A Travellerspoint blog

Lake Atitlán and Monterrico

6th - 20th July

semi-overcast 34 °C

After Antigua we went to Panajachel to stay with a local Guatemalan family and study Spanish for a week. Pana is situated on Lake Atitlám which is a large lake surrounded by 3 volcanoes and steep hills.

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We arrived at the school early evening and were introduced to the family. We didn't really know what to expect but it turned out that the house and the food we got (3 meals a day) was really good. Although saying that both of us were ill by the end of the week! Our Spanish lessons were from 1pm - 6pm with a guy called José. It was just the 2 of us and we had the lessons outside in the garden at the school. There are quite a lot of street dogs in Pana, some of which roam around the garden at the school. The teachers have nicknamed one 'El perro Terrorista!'

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During the week we also went on a couple of school trips. The first was to a natural park just outside Pana - this involved a walk around the forest over swing bridges and small tracks and stepping stones (not easy in flip flops!)

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The second trip was to San Antonio, a small village on another side of Lake Atitlán. We went there on the back of a truck with various locals (they like to fit as many people on the back of a truck as possible so had to stand most of the way!). Once there, Ellie was taken by some locals and dressed up (didn't have a choice) in the traditional outfit for the village, a ploy to force you into buying something! The women all wear the same in this village and some men also wear sarong style skirts.

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After we finished our course we went across the lake to San Pedro and met Katie who we have seen in lots of different places on our trip. San Pedro is slightly less touristy than Panajachel and has a more bohemian feel about it with lots of bars and cafes to chill out in and watch movies. Unfortunately we could only stay there for one night as we had to start making our way to Monterrico on the Pacific coast where we had another five days of Spanish lessons booked.
Monterrico is a sleepy little place with one main road and a few smaller dusty streets that run off it. Dogs, chickens and pigs are regularly seen wandering around at their will. Despite its size, there are two football pitches in Monterrico, one sand and one grass. Mike played in a couple of games and the locals gave him the nickname 'el gringo mejor´. The main attraction is the beach, that goes on for miles, and looks a little strange because of the black volcanic sand.

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The Spanish lessons were quite similar to Pana, again taking place in the garden at the school. However, the situation with the family in Monterrico was more or less the opposite as it had been in Pana. Their house was pretty basic, and didn´t even have proper walls. The rooms were separated by random bits of plywood that were used as partitions. The food was really bland (lots of rice, beans and tortillas) and the portions were tiny. One night we were given Pot Noodles for dinner. And you don´t want to know about the toilet and the shower!
We went on a couple of trips with the school to the local nature reserve which is a vast area of mangrove swamps which contains some beautiful lagoons that are connected by a series of canals. It is a really peaceful and interesting place to visit - especially as we got to see a community that live on a number of small islands far into the canals. We visited their school and a place where they make salt that they sell to people in the surrounding area. We also went fishing with very primitive equipment. Ellie did well by catching the biggest fish of the day!

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Posted by elliemike 04:21 Archived in Guatemala Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Flores, Tikal and Antigua

1st July - 6th July

semi-overcast 25 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

We arrived in Flores, Guatemala in the early evening after a day of travelling from Caye Caulker. We arranged to go on a sunrise tour to the Maya ruins at Tikal early the next morning (3:30am start so more like the middle of the night) so didn't do much that evening. Although it was called the Sunrise Tour, it was actually light when we arrived which is probably just as well otherwise we would have had to walk for 45 mins through the jungle in the dark. The benefit of being there so early is that you get to sit at the highest temple where you watch/hear the animals and birds in the rainforest waking up. We then walked around the other ruins (some of which we climbed up), got shown a tarantula and saw lots of monkey's swinging in the trees.

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The next day we spent in Flores and went on a boat trip around the lake before getting a night bus to Antigua. Flores is a small island in the middle of a lake connected to the mainland by a causeway. They seem to get powercuts every couple of hours!

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We had a few days in Antigua, a picturesque colonial town that is overlooked by a massive volcano. We went to the plaza, the market (where we stumbled across a game of football!) and spent time on the roof terrace at our hostel when the sun was out.
It turned out that one of Ellie's mates, Gareth, happened to be in Antigua at the same time as us so we met up with him, went out for dinner and had a few drinks.

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Posted by elliemike 10:55 Archived in Guatemala Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Caye Caulker, Belize - Lobsterfest 2008

26th June - 1st July

sunny 33 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

From Tulum we took a bus into Belize and spent a night in Belize City (not a very nice place, not really worth writing about). The next morning we got a boat to an island called Caye Caulker just in time for the annual Lobsterfest which marks the start of the Lobster season. There were shows, games and music as well as stalls and restaurants serving every form of Lobster imaginable. Over the weekend we had: Lobster pizza, grilled whole Lobster, Lobster kebab, Lobster burger, Lobster omlette, Lobster stew, Lobster nacho's, Lobster salad, Lobster cerviche and Lobster tails!
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The island is very small, with dusty roads and golf carts instead of cars! Down one end of the island is a bar, swimming area and diving board.
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The people are very friendly and as it is so small we bump into the same folk quite a few times a day. One local we have been speaking to quite a lot is an old man called Glen who wear jewels around his head and always makes up funny lies (such as he has 5 sons around the world that have all played in the World cup and that Winston Churchill slept with the Queen.)

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We got to watch the final of Euro 2008 in a sports bar by the beach which was good, particularly as Mike put money on Spain before we left meaning we won almost £80 from the tournament.

Posted by elliemike 12:18 Archived in Belize Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Palenque (jungle) and Tulum (beach)

20th - 26th June

sunny 33 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

We spent a day and a night in the colonial town San Cristobàl before going on to Palenque. From Palenque we went on a day trip to the Palenque ruins which are in the middle of the jungle.

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The tour we were on then took us to Misol-Há - a 25 metre waterfall with a trail leading along a ledge behind the cascade giving off a refreshing spray.

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After Misol-Há we went to the impressive waterfalls of Agua Azul, in the Parque Nacional Agua Azul - more waterfalls and rapids which you can swim in, surrounded by jungle.

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That night we took an overnight bus to Tulum - the longest, finest sand beach on the Carribean coast (allegedly). We chose to stay in a Cabana on the beach front. It was very basic accomodation with cold showers and electricity only between 7:30pm and 11pm but worth it to be right on the beach.

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We spent 4 days in Tulum and during that time we have hired bikes, visited the ruins and spent time relaxing on the beach.

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Posted by elliemike 11:34 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Mexico City and Oaxaca

11th June - 18th June

25 °C
View Ellie and Mike's Round the World Trip on elliemike's travel map.

We arrived late on 11th June to Mexico City and spent the first 4 nights there. We visited the Zocalo (main square), Temple Meyor (pre-aztec site), le Merced (large, busy market), Chapultepec Park and Zona Rosa.

Palace at the Zocalo -
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Ruins at Temple Meyor -
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Random Statues around the Zocalo -
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Chapultepec Park -
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Le Merced -
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On Friday we went on a day trip to Teotihuacan - the largest pre-Hispanic site in the country. The main landmark is the 70m high Piramide del Sol which we climbed up.
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We have found things to be quite cheap here - a ride on the underground costs 10p and a 4 course dinner can be bought for £2.50 (not a particularly good one though!). We have tried as much Mexican food as possible, in restaurants and street stalls, with varying degrees of success - some have been disappointing and bland whilst others have been excellent. Our limited Spanish means we often don´t know exactly what we´re going to end up with. For example they seem to have a number of different names for each type of meat! Saying that the Spanish we do know has been useful in other situations.
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The last night in the hostel was Tequila night - the only rule of Tequila night is once a bottle is opened the bottle must be finished! The staff at the hostel were giving us lots of tequila slammers and tequila shots, and then took us on to a nearby night club. We quickly discovered that the club was a gay club - it was called Lipstick and the bar men were all topless!

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We are now in Oaxaca which is about 500km south of Mexico City. We chose a hostel on the outside of the City - a bit far out but it has great views of the mountains and has an outdoor swimming pool and trampoline. We have explored the city and spent time relaxing by the pool

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Last night Mike played football with the guy that runs the hostel and some of his mates (who are teachers) at a local school. There was a thunderstorm and heavy rain that delayed the game a bit but it still went ahead.
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We are now about to get a night bus to San Cristobal de las Casas....

Posted by elliemike 13:11 Archived in Mexico Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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