Category Archives: Travels

Kindu Klub Collection

At the end of this month I’ll be going to Ethiopia to spend a couple of weeks with a youth group who work with children in Gondar to support them through life and school.

It’s a super project, you can read more about them here:

I’m also in the process of trying to get in touch with some Scouts over there too!

Love Football?

One of the things the children love most is a passion shared by many here in the UK too. Football!

If you have any spare football related items in need of a very worthy new home please let me know! The club are trying to setup a football team and could really use some football shirts, boots or other clothes.

Not into Football?

If your wardrobe, like mine, isn’t packed full of old football stuff it would also be really useful for me to take any of your spare:

  • Laptops – help share the joys and opportunities of IT and the Internet
  • Shoes – Of any shape, size or colour
  • Hygine Stuff – New/Spare Tooth Brushes, toothpastes, flannels, towels etc

Already Decluttered?

Good for you for not keeping stuff you don’t need! If you’d still like to help, you can donate some cash which I’ll pool together to purchase the items most required!
Please get in touch if you have anything you can offer and we’ll work out drop offs or collections!

All the little things from all the good people will add up to make a difference 🙂

The BRITs 2014

Through John Lewis Saz won tickets to the BRITs! We decided to make a mid-week weekend of it so after a lovely long lie-in on Wednesday we had pancakes for breakfast before heading off to the hotel next to the ExCeL. The journey was uneventful, aside from hopping on the wrong DLR train, and upon arrival we met up with an incredibly friendly John who gave us our tickets and explained how everything was going to work.

After a cup of tea and glamming up we shared a cab to The O2 with some Partners from John Lewis Cambridge. Should have got the train… the Blackwell Tunnel at rush hour? Whoops. None the less, we made it to the venue with plenty of time to have something to eat and a drink or two (three, actually). Saz did an unintentional sneaky by ordering a pint of beer as she handed over her ticket – which said it was only for a bottle. Sami had read the ticket and asked for a bottle. Saz got a pint.

Having seen the Brits on TV and having been to The O2 for gigs before I had some idea of what I might expect, lots of good entertainment with the occasional reminder that this is a live show. As much as Saz appreciated having a toilet break every 15 minutes it’d have been nice to have a song or some entertainment while the rest of the world was watching adverts rather than three minutes of warning us to be back in our seats by the time James Corden was ready to speak again.

The show was great, with appearances from the Artic Monkeys, Bastille, Katy Perry, Prince and the legends of David Bowie (unfortunately just the legend, not the person). There was fire, balloons and glittery things from the sky.

Lovely stuff!

The After Party was a curious affair, mostly inhabited by people excited because they were at The After Party, while the famous people were at the VIP After Party. The music was loud and 70s and with two more free drink tokens we were having a jolly time.

The guy who had been giving out the flashy light accessories by the door had taken a break (or got bored), so Saz jumped in – helpful as ever – and ensured the rest were distributed.

Closing time was 1am, and along with hundreds of other people we wanted to get a cab home. We were a bit peckish so sought out the only burger van for miles, and in great vegan splendour I devoured 4 white baps filled with fried onions, ketchup and mustard. Actually, it could have been worse!

We had plans for the Thursday after, the Wallis Collection, climbing Monument, visiting some markets. In the end we had a late breakfast, then a nap, a coffee in East Westfield before a long relaxed lunch in West Hampstead (The Brocca, not highly recommended I’m afraid!) before meeting up with Emma, Shpend, Carla, Juli, Will and Bes for Yaniv in Ye Olde Swiss Cottage.

All in all, a lovely mid-week weekend away!


Floating upon an emerald ribbon

The last few days have been a wonderful combination of all my favourite things. I’ve been cruising along the Oxford Canal with the good Saz. We started just south of Northampton and decided to head to Coventry, a short hour by train but a lovely countryside and pub filled three days floating.

Canals and pubs go hand in not least because while motorways and train tracks are built to get you to you destination as fast as possible, canals pass right by all the villages of days gone by. Once upon a time these village were important stop offs, a break from the hours of traveling day after day. In the age of cars and by-passing A-Roads it seems the only people here are locals not used to the fast paced cities and the leisurely boaters enjoying the journey.

Going on holiday is a great way to relax, but hanging out in community cafes and playing cards in enormous pub gardens is a whole new level of taking it easy.





Purim in Panama

This time last year I was living on a boat moored in a teeny village with a fantastic past. Unfortunately, it’s present has little more to offer tourists than great pizza and a place to anchor a boat. It did, however, have a painfully slow connection to Panama City. The village was Portobello, the former gold port of the world, and I was getting out of there for Purim.

One afternoon, while eating a great pizza with a glass of melon juice I noticed a guy wearing a Magen David around his neck. We are taught that there are Jews all over the world, but what does that really mean? And what does it mean to meet another Jew so far from home?

The curiosity of Jews

I’d already spent the last few weeks sailing with my new friend Tom, she and I had marvelled at our shared Jewish knowledge. It wasn’t that here, thousands of miles from home, we both know what a mezuzah is, and no, Rabbi, we didn’t have late night Torah study sessions (although we did do a Shabbat Service and Friday night dinner on board). For us, it was the songs, we knew the same words to the same tunes!

Here in Panama was another opportunity, rather than meeting Jews by chance through other activities, I now felt compelled to introduce myself to him. So I did. “Hey, are you Jewish?” sounds much stranger when you say it out loud but he smiled, said "yes, and we started chatting. He was visiting some family in Portobello, and heading back to Panama City, I was also heading to Panama City to buy some supplies for the boat and he offered me a lift. It’s an hour and a half’s drive during which we discussed Judaism in Panama and in London, and he explained that I’d be quite safe in the dangerous city of Colon because I was too scruffy to look worth robbing. Thanks…. I think!

I asked him about Purim, which was coming up in a few days, it’d be cool to see how they do things here. Without a moment’s hesitation he invited me along to his Synagogue! There are 3 or 4 communities in Panama City, and he was a member of the Progressive community, Kol Shearith Israel.

Purim Arrives!

A week went by, the captain said the weather was clear, we were going to set sail for San Blas on Thursday morning at dawn. I said I’m afraid I cannot come, I’ll be in Panama City for Pruim and can’t be back until the afternoon. I honestly felt like Mordechi, as if the whole of Judaism rested on my being a good Jew this week (which had nothing to do with the huge party Chabad were throwing that night, honest). The captains face wasn’t good, as his [[First Mate]] I helped to run the boat. It was only a small trip and he could manage without me (this captain was so epic he could manage without anyone), but I think he hoped I’d stay on after this last leg – despite knowing I had to get to Guatemala. He agreed to leave Friday morning (weather permitting) so I could make it back in time.

Wednesday afternoon I hopped on one of the amazing pimped out Panama buses, music blaring and neon lights streaking all the way to Colon where I changed for a comparatively dull coach to Panama City. A rude-beyond-belief taxi driver took me to the Synagogue which I entered tentatively. Greeted by smiles and offerings of fancy dress broke down all barriers, I entered the sanctuary and sought out my friend, not seeing him I sat next to a family and made a new one. Halfway through the service, I moved a few rows forward when I spotted him.

Right at Home

More than 5 thousand miles from home, on the coast of the Pacific, in a land of a Spanish, American and tribal mix, the closest to the Equator I’d managed, aside from reading the Megila in Spanish I could have been in Finchley. The rabbi was over dressed and over excited, the kids were running amok in their as super hero costumes, the teenagers chatted and the parents tried to make everyone enjoy it as much as they remembered enjoying it.

My Spanish was still awful, but I knew the story through and through and booed and cheered along with everyone else. At the end, some of the Bar Mitzva students came on and gave a little show. It seemed like one super talented young man wanted to perform and dragged his friends along. Ever seen that one before? He did some break dancing, and a magic show, and every was happy! He even had an en-core.

After the service there was a reception and I had food thrust upon me. Ahh Jews Smile There was Pizza, biscuits, wine and coke. Not too different from how we’d have done it at WLS. I mingled and spoke to bugs bunny and batman for about an hour before I had to head off to the Chabad Party. My friend had already left, but the Rabbi had found me earlier and asked whether I needed a lift anywhere, he introduced me to a family who offered me a lift without a moments hesitation.

Purim on a Boat

The week before all this happened I was staying in a hostel called Mamallenas, and there I saw a poster for a Purim party on a boat. Now that’s three of my favourite words in one title. It was the local Chabad house organising it, they had hired a massive boat and filled it with falafel and whisky. Charging a US$10 entrance to cover some costs, after that everything was free. Best of all, it started a about an hour after the service at Kol Shearith Israel finished, so after the friendly family dropped me off in the centre of town, they spoke to a Taxi driver so that he would know exactly where to take me – and a Panama price not Tourist price!

Finding the entrance was a bit tricky, it was down a dark road to the entrance of a small dock. I arrived to meet a large group of Israelis chatting in their typical super-fast Hebrew. Not the easiest conversations to join, but I made a few friends. The night was long, and excellent, the boat left the dock around 11pm and made a huge loop of Panama Harbour returning around 4 in the morning. After about an hour the falafel buffet and BBQ were unleashed, and soon after that was the Megila reading. In between and after everyone was chatting to everyone, it was a huge boat full of Jews from all over the world, with tales of their travels and stories of their own to tell.

Finding Jews Abroad

Panama was the first time I have sought out Jews while abroad, but I have done it ever since, in Nicaragua I visited the Chabad House for Friday night prayers, in Guatemala I the unique Adat Israel had my Guatemalan friend and myself round for Friday night dinner and in Mexico the Jewish area has many shops packed with Vegan goodies! The Internet has brought people closer together like never before, and special websites connect Jews all over the world to share in the joys of being Jewish. Particularly useful I found and for finding communities and making contact.

Backpacker Kit List

I meant to write this list before I went to Mexico, and compare it with what I arrived home with but I forgot on both occasions. The list is neither exhaustive nor specialised, just a collection of things I found useful around Central America and Israel in no particular order, as food for thought as you start preparing.

Rope/String A short piece a foot or two long. Handy for holding things together, and stopping toilet doors banging on long bus journeys.
Duct Tape Hardly needs explanation, good for fixing books, bottles, boats, beds, bags and all manner of things beginning with a b.
Playing Cards Great for breaking the ice with strangers, and having something to do when conversation is thin.
Pens One in your pocket, a few in your bag. Only ever carry pens with lids or where the nib is protected, else you’ll end up with ink stains everywhere.
Photocopies of your important documents Copies of anything you might possibly need: passport, vaccination record, visa. Keep one on you and one in your bag, or bags. In addition to the real things.
Notebook Jot down numbers, directions, hotel rooms so when you’re exhausted, drunk or lost in another language, you’re not stuck. Also great for jotting down words you’re currently learning.
Toilet Paper I was never to be found without a healthy wad of toilet paper in my back pocket. Great for when the toilets aren’t up to scratch, or when you spill your soup on the bus.
External Hard Drive When your camera memory card fills up, you need to unload it somewhere. Get a small one if possible, they take up less space and are powered by USB rather than a mains plug.
Backup External Drive Keep it in a separate bag/place to your storage drive. If the internet is frequent and reliable, you could backup to the Internet before deleting from your card (but after copying to your External Drive). Remember, if you don’t have two physically separate copies you don’t have a backup.
Alarm Clock So you don’t miss your bus, train station or evening meeting with the local you befriended the day before.
Tea Towel A personal favourite, I like to take packed lunches to save on eating out costs. Wrap it in the tea towel to keep it warm, then use the towel in case you make a mess.
Tupperware Container I like long thin flat-ish ones so you can shove them down the side of a bag. Obviously only useful if you want to carry packed lunches.
Sewing Kit Long bus journeys are a great time to finish patching up your trousers.
Small Torch or reading light For sneaking around dorm rooms, reading on dark buses and finding things you’ve dropped under tables. My phone has a built in torch.
Spare Phone Losing your phone abroad is bad enough, having to find out how to buy a new one can be expensive and time consuming.
Carrier Bags I’ve always got a few plastic bags in the side pocket of my rucksack. They’re handy for when you go shopping, as laundry bags, something to sit on, somewhere for your rubbish and for when things leak.
Contact Cards If your lucky, you’ll make loads of friends. The downside is having to write your email, facebook and number over and over again in ever scrawly writing. I met someone who had a couple of dozen business cards printed, saved lots of time!
Diary If your the kind to reminisce, keep a brief log with date and a few words about where you were. Once you get home, you may have great difficulty remembering the order of some events! I did mine in a document on the computer.
Skype Credit So when you run out of money, you’ve already topped up your Skype account with enough to phone home with.
First Aid Kit In addition to duct tape, a few plaster and magic creams. Ibuprofen for the long-journey cramps, Melatonin for the by-golly-I-wish-I-was-asleep moments and Imodium for the floods of diarrhoea.
Portable Charger Cool and useful. Don’t forget a cable!
Elastic Bands To seal unfinished bags of nibbles, tie your hair when you’re out of bands and to improvise games on the beach.
Money pouch Never have all your money in one place, keep most of it somewhere not pickpocket-able but have enough on you to get to a safe place if you lose everything else.
Compass If you’re a map-reader you’ll already have your map, hence I don’t need to list it here, however some places have really bad labelling of roads so being able to orient yourself without names is really handy. Also good for knowing which way to look for an excellent sunset (look west). If you want to get really cool, whip it out in a hostel to pick the best room for warmth (south facing windows) or a lie in (east facing windows).
Cooking Oil I don’t mention a whole cooking set because that’s up to you style of travel. I have, however, been known to whip out my olive oil to keep the hostel door quiet. Just make sure it’s leak proof.. there was this one time in Israel…
Spare Bank Card It could take weeks to get a replacement card sent to your home and then to your foreign location. My bank wouldn’t let me have two cards on one account, so I opened a joint account with my brother and took both cards, meaning I had three bank cards to lose before I was actually in trouble.
Stuff for getting home An envelope with some home money, an oyster card and house keys might be handy when you get back.
Hand bag I travel with three bags, a big one on my back, a smaller one on my front (which I hate and try to avoid), and an empty one inside the big one. This is so I can go to the pub with a few essentials without having to re-pack before and after.
Towel Ah, the famous towel from HHG2G. Not only does it dry you off, they make excellent blankets, holdalls, pillows, padding for souvenirs and insulation for cold beers.
Family Photo Bit of an odd one, but the places I’ve visited have been very family orientated and on several occasions I wish I’d had a small photo in my wallet to show off.
Small change from home You’re going to meet foreigners and travellers, they’re often interested in money from around the world, having something to show them can be good fun.

Some other thoughts:

  • Even though you have no idea if it’s a good deal, I always exchanged about £20 worth of cash with the traders at the border. You’ll never save that much by waiting, but having some cash for a bottle of water or a taxi can be really handy.
  • Some foods are better than others on a bus. Avoid crumbly bread and any peanut butter jars if you can’t scrape the bottom with your finger. I’ve stopped carrying anything I can’t eat the moment I get fed up carrying it (i.e food which needs cooking). Food is heavy.
  • Write your name and contact info on anything you’d like back if you lose (especially notebooks or cameras). You may not get them, but at least there’s a chance.
  • Backup your photos. Seriously, you will cry if you don’t.
  • Whenever you take a photo, think about what you’re going to say when you show it to someone. It’ll help you decide if you should be taking photos or watching the volcano erupt.
  • Think good and hard about carrying a laptop, and between eBooks and heavy paper ones. There’s a blog on that coming…. soon.

Feel free to leave more advice in the comments below!


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.