Archive for the ‘Guatemala’ Category

The AmericasI have travelled the length and bredth of the Americas since I started this trip back in December, but the time has come for me to move on.

It also means that I will no longer need to keep butchering the Spanish language that I have learned to some degree as I have moved south from the USA.

There have certainly been plenty of highs as well as a few lows to keep me grounded on the road, but as ever it is time to move on because the planet has so many more waves on offer for me to enjoy along the rest of this trip.

Las OlasRather fittingly I saw this road sign next to the pizza place on my last night in Chile.

It translates to The Waves, which is an odd name for a road if you ask me, but the sign was pointing westward towards the east and that is exactly where I am going.

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Semi Final

There is the obvious language connection with Spain, but even so I have been staggered but the extent of the support for the two giants playing in La Liga.

On my way south through Central America I have seen buses, taxis, cars and even newsagents dedicated to either Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Football CrowdThe shirts of the two teams are on view throughout the continent. It is only really in Panama I have seen a significant number of other shirts (for the national side) being worn at all.

I took this picture of one of the many crowds that were forming around each television in the shopping mall during one of the recent Champions League semi fainals against the two German teams.

Messi & RonaldoWith both Borussia Dortmund and Bayern Munich putting four goals past their respective opposition during the recent games the collective disdain was palpable.

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Chicken Bus 1I am amazed that there are any school buses left in the USA!

All though Central America they are the standard form of transport, and are known as Chicken buses because you often will see a crate of the feathered birds strapped precariously to the roof.

I saw one such crate fall off one in Nicaragua only to be immediately blitzed by the pickup truck between me and it in an explosion of feathers.

Antigua-chicken-busThey are usually decorated in riotous colours although not so much the further south I have travelled.

This one I saw in Guatemala, where they are driven by maniacs who are only interested in doing their standard route as many times as they can during a day. I struggled to pull away from one on the Pan American highway, eventually giving up because of his driving right up the back of me doing about 85mph down a twisting mountain descent!

Batman BusFor some reason the three most common themes for decorating the buses throughout the continent are Batman, The Transformers and messages praising Jesus or God. I have no idea why that may be.

I have not used one yet, but have previously ridden something similar in China where they also cram an additional 20 people on just when you think it couldn’t possibly hold anything or anybody else.

I don’t know much about their safety record but suspect it is not that good!

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William WalkerSince being in Central America I have been reading quite a lot about William Walker who seems to have lived quite an extraordinary life. Marlon Brando portrayed him in the 1969 film ‘Burn!’ which I have not seen

The rest I have lifted from Wikipedia because I have too much writing to do, but I would recommend you take the time to read about him.

(May 8, 1824 – September 12, 1860) who was an American doctor, lawyer, journalist and adventurer, who organized several private military expeditions into Latin America, with the intention of establishing English-speaking colonies under his personal control, an enterprise then known as “filibustering.”

Walker became president of the Republic of Nicaragua in 1856 and ruled until 1857, when he was defeated by a coalition of Central American armies, principally Costa Rica’s army. He was executed by the government of Honduras in 1860.

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Bird Shit BorderHaving successfully traversed the lagoon with the car in a rowing boat I head for the border.

It doesn’t take long but hot doesn’t really cover it. The thermometer in the car was registering 46C at one stage.

I also saw this car which the local birds have clearly taken a disliking to.

El SalvadorI haven’t done much surfing in Guatemala but have had a great deal of fun anyway.

Getting across the border into El Salvador is the usual painful experience of hawkers, paperwork and queueing.

I got ambushed by one hawker 10 miles out who was on a motorbike riding alongside me trying to get money for assisting me through the border, and then had a bit of a sense of humour failure in the customs after being blanked for an hour at the front of the queue (not even a hello!) only for a lady who looked like a dead heat in a Zeppelin race to get served upon arrival. However I was served next and it is behind me now.

WRUPS Congratulations to Wales on a great win in Cardiff. Now bring on the Aussies in the summer!

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To get from Monterrico to the main road towards El Salvador you need to take a car ferry. You can see the Little Green Surf Machine here getting ready to perfect its backstroke!

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MonterricoI drove down the coast checking out a couple of potential surf spots along the way because a swell has definitely arrived, but annoyingly everywhere is just dumping on the beach.

However I stopped when I reached the lovely coastal town of Monterrico, which has a laid-back atmosphere that allows me to feel safe wandering about on my own for the first time in Guatemala.

The town is known for its volcanic black sand beach and the annual influx of sea turtles, but I went for a stroll to see if there was any chance of getting my board in the water.

Monterrico Beach 3Again the reality was that I would have broken my board, my neck or both in the very severe shore break so I didn’t go in. However I was cheered up immensely by bumping into a lovely Finnish girl, who you can just make out in the distance in this photo. We got chatting and I discover that she was just finishing a trip from Peru, which is the opposite way to my own adventures. I could barely pronounce her name let alone spell it so can’t enlighten you further, but I handed over the first of my business cards to a stranger and was most impressed by her ability to find a home for it despite sporting nothing more than a bikini! There was real chemistry between us and I’m thinking things are looking up, but I am gutted to discover she was going to Antigua in 10 minutes time, only to then fly home in the morning. Denied!

The StigThe encounter did put a skip in my step though because there is obviously life in the old dog yet!

I get myself settled in the hotel I chose that was a street back from the sand (www.hotelateliedelmar.com) It is the best place in town and is run by a lovely couple called Stig (who is another Finn) and his wife Violeta, both of whom make me feel very welcome. I decide to stay a couple of nights here but am heartbroken every 10 seconds throughout my stay because I can hear another big wave booming down on the shore a few hundred metres away. Guatemala just isn’t going to work for my surf aspirations and I think it is quite telling that Surfline, the USA surf forecast site, doesn’t even bother offering information for here. Never mind I will be pushing on to El Salvador later today and I know there are some all time breaks there.

Atelie Del Mar Pool.jpgFor the rest of my time in town I enjoyed the wonderful hotel pool drinking enough of the local Gallo beer to float a battleship and chatting with the owners. My last night was fun too because a local Guatemalan called Paulo who works in Leeds back in the UK arrived at the hotel for a few days at the beach. This meant I had a drinking buddy who introduced me to a wonderful local seafood dish, and warned me about bumping into the legendary Cadejo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cadejo) on the stumble back to the hotel!

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Silver ShotgunNo, I haven’t bought one before you ask. Although with the gun controls, and I use that term loosely, I could have done so over the counter in a supermarket in the USA.

The Gucci surf pad in Chulamar was bereft of supplies upon my arrival in the dark, so I needed to go shopping. The security people at thee compound insisted that a guard walk with me the two hundred metres in the dark to the shop. This resulted in the unusual situation of me stood in line for the shop trying to explain that I want whole milk to the man behind the counter, all the while with a bloke, who is 4’10” at best, stood right behind me with a silver pump action shotgun, which must have been over three feet long, brandishing it with menace at everybody else in the queue. Definitely a first!

SurrenderThere are plenty of armed guards all over Guatemala, and I came a little bit close for comfort to getting taken out by friendly fire two days later, when I somehow managed to sneak up on another guard without him noticing despite me wearing flip flops. When I appeared out of the darkness suddenly he made a sudden lunge for his shotgun. Fortunately his quick draw is not a quick as me yelling “Amigo, amigo, AMIGO!!!!” so I lived to write this update.

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lostI made a complete mess of following the directions I had been given to the beach house in Chulamar, which resulted in me driving for about half an hour in the wrong direction. Using my solar navigation skills I didn’t think I was going in the right direction and kept asking locals if I was going the right way towards Chulamar. However I suspect hearing my awful Spanish was enough for most to just agree with anything I said so that they could carry on about their day regardless of accuracy, until I met a group of workmen at a crossroads who found my situation and Spanish very amusing. They did however point me in the right direction, which was back from whence I had come!

Unlike Guatemala City which has an eternal spring climate (albeit a hot one) it is unbelievably hot back at the coast and it got as high as 39.5C in the centre of Puerto San Jose when I drove through at 6pm. Thankfully it didn’t take me too long to find the house in Chulamar after that. I had to call the ambassador to get the security to allow me in, which is rather an excellent ace to have in your back pocket.

Pool 3The house was gorgeous and has a seaside and lighthouse theme throughout which I loved. However it was a bit strange staying there because I had such a huge and lovely place all to myself.

I had a great night’s sleep and the following morning the gardener who as already working at 7amcut me down two fresh coconuts which I had for breakfast. In exchange I made him a brew, but I told him and the cleaner/cook to have a day off because it was only me there.

Chulamar Beach 2I went to check out the surf potential, but the waves were about 1 foot and breaking right on the shore so I spent a day mostly swimming and sleeping in a hammock, with a liberal sprinkling of beer thrown in for good measure.

The wave crave is getting unbearable again!

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Jenkins and RobshawA quick word to wish the Welsh boys well in the 6 Nations Championship decider in Cardiff later today.

I will be listening to the game via BBC radio online here in Monterrico in Guatemala, having test run the functionality on Friday morning.

I believe the roof is going to be closed at the Millenium Stadium so with the Welsh in full voice it should be an epic encounter. England with grand Slam ambitions, Wales needing a 7 point victory to take the title, the final audition for a place on the British Lions’ tour of Australia (for which I have already bagged a ticket to one of the test matches – thanks Chris) and that glosses over the fact that the two teams playing have the biggest rivalry in the tournament with the most championships between them.

Rugbi Gogledd Cymru Logo

A game I cannot miss even on the other side of the world. I will be wearing my Rugby Gogledd Cymru top with pride, and generally shouting encouragement at my computer.

Feeeeeeeeeed me now and evermore, EVVVERMOOOOOORE!!!!!!!

Cymru am byth!

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