My husband and I just returned from our trip to Guatemala and Belize. We had a fantastic time! While I was away, I posted periodic updates on my Facebook page and thought these would make an interesting trip report for Fodor's as well.
The general itineray: I spent the first week of my trip with my best friend Laura studying Spanish in Antigua. Then our husbands came down to join us and we all travelled together to Lake Atitlan. After parting ways we went to Tikal and then on to Belize, while they did some hiking near Nebaj. The notes are posted below - hope you enjoy!!
NOTE 1 - Sunday November 2
We left Calgary on Friday, Oct 31 at 9am and arrived in Mexico City around 3pm - we had a 6 hour layover before our flight to Guatemala and decided to go check out the city. Immediately our lack of spanish skills was evident, as we got a taxi but he somehow seemed to think we wanted him to lead us on a guided tour for the entire 4 hours we had to explore. After finally correcting him and having to pay more than we thought we should, he dropped us off in the Zocalo, the main square in Mexico City. Being Halloween (or perhaps, just being Mexico City) there was a huge festival taking place in the square, complete with a cermonious lowering of a giant Mexican flag in the middle. The army marched in and moved everyone back and then a band and a combat regiment marched around the crowd while the flag was lowered. Very cool but kind of scary too - there must have been thousands of people and when the Mexican army tells you to move back, you just do what you´re told so we were kind of stuck there while this procession moved through
Anyways, after the procession and a somewhat mediocre meal and a walk around the centro historico, it was time to head back to the airport. Unfortunately the chaos around the square meant that the streets were all closed and taxis were not getting in. So Laura and I headed back up to the main road to try and hail a cab on our own. It was getting dark, the road was busy, and the area kind of sketchy (all of Mex City is, really) and it was a little freaky. But we finally got a cab and headed to the airport. Taxi drivers in Mexico are insane and there are no lines on the roads so it´s just utter chaos and there were a few times when Laura and I looked at each other wondering if we´d make it to the airport alive! This was made even more hilarious by the fact that our driver was playing super cheesy really loud Meixican music, which became the soundtrack to our taxi ride from hell.
We finally made it back to the airpot and boarded our flight to Guatemala. We arrived in Guate City late at night and were met by a driver from our Spanish School, who took us to Antigua. We´re staying in a room in their student guest house, but to be honest it´s pretty drab and kind of creepy, and the bathroom is basically in it´s own building in the back yard so we might move to a hotel mid-week if we decide we just can´t rough it quite this much. The other students staying there seem to have slightly nicer rooms, some with their own bathrooms, so I think we just got the one crappy one. The other students we met are super nice and the school itself seems awesome - we start classes tomorrow.
Yesterday was spent visiting Sumpango, a tiny town near Antigua. November 1st is the Day of the Dead here, and in Sumpango they mark this by making giant colourful kites and flying them above the cemetary where their relatives are buried. It´s their way of making a connection to their ancestors, we were told. Some of the kites are made more for show and are so large (50 feet plus) they can´t be flown and we got to watch them get hoisted up in a small square nearby (one was so large and intricate it almost broke going up). Then we went and walked around the cemetary with it´s multi-coloured headstones and mausoleums, where families, many still dressed in traditional mayan clothing, spend the whole day decorating the graves and eating and burning insence. It was very intersting to see.
Today we are just hanging out in Antigua, which is a beautiful colonial town surrounded by a towering volcano and lush green hills. There are so many neat restaurants and shops and parks in Antigua. It´s really nice here and I think this week will be great!
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Trip Report - Guatemala and Belize November 2008