The last month has flown by so fast as it's been filled with a lot of speedy travel through Central America and more good times as usual. We'll try to keep the update as short as possible but no promises there as it has been a very busy month!
Last we left off we had just crossed into Nicaragua from Costa Rica, and as we look back to try and re-cap everything we've done it seems impossible that it's only been a month since we were there. In San Juan del Sur (SJDS), Nicaragua we ran into Angelo, a guy we had sailed with from Cartagena to Panama and although it seemed crazy to find him there after so long we were happy to be re-united with a familiar face. He had rented an apartment there and was living with some other people our age and after meeting them we all got along so well that we were pretty much inseparable. We spent our days checking out the numerous beaches in the area and even spent a day playing disc golf (John Bromley- you should've been there) with the whole crew, including our personal taxi driver, Martin!
Disc Golf in San Juan del sur
After 10 fun and sun filled days in SJDS we made our way to Granada with Steven (one of Angelo's room mates). In Granada we got to see our first official baseball game! We had been waiting all year for this! It was game 5 of a 5 game series between the Granada team (Oriente) and Chinandega.
Although we were cheering for the local team, who ended up losing we had an amazing time!! The stands were packed and the crowd was electric.
At our first ever Central American Ball game!!
We even had the opportunity to see Vincente Padilla, an MLB pitcher, pitch for the winning team. Although he has a bit of a bad rap in the major's he pitched a great game and was very fun to watch. After the game was over we headed back to our hostel with Steve, grabbed our packs and waited for our taxi to come get us to drive us to Managua where we had a 3:30 am bus to catch to get us to Guatemala. We got to the terminal at about 2:30 am only to find out that our bus had been in a minor accident and was delayed until 5 am... great! Ah well, nothing we can't handle. Lee had a nap on our bags on the terminal floor while Erika played angry birds on her iphone until the bus was ready to depart.
Fast forward about 18 hours, and 2 countries later (we passed through Honduras and El Salvador) and we were in Guatemala city at around midnight. Unfortunately due to timing (we were planning to meet Lee's sister and her family in Tulum on Jan 26th) we didn't have time to stop in either one of those countries so we will have to come back one day and give them the time they deserve. Anyways from Guatemala city we hopped into a taxi and went straight to Antigua. Antigua is a beautiful old colonial city with beautifully painted buildings lining all the streets and a massive volcano in the background. We found a fantastic market there and Erika went a little "souvenir crazy."
After a couple of days we went to a small town which is located in the crater of an ancient volcano called San Pedro De Atitlan. The crater is now a massive lake surrounded by a few small villages, one of which is San Pedro. There we climbed a 3000 meter volcano (we are still trying to figure out how volcano's inside of other volcanos are formed, but we'll leave that for another day). We started at 6 am and although it wasn't the hardest hike we've done to date, it was still pretty tough. From the top of the volcano we had some impressive views of the lake and the towns surrounding it. The magnificent view from the top made the hard 2 hour uphill trek completely worth it!
In San Pedro we also began to notice that the Spanish culture was no longer the main influence in the region (Take that conquistadores!). We heard the locals speaking a completely different language amongst each other, and we soon found out that they were speaking 1 of the 20 something dialects of the Mayan language. It was a very beautiful thing to see the Mayan culture, which dates back over 3000 years, still prevailing, with the women and children dressed in traditional clothing and the people speaking the Mayan language amongst each other.
After San Pedro we had some more Mayan culture to take in, in the form of the massive Mayan Ruins of Tikal. This is one of the worlds largest archeological sites of the Mayan people, and man was it impressive!! Although we had seen the Mayan ruins in Tulum in the past, and saw Machu Picchu (Inca Ruins) in Peru, we were incredibly surprised by the massive size of this ancient Mayan city.
Apparently only about 20% of the ruins have been uncovered to date, so its hard to imagine just how big this place might have been in the height of the Mayan rule in the years 200-900 AD. Tikal is located in the middle of the Guatemalan Jungle so after the collapse of Tikal all the buildings slowly became covered with vegetation, to the point of being unrecognizable. We were told that many areas that look like small "mountains" or "hills" covered in trees and vines, are more structures which they are unable to uncover without completely ruining the integrity of the architecture. Amazing!
Walking through the 16 square kms that make up Tikal, really got us wondering how on earth they built these massive structures in those times, and how amazing it must have been to walk around when it was a fully inhabited, bustling Mayan empire.
Ok enough with the history breifing, and on to more fun times...
After our visit to Tikal it was time to make our way to our 15th and final country, Mexico!!! We got a bus which drove us from Guatemala, through Belize (with a brief stop in Belize city) and into Erika's mother land, Mexico!! We arrived in Chetumal and needed to make our way to Playa del Carmen as we were planning to celebrate a friends birthday there that night. It had been a looong travel day, but after a brief stop to a Taqueria (which gave us our first taste of proper, mouth watering, spicy Mexican tacos) we found a hostel, put our bags down and were ready to let loose.
after a 15 hour day, were in Playa del Carmen!! time to party!
We had such a great time and needless to say the night would not have been complete without a few rounds of tequilla shots. We woke up the next day feeling a bit rough, but the hangover was quickly overshadowed by excitement as we were about to be re-uinted with Lee's older sister, her husband and Lee's two adorable nephews, Alexander (2 1/2) and Evan (6 months) in Tulum. They were going to Tulum as part of a work function and would be staying at a 5 star all inclusive resort, so we saw this as an incredible opportunity to pamper ourselves a bit and get to spend time with family which we had not seen in over a year. It was also the first time we had met Lee's 6 month old nephew, Evan, which made this reunion all the more special!
The Reunion!! Lee's first time holding Evan <3
On the first two days of our stay we were both quite sick with what we can only imagine was food poisoning (we'll spare you the details) but we found it quite ironic that after a year of eating cheap and dirty street food all over this continent, we managed to get food poisoning at a 5 star resort....or could it have been the taco stand we stopped at just north of the border??? guess we'll never know! haha
Well, After 6 AMAZING days filled with family, "uncle Funny", food, drinks, swim up bars, beach volleyball, and everything an all inclusive has to offer we were ready to get back to our backpacker life style and begin exploring Mexico as it is meant to be explored; by bus and in hostels, eating street food and visiting markets in all the little towns you don't get to see when you stay in a resort.
We are now in Merida, which happens to be Erika's mom's hometown and we are really enjoying it here. Its a beautiful city- the capital of the Yucatan and it has been a very special experience for Erika. Although she has no family here or any reference points, just to be walking the same streets and breathing the same air that her mom used to she was young has been an extremely moving experience.
"What an incredible adventure it has been for me, to start in the city I was born in, and end in one (of the two countries) that runs through my veins and fills my heart and soul... and to be able to share all this with the man I adore, well it doesn't get much better than that! Even though we may be close to being broke, I feel like the richest girl in the world!"