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Tulum to San Pedro and all in between...

GUATEMALA | Tuesday, 30 April 2013 | Views [1208]

CRIB NOTE VERSION

I stayed in Tulum longer, it was fun, relaxing and great people.

Next Bacalar. A reasonably dull lake. Yay.

Accidentally got stuck in Belize City (Uber dangerous place) for the night. Whoops. Met a very interesting Belizian guy.

Went to Flores and visited Tikal. Cool people along the way.

Next Lanquin and Semuc Champey. AMAZING cave tour and swim through pools. Epic bruises from landing badly from high jumps.

Antigua - markets, bars, food, catch up with Erin and Sam from Aus!

San Pedro for a trip up the Indian's Nose. 

Next stop - Quetzaltenango!!!

 

The remainder of Tulum was fabulous but reasonably uneventful. i remained stuck in the sand for several more days, having met lots of great people. I didn't want to leave them or the beautiful days of relaxing on the beach with delicious and cheap cocktails and great conversation. I finally made the move to go after a few of the main stayers from my visit were also moving on. Some if them were heading on to Merida and while tempted to continue on with the crew I decided my time in Mexico was over.

I made the trip to the bus station with three friends, Joe, Sam and Gemma, had yet more sad farewells and jumped on the bus to Bacalar. I had heard the lake at Bacalar was beautiful but other than that didn't know much about the town, it    worked to drop by though  as it is en route to Guatamala near the border for  Mexico/Belize.   Now normally when you arrive in a new town at the bus station, there are people everywhere with tourist information who try to convince you to where to stay - so I  hadn't   booked anything and just headed there assuming  Bacalar  would be the  same. I was the only passenger who got off at the stop which was on a stark highway with a few sparsely stocked shanty stores and no English speakers at all. I stood there with my bags like a shag on a rock trying to figure out what to do for a while and failing to get any information from the locals with my minimal Spanish and their non existent English. Luckily I remembered the name of the hostel I had been told about and  
a taxi  driver   knew where it was to take me there.  The room was packed with  beds covered in mosquito net and no room for  bags which had to  be  stored in lockers in a different   area outside. The lake   was pretty but when you go  to swim you quickly discover it is about a metre deep so you can't  do any real swimming.  My night there was basically just sitting around chatting to people, reading and sleeping. In the morning Dennis who ran the hostel had offered to drive a few of the guests to  Chetumal to catch buses, so we drove in and he took them off to one stop while I jumped in a cab to the shuttle from Chetumal to Flores. Except that's not     where the driver took me. It  seems me saying I needed the  autobus station to  get from Chetumal to Flores meant he was taking me to the Belize border. So at the Mexico side of the border I had to try to figure out what to do as the bus doesn't leave from there. I ended up with no option   but to pay a driver to take me to the Corozal bus station in Belize as I couldn't re enter Mexico to go  back to Chetumal where I was meant to get the bus in the first  place.  At the bus station I had just missed the last  bus  that would  allow a connecting bus in Belize City to Flores, in other  words it   was likely I would not get to Guatamala that day. The driver I had tried to get me to pay him a fortune to  catch the bus but as he was pretty dodgy anyway I got off there leaving a much needed bag of snacks behind. Damn. Oh well.
 
NICK's STORY
On the bus I was seated next to Nick - a Belizean  man who gave me a different perspective on things.  Wow he had an interesting life story. I got to know him over 24   hours and learned a lot about his family and  got an insight into how life is in Belize City, I'll tell his story in  a moment though  for those of you  who are interested. 
 
While I was on the bus  with Nick  he asked about my travels and said  he thought I was missing out by going straight through  Belize and tried to convince me I should do at least one day in Belize. His little brother Jermaine was a tour guide so he called him to try to arrange for him to show  me around when it looked like I was going to be stuck in Belize over night anyway.   When we arrived in Belize  city i was shocked to see how dirty and dilapidated the city was. My completely inaccurate and ignorant idea of Belize   was that  because it was a newer   country and  an expensive one that it would be   more  modern and clean. It  was  honestly a city that looked as though it  had been abandoned  30 years earlier and had people return to live there  without fixing  ANYTHING up. Anyway,  Nick    showed me around a food market next to the   station and got me  a few  different fruits to try that I hadn't been before while we  waited for Jermaine to pick   us  up. I booked a bus for the next day and  Nick, his  brother and his sister in law drove me to a  hotel where I could safely stay for the night.
 
NICK's STORY
 
 He had  grown up with quite a few siblings with  various parents shared amongst them. Something that is VERY  common in Belize as it seems noone  uses contraception, maybe due to Catholocism being common but also possibly just due to lack of education. Nick himself was 32 and had 2 children to different mothers but hadn't been married. He was  very smiley, friendly and had a kind face. When I asked what he did in Belize he told me  he worked at the Casino in Corozal, but had left early that day as he had just gotten notification that his sister Shakira had died. He went on to explain that while it might  seem odd that he was smiling under the circumstances, his family looked at  death differently to most people. They had many family members die in the previous few years and decided that for the family to survive these things they  had to look at it in a positive way, celebrate the person's life  and move on. They   had a rule that everyone had to wear colourful clothes for the funeral and the focus had to be on the FIVE children she had left behind.  It turned out she had  surviving children, had 3 that were  either miscarried or still born and there  were   at least 4 different fathers. The three eldest were most likely going to end up living  with Nick. He  also had a promised responsibility to  the three children of his best friend who had died as they had sworn to look after each others children if one passed away and unfortunately his best friend  had died a few years  earlier. While his friend's  children didn't live with him he bought necessary items for them and  essentially played a child support role. Nick had one of his son's living with  him  but the  eldest who was about  4 lived with his ex's mother  as she didn't want him. Nick was trying to fight for custody. He worked very long   hours and joked about how he would have to work even more now  with the responsibility of his sister's children on him.

An hour after dropping me off  Nick came back to pick me up so we could drive 'circle' aka drive around the town so I could see more of Belize City. He turned up with his pseudo brother in law, both with beers in hand having been drinking for a while.
 
His sister  had  been  in a relationship with a  man who treated her children like his own. Together they had been trying to get full custody of the children but  Shakira's death meant he was devastated not only about losing her  but about what would happen to the children. He spoke about how he had intended to marry her but hadn't had the chance.  It was heartbreaking seeing him try to grasp the fact that she was gone.So Nick, the brother in law and I drove around Belize city. They were drinking beers the whole time, no seat belts and driving the way they do everywhere in Central America - insanely. It turned out the 'circling' involved dropping in to various relatives houses to advise them of Shakira's death. It was a very very strange night and involved driving around the absolute slums of what is already a very dilapidated city. Dogs running around everywhere, buildings all falling apart yet inhabited, and a general feeling of unease. I ended up getting home reasonably early as I needed to be up for an early pickup to see a few of the sights with Jermaine and Nick. I got all of my bags and in the morning the three of us went to a 'Baboon Sanctuary' but turns out they call Howler Monkeys Baboons in Belize, so got to see some of those and feed one, then went off to the Belize zoo. It was okay but nothing major and when I finally got on a bus to Flores I was relieved to have survived the night in Belize City.

The bus to Flores was okay, only myself and a Canadian/American couple so lots of room to spread out. By the time we got there we were all roasting and checked in to a hostel (Los Amigos on the island) and went for a swim. After running into a few people I had met on the way and having dinner I had an early night to get up at 3am for a trip to the Tikal ruins.

A long drive and a trek through the dark jungle in the morning led us to a pretty disappointing sunrise - basically it was so cloudy that the morning just got lighter rather than actually seeing any colours, but hearing the jungle wake up was a really peaceful experience. After that we wandered around and got shown various animals including howler and spider monkeys, a tarantula, random red animals whose name i forget that look like a possum crossed with a raccoon and various birds. The Tikal ruins were some of the more impressive ruins I've seen. After a long tour we finally made it back to the hostel. I relaxed, had a swim and wandered around the town then that night met a really cool group of people. Cookie and Joey the Kiwis, Ali and Megan the Canadians, Lizzie and Becca the English girls and a few others I had met before. We ended up playing a bunch of drinking games and laughing a lot, and I booked in to join them at the Zephyr lodge in Lanquin the next day. Awesome decision because they have turned out to be a really great bunch of people who are a lot of fun and travelling my way. We also adopted a tiny kitten at Los Amigos who Megan named Doug, a tiny little thing who we fed and looked after and didn't want to leave behind.

The bus to Lanquin in the morning was a pretty easy ride, we had a lot of space and were able to stretch out again, but it was a LONG drive with lots of very fast very tight turns on the road. At one point Megan looked terrified at the speed and I thought she was about to vomit all over me. Luckily that didn't happen. 
 
That night we had a huge night of partying at the lodge in the middle of the jungle, had a great time with lots of laughing, silly games, Moose, Inappropriate Yoga, Kings and more. So much fun and so much laughter.

SEMUC CHAMPEY

In the morning we all got up for the tour to Semuc Champey. Lizzie and I were at the front of the cattle bus having a ball on the way and by the time we arrived had already been laughing for ages. The tour was AMAZING. First we were flying into the lake off a massive swing, then jumping off a 12 metre bridge (resulting in some epic leg bruises for me), then we got taken for the cave tour. We all had candles to carry (including when swimming which is a mean feat), as we got shown around the caves. It included jumping off high rocks, sliding through tiny holes, climbing ropes up waterfalls, climbing ladders through small places, swimming and trying not to hit rocks and more. So much fun! After the cave tour we had a very steep climb to the Mirador (lookout point) where you get the view overlooking the pools of Semuc Champey. We sat there, sweat streaming down our faces, ate lunch, took photos then rushed down the hill so we could swim.

There the guide took us through the pools, showing us places you could jump off rocks, slide down natural waterslides, swim under caves and more. There were a few smaller jumps along the way, but the final 18 metre jump was one that only I took on. Crazy girl. Alas I didn't land very well so I got yet more bruises and a slightly sore ego but everyone in the group cheered me on. A drinking game that had previously involved a story that goes 'one frog, jumped in, the lake, plop' was then changed to 'one Aussie, jumped in, the river, smash'. Poor Aussie.

That night sore and sorry for myself there were yet more games, yet more drinking, lots of laughter and fun.

In the morning most people decided to chill at the lodge but Lizzie and I went tubing with some of the rest of the group Perfect way to spend the day when hungover, floating down a river in fresh water, cold water helping my sad legs and drinking beer (yes I know, weird for me but I did have one - I've been trying to like beer but one or two is still my limit).

After that there was another night of drinking, a theme with this group, and the next day a relaxing time of swimming in the river, lying around in the sun reading and chatting and a visit to the bat caves. The bat caves are pretty crazy, they smell terrible from the bat poo everywhere and are very slippery for the same reason, but you feel like Indiana Jones in there. Very cool exploring through them, then at 6 when they shut of the lights, hundreds of tiny bats fly straight past you to go out into the night. They are sooo fast though that i didn't get many photos.

That was our last night in Lanquin and in the morning we all got on a bus together to Antigua, an absolutely packed shuttle that was an incredibly uncomfortable ride.

When we arrived in Antigua I had to try to figure out where Erin and Sam my fabulous friends from Aus who are also travelling through Central America were going to be - we had figured out that Antigua and Guatamala was going to be as we would finally cross paths. They had said they were going to be staying at El Gato Negro (the Black Cat) so me and the crew went there and dumped our bags, finding Eda and Josh two more of Cookie and Joey's friends there as well. Erin and Sam had ended up elsewhere so we caught up the next day instead. That night was Becca's birthday so we met up with her again and had a few birthday drinks before I crashed out early. The next day we basically wandered around exploring Antigua. It is a really pretty colonial city, lots of cafes and restaurants and various bars, plus a big market but other than that not a lot to do. Ally, Megan and I did some shopping for cheap clothes to replace worn out travel ones then later finally met up with Erin and Sam. We had a great night out for the first time in a long time and danced the night away. The next day my crew moved on to San Pedro while I stayed with Erin and Sam for some downtime.

The three of us then made our way to San Pedro the next morning and I checked in to the same hostel as my crew, with Erin and Sam a few doors down. The town is not what we expected. We were told it was really amazing and beautiful but mostly it's kinda dirty and touristy though it is on a pretty lake with nice views of the surrounding mountains and volcanoes. Weeks of partying and early mornings etc finally caught up with me and the last few days I've been doing a LOT of sleeping. This morning though we did manage to get up at 3.15am for a trek up a mountain called the Indian's Nose. Basically because it looks like the profile of a Mayan Indian. The walk was short but steep and the view at the top was pretty great. Not a full sunset due to clouds but very pretty either way. There were a load of young very noisy Israeli's there who were quite annoying but then they gave us coffee and cake so we had to forgive them. After that was breakfast and more sleep and now soon we'll be off to explore San Marcos and Panajachel.

Sorry for the epic story again, it's a hazard of minimal internet access!
 

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