Adventures of Frangipan

Wednesday, 30 November 2005

"K, Chica"

Last full day in Antigua. Feels a bit strange. Glad I'll be home soon tho, as much fun as I've had these past couple of weeks.

My legs ache. A lot. I have to grab onto something whenever I sit down or stand up. But considering I thought I'd be dead by now, I'm doing well.

Dropped of my laundry and had my last Panqueques de Andres in Cafe Condesa. Got about 50 pages of Robinson Crusoe left. A leisurely day I think. Updated my blog and checked out of Sin Ventura just in time. Walked all my stuff over to Hotel San Jorge and dumped it there. Had lunch in Cafe No Se and then went to Cafe Sky for a drink. The waiter kept saying "K, Chica" after I ordered and after asking if everything was ok. I like it.

Picked up my laundry, went to Sin Ventura for a coffee and a flick thru a very old US Cosmo. A boy walked up to me asking for a quetzal, and thought Christmas had come early when I gave him five. Dropped off my bag of clothes to be donated at Outfitters before walking to Dom and Doreen's for the BBQ.

Met all the new volunteers and caught up with those who've been there since I arrived. Really good crowd there at the moment, and bigger than I expected - a lot of them will be spending Christmas over in Guatemala.

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Tuesday, 29 November 2005

I Hike Better Than I Bike

Volcano climb today. San Pedro. We had to be up at 5.15am for breakfast. I jolted awake and decided to wait for my alarm - shouldn't be too long. After about 10 minutes, I decided to check the time. It was 2.40am. I then spent the next 2 hours stirring, which was rubbish.

So the five of us sat having fruit, granola and yoghurt by candlelight at 5.30am, on one of the terraces of the hotel. A boat came to fetch us at 6am for the 15-minute, very cold crossing to San Pedro town. Very glad I was wearing my fleece. So I was up for sunrise. But it wasn't all that great.

We were hoping for a coffee before we started the hike, but no such luck - the cafes weren't open yet. We took a pickup to the national park and start of the trail. Santos, who worked at the park, came up with us as a second guide.

The trail starts at an altitude of 1828m. It took us about an hour to get to the lookout point, which in terms of height, was about half way up. But in terms of distance to walk, only about a third of the way. And that was the easy part.

The summit is at an altitude of 3020m, and about 4km from the start of the trail. It took us 3 hours and 25 minutes to get up. We stayed for about half an hour and then started back down. No idea how long that took - we stopped for lunch at the lookout point on the way.

I don't want to say it was easy, cuz it wasn't really. But considering after the bike ride I thought the volcano hike might kill me (or certainly thought I'd have to turn back before the summit), I think I did pretty damn well. Coming down was harder than going up cuz my legs felt like jelly and I kept thinking I'd stumble. But I only fell once and managed to grab a tree to catch myself.

A pickup met us at the start at 2pm and took us to the dock. We got a boat to La Casa del Mundo, and he waited for us til 3pm to take us to Panajachel. Which gave me enough time to change and for another liquado. The shuttle bus left Panajachel at 4pm, and took just over two hours to get back to Antigua. I checked into Sin Ventura (the coffee shop/bar/restaurant/cinema/hotel) for the night when we got back and collected the bags I'd left at Outfitters.

I had supper in Monoloco and quickly checked emails. I planned to go the cinema, but changed my mind. Good thing too cuz I fell asleep reading and still listening to my Zen.

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Monday, 28 November 2005

Kayaking and Hiking

Kinda bummed cuz I woke up at 6.45am and missed sunrise. I left my curtains open and thought the light would wake me first, but alas, I just missed it. So kayaking, swimming and hiking today. Got all my stuff ready before meeting Welber, Liz, Carly and Isabella for breakfast. I had Huevos Rancheros - fried eggs on tortillas, with salsa and frijoles. Not pancakes I hear you cry. Saving them for tomorrow.

So we got in our kayaks at 9.45am. In Monterrico I had a straight paddle, but now I had a paddle with the ends facing different ways. Took a bit of getting used to - almost capsized myself straight away. The water in the lake is pretty active - aside from the natural waves from the wind and rocks, there's also the waves from the boats! Much harder work than Monterrico.

We stopped after about an hour and a half, pulled our kayaks up onto the rocks, and went for a swim. Very cold and constricting at first. Me being the rubbish swimmer that I am, didn't feel too comfortable and didn't swim too far out. Welber, Carly and Liz however, were swimming out far and jumping off rocks and having loads of fun!

We got back into our kayaks for the last five minutes to San Marcos, and a guy from our hotel brought our bags and boots, and took our kayaks back. We then walked from the dock up onto the mountainside, and followed a road and then a trail back to La Casa del Mundo. We had to cross a few landslides, and saw people trying to clear the river beds. We also crossed through maize and coffee plants on very steep mountainsides - no idea how they reach them without plunging to their death. It was quite easy, aside from one long, steep part. Took about two hours, and there were lots of stunning views, so sorry, yet more photos of volcanoes and the lake!

We had lunch when we got back. I've found the daddy of all liquados - strawberry, pineapple and banana. It was so good, I had to have two. Wasn't overly impressed with hummus sandwich tho. Spent the rest of the afternoon chilling by the lakeside.

We all had supper together again, but there was a slightly different crowd. The five of us were all pretty knackered so went to bed soon after. I had a coffee so I could stay awake and read for a while, but still fell asleep reading around 9pm.

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Sunday, 27 November 2005

Lago Atitlan Day #1

I've been here almost eight weeks. I've dug trenches for 4 weeks. I've been to Tikal, walking through the jungle and climbing the temples. I've been kayaking in Monterrico. And today, with five days left, my thumbnail broke. They were all doing so well too. No breakages until now. And I wouldn't have minded so much if it had been on the other hand, cuz that one is getting ridiculously long. Anyway, I digress.

Packed up all my stuff. Had to do a bit of re-arranging to get everything in, but just about got there. Went to Cafe Condesa for my favourite breakfast, Panqueques de Andres. Got myself a taxi back to the hotel so I could pick up my bags and leave it at Old Town Outfitters while I was at Lake Atitlan.

So Welber, Liz, Carly, Michael, Mirna, Pacaya the dog, and I all set off for the lake. It's about a two hour drive, mostly along the Panamerican Highway, which runs from Alaska to southern Argentina. Quite a nice drive through some towns and villages.

We started the bike ride at a school, which had a great view of the lake and the surrounding volcanoes. Michael, Mirna and Pacaya followed in the car in case there were any problems. The road to Panajachel was mostly downhill and windy, through a few small villages. A couple of the uphills were quite hard work, and when we stopped just before lunch, I felt quite sick. I rode in the car for the next ten minutes until lunch, and felt much better after the rest. Realised that my throat was getting constricted after the uphills and I was struggling to breath. Felt like a bit of a wimp, but Michael made me feel better when he said we started the bike ride at an altitiude of 2400m.

We had lunch at a picnic spot quite high above the lake with great views. Didn't realise the lake was quite so big! After lunch, we got back on the bikes and cycled the last 45 minutes to Panajachel. Welber buckled his back wheel from jumping over speed bumps. We passed quite a few landslides - the whole lake area was affected really badly by Hurricane Stan, and some areas had to be abandoned and declared mass graves. Just north of Panajachel, there was a river valley that had a huge landslide through it, which hit the nearby houses too. Someone had graffitied on ne house "Island in Paradise...Thank you Stan" or something to that effect.

Michael and Mirna met us near the dock and we had about half an hour to look around Panajachel. Isabella also met us here - she didn't want to do the cycling so went to Chichicastenango on the first day. It's the biggest town by the lake, about 14,000 inhabitants. There's a lot of gringos, Spanish schools and travel companies. And a huge market up the main street. I felt quite guilty cuz of all the people in Guatemala who are desperate for money, these people were probably top of the list, but if I bought anything else, I really wouldn't be able to get it home (not even sure I'll manage what I've already got).

At 4.30pm, we said goodbye to Michael, Mirna and Pacaya (they were driving back to Antigua with the bikes), and the five of us set off in the boat to our hotel, La Casa del Mundo. The boat is an interesting experience. They're absolutely tiny, 16-seaters (with only 12 life jackets), and the weight has to be balanced equally on either side. And when you hit waves, you hit them with such force that you feel like you keep hitting rocks.

La Casa del Mundo is built into the mountainside, and built in layers so that each room has a lake view. It's quite a climb from the dock to the reception, but through beautiful grounds. My room is right above the restaurant, and had an amazing view, with the volcanoes right in front of me (I'll apologise now for all the photos).

I showered and read for a while, then all the guests had supper together at 6.30pm, which gave us a chance to meet some other people - Justine and Pippa, from Australia, just started their 2-year travels; and an American couple from Antigua who were travelling with her parents. So, for supper, we had soup, followed by salad, lasagne, and strawberry sorbet. Very yummy. We stayed up for a while after having a few drinks and chatting to new friends.

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Saturday, 26 November 2005

Star Wars

After taking my laundry over to the laundrette, I went to Dona Luisa for breakfast. I wanted pancakes, but also some fruit. So I ordered a bowl of fruit, granola and yoghurt, and also pancakes. If I'd have known the bowl of fruit would be the size of a goldfish bowl, I may have thought twice.

Bought some more souvenirs and got a couple of pairs of sunglasses from the market, since I lost mine somewhere in the mangroves of Monterrico. Started packing up my rucksack - half full and I only have souvenirs in so far.

Sat in Parque Central reading for about an hour and half, then went to pick up my laundry. The girl remembered my name - I love that place! I went to Bagel Barn to have lunch and watch all but the first 20 minutes of Lost in Translation. Really good film, and I can empathise with being alone in a foreign country!

Met Rachel at 5.30pm and we went to watch Star Wars. Got slightly worried when the writing (at the beginning of every Star Wars film) was in Spanish. Luckily, the film was in English tho. As much as I love Star Wars and that film, the only thing I think about when I'm watching Episode 3, is how sexy Hayden Christensen is.

Went to Cafe La Escudilla for supper afterwards. Was kinda annoyed cuz no one asked if I wanted dessert, and then after I'd asked for a menu, no one came to take my order. Fairly certain someone tried to steal my camera out of my bag too.

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Friday, 25 November 2005

Cultural Day

Woke up at 4am this morning for absolutely no reason. There were no noises outside, I didn't go to bed stupidly early, and I wasn't happy.

Decided to be cultural today and went to museums today. I started with Museo de Santiago, which was about the history of Guatemala, the conquering by the Spaniards, and also had a weapons room. I then tried to go the Museo de Arte Colonial, but no one has change in this place, and I only had 100Q notes.

So I went to Cafe Sky for lunch. The cafe is good, but isn't anything special as far as food goes. But it has a roof-top terrace with great views of the volcanoes, the cross on the hill, and most of Antigua.

After paying for lunch, I now enough change to go to the Colonial Art museum. Probably because Holy Week is such a big deal in Antigua, they're very into art concerning Christ and the cross. There were some huge paintings of various stages, with Pontius Pilot, and people helping him carry the cross. There were lots of paintings and statues of saints and biblical figures in various states of disrepair. And there were some modern paintings done by local artists, which, if I had more money, I probably would've bought one or two.

I spent ages in a bank changing travellers cheques, again into 100Q notes, which again, no one wants. Bumped into Rachel, Brian, Nate, Angus and Maria (Antigua volunteers) at Sin Ventura coffee shop and chatted to them for a while. Then I went to the cinema to watch Crash. Not really what I was expecting - a few too many characters to keep track of and really feel for.

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Thursday, 24 November 2005

Turtles in Monterrico

I was awake and sat on the beach by 7.30am. Since it was my first visit to the Pacific and I was only there a few hours, I figured I should make the most of it. Took another dip in the ocean, but the undercurrent was quite strong and made me nervous. So I watched the birds flying close to the waves and catching fish instead. And then went for a dip in the pool.

We all had pancakes for breakfast, and sat watching the fishermen in their little boats, dropping their nets into the ocean. At 9.30am we left the hotel, and visited a conservation park for turtles, crocodiles and iguanas. They breed and incubate turtles there, and then release them into the wild. So we lots of tiny baby turtles and lots of caimans (small crocs).

Then we kayaked back to La Avellana. I was much better today - didn't get stuck on anything! We got back to Antigua around 2pm, and after checking stuff for my lake trip on Sunday and checking back into the hotel, I went for a late lunch and then went to the cinema and watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Didn't do much for the next few hours, then went to Teatro Cafe just across the road for supper.

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Wednesday, 23 November 2005

To Monterrico

We weren't leaving for Monterrico until 9am (much more sensible time than 4am), so I had time to pick up my laundry and go to Cafe Condesa for breakfast. Oh My God. Pancakes with a side order of strawberries, blackberries, banana, pineapple, watermelon, melon, cream and maple syrup. And a liquado and a coffee. I have officially found the best breakfast in Antigua.

I went to Monterrico with Chris and Megan, who are from Washington DC, and with Welbur, our guide. The drive took about two hours. We went on the road between the volcanoes - haven't been that close to Fuego or Acatenango before. The first road we tried was blocked by huge piles of gravel, but amazingly, there was another way to get there.

We reached La Avellana by 11.30am and left the pickup there. We then kayaked through the mangrove canals towards Monterrico, which you can only reach by boat. The kayaking was a bit sketchy at first - found myself crashing into stationary boats on the other side of the river, and getting entangled in the branches in the mangroves. I wasn't too bad on the open water, and I did improve though!

We had lunch parked up next to some of the mangroves, holding onto each other's kayaks so no-one drifted to far. Welbur chopped tomatoes, onions, cucumber and pepper, and we all made sandwiches.

We reached Monterrico by about 4pm, then took a pickup ride to our hotel, Dulce y Salado. It's right on the beach, there's a warm pool, and only 8 rooms (and we were the only guests). After changing out of my wet clothes, I sat on the volcanic sand beach and watched the waves of the Pacific Ocean. I took a quick dip - it was warmer than I expected - and then watched the pretty pink sunset. My camera memory card started playing up, and I may have lost all my photos up to now. Think I'll probably cry if that happens.

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Tuesday, 22 November 2005

From Tikal

So they have this sunrise tour of Tikal. The idea being that you get up at 4.30am and join a group to watch the sunrise from the top of The Great Pyramid. Unfortunately, I slept until almost 6am, when the howler monkeys woke me up. Don't know if you've ever heard them, but you really would swear there was a lion right outside your bedroom door. Even when they're way off in the jungle.

Went back into the park after breakfast, to visit the temples I didn't see yesterday. Sat by the reservoirs for a few minutes to see if any crocodiles were about. Managed to get a photo of his eyes just above the water. While I was taking a photo of Group F ruins, some monkeys appeared in the trees above, so I videoed them for a while. Then I went back to the Great Plaza and sat atop the North Acropolis. I tried to get a 360 degree photo from the centre of the Great Plaza, but my battery died about three-quarters through!

Then I visited the Plaza of Windows (not very exciting) and climbed Temple 5. You're not allowed to climb some of the steps anymore, so wooden ladders/stairs have been built up the side. Incredibly steep wooden ladders. On the way up I looked down several times, and was convinced I'd plummet to my death when coming back down. And I was by myself, not in a tour group which made me even more anxious. And when I finally got to the top, I couldn't see Temples 3 or 4 from there, which was a bummer. Anyway, made it back down safely, and went back to the hotel through the East Plaza and Central Acropolis.

After another much-needed shower (can't describe how bad my clothes smell!), I went for a wander around the museum. Again surprised by how much I understood, but got fed up of reading Spanish after a while. Interesting photos of how the temples looked during the restoration tho. I went for lunch to one of the comedors nearby, checked out of the hotel, and then waited for the shuttle back to the airport.

The plane on the way back was even smaller. Four seats across, and about eleven rows. And there were no huge jet engines that I'm used to. We had propellors instead. This one really was like a private jet. We were a bit late getting back to Guatemala City and I was worried the shuttle would go without me, but when I got outside, there was my driver with a sign with my name on it. I felt so important!

Took forever to get out of the city. As you're driving through, you don't realise what the terrain is like. From the air, you can see huge ravines cutting the city into chunks. When driving, you only really drive over one huge bridge and then around a few hills. Apparently Christmas in Guatemala is sponsored by Gallo, the national beer. There is a huge tree in the city, not with an angel or star on top, but with a huge rotating "Gallo" logo. Gallo, by the way, means cockerel, and the logo is a cockerel's head.

I was back in Antigua by 7pm, and after checking what time we were leaving for Monterrico tomorrow, I went to an Italian restaurant for supper. I started reading Robinson Crusoe, but fell asleep quite quickly.

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Monday, 21 November 2005

To Tikal

Antigua at 4am. Not very exciting. A few chicken buses coming and going, a few shuttle buses (or maybe just mine). Lots of homeless people sleeping outside the shops near the market.

Got to the airport by 5am, checked in, got a coffee, and went to the boarding gate at 5.30am. Had to walk along the runway to the small plane, feeling like The Beatles. No sooner had we reached cruising altitude and were told we could play gameboys, than we were coming in to land. Some dickhead on the opposite side of the plane to me left his phone on for the whole flight. I thought everyone knew the safety drill, but they played it for us anyway, and he still didn't switch it off! Not that I'm a nervous flyer or anything...

So Flores airport is actually in Santa Elena, which is right beside Lago de Peten Itza. Flores is a small island on the lake, connected to Santa Elena by one road. The airport is about the size of a barn. Well two, one for arrivals and one for departures. Had to walk along the runway again. I was worried I wouldn't be able to find my shuttle to Tikal in the airport, but my hotel (Jungle Lodge) has a desk there and I found it straight away.

The drive to Tikal took about an hour, around the edge of the lake and then north into the jungle. You reach the main gate ages before the hotels and visitors centre. They have signs warning you of wildlife crossing the roads. A few with jaguars on, and a few with snakes on. Suddenly started to panic.

So we got to the hotel, checked into my plush cabin, and then a group of about 10 of us set off on our tour, with our guide Marco Antonio. We visited Temples 1, 2, 3, 4, 38, The Great Plaza, Central Acropolis, North Acropolis, The Lost World, and Complexes O, R and Q. I climbed up Temple 2 (the only one dedicated to a woman), The Great Pyramid of the Lost World (basically their astromony tower), and Temple 4, the tallest construction there, and the one used as the Rebel Base in Star Wars: A New Hope. Yes, the best thing about Tikal had nothing to do with ancient Maya civilisation: for me, it was all about the best film in the world.

Anyways, we got back to the hotel by 1.30pm and I had lunch with some of the tour group. Then I went back to my cabin and decided to make a video of it. Then played it back to myself. Why didn't anyone tell me I sounded so posh?! I couldn't believe it was me talking! But quite a few people have commented on my "beautiful accent", so maybe it's not so bad.

After a much-needed shower I went back to the visitors centre for a look around, but it was all about to close. Sat by the hotel pool reading for a while. There were some monkeys playing in the trees just above me. Later went to the hotel restaurant for supper (which wasn't included in the price), but I still got a 2-course dinner and two drinks for Q60 (less than 6 quid). It's quite noisy in the jungle at night - lots of bugs and stuff.

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Sunday, 20 November 2005

Batman Begins

Had pancakes and a liquado in Rainbow Cafe for breakfast. Still haven't found a liquado to beat the place in Copan, but having fun trying. I decided it was about time to take my washing to the laundrette, before it grew legs and walked itself there. Went to Cafe Condesa for a coffee and a cake. Recently found out that when they were building the cafe there, they pulled out a wall and found a skeleton inside. Supposedly the butler of someone important, who was caught fooling around with his wife!

Not had much to do today so walked the long way round to Parque Central - about five blocks out of my way. Got a coffee at Sin Ventura before going to watch Batman Begins. I liked the all-star cast, especially Morgan Freeman and Gary Oldman; and the development of Batman and how it all ties in at the end. It beats Batman & Robin and Batman Forever hands down, but Michael Keaton is still the best Bat, and they'll struggle to top The Joker as a villain.

Stopped in Bagel Barn for some supper and to watch the end of Hitch afterwards. Then walked back to the hotel around 9.30pm. Antigua is disturbingly quiet on a Sunday night.

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Saturday, 19 November 2005

How To Spend 5000 Quetzales in One Day

(That's about 400 pounds)

After my fabulous breakfast at San Jorge (no, they didn't kick me out on the street) I went to Old Town Outfitters, and joined a 2-day trip to Monterrico on the Pacific Coast, and a 3-day trip to Lake Atitlan. I then went around the corner and booked a 2-day trip to Tikal. So I haven't got much time left to fill up now. Gutted that I won't get to La Ceiba and Roatan, but wouldn't really want to be there while there's a tropical storm/hurricane.

Doreen and Mirna helped me find a new, cheaper hotel, so I'm now in Posada Don Valentino. It's basic, but good enough for me. I've got my own bathroom with hot water, and it's only 3 blocks from Parque Central. I went to Bagel Barn for lunch and then to Sin Ventura (the coffee shop). I checked out what films were showing where over the weekend, then sent a few emails.

I had a look at what else I could do while I'm in Antigua. Might go on a Coffee Finca tour, climb Pacaya volcano, and either going on a Cultural tour, or at least have a proper look around by myself.

I went back to Bagel Barn at 4:30pm to watch Matrix Reloaded, but the power for the whole street went out at 6pm, so I went back to the hotel, and then the power came back on. Went back at 7:30pm for some supper and to watch The Incredibles.

I'm much more comfortable in Antigua this time around. Probably a combination of knowing the language a bit better, and already having a vague idea of where to find everything here. And spending so much time in Copan by myself that I don't feel so self-conscious about it now.

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Friday, 18 November 2005

Back to Antigua

Woke up way too early. My shuttle isn't til 12noon, I've got very little to do, and I'm awake by 7am. Bought a newspaper and saw the photos of the bridges - one third of a 250 metre bridge missing between El Progreso and Tela, and another between Tela and La Ceiba. The great thing about this part of the world is there's only one road to get somewhere, so if that's out of action, you're stuck. So I did some shopping, and then went for breakfast in Cafe Welchez - pancakes...mmm.

There was an advert for hair straighteners on the TV in there, with all these women going "wow, my hair is so straight" and running their fingers through their hair...I'm so jealous! Also, decided I'm either going to get my hair cut like Catherine Zeta Jones in Ocean's Twelve, or grow it long but keep lots of layers. Any thoughts?

I said goodbye to Kike for the third time as I got onto the shuttle. Sat next to possibly the best looking guy in the world. Six pretty uninteresting hours to Antigua. My ears only popped once, compared to the many times on the way to Copan. You have to pass through the outskirts of Guatemala City to get to Antigua. There are some amazing sights of all these shanty towns built onto the sides of the mountains. I'll try to get some photos when I head back to the airport. We arrived in Antigua at dusk, and it was quite clear so there were great views of the volcanoes, with just a few clouds around them.

Kike told me I had a room at Hotel San Jorge (the plush one I stayed at in the beginning), so I went there, and they told me someone else would be joining me tomorrow night. Rather confused. To cut a long story short, they thought I was someone else who was booked in with Old Town Outfitters tour company so put me in her room. As it turned out, I never had a reservation, so I don't know what happened there!

Went to Doreen's house expecting there to be a BBQ, but they had it last night for Sally and Robyn's last day. Chatted to her and went to see Brian, then went to Monoloco to look for everyone else, but couldn't see them. Went back to the hotel and ended up falling asleep in front of Shrek dubbed in Spanish.

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Thursday, 17 November 2005

Happy 22nd Birthday Francesca

(Photo from the newspaper, showing the damage caused by the heavy rains from the hurricane)

So after updating my blog on Thursday night, I get back to the house to find out that Kike is having a birthday party at the school and wants me to go. Apparently he's 18 this year (he's got a daughter who's about seven, so I doubt it very much!).

I left Copan on the 6am bus to San Pedro Sula, which would take about 3 hours, and then I'd get a bus to La Ceiba at 10am. So we reach San Pedro and are told that mudslides due to the heavy rain have made the road impassable, but they might be cleared by the afternoon. So I hung out with four Canadian and two Swedish guys who were also trying to get to La Ceiba. Glad they were there cuz San Pedro ain't a nice place, and it's got a reputation for being a very dangerous place after dark.

We got some breakfast then went back to the bus terminal. They were now saying that we'd have to wait until tomorrow to get a bus. So the guys decided to get a hotel, but I didn't want to waste a day there, especially if they then decided we couldn't get there on Friday either. So I bought a ticket back to Copan, and planned to go back to Antigua on Friday.

I was back by 5pm and went to see Kike to ask him to book my shuttle ticket for Friday. He said he's been watching the floods on TV and wondered if I was ok. Went to email the hostel I was going to in La Ceiba, and found that she's emailed me to say that two bridges had been taken out and the airport was closed. So I'm very glad I turned around!

Went for some supper and later fell asleep listening to my music, in amongst all my bags on my bed.

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Wednesday, 16 November 2005

Punting on the Trench

Apparently it rained in the mountains again last night. And since we're digging right at the bottom of the hill, our trench filled up with water. A lot of water. The trench isn't level yet though, so I spent about an hour stood at the side of my trench, pushing the water out of my part to lower down.

We managed to get a lot more done than I expected and just about levelled the whole trench out. Which involved being stood in a puddle for quite a while. The mud did make funny squelching noises though, which kept us entertained.

Tried a Chocolate & Banana licuado today. Not as nice as the Pineapple or Cereal ones. More souvenir shopping, and then saw Don at Cafe Welchez, and he very kindly paid for my coffee and cake.

And I'm almost packed. Just the clothes I'm in at the moment. Leave at 6am tomorrow. What fun. Got 7 free internet minutes left here, of the 900 I started with 5 weeks ago. Just about enough I think.

Things I'll miss about Copan:
Cafe Welchez: nice place, friendly staff, great coffee and great cakes (especially the carrot cake)
Pickup rides: the best 20 minutes of my day
Being somewhere I know well

So catch up with you in a few days, after I get to La Ceiba and do some tours.

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Tuesday, 15 November 2005

Museum

Work started off well this morning. It rained in the mountains last night, our trench filled up with water, so we had to leave a wall and start lower down, in the easiest digging ground I've found. Barely had to use my pickaxe! Then I finished that and had to move onto the waterlogged, rocky part. Rubbish.

I visited the museum in the afternoon, all about Mayan history and culture shockingly, and has some replicas and some of the real stuff from the ruins. I was pleasantly surprised by how much of the Spanish I understood from the explanations. And helpfully, there were English translations next to some of them.

Went to Cafe Welchez. Finished my book, Matchstick Men. Which reminds me - yesterday, for the second time this holiday, the film adaptation of a book I was reading came on the TV. Don't think there's any chance of Robinson Crusoe or my new Tom Clancy book coming on though.

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Monday, 14 November 2005

Keegan, who I was in Antigua with for a week, started work today. He's been in Spanish school in Copan for a week, but I haven't seen him. We are now right at the bottom of the side road we've been on since Thursday. The local guys did most of it over the weekend and just left us with a couple of hundred yards though.

Spent the afternoon shopping for souvenirs and hanging out in Cafe Welchez. Went on the internet in the evening. Exciting stuff, huh?

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Sunday, 13 November 2005

Bored...

Spent the whole day watching films and learning Spanish.

Decided to wash my clothes by hand, partly cuz I was bored and partly cuz my stuff smelled really bad!

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Saturday, 12 November 2005

Lauren's Last Day

It was Lauren's last day today, so we went shopping (or window shopping in my case) and for a coffee. The last of my friends to leave - sob! She says to let her know if I'm ever in Florida and she'll show me round!

I started watching some 80s film with Kevin Bacon and it reminded me of the Association Game Jimmy told us about. Why not play it at home? Think of an actor, and through co-stars, you can always get to a film starring Kevin Bacon. For example, Morgan Freeman. He was in The Shawshank Redemption with Tim Robbins, who was in Mystic River with Kevin Bacon. Sorry, didn't do much today - had to fill up my blog with something!

I stayed up til 2am watching Ocean's Twelve. About five minutes after I put my head down to go to sleep, every dog in Copan started barking. Probably for no reason. Bastards.

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Friday, 11 November 2005

The Accidental Hike

Keith and Nicki were both off travelling today and Lauren was getting ready to leave so it was up to me whether I went to work or not. I battled with my conscience for quite some time, and eventually decided to 'do the right thing'.

It started raining on the way up to Sesesmil and within about ten minutes of being up there, the heavens opened good style. I spent the next hour and a half attempting to dig a trench that was flooded and sulking about being there in such bad weather. I was wearing my raincoat over my shorts and t-shirt, but still managed to get soaked right through. The Chillis song 'I Like Dirt' came on my Zen. As much as it pains me to do so, I had to disagree with Anthony.

So at 9:30am, I'd finished our work from Thursday and decided to call it a day. I started walking since there were no pickups on their way, and didn't see any pickups that I could've got a ride in until I was almost back in Copan. Took me 2 hours and 15 minutes. Good thing it stops raining once you leave Sesesmil Dos.

Spent the afternoon resting my feet, watching The Negotiator. Then checked emails and went to Cafe Welchez to hang out for a while.

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Thursday, 10 November 2005

Turtle Power!

Raining again so my clothes and towel on the line will have to stay there another day. Freddy’s now got a new tuk-tuk. Don’t know if it’s borrowed or if it’s his, but he’s back. We were set to work on another new trench for the main pipe today, digging down one of the side roads.

I took my MP3 player and it really made the time pass a lot more quickly. Until the battery died. Some of the tracks I listened to included: the Baywatch theme, Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Britney, Marilyn Manson and the Chillis. Class tunes.

Keith and I decided to start walking towards Copan rather than wait in Sesesmil for a pickup. We were walking for about 30-45 minutes before one came along, and the thought of having to walk all the way back crossed my mind a couple of times!

Went to Café Welchez in the afternoon and started a new book – Matchstick Men – cuz I finished George Orwell yesterday. Sent emails to hostels and tour companies after supper, and they had to kick me out cuz I was there till closing time!

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Wednesday, 9 November 2005

The Porch of the Big House

Freddy, my host brother, is our usual tuk-tuk driver. But his was broken yesterday so he got another guy to take us. Thinking something similar would happen today, I sat outside the house from 6:50am to 7:30am waiting. Then I walked up the Nicki and Lauren’s house, and we all waited on the corner for a pickup. Keith decided yesterday that he’d try to get a pickup since the tuk-tuk struggles so much, and evidently, he had already gone. Another taxi drove by at 7:55am and he said he’d take us.

Got up to the project by 8:30am and it was raining lots. Beginning to wish we’d all just gone back to bed! So after the slope that we were going up, the local guys have gone down again and back up again. So we were stationed next to the church, where the pipe finally gets into the village. I’m sure there would’ve been an easier way to get there.

The big house that looks like it doesn’t belong is owned by relatives of Nicki and Lauren’s host family. And they invited us for coffee today. I’ve been as far as the porch!

Did very, very little all afternoon, and then spent the evening flicking between Harry Potter and Bridget Jones on two different channels.

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Tuesday, 8 November 2005

Oh, Another Slope to Dig

So we’ve gone down one slope and now we need to go up the other side. It’s a steeper slope and it rained a lot last night so it’s really slippy, but I still found it easier to dig than yesterday’s slope. We’ve decided there’s a bit of a conspiracy. They put us to work on the steep slopes cuz we’re always falling over and slipping, and they find it amusing. Somehow they never fall over. They’re like cats – if they do lose their balance, they always manage to land on their feet.

The weather improved a lot by the afternoon so I went to the pool. There were other people there! For like, the first time! The idea of swimming in front of other people made me feel quite self-conscious, so I spent ages on the sun lounger reading, and only swam for a little while.

Went to Café Welchez afterwards cuz I haven’t been there for a few days. After supper, my host mum gave me a t-shirt of the Mayan Calendar as a gift. She’s so good to me!

Any of you guys watched The House of Sand and Fog? It’s so depressing. It’s good, but not really worth the feeling of wanting to kill yourself afterwards!

I’m thinking of trying to finish a couple of days early so I have more time to travel, cuz at the moment I’ll be cutting things a bit fine.

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Monday, 7 November 2005

The Main Pipe

Ok, so Robin’s left but Nicki is back, and Lauren is volunteering this week before she moves on. And Keith’s still here, so there are four of us up in Sesesmil now – the tuk-tuk struggles up the hills!

We’ve been set to work digging from the water tank down to the village. It’s the main pipeline, which means we have to dig deeper – about halfway up my thigh. Today’s slope was really steep and full of roots – not fun!

We’re working with the local guys now and it’s becoming quite evident just how much better at this they are. It takes four of us to do the same amount of work as one of them! But, at least we did the houses while they worked on the main pipe – saved them some work!

After getting back and having lunch, I went to a restaurant that makes really good licuados and stayed there for a couple of hours. Tried to watch I, Robot before bed but couldn’t keep my eyes open.

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Sunday, 6 November 2005

Shark Boy and Lava Girl

Last night I managed to rope myself into going to the cinema with my host mum and her youngest daughter this morning. We went to see The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl 3D. A kids film. Dubbed in Spanish. But I knew all this before we left and I still went! Managed to understand some of it too.

Got back and watched Shark Tale after lunch. In English. Understood all of that. Updated my website and generally managed to waste the day quite successfully, by doing very little.

Birthday Wish List (in case anyone's interested)
Money
Purple shoes from Barratts – like my green ones, size 5

DVDs
Ghostbusters 1 and 2
South Park: Bigger, Longer, Uncut
Red Dwarf series 1, 2, 5, 6 and 7
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

CDs
A Crow Left of the Murder – Incubus
In Your Honour – Foo Fighters
Green Album – WeezerDynamite – Jamiroquai

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Saturday, 5 November 2005

Bonfire Night

No, I didn't celebrate it, but I couldn't think of another title, and I'm sure some of you guys did celebrate.

Breakfast this morning cost less than a pound. This place is even cheaper than Copan. We walked around town, visiting two churches and the castle, which had a really great view over the town and to the surrounding countryside. Not much of a castle though: not a patch on Denbigh Castle!

We watched some of The Longest Yard before check out time, went for lunch and left Gracias by 1:30pm. We were back in Copan by 5pm. Glad to be back somewhere I know, even if it isn’t the most exciting place in the world. Copan may get me down, but I’ve been here long enough to know where to go, and quite frankly, it’s a nicer place than Gracias.

Had supper and watched the rain come down. Saw a few pickups riding in from Sesesmil, with people sheltering themselves from the rain with plastic sheets. Didn’t look like fun.

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Friday, 4 November 2005

Gracias, Lempira

Today is the halfway point of my trip. Four weeks gone and four left. Hope you’re all missing me!

I took the taxi up to Keith’s to tell him I wasn’t going to work today. He wasn’t going either, so Nicola (old volunteer who has come back) had to go alone. We left for Gracias at 8am and arrived by 11am. Tip: if ever you’re in Honduras, try to avoid using toilets at service stations. Suddenly, I didn’t need to go so bad!

We found a hotel room for the four of us for 500 Lempiras, and then went up to Agua Termales (Thermal Water). It was nicer than Agua Caliente in Copan, but still the same basic principle: really big baths.

We came back to the hotel to shower and change, then went out for supper. I had a cereal licuado with mine, and it was absolutely delicious: like really sweet milk. We spoiled ourselves and had ice-cream after too. Walked around town for a while, then came back to the hotel and fell asleep reading. I finished Deception Point and moved onto George Orwell, Down and Out in Paris and London.

So Gracias is this little colonial town between Copan and Tegucigalpa. Lycette is one of the teachers in Guacamaya (the Spanish school) and she went to school in Gracias for three years, so we bumped into quite a few people she knows, and she was basically our guide.

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Thursday, 3 November 2005

Bug Fodder

The bugs are quite literally feasting on me. They're taking chunks out of my arms. Or at least I am cuz the bites itch so much! Don't know if it's the ants in my room, or if there's something up in Sesesmil, but it's really frustrating!

Robin’s last day of work. We were supposed to go on a hike today up to the water source, but the guy never showed up, so we carried on with our biggest trench yet. Finished it, but couldn’t be bothered going to find the next house with only a little time left, so we went home early.

The pickup we rode back in bought five bags of oranges from one of the locals for 100 Lempiras. That’s about £3.50 for what looked like about 250 oranges. That’s 10 pickup rides into Copan. Or 5 café lattes in Café Welchez. On Tuesday, we were talking about how these people weren’t the poorest people in the world: they had homes made from breezeblocks, some had concrete flooring, and they generally looked healthy. They must really rely on the food they grow themselves. And I’d hate to have to save up for something – even clothes – if I lived there.

Saw Jimmy in Café Welchez and organized going to Gracias tomorrow morning with him, Lauren and Lycette. Attempted to organize my travel plans today but didn’t get very far. Then watched some of the news when I got home and La Ceiba is flooded. Yey!

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Wednesday, 2 November 2005

Photo Shoot

Happy Birthday Pop!

Much better day weather-wise, so the digging wasn’t going too badly. Guillermo came along and took some photos of us digging and working. You so can’t tell that we’re posing! Then he and one of the local guys took us up to the water tank for more photos, and then to another house to finish their pipe and start covering it back up. It took quite a while, so we were all a little late getting back for lunch.

I went to ViaVia after lunch cuz they have some travel info on a notice board and a few leaflets. I also had the worst cup of coffee ever there. Bumped into Jimmy in Café Welchez later, and chatted to him for a while. Robin and I met Jimmy at Tunkul’s later cuz it was her last night, and we had the pleasure of meeting a scary Columbian guy. Ok, so he wasn’t really scary, he seemed like a nice guy, but he was kinda intense and that scared me since I was sat next to him. Glad Jimmy was there!

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Tuesday, 1 November 2005

Rain, Rain, Rain

Decided to go to work even though we didn’t have to. Unfortunately, there’s a hell of a lot of rain due to Hurricane Beta. Oscar showed us the next house that needs a trench. It seems the others weren’t challenging enough for us, so we’ve got a super duper long trench to dig. We didn’t stay long today: the rain made it very difficult to work. The people in the new house gave us coffee made from maize before we left. Apparently, because coffee is too expensive for them to buy, they make coffee from maize out of season, then use their home-grown coffee in season.

Robin sat in the front of the pickup on the way home, and the driver was telling her that Copan is really expensive. It’s the cheapest place I’ve ever visited, and the people who live in the mountains 10km away think it’s expensive. That makes me feel kinda bad.

We were back in Copan by 10:30am and met Robin in Café Welchez after we’d showered and changed. Started reading Deception Point by Dan Brown. In fact, I spent most of the day reading, until we went to ViaVia for a drink.


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