Category Archives: Guatemala

Semuc Champey

Whowzers, what a magical place.

Dozens of diddie water falls falling a few feet down steps 50m wide, and just above? Another step separated by a tranquil pool of crystal clear calm water.

We dove right into the first pool, splashed about, hopped between underwater rocks and threw fruit at each other.

It was blissful, transported to another planet like refugees from stress. Not that Alex or I are much ones to stress, but Steph sure makes up for our lacking!

After a time we climbed up the slippery waterfalls of the first of 7 steps (the last some might say, since we were at the bottom) and dipped into the next pool.

Fish Food

The three of us lazily floated around being nibbled by fish feasting on the breakfast buffet of our dead skin, I wonder which they preferred ‘ the Guatemalan, the USAian or the Brit?

Turns out they probably liked me best, though only because while Alex fetched off for the camera and Steph explored the pool I sat still as a rock waiting for more fish, tempting the larger ones to come and nibble.

I loved it, dozens of them a few cm long swarmed over my legs and back while those a few inches long bided their time – no doubt a trait that helped them get so big.

For the most part it felt like being prodded with a pencil, though every now and then tehy either bit harder or hit a nerve and the pinprick like shock made me jump and the fish in turn all jumped back a foot too.

The best, though, were those feasting on my feet. Tops and toes no worries, but soles had me giggling like a gaggle of girls in jumpsuits.

After, we walked a little.

The Arrival

It was not always so tranquil, however. This brief spell in paradise took an alarming amount of effort, 2 days is not enough to see Semuc from Guatemala City.

Alex is here volunteering in a hostel called El Retiro. Steph and I caught the 7am bus from Guate city to Coban (5.5 hours) then the skull rattling unbelievably slow paced mini bus (2.5 hours) to Lanquin, finally arriving around 3pm.

More Numbers

We now learned that the 11km to Semuc takes about an hour, we had to catch the 1730 bus from Coban the next afternoon, which meant leaving Lanquin at 1330 and so Semuc at 1230. The earliest shuttle from Lanquin to Semuc Champey arrives there at 1000 giving us a mere 2.5 hours!

We opted to stay in El Portal, a hostel right by the park entrance where the electricity stops at 10pm but the bar is well stocked and we can enter the park at 8am.

Home Time

In the end we left at 12:30, didn’t get the 2pm bus because it didn’t exist, got the 3pm one which left at 3:20 and missed the last bus from Coban to Guate.

Steph stressed out in her own delightful way, I did consider dragging out for for my personal enjoyment but instead raided a cash machine (for which my banked blocked my card as suspected fraud) and haggled with a taxi driver and got her back to Guate by midnight before either turned into a pumpkin and her mum went mad with crazy.


Sat here as Alex fertilised the forest gives me a short break from both our footsteps and our nattering.

I read my Lonely Planet a little before scolding at myself and just listening. Slowly at first, much like your eyes adjusting to the brilliance of the stars the volume slowly increases until the buzzing of bugs is only interrupted by birds chirping and trees rustling – and the odd fool with his MP3 player going, I politely reminded him I’d go to a disco if I wanted music. Turns out he works there, but what does that matter? That’s even more reason he should follow the “No Music” sign – which also forbids a small dictionary’s worth of other things.

Three weeks later, I finished writing this

Tikal is an awesome place, I’d love to have been the first person to write about it because it’s such a cliché. Walking down jungle paths between pyramids, climbing up them to peek at the tops of others poking out the trees.

Yada yada, I loved it but we had a different mission.

Yavin IV

Tikal, you see, was the set for the rebel base in Star Wars IV.  A fact pointed out by Steph (or Paola, or both perhaps) a few weeks earlier during our Star Wars Marathon.

So here we are on a mission to find X-Wings and support the rebel cause. hmm perhaps not sensible words to be using in these politically unstable countries!

Temple IV is the one used, though the noise of the X-Wings must have rustled the feathers of the much animal life (including Toucans!) we saw later that evening as we waited for the sun set.

Heading out as the light rapidly faded every leaf became a terrifying spider. We ducked into a bat cave (not knowing it was one until we reached the end) and finally got back to our hotel – El Jaguar- where we had rented a tent in their garden, and whiled the evening away drinking Micheladas and eating expensive pasta.


The next day we headed to Flores, I’d made a careful list of all the great sounding coffee shops, drinking establishments and food places I wanted to visit and Alex had agreed to a crawl of the lot of them. Unfortunately a truck ran into a power line and the whole of El Petén was out of power, so most places closed down. We whiled away the evening in our hostel, Hostel Las Amigos, and I had the chance to visit the well-worth-the-wait Cool Beans in the morning for breakfast. After breakfast I bought an excellent new book which kept me entertained during the 7 hour bus journey back home.

Todos Santos and Zaculeu

Relaxing on this cool concrete step at the side of Todos Santos’ square I overlook the village go by. Immediately to in front of me two Maya decedents discuss what appears to be an unhappy tale in Mam, their local language, as they chat the lady on the right tries to fix her bag handle. On the balcony to my left two menu dressed in traditional red and white trousers, large collared shirts and hats with a blue and white striped belt have been quietly discussing since before I got here.

The trouble I have here with approaching people is making the assumption they speak Spanish. Though it may be a fair assumption to make, it feels a little like rubbing salt into the wound of disparity between the Spanish descendants and the indigenous. In a similar way to visiting any other country and presuming someone speaks English – do you ask and risk patronising them or do you start out in English and hope it doesn’t make them feel bad for not understanding. Fact is, most of the indigenous do speak Spanish and are far too friendly to actually get offended by a tourist who wants to chat.

None the less, we had a brief chat, they had a jolly laugh at my Mam pronunciation and I never managed to understand her answer to my request for a photo. Some of those attached here, are from Claire.

Mam 101

Mam is one of the many languages of the Maya, it’s spoken by a little under half a million people – more than the population of The Borough of Barnet. There are three main dialects, however due to massive suppression by the Spanish of the written language huge differences evolved between neighbouring villages. It’s cool stuff, here’s a couple of words I learned from the lady with the broken bag and her friend:

  • Hiete – Hello
  • Cochonte – Thank you
  • Ba’am Peh – How are you?
  • Cuch-nah –  Bye!

I’ve not made many doors this week

I’ve only been here for a few hours, it’s nothing like the Lonely Planet’s description of “Mud streets and tortillas everywhere” but it’s wonderfully tranquil, the air is fresh and the scenery stunning. As if that wasn’t enough, the people are friendly, I’m greeted by smiles and waves and just spent 20 minutes in the carpentery workshop of Juan Carlos and Jovani talking about how business is slow and the state of English Football!

I had planned to enquire in HispanoMaya about their weaving class and film on local culture, but they don’t seem to be opening today. I shall try them again and, failing that, head to the ruins of Zaculeu.

Maya Fashion

Now it would appear at first, that here everyone wears the same thing, and I can almost hear mum saying “But where’s their sense of self expressive fashion?!”. But fear not, with a little eyeballing you soon notice that while all the guys have the same hat, the belt on it has different sequins or colours between the blue stripes. Many, too, have ditched their traditional shirt (which varies in the pattern, especially on the colour) or our European [[T-Shirts]].

The female difference is more subtle, in the patterns of their tops (all wear dark blue skirts and the way they tie their hair – often long black plats with coloured ribbon running down and tied at the bottom creating a big loop of hair.

All carry shoulder bags of equally intricate designs.

Ruinas de Zaculeu

HispanoMaya didn’t open but I also had to wait until 2pm hours for the bus which meant it would be too late to go to Zaculeu the same day. Instead, I hung out in a nice cafe with Internet and excellent fried plantains for a bunch of hours, until it got dark and began being dangerous to walk home. What’s the opposite expression of “Every cloud has a silver lining?”.

The next day, I hopped on a bus to Zaculeu. Zaculeu is a really cool place, sieged by the Spanish for several months before the inhabitants died of starvation, the town itself is surrounded on three sides by ravines, making defence easy. Today it’s a very nice sized ruins with reasonably sized pyramids, you can easily see the museum and walk the structures in an hour. Which was very convenient, since I only had an hour until I had to return to catch my bus back to [[Guatemala City]].

Huehuetenango and my Guatemalan Family

For a city with such a cool name (Pronounced way-way-te-nango, or just way-way for short) the Lonely Planet doesn’t have much to say about this place. I’ve come to meet my Guatemalan Family. My mum’s brother’s wife is from here so I have a small collection of aunts and uncles.

My 3 hour chicken bus from Xela to here involved boxed birds, an emergency stop to pickup passengers and a good long chat with the fourth Carlos I’ve met this week. He was interested in life in London, specifically whether it’s easy to get a working visa and whether his English would be beneficial. I spoke in Spanish, I’d like to add Smile

As usual I had few expectations, all I knew is that the first taxi I got will be over priced. 40Qs (£3.30) and 8 minutes later I was meeting Great Aunt and Uncle Marina and Tono for the first time.

Thankfully, my Spanish was more comprehendible face to face than during our previous phone chats (thanks to Paula for all her Spanish during those!) and introductions, welcomes and a glass of water flowed smoothly, I presented my gift of sour dough olive bread from the excellent bakery-café, Artesano, in Xela as Marina called my aunt Brenda and arranged for us to meet in the Central Park shortly.

As I wandered around the Central Park I was met by smiles and greetings. I had a nice chat with Carlos #5, who I unfortunately lost when Brenda arrived with her husband.

Brenda and I posed for some celebratory photos which were quickly sent to Aunt Carolina in the states via WhatsApp. Carolina and I had coordinated several times in the past couple of months, often her confirming details of my broken-Spanish phone conversations with Marina. I also posed by a cool tree with one of the dozen shoe shiners who hang out in the park.

Within moments Brenda had sorted out the plan for my stay. We arranged to meet at her parents for dinner in 2 hours time, at 6pm.

I failed to find Carlos #5 again, so headed towards the most interesting of a fairly dull dull bunch of drinking establishments listed in the Lonely Planet – though perhaps it was just the memory of the places listed for Antigua and those I’d discovered in Xela that made these sound unexciting. That said, not even two blocks later I saw “Musica en Vido” (Live Music) painted next to a door and stumbled into a fantastic little café. Benches, armchairs, books, a little gift store, a motor bike filled patio and really good coffee!

It became a shame that I only have an hour and a half here in Revolution.

I sit here now, sipping my toffee flavoured coffee thinking of all you back in England. In a mere 6 weeks we’ll be sharing Proper Pints ain Proper Pubs. But I’m pushing that to the back of my mind, I’m afraid, because this is the time to be living in there here and now (and next week at a stretch).

Tomorrow is Thursday, I’ll visit Todos Santos – a step even closer to the indigenous roots of Guatemala – and Friday morning to the ruins to the East. Friday afternoon I’ll head for Panajachel for the last night with The Triumvirate.


Xela (Quetzaltenango) and the Re-Inspiration of Awe

These last few months I’ve been to many different places and, lets be honest, most places are pretty dull.

That’s not to say they cannot be enjoyed, especially in the right company, but dusty standard issue roads lined with concrete block houses aren’t the most inspiring places to visit.

Before I had quite identified this trend I was becoming a tad concerned that I may have been growing tired of traveling. Perhaps there’s only so many times it’s fun to explore the layout of the market, drink 12 coffees in a day to find the best coffee shop and after a time you wonder if you’re taking a photo because of the admiration for the scene in front of you or just out of habit.

My puzzlement was dispelled yesterday morning, however, as I walked down Xela’s 12th Avenue and felt familiar waves of being the first tourist ever to visit this town.

The walk from the bus stop took around half an hour, I’d picked a first class bus over taking chicken busses because it was only a couple of dozen Q’s more (~£2) but meant I could spend the 4 hour trip working on the laptop kindly let to me by Alejandro after I broke mine for the third and final time.

The feeling climaxed, as it should, as I entered the “Parque Central” – the Town Square – big impressive buildings surround the really nicely designed park/square with not only trees and patches of grass but rows of columns, monuments and steps up and down to things. Watching down over this, and all of Xela are cloud covered mountains reaching into the heavens above even the 220m of altitude we already have.

I spent one wonderful day and two half days reunited with my triumvirate, Claire and I explored the market and failed to find the Soy Milk Lady; Alex and I had a heart to heart in the park as we finished our beers and watched jolly gringos stumble home. I also spent a great amount of time in Artisano, an incredibly Vegan friendly restaurant-café and slept in the very cosy Don Diego Hostel. The next day, I headed to Huehuetenango.

The Best Bridge in the World

I cant tell you why I like this bridge so much. There’s something about the concrete arm reaching across the [[Rio Dulce]] in its plain, unsupported and surprisingly inconspicuous manner.

Perhaps its a product of my upbringing, where bridges are oh so normal and rivers aren’t complete without one poking out of  the bankside trees. Wouldn’t it be awesome to see this nothing too special bridge through the eyes of a peasant three hundred years ago!

Maybe that’s the magic, its my inner peasant overriding the part of me who has had the pleasure of seeing so much cool stuff, and the feeling bubbles up through the sensible layers that say “It’s just a bridge” leaving me with just the pure sense of wonder without the reason.

It would seem, to me at least, that the more you see the less it takes to awe you.


Passover in Guatemala

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting a [[Passover Seder]] for a dozen [[gentiles]] with a keen sense of interfaith interest.

As I made my way to Guate’s house a couple of weeks ago I got in touch and asked if he would allow me to have a [[Pesach Seder]] at his house, he and his family are most welcome. I also invited Clare and Alex, my Panama to Guatemala travel buddies.

Everyone I invited expressed their delight at the prospect. Some I knew were genuinely interested – either because of my existing knowledge of them or from the twinkle in their eye at the prospect. I must admit I presumed some, though curious, were simply up for anything.

Blown away would be a suitable way to describe my feelings every time someone else expressed interest in coming. Deeply honored at their interest in my culture would be another. From an original 5 people (Guate, his sister and parents and myself) we had 11 people cross the city to sit around the table. What started out as my reluctance to skip Pesach out of lack of external motivations has turned into a table load of intrigued faces.

The day began with a huge shop. Alex and I went first to Organica, then the Israeli store in town and finally the supermarket for anything we couldn’t get from the community friendly stores. A pop into a shop with a printer had several copies of a specially edited version of the Greenbury Haggadah ready for the night. Later, Byron would have to pop out for another 5 to meet the growing demand.

Back home the cooking began at 3pm, following on from how I usually do things at home I was running late and worried the Cherry Soup wouldn’t cool in time. Or worse – the Chocolate Matza Cakes wouldn’t set!

A Vegan Twist to the Seder

As a festival dedicated to freedom it doesn’t seem quite right to use products of slavery at the meal. With Fair trade chocolate, my best Fair Trade T-Shirt and a total absence of animal products I made my modest effort. If everyone did the same, perhaps slavery might one day become something we can be ashamed of our ancestors for.

After some reading of the Internet I decided on a Beetroot to represent the of Pascal Lamb sacrifice – though the best reason I could think of was the blood like drippings! The china lamb of back home would have been even better, but 8000 miles away. I couldn’t find any explanation for why a boiled potato makes a suitable substitution for an egg as a symbol of mourning – so we shall have to work on that for next year. (Eggs are the first thing served to mourners after a funeral).

As much as I value and love my tradition, it’s no excuse for cruelty.

We have no Yamulkas, said Alex

Alex, the travel buddy with no specific interest in religion but a general interest in everything, pointed out we have no Kippot. After making the cherry soup, and then reading the recipe (in that order) he set about making one for everyone out of the cardboard Matza boxes. With some pens to decorate them everyone – men, women, Jews, Christians and Atheists – were soon adorned with Vietnamese style Kippot.

The Punters Arrive

The Seder was due to start at 9, so that Guate’s parents could get back from their church meeting. At 6 I realized Alex and I had hardly eaten all day, so I served up some of excess the Matzagna filling with crackers  which kept people biding nicely over until the main course on page 21. Before we got started, I assigned some parts to some people to save having to break the Seder up. Great enthusiasm ensured and Paola took some photos of me looking very tutor like.

The Cups One Through Four

The Seder started well, and continued for a full 4 hours through to the Nirtzah at nearly 1am. Fielding the questions, seeing the translations (for Guate’s parents) and feeling the involvement from a group we, in England certainly, wouldn’t expect to be so engaged in someone else’s culture was truly one of the best things I’ve ever done.


Not the cheapest way to eat

but a darn fine way to end the day.

I can’t recall if I actually do, or whether I just think I do, so I often avoid starting blogs with "So the plan was…" but this time, at least, I’m going to let it fly because it’s even more appropriate than usual.

The plan this morning was to set off at 7am with Clive to [[Panama City]]. I’d get my laptop screen fixed, he’d do his shopping for boaty things and we’d probably both be back in time  for the pot luck at Captain Jack’s pub/hostel/hub of travellers.

Things rarely "go smoothly" and today wasn’t by any means a disaster. After pulling several blanks on laptop screens and outboard motors I left my dear Bubbles (that’s the laptop, because she floats around me causing trouble) in the friendly and capable hands of MiniComputers. I had just popped into a different store who tried to fit a semi faulty screen – which would have saved me  40 USD at the expense of a slightly dodgy back light – who failed at that, and (as you’ll read later) damaged my VGA card. Unfortunately I didn’t insist they got her back to the state I’d arrived with her in (since I was only going to try and get the screen changed elsewhere), so didn’t realise they’d broken something until it was too late.

Time for the Boat Stuff

Off we set to our first chandler, which turned out to be a guy, a desk and a phone to the warehouse. Not quite for what we had hoped. After much persuasion from Clive, the gave us (another) 5% discount and agreed to ship the items from the warehouse in [[Colón]] to Panama City so that we could collect them by 5pm.

Satisfied we hit up Electronica Japan for some awesome cool LED light strips and other toys for me to fit on to the boat.

After lunch in Loving Hut and while popping into Mamallena’s, the hostel I stayed in recently, we called the supplier to try and get him to deliver to the hostel. Naturally he declined with a dismissive "I’ll try". Clive spoke to Will (our reason for visiting the hostel) and we got on our way to pickup the goods and get home (after collecting my laptop of course).

Clive made another cringe-worthy attempt to knock another 10% off our bill before finally relenting. Sometime during this I called up MiniComputers who informed me they couldn’t replace the screen. It was now 6:15pm and too late to try another store, so my options were:

  1. Not fix Bubbles yet, I still have 4" of working screen.
  2. Go home, return tomorrow at a cost of only $4 USD but 6 hours of travel.
  3. Find a hostel with space in an affordable bed, fix Bubbles in the morning and hope to return in time to visit the monkeys with Alex and Claire (my new crew mates).

I chose option 3, called up the Balboa Bay Hostel and booked myself a bed. Some Internet time later and a chat with another guy staying in the hostel I was ready for dinner – and had a very good sounding computer guy as a backup in case my last resort in the morning didn’t work out.

The Expensive Dinner

I had heard about an excellent grocery store on Calle Argentina, so flagged down a taxi to take me there. During some nattering chitter chatter the driver recommended a few vegetarian restaurants, he took me to one which was on the way but it had closed, though he said there happened to be another one next to the store I was heading to so that was pretty much win win.

That turned out to be Greenhouse, a restaurant who try to be environmentally friendly. They do really good food I had a saladey thing of some kind with a real fruit juice, followed by some whole wheat pita with home made humous to pass the time so I could spend more time in the restaurant.


The End of the Sorry Tale

The next morning I headed to the final computer shop on my list, they wanted $20 just to look at her. If someone has that little confidence in their own skills, I’m happy to agree with their opinion. I called up my last resort backup guy I’d spoken to the night before – a friend of someone else in the hostel – who sounded like my kinda guy. I left Bubbles with him and finally got out of Panama at 3pm, back at Portobelo by 6 where I spent an hour having a shower and making some pasta before trundling around the village to find my crew mates and a cold beer.

Next Week

Breaking blog chronology here, a week later after a trip to the San Blas Islands I met up with my guy again. He was unable to fix Bubbles, he could have got the new screen in but the video card on the motherboard had been damaged and would cost several hundred dollars to replace the motherboard.


I didn’t take any pictures in Greenhouse, so those above are taken from:

Oaxaca to Utila in a Week

2 weeks ago I agreed to meet Clive in Utila on February 1st, I spent the first of those weeks in Oaxaca having a whale of a time and I spent the second week cramped onto bumpy, noisy buses. Well it’s not quite that bad, it went something like this.

Despite all I’d heard about Chiapas I’d only left myself two days in this southern state of Mexico, awash with the natural beauty of blue waterfalls (something Terri had seen on and put on my To-Do list long before I came) mountainous lush green hills and remote coastlines you Englanders can only dream of mixed up with indigenous tribes, hippy “alternative” moderners and small town life. Fan-frigging-tastic!

However I had only two nights in a brilliant hostel in San Cristobal, the first as a CouchSurfer and the second at a discount rate for CouchSurfers. The hostel, run by Rob and Rebecca (Calling her the many names for Bex I have made me think of sister Becky several times a day :)), was the first hostel I stayed in in Mexico and it made me realise that as great as couch surfing is it’s not necessarily better (or worse) than staying in a hostel.

CouchSurfing vs. Hostels

CouchSurfing is like living in the town for a short while, you follow the routine of your host which usually revolves around a job, family time and hanging out with friends. While they’re happy to advise you on and may visit some tourist destinations with you it’s not the focus of their lives. In a hostel, however, you meet other people in the same boat as you. With the same excitement to discover the town and visit the churches and museums. They’re travelling, so they have recent tales of plans made and plans changes and very up to date advice on travelling in places you may be planning to go.

La Posada del Abuelito

Rob and BeckyBoos were also travellers who have just settled down to run a hostel for a bit, combined with the knowledge of all their guests they have a huge wealth of know-how to share and a passion for sharing it in front of the open fire available to guests at night. They’d already booked me onto a tour to some [[Tzotzil]] and [[Tzeltal]] villages they’d heard good reviews about when Rob came and said he was in the progress of putting new tour together and would I like to come for an experimentary price. This new tour was to some other, less visited villages, a cemetery and a coffee plantation, a little pricier but included a coffee plantation!

The Tour

We left at 10am, picked up outside the hostel in a minibus. There were 6 of us, plus the tour guide (and driver), his brother and his sister in law who were coming along for the lift home, since it was their family plantation we were to visit.

After about an hours drive we hopped out to see the cemetery. At first it looked like any Christian cemetery with a scattering of graves of various sizes and decorations marked by crosses. However with a little explanation we learned that the cross represents the 4 [[cardinal directions]] (and the 4 corners of the Mesoamerican universe) and the colour of the cross tells you how old the person was when they died. I forget the specifics, but it was something like blue under 18 year olds, red for 18-65 and white for over. At the top of the the hill stood a small forest of huge crosses, built bigger each time the Spaniards managed to pull them down.

Back on the bus for another hour and we were in the second village, there were a few people about nattering in their local language walking here and there. I had a short wander while Rob went off in search of food, returning 10 minutes later having been served by a woefully unfriendly shop assistant. We snacked on tortillas with beans and a tinned tomato sauce, actually far tastier than I make it sound.

On the bus again for another while, I’ve actually forgotten all the specific times so when I said an hour previously I just meant some time. The third village we spent just as little time but it was far more interesting. High up in the mountain in the village square was a church the Spaniards had built before the villagers said “No Thanks” and kicked them out. The building is now used both by those who did take up Christianity and by the locals who now use Coca-Cola for their ancient “Burping up the evil spirits” rituals, sitting huddled around a candle just behind the rows of pews.

Our final destination as to the coffee plantation, another short schlep on the bus with a photo opportunity en route had us in the middle of nowhere. On the far mountain you could see a highway climbing up the side, but in every other direction was trees and more mountains. We crossed the fence at a small opening and followed our guide down, and down. After going down and along, passing some cow, crossing a river, closing a gate behind us, entering the next village and ducking under some bushes we came across a few small buildings and lots of coffee bushes.

We started at the start, as is usually a good place to start, and learned about collecting the coffee beans, removing the husks (later used for fertiliser), cleaning them and drying them. We met the bushes and the fruit trees planted between them to add flavour to the beans (citrus usually) and to control the temperature and humidity (often mango).

After a lengthy and enjoyable lesson we were invited into one of the buildings – which turned out to be the kitchen – for some freshly made tortillas and bean soup and, of course, a nice cup of coffee.

After walking back up to the road, where the minibus had been waiting, we had a well earned snooze on the 2 and a half hour drive home, watching the sun set as we arrived back in San Cristobal.

Back on Track

Moving swiftly on from San Cristobal I threw 450 pesos at Rob and hopped in the Minibus which arrived for me the next morning which would get me to Antigua, Guatemala one way or another. A little risky, perhaps, but I had faith in Rob and it turned out to be a fantastic trip. I was in the small van with a couple of Dutchies, two Israeli electrical engineers (who were living in Canada), a Swede and a few more I’ve unfortunately forgotten. That’ll teach me to leave blog-writing so late eh?

We snoozed and chatted for about 6 hours until we reached the border where we were churned out and each fumbled our way through the stamp giving office before being picked up effortlessly on the other side by another guy and minibus our driver was pointing at. I’m in Guatemala!

The second bus was equally comfortable and had the atmosphere of back ally cafe trying to be a pub. The hours passed with the odd toilet break before we were suddenly split! At one of our toilet breaks a 4×4 truck pulled up next to us and some body swapping went on. We swapped our Israelis – bound for Xela – for a  couple of Frenchies and continued on to Antigua.

We arrived shortly after sundown, when asked everyone called out where they wanted to be dropped off and the driver did the rounds. I wasn’t sure since my communication with Guate had been a bit vague, so I stuck with the Swede and told sent one last text with where I’d be. I was just finishing up the last of the 5 type of Guatemalan beer I was working my way through when he and his sister entered. 2 years of waiting, I could finally deliver the hug I’d offered Guate last time he was in London!

They stayed for another beer, I mentioned I’d read about a place selling “Israeli Falafel” and suggested it would be a good place to catch up with an old friend made in Israel. Sweden joined us (Not quite in place of Mr Hermansson!) for what turned out to be a tasty plate of humous and falafel balls.

The next day Guate took me to two very good museums on the Maya (one nearly resulting in an expensive copy of the [[Popel Vuh]] and the other massively fuelling my desire to do some weaving), the night was spent in a busy but nice bar meeting Guate’s friends. My plan is to return and spend most of April here while I get some work done, and I can’t wait to be hanging out with these guys every week 🙂

The last leg

At 4 in the morning, after a measly 2 hours sleep, I woke Guate and hoped he still felt up for driving me to the bus station. Lucky for me, he did! I bought a ticket and waited the extra hour for the bus – the lady on the phone had said 5, the lady at the station said 6. I sent Guate home to finish his sleeping, made a failed attempt at buying some bread and boarded the bus.

That was a long, long bus. The book said 8 hours, the guy next to me said 6. 11 bumpy, noisy, smelly hours later with a few toilet stops at paperless (and in one instance waterless) shacks and a short visit to immigration as we entered Honduras we alighted in San Pedro Sula. I was blessed to have made friends with a French Canadian lady who had some idea what was going on, and so directed me to the next bus (which she was also getting, though alighting earlier).

This bus was far nicer, quiet and comfortable enough to get some sleep. Upon arriving in La Ceiba – from where I can catch a ferry to Utila – I shared a taxi to a hostel with a French couple, the Banana Republic (listed as the “only decent hostel in La Ceiba”) was full according to the guy at the door, but surprise surprise the driver knew a guy who had a brother who’s friend ran a hostel “right on the beach”. He didn’t mention it’s also in the western side of town, which is run by gangs and you are advised against visiting. The hostel was comfortable, and at that time of night I didn’t notice the lack of a kitchen and the Internet.

La Ceiba

I spent the next day in La Ceiba looking for some bits Clive had asked me to pick up (Black Duct Tape and a 12v Battery Charger), being Sunday everything was closed so wandered around the town before I moved to the now completely empty Banana Republic Hostel. I have nothing to say about La Ceiba, the Parque Central was boarded up, I spent a couple of hours online in a petrol station and the rest reading about the handful of nice places which are all closed on a Sunday.

Finally in Utila!

Getting to Utila was far easier than I had feared from that office chair in Coatepec. With a lot of help from Lonely Planet and a good bus network it was easy, if uncomfortable at times. After popping to the electrical store for Clive I caught a bus which delivered me to the 9am ferry. At 10:30 I met Shell, from [[Reading]], in Captain Morgan’ss Dive Centre – the most unnecessarily friendly place – where I could hang out, leave my bag, enjoy a nice glass of cold water and borrow a phone to call Clive. I had an hour until he arrived, to I set about finding the 650USD for my boat contribution. With a few [[Limperas]] from each ATM and a few from the bank teller and some advice from Shell I found the guy who changes money and was all ready.

Hanging out back in Captain Morgan’s Dive Centre I used their Wi-Fi to update my Google Latitude to keep the mother happy and very soon met Tom. Soon to be my favourite Israeli aboard the boat, she had joined Clive a few days earlier and soon thanked him for finding a Hebrew speaker for her.

So here begins my adventure with Nuthin Wong, the 50″ [[Chinese Junk]] from Canada.