Thursday, December 27, 2012

Semuc Champey

My last couple weeks have been really indescribable.  This place is part of the indescribable.  I took this photo from the viewing deck after a fairly intense hike up a mountain.  Prior to that, I was swimming through a nearby cave by candlelight.  Let me start a bit closer to the beginning:

After a six-hour drive to Lanquin, I was stuffed into a vehicle about the size of a jeep with about twelve other people.  We made the quick trip to Zephyr Lodge, where we stayed three nights.  The Zephyr Lodge is really cool.  It is literally in the jungle.  I slept in a thatched roof hut and took in some fantastic views. (Sadly, I only have so many photos uploaded to photobucket, so the photos of the fantastic views will have to come another time.)  The next morning, I headed to Semuc Champey with my group.

First, we went into the cave.  We were each handed a candle at the entrance.  Mind you, we were really never not in water the entire time in the cave. Anyway, we start swimming and making our way through the cave. I'm having such a hard time describing the awesome of this cave.  There was a rope we had to climb up to get to the next level of the cave.  The rope was behind a waterfall.  :D  I jumped off the wall of the cave into the pool below.  It was fantastic.

After exiting the cave, we went to the rope swing.  I have a thing against rope swings.  I always hurt myself jumping, so I skipped this one.  Lots of people tried it and some ended up with massive bruises from landing badly. I have photos of the swing I'll post another time.

Next we went to (literally) jump off the bridge.  The jumps keep getting higher and higher!  That jump was about 12 meters.

Then we went to the viewing deck where I took that photo above.  You would think this is the grande finale, but it wasn't.  We spent the next three hours of the day swimming, sliding, and jumping from pool to pool.  See those waterfalls?  I slide down them.
Semuc Champey exceeded my expectations by about ten billion lightyears. I highly recommend checking it out if you are ever in Guatemala.  Lanquin is about a six hour drive from Flores, Guatemala City (airport), and Antigua. I normally am not a fan of tours and I really didn't want to do the tour through the lodge, but I'm glad I did.  I don't think Semuc Champey would have been the same experience on my own.  It was pricey for Guatemala standards at 200Q including lunch ($40), but the expense was worth the lifetime of memories.

It's almost time for me to board my bus to Nicaragua.  Adios!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Travel Time

We made it to Belize!  We caught a chicken bus at el nuevo mercado to Belize City.  Murphy's Law would strike as the Mexican Immigration officer took our tourist cards and only stamped one of three passports.  :(  The Belizean Immigration officer told us that she would go ahead and stamp our passports, but it still would show that we haven't left Mexico.  I guess we are illegal immigrants now.  We will have to write the embassy when we get back home to try to get this cleared up.

The nuevo mercado (new market) is amazing. It's huge! We were pretty hungry after our first bus ride and were lucky to find a stall with tacos. The tacos aren't made with the tortilla I'm used to seeing.  The lady fried up a ball of dough and pressed it flat in the middle. Then she added lettuce, chicken she shredded with a cheese grater, and picked onions. I wasn't super in love with the taste, but the tacos were good for 9 pesos each.

This whole chicken bus thing is quite the experience.  It's an old American school bus.  No heat.  No A/C.  It stops all along the way to pick up and drop people off.  The ride is bumpy as hell. Not for those that easily get motion sickness (which after an hour in this bus, I'm a bit queasy and I think I have an iron stomach).  But wow, does it ever make me appreciate all the excess I have.  Seriously.  I'm typing this from my kindle while riding on the chicken bus. These people barely have roofs. Lots of thatched roofs resting on walls made of cane.  The dogs are emaciated.  I guess that's what happens when all that's left are barely scraps.   But the kids are riding their bikes and playing on the corners.  The people are smiling.  The people are happy.  Go me for getting philosophical.

Let me sum up my day in a bit of teal dear fashion:
Wake up at 4:30am, finish packing stuff, brush teeth
Catch cozumel ferry to Playa del Carmen at 6am
Get to bus station for tickets to chetumel
Taxi to other bus station for 7:20am departure
Arrive at bus station at 12:30 and taxi to nuevo Mercado
Eat tacos, get on chicken bus at 1:30, take pictures, be grateful
Get off chicken bus in Belize City at 6
Catch another bus at 6:15 to Dangriga
Arrive at hostel at 9
Walk down a few blocks and get food
Pass out.

And in honor of leaving Mexico, here are some parting Mexico photos:
Rum is Ron in Mexico.  You don't order rum punch, you order Ron punch.
Love birds
Mexican barbed wire
Kid's choir in front of the ferry pier 12-10-12
Happy Wednesday everyone!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

And the winner is...


There is an international bus route from Chetumel, Mexico to Belize City, Belize and we are getting on it.  First, we have to walk to the ferry port to catch the 6am ferry over to Playa del Carmen.  Second, we walk to the bus station to catch a bus to Chetumel.  Last, we catch the international bus to Belize City.  Our actual next stop is Dangriga, Belize in southern Belize.  We still have to figure out which bus line goes that route and at what time.  I'm in the process of finding a hostel for us in Dangriga.  I always feel better knowing I have a place to put my stuff when I get somewhere. Speaking of stuff, I already have more of it! I got a nativity for my Pilates instructor and a picture from a street artist.  I'll probably pick up a few more things in Belize and make a trip to the post office then.

I successfully completed my open water diver certification . I'm now a (temporary) card carrying padi diver. Yay! I still have the jaw fatigue, but with a full day of travel ahead of us, hopefully I will be able to get some rest.  After three days in Belize, we'll be heading to Guatemala  No diving there!

I have no pictures today and this might be my last day of somewhat acceptable wifi.  I'll post more updates as I can!


Monday, December 10, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

It's certainly a rough life when your only decisions are what to eat and where to go next. :D I wrap up my open water dive certification today.  It's been incredible so far.  It's challenging and inspiring at the same time.  There are so many different kinds of fish in the water here.  I saw three seahorses on Sunday, which I'm told it's rare to see seahorses at all let alone three!

We are weighing the pros and cons of staying in Mexico and heading over to Merida or going straight to Belize.  I know I want a break from diving for a couple days because I am feeling some serious jaw fatigue already.  Pro for Merida, con for Belize. Cozumel is really safe--there is almost no crime here and crime shuts down the island from people leaving and arriving.  Merida is not safe says the locals here in   Cozumel.  I'll ask the dive master what he thinks of Merida on the boat today.

So blogreaders, any experience in Merida?  Should we go there? And since what's a blog post without a picture, here's our elephant housekeeping left us yesterday. :)

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Bienvenidos a Mexico!

I made it to Mexico! We arrived in Cancun about 30 minutes earlier than we were supposed to. When does that ever happen? We had to wait for our other party to arrive as well and hung out just outside the international exit. While there, I noticed another American who looked like he was backpacking too! Matt from Chicago was waiting for his friends to get to Cancun before embarking on their loop of Mexico, Belize, and Guatemala. It was nice to have the company while we waited. He should be friend requesting me in order for us to follow each others adventures.

I started my first (and second) dives Saturday! It was amazing. Some of the fundamentals I had to do were really hard for me. (Take your mask off underwater and leave it off for a minute before putting it back on and clearing it was really tough for me.) One of the guys in the group took some pictures of me diving and I should be able to post those in another month or so. Anyway, the dive master runs his shop out of Chankanaab Park on Isle Cozumel. It is gorgeous there. We arrived at 9:30am and finally left at 5:30. While my boys were out snorkeling, I found a cocktail and a hammock to watch the sun set.

We finally caught a taxi the 10km back to our hotel, cleaned up a bit and headed to dinner. The food at El Pique taqueria was fantastic. I ordered two tacos, finished those up and decided I needed another round. We each ordered one more. This place is open until 1am, so after a few beers, we headed back to the taqueria for a couple more. This was the best food I've had in Mexico so far. It's M$20 or less per taco, or about $1.50.

Another day of scuba awaits Sunday morning. Buenos Dias!