We've taken 3 months off to travel through Central America. Our trip started in December 2013 in Yucatan, Mexico, and leads us to Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica before ending with a blast: Carnival in Trinidad!
How lucky can you get.. already in the middle of a fantastic adventurous trip, we got into Guatemala city, entered a contest of a local beer brand and won tickets for a show of one of our favorite DJs: Steve Aoki!
Guatemala knows how to party!!!
Clearly sponsored by a beer brand.. smallest option = 1 liter !
Steve Aoki's famous 'caking' was also included in the show
The beaches in this town are black because it's volcanic sand! It gets superhot!!
After visiting the Tikal area we drove to Coban, a city in the mountains in the middle of Guatemala. It was surprisingly cold (14 at night).. and beautiful, it could have been Switzerland or Austria! We arrived at night in a beautiful place with huts in the middle of the nature:
At night (PS, gotta give a shot to the amazing Canon S120 pocketcamera!)
The next day we realized that we were really in the middle of nature:
On the first day, we visited the caves of Rey Marco. We were told that there was a little bit of water in the caves due to the rain from the previous days (yes, heavy rain in the dry season). We were nicely surprised by a survival tour in the caves, in which we had to walk through water which reached our hips, crawl, climb and crossing a under-cave river by only holding a rope while there was a strong current moving towards a black hole. All of that in super dark caves with a simple light on top of our helmet :)
Outside the cave.. glad we made it out :)
On the second day in Coban we went to one of the highlights of Guatemala: National monument Semuc Champey. But before we got there, we had to take a 2 hour busride, after which we got dropped on the back of a pickup truck which drove for another 45 minutes through extremely bumpy roads. Again, we were sitting on the back of a pickup truck (without a proper seat of course). We have been in more comfy situations.. but for sure it was worth it!! Semuc is a collection of natural, beautiful turquoise colored pools in between two mountains. We first walked up to a viewing point (not an easy climb), had a quick sandwich and then checked out the pools and waterfalls, in which you can also swim and jump from pool to pool. We noticed again that safety is not really an issue in Guatemala: the tourguide led us jump from trees and rocks, dive in small caves, slide down on stones and check a 10 meter waterfall holding a rope. But we were safe, and enjoyed it to the max!!
View from the mountain of the different pools
Having fun at Semuc
From the back of the pickup truck!
On the way there we stopped at this viewing point. Guatemala is amazing !!!!
The countries Guatemala, Honduras, Belize and Mexico are known for being the ‘Maya region’. Establishing their empire from approximately 2000 BC until the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Maya civilization was known for having the only written language of the pre-colombian Americans, excellent mathematics and (thanks to the global fear of 2012 being the end of the world and the related terrible movie ‘2012’) the Mayan calendar.
They also left behind an astonishing amount of impressive architecture in this area. We visited some amazing Mayan sites during the trip. First, we visited Chichen Itza which is just an hour outside Merida in Yucatan, south Mexico. This site has been elected as one of the 7 new world wonders in 2008. The highlight is one large ‘temple’. Although very touristy (there are more salesmen walking around then visitors) the site is beautiful and it’s impressive to see what the Mayans built:
Main temple in Chichen Itza
The original steps, made of stones on the left side vs the refurbished steps on the right.. good luck walking up :)
Guatemala however, the sites are much more impressive and untouched, and less
touristy. On our first day here we visited Tikal, which is a huge area filled
with Mayan ruins. There are temples, the tallest structure (temple IV) being 70
meters high – which is on top of a hill overlooking the entire valley.
It was raining so we hired a Guatemalan to keep us dry.. :)
Without joking, many thanks to Mario for being our tourguide!
Historic Mayan symbol
and it was STEEP !!!
On the next
day we visited nearby Yaxhá. Although not as big as Tikal, this site was even
more untouched – could have something to do with a kilometers long dirtroad
leading to the area (yes we got stuck in the dirt). But it was worth it, the
ruins in Yaxhá offer an amazing view over the nearby lake:
Some temples are completely hidden under the greens
Old sports field
Then, on the way back, the fun began... Luckily Guatemalans are super friendly and helpful, so when a van full of people arrived the guys stepped out and helped us push the car out of the dirt (while the women were watching and taking pictures)
week in Guatemala, we can already conclude that this country is full of
adventures. It even started with our trip over here: we took an overnight bus
from Cancun (Mexico) to Belize City. Thanks to a 2 ½ hour stop at a corrupt Mexican
border control agent (charging everyone a $25 ‘border-crossing fee’; receipt: not a chance) we arrived around 9:45 am
on a Monday morning in Belize City – a few hours later than scheduled. We were afraid
that we just missed the 9:30 am bus to Tikal (Guatemala) where we would meet
our friend Mario.
to a taxi stand (the next bus was in another bus station) the driver told us
the bus would leave at 10am and we would probably still make it, so he drove us
through the bumpy roads of Belize’ capital to another bus station, where we had
1 minute to buy tickets, breakfast and go to the toilet. Wow, what a rush but
we were so relieved that we made it: the next bus would leave somewhere late
afternoon while Mario was waiting for us in Guatemala. We saw some other
passengers who were also joining this bus, 10am sharp.
hour and a half later, finally someone told us that the bus would leave.
Lesson: relax and don’t count on anything to be on time here!
only the start of many adventures we already had in Guatemala. Below are some
pictures and videos of the Tarzan Canopy Ziplining tour we did in a Guatemalan jungle.
It was an awesome adrenaline experience to fly from tree to tree! (as was the
ride through the jungle J)
We spent most of last week in some of Mexico's popular beach districts: Playa del Carmen, Cancun and the surrounding islands. Although very touristy, it was a nice way for us to relax before travelling to some more hardcore backpacking areas. Last Monday (9 dec), day 6 of our 95-day trip, we arrived in Playa del Carmen and relaxed on the beach and in the city. Tuesday was a beautiful (hot) day so we went to Cozumel and went snorkeling at the coral reefs - see the pictures below! On Wednesday we went snorkeling in Cenote "dos ojos" which was a very cool experience. The water was superclear in the cenote, which allows you to see the formation of the rocks under the water. You can swim from one cave to another, although it's so narrow that you may hit your head. After that, we wanted to go snorkeling with turtles in nearby beach Akumal, but due to a very heavy storm we were 'forced' to sit in a beach restaurant for a few hours :) Last Friday (day 10) we went to Isla Mujeres, a small but gorgeous and less touristy island off the coast of Cancun. The island is only 7 kilometers long and 650 meters wide, but the difference between the rocky coast with heavy waves on the east (ocean side) and the quiet, beach coast on the west and north side is huge. On Isla Mujeres we also visited turtle farm Tortugranja, where turtles and their eggs are protected from predators with help from the government and a visitors fee. This island also offers a nice sunset and delicious food :) Saturday, we moved to an all-inclusive resort in Cancun, a beach town even more popular for Americans (mainly young party crowds). The city is basically a road with a few kilometers of all-inclusive beach resorts. Beaches are nice but the ocean waves were crazy, which is superfun but don't bring any items into the sea.. lost one pair of sunglasses there :( Our friend Alvaro (jr) flew in from Amsterdam and his family was there to spend the Saturday and Sunday at the beach and pool, before starting a long, long busride via Belize into Guatemala (where we currently are). More about that on the next post!
Our favorite beach was on isla de mujeres: quiet, not too touristy and amazing white sand between the palm trees!