Thursday, February 10, 2011

Off Yer Bike, Lo Estamos Haciendo

Well, well...its been a while since we wrote about our travels, so I guess I have some catching up to do!

We left our bikes in Flores and continued southward into the Guatemalan heartland. Here is a snapshot of our last days in and around Peten:

Bollos de Peten, a local delicasy in San Andres
Our host family in San Andres, Rosa and Carmen Chabin
Our two biking companions in Flores, Anna from Australia and Paul from the US
This place sells guns, for Santa Ellena
The water vine, saves lives in the Jungle - Reserva Bio Itza
Going on a tour of the Reserva Bio Itza, a community project of San Jose
Little forest friends in Bio Itza
Colette likes mushrooms at Bio Itza

Our next stop was Lanquin and Semuc Champey, one of the most beautiful places in Guatemala, if not on earth! We had a little stomach trouble during our days here, but the scenery more than made up for it. On our last day at Lanquin and a new funky hostel named Zephyr, we decided to walk the three hours from Lanquin to the magical place that is Semuc Champey.

Our loft room at Zephyr in Lanqiun
Crazy wood sculpture at Zephyr in Lanquin
The view of Zephyr and the Lanquin valley

This we bought agreed was some of the steepest roads that may exist anywhere, so much so that once we returned to Zephyr to pick up my forgotten passport after hanging out in Semuc, we ran into Anna again here with whom I made a bet that the road to Semuc was simply unridable, even for her! I haven´t heard the results yet, but I suffer in anticipation to hear whether the little Aussie engine could...

Very near the protected park area of Semuc Champey we stayed at El Portal, a nice little hostel and bungalow hangout. This place is right on the river and we used that privilige to the fullest, the only regret is that I hesitated jumping off the bridge that crosses it after many urging pleads from my dearest - only to later run into a whole group of wacky Ozzies who were more than keen to jump off it, and jump they did. Nevertheless, I did jump and crawl on pretty much everything else down at the river, a little like Golum I guess.

I like jumping off things
The paradise that is Semuch Champey, the best swimming pool on the planet
The mighty Cahabon river gushing into the underworld below the serene pools of Semuc Champey
Just upstream of the cave like passage for the river
Me sitting just next to the mouth of the river cave (if you were to venture down there you would be gone for 47 days and then wash up very dead on the other side)
Colette looking stunning in a well framed shot at the rivers edge
So much beauty exists here, layers upon layers of it
This place is walled on both sides by a thick magnificent jungle
The exiting end of the river makes a lovely waterfall, this is after the crystal clear water pools
Power of nature, stupidity of tourists - just about all these guys smashed their back end into the rocks hidden in the white water simply because they didn´t think to see what happened to the person before them...figures,  Darwin where are you!?!
We left this amazing area in a whirlwind, and deciding to keep some of the rough flavor of bike travel, we wanted to get to Rio Dulce only on the back of pick up trucks and the such by hitchhiking. We think that this was a wonderful decision in hindsight, albeit risky. We saw and experienced some of the most amazing scenery in the Alta Verapaz, and rode on the back of a chicken manure truck through some very remote little Mayan villages. The rural road between Lanquin and Lago Izabal (through Cahabon) is just stunning, it follows the river and boasts some of the most untouched scenery in this part of the country.

Once we reached Lago Izabal, just before dunking down into the valley we were treated to the most stunning view one could have of the lowlands leading out to Rio Dulce, nothing short of breathtaking. Once we reached the lake side we decided to stop over in El Estor for two nights, Colette still feeling a hundred percent and me wanting to fix my shoes...well we just stayed, and had some nice market food aswell.

Skipping past Finca Paraiso, we pressed on to Rio Dulce (the town) in a regular collective bus (really a van) where we planned on taking another week of intensive Spanish classes. Rio Dulce is a little like Florida, or at least the everglades. It even has the old american marine-loving tourist population which really gives it the Florida authenticity, either way we don´t know whether it was the chicken or the egg, but apart from the lush forest greenery all over it really does seem like Florida.

Never had a single thing at the Sundog Cafe, but Colette is pretty (apparently this place is a famous Gringo hangout in Rio Dulce, but the first night we were here we ran into a couple of drunk ones and they said it sucked?)

It turns out that this is the place where thousands of yachting folk pull in as a well liked spot, and later many head on to the Bay Islands of Honduras...some seeking crew. We might have to consider this delicious option. We also spent a few nights in Livingston prior to starting classes in Rio Dulce. Livingston is Guatemala´s version of the Carribean and it has that Garifuna, rasta flavour to boot. We enjoyed some good food, some heavy drinking of cocktails and even some hot dance hall action! The town is quaint and charming, but has a very heavy air of social and infrastructural decay, the town´s street dogs are by far in the worst condition we have seen anywhere (Cambodia´s Phnom Penh and Mexico´s Punta Allen included).

Hold production at Ford Motor Company, what is this in Livingston!?!
One of two public laundry cistern things, this one is decomissioned and the other is still heavily in use (people use these to manually wash their clothes, like a communal washing machine) - Livingston, Guatemala

We are really getting up to speed on Spanish, at least we feel so, but it seems that there are just layers upon layers of hidden tables of grammatical irregularity in this crazy language. Thank God we are not learning French - I think I would have given up long ago! The place we are staying Xalaja is very beautiful and right on the town´s edge. There are some lovely people staying here, the spanish teacher (also a pediatrician) is very good and both the restaurant staff and food is world class...makes it very hard to want to cook for yourself. An interesting and funny story, the other night we had dinner with two Afghani´s, an Israeli lighting designer,and us two vagabonds (a South African and a Croatian) - eating chow mein and chop suey at a Chinese pizza restaurant in Guatemala´s Carribean region. How´s that for a joke!?!

The Rio Bravo Chinese Pizza Seafood in Rio Dulce, yes here too!

Where will we go next? Will we head out sailing to the Bay Island of Honduras for a week, or will we head to Atitlan for more classes?! Who knows!?! Not even we do...but come back later on for our next instalment of RoundTheBendProject to find out what happens next!


  1. You're going to have to visit my blog really soon for the Semuc report. There was some pushing involved but I made it there and while the roads are certainly awesomely steep I stand by my statement that climbing out of the Copper Canyon was worse.

    Happy travels.

  2. Haha, nice one Anna! I did warn you...but I believe that you will be right, the Copper Canyon is longer for sure, hence much more punishment. Looking forward to it!


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