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Published: September 30th 2007
Well it seems like a fair while ago that I first clocked in here on the first night of the trip as so much has gone on since then. As mentioned in the last blog, we're down to 2 trekkers and 3 guides, so has been more like a bunch of friends travelling for the last 10 days or so which has been great. Cancun second night was a bit of a blow out - owing to general excess on the first night we opted out of going to the notorious Coco Bongos in favour of a quiet one in the hotel! Signs of getting old for sure - can't do 2 nights proper partying in a row! Following on from Cancun we mosied our way down to Chicken Pizza, aka Chichen Itza, one of the more photographed and hence sadly more touristy Mayan (/Toltec) pyramid sites. Fascinating place, yet another amazing guide, and got to enjoy it with quite an impressive backdrop of a thunderstorm, which was a welcome relief from the otherwise scorching heat (the main temple's very exposed!). Also got to trot around the court of the old Mayan ritual (not a game as often inferred) for Pok-ta-Pok,
quite a complicated sport (think basketball using only elbows, knees, hips and shoulders!) ending with the winning team captain being decapitated. As an honour!
On from Chichen we moved on to Merida, the capital of the Yucatan region, and a very pretty town with a colonial feel, some fantastic art, and some very good restaurants. Best meal yet - fab steakhouse on the second night. On the second day at Merida we took a trip out to the middle of nowhere via horse drawn mini railway carts to take a dip in some Cenotes, or freshwater limestone sinkholes, which are incredibly deep and filled with crystal clear water. After a bit of psyching up and egging each other on, 3 of us eventually jumped a good 30m into the tallest one, which was quite exhilarating and has us pumped with adrenaline for the rest of the afternoon. From Merida we made our way to Palenque, the site of one of the finest examples of Mayan temples, many of which are still undiscovered. In the afternoon, we headed off to Misa Ha and Agua Azul nature reserve for some serious waterfall picture action and a bit of swimming. The evening was
topped off by the best shrimp I have ever experienced washed down with copious amounts of margheritas and tequila at our guide Salvador's restaurant.
Sadly events from the previous night took their toll and 3 of us had to muster up all our strength to sit through a 7 hour bus ride through the windiest (albeit very pretty) road I have ever seen heading up into the Mexican highlands through the Lacandon Cloud Forest. Thankfully being able to sleep on anything really helped as we were at the front of the bus and every time I opened my eyes there didn't appear to be any road between us, our F1 wannabe coach driver and a 2000m drop!! We arrived at San Cristobal de las Casas at long last, which is a beautiful (again colonial) city set at around 2300m above sea level, at which altitude you can start to feel a little breathy doing not a lot. We used this as our base for several days, travelling to a couple of villages, Chamula and Zinacantan where we got to experience a paganistic amalgamation of Mayan and Catholic religions (churches with pine needles, chicken sacrifices, saints wearing mirrors, tribal elders riding
around on horseback and setting off fireworks every 2 seconds..). Sadly few pics were taken as their ceremonies cannot be photographed and tourists can experince mob law if they try to do so! Further more the area is renowned for the many Zapatista guerrillas that live in the environs. The following day we took a magnificent boat ride through Sumidero Canyon, where 1000m cliffs drop into the water and crocodiles sunbathe on the limited bits of shoreline.
Again another early start brought us away from the cosmopolitan streets, Jazz clubs and salsa bars of San Cristo, with a last trip on a nice icy air conditioned Mexican bus to cross the border and head once more into Guatemala where we got to travel on the fantastic chicken buses, old US school buses that have been pimped to the max, are driven by madmen and have no maximum capacity. We were well and truly reduced to human sardines, with me having to run after the bus and hang on to the ladder at the back at one point!
Back over the border, we headed on to Lake Atitlan, one of the prettiest places I have seen so far, which is a
caldera surrounded by 3 volcanoes. Here we got to go canopy zip lining 320m above ground (this is a gentle precursor to Costa Rica apparently and was fantastic fun), and off to a local village where we got shown around a local school which Toucan has been helping for the last few years. The next day it was off to the manic market town of Chichcastenango for a complete overload of all senses, before pushing on back to Antigua. Volcano climb in the morning was well worth the early start as we got to toast marshmallows on the rocks and also got to play with lava, although had to keep on walking to avoid shoe melting incidents! The first night in Antigua was our final night as such a small group, so we got to initiate the newbies on the second night by heading out to an Irish bar (we ran 2 bars out of Mojitos!) and then onto an after hours party for a final get to bed at 4am. Needless to say yesterday we were not particularly talkative on the bus!
We got into Honduras yesterday and got to get to know everyone over a barbecue next to
some natural hot springs in Copan Ruinas. Fun indeed. Especially riding in the back of a pickup truck down dirt tracks in the dark!! Just been to the Mayan ruins at Copan with yet another fantastic guide who also plays quitar so we have threatened a jam session this evening after dinner and cocktails. In the meantime I'm pulling my hair out trying to upload photos on the slowest computer in the world. Hope everyone's well, thanks for yr emails, am trying to reply asap but internet often in keeping with the laid back vibe here! xx
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