After another night of partying and finally having clean clothes / shoes / bag, Courtney and I headed off with my mate Steph to lake Atitlan, San Pedro area. The trip was relatively uneventful, bar one guy telling us about his most grim policing story back home (London) where he’d had to try and lift a body out of a bath after it had been there for hours. I won’t go into the details because it was horror. Our first night at the lake was relaxed, I had big squishy hugs off the lovely Beckle sisters I’d partied with in Colombia but everyone was tired and run down so we had a relatively early night. The next morning I went to Smoking Papayas tattoo shop, recommended by a girl I’d met last year. I’d had a small tattoo design in mind for months that I wanted to mark my travels with and asked Marley, co-owner, to design it for me. All five girls; Courtney, Steph, myself and the sisters decided we wanted tattoos so left Marley to design at least two by that evening. We somehow killed hours catching up, discussing travel life (‘My eyebrows are sisters not twins’. ‘Oh no, mine are usually sisters but right now they’re just ugly cousins’ – the struggles of travel), and exchanging stories of the last month over some much needed coffee with a stunning view. A quick stop for a pedicure was a must before tattooing my foot and we spent hours at Smoking Papayas where Rain and I got our tattoos done that evening. Sorry Mum & Dad – but I love mine! By the end of our stay four out of the five us were sporting new tattoos. I highly recommend Smoking Papayas!
Hobbling around the next day we headed across the lake to a market we’d heard about and I bought a cute white knitted poncho and green jacket that I definitely didn’t need and has caused me many a headache travelling around with bulky items in my 40L bag. It was one of those – but they’re sooooo cuuuute moments with four other girls agreeing I had to buy them. Arf!
That night was the infamous pub quiz at hostel Fe. I have never seen such fierce competitiveness at a pub quiz as displayed by the Beckle sisters. Who absolutely INSISTED David Beckham once played for LA Mercury – I’m never letting them live that one down. Unfortunately we didn’t win but the commentary was hilarious. As we left the lake the following day we were caught in some traffic as there were roadworks taking place en route. Courtney has come out with some blinding one liners as we’ve travelled together including ‘It’s a Sunday. Why are there fucking roadworks on a Sunday?! Go to church.’ Luckily for one girl on our shuttle we were stopped for nearly an hour so she had time to take a Tuk Tuk back to her hostel as she’d forgotten her credit card.
Courtney and I couldn’t party anymore at Tropicana so opted to stay at Cucuruchos hostel, which I highly recommend. They went above and beyond to help me with bus tickets and have free baked goods at 5pm! That night we treated ourselves to a Sunday roast at the Londoner. I nearly cried at eating ‘food from home’ for a change. It has to be said we were a bit unlucky with the beef so didn’t eat much, duly noted by the waitress and compensated with the most incredible apple crumble on the house. No complaints here.
Courtney took off for America the next day but we’d agreed to meet up in three weeks time at the port for Utila, Honduras. After Courtney left I decided a few days at the beach would be good. I went to a hostel which had a micro pig, a pet I’ve always wanted to get, until I met Potato. A micro pig with an insatiable appetite who bit your toes if you weren’t careful and had an obscene amount of barbies as toys in his pen. The hostel ran a tab system and I was slightly mortified by the amount of Snickers ice creams they reeled off as I went to pay.
I met Alison and Sarah once I was back in Antigua and for the next few days we took up Acro yoga (not it’s not ‘couples’ yoga and is much harder than it looks) and drank a lot of coffee. Sarah and I also decided we needed haircuts in Antigua. Not the best haircut I’ve ever had – very stepped layers which isn’t a great look – but the caviar hair treatment (continuously advertised as ‘you know the stuff rich people eat’) was absolutely worth it and we both had silky soft hair for ages. I also made it to the gym in Antigua and was slightly horrified about how simple things back home were now an absolute mission.
I went with Sarah and Alison to Chichicostanango – known for its huge market, and together we rented an air b&b. Unfortunately it was difficult to get a hold of the owner but luckily the place next door invited us in to use their wifi and have a free fruit juice. They were preparing for their grand opening the following day and invited us to check out a Mayan art museum in the evening.
We finally got into our air b&b, dropped off our bags and headed straight for the market. I put my haggling skills to use and got good deals for myself and sarah before we found a place for lunch with a view of a beautiful cemetery. Initially we thought the market was falsely advertised, until we realised it’s a giant labyrinth and it goes on forever.
For dinner we decided we would cook and bought bits from the market – more on that later.
Back at the air b&b we went next door as agreed and were taken to the Mayan museum. It’s totally off any kind of track and we felt extremely privileged to be invited into this family run museum. We were shown various forms of artwork, clothing, donation sent to them, how they’re transforming their land, a Mayan calendar and rituals explained to us. Our Neighbour then invited us to join himself, his brother and their friend for a pot luck dinner to celebrate the pre opening of their restaurant. At the market we had found noodles, broccoli, carrot, peppers, an onion and soy sauce. In our fridge we had peanut butter and had some peanuts to garnish this mash up of a stir fry. By far one of the funniest and most outrageous comments to come from Sarah as we were cooking was ‘oh guys are you sure we should add the peanuts? What if they’re allergic?’ After we’d overloaded the entire dish with peanut butter. We felt like our makeshift dinner was a success and went next door to enjoy an extremely random but delicious assortment of foods, beer, and ended the night with some live music. A very unexpected but lovely day.
The next morning we headed to Panachel on Lake Atitlan where Sarah and I said goodbye to Allison after a belated breakfast as she took a boat over to San Pedro. Sarah and I had planned to go kayaking but the lake was too rough so instead we ended up at a butterfly sanctuary, hiking to a beautiful spot on the lake and watching the monkeys. I have a huge thing about butterflies so the sanctuary felt a bit magical. Last year I met a lovely guy who became very dear to me and he once told me ‘butterflies are one of the most beautiful creations on earth, but the problem is they can’t see their own beauty. I often think people are a lot like that’. It may be a quote from somewhere that he picked up, I’m not sure, but it’s something that has stuck with me and I thought it was one of the most wonderful things I’d ever heard.
The following evening Sarah and I left for Flores. At the bus station in Antigua we met a very cute Brazilian girl and as we had a spare bed in our room asked if she’d like to split the room with us. All three of us were on different buses and meeting in Flores was harder than we’d anticipated. Even though Sarah had taken an earlier bus than me she arrived a lot later than I did as her bus had gotten a flat tyre – she was convinced it was an elaborate trap set by people wanting to rob the bus, it wasn’t. We finally got to the hostel, had a very long nap in hammocks and headed to the mall in order to buy our tickets for Tikal the following day as Sarah and I wanted to do the sunrise tour. You must do this for the sunrise tour as the office at Tikal is not open that early and you’ll be turned away, and it is so worth getting there for sunrise.
A 2am start the next day for Sarah and I to make it to Tikal for sunrise. We had to take a boat to Flores (our hostel wasn’t on the little island annoyingly), and a drive later we were wandering around Tikal. We felt lucky as we went during a full moon and it was incredibly beautiful looking at the temples bathed in moonlight. We made it to the main temple to watch a stunning sunrise. Later our guide gave us a few survival tips, including, if you are lost and there are 12 paths to choose from, how do you know which one to take? The answer – taste them. The one that tastes most of salt is the one to take as it’ll be from the sweat dripping off the people that have walked it. I can’t say I’ve tested the theory, but I’m notorious for getting lost so it may come in handy eventually. As we were walking along we came across a motorbike gang who just seemed so out of place I had to take a picture, very unsubtley of course because I had the noise on – opps. We left Tikal around 11 which was great because there were too many people and the heat was becoming unbearable.
We left Flores the following day in a VERY suspect car. The inside of the doors were missing and the driver had to hot wire the car to get it started. Luckily we found another girl (Alessia) who was travelling to the border that day so with three of us in the car we didn’t feel too worried. We were pulled over by the police and had to have our passports checked, which took awhile because the had a hard time finding the entry stamp to Guatemala in Alessia’s passport. Im surprised we were only pulled over once as we were literally driving in a half built (or pulled apart) car.
Next stop Belize…