macado's se asia adventure I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.

3Jan/100

Overnight bus from Flores to Antigua, Guatemala

I left Flores last night on the overnight sleeper bus to Antigua around 10pm. Mark decided he would also come because he wants to do a Spanish language school in Antigua for a month. Antigua is apparently an extremely popular place to take a Spanish language course. Most of the schools here charge between 75-100 dollars a week for classes.

Ted was originally going to go to San Pedro La Laguna on Lake Atitlan
but he decided to tag along and head to Antigua with us for a night. We paid around 30USD for a "supposed" sleeper bus from Linea Dorada. They do have sleeper buses however they apparently didnt put us on the right one.

 Arrived in Guatemala city around 6am so it took about 9 hours total. Even though I had a long sleeve thermal shirt on the bus was freezing cold and I was practically shivering all night. Definitely take a sweatshirt or jacket if you're taking an overnight bus. The bus wasnt exactly what they had described, it was very similar to the ADO buses in Mexico but I wouldnt exactly classify it as a sleeper bus.

Unfortunately when we arrived in Guatemala City we were informed they only had two reservations for the shuttle bus to Antigua and not three like we booked. The guy was a real asshole about it so we ultimately decided to take a taxi to Antigua and split the cost. Wasnt a huge loss since we only lost about 5USD for the bus ticket from Guatemala City to Antigua. The taxi was about 45-50 minute ride for 30USD. We split three ways for 10 bucks a piece and arrived about 30-40 minutes before the bus.

Spend the entire day walking around Antigua. It's a really beautiful old Spanish colonial city. Felt like I was walking around somewhere in Europe rather than Central America. A much bigger version of Flores. Antigua was founded in 1500s and was the colonial capital of Guatemala until 1776 when the capital was moved to Guatemala City because a large earthquake completely desimated the city in 1773. Antigua still maintains it's colonial charm. It is a city 5000ft above sea level surrounded by three volcanos. There is also another volcanno called Pacaya which is still active and apparently a popular day trip.

I had never hiked a volcano before let alone an activate one so I booked an afternoon hike to Mount Pacaya for 9USD. The trip is supposed to leave at 2pm and return around 8:30PM. Apparently you can hike to an active lava field where you can literally melt your shoes if you're not careful. Hoping to get some cool pictures of some live lava tomorrow. I have a feeling this hike is really going to kick my ass. Two weeks of hardly any exercising besides scuba diving (drift dives), two short runs and lots of heavy lifting of beers to my mouth.

I was originally supposed to leave Sunday night but I couldnt get the correct bus in time; the bus on Saturday was completely full. The flights were also fucked up so my best option is to try on the Tuesday flight since it has open seats. Hoping to be home by Tuesday night. I take that back, I kind of have to be home by Tuesday.

2Jan/100

Exploring Flores and Tikal Guatemala

Woke up at 5am and took the bus to Tikal. Bus ride took about an hour. Spent about 5-6 hours exploring the ruins before heading back to Flores.

The weather was absolutely perfect for exploring the ruins this morning. It was overcast with a great little breeze. I climbed most of the ruins in a long sleeved shirt. Last time I explored Tikal the weather was absolutely brutal.

It´s definitely better to get the first bus to Tikal in the morning before it rains or the sun comes out. You also have a greater chance of seeing more wildlife. Today I saw a bunch of howler moneys, wild turkeys, an izote (coatamundi), and some tucans. Took a bunch of pictures of Tikal which I will upload when I get home.

Met another guy down here named Ted who is on holiday for about 3 months in Central America. He has lived in Korea for the last 15 years teaching English. He is also taking the bus to Guatemala City tonight. We finished walking around Flores today and took some pictures. This is a really awesome little place. You can walk around the entire island in about 15 minutes. Most of the bars and restaurants also have a great view of the lake.

Decided to cheap out and ate some delicious tacos at a street vendor in the park for 5 queztals (65 cents US each). Flores seems to be relatively expensive compared to the rest of Guatemala but still cheaper than Mexico. I imagine Antigua and Guatemala City might be the same.

At this point I am just killing time until the sleeper bus to Guatemala City leaves at 9:30pm tonight.

1Jan/100

Unbelizeable – Caye Caulker to Flores, Guatemala by bus & ferry

Woke up next morning and checked out of Chinatown Inn. Walked down the street and had some breakfast. An actual proper breakfast place with eggs, bacon, hashbrowns and toast.

I had already previously booked my return ferry to ticket to Belize City using San Pedro Water Taxi Association. I believe the ferry from Ambergris Caye to Caye Caulker plus the return ticket from Caye Caulker to Belize City cost around 7.5-9USD. Unbelizeably cheap.

We arrived in the "great" and "wonderful" Belize City around 11ish. Giving us plenty of time to sort out a bus to Flores which supposedly leaves at 2:30PM. Booked a bus ticket on San Juan bus company in Belize City at the ferry terminal to Flores, Guatemala for 40 Belize dollars (20USD).

The bus finally left Belize City around 3pm. Originally it was supposed to leave at 2:30pm however a Danish girl had her iPod stolen while walking through Belize City only 4 blocks from the bus terminal and had to fill out a useless police report.

Belize City is an absolute shit hole of a place lined with shanty little shacks and filled with Rastafarian crackheads and nut jobs. I would only recommend going there in passing to catch a bus or a ferry elsewhere. In fact if you can skip Belize City and head to the islands directly from Chetumal or Corozol you are much better off. The sooner you leave Belize City the better. You see there are some third world cities that have a interesting aurora surrounding them. You know they're terrible but ultimately they end up being somewhat safe and have many fasinating things to see and explore. Unfortunately Belize City is not one of them; avoid at all costs since it has no redeeming values whatsoever.. I dont think I have ever meet anyone that had a good experience in Belize City. I have no idea why any cruiseship would ever dock here.

The bus through Belize and into Guatemala was largely uneventful with the roads being a little better in Belize. Once on the Guatemalan side we had to worry about dodging the occasional rogue donkeys, some pot holes and stray dogs. The border crossing at the Belizean checkpoint took a little over an hour however once on the Guatemalan things oddly moved much quicker. We crossed into the Guatelian border as it began to get dark and I figured I would experience some local culture by purchasing a Gallo beer for 10 Queztals at a local tienda before reboarding the bus onto Flores.

We arrived at Flores around 9PM. Total travel time by bus was about 6 hours including the hour and half that was spent queuing in customs and immigrants in Belize and Guatemala. Guatemala customs was much faster.

Although i've only been in Flores for about 2 hours this place is already starting to grow on me. It's a little colonial town with cobblestone streets and old shop buildings. Me and Mark ended up finding a pretty decent hotel room for about 12USD/night. Flores is actually an island on a lake connected to the mainland by a small causeway; it is the main travel point for most people heading to visit the famous Tikal ruins. So far it seems like a very safe little place with lots of charm. I will try to do more exploring. I have a catch a bus at 5am tomorrow to explore Tikal all day and then I have the entire rest of the day to explore Flores before finally getting the overnight sleeper bus to Guatemala City at 9:30pm before returning to Boston. Should arrive in Tikal around 6am tomorrow so tonight is an early night. Adios and Buenos Noches

26Feb/070

Arriving in Guatemala

I guessed you could say I cheated and took the non-backpacker way out because I was too stretched for time. I took a puddle jumper flight on Tropic Air from Belize City to Flores, Guatemala which took approximately 45 minutes. The puddle jumper flew over the jungle and just occasionally Mayan ruins could be spotted towering above the jungle canopy.

The fun began before bordering the flight and when I arrived in Guatemala . Unfortunately I was unable to exchange in currency in Belize because exchange counter seemed to be closed on a Sunday. The bigger problem occurred when I got to Guatemala. Although the bank was open they do not exchange Belizean dollars (Guatemala apparently still has a grudge against belize) when I tried to use my ATM card I discovered that the only ATM I could find was out of cash. I was beginning to think I was in a bind until I realized that visa of course is accepted everywhere

Although the bank would not accept my 400 Belizean dollars (approx 200usd) they gladly gave me a cash advance on my visa for 1100 quetzals (approx 150usd) which is more than plenty for two days in Guatemala.

My other problem I ran into was that it being Sunday almost everything was closed so I had to take 40USD mini bus to Tikal from Flores which took approximately an hour and through beautiful Guatemala country side (the landscape reminds me of Cambodia with its numerous farms and lush landscape) the big difference being that Cambodians speak more English than it would appear Guatemalans do.

In the past day I have had more trouble traveling in Guatemala than all of South East Asia. My basic Spanish language abilities are being taxed to their max and utilized to their full limited extent.

Actually I am impressed. I managed to hail a taxi, negotiate a price, request a room for one peron for one night all in Spanish. That's pretty much all of my spanish language skills combined.

Although I thought my next big trip was going to be India I am starting to heavily lean towards backpacking more through Central America. The culture seems friendly. The countries are beautiful and it's reasonably cheap.

Unfortunately I got here too late to really explore any of the park/ruins so that is my plan tomorrow. That also means ill have to spend another night in Guatemala which is going to complicate getting to Mexico on a bus for my flight out. I had hoped to have at least one full day in Cozumel or Playa Del Carmen which at this point won't be possible unless I fly and then even then it seems I'd probably get there in the late afternoon. My flight leaves out of cancun on the 28th at 3pm and I am planning to leave Guatemala on the morning of the 27th if all goes well (which has to because I am due back at work)