A Travellerspoint blog

April 2009

Off The Wall

sunny 27 °C

After a frustrating week of kicking teenagers out from under our feet we were ready for a break, and had arranged a week staying on Glover's Reef atoll with the Off The Wall resort. It meant an early start, a ferry ride, a taxi journey, a bus ride, another taxi journey, another lift to a dock, and a very wet crossing in choppy seas out to the island, but we got there in the end!

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The island is absolutely idyllic. It's a slice of the atoll, so one side is out to open seas and the other facing the calm lagoon, and is roughly small enough to walk around in about 15 mins (it's small enough to walk across in about 30 seconds – you're usually able to see both shores). There are only two operations on the caye, OTW and Slickrock (an adventure travel company, a.k.a. The Others), and during the week we were there there were only 4 guests on our side (including us). The place is very much an as-much-as-nature-intended it sort of way – compost toilets, no electricity after dark, cold showers (except at noon), as much of the island left over to the original inhabitants (pelicans, iguanas and hermit crabs) as possible, and everyone sitting down to eat at two big tables – guests, staff and the owners.

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To be honest, it's felt more like staying with someone's family than we did in Guatemala – Kendra and Jim have made us feel so welcome it's untrue. The days are just spent lazing around and diving the reef (which is about 100 yards offshore most of the time), possibly with a bit of snorkelling or kayaking, broken by yummy home-cooked food and discussions of the animals we've seen today. Perfect for kids, and us! Then being lulled to sleep (at about 8pm) by the waves crashing feet from our cabana. Bliss.

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We were very sad to leave, but unfortunately our pleas to Kendra and Jim to claim asylum to escape the swine flu have fallen on deaf ears. This has also meant a change of plan – we were originally planning to travel back up Belize, then into Mexico, then dive in and around Cozumel for a week and a bit and then a spell inland. Obviously, as events have changed our plans have had to change with them. We still wanted to do some more diving before the Galapagos just to make sure we're up to it, so we decided to go to Roatán in the Bay Islands off Honduras (just around the corner of the land from Belize) as it didn't involve any plane travel, the diving is supposed to be pretty good, and the costs of doing courses are pretty cheap.

Last set of pictures - Brian barbecuing barracuda, Junior doing something funny with a fish, me upside down underwater and a squid we found one night and put in a bucket to have a look at!

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Posted by pendleton 19:16 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

From The Trees To The Cayes

sunny 30 °C

From Tikal we travelled east to Belize (note: we were upset to find that we couldn't eat armadillo in the national park, only in Flores the closest town, which we didn't go to. Definitely one to come back to later...smooth on the inside, crunchy on the outside!), got mildly conned by a taxi driver but then had such a lovely, warm welcome from the guys on the water taxi to take us offshore that we (almost) forgot about it. This was after the immigration guys told us to "have a monster one". By teatime we were on Caye pronounced “key”) Caulker, going slow.

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Caye Caulker is the most relaxed place we've been to so far, verging on horizontal. The entire caye has sandy roads, no cars (everyone gets around on golf carts) and lots of coconut trees. The locals are quite a mixed bunch of light-skinned dark people and dark-skinned light people, speaking a sort of English patois that we can generally extract less than half the meaning from (this despite the advantage we thought we had of attending Notting Hill every year without fail). The biggest problem with the island is that it's verging on overrun with very young American gap-year backpackers of the most insufferable kind. Arggh! We've mostly been ignoring them and spending loooong days on boats checking out the great diving they have here.

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Belize is amazingly rich (for such a small country) in coral habitats – it has the second largest barrier reef in the world stretching for most of the country just offshore; and on top of that three of the four atolls in the Caribbean – Turneffe Atoll, Lighthouse Atoll and Glover's Reef. We visited Turneffe on two days and Lighthouse once, having a great time diving with Belize Diving Services. They even gave us staff t-shirts... it doesn't get any better than that (thanks Brian).

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We weren't that blown away by the marine life near to Caye Caulker but as we got further away from the populated parts it got noticeably better - Turneffe South was a great dive. Then on the penultimate day we went for the marquee dive, the Great Blue Hole. A natural formation which is probably prettier from the air than in the water (go here http://nature.wallpaperme.com/4443-1/Blue+Hole_+Lighthouse+Reef_+Belize.jpg to see a picture which i didn't take) - it's a large underwater cave where the roof has collapsed inwards. The interesting thing about it is that there are stalactites and stalagmites present from around 30m under; but limestone can't form underwater so it indicates that the cave was dry at some point. You basically go straight down to 140ft (ish), right at the limits of recreational diving, swim around the stalactites, then start heading back up quite soon with some reef sharks eyeing you. Not bad but the visibility was a bit sucky and several of the group we were diving with were not competent diving to that depth which always makes it a bit stressful. However the last two dives of the day, on Lighthouse Atoll, were awesome & well worth the washing-machine conditions we had to endure on the boat ride to get there!

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Jon

Posted by pendleton 12:26 Archived in Belize Comments (0)

Important Note

We are NOT in Mexico

We are rerouting our travel plans so they don't include Mexico (probably going to Honduras instead)

We are on top of the situation and have registered ALL of our travel plans with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office so we get updates from them directly as they happen

>> bottom line, we are on top of it and we are safe!

J&A

Posted by pendleton 16:28 Archived in Mexico Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

Tikal

sunny 30 °C

From Antigua we made our way to Tikal, which is one of the major Maya archaelogical sites, within a national park deep in the steaming jungles of northern Guatemala. The Maya weren't one unified country, instead each of the major cities was it's own state (kind of like the ancient Greeks), of which Tikal was one of the biggest. They had quite an obsession with astromony and the passing of various interweaving cycles; towards the end of some of the larger cycles they all got a bit freaked out and would spend their time waging war on the nearest enemy city in order to capture their leader(s) and torture them to death as a sacrifice. Nice guys.

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We got to the park in the late afternoon so we had a nice couple of hours wandering around before the rangers closed the park down. And it was amazing. Huge, towering edifices of stone with vertiginous steps (some of which have been closed to the public as people kept on falling to their deaths) suddenly appear out of these clearings which have been hacked into the thick jungle. In between the clearings you're walking down rough paths actually under the jungle canopy, with critters howling at you and strange rustlings in the litter to the side. You really get a feel for how terrifying it must have been for the first explorers, and how incredible to discover (or rediscover rather) the buildings – and I say buildings because while some of them are partially ruined, some of them are still in remarkably fine shape, and you can climb up the steps until you actually get above the canopy.

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All of this and, during the couple of hours we were there in the afternoon we only saw a couple of other people! We returned in the morning (unfortunately not managing to sneak in early past the shotugn-toting guards to see the sunset) to check out the last couple of places we didn't get to see the previous night but by 8'o'clock the tour bus groups were arriving so the magic was starting to fade just a touch...

An amazing experience though – up there with the Great Pyramids, and definitely a massive tick off the list!

Jon

(note - you'll notice there aren't any photos on this post yet. I'm putting this up from Roatan in Honduras [yes, it's two weeks late i know] and it seems that good internet connections are something that don't happen here. Will put photos up as soon as i can and relink them to this post. Adios!)

Posted by pendleton 10:14 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Antiguys and Gals

sunny 23 °C

So we have left La Antigua. We were very sad to leave... we've had a great time, made some good friends and even learned a little Spanish.

Our hosts, family Gonzalez

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Our son, Todd

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and our last, slightly messy night out

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J&A

Posted by pendleton 17:32 Archived in Guatemala Comments (1)

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