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Guatemala and a bit of Mexico and Belize (December 2015 and January 2016)
 
In winter 2015/16 we travelled through Central America for one month. The Yucatan Peninsula and Belize were our gateway to Guatemala - a wonderful, colorful country with beautiful nature where we spent the majority of our time.
 
As there are very cheap flights to Cancun we decided to start our journey in Mexico. On the Yucatan Peninsula we travelled southwards and made our first and only stop in Bacalar where we enjoyed the lagoon and our adventorous accommodation in a garden:
 
our AirBnB accomodation in Bacalar
our AirBnB accommodation in Bacalar
 
After 4 days in Mexico we moved on to Belize. We enjoyed the laid-back and very friendly people. It's a small country with only 300.000 inhabitants and the Carribbean Sea and the high temperatures must be the reason why the people are so relaxed and welcoming. Before we started our research for the trip we were not aware that the majority of the Belizeans speak English as their mother tongue.
 
Christmas mood while wearing T-Shirts and Shorts
Christmas mood while wearing T-Shirts and Shorts (and eating Tacos :-) )
 
We had some very nice days in Belize and then moved on to what we had mainly come for on this trip: Guatemala
 
Our first stop was Flores - an atmospheric peninsula-town in the Lago Petén-Itzá. After some rather rainy days we moved on to the historical Maya site Tikal - one of the major attractions in Guatemala. Considering how big, famous and impressive Tikal is we were pleasantly surprised by the very low amount of visitors.
 
one of the major temples in Tikal in the afternoon - when most of the visitors had already left
one of the major temples in Tikal in the afternoon - when most of the visitors had already left
 
As usual, when moving from A to B we preferred taking the local chicken buses instead of the modern AC buses . The chicken busses often felt like riding a roller coaster and more then once we were relieved that there were solid handle bars in the bus to prevent you from sliding from side to side. It was a mystery to us how the locals were able to sleep on the buses while the driver was doing his best to take the curvy roads at the highest speed possible. Knowing which bus to take is pretty straightforward - the conductors at the bus terminals keep on shouting the name of the destination (or their abbreviations) repeatedly. We still have the sound of the continuous "Schela Schela Scheeeelaaa" shouting in our ears :-)
 
 
We spent Christmas at Lago de Atitlán and at midnight of 24th December it felt like a million firecrackers exploded with a noise which for sure would be forbidden in Europe...
 
sunrise over Lago de Atitlán seen from the "Indian Nose"
sunrise over Lago de Atitlán seen from the "Indian Nose"
 
In Quetzaltenango (which nobody calls like this - it's pronounced "Schela" and written Xela - which is the original indian name of the town before the Spanish came) we enjoyed the atmosphere of the town and did a two-day hike to an active volcano. It turned out to be one of the toughest hikes we have done so far but it was worth it every minute. In the afternoon we arrived at the camping spot in full mist and could barely see 10 meters far - while the volcano was rumbling in the (unknown) distance. It was just us 5 on the mountain and we felt rather small... we lay in our tents until at night the clouds disappeared and gave us full view of the spectacle:
 
Santiaguito at night - in the left the full moon was rising
Santiaguito at night - in the left the full moon was rising
 
Next up were some days in Todos Santos Cuchumatán. In Guatemala it is mostly the women who dress up traditionally but in this town it is different: here the men wear their traditional costumes.
 
in Todos Santos
in Todos Santos
 
During all the time in Guatemala we surprisingly (and to our liking!) saw very few Gringos (which is the name for the white-skinned tourists) and on the buses we often were the only tourists. This changed in Antigua which is a very beautiful but also rather touristy town.
 
colorful Antigua is surrounded by multiple Volcanos
colorful Antigua is surrounded by multiple Volcanos
 
The last adventure of our holiday was another overnight volcano hike - next to Antigua is the Acatenango volcano from which you have wonderful views of the two other Volcanos - Fuego and Agua.
 
view of Fuego from Acatenango
view of Fuego from Acatenango
 
 
After 4 wonderful weeks in Central America and tons of beautiful experiences (and except for some sick days not a single negative experience) it was sadly time to leave...it was definitely not the last time in Central America.
 
 
 
 
NOTES & ANECDOTES
 
Coke is considered aqua: when you ask for "aqua" in a restaurant or shop you get a Coke. When you want water you have to ask for "aqua pura"
 
our personal record in one van (Toyota Hiace): 31 adults and 2 babies
 
In San Pedro la laguna a dead body was carried out of our hostel. You can ask us to tell the full story in a pub...
 
You can tell your Spanish is improving when you understand the parrot saying "para comer" (something to eat)
 
In the Chicken Buses Guatemalans prefer squeezing in the first two or three rows even if there is space in the back
 
We almost missed the immigration counter at the border to Guatemala - a Taxi driver pointed out that we walked past it
 
during our trip we had a very weird rhythm: we often went to bed around 8PM and got up at around 6:00AM. As a result we overslept both Christmas and New Years Eve...
 
Public transport was really really busy around Christmas and New Years. This was not per se a bad thing as we got in contact with many locals
 
there were much more western fast-food chains and big shopping malls than expected
 
the temperature range on our trip was from +35°C to 0°C