25.04.2012 32 °C
Hello Readers! We hope you're all doing well and we're sorry for the long delay - we have been in the Guatemalan jungle for a while now, with little electricity, no hot water and in some cases no water at all....stinky!!!
Our journey onwards from Xela, took us to Antigua - one of the most impressive colonial cities we have visited on our travels so far. To be honest, we were a bit over 'colonial cities' - Luang Prabang, Hoi An & San Cristobal, but we couldn't help but try this one out. The architecture in the main streets and squares was phenomenal, not forgetting the most striking interior design in the restaurants and cafes - similar to Seville, we loved the place. The atmosphere was cosmopolitan and perhaps, having been stuck in the highlands over the Easter period, we appreciated this more so than usual.
While we were here, we decided we wanted to get a little more out of our experiences rather than just visiting place to place. We secured some work (unpaid - but free board and meals) with a jungle lodge in Lanquin (8 hours North of Antigua). They knew one of us loved cooking and the other had lot to offer with art and sports projects, but we really had little idea of what we would be doing. Then the fun began! El Retiro (or rather El Retardo as we affectionately call it) is a Guatemalan family-run lodge, blessed with the loveliest location imaginable (river and jungle all around), but cursed with a lack of love from its' owners. It's very hard to explain the day to day shananigans of the place, (it left us in laughable disbelief) but if you think Fawlty Towers / Gordon Ramsey's Kitchen Nightmares, you'll be very close! The whole experience was hilarious, draining, a learning curve and a place where we met some fantastic people. I thoroughly enjoyed working in the kitchen, re-designing the menu's, building relationships with the Guatemalan kitchen staff through broken English and Spanish (they weren't happy to see me arrive, but were sad to see me go). Ross was working behind the bar, expecting to learn to make cocktails etc but instead made just 8 drinks on an 8 hour shift! They wanted our ideas on improving the place but they told us straightaway that we would be silly to expect that any of them would actually get implemented!! (inertia was the name of the day...every day), so this became 'moi frustrado'! Ross really wasn't enjoying the experience and while I was improving the food and getting good feedback, plus learning some Spanish, we both need to be enjoying this precious time off. What an experience though, something we'll never forget and we shared so many laughs with the other volunteers/travellers.
So, onwards to Semuc Champey we went. The region is stunning. Huge fresh water pools, turquise and crystal clear for swimming, against a backdrop of jungle plants and every shade of green imaginable. The fauna and flora was breathtaking - the photo's do more justice than my words ever will. The night before we shared more laughs and good conversation with a lovely couple from Europe (Barbara from Belgium and Johansson from Germany), that we all hiked to the area together, which was great. Between them they speak approximately 7 languages (really puts us Brits to shame), were cracking company; this was the first time we'd spent any length of time with another couple in 5 months.
Ross & I left the Semuc Champey region yesterday, and tonight we are in Coban, having just had the first warm-ish shower in about 4 weeks....bliss!
This morning, we thought our next stop would be Nicaragua, but we have since decided to take a bus straight to El Salvador to start surf school! Yikes!
Love to you all, keep the messages coming - lovely one from you Phil - big hugs to you.xxx
Ross and Charlie