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Published: July 17th 2013
Time is flying by so fast, but I’m still on summer vacation. So, there is pretty much no excuse to have gone this long without writing the final post from my trip. Maybe I just don’t want it to really be over…
After six amazing weeks in Central America – during which time I explored 5 different countries, unpacked and re-packed my backpack to move 16 times, stayed in 14 places (including the homes of 2 different families), met countless people (many I can now call friends), took thousands of pictures, and made more memories than I could have imagined – ended in a whirlwind.
The itinerary for my last couple of days was packed. After 3 nights in El Salvador, we were going to travel to Honduras (through Guatemala, so 2 border crossings) where we would spend one day exploring the city and the Copan Ruins. The very next morning, we would travel back to Guatemala where we would spend one night in Antigua. Then, for me at least, the adventure ended as I had a morning flight to Chicago. With that schedule,
Awaiting the flat tire fix... We did manage to squeeze in one final hand of bullshit, so that was good.
even in the best of circumstances, I think that it would have felt like it was going by too fast (In fact, I think that G Adventures has revised the schedule for next year to allow for more time at the back end. Good call.) But, I had gotten attached to my group and the trip, so the hours felt like they were clicking by even faster than usual.
PLUS, it wasn’t smooth sailing. Our last morning in Ataco was awesome because we got to eat a breakfast of cereal and fresh fruit. After so much traveling around and eating out, eating simple comfort foods all together was a gift. It was a surprise gift as well – When we were on the back of the pick-up truck, some of us were talking about things we missed from home. A couple of us (including me and my “soul mate”) agreed that we were homesick for cereal. When we arrived back at our hotel, Adri told us that she had gotten fruit and cereal for our next breakfast. It was another example of her endless thoughtfulness – as well as the way things just
Clarita doing junior, fill-in CEO research... So cute and helpful.
“worked” on the trip. Plus, it gave me the opportunity to cut up pineapples and mangos with a machete… I think there are pictures out there somewhere, but I haven’t seen them. J
So, breakfast was awesome, but then we loaded up for our long day of two border crossings. Almost immediately, things started to go wrong. First, we passed by what seemed to be an accident scene where there was a dead body on the side of the road. Not sure what happened, but it’s never easy to see a dead animal by the side of the road – much less a person! Shortly after that, we had a flat tire. On our way again after the flat tire was changed, we arrived at our first border crossing. With so many people from so many different places, our border crossings had been known to require time and patience. But, I never expected that some of us wouldn’t be able to get into a country. However, unfortunately, when we got to the border of El Salvador and Guatemala, two of our 16 weren’t allowed to cross. So, our group had to split up
– most of us continued on to Honduras and the two (plus our leader) had to go to the capital city to get the passports and visas sorted out. L
Fortunately, everyone adjusted to the new circumstances with flexibility and calmness. One of our group members was originally from El Salvador, and she took over as our translator/guide and helped us get across the second border. Also, one of our group members is hoping to work for G Adventures as a guide some day, and she was excited for a chance to practice – so she helped coordinate our hotel, dinner reservations, and getting us to the Copan Ruins. Plus, our van driver was super helpful – he made sure that he got us to where we needed to go (only getting lost once where he accidentally took us to a hotel that was MUCH nicer than the one where we stayed). He also helped us get connected with a local guide for the ruins that he’d used before with other groups. All in all, being that we didn’t have our leader, things were ok for our faction of the group. (The 3
Oh yeah, did I mention that there are guns everywhere once you leave Costa Rica? Security guards in restaurants have them, people on the street have them, national park guides have them...
in El Salvador had a much more stressful day, but thankfully they were reunited with us by the following morning – and they even had the opportunity to make it to the ruins!)
Although my time in Honduras was extremely brief, I really enjoyed it. We spent a couple of hours exploring the Copan Ruins with our guide. He was very informative, but also very funny – he carried a giant feather, he occasionally tried to mess with us (like telling us that a simple stone was jade and encouraging us to sneak it into our pocket), and he would regularly glance around to see if there were guards before suggesting that we pose for pictures in different places and poses. This is a trip were there is something for everyone, and I’m sure that each of us would have a different “highlight”. For some who are particularly interested in history, the ruins were so special. I wasn’t one of those people – but I definitely liked it a lot more than I thought I would. It was interesting, peaceful, beautiful, and I learned a lot. Also, because there weren’t many tourists there,
Does anyone know where our guide went? Oh, that's right, he needed go go get his giant feather. ;)
because time was winding down for this trip, and because we were in a goofy mood from the day, our group was being super silly. We were taking ridiculous pictures, making a lot of inappropriate jokes, and just letting go and having fun.
We squeezed in a ride on the famous tuk-tuk taxi, and I went for a delicious cup of coffee with a great new friend before dinner. We had a delicious dinner at an adorable restaurant. Then, my roommate and I had a “party” in my room. Mostly we were waiting up for the rest of the group to arrive in Honduras for a reunion (we didn’t make it, we fell asleep before they got there), but we were also taking capfuls of liquor, listening to music, talking and laughing. Throughout the trip, Bec and I often got shafted with the room assignments. For example, more than once, we were in rooms with no window and no fan – while others had balconies and ceiling fans. But, this night totally made up for it – it was practically a honeymoon suite with extra space and a balcony. Perfect for hosting a
Rise up this morning (afternoon). Smiled with the rising (scorching) sun. Three little (big) birds, pitch by my (copan ruins') doorstep (fence). Singing sweet (loud) songs. A melody pure and true... Saying, this is my message to you-ou-ou... Every little thing gonna be alright.
The following morning, it was time to go to Guatemala. Although I feel like I can absolutely “count” Guatemala as a country that I have visited – and I have the passport stamp to prove it – I didn’t really get to experience it. I was there for less than 24 hours, and I definitely need to go back. There’s so much to see and do in that country, and I only got the smallest taste of what it has to offer. We arrived in time for an evening walk around the city, which was beautiful. Then, we went to dinner and dancing – all of which was infused with whispers of sentimentality. It was time to say good-bye, after all, which felt hard to do after such an excellent shared experience. The following morning, some of us woke up early to get to the market for last minute shopping.
My roommate (who was perfect for me, by the way) offered to come with me to be my runner and my bargainer – because I hadn’t bought any presents for anyone and I only
had 45 minutes to shop before my shuttle was coming to take me to the airport. Instead, she ended up bearing witness to my TERRIBLE bargaining. Most of the interactions went something like this:
Me: How much?
Shopkeeper: 20 Quetzals.
Me: Ok, that sounds good.
Shopkeeper (probably feeling a little guilty): Well, how about 15 Quetzals.
Me: Awesome, I’ll take 3.
Haha. I can’t help it. It’s not in my nature to bargain. I have many skills – that’s not one of them.
And, then it was time to go to the airport. Of course, I cried. I didn’t think I was going to – ever the optimist. But, June-July is an emotional time of year for me (I got home about 36 hours before the second anniversary Emma-morial event started.) Plus, I love a group. And, this particular group was so great. We all got along really well and had so much fun. I’ve heard it said that traveling can test relationships – it strengthens some and shows
the weaknesses in others. One of my best friends got engaged shortly after she and her (now) husband went to China together – the trip was so significant that it came up in their vows to each other as the time when they knew they could make it as a couple. The type of traveling that I did with this group is the perfect environment to form bonds and friendships. I know that most of us will lose touch – it’s the nature of the game. Things like facebook, whatsapp, and words with friends will help. But, it’s inevitable that, as we return to our lives, our countries, our routines, the connections that we have with each other will loosen. There’s sadness in that, for me. At the same time, though, what a gift to have had the experience in the first place… I’ll treasure the experience, for sure. And, as I wander through my next adventures (be they travel or otherwise), I’ll carry the people and memories of these 6 weeks in my heart.
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