It kind of feels like I left the real Guatemala behind when Dave and I rode off at the crack of dawn Friday morning. And I guess I did really, since then I have surrounded by fellow travellers and tourists in some of the most visited places in Guatemala.
Definitely a different pace of life. More creature comforts and money involved... and English!
It all started when I squeezed onto the back of Dave's motorbike somewhere between our two backpacks and day bags. It was a tight fit, and we had had to do a dummy run the day before to see how feasible the idea was since Dave's bike is for one person and has saddle bags not a second seat. But Dave said yes so I was in! Way more exciting than taking a bus.
It took us about 10 hours from San Pedro to Lanquin total, leaving at 6am and stopping regularly to regain normal circulation and movement in our legs. But we made it! It was only 275km or something like that, but nearly 75km of that was dirt roads winding through mountainous jungle and tiny remote villages. So beautiful.
The last 50km was absolutely stunning and a few extra photo stops proved necessary :) :) 100% worth the bruises on my bum and general terrible mood by the time we arrived for that.
Semuc Champey is another 11km of rough dirt roads from Lanquin but most people stay in one of the 2 awesome hostels in Lanquin and head into Semuc for day trips. The hostels there have the best locations, atmosphere, food, general vibe etc. and are full of awesome people! It's a really young crowd in Semuc. Love it.
Dave, Spencer and I actually managed to make it onto the same Semuc tour in the end but it was VERY difficult to try and organise... and I was super surprised when, after Dave jumped out the truck to chase Spencer and then rejoin the group, they actually both slipped into the tour group as we were heading into the water caves with our candles!
The caves were awesome (you get to climb a waterfall with a rope and slide through a natural water Shute thing into another chamber!), as was the giant rope swing, jungle hike to the lookout and swimming in the cascade of natural pools after. Semuc Champey is where a river runs underground that some how leads to all these amazing natural formations - it was fully explained to me in spanish but that's all I got. Haha
It is made especially awesome because occupational health and safety hasn't come in and spoiled it yet ;)
...but I'm glad Anna recently sorted out my travel insurance. don't worry mum I'm fine!!
Then I said goodbye to Dave and was off to Antigua with Spencer for a week of Spanish classes and cultural activities! (tourist jam-packed itinerary: check)
Spencer and I went to the same language school in town, but got there separately and stayed in different places; I opted for a home-stay whereas he chose to stay in hostels. So we actually didn't end up seeing each other that much! Pretty sure we both had amazing time though. He stayed one night with a couch surfer guy who owned an amazing organic farm and nature reserve kind of thing during the week!
My home-stay was more like a hostel that provided 3 meals a day. Originally I was pretty disappointed because this meant no spanish immersion which would have been great... But I got to meet heaps of awesome travellers who were also taking Spanish lessons or volunteering somehow in Antigua! There were usually about 8 people in the house I guess, from all over the world but mostly America and Canada. So not much Spanish, but lots of interesting conversation. And a lot of us were there for lessons so we whipped out the Spanish on the odd occasion ;)
Classes consisted of 3 1/2 hours a day, one on one with your teacher running from 8-12 noon. Pretty intense. But really good! I could have really made the most of the experience academically by staying in after lunch and studying up what I learnt each morning every afternoon. But I opted for the touristy option and went on the daily afternoon activities run by the school as well as throwing in a free salsa class, hanging out with new amigos and a 2 hour chocolate making lesson :) so fun!! Plus most of it was included in the school cost so I was just getting my money's worth the other way.
To sum up my afternoons; I saw churches, ruins, museums, a hall of miracles and a saints underwear, toured a macadamia farm, hiked a volcano and toasted marshmallows on hot rocks heated by lava, found out my Mayan animal is the Tz'ikin, had a security guard escort me through the house of jade, got lost in the giant maze of colours, smells and yelling that is the local market and just generally wandered around the picturesque cobblestone streets of Antigua as well as the aforementioned activities. That's why I didn't have time for homework.
I picked picked up invaluable travel advice over red wine and Gallo at the rainbow cafe as well as during the many family style meals where we just sat chilling in the courtyard/dining area :)
So that's a pretty good recap of my week in Antigua. I have decided that this general increase in pace is efficient, and I had heaps of amazing experiences... But I prefer the more laid back and real life aspect of San Pedro for sure.
I've decided that after my week in Utila (Honduras) getting my PADI open water diving certificate and partying with a bunch of other backpackers (woooo!! haha) I'll head to Nicaragua and find an organic farm that I can work on for my board. Much more my style. I've even emailed a couple of places already.
Partying at hostel after hostel and barely making it to the local must-see isn't very sustainable and completely out of my budget! So that will have to be saved for short snippets here and there depending on how ridiculously poor I am. Not too bothered either actually, you don't exactly learn Spanish doing that.
Fun fact: right now I am on a bus in Honduras (country number 4 for 2013) about to catch a ferry over to Utila which is the cheapest place in the world to do your diving certificate! (so I have been told by many different people from many different places) and we just stopped randomly for 20 minutes to change a tire. Hopefully we make the ferry...
And we is Spencer and I if you're lost, btw.
Hasta leugo amigos!!!