As some of you have probably realized I’ve been radio silent for the past couple weeks, basically ever since I left Xela. Well I’m back and sitting in a cafe in Leon, Nicaragua with a very cute black hostel kitty demanding pets every 30 seconds or so. Since Xela I have been in Flores, Guatemala; San Ignacio, Belize; Utila, Honduras; and now Leon, Nicaragua. I got very sick on the bus leaving Xela, so sick I thought it was dengue for a while, but more on that later, for now I’ll start the recap of my little trip.
From Xela the goal was to fly to Flores, see Tikal, and then meet Laura and Emily in San Ignacio. Unfortunately, illness thwarted these plans and instead of seeing Tikal I got to enjoy fever dreams in an air conditioned room. I almost didn’t board the plane to Flores as the body pain was so bad I was crying on the floor of the airport, but thanks to a nice Australian couple who helped us, I made it. The husband was a doctor and convinced me that even if I had dengue there wasn’t anything to do but ride it out with Tylenol and lots of water so I might as well not miss the flight. He gave me some Panadol, the Australian equivalent of Tylenol, and I made it to Flores. In Flores my life consisted of reading in the hotel room and occasionally attempting to walk outside to see the lake. Kane was the lovely boyfriend who carried my bags and convinced the hotel waitress to bring me my food to the room because I couldn’t leave the AC without my fever spiking. He ended up going to see Tikal with the Australian couple who helped us and told me I didn’t miss much, it’s really just another ruin and not much better than the one we ended up seeing in Belize.
After three days of AC and inactivity my fever had broken and I thought I was ready to make the trip to San Ignacio to meet Laura and Emily. Luckily, it was just a border hop away so the hot micro bus ride was only an hour or so. San Ignacio turned out to be a quaint little jungle town on the border of Guatemala and Belize. We took a canoe caving tour to see ancient Mayan burial sites and another fun, but ill fated canoe trip down the river. On said ill fated canoe trip we saw howler monkey babies playing in the trees, toucans flying across the sky, bats being rudely awoken, and thousands of butterflies, it was truly a wonderful trip. However, all things come with a price and the price of our canoe trip turned out to be my left shoe and quick dry towel. As we were navigating a section of rapids we were swept under a tree whose branch caught my ponytail, yanked me out of the canoe, filled said canoe with water, and caused all of our stuff to float away down the river. We found almost everything (Kane even found my GoPro amid the rocks) except for my left shoe and towel, as stated previously. My phone got water in it despite a LifeProof case and a not-so-dry dry bag, but rice saved the day and it miraculously still works. All said and done, the trip was worth it since I really, really wanted to see monkeys and baby monkeys trying to knock each other out of a tree were the icing on the cake. If my faithful shoe that took me to 17 countries just decided that a river in Belize would be its final resting place, so be it.
Belize made a great impression on me despite my being sick almost the whole time we were there. The roads are well maintained and the people live with relative dignity in homes that have sturdy walls, roofs, and functioning doors. The medical system works decently well, I was seen in no time at all and the charge was only $20 USD for an appointment. I know that obviously things are different for locals, but in comparison to the Guatemalan system, the Belize system struck me as functional and less flawed. The food was made with the same basic ingredients, beans, rice, and meat, but the flavors were a unique mix of Caribbean and Latin that blended in a delightfully tasty manner. Over all, it was hard not to compare Belize to Guatemala and have Belize consistently come out on top. However, I have a feeling that some of my love for Belize was built on a need for something different caused by being in Xela too long. I had grown tired of Guatemala and the way of life there so when Belize offered something different I fell in love.
A week later I was mostly healed and we were out of time in Belize, it was time to move on to Honduras as we had a dive course to get to in Utila. We had wanted to see Caye Caulker in Belize, a nice island on the east coast, but after some research we found out how absolutely impossible travel from Caye Caulker to Utila would be so we opted to miss it and instead flew from Belize City to San Pedro Sula on the tiniest plane I have ever been on. Seriously, Kane and I sat directly behind the pilots where I could watch everything. It was kind of like one of those video games where you fly a plane expect it was real. After the initial shock of boarding a plane that I was sure was going to fall out of the sky at any moment, the flight turned out to be very pleasant and quite scenic, owing to the fact that tiny planes can’t fly very high so we got to enjoy the panoramic views of the Caribbean islands between Belize and Honduras. We touched down in San Pedro Sula in one piece, stayed the night, boarded a bus to La Ceiba at the god awful hour of 5 am to make it in time for the 9:30am ferry to Utila. The journey to Utila is not an easy or short one, but it is worth it.
Utila is one of the Bay Islands in Honduras and world renown for being one of the cheapest places in the world to get PADI scuba certified. This is this island of backpackers, diving, and rum. It’s a fun place. I ended up really enjoy my time in Utila, even if the travel gods decided to deal me another bad hand with an ear infection turned ruptured ear drum that derailed my diving plans. I managed to do three dive days before the doctor said no more so I got to at least get a peak into the underwater world. I really did love it by the last dive, we saw a sea turtle and an blue spotted eagle ray, so I hope that my ears will heal and I will be able to finish my certification back home. It was rather funny that we started with four people and ended with two getting certified as Emily and I both had sinus/ear trouble. The dive center probably thought we were falling apart.
On Saturday the doctor told me no diving or flying for three weeks so Kane and I booked seats on the 15 hour shuttle to Leon, Nicaragua the next day. After all, I was on drugs for the infection so I couldn’t drink and I couldn’t dive due to the rupture thus there wasn’t much left for me to do on the drinking and diving island. The drive was long, but made much better by the fact that Roneey’s shuttle service provided movies, air conditioning, and free fruit at a few stops along the way. I would highly recommend the shuttle, it was well worth the $80 USD. We made it to Leon late Sunday night and have spent the last couple days exploring Leon. It’s a nice city, more like Xela than anywhere else I’ve been lately so I might judging it a little harshly, but I’m still enjoying my time here. This afternoon Kane and I will go hike a volcano and hopefully see lava. From here we will wander down Nicaragua and end up in San Jose, Costa Rica in three weeks for my flight home.