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On the road in Guatemala

UNITED KINGDOM | Monday, 1 November 2010 | Views [499]


Hello Guatemala

After a really good 10 nights in San Ignacio it was time to leave the town and the country of Belize and go and say hello to Guatemala.
I left the hotel just after 8am and cycled 30 metres down the road to the café. I had an extra large “breakfast of champions” and as the hour approached 9am I put my crash helmet on and started cycling to the border. 10 minutes later I was off the bike as the ¾ mile climb out of town was to steep to do this early! At the top I was back on the saddle and the rolling countryside was pleasant and the tarmac was smooth.
Just over an hour later I reached the border town of Benque and had a long and lazy rehydration stop...there was no rush. Leaving the town behind the border wasn't far away and once the small climb was conquered I free wheeled to passport control.
The formalities were just that and the Belizean exit tax was 3 times more than the fee for the Guatemala visa...sometimes that's just the way it is!
Once I was officially in Guatemala I crossed the river into the border town of Melchor and found a hotel on the main highway at the top of the hill. It only cost Q150 a night (there are 12 of those to £1) and it seemed nice enough. As soon as I had checked in the 1st thing I did was walk across the road to the convenience store attached to the petrol station. The only down side to hanging out in Belize is a complete lack of marlboro cigarettes....I had missed them so much!!!
From here its about 100kms to Flores, which might be to far for me right now (in the last 52 days I have spent 7 days on the bike covering a massive 230 miles) and I also have no idea what the terrain is like. However 40 miles down the road on the north-east shore of lake Petan is the small village of El Remate which has many hotels....so I have a choice.
After a relaxing nights sleep I was on the road just after 7am and going out of town it was smooth and flat but I had an idea that it would soon be changing....and sure enough it did! I was passing through woodland and grazing pastures as the road meandered up, down and around the rolling countryside and an hour into the day I had my 1st “damn I really am an unfit bastard” climb. It was short but the 1stsection was way too steep for me, so I got off the bike and walked it! Back on the saddle I managed the downhill section with ease and carried on.
Another hour passed and the 2nd climb presented itself. It was only about 1 mile in length but it was done sitting on the saddle....yippee!
By 10:30 I was half way there and so I had a long relaxing stop and enjoyed the very cold bottles of coke.
Carrying on the road continued to go up and down but as I was heading towards a lake I thought that at some point the road would head downhill. At the crest of each steep little rise I told myself “that's the last one it's downhill all the way from here” and after saying that countless times it turned out to be true......but only for about 1km, then it stayed flat.
Turning right onto the Tikal road I cruised the few miles to the village of El Remate on the north-east shore of lake Petan, I quickly found out that there was no ATM but the place I decided to stay at took visa....which is why I was staying there because my wallet was lacking in Quetzales. It costs Q205 a night which includes either breakfast or dinner and the room is nice with a bench and hammock outside in the shade. The large garden is well maintained and it also has great views of the lake and the sunsets here are fabulous.
On Thursday , after spending a full day in the hammock, I was back on the road to Flores. There were two roads to the small island town, one was south for 35kms and the other went around the lake and was 10 miles longer....I chose the latter!
The morning was overcast with low grey clouds blocking out the warmth of the sun and it was a chilly 22oc, it felt so good! Leaving the hotel with a small gift of a carved wooden toucan from the owner I turned left and headed around the lake. Two corners and 800m later the tarmac ran out and I wouldn't being seeing it again for another 15 miles.
The dirt road was bouncy, full of potholes and lots of sharp pointy fist sized rocks poking up through the mud and gravel. At least the road was quiet so that when I was weaving my way all across the road I didn't have to worry about traffic. Several times along the road it pitched skyward at such an angle that even if it had been tarmacked I would of struggled. The fact that the road resembled a washed out river course meant that I was off the bike pushing its heavy weight up the road whilst becoming weaker with every footfall.
There were several small villages along the road and I came to the conclusion that a gringo on a bike was definitely a curious sight to behold.
Finally after 3.5 hours of sweat and toil I turned a corner and there before me was sweet beautiful tarmac! Stopping at roadside shop for a well earned long rest, I was sucking down my 2nd ice cold gaterorade when I became the unwitting goal of a game that the gang of small kids had just invented called “poke the gringo” :)
Back on the saddle there was a steep downhill blast to the village of San Jose before a longer climb up to and through the village of San Andres. Cresting the rise I stopped pedalling and enjoyed the 3 mile free wheel to the river. There is nothing better than sitting on the bike with stationary pedals as the speedo hits 30mph.
Crossing the river it was about 7 miles to Flores along a flat road with just a hint of a tail wind
On the lake shore opposite the island is the town of Santa Elena where you will find not a single signpost to let you know which way it is to Flores but I went with the flow and guessed correctly when it was time to turn left. I crossed the causeway and found a gringo hotel on the edge of town (it only takes 10 minutes to walk across the town and therefore the island) that charged Q50 a night for an okay room (after Belize I think it's time to reduce my hotel bills).
I had only cycled 32 miles today but I was wiped out. However the bar downstairs is open till midnight so I should be able to recover.
In the morning it was overcast and cold enough for me to wear my fleece....happy days are here again!!!! After a lazy breakfast I was sitting on the terrace with a great view of the lake when it stared to rain....damn, it's like being back in England!
Come Monday morning this old dog is about to learn a new trick
The next day was Saturday and after having lunch in the Café Yaxha (these are the guys that took my money for next weeks Spanish lessons) the German owner mentioned that the local football team was playing in the afternoon and would I like to go...hell yeah! Jumping out of the tuk tuk with about 15 minutes to go before kick off we all found a place in the stand and waited. The team play in the 2nd division (think Slough Town quality) and the small pitch was surrounded by a 10ft high chain-link fence topped with barbed wire whilst a small contingent of soldiers lurked in the shade. Personally I thought it was a slight overkill...
With 10 minutes to go to half time the home team were 3-0 up and the opposition were suddenly down to 10 men after a really bad “studs up” challenge ended in a straight red card. Now the chain link fence made sense....In the 2nd half the home team were taking it easy but with less than 10 minutes left to go, 2 quick goals by the away side woke them up. They managed to “hang on” for the win.
Sunday morning found me having breakfast at café Yaxha before going on a full days tour to a couple of Mayan sites. Both of them were on the road to Belize so it was a case of deja a vu. The 1st site was called La Blanca and it was only about 10kms from the border. It was different to any other ancient site I've been to because the archaeologist only started their excavations here six years ago and are still on site today. New discoveries are being made everyday, like the skeleton they found yesterday. Our guide loved his job (although he never called it that!) and his enthusiasm was infectious.
After a slow bimble around the site lunch was provided by one of the local families. They take it in turns throughout the week to feed the staff working on the site and the tourists that come and visit. Then it was back in the minibus heading away from the border towards the next site. This gave me the chance to stick my head out of the window, like every dog seems to do, as the minibus made its way up the climb that tortured me 6 days before....damn, its a lot easier with an engine!
Several miles down a dirt side road was the Mayan site of Yaxha. Its located on the shores of a lake and there are literally hundreds of buildings. Most of them are still tree covered mounds but the ones that they have excavated and restored (which costs a lot of money to do and then look after and guard) are pretty awesome.
Moving through the site with foxes, woodpeckers, turkeys, butterflies and howler monkeys for company (plus one or two mosquitoes) we walked along dappled sunlit paths from one temple or palace to another. A few of the taller un-restored “hills” had wooden steps snaking up their flanks, the views were fanwowtastic. However, the guide, who has been here before, saved the best till last.
Climbing up the wooden steps that went up the side of the large fully restored temple (but with I ain't going up those stone steps on the front) you finally got to the top and as you were getting your breath back the views took it away again....
Right now it's Tuesday of Martes as the Spanish speakers call it....and my head hurts! (why didn't the British Empire rule over what is now called Latin America, it would make life a lot easier) It's my 2nd day of learning Spanish and this old dog is struggling with a new trick. Thankfully my teacher has the patience of a saint. However...for some reason I've had a complete brain freeze with two words. The 1st word is the Spanish for bicycle and the 2nd is for the number 40. Now it could be a complete coincidence but.....
Now its 21:30 and I'm in La Cueva bar (its the one below the hotel) sitting on a barstool banging my head against the bar hoping it will help get my head around “ser” “estar” and things that are close, near and far away..........…....Its now the early evening on Monday 15th of November and today I started my second week of trying to learn Spanish, I am a glutton for punishment. I've also moved from my hotel to a room at the school. It's a lot quieter (there is no bar below me and no gringo backpackers nosily moving around) and I have a nice shady courtyard to relax in. I'll be here in Flores for another week before moving on. Having looked at two different routes I have come to the conclusion that the route that goes into the mountains via the city of Coban is one that I would not be able to manage purely on the bike. The climbs are long, which isn't the problem but the gradients are just that little to steep for me right now. As I don't feel like going on a bus any time soon it looks like I'll be staying in the lowlands as I head towards the Rio Dulce and then the Honduras border, where there is no way around the mountains on the road to the town of Copan.
The café: www.cafeyaxha.com and the school: www.flores-spanish.com
I almost forgot to mention the fact that I did finally get around to going to Tikal


bugger....not again!

Wednesday 24th of November
So, this looks like this could be the end...once again I stop turning the pedals before I want to. The last time it was down to the threat posed by packs of feral dogs in Turkey. This time its down to a particular bit of my body letting the side down.......Damn you right knee!!!!
Which is surprising really because I thought that if did happen it would have been my left knee (given the fact that all it does is creak) or my ankle or possibly even my arse! I guess that it could just be old age or maybe when I “landed” my paraglider last year I damaged it without realising, I mean I was in quite a bit of pain at the time.
As to what has gone wrong...when I load my knee there is pain directly behind the kneecap and along the sides of the knee. Not a huge amount of pain but enough to make me go “mmm”. So as you can imagine cycling up a hill is going to increase the problem (walking up and down the temples in Tikal didn't help much either) and the knee will only get worse. The last thing I want to happen is for it to suffer a catastrophic failure halfway up a mountain in the middle of nowhere. (and then have to return to England for surgery and months of rehabilitation because I have really gone off sofas). It could happen 1000 miles from now, maybe 500 miles or even on the second climb of the 1st day back on the road
Now I could carry on with the bike, taking it easy by using a bus to travel up all the gradients and only cycling along the easier “flatter sections” but have you looked at a topographical map of Central America recently!
Right now I am still in Flores and I was planning to go out on the bike tomorrow for a easy 20 miles just to finally make up my mind. However I don't think it is absolutely necessary because earlier today after seeing the local “bone man” for treatment I walked into the centre of Flores. This meant walking up an short but slightly steep incline for about 50m. When I reached the top my knee was telling me all I needed to know.
Now comes the swearing.......for fuck's sake what a cunt my knee fucking truly is. Fuck it, fuck it, fuck it. God damn motherfucking knee why the fuck did this have to happen. What a bastard, what a complete and utter fucking bastard! Fuck you knee!
Thursday the 25th of November.
This morning I went out on the bike for what could be the last time. I headed towards the town of San Andreas because I knew the road. The 1st 8 miles were flat and easy and it allowed me to get nicely warmed up before I crossed the river. Once over the river the road started to go uphill for about 4 miles to the town of San Andreas. I was thinking that by the time I reached the town I would have my answer, well it turns out that I got my answer after about 1 mile.
I sat down at the side of the road and said to myself “oh well it was fun while it lasted”. Even with an unladen bike my knee didn't want to cope with the strain. The ride back into Flores was a slow affair, I wasn't in a rush and this was “THE LAST RIDE”.
With time to think I came up with a cunning plan for South America starting next spring!
Mind you it could be worse, I mean, I could just be reading this whilst clock watching on a Friday afternoon at work....Man, that would really be depressing!
A few days before all this happened I was having my usual breakfast in the Cool Beans café when I wondered where Alain was. I thought that maybe he would be nearing the Guatemalan border soon. After a short while of trying to remember his website (http://les3ameriques.canalblog.com) I saw that his latest entry was from San Ignacio! An hour after sending him an email I got a reply. He was actually in Flores!
It was cool to see him again (and once again laugh at the amount of gear he was carrying) and a few days later Christmas came early for Alain. A lot of my gear isn't worth shipping back to England as the resale value is to low and the shipping costs are high, so Alain got his hands on 4 pannier bags (his were held together with duck tape) and several other bits and bobs. He was a very happy chap!
As for me it's now Sunday (the 28th) and I never thought that it would be this difficult to get my hands on a large cardboard box


At least my arse was happy!

On Wednesday the 1st of December after spending 26 days or so in Flores it was time to leave.
With an overpriced ruck-sac on my back, a small day bag in my left hand and a “cardboard box” covered in duct tape weighing in at over 20 kilos in my right hand I walked from where I was staying to the tour company offices and waited for the minibus. Thankfully it was only about 200m but it was far enough for my right hand to start to hate me!
The minibus turned up and by the time all the gringos had been picked up it was certainly full! Thankfully I had a window seat so I could at least have “the wind in my face” as the bus travelled towards the mountain town of Coban.
The 1st half of the journey was along a flat road with a dodgy river crossing on a makeshift ferry at the town of Sayaxche at the mid point. About an hour later the mountains appeared and the road started to twist and turn uphill. Some of the gradients were steep enough that if I had been on my bike, I would of struggled to push the bike up them, let alone cycle!
As we continued the temperature dropped and the rain drizzled down. The bus stopped in the small town of Chisec for a fag break and the only part of my body that was happy was my arse! Everything else was demanding to be stretched. Whilst I was standing around enjoying the view and the sweet taste of a full fat marlboro I felt a soft touch against my lower arm. Turns out a couple of young kids were “fascinated” by my hairy arms....
Finally after 6-7 hours on the road I reached Coban and it was raining. This was bad news for the cardboard box! 50 metres from the bus park was a business hotel (it was also the nearest) so I thought “damn the expense” it will have to do. Turns out it was super cheap, Q110 a night, en-suite room with cable TV, a huge bed and free wifi....bargain!
I spent two nights in Coban, it may of stopped raining at some point but if it did I was probably watching TV.
On Friday the 3rd of December I got onto another “tourist minibus” and spent several shitty hours on the road to Antigua. We passed through Guatemala city, which was nice because now I can say I've been there (its a shithole of a place...think certain parts of south London!). I got to Antigua just before 5pm and got a room in the Ummagumma hostel. For Q50 a night I have a room with 4 walls, a ceiling and a floor but with no windows...which isn't a problem for me. I also have the joy of a shared bathroom and a somewhat run-down looking rooftop bar where the local “herb” was on display later on in the evening. It also has free WiFi which is a bonus.
After a few hours of chilling out I decided that as it was a Friday night I would go and hang out in the local Irish bar....er...no! It's closed down, so instead I went for a bimble along cobbled streets and passed painted houses. Eventually I found myself in a bar called “Reds” and it was an okay place till I discovered how much they were charging for a beer (Q22 for a bottle is a little overpriced). So I headed back to the rooftop bar at the hostel where the beer is just as cold but is a more reasonable Q15 a bottle.
I have no idea how long I will be staying here but on Monday I'll be spending thousands of Quetzales in the local DHL office to send my bike back to England.


Malin's Moo

On the 19th of January my friend from England, whose name is Malin, arrived in Guatemala for a 3 and a ½ week holiday.
I thought I'd let her write a guest blog....so here it is
Dods trott landade jag efter mycket om och men I Guatemala city. Som tur hade jag nagon som vantade pa mig att kora mig till ett hotell I narheten, dar hann jag inte mer an att checka in och ta en snabb dusch sen somnade jag. Klockan var bara 22.30 men for mig var det 04.30 och jag hade inte sovit mycket pa planen.
Morgonen dar pa tog jag en shuttle buss till Antigua dar jag skulle mota upp med Andrew, en kille som jag jobbat med ett par ar tidigare. Jag hade blivit tillsagd att inbefinna mig vid fontanen vid parken vid kyrkan klockan 12 pa dan. Jag var lite tidig men efter ett par minuter sa kom Andrew gaende med den obligatoriska coca colan in handen.
Vi tillbrigade de narmaste dagarna I Antigua, vandrade kullerstens gatorna, sag alla de farg glada husen och kikade pa marknaden. Det ar en mycket mysigt litet stalle och spanska skolorna ar overallt. Olen ar ocksa den dyraste med 25 kronor for en flaska. Men sa ar det ett turist stalle.
Jag passade pa att klattra upp en av manga aktiva vulkaner, vilket var ganska haftigt. Vi fick grilla marshmallows over ett hal I maken dar man kunde se lavan flyta under. En av killarna I gruppen hade tagit med sig en picknick av pizza och hamburgare som han glatt varmde over lavan.
Efter ett par dagar tog vi en buss ner till Panajachel vid sjon Atilian och darifran en bat till San Marcos. Byn ar en av de mindre runt on och det fanns bara fyra gator som gjorde upp en kvadrat I junglen. Vi bodde I ett hotell som hade anvant mycket glas och plast I byggnaden och satt inklamt I junglen vid en stor klippa. Mycket snyggt. San Marcos ar hippi stallet nummer ett och pa flera stallen erbjods det yoga, massage och andra hollistiska kurser. Klart man hade en massage, det var ju halften av priset hemma. Vi hittade ett cafe dar de hade nagra valpar, sa dar var jag tvungen att ata ett par ganger. Maten var ocksa god.
Men vi kunde ju inte stanna pa ett sa litet stalle under en langre tid aven om de hade mycket bekvama hang mattor. Sa vi akte tillbaka till Antigua dar forhoppnings vis Andrews pass hade dykt upp efter tre veckor I Guatemala city. Han var tvungen att forlanga sitt visum och istallet for att gora det sjalv gjorde en konsult det at honom. Till det dubbla priset.
Det hade kommit.
Jag stannade bara en natt och tidigt pa morgonen efter tog jag en lang buss fard upp till Flores I norra Guatemala. Eftersom Andrew redan hade varit dar stannade han kvar ett par dar I Antigua. Vi skulle motas upp I Rio Dulce efter ett par dar.
Resan upp tog mer an nio timmar, lite langre an vanligt da vi upptackte att det var en idiotisk cykel tavling uppe I bergen. Bussen jag akte med kunde inte alltid kora om cyklisterna I de kurviga vagarna. Nar den val hade gjort det sa stanna den, antingen for att slappa av eller pa nagon. Under den korta tiden vi stog pa vagkanten sa hann ju cyklisterna kora om och sa borjade det om igen..
Ja, jag satt inte pa nagon forsta klass buss utan en andra klass, typ vanlig landsvags trafik buss. Bara med flera stop som inte var utmarkta, man vifta med handen nar man ville pa och bad att ga av nar man ville.
Val framme sa delade en kanadensisk tjej och jag pa en tuk tuk till ett hostel, dar jag bodde I tva dagar. Hittills hade vadret varit helt ok for mig som tycker om det kallare klimatet. Men jag hade blivit varnad for Flores, hett och med hog luftfuktighet. Mitt absolut hat vader. Det forsta jag gjorde var att kopa ett ordentligt mygg medel. Bor man sa nara junglen kan det behovas med tanke pa att myggen har bar pa antingen malaria eller dengue febern. Den tar tyvarr inte pa alla sand flugor jag blivit biten av. Andrew tycker att jag ska rakna dem men sa lang tid har jag inte da jag aker hem pa lordag. Det ar nu onsdag.
Dagen efter akte jag upp till Maya ruinerna I Tikal. Det var en av anledningarna jag akte till Guatemala I forsta hand och jag blev inte besviken. Gick omkring I flera timmar och forundrades hur I hela friden det kunde glommas bort for att 900 ar senare nagon spanjor springa pa det igen. Jag var slut av allt gaende sa pa kvallen hade jag en tidig kvall.
Den kanadensiska tjejen hade rekommenderat ett stalle mitt I mellan Flores och Rio Dulce dar jag stannade en natt. Mycket lugnt och trevligt och med valdigt god mat. Jag tog mig ut pa en liten tva timmars tur pa en hast under dan och blev skont av svalkad nar jag hoppade I deras naturliga sjo nar jag kom tillbaka.
Nasta dag var det jag som stod vid vag kanten och vifta med handen och ville pa en buss. Det tog 45 minuter I solen innan en kom. Jag har inte blivit ak sjuk pa flera ar men av nagon anledning blev jag det denna dag. Tva timmar senare var det mycket skont att stiga av och hitta hotellet dar Andrew hade spenderat en dag eller tva. Han satt I baren, konstigt nog hade han gjort det sedan han kom, och lekte med sina foton pa hans lilla roda laptop. Jag hittade ett rum pa ett hotell intill, det ar inte att rekommendera da det var en nisse som sprang pa natten och knacka pa dorrarna pa vardera sida om mitt rum. Sov inte mycket den natten. Det var ocksa otroligt varmt och kvavt.
Rio Dulce har inte mycket att komma med om man inte hittar nagonstans att bo utmed sjon. Annars ar det bara ett stalle for amerikaner som lagger upp sina batar dar under hurrikan sasongen I karibien. Sa efter frukosten dan efter tog vi en tre timmar bat fard utmed floden som ledde ut till karibiska havet och byn Livingston. Baten tog oss forbi ett fastning och ett par fagel oar som luktade skit men aven genom jungel omraden som var jatte fina.
Val I Livingston, som heller inte har mycket att komma med, stannade vi I fyra dagar. Bodde pa ett typiskt backpackers stalle som var uppbyggt I junglen med rustiska tra byggnader och dar som overallt I Guatemala hade hundar som sprang vilt. Vi fick aven se hundar som parade sig, jag som sett det ett antal ganger tog ingen storre notis om det men alla andra stod och gapa och skratta och aven kastade vatten pa dem sa att de skulle sara pa sig. Nar jag forsokte forklara att det var normalt att “fastna” och att de kunde sta sa I upp till 45 minuter tittade de bara konstigt pa mig. Jag gick da och at frukost som bestod av goda pannkakor med farsk frukt, museli och honung. Det hade jag varje dag vi var dar.
En dag akte vi och kolla pa nagra vattenfall, ja det skulle varit annu battre om det hade varit vatten I dem men det hade inte regnat nog for att fylla dem. De var fina anda och vi gick I flod badden och det lilla vatten som fanns, da det var lattare att ga dar an pa stigen bredvid. Efter det tog baten oss till en mycket vit strand och lang grunt varmt vatten. Det var helt underbart att bara kunna ga ut och slappa I vattnet, flyta omkring och ha det bra. Ja anda tills nagra I gruppen blev stugna av maneter, da gick folk upp och satte sig pa stranden. Vid 15.30 gick baten hem och sen pa kvallen var det fest. Men det ar det ju varje kvall nar man bor pa ett backpackers. Pa de flesta stallen I Guatemala gar allt man ater och dricker pa en tab som man sedan betalar nar man gar. Efter fyra dar blev den taben ganska stor. Aven om man forsokte att dricka det mesta under happy hour da ol och cuba libre bara var 10Q, mindre an 10kr. Annars var den 15Q, lite mer an 10 kr. De serverade aven middag pa detta stalle och oftast var det nagot som kom direkt ifran havet, som jatte kraftor marinerade I vitlok och vitt vin. Mycket gott!
Pa mandagen var det dags att packa ryggsacken igen for att ta oss till Copan Ruinas I Honduras och annu fler Maya ruiner. Farden dit vill jag nog bara glomma bort. Forst var det en halvtimma med bat som var helt ok, sen en snabb taxi tur till bussen. Den satt vi pa I fyra timmar, byte till en annan buss som vi satt pa I en halvtimme. I Chiquimula strackte vi pa benen och Andrew hade ett par cigaretter. Hoppade pa en buss till gransen som inte tog oss till gransen utan till nagon liten by mittemellan. Dar forsokte vi hitta en buss som tog oss till gransen och nar vi fragade efter dem fick vi bara till svar, varfor tog ni inte en direkt buss? Ja det tror jag de sa, ingen av oss pratar ju mycket spanska. Men en buss till och vi var antligen vid gransen. Pass kontroll och stampling utav passet gick fort och vi knallade over till Honduras. 10 minuter senare och vi var avslappta I Copan Ruinas och hittade ett hotell ganska snabbt. Efter en mycket kall dusch var man som en manniska igen, det var ocksa I tid for happy hour och tva for en drinkar.
Sa kom anledningen varfor Honduras kom in I bilden, Maya ruinerna strax utanfor byn. Det gar en trevlig liten promenad vag ut till ruinerna fran byn som tog en knapp halvtimma att ga. Sedan spenderade vi ett par timmar ibland dem. De ar mindre utspridda an Tikal var och darfor gick det snabbare att ga runt dem, men minst lika imponerande som Tikal. Speciellt den hieroglyfiska trappan som de tackte over pa 80-talet for att vadret inte skulle forstora den annu mer.
Ar nu inne pa den sista dagen med Andrew, imorgon bitti aker jag tillbaka till Antigua I Guatemala och han fortsatter pa sin lilla semester som han har haft I nu over tre ar. Idag skiver jag detta och han planerar sin resa for de nasta fyra veckorna. Langre an sa tanker han inte. Han ar ju pa semester.
Mina tva sista dar I Antigua kommer jag inte att gora mycket, kanske kopa nagot typiskt Guatemaliskt att ta hem, eller inte.
Jag har ialla fall haft en mycket bra resa aven om den har varit alldelles for kort. Jag har sett massor, hangt I manga skona hangmattor, atit for mycket god mat, druckit manga ol, cuba libres aven en jagermiester och aven traffat en och en annan trevlig manniska.
Tack Andrew
Um...did I mention that she is Swedish?? 

and now it's my turn

After several weeks of general laziness and laid back anti social behaviour it was time to get back on the road. However as my friend from England, whose name is Malin, had turned up I would have to talk more than usual.
Following a chilled out weekend in Antigua with several beers, one jaggermester shot downed (which Malin completely forgot she ordered!!!!!) and one volcano climbed, not be me I hasten to add, we left the apartment for the last time and got onto a minibus to Panajachel on the shores of Lake Atitlan. It had been several weeks since I had last been “a tourist” and it felt good. It was cool to get back “to work” on a Monday morning.
After few hours of twisty mountain roads still showing the scars from last years landslides the bus plunged down a mountain for the last time and 70 odd tight corners later we arrived at the small town of Panajachel. Following the usual routine of “I've just got off the bus” (fag, arse massage and getting my ankle to un-stiffen) the hotel on the corner was the one that won and it was only 50Q pppn.
Dumping the bags in the room we bimbled down gringo main street. A late lunch and a “damn fine cup of Joe” set the mood as we meandered along to the lake. The afternoon was overcast and misty but the sun was peaking out from behind a cloud, it's light shimmering as it scampered across the the waters.
By 5pm we were back at the hotel sitting out on the terrace, the dark clouds slowing moving across the wretched sky seemed to slow down as they reached the ridge and then they hanged around like a group of teenagers on a Friday night.
The next morning we were up early, mainly due to the fact that the main bus stop was opposite the hotel and the 1stloud bus of the day was at 5am. Surprisingly I walked the 1000m to the jetty where the launches left carrying passengers to all the small villages along the lake shore. We had a short wait for the next boat, which was long enough for a quick fag and then we boarded the boat and headed to the small village of San Marcos. A couple of minutes later Malin had finished counting the number of passengers. She pointed out that “according to the lonely planet guide book we shouldn't be on a boat with more than 14 passengers....” meanwhile back in the real world I was looking out across the water at the volcanoes on the other side of the lake.
60 minutes and several stops later we disembarked at the small village of San Marcos. This is a place where gullible fools come to waste their money....or it's a place of positive cosmic energy where you can tune into mother earth and expand your consciousness. I think it depends on how long and skanky your hair is! And yes Malin decided on this place!
The village itself is split into two parts. The locals live up on the slopes and the gringos reside on the flatter lake shore area. There are two stone flagged pathways leading away from the lake inter crossed by meandering dirt paths. I have to admit it is a chilled out place, the serenity only ruined by the occasional sound of some crusty long haired moron playing the bongos....badly.
I've been on the road now for about 8 months since leaving Las Vegas and when I sat down in the Fe restaurant in the evening I was a very happy chappy! Their menu had two pages devoted to curries!!! The 1st night I had the Kashmir, tonight the biryani and tomorrow.....who knows possibly the vindaloo!
Yesterday I did go and have a massage, mostly on my ankle. It seems that whilst I was hanging out in Antigua I really should of carried on with my stretching exercises. We also went for a stroll around the small rocky headland. There were great views of the lake and volcanoes and on the other side a large wooden platform which people could leap from before splashing down into the cool lake waters some 30 foot below. Mind you they would have to open the health and safety gate first.
Today (Thursday 27th) is our last day and we're going to hang out in the town of San Pedro, a 10 minute boat ride away.....once Malin has stopped playing with the puppies in Blue Lill's café that is.
In the morning I was up early, it took Malin a little longer (she has a problem with snoring). As we walked down to the jetty a boat going our way appeared, which was nice! The ride back to Panajachel was flat and calm, the conditions of the lake change as the day progresses with the wind increasing and the swell growing.
Back on dry land we had a few hours to kill before the minibus ride back to Antigua. Cue coffee and croissants and free WiFi. By the end of my 3rd mug of coffee I was wide awake and according to Malin I had a very bad addiction problem (which is weird because I always thought I had three!)
By mid afternoon we were back in Antigua, Malin was getting on a bus at 4am the following morning to Flores. I was going to have a long lie in because I've already been to Flores and couldn't be arsed to go again. The next morning I woke up with a hangover...brilliant!!
On Sunday morning I left Antigua for the last time and spent several hours sitting in a bus as it travelled to Rio Dulce.
Rio Dulce, or sweet river in English, lies in the lowlands of Guatemala on the shores of Lake Izabal near the Caribbean coast. As the bus covered the miles the mountains receded and the air once again became hot, heavy and humid. Arriving in the early evening I got a room at Bruno's on the water's edge. It was slightly over priced but it did have cable TV and a terrace with a hammock. The breeze coming from the coast was great at blowing away the heat and it was good not to have to wear a jumper in the evening.
Monday morning came around and it found me hungry. Hello fried eggs, bacon, “country potatoes” and of course....black coffee. The rest of the day was spent....come on work it out.....that's right I “have a hammock!”
A little while later the sky turned from blue to black....yep it was night time.
Tuesday afternoon slowly came around and Malin turned up from her visit to Flores and Tikal. The next morning we got on a boat for “the tour” down the Rio Dulce to the small town of Livingstone. At £10pp. It's expensive but as the boat company have exclusive rights they can charge what they like. Mind you the views were gorgeous!
A few hours later we arrived at Livingstone, the small town is home to communities of Garifunas, Indians, Chinese, local Mayans and of course gringo backpackers. Even before we were off the boat the touts were plying their trade. We ended up staying at the Casa de la Iguana, a “party hostel” on the edge of town. It's run by an English bloke called Rusty but most of the work is done by his 3 little helpers.
I stayed there for 5 nights and my bar bill was Q1400 (or about £115). A beer or Cuba libre only costs Q15 and the shots were Q10....so I think you can work out what we were all doing!!!
We did manage to go on a day trip, travelling across the warm waters of the Caribbean sea to the Seven Altars waterfalls. I have to admit it would have been better to go there during the wet season but the large pool of cool water at the end of the forest trail was most enjoyable. After that we headed to Playa Blanca for the rest of the day. I got stung by a jellyfish!!
Following a great weekend of football (well apart from the Chelsea V Liverpool game) on Monday the 7th of February we got on the 9am boat to Puerto Barrios. Eight and a half hours and five minibuses later we arrived in the Honduran town of Copan, got beds at Café ViaVia and enjoyed the 2 x 1 happy hour Cuba Libres.
Today, we went to visit the Mayan ruins of Copan, which is the reason for coming here in the 1st place. I liked what I saw.
The small town of Copan is like a little tiny Antigua but with better cobblestones!
Tomorrow is mine and Malin's last day of hanging out together. On Thursday she catches a bus back to Antigua for a day of shopping before flying back to England and going back to work on Monday morning.....it's a tragedy!!!!
and as for me.....

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