Mexico, Belize, Guatemala · 20 Days · 39 Moments · October 2017

Laura Visits Mexico, Belize & Guatemala


9 November 2017

Flew from Guatemala > Mexico City > cancun

4 November 2017

Salsa

3 November 2017

The club closed at 1am which we all thought was far too early! ‘After-parties’ seem to be the thing here, and a group of locals invited us all back for a party. However we changed our minds when they kept referring to us as ‘gringoes’. The others went back to hotel whilst Lachlan went for a wander, grabbed a few drinks from the bottle shop, and then came back to the hostel. We decided to see if we could get on the roof to look at the view, and were amazed to see a volcano erupting! 🌋 It was such a surreal sight, even despite the cloudy sky. We watched for quite some time, seeing the lava tumble down the side of the volcano. Daniel told us that this volcano, Volcano d’Agua is always active.
This morning we settled our bills at the jungle lodge, and I was really surprised to find that mine came to just over £40 including the kayaking trip and my meals for the two nights, including plenty of drinks. Guatemala is working out to be much cheaper than I expected. At 08:30 we got the water taxi back to the mainland and got in the minibus for the 9-hour transfer to Antigua. We had several stops including lunch, and tried to amuse ourselves with sleep, learning Spanish, and playing Heads Up! The bus did not sound healthy at all, and apparently first gear wasn’t working. The clutch was wailing the whole way, and at several points the driver couldn’t get the bus started! As we were driving through Guatemela city we were told how dangerous it is and that even the police are corrupt. 17 people are killed a day, so we were glad not to be stopping! We arrived at the hotel at just gone 6pm and then went for dinner at 7pm before going out for a few drinks.

2 November 2017

Marc struggled with his English when he joined the trip, but has improved so much even over the last week alone. We have been teaching him bits and pieces, but due to his literal translations of phrases, every so often he comes out with something which cracks everyone up. Tonight at dinner Lachlan asked Marc how he found the kayaking and whether he would recommend doing it. Marc’s response? ‘It was the worstest thing I have done on this whole entire trip!’
When we got back to the lodge we chilled with a few drinks on the deck, and then Ben and Matt decided to go ‘bush bashing’. I joined them for a bit before realising it would involve a lot of climbing and my toe was causing me agony, as well as some potential trespassing, so I left them to it! Lachlan and I went for a wander along the pier to watch the boats and enjoy the silence away from the madness! Irmantis also roped me into taking some pics for him, a task that everyone tries to avoid given how many instructions he fires and that no one so far has managed to get it right! We had dinner again at half 7 and then most of us opted for an early night.
Just after we breakfast we took a 45-minute road to get to the hot waterfalls. We stopped off on the way at an ATM and the shop to pick up beers and snacks, and once at the mainland we were taken on the back of a flat-bed truck to where the waterfalls were. Kids were jumping on and off the back of the truck as we were moving, which they apparently do all the time in order to get around. The waterfalls were amazing - one stream of water freezing cold and the other boiling hot, merging together to form a nice natural bath. We spent a good few hours messing around, jumping off the waterfall, having wrestling games, and also using natural mud as a face mask. It was a great opportunity to chill out with everyone; it’s felt like we are on the go a lot so to go for a relaxing swim was a welcome break to the trip.
Chelsea and I woke up at 5am ready to meet the others for the sunset cruise at 05:30. Unfortunately there were only 13 kayaks, so three of the guys are going tomorrow instead. Chelsea and I managed to get into a rhythm fairly quickly, but it wasn’t long before we were pretty exhausted! There wasn’t much of a sunset to see as it was a little cloudy and 05:30 was too late really to have seen much. However, we did get to see howler monkeys up in the trees in several places and it was fun to do a different activity. The guide pointed out a manatee, however the rest of us didn’t manage to see it. We spent two hours on the water which was certainly long enough, as we were absolutely knackered and very hungry! We headed back to the lodge to get breakfast and meet the others for our trip to the hot waterfalls.

1 November 2017

We left at 10am this morning to head to Rio Dulce, where we stayed in jungle lodges. We had a five-hour drive and made a stop for lunch and snacks. Chelsea and I were put in the same lodge (we tend to be put together due to our propensity for parting and late nights along with the Aussie guys!) with a bedroom alongside Henrik and Marc. We spent the afternoon chilling and chatting at the pool with a few rum punches. We were given a brief chat about the activities available for the next few days, and all agreed we wanted to go kayaking and to the hot waterfalls. We had dinner at 19:30 which we had had to pre-order; most of us were disappointed with the dinner but being in a lodge we were stuck for much else to eat! After dinner Lachlan and I stayed up in the hammocks until around 11, chatting and watching our for animals. We saw some more of the possum-type animals we had seen at Tikal, although the noises suggested there were many more creatures!

31 October 2017

There seemed to be a lot of injuries tonight - obviously the health and safety rules in Guatemala leave a lot to be desired, because who would have thought it all safe to pump a load of young people full of alcohol, and allow them to jump off the boat in the dark! I managed to stub my toe on the boat resulting in a lot of pain and bruising! We got back to the hotel at about 8pm and asked if we could go back out on the boat again, and for some reason they said yes! We stayed on until 10pm and then Lachlan and I went to another two bars for more alcohol that we certainly didn’t need! Chelsea and Marc managed to get lost and phoned Kaja and Kristina for help. What they didn’t realise was the fact that they were calling over WiFi and therefore were sat virtually on the hotel doorstep, using their WiFi!
Once we to back to the hotel we had about 20 minutes to get ready for the sunset booze cruise and drop off our laundry, but somehow we managed it! I think we had expected a rowing boat or something similar, but we were very pleasantly surprised to see a pontoon-type boat with plenty of seats, a sound system and dance floor, and a very well-stocked bar! The cruise started at 16:30, just in time to see the sunset. We were greeted with rum punch for the short ride over to one side of the lake where there was a diving platform and a rope swing, which we all had a go on. Unfortunately I decided to attempt a backwards dive which ended in a vertical slam in the water and a lot of. bruising! With the alcohol flowing it quickly descended into absolute madness, with so many tequila shots that the boat ran out of tequila (none for me mind you!), karaoke, salsa dancing, and swimming in the dark. We stopped off at the boat owner’s house to use the toilet and get some dinner.
We had an early start today, getting up at 5am for the drive to Flores, Guatemala. With 10 girls sharing two bathrooms and a bedroom minimal on space, it was quite a squeeze! It was a half-hour drive to the Belize - Guatemala border. In Central America there are people standing at most of the borders who will buy your currency from you. We all changed up our money, paid our exit fee, and got on a minibus to head to Flores. We’d already ordered breakfast the night before, so we stopped to pick it up and visit an ATM to get some Guatemalan Quetzal. This was also where we picked up Juanita the monkey 🐒, who will be awarded to someone each day who has been nominated for ‘dick of the day’! At around 10ish we arrived at the ancient city of Tikal, and had a guided tour with a guy called Miguel. He has been a tour guide at Tikal for almost thirty years and is extremely knowledgeable of the area. There was a lot of walking and many steps to climb, but it was very impressive.

30 October 2017

Some of us had been craving pizza for a few days so decided to try out a pizza place in the square and bring our own drinks. It was nothing special but certainly hit the spot! We then joined Matt and Ben at a restaurant where we had plenty more rum punch, the guys had shots, and we disrupted the whole restaurant with a load game of Heads Up! We didn’t have a particularly late night as several late nights in a row and early starts meant we were all tired.
Last night we bought some cereal so we could eat breakfast at the hostel, and got picked up for our caving tour at 8am. It was an hour’s drive to get there, and on the way we were told that due to a previous visitor dropping their camera on a skull in the caves, no cameras were allowed. This was a massive shame because the pictures would surely have been fascinating. The caving itself was amazing; we had to cross three rivers (fully-clothed!) before entering the caves. The caves themselves were very surreal. It was quite physically exhausting as the water was quite high with strong currents, and it took a lot of mental energy to think about the placement of your hands and feet all the time. There were several skulls, as well as a skeleton which was still in the lying down position which was really fascinating to see, and quite spooky! We finished the caving trip at around 16:00 and then had some lunch, of course including rum punch, before heading back to the hostel.

29 October 2017

We went for a wander around the tiny little town to find our bearings, and decided to join Kaya and Kristina at a little restaurant for dinner. It was 17:00 at this point and we had been told that tonight’s restaurant for dinner is one of the best that Daniel knows in Belize, so most of us decided to hold off on food. Instead, we started on the jäger bombs and cocktails! We had a hotel at the briefing at 18:00 where we had a briefing on the local activities that we could do, and most of us signed up for caving at ATM; although I was quite keen to do tubing as well, I went on Daniel’s recommendation. We went for dinner afterwards, and I had the most enormous portion of quesadillas, which were really nice. Chips and salsa with every meal is a bonus! The rum punch continued at dinner (it seems to be a recurring theme here in Belize), and then we decided to go back to the guys’ hostel to share a bottle of parrot rum and play some drinking games, which was great fun!
We had to check out of the hostel at 11am today and get the water taxi back to the mainland, before heading for San Ignacio. This allowed us a bit of a lie-in which was much-needed, however I’ve still not had more than three hours of sleep any night since I’ve been away! We decided to go back to Cafe y Amor for breakfast as it was a safe bet the other day, and knew we had a long day of travelling ahead. Back at the mainland, we caught the ‘chicken bus’, which is an old American school bus turned into a public bus. We had been lead to believe that it would be hell on earth, but we were pleasantly surprised! The Aussies and I sipped on Captain Morgan’s for the three-hour journey, which certainly helped to pass the time! We arrived at San Ignacio and immediately missed the beautiful Caye, as San Ignacio town doesn’t have a huge amount to offer. The ten girls stayed in the one hostel which we had all to ourselves, whilst the six guys and Daniel stayed in the sister hostel down the road

28 October 2017

Tonight we decided to get a huge bottle of rum between the group and play some drinking games (21, and Ring of Fire) on the hostel roof. We did this until 23:00 before we decided to jump on the boat over to the island for the Hallowe’en party. They’d gone to a lot of effort to decorate the island and there was a great atmosphere. Unfortunately the music was rap and R’n’B which wasn’t really to any of our tastes! Being sober whilst everyone else was blind drunk was certainly a challenge! We stayed until the party finished at 02:00 and got the boat back to island, with Henrik being sick out of the side of the boat! Once back we all decided we wanted pizza, but unfortunately everything was closed. We saw a guy on a golf buggy who offered to take us to a party on the other side of the island. Turns out it was in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t actually happening, so that was probably for the best! We had some grub from the ‘midnight munchies’ place before heading to be around 4am.
We were all pretty tired today due to a couple of active days (and probably a fair bit to do with the alcohol!) and stayed in bed until around 10:00 before going for brekkie on the beach. I had a delicious Belizean breakfast of scrambled egg with tortilla and refined beans with salsa - great hangover cure! We then decided to head back to the split island to spend the afternoon on the beach, making the most of the sea and the sun before we move inland. We attempted a game of volleyball in the sea which was good fun despite our lack of sporting abilities, and then had lunch in the beach restaurant. We played a few games of cards but this was halted by the rain, which is when we decided it was a good idea to head back to the main island to freshen up before dinner at 19:00. When we got back the sky had cleared and we decided to swim off the pier behind our hostel whilst the sun was going down.

27 October 2017

At the end of our snorkelling trip, we got dropped off at the little island on the other side of the split; the island only has a beach bar and sun beds, but it’s completely idyllic. We took with us some of the rum punch from the boat trip, and sat on the inflatable water trampoline for a few hours, until well after the sun had gone down. Steadily getting more and more merry, laughing non-stop and swapping stories, I could happily have stayed there forever. We had a few goes at trying to climb the other inflatables in the dark, before deciding to catch the speedboat back to the main island. Everyone split and did their own thing, and so I decided to go and find some others from the group, not knowing where on earth they were. Such is island life that I was able to walk up and down the length of the island and ask complete strangers, and they were able to tell me where they had seen the group! After dinner we sat on the rooftop to continue the funny story-swapping.
This morning we set off for our snorkelling trip. We went to the shop to get fitted for our flippers and then all went to Cafe y Amor for some breakfast. The trip was meant to leave at 10:00, but in true Belizean time we were stood around waiting until 11:00! We had the boat to ourselves and had some crew members who were great fun and made the day very enjoyable. We made three snorkelling stops to see specific things; the first stop was to see a manatee, the second to see some turtles on the ocean floor, and the third was to see sharks. There were so many of them and were so surreal to see. We were assured they were not dangerous as they have no teeth and have to suck their food! We stopped for lunch of either fish or chicken, and then had our final snorkelling stop over the coral reef, which was really beautiful. We swam quite far though so it was fairly tiring! 🐠🐟

26 October 2017

After sunset, we went back to the hotel to scrub up for dinner at a restaurant that Daniel had recommended called ‘Enjoy’. We had a few happy hour drinks (it seems to be happy hour all the time!) and i had a lovely jerk chicken dish, whilst others were pleased to have lobster which apparently is very cheap here. After dinner we went to the Belikin sports bar, which is one of only three bars on the island. Again we went crazy on the rum punch and had a boogie. All the guys here can really dance and all know salsa, so they will come over and give you a spin and dance with you for a bit, all in good fun. We are all looking forward to our group salsa lesson in Guatemala! As the night went on people snuck off one by one, back to bed, until there were just a few of us left. We decided to move on to the reggae bar where we sat at the bar on swings (that seems to be a very common thing here!) and danced until we could dance no more, before going to bed around 03:30.
This evening we went to the ‘split’ which is exactly as it sounds, where the island splits in two. There is a diving platform and tables and chairs in the water, as well as a beach bar. The sun sets early here at the moment (around 17:30), so we sat and watched the sunset and chatted away with our beers and rum punch. It was a rather magical moment sitting with this group of people who only a few days ago were complete strangers, watching the sky change and feeling on top of the world. This place goes at such a lovely, leisurely pace and island life is something I could really get on board with!
Today we arrived in Belize after what was expected to be almost a full day of travelling, but managed to make good time and got to the ferry port by about midday. We then had a half-hour water taxi to Caye Caulker. This place is like nothing I could have imagined! Everyone walks around barefoot, there are no cars and everyone gets around on bicycle or golf buggy, everyone knows everyone and talks to you when you walk past, there are funny signs up everyone, and the motto on the island is ‘go slow’ and take it at ‘Belize time’! The island is fairly small so you can walk from one end to the other in 20 minutes or so. As we arrived quite early, our hostel rooms weren’t ready. Daniel (our guide) took us on a tour around the island so we could find out the best places to eat and the ATM and so on, as well as going to book our snorkelling trip for tomorrow. At the hostel, there are six of us girls in the one room, the rest of the girls in another, and the boys all in one room above us.
Four iPhone alarm clocks going off at the same time is the worst sound I have ever heard, and was not at all appreciated at 05:15 this morning! We got ourselves ready through very bleary eyes and sore heads, and got on our minibus to take us to the Mexico / Belize border.

25 October 2017

Today I finally got to meet the two other girls in my room, Kaya and Kristina, who are from Norway; they’re really lovely and completely my kind of people. We had a few drinks in the room and chatted for a few hours before we met the others for dinner. I was very pleased to find some Four Loko at Walmart, an alcopop-type drink that’s big in America and is 12%! My last experience with Four Loko involved one of the girls on my USA trip throwing up into the Bellagio fountains in Vegas after just one can! The group wanted to go to a Thai restaurant as they were sick of Mexican food, so that’s what we did! We then returned to Fat Tuesday, despite all saying we’d avoid alcohol tonight due to the 6am bus ride in the morning. We had a few drinks there before going on to another bar for a few more. We didn’t like the music there so we set up a speaker and played our own! We got back around 1am before crashing into bed ready for the early journey to Belize tomorrow.
Today most of the tour group have gone to see the ruins at Tulum and a cenote, but as I did very similar on my trip to Chichén Itzá I decided to pass up on today’s trip. I left my roommates sleeping at midday to go and have lunch and a few drinks. I’m enjoying just wandering around and seeing what I come across - it’s nice to take it slow and relax. There has been mention of ‘Mexican time’ being very slow, and I have certainly noticed this when buying a drinks at a bar, when the bar staff disappear to have a cigarette or a little break before returning with your drinks! I decided to treat myself to a massage on the beach before going to the Frida Kahlo museum. She was a fascinating woman; I only wish the museum had been larger as I would have liked to learn even more. I finished off the afternoon by sitting on the beach to finish my book, before stopping off at Walmart from supplies for our five-hour bus journey tomorrow morning.

24 October 2017

Tonight’s welcome meeting introduced us to the rest of the group - 16 people in total, consisting of four guys and the rest girls. Some from Australia, England, Norway, Sweden, Holland, Germany, and Lithuania - a real mix! I am sharing a room with three other girls (rather unfairly given that every other room has just two people in), and we have one key between four which is turning out to be a bit of a nightmare, as the hotel doesn’t even seem to have a master key that works! Our room mates arrived late and had to come to the restaurant just to get the key! Most of us went out for dinner together at a local Mexican place, before just four of us - Ben and Matt (Aussies), and Saskia (from Surrey) and I went for some drinks in a beach bar, followed by a very lively and energetic dancing session at Fat Tuesdays (where I had been earlier today); this consisted of lots of free-flowing shots and dance-offs, and yards of daiquiris. We eventually strolled back to the hotel after midnight.
There is something extremely satisfying and freeing about being in a foreign continent and country all by yourself. Being able to do what you want and when you want without anyone else influencing you; feeling proud that you’ve managed to get yourself several hundred miles across the world by yourself and explore a new area; managing to find places to go and things to see without needing to use a map - it’s such a satisfying feeling of pride and achievement to be able to travel alone. That being said, I’m looking forward to meeting some fellow travellers tonight!
Our ‘welcome meeting’ for the start of our tour is at 18:30, and as it’s only 14:00 I’ve decided to stop off at funky bar called ‘Fat Tuesdays’. They serve frozen daiquiris in either a pint or a yard! Decided to play it safe and go for a pint, as I don’t want to be remembered at the start of the trip as the girl who turned up drunk! There are four different flavours of daiquiris which you get to ‘try before you buy’. 🍹 I’ve also picked up some motivational quotes here which will inevitably see me through the next few years and help me to justify some of my drinking behaviours!
I had a feeling having this lovely room to myself would be too good to be true! I got a call from reception this morning saying that they needed to make up some more beds as my roommates would be arriving. Realised I needed to move all my wet pants that are drying all around the room! Feel slightly apprehensive now. Decided to go out for lunch, and on my way out saw a girl at reception with a rucksack, and after a quick chat released we are on the same trip. She’s another solo traveller so that has allayed my concerns slightly. Checked with reception to see how many others will be in my room and it looks like a group of Swedish girls. The group looks to be full at 16 people so hopefully there’ll be some more likeminded individuals! Stopped off for a margarita (because a margarita is always the answer!), some food, and a wander along the beach.

23 October 2017

On the way back to Playa del Carmen, we stopped off at a little town for half an hour or so. Considering the rain showed no sign of letting up, I decided to stay put on the coach as did quite a few others. We were then taken back to Playa (a two-hour drive) where we met some smaller minibuses to take us back to our different hotels. The bus driver didn’t seem to know where my hotel, Koox Studio 30 was (I was informed today by Reys, our guide, that Koox translates as ‘get out’ - I’m not sure that’s the best name for a hotel!) and stopped at one point to tell me in broken English that we had driven past and I simply had to walk one block back. I didn’t believe this for a second, but I thought the Mexican is more likely to know where we are than I am! Turns out I was right, and it was a bit of a trek back to the hotel - thankfully I had a map! By this time it was almost 10pm Nd I decided to get a takeaway pizza to take back to the hotel and have a hot shower before bed.
We stopped off for a very quick buffet lunch and watched some typical Mayan dancers performing. It’s a very strange experience being in a large group of people who cannot speak English, and feeling so alone yet with so many. We arrived at Chichén Itzá where we were put into groups dependant on the guide language we needed, so it was a relief to be able to understand what was going on! The idea was that we had a one-hour guided tour followed by an hour to explore the site and take photos. Unfortunately just as we finished the tour, the rain clouds decided to open! The rain was so heavy that people were stripping their clothes off and everyone was huddled into the reception area waiting for the rain to ease off. This didn’t happen, so I made my way back to the coach early and got myself dry. I must admit I found Chichén Itzá rather underwhelming to say the least, although I did find it fascinating that the pyramid was actually built over the top of a cenote, which is still there!
After two hours’ drive, we stopped at a Cenote (sinkhole) in the middle of a Mayan village. The sinkhole is 50m deep and the water is beautifully blue. I would have liked to have gone for a swim, but given that I’m virtually alone here (no other English speakers on the trip!) I would have had no one to guard my belongings or to enjoy it with, so I settled for watching other people jumping in. Unfortunately some things are much better in company, but thankfully the G Adventures your will be visiting some sinkholes.
It seems jet lag has hit me, as I woke up just after 3am, and couldn’t get back to sleep. I got picked up from the hotel at 07:20 to go on my excursion to Chichén Itzá, by which point (typically) I could easily have gone back to sleep. We stopped off at Cenote Tortuga for a quick look around an a refreshment stop. There are plenty of staff around to take photos for you, but absolutely nothing is done here without providing a tip, so sometimes a selfie will have to suffice!

22 October 2017

Well, the heavens opened and it didn’t take me a lot of convincing to find somewhere warm for a margarita! With all the Mexican food here I’m in my element 🍹🌮 I’ve also discovered how far a few words of broken Spanish can get you!
After only two hours sleep despite having barely slept in the last 24+ hours, I sat out to explore the local area of Playa del Carmen. Knowing the apartment was only 10 mins walk from the beach, I just decided to follow my feet. It seems it has rained in the night because some of the roads are flooded! It’s a hive of activity here - it’s only just midday but there is Mexican music blaring from every bar and shop, and people trying to lure you in for Margaritas. On reaching the beach I sat for a while to take in my surroundings, before noticing how dark the sky looked - this does not bode well!
I have arrived in Playa del Carmen. With another empty flight I managed to get two seats to myself on the plane again which was conducive to a little snooze, but not nearly long enough! Now to finally catch up on sleep and hope that the shops open at a reasonable time for a Sunday so I can re-fuel. Chucking it down with rain here but absolutely boiling hot - thank god for A/C!

21 October 2017

Today I set off for my next adventure to Mexico and Central America. After the obligatory airport pint and a very smooth check-in and security run, I boarded the almost 12-hour flight to Mexico City, where I was lucky to have two seats to myself and have a very comfortable flight. Not much of a snooze as despite the staff dimming the lights and the windows to try and mimic nighttime, some arsehole kept hers open and disrupted everyone else’s sleep! Oh well, gave me a chance to start and finish two entire books! Now for an almost five-hour wait before my connecting flight to Cancún.