A Travellerspoint blog

Antigua

Guatever

all seasons in one day 29 °F

Back to early mornings. Our ride to Antigua was cool, again in an 11seater with the locals we later had to switch vehicles. All roads leading to Antigua were blessed with stunning views of nature juxtaposing with the true living conditions of the locals – very distressing to look at but inspiring to see the happiness that they projected when doing daily chores. My 1st honest response when arriving Guatemala City was like ‘ewww’ and glad that I was going through it. I was surrounded by millions of billboards (1 was promoting a clothes store called ‘Bollocks’ lol), vehicles, chicken buses where the fumes were gushing out, no sense of queue, noisy and chaotic! All of a sudden I felt that I was in Europe. Cobbled streets, small dinky shops, the facades of some of the restaurants had a very French feel to them I saw horse and carriages taking people to their destinations, you could hear a live band playing classical music, – it had a very romantic feel to it. Many couples were walking hand in hand from ages as young as 13yr old to 80 yr olds it was really nice to see. In the distant you were surrounded by 3 of the most amazing, enormous, gigantic volcanoes – the main one was Volcan de Agua! I had arrived in Antigua.

We stayed at The Jungle Party. This hostel was for serious party goer’s lol. They would play tracks like Peter Andre, UB40, Big Mountain, even KRS one thru to salsa. The only annoying thing was my bunk was right next to the bar so my bedtime was more and less like 1am. Didn’t stay there for long as I signed up for a weeks lessons of Spanish classes and a home stay with a Spanish family….how exciting!
So Antigua and other surrounding towns in Guatemala are renowned for learning Spanish lessons. So we signed up as we seriously needed to learn the basics. The classes were really intensive – we would start our lessons at 8am, have a break at 10.30am then through to 1pm. So 5 hours a day for 5 days took it out of us. At 1pm we would go to the Gracia’s to have lunch till 2pm then we would go to our afternoon activities. One of the activities that we took part was to visit local important sites. One of them was Cerro de la Cruz. Antigua has only 3 crucifixes and the main one is on a steep hill that over looks Antigua and you also get to see the size of Volcan de la Agua. One of the mornings I decided to run up to the hill which more and less killed me lol but the view at 7.30am was breathtaking! You could see smoke escaping from the crater you could see the brightly painted facades of some of the buildings in the town, the domes of the churches all set against blue skies!

So the family…Francisco was the padre he looked like Robert De Niro but De Niro is so much better looking lol, the madre was Maria, the hija Anna was married to Carlos and they had a little chica, Lalita was a 3yr old so adorable and the sobrino also Francisco aka Panchetta who was 17yr old. Living with the family was really weird but I was so looking forward to see and experience their way of living. I hate to say this but I was quite disappointed. Our daily intake of food was Frijoles (refried beans), Pan (bread), some form of fruit (2 slices of Papaya/pineapple) and water for breakfast! Lunch was Frijoles, Pan, with 2 vegetables or soup and boiled fruit/jelly and for dinner we would have FRIJOLES, rice and a vegetable with pan/tortilla. Now tell me how on earth am I supposed to get through on this diet???? Christina actually had gone to Pollo Campino (there version of KFC) after dinner a few times! The family would eat with us with the same food but even smaller portions but what we couldn’t understand was that they weren’t the slimmest of people. Were they trying to save money? It was more annoying to know that the other host families were cooking up proper filling meals. So we complained and it was kinda scary to go back to the family knowing that the school had words with them…did it change? Well slightly as in the portions grew slightly and we finally had some of protein yay! As for being able to converse with the family…yeah I did have the odd convo but we still felt like outsiders. There was one time where the mum had brewed fresh coffee and when I asked the son-in-law if I can have some he went to ask the mum. The next day they gave me the freeze dry Nescafe crap! Also for breakfast the mum would give the nephew this oaty hot drink (called Aveno) and not to us…we get to have this once complained and it was really nice! Glad to be out though.

Anyways during our stay in Antigua we saw an armed officer who was looking after a Steak house lol in fact armed officers were like everywhere even for maccy d’s. I really wanted to take a picture but they all refure! I did go in to MacDonalds (no to buy anything) but just to see the interior. I was in shock it was the most stunning MacDonalds I have seen in my travels even the Maccy D’s in Dubai could not top this one. It had the most amazing garden, mini water features inside the restaurant and there was table service!

The queue’s for the banks were a joke…they were so long. I found out that everyone in Antigua get paid by cheques as they don’t have a direct debit policy from work so every Fri the locals would queue up to deposit their cheques. We had learnt how to tell if a mayan girl was single or married by the type of skirt she was wearing…refer to pictures for this. The main area that the locals would hang out was ‘Parque Central’. A very cool square that was surrounded by cafes, restaurants, churches etc it reminded me of a mixture of Leicester square and Covent gardens. There was only 1 supermarket in Antigua but had many Tiendra (newsagents). We went to the local market, which was crazy it was what you would imagine a market to be like in Central America. Full of colour, a variety of everything ie chilly, pulses, fruits, smell of Bar-B-Q food, locals shouting out daily deals I also realised that the main craze at the moment here is the Smurfs.

During our stay in Antigua we visited Lago de Aititan a lake that is surrounded by remote vilages. We had to get to a place called Panajachel where we had to get a speed boat to the island. Our 1st stop was a place called San Marcos you could hear prayers through speakers throughout the village. It had a really nice relaxed feel to it a no wonder it is best known for its mediation retreats. An extremely small population, they basically had one store for all conveniences. We chilled here for an hour and moved on to San Juan. This for me was an artist hub the minute we walked towards the town we were bombarded with loads of very cool art stores that were selling local paintings. These painting were full of bright colours depicting the culture of everyday chores to dream-like imagery. We also came across very cool stores that looked like they came out from Lord of the Rings where the goblets lived in hahah. Next stop was San Pedro. This village was the biggest out of all of them and the cheapest. There was plenty of traditional dress and the daily agriculture of coffee to be seen. This was out last stop before we headed back to Antigua.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:15 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

The amazing Semuc Champney....

sunny 34 °F

So the next morning I woke up had a shower in a crazy shower room! Imagine a box room which has half a wall without any windows...this was the shower room obviously overlooking at valleys of green, never-ending blue skies and the water was hot! I've seen and heard so much about this place called Semuc Champney and decided to head out there. So our mini bus came early and off we went. Our transport was a truck where we had to stand at the back holding on to a steel frame lol. We got to Semuc within the hour. Our guide Carlos (who later told me that he would like to make me his Mayan wife...ahhh bless) started out long day at the Caves but before this we were initiated by this orange paste that came from a local plant on our face to show that we are Maya's lol. Like all tours we expected to just walk and see the local beauty but we did not expect what we was planned ahead of us. The 1st task was to perch on this wooden swing, being pushed towards this wide awake lake and to jump in mid air....erm I thought hell no lol.

Here come the caves. We were told to leave all electronical devices at the office as they will get wet. I didn’t take much notice of this and thought water….how much is a lot? Before we entered the caves we were give candles to hold. My 1st step in to the water felt like stepping in to ice cold water…arrrgghh lol. Anyways as we entered the water inside the caves were quite a lot as in we had to swim from point to point but thank god I met Emma my lifeguard who had helped me when I needed that extra hand. The candles blew out a couple of times which was scary as it was pitch black! Before signing up for this tour we didn’t expect to be swimming in the caves more like walk inside the cave and walk around, see a lot but not to do anything physical. Boy was I in for a shock lol. Try to imagine that you’re swimming in ice cold water trying keeping alight your candle and taking in the gigantic caves around u? Well this was what I was faced with for an hour! It was more and less weaving in, out and through rocks with water sounds do-able right? Wrong! Lol. The 1st obstacle that I we were faced with was to basically climb up this ranging waterfall with the help of a knotted rope. One of the girls to go 1st basically got dragged through the waterfall and smashed her chest against the rocks grazed her elbows and her bikini top was turned inside out. I was next. The hardest thing was to close your eyes and to pull yourself up. I tried but the force was too strong so the other way was to go through the waterfall and somehow grab the safety (lol) ladder. The next obstacle that we were faced with was to go through a waterfall slide without knowing where we were going to end up obviously the candles were not blown out. Carlos had told us the drop was 100meters and the slide looked very narrow. Close your eyes hold your breath and go was our instructions –Nicola was not having it but there was no turning back. Once she got through the other end all I could was hear was laughter I was relieved as the drop was more like a few meters. The next obstacle was not compulsory…thank god. We had a chance to jump off a rock within the cave in to the water with the lack of light. Coming out of the caves in to the warmth I was pumped and ready for some more. We went towards this bridge that overlooked the river that we 1st came across at the beginning. Not sure why but found out that we could actually jump off this bridge. The guys were excited the girls well they were like hell no lol. As I saw Jerome, Nicolas and Pierre jump off with Carlos doing the back flip I went to Emma and asked her whether she will do the jump with me and she’d agreed. I was stoked. Standing at the edge of this 10 metre bridge and looking down towards the strong currents I starting to think ermmm I don’t think I can do it but something inside of me was like ‘Do it, Do it’. I held on to Emma’s hand and after 3 min and the count down ready steady go I jumped. I actually jumped off in mid air. The feeling was crazy…a sense of being free, time felt like it was on hold, like a floating feeling. But the free fall went within seconds next minute I knew I was in the water. I was so glad to see Emma on the side. Throughout the day I was still in shock at the fact I done this lol. We passed coffee, cocoa and cardamom trees as we headed up through very steep slippery man made steps that were surrounded by terracotta soil, sweet smells of lavender and pine wood. It took us roughly half an hour to reach to our next destination. Needless to say my view was out of this world! From a very great height I was faced with masses of green trees that were hugging the most amazing series of aqua green pools with a power-full waterfall behind. I could see the odd limestone’s appearing through the waters. Eager to get there I hurried down those steep stairs…I did slip up a few times hahaha but I got to the pools! I was welcomed by a free fish pedicure, warm waters that were so clear it was crazy. Carlos was my swimming buddy he had taken me underneath more caves that were really cool but I felt claustrophobic but glad I went along. He took me to the mouth of the waterfall – so powerful that I can not even compare it to anything that I have seen. The waters became warmer you could even see the very faint rainbow passing through. It was like a fairly tale. Looking back at my pictures I feel that the pictures do not do any justice to this place also there were time where I could not even take my camera so I am glad I have a mental picture…truly an exquisite place!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 14:22 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Flores to Lanquin...

Are we there yet?!?!?

sunny 34 °F

27.09.2011 – Flores
We only stopped over in Flores as it was the closest town near the Belize border. Everyone was surprised that we did not go to Tikal, which is also renowned for its ruins. The reason why I decided to allow this as that we had already seen Mayan ruins in Mexico and to be honest you see one you have pretty much have seen them all – and the bottom line is it is a touristy money trap – which I can live without. When arriving in Flores the weather was scorching hot with a mixture of warm rain….nice.

Had a great sleep and we were up and ready for our 8hour journey in a 11 seater van to Lanquin at 9am in 34 degree heat....nice! Our bags were tied to the roof rack and we were welcomed by 10 new faces. The van journey was well different. The driver had lost his nuts, very aggressive at times, drove like a looney, played Lionel Richie over and over again didn't even change the music we even asked him to just switch it off...nothing and it was a very bumpy ride! The driver who had wanted to stop for a toilet break, so he parked the van on a busy stretch, food stalls on both side, very busy and he went to an open area to go for a slash in the open no privacy whatsoever. Jerome, one of the travellers had wanted to use the toilets and the driver just told him to piss in the open lol what a joker. Jerome found the toilets! The crazy-ness didn't stop here he quickly got in the van whilst the side door was open with all our belongings were there and he drove off towards some barge (which was to take us over to the other-side of the river - something like Greenwich but at a very small scale). We stood there all confused, ran after the van, we had to jump to get on the platform as this was being raised and he did not apologise nor did he think anything was wrong. Don't worry we all had words with him and finally apologised but then drove frantically this time to Bryan Adams 'Everything I do'. We were craving for a lunch time stop but this was ignored until we all demanded one - got to a petrol station. Nothing decent to eat apart from crisps, chocolate basically crap. Next to the petrol station was a gun shop and a police officer who was guarding the area with his hefty gun tried to take a picture but he just had to look at me once for me to realize that I shouldn't even try to lol. Half an hour later the driver decided he wanted to stop so he did. He had left the van without saying anything, after 5mins we got out and there he was munching on some decent hot food - piss taker. Anyway enough about him the scenery to Lanquin was green, green, green! We did eventually arrive at our destination...well we wanted to go to El Rietro hostel but coz all the travellers were going to the same hostel we decided to join them as we got to know one another pretty well - we stayed at Zephyr Lodge. On arrival this hostel was amazing in the middle of a valley where all you can see was green trees, green valleys, green grass, blue skies, you could hear waterfalls in the distant, the lodge itself was built with thick wood it had that cosy feel to. The main common area was half covered by a thatched roof and wooden walls the other half was open to the most amazing view and hammocks to chill in. As this was a very remote area ATM were non existent but there was a very small high street as in 3 shops at the bottom of our drive (which was a 15min walk). The 1st night was pretty much taking all this beauty in - at one point I was sitting on a wooden chair just starring at the night stars it was a moment of pure relaxation. Our rooms were like wooden cabins like the one you would expect to see when you go to a Ski resort very nice!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 09:43 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Adios Mexico...you better Belize it :o)

Boarder crossing

sunny 30 °F

So I had managed to stay awake until our last ADO bus, which was leaving at 00.45 from Tulum and going to Guatemala via Belize. So 1st boarder crossing should be a breeze right?

We had envisaged to arrive in Belize City at 7am and from there we were going to get a bus to Punta Gorda, then to get on a boat to the boarder for Guatemala - Livingston. Obviously this did not go to plan. After 3 hours on the bus and surprisingly fast asleep we were woken up to the bright lights and 'vamos, vamos'. Woke up to wtf, finally we realised by one of the passengers that we had already arrived in Belize and that we had to go through customs. So we had to take all our bags to this massive warehouse with loads of security and yes 'Akon' was being played in the background lol. Got our passports stamped then our bags were checked. We then kind of followed the rest of the travellers (as we had no idea of what was happening - lack of the Spanish Language!) outside, I felt like I was in a epsiode of Prison Break with my bags in the middle of an area that was barbed wire everywhere and tall gates. After being mauled by mosquitos our bus came through and got back on....assuming that we were going to Belize City right? Wrong! The funny thing that I saw as soon we passed the gates was a Casino and a gentlemans club literally after the boarder.

Being again interupted by the lights after 2hrs we were told to get off as it was the last stop. Consfued as this was suppose to be at least 4 hours we had no choice but to get out. We were greeted by a nice local guy who told us that we could get a bus to the boarder from the bus station. So we hopped on the bus hoping to get to Punta Gordo. The drive through Belize had a load of nice but also disturbing sights. In such a short drive (2hrs is short) I came across 4 graveyards which we planted almost anyway some were even on the side of the main road. The homes were more and less make shift. Some were built on stilts, some boarded up, quite a few police cars were driving around at 7am still. An hour in to the drive the scenery changed with the homes a lot bigger and cleaner. On the bus was okay only because we got seats but everyone was so cooperative and nice unlike in London esp on the Great Eastern line lol.

We worked out that we should arrive at the boarder in another 4 odd hours but instead we arrived quite quickly...we in fact arrived at 1 of the 2 boarder crossings - Benque Viejo del Carmen not Punta Gorda....more confused lol. No point in turning back we carried on trying to get to Guatemala. We had to go through another boarder crossing...so from Belize to Guatemala (whereas before it was from Mexico to Belize) - same kind of procedure, passport check, bag check and then we had to pay an entry fee. Out on the other side. Not knowing where we were on the map tired and hungry we ended up taking a cab to a place called Flores (which was not far about 2hrs). Arrived in Flores around lunch time (15hrs after we had left Mexico!!!), checked in a nice little hotel.

Flores is a island in the Lago de Peten Itza area. A very small island which we walked in like 34-40mins. It has an amazing view of the surrounding water. We didn't do much other then to shower and RELAX! We walked around, saw brightly painted facades, a lot of the locals were chilling indoors because it was bloody hot!!! The breakfast that the hostels/hotels were really expensive in comparsion to the pervious places that we stayed at as they were included in the rent. We went to check out a hostel and the rooms were cheaper then the breakfast and even more ridiculous was the sew-on-badges were more expensive then a breakfast! So I thought food or badge ermm....FOOD! We treated ourselves to slap up meal steak and chips lol. After an early dinner we headed back to our hotel and watched tele for the 1st time in 2wks! We watched Goodfellas :o)

The local newsagents gave us jokes coz they had labled a bottle of water for 3quetzals but charged us 5quetzals lol. To be honest most of the shops here in Central America so far do not have the prices of any of the products. So I guess they just make up the prices for the goods esp bump up the prices for us travellers how lucky are we?!?!? lol

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 20:27 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Tulum

15 hour coach ride...was it worth it?!?!?!?!

sunny 36 °F

After a 15hour gruesome journey from San Cristobal to Tulum was it worth it? Hell yeah!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay so after a back breaking journey with little kids - thank god they were actually well behaved :o) One actually reminded me of my little adorable nephew Vihr - boy do I miss him :o(
As we didn't book any hotel we were told just to take a right from the bus station and a few blocks away you will find a place called 'The Weary traveller' and thank god it was like a few minutes away. Done all the ritual, check in, sort out room and bag etc.

I feel like I have been travelling for longer then 1 week and 3 days more like 3 months or so....is this a bad thing? All I wanted to do was chill and do nothing! So I am glad that I heard that this place Tulum had a beach. We got the hostel bus to this beach called Playa las Palmas

As I walked towards these palm trees on the white sand l just got over whelmed of what I saw. You know when you see an article or when your flicking thru travel magz and they have da most amazing beaches but when you get there its nothing compared to what you originally saw...as in you were disappointed? Well all I can say if I could describe what heaven looks like then this is the place to come to. If I was to get married I would so love to come here again for court marriage or even the honeymoon. The skies were bluer than blue, the water was so pristine clean, cleaner then the swimming pools back at home, the white sand was whiter then Daz ultra lol. No seriously this beach was mind blowing. So you can imagine all I done today was spent form 12 till 5pm was chilling in the beach - I guess this was needed after the 15hr coach journey.

I actually went swimming in the Carribean sea baby woo hoo - amazing place. I just wish I had my family and my friends to be here to enjoy what I saw and felt. No doubt the pictures will NOT give this place any justice.

Back at the hostel - a very chilled out place, lovely james brown music and the outdoor kitchen is wicked :o) I will be back at the beach tomorrow and poss go and see some ruins.

25.09.2011
Had a good nights sleep. Woke up not so early and had breakfast today I thought I’d give pancakes a go lol. After breakfast we got on the 12pm bus service to the beach again. We decided to go and see some ruins which are actually on the beach front. One of the guides mentioned that it was free on Sunday so we thought whoopee…went thru the 1st entrance no payment. Then we got to the main entrance and we were asked to pay 50 pesos we thought allow this – to be honest you’ve seen one ruin you’ve seen them all. So we headed back to the beach. Along the way we bumped in to our friend the iguana lol. So yeah the beach from 1pm till 5pm was very nice and no doubt relaxing.

As I walked on the white soft sand towards the sea, the sun was beaming on my back, approaching the warm pristine clean water was just out of this world. I don’t wanna make you guys jel or anything I’m just trying to capture the moment coz looking back the pictures they don’t do any justice to he beach. Oh yes I saw the Mexican version of Bay Watch and wow ladies you will NOT be disappointed lol. Having so much time on my hands is kinda hard to deal with but I think I’m getting used to it.

This evening was spent more and less chilling, showered up – made lentils for dinner. Yes mum and Roop, if your reading this your recipe was used. Obviously not as nice but I’m cooking lol. After dinner we strolled in the evening and came across a really cool sq which was kinda hidden away. Loads of small ‘funfair’ like stalls. I’m still surprised that we couldn’t hear anything from our hostel. This sq was a combinations of an outdoor mini football ground, an outdoor public gym, food and random brick’n’brac stalls. Went in to a few stalls as I’m trying to find a Mexican stitch on flag but I’m finding it very hard to find this! It’s weird because every where you go in Mexican they have their flags everywhere but when it comes to your standard touristy memorabilia there is nothing with the flag on it…it’s like they are saying you can come visit Mexico but you can’t take away our flag lol. I actually did find a wrist band that was made out of material and it had the flag. I was like yeah sorted…found out it was 100 pesos wtf lol. Allow that. The search still goes on.

26.09.2011
This morning I woke up got on my running trainers on and went for a mini run and I actually went to use the public outdoor weight machines lol. Had egg on toast on my return and more and less have been chilling so I am actually working on this blog and uploading more pictures. This evening I will be heading off to Belize just so I can get into Guatemala. So this should be interesting esp when I get to customs lol. Dinner plans for tonight I am gonna make some rice with vegetables….mmmm well we will see. Another weird thing that I have experienced…the local way of advertisement is thru big loud speakers attached to a moving vehicle blasting the adverts thru a mic lol I’m gonna sign off my blog from Mexico next time you will hear from me will prob be in Guatemala. Hasta Luego Amigo.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 11:19 Archived in Mexico Tagged beach Comments (2)

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