Yearly Archives: 2009

Slowing Down

Slowing Down

There’s a turkey in the backyard. He wanders in sometimes from the surrounding meadows, big and brown. So do rabbits, a small sleek woodchuck, a great red-headed pileated woodpecker, and a pair of mallard ducks who frequent the pond at the back of the property. Closer to home, a purple swift has taken up residence… Read More

The Wild Blue Under

The Wild Blue Under

Our travels in Central America are ending the way they began: in the water. On the second day of our trip, back in mid-January, we snorkeled on the coral reef off the coast of Yucatan, Mexico. For the past few weeks, we’ve been snorkeling at the other end of the same Mesoamerican reef—in the Bay… Read More

Melissa’s Dolphin Day

Melissa’s Dolphin Day

As a special Valentine’s/birthday gift, Chris bought me a “dolphin snorkel encounter” at a local resort. This place is better than most for such things–they have a group of 17 dolphins (mostly born there) who live in big enclosures out on the reef–it’s much more natural than many tourist dolphin centers I’ve seen or heard… Read More

The Prettiest City in Guatemala

The Prettiest City in Guatemala

Antigua sits on a plain surrounded by low hills and three tall volcanoes. When we were here a few weeks ago (before our detour into southern Honduras), we managed to take some pictures of them. Now, although the house we’re looking after has windows facing all three volcanoes, you can barely see them through the… Read More

Further Impressions of Guatemala

Further Impressions of Guatemala

Somehow, the time has passed and we’ve spent nearly six weeks in this interesting country. Here are a few more things we’ve noticed as we’ve traveled around Guatemala:

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Honduras: From Guatemala to Guatepeor

Honduras: From Guatemala to Guatepeor

For our non-Spanish-speaking readers, that title is a little joke (“mala” means bad; “peor” means worse). We never expected to spend a week in Copan Ruinas, the small town in western Honduras that has sprung up about a kilometer from the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Copan. Don’t get me wrong; it’s a… Read More

Rules of the Road

Rules of the Road

As in Belize, most ordinary buses in Guatemala are recycled U.S. school buses (all made by the Blue Bird Body Company of Fort Valley, Georgia). These are invariably uncomfortable and rattly, with people crowded three to a seat. (Thank goodness the population around here, like us, is on the short side.) Many of the drivers… Read More

Ruins in the Jungle

Ruins in the Jungle

We saw a lot of Mayan ruins in the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize, but Tikal—the premier Mayan site in Guatemala, which we visited last month—beats them all. It’s big (10 square miles) with structures spanning a period from 500 B.C. to the mid-700s A.D. Best of all, Tikal sits in the middle of a vast… Read More

Life and Death on Lake Atitlan

Life and Death on Lake Atitlan

Aldous Huxley described Guatemala’s Lake Atitlan as the most beautiful lake in the world. We’re not sure—we’ve seen a lot of beautiful lakes, in Slovenia, Italy, Switzerland, and elsewhere. But this lake is certainly one of the most distinctive. It´s ringed by steep hills and three perfectly cone-shaped volcanoes (now dormant, thankfully). Combine that with… Read More

Market Day in Guatemala

Market Day in Guatemala

It’s Friday. If you live in one of the villages on the north side of Lake Atitlan, that means it´s market day in Solola, the regional capital that sprawls across the hills high above the lake. So you get up and put on your second-best clothes (the best are reserved for religious festivals and fiestas).… Read More

Impressions of Guatemala

Impressions of Guatemala

We’ve been in the country for almost three weeks now: in the northern Peten region next to Belize, in the central highlands of the Alta Verapaz, and on the shores of Lake Atitlan. Guatemala isn´t a country we had given much thought to before, but it´s turning out to be fascinating. Here are some of… Read More

At a Fork in the Road

At a Fork in the Road

One of the strange and interesting things about traveling the way we do is having almost complete freedom of choice. We rarely plan or book things more than a day or two ahead, so (theoretically) at any point we can head in any direction. Right now we’re in Flores, a pretty little lakeside town in… Read More

Island Adventures

Island Adventures

At first it seemed like the gods of the sea didn’t want us to visit tiny Tobacco Caye, at the center of Belize’s long barrier reef. When we got to the coastal town of Dangriga, where we hoped to catch a boat to Tobacco Caye the next morning, the wind was howling and the waves… Read More

A Day at the Zoo

A Day at the Zoo

The forests of Belize are full of wildlife, but most of the time you never see it. Animals are skittish, or well camouflaged, or nocturnal. We’ve heard that any time you’re in the jungle, a lot more creatures are watching you than you’re watching. The best place to experience the diversity of Belize’s animal life… Read More

Belize Basics

Belize Basics

Belize is a small country (180 miles long by 70 miles wide) tucked along the Caribbean coast east of Guatemala and south of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Formerly British Honduras, it became fully independent in 1981. Lately, Belize has grown popular with nature- or adventure-loving North American and European visitors—snorkelers, bird watchers, backpackers, “eco-travelers”—for its abundant… Read More

Our Week in Tulum

Our Week in Tulum

Tulum, the southernmost (so far) of the Yucatan coast’s prime tourist spots, has long been famous among backpackers for its white sand beaches and (formerly) supercheap beach cabanas to stay in. These days, the cabanas have mostly been replaced by high-end, low-rise “eco-hotels,” and the few that are still cheap aren’t very secure. But the… Read More

Gifts from the Sea?

Gifts from the Sea?

As a splurge, Melissa and I recently spent two days at an eco-friendly beach-front place (Boca Paila Camp) in the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve south of Tulum, Mexico. With the sea too rough for snorkeling, we spent a lot of time walking on the beach. The off-shore currents in that area bring a lot of… Read More

Our Journey Into the Underworld

Our Journey Into the Underworld

Riding across the Yucatan Peninsula on the bus, you’re struck by the flat landscape and dense, low forest in many different shades of green. There are few farms in sight, and villages are widely separated. Colorful flowering trees and vines abound. But what makes the Yucatan unique is its water. The peninsula has only a… Read More

Watching the rain

Watching the rain

Our next stop after bustling Merida was Valladolid, another inland colonial town but much smaller. It’s a good base for visiting several nearby Mayan sites and also supposedly a pretty little town for strolling around. That last bit may be true at other times, but right now, Valladolid is undertaking a massive repaving projects. Nearly… Read More

Food in the Yucatan Peninsula

Food in the Yucatan Peninsula

Being foodies, we always pay a lot of attention (maybe too much attention?) to the cuisine of places we visit. What do local people eat, and when and how do they eat it? What do the local specialties taste like? Although you can find staples such as tacos, quesadillas, salsas, and guacamole just about anywhere… Read More

I Don’t Understand Other People

I Don’t Understand Other People

Why, when tourists come to a site (such as a Mayan ruin), do they spend more time taking photos of each other in front of the site than looking at it? That seems to be especially true with scenic views. People rush up, and without even really looking at the view, they start snapping photos… Read More

Dancing in the Streets

Dancing in the Streets

After two nights on the coast we headed inland to the colonial city and regional capital of Merida. Our visit was timed for the weekend, when Merida was celebrating its birthday with a festival of music and dance. The first night featured folk dance and folk music in a pretty little park. We knew we… Read More

Hola from Mexico!

Hola from Mexico!

We decided to start our travels in Central America in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, famous for Cancun and the nearby beaches of the Riviera Maya. We planned to skip Cancun entirely, but we were still worried that the whole area would be overly touristed. But since flights to Cancun from the United States are… Read More

Plans for 2009

After an enjoyable break seeing our friends again, helping to elect Barak Obama (yea!), and spending the holidays with our families, we’re ready to start wandering again. On January 8, we leave for three and half months in Central America. We’re going to start in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and then head south to Belize, Guatemala,… Read More

Reflections on 2008

Our first year as vagabonds was even better than we’d hoped for: 285 days (nine and a half months) spent discovering and savoring five countries: southern Spain, Italy, Slovenia, Ireland, and France. It was a privilege to be able to spend the year that way. What made it especially memorable were the generous, genuine, interesting,… Read More