Pacific Coast Saunter

After a couple of days resting with some of the other volunteers, we all decided to try light travel and let fate determine our future, so we packed whatever we thought we were going to need and flew away. We didn’t know where we were heading to, but one thing was clear: we weren’t going to spend a penny on accommodation nor transport.

Después de un par de días descansando con Aina y Bea, las otras voluntarias, los cuatro decidimos intentar viajar ligeros y dejar que el destino determinara nuestro futuro. Una mañana metimos todo lo necesario en la mochila y levantamos el vuelo. No sabíamos hacia dónde, pero teníamos claro que no queríamos gastar ni en alojamiento ni en transporte.

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There’s always time for silly pictures before letting luck decide your fate / Siempre hay tiempo de hacer tonterías antes de dejar que la suerte decida tu destino

When we got to the motorway we had two choices; either we set out towards the north (Flores, El Remate, Belize) or the south (Everywhere else). Aina and Alba couldn’t make up their minds but Bea and I (internally) couldn’t wait to put our thumbs up and get a lift towards the sea.

Una vez en la carretera vimos nuestras opciones: según el lado donde levantáramos el dedo, iríamos al norte (Flores, el Remate, Belice) o al sur (Cualquier otra parte). Aina y Alba no se decidían, pero Bea y yo nos moríamos por conseguir un carro en dirección al mar.

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Guess who won… / Adivinen quién ganó…

So we tried and after a couple of minutes we were lying at the back of a pick up heading to Guatemala City. The driver stopped past Río Dulce to run an errand and we got off the car to have some lunch. As we were waiting for him (he said 20 minutes but you know, people in Guatemala don’t really control time as German do) something incredible happened. A big lorry stopped by us and a young guy shouted ‘where are you going?’, when we said the Pacific he smiled and opened the door to let us in. We made ourselves comfy and started singing along the songs they were playing. The sea was getting closer.

Lo intentamos y a los pocos minutos estábamos tirados en la parte de atrás de una pick up en dirección a la Ciudad de Guatemala. El conductor paró pasado Río Dulce para hacer un mandado y nos bajamos para comer algo. Mientras le esperábamos (había dicho 20 minutos, pero en Guatemala el tiempo es relativo…), un camión inmenso se paró a nuestro lado para que el conductor, un chico joven, nos gritara ‘¿Hacia dónde van?’. Al oir ‘¡al Pacífico!’, nos abrió la puerta y nos dijo que nos instaláramos. El mar estaba más cerca.

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We spent hours sitting, lying and even playing card games on the truck’s bed… / Pasamos horas sentados, tirados o hasta jugando a cartas en la cama del camión…
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They stopped before getting to Guatemala so we could see this spot. Wonderful, isn’t it? / Se pararon antes de llegar a Guatemala para que disfrutáramos de este paisaje…

After 7 or 8 hours travelling they dropped us off in Escuintla; one hour away from the ocean. The problem was that, at 22.00, you don’t want to be in the streets of Escuintla for very long. They told us that it was a really dangerous place so we got down and run to the first police officer we saw. He was surprised to see tourists in town and suggested that we go check the hotels. We said we didn’t have much money and he recommended us to go to the Police Castle (LITERALLY A CASTLE) and ask there. We pretty much run there and met our new friend – a police officer with gold teeth that was watching over the place lived probably one of the most surrealistic hours in his life.

Después de siete u ocho horas de viaje, nos dejaron en Escuintla, a una hora del océano. El problema es que, al caer la noche, es mejor no pasearte mucho por las calles de esa ciudad. Sabíamos que era bastante peligroso así que nos fuimos a hablar con el primer policía que vimos. Después de manifestar su sorpresa al ver turistas a esas horas (eran casi las 11), nos sugirió que fuéramos a un hotel. Como eran todos carísimos fuimos directos al castillo (sí, un castillo de verdad) de la policía. Vigilando la puerta había un joven policía con dientes de oro que viviría una de las horas más surrealistas de su vida…

The moment we arrived we started planning how to sleep there:

Cuando llegamos, intentamos planear cómo dormir allí mismo.

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Trabajo en equipo para colgar la hamaca. / Teamwork: Hammock Hanging.
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¡Y el resultado! / And the result!

That was because when we asked if it was possible to sleep inside, the guy told us that the bloke in charge of the place was out and it wouldn’t come back until who knows when. So Bea didn’t hesitate a second and hung her hammock wherever she managed (using us all to complete the task). The happiest moment was when the boss arrived and said ‘Come inside, I’m going to show you where you can sleep’. And there we were, in an empty meeting room that contained nothing but a pile of plastic chairs and a bunch of mattresses.

Lo hicimos porque le preguntamos al chico si podíamos dormir en la comisaría y él nos dijo que no sabía, que su jefe no estaba y no sabía cuando regresaría. Bea no se lo pensó dos veces y colgó su hamaca como pudo, usándonos a todos para completar la tarea. Pero el mejor momento fue cuando el jefe en cuestión llegó y nos dijo ‘vengan, les voy a enseñar donde pueden dormir’. Así terminamos en una habitación llena de sillas… y colchones.

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Momento de lectura en nuestra confortable habitación. / Reading time in our fantastic bedroom!
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We had slept in an actual castle! / ¡Habíamos dormido en un verdadero castillo!
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This man laughed a lot with/at us.

The next day, we just needed a lift to get to Puerto San José where, for the first time in my life, I got to see the Pacific Ocean, and it was up to the expectations.

Cuando nos levantamos al día siguiente, no necesitamos más que un jalón para llegar al Puerto de San José, donde vi el Pacífico por primera vez en mi vida. Estaba a la altura de las expectativas.

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El Puerto de San José está lleno de barcos pero nos pareció bonita esta imagen… / Puerto San José is full of ships but we found this picture quite beautiful in its own way.

As we had had a really long day the day before, we thought it would be great to spend the day on the beach having a rest and introducing ourselves to Mr. Pacific. We had a beautiful lunch composed basically by avocado, bread, tomato and (sometimes) a slice of ham and when we finished eating, we started looking for a place to sleep. The idea was asking some family to let us hang our hammocks in their garden, but we found nothing but empty mansions. We finally got to the street that crossed the whole finca on the other side of the beach. What we didn’t know is that we were getting into private property; fortunately there was an old guy with a shotgun that made this clear for us.

Como el día anterior había sido larguísimo, pensamos que estaría bien pasar el día entero en la playa, descansando y conociendo mejor al Sr. Pacífico. Comimos un banquete de pan con tomate, aguacate y algunos un pedacito de jamón. Cuando terminamos de comer empezamos a buscar un lugar donde dormir. La idea era pedirle a una familia que nos dejara colgar la hamaca en su jardín, pero no encontrábamos más que mansiones desiertas. Al final nos metimos por una callejuela que nos permitió salir de la playa y llegar a una calle… Lo que no sabíamos es que era una calle privada, aunque por suerte un señor con una buena escopeta nos lo hizo notar.

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Nos gustó esta parte de Puerto San José / We liked that spot in Puerto San José

We got out of there and continued walking through that street, parallel to the beach. In another part of the street, also private, we found a nice security guard that watched over a pool establishment built for bank workers from the capital to go and relax, play football, enjoy the beach and swim. He tried to convince the family that takes care of the house next to it to let us sleep in the garden using our hammocks. Even though they said no at first because the father of the family (the carer) was out, they finally accepted us in.

Nos acompañó a la puerta y seguimos la calle paralela a la playa. También era propiedad privada, pero fue aquí donde conocimos a un amable vigilante de seguridad que trabajaba en un complejo acuático en el que los trabajadores de un importante banco de la capital se podían ir a relajar en sus vacaciones. Él intentó convencer a la familia que cuidaba la casa de al lado de que nos dejaran colgar las hamacas en su jardín para pasar la noche y, aunque al principio la chica tuvo sus reservas (su marido no estaba y la responsabilidad era de él), terminaron aceptando.

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Those palms looked great to hang hammocks from / Pensamos que nada mejor que estas palmeras para colgar las hamacas…

Spending the afternoon and evening on the beach was so pleasant we couldn’t believe it. But not everything worked out as expected, the wind was blowing a bit too fast and the clouds were starting to assemble; the rain was coming. So, when we were thinking where to put our hammocks under some of the roofs in the garden, the family came and told us to come inside the house and use the beds, the toilet and, more surprisingly, the air conditioning. Besides, they brought us dinner and sodas. It is again people that don’t have much the ones that give the most.

Pasar la tarde entera en la playa fue una pasada, pero no todo iba según lo esperado: el viento se intensificó, se juntaron las nubes… estaba claro que se avecinaba una buena tormenta. Ya estábamos pensando cómo colgar las hamacas dentro de un cubierto en el jardín dónde habíamos dejado las mochilas cuando la familia nos vino a buscar para decirnos que entráramos en la casa y usáramos las camas, el baño e incluso el aire acondicionado. Más tarde nos trajeron bocadillos y bebida… Siempre son los que menos tienen los que mejor te tratan.

We woke up before the sun rose the next day, we gathered up some money and gave it to them and then we left. We hitchhiked again and in just a couple of hours we were in El Paredón, the nicest place in this part of the Pacific coast.

Nos levantamos antes de que asomara el sol, reunimos un poco de dinero para dárselo a la familia y nos fuimos. En pocas horas estábamos llegando al Paredón, uno de los sitios más bonitos en esta parte de la costa del Pacífico.

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La parte más apartada de la playa del Paredón 

As soon as we arrived to the beach we found our place. A really nice shadow post made of palm leaves and wood, signals of an out campfire. There we enjoyed the sea and the beach but there was something that made this visit more interesting — getting to know an education based volunteer program that’s been developed here over the last 5 years. Alba and Aina went to meet the volunteers and coordinators and came back with loads of ideas, and that’s how a very interesting talk about our view on volunteering started. We shared opinions and points of view and definitely got sentimental. Those hours debating  volunteer work by the Pacific ocean made the trip worth it.

Nos bastó pisar la playa para encontrar nuestro lugar: cuatro palos y una sombra hecha de madera y hojas de palmera que cubrían del sol un fuego ya apagado. Ahí colgamos las hamacas y nos dedicamos a disfrutar de la playa pero hubo algo que hizo nuestra visita al Paredón mucho más interesante: un proyecto de voluntariado que lleva cinco años situado en la aldea. Alba y Aina se fueron a conocer a los coordinadores y voluntarios y regresaron con la cabeza llena de ideas, y así empezó una conversación bien interesante sobre el voluntariado. Compartimos opiniones y puntos de vista e incluso nos pusimos un poco sentimentales. Esas horas debatiendo el trabajo voluntario sentados en la arena fueron uno de los mejores momentos del viaje.

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We shared our spot with four huge Guatemalans who even gave us some beans and tortilla… / Compartimos nuestra guarida con cuatro guatemaltecos que hasta nos dieron frijol y tortilla
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Donde el río (casi) llega al mar / The river getting to the ocean

I can’t remember the number of cars / pickups / trucks / donkeys… The thing is we finally got to our next stop: Monterrico. As we did the days before, we started walking by the beach to finally find a place we thought could be great for sleeping: a closed turtle shelter. It had a really cool viewpoint and, after a while thinking about the fact that there was a cyclone coming, we decided to hang our hammocks and chill out for the rest of the day. We talked, wrote, and tried to get into the water but the Pacific ocean and its waves nearly killed us so we stopped trying and smiled instead.

Ya no recuerdo el número de carros, pickops, camiones, burros… que nos dieron jalón hasta Monterrico. Finalmente llegamos y, como en los días anteriores, paseamos por la playa en busca de un buen sitio y lo encontramos: un tortugario cerrado (no es época de tortugas). Tenía un mirador precioso y, tras pensar por un momento  en el ciclón que se acercaba, decidimos colgar las hamacas y relajarnos. Charlamos, escribimos, intentamos meternos en el agua y las olas casi nos matan así que dejamos de intentar y simplemente… sonreímos.

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Home, sweet home! / Nuestra humilde morada.
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Sitting in our living room / Sentadas en nuestro sala de estar
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Always keep travel journals / Lleven siempre cuadernos de viaje
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We could tell the night would be fun / Se acercaba una noche movidita

Everything was amazing till we came back to our “place” and the security guards were there. Lucky us, they just wanted to hang out and tell us that there was a storm coming. We all slept quite well and, because we practically hadn’t spent any money yet, we booked a tour through the beautiful mangrove swamp. The price was 3.5 euros each and it was totally worth it.

Todo era perfecto hasta que regresamos a nuestra guarida y allá nos encontramos a los guardas. Por suerte sólo querían charlar y avisarnos del ciclón que se acercaba. Esa noche dormimos bastante bien y, como no habíamos gastado nada de dinero en todo el viaje, nos dimos el capricho de reservar un tour (3,5 euros cada uno) de madrugada para ver salir el sol desde una barquita de remos, entre manglares. 

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La luz era preciosa / The light was gorgeous
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Otra barquita como la nuestra, de pescadores / A boat like ours (they were fishermen)

We had an incredible time but the rain was coming and, indeed, we would soak to death. Waiting for our ride to get out of Monterrico, one hour under a little bus stop was enough to make us feel a bit demotivated. But life always surprises you and a car with a couple of good Christians inside stopped. They were going to Antigua but would leave us in the outskirts of Escuintla. We soon found a truck driver that took us to Palin, one of the last towns before getting to Guatemala City which, as you know, is on the Top Ten most dangerous cities of the world. There, after stopping a couple of trailers heading to El Salvador, we found a van heading to the even more dangerous Zone 18, but they would leave us on the perfect place to hitchhike north. They were right and that’s when our hero appeared, Mario Lopez. He and his beautiful trailer would give us the opportunity to live another adventure, the last during that trip.

Fue una mañana increíble pero se acercaba la lluvia y, efectivamente, nos íbamos a quedar empapados. Esperando a que nos dieran un jalón para sacarnos de Monterrico, pasamos más de una hora debajo de una marquesina de autobús. Pero cuando ya estábamos desmotivados, un carro con una pareja de apasionados de la música cristiana dentro nos levantó. Iban a Antigua y nos dejaron a las afueras de Escuintla, donde encontramos a un camionero que nos dejó en Palín, justo antes de llegar a Ciudad de Guatemala (una de las ciudades más peligrosas del mundo). Paramos a un par de camiones que resultó que iban al Salvador y luego sonó la campana: una furgoneta llena de tostadas nos propuso dejarnos en la (todavía más peligrosa) Zona 18, pero en el lugar perfecto para conseguir un jalón hacia el norte. Y así fue: allí nos recogió el héroe de la historia, Mario López. Él y su camión nos brindarían la última aventura de nuestro viaje.

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Así nos sentimos cuando nos recogen cristianos / This is how we feel when Christians give us a ride 
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El camión de Mario / Mario’s truck

One hour of normal driving was enough when amazing Guatemala Traffic Service decided that day was the one to fix the only road that connects the capital with the north. Of course it’s a two lane road so imagine. We had hope that it would pass but after three hours we went down the truck and started looking for other trucks heading to Poptun, because our guy wasn’t going that way, but he would save us more than half the way. We didn’t manage…

Después de una hora manejando de manera normal, vimos que algo fallaba. Y es que ese era el día indicado en que el maravilloso Servicio de Infraestructuras guatemalteco decidió arreglar la única carretera que va de la capital hacia el norte. Se trata, claro está, de una carretera de dos carriles, así que ya se lo pueden imaginar. Tras tres horas parados perdimos la esperanza de salir de allí y empezamos a buscar otros camiones que se dirigieran específicamente a Poptún (nuestro Mario se desviaría antes). No lo conseguimos…

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Bea suplicando / Begging Bea

As the dark started coming, Mario said to us that he and his friend weren’t going to make it so they would sleep in a very safe trailer station, with guard and everything, and continue the next day. Without any other chances, we agreed and we all stopped to meet the other guy and have supper. His name was also Mario and he was so pleased to meet us we couldn’t be more sure about the incoming night.

Ya anochecía y Mario anunció que su compañero y él no llegarían a su destino a tiempo y que se quedarían a dormir en una estación de servicio muy segura, con guarda de seguridad incluido, para continuar al día siguiente. No es que tuviéramos otra opción… Paramos para cenar con su colega, que también se llamaba Mario y era tan simpático que nos convenció de que era una buena idea pasar la noche con ellos.

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Mario & Mario, professional truck drivers and good people.

Our Mario wanted to leave the truck bed to us so we could sleep inside but we felt bad and decided to split up. Aina and Bea would hang the hammocks right under the truck! And Alba and I would sleep on top of the truck cabin! It was so amazing it became one of my favourite experiences ever. The rain came around four so Alba and I went down to get into the cabin, it was empty… Apparently Mario was afraid something could happen to the girls so he had also hung his hammock, he was a truly good person.

Nuestro Mario quería dejarnos su cama para que durmiéramos dentro del camión pero no quisimos causarle molestias así que nos separamos: Aina y Bea colgaron sus hamacas debajo del camión y Alba y yo decidimos instalarnos encima de la cabina. Era increíble estar allí; una de mis experiencias más especiales. Alrededor de las cuatro empezó a llover y Alba y yo nos metimos en el camión… y lo encontramos vacío. Resulta que Mario también había colgado la hamaca para no dejar solas a Aina y Bea. Era una bellísima persona.

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Dormir encima de un camión resultó ser bastante cómodo / Sleeping on top of a truck turned out to be quite cozy 

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Así amanecimos / This is what we saw as we woke up
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They didn’t even get wet / Ni siquiera se mojaron

The next day we continued our journey and got to Poptun without any trouble, knowing that we crossed a whole country without spending anything in transport or accommodation. This trip and the whole experience in Central America is changing our lives in so many ways… I don’t think we really are aware of it.

Por la mañana continuamos nuestro viaje y llegamos a Poptún sin problema, sabiendo que habíamos cruzado un país entero sin gastar ni un quetzal ni en transporte ni en alojamiento. Este viaje y la experiencia centroamericana en general están cambiando nuestras vidas en muchos sentidos, no creo que seamos conscientes de hasta qué punto.

Three Days in Tulum (or Our View On The Riviera Maya)

We spent our first days in Mexico in a little town known as Tulum. We had heard about Cancun being nothing but hotels and beach, so we decided to move on straight from the airport getting a bus to Tulum. On the bus we met an American girl named Kathleen who gave us some tips and told us to meet that same night at our hostel (she never showed up). The journey was the confirmation that the Riviera Maya is completely spoiled, full of hotels and all sorts of terrible resorts for rich people, most of them owned by Americans and Europeans.

Nuestros primeros días en México los pasamos en el pueblo de Tulum, ya que habíamos oído que Cancún estaba repleto de hoteles. Tomamos un autobús directo desde el aeropuerto y en el viaje nos dimos cuenta de que toda la Riviera Maya está llena de hoteles y resorts para ricos, regentados en mayor parte por norteamericanos y europeos.

I don’t know if it was because our first Mexican experience happened in Tulum that we grew very fond of this place. Although its current name is Tulum, Mayan for ‘wall’, it used to be called Zama, Mayan for ‘dawn’. Even if the town is quite touristy, it still retains the charm of Caribbean Mexico, which is obviously very different from the rest of Mexico. The main street may have been full with restaurants and shops aimed at tourists, but it was enough to walk a couple of blocks to get away from all the white faces.

Quizás es porque fue nuestro primer contacto con México, pero la verdad es que Tulum nos gustó mucho. Tulum significa ‘muro’ en maya, pero su nombre original era Zamá (amanecer). Es un pueblo turístico pero con todo el encanto del Caribe mexicano. Basta con alejarse un poco de la calle principal para deshacerse de los demás turistas.

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The main street of Tulum.

Our hostel was called Casa del Sol and Eric, the owner, works there literally 24/7. He must be around 30 and we never saw him leaving the hostel, he was always there when we went to sleep and making breakfast when we woke up. The showers had warm water (which is not that usual, really), the rooms were clean and the breakfast was yummy and included in the price. There is a free bike hire service, but you needed to wake up really early to reserve the bikes because there are not so many of them. On the first day we were only able to get one bike (that was funny!) and the second we got to use two (which was a bit safer than the first day).

Nos alojamos en el albergue Casa del  Sol, cuyo propietario, Eric, trabaja todo el día (cada vez que estábamos allí, él también estaba). Hay agua caliente, las habitaciones estaban limpias y el desayuno estaba rico. Si uno se levanta prontito puede usar las bicis del albergue gratis, pero el primer día tuvimos que compartir una porque no quedaban más… Fue divertido, pero al tener dos el segundo día nos sentimos más seguros.

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On the way to the beach and the ruins, with the one bike we shared that day.

What most people do in Tulum is visiting one of the cenotes, but somehow we run out of time to do that. We have heard different opinions about them, the most extended one being that the closest ones to town were mostly too expensive and crowded. I am sure, however, that it is possible to find some worth visiting; we just didn’t find the time to do it. What we did instead was to walk around town, going to the beach (we had to take advantage of the Caribbean sea, didn’t we?) and visiting archaeological sites.

Aunque mucha gente visita los cenotes, a nosotros no nos dio tiempo de hacerlo. De todas formas, escuchamos que los que están cerca del pueblo son demasiado caros y concurridos, así que nos dedicamos a visitar el pueblo, la playa y las ruinas.

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The beach is 5 km away so you need a ride or, preferably, bikes to get there. The road is mostly straight and perfect to cycle in and there’s a tiny bike park just in a part of the beach that is really not crowded. If you avoid the parts with hammocks, beach bars and that sort of thing the beach is quite nice. The sand is white and soft and the water really clear. When we got there it was not that warm, but we could not help it: we had to get in! It was cold but absolutely enjoyable.

La playa está a 5 km, así que lo mejor es ir en bici. El camino es bonito y hay sitio para dejar las bicis justo en un sitio donde no había mucha gente. Si uno no se queda en los chiringuitos, la playa es bonita: agua clara y arena blanca. A pesar de que no hacía mucho calor, nos metimos y la disfrutamos mucho.

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Taking a look at the map, we thought that we could reach the ruins by following the beach. If you’re ever there, DO NOT TRY IT. It was a 30 minutes walk after which we got to an abandoned house with a European girl who was scared of iguanas (and rightly so, they were pretty but huge) and had to walk back to go get our bike and cycle to the ruins.

By the time we got to the ruins we were exhausted and sunburnt, but it was really worth it. The entry ticket costs 70 pesos (around $3,5) and the ruins are like a park or an open air museum, as opposed to other ruins we’ve visited which seem to be extending through the jungle, and there were many informative posters explaining every building. It was a bit full of tourists but it was alright, we enjoyed the ruins and the view of the sea very much.

Por experiencia sabemos que no se llega a las ruinas por la playa… Tuvimos que caminar media hora para terminar dando media vuelta y recogiendo la bici para ir por la carretera. Aunque llegamos destrozados y quemados por el sol, nos encantaron las ruinas. La entrada nos costó 70 pesos y vale totalmente la pena.

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That building is known as “El Castillo” (the Castle) and it’s the biggest and most impressive one in the whole site.
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El Templo del Dios del Viento (Temple of the Wind God).

We spent the evenings exploring the town. There is a road going through the town, which is where all the restaurants and touristy shops are located, and the only Mexican people seem to be the shop owners trying to convince you to get in to buy an overpriced poncho. I had the feeling that Tulum was a bit more than that, and I was right. We started exploring the surrounding streets and could see the churches, shops and fast food restaurants aimed solely to Mexican people, we could taste the real, amazingly cheap and tasty Mexican food and got to experience the actual quiet vibe of the streets.

Pasamos los atardeceres y noches explorando el pueblo. Salimos de la calle turística y encontramos tiendas y restaurantes para gente local, iglesias y parques donde pudimos sentir el ambiente tranquilo y catar la deliciosa (y muy barata) comida mexicana, de la que os vamos a hablar con más profundidad en un futuro.

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To get away from main roads is our usual strategy, and we strongly recommend it, no matter where you are. The most surprising and delightful things are almost always out of reach of the tourists, and so is the taste of real life in a foreign country. This is Samu’s view on Tulum:

Tulum

El niño que emula en su juego
a los orígenes que le trajeron a la tierra.

El imperialismo que cura
sus heridas naturales
en la sonrisa de la juventud.

Yo os digo
que los americanos
van a venir y han venido,
que los letreros te envolverán
y los pedales te guiarán
hasta los límites del mar.

Entre huaraches, panuchos y gringas
se derretirá el cielo de tu boca,
y llorarán tus labios horchata de palmera
mientras iguanas surgirán
de los montes de tu cintura ardiente.

Olas transparentes
llenarán de sal tu pecho
entre reflejos de minería.

Quemaduras de pirámides
que flotan entre las ceibas.

Rozaduras en la noche
de pitidos y farolas.

Samu S.

Central America: How and Why We Did It

Because this blog is not world famous (yet), not even famous (yet), I think that everyone will know where we are right now. If you don’t, however, we’re really glad to let you know that we are in a beautiful, amazing country called Guatemala. And I must say that, funnily enough, more people seem to be interested in how we got there than in why we are there. I am going to tell you both.

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Sunset in Flores

WHY WE DID IT

This one is easy: we just needed to do it. Actually, there are two different reasons why but they are intertwined and were so compatible that made it impossible for us to keep travelling in Europe as we had been doing for the past… months/years (it all depends on the perspective, I guess).

The Old Continent was getting old. I mean it. We both had been living in different European countries. Since we started our adventures together, we had been travelling around the south (Portugal/Spain in July), the west (England in December), the north (Norway in October) and the east (Poland/Ukraine in November). We still have lots to see there but we were starting to get the feeling that we were getting quite acquainted with Europe. Of course, some countries stay in our bucket list, but for the moment we were both just longing to get away from our home continent for a while and to see something actually different.

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Mural in the Jewish Quarter, Krakow, Poland.

We wanted to help. We were growing worried about the world’s situation in general and didn’t know how to help. When you’re a travel addict, to volunteer abroad seems to be the obvious answer, but where to go, what to do? We did not want to go to a place in which they needed doctors or construction workers or clowns, as we knew we wouldn’t be of much help there, but there is one thing we have in common: we love teaching and we love kids. We are both teachers, so it just made sense to look for a place where we could actually help using our skills.

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Alba walking a little patojito home

HOW WE DID IT

So how to travel across continents with a low budget? It took us a bit to figure it out but it’s not that hard, so we will very gladly share it with you!

Finding the lowest flight fares. As most travelers we know, we use Skyscanner. For us, it was worth it to look for flights from all over Europe and to all over Central America (South America was sadly way out of budget). We found out the cheapest airport to fly to was, by far, Cancun, so we started looking by country. In the end, in a Germany>Cancun search, bingo: there was a flight departing from Cologne in the exact desired dates costing 200€. It was just perfect. We found another flight from Valencia to Cologne for 17€ so this was the perfect chance to kill three birds with a stone: we got the chance to visit Valencia and Cologne and fly to Cancun. Just like that.

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Using valenbici thanks to our friend Maria and her boyfriend Andy, València, País Valencià.

Flying on a one-way ticket. Let’s be honest. You need a proof of onward/return travel when you travel across continents. It is actually mandatory if you are travelling to Mexico. Did they ask us at the airport? They didn’t, but they could have. They did ask some of our friends flying from Madrid. They can even ask you before your flight takes off and force you to buy a flight right away before letting you board. We didn’t (still don’t) know when we wanted to come back home, and it was definitely not within the three month limit.

There are many ways of getting through the airport without proof of onward ticket. The first solution we found was to get a fake one: you just look for a real flight, fill up the questionnaire in this website and done. Many people have done that, and we think it’s safe enough unless you act really suspicious and they call the airline to check if it’s real. But we found an even better option! This airline allows you to reserve a flight for 48 hours before putting in your credit card number. You get an e-mail with the flight details but it will automatically be canceled if you don’t pay within 48 hours.

And that’s it. To travel to another continent might seem like a huge and expensive step, but as you can see it’s really not that hard.

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