Trip Start Jun 02, 2007
9Trip End Ongoing
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Before leaving Guatemala I did actually mange to see parts that weren't Antigua - a quick trip took me to the Mayan ruins of Quirigua, the Caribbean coastal town of Livingston, a boat trip down the Rio Dulce and a visit to the ancient Mayan city of Tikal. I also managed a few days in Mexico with an old friend before making the long journey back.
Quirigua is almost unknown even among those of us who've spent time in Guatemala, but actually has some of the best-preserved stelae (or big carved rocks to you and me) in the Mayan world
Fortunately we were headed to the coast so we'd be able to have a swim to cool ourselves off. Well, so we thought! We were headed to Livingston, but this is a place so remote that it can only be accessed by boat, and so that meant more sitting around in a not-exactly-picturesque place called Puerto Barrios while we waited for the boat to leave. Still, once we got to Livingston we quickly managed to organise a trip to Los Siete Altares - the seven altars. This is a series of waterfalls with seven pools in which you can swim under the forest canopy etc. Or at least that's what it should be - lack of rain meant there were no waterfalls and only one pool with enough water to swim in! That was all we needed though (there were only four of us) and we just chilled out in the pool for an afternoon, out of the heat.
Livingston itself is worth a mention as it's completely different from the rest of Guatemala. In general the population of Guatemala is of either Hispanic, Mayan or mixed-race (mestizo) descent, but as Livingston is on the Caribbean coast there's a sizable population of African/West Indian descent, known as the Garifuna
Next day we took another boat trip, this time down the Rio Dulce ("Sweet River") to the town of the same name. The Rio Dulce is lined on both sides by 100-foot high cliffs for most of the way, covered in dense vegetation, and so is also know as the "Canyon River". Quite pretty really.
From Rio Dulce it was back on the bus up to the Mayan city of Tikal. Dozens of temples and pyramids poking out of the jungle, indeed some of them with the jungle poking out of them as they haven't been fully excavated after years of being forgotten after the great Maya civilisation declined some 1,100 years ago. Sitting atop a temple, watching the sunset and sharing the rum of some stranger who was celebrating his birthday up there (muchas gracias, whatever your name was) made for one of the most memorable evenings I've had in this whole year.
After Tikal it was back to Antigua for a couple of days to say goodbye to all my new friends out there, and on to Mexico City to meet up with my old friend Kim
A brief layover in New York (which I don't recommend anyone do, if you have to visit the States fly to Canada and drive down) aside, that was the end of my little trip. If circumnavigating the globe can really be considered a "little trip"! Since leaving the UK on 2 June 2007 I've set foot in 12 different countries, met (I think) 61 different nationalities, seen two natural and two man-made wonders of the world, been inside an active volcano, eaten the best steaks in the world, drank far more strange substances than I should have, experienced a proper earthquake, learnt a bit of Spanish, made some lifelong friends and much, much more.
As for the future, who knows? The thought of going back to doing a 9 to 5 office job horrifies me, but if I'm going to stay in this ludicrously expensive country (and I probably am, for now at least) I'm going to need some sort of income - if only to pay for the next lot of travels.............