COTTONTAILS AND CUPCAKES

Survivors of the Guatemalan Chicken Bus

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We took the 8 hour overnight Linea Dorada bus to Guatemala City arriving at 4am this morning. It was baltic on the bus, everyone else had coats, hats and blankets, I had shorts and t-shirt.

We then pondered our options. Do we wait for the coach at 7am to Los Encuentros and have to catch two chicken buses anyway, or do we just head to the terminal now in Zona 8 and get the chicken bus to Los Encuentros.  We risked it. We got a cab to Rebuli in Zona 8 then hopped on a bus heading for Xela. In 5 minutes we were on our way. The bus was full of local people rather than tourists as you can imagine. We paid our £2.10 each for our 1 hour and 30 journey. We got off at Los Encuentros and then changed buses again for a bus bound for Panajachel. This bus didn’t take long at all. The time we got to Pana we would have only just got on the coach in GTC.

We eventually found the ‘Lancha’ pier and got a boat to Santa Cruz. Our hotel is more of a holiday rental place. It’s a proper full on house with a kitchen etc. It’s cost us something daft like £15 a night. The view we have is amazing too.

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We got a little snooze before heading out to Santa Cruz Village. It is a typical Highland village along the lake. It was a 30 minute walk from our hotel. We decided to go to Casa Alicia for dinner. It is a Guatemalan lady and three generations of family but she will cook a meal for you and you eat in her home. There must have been about 8 children there, some playing, some doing homework. It was nice to see. Language was a bit of a barrier, we don’t know much Spanish, our new Guatemalan Grandmother spoke local dialect not spanish. Her grandson was sort of able to string a few words together of English. We ordered chicken, it came with pasta, broccoli, salsa and tortillas. As we were paying up my Guatemalan Grandmother handed me a pair of traditional style trousers. It took us ages to decipher but they were a gift from her to me.

We stopped in the shop and managed to buy some breakfast items for the morning. There are loads of kids in Santa Cruz and one little girl aas bemused by Rafe and his ginger beard.

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We walked back to our room and found we were locked out of our bedroom. I had to do a lara croft style climb over the roof, into the balcony and through a window. I would have had a hard time explaining that one if someone had turned up.

I’m currently sat on the porch with a random cat on my lap having a cuddle.

Tikal National Park

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We set off at 3am this morning and took the hour and a half journey to Tikal National Park. Praying that the armed robbers who work in this area didn’t target our van. I had my money belt stuffed in my shorts and other money stuffed in my bra just incase.
We climbed temple IV to 212 foot, the highest temple in this mayan region. It was really cloudy and misty this morning so sunrise wasn’t much but after the twenty gazillion steps to the top of the temple the hour sit down was lovely. At a couple of points Rafe had to prod me as I had fallen asleep. It was really relaxing…and I was really tired.

We then carried on with our guided tour of tikal. The temples are huge and restoration is still under way but they keep running out of money. The park doesn’t see any of the entrance fees, corrupt developing world government and all that. Considering it is a major Guatemalan tourist attraction there were hardly any people there.

We finally got back on the bus at 11am to return to our hotel. I’m not feeling guilty about the double icecream I just ate at all. Tikal is a workout.

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On to Guatemala we go!

by cottontailsandcupcakes

Yesterday we woke up not so bright and breezy in San Ignacio, Belize. We grabbed some breakfast, and by grabbed I mean the lady served me four waffles as a portion. I love my food but four waffles is extreme.

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We then went up to Cahal Pech Maya Ruins. We paid a small entry fee and we were the only people there. It’s a small site but impressive none the less. It’s completely open and you can explore it all unlike Tulum in Mexico. There’s lots to do in San Ignacio such as river tubing and caving etc but the prices are so hiked up it’s insane. We only stayed one night then continued on our way.

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We went back into town and packed our things then headed to the bus stop. We got back on the ‘Benque’ bus and actually headed to Benque this time. The bus was packed full. It was market day in SI so everyone had been shopping. A short 40p ride and we were there. Then a quick taxi to the border point and we went out of Belize and into Guatemala.

The border agent charged us 20Q each which is illegal but they still do it, but rather than argue with him and risk him not allowing us to enter Guatemala we paid up the £1.40. We then made the decision that we will continue travelling the local way and not the gringo way. We walked up into the Guatemala border town and flagged down a collectivo. Now there’s a massive difference between Mexican and Guatemalan collectivos. Mexican collectivos have aircon for a start. We handed over our luggage to be stowed on the outside roof rack. We set off in our 1980s uber mini minivan, paid our 30Q each (£2.10) and that was that. The windows were all smashed and the seats had seen better days but it was a fairly comfortable 2 hour journey. Alot of the road hasn’t been cemented yet so you had an offroad experience for your pennies too.

My logic is that what will robbers go for, a tourist bus carrying 12 foreigners who have money and valubles or a chicken bus carrying 20 locals who are in poverty and all they are carrying is a machette and a bunch of bananas. I’ll stick with the local bus full of farmers who have been to market. Just blending in with local life.

There’s a market difference between Belize and Guatemala. In Guatemala 50% of people are below the poverty line, only 70% of the urban population can read and write and only 30% of kids finish primary school. Child labour is still massive here. I’ve seen a few tourist families with kids here and it’s something I agree with. In the UK and westernised countries kids don’t know what it’s like to go without and apparently going without nowadays is not having an iphone. Nevermind a pair of shoes. I think kids should see places like this to learn to appreciate life and what they have. Especially access to free and quality education. I hate hearing kids say ‘I don’t like school’, there’s loads of kids here that would love to go to school instead of work on the farm for a day. Maybe we should send UK kids to the farm to see how much they would prefer to go to school.

We arrived to Santa Elena then took a Tuk tuk to Flores. Now having had a bad experience with a tuk tuk I’m not keen on them but it seems they are the taxi service here so I went with it. We paid 70p and he dropped us to our hotel. The hotel has alot else to be desired. It’s warmer in the room than outside, the bathroom hasn’t got walls all the way up and the mattress has bottomed out. We have a tikal tour booked for 3am anyway and then a night bus tomorrow so it’s only really the shower and glorified storage that I need. Good job it’s Rafe and I and not a fellow traveler that I may have only known for a day. You’d be more than friends by the end of your stay here. There are fans in the room but it sounds as if a helicopter is trying to land.

Flores is a little island on the lake, mainly hotels and restaurants but convenient for Tikal National Park.

We had a quick Guatemalan style meal and then headed to bed. Just as we were dropping off to sleep a lizard climbed on Rafes arm and it took him ages to shoo it out the room. Up nice and early at 2am for our day trip, who needs sleep anyway.

Bye Caulker.

by cottontailsandcupcakes

Today we waved goodbye to our little yellow cabana and belizean mama and took the ferry to Belize City. Having spent the last few days on a paradise island you forget the realities of Belize. It is still a developing country. We took mamas advice and got a taxi from the pier to the bus terminal. Wise decision. Even though it was only a short distance it was what she described as the Belize City ‘Ghetto’. It was the first time this trip I had my money belt tucked into my shorts rather than carrying my purse in my rucksack.

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We got to the bus station and it wasn’t long before we all boarded the sardine bus to ‘Benque’. We started heading towards the highway but then got diverted, “lorry done smash up them landrover” a local described it as, we took it as there had been an accident.

Belizean buses are old imported American school buses. Not the most comfortable ride but for 3 quid for a 3 and a half hour journey it was fine. We got off the bus at mile 29 for Belize Zoo.
Belize zoo isn’t really a zoo. It is more of a conservation centre. They have rescue animals that have been previously peoples pets, found injured at the road side and species that are endangered. They have one of my favourite animals,  tapirs. They are Belize’s national animal and the toucan is the national bird. This little tapir’s mummy got shot so he was rescued as a baby.

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We stayed for about an hour and then got back on the bus to Benque. Benque is the border town between Belize and Guatemala. The Benque bus runs West bound and stops everywhere between the city and the end of the line. The second part of our journey was soul destroying. The only thing that kept me gojng was the cocount tart I bought on the bus in Belmopan. Another one of those things you only do when abroad. There aren’t bus stops in Belize you get on and off where you want. Alot of people got on and off.

We’ve finally got to San Ignacio in the Cayo District of Belize. A fairly built up town in the Belizean Jungle. Dinner and bed before cahal pech ruins tomorrow. Then back on the Benque bus to actually go to Benque to cross the border into Guatemala.

My Two Belizean Mamas

by cottontailsandcupcakes

Today we had a chill out day on Caye Caulker. There was a big thunderstorm last night but it was scorching again this morning. I’ve got a bit of sun stroke so avoided going out in the midday sun today, just spent the day relaxing in my hammock. We also rode our bikes around, up to the split and for food runs.

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Whilst being in Belize we have adopted oursleves two new mamas. Mama Louise and Mama Liz. Mama Louise runs our cabanas. There are only 3 cabanas on the plot and she takes care of everything. When we go out for breakfast she cleans our room and rearranges all of our things. She even hung up all my clean laundry today including my knickers. She knows the ins and outs of Caulker. She also does the Mumsy thing of making sure you have suncream on. It’s like a home from home. I’ll be sad to leave Caulker tomorrow.

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Then there’s Mama Liz. Mama Liz brings the food. She runs a cafe from her home. She was cooking chicken stew, rice and beans tonight. It was so good.

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We were all set for an early night and then as we arrived back after dinner we were invited for a drink with an American couple. A few drinks turned into 3 bottles of rum, a bottle of brandy, half a bottle of vodka, a crate of beer and another Italian couple. Oh and a few rounds of ring of fire thrown in. I chickened out early on.

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Rafe is currently hugging the toilet bowl having just vomited over the bathroom wall. The whole cabana stinks. Being sober with a drunk person is painful. I think he’s sleeping on the bathroom floor tonight. Oh and did I mention? We have to get on a boat tomorrow. Bad times Rafe.

Reef and Rum Punch

by cottontailsandcupcakes

Today we booked onto a sailing and snorkeling day trip with Raggamuffin Tours on Caye Caulker. We got measured up for equipment and then grabbed some breakfast. I had a fry jack with scrambled egg and Rafe had a ginormous burrito. A quick chill out on the hammock at our cabana before we cycled to the jetty.

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We then boarded our boat, the Ragga King. We sailed for 45 minutes to our first stop where we swam with two manatees. They are so cute. They look like a seal and and a dog had a baby. Unfortunately our sea camera gave up thr ghost just as we got to the manatees. Bad times.

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We then moved on to shark and ray alley where we saw loads of sting rays and nurse sharks. Apparently the nurse sharks do bite but they were more interested in the sardines. It’s odd seeing a ray and a shark fighting over a sardine.

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Back on the boat we got and lunch was served before our final spot at hol chan marine reserve. We saw 4 sea turtles, more nurse sharks, loads of fish and and an angel ray. It was amazing.

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Our sail home consisted of rum punch, tortilla chips and reggae music. A perfect day on the Caribbean Sea.

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Go Slow – Welcome to Caye Caulker!

by cottontailsandcupcakes

After twelve hours of travel we’ve made it to Caye Caulker in Belize! We left our hotel in Playa Del Carmen at 7am this morning and took a four hour bus to Chetumal, a border port city. The bus had air con, Rafe and I were loving life. About 10 minutes into the journey the Mexicans started putting their coats on.
We got to Chetumal port ‘muelle fiscal’ and bought tickets for the water jets international boat to the Belize Cayes. We grabbed some lunch, burritos and chimichangas, before doing Mexican immigration. Then we waited. Waited some more. Still waiting. Waited some more. Finally our boat arrived, only 40 minutes late. Mexican maybe time.

It was a two hour journey to Ambergris Caye at the front of a speed boat. Good job nursing makes you have a cast iron stomach. We got off the boat and did Belizean Immigration. Easy peasy. Then we waited some more. We had to wait another 30 minutes for a boat to Caulker. It broke down a few times on route but we made it. After all the island’s motto is ‘go slow’. There are no cars here only golf carts and bicycles. You could literally fart yourself from one end of the island to the other.

We had half an hour of day light to find our Cabana. After a few wrong turns and a few friendly Belizeans we made it. I love our new abode. It’s a yellow cabana. It has aircon. I have a bicycle with a basket on the front. Sorted.

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The sun had gone in and our stomachs were singing hunger songs so we went in search of food. We went to ‘syds’ and had fry chicken, colelsaw and chips. It was like KFC but there may actually have been a chicken involved at some point. Two meals and drinks for about £8!

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We’ve been in Belize for 2 hours and I love it already. There’s something about the creole accent that is relaxing. Even if someone was telling you that you’re goldfish just died you’d still feel relaxed and calm. We’re going swimming with turtles, sharks and rays tomorrow so we’re heading to bed.

Riviera Maya, Mexico.

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We’ve spent the last few days exploring the Riviera Maya in Mexico. It’s hot hot hot. We may have burnt a little, well, a lot.

Our hotel is a jungle lodge style affair, in Playa Del Carmen but tucked away out of town. We’ve done alot of walking, not feeling guilty about the beavertail I consumed in Toronto now.

We’ve been to five beaches, snorkelled with turtles, wandered around some mayan ruins and eaten a fair few tacos. I had originally wrote a massive long post but it got lost in cyberspace so here’s a load of photos instead.

Tomorrow we head to Belize!

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Oot and Aboot in Toronto

by cottontailsandcupcakes

We spent the day yesterday in Toronto,  Canada. After a whopping 36 hours of being awake we ploughed on and went sight seeing.

We mooched down to the CN tower and steam whistle brewery. The CN tower had an hour long queue so we went on down to the steam whistle brewery first. We were hoping for a tour but they were sold out, so we had a free beer before going in search if food.

We headed to the Kensington market area, with a stroll through China town first and a quick stop off at a popcorn shop. Kensington market is a bit Camdenesque, a bit hippyish.

We found ‘The Burgenator’, Rafe had a three patty burger sandwich in between two cheese toasties, no lie, and he finished it. I had a ‘normal’ burger with a side of poutine (chips, cheese and gravy).

Full as beans we headed back to the CN tower. No queue this time, get in. I’m not going to lie, I crapped my pants in the lift going out. Turns out there was a Blue Jays match on at the same time, you could see right into the stadium from above.

We then went to the harbourfront. We had been upset that there was no where in Toronto to have a ‘beaverstail’ then we stumbled accross a mobile stand. Amazing. Reeces pieces, chocolate spread and peanut butter on deep fried dough. Diabetes in a bite. Rafe and I would be massive if we lived in Canada! It was only by chance that we got a little lost at the harbourfront that we found it too.

We took the ferry over to the Toronto Islands and had a drink (and got mauled by midges). Two trains and a bus back to the hotel and we finally got some sleep.

..and yes, we did have a Tim Hortons at the airport. I ate one timbit. We bought a box of ten. I wonder who demolished the other nine? Ay (in a Canadian accent)?

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Zip Lining – North Wales

by cottontailsandcupcakes

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