Tag Archives: Guatemala

Random thoughts/ month 19

28 Nov

This month we:


+ celebrated the Day of the Dead in Antigua on November 1. Instead of mourning the dead, locals celebrate their lives, taking to the cemetery. Families visit their loved ones’ graves cleaning them, adding a fresh coat of white paint, decorating with flowers and sometimes planting. Mariachi bands and ice cream carts wander the rows of the departed. The entrance to the cemeteries are filled with food venders, some cities even have carnival rides.




+ went to the Sumpango kite festival on the same day. Tons of locals and foreigns flock up steep dirt paths to a grass field in this small village. Vendors selling small kites, food and crafts are set up around the perimeter and gigantic circle kites made of colored tissue paper are on display. We were disappointed to learn they don’t actually fly these massive kites, but it was pretty amazing waking around in the mud looking at the intricate work.





+ scrubbed the inside of Skyhorse from top to bottom, washing everything possible. Don’t ask.

+ dined, yes dined, at the fanciest McDonalds I’ve ever laid eyes on. As you have probably gathered, we only eat McDs after a trying day. Our Antigua meal was no exception. After a frustrating morning at the doctor with few concrete answers, we followed our noses to the discreet golden arches and into the most luxurious courtyard. We ate with a clear view of the volcano in front of us.



+ were funded! Thanks to you all, our kickstarter campaign was 200% funded. We cannot thank you–our friends, family and dedicated reader–enough for making this possible!


+ experienced our second and third earthquakes. The second one was much more mild than the first but still confused Hani. As Skyhorse began to rock, Hani yelled out, calling to someone he thought was pushing the truck. By the third, we were pros and just looked at each other and our unaffected dogs as the truck wobbled a bit.

+ spent time with our friends from home, Caroline and Mike. They were in Antigua for a wedding so we got to hang with them and their dental crew for a few days, even getting to crash a pre-wedding dinner.

+ ended our time in Antigua after staying a whopping 44 days. It is by far the longest we’ve stayed camped in the same spot in the same city. Seriously love that city and can’t wait to come back someday.




+ spent a total of $64 to stay at the Antigua tourist police for those 44 days. You are allowed to camp for free for 5 days but beyond that, the officers ask for things to spruce up the property. Over the course of our time there, we bought them a rake, tree paint, brushes, buckets, 2 soccer balls, lightbulbs and a few breads, chips and sodas. Well worth the money and we enjoyed chatting with the officers and helping them with their English.

+ had yet another frustrating border experience at Tecun Uman, Guatemala/ Cuidad Hidalgo, Mexico. Allegedly the entrance on the Mexican side is only for “light vehicles” (whatever that means). It took twenty minutes for them to decide to lift up a low hanging cable to let us enter, then too much yaking about how we couldn’t cross into Mexico here because we were too big. Mind you, we were parked right under the bus parking sign. So obviously large vehicles pass through there. Then they said we also couldn’t enter because we had two vehicles, that the motorcycle would have to be driven through separately. What?!? Eventually we were allowed to enter only if they could search us from top to bottom. Go right ahead. I drew the line when they asked us to help them remove our stuff from the truck for inspection. The head dick pulled everything out from the truck cab, even searching under the hood and in our air filter. I jokingly asked him if he was going to change our oil too. The other two lackies did a lame search of the cabin and all the closets. TWO HOURS LATER, as it’s getting dark, we realized we couldn’t even get the vehicle permit paperwork here. At every other border, you get your passport stamped and vehicle permit in the same area. But at this border, the permitting office was miles away in a different city. So the next day, unsure if the office would even open because it was a Sunday, we drove the 1.5 hours to get the permit. The bank guy was nice and efficient in giving us our permits but then the same agency morons from the day before didn’t think the paperwork we were JUST ISSUED from the bank were valid. So another hour and a half of waiting for them to be informed of their own laws. Thankfully this was our last border!! Yippppie!!!!!


+ were welcomed back to Mexico by two back to back stays at Pemexs, the gas station.


+ came back to Playa Zipolite with Felipa ready and waiting. The beach was much hotter, the breeze was nonexistent but the water was cool and the food delicious. After 3 days, we said a tearful goodbye to the ocean and Hani’s favorite beach. No more beach days in the foreseeable future as we drive further and further north.








+ arrived at Overlander Oasis in Santa Maria del Tule. We spent a few nights at the OO on our drive north so it felt like a small homecoming this time around. Calvin greeted us with open arms and we met some other travelers heading south. We are some tasty meals and it reminded me how much I love Mexican food and missed the culture.




+ didn’t eat enough tlyudas or drink any mezcal but we did witness a tent occupied Oaxaca. More on that later.


+ had some very long driving days. We drove the steep mountainous road between Zipolite and the OO (outside of Oaxaca) in one day, 9 hours in total. A few days later, we left the OO and spent 2 long days on the road arriving in San Miguel de Allende.


+ have rented a cool apartment in San Miguel de Allende until January 7. Anyone want to visit? We are in the heart of downtown, surrounded by the best street tacos, wonderful restaurants and cafés, towering churches, and best of all, our friends Victoria, Jason and their dogs Neli and Maya from Neli’s Big Adventure.





Happiest place on earth

15 Nov

As our final day in Antigua rolls around (we’ve been here six weeks!!), I thought I would share pictures of my happy place–the local market. The market is part indoor/part outdoor with narrow aisles and stalls as far as the eye can see. It’s easy to get lost here since everything looks the same but, by some miracle, I’ve been able to find direct routes to my favorite vendors.


Through the chaos and constant movement, I have discovered some sense of organization, as the market is divided into sections: the restaurants (2 sections), meat and poultry, electronics, shoes, clothing, ribbons/seamstresses and gift wrap, produce, flowers, wreaths (yes, there is an entire section devoted to the wreaths laid on burial sites with blue stained hands working steadfast on them), toys, and containers. In one section, say the produce, there are 10 vendors right next to each other selling the exact same things. Tables (and floors) are piled high with produce are all basically the same price from vendor to vendor and, of course, bartering is mandatory!


You’ll also find every shampoo, deodorant or bath product carried in Guatemala for a much cheaper price than what you’d pay in the stores but of questionable contents.


It was pretty hard to capture some of these pictures, as stopping is definitely frowned upon. The rows between shops really only allow for 1 and a half people to pass at a time and, regardless of the day or hour, the bustle is nonstop.

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Random thoughts/ 1.5

31 Oct

One year and six months. Really. Ruminations on that milestone later but on to this month. We’ve had our ups and downs, sweat and froze, beached and mountained and north we still go! This month we:


+ went back to Lake Apoyo, Nicaragua. As we headed down to the lake late and on the wrong road, I searched for Miguel, the caretaker of the property we stayed when we were there 5 months earlier. By some miracle, I spotted him on the road and arranged for us to park at the house tomorrow, as he had already left for the day. We spent 6 semi-glorious days at our old spot on the lake, which had substantially more mosquitoes now and was way hotter. But we swam, practiced the ukulele, and Olivia found her twin.

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+ successfully avoided the Managua market by finding “new” used tires on our way out of the lake. Our tires are an odd size and it’s been difficult to find replacements south of the border. Thankfully though, as one was flat and bald (the last original tire we left Key West with), we found something! They may be retreads from 1996 but they’re rocking and rolling. We WILL made it home on these same tires!

+ flew through northern Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador to land in Antigua, Guatemala over the course of two days of nonstop driving. That’s SIX frustrating borders in two days. I was so beat.


+ have settled into life at the tourist police in Antigua. We will be parked here until the beginning of November, nestled between the remains of an old hospital. We spend our days exploring the cobblestone colonial town, it’s many coffee shops and my favorite local market.




+ tucked our swim gear away and broken out our jeans and jackets. I cannot even begin to tell describe how amazing it is not to be sweaty first thing in the morning.

+ celebrated Hani’s 36th birthday on October 12. Now we have all celebrated 2 birthdays on the road. We wandered around Antigua with the dogs, had a scrumptious dinner and then cake with all the other travelers in the tourist police lot.




IMG_2789.JPG+ experienced our first earthquake! It was 10:00 at night and Hani was outside walking the dogs. From inside the truck, I felt Skyhorse move from side to side. Not just a sway but full on rocking back and forth. I thought Hani was pushing the truck so I yelled at him to stop messing around. He laughed that he wasn’t doing anything so I assumed he actually was. After a few more back and forths, we realized the dogs were a little freaked out. The thought that we just had an earthquake didn’t really dawn on me despite the fact that we are parked between ruins from a previous quake. It took asking two other travelers and a google search to convince me that it really was an earthquake. 7.4 all the way from El Salvador felt here!

+ launched a kickstarter campaign. We are writing a book about our travels and raising money through kickstarter to self publish it. We’ve made amazing progress but there is still time for YOU to contribute! By contributing to our kickstarter campaign, you can get a copy of our book, choose a topic for us to write about or be included in our book, depending on your donation. Click on the link, watch our video, read our book excerpt, check out the rewards on the right side of the page and donate! The more money we raise, the better our book will be! Thank you all for your support.  http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2094800206/adventures-in-skyhorse

+ explored an amazing farm overlooking Antigua. The owner is in the process of opening a farm-to-table restaurant and invites guests to check out the property. We spent a few hours one afternoon rambling about the farm and orchid garden and watching the storm roll in.

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+ realized we cannot stay in one place for a month and live in the truck. Being the cheapskate that I am, I thought with the cooler weather, we would be fine to stay in the truck and not rent a place. I now know that for our sanity, if we aren’t actually moving, we need more space than Skyhorse offers. How many of you have been waiting for me to say that?!?

+ were visited by the Mayas! My parents last visited us on the road when we were in San Diego, almost a year ago, right before we crossed into Mexico. This time, my parents came to Antigua for a 5 day visit. They brought us a bunch of goodies we were missing from home including our favorite: my dad’s homemade pumpkin pie (and seeds!). We had such a lovely time showing them the city, eating, walking, laughing, shopping, eating and more and more walking. I think they now need a vacation from their vacation.








+ rode the chicken bus with my parents to Pastores. It was all of our first time on these tricked out, polluting, crazy-fast beasts. I was hesitant about taking my parents on the bus but Hani insisted that it was part of the Guatemalan experience. I think he was secretly hoping my mom would have a melt down but they loved it, even danced along with the blasting music.


+ ate our way through Antigua. The food here really is unbelievable. You can find any type of meal you could possibly want. We’ve eaten Guatemalan (duh), Mexican, Middle Eastern, French, Italian gelato and pastries, real deli sandwiches, BBQ, crepes, and the best coffee. Coffee in Antigua is far superior to any other country we have been. It’s practically an art here.

+ toured the Finca Filadelfia coffee plantation with my parents. Aside from seeing the coffee process, the highlights were the drunk man stumbling toward our tour group with a big piece of wood and my mom yelling a story at us at top volume not realizing the group was right there listening. The coffee was fabulous.


+ bid fairwell to my parents and are continuing to venture into new parts of Antigua as Mochimo’s day, Day of the Dead and Halloween roll through town.



Going north

14 Oct

I have to admit, when we left Panama City to begin driving north, I shed a tear. Or five. I thought since we had reached our furthest stop, our trip would be over. And it came so suddenly too. We just woke up one morning, said we had enough to Panama City so let’s go. But I wasn’t ready for our travels to be over and neither was Hani. The adventure didn’t FEEL finished.



Going north now, we have a bit more of a plan. We know what is waiting for us is each country so we are now doing a “best of” re-visiting our favorites. We are trying to stay in one place for longer periods of time since we get a better feel for the people and day to day life that way. There is no rush “to see what’s ahead” but instead the excitement of what a new day will bring. So we’ll continue our slow crawl north for a few more months at least. And we are definitely aiming for cooler-weather towns. After 4 months of sweating, we are over the heat.

Our Best of Tour North brought us back to San Juan del Sur and Lake Apoyo Nicaragua.


laundry day at Lake Apoyo

laundry day at Lake Apoyo


And now to Antigua, Guatemala where we are staying through the end of the month.


Kick start our book!

13 Oct

As you probably saw on our Facebook page, we are writing a book about our time on the road. We have started a Kickstarter campaign to self publish our book.


Kickstarter is a crowd-funded platform, meaning YOU help us reach our goal through donations. In return for your contribution, you will receive a gift and our sincere gratitude. For $15, you will receive a soft covered copy of our book. For $25, you will received 2 books. For $50, you can pick a relevant topic and we will write about it in our book (sloths, for example) along with 2 copies of our book. For $75, if we know you or have met you, we will write you into our book, along with sending you 2 copies. For $120, if we know you or have met you, we will write you and some person you have a relation to (friend, relative, spouse…) into our book, along with 2 copies.


When you click on our Kickstarter link, at the top you will see a video explaining our book. Underneath that is an excerpt of our book. The righthand column lists all potential gifts.

We truly appreciate all your support thus far and hope you will help us reach our goal of raising $3,000. The positive feedback and over pouring love we have received already is amazing. Thank you, thank you, THANK YOU ALL!

The Guatemala breakdown

8 May

We spent a total of six weeks–March 12, 2014 to April 27, 2014–in Guatemala, beginning our journey in El Ceibo and ending in Valle Nuevo. Here’s a bit of a recap of our time in the country.


Things were similarly priced to Mexico with the exception of diesel ($5/gal, but that’s cheaper than gasoline) and park/museum admissions. Entrance into Tikal was $40 for both of us. Crazy! Food and groceries were cheap though.

In the 6 weeks in Guatemala, we spent a total of $3,600, which came out to $78.26 a day, a little less than what we spent per day in Mexico.

We entered at a small crossing in El Ceibo on the border of Mexico and northwestern Guatemala. Small borders are good because there’s little traffic but bad because there’s no oversight. We got a taste of each. No one else was entering or exiting this border. Nevertheless, it was a gigantic production and unnecessarily time consuming.

It took about 2hrs to cross into Guatemala and we were the ONLY people going through the process. No one wore uniforms and no signs indicated that the dilapidated trailers were the customs offices. When we stopped to ask where the border offices were, some guys put cones in front of our truck and said here.

Hani stayed with Skyhorse and the pups and I just walked into the first trailer (which had a/c!) and asked a nice man what I was supposed to do. This guy became my buddy for the day. He directed me to another trailer where our passports were stamped. I then went back to the nice guy who started generating our vehicle import paperwork. I needed to make copies and pay in Guatemalan quetzales so I needed to find the copier and bank.

The copier was all the way in the Guatemalan side. After the hike there and back, I needed to find the bank. The “bank”– a drunk guy that was supposed to be in a trailer but hiding somewhere else–had no money. I exchanged pesos for quetzales from a tuktuk driver (apparently this is the accepted means to get money at a border) and went back to the nice guy and told him I didn’t trust the bank. From then on, when I needed to pay some fee, I had the nice guy accompany me to ensure the bank processed my payments correctly and gave me the right change.

While this was going on, Hani was sitting in the truck. Some guy (apparently a semi-official border person) was telling Hani there was a fumigation fee and a fee for the dogs. The truck was fumigated and the guy told us 2 different prices. When I asked to see proof of what the fee for fumigation was, he showed me a paper attached to his clipboard that said a lower cost. Oh yeah, that’s the price you have to pay. At that, I wasn’t believing a word he said. The costs for the dogs went from 150Q per dog to 300Q per dog and he didn’t even ask to see their paperwork, just wanted money. When I called the guy out on his bullshit (yes, I really called what he was telling me shit), he flipped out and stormed away.

I went to talk to nice guy only to find liar already there tattling on me. After rounds and rounds inside and Hani outside revving his engine, moving cones and shoving some guy out of his face, I paid 150Q (about $20) for both dogs and we got the hell out of there. I was completely frustrated and upset that I caved and paid anything at all. Hani thought the experience was funny. At least it was over.

We exited at Valle Nuevo, Guatemala into Las Chinamas, El Salvador. Leaving Guatemala was a pretty simple process. As you drive to the border, there’s a big building to your left and the offices you need to go to are in order. What makes this so confusing and hectic are the groups of “helpers” swarming you to aid and ease your crossing and convert your money. I just put my hands up and told everyone to back away and they left me alone. The process was MUCH easier on my own, though if I didn’t speak Spanish, a helper would have been necessary as none of the border agents spoke English.

We opted to cancel our vehicle import, thereby mandating 90 days outside of Guatemala. Otherwise, we’d have to rush and drive back into Guatemala before our initial 90 days ran out on June 10. The guys in this office were very patient with us, explaining our options and the penalty fees if we drove back sooner than 90 days. They even made my copies for me free of charge. So we didn’t pay anything to leave the country.

In another room, we waited in a short line to get our exit stamp and a scrap paper with a stamp to show the border agent in El Salvador.

Once outside and back in the truck, we had to show our cancellation paperwork again and then were able to drive across the bridge to enter El Salvador.

Total on crossing the border: $71.66 (because we have to import 2 vehicles–Skyhorse and the moto)

As was our experience in Mexico, we felt completely safe in Guatemala. We were never stopped by police, even during “random” security checkpoints along the highway. We had no interactions with police at all.

We did, however, cross a very poor mountain town during our drive from hell from Rio Dulce to Semuc Champey. Some teens had propped up a plank of wood on some blocks and asked for money “for the community.” We laughed and gave them the equivalent of .70.

Total: .70

We didn’t boondock all that much. Kinda sad. We were intent on seeing cities while in Guatemala and didn’t want to park on some random small street if we knew we’d be out running around town all day. Or be inconvenienced by parking somewhere remote when we wanted to be in walking distance to a fun town. We free camped 9 days (when we first entered, when we got stuck on that hell road and were fixing the truck outside Semuc, when we were at the mechanic in Coban, when we were parked outside the Guatemala City airport) but they weren’t adventurous or cool spots. We then were able to free camp some more in Antigua at the Tourist Police lot for 6 days, one day beyond the limit, after we bought them soda and chips.

Total on camping: $210

Diesel was pretty pricey in Guatemala, almost $5 a gallon. Luckily, since the country is small, we didn’t have to fill up all that often. We also road the motorcycle a bunch, which saved on fuel.

Total: $460

Because we wound up in a lot of American influenced towns (Panajachel, San Pedro, Antigua) for extended stays, we ate out a ton! It’s a tough call between cooking and eating really cheap (and good) schwarma or pasta or BBQ. The whooping $642.82 was well spent, but we could have budgeted better and ate in more often. I did cook, spending $433.78 on groceries. Since we were closer to towns, we often went out at night, spending $144 at bars.

Total on food and bev: $1,220.60

We splurged in Guatemala and went with the more reliable and slightly more expensive Tigo for phone and Internet service. Coverage was excellent, a nice change from the crappy service we had in Mexico. The SIM card came preloaded with data, minutes and texts and if you recharge your phone on triple saldo days (you’ll get a text on those promotional days), you get triple the amount you pay. Pretty sweet.

There are two competing companies, Movistar and Claro. The coverage is not as good but prices are cheaper and they do the triple saldo days as well.

Like Mexico, free wifi was easy to come by, especially in the touristy towns. Every restaurant/bar/coffee house/you name it had wifi. It is easy to get along without an Internet plan but again, having one makes life easier.

Total: $38.86

Shae and Olivia are angels and continue to be visions of perfect health. No vet visits and no one seems to care that their paperwork is in English.

I’ve been looking for good quality dog food to no avail. In Coban, they laughed when I asked for a store that sold all natural or organic dog food. I bought the best looking brand but it cost like $60 for a 20 pound bag, much crappier quality than what they were eating at home and far more expensive. It’s completely insane. When that ran out, I caved. Yes, I’m that bad mom feeding my dogs the McDonalds of dog food, all fillers and grains. And even that was pricey! I guess locals feed their dogs table scraps because there’s no way they are paying $100+ on big bags of dog food.

I have to say, Shae and Olivia love their new generic dog food. Shae, who can sometimes be a picky eater, gobbles her food up. They seem fine and no problems with their stomachs or coats since the food change. Guess organic dog food isn’t all that after all.

Total spent on the dogs: $250.53 (dog food plus they needed more heartguard and flea meds)

The ruins at Tikal were pretty amazing. Our favorite ruins so far. It’s a mission to get out there because it’s so far away from every other town or site but completely worth it. You can actually enjoy the ruins (and climb them!) without hordes of tourists or locals selling you crap.

We loved Lake Atitlan and would definitely go back. It was so easy to fall into a comfortable routine in any of the lake towns. San Pedro was the best.

Antigua was also a favorite. Hani says it’s his favorite colonial village. This colonial town was very tanquillo, easy to navigate and not filled with gringos, even though there was a great diversity of food. The local food market was great and the artesian market next door would make it easy for a traveler to find all the textiles possible to then bypass the town of Chichi for the country-known market. The town is nestled in a valley between mountains and volcanoes, picturesque from any location.

Not drive a road that no one’s mentioned driving before, especially when everyone takes a similar route but goes the long way. Just because a route is less than half the distance of the longer route doesn’t mean it’s faster!!

We could have bypassed Semuc Champey. It just wasn’t anything we hadn’t seen before. And I said it before, the road driving in just wasn’t worth it.

We could have also gone without seeing the Chichi market. Granted it was only a cheap bus ride and an “event” for the day, but we saw the same goods in mass quantities for the same prices in other parts of the country.

For the amount of travelers that make their way from town to town, I would have expected the roads to be better. They were AWFUL! Seriously, the worst roads of our trip to date were in Guatemala. We saw tons of chicken buses and microvans just get pounded on the pothole laden roads.

The best food was in San Pedro La Laguna, with a tie between the all you can brunch at El Barrio (we hit it twice and stayed from the start at 10am to close to finish at 2pm) and the amazing pasta at Alfredo’s, a tiny restaurant run out of this woman’s home. Her living room doubles as a dining area when they are full. We ate there two nights in a row.

The best coffee was in Panajachel’s Cafe Loco. Delicious innovative flavors, super cheap, and artistic. Can’t beat that!

+ visit Lake Atitlan and any of the surrounding towns.
+ explore the textile markets and buy buy buy because you’ll never see fabulous fabrics like this again.
+ find the hot waterfall around Lago de Izabal. Heavenly!
+ soak in the traditional dress of both the women and men in a small village.
+ wander Antigua. It’s not as touristy as you think.

Semana Santa

28 Apr

Semana Santa, Holy Week, is a big deal in Guatemala. The villages around Lago Atitlan, while filled with gringos, are very traditional and hold daily processions down the main streets multiple times a day throughout the week.

Since driving during that week is out of the question due to continuous processions and street closures, we stayed in San Juan La Laguna.


On Good Friday, locals gathered around the center of town just after midnight. Throughout the night and into the morning, alfombras (carpets) of grasses, flowers, fruits, veggies, colored sawdust and sometimes candles are intricately created. People block off their alfombra in the street with markers and use stencils and paper drawings as a guide. The end results are a labor of love and truly a work of art.

We woke early and walked to town around 6am. Finishing touches were being put on the alfombras as Hani and I walked the almost empty streets, sidestepping the few drunks that were still (barely) standing from the night before. It was an unbelievable sight. Streets that were once filled with speeding tuktuks and rotten vegetables were expertly decorated for the holiday.


seven deadly sins alfombra

seven deadly sins alfombra



At 8am the procession from the church began. Shifts of smartly dressed men and traditionally clothed women carried huge floats depicting biblical scenes. And as they made their way sloooowly shuffling/side steeping down the church steps, the procession turned to the main street and trampled the alfombras. It killed me to see them destroyed! All the time and effort put into creating them and boom. A swirly mess.



And just when you think you can capture the new beauty of a trampled mass of lemons and flowers, the cleaning crew is right behind the procession sweeping and raking up all the newly created garbage.



The procession would stop every so often at set up stations of the cross where readers would chant in local dialect verses. It was awesome to observe such a solemn and beautiful religious experience. It was also pretty amazing to witness such a disorganized country have such orderly events.

The procession made it’s way in a circle through the main streets back into the church where it started from typically around noon, not because the path is long but because their steps are so deliberately slow and thoughtful. It really was a moving experience.

Later that same day, we took the motorcycle to San Juan, where Toby, Chloe, Erica and Sam met us to watch how that town prepared for their procession. Around 2 that afternoon, locals began their alfombras with the procession starting at 10pm. The alfombras here had much more intricate shading and details, even three dimensions. Because of this, when we left the town at 10, groups were still feverishly trying to finish their alfombras. Most spectators arrived once the sun went down, which is a shame because you can’t appreciate all the details in the dark. Nevertheless, it was a unique cultural experience.




Lago Atitlan

27 Apr

We spent 25 days on Lago Atitlan and that was not enough. Lago Atitlan is surrounded by volcanoes and mountain ranges with small villages tucked near the water’s edge. Each village has their own craft (some pottery and carving, but mostly weaving) style of dress and probably other cultural differences that I didn’t observe. It was pretty awesome to experience the distinctions all within one region of the country.


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The first city on the lake we visited was Panajachel. We parked on a wide open grass field right on the lake, which the pups–mainly Olivia–loved. I was swooning with the American-stocked organic grocery, weekly BBQ, pop up shop of woven vendors in a parking lot, addicting and artistic coffee at Cafe Loco, and 3 for 15Q pupusas (cheese filled thick corn tortillas topped with the most delicious pickled carrots, cabbage, scallion, and cukes).




We stayed in Pana for 2 weeks, mostly gorging and buying textiles. Most woven goods were made by hand and there were plenty of spots to watch the weavers in action. We took a boat ride across the lake to check out San Pedro La Laguna one day. On two different occasions, we explored the neighboring communities of San Antonio and San Lucas Toliman by motorcycle, eating cheap meals overlooking the lake and even playing dress up in traditional regional wears with a local shop owner.



Toby and Chloe met us at the grassy field in Pana and we all took a van to the famous market town of Chichi. Everyone had been telling us how unbelievable this market was, that it was the biggest in Guatemala, on and on. I must admit, I was disappointed. To me, it seemed just like any other market we’d been to, small cobbled streets lined with some crappy/some good vendors. The street food was lacking (boo) but Hani was very proud of the deal he got on an antique wooden mask. My favorite part of the market was the gym-turned-produce-stalls. We watched from above the bustle and bright colors of women scurrying from vendor to vendor buying tomatoes and onions and bananas. The smell–scallions mixed with cilantro–was heavenly.

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After 2 weeks in Panajachel, we drove around the lake to San Pedro La Laguna. The road AROUND the lake was perfect: paved, two lane highway. The turnoff DOWN to the lake towns was something else: hairpin switchbacks on 45 degree downward sloped semi-paved roads that of course led you straight through the center of these tiny villages (we overheated on the way out the roads were so steep). Since we’d visited San Pedro by boat a few days earlier, we were familiar enough with the town and parked near the gringo businesses at a coffee shop parking lot. Our dirt covered spot was not nearly as magical as our place around the lake but we still had a bit of a view.


We arrived in San Pedro a few days before Semana Santa/ Holy Week and ended up staying a week and a half through the holiday weekend. Toby and Chloe joined us after a day, followed by Sam and Erica of Song of the Road a few days later.


During our time in the village, we played pub quiz twice (winning second then forth place), met some wonderful Americans/Aussies/Canadians turned locals, downed Brooklyn Brewery beers, found some delicious restaurants including an all you can eat breakfast buffet, .70 smoothies, homegrown coffee, great pizzas (finally!!) and mouthwatering gnocchi with fresh sauces. The town had an enormous Israeli presence so we had some tasty hummus and schwarma too. There were a bunch of tourists in San Pedro, more as it got closer to the holiday weekend. They were all confined in an invisible bubble on the streets closest to the water. But walk up the steeeep hill and you’d think you were in a different city entirely. Gone were the tourists and white-run restaurants. The “real” town was very traditional, going all out for Semana Santa.

We parked next to an organic garden and, after eyeing the goods for a few days, I got up the courage to ask the farmer if I could buy some. I pointed and he picked lettuce and radishes and herbs from the earth. One of my best salads!




Everyone gets around by tuktuk. And these aren’t the run of the mill scootered tuktuks. They are all tricked out to the max!


Hani became a student again, enrolling in Spanish classes that definitely improved not only his ability to speak and comprehend Spanish but also his confidence in speaking. He spent the mornings with his teacher Norman, learning verb conjugation, vocab and the like. Now, he has no problems striking up conversations with locals and asking the dumb questions he used to make me ask.



We spent a few days riding the motorcycle to the nearby lake towns of San Juan and San Marcos. San Juan is known for its fine-woven products that are dyed with natural products and leather goods. Hani had a pair of gorgeous leather shoes handmade and I bought flats made of leftover woven goods and tires for soles.


San Marcos is a yoga/hippie smaller town a few miles further down the road from San Juan. Similar to San Pedro, the textiles and art were beautiful Guatemalan-hippie inspired. We walked the pedestrian gringo loop down to the lake and found an awesome crepe and pastry shop where we spent the better part of an afternoon just hanging around.

Our last excursion around the lake was to Santiago. We took a pathetically slow moving boat with Toby, Chloe, Erica and Sam to what was supposed to be the most traditional of all the lake towns. It was market day so we were all pretty pumped to check out a new village. By the time we arrived, the market was done and nothing was going on. At all. We all aimlessly wandered around making our way to a half built bar overlooking the lake. I was bummed–after everything we’d seen in the other towns on the lake, I expected more. Maybe because it was Easter Sunday. Maybe because we realized we paid the increased gringo price for the boat. Maybe because we didn’t hit the right streets. Whatever the case, I could have done without that trip. Though the boat ride was pretty. But slow. Did I mention that?


I’m definitely looking forward to visiting Lago Atitlan again. And next time, I will at least touch my toes in the water.


26 Apr

Happy trip-iversary to us!

One year ago today, we drove out of Key West with plans of a one year trip up to Alaska, down to Panama, ending in a move to Austin, Texas. I never expected that a year later, we’d be in Antigua and finishing our month and a half stay in Guatemala, looking forward to crossing into El Salvador in the morning.

Four countries and 23,000
miles later, we’re still going strong.

Life is funny like that. You never know how long “a years trip” will really be. And we kind of like it that way. We made it to Alaska. We’re making our way slowly to Panama (we WILL make it to Panama). And as far as relocating, welllll we’ll just see where we land.

So here’s to more months (years?) on the road, more memories, and to many more adventures in Skyhorse!



Random thoughts/ month 11

4 Apr


Sorry this post is so belated. I was heading to NY when this should have been up and got sidetracked. Half this month was full of gorgeous green scenery and natural water formations. The other half was spent dealing with a set of truck issues that I’ve avoiding documenting (until now) and been dreading to acknowledge. This month we:

+ left the beach and traveled through the jungle state of Chiapas. We spent 13 days traveling there and could have easily spent 13 more. The region was just so incredibly lush and rich with culture and beauty.

+ visited an orphanage. Hogar Infantil boasts free parking for RVers, which draws a bunch of travelers to the grounds in Ocozocoautla. They school and house not only orphans but also Chiapan kids who live in rural areas and wouldn’t receive schooling otherwise. There is a farm, animals and gardens on the property. We walked the dogs around one day and the boys from one house swarmed us! Everyone wanted to either throw a stick for Olivia or hold Shae’s leash and treat her like a doll. The kids were beyond sweet, calling us Tia and Tio, and I seriously wanted to take them with us. They operate on donations. If you’d like to donate, visit: www.hogarinfantil.org


+ threw up for this first time on this trip, a major milestone for me, as I get motion sick a lot. But this wasn’t motion sickness. I caught the plague in San Cristobal de las Casas and I have no idea what caused it. Felt nauseous one moment and was hanging out the back door the next. And I couldn’t stop. It was awful.

+ drove Mex 199 between San Cristobal and Palenque. We’ve heard rumors of roadblocks and “tolls” along this stretch and to proceed with caution. Some travelers we know avoided this road because of the warnings. But we decided to go for it. We locked everything up, carried a small amount of money and didn’t so much come across a single person on this entire road. Hani was disappointed.

+ skipped the Yucatan and Belize. We debated about where we were going after Palenque, Mexico for a while and opted against going to the touristy Yucatan and pricey Belize. We heard that boondocking isn’t easy in the Yucatan and we weren’t crazy about seeing a hundred more ruins. As for Belize, I would have loved to learn to dive (Hani is already certified) but that would have forced us to commit to one week in a hotel on an island where the diving is best. $2,000+ for one week just isn’t in the cards right now.

+ said goodbye to Mexico and crossed into Guatemala on March 12.
Last tacos in Mexico: delish! Probably the best we had during our time in Mexico.

That was an interesting border experience. As I wrote before, leaving Mexico was a snap. The building was new, everything was clearly marked and stamp–we were on our way. Entering Guatemala…welllll, let’s just say we learned what not to do at the border: DON’T call the fees “shit” even if you think they are. DON’T start a shoving match with locals. And DON’T move cones away from the front of your vehicle and start your engine after the “officials” tell you to stay. I’m surprised we were let into the country. In our defense, no one wore uniforms so it was hard to tell the officials from the official idiots sitting around asking for “border fees,” the “bank” didn’t have cash and I had to exchange pesos for quetzales from a tuktuk driver, and was sent a ways to make copies. The buildings, if you can even call them that, consisted of a two trailers, what looked like a old food truck and a palapa. No flag, no “customs is here” sign. Nada. Because, I mean really, no one crosses at El Ciebo. It’s not even on our maps.


+ are in love with Guatemala. It’s very much like Chiapas, Mexico–green and mountainous with great traditional food and clothing. The women are dressed to the 9s in traditional skirts and lacy or woven tops, cinched at the waist. They carry bundles of food or wood on their heads. And some do this barefoot. Bad. Ass. The people are incredibly friendly too. Everyone wishes you a good day with a smile. And every view is breathtaking, even as you are driving the crappiest road ever.
And the country-wide ice cream brand…
I mean, come on! These people know me!

+ explored Tikal, the impressive jungle ruins in northern Guatemala. We’ve seen our share of ruins at this point but the experience here was so different from the ones in Mexico. We parked outside Tikal (no dogs are allowed in the park) and moto-ed the 17ish miles at 5:30 am. Yes, you read that correctly. 5:30 AM! First time we’ve used the alarm this entire trip! Everyone said the park gets insanely hot once the sun is up so it’s best to go early. So we did. Turns out, it was a very overcast chilly day and even rained a bit (which was nice!) so it didn’t really matter what time we arrived. Go figure. But the park was pretty amazing. The ruins are tucked into the jungle even more so than at Palenque and you can climb up the majority of them. The views were spectacular from above watching the jungle below awake. We heard and saw a ton of shrieking howler monkeys. The rain kept most tourists away which made the park was pretty peaceful.

DSC_0027 DSC_0033 DSC_0062  DSC_0077 DSC_0038 DSC_0089 DSC_0092 DSC_0141

view from the bottom

view from the bottom

view from the top

view from the top


+ headed to Rio Dulce and enjoyed a cool marine town. Hani marveled at all the sailboats while I lounged around and had a gigantic piña colada. We parked on a open lot with our back doors open to the river. From 2 to 6 daily, the wind picked up and rushed through Skyhorse. Best air conditioning yet!

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+ took a very expensive, but gorgeous, boat ride to see the very poor town of Livingston, where the Rio Dulce meets the Atlantic Ocean. We passed communities tucked into the mangroves that reminded me of “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” Lily pads, thermal waters, a cave and then Livingston, a town divided. Less than half the inhabitants are Guatemalans. They run the boats, the restaurants and majority of hostels and hotels. The majority on the island are Garifuna, descendants of African slaves and Carib Indians, brought to the area in times of slavery and since remained. They have their own culture, language, separate community and delicious cuisine. We met one of the Garifuna community heads while we were walking around and he gave us a tour of the area. It was eye opening to see how poor the people are (their school blew away a few years ago in a hurricane and have no money nor government assistance to rebuild) yet how happy and giving they can be. We had a scrumptious meal of tapado (seafood/banana soup with a coconuty broth), coconut bread and coconut black beans and rice. A-ma-zing!



+ went to a hot waterfall and gorgeous canyon on Lago de Izabal. Hot water flowed off cliffs into cool limestone pools. Standing under the falls felt like a shower. Fab. At the canyon, we took a kayak until the rocks prevented a further ride then walked/swam even more down the river. Looking up was unbelievable.


Then things got shitty…

+ took what looked on the map to be a short road from the waterfalls/canyon to Semuc Champey. Only this road–all 46 miles of it–is uphill, one lane with massive potholes and rocks and just horrible all around. It was by FAR the worst road we’ve been on to date. We drove literally 10 miles every hour. And at 6:00, we found a small clearing off the road and parked for the night with 30 miles left to our destination of Semuc Champey.

bumpy and blurry and concentrating like crazy

bumpy and blurry and concentrating like crazy

+ busted the transmission hose. The next morning we were up and ready to go and Hani noticed we were dripping a red oil, transmission oil. I guess the hose had been rubbing against some part under there and sprung a leak. And of course it’s a special kind of hose, the ONE kind that we don’t have as spare. Hani appoxyed the hole. Wait a few hours. Then a different appoxy. Wait a few more hours. No go. Now it’s 4:00 and we’re literally in the middle of nowhere and can’t leave. But hang on–there’s a construction site right up the road! I walked with Olivia, the scaredy-beagle, as security to the site looking for a mechanic. After a few moments, two guys came to our rescue. This pair swiftly cut off the bad part of the hose and said they’d return the next day with a way to reconnect everything. AN HOUR LATER, they were back, having welded some connection together to secure the existing good parts of the hose! They put everything back together and we were up and running. They even recommended a place in the nearest city (4 hours away) where we could buy a new hose. And then they didn’t want anything in exchange for all their assistance!! I was blown away! I mean, we are completely at their mercy with no way to get moving, they fix us using their manpower and machines and don’t want money–crazy! We stuffed some bills in their hands and they even came back the next morning to make sure we were all set.

+ continued on to Semuc Champey, a series of natural limestone aqua pools high in the mountains surrounded by lush jungle. To get to the park, you drive 6 horrifyingly disastrous miles from the town of Lanquin and then across a rickety bridge that has concrete barriers on either side and low (for us) hanging cables, all of which greatly reduced our turning radius onto the bridge. We just couldn’t get on the bridge. But kept trying. And I’m the world’s worst navigator. I started the nightmare by making Hani crash the passenger front bumper into one of the concrete barriers which cracked right next to the headlight and broke the hood latch in half. As if that wasn’t enough, I had him back up into the cables that tore off one solar panel completely and shattered another. I was a wreck. Hani was livid. The locals watching were silent. Needless to say, we didn’t attempt to cross the bridge again.


+ fixed the truck. We spent the entire next day on the roof of Skyhorse parked next to the offending bridge reattaching the solar panel that had come completely off and taped up the panel that had shattered (thanks Kuypers). During this time, we were accosted by locals, yelling up to us on the roof, to buy chocolates and beer. The next morning we fiberglassed the front bumper inside and out and finally went into Semuc Champey while it dried. After all we had gone through the past few days, we barely enjoyed ourselves and kept saying that even though the pools were cool, we had seen more spectacular ones and the horrific travel/damage coming to this stupid site wasn’t worth it.




the uncrossable bridge

the uncrossable bridge

+ replaced the transmission hose and did some random maintenance on the truck in Coban. We got new front break pads and a new fuel primer for the fuel filter over the course of 2 days.

+ bought 2 new (used) tires. The road from hell tore up our tires and 10s are hard to come by. Luckily, we got them for a good price because no one uses them.

+ parted ways for a long weekend. Hani dropped me at the airport in Guatemala City as I flew to NY for a friend’s bachelorette party and he continued on to Lago Atitlan. He claims he missed me, but after the heinous preceding week and a half, I think he was needing a break from my stupidity. It was weird being apart. After all, we’ve been attached at the hip for the past 11 months. As I was  having culture shock being in an insanely huge city, Hani hung out at a spot on the lake in Panajachel.