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This one deserves its own post

sunny 26 °C

After our six day jungle trek we weren't certain we needed to visit Tikal, but we were so glad we did.
We took the afternoon tour and spent a great time exploring some of the most excavated and beautifully preserved Mayan ruins we'd seen. Our guide was great and the pyramids were spectacular. There was even a spot where the Mayans had worked out the acoustics so that the temples produced an amazing sound if you stood in the centre of the plaza.
We watched another magical sunset over the temples and properly rounded off our Mayan ruin experience.


Posted by Addy21 09:46 Archived in Guatemala Tagged ruins mayan Comments (0)

Jungle trek to Mayan ruins

Flores, Tikal and El Mirador

overcast 30 °C

A few buses and a relatively painless border hop later (except for the outrageous exit fee from Belize!), we arrived in Flores. This tiny little town is on a island in Lake Peten Itza, connected by a bridge to the more substantial Santa Elena. It's a very pretty, very touristy little spot. We spent a couple of days getting organised before heading off on our jungle adventure to see Tikal and then hike in to see El Mirador.
As always we started ridiculously early. We hopped on a bus to a tiny village of Carmelita where we started with a very hearty breakfast, which was just what we needed. Unfortunately, our guide did not inspire a great deal of confidence. He was obviously still drunk from the night before and fell asleep on our jolting bus ride to Carmelita. We assumed when he disappeared after a very short breakfast he was loading up our donkey, but no, he was drinking 5 beers with his friends which he very cheerfully told us over an hour after we gave up on waiting and went to find him. Despite this we assured ourselves Alex would sober up and improve as the trek went on.
We spent our first day hiking through deep semi dried mud that was hell on the ankles. We had a few brief respites with some gentle, more rainforest like, stretches which was lovely, and we even encountered a low hanging birds nest. Our first night's camp was made in quite a nice setting and after smoking more weed (oh, he started on the trek), Alex eventually provided us with some basic dinner. By this stage I was more than annoyed with our wayward guide, which escalated further when he failed to fulfil his promise to wake us early to see our first pyramid ruin for sunrise. My fury helped me walk faster and we made good time on our second day. This was when my feet began to hurt in earnest.
Our guide, who we really should have stopped listening to at this stage, convinced us to take an "alternative route" so we could swing back this way to see the ruin we missed. The alternative route turned out to be a completely overgrown jungle trek, complete with spiky plants and a wasp sting for Matt. By the time we made it to our second campsite it was very close to dark. I was in tears my feet hurt so badly and Matt's back was also killing him. Somehow that all seemed to melt away though when we climbed up to the top of our first pyramid ruin and saw the sunset over a sea of green. It was incredibly peaceful and beautiful beyond words. Pop would have loved this sunset.
Our pictures don't do it justice. From our vantage point we could see the raised green mounds that indicated the other ruins we were to visit. They looked very far away. We had a much nicer and hot dinner provided by our guide's mother, who was guiding another tourist and was camping at the same site that night.
The next day we hiked to El Mirador. It was spectacular. A proper ruin, not just a mound covered in trees, we climbed to the top and spent some time soaking up the views. Our guide proved slightly more useful by talking us through the history of the site and meanings of the various pyramids and uses of the other areas. We walked our last 15 minutes to our campsite and were very happy to know we had a whole day and half of rest before hiking again.
Our guide took us around some of the other significant areas on the site, and we were often in view of families of spider monkeys and even some howler monkeys. Very cool. We climbed up another pyramid to watch the sunset again, and once again it was breathtaking. I loved watching the monkeys but this lot were bizarrely aggressive: throwing sticks, leaves, flowers, whatever they could find and coming really quite close in aggressive displays. It really was quite intimidating. They were still amazing to watch.
The next day we relaxed and visited more of the site. Learning a lot about Mayan culture and the history of the sites excavation, though I'm not sure how much of that was accurate given our guide was the hero in most of his stories. The paths were moss covered and the trees were beautiful. The whole site was on levelled platforms created by the Mayans for agriculture. It was all pretty incredible. All of this was made even more incredible by the fact that we were the only two tourists on the site for the whole time. We had the ruins and sunsets entirely to ourselves.
We climbed a different pyramid to watch our third sunset and even saw a toucan in the distance. Finally we enjoyed a brilliant lightshow from fireflies on our walk back to the camp.
The next morning we got up early (no longer relying on Alex's nightly promises to wake us) to watch sunrise from the top of one of the pyramids. It was beautiful and peaceful, but the sunsets were definitely more spectacular. We headed off again along a really beautiful path through a different part of the ruin and climbed another pyramid which proved to be the current hotspot for five toucans and a very pretty woodpecker. We were incredibly close and very beautiful, we stayed as long as they did and loved every minute.
We hiked off again to the final site, which really wasn't that amazing after all we've seen and looped back to our original campsite as promised for our final night.
The hike out proved the worst day yet, partially because we were footsore (or back-sore) but moreso because the horrible mud was back and this time less dried, It sucked at our feet and it got stuck on our shoes making them so much heavier. It didn't help that we were racing the clock to get back in time for the one daily bus. We were incredibly relieved to finally make it out and back to La Carmelita. The bus arrived 40 minutes after we arrived which allowed just enough time for a beer before dragging our weary butts back to Flores and a proper bed.

Some of the wildlife,



Posted by Addy21 07:46 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Lake Atitlan

Chilling, swimming, eating

sunny 27 °C

large_IMG_4399.jpgWe finally gave in to the constant cries of "you have to go to Lago Atitlan" from all our fellow travellers and caught the shuttle to San Pedro La Laguna to check it out. With super cheap accommodation, good cheap food and a great swimming hole 5mins from the hotel you can see how people come for a few days and end up spending weeks.
We just relaxed and recuperated, enjoyed the swimming in the most beautiful deep blue/green water and didn't do much else. A very nice way to spend a few days before our next epic bus adventure.

Posted by Addy21 06:36 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Caving by candlelight and swimming in turquoise jungle pools

Semuc Champey, Lanquin

sunny 29 °C

This is one of those places everyone talks about but never seems to get much of a write up in the travel books. It was gorgeous.

We hopped a shuttle from Antigua and on arrival had everyone clamouring for us to stay. We ended up a El Retiro, a gorgeous place, 5 mins walk from town, right on the river, who gave us our second night free if we did the tour up to Semuc with them.

We braved the storm to head into town for dinner and found a little street vendor with rice and chicken for 10Q. Needless to say she saw us a lot over the next 3 days.

The next day we jumped right in and did the caving and Semuc tour.
It all starts by making your way into the jungle on the back of a full ute (the most common form of transport in these parts). After a bumpy but fun ride we arrived at the caves. We were handed our candles (yes you do the caves full of water by candlelight here) and made our way into the cave. Almost immediately you are thigh deep in water. As you make your way through you climb up a mini waterfall, swim through sections with one hand trying to keep your candle up with the other, and jumping into black water from 3m hoping you've got the spot right where he said there were no rocks. It was great, fun and I felt very Indiana Jones til I slipped and badly corked my thigh. Ok so I'm not quite Indie, more just clumsy.
Next we headed out to the rope swing, and jump into the river from what was a lot higher than you think. I felt slightly better about my cave slip watching how some people almost managed to kill themselves on a simple rope swing. Then we jumped in our tubes and floated down the river for a while which was really rather pleasant. A short break for lunch and obligatory chocolate from the adorable children selling it beside the river and we were off to Semuc.
Semuc Champey is a section of the river where the bulk of the water flows through a cave and out the otherside. What is left up top is a series of crystal clear, turquoise/sapphire ponds set in the middle of the jungle. It was absolutely gorgeous.
With only one other group sharing the pools with us it felt like our own little slice of paradise. Matt and I swam and lazed around in our own pool for hours, until chivvied out of the water to jump back on the ute.
We loved it so much we gave up our day by the river to head back to the pools the next day. It was a lot more crowded but still just as beautiful.

Posted by Addy21 06:11 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Anzac Day in Guatemala


sunny 27 °C

After our aborted attempt at San Salvador we decided to push through to Antigua, Guatemala to make it for Anzac Day. We got into Guatemala City late and grabbed a taxi across to where the chicken buses left for Antigua. An hour later we were wandering through probably the prettiest city we've seen do far.

We found a cheap hostel, which became even more appealing when we found out the desk was manned by a fellow Aussie and found our home for the next 5 days.

We roped almost the entire hostel into our Anzac Day celebrations and had a great old time drinking beer, teaching everyone two up and listening to the great and the cheesy Aussie classics. From ACDC to Midnght Oil and then some "Home among the gum trees" (complete with actions) and "I still call Australia home" to the amusement of the non-Aussies among the group.

Apart from a bonza Anzac Day we took full advantage of having a kitchen and relaxed and enjoyed this beautiful town.

It is very cool walking along the street to come across some beautiful ruins of old buildings around every second corner. After a big earthquake in the 1800s the town decided not to restore everything and simply to preserve some of the more beautiful sites. It really is quite stunning.

Unfortunately, most of our photos were on the hard drive which got corrupted in Mexico, so maybe I can update this with some more pics once we get home and hopefully recover them.

Posted by Addy21 06:06 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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