A Travellerspoint blog

Rio Dulce, meaning sweet river

semi-overcast 34 °C
View 15 Countries in 8 Months on JEK's travel map.

I am a little behind in our travel updates so this is my attempt to catch you up and keep Momma happy. Emily has had super feedback on her blog entry and I am trying to convince her that she should take it over but she is not convinced. At first glance Rio Dulce (pronounced Doolsay) is a dirty town with a strip of food and clothing stalls that take up the entire sidewalk leaving it perilous for pedestrians because of the steady stream of Semi trucks, buses, cars and motorcycles. There is so much exhaust you can hardly breath and the thought of eating the food makes me queazy but once you get off the main street the river and marina is quite nice. As we drove into town on the bus we spotted Steve and Logan and it didn't take us long to catch up with them at The Shack a little bar that literally is a shack built over the river. Here we met Captain Guy, a fellow Canadian from North Vancouver, a very interesting chap who has more stories than I could count, at first I was sceptical that any one man could have lived a life so full of adventure but I'm pretty sure after a couple days in his company that no-one could make that stuff up! And a wonder that he ever made it through the 80's without injury or incarceration although I'm not certain about the latter. After our first night hanging out at the shack with new friends it didn't take much to convince us to take an overnight sailing trip on Guys' 45 ft Catamaran joined by two young Dutch girls, Anna and Josca. Our second day we spent taking a local bus out to a place called Finca Paraiso where a hot waterfall spills over into a cool stream forming a natural hot shower, the hottest shower we have found in all of Guatemala. The bus itself was interesting just 15 quetzals to ride each way and a 17 passenger bus with 21 people in it, well actually 20, the ticket taker was riding on the outside of the bus on the running boards, yikes! That combined with the crazy Guatemalan driving scared the crap out of me, I don't understand when you're stopping every few miles to pick up and drop off people the need to pass every vehicle on the road, in this case two loaded dump trucks that would then pass us and we had to repeat the whole scary process again, omg. Our new young friend Logan, being on his way to Utilla, Honduras to get his dive master ticket needed a place to stay on the mainland to catch an early bus the next day so he stayed with us in the extra bunk beds and joined us for a brick oven pizza at the Sundog Cafe. A super nice young guy, we got along very well despite the age differences. I think he would be a great match for Jordan ;) Up early to source out a decent bottle of wine and a few beers for our sailing trip, breakfast at Bruno's and we set sail. Not really, because there was no wind but still we are travelling in style and the sun is shining for the first time in days. Captain Guy, as I said before is a product of the 80's so we had great tunes and fascinating stories all the way up to El Golfette a beautiful bay where we anchor for the night and get out the kayaks. Emily and I ventured out first into the mangrove lined canals on two single kayaks and I would be lying if I didn't admit to mistaking a few floating branches for a crocodile. Although we have been assured that there are none and on the rare occasion the they do show up they don't last long because the locals will turn almost anything into a stew but It would be just my luck that this would be the day.. As we start to relax and enjoy the ride we notice all the birds and plants, the shore is sparsely populated with small shacks that you can just make out through the forest and beautiful bright green lily pads with small funny looking birds that run around on top picking bugs from the flowers. Emily is still a bit nervous but doesn't want to return to the boat because it is "boring", she has become quite fond of the night life of travellers and the attention she attracts, so we head out to open water for a paddle around the bay. After a quick swim to cool off and clean up it is happy hour on the boat and Captain Guy is preparing a feast of grilled ginger teriyaki chicken, veggies, rice and garlic bread. Yum! In the morning we motor down a canyon of limestone cliffs and jungle so thick you can't see the end of it into the small Caribbean town of Livingston. Guy leads us through the town on a quick tour and I have the distinct impression that he doesn't want to stick around, I'm not sure if something bad happened here, the Sunday night football game is calling him back or the authorities are after him, could be a bit of all three. The ride back is uneventful but picturesque with a little rain and Jim and I make a lunch for everyone of the leftovers, I could get used to this. We arrived back at dusk to a difficult anchoring in the bay and Emily is exposed to a few new expletives from Captain Guy. Back at the Shack in time for the last game and a burger we are all exhausted and happy but ready to head out on a relatively short (6 hours) bus ride to Antigua in the morning. I will leave off here as Emily has agreed to write the Antigua entry but she is currently napping as she has been feeling unwell last night and today. We think it may have been the street tacos yesterday, we have all taken our turn adjusting to the food and I am increasingly grateful we took the extra time to bring a well stocked medical bag. Imodium being one of our most prized possessions.. Much love to all our subscribers we are up to 12 now, actually 11 because Mom is on there twice teehee, gotta love the support of Moms, love you Momma xo

Posted by JEK 13:03 Archived in Guatemala Tagged "rio_dulce" "livingston Comments (3)

Semuc Champey, a hidden gem

semi-overcast 28 °C
View 15 Countries in 8 Months on JEK's travel map.

Emily did a great job of describing our time in Flores and I don’t really have much to add other that we too enjoyed our time there and despite the sad state of the zoo (that will be my last) it’s a lovely little town. I do want to mention that on our last night there we walked every single street on the island looking for sandwiches for our long bus ride the next day. We didn’t find any sandwiches however I did see a stepped on and very dead tarantula, squashed by someone’s shoe just like we would step on an ant at home. That and the nice girl we met the night before who got bit by some spider and is now delayed 3 days and possibly will have to return home if it doesn’t heal has me very aware of the dangers that could be around and I’ve got Jim killing everything in sight as soon as we arrive anywhere. Except the gecko’s, I love it when we have one or two in our room.

We are up early, showered and waiting for the 8 am bus at 7:25, Jim is always worried we are going to miss it and is very good at getting us up and moving in plenty of time, I am very grateful for this but Emily is not ;) The bus arrives at 8:30 and is a 12 passenger van with no air conditioning and tired looking seats. We are the last to get on so Emily snags the only single seat, Jim is squashed between to Danes in the front and I’m at the back with a group of young Aussies, some of whom we’ve already met in Caye Caulker. In fact, James had written a full Australia driving itinerary in my phone the other night over a few beers at the local island sports bar. The trip was long, about 7 hours and uncomfortable but very entertaining and surprisingly fun. But that was just the first leg... In Coban, the closest and largest city we pulled into the McDonalds parking lot to change busses and have lunch, you should have seen the look on Emily’s face, you’d think we had arrived in Disneyland! This bus was much more comfortable but extremely crowded with luggage and groceries, they really know how to pack a bus, and later I’m to find out that we haven’t seen anything yet. Two and a half hours of trying to watch Fools Gold with Kate Hudson and Mathew McConehy rather than the terrifying cliffs we are perilously perched atop and descending at a speed that seems unnecessarily fast. Our arrival in Lanquin is a frenzy of aggressive Guatemalans yelling hostel names and trying to corral you into the back of their pick-up trucks. We discover that the hostel we booked in Semuc Champey well in advance is overbooked and unavailable that night so with a shrug for an apology we are taken to their affiliate hostel in Lanquin. It turns out this is all for the best as it delays until the next morning a 45-minute ride in the back of a pick-up truck, standing and holding steel bars for stability on an extremely bumpy dirt road to get to our final destination. Also, and much more importantly, we met a superb group of travelers that night at the Hostel Oasis on the Rio Lanquin. Travelling as a family is unique and I’ve become very aware of how other travelers interact with us and especially Emily. The younger set that are most interested in partying their way around a country tend to chat a bit if they are particularly polite people then move on to find their crowd however, we’ve met a few individuals who have made an impression on her and helped quite a lot to define for her the experiences she is having in a kind and gentle way that makes her feel included and special. Ben, if you’re reading this, thank you, it has meant a lot.

In the morning after another cold shower we are up and ready to brave the ride to Semuc Champey and have made arrangements to stay the night in the hostel we had originally booked for this night. It is a horrible ride… The road is so bumpy that you have to hold on with two hands the entire time and if you get a spot on the one small bench, it’s really just a board that goes across the front to hold the luggage in place, you are very lucky, we did not. By the time we arrived my hand are numb and I feel as though I’ve been on one of those exercise machines that is supposed to vibrate all your cellulite away. I wonder...? We arrive all in one piece to find that Hostal Portal is all one room, straw roof bungalows built on beautiful grounds overlooking the river. An open air restaurant and deck also looks over the river but with just 10 minutes to check in and change before our tour we don’t have much time to look around. The tour starts with a grueling 40-minute uphill climb that rivals the hike in Tikal to a stunning view of the natural rock pools, I am ready for a dip. The pools are refreshing and clean, a bright aqua blue and filled with little fish that if you stay still will nibble at you. It’s a very weird sensation and Emily didn’t like it at all but she figured out that if she stayed moving they left her alone. We swam through all the pools jumping or even sliding down natural rock slides from one to the next and even braved a very tight tunnel through the rock that would be a challenge for anyone who is claustrophobic. After some consideration, Emily did it and despite a small bump on the head came away feeling proud and able. We went back to the hostel for lunch and headed out for a cave tour and a float down the river. I won’t go too much into detail about the cave but let’s just say it was challenging in a few areas and a bit scary but thrilling all the same and we came through only a little banged up. And finally a float down the river on an inner tube which we are quite familiar with but this was much colder and dramatically different surroundings. Also quite funny when about 7 young boys came running down the riverbank throwing tubes in the water and yelling “cold beer, 10 quetzales, pay later!!” which is about $1.50CAD. It seems here that the boys sell beer and the girls sell homemade chocolates from the cacao trees, we really didn’t see too many adults except those working in tourism or walking the roads with machete in hand. A lot of farming is done in the area and I’m amazed at the incline that corn can be grown and harvested on. Back at the hostel we are exhausted from the day and after a quick scan for spiders, ready for another cold shower and supper. We don’t really meet any new friends here and kind of keep to ourselves but that’s ok too sometimes. Emily hurt her head and her hand today, both not serious, but a little doctoring and sympathy hugs were needed. All in all, another spectacular corner of the world. We will be up and on the road to Rio Dulce tomorrow to meet our new Canadian friends Logan, Steve, Ben and Gi.

Posted by JEK 15:44 Archived in Guatemala Tagged lanquin semuc_champey Comments (2)

Flores, Guatemala

Writing by Emily

semi-overcast 32 °C
View 15 Countries in 8 Months on JEK's travel map.

We have been in Flores, Guatemala for 3 days and I have had a great experience here. There is a lot of motorcycles and people walking the streets, we happened to come on the day of one of the biggest festivals of the year. This festival brought so many people to the central plaza where they had food stands, live music, dancing, fireworks, the lighting of the christmas tree, and it was very family friendly. The next day we relaxed after traveling on a bus for 4 hours to get here. I did some school work, and after that took a taxi to Burger King which made me so happy considering I miss fast food... lol. On the way back we went on a boat tour on the lake to the zoo one of the islands, which to be honest was a little sad to see the animals locked up and the conditions weren't the best. One of the cutest animals I saw there was the Red Brocket Deer. After that we got a tour around the water which was neat since the sun was starting to set. When we got back we walked to our hotel, got cleaned up and went to dinner at Capitan Tortuga Restaurant and I had nachos with shredded chicken, where as my parents shared a pepperoni pizza. The pizza reminded me of a frozen pizza but it was still good and I loved my nachos. After that we walked back to our hotel on the back side where they had music, desert stands which looked very good, and a party boat that was decorated and took people out on the water every 30 mins for drinks. Then that leaves us to today where we woke up at 2am and took showers and got ready for a tour at Tikal which was an hour and a half from our hotel. For those who don't know what Tikal is, it's the remaining of the Mayan Temples. We had an amazing tour guide who spoke both fluent English and Spanish, and gave great detail about the history behind each monument. The tour started with us walking up what they call "The Fourth Temple", then we sat on the top of the original steps and watched the sunrise although it was a little disappointing because it was really cloudy. Even though it was cloudy we got to hear the monkeys and birds wake up, which they made a loud holler which gave the monkeys their name as the "Holler Monkeys". All the bird were loud no matter what time of day it was because that's just how they are. Through out the tour we surprisingly saw many spider monkeys which was really cool. We got to walk up more monuments which was a little nerve racking for me since I'm scared of heights. Towards the end of the tour we saw an army of ants which meant millions and millions of tiny ants that sting, so the tour guide told us to be cautions. At the very end of the tour it was around 10am and they served us breakfast at their restaurant by the entrance of the park. It was very pleasant, and it felt good to sit down, relax, drink some water, and eat some food. After that the Van took us back to our hotel where we took a little nap since we were so tired and exhausted. Now I'm writing this and about to go to dinner, although I'm not looking forward to getting up at 6am for a 9 hour bus ride to Semuc Champey tomorrow.

Posted by JEK 15:34 Archived in Guatemala Tagged flores Comments (2)

Caye Caulker Island Paradise!!

sunny -35 °C
View 15 Countries in 8 Months on JEK's travel map.

Upon our arrival to Caye Caulker we had a brief tour around the Island on our way to Sophie's guest rooms at the very south end of the island and it is stunning. The beautiful blue ocean, palm trees, white sand, friendly people and bright cheerful buildings give it a very Caribbean feel. Sophie's has no air and a shared bath but the fans are powerful and the showers clean and hot. We are starting to recognize the small pleasures that we have forever taken for granted. Our first night is quiet but we manage to walk most of the town and beach, it is a limestone island surrounded by reef so there is no need for shoes anywhere. Transportation is almost exclusively golf carts and pedal bikes with a few exceptions, we counted three pick up trucks, two excavators, one dump-truck, and a few motorbikes in the three nights we spent there. The Island was severely hit by hurricane Earl in early August and is currently under quite a bit of construction. Many of the beachfront buildings are being completely rebuilt with excavators pulling sand and concrete from the ocean in an effort to restore what was lost. One morning at breakfast chatting with the cafe owner he told us he has to pay $300usd a load to have sand trucked back over to replace what was carried away in the hurricane.

Our first day we booked a snorkelling tour, Emily's first of many we hope and it was an amazing day. It was just the three of us and our guide the ocean was calm and the sun shining. Our guide Art, took us to 3 snorkel sites and we saw many corals and fishes as well as nurse sharks, sting rays, an eagle ray, tarpon fish and seahorses. Emily did very well for her first time out especially since the current was strong and the reef is a long ways from shore so we were swimming from a boat. Our second day we decided to spend some time apart, Emily with her schoolwork in the air conditioned room and us just down stairs at the local beach hang out. We rejoined for supper and a walk around the island where we found an outdoor bar with a couple of pool tables and dartboards. Jim was in heaven. Our final day Emily and I rented bikes and rode around the entire island several times, found the little airport and discovered where the locals live. I joined a yoga class in the afternoon on the rooftop of a hotel during sunset, definitely my happy place. The only downside was that while watching the sunset on day two, I accidentally dropped my phone in the ocean, only for a second but despite a day in a bag of rice it's not working at all the way it's meant to, is our only working phone and contains a lot of our travel information. Oh well, if thats the worst thing we are doing ok. Maybe I'll get an iPhone 7 for Christmas! That and the mosquitos, apparently they do not like Jim at all but Emily and I are suffering quite a bit. All in all Caye Caulker is a very fun, relaxing place to be and we would definitely return.

Posted by JEK 13:17 Archived in Belize Tagged caye caulker Comments (1)

Our first real blunder..

sunny 33 °C
View 15 Countries in 8 Months on JEK's travel map.

We have spent so much time researching this trip and trying to anticipate what is to come but today are faced with the reality that you can't believe everything you read on the internet.. I'm sure this seems obvious to most and we felt extremely foolished when we realized our mistake but chalking it up to live and learn we take a few deep breaths and find plan B. Jim and I spent about an hour early yesterday morning finding the bus stations and purchasing our tickets to Chetuml, the capital of Quintana Roo province and most southernly stop on the west coast of Mexico before crossing into Belize. What we neglected to research thoroughly is the schedule of the water taxi to Caye Caulker. We had sone a little reading on trip advisor prior to leaving but thinking that we would step off the bus and onto the ferry like we were in Horseshoe Bay was naive to say the least. We realized our mistake just prior to our arrival in Chetumal and after switching gears and a few reservations are writing this from the rooftop deck of the downtown Chetumal hostel with another 4 hour bus ride to Belize city to look forward to tomorrow morning. From there we'll take a short water taxi after clearing customs to Caye Caulker a day late and a few pesos short but we are excited to get there and enjoy island life for a few days. For those of you wondering how Emily is fairing with the travel adventure, she is doing very well all things considered with food and wifi preferences and availability being her biggest challenges so far.

Posted by JEK 14:34 Archived in Mexico Tagged chetumal Comments (2)

(Entries 6 - 10 of 14) « Page 1 [2] 3 »