A Travellerspoint blog

The Caribbean Coast

sunny 28 °C
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It has been a little while since my last blog and some of you have contacted me, a little worried that something has happened to me. I am perfectly fine. I have now arrived in Mexico and followed the Caribbean coast which is basically beautiful white sandy beaches and clear blue seas so not so much to report. I've already done snorkling, ruins, cenotes, etc so there is not much more to offer that I actually want to spend money on. I am therefore taking it easy, spending longer in places whilst waiting for my flight to Cuba which is on the 2 March.

Tulum
The nicest beach I have seen, the sea is so clear that when I am up to my waist in water I can see my toes!

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Whilst I was enjoying a nice breakfast with french baguette (a rare find!) these two little sisters approached me selling nuts and other stuff. They walk every day 2kms from their house to sell things in the town. They were looking at my breakfast with such big eyes that I ended up buying them some too! !

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I also do a snorkling tour of the Dos Ojos Cenotes, which is basically underground water caves all linked with each other. The picture shows the entrance of the cave but as I don't have an underwater camera I don't have any pictures of the caves beyond that. It was pretty cool though, you get given a flash light to go through the caves and see at the bottom.

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Playa Del Carmen
A really touristy party town, overpriced, noisy and full of Americans of the worst type! I try to escape to beaches further out of town by using the 'collectivos', the local transport which is really cheap. I found my Valentine date on a park bench but he wasn't very talkative. :)

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Puerto Morelos
A nice little fishing village about half an hour north of Playa del Carmen, I take a collectivo for the day to escape Playa del Carmen. I have lunch in a little local restaurant and an older lady comes in on her own too so I invite her to my table. It's so much nicer not to be alone in a restaurant. She's about 70 and comes to this village every year for 3 weeks on her own. She is a yoga instructor!!!! We get chatting and I tell her about my trip and show her some of my photos. She is so enthusiastic about it, she decides she wants to go to Belize and do the same snorkling trip I did. I give her all the details of how to get there and where to go and she ends up buying my lunch as she says I have been an inspiration for her to get up and do more adventurous things! Good for her! I'm so pleased :)

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The last photo shows the old lighthouse after a severe hurricane (Wilma)

Cozumel
I take the ferry to Cozumel for a couple of nights, still lots of Americans as cruise ships stop here. I rent a scooter to discover the other side of the island which is not populated. The sea is much choopier with higher waves and it is more windy but I like it. A nice place to chill with a drink reading my book.
In the evening it is the grand parade of the carnaval. There are hundreds of floats. The whole town is partying and considering it is a very small island with only one town, they really have put a huge effort. The whole thing last over 3 hours!

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Posted by Lifeis4living 17:47 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches english Comments (2)

Caye Caulker Island (Belize)

A little paradise in the Caribbeans

sunny 29 °C
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31st January
Leaving Flores early in the morning, I make my way to Belize City. The first thing that strikes me when I cross the border is that none of the signs are written in spanish, I expected that being close to the border, they would have both languages. Also the distances are in miles which must confuse some people after having been used to kms everywhere else. No more hills, straight roads and a lot of African descendants locals.

Caye Caulker
An hour water taxi ride from Belize City brings me to this very small paradise island in the Caribbeans. The sea is so clear, the sun is hot. It is difficult not to fall for this place. There are no cars, everyone either walks, cycles or use golf buggies to get around. There are only about 1000 permanent residents.

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The next day I book myself on a snorkling tour which was incredible. I touched nurse sharks, sting rays and saw turtles, baracudas, eels and lots of different fish. Just take a look at the pictures. Rest of the time spent reading and chilling by the water.

As soon as our guide throws some fish in the water, lots of nurse sharks arrive around the boat, then we get told to get our snorkling gear on and jump in! A little scary at first but an amazing experience!

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Posted by Lifeis4living 10:23 Archived in Belize Tagged beaches animals english Comments (0)

Tikal - Maya ruins

semi-overcast 25 °C
View South and Central America - Sept 14 on Lifeis4living's travel map.

28th January - Someone got shot dead!
Leaving Seymuc Champney at 5am towards my next stop, the small island of Flores from which you visit the Maya ruins of Tikal. About 45 mns before Flores, you have to cross a small river. As our bus stopped in the queue to wait or the little ferry, we heard a gunshot behind us. I turned around and saw a small kid running across the road and thought it was kids playing with bangers. However, a crown immediately started to gather and our driver got out to see what had happened. Apparently, a guy was shot dead from a bullet in the neck. The killer then jumped on a motorbike driven by another guy and drove off. Within 5 mns everyone had dispersed and were back to their normal life, kids selling their stuff to tourists, etc. I couldn't help thinking that in Europe they would have been taken in for counselling! 10mns after that, 4 army trucks full loaded with machine guns arrived across the river and went in pursuit. I wonder if they will get them!

The driver told us the reason for the shooting would be one of 3 things: drugs, women or theft related. It seems that here the locals sorts their own problems their way. I'm just glad I didn't actually see the shooting.

Flores
Flores, by contrast, is a charming little island which is very safe and you can walk around it in about 15mns. Lots of hotels and restaurant and the main base to visit the Maya ruins of Tikal.

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Tikal
I didn't opt for the 3am sunrise tour as most mornings are a little cloudy and I didnt fancy getting up so early not to have a guaranteed sunrise view. So I opted for the 4.30am tour (still very early) which arrives at Tikal around 6.30am.

We are greeted by Howler monkeys and Spider monkeys as well as many different types of birds. The one on the picture is a very colourful turkey.
The site itself is 24kms square but only 4kms square (20%) has actually been exclavated to date. The site was discovered in 1848 by locals looking for gum trees. Exclavation started in 1956 and you can still see many mounts covered by vegetation which are still to be exclavated. It is thought that up to 200,000 people lived here between 900 BC and 900 AC when the site was abandonned.

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Posted by Lifeis4living 10:29 Archived in Guatemala Tagged trees english Comments (2)

Lake Atitlan & Seymuc Champney

sunny 28 °C
View South and Central America - Sept 14 on Lifeis4living's travel map.

After almost a week in Antigua, we leave the city for the relaxed, very chilled atmosphere of Lake Atitlan which is just as well as the journey in the crammed shutte was horrendous.

Lake Atitlan
A very beautiful lake surrounded by 4 volcanos, I was told that the water level rises every 50 yrs and if you dive around the edges, you can actually see the ruins of previous hotels which are now underwater. There are several places you can stay around the lake but we chose to spend our time in the most peaceful Santa Cruz. I took the opportunity of taking a couple of private spanish lessons to brush up on my verbs and tenses. You might think it's a bit late into the trip but I have not really needed much more than I knew or picked up so far and Guatemala is by far the cheapest place to take lessons.

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Seymuc Champney
After returning to Antigua for one night and to pick up my large backpack which I left at the hostel, I say goodbye to Louise who has decided she can't quite tear herself away from the school kids just yet and is going to stay at least another week. I am therefore back on my own but that's ok. I don't really mind. I take another shuttle (another truely horrible crammed journey with nowhere to put your feet) for the 7 hours to Seymuc Champney.

Seymuc Champney consists of a natural 300 m limestone bridge, under which passes the Cahabón River. Atop the bridge is a series of stepped, turquoise pools, a popular swimming attraction. I passed on jumping from the bridge but swam under the waterfall and enjoyed the tubing along the river. Then we went up to the actual pools for more swimming. Very pleasant.

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Posted by Lifeis4living 13:58 Archived in Guatemala Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises lakes landscape english Comments (2)

Antigua, Guatemala - helping at school

sunny 27 °C
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Leaving the beaches of Nicaragua we spent 3 days testing out the beaches of El Salvador at El Tunco. Same warm sea, same hot temperature, same lovely sunsets, black sand rather than white sand but vibes not as nice as Nicaragua as full of tourist/surfers (the get drunk every night kind), so we moved on to Antigua on Guatemala.

The city of Antigua
Antigua is situated in the central highlands of Guatemala famous for its well-preserved Spanish Baroque influenced architecture as well as a number of spectacular ruins of colonial churches. It served as the capital of the Kingdom of Guatemala. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Every street is cobbled (which makes the tuk tuk ride interesting) and there are some really lovely architecture. Hotels, restaurants and cafes have beautiful inside courtyards full of green plans and a lot of charm. You can walk by a very boring plain wall and suddenly there will be an open door and a completely different and striking scenery inside. It makes you want to peep into every doorway.

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The people are very friendly and greet you when you pass them on the street pavement which a little unexpected. There are security guards with guns everywhere. I even found a guard with a pretty scary gun guarding a takeaway pizza place! I had to laugh and photograph him. Also the 4 security guards were happy to be photographed but not with the ice cream they were eating when I saw them. Obviously scared their superior might see my picture somehow! :) However, even if all these guns around, the place doesn't feel scary. We went out at night to eat but always quite close to the hostel and were never very late back though.

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Volunteering at school
Louise, the girl I am travelling with volunteered at this particular school in the subburb of Antigua a couple of years ago and wanted to go back to see how much things had changed. La Escola de Esperanza is run by a British charity who aim to get children out of poverty through education and empowerment. They started with 80 kids and now have 480 ranging from about 5 to 16 yr olds and also help the older, brighter ones through university.

Most of these kids come from very poor families who live on the mountain side in shacks made of corrugated roof and walls. In the rainy season, not only is it very noisy and wet from the hard rain on leaky roofs but it is also dangerous as there are also sometimes land slides which can destroy the whole house. I heard that some are so poor, they try to sell a child. We all know this happens in the world, just to hear it so closeby is tough.

The kids love coming to school as it is their escape from home and their harsh and sometime abusive environment. They not only learn standard subjects but are also taught the importance of hygiene, they clean their teeth at school, wash their hands after going to the toilets and before eating. The school is a bilingual school and they have english lessons which will help them get a better job, perhaps taking advantage of the large tourism industry in Antigua and a chance to get out of their poor environment.

Despite their living condition they are smiling and love to learn but they also have low attention span, are very boisterous and play rough in their games which makes it quite a task for the teachers to calm them down and teach them. Some of them are sleepy as they do not get a good night sleep at home for various reasons. I helped out for a few days in a class of 7 and 8 years old. Every day I was exhausted by 2.30pm when they go home. I have the utmost respect for all the teachers and volunteers there.

Some of the children have a sponsor. This means that for 25 pounds a month, that child is given clothes, food and education. The charity also tries to educate the parents with the importance of hygiene as well as contraception education. If they commit to coming to the school, they are also given a free water filter and shown how to use it properly and look after it as they have water but it is not clean water.

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Posted by Lifeis4living 15:54 Archived in Guatemala Tagged buildings people english Comments (1)

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