It’s been a while and the year is now 2010. Happy New Year and hope everyone is well, NYE was spent literally rocking a second storey pier construction, dancing forever to the minimal techno scene which strangely dominates here on the Island of Utila, Honduras. 5:30 am the sun comes up, a boat pulls up and serves a massive vat of soup to the remaining party, excellent! Since then though it has rained continuously for 4 days, hence the lengthy journal update.
When we finally managed to leave Mexico we headed to Antigua, Guatamala, which in comparison our previous location San Cristobal, Mexico was quite similar with it’s small colonian town feel, but with lots of added Gringos. Antigua’s distinction lies in the fact it is nestled between three towering volcanos which dwarf the town. One of the volcanos, volcano Pacaya had our name on it, so we put on our marching boots and signed up to meet our first volcano.
The walk up the volcano was pretty tough with the first 100m almost vertical! I think everyone there thought it was some sort of joke until it leveled out a bit, and turned into a one and a half hour steady climb. The terrain changed a fair bit with us being encouraged to run as fast as we could down some volcanic sand at one point, then further up with the more recent dried lava it became very brittle and we started to be able to feel the heat, and see some glowing red through the cracks in the rock, pretty incredible. We then came round the side of the volcano and could see the summit smoking away gently, this was as close as we could get to the top mentioned the guide, (who’s calf muscles looked like solid steel after a routine of twice daily volcano marching), as it gets too unstable farther up, but he motioned for us to follow him over a stepping stone style route around another corner.
Around this corner was the insane sight of an 8 foot wide river of molten lava, feel the heat! The guide used his stick to scoop up some lava and lit a cigeratte, bad man! After this awe inspiring sight and before it got too dark we started off down the volcano.
Half-way down we stopped to sit and rest as an old, wise looking volcano man in a cowboys hat appeared to talk to the guide and tell him some stories, I couldn’t understand half of what he was saying unfortunately but his voice was full of experience and this man with the backdrop of the volcano, the flowing lava, a sky bursting with stars and the a trail of other head torches coming down the side of this enormous and amazing piece of landscape, was a moment I’ll never forget.
Next stop was Santa Cruz on the edge of a large lake called Lake Atitlan, we arrived late and there was only two options of accommodation, both large opulent places owned by foreigners happy to take our money for a place to stay but also seemingly keen to explain that we had missed dinner and they weren’t willing to rustle anything up for us. We asked maybe if the traditional town of Santa Cruz 20 mins up the steep hill may be an option, but were told “No, all the shops close at 5, there’s only one restaurant and that’s probably closed down by now, so I’ll make you a cheese sandwich take it or leave it” said the less than polite lady at one of the places.
“Leave it, cheers”
Unconvinced that the locals would all be tucked up in bed at 6:30 we hiked up the hill to see what we could find. The town was noisy with a 5-piece Guatamalan band practicing their set in a small Church, while kids played football in the central court. The shops were all still open and they directed us to a restaurant which had indeed closed for the evening but were happy to make us some traditional food if we could wait 15 mins.
We had a look around the shops while the meal was prepared, to find what would end up eating into our budget for the next couple of weeks, Pyrotechnics! Fireworks of all shapes and sizes and extremely cheap! We filled our bag with fireworks and a couple of bottles of the the local beer ‘Gallo’ and went to be seated on the roof to eat our meal. It wasn’t the tastiest meal in the world but it was served with a smile and the beer washed it down a treat, as we looked down the hill towards the place we were staying on the edge of the lake thinking, “How can they live so close but yet be so isolated from this community?”
Regardless we’d paid our money to stay on the edge of the lake, so bought a few more beers for the evening, had a freestyle firework display on the pier and finished the evening with a wood fired midnight sauna. Sweet!
Christmas was coming and although we’d moved from Santa Cruz over the lake to San Pedro, which had a better vibe with excellent people and lots of fun, it still wasn’t where I imagined myself at Christmas. So I set off solo to find myself a place for Christmas. It didn’t seem like I’d made the right choice as the first night away in Rio Dulce I’d arrived at a hostel late and spent the night at the end of a pier in a dorm for 40 people but totally alone, I slept with my eyes open and carried on the journey in the morning when everything looked friendlier. I got a boat to Livingston which is right on the Carribean coast in between Honduras and Belize. Stayed there one night but it still wasn’t right for Christmas, ahhhh 3 days to go!When I was younger I’d read an article on Belize and the postcard image of the blue hole and white sand beaches was still fresh in my mind, Belize was inviting me for Christmas.
It was an amazing high powered private boat ride from Guatamala over to the coast of Belize which felt like some illegal border crossing, but we docked, passed through customs ok and were in Belize! Belize’s laid back Carribean vibe hits you straight away, with people on bikes zig-zagging slowly, whiling away time, slower reggea beats fill the air and everyones speaking English, but Creole English which is a rasta-fied dialect which can be hard to grasp at first.
I made it to Caye Culker for Christmas eve, had met people on the way and was super lucky to book in to a hostel which filled with more super good people. Christmas Eve was drunken with an crash course in sexual dancing by the locals at the late night club. Christmas morning was beautiful with a phone call home at 8am then setting off on an all day snorkling trip at 10am.
The snorkling was excellent and the guide and captain wore Christmas hats, serving as the only reminder of what day it actually was. Regardless of my pretty rubbish swimming skills I still managed to touch a small shark, swim with/scare off a turtle, saw a green bad tempered looking eel with pointy teeth and witnessed the guide dive 10m to ‘tag’ his name on the flat back of an angel ray in the sand which had collected! ‘Tayo’, excellent work! After 3 snorkle spots and getting pretty tired, the Reggea was cranked up, the sails were deployed and the barrell of rum punch was cracked open, ready for the slow sail back to the dock.
Christmas dinner was fresh fish cassarole or turkey which I carved, with kilos of trimmings, the whole day was excellent and did the trick to take my mind off home.
In other news:
* Sam’s performed on request a ‘God’s Gift’ gig at super religious San Pedro, Guatamala.
* I shared a bottle of Rum with ‘Negro Loca’ a 17 year old wanna be hip-hop star on a Chicken Bus vehicle through Belize.