A Travellerspoint blog

San Pedro!

Long Day

Hello eager fans,

Today I'm just gonna cover what has happened today (March 2nd).

So the day started on a bus, exactly at 12:00 am (midnight). We had already been on the bus for 2 hours at this point. I'm pretty sure ryan was asleep by that point, but leigh was wired and wide awake, shoved into his small small seat, and I was crushed into the seat behind him. This was our bus ride from Santa Elena to Guatemala City. We arrived in Guatemala city around 5:30am (which was crazy fast for that bus ride (probably cause the bus was passing trucks in a traffic jam on the shoulder of the opposite lane)). Once in Guatemala City, we were in a bus station with no clue where we were. Luckily we were able to piece out (from the guide book and a taxi driver who spoke Spenglish) where we had to go. We also read in the book that the route we had to walk was dangerous in the dark (and yes, it was dark at 5:30 am) so we hired a cab. With my still blossoming haggling skills, I was able to get the taxi driver down to 2/3rds of his price.

When we arrived at our bus station (5 minute taxi ride) and it wasn't open, so we ended up sitting on the curb for about 10 minutes, till about 6:15, when some guy came and opened up the station for us. The station was safe (there was a shotgun-wielding guard at the front door), so we waited in there for our bus. Eventually our bus showed up, and we got on. It was an old bluebird schoolbus (easily more comfy than the coach bus from the night before). We spent about an hour and a half in Guatemala city, attempting to collect more passengers. It was pretty amusing, the guy who was attempting to get people on his bus was hanging out the door while the bus was going probably 80 km/h. He also would loading people's bags (on the roof of the bus) while we were moving, it was pretty neat. Eventually the bus got on the way. We were suppose to pay Q 60, but the guy, taking advantage of our lack of exact change, and our lack of knowledge in the Spanish language, took our Q 70 and gave us no change. We attempted to argue with him to get our money, but all attempts were futile. It was alright though because the extra Q 10 is just over $1 US. Eventually (I'm not sure how far into the bus ride it was.. I slept a whole bunch) we were in the mountains. The bus was passing every other vehicle on the road, with only 2 lanes (one for each direction) on uphill and downhill turns, he always passed, no matter the situation.

Anyways, we eventually arrived in Panajachel (the destination of the bus) on Lake Atitlan. The lake is beautiful, easily the most beautiful place on our trip so far (we'll take pictures eventually). In Pana (the short form for Panajachel) we walked around, trying to find a cheap lunch. Soon we ran into another Gringo named Bill. He showed us down the main street to a not-so-cheap restaurant. Lunch was great, possibly cause we were so damned hungry. Anyways, this "expensive" lunch only really cost us Q 108 (just over $14 USD). After collecting some extremely useful advice from Bill, we said our goodbyes and thanked him a lot. We headed back up the main street of Pana, searching for a bank, an ATM, and some hand sanitizer. With the advice from Bill, we found everything we needed within 1/2 hour. Then we were down to the dock to find a cheap boat ride to San Pedro. Even with our Canadian persistance, we were not able to get a cheaper fare. The cost was Q 20 flat, no bargaining. Oh well, we tried, we waited for about 3 boats, as I said, to no avail.

The boat ride was uneventful, the most exciting part was learning what kitchen is in Spanish. After about 30 minutes on the uncomfortable boat seat, we arrived at San Pedro. We are really adament about staying here very cheap, so we checked out almost every hotel/hostel/whatever you wanna call them in town. We even travelled to the 2 way across town (which happened to be up and down a huge hill) with our packs on. We decided on a place right on the lake, for Q 60 a night. We also snagged Spanish lessons for the week (5 days, 4 hours a day) for Q 375 for each of us (works out to about $48 US each).

Now here we are, in an internet cafe.
Taking it easy, probably hit a bar tonight (don't worry, its a safe town)
I'm missing home a little bit,

Keep in touch,

Craig

Posted by iamcraig88 16:34 Archived in Guatemala Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Its Spanish now!

Covering a lot of territory

sunny 30 °C

Hey everyone,
We just crossed into Guatemala, we don´t know the language at all, but we seem to be doing good enough anyways.
We haven´t really had the time nor the money to come on and update the blog (sorry). So this one is going to be pretty packed.

Let see, what have we done.

Well, see on Sunday we caught a bus to the Mayan ruins in the north of Belize called Lamanai. This was definately an interesting day. We started fairly early to catch the bus at 6:30 in the morning. Unfortunately we missed it (although I think we were on time). So we jumped in a taxi that hunted the bus down. That was definately an interesting drive, quite frightening actually. The taxi driver took the inside of every corner, but I was glad he did, cause he caught the bus quickly and the extra taxi ride only cost us $7 BZD. This bus took us to a neat little town called Orange Walk, in the northern part of Belize. On the bus we met with a Croasian named Maya, who was on the same tour we ended up having to pay for. This tour was expensive ($80 BZD each), but it was definately worth it. It consisted of a trip up the New River to the ruins, then a tour of the ruins, plus lunch and some drinks. Our guide was knowledgable, and the ruins were spectacular (you´ll see the pictures eventually). The rest of the day went pretty smoothly. We caught a very packed bus back to Belize City (Maya counted over 85 people on one school bus) which we had to stand up on for the whole ride. We got back to Belize City fairly late, but there were 5 of us together, so it wasn´t too bad (we also met a Kiwi named Jeremy).

The next day we were off to a different place, as we were all sick of the busy-ness and heat of the city. We slowly got ready and caught the bus to a town in Western Belize, called San Ignacio at about 10:30. This bus ride was fairly busy, but nothing when compared to the bus we took the night before. We arrived in San Ignacio around 1 p.m. It was a nice town, it was up in the farmlands and near a river. We quickly decided to camp at the nearest campgrounds (as we had been grossly overbudget with the expensiveness of Belize and the tour we had been taking). The campground was very cheap, we paid $60 BZD for 2 nights. We then spent a good part of the afternoon (after a midday drink and snack) exploring the nearby ruins called Cahal Pech. This was a pretty neat, although small, set of ruins. It consisted of 4 plazas. with a fairly tall ruin in the centre. There were a few tunnel to explore, but nothing overly huge. The thing that I find really cool about these ruin sites is that nothing is fenced off, it is all open to explore and touch and see nice and close. After a quick swim, we went to find out about tours we could take the next day. We ended up signing up for the cheapest one we could find, which happened to be the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve tour, (I leaned towards this one because it reminded me of home, ´Pine Ridge´) which cost us $60 BZD each. We went and ate at some restaurant, nothing of special merit really. This is when we worked out just how grossly overbudget we were. We got pretty worried about money right then, but its okay guys, Belize is just expensive.

We got up pretty early after a night of playing guitar and lounging in hamicks at the campground, to go catch our tour. We met up with this American couple that we went on the Lamanai tour with, and it happened that they were going on the same tour as us. We waited around for a while, then all hopped into a minibus (air conditioning...ahhhh) and headed down some dusty road. Eventually we came to the first destination of our tour, Rio Frio. This a huge cave carved by the river flowing through it. It was pretty neat, some really cool rock formations, and we had a very knowledgable guide. We then had a quick walk in the jungle, and we learned lots about the local flora. The guide also told us the very interesting (and now obsolete) method of harvesting the sap from rubber trees. Everyone hopped back into the bus and we had a really short drive to another cave (sorry guys, can´t remember the name) which we actually needed flashlights for. The cave entrance was about 3 feet tall, but then it opened up quite a bit. This cave went on for a long time, but was much more interesting as it had many rock formations. At the end of the cave the guide (Sam was his name) told us to turn off all our lights, and we experienced pure darkness. We climbed all the way back to the surface, and, once again, hopped back in the minibus. Our next stop was just up the river from our first cave, and it was a series of small waterfalls and rapids, here we were allowed to swim and play in the falls. Sooo refreshing.... more sunscreen, then back in the bus. The next stop was definately the most fun of the tour. We stopped at a seemingly random location on the road, and had a significant hike down to the Big Rock Falls. Here once again, we could swim, and play in the much bigger falls. We did some cliff jumping and got some great shots of us doing so. Thanks go out to the woman on our tour who was kind enough to take a few pictures of us together near the falls. Again, we found overselves back in the van, sweating again after the hike up from the falls. Our last stop was at a resort/bar/lodge overlooking the Five Sister Falls. Here cold drinks were available at rediculous costs. We were all craving, but, alas, we couldn´t afford such a luxury. Back into the bus which carried us back to our temporary home, San Igancio. That night, since the campground had the means to do so, we decided to cook our own meal. We grabbed some fresh potatoes and bananas from the local market, then wandered up into the supermarket for some butter and drinks. At the campgrounds we cooked the potatoes and ate some bananas.

We got up uber early this morning to give us lots of time to get to our desination. The campground owner was kind enough to find us a $5 BZD per person tazi ride to the Belize/Guatemalan border. The crossing went well, and we switch our money over to Quetzales (the Guatemalan currency) at a fair good rate, bartered for a long while for a bus, or taxi, or whatever we could find to Santa Elena, eventually we found a minibus at 20 quetzales per person and we were off. The bus ride was great, and I slept a bit. We were dropped off in a random location (we had no idea where we were) in Santa Elena. But with some help from the locals (even with the langauge barrier) we found the bus station. We had lots of time to kill, so here we are, but my time is up, so I must go.

Peace everyone, I hope you are enjoying the snow, my tan is coming along nicely.

Craig

Posted by iamcraig88 15:26 Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Lamanai

Mayan Ruins along the "New River."

sunny 27 °C

After waking up to the sound of our travel alarm, the three of us rolled out of bed and packed our day pack. Still in daze, the "Three Amigos" (as we've recently been dubed by a travelling couple of Americans) got into the first taxi that hailed to us and took the short taxi ride to the bus station. After arriving at the bus station, we were informed that we had just missed the bus to Orange Walk, the city from which we were to take our tour to Lamanai. Quickly, one of the men at the bus station told us that a taxi would be able to catch the bus before it left Belize City. With the stupor of sleep wearing off and the adrenalin kicking in, we lept into the seriously dilapodated taxi cab and sped of at breakneck speed, taking all the inside corners and barely slowing down for any signs or speed bumps. Mind you, the breakneck speed was probably only about 60 kilometers an hour, but the rickety car and the tiny streets gave the illusion of a much faster ride. Once aboard the bus, the ride was uneventful, save for meeting a Canadian couple from Quebec and a SCUBA diver from Croatia. The Canadaian couple got off at a toll bridge relatively close to Orange walk because they had heard of better prices for the boat tour. This was our plan alson, however I misinterpreted the guide book and we found ourselves in Orange Walk, the place of the more expensive tour. After paying $40 USD, we were told that the tour didn´t leave for another hour, so we hit the local food court/market to sit and relax. Our tour began with a walk through Orange Walk and seeing a local church. We were then led to the river and began one of the most amazing boat rides we've ever been on. The boat tour was close to two and a half hours long and we stopped everytime there was a hint of wild life. The river meandered over many kilometres and the small launch, which was about twenty feet long had one-hundred and fifteen horsepower, which was definatly overkill. We also ran into many local fisherman who were ahppy to show us there catch and tell us which ones were ¨Good eats.¨ We came across so much wildlife as to be rediculous. There was crocodiles, iguanas, numerous birds including a Japanese Stork which has a wing span of over seven feet and stands five feet tall. We also passed an old sugar mill which Leigh and I could smell from easily a kilometre away. (Smells like honey). The next surprise on this twisted river was a German Menonite villiage. As one can imagine, Menonites are quite an interesting sight, what with their lack of power and any modern tools. Our interest was enhanced by their location, deep in the jungle. My first question was how did they get all their horses and buggies down the river, or into the middle of the jungle in the first place. Deaper into the jungle the river widened into a lake and we all caught a glimpse of a Mayan temple poking from the tree tops. Once at Lamanai, we all cuaght our breath over a Fanta and took in our jungle surroundings. Next, our tour guide took us on an hour and a half hike through the reserve and up the two highest temples. Our tour guide was very knowledgable and told us about many trees and plants. One such tree was the "Give and Take tree." Its called this because the needles on the bark of the tree will give you a fever for a few hours, but rubbing the sap from the inside of the tree stops this effect imediately. After our guided tour of the ruins, we sat under a cabana and had a home cooked lunch, courtesy of our tour guide. Our amazing meal consisted of rice and beans with chicken. Also, side salads both veggie and potatoe, not to mention fried plantain. Since we left Lamanai later than was planned, our boat ride back was mostly zipping through the narrow river as fast as possible to get two ladies back to their buss on time. Our tour ended with much enthusiasm for our guide as it was a one man show, and probably one of the more memorable experiences for all involved. Our bus ride back to Belize City was a laughable experience to say the least. The first bus we let pass because it was packed well over double capacity. It then came to our attention that all sunday night busses were packed and that it wasn't going to get much better. We took the next out going buss bound for Belize City and stood and sang in the aisle, all the while pressing out hands against the roof in a vain attempt to steady ourselves. When we arrived in Belize City, Maya, the croatian we met on our tour and the Kiwi, Jeremy walked together and had amazing ice cream, a beautiful end to the day. Once we got into our guest house, all three of us collapsed with exhaustion and made sure the alarm was off, so that we could sleep as late as possible.

All around a wonderful day, making memmories that will latst a lifetime.

Ryan

Posted by Nomad18 09:56 Archived in Belize Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Belize,Guatemala

Belize City, San Ignacio, santa elena

Belize city was ok, it was a little more sketchy then i wanted, but sketchyness is to be expected in any large city, we were more interested in the area surrounding belize city. we visited the lamanai ruins around orange walk, we got to go on a really awsome river with tonnes of wild life and some german menonites., the view from the top of the tallest maya building was breath taking but the howler monkeys were really erritating at the maya ball court.

San ignacio was a very beautiful town, the people were all so nice and helpful. everyone spoke english still which was good in the sense that we knew kinda what we were doing, but bad in the sense that we werent learning any spanish. We stayed at a fairly new campsite that wasnt in our guidebook. it was really nice, finally i was able to lie in a hammock. we visited the Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve, there were some neat caves. The first one was ginormous it was interesting because of its grandeurness alone. The second cave was a bit harder to get into. Your had to crawl a bit to get into the entrance but the inside was amazing, even though im not usually impressed with caves it was still pretty cool; there was also a 100ft waterfall and some clifts which was really refreshing after sweating in the hot hot jungle, the bus ride up to the caves was the most fun it was bumpy, there were only half of the plug ins for the seatbelts, it was a blast. We also visited the ruins cahal pech, the ruins themselves were completed, seeing the completed ruins was really interesting. im reall excited for guatimala, where everything is cheaper and we might be able to afford a drink at the bar.

we crossed the boarder into guatemala without a hitch, it was about 2 hours from the boarder to santa elena, we had many taxis competing for our business. The new money was more difficult to convert, every USD is worth 7gd which makes everything very cheap. we got a loaf of bread, peanut butter(which is a bit more expensive), 3 drinks and 10 bananas it cost $7 USD. the loaf of bread cost about $.30USD. everyone is doing fine so far. except for being extremely hot. ive had a hard time sleeping the last few nights because of the heat, hopefully it will be cooler in tikal, which im super excited for.

we have to watch our money more now. we were 225usd over our budget, but thats to be expected because Belize is one of the more expensive countries. when we get to san pedro it will be nice just to sit down on a hammock and sip a cold one as well as be able to afford it.

Posted by leighner 09:33 Archived in Guatemala Tagged backpacking Comments (2)

Belize

Belize City

sunny 30 °C

climatized to the weather yet. we put on a rediculous amound of sunscreen and all three of us got sun burned on the sailing/snorkling trip. i got a rediculous sunburn on my wrists for some reasons, a bit on the back, and my right ear; craig got a sunburn on the nose and on the back and the back of the leg. ryan got his back burnt as well as his wrists, but the party between his shoulder blades isnt burnt which is really weird. but we are lathering the sunscreen on now because the city was even more hot then the island. the heat bounces off the concrete and radiates back to us in every direction. we were relieved to get our packs to the hotel just on the north west side of town, ma ma chens or something like that

afterwords we started to make our way back through town and met a man who desided to give us a tour back across town past our hotel and into a resturaunt, we followed his because he really seem to know what he was doing.

Posted by leighner 09:29 Archived in Belize Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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