I’m going to attempt to update on my travelling every few days as a mammoth blog at the end of a 40 day trip won’t be fun for anyone… so here is mine and Laura’s story from our first 5 days in Guatemala!!
Our day began at 4am when we got a lift to the Hedman Alas bus station. We then had a 16 hour bus trip via San Pedro Sula and Guatemala City to get to a colonial town in Guatemala, called Anitgua. As always we had some interesting travel companions… Laura was sat with a young guy who just STARED at her the entire way and I was sat next to a woman who was very lovely but also very chatty. Which would have been fine but a lot of her chatting was in very fast Spanish so I mostly just nodded my head, smiled and said ‘si’! I also learnt from the trip that changing currency at the border should be avoided as they charge you a silly amount. We eventually arrived in Antigua around 9.30 in the evening… we were in a mini van with just us two in and when the driver asked where we were staying, we promptly, accidentally deleted the email with the name and address of our hostel. Oops. The van driver clearly wanted to get home and so got us out of his van asap and left us standing in the middle of Antigua with no idea what to do. Luckily we found a friendly guy with wifi in his cafe who drew us a little map to where we wanted to go 🙂
Something quite nice we’ve discovered about Guatemala is that most hostels offer a free breakfast – so that morning we tucked into omelets and fruit salad! We did already have a different hostel booked though so we set off to find it, and after getting a little lost, we found El Hostal. It was lovely with comfy beds, hot showers and a lovely courtyard. After dumping our things, we went for a look around Antigua – it is very Spanish colonial style with lovely buildings and cobbled streets. This also means lots of tourists – which is fine but it is strange going from being so unique in Tegus to just being another couple of gringos! That evening we found a restaurant with fajitas (Laura was very disappointed to find that despite the menu saying it came with guacamole, it didn’t!) and a very shy waiter who repeatedly reassured us the food was coming…
We went for another wander through the cobbled streets and were planning on another relaxing day discovering Antigua… but somehow we ended up on a trek up a nearby volcano (Volcano Pacaya… sadly, not active and no lava). We signed up to it not really thinking and didn’t actually anticipate walking up anything until we were in the mini bus, on our sandals, surrounded by people in their walking boots. It was a pretty tough walk up, especially near the top when all the volcanic rubble was getting into our shoes, but we made it!! And the views were AMAZING. We then ended up trekking back down the mountain by ourselves as it was getting dark, running past men with guns and machetes… all good fun! Our guide was a sweet girl who told us she had 9 brothers and sisters and she goes up the volcano twice a day for really bad pay, she was so lovely though we tipped her a few dollars. For food that evening we went back to somewhere we had seen the night before called ‘Potato and Beer’, just to see what it was. And it was sooo good… the potato bit was actually french fries covered in different choices of toppings: I had chili beans, sour cream and cheese and Laura had the same but with spices. Sooo yummy… but neither of us could even half finish it and we both felt ill the rest of the night, oops! That night we met a couple of people from Scotland, so as well as the Irish woman who was there, we nearly had the whole set! It’s so strange hearing British accents!
We started off with quite a stressful morning, running around Antigua, trying to activate my bank card to use in Mexico and trying to trace one of Laura’s jackets that had gone missing. It never showed up 😦 We then said goodbye to Antigua and set off for Guatemala City. Luckily, another girl was going to the same hostel as us so the shuttle bus dropped us off there and we were saved trying to get around this big city with our backpacks. The guy who runs the hostel was French, friendly but also slightly crazy. He did help us find the places we wanted to visit though so all good. We didn’t have much time to explore before it got dark so we decided to go straight to a mall we had heard about that had a restaurant with an aquarium inside! We are trying to stick to as tight a budget as possible, and with our Central American travel expertise from Honduras, we decided to jump right in and us the city chicken buses. The walk to the bus stop was through the parque central and it was really pretty, surrounded in huge, historical buildings. There were lots of benchs and trees… we were reminded of Amsterdam, Spain and Paris all in one. The walk was made even nicer by the huge lack of whistling, cat calls and staring from men… people barely looked at us which was a lovely change from Honduras! The bus was fine too and quite an adventure, it was a little different to Tegus in that you were meant to pay as you got on, not once you were sat. So the bus assistant came chasing after us, shouting ‘uno’ in our faces and we were a little confused… so a guy paid for us, so sweet!! We then got off the bus and began about a 30 minute walk to the mall… when it started throwing it down. Yes we decided to travel in rainy season, oops! So after hiding under an office shelter for 10 minutes we eventually got a taxi the rest of the way. We got to Oakland Mall and were impressed by how modern it is, the malls in Tegus are pretty good but this was a lot more swanky and american. It even had a carousel, fancy fountain and the aquarium restaurant. The restaurant was a lot cheaper than we expected (I had a steak dinner for £8!!) so we had a lovely meal there while watching fish. Each table also had its own mini TV screening football… every man’s dream right?! So I was glad I was there with Laura hehe. We got a taxi home, which got a little lost, so the driver was stopping and asking people directions – another thing that would never happen in Tegus!
Our room in this hostel was amazing – we managed to get a private room for just $7! It had one double and one single bed (we compromised on me getting the double and Laura having the extra pillow). The beds also had mosquito nets around them which basically make it look like you have a princess bed, I loved it!! We then had a yummy typical breakfast of juevos, frijoles and platano (eewwww!) and set off on our next day exploring Guatemala City. We walked through downtown, where we stopped for a while in a beautiful church. We actually took pictures as well which we would never, ever do in Tegus. We then managed to find the bus we wanted.. to the La Aurora Zoo. We were a bit apprehensive about visiting another Central American zoo, after our experience at the zoo in Tegus where all the animals were either depressed or demented, but after reading reviews and seeing a price of just $3.25, we decided to brave it. And we were sooo glad that we did… it was amazing, even better than any zoo I can remember going to in the UK. We saw every animal you would expect – giraffes, zebras, lions, penguins – and mostly amazingly, a hippo mum with its hippo baby, a Bengal tiger and a Siberian tiger (who almost had sex while we were there) and two brown bears playfighting! AMAZING!! All for £2… we also bought a new travel companion; Pacho the Pinguino. More on him later…
There was a lot of rain again while we were at the zoo and we ended up having to rush home but still got pretty wet, but such a great day anyway!
Yesterday was another long travel day, or it was meant to be. We firstly got a coach to Tapachula, via the Mexican border. The bus left at 2pm and was meant to arrive at 7pm… as it gets dark around 6.30, we were worried about the Mexican border but thought it’d be ok before dark. The coach ended up being super slow and we didn’t get to the border until 8ish, so we were quite apprehensive. It ended up being fine, a lovely church group showed us where to go… and when we got to the luggage checks, the guy asked if we had any bananas, we said no… and he told us to go right on through. Great security!! We arrived in Tapachula though and were relieved to see that we were in the same bus terminal as our next, overnight bus. The problem was though that the bus had sold out, damn! So we had no choice but to find the cheapest accommodation we could… which turned out to be $9 for a room with two double beds, fans and a TV. Not too bad! We then went on the hunt for food… I don’t know why or when this happened, but Laura and I have become quite brave in our approach to strange, dark places. We just wandered around this Mexican town at 9pm (which we later discovered it was actually 10pm due to the time difference across the border) and found some random place selling food. We would never do this in Honduras! We did go past a British pub though in our hunt for food which was quite surreal. In the end, we found somewhere selling some really yummy mushroom filled quesadillas for about $3… and ran into our lovely church friends! We then got tucked into bed and watched a very entertaining TV show which appeared to be something like Mexico’s Got Talent. It was, ermm, interesting, to say the least…
Already a week into travelling… oh, and exactly half way through my year abroad!!
We did have the sense to buy our bus tickets for today, last night when we were a the bus station. Unfortunately the bus only goes at 10.45 at night so we are now waiting the whole day in Tapachula, where there is not much to do… especially with two large and heavy backpacks. Luckily the hotel we stayed in last night has let us sit in their courtyard for the day. So hopefully we will manage to get our bus tonight which will be 12 hours North-West (hey, Kayne’s baby!!) to the beach town of Puerto Escondido…
LOVE FROM MEXICO!!!! ❤ x