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Taste of Freedom

0 °C
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Saying the truth - I’m excited to return to this marvelous trip and remember it in details again. Real-time dairy and photos would help me to reconstruct it correctly and I hope to complete this blog one day. It's going slowly and few summers passed. Meantime I travel and deal with another destinations. I was surprised to found that I mentioned in travel dairy another details than I use to keep in my mind. So, I do my best to complte the dry and detailed description with fluorescent memory-sticks. I miss Latin America. I will be back...

Winter 2005 Andre and me left to Central America. An original plan was to stay in Latin America for longer and drop down into South America, but Andre’s work didn’t allow such a long vacation and we were forced to make it shorter, just about a month instead of planned 3-4 months. Time-limitation and low budget made us extremely strict in choice of destination and length of stay, and finally we choused 2 countries: Guatemala – because it covers 99% of all Latin-American attractions and Honduras – as it’s one of the most famous & cheapest (good combination!) Caribbean dive. Couple of days before taking tickets I have seen photos of Nicaragua and immediately fault for this country. The deal was done with arriving Guatemala, going through Honduras and leaving from Nicaragua.

Posted by vanessa 03:01 Tagged preparation Comments (0)


The flight with Continental

View CENTRAL AMERICA: Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua 2005 & ISRAEL - all around on vanessa's travel map.

We had a choice to fly with Iberia via Spain or with Continental via US. Except of some difference in price (Continental was little bit cheaper) it was pretty same trip – about 2 days way with connections and change of time zone. Iberia is extremely popular for Latin American destinations, so, we begun with it. But travel-agencies that sold Iberia service by awful way. It drove us out. Continental were polite, accurate and very straight-mind. We appreciated it and were not disappointed – all the flight was managed by the best way.

28/01/2005, Friday
At 9PM friends picked us up to the airport. The 3rd terminal was barely new. It looked ultra-modern, big and shiny. At this hour there were only some departures, airport was not crowded and we have got luxury service and personal attention.
At 23:55 our plain left and 5 mins later the new day begun. Goodbye, home! Adios!

29/01/2005, Saturday
We enjoyed flying with “Continental”: service was good and food was eatable. We tried to sleep long 11 hrs of way to Newark (NY). In NY we had a connection to Guatemala City.
Newark (NY) airport also was new, very big and organized pretty good. We wished to get out to New York, but it was freezing (–12C) outdoors and we were not equipped for winter.
So we decided that we’d better stay into the airport.
It's 10 hours (back) difference between Isr and US. We were pretty tired and had some jetlag already in NY.
At 10AM (NY time) we got another plain to GUA (Guatemala City)
The second plain was much smaller then the 1st one and most passengers were Guatemalans. They bolded in the airport with their atypical dress and dark faces. All of them were smiling and laughing all the way to GUA. They smiled also to us and tried to communicate us in Spanish. 5 hrs passed fast and we landed in Guatemala

Posted by vanessa 16:55 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

Buenas Tardes, mia Guatemala!

Landing in GUA (Guatemala City) and travel with Chicken Bus

sunny 24 °C
View CENTRAL AMERICA: Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua 2005 & ISRAEL - all around on vanessa's travel map.

We are mucheleros (=backpackers).
Guatemala met us with sunny and warm day. (+ 24C - i'd say some contrast after -12C in NY).
We stepped out from the airport, ignoring taxi-drivers that tried to catch us, and (attention, it's historical moment!) got our first "Chicken Bus" - to go to Antigua.
Chicken Bus is the main public transport in Central America. In Guatemala chicken buses are especially colorful and attractive. They are former American school busses after upgrade: standard 2 rows of 2x sits taken out and changed on narrow sits for 2 rows of 3x sits. Buses are richly painted and colored outside and inside. Each bus is an art-piece; it’s decorated with paints and slogans, often of religious context. Chicken buses are noisy and unsteady, their capacity is unlimited, bus can contain as many passengers as need be picked up.

Driving in Guatemala is kind of challenge. Roads are mostly of a poor condition, with many curves, sometimes not paved. That’s why Guatemalan bus drivers are mostly muchachos ("heroes" and macho). Bus driver is entirely busy with steering wheel, no one could bother him.

All other tasks are responsibility of assistant.
Assistant is the second important figure in Chicken Bus crew, after The Driver.
Assistant is responsible for entrance and exit of passengers and about their luggage and their tickets.
There are almost no regular bus stops in Guatemala. If one needs to catch a bus – he just hitchhikes it, making signs of wish to join. Destination is written on the bus, but hardly could be seen because of over-decoration; so assistant is hanged in the opened bus door (while bus is moving!) and shout loudly “Antiguaaaa… Antiguaaaa…” (or another name, depends the bus destination). Bus immediately stops if somebody waving with hands and collects them. When all passengers are inside he cries: “Yalla, yalla!” and bus begin to move. Once a 10-15 mins assistant passing into the bus to collect fare from passengers. He calculates with speed of computer, never mistake or forget a change and always knows who already paid and who didn’t. Don’t ask me how he remembers each one’s destination and recognizes each one’s luggage (all is looking the same) on the roof, but he does. Assistant is getting your luggage and ordering and tying it to the bus’s roof while the bus continue movement. When it is done, he is slipping down into the bus - to continue his duties. If situation on the road getting unclear or unpleasant – assistant pulls down colorful hand-made textile rope and the bus yells as passionate elephant.

I have to admit that this photo is not mine, but i love it very much!
look at the driver (in the mirror) – doesn’t he sleep?

Chicken bus photo

People enter to the bus. Many of locals immediatelly fall to sleep. Others chatting with each other, all the time smiling. The first impression - it's no pressure here, even in the capital city. People seems friendly and helpful, but shy. Bus passed in Guatemala City. There were noisy streets with furniture markets at the both sides of road. All this looked unexpensive and dusty.

Bus became more and more crowded with every minute. People set down very close to each other. Each 2 minutes bus stopped to get one more passenger – some of them were sale-men or beggars. Both tried to make some money. What was amazing in this hot and crowded bus – nobody looked pressured or angry; people kept absolute serenity on their faces. After an hour of jumping on curve road our bus finally arrived bus "terminal" behind the Mercado Municipal of Antigua...

Posted by vanessa 04:08 Archived in Guatemala Tagged bus Comments (0)

Antigua Guatemala - day one

just arrived...

sunny 24 °C
View CENTRAL AMERICA: Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua 2005 & ISRAEL - all around on vanessa's travel map.

... After an hour of jumping and shaking on the curve roads, the bus finally arrived Antigua. Covered with smooth cloud of dust, making stops each 200m, the bus passed several extremelly narror streets and finally stopped on the "terminal" behind the Mercado Municipal of Antigua.

Imagine you numerous chicken buses parked around dusted square. Right there, on the ground, running market. Between buses and sellers other people pulling their luggage and their kids (women often keep huge baskets on their heads); around it streets without names and no one speaks English. … Wow…for a while we felt lost. After 2 days of journey, with terrible jetlag, heavy backpacks and empty stomachs - we only pried for two things: to put our backpacks down and to pee as soon as possible.

Antigua is a very well preserved Colonial City in Guatemala. The City is surrounded by three volcanos nearby, one of them in activity. The city is filled with cobblestones, gorgeous colonial buildings and with its beautiful Mayan people.


We booked online hospedaje (hostel) "Jungle Party". 2x room with shared facilities cost us 14$ USA/ night/room. This price included lovely breakfast! The room was very basic and didnt have a window, but wall was colored in blue and decorated with buquet of dry roses. The place was pretty clean, friendly and cozy and, the most important, in shower was REAL HOT WATER (electricity boiler)! They run a small bar as well.
Oscar - bearded smiling guy that worked in hospedaje, guided us about places to eat and about internet connection.

...doors into rooms. it's small hospedaje, about 6 double-rooms.

Patio, place for rest, for breakfast and for meeting other travellers.


hammocks in the patio

:) :) :) EL PAPATURRO restaurant


Ahh, this one was good!!!
Decked with authentic wooden furniture in colonial old-Spanish style, El Papaturro was looking so cute and welcoming that we immediately fault in love with.
The space has some terraces or levels, and through the door u can see sweet private patio with small fountain in the center and white puppy playing near.
The restaurant serves Guatemalan and Salvadorian food of excellent quality. It’s a little bit expensive related to Guatemalan street-food, but price is really symbolic if you compare to Europe, US or other Western place. The owner and the waiter – Eduardo, didn’t speak much English, but he was a very nice person. We successed to understand each other in the best manner.

I have to report you this meal!
There were:
Smooth black-beans soup with circle of fat white cheese in the middle,
Then came rolls filled with chicken, vegetables and cheese – all composed with any remarkable souse,
Continued with absolutely amazing grill meat & sausages served with rise, avocado and beans + some garlic bread at the side.
Beer and fresh-made (by Eduardo – right against our table) lemonade .. oh, folks, I swear, lemonade alone worse a visit to Guatemala!
The last accords came with petite espresso with such wonderful aroma & taste that only Eduardo from Antigua knows to prepare!Guatemala is a world-known for it’s coffee and coffee is really good!
The food was just delicious and place and service was great!
For those, who like to know prices - All this lunch for 2, incl fat tip cost us Q160 – about 25$ (2005)

:) :) :) INTERNET
Internet cafes on every corner in Antigua. Prices are reasonable and similar in all places: Q5-10/hr (all prices relevant for 2005)

Posted by vanessa 07:01 Archived in Guatemala Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Antigua Guatemala - day two

to awake in Antigua

sunny 25 °C
View CENTRAL AMERICA: Guatemala-Honduras-Nicaragua 2005 & ISRAEL - all around on vanessa's travel map.


I had terrible jet-lag (7 hours back), awoke at middle-night and hardly could wait to the sunrise. But it was not the only disturbing factor at first night. The coming day happen to be Sunday - the church bells begun to ring in 4AM – to awake people for Sunday morning pry. Most of Guatemalan are proud Catholics. Religion attributes looks naïve and colorful, and often mixed with “pagan” habits, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t take it seriously. About 0,5 an hour before the bells, in completely darkness, silly rooster awoke and became to prepare to sunrise. He made terrible voices, but kept trying to sing each 0,5 hour with not-Latin accuracy. With delay of 15 minutes church’s bells remembered to citizens to awake for mass. This concert was continued till sunrise, then suddenly stopped and day begun.


With entrance of the first light I slipped away from the hostel – to explore awaking Antigua.

I prefer to take photos at morning hours, when the day just at the beginning, colors are so soft and street life just begin to awake.


Antigua is so charming with it’s narrow streets, yellow church and colored buildings!
I pictured until camera's battery was done & I had to return to hospedaje for charge.

Guatemalans are miniature, very nice and extremelly delicate. They send you this shame short smile and immediately take eyes down – don’t be disturbing or naughty. People still wear traditional dress, there are beauuuutiful had-made textiles, decorative, colored and uncomfortable. Also kids and babies dressed in the same way. Women often care their baggage (huge buckets!) on the head and their babies on the back, put inside these multicolored textiles. They are so photogenic and unusual in their colorful dress!!!....
but Guatemalans don’t like to be photographed!
They would not being agressive, but they will try to escape from photography in every possible way. In villages people even believe that it “takes their life”. Taking their photos extremely fascinates, but as it annoys them so very much – I kept it just watching. If you want to take a photo of someone - better ask for permission.
It's always a chance that they accept.
Local people, and especially children, sometimes make a business from photography – after you'll take a shot, they ask for Quetzal (small local coin)

The only one who was happy to pose – was the chicken bus, bus-driver even got slower when he had seen me with camera and turned the bus into photogenic position. Every bus decorated by different way, I think drivers are proud with their buses, it's definitely personal.

Ah, what a beautiful yellow church in Antigua! About 5:30AM the parking area near the church was full with people. Some families arrived by car, others by bicycle, by bike, by scooter or by feet.
Everybody was dressing holiday-shirts.

Bicycle parking near the church


This church is decorated with so much fantasy and love, that no one could stay impassive. Unexpected and various shapes of windows, ornaments of cacao and flying birds, and dazzling yellow color – spectacular!


After charging camera and our stomach (it’s loveliest breakfast in “Jungle Party!”) we continue to walk. One of most popular attractions in Antigua is climbing volcano, but as we were continuing to Nicaragua later, we decided that we’d do it in Nicaragua (and didn’t mistake).
Antigua is very touristy, but somehow it doesn’t bother. There are some good Spanish schools; mass of internet-cafes, and the entire environment is adapted to needs and wishes of travelers. Most travelers are young backpackers - under their 30th, but it’s no rule about age and origin. Multi-language community of visitors seems satisfied and happy there.

We passed in the center, where I took some more photos

of beautiful lines of Antigua

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of reach decorated doors and windows - to fillfull my doors& windows collection


of green patio (any public place, not sure what is there, probably offices)


of the Central Park - main point of meeting and discussion of citizens


And local habitants who didnt mind to be pictured.


It was about noontime, when we suddenly heard loud music (mostly brass instruments and drum) and fireworks. In a while the procession appeared.
It was very impressive: big group of people with serious faces, all dressed white shirts, were caressing wooden doll of Madonna. She was dark-skinned and had a typical indigena face. Huge, dressed in blue figure, was connected to the moving lorry and was waving with scaring amplitude with each move.


Then orchestra walked. Big tuba, colored in blue, thrillingly yelled, drum trembled air with powerful “BUM”s and other instruments helped to keep the high volume.

Surrounded by serious and dandified indigena, Madonna wandered and disappeared in the end of the street.

We had a lunch in plain restaurant, where mostly dined city-hall clerks.
Meal was cheap and tasty. I was satisfied because they served potato there.
NowI have to tell you about local food – so-called “Comida Corriente”

(= typical local meal)
Actually, comida corriente is similar for all the region, but it has little differences (let’s call them “accents”) in other countries.
Guatemalan comida includes:
Pollo – (spells as “poyo”) - it’s chicken, usually fried in oil.
Rice and beans.
Tortias (corn bread).
Sometimes some salad.
Prices for “pollo con ares” may vary between 50 cent (street food, fresh but oily and served into banana leaf or nylon pocket) to 5-6$ in the restaurant. (prices were relevant for 2005!)
Beef, often called with different names, “carne”, “asado” (don’t expect to receive real asado!), etc ; usually small portion and hard to eat.
At general food is basic and very cheap and always fresh!

Fresh juice, made right on the street, costs 50 cents (US)! And WHAT a juice!!! Fantastic! :D

After lunch we continued walk in direction of coffee-plantation in hope to see it and very fast found ourselves out of “tourist zone of activity”. There were another church – much more plain and a bit shabby and little market – not a tourist attraction, just a market. They sale fruits and vegetables there, as well textiles and some crafts needed in home-keeping: large wooden fruits colored in strong aniline colors, Jesus(es) of all sizes and other religion stuff, etc. Right there women cooked on open fire in big pots and sold it in portions.

The only disappointment was lack of avocado. L Am is the mother-land of this fruit and I expected to have a variety of tastes and low prices. At the whole market, there were only few sellers of avocado, it cost 1-2$ /per fruit (expensiiiivveeee!!!) and was hard as a stone :-(

G_Antigua071.jpg G_Antigua075.jpg


Posted by vanessa 08:51 Archived in Guatemala Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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