Monthly Archives: September 2013

Day 92 – San Cristobal, MX to Tapanatepec

Day 92 – Thursday, September 26, 2013

We awoke early this morning in our Pemex campsite on the main highway in San Cristobal after returning there after dinner. We ran a few errands in the morning for groceries and supplies and were on our way about 8:30 AM. The drive today was one of the most scenic drives we have taken. The mountains from San Cristobal to Tapanatepec were spectacular and as a bonus, the day was mostly sunny. Julie notes “We’ve been saving the ‘spectacular’ description for a day like today. This used to be a heavily used road but they have made another route for trucks, etc. So not only was the scenery ‘spectacular’ but the highway was in excellent condition and very little traffic so we were both able to enjoy the scenery. Lots of switchbacks and climbs and did we mention spectacular views.”

We stopped at a tourist area called Chorreadero to view the underground river and waterfall that comes roaring out of the mountain. This is the off/rainy season and the water was very fast and high but that may have made it even more spectacular. We could not hike to all the areas due to the high water but our guide showed us the highlights in the half an hour we had to spend there. Julie notes “Plus we weren’t expecting a hike and I was wearing flip-flops. Brad’s perfect opportunity to stage ‘an accident’ on the slippery rocks. But there was that one witness.”

Our Pemex campsite on the highway in San Cristobal, MX

Some of the views from our drive.

They were making charcoal under these burning earth mounds.

Above the clouds

Chorreadero tourist area.

Julie notes “I tried to convince Brad to pose on these steps for a picture. In the dry season you can hike to caves back behind the falls and there are guided underground river raft tours ranging from about a 6 hour tour to a 14 hour tour. Hard to imagine the water being low and calm enough for that. Right now you’d shoot out of there like a greased watermelon from a greased watermelon cannon. (Sorry couldn’t think of a good analogy that didn’t involve birthing.)”

Julie’s laundry on the line shot for today. Actually, there were several in the 160 pictures she took today that took me forever to download but I’m not one to complain. Julie notes “Hmmm, I seem to recall some wining, but look, he even got to be in this one.”

The Pacific in the distance.

The municipal office and Post Office in Tapanatepec.

The municipal office girls who agreed to mail our postcards tomorrow when the post office opens. Julie notes “Finding post offices is almost as hard as finding laundry mats (although in the last few towns we’ve been tripping over lavenderias around every corner). So to those of you receiving post cards, if Rosa, Roxanna, and Mirabelle keep their part of the bargain, there will be Honduras and Guatemalan post cards mailed from Mexico on their way soon. These ladies didn’t like the books in the background for their picture but I think it looks very official.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “I can’t believe Brad forgot to mention our trip down to a restaurant by the river where he dabbled in a little horno-graphy. Oh yes, the proprietor allowed him to go and check out the huge, rounded horno oven where they cook their specialty fish, Lisa (the name of the fish) de Horno (baked). We decided however to try the 2 course meal at the restaurant near our downtown campsite. Great choice. The atmosphere in the old Spanish building was cool, both in ambience and temperature. We were having a hard time acclimatizing to the heat again after being in the highlands for a while. And the food! A light pasta with butter and cheese first course, followed by amazing spicy meatballs in a green sauce with rice and local veggies. Mmmmm One of the best meals I’ve had on the trip so far. Mmmm I wonder if they’re open for breakfast at 6:00 ?”


Day 91 – Wednesday, September 25, 2013

We left the border shortly after Julie and I were able to get our immigration permits to enter Mexico. It was the same guy dealing with us. It was still a slow process but much faster than last night. I promise I will never ever complain about the Canadian – US border again. Julie notes “Well you know that will just mean he will find something else to complain about. But of course nothing about me as I am perfect.”

We arrived around noon and completed a few errands at the mall in San Cristobal. Instead of taking a taxi from the mall into the heart of the city, our guide decided we should drive into the city and see if we could find a parking spot. DO NOT DO THIS. Julie notes “DO NOT DO THIS!!!” We were instructed to drive about 6 blocks one way to a market area while he took a different route to try and find parking for RVs. Julie notes “WHY DO WE LISTEN TO THIS GUY? But we did.” After the 6 blocks we were forced into some very narrow streets with lines of cars behind us. The first obstacle was having to climb a 12″ curb to skirt by a poorly parked vehicle. Then the nightmare really started. Streets got very narrow, Julie was getting lines of vehicles to back up while I tried to allow oncoming traffic to pass. Julie notes “This is really outside my comfort zone but enjoyed all the honking and can now add ‘traffic control’ to my resume when I need to get my new job to pay for the vehicle damage.” I apologize to the building owner whose eave that used to hang over the street and is now partly missing. Please just keep the plastic trim from my awning in exchange. There may also be other damage in various areas of San Cristobal from my camper jacks. It was simply not possible to stop and see if there was real damage or not. After an hour of street rodeo, we made it back to the mall parking lot. Julie notes “We deeply appoligize! If you are reading this, Damaged Property Owners, we will give you the name and email address of our guide who directed us down there and I am sure he will happily cover any costs. L

We checked Trip Advisor for a good nearby restaurant with the criteria that it was within WALKING DISTANCE. Having found such a place we headed down a kilometre of side streets only to realize the location on the Trip Advisor / Google map was incorrect. Julie notes “We can’t blame our guide for this so we will blame the Google Maps guy. I bet you he has some kind of camera attached to his mapping system and laughs and laughs when he sees people like us wandering aimlessly about asking pharmacy delivery guys on motor bikes if they can help us. He said and I quote ‘take a taxi’.”

We headed back to the mall and hailed a cab to the city centre. From there we again checked Trip Advisor and found a highly rated restaurant that actually was within walking distance. Lucky for us because by that time we really needed a drink! The food was fantastic and its rating on Trip Advisor was well deserved. I think it was called TierrAdentro. Julie notes “Well we almost didn’t make it to this one either as Google maps was slightly off and Brad’s Spanish is slightly off and when we asked directions from a fellow on the street he was really not sure what we were looking for. I said, in my calming, practical manner ‘Let’s just meander a bit further down the street before we give up, my darling honey bunch. I do believe I spy a few more eating establishments in that direction.’ And low and behold. There it was. (this may be paraphrased somewhat). It was a great find. I am not sure what we were supporting by eating there. Seemed to be a bit of an underground vibe but we’re cool man.”

Camping at the Guatemala/Mexican border – not in either country really. We had exited Guatemala but not yet entered Mexico. What do you call people with no country to call home? Julie notes “I think the answer to that currently is ‘The Emonds”.

Julie finally saw a macaw or toucan or some kind of bird she had missed in Tikal. Julie notes “See I knew he hadn’t actually seen a real toucan or he would recognize this one perched on top of this gas market sign. It almost looks unreal with that circle around it and then jungle and clouds building behind.”

We think this was a well where a mother and daughter were getting water. Julie notes “Yes just after this shot she swung the white and green container up onto her head. These containers are fiberglass and not pottery but try carrying one on your head for a while. If you want. Lots of corn here of course and it grows ‘as high (and probably higher) as an elephant’s eye’. Who knows what musical that is from? Hint I was in it in high school and played the part of ‘chorus girl with one line, that she didn’t project loudly enough’.”

Landscape in southern Mexico.


Water fill day at the mall. Julie notes “Glug, glug, glug. A nice fellow from the water company is holding the funnel (In case you thought Brad had 3 hands) leaving me free to do the hard job of taking pictures of them.”

A wide street in San Cristobal. Due to the state of extreme stress we were unable to take pictures of the narrow streets. Julie notes “I wanted to but even I knew that might cross the limit. And notice the clouds building, inside and outside of the truck.”

Julie notes “And what’s a disaster story without a good flood. The streets were running with water. But to the folks here this is just a typical afternoon downtown. (Except for that Gringo and his big ass truck stuck in the streets).”

Dinner at TierrAdentro restaurant Julie notes “Okay they called this a marguerite but really it was just a really big tequila shooter. I was ddddrrrrrrrrrrrruuuuuuuunnnnnk. Fell asleep sitting up waiting for Brad to complete his blogging portion.”

And our final advice for today is “Don’t go to this guy for your dental work, OK?” Julie notes “Seriously? Who would let this guy near your mouth?”

…over and out the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “Time for a new phone card now that we are in Mexico. It has been quite the phone service experience since we bought our unlocked phone in El Salvador. Trying to understand the plans and get data and some countries only allow text within the country and buying lots of data or not enough data and not understanding the Spanish warning and update messages coming into the phones and we’ve received only 3 phone calls but we still aren’t sure how to answer them on this phone. So don’t call us. And don’t call us and leave a message because we’re not sure how to get those either and do you suppose they translate them all to Spanish? We’ll never know now will we?”

Day 90 – Panajachel to San Cristobal

Day 90 – Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Today we left Panajachel at 9:30 headed for San Cristobal in Mexico. This meant a long driving day and another border crossing. We didn’t make it to San Cristobal, MX but at least we made it to the border. After much delay and many phone calls, they decided they would let our truck back into Mexico. The “official” at the border felt he should make a big issue of the vehicle’s weight rating. Of course, they let us into the country at the northern border so could not very well keep us from entering at the southern border. The late start and the border delay made it impossible to make it to San Cristobal. Secondly, after we finally got the permit for the vehicle, their computer system shut down and Julie and I could not get the immigration permit we required. We spent the night at the border station and I was first in line at 8:00 AM to get the necessary $48.00 US (for two) immigration permit. Julie notes “3.5 hours to ‘almost’ finalize our crossing and Brad and our guide were the only customers. I think the customs fellow was hoping for something green to grease the wheels. But the people parked beside us had a worse night as all of their stuff was being searched and confiscated. It’s possible that the ‘100 pairs of flip-flops and slippers, etc. may not have just be souvenirs gifts for the kids. But their loss my gain. Big flip-flop sale, coming soon to a place near us!”

Some pictures before leaving Panajachel and Lake Atitlan.

Julie making another small purchase from a very happy “single mother of 3” vendor. She told us it was slow season and this had been her only sale all week. She was very pleased. Julie notes “She was lots of fun and relentless and her woven fabrics beautiful and made by her mother or at least somebody’s mother. It didn’t hurt that she was named after one of my favourite drinks. Everyone knows I could never turn down a Marguerite.”

Our street front camp site. Julie notes “hmm what’s the hood ornament doing on the back?”

Tortilla makers Julie notes “The best show in town is always the tortilla shop with people coming and going and the steady ‘slap,slap,slap’ of tortillas being made, then flipped on the grill, then flopped into the basket. This thriving business was a few yards from our camping spot above. Went to sleep and woke up early to the aroma.”

On the road. Julie notes “Sure I’ll just reach out and grab your bag from the roof as we’re buzzing down this busy street.”

Julie notes “I am obsessed with taking pictures with laundry on the line. (Note on the top of the yellow building.) As I’ve said before, every day is laundry day here so lots of photo ops. So do you think it may mean I have dirty laundry to air or that I feel hung out to dry or all washed up? More therapy I guess.”

A road washout detour down to the river and then back up to the road.

Heavy rains throughout the afternoon as we travelled through the mountains.

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “I know many of you have missed hearing about our nocturnal adventures. Things have been pretty quiet lately comparatively speaking. Even the border crossing parking lot seemed quite peaceful so while we were just closing our eyes for our forty to sixty winks, not a soul around that we could hear, relaxed and in that drifting off phase, BANG, BANG, BANG! on the door. Brad luckily was wearing his super hero skivvies and leaped directly from the bed to the door, yelling super hero stuff and peeking through blinds and such. Turns out Nicky, Nicky Nine doors is a game in Mexico or Guatemala, depending which side of the border line your toe is over and there was a young kid and his dad, walking nonchalantly up the street. Probably whistling and looking askance. (One of mom’s favourite words.)”










Day 89 – Panajachel on Lake Atitlan

Day 89 – Monday, September 23, 2013

We left Antigua this morning shortly after 7:00 AM heading for the town of Panajachel on Lake Atitlan in highlands of Guatemala. The town is ~1,600m (5,250′) above sea level. Some of the mountain passes we travelled today were over 2,600m (8,530′) high. The mountain scenery and the view of Lake Atitlan on the narrow windy decent to Panajachel is quite spectacular. Julie notes “I have had a bit of a head cold so the mountainous roads played some havoc with my inner ears. At one point, when the pressure was released, they actually squealed. Brad said he heard the noise even from his side of the truck and would back me up when I told this story in front of a large group at a party or somewhere. Now if you know us you may have heard the story of Brad’s supposedly squealing ear drums on a plane, which I supposedly said I heard and then possibly denied in front of a large group at a party. My experience today was however real and I just know Brad will verify that the first chance he gets.”

We are camped near the ferry landing but so far I have avoided any confrontations with the ferry operations here. Remember San Jorge on Lake Nicarauga? If you missed that story you can read about it on our Day 70 – Beached – Part III here

We walked through the town streets this afternoon and were lured into a restaurant by the very outgoing spokesperson coaxing us away from the neighbouring competition. Rule #89; Don’t let personable restaurant spokespeople lure you away from the competition. Lesson learned. Julie notes “I may need to claim a little, well okay all of the blame for that. I am a sucker for a smooth talker with a mustache. So much so, I’m surprised I’m not married to that Magnum PI guy. The red flags were there that I was leading Brad down the path to a bad pizza but I was blinded by his earnest plea to choose them over the neighbour (who had a wood fired pizza oven for goodness sake). Oh well. Luckily I chose Brad back in the day, as I don’t know if that Magnum guy would’ve forgiven me the canned mushrooms, shrimp with shells and crust, not really sure what the crust was made of. Central American handbook Lesson #89.1 ‘Order the local specialties, just like anywhere else in the world, it’s what they’re good at and it’s usually yummy.”

Oh yeah, this is the answer to the mystery question the other day; a large concrete sink, usually outdoors. Julie notes “No winners, so no cement giant sink on the top of our RV to explain to customs. While that ‘sinks’ in, Aunt Doreen correctly answered the banana flower question but instead of bananas would apples be okay as prize? Just before clicking this shot the camper drove under an apple tree and were showered with ripe apples. The next few corners we had more drive by fruitings as the apples rolled off.”

A view of volcano Agua leaving Antigua.

Mountain scenery along the Pan-American highway.

Taking a break along the way. Julie notes “There was a large pen with a squirrel and several rabbits on the grounds of this restaurant. I asked one of grounds men, in my slowly growing Spanish vocabulary, if the rabbits were pets or food? He said ‘oh mascota’ pets. Then a couple minutes later we find out rabbit is most definitely on the menu. Hmmmm maybe he was just sparing their feelings while they were within earshot. With those big ears you’d have to be careful. And does that also mean sometimes squirrel is on the menu? Hmmmm”

More scenery

Lake Atitlan Julie notes “This is where our friend Merriam, who travelled most of the trip with us, was from. She had told us she lived on the most beautiful lake in Central America and I don’t think she was exaggerating.”

A mom with her hands full and the little guy checking out things behind her. Julie notes “Even the babies go gaga when they see ‘the unit’.”

We walked back downtown to Jose Pinguino’s for dinner. Trip Advisor rated it highly plus our daughter Kristin really likes penguins. The food was so-so but the entertainment by these three girls playing marimbas was outstanding.

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick












Day 88 – Kiwi Connection

Day 88 –September Sunday, 22, 2013

We are still in the beautiful old Colonial City of Antigua. The cobblestone streets originating from the 1600’s, the colourful one story buildings, the town squares, trees, shrubs, and flowers, as well as the markets, restaurants and shops, makes this a great tourist town. We had a relaxing day visiting the market, walking through the town, picking up our laundry, having lunch and then finishing the day with a great dinner with some new friends. Julie notes “Brad did have to make the walk to the lavenderia twice for pick up. He didn’t factor in a little Guatemalan time. He showered in the popular but rather unappealing outdoor showers available in the compound so he smelled better for the second trip (everyone was happy about that) and I made him a roast beef sandwich to keep his strength up. That’s a large load of undies or load of large undies, however you look at it, to haul several blocks. We’re never worried they’ll sell them or steal them as has happened in Canadian laundry mats, because there are no giants there requiring huge undies. Only in their Mayan myths.”

Will and Rochelle are a young couple from New Zealand travelling overland from South America to Alaska. We had a chance to visit with them and hear about their amazing adventure. They joined us for drinks and dinner at Meson Panza Verde. It was really nice to get a chance to meet some new people and we thoroughly enjoyed our evening with them. We hope to see them again next winter in Grande Prairie when their travels take them into Canada. You can follow them on their blog at Unfortunately we did not take a picture of them to post but we hope to get a copy of some of their pictures from our dinner. Julie notes “No picture actually because we want to pretend we look the same age. They are really nice kids, outgoing and used to hanging out with all sorts on their travels, even old curmudgeons like us (once we had both showered). And they were very encouraging and informative about completing the South American portion of the trip at some time. And most importantly they laughed WITH us not at us. Well that one’s hard to know for sure, but it felt that way, but I’ve been fooled before. High school was unkind. Oh man! I feel more therapy bills in the future. Okay what were we talking about? Oh yes, Will and Rochelle. We are very much looking forward to crossing paths with them again. (Karen S, if you’re worried about your status, neither offered to read to me.) And also they seemed very excited at the prospect of shovelling snow.”

Our guide arrived this morning from Amatitlan at around 11:00 AM with a new master cylinder installed.

Our camp site in Antigua with our RV and our new friend’s overland vehicle that they purchased in Chile and have outfitted and modified to their needs as they travelled along. Julie notes “I think they too were a bit in awe of Brad’s unit, and even the old carpet was a luxury they haven’t seen for almost a year. We were impressed with the ingenuity and organization involved in their travel unit but I won’t be complaining (at least for a few days) about our living space. ‘Space’ being the operative word.”

Julie notes “We are pretty jealous of the map on the side of their vehicle.”

We thought a hot air balloon would launch from our camp site but instead it stayed tethered to a few vehicles and trees and then was deflated. I think maybe the wind picked up too much to safely launch. It reminded me of all the hot air balloons you see throughout the summer in Grande Prairie. Julie notes “Insert joke here about something else that is often full of hot air, and makes lots of noise when it deflates, and then laugh uproariously.”

The market on a Sunday.

Julie notes “Blue corn tortillas, hot off the presses. And it was hot! I was back in behind them, checking out the wares sweating on their pretty things.”

Julie notes “Bonito colores!”

We made a deal with this tough young negotiator and based on her smile I think she was happier with the outcome than I was! J Julie notes “She was striking a hard bargain while her sister and mom (shown above) were striking the tortillas while the iron griddle was hot. But I finally got my apron after searching 5 countries for one. Now I suppose people will expect me to start cooking or selling my wares. Uh oh on both counts.”

And finally, it is not hard for me to follow my wife through the streets of Antigua. I can see her well above the crowd. Julie notes “Both of these women have probably eaten a lot of guacamole but one of them has been spending way too much time sitting on her butt in a truck. I’ll give you a hint. She is the one who is as round as the other woman is tall. (Note to self – not the sidekick’s best side.)”

…over and out from Antigua, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “For those of you nature lovers out there who have been waiting for updates of our latest exotic bird sightings, the Antigua campground provided us a glimpse of a few more feathery friends. And speaking of feathery friends it also reminded us of Lesson # 88 in the Central American handbook ‘No matter where you are, city or country, you are likely within earshot of a rooster.’ But back to the birds, we spotted ‘The Red Headed Fence Stone-Pecker’ not to be confused with the more common household ‘Hairy Chested Nut Scratcher’ and the Yellow Striped-Feathered Capped-Cuter-Than-Your-Average Sparrow. Previously, when we were in Tikal, Brad and everyone else in our group including the Tikal tour guide, claimed to have seen some Tucans in the trees. I was not able to verify that and suspect they were all probably looking at a Fruit Loops box that had blown into the jungle. Again we are not licensed birders but have seen people play them on TV.”

“And just one more excerpt from the above mentioned handbook, Lesson #1 (and you’ll see why it’s #1 and not #2) ‘Men are allowed to pee wherever and whenever they feel like it. In the open, against the truck, bicycle wheel, fence, house, a rock pile, restaurant wall, a blade of grass but still never, ever against the wind.’ Now as you ladies can attest, they’ve always had the leg up, so to speak, in that particular area but here they can just let it all hang out wherever. Although the shier fellows will slightly turn their head because if they can’t see you then you can’t see them, I figure. Not a condemnation. Just an observation. Well actually many observations. And probably a little jealousy. More counselling you and Dr. Freud would say.”

Day 87 – Colonial Antigua

Day 87 – Saturday, September 21, 2013

We got up this morning and had a quick cup of coffee and yogurt and headed off to the town square fountain to meet our Antigua tour guide at 9:30. Julie note “As usual Brad has skipped over a few details. We WERE ready well ahead of time and planned on a nice coffee in the square while we waited for the tour to begin, then the following scenario unfolded… ‘Don’t bother with your purse.’ he tells me. ‘I have everything we need in the backpack. No I don’t have the dictionary; no you better bring your spare keys. Just take the one for the camper door off the ring and leave the rest behind. Hand it to me. And I will drop it accidentally down behind all of the stuff as I reach into the back seat of the truck. Okay well, I can’t find it and we are now almost late for the tour. Run! Damn it! I don’t care if you’re going to twist your ankle on those wet cobblestones!’ Well at least that is how I remember it.”

We met Roberto and 3 other tour participants as scheduled. Julie notes “One couple was just on vacation in between their gigs as social workers doing wonderful deeds in foreign lands. And the other person was on her way to a 2 week yoga retreat. Then there were the 2 old curmudgeons who have been living in a camper for months. I wonder if strangers would’ve been able to tell who was who just by looking at us? But we all got along famously and it was great to chat in between the tour guide’s comments. I think some of their zen may have rubbed off on us. Feeling much calmer.”

We walked through the old town, a UNESCO World Heritage site, touring churches, hotels, ruins, and crypts and markets. Again, we took close to a hundred pictures today.

Of course, near the end of the tour you visit the Mayan jade jewellery and gift shop. Julie notes “I am usually pretty good at avoiding jewelry and gifts but they had me at ‘Mayan’.” After we escaped the gift shop we headed off for lunch to La Pena del Sol Latino. I tried the Guatemalan traditional dish “Pepian de Pollo”. Julie tried the delicious grouper fish specialty dish. Both were excellent and Mariella, our waitress, associated me with Brad Pitt – both for looks and name, I think? Julie notes “I sell the image by having lips just like Angelina Jolie.”

We found a lavenderia and I dropped off our bag of laundry. Julie notes “This wasn’t the day and a half adventure to find the laundromat like we had had last week, but it was a few wrong turns and extra cobblestone blocks on the old tender tootsies after the morning walking tour.”

I then toured the outdoor market in the pouring rain. People just seem to ignore the rain. The place was very busy, even with the pouring rain, on a Saturday afternoon with all the locals doing some shopping. Julie notes “There is no scramble to get out of the rain here. They may need to cover their wares but for the most part people just keep doing what they’re doing. I myself have been caught in the rain disproving for the most part that I am so sweet I must be made of sugar.”

We then headed off to a nearby “hippy” style restaurant; the Rainbow Café. They had some great live music as we ate and enjoyed a few drinks after a big day of walking. Julie notes “Very Bohemian and there was a great visual right across from our table of how I will look in 20 years when I am getting my groove on to the funky beats and my granddaughter is politely herding me towards the door. I apologize ahead of time Melodie. And speaking of herds, a herd of 12 unicorns came into the bar. True story. We had only had one drink so no pink elephants were with them. They were mostly European unicorns enjoying their last touring night together before heading home. Great costumes and they loved it when Brad photo bombed one of their pictures. I know they wanted us cool cats to hang out but it was already 8 pm and well past our bedtime. So it was goodbye to the unicorns and hello to counting sheep.”

Ruined walls around our camping compound.

An old chained and padlocked door on the compound wall. Julie notes “Wasted a lot time trying to get in here before we found the real entrance. Turns out picking locks isn’t as easy as it looks on TV. McGiver we ain’t but we were sure impressed with added security measure.”

The fountain in the town square at our tour meeting point.

These two little guys were posing for a picture their parents were taking in front of an old cathedral. Julie notes “I tried but they wouldn’t let me keep these 2 precious tykes.”

Ruins of an old cathedral.

Julie notes “Do these ruins make me look younger?”

Typical street scape. Julie notes “These cobbled streets are not recommended for flip flops, high heels, platform or strappy sandals, etc. We’ve seen many a man practically carrying their significant other from one sidewalk to the other. The ladies love their fancy shoes here. The men do too but they don’t usually wear the strappy ones.”

‘Old school’ lavenderia – washing stations in one of the other town squares. Julie notes “I was a little worried this was my only laundry option. Especially since it was beside an old convent. I don’t know how many times my mother told me to ‘get thee to a nunnery’ during my rebellious teenage years.”

Traditionally dressed native men.

More ruins

A young mother on “take your kid to work” day. Julie notes “Selling traditional fruits, drinking a salty traditional soup and carrying the cutest baby ever in the traditional way. They wouldn’t let me have her either.”

Another street vendor telling me how much my wife would like some of her jewellery. Julie notes “She wore me down with her cuteness and I bought a little something. A little something for Melodie since I will likely embarrass her in 20 years or sooner.”

A courtyard in the Hotel Santo Domingo.

…that’s all for today folks, take care, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Brad notes “After empting the entire contents of the truck, I found the key in the last place I looked”. 😉


Day 86 – On to Antigua

Day 86 – Friday, September 20, 2013

We once again awoke in the Turicentro AutoMariscos Water Park. Our guide was off early this morning to get his master cylinder in Guatemala City and arrange installation. He phoned around noon to let us know the part was still held up in customs. We agreed that Julie and I would travel on to Antigua, Guatemala and would meet him there tomorrow or Sunday morning. This was actually Julie’s idea a few days ago. Julie notes “Well I’d say great minds think alike but that would be giving our guide a bit too much credit. I really need to work on this attitude. Maybe once I shed about 200 plus pounds of guia my attitude will improve. ”

We packed up the RV and were on the road again. It felt good to be on the move even if it was only an hour and a half drive. Julie notes “Yes we were very happy to move on. Good bye ants. Hope you all disembarked the camper, otherwise you are going to walking back on those teeny tiny legs from Antigua.”

We found the camping site, the Policia de Turismo parking area. Although it is a large abandoned compound, it is pretty neat. We are surrounded by old stone walls and ruins of bygone buildings. Julie notes “So right now you might say our life is in ruins. Bwahahahaha.”

After getting settled in, and after some research, we walked down to the main square through this beautiful old colonial city. We found a recommended tour company and booked our walking tour of the city, for tomorrow morning. Then we found the hotel and restaurant our guide had recommended. This time his recommendation was a good one. The Posada de Don Rodrigo was an amazing place. The ambience and service were top notch and the food was very good.

We were back to the camper just as the rain started for the night.

Scenery on the way to Antigua.

Sleeping in the back of your truck on the way to the market?

The couple in the car ahead of us stopped to ask if we needed help. We had pulled over at a significant Y in road trying to decide which way to Antigua. They said “Follow us. That’s where we’re going.” So we did. We followed them a few kilometers through a small town and then on to Antigua. They stopped at the entrance to the town and asked more specifically what we were trying to find. They didn’t know the location of the Policia de Turismo lot but asked a policeman standing nearby and directed us right to our spot a few blocks away.

Julie notes “You can’t drive down a skinny street without one of these busses barrelling towards you. Most of the busses and public transport have religious sayings on them and I am thinking that is because you are putting yourself in God’s hands when you board one. Hold on!”

Julie notes “The tall Good Samaritan and Brad, assessing the situation. I think they were actually saying ‘You go ask the policeman. No YOU go ask the policeman. Then they drew straws.”

A street scene Julie took out the front window (like many of our pictures.) I like this one.

Stone walls around our compound.

Dinner at Posada de Don Rodrigo and the adjoining courtyard. Julie notes “Delicious sangria and margarita. And this is where my next wedding is going to be, okay? I’m not sure who to yet but watch for those invites and save the date.”

….over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “I am stuffed. Glad we had to walk several blocks to and from our supper location. Did not wear my Christmas dinner stretchy pants. But it is now only 5 o’clock and it might be bed time! We both have had restless nights wondering what the next step of our journey will entail. There was a family of 4 from France parked beside us when we arrived here and they have left in their vehicle. Will I be able to wait up to see if they return safely? Honkshew, honkshew (snoring noises…)”








Day 85 – Quiet Day

Day 85 – Thursday, September 19, 2013

We don’t have much to report today. We spent most of the day at the RV reading, “putzing”, surfing the net, and checking the vehicle over for our planned departure to Antigua today. We did make a run into Amatitlan for groceries and a few supplies. Other than that, I grilled a big beef tenderloin, and made some baked potatoes and carrots for supper. Julie notes “Supper was fabulous! But since it is a slow news day there a few things I’d like to share from our upcoming book ‘Grocery Shopping in Central America’:

#1 As I eluded to a few days back, margarine, by any other name, can be a surprise to your senses when you first take off the lid. It should be called ‘I can’t believe I bought this instead of butter!’

#2 Speaking of butter, I love the Spanish word ‘mantequilla’ and will from now on refer to butter by its Spanish name only.

#3 All crema is NOT coffee crema. You may find yourselves trying to squeeze sour cream out of a bag into your morning coffee. Not as yummy as you might think. And even when you think you have diligently read the labels each time you shop, somehow you have 3 open containers of sour crema in your fridge and no coffee crema.

#4 Speaking again of coffee crema, you cannot buy a large cup of coffee anywhere but you CAN buy industrial sizes of CoffeeMate, that are just ‘that’ much bigger than the North American size so they won’t fit into your camper pantry.

#5 Every supermarket has armed guards at the doorways and in the parking lots. So far though they have not stopped us to ask what we are using all of that sour cream for.

#6 Requeson means cottage cheese, however as in both the margerina and coffee crema, beware the fine print and be prepared to be flexible with your cottage cheese palate.

#7 Mystery meats are fun, so far.

#8 Don’t let your husband add chocolate and crocodile to the grocery list right after he’s been hearing about Mayan kings and their aphrodisiacs. It turns into a time consuming mission on all counts.

#9 Don’t freak out when you find the eggs in a regular aisle and not refrigerated. Remember there are men with guns just waiting for a reason to use them.

#10 Sweet buns look a lot like our sandwich buns but don’t taste quite the same with mayo and mustard and meat on them. I never thought I’d find a bun Brad didn’t like. The search has ended at Guatemalan sweet buns.

That’s just a little teaser. You’ll have to buy the book for the rest.”

Our guide’s part was to arrive today and he had a mechanic lined up to install it. We would then be off to Antigua. Guess what. The part was here but held up in customs. One more night here, I guess. Julie notes “It’s time to move on. Some teeny tiny ants (and not the cool kind of teeny tiny Aunts) have made their way into our camper. Nothing makes me grumpier than ants in my house except for maybe a guide who keeps telling us fibs.”

My friend, Alejandro, from the RV Park. He is a great guy. He keeps the other employees and guests laughing at his antics; signing, dancing, imitating different animals and their sounds, and joking around. He keeps morale high for everyone around him. Julie notes “This is not a camera trick. This is how Brad looks standing beside most of the people of Central America. Don’t have much trouble losing him in the crowds.”

Preparing our veggies for supper. Julie notes “Doing the recommended decontamination of all fruits and veggies and so far Brad’s diligence has paid off.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick.










Day 84 – Goodbye Barcelo

Day 84 – Wednesday, September 18, 2013

We maximized our luxurious stay at the Barcelo as much as we could. We slept in until almost 8:00 AM. We then headed down to the amazing buffet breakfast and dined on their beautiful outdoor terrace near the pool. A real treat.

Later, we did a bit of shopping for authentic Guatemalan gifts and souvenirs. We had a lot of fun shopping and negotiating with our sales associate and the store manager. Julie notes “The store was filled with beautiful colourful items. And the staff were beautiful and colourful as well. I am not a shopper, as I may have mentioned during our many previous mall stops, but I could’ve spent all day looking at the gorgeous stuff with our sales clerk, Vanessa at my side ‘saying ‘Oh you will love this my friend. How about this my friend. Colours stay good my friend. All hand made my friend.’ And the great thing was they really did make you feel like they were your friends. Brad had a lot of fun haggling with the manager as well who kept saying ‘oh no my friend, that is too low, my friend’ and we left with our pockets a little emptier and our bags a lot heavier.”

It was then time to head back to our home on wheels. I think Julie was sad to leave but we do look forward to sleeping in our own bed. Julie notes “Yes, sad to leave the ambience but happy to be back in my comfy bed, even with the smells of the burning garbage next door et al. The trucks and busses have been celebrating our return as well with some pretty spectacular horn honking and engine breaking and it felt like the helicopters were dipping extra low on their steady flight path to let us know they were glad we were back safely.”

Guatemala City from the 9th floor of the Barcelo Hotel Julie notes “This part of the city looks quite civilized in regards to traffic, etc. Don’t be fooled. Lesson #84 in travelling in Central America ‘One wrong turn can take you to the world of every which way traffic on what should be a one way street, resulting in the need for clean underwear.'”

They are tougher negotiators than they look J Julie notes “Size doesn’t matter when it comes to negotiating deals. These 2 gals were fun but firm on their bottom line despite the gringo towering over them.”

…take care all, the muleskinner and his sidekick

Julie notes “It was a very rainy afternoon and Brad settled into reading his book. I have read so much in the past couple months that I would almost welcome the distraction of Karen Schoepp reading excerpts from one of her motivational books out loud to me. When can you get here Karen? As I type this the rain continues to fall and the iTunes is playing ‘Rain, rain, showers’ by Michel Pagliaro.”

“Also this in from Aunt Doreen in regards to several topics and she is correct on at least one of them…

‘Julie, I think the cement piece is an end table for the patio. The shrub is a croton and the large purple flower is a banana. I can just see Herb if he saw that cement thing, he would be making a pattern, Lynne would mix the cement (cuz she knows how)…dd’










Day 83 – Back to the Barcelo

Day 83 – Tuesday, September 17, 2013

We woke up this morning in our bungalow at the Tikal Inn within the Tikal National Park. Julie notes “We did giggle a little as we heard the ‘sunrise tour’ group leave at 4:30 in the morning to hike the jungle and ‘catch the sunrise’ from the top of the big temple. They obviously didn’t read the fine print that said there was slim chance of catching the sun rise in the jungle mist in the dry season but no chance of seeing it now in the rainy season. Oh well they were young. But they may never recover from their ‘howler monkey in the pitch black jungle’ experience. Upon return they told us it sounded like they were surrounded by many screaming Tyrannosaurus Rex. They scrambled into their rental car tired, slightly disappointed about their failed sunrise quest but fairly convinced that they had stumbled across another Jurassic Park.”

We enjoyed the hotel version of an American breakfast that was included with our stay. Julie notes “Brads childhood banana trauma has kept him from trying the fried plantain that accompanies many meals. It is really quite tasty. Please help me convince him that people will not call him a monkey like they did in grade one if he eats some bananas or plantain. (We will just make silly monkey noises and gestures behind his back.)”

We lazed around the bungalow and the lobby for most of the day. We each went for a walk and I had a swim in the outdoor pool. We chatted with a few other guests who are few and far between in this off/rainy season. There are far more staff than guests. We had a chance to catch up on the blog and write some emails. We caught our shuttle back to Flores at 2:30 or so and were at the airport in plenty of time for our 7:55 PM flight back to Guatemala City.

After arriving back at the Barcelo, we went to Strikers Pub for some drinks and snacks. It was at least 11:00 PM by the time we got back to our room. That is a very late night for us lately.

Julie and I were reminiscing about Uncle Herb last night over drinks and snacks. We realized what an influence he was to us in our adventure travel. After some more reminiscing, I realized that it is probably Uncle Herb’s fault that I took Julie on this adventure so we have agreed to blame him for anything that goes wrong. Sorry Uncle Herb but it’s your own fault. J Julie notes “I am now shaking my fist at the heavens. I can see you laughing as if it was one of your great practical jokes. You got me good Uncle Herb!”

Hotel Tikal Inn bungalow with some wildlife close to the front door. Julie notes “Looks like she’s singing “Jungle Boogie.”

Julie notes “A larger version of a bath tub since they only had a questionable looking shower in our bungalow.”

A tropical example of a plant that Julie once killed. Hers was the same variety but looked nothing like this. J Julie notes “True that. I was able to reduce it to a mere pile of coloured leaves in a matter of months. It is weird, the gardeners around here are kept very busy trimming back plants instead praying over them, begging them to grow, like I do.”

The puzzle question for today is to identify this plant common to the tropics. The first person who correctly identifies the plant wins some of its fruit. Julie notes “We will transport it back in the fruit catching area on top of our camper and deliver straight to your door. And speaking of contests, we are still waiting for a correct answer to our last colourful puzzler. We have had a few colourful guesses though. Keep them coming. It is possible we may eventually leave this campground and get back on the wandering route headed towards our homeland. (Although we will miss the burnt garbage smell wafting in on the breeze and the daily low flying helicopters and the required honking at the chicken bus stop, we’re sure there will be more delights awaiting us.) But if we do leave we want to make sure we have the colourful or unpainted (remember your choice) prize for the winner with us.”

..or identify this spider if you want one of those instead. Julie notes “It is hard to gauge the size of this puppy but it is possible it could eat a puppy, a small one anyway. If you look closely you can see the smaller regular size spiders around it. Babies? Thank goodness Brad noticed this at the front door of the hotel as we were LEAVING the jungle.”

And as coincidence would have it, they served a big bowl of popcorn in the pub. Herb was famous across Canada for his delicious “secret” recipe popcorn. Only a few great nephews hold the secret to his popcorn and have vowed never to reveal it. This was what prompted our reminiscing. Julie notes “We ate every last crumb just for you Uncle Herb! It was actually pretty good but not ‘secret recipe’ good.”

…over and out, the muleskinner and his sidekick.

Julie notes “Brad gets mostly high marks for this anniversary get away. The travel arrangements all went smoothly. The Barcelo was a beautiful retreat from our little camper. The experience of seeing the Tikal sights and working hard for it was priceless. It felt like a great accomplishment. Our guide Manuel was great. Our Spanish speaking co tourists were jealous of the detail and direction we were getting. The jungle surroundings were just beautiful in their special hot and humid way. Sweating here just seems like the ‘cool’ thing to do. The food was great. I had the most amazing pork chop (or maybe they said Guinea pig chop) with a fruit sauce with all the fixings for lunch provided as part of the tour. Mmmm yummy The staff were very pleasant, bi-lingual and again willing to help us with our Spanish. A few glitches between the tour package and the hotel, mostly due to their lower tech systems at the hotel but ironed out easily and amiably. Our bungalow was good for being out in the jungle. I even liked the no electricity quirks. I liked the open air design with the big high ceilings and fans and hearing the animals rustling around and making their jungle noises, all thankfully on the outside of the room. (Brad was making enough noise on the inside of the room. His jungle snore may have been what set the howler monkeys off but possibly kept the jaguars at a distance.) The drawback to me was the musty smell and the slightly sketchy shower. But in that climate with no air conditioning that is to be expected I guess. It looked like the bedding was all line ‘dried’, at least there was a big line of someone’s sheets and towels in the work yard behind us. A few things around the hotel could use some upgrading but perhaps that is part of the jungle charm people are looking for. So all in all an amazing side trip for this sidekick and Brad’s contract will be extended for one more year, for better or for worse. J.”