I never did much coverage of our 2008 trip to Guatemala, primarily because neither of us were wild about the destination. We found Antigua too touristy, the Puerto Quetzal area too run down, the rainy season (which lasts much of the year) a bit too restrictive and the no-see-ums that found their way into our beds way too itchy. But still, in every bad travel experience, there’s a silver lining.
While we were staying in the shantytown of Monterrico in a beachfront motel we booked upon arrival, we stumbled upon a gem of a restaurant, Taberna El Pelicano, that we found ourselves returning to nightly; it was just that good. On our second or third dinner there, the owner stopped by for a chat, then wound up inviting us to play poker with a bunch of locals at one of their homes. We went, and by the end of the evening—or dawn’s early light as the case may have been—one of the guys at the poker table offered to take us out on the river the next day.
Seeing as the rain prohibited many of our pre-planned activities, we had nothing on our day’s itinerary. Who were we to pass up an authentic view of the area through the eyes of a pair of locals?
We met him and his friend in town and they walked us to the dock, before hauling a canoe down the dirt path. Little did he know, SVV was about to be put to work, too. I guess there really is no such thing as a free lunch, right?
Being female gets you out of a lot of manual labor, and so I got to sit pretty while the three men did all the rowing. (I’m more than happy to exploit my gender when it works in my favor, let me tell you.)
The area we explored was an intricate system of canals rife in wildlife, particularly birds, and as green as could be thanks to the nonstop showers. The skies never did clear, but the rain stayed at bay for much of the day, and the moodiness of the landscape only added to the experience.
We rowed down the river and then rowed some more. For hours, I floated while the men worked. Apparently, canoe is the preferred method of transport around the area; we passed several during our half-day tour.
My butt was starting to get sore when, out of nowhere, our intrepid rowers pulled over and got out of the canoe. We followed and took a little walk through the swampy area—me, more tentatively than the others as I had had it with bugs on this particular trip—before boarding our chariot once more and heading back to town.
This little day trip may have been uneventful but it was a slice of kindness from perfect strangers and more than enough to turn our entire Guatemala trip around.
What an incredible opportunity you stumbled upon. Looks fantastic.
Made up for the rest of the trip sucking so bad, ha!
You look so cute in glasses.
In 10 years or so, the effects of the LASIK will wear off and I’m sure I’ll be rocking the librarian look once again!
As always, beautiful photos. Sometimes when you’re traveling, the human connections you make lead to the best stories. When I was much younger, my parents took us to France every year to see my dad’s side of the family. We got stranded in Paris during the rail strikes, my parents struck up a conversation with another family we met in the metr(they both speak fluent French), and we ended up staying the night with them in their beautiful 5th quartier apartment! It was such a lovely experience that we otherwise would not have had.
I had a lot more of these experiences when I was a solo travel in my early 20s bopping around Europe by train, and I wish for the life of me that I had kept a blog then (or was more diligent about writing in my journal), as so many of those memories have been replaced by more recent travels…it’s like I have early onset Alzheimer’s or something!
Sorry about your trip. Yo”ll be surprised now, Antigua has almost no touristsa and it’s devastating the area financially, Guatamala doesn’t need more hardships!
Montericco is fun. We were there for the turtle release festival. I found it really hot and way too many mosquitos, but my son had a blast!
My favorite part was getting our car on the dinky ‘ferry’ to the other side of the mangrove.
I’ll be back in Puerto Quetzal (just for a day) in May, so hopefully I’ll have the chance to revisit Antigua and have a better experience. I know you love Guatemala, we just didn’t have a very exhilarating two weeks there at all!
Funny, I hate puerto quetzal 🙂
If you do come and have time, I’d love to meet up in Antigua!
I’m working Semester at Sea again, and that’s where the ship docks (hopefully, I won’t be staying there). I’m sure I’ll be going along on one of the SAS day trips for my job, but if not (or if I find myself in Antigua with a group even), I will surely let you know =)
Always nice to hook up with the locals, especially when they row.
It was about an 80/20 split between me and our locals.. Didn’t feel right letting them take us out and then kicking back like we were in Italy or something!
Glad that things turned around. Meaningful conversations and new friendships are the best parts of traveling!
Too bad bugs always get in the way of those exotic tropical destinations. Looks like breathtaking scenery and a good time anyway.
I know, right? I wish I weren’t such a girly-girl and that bugs didn’t, erm, bug me so. In Costa Rica last month, I couldn’t sleep for fear that something would crawl into the bed with me—or fall onto me from the ceiling!
Sounds like a nice, relaxing day!! I can totally see my older daughter just sitting enjoying the scenery like that. She went on a camping trip for school last June that included a canoe trip with several portages and somehow managed to get through the week without ever carrying her backpack or a canoe. 🙂
Your daughter and I would get along well, but at the same time, could never travel together because who would carry all of our gear?!
Gorgeous photos! I once went on an all-day canoe trip in Vermont with my husband. Like SVV, he did nearly all the rowing, and had zero sympathy for me when I complained that my butt was soar. 😉
I feel like with all the hardships we go through as women, they owe it to us! 😉
The first picture needs some kind of inspirational quote printed on it and then if should be sold to the masses. Fantastic!
I was thinking about potentially designing postcards in the near-ish future–I like your idea!
Those are fantastic photos! Women do deserve a break some of the time!
…some of the time…all of the time…whatever suits us, I say. 😉
Beautiful photos! I love those river pictures – everything looks so serene. Glad the locals came to your rescue.
It’s great when you make travel connections that can lead to unique experiences like this one. I also love canoes!
I think it’s amazing how you guys manage to meet such interesting people and make friends with such ease. It’s like you guys have a tattoo on your foreheads that says, “We’re awesome people, come talk to us!”
Haha. I love you.
1) I love your dress! You look gorgeous. 🙂
2) I need to show Lucas that I’m not the only chic that does nothing when she’s in a boat. He thinks I am!!!
3) I’m glad that you had an awesome time in Guatemala the 2nd time around.
This was my first visit to Guatemala actually, and I’m still not sold on the destination…but you still have to look at the positive whenever you travel, right? =)
(I will be back in May, however, for a second visit.)
What a fun adventure and how awesome to get a look of the land from the eyes of someone who lives there.
Okay, this might be a silly question…. but what are “no-see-ums”? 😛 Lovely photos, btw – I like the moody feel to them.
To me, that sounds like a perfect vacation day. My favorite part of any trip is just getting out into nature and seeing a whole new array of plants and animals that I don’t know by name.