Guatemala, Belize and Mexico Travel Blog...the prologue

Published: April 19th 2016
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Everyone is the age of their heart...” ~ Guatemalan Proverb

Don't hang your hat higher than you can reach...” ~ Belizean Proverb

A good person finds their native soil in every country...” ~ Mexican Proverb

Hola people!

The big news is that we’ve crossed Mexico off our ‘travel wish list’ and transferred it to our ‘we are really doing this’ list. It’s been a long 15 months since we last travelled, and we’ve had lots of time to choose a super special travel destination for Andrew’s big birthday trip. In our initial planning we hadn’t set out to visit Guatemala and Belize as well, but given their very close proximity to Mexico and the low likelihood that we’d organise a trip to visit either of those two countries on their own – we’ve extended our itinerary accordingly.

Andrew made the final decision on the destinations for this trip. Mexico scored more points that the other shortlisted countries for the simple fact that neither of us have as yet set foot on the North American continent – and because we LOVE Mexican food (what little we know of it anyway).

Cuba and China were two of the other top contenders for this trip… and as much as we’d like to get to Cuba before the floodgates open to full-market tourism. We heard first hand reports that the food wasn’t that fabulous (completely understandable given the trade restrictions in place), so it fell out of favour. And somewhere between reading about needing leech-proof socks (again!) and the reappearance of bird flu, we decided that three years of Asia in a row was enough and it could wait another year or so. So we are now Central America bound, baby!

Here’s a snapshot of Mexico: the United States of Mexico is a federation of thirty one states and the Federal District of Mexico City (the capital and largest city). It has a population of 116 million, the currency is Mexican pesos (MXN) and the official language is Spanish (although many different indigenous languages are also spoken). The geography and environment of this large country varies dramatically from tropical rainforests to temperate beaches; from vast inland low-lying plains and deserts with hot days and cold nights to highland areas that tend to be cooler all year round. We will be travelling across all these landscapes, and we’ve packed a wide wardrobe selection to cover (hopefully!) every climatic possibility. Mexico has a vast coastline that runs along the Gulf of Mexico, the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, and it shares land borders with the US, Belize and Guatemala.

A quick snapshot of Guatemala: the population is just over 14 million, the capital is Guatemala City, the currency is Guatemalan Quetzal (GTQ) and the official language is Spanish. Guatemala is mainly mountainous (volcanic mountains and lakes), except for the northern lowlands and stretches of land on the south coast. We’ll be travelling through the country in the dry season. However, the weather patterns have been highly unpredictable, so our raincoats have been packed just in case. Guatemala shares borders with Mexico, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador.

And finally a quick snapshot of Belize: it has a tiny population of around 350,000, the capital is Belmopan, the currency is Belize dollars (BZD) and the official language is English (it’s the only English speaking country in all of Central and South America). Belize has a sub-tropical climate with constant high temperatures and humidity, but apparently the fresh Caribbean Sea breezes keep things comfortable. We will be there just before the start of the wet season, so obviously we’ll be crossing our fingers that the rains don’t come early so we can enjoy the happy sunshine that Belize is famous for.

In preparation for this trip we watched Mexican films, read Mexican books and ate Mexican food. The last point was trickier to do than you would think… there are quite a few restaurants in Australia that present fusion Tex-Mex food (such as nachos and chile con carne) as authentic Mexican food. We also ‘researched’ a large number of Latino restaurants in order to get a broader understanding of that area. So we have eaten more than our fair share of Australianised takes on tacos, empanadas, enchiladas, quesadillas, moles, smoky chipotle sauces and churros inspired desserts. One of these dishes was a wallaby mole – it was seriously delicious, but you probably couldn’t get a more Australianised version of a Mexican dish could you? 😊

We are not only looking forward to becoming intimately familiar with a range of new foods, drinks, salsas and sauces, but also getting to know the regional distinctiveness of those dishes.

Our travel preparations have additionally included digging up our ‘haven’t travelled overseas for over a year!’ house-bound roots, channelling our Latino alter egos and getting Ren’s passport renewed (with a new-generation security chip which hopefully means no more queueing at immigration!).

One thing that we’ve both spectacularly failed at with our travel preparation was not finding the time to learn some Spanish before this trip. We will be going to remote areas where NO English will be spoken or understood. Given our modicum of Spanish was mostly acquired from our trips to Spain (and Ren obsessively watching Pedro Almodovar’s films in the 90s), here’s hoping all our conversations will only need to revolve around food, what the time is, or where the toilets are. For everything else, we will need to rely heavily on our smiles and charades skills!

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We are very excited about visiting a new continent and three new countries, and also very much looking forward to finally eating a taco in its native land.

Big adventures ahead!
Ren and Andrew

Films that set the scene for this trip...
Under the Volcano, directed by John Huston (1984);
Como Agua para Chocolate (Like Water for Chocolate), directed by Alfonso Arau (1992);
Amores Perros (Love’s a Bitch), directed by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (2000);
Frida, directed by Julie Taymor (2002);
Mexican Fiesta with Peter Kuruvita (2014).

Travel reading on this trip...
Lonely Planet Guide Mexico;
Lonely Planet Guide Guatemala;
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry (Andrew);
Pedro Paramo by Juan Ralfo (Ren);
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel (Ren);
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene (Ren).


19th April 2016

Hi Ren and Andrew, I can't wait to go to North America with you, albeit vicariously! Look forward to reading of your adventures and seeing the food as you traverse Mexico, Guatemala and Belize - Bon Voyage :-)
19th April 2016

Re: Yippeee!
Thanks Cinds! Just doing some frantic last minute packing and checking off of lists before we sit down with a cuppa and mentally prepare for the LONG flight :)
19th April 2016

Can't Wait
Whoa, that's a loooong way from Tassie. Can't wait to read about your travels, especially the food pics! Btw, I think there is one other English speaking country in Central/South America - Guyana.
19th April 2016

Re: Can't Wait
Thanks Siew! I'm not surprised I didn't know about Guyana, because I have to confess that I wouldn't even be able to point to it on a map... going to google it right now :)
19th April 2016

Yeh ! !! It's that time again to look forward to your blogs from far off lands .I Looooove Tacos so look forward to some photos Have a awsome holiday and stay safe Love the always Col/Deb
19th April 2016

Thanks Deb and Col! We will definitely have a few extra tacos just for you :)
19th April 2016

Sounds awesome!
Yay! Glad you guys are travelling again, I do enjoy your blogs. We loved Mexico when we were there last year, particularly the Mexican food (or as my husband constantly jokes... food - wah waah). We went to a FABULOUS restaurant in Playa del Carmen which was cheap and I am not exaggerating when I say it was sensational (I am salivating as I type). I will try and track down the name of it and message it through if you are heading there and interested. It was seafood, just off the main tourist area - hence it being cheap. Look forward to hearing your thoughts on Guatemala and Belize.
19th April 2016

Re: Sounds awesome!
Thanks Emma! Yes please we would love that restaurant name. We will only be in Playa for two days and I haven't researched it that much, so would really appreciate your input. And we LOVE seafood :)
19th April 2016

I was wondering when those itchy feet would get moving again. What a fantastic choice, we were going to finish off our South American trip there but alas we ran out of money and time. Really looking forward to reading your adventures, travel safe.
19th April 2016

Re: Finally!!!
Thanks Scott and Michelle! These itchy feet are super happy right now...will wave hello to Sydney for you later this morning as we transit through :)
19th April 2016

I always look forward to your trips and your fabulous photos of delicious food (note to self: do not read RENanDREW's blogs while at work). I think you have chosen awesome destinations and I will be very jealous if you make it to Frida's blue house in DF... I love her so much I was even considering naming Ella, Frida! :) Looking forward to reading all about it!
19th April 2016

Re: Yes!!
Thanks Deni! We have many plans for Frida related things, and so excited to finally see lots of her art....We love her too, but I'm so glad that you picked the name Ella :)
19th April 2016

I great choice as to destination...
I can't wait to read your blogs!
19th April 2016

Re: I great choice as to destination...
Thanks Bob! We are very excited about getting this long journey to the other side of the world started :)
19th April 2016

Salivating already!
A prefect birthday trip for foodies! Three of my favorite countries with so much wild color in buildings and indigenous clothing (you photographers will be in heaven) and so much variety of landscapes for great activities. Good luck on your long plane rides, and I so look forward to your photos and reports. Buen viaje, exploradores!
19th April 2016

Re: Salivating already!
Thanks Tara! We are a bit out of touch with our cameras, but I'm sure it won't take long to get back into the swing of things. Yes, seriously long flights, and we will be focussed on sitting down with a good cup of Guatemalan coffee as soon as get there :)
20th April 2016

Haha -- I love how your stomachs were integral to choosing your next trip -- love it!
21st April 2016

Hehe it's a dangerous business when your stomachs start demanding veto rights over your trips :)
20th April 2016

House bound no more!
Thank goodness you are on the road again. It has been far too long! Your rationale for selecting this location was sound. Eager to start seeing those food photos and they will be amazing. Which of the movies and books did you find particularly helpful? Don't forget to have a margarita or two and some fine Mexican cerveza. Mayan ruins here we come.
21st April 2016

Re: House bound no more!
We are so excited to be on the road again! We are so excited to get to know a new part of the world. We loved all the films, but Frida was a particular favourite; and I loved reading Pedro Paramo so much that I read it twice back to back :)
21st April 2016

Excellent choice!
So glad that someone has picked this area of the world to travel in. I think too many people are put off by TV. We absolutely love Mexico. The people are great and the food is nothing like anything you eat outside of Mexico. Also there is not one kind of food. It is radically different depending on where you are. Puebla has nothing in common with Chiapas or Baja or Jalisco and vice versa. I hope you have a great time. there. So curious to know where you will travel. Belize and Guatemala are much harder to get off the tourist trail, but we like them bunches also. Look forward to following along. Good Luck!
21st April 2016

Re: Excellent choice!
Thanks Nancy and David! This trip was a long time in the planning, and we are so glad to finally be here. I re-read your Merida blog a little while ago and it made me really look forward to our time there....We have only been in Antigua for half a day and I'm already in love with it! :)
21st April 2016

Guatemalan coffee?
Just a slight warning about the coffee--when I was there a million years ago, pretty much all that was served in the cheapie places I went was Nescafe instant--the good stuff was exported. You all tend to eat in better establishments, but make sure you check whether they're serving Nescafe or cafe al vapor or espresso or whatever the Guatemala expression for this is. Best wishes on delicious, strong coffee!
21st April 2016

Re: Guatemalan coffee?
Thanks Tara, there may be places serving instant coffee, but I did a bit of research on places that serve local coffee and there are quite a few cafés that do... we went to an excellent one for breakfast today, and the house roasted coffee was seriously good. May try and do a coffee plantation tour while we are here too.
23rd April 2016

Wow - now that is amazing! Not only did I follow pretty much in the same footsteps as you guys last summer in Southern India, my travels this summer will also be around Mexico, Guatemala and Belize - how uncanny is that...!!! I'll be there in July and August, and will be avidly reading your blog as you travel - all the best, safe travels, and enjoy the food :D
24th April 2016

Re: Uncanny...!!
Thanks Alex! That's so funny that we've picked the same destination... it could be a coincidence or it could be that great minds think alike ;)

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