© 2012 . Alle Rechte vorbehalten. Halloween!

Guatemala / NYC / Aruba

We leave Belize early Sunday morning. The sky is grey and it looks like it is going to rain soon. It is no news for us after two days of nothing but thunderstorms. Three chicken buses later we reach the Guatemalan border. Of course we need to pay the scam 20Q to enter the country once more but what are $2.5 after Mexico’s border scam. In Flores we move to a dorm in the same hostel that I stayed at last time I was here. First thing we do is book our early morning tour for Tikal in the hopes of getting at least some sunshine. For dinner we walk back to the bus station in Santa Elena and enjoy some grilled chicken at one of the many food stalls. This is one of the few things I don’t get. At the hostel you pay $5-6 for a dinner consisting of a, admittedly good, burrito plus another $2 for a drink. Or you walk for 5 minutes and eat with the locals for $1.5-2 including drinks. We, of course, favor option number 2 every time we get the chance. The party hostel “Los Amigos” does not stand up for its promises and we go to bed early. Our alarm rings at 3:40 in the morning, we brush our teeth and slip into our explorer gear. About 15 other backpackers get cramped into two buses and we try to get some more sleep on our 2h long drive to the mystic ruins of Tikal.

Birte and me at Tikal

In Tikal we have to wait for half an hour before our guide, a Guatemalan with American accent, picks us up. Caesar, our guide, might know a lot about Tikal, but if he does, we never find out. Instead he focuses his attention on the worldwide phenomena of human sacrifice and necrophilia. While it is amusing at first, it gets creepy quite fast and annoying after that. His conspiracy theories become more bizarre as we continue our path along the different temples and at some point Birte and me have to distance ourselves from him. The ruins themselves we enjoy a lot. They are located in the midst of a tropical rainforest, barely restorated or completely left alone. Some of the big temples you can climb up to the top while others that used to be open for camping (!) are now closed to the public. Although it is a lot bigger than Copan Ruinas I have to say I enjoyed Copan more, can’t really say why though. Maybe Caesar ruined (pun not intended) it for me in Tikal…

Zephyr Lodge

We leave Flores early the next morning by chicken bus. It takes us to Coban and from there we take the next chicken bus to Lanquin and Zephyr lodge. Saved us $10 per person and we are actually faster than the shuttle that the hostel offered. Knowing that the hostel is booked out often we got ourselves a reservation back in Flores. Dieter, a short Guatemalan guy who works for the hostel, greets us with good news. “We do not have a bed for you”. Awesome. “but we prepared a tent for you. Or you can sleep somewhere else. I don’t care”. Great. We choose the tent option for the night and ask for the next available beds. “Do you think I’m stupid” we get as his reply. Apparently you are Dieter because early next morning when we try to move to a dorm no one knows of this arrangement. Fortunately a cosy double bed is still available for us. On the downside the tour to Semuc Champey is canceled (by us) due to bad weather. Instead we spend the day chilling at the hostel, learning our new favorite card game, Yaniv, and reading books. The internet at this hostel has been offline for a couple of days and, to be honest, we do not really miss it. In the afternoon a group of people we met in Flores arrives and all of us sign up, again, for the Semuc Champey tour.

Swing @ Semuc Champey

The night turns into one big party with everyone getting hammered until they close the bar way too early. It is a miracle but everyone shows up for the tour the next morning and after breakfast we get crammed onto the back of a big truck and we drive down the most uncomfortable 10km to Semuc which takes more than an hour due to the road conditions. When we stop on the way one of the Americans jumps off the truck and buys beer for everyone. Hurray! While everyone is happy drinking beer I try to concentrate on breathing. A deeply nauseating hangover has taken hold of me, hot and cold sweats are taking turns and the shaking of the truck is not really helping. Five horrible minutes later everything is back to normal and I can finish my beer. The bus stops at a big bridge, we drop our stuff at a small house and our guide hands everyone a candle. A couple of steps up the hill we find the entrance to the cave of Semuc Champey. I brought my GoPro just in case, but realize soon enough that I won’t be able to take any pictures or videos in pitch-black darkness. We wad through hip-high water, crouch through small passageways, climb up and down slippery latters, pass a waterfall and after swimming in the river that goes through the cave (in darkness) we finally reach the end of the accessible part. Here the guide gives everyone the option to clamber up the side of the hill and jump into a “pool” in the middle of the cave. Looked totally legit, so I do it. When everyone is done, the guide jumps himself and is not to be seen for at least 30s. He comes up at the other end of the cave after he has dived through an underwater tunnel. Noone wants to try this.

The amazing Zephyr crew

The actual Semuc Champey

Out of the cave we come to a big water swing. Everyone takes their turns jumping off into the water. Some look better (Birte), some don’t (me, although I think it was a perfect crouching tiger approach). Then we are off to the next part of our adrenaline tour: A jump off the 12m high bridge that spans over the river. Quite fun but afterwards my right ear hurts a bit. The last part of our tour consists of the actual “Semuc Champey”: A natural limestone bridge consisting of different pools. Here we chill out for a little bit, swim and “explore”. My idea of using one of the natural slides from one pool to another was only semi-intelligent, a lot of butt pain included. Then the guide shows us some caves hidden underwater. Sweet! We return to Lanquin to do what we do best: drinking. When the party is going strong the Irish, who else, decide to take it to the next level: Nudist style. Fortunately no one joins in but their theme for the next two days remains. Getting naked as often as possible. We go tubing in the morning and the Irish have six Gin Tonics before we even leave the place at 10. Everyone has ordered beers, so we are well stocked when we reach the river. It is less tubing down but floating on the river while holding on to each other or a rope. One of the Irish had his pants off before we even got in the water, the other one waits until we are at least at our “break point”. From there the party goes nuts and beyond what I can describe here. On our way back to the hostel we pass by a funeral procession and actually manage to keep quiet until we have passed them. At night we… party!

Tubing Birte

Tara, Birte, Nicola, Brooke and Syd

Since the hostel uses a tab system the last morning is pretty bad for everyone. Some got hit worse than others. One Canadian girl got charged for 66 beers while tubing. Pretty impressive! We only got charged twice for dinner, so if you ever decide to go to Zephyr Lodge in Lanquin: Check your tab! Our entire group of 12 people takes the same shuttle to Antigua, where we will stay at the same hostel again. We have a good night out, but Birte and me leave the next day to go (back) to San Pedro.

Shopping in Antigua

Of course we stay at my favorite place in all of Central America, Yo Mama’s. Our first day we spend exploring San Marco’s, a “hippy” town 15 minutes by boat from San Pedro, or we just chill at Yo Mamas. The second day we have to get up at 2:40 in the morning to go hike up the volcano for the sunrise. With us is a German speaking couple and our guide. The hike is 1500m up the volcano with nothing but going up. No stops, no rests, just darkness, steps and our guide pushing us to go faster. After about half an hour our group splits up. The guide sends the couple and me ahead and stays with Birte, but just 10 minutes later the other girl wants to go slower as well so I continue the hike on my own. Since the guide told us when we left him that our pace was good for reaching the peak for sunrise, I try to keep going as fast as I can, but the it keeps getting harder and harder. My feet start to tremble and every other minute or so I stop for a rest. But in the end, after two and a half hours of nonstop hiking, I make it to the top. Half an hour before the actual sunrise with the sky already colored in beautiful bright red and orange. It is quite chilly, so I change into a dry shirt and put on my windbreaker. About twenty minutes later the couple arrives and when I start to fear Birte might not make it for sunrise I see her. She gets to the top exactly three minutes before sunrise. We watch the sun’s path and have a mild breakfast. When we get too cold we start our descent. It will take us another 1.5h to get back to Yo Mama’s but it was definitely worth it. Tired and sore we spend the rest of the day in our hammocks. Unfortunately we have to leave San Pedro the next day to go to Antigua from where we will take the shuttle to the airport for our surprise New York visit.

Birte in San Marcos

Me in full backpacker gear

On top of San Pedro volcano

Our Canadian friends are still in Antigua, so we meet them at their hostel. The private rooms are huge so we decide to share one room with six people. It is Halloween so we set out to the local market to explore the second hand stalls. Birte finds a nice catwoman costume while the girls dress me in drag. Back at the hostel everyone changes into their costumes and we start the pre-party on the “rooftop”. Then we move the party to a bar and party until the lights go on. When we wake up, after about two hours of sleep, not only Birte and me but three other guys have to take the shuttle. We pack our bags as good as possible and get going. Birte and me get dropped off first and step into the airport.


The ladies at the counters have Indonesian patience and take about as long to get everyone boarding passes. When we have finally checked in we move to the food court. Birte is hungry and asks me what I would like to eat. “Anything” I reply and she leaves. About thirty minutes later she returns with two buckets of chicken, French fries and a diet Coke. “I only ordered 9 pieces of chicken and when they said it might take 25 minutes, I didn’t care”, she explains the situation. Every piece turns out to be half a chicken. We start eating our 4.5 whole chicken without sauce because apparently they run out. Birte eats about one chicken, I finish the rest. Guilty pleasure. No more chicken for me though.

Chicken fiasco 2012

Seven hours later we arrive in New York and call Sne, telling him that we arrived. Manhattan is still pretty badly hit by Hurricane Sandy, so we decide to meet at another friend’s apartment. Entering Manhattan by taxi is one the weirdest thing I have ever seen. The entire southern side, everything below 40thstreet, is without electricity. Ghost town Manhattan. We meet Sne and the others right when they exit the building and hop into another taxi to surprise Sophie at work. Although she expected a surprise by Sne and Teisha, she had no idea it would be us. After a quick and loud hello at her restaurant we leave pretty quickly before her water-filled eyes turn into actual tears and wait at a neighbouring bar. She joins us after work and around 5 in the morning we leave the Upper East Side to go camping in the East Village. Sne has brought flashlights for everyone, there is no heating so he gives us a thick blanket. Fortunately we have running water. Electricity and hence warm water and light return late the next day when we are out in town. The weekend went by fast. We even went clubbing but it was way too dushy. Craziest sight of the weekend: People queuing for two blocks to catch a bus home after work! Monday morning we leave the cold of New York right before another winter storm hits and head for beautiful Caribbean Aruba.

Wonderful Teisha, Birte and Miss Sophie

Baby beach Aruba

On Aruba Suzanne, who I met in Cuba, picks us up. She has been living there for more than three years now, working as an elementary school teacher. In the morning she takes us to her school and we are free to take the car to explore the island. It is incredibly nice of her. After school we pick her up and go back to her place. Since we are there during the week, the evenings are very relaxed and we don’t go out except to watch the new James Bond. Also she is the new owner of a young German shepherd, Nubia, who keeps us entertained at all times.

Birte and Suzanne at dinner

At this point thank you so much to our wonderful hosts Teisha, Suzanne and Sne!