Sunday, April 08, 2012

Guatemala: Antigua, Iximche, Lago de Atitlán, Monterrico

So last week was Spring Break. We took the opportunity to pop down to Guatemala for a just over a week. By pop down I mean a 15hr trip with three flights, two lots of customs and the worst airport in the world (Las Vegas), but it is slightly closer than New Zealand, so I will call it a 'pop'.

We met up with Andy and Kath which was freakin' cool. I love those guys. They are currently on a crazy long adventure. Cycling around the world. Note that Steph and I did do it first though...

The first few nights were in Antigua, a small colonial town an hour or so from Guatemala City. Its pretty nice, UNESCO listed and was all go while we were there. Guatemala is super catholic and Semana Santa (Easter) was coming up and the weekend we were there they were celebrating the 4th Sunday of Lent. Carpets of coloured sawdust and flowers on the street, large processions, heaps of people, and markets with really really good food (tacos, papusas, churros, churrasco chorizo/pollo/something else really good).

Volcán de Agua over Antigua

Carpet of sawdust and flowers being made

Procession through the street... heaps of people.

From Antigua we headed to Tecpán for the night. This was a pretty average Guatemalan town, with some of the best fried chicken in the world. Also some of the best tacos ever. Unfortunately for us, we only had a week so were not able to get to the famous Mayan ruins of Tikal in the jungles of the North. But near Tecpán were some pretty neat 600 year old Mayan ruins at Iximche. The highlight for me was what appeared to be a well preserved (well restored?) playing field for a Mayan ball game.

Mayan playing field.
From Tecpán  we headed to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan. A pretty lake with some nice towns scattered around its edges.

Lake Atitlan from Panajachel

Panajachel Street. Tuk tuks like India!
 We spent a night over at San Pedro La Laguna which was nice. Described as a  'hippy town' is was laid back with a very friendly banana bread tout to whom we gave plenty of business.

Kayaking on Lake Atitlan

Beautiful, calm mornings.

San Pedro La Laguna

View from out hotel at sunset. Lake Atitlan.
Next stop was Montereccio. A beach town on the Pacific coast about 5 hours from Lake Atitlan (but 2.5hrs from Anitgua, keeping our trip tightly in the south). The plan was to spend two nights here, but due to extreme heat and humidity, many many mosquitoes, and four soft travelers, we only spend one night here. It was a nice night with a red card, and bottle of rum and me giving Andy a very very bad hair cut. We did manage to go on a cool boat tour of the Biotopo Monterrico-Hawaii Mangrove filled park. This is where heaps of turtles live, but all we saw were some neat flying fish and white herons / egrets.

View from our room on the beach.

Red Card!

Mangroves and waterways.

Wild life!

Back to Antigua after Monterrico. We enjoyed more of the Semana Santa festivities and managed to climb a volcano too. The ground was hot, and there was smoke in places, but no lava to jump over luckily.

The way up the volcano.

Steph and I as high as we got (up the volcano)

A chicken bus! Old US school buses prettied up.
 That was out trip! It was back to work after that. It was quite a different experience travelling a small part of a country for only a week, as opposed to cruising around a continent until you ran out of money. But we really enjoyed it and got a good adventure out of it. To finish, here is Andy.. who has wisely decided to come visit us in Portland in a few weeks!

Portland: Home

So these days Steph and I are living the dream in Portland. We got here late last year after a few visa delays (I had to go to the UK for a few weeks and spend time with friends... sucks to be me!). Portland is treating us really well, Steph has a sweet position at PSU and I have an awesome job downtown. And we have the best puppy ever:

Lucy a few month back, she is way bigger now.
The little detour to the UK was fun as (and happened about 6 months ago...) and I caught up with a bunch of people all over the place. Edinburgh to bromantic escapes in the Lakes District to London.


Lakes District. Nice to see more of England after spending all my previous times in London.
Once in Portland, we got a sweet apartment... then it got foreclosed on.. so we got an even sweeter one. Here is what we are up to:

Weekend escape to Lapine State Park

Pioneer Square with Occupy Portland from my office.

Lucy at the Pumpkin Patch just before Halloween

PSU Campus in Fall (thats Autumn to most of you)

Multanomah Falls. If you visit, odds are I will take you here.

Steel Bridge over the Willamette River, downtown Portland.

Grimm film set a block from my work. They filmed in my building before I arrived!

Winter near our first apartment.

View from where I sit at work.
And last, but by no means least... Lucy a few days ago, she is getting pretty big, and is the best dog in the world. That is a fact.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

France - Germany - Austria

Better late than never... So from Tours, France we rode through the Loire Valley with heaps of other tourists, none of which came all the way from Andalusia, most came from their support van at the top of the hill. It was nice through there. Then we opted to take a train to Strasbourg as we were super keen on seeing some of Germany and our time was slowly running out. We had to change trains in Paris which resulted in a urban ride from Gare d'Austerlitz via 8 lane round abouts to Gare d'Est for a speedy TGV ride East.

A Chateau in the Loire Valley

Another Chateau in the Loire Valley


Strasbourg was fun, with Kronenbourg brewery tours and lots of canals, and was starting to feel a lot like Germany. The difference between it, and the citys and towns in the West of France was quite remarkable. From there we started following the Rhine then crossed into Germany proper. After getting caught in the rain and lost on a walking track in the Black Forest we eventually go to Pforzheim to stay with a good friend's family. It was nice to hang out with some Germans as we arrived in the country as we learnt a little language and got a little accustomed to what was going on.


Navigating Germany bike paths along the Danube/Donau

Distracted by Volksfest / Beer festivals constantly
From Pforzheim we rode beside rivers (Rhine, Necar, Jangst, Danube) along the extensive and fantastic German bike paths. We didn't really even have a map they were so awesome (way different from Spain! Although it took a lot of the fun navigating and adventure out of it...). Heidelberg and Rothenburg ob der Tauber were very cool, the rain for our few weeks in Germany was not. The beer was fantastic, especially with a massive pretzel.

Action shot of Steph cruising in Germany

Still shot of me stuck in the rain in Germany

Stopped by a wedding party on the bike path... we got champagne!

Beautiful Austria. No rain!
We then pulled into Vienna on August 22nd, a little over 3 months since we landed in Malaga, Spain. We clocked up 3,261kms on our bikes and had at least that many adventures along the way. Only 1 flat tire (thank you Kevlar reinforced touring tyres!) and one serious break down (thank you Madrid bike shop!). All in all a fantastic trip, I would highly recommend cycling as a good way to see Europe next time you are there.

After Vienna we hitched to Budapest for a few nights, flew to London for a few nights, trained to Paris for Steph's Birthday, then bus to Cologne then train to Dusseldorf. From Dusseldorf we just made our flight back to Portland with a stop for a beer in San Francisco with a friend. After 10 days in Portland we came back to New Zealand to be kiwis for a bit.

That was our trip.

Oh, one more thing. I took this little video in Germany, just to show you that it did in fact rain: