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Margarita y Discoteca

a travel blog by Corey and Melissa

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Buenos Dias from Guatemala City!

Guatemala, Guatemala

A little bit of breakfast blogging to get things started...

We arrived in Guatelmala City last night after a stopover in Miami. Apparently the clever folks at Miami International Airport are hospitable toward their soldiers, and oblivious to the irony of their acronym (MIA).

Our hotel is beautiful, clean, and airy. We just finished breakfast and wanted to let everyone know that we arrived safely. We're going to walk around Guatemala City today. Our cab driver highly recommends the fried chicken place down the block, so we're going to go on an expedition to see if we can find our way there through the confusing streets. Given my exceptional sense of direction, I've been tasked with being the navigator. If you don't see another post after this one, you'll know that we're still looking for chicken.

There's a market that Melissa is going to make us visit. Can't wait. Stay tuned... The excitement is about to begin.

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on February 21, 2009 from Guatemala, Guatemala
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
tagged Miami, Guatemela, GuatemalaCity and Chicken

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Chicken and Flan

Guatemala, Guatemala

We found the chicken place, "Pollo Campero" -- it's Senor Sanders Guatemala style. No nuclear cole slaw, but instead you get flan. Speaking of the food, it's not much to write home about (and yet here we are).

And before anyone pokes fun at us for eating at a fast food joint in Guatemala City, the options are limited here. On a Sunday, it's either this or Taco Bell (where the tagline is "Got a bean emergency?").

We walked through Guatemala City yesterday. Everything is closed on Sundays except the central market. It's a dusty town with a few unique architectural "gems".

The hole in the ozone layer has found its way down to Guatemala. Our February skin couldn't take the 20 degree weather.

Yes, mom. We're going to wear sunscreen and hats now.

Corey, as always when travelling, is a walking freak show. He's the tallest guy in the country by about a foot, the only one who can grow a beard. His hairline is unique to the point where little children stare. Melissa's average height (for a dude).

Off to Antigua.

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on February 23, 2009 from Guatemala, Guatemala
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
tagged GuatemalaCity, Sunburn, ChickenAndFlan, Height and Pasty

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Antigua and Beyond...

Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala

Antigua is a beautiful colonial city, surrounded by volcanoes and lush scenery. We finally had a chance to try some more authentic food, and we give it two thumbs up... at a 45 degree angle.

For reasons unknown to both of us, every live volcano seems to have a village at the bottom. We're genuinely at a loss to understand why people choose to live within spit-shot of hot molten lava.

We took a tour of the Pacaya volcano, a live volcano nearby.

It took about two hours to hike 2km uphill to the top of the volcano after our tour bus took us as far as it could. It was a spectacular sight.

We never thought we'd get so close to hot molten lava spilling out of a volcano, literally close enough to toast a marshmallow.

No doubt, gondolas, safety barriers, and planked pathways would be the norm back home, along with recorded reminders that repeat ad nauseum "for your own safety..."

Now as you can imagine, there's nothing quite like taking a long, hot shower after a sweaty uphill climb two hours up and two hours back, all the time covered volcanic ash and dust. Fortunately for us, our hotel room was equipped with only the best shower in all of Guatemala. We don't know how to translate the Spanish name, but we called it "Mighty Drip".

Today we made our way by bus to Panajachel in Lake Atitlan. Corey managed to bargain a good deal for us in a very nice hotel (though now that we think of it, we didn't check to see just how Mighty its drip is). We're going to chill here for a couple of days, darting back and forth across the lake by boat, and coming back into town to settle in the evenings.

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on February 25, 2009 from Antigua Guatemala, Guatemala
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
tagged Volcano and MightyDrip

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Journey to Lanquin

Panajachel, Guatemala

After spending 3 nights in near Lake Atitlan, we left Panajachel for Coban. The 10 hour journey included a broken down van (Corey had to get out an push), a flat tire and 23 people in a 15 person mini van. Corey shared his lap with several Guatemalan men throughout the journey. We arrived in Coban to a luxurious hotel with fiberglass blankets and a damp matress. After a restful night´s sleep, we travelled north to Lanquin with some fellow Canadians.

We are staying at a lovely place called Ranchero in Lanquin. It´s in an idyllic setting in a lush valley. I´d show some photos, but the wind up internet doesn´t have enough juice to upload photos. We had a great buffet dinner last night. Our first vegetables in a week. It´s raining today, so we´re going to hang out at the hotel and relax.

Tomorrow we´re moving on to Flores and Tikal to see some Mayan ruins.

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on March 2, 2009 from Panajachel, Guatemala
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
tagged FiberglassBlankets, Vegetables and BrokenDownVan

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Decent Internet ... At last!

Lanquin, Guatemala

Nothing could be finer or more joyous than a decent internet connection. Here in Floras, the internet rocks. I mean, it's really, really good. Like fast, and reliable... Oh and there are ancient Mayan ruins nearby. But like I said, the internet rocks. And the ruins are like a UNESCO world heritage site and stuff. But thank God they have good internet.

We're going to have to rewind a bit for this post...

Here are some pictures that we couldn't attach in Lanquin because their internet consisted of a pigeon carrying internet packets back and forth.

Our trip started out well, with us discovering that we'd overpaid by about half... Then we were assured by our guide that it was because we got the VIP first class bus.

Here's a picture of what a VIP first class bus looks like in motion (that's Corey on left).

So, as you can see we eventually got to change buses. Onto one that was even more first class VIP.

But there wasn't quite enough room for all us VIPs on the next bus, so we had to split our group into two.

The brilliance doesn't end there. You see, half of us were on our way to Coban. The other half to Copan. You try telling the bus driver which one you're going to and get on the right bus.

The "right" bus ended up on the right side of the road like its predecessor, looking like this.

And the spare tire looked like a member of the Fruitman family.

A friendly fellow from the Guatemalan government appeared to help us out. None of us knew Spanish, so we didn't know what he was there for, but he was wearing a lovely jacket that we all admired a great deal.

A little later down the road, we came across another Guatemalan official. This time a police officer, who was wondering why there were so many darn VIPs in one bus.

Fortunately for us, the officer understood just how important we were, and let us go on our merry (though clearly illegal) way.

Then we landed in the lap of luxury on Coban... errr... Copan... We don't even know anymore. But the fibreglass blankies were a treat.

Nothing's too good for my Melissa on our honeymoon.

After a delectable meal that made us both wish we had a private bathroom, we decided that while we'll miss this quaint little place, it's time to move on.

And so, we reluctantly uprooted ourselves and moved on to Lanquin.

With the help of a random Dutchman (they're everywhere) we landed at a very cool resort, made by gringos for gringos. It was a treat to eat a vegetable and sleep in a comfortable bed.

After discovering that money isn't available anywhere for the next 100km, we thought it wise to move on before we had to do dishes for our keep.

That brings us to our next post... Read on...

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on March 4, 2009 from Lanquin, Guatemala
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
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Tikal'ed Pink

Tikal, Guatemala

If you haven't read the updated previous post with photos, read that first so you know how we got here....

We arrived in Flores, which is the satellite town to Tikal, home of the ancient Mayan ruins, and pretty much what you come to Guatemala for. That, and of course, the travelling circus.

It's a quaint little town on the lake. Ice cream here melts at mach speed. There's a little tidbit that Lonely Planet doesn't share with ya.

We watched the sunset with our Canadian friends last night. The place was on the water with a lovely view.

Today, we visited the Mayan ruins at Tikal.

Buses here, in case you didn't guess from our last post, aren't quite the TTC. We got on the "Sunrise" bus which is supposed to get you there on time to see the Sunrise over the ruins.

Let's just say that while we didn't get to see the notorious Sunrise over Tikal, the view of the Sunrise over our driver's head was stunning.

We arrived in Tikal 20 minutes later.

We decided to get a guide. An official guide. We'd spend big bucks and share the cost among five of us, which worked out to about US$12 each ($60 total) for a three hour tour... A three hour tour.

We met our guide in the park. His name was Señor Makeitupasyougoalong.

He showed us around the ruins, creatively named "Temple 1", "Temple 2" and so on.

Joking aside, it really was amazing, and the highlight of our trip so far.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, and since my fingers are getting tired, and since we got up at 4am this morning... Enjoy...

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on March 5, 2009 from Tikal, Guatemala
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
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Belize it or not ...

Belmopan, Belize

... There is now an official authorized Instant Housecall Reseller here in Belize.

Work stuff aside... We made our way across the border from Guatemala into Belize. They made Melissa throw out her Banana. Heartbreaking.

We stayed in Belmopan for a night, after Corey made a sale to the biggest computer store in the city.

Belize feels different from Guatemala.

We made our way by bus to Belize City, and then by boat to Caye Caulker.

Caye Caulker is an hour boat ride from Belize City. It's your run-of-the-mill tropical paradise with white sand beaches, beautiful aqua marine water, and tours out to the coral reef -- the second largest living reef in the world.

We're going snorkelling there tomorrow and hope to see some sharks, barracudas, and lots of colourful fishies. Oh, and a coral reef. Sadly, our camera isn't waterproof.

Today, we vegged. And had a liquid lunch. Which for us means that we shared a pina colada and talked about how drunk we were from it for the next two hours. We walked around the Island, which is small enough that there are no cars -- only golf carts to get around. It's cute and quaint, and we both agreed that Glen and Nat would like it here for some reason.

As we walked around the Island, we came across some interesting wildlife.

The food sitch is a little different here than you'd expect. They have everything you know back home, but with a tiny little twist that you'd never expect. For example, what flavour would you think "Belizian Fudge Ice Cream" would be? If you said chocolate, you're wrong. It's French Vanilla with a bit of caramel in it. We have learned not to question such things.

Melissa's really enjoying the rice and beans. Corey wants to get a separate room.

That's all for now. Snorkelling tomorrow, and then the world is our oyster. Which in Belize, would actually be a vanilla flavoured elephant.

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on March 7, 2009 from Belmopan, Belize
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
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Do you know the way to San Jose?

Belize City, Belize

Snorkelling yesterday was awesome. Without an underwater camera to take actual pictures, we're going to have to paint pictures with words and try to describe the indescribable as best we can.

The water is the bluest you've ever seen in your life. You know the colour aqua marine blue? This is the water that it was named after.

Surprisingly, the ocean isn't very deep -- at least not where we went. Maybe ten to fifteen metres. We made our way out to the middle of the reef (the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and Shark Ray Alley) by sailboat.

The views were stunning above and below the water. Almost as stunning was the colour our skin turned after being out on the boat all day. But we digress.

After a quick learner's course in snorkelling, we made our way to a place that we can't remember the name of that we're going to call Fishy Town.

Now, imagine every shape and size of fish. Some with long noses, some with short. Some are flat, some are round. Some are big, some are small.

Now put those fluorescent ski jackets we wore in the eighties on all of those fish and you've got what we saw. They're colours that you didn't know could exist in nature.

The fish clearly thought we were one of them, and weren't afraid of us in the least. We could just float there, and turtles, fish, stingrays, and barracudas would swim beside and beneath us without paying us much attention.

We also saw Nemo and Dora. They really do talk, just like in the Disney movie.

After we got out, we made our way to the next destination and started in on lunch. Something just didn't feel right as we bit into a snapper sandwich. And yet, it was very tasty.

Once we got to our next destination, we apologized to the family of our lunch and continued on our merry way.

The one hour boat ride back to Caye Caulker was lovely. When we got back on land, we realized the extent of our exposure to the sun. We've gotten past the red skin sunburn. And moved onto uncharted territory that we call "eggplant."

Tomorrow we are heading to Costa Rica for the final leg of our trip. Hopefully, the plane will be in better shape than our bus to Coban (or Copan).

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on March 9, 2009 from Belize City, Belize
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
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Monte Verde, Costa Rica

We made our way from Belize to Costa Rica, stopping briefly in El Salvador. They have a lovely airport there.

After spending one night in San Jose (the capital of Costa Rica), we headed north to Monte Verde. It's a quaint town founded by Quakers from the U.S. and the only way we can think to describe it is kind of the Muskoka of Costa Rica. Lots of cloud forests and outdoor activities. Tons of stars in the sky. And of course, the cheese factory, which Melissa made us tour.

In Costa Rica, Kraft slices are considered a fine aged cheese, and who are we to argue. The cheeses they make here are very mild, but tasty nonetheless.

We took a hike through a stunning cloud forest. Afterwards, we sat in the hummingbird sanctuary while we had our lunch. We got some amazing pictures, but the pigeons from Lanquin are on strike, and the likelihood of any photos making it on the blog are slim to none right now. Fret not, though. We will hold all of you hostage for a good old fashioned vacation slide show (everyone loves those) upon our return.

You know that frog that epitomizes Costa Rica with the orange toes and looks like it's smiling all the time? We just met him today. And damn, he's cute. We went to the local frog conservatory and learned all about the local frogs. Believe it or not, it was fascinating, but for us to re-tell it on the blog would bore you to tears. So stay tuned, we'll bore you to tears in person later. Suffice it to say, it was pretty amazing and the frogs were mighty cute.

We made our way back to the frog conservatory at night to see our nocturnal friends in action.

Tomorrow, we're headed to La Fortuna via "Jeep-Boat-Jeep". We're told that it's postcard scenic, with an active volcano, a fresh water lake, and hot springs. We're going to skip all that and see if we can find a McDonald's. Just kidding.

Anyway, the innkeeper for reasons we don't quite understand likes to turn off the internet at night, so we've got wrap this up. We'll see you all soon, but 'til then... Ribbit.

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on March 14, 2009 from Monte Verde, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
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How do you say "Paradise" in Spanish?

Fortuna, Costa Rica

We left Monte Verde via "Jeep-Boat-Jeep", which of course, turned out to be minibus-boat-minibus.

La Fortuna is a small colonial town nestled between an active volcano and a pristine lake.

We prefer to travel by fate than by the book, so we didn't make a reservation before we got there. If you've read the rest of our entries, you know that this method can result in broken down buses and fibreglass bedsheets.

The flipside is what we've found now. On our way from "Jeep to boat", we bumped into a fellow traveller. We originally met him in Guatemala and asked for directions to a restaurant. Small world.

His glowing recommendation took us to this small, remote ranch via some very bumpy roads. This is where we've been for the past couple of days unwinding.

There really is no other word to describe it than "paradise". You might call it a Costa Rican kibbutz, but such a simple description wouldn't do it justice.

Bounded by lush green mountains on two sides, and a volcano and lake.

This ranch hasn't officially opened to public yet, which means everyone's keen as hell and trying their best to make this place perfect.

The ranch is 140 some-odd hectares (we don't know what a hectare is, but this place is really freakin' big) of conservation land including an organic farm, wildlife reserve, self-generating power, a horse stable, kayaking, hummingbirds, tucans, butterflies, cows, and pigs.

We can't do this place justice with words.

We also have no way of doing it justice in pictures. And even if we could, we couldn't upload them because, yes, the Internet sucks in all of Central America -- even in paradise.

Today we went horseback riding for about an hour and half. Since we were the only two guests at the ranch, we went to a look-out point above the ranch. We'll share pictures later, but we promise that it was breathtaking.

The food is great -- a long way from Chicken and Flan. There's an American chef here who worked at Rain and Jump (nice Toronto restaurants for all you Vancouverites).

Needless to say, we love it here.

You're only allowed to ask us the name of this place if you promise to go.

That's all for now. See everyone soon. We're looking forward to seeing you, but would prefer you came here instead of us going to you.

permalink written by  Corey and Melissa on March 17, 2009 from Fortuna, Costa Rica
from the travel blog: Margarita y Discoteca
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