Lanquin and Semuk Champey, Guatemala

Getting up for our 6am departure from Flores was the easy part of our day when we travelled to Lanquin. The van was so full that any extra person would have had to sit on someone else’s knee as Tom was already sitting on a broken seat. The air-conditioning was only in the form of open windows and the seats all had low backs so nowhere to rest our heads for a nap. At least it was cheap (for us at least, some of the other passengers paid more than double our price).

The drive was quite scenic as we travelled south through the centre of Guatemala through forests, up mountains and along valleys passing through very few settlements. After a few hours of driving the shuttle driver pulled up on the banks of a river and turned the engine off. We had no idea where we were but were told that we would be crossing the river after a short wait. Hopping out to stretch our legs we investigated the scene: a muddy looking river with vehicles queuing up on both sides and a strange looking car ferry doing laps across. This would be a new experience. Eventually it was our turn and we drove onto the boat and laughed at the operators moving between two outboard motors which were steering and powering us across the river. Tom tells me that the motors were quite small to be doing this, especially with 6 to 10 cars on board.

Once this was accomplished we continued on our way stopping in Coban, which is the largest city we would be passing through. We were all recommended to withdraw cash here as Lanquin is tiny and has no facilities for this. As we were all non-Latin American tourists we were dropped at the McDonald’s for lunch before the van driver took off. A few people were quite concerned at this but we figured he was just off to find a cheaper local lunch or fill up with petrol during our break. Soon we were back in the uncomfortable van and on the last leg of our trip. On the map it didn’t seem like far but the roads eventually turned into dirt and the landscape was mountainous. We all spent this time staring out the windows as the view was beautiful.

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The view down the valleys towards Lanquin

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Palenque with the shortest visit to any new place so far…

Selfie at Palenque

Selfie at Palenque

The alarm woke us up at 3am. Not a nice time of morning night to be getting up but we had booked a tour and couldn’t sleep through the pick up time. The tour we had booked was three days long, started in San Cristobal and ended in Palenque. At 2500 peso each this was by far the most expensive excursion we had been on in the last eight months and although enjoyable, looking back we are unsure if it was worth that amount of money.

The van driver picked us up and it was soon obvious that he was a crazy driver. This set off my motion sickness and throwing up into a bag I always keep close during transport I was glad of the darkness before managing to get some extra sleep. The whole van of tourists was abruptly woken en-route as the driver clipped another car while he was performing one of his many dangerous overtaking manoeuvres. Even worse was that he didn’t stop. I’m glad this mode of transport actually had working seatbelts which has been a rarity. Over the next three days we would be visiting the waterfalls Agua Azul and Misol-Ha, Palenque, Yaxchilan and Bonampak archaeological sites and the final day would be a jungle walk in the Lacandon jungle. Continue reading

Catemaco

Arriving by bus to San Andres Tuxtla we still needed to make our way another half hour down the road to Catemaco. From the ADO bus station our next opportunity would be an hour away so we sought out other options. A nice local helpfully pointed us towards a new form of transport: collective taxis. These are your usual taxi but you pay per seat instead of for the whole trip. Being Mexico it’s not unusual for these taxis to have six adults (including driver) plus children and shopping in the medium sized cars. Yes this means that the front passenger seat accommodates two adults. We could only fit one of our packs in the boot so the other got to ride on our knees for the short drive.

Zocalo

Zocalo

After being dropped in the zocalo we set off to find accommodation. We walked a loop around the block, down past the malecon (lake front) and back up to the zocalo where we found our to-be hotel right next to where the taxi driver dropped us off. Typical right. The hotel was cheap enough to begin with but while we discussed it in English the lady dropped the price for us by $60 peso; making it a bargain $300 per night. Sure the hotel was super dated but our room was clean, came with towels and soap, had a fan, free water, was cleaned daily and was nice and cool. It was also in a central location; easy for the malecon, restaurants and buses.

Colourful boats in Catemaco

Colourful boats in Catemaco

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