A Travellerspoint blog

Time for Tikal

...good morning monkeys!

Surprise, surprise, this new adventure kicks off with yet another ridiculously long bus ride! Always trying to see the positives in life, I was counting my lucky stars that it wasn't another 5am start, the bus was not full and the roads were much better than they were on the way to Semuc. A win, win if you ask me! All in all, it was comfortable enough (well, as good as it gets really when you are cramped into a mini van for 8 hours). But I did have some great bus mates, so the banter was good and made the ride go by much faster.

Flores is a town on an island in the state of Peten in Guatemala. Most people visit Flores based on its proximity to Tikal as it is only an hours drive away. Flores itself is very small and can be very easily covered by foot in about fifteen minutes. It´s quite a picturesque little village and aside from snapping a few photos, doing a boat tour of the island, and a few visits to the street food ladies at the shoreline for some divine Guatemalteca food on the cheap, there isn´t much to it! With that being said, it´s quite comical that we spent four nights here. Sometimes being lazy is necessary.

We didn't arrive into Flores until around 5pm. Once we checked into our hostel (Los Amigos), and had a few drinks, it wasn't long until dinner time. I kept hearing rumours from other travellers about the food being fantastic at Los Amigos. And it was! I cannot tell you how nice it is to finally have "control" over what I am eating again. As great as the food was with Maria in San Pedro, it was certainly nice to be able to eat a bit more western and as dictated by my mood. Safe to say, I know that I would definitely be avoiding a tortilla for a while. As delicious as Maria´s tortillas were, I was suffering from a pretty severe case of a tortilla burn-out.

Following dinner, Alessandro (who is very familiar with Flores as visits often for business), gave Felix and I a tour of the island and showed us a few hot spots for drinks. We ended up settling in at the tallest rooftop bar in Flores, a whopping three storeys, for a beautiful view of the mainland (Santa Elena) and of course the lake. A few Cuba Libres later, and it was passed my bedtime.

The second day was a wash out (weather wise, not based on my previous nights festivities!), and to be honest, I was very pleased about it. I hadn't been online while at Utopia so was in desperate need for an admin day where I could get caught up with the basics. Who knew travelling involved so much admin?! I happily camped out at Los Amigos all afternoon and into the early evening armed with my iPad and travel guides whilst also counselling Felix about a possible five day trek into the jungle to see El Mirador (a journey that is certainly not for the faint of heart...and notorious for hellacious bugs! Get your Raid cans ready folks...). Despite the day being the epitome of laziness, it was very productive (hello Captain Organised, you don´t show up too often!) and was also able to meet quite a few characters while I was there who also provided some great entertainment and served as an invaluable resource for what to do next and where to stay.

Even though the third day in Flores wasn't much more productive than the last, Felix, the ideas man that he is, had managed to organise a booze cruise for a few of our mates that we had made over the past few days. Enrique, the "Captain", was a local (and an absolute character at that - let´s just say that he is incredibly relaxed and likes to spend his afternoons hanging with MJ on the lake) that we had met the previous day during a brief glimpse of being active when we managed to peel ourselves off the couches and hammocks and go for a walk around Flores. He told us that he would take charge 150Q for an hour of cruising around the lake and we could bring up to six others and beers if we liked. It didn't take long to recruit five other people, and we were off for a lovely afternoon booze cruise through the lake.

It was an early night that evening as we had a 3am start the following day. After two days of being couch potatoes, we had finally decided to do what we came to Flores to do, see Tikal!

Tikal was the largest Mayan cities in the Classical Era, about 1,000 years ago. It dates back as far as 400BC and at around 900AD was eventually abandoned and entirely consumed by the jungle. It was rediscovered in the mid 1800s, and re-excavation began in the 1960s. It is certainly a very impressive site to visit being amidst the jungle as it is surrounded by lush flora. Even more impressive would be to visit it being the only one in the park, I imagine it would be quite a surreal and tranquil experience.

In hindsight, seeing Tikal at sunrise in the low season probably wasn't the greatest idea. You cannot actually see the sun coming up, it is more like a gentle lifting of the foggy haze that surrounds the temples. Even though the photos of sunrise aren't very clear (nor impressive), what was incredibly impressive was to hear the animals waking up in the jungle. The howls and crows are absolutely amazing and like nothing I have heard before. I could not get over the noise the howler monkeys were making for such small creatures! It has definitely gotten me very excited to get into the jungle in South America.

Following the tour of Tikal, Felix and I made our way to the local bus station in Santa Elena where we took a five hour bus to Rio Dulce. We weren´t entirely sure what would unfold in Rio, but it sounded nice...so porque no?! (That´s why not, in Spanish...and has become my life motto since travelling)...who says this blog isn´t educational?!

Hope this finds you well, wherever it is in the world that you are!

Mel xx

Some top Guatemalan engineering here! Alessandro showed us where half of the island is permanently under water due to an expansion of the island that was made a few years back...a big ooooopppppssss!
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A few snaps of Flores during my very fleeting moment of activity...one of the few times I managed to peel myself off one of the hammocks!
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Church in Flores
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Flores from the water...
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Fisherman on the lake during out ¨booze cruise¨
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I´m quite proud of my photog skills here....Chris diving into the lake! Talk about action shot...right before the gigantic belly flop!
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The shore of another tiny island in the lake...there is just a resort here...
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The sunrise (cough, cough...lifting of the fog!)...And this is one of the better photos!
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Mayan temples amidst the jungle...
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Jungle overgrown ruins...
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Monkeys everywhere! And they are so noisy! You woudln´t believe the noises they make when they are ¨waking up¨.
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One of the two main temples in the main plaza.
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The ¨famous¨temple at Tikal...
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Etchings in the stone of one of the temples...
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Tarantulas everywhere!!! Not for the faint of heart...they´re actually quite placid (apparently), not that I was willing to test out the claim!
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Posted by melpage 08:32 Archived in Guatemala Tagged flores tikal Comments (0)

Semuc Champey

A secluded paradise

Even though Rachael and I´s journey to Semuc Champey didn't get off to the best start, and when I say it didn't get off to the best start, it certainly doesn't mean anything other than it was a very early start Saturday morning (our bus left at 5am...yuck!) and it was almost twelve hours cramped in a full van. Goodbye legroom! But despite the journey being thoroughly uncomfortable, visiting Semuc Champey was well worth the sacrifice.

On the recommendation of my friend Dana, we decided to book at an ecolodge hostel called Utopia. And yet again, this reconfirms the notion that it is far better to plan your trip through word of mouth. I don't have enough great things to say about Utopia! It is an absolutely gorgeous riverside property that is very secluded but still is conveniently very close to Semuc (about 3km). We arrived just as the sun was setting but still could appreciate the amazing views. The staff (and fellow travellers) at Utopia were all fantastic as well. And funnily enough, we ran into our friend Alessandro again, who was also, very randomly, staying there too! Clearly the tourist trail is an incredibly lucrative path for a wandering rolling paper salesman! And yet another confirmation that it's a very small world on the backpackers route through Central America...thankfully in most instances, the goodbyes are usually just see-ya laters!

For those of you who don't have a clue what Semuc Champey is (don't worry, I didn't either until I got to Guatemala and kept hearing my fellow tourist mates raving about it), it is a natural limestone bridge that is 300m long. On top of the bridge is a series of stepped pools with cool, flowing river water for swimming. It certainly isn't the easiest place to get to (and involves a series of very windy dirt roads), but was well worth the trek! Not only is Semuc Champey itself absolutely breathtaking, so is the surrounding terrain. I could imagine that it would be very easy to lose yourself there. You would certainly consider yourself to be very fortunate to call this part of the world home.

We began our first (and to be honest all of our days...perils of basically sleeping outside in nature), very early for the full day tour of Semuc. The tour kicked off with a bang and before we knew it, we were swimming in caves with candles. You certainly wouldn't want to be claustrophobic! We scaled walls, jumped off cave cliffs and even got to swing through a waterfall (and all in the dark by candlelight!). Of course, being the clutz that I am, I lost my candle in the waterfall pretty early in on our tour. Fortunately, our tour guide Darwin (actually his name was Darwin-Miguel...classic! Especially because traditionally there is no ¨w¨in the Spanish alphabet) had a spare for me so I didn't have to go on for too long without light. After our cave adventures, we did some bridge jumping into the local river. Rachael, the dare devil that she is, was the only one of us that was brave enough to jump! As you can imagine, the bridge was well over my 5m limit as it was coming in at 12m. I, very politely, declined the offer.

Following the unleashing of Rachael's adrenaline, we ventured into the main park to see Semuc. Our park guide, Pepe, was a local young Guatemalteco that originally hailed from Flores (my next destination) but had been working as a guide at Semuc for the past three years. Despite his size (he was pint sized), he was an absolute bloody character, very cheeky and witty (I think this is quite a theme here in Guatemala), and he had Rachael and I in fits of laughter all afternoon as we were joking around in mixes of English, Spanish and of course, my personal favourite, Spanglish. Pepe took us up to the Mirador (view point) where we were able to take some fabulous snaps of the pools. We then spent the next few hours swimming and diving into the seven different pools. The water was so crisp and clear; it was unbelievably refreshing after a steep hike in the humidity.

We closed out our action packed afternoon by tubing down the river to our hostel with two more young Guatemalan lads, brothers, Arturo & Roberto. These two, were newer at the "guide game" so were much shyer and didn't have quite the same level of English so our joking could only go so far. And to be honest, I think I frightened young Roberto slightly (or maybe confused him) because I kept telling him "mas blanco agua"...maybe that doesn't exactly translate to more white water! Perils of being in the limbo stage of learning a language...

That evening was pretty low key. After such an action packed day, a couple of sips of beer and a full belly later, and I was ready to roll into bed at the ridiculously early time of 9.30! But I loved it. I revel in getting into bed early while travelling (well, sometimes).

The next day was another action packed day. We had planned on going for a local hike, which included a riverside trek, walking over two of the drawbridges (one of the scariest things I have ever done...those things look like they are going to break at any point in time!) and then a climb up to the local cliff face for a fabulous view of the area. Later that afternoon, Esteban (one of the volunteers at the hostel) took Rachael and I on a chocolate tour, where we got to make our own chocolate from scratch. It was a great experience (and so easy, I'm going to have to start making it in future!) and you got to eat so much chocolate as you went (WINNING!)! As a dark chocolate lover (the darker the better), I really enjoyed eating the 100% chocolate, so bitter...delicious! A couple of glasses of red later, with a full belly of chocolate, and I found myself in a pleasant self-induced coma.

That evening, we had a bit more of a rowdier night (well, within context, let´s just say that the 9.30pm bedtime was surpassed!). Quite a few other people from the hostel were also checking out so we all found ourselves to be quite happy to be sent off with a bit of a bang. We had a bonfire down by the river, and happily spent the next few hours by the river with beers and listening to people trying their best to attempt playing ukulele's and a harmonica.

Next up on the adventure was Flores and fortunately, for me, Felix and Alessandro (a couple of the guests at Utopia) were also making their way there too. It's always nice to have a few travel buddies in transit.

Hope this finds you well, wherever it is in the world that you are!

Mel xx

The waterfall on the climb up to the caves...
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Swimming in the caves. Obviously my camera isn't waterproof so I don't have any good shots of the darkness by candlelight but it was amazing! I should've bought a GoPro!!!
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And this is how we get around in Semuc...in the back of a tray of a ute...you best hold on tight, the roads are bumpy!
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Look at those pristine pools! And swimming in them are just as amazing!
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Rachael & I at Semuc (courtesy of Pepe...he's not just a pretty face!)
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Doing our standard jump shot at the cliff lookout. This was slightly dangerous as the cliff face was right behind us...hence why Raquel is looking down...making sure she is jumping forward and not backwards, ha!
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Look at that view!!!
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Some of the gorgeous countryside on our hike with Oscar.
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The local ladies posing for me while they cross one of the cable bridges. Crossing these things are not for the faint of heart! It's quite scary...lots of missing planks...yikes!
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Roasting those beans!
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A slightly disturbing photo of me but I think it accurately describes how I was feeling about the making and tasting of our chocolates! Absolutely delicious...I definitely ate my body weight in cacao that day!!! Nom nom...
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We got really fancy with our chocs...all different kinds of flavours; honey, peanut butter, coconut, cinnamon, ginger, and walnut. Maybe we should get into the chocolate biz...
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Rachael show casing her final product...
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Swing time...
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Contemplating life...on a swing...the only place to do it!
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The best sign of all time...bhahahahaaaa
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Posted by melpage 16:23 Archived in Guatemala Tagged semuc_champey Comments (0)

Back to school

Lake Atitlan...forever my Guatemalan home

As most of you are well aware, there is definitely quite a significant lag in time from when I live my post, to when I get around to editing it, adding the photos, and finally posting it! Quick ironically though, as I put the finishing touches on my post about my experiences at Lake Atitlan and learning Spanish, I am actually back at the Lake again, but this time on the other side in a lovely quaint little hippy village known as San Marcos. I cannot tell you how good it feels to be back here, my home away from home...Lake Atitlan really is a magical place and will forever have a piece of my heart. Now, enough of the mushy stuff...

I would be lying if I did not admit that my on my initial evening with my host family (before I had even attended one Spanish class), I thought that deciding to live with a family and learn Spanish could very well be the worst idea that I have had yet. Talk about out of my depth! I arrived in San Pedro on one very rainy evening. I could hardly see 10 metres in front of me the rain was pouring so hard, let alone figure out where on earth my alleged Spanish School was. Fortunately, there was a man that met a group of us that had just peeled off of the bus and waved around a badge that resembled something reasonably official. I really didn't have any other choice, I prayed that he spoke a little bit of English (woohoo! He did) and asked him to direct me to the school. A short five minute walk up some gigantic hills (it's hard enough carrying around my large bag on the flat, let alone the steep hills!) we arrived at the school. Despite being over an hour later than I was due to arrive, Lorenzo, one of the Directors of La Cooperativa (my school), was patiently waiting for me. Clearly they are used to the tardy arrivals of their students. The road leading into San Pedro is one of the steepest and most windy (not to mention notoriously dangerous as filled with some very serious pot-holes) roads that I have ever been on. It is currently under construction and people can expect to get stuck on the road from anywhere from 20 minutes to three hours. Talk about a large window! Fortunately, we were the former. I am still astounded that people take this road daily to commute to nearby towns/cities (Solola, Xela), and therefore can have anywhere between a two to five hour commute. Insanity.

As I mentioned, the first night in the house was a little strange. Miguel, my Guatemalan Dad, came and met me at the school and walked me to the house. Upon arriving at the house, I was convinced I would never find the school again. There were so many twists and turns, and everything basically looked the same. Everyone else in the family was at Church when I arrived that first evening (they are devout Evangelists, which is the strictest of Religions in Central America). As my current level of Spanish did not stretch far (there is only so many times you can say "hola, como estas?" before it gets ridiculous), I opted to stay in my room that night with some light reading and gave myself a ridiculously early bedtime of 8pm. I was tired and I was starving, but it was pouring, and I had no idea where I was and how to ask where I can buy food. Awkward.

The next morning (and the mornings that followed) only got better. I arrived downstairs to find my Guatemalan Mum, Maria, cooking me breakfast. Pancakes. Amazing, I was starving, and annihilated about seven (gluttonous, yes, but I hadn't eaten since midday the previous day). This of course, I believe, caused the issue that I now have with the family serving me insanely large portions of food. Aside from the fact that to them, I am a walking freakshow (I don't think anyone is above my shoulder), I clearly need to eat like a monster. I spent the next two to three weeks "reconditioning" Maria to giving me normal sized portions. I'm happy to report that now (as I write this, I am closing in on my third week at the house, I am allocated regular sized meals).

My family, the Rocche Peneleu's are a lovely local family who have been hosting students like myself for the last ten years. They are most definitely well versed in the awkward silences, nonsensical comments and just the peculiar behaviours that result from mixing two groups of people from very different cultures who have completely different native languages. They are also some of the most unbelievably patient and kind people thatI have met and I will forever be grateful for their generosity.

It definitely took me almost a week to figure out who was in the family. The family has quite a large home (it can hold up to three students at any given time) and there are always people from the extended family that are in the home. For this reason, for the first few days, I thought Maria and Miguel had about eight children (which honestly wouldn't be surprising here!). But it was really just the cousins who came over after school to visit as Maria watched them while their parents finished up working. In reality, there are three daughters in the family; Ana-Maria (the eldest who is 18 and lives and goes to school in Xela), Norma (who is 16 and lives and goes to school in Solola), and the youngest, Angela (what a little character she is! She lives at home in San Pedro and is 9). Miguel works in Solola during the week but is often home from Thursday through Sunday nights. There is also Alejandro, Maria's father, who also lives here but seems to come and go a lot (at least he isn't at every mealtime, anyway!).

The school is a short 5-7 minute walk from "mi casa". Norma walked me to school the first day and after she dropped me off, I was convinced that I would never find it again! Fortunately, I made a point of taking a few photos of some key landmarks along the way (I live right off of the main "Mercado" aka market in town) and on a street with two Evangelist Churches (there is always church music blaring during the night, lucky me...I get to fall asleep to the sound of people in choirs!).

The school is absolutely stunning and set on a hill overlooking Lake Atitlan. It was the first cooperative that was started in San Pedro. Rumour has it that prior to it's establishment, there were some issues with some exploitation and corruption involved with the payment of the teachers (not surprising). The students were being charged relatively hefty fees, however, the teachers were being paid abysmally poorly. A very long story short, but eventually five of the teachers banded together to form the five Directors of La Cooperativa, which was the first school of its kind that had a very keen focus for giving back to the community.

Hmmm...now what to say about Ruben (mi maestro, aka teacher)?! Well, I will begin by saying that Ruben is an absolute legend and definitely has the patience of a saint! He is itty bitty (I don't think even comes up to my shoulder) but is so full of personality and incredibly witty. You have no idea how badly I have wanted to call him "Ruby Tuesday" (I always called him that behind his back) but have restrained myself on several occasions for two main reasons. The first being that I am quite certain that the comedic reference would be completely lost on him, and the second, I don't want to emasculate the poor fella (it's probably bad enough having a woman completely tower over him). He doesn't take this whole "learning Spanish thing" too seriously and definitely allows a bit of time for us to goof around (of course he only speaks to me in Spanish so even our goofing around is educational). Along with all the important lessons in Spanish I need to know, he also teaches me the "fun" words. We make jokes (bromas) constantly, especially with the gardener Delfino (the biggest character out there!)...I even know how to say womanizer in Spanish (mujeriego...because Delfino is one!). And in returning the favour, I explained to young Ruben what "el pero del perro" is (aka hair of the dog). You can only imagine the strange looks I got from him when I was trying to explain that to him in Spanish..."are you sure you said that right, Mel?! COMO???".

Raquel (really Rachael but in Spanish it's pronounced Raquel), was the first friend that I made while I was in San Pedro and we were attached at the hip ever since. She's a young lass from Oregon who recently graduated from university last year and was spending ten weeks in San Pedro learning Spanish following a nice little one month stint in Thailand earlier in the summer. Her Spanish is great and has been a great resource for me when I need to avoid whipping out Spanglish when we are outside the confines of the school (Spanglish is ok in school if you don't know the word because at least the teachers know basic English). She has most definitely been my partner in crime. We have a very similar sense of humour so have been fortunately able to keep ourselves entertained quite easily just "shooting the shit" and consuming excessive quantities of brownies and lattes at our favourite local coffee shop, Cafe Las Cristalinas.

So what's in like to be in Spanish school you ask? Everyday is somewhat similar (at least during the weeks - I felt like a child living at home again!), here is a basic run down of how I spend my time:

7am - Wake up

7.30am - Breakfast - Maria cooks up a whole host of different things. Some better than others. Pancakes are always a good option. Quite often I eat cornflakes with a banana and milk (although sometimes it's the gross fortified stuff...yuck). Definitely the most random breakfast is when I get fruit, covered in granola with maple syrup on top. I'm really not sure what is going on here, usually there is supposed to be yogurt. Quite funny. Eating granola with a fork and no liquid to soak it up is near impossible!

8am -10.20am - Class

10.20-10.40am - Break (Bocadio!!!). This is my favourite time of the day as we get homemade snacks that Lorenzo & Louis's wives prepare for us. Monday's is usually some kind of bread (banana or pineapple), Tuesdays are tayuyos which are basically a tortilla that is stuffed with liquified black beans (my absolute favourite!). Wednesday is chuchito's, which is similar to a tamale, a corn bun that has a tomato based sauce and chicken inside. Thursday is always a surprise (Tostada's are the best!). And Friday are Chicky´s, which are a local Guatemalan cookie.

10.40 - 12pm Class

12-2pm - Lunch. Maria is an excellent cook and I have been so fortunate to be blessed with a wide variety of exceptional meals. I've grown to absolutely love tortillas (thankfully because they are forced down my throat at every meal!), although, I still cannot seem to put away as many as they can. It is seriously impressive! Alejandro always tells me the secret to improving my Spanish is to eat more tortillas. He says 20 is good. I only wish it was that simple (I would have destroyed them all in the first lunch!).

2- 4pm - Class

4 - 7pm Cafe las Cristalinas. This is Raquel & I's second home. We go here everyday for their delicious coffee (and hot chocolate) as well as their homemade chocolate and brownies. They also have free wifi (we obviously don't have wifi with the families)! Louis (the owner), and his family, his wife, Claudia, and children (Louis & Claudia...nice and straight forward, there is also another little one but I never remember her name) are so lovely and always welcome us with open arms. They let us practice our Spanish with them, and are always willing to entertain our antics (like the afternoon we decided to make kites but really had no idea what we were doing so had to enlist Louis Jr. for his help).

7-8pm - Dinner at home.

8pm onwards - Study, Reading, Bed...

During the week, the school also puts on various extracurricular activities.

Monday - usually a group conference where we have to get together as classmates and have a discussion in Spanish.

Tuesday is movie night. We usually watch a Guatemalan documentary (English subtitles) on the history of Guatemala. I must admit that I was quite ignorant on the details of Guatemala's turbulent past and certainly did not realise that it was still continuing into the 90s. It has been incredibly eye opening for me.

Wednesday is salsa night! Louis, one of the teachers are the school, is an exceptional salsa dancer (my teacher says he likes to think he's Cuban!) and teaches us the ¨moves¨...

Every second Friday we deliver food to impoverished local families. The school has many projects that it is involved in for the wider community within San Pedro. These projects include scholarships for poor children to attend school, building homes for poor families, and various other educational projects. Also included in this list is sponsoring 28 families in the community who are in dire straits and struggling to make ends meet. Ten percent of our school fees and tuition goes towards these projects, and let me tell you, it goes a long way for these people. It was a very important initiative for me when choosing the school as I wanted some of my payment to assist those in need. My teacher, Ruben, is responsible for two families and while I was there, every second Friday, we would deliver foods and other important household items to these families. The conditions these poor people live in are shocking. The first family that I met was Magdalena's family. Magdalenga has eight children and unfortunately for the family, the father is an alcoholic and no longer in the picture as he was unable to provide for the family. Magdalenga produces beautiful textiles, but sadly in the community, that does not reap much of a pay check as it is a highly competitive field (the neighbouring town, San Juan, is very famous for its textiles). Three days work will reward her with 30Q (which is about 4 dollars!). Fortunately, the youngest three children are still in school (and we hope to keep it this way), while the eldest five are in the mountains working for the family. The other family, Pedro's family, is another very sad story indeed. Prior to his accident in the mountain thirteen years ago that left him blind and unable to work, Pedro's family were managing just fine. Sadly for Pedro, he does not have a blind stick, and can only manage to find his way down to the Main Street at the foot of his house to beg for money. Clearly his earnings is not nearly enough to put food on the table for his family. He has four children, two of which are grown and have families of there own, and the youngest two, are again fortunately still in school (again, let's hope it stays this way). What is truly heart wrenching is that Pedro's youngest child is 9, and being that the accident was 13 years ago, he has never seen his son before.

It is truly a very humbling experience meeting these people and having a chance to interact with them and getting an insight into their lives. If it is even more possible to be grateful for what I have and the incredible experiences of my life thus far, this has made me even more so. Even though in the grand scheme of their lives my contribution was only very small, I am delighted that I was able to help in some small way.

Saturday is usually a hike, kayaking or even zip-lining. It always depends on the week (and how many students are enrolled at any given time).

...and that sums up my routine from Monday to Friday! Of course the weekends are a little more exciting and with a few more adventures...

My first weekend, I predominantly spent it around San Pedro in an attempt to get acclimatised to life there. But it didn´t take long for me to come to the conclusion that I really could spend some quality time in this lovely little village. The town itself is very heavily geared towards tourism (to an extent). Quite often, travellers opt to bypass this little gem due to the fact that it can be somewhat difficult to get there due to the bad roads. The town is very much divided into two sections, the first being where the locals stay, which is up the ¨hill¨from the waterfront. This is where I lived. It was very local, but I loved it and felt like it gave me more of an authentic experience of what it would be like to live in Guatemala as a Guatemalteca. The second section of the town is essentially ¨Gringolandia¨, as the locals have affectionately coined it. This is where most tourist stay and is where the party happens! And San Pedro is definitely a party town (if you want it to be that way). There are so many fabulous restaurants that cater for basically anything you can imagine, as well as a tonne of hostels. The overall vibe in San Pedro is very chilled and definitely has some hippy-esque undertones. Although if you really wanted a good dose of a hippy community, the tiny village across the lake, San Marcos is a hippies paradise (and was one of my favourite places on the lake). Full of holistic practitioners, great vegetarian/vegan eats, yoga and just all around awesomeness.

Every Friday night, Hostel Fe puts on a quiz night and is certainly a must do if you are ever in town! Raquel and I joined a group of friends that I had made in Antigua who had just arrived in San Pedro. We didn't fare particularly well, but it was a great night and the quizmaster was an absolutely hilarious bloke from Manchester. Good times all round. Friday night quiz was a regular occurrence during my stay and a great time to let my hair down a little. Especially because at times, I was very much feeling like a teenager living at home again...

Aside for scoping out my new digs, the only other notable event that occurred on my first weekend was my introduction to Irish Dancing. One of the ladies who was at my school, Fina, had decided that she would like to spend Saturday afternoon teaching a group of us how to do Irish dancing. Fortunately, for my sake, not too many people showed up so my horrendous attempt at Irish dancing was only shared among a very small group of people. I got paired with a gorgeous little Guatemalan girl, Adalouisa, who worked at her mum´s tienda (shop) next to the school. As you can imagine, there were lots of laughs shared with all of us throughout our two hour class. It was quite the workout (I really don´t know how they do it pissed?!) and I think Fina´s comment to me about half way during the class sums my efforts up perfectly...¨Now Mel, why don´t you just concentrate on what direction you are going in and not worry about the footwork. Enough said. I think I can rule out being a professional Irish Dancer when I grow up.

The second weekend, was certainly a lot more eventful, and active, for that matter. Saturday began painfully early with an alarm at 2.30am to take a sunrise hike up el Volcan de San Pedro. Our guide, Martin, a lovely young Guatemalan lad who is the brother of one of the teachers at the school, was our very experienced guide that met Raquel, Ben and I outside of the Catholic Church in town at 3am. Because it was so early, the tuktuks didn't run, so we were forced to hike up until the beginning of the hike. Of course it was all uphill and we were out of breath before we even began (well, not Martin)! Brutal. I made the superior oversight in deciding that it was appropriate to begin the hike while eating half a loaf of coconut bread. This caused me to feel incredibly nauseated for the first half of the hike and delayed my "equalizing" for altitude so was huffing and puffing like I was having a heart attack. It was definitely the toughest physical obstacle I have ever had to overcome, and I am certainly glad that I pushed through because about half way up, I stablised and then I was fine. Note to self, in future, don't eat and hike at the same time. Bad idea. Unfortunately for Ben, he was in struggle town shortly after beginning the hike so had to turn back. This altitude business is a killer! We managed to get from the Church to Peak in three hours (which apparently is decently quick). But I'm not going to lie, on most of the breaks I was definitely doing my fair share of tree hugging (and not the hippy kind). I was too tired to hold myself up, so was hugging trees! The views were spectacular and as you can imagine, it was extremely frigid at the top. Certainly well worth the agony.

Later that Saturday I cooked for my family. They were very curious about Australian cuisine, and as we are a relatively knew country that doesn´t have a unique culinary culture, I opted for pasta (we do have a lot of Italians in Australia.). I decided to make them two types, spaghetti bolognaise and pesto penne. It was their first time eating pesto, and I was a little nervous as the flavours are quite pungent and the typical food in Guatemala isn't overly strong. Fortunately, they adored it (after a few interesting faces being pulled at the first taste of pesto!). But of course, no meal in Guatemala is complete without tortillas, and Maria made us eat our pasta with tortillas. Talk about carbo-loading!

On Sunday, Raquel and I had another early start (seriously, this early weekend business really needs to stop!) and we took a shuttle three hours to a town called Chichitenango (or Chi Chi) for the markets (Mercardo de ChiChi), which are very famous local markets in the region that are renowned for their colours and local handicrafts. The markets were fantastic and definitely worth a visit (excellent people watching too)!

That evening, we hit up Cafe Atitlan for dinner (home of the best nachos and guacamole!) where we made friends with a local Guatemalan man from Antigua named Alessandro who was here on business. Alessandro is by far the tallest Guatemalan I have seen (but apparently Raquel has seen one larger, he is the coach of the basketball team, yes, hilarious I know, and apparently he is 6'4") and certainly a very interesting bloke. I'd say he was in his early 40s, he speaks great English (learned in Montreal, which I find hysterical), and comes from a very prominent family in Guatemalan politics. Next year, he will be working on the political campaign of his friend, a female, run for President. We had quite the interesting discussion with him about politics in Guatemala (and Guatemala´s turbulent history) and it is definitely exciting to think that there could potentially be a female president in Guatemala in the next term!

My third (and final) weekend in San Pedro of course kicked off with a bang at the Friday night quiz with the Germans, Raquel and Gunther (I think that was his name) the Belgian who loves his brews (and probably one of the most brutal yet entertaining drunks that I have ever experienced). We did relatively well, ended up coming in fifth, with the teams 1 - 5 having three points between them! Smart cookies. It was certainly "intense" being on a quiz team with my German friends. They try and "reason" everything. By far one of the most absurd conversations that I have had to date was rationalizing what colour a hippopotamus' sweat was (yes, I am serious). I think the sarcasm in my comment of them sweating glitter was completely lost, but for those of you who are interested, the sweat of a hippopotamus is red! And miraculously, we got the question correct. Perhaps there is some merit in German reasoning ;).

On Saturday, Raquel and I spent the day in San Marcos getting in touch with our inner hippy in-between cliff jumps off the San Marcos trampoline (and neighbouring slightly lower cliff, in my case). I really loved San Marcos, and after spending the day there was seriously debating if I should leave the Lake without staying there for a period of time. But then again, I could also see myself getting ¨stuck¨there...so decision made, keep moving as planned!

Sunday was a relatively low key day but began with an epic blunder. We decided to walk to San Juan for the "markets" only to discover they didn't have a Sunday Market (and as clarified by Ruben, NEVER had a market). We have no idea where we got that idea from! The rest of the day was exceptionally lazy, wandering around San Pedro, in and out of various establishments and cafes. Sometimes it's nice to be a tourist in your own town!

What an exceptional start that I have had to my Central and South American chapter. I am not sure why, but even though my experiences thus far have been truly amazing, I still have a feeling that the best is yet to come. I feel so grateful for what I've experienced to date; learning Spanish and calling San Pedro my home for the past month has been one of my favourite experiences in my travels thus far. I definitely understand how easy it could be to wake up one morning and realise you have just spent the last year in San Pedro (or the Lake for that matter)...the tranquility and magnetism of this place is intoxifying! I've also been so fortunate to meet so many remarkable people to date (many of which I haven't been able to mention in the blog), it's honestly surpassed every expectation. I am definitely one very lucky girl.

Hope this finds you well, wherever it is in the world that you are.

Mel xx

And this is where the magic happened (well to be fair, I wouldn´t really refer to my attempt to learn Spanish as ´magic´, but you get the drift). Can you blame me for spending most of my class zoning out?! The view is sensational (especially when Ruben had us taking classes on the roof, which he didn´t let me do too often...because of the whole not paying attention thing...)
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The sole Catholic Church in San Pedro...gorgeous!
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San Pedro by kayak
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Rachael & I kayaking...I'm still not convinced that you can actually call it kayaking as we spent an hour going around in circles, but hey...we tried! Who knew a tandem kayak was so difficult?! And more proof that my selfie skills have still not improved...
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Guatemala Feliz Dia de la Indepencia! Not long into my classes and I'm already in my teachers ear about ditching class to take me to go and watch parades...a bad student! But I had to see what the fuss was all about. Since I had arrived, all I had heard was non stop band practice at the churches along my street every night (and way into the night!). I basically knew all the songs anyway...
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The traditional outfit, and yes, as my friend Amy pointed out, they do look like they are in their PJs!
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Martin & Raquel at the top of the volcano when we first arrived. I cannot tell you how deflated I felt when we first got to the top and were amongst a thick haze of fog. All that pain for nothing!!! Fortunately, a few minutes later, just as Martin advised, it lifted...he does the hike at least three times a week - he should know!
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Yeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!
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One of the most beautiful parts of the world...magic! And well worth the agony of the climb.
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This is my favourite photo of Raquel and I. It sums up our spaziness perfectly! A completely out of timed jump with ridiculous faces...classic!
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Our "other" study buddy Pedrito (aka "Little Pedro" which later became a Pedrita after getting to know her a bit better!). She lived at Cafe Las Cristalinas and would come and sit with us every day. She also had a hankering for brownies...
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The Chicken Buses of San Pedro! A wise man (my French friend Ben), once told me that the more pimped out the buses are, the safer they are because they are more likely to inject money to maintenance of the brake system. I'm still not 100% convinced on his rationale as I can imagine a scenario where every last dollar went into the outfitting...it's a religion here! You should see the tuk tuks...
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So I didn't do the greatest job of doing my homework as I had chosen to come to Guatemala during the rainy season. It isn't really all that bad, just a bit of rain in the afternoon (and wasn't heavy most of the time). Clearly this was taken on a very heavy afternoon! And this is one of the two most pimped out tuk tuks in town! It well and truly puts the tuk tuks of India to shame!
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Mercardo de ChiChi! Church in the thick of the action at ChiChi markets.
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Not sure how many of you are Arrested Development fans but it seems frozen banana sales are through the roof in Guatemala! A hot commodity indeed...and at 1Q a pop...why not?! (FYI, about 7Q= $1USD).
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And this my friends is how you carry around chickens in Guatemala. I chased this man down the street for this pic...the things I will do for a good photo!
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Masks at ChiChi.
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The Trampoline at San Marcos! I didn't do it but Raquel did it about five times. I just managed the 4m cliff dive...I'm a wuss!
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Post cliff dive #1...the water is so clear! Stunning views...
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Racquel and I with our kite! We called it "Barrilete de La Tortuga Incomoda y El Insector Rojo Ron" (The kite of the awkward turtle and the red rum insect). Made out of tissue paper, it was quite possibly one of the longest arts and crafts afternoons that I have ever experienced. Thankfully we are excellent patrons at the Cafe so Luis didn't mind enlisting his son and daughter to help us try and construct it. And also gives me a new found appreciation for kite making! Kite flying is serious business here in Guatemala and funnily enough, is only popular (or done) by young boys. Being the progressive women that we are, we decided to try and start a small empowering movement with the young local girls. Not sure it got too far...our kite kind of tanked (hardly an inspiration!). But we got to salvage some class time to go and fly it with our teachers (they most definitely think we are nuts!).
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A momentary glimpse of success as it launched for about 10 seconds before meeting its ultimate demise!
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The morning that I decided that I wanted another early morning start (4am) and climb the Indian Nose! Stunning sunrise. If you look carefully, you can see that Fuego (one of the volcanoes in Antigua) is smoking! I love the Lake, by far one of the most beautiful places that I have visited to date.
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Me at the summit of Nariz del Indio! Brrrrrrr
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During the final week at school, Raquel and I decided to hop over to the neighbouring town of San Juan and hit up El Artisiano for queso y vino! It was a very happy afternoon for me. I thoroughly indulged in my fair share of wine before rolling into afternoon class an hour later. Ruben said my Spanish improved exponentially and subsequently encouraged me to come to every class buzzed...
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Me and my own personal cheese platter. We also split a fondue. A very cheesey afternoon but was well worth the food coma! I had really missed cheese! Over fifty different types of cheese on that platter if I remember correctly...yummmm
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All about the lancha en route to Panajachel...Ruben, Raquel and Griselda (Racquel's teacher) in the back.
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The dock of Panajachel. Pinch me! This place is so bloody beautiful! It was probably a 40 minute journey by boat from San Pedro.
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Raquel won a running race and was being interviewed in Spanish over a speaker system. I just loved her expression here....GRISELDAAAAAA...HELPPPPPPPP!!!
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And this is how winners carry trophies! All the young children were mesmerised by Raquel for winning the race...so cute!
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I'll have a SUPER GRINGA taco please!
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Serious game of Fusball happening here...
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The Fair at Panajachel
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By far the strangest thing that I have ever experienced...all of a sudden, out of nowhere, about 50 dressed up characters come out in front of the main stage and start salsa dancing! So bizarre and hilarious...they must have been sweating bullets in their suits! But the Guatemalatecas were absolutely loving it! How creepy are the white people?! Eeeeeekkkkkkkk...
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More characters in action...some of them are quite scary! I have some excellent film footage of it all...seriously weird. And why were they doing salsa?! Somethings I will never understand...
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Ruben and I at the Lake.
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The ladies of the house (Ana Maria, Angela, Me & Maria...Norma is inserted in frame)! For my last night, I bought them a cake and had the baker put a special thank you message for them. They were thrilled to bits (so much so that Maria started crying!). Such a lovely family...and they LOVE cake! They were very excited for the fact that there were a lot of leftovers which meant pastel y cafe por desayano (cake and coffee for breakfast!).
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My beautiful Guatemalan Family! The loveliest family that I could have ever hoped for. From left to right: the eldest daughter (18) Ana Maria, the dad, Miguel, Angela (9), and my "mum" Maria. And of course Norma in the frame (16).
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This is what we expats like to refer to as a suicide shower...check out those electrical cords! The water is heated right in the head of the shower. Don't worry mum, I always showered with my thongs on! And it's a stretch to say that it is hot water...I was pretty stoked when it was mildly above a luke warm temperature. Usually it was a tad above room temperature...washing your hair days were rough! And on my part, few and far between...hello headbands!
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Posted by melpage 14:06 Archived in Guatemala Tagged san_pedro Comments (0)

Guat's up?!

Tales of Antigua

Antigua, what a beautiful place! Antigua is a small city in the central highlands of Guatemala. It is about an hours drive from the Guatemala City airport and is a very tourist (particularly backpacker) friendly town in Guatemala because it is quite safe and is the home of many Spanish schools. Surrounded by several large volcanoes, it makes its colonial architecture and cobble stone streets of this quaint city that much more beautiful.

I didn't arrive at my hostel (El Hostal - highly recommend!!!) until after dark on Thursday evening. After eleven plus hours of being cramped on an airplane, I was absolutely exhausted. As such, I didn't get up to too much that evening. I was in a room full of Aussies (surprise!) so hung out with them for a while until I could not longer keep my eyes open (circa 9.30pm - party animal!).

I rose early the next day and decided to keep my first day relatively low key. From speaking to lots of people at the hostel who had been in Antigua for a few days, I soon realised that most of the town can be covered in one day. There are, however, many day trips that you can take to the volcanoes and coffee fields nearby. Clearly it was key to spread out my activities, not that I was in any rush anyway!

It wasn't hard to completely lose track of time wandering through the streets. So many beautiful buildings and old churches to see. The people of Antigua are so lovely also. They were very happy to chat to you and let you practice your Spanish with them. My Spanish is extremely limited right now so the conversations did not go far, but it was nice to give it a bash and at least practice getting my ear in. I cannot wait for the day when it will be competent!

That evening, on the recommendation of my friends Hugh & Ros, who have travelled extensively in Central America and been to Antigua, I was told to go for a meal at Caffe Mediterraneo for the best Italian food they had ever tasted! Apparently they ate there every single night they were in Antigua (why resist a good thing?!). The food was incredible! Definitely confirmed to be some of the best Italian food that I have ever had. I also had the pleasure of being invited to dine with a lovely man called Juan once he saw that I was dining alone. Juan, a middle aged Guatemalan, was from Guatemala City originally, but has a home in Antigua which he visits on the weekends in and effort to escape the hustle and bustle (clearly a member of the upper class and has travelled through the west extensively). He is the father of three daughters who are all around my age or slightly older and spoke impeccable English (clearly, I would not have picked up this much in Spanish!). The fatherly figure in him seriously stepped up a notch when I began to tell him my plans (or maybe lack of plans) for my travels in Central and South America. He was overly concerned for my safety and began giving me tips of the ¨only¨countries and cities that would be safe for my exploration, which according to Juan was very few. There was to be no taking buses anywhere (only fly - not really an option given my budget!), don´t go out at night alone and never tell anyone that you are travelling solo. Bless him, he meant well, but definitely on the severely over-protective side. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed his company that evening (always beats dining alone) and he was my very first encounter with the generosity of the Guatemalan people, something that I would later discover to be one of my favourite parts of this beautiful country.

Following dinner, I returned to the hostel for a few drinks with some of my hostel mates and then went to bed. I had a 5.30am start the next day to climb Volcano Pacaya.

Climbing Volcano Pacaya was an incredible experience! It certainly wasn't the most challenging hike that I have ever done (definitely on the easier side) but I must say that the first few minutes were the toughest. Not because it was particularly challenging physically, but more because of the change in altitude. It took a couple 15 minutes for my body to go from puffing to a normal breathing. I must admit that at first I was really worried because thought that if I was panting this much in ten minutes, how on earth was I going to make a 60 minute hike?! The views were amazing and I was fortunate to snap some pretty incredible pictures!

I cannot tell you how nice it is to be back on the backpackers route in a hostel. While I felt that I definitely needed a much deserved break from the backpackers scene post Europe, I really did miss meeting all the randoms that you meet along the way and the incredible experiences that unfold because of it. By far it is the best part of travelling! Everyone is so open and welcoming, it is so easy to make friends.

Next up, San Pedro La Laguna where I am planning to spend a month at a language school!

Hope this finds you well, wherever it is in the world that you are!

Mel xx

Monasterio La Merced.
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Parque Central. The "place" for people watching. This is where all the action in Antigua happened!
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So happy to be back to a "foreign" country where I can snap all these random gems!
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I love Antigua. Beautiful little town surrounded by some very picturesque mountains/volcanoes.
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Church San Francisco. Built in 1542 and is the oldest functioning church in Antigua.
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I was having an afternoon stroll nearby to Parque Central when I heard a lot of commotion in the direction of the park. I decided to take a small detour and found this! I am still not exactly sure what was going on here but when I asked someone in the street what was going on they said that it was the university (perhaps school, they look young?!) doing some kind of commemorative dance in preparation for Guatemala's Independence Day, which I believe is on the 15th of September. Amazing costumes! And a very unexpected find...
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Random street shots
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El Arco which is perhaps one of the most recognised monuments in Antigua. In the background is Agua Volcano (a water volcano!).
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More street shots.
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The beginning of the hike up Volcan de Pacaya. We were fortunate to have great crisp weather for it. It quickly felt very hot.
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Three young Guatemalans followed us on horseback in case we couldn't make it up to the top. "Taxi for the Chicas"...I'm not really sure why the girls were only singled out here?!
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The Lava Store at the top! Look at all that steam...even though there was so much of it, it really didn't make it feel any warmer.
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Just your average Saturday morning...climbing volcanoes! In the background you can see Fuego and Acatenanga.
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Roasting marshmallows on the volcano! A pretty tasty mid hike snack!
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The Germans really had the right idea here - they had bread, cheese and even some eggs on the go! Talk about being prepared!
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I don't know the name of these ruins but some lovely remains of a church.
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Mercado del Carmen. The colours are amazing!
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Beautiful Mayan ladies and their goods (having a snack)
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Antigua's response to the ute watermelon selling of Athens!!!
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Posted by melpage 09:59 Archived in Guatemala Tagged antigua Comments (0)

And the fascinator gets another outing...

Essex...round two!

Despite a quick trip to London being a giant detour in my travels, when a great friend of yours gets married, things like this must be done and I was thrilled to do it. Plus, who doesn't love an English wedding (hello fascinator!)?!

I arrived in London at the civilised hour of 9am on Friday morning. Unfortunately on the flight over I did not have much sleep at all (the girl next to me spent the entire flight trying to spoon me through the seat - lucky me!). Even though it was incredibly awkward, and I was far too polite to push away her advances, I didn't mind too much as I had been reassigned my seating to a bulkhead (hello legroom!). Of course, in typical Mel fashion, this reassignment was not without a bit of drama. A very long story short, my initial assignment was being sandwiched between an Orthodox Jew and a regular Joe who was hell bent on retaining his aisle seat (understandably). The Orthodox Jew for religious reasons would not sit next to me (and clearly the regular Joe would not move), and unfortunately the plane was basically full. After a bit of a scene, the frazzled flight attendant finally was able to secure me a seat at a bulkhead close by (of course I was wishing for first class!). I´ll take what I can get!

Arriving in Essex was also not without adversities on the train. Fortunately, I managed to stay awake getting to the Liverpool Street station on the tube, however, the train to Marks Tey was another story. I completely passed out only to wake up just as the doors were opening at Marks Tey some 50 minutes later. My heart jumped into my chest, and you have never seen me move so fast with all of my bags. As you can imagine, a transition under duress is never smooth. I did manage to get off the train and through the doors before they closed, but one of my bags broke and my things were sprawled all over the entrance to the train and platform. I must have made quite the ruckus because the conductor soon came out to see what the commotion was about. They stopped the train and I collected my things. A short while later, and Liz (aka Breezey) was honking her way through the Marks Tey carpark. Gawd, I missed her!

Breezey is a great friend of mine from the touch rugby team that I used to play on in Bermuda. She was one of the first girls that I made friends with on the team and is also a fellow Big Four alumni (we shared war stories during our busy seasons at work...brutal! And I am pleased to report, we both made it out, alive!). She and her fiancé, Gareth (affectionally known as Gav-larrrrrrrrr by yours truly) moved back to the UK over a year ago, and of course I was really missing her. As fabulous as Bermuda is, it´s really tough when your best mates leave.

It was all systems go at The Vineyards (their property and the setting of their fabulous wedding). I could not believe how many bodies there were involved in the entire operation! But already I could see that this was going to be spectacular. I quickly ditched my bags and rolled up my sleeves and got right to work. I met the Maid of Honor and we were off, rolling napkins and organising place settings. An hour or so later, we were finished, and I was zonked. Nap time. I passed out for a good couple of hours in preparation of the evening ahead.

That evening there was a barbecue at their home (brave, I know) for a few of the people who had travelled in for the occasion (namely Gareth's relatives from Wales, an aunt from Dubai and the Bermuda crew). I was particularly excited because it would be the first time in six months since I've seen Hicksie (and her partner Dusty). For those of you who don´t know Hicksie, she is my best friend from Bermuda. We both arrived on the island at a similar time and became fast friends after joining the local touch rugby club and sharing a ravenous thirst for a good bottle of Sauv Blanc (or four). Not long after and we were attached at the hip ever since. I cannot tell you how amazing it was to be reunited with her again (if only for a short while). Friends like these are very few and far between.

As expected, the party at the house shut down relatively early, however, in typical Bermuda fashion, the three of us were sure to keep it going at the Holiday Inn in Colchester, finally closing down in the wee hours of the morning after a few too many ciders (and kahlua´s...seriously, who´s idea was that?!).

The wedding itself was spectacular and such a wonderful reunion. As much effort and stress that went into having such a large event at their home, it made the experience that much more personal. It meant so much to be part of Breezey & Gav-larrrrrrrr´s special day and meet all their friends and family. Lots of music, dancing, exquisite food, and like any good wedding, the booze was flowing. My kind of party!

As you can imagine, after such a large wedding, Sunday morning was not too fresh. With some grease in my belly, I bid farewell to the Walters and the Hickseybalds (two nights is not enough!) and hopped the train to London to meet up with Erin and Gareth (more Bermudian friends) that I was staying with. They have a fabulous flat right near Notting Hill, so was a fantastic location for me to buzz around the city and do the rounds meeting up with friends.

On Tuesday, I met up with Ros and Hugh at Cafe Boheme in SoHo for drinks and then went to Pizza Pilgrims for dinner. The pizza was absolutely outstanding! We had a short wait before we could sit down so made the best use of our time by having a drink at The Toucan (for the Guinness enthusiasts among you, this is a must, apparently the best pint of G in town!). It's a small dive bar, but cosy and boasting seven taps of Guinness! Sounds like a winner to me. As usual with Ros and Hugh, our dinner was full of lots of laughs. They were also able to give me some very helpful tips for Guatemala as they had travelled through Central America two years prior.

Wednesday was a bit of a hectic day. I had planned to go out to St. Albans (about a twenty minute ride from St. Pancras) to catch up with my friend Ross, his girlfriend Gemma, and to meet their lovely six month old baby, Jack. They took me to The Waffle House, a local hotspot, for lunch and I had my first taste of a savoury waffle. It was delicious! Definitely recommend a visit if you are ever there. Who knew hummus and avocado was so good on a waffle?! Jack is such a gorgeous baby. Very happy and smiles all the time. So lovely to see them.

Following lunch, I headed back into London to meet up with some more friends for drinks and dinner. We met at the Prince Regent Pub and had a gorgeous meal. Again, it was another evening filled with laughter and I had the pleasure of catching up with Sasha, Joe & Alex (as well as Erin & Gareth) who I had not seen in years! Good to know that even after all these years, our friendship hasn´t changed.

The next morning was an atrociously early start for a 7.30am flight out of Heathrow. But despite the ungodly hour, I was beaming. I was finally beginning my trip to Central and South America...a new chapter was unfolding and I could not wait to see how it plays out.

Hope this finds you well, wherever it is in the world that you are.

Mel xx

PS Big thank yous to all my mates in London, you never cease to amaze me with your generosity! And to those of you who I didn´t see (there never seems to be enough time!)...see you next time! And I really hope to see you all in Aussie one day...

The Hickseybalds looking very glamorous on the walk to the church from L&G's place. It was about a 300m walk down the road - perfect!
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You know you're at an English wedding when you find people playing cricket outside the church! Funnily enough when I was back in the UK for my friend Sam & Greg's wedding, there was croquet!
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The stunning bride and her Dad, Malcom.
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Just Married! And apparently cruising down the aisle far too quickly for me to snap a pic without it being a bit blurry...my apologies!
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Hicksie & I outside of the church.
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Outside of the church.
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Throwing confetti on the happy couple!
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Where it all happened...such a beautiful location.
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Now the party starts!
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More guests
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The outside barn bar! They impressively made it themselves...
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Posh porta-loos. Ridiculous to take a photo of these I know, but they were so bloody nice! If only all porta-loos were like this!!!
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Inside the main tent
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Dusty was our chief carver...and as expected, he had most of it on his plate!
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The Three Amigos! Dusty, Hicksie and I. I really miss these guys!!!
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First dance! L&G have some serious moves!
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Another beautiful pic of the Hickseybalds...two very relaxed looks.
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The Tower of London (had to be a tourist at least once).
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London Bridge
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Posted by melpage 08:03 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged london copford Comments (0)

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