It has been a long time since my last entry, and for this I apologize! We have been caught up in travels and fun, so this will be a long one!
The main thing we did in Rio Dulce was going to the Finca Paraiso, a gorgeous hotspring waterfall. The actual waterfall itself has steaming hot water pouring from rocks heated by a near by volcano. The bottom of the falls meets a cold river resulting in warm water pool area. You can stand or sit under the hot water while it streams down your whole body....it felt amazing! The next morning we took a boat up the actual river Rio Dulce, to get to Livingston. It is only possible to get there via a boat. Livingston has one of the largest population of Garfuna in Central America is is vastly different than the rest of the country. It is one of the most laid back cities I have ever experienced. The Garfuna are a mix of African American, Carribean and European and speak an amazing mixture of these languages (it almost sounded like Jamacan, with similar accents--I think it may have been Creole but the actual language is named Garfuna as well)
. The city itself has a real Carribean feel to it, with people drumming and reggae music blasting everywhere. The ocean was like a bathtub, but unfortunately the best beaches in the area are only accessible through boats. So the day after we arrived we took a boat to La Playa Blanca and hung out there for the day with a Guatemalan family and a friend Iris that we made in Semuc Champay (We ran into her at the Finca Paraiso in Rio Dulce, and convinced her to come to Livingston). By the name you could probably guess that it was a beautiful white sand beach, with the warmest ocean I have ever been in. The tour company advertised crystal clear blue waters and white sand beaches, which was not true at all, but we still had a great day.
The next day we started to make our way to Utila island in Honduras. We spent around 6 hours just getting to San Pedro La Sula, Honduras and made a huge mistake. Obviously since we were in another country we had to use different money...any we had no idea what the exchange was. When we made it to San Pedro La Sula a caravan picked us up and said we could pay 120 (what we thought was Limperas) for him to take us to La Ceiba. We gladly agreed, and were beyond happy to have an air conditioned ride. It was the first extremely comfortable ride we have taken thus far....Well upon arriving in La Ceiba after spending half an hour trying to find a hotel we went to pay our driver (Finding a hotel was a major problem because of Semana Santa, a week of holiday for catholics, where everyone in Honduras and Guatemala celebrate
. By this time it was roughly 8pm and there was no hope of getting on a ferry to Utila that night). Apparently he told us the quote in actual U.S. Dollars! A 3 hour ride for $120 !!!!!!!!!! We did not have enough cash and fought with the guy for over an hour, because he hadnLtīt clearly explained his rate. It would have cost us only $5 for the same ride on chicken buses!! We ended up forking over almost everything we had, (I almost gave him my favorite opal earrings) and we retired to our room, feeling used and confused! The next morning we got up really early and headed to the port where we could catch a ferry over to Utila island. In line we ran into some friends we made in our first week in Xela (Phil, Phil, Mark, Gabe and Leum), so we ended up sitting together on the ride over. In the same row was a girl (Paula) traveling by herself so I talked to her the whole way there. As it turns out, we all ended up hanging out together the whole week in Utila! The ride over was amazing in itself, I have never seen water so blue, and there were flying fish that would jet out of the way of the ferry in massive groups. The could glide a long way on top of the water, and looked like little water hummingbirds.
We stayed in one of the nicest hotels there is on the island, The Mango Inn who works in conjunction with the dive center we had previously signed up for dive lessons with. That night we went out with our old friends and our new one and had a blast
! We ended up running into a bunch of different people we had become friends with in other places in Guatemala, including 2 of the Irish guys we partied with on St. Patrics day, friends from Semuc Champay, and a guy that we stayed in the same family with in Antigua!
The next morning was our first day of dive lessons. We had to fill out this health release form to be able to dive, and as it turns out Jenna was not able to :( . We were both extremely disappointed!! Our new friend Paula that we met on the ride over was in the same dive class, so I still had a buddy to dive with. We were able to put gear on and go under water our first day! I must admit that I was a little nervous! You have to breath differently and I panicked a little when we first went under, but was able to regain my composure. It was so incredible! The next day we went over more basics, and the day after that we did our first real dive. I have fallen in LOVE with diving!!! It will be a hobby of mine as long as I have the opportunity! The world is so different under the water! We got to see some really amazing coral, fish, and 3 different Murray eels, who stared ominously at me. In fact the first the I saw one I screamed! We also saw many different angry looking barracudas (spell?), and when I mean angry looking I mean they looked pissed off! Their brows are permanently furrowed! We also saw a Gruber fish, a huge puffer fish that was not puffed up, and fish with amazingly bright colors
! I can hardly describe to you how amazing each dive was. The first course ended on Thursday and Friday was my birthday (Friday April 14 for all of you who forgot!!). Thursday night was also the full moon so there was a huge party at one of the beaches. We danced and drank the night away. I decided to do the advanced course while I was there as well, so this included a night dive and a ship wreck dive. The night dive was Friday, the night of my birthday and was absolutely incredible, we saw fish sleeping on the reefs, glowing fish and glowing plankton! I donīt know how my birthday could have been better! After my night dive my friends and I went out to dinner where they surprised me with a birthday cake they had made that day! The next day I finished up my advanced dive course and we headed back to the mainland of Honduras on our way to Xela. We spent the night in San Pedro La Sula and got up at 5 am the next day to get on a bus heading to Guatmelala city. At the border of Guatemala and Honduras we had to pass immigration and once again we made a dumbass mistake! We were supposed to get stamped on our way over from Guatemala and didn't have one, so immigration as trying to make us pay $2,900 Limpera each which is the equivalent to around $200. We basically gave the guy all the Limperas we had and he let us go, warning us that next time we would not be so lucky!! The bus ride was an 8 and a half hour ride, so when we got to Guatemala city Jenna, Mark, Leum and I decided not to trek it all the way back to Xela that day
. That would have meant another 4 and a half hours on the bus and we were really tired. We decided to spend the night in Antigua at this really amazing hotel, just to treat ourselves. The next day we made it back to Xela, which was last Monday. Jenna and I have since found a new family to stay with and have been studying in school since last Wednesday. This time we are at a different school that is cheaper and offers free internet, and meals included all 7 days instead of 6 like our last one. Over the weekend we made our way back to Lago Atitlan with some people from our new school and our friends from our old school. One major problem occurred though. There are many different cities on Lago Atitlan that include San Pedro and San Marcos. Well we ended up getting on the wrong freaking bus to a different San Marcos and San Pedro, and spent a total of 3 hours riding on a bus for nothing!! Well we finally made it to the right San Pedro and spent 2 days chilling out on the beautiful lake. We got back yesterday night and started back at school this morning.
I only have about 2 weeks left here in Guatemala and am VERY sad about it. I have fallen in love with this country and will return as often as I can. To finish off our trip together, Jenna and Iplan on returning to Lago Atitlan for about 5 days then head to the pacific coast to a surf camp for another 5 days or so...then I return to Mexico!