Archive for the ‘Guatemala’ Category

TelephoneI have sorted out a new phone number for the next few weeks.

If you need to call or text me please use +502-5249-5779 until further notice.


goodbyeI have grown very fond of everything at the Ambassador’s Residence but this is supposed to be a surf trip and I am miles from any ocean, so with more than a bit of reluctance I must say goodbye to all things here and head back to the Pacific.

I went looking for some chocolates to give to all the ladies who have been looking after me so well, and was amused that the only thing I could find was Ferrero Rocher. The irony of which will probably be wasted on Carolina, Eusenia and Carmen, but I know they liked the gifts.

In particular I will miss:

  1. Phil, Sarah, Amy and Rose whose company has been fantastic, and has allowed me to get back to my normal self before pushing on once more.
  2. The toaster. Have you any idea idea how hard it is to make toast in a car? Marmite on bread isn’t the same.
  3. English TV. I am so square eyed it isn’t true.
  4. Ambassadorial luxuries such as the silverware and gold plated crockery.
  5. The staff, who without exception have been brilliant and such good fun, despite the appaling Spanish I have been attempting to communicate with.
  6. Being pampered. Doing my own cooking, laundry, and cleaning will be a shock to the system.
  7. My Bed. It is huge, extremely comfortable and somehow gets made for me in the 30 seconds in which my back is ever turned.
  8. The Beautiful grounds lovingly maintained by Chon and Leonardo.

However it isn’t all bad, because the Ambassador has sorted out a gratis luxury beach house to for me to stay in for a few days so that the re-acclimatisation process back to crusty surfer life is not too arduous. I will ease myself in slowly.



Ambassador's CutleryThe little green surf machine had coped well with having a full compliment of passengers on its test run to the volcano and back, but there were a few little niggly things which were still playing up, so I spent most of the day to day sorting these out and giving the car a thorough clean.

One issue which has bugged me since buying the car was the electric window switch on the drivers door.  The entire switch was hanging out of the door panel because it had been broken by the previous owner. I did a quick run down to the VW dealership in town and bought a new housing for the switches confident that I could install it myself. However upon my return to the residence I discovered that my tools were too fat for the job, so had to borrow some of Her Majesty’s cutlery because the knives could slide into the space and undo the clipped in switches.

It wasn’t difficult to address using the silver cutlery and the window switch is now seated in the panel and working perfectly. I hope Her Majesty doesn’t mind.


SkypeI started the day watching England struggle to beat Italy in the six nations, setting up a mouth-watering final clash of this year’s championship in Cardiff next week.

I followed that with a great Skype conversation with my mum back in the UK. It was great to use the residence’s internet connections to see the folks back at home. Apparantly it was 1C there and about to snow. Not much chance of that here.

Roast BeefThe staff do not work at the weekends here, so as my contribution to Mother’s day here I allowed the Ambassador a day off and cooked everybody a Sunday roast. Roast beef, cauliflower, mash, beans, carrots roast potatoes and lashings of gravy. It was an absolute feast and I had also prepared a giant lime jelly laced with fruit cocktail for desert.

It also gave us the excuse to tuck into some more of the wine I have brought across two continents from the Napa valley. The Syrah tasted like Ribena and we quickly polished off both bottles.

Other than that not much going on apart from enjoying the Top Gear Africa special on the iPlayer in the evening.


Geothermal PlantI was up at 5.30 to meet some of the embassy staff who would be climbing the active volcano with me. Ismael and Sara who are both locals, joined me for the drive from Guatemala City and we picked up Eleanor, an American trainer who works for the embassy and is here for the week  in Antigua before starting the ascent. The first thing we saw was this geothermal facility which uses the heat produced by the volcano to generate electricity for the surrounding area.

Pacaya 1Ismael had brought us to the base of Mount Pacaya and we started the climb. I had barely been able to walk the previous day so was glad that my legs were even moving, however it was really tough until we climbed through a layer of smog and the air cleaned up. You can see some of the path in this picture, which never let up.

Sword FightingThe hike was all the more difficult because there was no shelter from the relentless sun, which we had started early to avoid the worst of.

We saw a few others on the climb using horses to do the work for them, but that wouldnt be the way I wanted to reach the summit. To help us along Ismael had brought along walking sticks for everybody. As you can see I was more interested in fencing with mine.

Sara's Climb 4Going completely to the summit had been prohibited a week earlier due to the increased activity being shown by the volcano, so the highest we were able to get was a small vent which had formed about a 100m down from the rim of the crater.

Parts of this vent were still red hot but that didn’t stop Sara from scaling the chimney which had formed on top of it. The fine pieces of rock are very hard but the lumps of it are surprisingly brittle. When Sara descended a few sizable pieces fell off the side of the chimney so I thought it best not to try and climb to the top myself.

Victorious ReturnWe sat at the base of the chimney and had a bite to eat, that is until it was actually burning our backsides. There was also a rather ominous rumble from the main volcano, so we started the descent back to the little town at the edge of the national park where we left the car, and where this picture was taken.

A quick drive back to Antigua where we enjoyed a wonderful lunch and then honed our haggling skills in the markets there. We hung around drinking cocktails on a rooftop terrace until the sun went down behind the mountains and it was time to go home.


I’m heading off to scale an active volcano today. Will let you know how I get on.

Cymru am byth for the rugby versus Scotland in the interim.


ExtratimeIt was another relatively quiet day here at the Residence. Once again I took part in their regular Friday football match. This week however we played for more than two hours from midday in the 36C heat, and not having eaten beforehand I was a dead-man walking by the time I threw in the towel. Despite drinking nearly 3 litres of water I could barely walk back to the house, and a shower didn’t do anything to help my legs which had completely given up.

Amy's PresentBy the time I had surfaced from my room there was a children’s birthday party going on, complete with bouncy castle, because it was Amy 5th birthday. Amy is a big fan of the Barbie themed surf movie ‘A Mermaid’s Tale’ so I bought her a doll of one of the characters from the film, and a surfing themed colouring book.

Amy's PinataAll of the children seemed to be having fun, but I had to dash off and collect my car from the mechanics. Unfortunately that meant I missed this huge my little pony styled pinata getting beating to pieces by the children. Once it is open all the sweets which have been placed inside fall to the floor for all the kids to pounce upon.

Sadly after collecting my car from the garage and wincing at the bill of 6000 Quetzales I got stuck in the Friday afternoon traffic jam as everybody made a break from the city for the weekend and sitting in the 36C heat for nearly two hours in my car breathing hot traffic fumes was just painful.

I returned to the residence to then eat the entire leftovers from the party because I knew I wold need the energy for the following day.


Coffee PlantThe staff of the embassy were having an away day at a coffee plantation just down the road from Antigua and were kind enough to invite me to join them for the afternoon.

Phil and I took a short drive to the plantation after lunch.

Now I am not a huge filter coffee fan because I can’t think of any other drink that you might have that you would still be tasting half an hour after having consumed it.

However I was looking forward to getting a better appreciation of what is required to put a brew in a cup in front of me. he planatation was huge and you can see the ripe red fruits on one of the bushes here.

Carmen, Me & EuseniaBefore I eloborate further on that I wanted to show you this picture of my clean shaven self with Carmen and Eusenia who have been looking after me at the Residence, which was taken at the plantation.

As you can see I am a tad taller than the ladies and the fellas here are not a great deal nearer my height.

It was for this reason that my lip warmer got removed yesterday. It was a bit of a pointless disguise here.

There may yet be another facial creation on this trip, but for now I am happy to look 10 years younger again. (At least that is what the staff tell me.)

Coffee Nursery2We took a guided tour of the plantation seeing the whole of the production process. It begins with this nursery of young saplings that will later be fused on to existing bushes.

The ‘cherries’ from the bushes are hand picked with spoilt or damaged ones cast aside. From this point the low quality cherries are further sifted by a floating process akin to that for identify a witch in medieval times, with the naff ones being kept aside for the production of instant coffee!

Turning the Beans2A machines squeeze the beans out of the cherries and the beans undertake a drying process which is done naturally in the sun. You can see the guy here turning them over to ensure there are no bikini marks on their tan.

There are then further hand sifting processes to ensure the quality of beans is maintained, before the beans are ready for roasting and then packaging.

Can somebody put the kettle on?


Antigua BuildingMyself and Phil drove to Antigua yesterday, which was the capital of Guatemala until a massive earthquake levelled it in 1773 and it was moved to Guatemala City.

It is a beautiful town with a colonial charm, because Guatemala was under Spanish rule until 1821.

Antigua Volcanoe 3As with everywhere I go here there are huge volcanoes overshadowing everything.

Antigua is no different and there are two massive ones overshadowing the town.

We have a wonder around this traveller hotspot, but it feels a wee bit sterile because of the five star hotels and so many foreign faces that are knocking about.

Antigua StatuePhil takes me to a favourite cafe of his for lunch and we both have a chuckle at this statue in the courtyard at the back.


QuestionYou may well be wondering how I have managed to get such VIP treatment by the British Ambassador.

In order to ensure that British diplomatic missions worldwide are not unduly visited by a hoard of thirsty surfers I should probably tell you that the Ambassador, Sarah, and her husband Phil are good friends of mine whom I have known for many years having met on a skiing holiday in France.

Visting them and enjoying being a part of events at the embassy through this week was something I simply couldn’t miss.

Me, Sarah, Phil and AmyI think having a crusty surfer rolling through town spices things up a bit here too. Although I dont think I look too shabby in this picture taken of us all just before the British Ball.

The little lady in front is one of their daughters, Amy.