Showing posts from March, 2007

Mexico´s Yucatan Peninsula, and the dreaded Cancun.

The first thing we noticed about Mexico was how much longer the distances were between each place and how much more bus tranportation costs. We knew as soon as we jumped on that first bus from Chetumal to Tulum, that those chicken buses which we had grown so fond of, in a funny kind of way, were going to be a thing of the past! On boarding the ¨second class bus¨, with air-con, plush seats and no chickens, I intrinsically knew that we were now be travelling in a differnt kind of way!

The famed Mayan ruins of Tulum, sit atop a rocky prominence, rising majestically over a Caribbean sea that can only be described as breathtakingly spectacular! I mean, how many shades of Caribbean turquoise can one see and describe? Having been privileged to see so many, describing the diferent nuances and shades is becoming increasingly more difficult.

The site itself, apart from swarming with people (I have not seen this many tourists since the USA! And yes, more than Guatemala) is not that large, and the …

Un- BELIZE- able!

You know the old saying, "Another day another country".......well, that is what it has felt like lately! We are trying not to rush it, but seven months down the track, we are wondering how we are going to fit in Mexico, Cuba, (some parts of) Europe and Asia. But, as the other old saying goes, "Where there's a will there's a way!" And both Alex and I have wills of steel!

Belize is the only country in Central America whose official language is English, although Spanish is certainly the second, and on the Guatemalan and Mexican borders they are usually bi-lingual. As soon as we crossed the border, the whole vibe slow, VERY SLOW ACTUALLY! I had no sooner crossed the dotted line, than I was being told to, "Slow don mon! Dis iss Be-lissssssssssssssssssssse!" Ombi go slow? I make no promises, but I´ll give it a go!

The first thing one notices about Belize is the architecture. The wooden houses are painted so brightly, which is so typical of …

The energy of Guatemala's sacred places.

It was raining when we arrived in Coban, and cold to boot! Actually, very cold! I was not really expecting this! Guatemala is "supposed" to be hot. Although "heat" is part of its Central American image, it can actually be quite cold in the highlands.

After an hour or so of trudging in the rain, large backpack on our backs, smaller one in front, another bag full of food, and umbrellas in hand, we finally found a place to stay. We were both a little tired and over it today! Casa Luna was run by Selvin and Edin, a jovial couple who were always quick to please and help out. I liked the feeling of the place, and quite frankly, I liked them! It also felt very secure! And yes, it was clean!

We had really only come here to do the day trip out to Semuc Champey, a series of spectacular, cascading clear waterfalls. How do I describe the colour? In this instance, Alex´s photos actually do do the colour justice! Please check out this link, I agree …

Finally, off the beaten track in Guatemala.

Although we were having a brilliant time in Guatemala, Alex and I both decided that we could not leave until we had seen a part of the country that was not so frequented by tourists. Chela is not one of these places, but our opportunity would soon come along!

After the usual jumping on and off several chicken buses and sharing our oxygen supply with (very!) bad exhaust and diesel fumes, we made it to Chela, but not as early as we would have liked to. The bad part about rocking up late in a biggish city is trying to look for a place to stay. Looking for a place in the dark, whilst trying to watch for potential dangers are kind of mutually exclusive. This is where our guide book does kind of convert itself into a bible, and the word becomes gospel! The desire to find a place to rest my weary head safely, when it's dark, only just supercedes my desire to find a clean place to rest it!

So, we stayed in Casa Argentina....but just for a night! Yes, it gets rave reviews in Lonely Planet, …

Mystical Lake Atitlan!

I had also been to Lake Atitlan when I was in Guatemala last, but had only spent a few days here. This time, we stayed for almost a week, and really took the time to explore the various villages, all the way around it. We started off with Panajachel (Pana), which despite being known as "Gringotenango" (Foreigner-land!), has some breathtaking views of the lake. It is considered to be one of the most spectacular places in Central America, and a quick walk to the lake´s edge helps to confirm why. Lago de Atitlan, or Lake Atitlan, is a collapsed volcanic cone, surrounded by a multitude of volcanoes, and is really one of those postcard type places. As you look out onto the lake, there truly is this mystical wave that seems to sweep over you! And you definitely do feel like you are looking at a postcard!

Back to the highs and lows of tourism. Alex and I had a bit of a culture shock when we first entered Guatemala, as we had not seen this many tourists in a long time. Along with An…

The intoxicating Chichicastenango market!

"Don´t go to Chichicastenango! There´s nothing that you cannot buy cheaper in other parts of Guatemala", I heard from several tourists! Apart from the fact that I had been there eight years ago and loved it.....the tourists (as opposed to travellers) have it all wrong! Markets are not just about buying, they are categorically the best way to soak up and experience the local culture, and see how people live! At this point I should include my description of a tourist as opposed to a traveller. The tourist does the package - the top notch hotel, the tours, the shopping, and visits the " top 5" most visited places. The traveller, on the other hand, does not do the most expensive hotel, mostly does not do organised tours, shopping is usually part of the cultural experience, and understands that there IS life beyond top 5 destinations! They really are two totally different ways of travelling!

Chichicastenango is surrounded by sweeping valleys and mountains. The streets ar…

Guatemala - colour and culture!

The last time I had been in Guatemala was in 1999, and although I certainly had fond memories, I was worried about how often I kept hearing about how touristy it had now become. I hoped that this would not be the case, but alack and alas, it was! As we all know, there are both highs and lows that come with increased tourism, and even more so when it comes to tourism en masse!

The border crossing was fluid, and we soon found ourselves on a bus heading for the capital, Guatemala City. This was the first ¨non - chicken bus¨ we had used in a while, but it was coming through from San Salvador, and happened to be there just as we were crossing the border. We paid a little more and got to the capital a little faster, but I must say, having been there before, it is not a favourite place of mine. It is, however, the pivotal point for several Guatemalan destinations. It was exactly as I remembered it: big, sprawling, busy, chaotic and polluted! No sooner had we hopped off the bus, than we caught…