It’s no secret that I’ve been falling behind with blog posts…but now I’m REALLY behind!
So in an attempt to catch up I’m going to skip writing about Guatemala and go straight onto the smaller countries of El Salvador & Honduras and then Nicaragua (where we actually are just now). Once I find some more time, likely on the long bus journeys we have ahead of us in South America, I’ll backtrack and add in the Guatemala posts.
I have pretty mixed opinions on Guatemala now that we’ve left – I think that’s why I’m struggling to get into writing about it. It was definitely full of ups & downs, and although we had a few great experiences there I also don’t understand why many travellers call it their favourite Central American country.
For now, here’s a quick summary of our time there:
- Spanish school on Lake Atitlan
We spent a fortnight in San Pedro La Laguna learning Spanish through one-to-one tuition for a 4 hours a day. As hard as it was, it felt good to be using our brains every day and also to be back in a routine of sorts! Plus you really can’t get a much better setting the the lake – it was beautiful to sit there each morning while studying then head out on the kayaks each afternoon.
Guatemala’s biggest & best Mayan ruins, set in the middle of the jungle. The temples were amazing but seeing spider monkeys in the wild was even better. We also saw our first ever tarantula!
3. The friends we made
As cheesy as it sounds, this was the real highlight for us! Guatemala has a very defined “backpacker trail” and it’s the one country we didn’t really deviate from it. As a result we hung out with way more travellers here than anywhere else so far, and met some of our new favourite people. What made it even more fun was running into lots of them in again once we’d moved on to Belize and El Salvador!
(Pictured: Niel, the travelling Belgian chef who shares our passion for world-class restaurants and cooking weird new vegetables he’s found at the market. Our Acatenango volcano hiking team who bonded so quickly in the misery and rain! Freya & her friends – we’ve since met up with Freya in 3 different countries, each time totally unplanned! Danielle and Cillian, two of the great group of amigos we made while at Spanish school)
In Guatemala I got sick not once, not twice, but three times. I also wasn’t the only one – a quick straw poll in any hostel will show you that around two thirds of us all got sick in Guatemala, but no where else in Central America. There’s definitely something in the water.
The worst case was in Rio Dulce when we stayed in a log cabin in the middle of the jungle with zero access to the outside world. Seriously, there are no roads or out and the nearest pharmacy / shop / internet was around an hour away by boat. Spending the night hugging the toilet bowl isn’t fun anywhere, but it’s even less ideal when your bathroom has giant ants, millepedes and a family of angry crabs living in the shower…
Guatemala time is a very frustrating thing. Everything and everyone runs late, and any task can take twice as long as you might expect it to. This is most apparent on buses. An 8am shuttle will finally leave about 9.15am, and a coach journey you’ve been told will take 4 hours will now (for no reason) take 7 hours. All buses, and occasionally boats, will have to stop for petrol around 15 minutes into any journey too. While heading for the Salvadorian border we even had a minibus take us on a detour to a mechanic for an oil change!
3. Acatenango volcano
Possibly the biggest disappointment of our trip so far, and also one of the hardest things I have ever done. Hiking up Guatemala’s highest volcano through persistent rain was tough, but keeping our spirits up once we learned there was no view of Fuego at the top (due to extremely unlucky weather) was even tougher. Martin & I also learned that as much as we dislike hiking, we enjoy camping even less! Never again…