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Guatemala

This is where our real bus adventure has begun. Guatemalan buses are old American school buses - brightly coloured and driven with a rapidity that would make members of school boards shudder. So much more interesting than the sanitised Volvo coach with AC, TV and bathroom in Mexico!

local transport Guatemala Antigua colourful volcano backpacking budget travelling

Easily my favourite thing about Guatemala are the colourful markets. We went to as many markets as I could get to including the fabulous Chichicastenango, around Lago Atitlan and San Francisco del Alto. I had been told and had read that Guatemalans do not like having their photo taken. In a couple of months I was rarely refused a polite request.

Chichicastenango markets Guatemala colourful typical indigenous embroidery costume

Quetzaltenango or more commonly known as Xela would be our home for the next 5 weeks as we studied Spanish. Xela, Guatemala's 2nd largest city is a nice enough city with nothing in particular to recommend it. However, it was a wonderful 5 weeks during which time we met many new friends - some of whom are in the photo below (not sure who took the photo on Alison's camera). The school was excellent and we both achieved what we came to do - in my case I learnt how to count past 3 (big Oooooh! for me please) and Ange enjoyed being able to natter all day long and enter the worlds of Spanish literature, interpretation and translation.

Catholic church candles religion Guatemala indigenous Christ belief tradition

On a sad note the family we home stayed with had a lovely 7-month old baby with a hole in her heart and her heart was also incorrectly aligned. The family had already lost their house paying to have a pacemaker fitted and now they found out while we were there that she would need further surgery urgently as the pacemaker was failing. They had no money so with the generous help of our new friends and unsuspecting parents we managed to donate over Q5,700 (NZ$1200 / US$700) - and hopefully enough to get Gabriella into hospital yesterday. Gabriella also has a cleft pallet that will need surgery. So our hopes are obviously with this little girl now.



For the last few days we have been volunteering at a turtle rescue sanctuary. Each night we would walk for hours and try and get to turtles as they lay eggs before the poachers did. It was the beginning of the laying season but I was lucky enough to watch a turtle lay nearly 100 eggs before heading off to the sea. Ange and her partner carefully buried a donation of eggs which will hatch in approximately 45 days. In the daytime we would clean the tanks and play with the baby turtles and iguanas. Last year the sanctuary managed to release nearly 17,000 baby Olive Rigley turtles (turtlettes?). As turtles have a VERY high mortality rate (as few as 0.1% survive to adulthood!) this number still needs to be increased to ensure long term survival.

turtle sanctuary Monterico Guatemala ARCAS poachers hatchlings Olive Rigley save protect

And today, as I mentioned we arrived in Honduras. People seem very nice and the countryside is green, lumpy and lush. For some reason we had to catch a bus at 3:45am. The things we do to avoid work. . .