Central America | Guatemala | Central | Antigua – La Chica Blanca in Centro America
Due to popular demand, please find below part one of my Central American voyage. I am now approx. 6-7 weeks into my travels and am pleased to report that I am brown and cultured with a sparse covering of freckles, I am conversing well with the locals in espa?ol, I´ve only been sick (literally) twice and the mosquitoes have moved onto fresher blood.
I´ve followed the typical Ruta Maya, heading south from mexico city, through the mountains to the pacific coast, passing cactus covered mountains, pine cladded forests and tropical coastline. I then headed over to Palenque and took a wobbly canoe into Guatemala. Its rediculously easy to pass from country to country and the border controls are a joke.. the Guatemalan officials were more interested in comparing lobsters than checking passports!
We then popped over to Belize – where the dichotomy of cultures is EXTREME e.g. latino vs carribean. Again the border controls were rater slack and as a result I´m lacking a ´back in guat´ stamp in my passport.. thus potentially categorising myself as an illegal immigrant. (im thinking a few quetzales in the right direction will oversee any potential problems caused by this if need be..!?)
Seeing as so much has happened in the last 6-7 weeks, I shall summarise the highlights starting with Mexico. This country is fantastic – a country of contrasts and diversity. I checked out the superb ruins of Teoutican, Monte Alban and Palenque(splitting one pair of trousers due to rather high steps..) and I have been educated on the Mayans by a group of archaeologists.
My favourite places have been San Jose del Pacifico (a small hongo village engulfed in cloud due to the altitude), Chamula (an autonomous indiginous village in terms of culture and ideology.. where the girls are married off at 10ish years old, and where coca cola, to my disgust, has cashed in on the belief system. I will explain later..) and finally Puerto Escondido / Mazunte on the Pacific coast – due to its prevalent sun, mexican pipeline boogyboarding and hammock chilling opportunities.
I have made some cool amigos (doubling up as boogy boarding and espa?ol, cultural maestros) in Puerto Escondido and I could spend years there lapping up la dulce vida, if given half the chance! However, I did develop a nasty ear infection due to too much sea and sand, but was thankfully cured after a few trips to visit dr pepe and his merry men. The Mexican health system is a tad different to the British version!
Belize is tiny and you can bus across it in 4 hours. The houses are wooden on stilts and the people are great (although I did read some alarming articles in the local press.) We chilled on Caye Caulker which is a Caribbean island split in half by a hurricane, measuring 650 yards wide and 2 kms long! We indulged in all the local delicacies and I consumed lots of banana cake here. The coral reef is beautiful and I swam with sharks (friendly ones that don´t eat chicas), sword fish, rays and even spotted 2 portuguese men of war. Luckily for me, I wasn´t in the water at that precise moment.
Guatemala is also amazing and I will definitely be spending lots of time here. The Tikal ruins are out of this world – set in the jungle, which is alive with the squaks and howls of parrots and monkeys. I´m now in Antigua – a beautiful colonial town nestled between 3 volcanoes. I will be climbing the active one tomorrow !!!! (rather chuffed about that!)
I shall endeavor to be more proactive on the updating of this site in future… My next stop will be the Guatemalan highlands and the Lago de Atitlan which is a very deep lake filling a sunken volcanic cone, surrounded by indiginous villages. (This is THE lake that I´ve been talking about for months!) Following this, my plan is to head south into Honduras..
As a final few words, don´t believe any negative stereotyping about Central America. It is truely amazing, and if you are interested in beautiful lands, welcoming people and a cultural experience extrodinaire, then this is the place to come. Even Mexico City, Guatemala City and Belize City are cool in their own right, and the centre of Mexico City is a heck of a lot cleaner than a lot of London and Paris!