After three, sun-filled, days of sailing from Utila (Honduras) to Rio Dulce (Guatemala) on the catamaran, we spent a day at the hot springs of Finca Pariso. Now this was a cool place for a day trip. Captain Guy, from our sailing adventure, took us there and we explored the falls, covering ourselves with mud and swimming through the caves under the waterfalls. Bliss.
From Rio Dulce we took a 5-hour minivan, inland, to Lanquin. Now this was a cool place to hang out for a while. We spent our days exploring, learning how to make chocolate from the cacao beans, and taking tube rides down the Lanquin River which included a beer as you float down!
A day trip to Semuc Champey is a must do from Lanquin. You start off by going through the Grutas de Las Marias caves by candlelight which involves swimming, wading, climbing up and under waterfalls and jumping into the water in darkness!! Fun.! Unfortunately as it had been raining and the river current was just too strong, we were unable to jump off the 9m bridge and rope swing. We did get to hike up the hill for a great view of Semuc Champey which was followed by jumping into the pools for a dip and more swimming through a few caves.
We celebrated one of our mate’s 30th birthday, with a delicious Mediterranean buffet at the hostel, El Retiro, before a few of us went separate ways and the town of Flores was next for us.
A quiet night exploring Flores and, after speaking to some of our mates who had arrived a couple of days prior, we sorted out our trip to the Tikal Ruins. A quick stop at some awesome second-hand clothes store, stock up on food and pack our bags with overnight gear before leaving for the sunset tour of the ruins.
We did the tour which was pretty magical amongst the ruins and spoke to our guide (as our mates had instructed us to do) about spending the night in the park on top of the temple. This required a small bribe to the guards of the park (about 150 Quetzals each) and wallah, we were to sleep on top of Temple II. We had our picnic dinner and laid on the platform in our sleeping bags listening to the Howler Monkeys in the distance and gazed upon the many stars and the occasional shooting stars in the black sky. Magical.
Waking to more Howler Monkeys, we had to sneak around so the morning tour guides didn’t catch us in the park, and watch the sun rise over the jungle. We spent the day wandering from temple to temple and back to Flores to stay for the next few nights. Such an amazing experience in Tikal with some of the best ruins I have been to.
After an interesting border crossing from Flores to Palenque (Guatemala to Mexico), we made our way to a hostel right next to the park of the Palenque Ruins. Such a cool place to stay, our cabana was overlooking a stream with a balcony to chill out on for the cost of peanuts! Palenque ruins were cool but could not beat our experience in Tikal.
After a long day on a bus to San Cristobal, we were shocked by how cold it was outside!!! It was freezing. With all our layers on we explored the cool city over the next few days and went on a day trip to San Juan Chamula for the Sunday markets. The main church here is definitely worth checking out. Never have I been in a church like it!! Families were rubbing live chickens over then children and then sacrificing the chickens and having shots of alcohol. Very interesting experience. And the empanadas here were so cheap and delicious! No photos are allowed around this town so a few sneaky shots were a must.
It was a week exploring the streets of San Cristobal, spending our evenings tucked up by a warm fire and watching a few movies. During the days we would check out the many cafes (Oh La La a favourite) and local markets for some of the most delicious food. Mexico sure had some great food. Next stop, via an overnight bus, was Oaxaca City.
We spent a couple of days exploring the lively town of Oaxaca, which had a few parades in preparation for the Day of the Dead celebrations happening the following weekend.
A day trip to Monte Alban ruins, a wood carving factory, Cuilapam de Guerro (church) and a black clay factory was interesting and a pretty good day out followed by meeting a few people and organising a hiking adventure in the Sierra Norte region in the Pueblos Mancomunados.
A bus to Benito Jurez to spend the night and start our hike the following morning to Latuvi, via the village of La Niveria, which took all day and a pretty cruisy walk, majority of which was downhill.
It was freezing cold in the mountains and we were rewarded with a delicious, homemade hot chocolate when we arrived to the villages. We met another person who joined our walk from Latuvi to Llano Grande. Now this walk was strenuous. It was 23km continuously uphill! It was paid off with stunning views once we reached the top and a night by an open fire in our cabana, was a treat.
Back in Oaxaca city to meet our mates and prepare for the Day of the Dead celebrations. We stocked up on face paint and decorations and enjoyed big meals at the meat market of Mercado 20 de Noviembre. Delicious.
On the first day of the celebrations, we joined a tour run by some friends which included a delicious dinner at a local house, demonstrating the weaving and visiting two cemeteries, one for the rich and one for the locals. Now these cemeteries fascinated us. The Mexicans were sitting on their relatives’ graves with food and drink and live music playing in the back ground. It was such an amazing experience.
The second night of the celebrations was a completely different experience to the first. We were invited to our friend’s party where he was Dj’ing. We had VIP treatment and spent the night backstage behind the DJ’s overlooking the crowd. Fun night!
We hired a car one of the days and drove via Santa Maria del Tule (for the ginormous, 2,000 year-old tree called El Arbol del Tule) to the Hierve el Agua, petrified waterfall. We picked up some hot chooks for a picnic lunch and spent the afternoon chilling at the stunning pools before driving back and saying our goodbyes once more, to our mates.
Now it was time to head to the Pacific Coast of Mexico to the well-known surf town of Puerto Escondido..