31 Jan 2015

Gorgeous Guatemala

After manic Mexico and barmy Belize we have now spent 3 weeks in Gorgeous Guatemala, it just gets better.

Starting with the Mayan City of Tikal, we then spent 3 days driving through the magic Guatemalan Highlands, 8 days on the shores of Lake Atitlan surrounded by massive volcano's, 4 days in Antigua, also surrounded by Volcanoes (some of them active) and now we are on another fabulous beach. Most of the time we have been between 1500 and 2500 meters, still hot in the day but cool to cold at night. On the beach it gets up to high 30's in the day, but still warm enough to jump in the pool in the evening. 

However, the Intrepid camp has not been without its problems over the last 3 weeks! After Chris's cash card was compromised (emptied) in Mexico. I find the same had happened to mine as we entered Guatemala! We use pre-loaded $cash cards to ensure any such event is minimized but still means we have to find somewhere to print out forms and then scan them so we can claim the money back. We also took the precaution to bring back-up cards so we could continue.

Later the same day we got a text from the Camp site in Chipping Norton (where our caravan is stored) advising that a motor home had caught fire, destroyed the caravan next to it and set the hedge alight between the camp site and the storage area. The hedge prevented the fire accessing the storage area , but guess whose caravan was parked against the hedge? Who says traveling is dangerous! Due to its age we are told it will be a technical write off but other than replacing a melted window is still perfectly usable. I discussed it with the insurance company and they advised I could buy it back for scrap value and they would still insure it 3rd party! So we get a pay-out and can still use the caravan - albeit somewhat melted down one side.

Did our problems end there? No!!! As we drove down from 2500m to 1500m to Lake Atitlan, a very steep road with lots of hairpins, the brakes started to fail and we had to drop down to second and keep pumping the brakes to avoid pushing buses off the road. I spent the first day in Atitlan checking the brakes and finding nothing amiss and then when we decided to move camp to a better site up the road the following day one of the car batteries failed.

But the last 3 weeks have also been about meeting up with people that are rapidly becoming old friends.

The young couple from Luxembourg we met in Belize (Patrice and Elina) we have since met up with 3 more times, the last time at lake Atitlan, and after trying to jump start the cruiser (which we gave up when the jump leads were almost glowing) Patrice took me into town to get a replacement battery. We later learned that Elina's surname is Zep and that her father was a big Led Zepelin fan!

Also Mike and Shannon (the American couple- on motor bikes with the Chihuahua) emailed us and invited us to stay with them in Antigua, they have taken an apartment for 3 weeks to attend Spanish School and had a spare bedroom, so we stayed for 3 nights whilst the cruiser stayed at a mechanics to get the brakes sorted properly and the second battery changed.

Meanwhile Hans and Bente have emailed us telling us we are now going to slow! They told us about the beach camp site we are now at and thought we might meet them here, but that was over a week ago and they are now in El Salvador.

Our latest problem is that apparently El Salvador doesn't allow RHD cars to enter without a permit, we thought we would chance it (as some have got through) but then we heard tales of cars not being allowed to return to Guatemala and having to be taken under guard back to Mexico at a cost of $600! I then found the Toyota Club of El Salvadopr on the web and on the off chance sent an email to see if they could help. Within hours I had a response from the president of the club saying that he would be delighted to help and also inviting us to their next meeting as his guests on the 7th! So it looks like El Salvador is on the agenda after all!

Despite all the adversity we have enjoyed the last 3 weeks and simply used it as an excuse to go even slower! We have traveled just over 1,000 miles in the last month. We have been on the road for 240 days, traveled almost 25,000 and have around 70 more days before we head home for our first break. We are flying from Panama on 12th April and have arranged bonded storage for the cruiser. The plane lands in Madrid on the way back so we intend to jump ship and spend 11 days in Cortes, eventually arriving in the UK on 24th April and hopefully we still have a caravan we can live in!

 Some of the warning signs on the way through the jungle to Tikal (Mayan site)


 A face from the past
 Pyramids in the jungle

 Walking back through the jungle
 Walking the streets of Flores

We meet up with Patrice and Elina and go for a beer 

I spent so long sitting in a chair outside our Hotel room (trying to sort out some of our problems) somebody brought me a table up!

The Guatemala Highlands
They will swim anywhere!
They will also sleep anywhere!
The road gets rougher
 
Then we arrive at lake Atitlan
Patrice and Elina turn up again and we spend the whole day 'chilling' and the next 4 nights BBQing
They took us to the largest market in Central America

And of course we ended with a beer
We took a boat ride across the lake - big mistake
Scenes on the other side of the lake

Not sure whether this was actually coming out of the volcano, but it looks good!
View from above as we eventually drag ourselves away from the lake
View from a roof top bar (owned by a guy from Manchester) in Antigua
This is not out of focus it is the shadow cast by the volcano behind at sunset!
Sunset at the beach resort we are now camped at .
9 year old Benson, son of a Nigerian man and a Brazilian woman came and told us that he 'talks' English (actually very well), the latest catch included some sea snakes with really vicious looking teeth. I asked Benson if I could take a photo with him holding them, everyone thought it a brilliant idea - except Benson!
Tonights dinner
My office for the night!  With all the issues dealt with I am finally able to get down to another blog


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