merry Christmas
Lima Pier

South America » Peru » Cusco » Cusco January 1st 2013

As is becoming a recurring theme in Peru, the woman in the ticket office at Ayacucho, hadn't listened to us. Peruvian's want to be helpful, but often they just seem to decide upon what you've said and then hear that, not what you actually asked! It's pretty frustrating. Because of this, we expected to be in Cusco by 5pm, we ended up in Andahuaylas at this time, after on of the most breathtaking journies ever it must be added, and still had a further 8 hours to come on our journey. We eventually arrived in to Cusco at 4am (we left at 8pm or so), the ticket woman told us the time for the wrong city! Estupido. But anyway, we got here, the Incan capital, tucked away in a lush (not in a Gavin and Stacy ... read more
The Stroke

South America » Peru » Ayacucho » Ayacucho December 24th 2012

There are few real mysteries left to archaeologists anymore. Stone Henge is one, it wasn't made for or by aliens, that's just stupid, but it's real use is lost to antiquity. Sure, we (by "we" I mean actual achaeologists and hitorians, possibly Tony Robinson too, but not me or you dear reader) can have educated guesses, but that's all they are, guesses. Peru has the Nazca Lines fill the role of antiquity puzzler. These are lines, no more than 50cm wide, carved in to the surface of the desert. Some are shaped like animals or humans but most are straight lines. They are visible only from a height and are rather large. We decided against taking a flight over the desert; it's expensive, we'd had mixed reviews and the safety record of some companies is questionable. ... read more
Nazca Line - probably for water worship
Ellie Loves Sunsets

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