Times like these (when GPS is handy) – Guatemala Part 5

9 May 2010 – Rio Dulce  to Puerto Barrios

“Fuck out guys! Wake up!”. That was how we were woken up. Just before 7am. Not early as some of the other days but I this was one day where waking me up at any hour would have been a bad idea as the Guat Squad and the Techeros would soon find out. The early wake-up call coincided with my ‘period’ as well. I was a grumpy bastard all day.

Castillo de San Felipe

We got up and packed up out things and paid for our rooms. The fact we only left the hotel at 9am did not help my mood (I could have slept to 8:30am). Everyone immediately noticed that Osito (the nickname the Techeros had given me, which little bear) was a not a happy bear. We soon left the hotel and headed to our first destination. Castillo de San Felipe. It was a castle.

The thermal pool

Now this is probably the first time Jacqui and I were a bit underwhelmed. We have castles all over Europe and this was NO castle, it was more of a fort. But this turned into another reason to quote Izzard as he has a skit on castles in of his shows. Notwithstanding the castle was nice little recreation of the old fort on the edge of Lake Izabal and the area around it was filled with families picnicking for the day. Another slice of Guatemalan life.

From the castle we were suppose to go to some Thermal baths close by. However it seems like the getting lost bug was contagious as we seemed to have passed it on to the Techeros. We couldn’t find the baths and ended up at a lakeside restaurant. At this point I gave up driving as I was close to falling asleep at the wheel. Leo drove the rest of the way to the lakeside restaurant while I instantaneously fell asleep in the back seat.

At the restaurant I fell asleep at the table while waiting for food. I woke up and must have looked completely miserable because Oli asked me “Tony, what’s wrong??”. My response was measured and calm “I didn’t fucking sleep that’s whats wrong!!!!!”. Measured and calm indeed methinks. Papito, poor soul, just said “You’re not gummy bear anymore!  You are angry bear!”. I almost immediately, sheepishly apologized for snapping at Olivia, though didn’t mean I was going to change my mood.

After eating we headed out to find out where the thermal baths were and turned out they were across the exit we took. As we approached the the baths you could smell the sulfur in the water. We all jumped into the pool of hot water by the waterfall. Olivia, Leo, Drew and Karl went up river while Papito, Angie, Jacqui and I stayed by the pools. After a while I got out and read my book. Jacqui mirrored my approach while Angie and Papito stayed in the water. To say that was relaxing was an understatement. I certainly needed the alone chill-out time.

Having coffee

So after the guys came back from walking up the river we got up and were on the road again. We would be heading towards… actually I don’t know. I think we wanted to go to Livingston but realized it was too late to do that, so we ended up close to Puerto Barrios on riverside hotel where we had a coffee and Drew had all of Karls Nachos.

From here the Techeros would be heading back to Guatemala City while we would be going to Puetro Barrios for the night and from where we would go to Livingston, the Garifuna town on the small Atlantic coast of Guatemala. We found ourselved a hotel and me still the foul mood took a very dictatorial approach to arrangements. “I say we rest tonight, sleep and wake up tomorrow morning at 8am. Good night!”

I must have fallen asleep at around 10:30pm. I make no excuses for my foul mood, but I really was exhausted. The long flight, the time difference, long drives and early mornings had completely sapped all the energy in me. I wish I had more energy but I didn’t. Shamefully for me, my little outbursts was one of the little funny memories from the trip which I am not proud of, but hey it happens.

10 May – Puerto Barrios to Livingston to Guatemala City


Eight ‘o clock in the morning. The alarm goes off. I had slept nine hours at least. Some strength has been regained. I was ready to face our last day in Guatemala. Our agenda for the day was to visit Livingston. A town mostly populated by Guatemalans of Garífuna decent. We would take a lancha from Puerto Barrios to Livingston.

It seemed pretty clear that the morning would be a pretty chill-out session. The lancha ride to Livingston was fun and for some reason relaxing. I’m by no means a sailor but there’s something about being at sea or a great expanse of water which I find soothing.

We arrived in Livingston and immediately I understood why this place was so different to every other place we visited in Guatemala. The first obvious difference was race. Majority of Guatemalans are of indigenous Mayan decent and the remaining being of Spanish or European decent (not to mention from some neighbouring countries). In Livingston the majority were black African descent. The town itself felt more Carabean than central American.

The first thing we did when we arrived was get breakfast as we were famished. After a hearty breakfast we walked around Livingston for a while. The town itself is actually very small and a morning is enough to see most of it, which is what we did.  After Leo and Olivia got their photography fix we went to the Siete Altares (Seven Altars). Everyone told us about these seven waterfalls which fall into each other and how amazing it was, so we decided we had have a look as well. I think the was the only time we were disappointed in Guatemala. It was more like one altar with some water dribbling of it.

With that underwhelming moment over we headed back to Puerto Barrios. We had to leave to Guatemala City and we had to get there before 9pm to give back the car and also we had a dinner to get to with the Techeros. So we got into the Guat Mobile for our last drive of a fantastic ten days.

More Livingston

The drive was long, but there seemed to be a buzz about us. The iPod’s were plugged into the radio and Coldplay guided us home for a while until David Grey decided it was enough of Gwenneth Palthrow’s husband. Michael and Janet Jackson caused a riot a in the car as all of went balastic to ‘Scream’ and did the appropriate scream when required. I am sure that if we were being recorded secretly our sanity would have been severely doubted.

The winding mountain roads gave us our final stunning sunset of the trip and the at times the slow drives behind trucks was bearable due to the beauty of the landscape. Guatemala had one final twist in store for us. One final mean trick up its sleeve. And once again our inability to follow directions came back to almost bite in the ass!

We were in the outskirts of Guatemala City when Olivia phoned Karl to find out how to get to the airport. Instructions were provided to us. Got it. Find Sixth Avenue and turn left. We drove past tenth avenue… ninth avenue… eighth avenue… seventh avenue… …………. Where the hell is sixth???? ‘Ok go left here….’ , ‘Take a right there’ , ‘Cross the bridge’… And where do we end up? Guatemala City Zone Sevens’ maze of death! AGAIN!

‘Ok, just keep driving and at some point we will get out!’, were the instruction being nervously given from the passenger and back seats. However the more we drove, the deeper into zone seven we went, the darker it got, the dodgier it looked when finally we reached a single carriage road block by chicken bus trying to reverse out of the street. The people sitting outside were looking at us. I had to open the windows as the tint in them meant I couldn’t see the wing mirrors. Opening the windows wasn’t the greatest idea as it showed the local we were clearly not from there. I spotted a taxi driver next to our car. We quickly told him we were lost and needed to get back onto a main road. He looked at us and went ‘You guys know you’re in a dangerous part of town right??

Oh we hadn’t noticed that YET!!!! So the man told how to get onto the main road and tried to explain further but at this point a very dodgy looking man was staring at me and walking towards the car. Right! Time to move out of here! I reversed, did  a three point turn and immediately headed back to the main roads. On the main I found a vacant taxi and waved him down and told him we were lost and needed to get out of the airport to which his response was ‘Ok, I’ll take you, but quickly, this is a very dangerous part of town!’. So the taxi driver led us all the way to the airport where we handed back the car to Thrifty car rental.

It was here that we also found out that due to the damage of the car, we would pay double the amount we expected to pay for the rental. Great news indeed. Olivia and Drew still kicked up a fuss, but I was honestly too tired to care! We paid our parts and headed to a restaurant with Karl and Marcos (Manuel from Quetzalroo’s brother). There we met up with Miguel, Angie, Papito and some other Techeros I had met on my first night there.

After dinner we headed to Quetzalroo. Olivia, Karl and Jacqui headed out for drinks with the lazy guys stayed back. I downloaded everyone’s photos and packed my backpack as my flight was at 7am the next morning which meant a 4:30am wake up call.

The rest my friends, is history. We all left the same day. The Guat Squad went their separate ways to Miami, Washington DC, Dominican Republic, Portugal and Libya.

There is one post for Guatemala after this… The theme in the post titles was cracked by Leo, but I will explain more in the final post.

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