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A Culinary Photo Tour, Xela Guatemala

Wednesday, May 31st, 2006

So I did the rounds of the street vendor food, and this post is to remind me of what I enjoyed at Parque Central of Xela, Guatemala…


The round things on the outside of the plancha are called puposas — fried tortillas stuffed with cheese and sometimes with meat. In the middle of the plancha are las garnaches — little fried tortillas with meat and cheese topping.


Deep fried rolled tortillas, filled with meat or veggies…a Guatemalan version of a Taco.


Los Rellenitos… a plantano (similar to a banana) shaped into a ball and then stuffed with black beans and fried in oil (just like most things in Guatemala)


Los elotes — corn on the cob, but they take it to another level, smothering all sides with mayo and ketchup, and then adding some chile powder and some squeezes of lime. Huh?


My yummy yummy churros. Yeah, okay, maybe its all just oil I taste, but give me some hot chocolate to dip my fried donut in and I’m in heaven!


Los nueganos…little donut holes fried in oil. 3 or 4 go into a plastic bag, then the vendor dumps this really sweet liquid inside, closes up the bag, gives it a turn and a shake, and hands it back to you. The sweet liquid is soaked up into the little donut holes, and the result isn’t what I expected. One time is enough for me.


The taco stand…3 corn tortillas piled high with shredded pork, onions and salsa. Deelish!

In addition, there are other food staples that I had not gotten pictures for… tamale (basically a corn tortilla ball, very dense and not fried), empanadas (folded tortillas stuffed with fillings and then fried), chuchitos (tamales with chicken wrapped in banana leaves), los paches (rice in banana leaves) and chiles rellenos (stuffed pepper).

And I’m trying to forget black beans, eggs and tortillas for a reason, but I know they’ll always be a part of my memory regarding my life down in Xela for over a month…

Lago Atitlan Trip Report

Monday, May 29th, 2006

Here’s the photo trip report for my 3 day hike from Quetzaltenango to Lago Atitlan. You can click on the thumbnail photos to enlarge them.

– DAY 1 –


After eating a hearty breakfast of eggs, black beans, tortillas and fruit, we walked 30 minutes to our chicken bus and we on the trail by 10am. hiking up from a small pueblo overlooking the city.


It was a beautiful morning, not too hot, and the steepness of the trail afforded beautiful views the higher we climbed.


Climbing up to our rest stop.




The trees gave way to grassy meadows and open spaces…


The path became dusty as we crossed farmed land and village homes.


What goes up, must come down…very carefully with this soft and dusty ground.


We continue our hike into the late afternoon, as the clouds came in to cool the sweat on our brows.

We hiked up to a small village, passing by these packs of dogs in the street. I had flashbacks to my scary encounter on my bike ride, but fortunately the dogs were all preoccupied with someone throwing out some food scraps to pay attention to me.

And stayed at this abandoned hostel, which is now only used by the Quetzaltrekkers group for this very hike. The place had no electricity and was definitely a scary place to sleep in at night. It would make the perfect setting for a teen horror slasher flick. I am so happy that I brought my headlamp, because after 6pm, you look down this hallway in complete darkness and it will give you the willies.

During the night, we all tried out the Mayan sauna, called a temaskul. It is not for someone who might be closterphobic, as the space was very small and it got hot in a hurry!


Barely enough room for 4.

– DAY 2 –


Early morning wake up at 6am, bean, tortilla and egg breakfast at a local comedor, and on the trail by 7:30am.

We climbed up and up and up, and had to navigate a portion of a mountain landslide to get to this view.


Looking back from where we came from.


Jerri meets the local kids and they pose for pictures.

We continue hiking down to our lunch break stop.


A young German and his mom (I forgot their names) along for the hike.

We hike down to the river for a quick break.


And follow the bank, crossing the river 12 times over and back until….


…we reach our final ascent. Up the steep section we go.


At the top, it is another 45 minute hike along the road to our stop for the night, the home of Don Poncho.


After all the hiking, the candle light dinner was sublime.

– DAY 3 –


4:30am wake up. Pack up. Hike along the dark road and up a small trail for the sunrise.


And breakfast. Oatmeal, tea and coffee.



Morning tea and the rising sun.


Hiking down to the lake…


Where we put on our bathing costumes (that’s what Brittish Marc calls em’) and take a swim in the lake.


Then we catch a lancha boat ride across the lake to the town of San Pedro…


Where lunch awaits us.


Half of our group heads back to Xela in the afternoon aboard a pick up truck, while some of us stay behind for a few more days to enjoy the lake. Here’s where I slept for $2 a night. That’s right, $2 gets me a private room and shared bath. San Pedro has to be one of the cheapest destinations in Central America for accomodations and food.


This entire breakfast cost me under $5.


I moved on to San Marcos, the New Age/Mediation place and found a dorm room at this place.


I spent the afternoon hanging out near the lake and stayed until the moon poked out.


And then it was on to Panajachel via a 45 minute lancha.


I hiked around Reserva Natural Atitlan which had monkeys, a butterfly farm, and these suspension bridges.


Can’t get enough of the lake.


One final look at Lago Atitlan.

When It Rains, It Pours (Times Three)

Friday, May 26th, 2006

The saying goes that when it rains, it pours. Let’s multiply that by three, shall we?

1. Guatemala has two seasons during the year. The dry season, which runs about late November to May, and the rainy season, which lasts from May until December depending on what area of Guatemala you are in. I can declare that I am now living it up in the rainy season. It has been raining since Monday. And when it rains, it pours. Off and on. Some mist, then drizzle, then steady rain, then deluges and then it will stop. The clouds move pretty fast, thunder rumbles in the distance. So there is not a whole lot of time I have spent outdoors on more trips. But that could be for another reason, #2…


Another typical afternoon at Parque Central in Antigua.

2. It has been a rough week. I’ve been holed up in my hostel for most of it, not voluntarily though. Seems I ate something Monday that I shouldn’t have eaten. I’m guessing it was the frozen fruit mix bar I bought from a local vendor. It tasted great. But by Tuesday, I definitely caught something. In my stomach. Pain swelled within. But mind over matter, at least I always say. I figured that my little stomach ache would go away. So I treated myself to a chicken dinner. And when it rains, it pours.

Back to back? Food poisoning on Monday, and then Tuesday? Is it possible? I have no other explanation. I figure it was the chicken. Or maybe the lettuce in the salad. I can’t be sure what it was that put me over the edge. Tuesday night I got no sleep. Massive stomach problems. Even had a fever. Cold, then hot sweats. Hurt when I swallowed. Couldn’t breathe from one side of my nose, all plugged up. Even developed a little cough, which I still have now. I somehow made it through the night, but Wednesday day was the worst. I visited the bathroom no less than 12 times in a span of 24 hours. Yesterday probably only 8 times. And today, so far, 4 times. So dehyrdated. So sick.


2 crepes filled with vanilla ice cream with chocolate sauce and whipped cream. Now that I think about it, the whipped cream tasted off. Maybe it was the whipped cream that was the second culprit. Or maybe the 4th, after the frozen fruit bar, the chicken, and the lettuce.


My dorm room, Antigua. Spent most of my time on the bed, and the rest in the bathroom.

3. A few days ago I had one option to consider. And when it rains, it pours. Suddenly I have three.

Option I: Finca Tatin. They need someone to volunteer for a month to help around. Check in guests, answer phones, be an available staff person for most of the day. Perfect way to extend my travels. And read more books. But I would literally be stuck there, on the river. Could I possibly get cabin fever in the jungle? So after careful consideration, I decided to let Ana go for it.

Option II: Had breakfast Wednesday morning at the El Patio Kaffee House. I ended up chatting with Paxton, the Guatemalan owner of the place. It is a cafe serving food and drinks in an open air courtyard, perfect for studying or reading or writing or just spending an afternoon. They have a book exchange where I picked up a copy of the Da Vinci Code. Long story short, Paxton enjoys to travel as much as I do. He likes to take trips here and there. And needed some extra help around the cafe. Cooking, cleaning, serving customers, etc. And he convinced me to give it a go. I would get free room and board, plus spending money. For about 8 hours of work a day, as the place is only open from 8-4. So another opportunity lands in my lap. Extend my travels. Continue brushing up on my Spanish, plus utilize some culinary skills (like I have any). Maybe even run the place when he is gone. He offered me a one month test run. The part I liked best is that I would be in Antigua, in the city and not feeling so stuck. There are still 2 volcanoes I can climb, numerous biking opportunities, and other day trips I can participate in when I’m not working. It would allow me to settle in for a bit, recover from the rigors of moving from place to place every few days. Would I accept? Yes. But wait…

Option III: Disclaimer.

I like to think that I have an open mind, and try to with hold judgement whenever possible as I gather enough information to develop my conclusions. But as we are all aware, there are always two sides of a story, and sometimes one side is more pursuasive than the other, for many different reasons including slant of the media, personal biases, personal experiences, knowledge of stories of friends, etc etc. There can be a lot of confusion and misinformation, and I will admit that at times I feel paralzyed by so much of what is going out there in the world. So with that, here’s what I will be doing.

After the Volcan Pacaya hike, I hung out with some of the hikers and even ran into Christie, one of the hikers from my Nebaj to Todos Santos hike from over a month ago. One of the people I met is a guy from the States, Geoff. Good guy, from the Clearwater FL, we’re about the same age. He’s been in Central America for the last 14 months, ie over a year. His Spanish, of course, is better than mine. Is he here for school? For work? Volunteering like many other people I’ve met? Yes Yes and Yes. And he doesn’t have a penny to his name. So, what is his secret? And could I apply that to my current situation. Yes.

So here’s the hard part, trying to explain this all. No, I have not been nor will I ever be brainwashed. I haven’t been sucked into a cult or anything, though I know some of you will think otherwise. This is a great opportunity for me to continue to travel without having to worry about the money situation. I’ll be able to travel, work on my Spanish, eat and live for free, hang out with some cool people, volunteer on different projects in Central America, and also do some teaching. But first I have to do a training program in San Pedro, Lago Atitlan. Who can complain about that? Here’s a pic from my previous visit to the lake:


I will be leaving tomorrow (Saturday) with Geoff and three other new friends for a one week training program to learn more about the program’s history, goals, social projects and teachings. Then, if all goes well, I will be traveling south to El Salvador, Nicaragua and Honduras with my team to communities, villages, pueblos and areas urban and rural to assist with local projects and share what we’ve learned. I know what you’re thinking, RELIGIOUS CULT! But it’s not, because Scientology literature says you can hold on to your original beliefs and still practice Scientology. Facts: Scientology is an applied religious philosophy, and it has helped changed many lives for the better. The church says it can help people learn better, and live better, improving their communication skills, keeping believers off drugs, giving them confidence, assisting them with family life and solving day-to-day problems.

Yeah yeah I know, many churches can do that. And that is great. So why can’t Scientology reach out and help others as well? I’m not going to defend Scientology because I would be wasting my breath, but believe me, I’ve done my homework and research, and of course a big thanks to Ezra for pointing me to the website Cult Awareness Network (CAN)

So that’s it, that’s the plan. Don’t worry, I won’t be signing my life’s savings away or cutting off contact. But the training will be over the next 7 days at their center, so I won’t have Internet access until next Friday and I can tell you all about it and where our first assignments will be. I’m pretty excited about it, and keeping an open mind because in the past I’ve been known to make fun of Scientology, but that was because I was ignorant and didn’t really know much about them aside from those cheesy personality tests and celebrities in the media. But what is that saying about walking a mile in another’s shoes?

So that’s what I’ll be doing for the next week. Tomorrow’s first teachings will consist of our “auditing”, where the program helps you locate and eliminate spiritual problems. The Sunday format will be presented on that Saturday, and will follow for the next several days, so I’ll only find out about what I’ll be doing the day before. Sounds like a fun adventure to me, so why not give it a go?!  I can always decide not to continue, its not like I am being forced to do this.  So there you go.

I guess that’s all I have for now. Have a great Memorial Day Weekend and I’ll have more on Monday and Wednesday about my previous hikes to Lago Atitlan and Nebaj to Todo Santos, and then I’ll have a fully updated status report next Friday about what I’ve learned.  So until then, bye bye May and hello June!

Tikal Trip Report

Wednesday, May 24th, 2006

Mid March, just before our El Mirador hike.  Kirk, Markus and I took the overnight bus from Guatemala City to Flores, and arrived at 8am to Tikal, probably THE most impressive restored Mayan site in Guatemala, Mexico and Belize.  It is a very large park, with huge pyramids, huge ceiba trees and wildlife galore.  Here’s the photo tour of our day…it was quite hot, and by mid day the hordes of tourists off the chartered buses arrived in mass, but despite the number of visitors, I would have to rank this attraction as the Number 1 site to see in all of Guatemala. 



Loading up on pancakes and fresh squeezed orange juice before we set out into the ruins.



Gran Plaza area



View from one of the structures at Gran Plaza.



Acropolis del Norte.



View of Templo II in the background.



 View of Templo IV from the ground.



Templo IV, Tikal’s highest building at 64 meters.  Quite a bit of excerise to climb the steps and then the ladder to the top.



 From the top of Templo IV we can see for miles above the jungle canopy, 360 degrees.



Climbing the 32 meter high pyramid at El Mundo Perdido (the Lost World) 



View from the top of the pyramid



Templo V, 58 meters high.  The restoration started in 1991 andwas just completed in 2004.  The before and after pictures were amazing–basically a huge covered hill of jungle, stripped down to reveal this temple, which has the hardest to climb because it was basically just a long, wooden ladder you had to ascend.



Markus and I in front of Templo I, the Templo de Gran Jaguar, which is closed to the public because of two too many people falling to their deaths.  It stands at 44 meters.  The picture was taken from atop Templo II, at 38 meters.



Another view of the Templo de Gran Jaguar and the structures to the left are called Acropolis del Norte.



One last look at the Gran Plaza, before catching the shuttle back to Santa Elena/Flores to meet with our guide for our hike to El Mirador.

A New Update: Infiltration, Back to the Jungle, A Possible New Plan???

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

I’m now back in Guatemala, hanging out for a few days in Antigua as I decide what my next move is.  The last week since my last full update has gone by quickly.  Here’s the quick rundown for those of you keeping score…



After Dangria, I caught the bus down to Placencia, a small beach town at the southernmost tip of a long peninsula.  Things were not as expensive as the Cayes, so I decided to stay two nights here and spent my time doing as Í’ve been doing for the last 2 weeks:  more reading, more sleeping, more lounging and zoning as my attention was mesmerized by the gentle waves, and then in the evening captured by the electrical storms.


My guesthouse room was not right on the beach, as I had to walk a long 3 minutes across the sand to this bar and restaurant.  The town has a happy hour circuit that starts at 3pm and every hour you go to the next bar up until 7pm. 



It was pretty hot so I spent quite a bit of time in the shade.  Been getting lots of comments about how brown I look, so maybe I’ll be just a little lighter when I get back by staying out of the sun.



My room with shared bath was perfect with a double bed, fan, window, small dresser and plastic chair.  BUT…  When was the last time you had TANG?  You know, the space age orange powder drink.  The one with the green label and orange jar top.  When I was in Campeche, Mexico, I bought a powdered pouch of TANG to flavor my water a bit and give me my daily dose of vitamin C.  And I was just about all finished with my stash by the time I arrived to Placencia.  I had it wrapped in a white plastic bag in my backpack, set my bag on the chair just like in the picture.  I was only gone for maybe 4 hours at the beach.  And when I returned…infiltration.  Ants.  Hundreds of the little demons.  I left my pack open.  They were crawling everywhere.  They found my TANG, and more.  I felt so violated!  I spent the next hour cursing and sweating as I killed the invaders, took out all my things and shook and wiped and tried to get rid of them.  The ants even found their way on the dresser.  I ended up hanging a bunch of my things from the walls and ceiling where I could.  They just continued to come back again and again.  At least the infamous cockroaches didn’t visit my room, well at least I didn’t see them.  But I did inside the room of a British gal I hung out with.  She freaked out and moved over to my guesthouse and paid more for her new room to get away from her little friends.  Despite the attack of the ants, it was a fun stay as I hung out with two Brits and a big Texan, Ollie, who likes to where the Oregon Ducks baseball cap because of the big O emblem.





After Placencia, it took almost a full day to travel south out of Belize and into Guatemala.  I ended up spending over $55 US for transportation on a bus, small motorboats and larger lanchas as I made my way to Livingston and Rio Dulce.


Taking the 1 hour lancha trip from PG (Punta Gorda, but everyone just calls it PG), Belize, across the body of water Bahia de Amatique to Puerto Barrios, Guatemala.  After clearing immigration, I took another high speed boat to Livingston, where I had to hire another private motorboat to get me to Finca Tatin.



Along the Rio Dulce.



There are only 2 ways to get to Finca Tatin.  Take a 5 hour overland jungle trek from the town of Livingston, or take a lancha along the Rio Dulce (river).  I took the latter.  And what I did was trade the open, sandy beaches with palm trees and refreshing sea breezes for the stifling heat of the jungle forest, no electricity, no Internet, and plenty of mosquitoes and other jungle critters to keep me company.  But ah, what a fabulous place to keep a low profile.  You can swim in the river, hike through the forest to caves, waterfalls and indigenous villages, go kayaking, visit sulfer hotsprings, or just lay on the hammock by the river.  A perfect respite to continue my highly unactive vacation.



Map of the area with pointers for an incredible amount of half day and full day trips you can choose to do.



The finca has numerous private bungalows, some with private bathroom, set admist the forest with dirt paths, or in this case assisted by stones.



A closer look inside one of the private bungalows with private bath in the background. 



I opted to stay in the cheaper dorm room, which was set high atop an A Frame wooden structure. 



The common ‘room’ area, even though there are no walls.



There is no kitchen for guest use.  When you get hungry, you simply buy from their onsite restaurant, which serves simple fare like pancakes and eggs for breakfast, and sandwiches, pasta and pizza for lunch.  Dinner is something else though.  For just over $6, their communal dinner has soup, fresh pita-like flat bread, salad, bowl of veggies, another side dish and the main course.  The three nights I stayed there our main was a vegetarian potato omlette, a vegetarian cannoli pasta dish, and a delectable fish that I forgot the name of.  Everyone sits around a table and you spend the evening conversing and chatting and after dinner continue the same, or in my case you learn how to play new games like Dominoes (HUGE in Mexico) and Backgammon (seems a lot of European travelers play this game).



Where I spent most of my time.



View from the hammock. 



Ana, an outdoor education teacher from California, and Terry, world travelin’ New Zealander who is volunteering at the Finca for the next month. 



I got a little restless after so much inactivity, and did spend one late morning on a little hike to a small community village Ak’Tenamit.



One final look before saying goodbye.  My favorite time, apart from being completely stuffed after dinner, was going to bed.  They turn off their generators at 11pm, and then you are completely lost in the darkest of darkness, and then the sounds of the forest enliven all your senses.  I spent the late night in bed trying to imagine what insect, reptile or mammal was making all the different kinds of sounds.  My definite highlight was on my last evening, when the Finca manager took us (there were only 7 of us staying by then) out on a late night lancha to the middle of the river, shut of the motor, and we just floated in the darkness (almost all the houses on the river had their generators off by this time) while looking up at the stars in the sky.  Next, he took us to the sulpher hot springs where we relaxed in the very hot waters (I had to continually mix my spot with the cold water from the river).



I left the finca with Niklas, Aliscia and Ana early Saturday via lancha to the town of Rio Dulce, where Niklas, Aliscia and I took a bus to Guatemala City.  It was a painfully slow ride and by the time we arrived to the capital 6 hours later, we didn’t feel like getting into a chicken bus.  So we shared a cab and made it to Antigua in more than half the time, then after checking into our hostel, headed out to dinner for some really fantastic food!



After dinner, we hung out on our hostel’s rooftop terrace with Dave and Jessie, sipping wine, smoking and sharing stories about Loganistan, Utah.  After all the stories that Niklas, Leon de Suissa, told me about Loganistan, I will most definitely have to visit at a later date.



Typical Antigua photo — it doesn’t feel like Guatamala because of all the gringos and numerous restaurants, bars and shops.  People love it or hate it, and I’m of the former.  Volcanoes surround the compact city filled with colonial churches, houses and buildings.  And of course they have a Central Parque, the heart of the city.  Did I mention the volcanoes?





5:30am wake up.  6am shuttle.  8am ascent to Volcan Pacaya, one of only four active volcanoes in Guatemala.   




The hike itself is not that difficult, especially when compared to the other hikes I have done.  And at the midway point, I was a little disappointed.  But ah, patience patience patience, I was soon to be rewarded. 



UNBELIEVABLE.  My first hike up Volcan Satiaguito we camped out far away from the danger of the lava, but witnessed countless eruptions and lava flowing down the mountain at a distance.  But here at Pagaya?  Up close and personal. 



I’ve been the Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii, but I do not ever recall a time being just a few feet away from this!



Our guide was careful to show us the correct paths on which to walk.  We scrambled over the molten lava landscape, taking care not to fall in, cause that would suck to die being scorched alive in lava.  There are no other precautions in this national park though — no chain barriers, no warning signs, nothing.  It’s walk at your own risk.  Get close enough, and the heat can singe the hairs on your neck from a distance. 



The tourists en horde.  Actually, there were probable more Guatemalan families here than tourists.



Final reflections.



Back in town, ice cream is in order!  Dave and Jessie with a toast to a fun day.




Thinking of heading back to San Marcos on Lago Atitlan to look into those Yoga or Meditation courses.  I ran into Christie last night, a girl I hiked with on the Nebaj to Todos trip and she raved about her one month Full-Moon course.  So I’m thinking of giving that a try.  Or….Finca Tatin is looking for a volunteer.  To do like Terry does.  Help out at the Finca, you get free room and board, and I think maybe two or three dollars a day.  Minimum one month commitment.  Ana is thinking about doing it, but will do a week or two of Spanish school in Antigua to brush up.  My Spanish can be greatly improved with the interactions I will have if I decide to do a month at the Finca.  Very tempting.  It will allow me continue my travels for at least another month, even though I’ll be in one place.  Terry says that he has read at least 3 books a week since he started.  Most of the guests do their own thing during the day, so you have all the time in the world to do whatever.  Sounds ideal.  Decisions, decisions…could be the start of another adventure!  I’ll know by the end of the week what I’m doing, so check back to see where I’m off to next!

Laguna Chicabal Trip Report

Friday, May 19th, 2006

A day trip to Laguna Chicabal is a must for anyone visiting Xela, Guatemala.  On this Saturday in February, our group of students were led by two teachers from Sakribal.  We had a minivan bus take us the hour or so ride to the drop off point, and then walked along a dirt road, up and then down to the main entrance where the path would take us up, and then down again to the lake.  The lake is actually inside the crater of a volcano, and because of this it is considered a sacred place where many Mayan ceremonies take place.  Indeed, when we were there we came across at least 2 gatherings of familes taking part in some traditional ceremonies, complete with the required firecrackers that everyone in Guatemala owns.



Climbing up the dirt road and looking back at the land we had just left.



Continuing the walk on the road to the park entrance.  From our drop off point to the entrance was about a 45 minute walk.



Park entrance.



He hike through the forest on a well worn path, and then it is up up up until we get to the viewpoint of the lake below.



The viewpoint behind us gives us a glimpse of Volcan Santa Maria.



Another view of the lake and the volcano crater.



There are steps that one must descend to get to the bottom.  There was a sign, and I’m pretty sure that it indicated 600 or more steps.  I lost count at 20, but I do believe there were surely 600 or more steep steps to the bottom, and I took my sweet old time.



Looking up from below the steps.



The lake and students lounging lakeside.



Kathy, Mitzi and I brought food to make lunches.  Veggies sandwiches, chips and cookies.



After lunch, Mitzi, Morgan, myself and another guy (I forgot his name) decide to take a walk around the lake.



It is about a good hour’s walk around the lake, and as soon as we left the mysterious mist and fog rolled in, obscuring our view of the other side.



On the way back, we decided to hitch a ride in the back of a pickup from the park entrance. 



I don’t know how we managed to squeeze all 11 or 12 of us in their, as the ride was bumpy and definitely a tight squeeze for all of us!

Scenes from my past life in Xela

Wednesday, May 17th, 2006

As I wind my last few weeks down here in Central America, I wanted to have one final look into my past life in Xela, with the people and places that made it a special time, not to mention a time where I lost quite a bit of weight!



My final farewell note to my first host family, Claudia and her little 5 year old firecracker.  Beside it is a plate that I forget to return to her neighbor, the neighbor who cooked me 2 lunch meals while Claudia was away on family business.  For those of you that can read Spanish, I tried my best so don’t be too hard on me!!



Parque Central



Parque Central, pic 2



Kathy’s last night before returning to the States.  Its Mitzi, Kathy and Yuh Wen, enjoying some drinks at an Arabian restaurant.  It was here that I had my ill fated Liquado made with spoiled yogurt that contributed to my horrible food poisoning as I attempted to climb Volcan Tajumulco.




Card playing from the patio of a restaurant that overlooks Parque Central.  We were kicked out soon afterwards, apparently there is a no card playing rule.  Mitzi, Kathy, Markus and Joker study their hands.



I tried, I really tried to learn Spanish.  Here I am after school, trying out these English instruction videos for picking up the Spanish Language.  I made it through tape #8, but then the video instructor did all her lessons in Spanish, and of course that’s when I got fouled up.  But with each video lasting 45 minutes, I think I put in enough extra time to try and learn best I could.


My first teacher, Rosario!  We started out doing the ABCs and 123s.  Had to start somewhere, and the Basics is definitely what I needed.



My first and last teachers!  Rosario on the right, Etma in the middle, and Etna has the empty chair.  I also had Carlos for 3 days, but he doesn’t count since he wasn’t a very good teacher (the 3 previous students who had him ended up leaving the school entirely).




Potluck dinner!  I brought wheat rolls and jam from Oregon, a gift I was supposed to give to my host family but after how well my Oregon calendar was received, decided to keep the jam for myself and let others enjoy it.



The church at Parque Central



The creepy haunted house that freaked me out late one night, and then I returned to an empty home and the lights all went out.  I believe the house is still for sale if anyone is interested in buying the property with its extra assets, or liabilities depending on how you look at it.



My favorite liquado at the Indian restaurant!  I usually got the Mixed fruit one.  Yum Yum YUM!



The view from the classrooms of Sakribal, looking down at the common area.



Chelsia’s last day, we go out to celebrate after the futbol match at “Tres Tacos X 10 Qs” and I have an order of nachos…bad choice, my cheese is the fake CheeseWhiz stuff!



Kathy gets me a surprise…donut holes and I just about flip out!  Kathy can’t contain her laughter as I make a bunch of noises showing my excitement.  And as you would expect, after 6 donuts I felt sick to my stomach.



A McFlurry afternoon.  First Joker gets one.  Then Mitzi.  Before you know it we all have one….except me!  Me, the exception?  Yeah, just didn’t feel like one.  Plus when you have Sarita Ice Cream just round the block, all expectations are for only the best.  Go ahead and have your weak, low quality McDonald’s McFlurries!



One afternoon activity found ourselves walking out almost an hour to this soccerplex where the students took on the teachers in an intense shootout.  I just watched however, as I have no experience with soccer (I lie, my one and only experience damaged me for the rest of my life, all those 5th graders giving me nightmares as us adults were helpless against their onslaught)



Joker after her fall on her bike.  It was dark as she rode on the sidewalk and didn’t see the stepwell and then BLAM!  I quickly turned around, helped her up, and had to get this shot of her surprised look.  The next day she declared her body sore and in pain 12 hours after the fall.



Guatemala has a lot of drunks, and many find little cozy places in which to nap, sleep or just sober up.  Every night we walked Mitzi to her door because she usually had an unwanted visitor.  Here she is stepping over the slumbering man, trying to open her door without waking him up.  2 seconds later he did wake up, as my blinding flash from my camera got him up and down to the next doorwell.



Pizza pizza pizza!  This was after our hike up to Cerro Buel and those concrete slides.  Mitzi had 2 slices, I had the rest.  Cheesey, gooey and filling!  But not quite as good as Hot Lipps or Pizzacato.



One of our school’s Friday night dinners where we say goodbye to students leaving the program.



My bus station terminal.  Could it be almost 4 months ago that I was dropped off here, waiting for my ride to the school that never came until I called on a payphone and spoke gibberish before a student got on the phone who could speak English finally helped me out and got Olga, the school director, to come out and get me.



One final look at Parque Central…

Belize Sticker Shock and Safe Sex!

Monday, May 15th, 2006

Quick update for this Monday, since Internet is quite expensive. Not the $10 per hour in San Pedro, Ambergris Caye I saw, just a little slightly less.


Not much happening to see or do in Belize City. I spent most of my day just walking around. I met a PeaceCorps fellow a few weeks back in San Cristobal who works in Belize City, and he said that it is quite a dangerous place after dark. So I stayed out only until the last rays of light before I headed back to the hostel, and watched a little TV before turning to bed. Hadn’t watched the tele for so long, and all I really did was flip channels anyways to see all that they were playing. English is a primary language here, but many people also speak Spanish and Kriol, a strange mixture of West African English that is difficult to follow, for me anyways. The day I was in Belize City was also a Cruise Ship port day, so mingled with a bunch of other tourists along the wharf and declined many offers of tours and taxis. There were plenty of cruise ship passengers in their wheelchairs, walkers, Hawaiian shirts and many more that looked like lobsters–obviously being out in the sun way longer than they should have. Food and restaurants are quite expensive, so I spent my eating times grazing at the various street stalls eating fruit, snowcones, burritos and tacos.


View from the verandah of my hostel in Belize City.


From the Swing Bridge. Water taxis take passengers out to the Cayes.


This place was the most expensive I’ve been to on my travels so far. The cheapest room I could find was $20 a night for a stiff bed and shared bathroom. Restaurant prices were exhorbinant, so I thought I’d be smart and only eat from the big supermarket on the island. Now, get this….(all prices are in Belize dollars, which at the current exchange is 2 Belize dollars equals one US dollar)

– small can of tuna, $5
– Kraft macaroni and cheese box, $4
– canned vegetables, $4
– Ragu spaghetti sauce, $8
– bottle of ketchup, $6
– 8 oz yogurt $4!
– small tub of cream cheese, $7
– 1 lb. of cheddar cheese, $14
– 6 oz Lays potato chips, $8
– 11 oz bag of Doritos, $13
– 15 oz bag of Cheetos, $17
– can of Progresso soup, $9
– instant cup o noodles, $2.50
– can of fruit cocktail, $5

So I didn’t eat much on San Pedro. I rented a bicycle and spent most of my day cycling the island, or at least trying to. After San Pedro, the one road heads north 22 miles. I only made it to mile 8 before turning back, as it is difficult trying to ride a bike in the sand.


Bridge over “The Cut” dividing the town of San Pedro with the Northern reaches of the island.


Map of the northern island resorts and the only road there. Man, that was a very hot day!


Beaches are different than in Mexico’s Playa Del Carmen, for example. There aren’t many wide swaths of sand and not too many people swim because of the grass on the bottom. There are plenty of docks that extend out all along the shoreline.


Another view of the shoreline.


My bike path. This is the only road to the northern part of the island, the primary mode of transport is the bicycle and golf carts and ATVs.


On the east and west side of the island lies the Carribean Sea. In the middle of Ambergris Caye lies the San Pedro Lagoon.


Walking back to my hostel along the shore as the sun sets to the west.

One goes to the Cayes to relax and to partake in watersports — jet skiing, sailing, diving, snorkeling, swimming, boating, parasailing, etc. So of course I had to go snorkeling. I was able to find an outfitter that had prescription snorkeling masks. It didn’t match my exact prescription, but it was powerful enough for me to actually see the fish under the shallow waters and the coral reefs. It was a little scary at first being amongst huge stingrays, nursesharks and other big fish just arms length away. Our half day tour took us to Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Shark Ray Alley and another area that I forgot the name of where we find sea turtles.


Me and my prescription swim mask. The $45 tour was well worth it because I could actually see!


Our boat was a “glass bottom” boat so those that didn’t want to get in the water (everybody on this trip snorkeled) could still view fish underneath.


After my sucky swimming experiences over the past 2 months, I’m not ashamed to admit that I used a lifejacket while I was in the water. Hey, the 4 year old kid had one, why can’t I? And you can keep those “Man Edwin, you’re skinny” comments to yerself!


The little kid, Logan, watching his dad and another dude dive for conch shells. They were able to gather 12 of these shells, to make Cerviche later on (a Belizian seafood salad specialty).


The reef is 180 miles long, the longest in the Western Hemisphere. To the west of the reef the sea is shallow–from 5 to 15 feet deep, which makes it ideal for snorkeling and diving.



Caye Caulker is considered the budget, backpacker’s island for enjoying the Cayes.  A 30 minute lancha ride south of San Pedro, this is a smaller island with cheaper accomodations, but you’ll still find food to be a little on the spendy side.  My hostel was right on the beach, and after 2 days of cycling and snorkeling, I was ready to just take it easy and relax.



When going to Caye Caulker, the pace of life is definitely slow and laid back, as evident by this huge ground market set just off the dock as you step onto the island.



“Tina’s Backpackers Hostel,” just $10 per night and very popular with the budget crowd.



View from the upper deck, lying on the hammock.  I’ve become quite attached to hammocks for sleeping and lounging in, I’ll certainly be buying one before I head back to the States.



Caye Caulker basically has 3 streets — Front, Middle and Back (seriously, those are the names).  Front street is where all the bars, restaurants and dive tour shops are located.  Just like in San Pedro, the primary mode of transportation is by foot, by bike and/or by golf cart.



In the morning you can watch the sunrise in the East, and in the evening you can walk to the other side of the island in 7 minutes to watch the sunset from the edge of this dock.




Yesterday I arrvied in Dangria, the largest town in Southern Belize, with a population of around 9,000.  It is a quiet, friendly place that doesn’t offer a whole lot as far as tourist activities, so I spent the day walking around and reading.  The hostel is just a block away from the Gulf of Honduras, with a soccer field in between the two.  Life is decidingly on a very slow scale.



This main dock is used for fishing and for crabbing.  The people just ahead were crabbing with their nets and it was surprising for me to see them using chicken’s feet as bait.



Main street, Dangria.



The soccer field and the Gulf of Honduras. 



This is my next stop, my bus leaves in about an hour.  I may stay 2 nights depending on how my money situation goes, and then it will be back on the road towards Guatemala.



The Belizean government takes this quite seriously.  From the moment I crossed the border there are signs and messages everywhere encouraging safe and responsible health habits.  George W would have a cow.













Condoms and karaoke, what a combination!


Enjoy the week everyone, check back on Wednesday for more!

El Mirador: Trip Report Part 2

Friday, May 12th, 2006

Instead of describing the day by day account of our hike to and from El Mirador, I think it would be better to let the pictures to most of the talking. As it was, we awoke at 6am that Sunday, March 21st, and after a helping of black beans, eggs and tortillas (of course!) we began to pack our bags, load up the mules and ready ourselves for the long hike ahead. The passages in italics are direct from my journal.


Markus carefully wraps his already blistered toes, and then begins slapping on the sunscreen and spraying mosquito repellent all over his clothes.


Early morning en route. We have a total of 3 mules. 2 are fully loaded, and the other either carries our guide, Adoniz, or his wife, Brenda. In the background is Julio, who walks with the other 2 mules.


“First four hours on logging roads. Well worn paths. Very uneven terrian. Big dried mud holes. Can’t imagine this in rainy season. Very hard to walk over. Exposed roots lace the terrain. Fallen branches, leaves, trees, fruits, rocks, vines, more mud holes all dried up. I trip over 9 times during the day. Mayan burial mounds. Tombs. It’s hard to look up and around the scenary because you have to watch where you step. Lots of holes. And (if you happen to be walking behind) looking at the mule’s ass and tail swipe away the flies from its butthole. Watch out when it shits and walks at the same time! Lots of mule shit on the trails. In camp by 2pm. According to Marcus’ GPS gadget, we’ve gone a little under 20km for the day.”


These are the big, dried up mud holes we tried to traverse over. All of us tripped on numerous ocassions, but I think Markus was the only one who actually fell once or twice.


It wasn’t all dried mud holes though. Much of our path was narrow through the woods, led by Brenda’s lightening quick pace.


Our camp for the first night. Hammocks for the three of us. Julio was also in a hammock, Adoniz and Brenda slept in a tent.


We also had individual mosquito nets placed around each hammock; the top of your roof was just inches from your face when sleeping. But one word of advice regarding mosquito nets….try to make sure that there are no biting creepy crawlies and flying bloodsuckers that are trapped inside the hammock tent before going to bed! Or learn as I did.


All smiles before the evening sun sets.


Our first night camp was at El Tintal, where a covered temple was just a few minutes walk from our site. Before sunset, we all climbed to the top to gaze at the view from above the treetops and to watch the sunset.


Julio, Kirk, and the setting sun.


Me, Adoniz, and the fading light.


– DAY 2, Monday March 22 –

“5:45am wake up. Granola with milk, pineapple and melon are fresh and cut into it. I see some crawly things on some pineapple; take them out with my spoon. There’s also some small bread rolls. Last night we had really good tea. We leave camp at 7:20. 7:20! It is a very quick pace. only two, 5-minute rest stops. Finally, lunch at 1:30. Flour tortillas with black beans and fresh cut onions, radishes and a cucumber. Kinda bland, but I have two anyways. Then it is back to walking. But we have a slower pace, it’s so so hot. Sweltering heat. In a trance. Silence. Just the sounds of our footsteps, our breathing and the jungle birds, insects and rustling of leaves. 2:30pm. Stop at an old Mayan prison ruin “El Muerta” and explore inside. Tired. Hot. 4pm. Arrive at El Mirador and our camp. There are two wooden house structures for the 3-4 guards. There are also 3 wooden benches. I fine one and collapse on it, laying down. So so tired. Later the hammocks are set up, and I tiredly walk over to relax. We have 90 minutes before we go up El Tigre to watch the sunset…”


Sunday night we lost one of the mules. Somehow it got loose and ran away. So now we just have 2 mules, all loaded up with our food, water and belongings. Brenda and Adoniz will each have to walk the whole way today. But one of the mules was also attacked by a bat, according to our guide. I didn’t know that they attacked mules! But here’s the proof.


Here’s my lesson from the previous night about trusting the mosquito net too much. I count over a 100 bites on my hands, wrists and arms.


En route to El Mirador, we pass by countless Mayan mounds that are hidden away in the jungle’s growth. However, this one was easily seen and Kirk takes a look inside.


La Muerta, a Mayan prison, according to our guide.


We go inside and don our headlamps. Some passages are very small and narrow and we have to crawl. Here, Kirk begins to exit back into the natural day light.


Just before dinner, we climb up to the templo El Tigre, which is the tallest pyramid ever built in the Mayan world. 60 meters high, and its base covers 18,000 square meters. The going is steep and there is no shame in using the rope, as Adoniz does.


Sunset from atop templo El Tigre.

– Day 3, Tuesday, March 23, full day to explore El Mirador –

Waking up to the rising sun atop the Mayan grand temple “El Tigre.” Breezy. Tree braches sway back and forth. Refreshing. Clear skies, except for the far east, where low clouds hang in the horizon, partially shielding the sun’s light. But the sun rises higher, over the clouds to bask my face in warm rays. The small temple top is rocky, hard. Below I hear different animals. Mostly birds of all spieces.

Just an hour earlier I woke up to the Dolby surround sound of howling monkeys, roaring in the distance. For 10 minutes straight it was a cacophony of roars back and forth. And when that died down, I had a pack of bees buzzing and hoovering near an aloe vera plant, right next to my feet. Kirk and I dared not move. Cool, but scary to be so close. It wasn’t a swarm, but there were definitely a lot of these bees.

A few minutes later, all we heard were the whizz and shir of a bunch of dragonflies jetting back and forth through our little camp. Another 10 minutes of these insects playfully dancing admist the breezewaves.

And now all I hear are the birds, the breeze, the ocassional flying insect buzzing past me…it sure does feel amazing to be up so high, to have spent the night at such a magical place with so much yet-to-discover histroy. What went on at this temple thousands of years ago? What happened to this great society, that thrived for well over 300 years? I can see 360 degrees all jungle canopy. Just verdant green all around. I spent the night up here last night! All those stars. And the bright moon. I can’t believe I’m here.”


My little camp on top of El Tigre. Rising beyond is the temple’s sister, La Danta.


More morning light gives way to the view from my camping spot.


“4:40 pm.
It’s fucking hot. Sweltering. So hot that I can’t even fall asleep in the shaded hammock, even though I’m very very tired. I keep looking at the pink polka dots spread all over my wrists, arms and top side of my hand. Damned fleas/mosquitos/ticks or whatever feasted on me on night number 1. I’m so stinky with 3 days of sweat and hard walking in the same shirt, pants and socks. I’m not going to shower or change into clean clothes until our hotel Thursday night. Still over 50 hours away. I’m still paranoid about ticks finding their way to my nuts and ass. I’m sure I have ticks and other critters in my unkept hair on my head. It is so thick and dirty and dry. It feels dead. Kirk has taken a “shower” 3 times. Twice in the Mirador camp. It’s basically a bucket of brown water than you dump on yourself. I think I’ll pass and just wait for the hotel. I’m paying over $20 for the privilege, so I’m going to really really look forward to it and enjoy it. My bites are so so itchy. I wonder if they will make a permanent record of this trip. So tired. Feet have blisters. And they stink of course…”

There will be no further pictures of the Parque Nacional Mirador. It took us 2 days of hard hiking to the site, 1 day to explore the major ruins of the site, and another 2 days of hard hiking back to civilization that it wouldn’t be fair to just show pictures of what we came to see. It is just something that one has to experience and feel in person. Feel free to google pics if you want, or to find the in depth National Geographic article. But no more photos from this blog from the site itself. Day 4 and 5 we hiked back.  Yes I was more tired, more dirty, and somehow managed to get more mosquito and tick bites.  Here are some final journal thoughts about our trip to El Mirador for all 5 days.


– ant highway in our camp next to our dining area.

– Markus spraying insecticide all over his pants, legs, arms, etc.  Basically taking a shower in it.

– taking a shit in the outhouse and hopeing that nothing comes up from within the darkness and bites me in the ass.

– our guide smoking natural herb joints every other stop.

– dinner…soup that makes me hot and sweaty.

– used toilet paper strwen around the ground a few meters from camp, the previous user unaware that there is a baño a few more steps away.

– Kirk catching ticks on his body before they start to dig in.

– my “Insectashield” special bandana NOT working as advertised.

– a dream about my shoes falling apart – but in reality, they are still holding up quite well for only a $7 repair job.

– drinking fresh hot tea from the leaves of the pimienta — smells like Juicy Fruit gum to me!

– getting hot and sweaty under my ballcap and mosquito headnet–which I wear sleeping at night

– watching a legion of ants ascend and swarm the empty plastic mug of sweetened tea that Markus left on the ground

– craving the doublescoop of vanilla and chocolate ice cream in a waffle cone.

– Adoniz’s personal museum of plates, pots, bones and other old things stashed away in a hidden grave mound site that he showed to us.

– Adoniz pointing out plant stems and tips just teeming with hundreds of ticks.  In the photo below, look to the tips of the stem to see them all!


– the last lunch – fresh sliced pineapple with bread and a potato/cucumber/egg/mayo salad mixture for the bread.  I had 5 or 6 sandwiches.

– Adoniz’s son getting a ticket for driving without a license.  Stopped for 10 minutes.

– Before taking us to the hotel, his son picks up a motorcycle, loads it in the back of the pick up and we have to find spaces to sit in around the motorcycle.

– Kirk’s spider leaping at his feet at dinner.  The table underside harbored the spider’s home.

– In the middle of the night, there’s a huge fire that erupts and Kirk wakes up to it.  Mysterious flames from the embers of the fire.

– Adoniz mumbling to himself as he walks along the trail (usually this happens after he had smoked one of his joints).

– whenever having the urge to piss, just stepping off the side of the trail and doing it–and inspecting my crotch for ticks and bite marks.

– the smell of our collective feet as we take off our shoes and socks and let our feet breathe.

– stopping suddenly to listen closer and scrutinize the nearby area for movements of things not seen, but heard.  Just a bird? A monkey? Snake?

– Drinking a juice box of peach juice and eating chocolate wafers at the side of the trail.  The juice is thick and Kirk also gets peach, but Markus only gets apple juice.

– Walking back to Carmelita and hanging back, enjoying the silence and just thinking about my life, the future, and enjoying the moment.”


Comings and Goings…

Wednesday, May 10th, 2006

It’s been a pretty interesting last 24 hours as I make my way out of Mexico and into Belize. I’m a little concerned about Belize, not because of any danger, but because my budget will be severely challenged once I arrive, so my stay in the country will probably just be for a little over a week. The beauty of Belize lies in the coral reefs and the incredible scuba diving and snorkeling. But since I can’t see once my glasses are off, it kind of defeats the purpose of donning a swim mask and gear to look at the hundreds of fish under the water that will just look like out of focus smudges. I’ll probably sign up for a tour just because, but otherwise I don’t imagine I’ll just be hanging out at the beaches reading and lounging. Nah, I could do that in Mexico because it was so cheap, but in Belize, where the cheapest accomodation goes for $25-$30 per night, I’ll need to just play turbo tourist and not linger for too long, unless I find a place just too good to not stay in. Additionally, most of the towns I’ve visited in Mexico have had supermarkets where I could buy basic staples to keep me going, but from what I’ve read about Belize, I’ll more than likely find myself eating out more often than I want to. There’s just so many instant Cup O Noodles that I can get used to…

I left Isla Mujeres on Friday morning with a Canuck, and we made our way down to Playa Del Carmen, which is about one hour south of Cancun. Mostly developed as a true tourist town, there are plenty of draws to justify how touristy Playa Del Carmen is. You have a ferry boat that can take you to and from Cozumel. The dock also receives passenger boats from the cruise ships that float just beyond. Plus there are the white sandy beaches and calm waves of the Carribbean. And hotels and resorts right on the beach. And a pedestrian only zone, 5th Avenue, one block away from the beach, filled with restaurants, clubs, bars, gift stores, and teeming with people all hours of the day and night. Mostly, I just hung out at the beach, reading and resting, swimming and wading, gazing out beyond. Saturday we were able to sneak into a resort, swipe some towels and pretended to be one of the guests. And so I spent most of my afternoon under the shade of a straw canopy, stretched out on a lounge chair and snacking on the food that I bought earlier in the day at MEGA, a Walmart-esque warehouse a few blocks away.


Can’t get enough of those sunsets! This one is Thursday night from Isla Mujeres


The beaches of Playa Del Carmen.


From the resort we snuck into. We didn’t dare try to order drinks or food, as we kept our hands under our towels so staff wouldn’t see that we did not have the appropriate wristbands to permit us to use their facilities.


Later I spread my new towel on the sand, as the sun set behind me and the cruise ship made its way to the next port.

Sunday we woke up early and took a collectivo to the Mayan ruins of Tulum, about another hour south of Playa Del Carmen. While the ruins themselves are the least impressive of all the sites I have visited, it is the dramatic setting that generates visitors to come time and time again. Indeed, by the time 11am rolled around, the small national parque was packed with tour groups and Mexican families, no doubt taking advantage of the free admission on Sundays. Guides led tours in Spanish, English, German and French. The ruins are set ontop a cliff, which overlooks the sea and the beaches below. There isn’t much shade, so after one trip around the ruins, I went down below to the beach and found a little shaded shelter and spent a few hours relaxing and reading.


Looking towards Templo del Dios del Viento.


Looking towards El Castillo. The steps lead down to the beach below.


Another look at the beach from the ruins.


Overview of the ruins.


My own little shaded, rocky shelter on the beach, sporting my new resort towel.

The Canadien and I parted ways after Tulum, and I walked along the beach south, checking out prices for palapas, like this one below…


Eventually, I did manage to find an unoccupied and unguarded shaded lounge chair from one of the hotels, and spent the rest of my afternoon continuing my boring, predictable routine of napping, reading, and doing nothing.


The view from my lounge chair. Nearby is a kiteboarding school, so I also watched people kitesurfing — skimming, jumping and slicing through the waves along the shore.

Later in the evening I met up with Eri, a fellow backpacker I met earlier in Valladolid and who lives in a palapa further down south along the beach. No TV, no refrigerator, no car and not much else except the sand, sea and wind. Lights are powered by solar panels, there is a tiny bathroom and what I suppose you can call a kitchen, and I slept like a baby on a huge hammock for two nights.


From the inside, the dining/kitchen area.


From the outside. A 90 second walk from the front door takes you right to the shoreline.


I spent all of Monday here at this spot, and time just flew by.

Yesterday I planned on staying overnight at Bacalar Lagoon, but somehow missed the bus stop and ended up in Chetumal, the last major Mexican town before crossing the border to Belize. And for almost 2 hours last night I wandered the streets, looking for a lavanderia. I asked so many shopkeepers that I lost track, and no one could point me in the direction of a laundromat. Finally this morning the staff person at my hostel told me to get a taxi and go to the Nuevo Market. Did that, walked around for half an hour, and finally, FINALLY, found a place to wash my bag of dirty clothes.

There’s not much more to do here in Chetumal aside from a museum, so I’ll be heading out to Belize tomorrow. And since Internet is $5 or more per hour in that country, this will be my last update for about a week. But check back on Friday from my completed trip report to El Mirador, and next week I’ll have my trip reports for Volcan Santiguito, Laguna Chicobal and a User’s Guide to Riding the Chicken Buses. And before I go today, and few more rumblings and ramblings…

– My hostel in Chetamul is dreadful, but at least it is cheap. There is no kitchen and no common area. Just rooms full of bunk beds. You don’t even get sheets when you check in, so last night I slept in my sleeping bag liner, which gets very very hot in this warm climate. I needed to stay covered to protect myself from all the wonderful bugs that still visit me in the night.


Dark, dank room full of bunk beds with bare mattresses.


And what is the deal with the toilets with no seats, and no privacy door!? And of course there is no toilet paper. I tried the shower, and a small trickle of water manages to squeeze out. When I turned the handle to the off position, a little lizard-like newt scurries from behind along the tiled wall into a crack and disappears. Well, at least the place is cheap.


Finally, here is a brochure I picked up for some overpriced Disneyland-type park near Playa Del Carmen. Brochures usually feature super tanned models and people you would only see on TV, but this one shows the real visitors. Oh, and he’s not really floating on a leaf, and the girl on the next page isn’t really under the water about to get eaten by a giant dolphin. False advertising I say, I should have gone to that park to see this floating leaf and Giant dolphin(incidentally, every single street corner in Cancun, Playa Del Carmen and Tulum have representatives from this park selling packages to tourists–commissions must be pretty good because everywhere you turn its Xcaret this and Xcaret that). That’s all the rambling I have time for, until the next update, Adios Mexico, Hola Belize!