Friday, July 15, 2011

My award winning documentaries, or just some really cheesy movies.

                                           First day in Antigua, typical of the weather at this time of year

                                 Climbing the Volcano named Pacaya outside Antigua, Guatemala

Geothermal heat, should've brought marshmallows to roast or just sit there and warm up just as I did.

Luckily I didn't get blown over the cliff, that would be bad.

Semuc Champay: One of my best days traveling EVER!



Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Home away from Home, Antigua

Well today is my last day in Central America. Probably forever for there are so many places to see in this world and I want to see as many as I possibly can. I am back in my home away from home, Antigua. I also am staying in my home away from home, La Posada Merced. The people in this hotel are amazing.

It was nice coming here yesterday morning and getting caught up on some sleep in a clean, warm bed. Something I no longer take for granted. I am flying out tomorrow morning. I am looking forward to being back home but I know after a couple of days I will miss traveling. I am staying here tonight and taking a shuttle early in the morning to Guatemala City. There was no way I was going to spend the night in Guatemala City after what I have read, heard and seen. No thanks!

I will write one last post when I get home and get my batteries recharged. There certainly have been certain themes from what I have experienced that stick out. However I need a day or two to reflect. I also will be adding my videos which I watched last night with great remembrance. Once again I have enjoyed these three weeks immensely. Guatemala is a land full of beauty and charm. However it is also a land full of injustice and disappointment. I will never forget the great memories that have been forged in this enchanting part of the world.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Well, I decided to separate from the girls for the last few days of my trip. They were headed down the coast and I felt like I needed to see Tikal. I knew if I did not go I would regret it so I went and I am sure glad I did. I arrived in Flores yesterday around dinner time. It feels good to be back in Guatemala. I feel like I have enjoyed my Guatemala trip the most. Tonight I finish the last of my long journeys when I travel overnight back to Antigua. Thank God! I need a couple of days of sleep when I get back home. Anybody have a guess how long I have spent on buses or vans?

So I got up at four this morning to go on my tour. I decided to go with the tour, hopefull I would accomplish one of my goals, learning more about the Mayan culture. I decided to head on the early tour because I was told that would give me a greater chance of seeing monkeys and other wildlife through the jungle on the way to the ruins. The hike was a lot of fun through the jungle. It is not a primary forest, third growth in fact. Still some big trees though.

I feel like I learned a lot from our guide. He knew his stuff or at least a good deal. I apologized in advance for asking so many questions. I met a nice guy Frederik from Denmark, thankfully he shared the same interest in Mayan history. We had a great time bantering back and forth all day. I feel like I have come full circle on this trip for I saw the two guys I met from Israel when hiking Picaya two weeks back. We had a nice time reconnecting and catching up.

Alright as for Tikal. People began settling in the area around 1500 BC. Most of the building took place around 800 AD. The limestone which were used to build the pyramids were found in several quarries surrounding the site. It would take one full day while cutting one single block. The block was cute using flint stone. The best guess as to why people left the area is due to overuse of the soil. Simply they were unable to feed the population, famine. At one time it is estimated that at one point 150,000 people lived in the area. The site was rediscovered in the mid 1800´s. Unfortunately many artifacts were taken or stolen. However archaeologists from the University of Pennyslvania came in and dug up the site. Many are artifacts are found at the school. Tikal is a protected UNESCO site. It is estimated that only around 25% of the site has been discovered. Which is crazy for the site is huge. Okay enough with that. It is pretty amazing climbing pyramids and looking out over the jungle. It is also pretty crazy to think of all the work that was involved in creating Tikal which held important religious importance. The palaces where the kings and nobility must have been spectacular.

I am so thankful and happy I made it here. It was well worth all of the travel. A truly incredible sight coming out of the jungle and stumbling upon imposing pyramids that rise into the sky. I picture and daydream about daily life as I trudge around the site. What type of life did the average person have? If kings were believed to be divine how good did they live? Who were sacrificed to appease the Gods, different belifes abound here. Certainly different than the Aztecs, we heard they were not POW´S but maybe babies, virgins or the poor that volunteered their life. So many questions remain as far as the site. We may never know, however this only adds to the intrigue.

                                                          All of the hills were man made, tomb
                                                            Back of the pyramid, imposing itself in the jungle
                                                            Little Mayan artwork anyway
                                                   Alot harder to climb than it looks, very slippy. Someone fell of in October and was killed. So people are not allowed to climb all of the pyramids. There were at least six pyramids.

This is the view I am talking about. A great spot to sit and think about the meaning of life. Okay so I didn´t go that deep but nevertheless.
                                                 Pyramid in honor of King Chocolate. No joke, that is his nickname. I like Chocolate, especially Hersheys. FYI
                                            King Chocolates tomb was found underneath with guess what, you guessed it chocolate.


Sunday, July 10, 2011


After a 3 hour bus ride from Cancun to Tulum we headed for our hostel. Boy were we in for a surprise. It was dirty and full of bugs and mosquitoes. While we waited Cheryl headed into town and found us another hostel. What a relief. Our new hostel ended up being on the beach, was clean and was around the same price.

The next we woke up early and rented bikes. We biked from our hostel to the ruins of Tulum. The Mayans were a powerful civilization in Central America starting around the sixth century and lasting up until the 15th century. Many people in this region have Mayan ancestry and are rightfully proud of their heritage and culture.   Hopefully my students remember my lesson this past year on the Mayans and Aztecs. I taught about them coming up with the first organized team sport in history called ballgame. We also mentioned that they were polytheistic or believed in many gods and their contributions including an accurate 365 day calendar, hieroglyphic writing and of course their architecture. Of course students you probably only remember the human sacrifice part and playing an awesome song that day, Cortez the Killer.

Anywho, Tulum was built in the 1100's and was an important religious center. It's location is magnificent along the beautiful Caribbean. Its location made it inaccessible due to the high rocky cliffs and strong defensive fortifications surrounding the site. Unfortunately many of the ruins are blocked off but the scenes  were spectacular. I could not help but think of what life was like here back in its heyday. What was everyday life like for the average Mayan. What was it like to witness one of the many religious ceremonies and see an enemy captive have his head chopped off.

Unfortunately my trip was cut short due to rain and crazy mosquitoes. Evidently I am tasty for I have bite marks all over my body. It was like being in Florida in August. I went back to the hostel and had a great day chilling on the beach and finishing my fourth book in 2 weeks. I also swam in the ocean for a long period of time, enjoying the waves and cooling myself off all at the same time. If you have not read Kite Runner I highly reccommend it. AWESOME, POWERFUL BOOK!

I wrote too much!

                                                  Our hostel.

                                                Inside our room, did I mention the mosquitos were bad.
                                              What a nice, relaxing day on the beach.

Snorkeling with Whale Sharks at Isla de Mujeres

                                                     Our chill guide, he has been on the island for 28 years
                                                     In my best Steve Irwin voice And what you see there is a large whale shark, lets see how close we can get it to it mates.
                                            Alright seriously I swam right by it. Thankfully it wasn't a Great White. Did I tell you I am scared of sharks. Had to be because of watching Jaws as a kid.
                                              Isla was a nice break from our travels.
It's been awhile since I could post so let me try to get caught up. On our second day on the Island I went snorkeling all day. I had a great time once again meeting new people. This time it was three girls from Australia. We went with this really cool older Mexican dude. He was super chill and did everything to make the day enjoyable. At this time of year the whale sharks migrate through the area.So we felt pretty confident we would get to see them. Thankfully we did. It was a little odd though because everyone was centered around this one area with boats all over the place. That made the experience a little less enjoyable but hey I still can say I swam with whale sharks. And let me tell you they are massive mammals. I was blown away by how large and imposing they really are when you get in the water. We also were able to see giant turtles as well.

I really enjoyed hanging on the boat and just soaking up the warm weather. Thankfully I did a good job of keeping my pale body out of the sun for the most part. After we were finished with the whale shark experience we went back to the coral reefs and got to snorkel for around an hour. Wow was that amazing. I bought a underwater camera and I am curious to see how the pictures turned out. After a wonderful day snorkeling I  joined the girls for dinner and enjoyed hearing about what it is like to be an Aussie and to hear their travel stories. Once again it has been great to meet so many different people.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Isla de Mujeres

After a 20 hour bus ride we have arrived in the beautiful Yucatan. Wow, I have put in some time on the transportation systems around Central America. I was really worried about not falling asleep on this bus ride thankfully I did otherwise it would have been even more grueling. Thankfully the ride was not as bad as I had thought it was going to be. We ended up paying to ride a nicer bus with reclining chairs, a bathroom and a tv.

We did see something fascinating. There was a checkpoint where a local village set out metal with spikes along the road. The villagers demanded a tribute or fee be paid to move along the road. Basically you had no choice it was either give them some money or get a flat tire and be beat up. Our bus driver paid the fee and along we went. Also we have had to go through various checkpoints as far as police are concerned. They just hop on the bus look around and then leave.What is this the days of Robin Hood. Such is the state in Mexico. Everything has been good thus far, knock on wood.

We got in to Cancun around noon. We then had to take a 20 minute boat ride to Isla de Mujeres. It is very touristy but to be honest I need a couple of beach days to chill out. I have certainly traveled a great deal and experienced a great deal so I am looking forward to some chillaxing. We got settled in at our hostel which get this cost eleven dollars a night. It is not a dump either I assure you of that. We are a five minute walk from the beach so that is nice. We had a nice lunch which was desperately needed since we had not had a solid meal in over 24 hours. It was then time to walk around the town and set up tomorrows adventure. Snorkeling with sea turtles and whale sharks. I am pretty pumped. After setting up our tour we of course hit the beach. Wow! I cant tell you how relaxed I feel right now. LIFE IS GOOD!

                                              Welcome to Cancun, off to Isla de Mujeres.
                                             Awww, I love the clear blue water of the Caribbean. Helps with my phobia of jelly fish.
                                                 Alright time to jump in!

San Cristobal de las Casas

We left Shala on the third to make our way to Mexico. We decided to go to San Cristobal de las Casas and then make our decision on where to go from there. After a grueling 8 hour van ride with one stop we made it to San Cristobal. I had heard San Cristobal was an artsy hippy kind of place. I really enjoyed the laid back nature of the town. We only spent one day there but I really enjoyed the vibe as I mentioned. I can see why the town received good reviews. We decided at dinner that rather than going to Oaxaca and working our way down the Pacific that we would go up to the Yucatan to see the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza and Tulum. We would first head to the Island de Mujeres which translates to Island of Women and work our way down the Yucatan to Belize and to the coastal town of Livingston in Guatemala.

                                                     Our hostel. Pretty nice spot
                                                       Streets of San Cristobal

                                               This picture is for you Chris. I wish you were here travel buddy
                                               Striking a pose on the way down from the church
                                               Church of the Virgin Guadulupe
                                                         Nice. Virginia being represented south of the border