Day 74/75, Sat 20th / Sun 21st
Up early again & off to San Pedro on Lake Atitlan –‘ a beautiful lake’, surrounded by volcano’s with lovely chilled villages much loved by the Hippy brigade as a centre of mystic powers…
Well, the transfer was 4hrs, not the 2.5 stated, the lake has risen by between 4-9m due to a storm 4 years ago & most of the beautiful beaches & waterfront areas are under water. The village was a bit of a shanty town with some nice bars/ areas here & there. Got to say we both felt that it was a bit of a let-down.
However, disappointment & disaster were staved off when we decided to go for a solar bath (the thermal ones were now 3 feet underwater) at twilight. It was decidedly romantic; just us in a heated stone bath, surrounded by jungle plants in twilight looking over the lake. The fireflies came out to play whilst we sipped our wine & pontificated on the delights of Lago Atitlan. A bit of food, drinking & dancin’ after rounded off a lovely evening.
Even the 4hr return trip the following day couldn’t erase the memory of a wonderful night.
Lago Atitlan – reminiscent of 1970’s Spain as our new friend Anna pointed out, I had to agree, even if that gives away my age.
Luckily Keir and I managed to assuage our disappointment by a lovely outdoor hot bath, with accompanying red wine, some very pleasant (and cheap) meals and a quick jaunt on the lake at the end.
Day 76, Mon 22nd
Back to school WITH Amabelia cracking the whip!
Decided to conduct my own tour of Antigua’s ruins before and after school and sans Keir, who is more sensibly sorting out his company tax. I like this place.
Day 77, Tues 23rd
Final long morning of school before the long afternoon schlep to Semuc Champey. Another bout of misinformation from the transport people who sold us a direct transfer; you actually have to go to Lanquin then the hotel come & pick you up. After Tracey gave them what for we left for a 5 hr trip. After an easy 45 min transfer we arrived at the Hotel El portal right next to the entrance to Semuc Champey.
More Spanish row practice for me, I was delighted to note that a week at school had left me somewhat more fluent whilst tearing someone off a strip, thanks Gladys! And while I am complaining, don’t use Otitrans for your transport, useless, insufficiently apologetic, lying bastards.
Never mind, I met a lovely Swedish girl called Jenny on the shuttle and saw some of her wonderful pictures of China.
Day 78, Wed 24th
Semuc Champey – gorgeous, turquoise limestone pools for swimming in, and next door to our hotel, hooray! Spent a lovely morning doing the hike up to the top before rewarding ourselves with a leisurely dip in the different pools, we even had one to ourselves for a while. Lovely, and well worth the pain of getting here and having to spend 2 nights due to morning only transport options. Take note Semuc dwelling entrepreneurs.
Met a nice English couple, Tony & Laura, after dinner and compared travel tips whilst sampling the local beverages
This was an idyllic place, the river disappears into a chasm at the top of the limestone gorge & runs underneath these series of turquoise pools before re-appearing below the pols, whose water re-joins it via a little waterfall. It is deep enough in parts to dive in, whilst other areas are shallow enough just to lie in & watch the multi-coloured fish nibble your toes.
Very chilled overlooking the river in a picturesque setting. Cabins look picture postcard perfect, but very thin walls so had to politely ask the very drunk Americans to move the party back up to the bar area before Tracey appeared with the sawn-off…!
Day 79, Thurs 25th
Another transport confusion between Semuc and Lanquin – for Christ’s sake, they are an HOUR apart, you would think that the locals would think to distinguish between them! – we took the hotel truck (seated again, rather than having to stand in the back, the deference shown was gratifying, however perhaps I should worry that all this sun is making me look my age …?).
Arrived in our new hotel near Fronteras, Rio Dulce, at Lake Izabal. Now this is a beautiful lake, and a lovely hotel to boot – El Tortugal, if you are ever there - had some lunch and headed over to El Castillo, you know how much Keir loves a castle!
Tracey kept saying that we should go through Rio Dulce to do the river trip; well, what do you know, she was right but the bonus is that the Rio Dulce is also very nice. We are staying in a beautiful hostel/ marina right on the water’s edge with a few yachts moored around us. It really is perfect; I have a view of Castillo San Felipe which we take a walk up to that afternoon – Tracey really didn’t have much choice!
It’s a tiny little fort that was part customs house & part fort to protect against the pirates who frequented the area many moons ago. It’s small enough that we could even dream of owning something similar… even Tracey had to agree it was lovely.
Plans are back on track for El Castillo Wingrove when we get back….!
Day 80, Fri 26th
Decided to take the local transport to Finca el Paraiso today, a natural pool with a hot waterfall to warm it. Amazing, freaky waterfall, though I have to confess that on this particular, 30 odd degree day, I would have preferred a cool one…
Waterfall was freaky, but cool; and not in a temperature way!
The countryside around the lake was beautiful.
Started chatting to a Canadian chap at the hotel, who very kindly showed us around his catamaran – v nice – thanks Clark.
Clark’s Catamaran was beautifully decked out – think we’ll have to hire one for the next Sailing trip… Caribbean anyone?
His son is an ex Booty who’s moved into acting now; hopefuly we’ll catch him in something when we get back to Blighty.
Day 81, Sat 27th
…and we are off again, this time to Livingston. Made some more English friends on the boat and hung out with them for lunch before getting boat number 2 to The RoundHouse hostel, which turned out to be halfway back to Fronteras, oops a bit of inadequate research there, however it was a really beautiful stretch of river, so I didn’t really mind doing it again.
No wifi, or internet at the moment at the hotel, but the owners were fantastic and made us feel very welcome (as well as plying us with alcohol), sat down to a nice communal supper with the other 3 guests – lovely evening talking shite at the bar. Shame we have to leave tomorrow…
The fact we cruised past the Roundhouse on our way down river isn’t an issue really as we got to see Livingstone for lunch… about as much time as you need really.
Loved the Roundhouse – you can only get to it by river taxi. The owner Chris is a trained carpenter & has built most of it himself… could have happily stayed here a couple of weeks giving him a hand & picking up tips…
They had just let their cook & cleaner go, so poor Dani & Chris had to do everything, but it felt like being part of the family. Lots of dogs & cats… heaven.
Day 82, Sun 28th
Unfortunately no-one is running the full or partial transport, so, today is the fun, let’s see if we can get to Honduras on local transport, day…
Caught the hotel boat at 8:30 and just got the last 2 spots on the public boat to Puerto Barrios, which left as soon as we got on (lucky timing!), 30 minutes, 125Qz. Walked up the main road at Puerto Barrios and jumped onto a colectivo which arrived a few minutes later, and took us through to the Honduran border – all fine so far, apart from the boy on the bus trying to rip us off for too high a fare, little scrote, I stuck to my guns :).
Despite the famed CA4, free border crossing between Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and El Salvador, it seems the Hondurans have decided to add a US$3 tax anyway, arse, I had just told the money changer at the border that I didn’t want to take his lousy L18 for a $ rate. Humble pie duly eaten.
Paid our tax and got accosted by a taxi driver telling us we couldn’t get to San Pedro Sula before the last bus left for La Ceiba, lying toerag, we walked up and caught the bus straight away, another 1.5 hours and we arrive at Puerto Cortes for the express bus to the World’s most dangerous city (apparently) of San Pedro Sula, another rapid departure – these connections are amazing!
Got to SPS bus station, thankfully this is not the gangland hangout so we seem to be fine – after some initial confusion with Viana (very expensive) and Diana (cheap, but direct) bus, we managed to get our ticket to La Ceiba, with 40 minutes for some unhealthy lunch.
We finally reached La Ceiba at 20:30 – Hotel Estadio – how the hell did this place get 7/10 on Booking.com? I am pleased to say that I managed to bring down the average by my rating of 4. Not recommended unless you are an entomologist, in which case you might be fascinated by the teeming insect life in the bathroom… La Ceiba not great either, everything shut by 9???! Went to bed a bit fed up and hungry.
The day of transport pain wasn’t as bad as we thought… speaking Spanish (Tracey) definitely helps.
As Tracey said, the taxi driver at the border was hilarious… giving us the whole ‘next bus isn’t for 3 hrs’ whilst we can see the bus getting ready to depart 300m up the road!
Hotel at Ceiba was one of the very few dud ones we’ve booked – very friendly staff, but it was a real shit hole – dirty, insecst & mold in the bathroom & the electric shower didn’t work properly… Tracey showed me the reviews… there must be a lot of undiscerning travellers out there.
The previous place – Roundhouse – was cheaper, cleaner, had no direct main electric & water but beats this hands down. The town didn’t feel safe walking about in the evening… so, discretion being the better part of valour, we went to bed early & hungry.
Day 83, Mon 29th
Up early again!??? For the ferry to Roatan and our lovely private cabin at Hotel Chillies – OK, so not quite as lovely as El Tortugal, and we do have termites in the bathroom, but we also have a porch with a hammock, and they have a very nice garden. Happy.
Very cute cabin in a beautiful garden out back full of wild life, dogs & cats…. The beach is 2 mins walk from our cabin door to waterfront!
Saw a beautiful baby ray whilst paddling in the surf!
Loving this life!
Day 84, Tues 30th
Today we learn to dive with Native Sons – a morning of PADI DVDs and then we start some confined water skills in the bay with all of the EXTREMELY HEAVY kit on – blimey, 54lbs of stuff, I was hobbling like a bent over old lady, couldn’t even stand upright.
I couldn’t half-fill and empty my mask without semi-drowning, much saltwater swallowed
Can’t say I’ve ever been the happiest in water, but today went well. T had some slightly squiffy moments, but bravely puled through.
Met a lovely English couple (Tom & Eleanor) who are holidaying here from Santiago in Chile were they live. Both have done some pretty amazing things to date & hopefully we’ll catch up with them later in their travels as they are also moving to Malaysia in the autumn.
Day 85, Wed 1st May
Got up this morning to learn we are going to do our first AND second Open Water dives, I must confess that I thought this would be a slightly gentler learning curve.
We found out that Dan, our instructor, was having the 4th day off – hence the movement at pace… but best not to spend too much time thinking… just do!
First dive was beautiful, though my ears started hurting immediately and I had real trouble equalising the pressure; the reefs here are among the best in the world. I am not enjoying the ‘skills’ quite so much.
By the second dive and associated skills I hated it, managed the half mask flood, but full mask flood and manual BCD inflation sent me into such a hyperventilating panic that I kept feeling like I couldn’t breathe, didn’t want to go back down. Did another confined water session after lunch, still unable to breathe – I really wanted to give up and go to bed – Keir calmed me down enough to manage a couple of the techniques, but felt thoroughly miserable and very sorry for myself by the end of the day.
Enjoyed today & it’s all coming together. T had a bit of a difficult day & at one point it looked like she might give up. But, very proud of her, as she conquered her fears & completed the day. Hopefully a good sleep will go a long way to making her feel a bit better.
Day 86, Thurs 2nd May
Woke up, got up, in bad mood as I hated diving so much yesterday, but decided I would try. And today… it was amazing. How strange! Was able to equalise after Keir told me to hold my nose higher up, managed to do all my skills, including mask removal and replacement, at the bottom of the ocean, and I was fine. I even managed a swim through controlling my buoyancy with my breath (well for most of it, I did accidentally pop up at one stage…:P).
Afternoon tests and exam (I will leave that one for Keir), and we are qualified Open Water divers, hooray! Time to celebrate with some frozen strawberry Margaritas!
T was in a foul mood this morning – I could see that she didn’t really want to go back out again. So, I followed the tried & tested route of completely ignoring that & chivvying her back out into the water again. Amazingly, it worked. Today was a completely different kettle of fish; I was had some difficulties clearing my ears but we both breezed thought the skills (clearing masks at depth, etc) & T had a wonderful scuba. Saw turtles feeding, loads of fish, lobsters, etc.
We had to do a swim back to shore in either flippers & snorkel, or normally. T elected for the former, whilst I elected for the latter, but the buggers made me swim the same distance (300m) back into shore as T. The great thing was that as we swam, we saw a large & beautiful spotted Eagle Ray swimming in the bay & the wreck of a small submarine (more of that later).
Did our exam in the afternoon – it’s the first exam we’ve ever done together… & what do you know, we both passed, but ‘el stupido’ out pointed the Honours graduate 3 -1… I am indeed a god… or maybe just a minor Deity!!!
T has many more names for me; but let’s not go there!
Dan Ashworth, instructor extraordinaire, useful carpenter & bloody nice chap – thank you!
Day 87, Fri 3rd May
Finally a lie in is possible, and what happens? I wake up at 8am. There is no justice in this world… Good breakfast at Café Escondido whilst watching the hummingbirds though
A day just chilling, a trying to sort out the next few day travelling. Had a bit of a dance & boogie later that evening – we’ve still got it… whatever that might be…
We had a very generous offer of a beautiful 7 bedroom villa to use for a pittance, but our aggressive itinerary means that we can’t take out any more time to effectively use it. We are going to try & hire a scooter to pop up & see it, meet the lovely caretaker Heather then head off to do a zip line canopy tour.