After many hours of filming and even more hours of editing, I can finally present to you the GoPro video of the entire journey. This is what 12 weeks in 11 countries looks like in 4 minutes and 36 seconds. I hope that you enjoy it.
Nina, Simone and I left Tulum basically straight after breakfast heading for Cancun, which was just a couple of hours away. As soon as I arrived I knew we'd landed in the Costa del Sol of Mexico. There was nothing here other than a massive strip of hotels and that's about it. There were no historical monuments and nothing to really see/do (without costing a bomb!). To be honest by this point in the trip I was already aware of what Cancun was like so I wasn't really bothered.
We found our hostel, Hostel Quetzal, after using their ridiculous directions, which were poor to say the least. We checked in and then headed to one of the many different beaches around the Hotel Zone and dumped ourselves there. It was full of people - great.
In the evening we ended up having dinner at the hostel and played beer pong with some others. Not a massively eventful night.
Nina and Simone left early this morning to go whale shark snorkelling. I decided to wait for two Spanish girls I met in Belize as they said I might be able to do it with them for free. This meant I had the whole day to myself after I checked out and moved into a hostel around the corner - not because it was bad but because people had booked the beds before us.
I decided to go to a bigger beach further into the Hotel Zone and lay there most of the day to soak up as much of the sun as possible before heading back to the UK. By 4pm I was pretty bored so went back to the hostel and waited until the girls turned up. Again, a quiet night.
I think by now I had become a little fed-up with travelling. My ribs still hurt, my iPhone was gone and I was in going home mode. The hostel was pretty quiet too so it made a boring situation worse.
Today is my last real day of RTW2014. The Spanish girls never came through so I decided to do the trip myself. At $100 it was steep but felt that it would be the best way to finish my trip - swimming with whale sharks.
A minibus picked me up early and I ended up talking with some others in the bus who would end up being on my boat for the day. We bombed off into the ocean for a good hour or so until we came to a flock of boats bobbing on sea. Then I saw why. You could see these huge sharks just swimming around on the surface. These ranged from 8m to what I thought was about 12m - massive.
We were paired up and we would then take it in turns getting in and out to swim with them. This was a moment when I was seriously glad I had a GoPro. I was swimming furiously to keep up with them but in their own placid way, they effortlessly outpaced me. Their size and beauty is something that everyone should experience (sustainably!).
We then got out and moved to another spot (there were at least 15 sharks in the area). The two before us jumped in and we waited at the side of the boat ready to go in as soon as they got out. Anyway, the captain instructed us to jump in. We followed the order. As soon as my face slapped the water, I saw this gigantic creature coming at me - head on. Its mouth perched open, taking in the water and plankton, was something to really marvel. The guide in the water called me and pointed into the distance. I swam like mad to see it. All of a sudden I saw this great wall of white and assumed it was a manatee. It wasn't. It was an even bigger shark in a completely vertical position. This absolutely blew my mind and you'll see why in the pictures. It's funny because a shark of such stature and size is totally harmless to humans.
I stumbled back on to the boat mesmerised and speechless of what I had seen. Well worth the $100 and an epic way to end my trip. On the way back we stopped off at the north shore of Isla Mujeres, an island off the coast of Cancun, for lunch and beer. We then finished up by roughly 3pm before heading back to the hostel.
Nina and Simone had both left Cancun for New York and back home to Utrect, respectively. I had dinner and beers with others at the hostel and packed my bag for the last time.
Although it's sad RTW2014 is over, I'm happier it happened. Once most people start travelling you'll find that most of those never stop. To some extent I envy those that don't travel because they'll live their lives blissfully unaware of what they are missing (holidays, in my opinion, do not count). The excuse of never having enough money is nonsense too. After 18,000 miles, £4,200, 31 buses, 10 boats, 6 planes I've managed to see 11 wonderful countries. At 24 I've been fortunate to have travelled to 33 countries. Expect that number to keep on rising into my future. I've had easily one of the best experiences of my life to date. I've gone from seeing the world's largest salt flats, to the Amazon rainforest, to Machu Picchu, to learning how to dive. And that's probably the best part of travelling; experiencing the world outside of normality. More importantly I've made many great friendships. People always say travelling is the only thing you spend money on that makes you richer- it couldn't be more right. Although I feel like I've aged on this trip, maybe it's just a metaphor for the start of the next chapter in my life: the real world. Thank you to all of the people that have made the trip what it was.
Another early start today. Due to lacking a phone, I had to get Simone to the wake me up. We waddled with our bags to the port where we were placed on to the speed boat to get to customs on San Pedro. We checked out and made our way to Cheutmal, on the border of Mexico. We grabbed some food and then caught a really cheap cab to the ADO bus station. From here we connected using a bus to get to Tulum, 4 hours away. I was never planning on coming to Tulum but due to 2 excess days I decided to see more of Mexico than just Cancun!
When we arrived we hitched a cab to the hostel I had been informed about: Bike Tulum. It was ok but mainly because of the free bikes. The rest was sub-par. As we had arrived at 5pm we just ate dinner before taking Nina to the local hospital as she thought she had had Dengue Fever in the days prior. It turns out she did. We bought some cheap Corona's (50p) and went back to the hostel for a quiet one as the hostel was exactly very sociable and if it wasn't for the girls, it would have been dire.
Today we got up, had the free breakfast and headed to the Grand Cenote. The cenotes are basically massive sink holes filled with fresh water. We paid, entered and swam in the cold yet refreshing water for an hour or so. We hired a snorkel but even then, you needed to scuba dive to really see stuff.
We then went to the beach and spent the afternoon relaxing there, again with a beautiful turquoise shoreline! I had tacos for dinner that were delicious as everything in Mexico seems to come with guacamole and salsa - perfect. We bought some more Corona's and headed back for another early and quiet night mainly because there wasn't anything to do!
This morning I was up incredibly early - 4:30am - to catch the 5am bus to Belize City. I paid 120 quetzals to get there as I wanted the AC'd bus with a proper seat! I joined up with Gareth and Kush, who I had met in Semuc. Gaz managed to have his phone stolen on the bus at border control, which set the precedent for the next 24 hours.
We arrived in Belize City at just gone 10am causing us to miss the 10am ferry across to Caye Caulker. I needed cash and found that Halifax had once again stopped my card. It's a good job I'm travelling with people as I can borrow money from them! The first 3 people we met in Belize offered us drugs. It seems Belize City is living up to its reputation. We had lunch and waited for the next ferry.
We landed on the island an hour after departing the mainland and all I could call it is natural beauty. Although the island doesn't have an actual beach (the offshore reef prevents wave activity), the surrounding water is perfectly turquoise, just how you would imagine the Caribbean.
After I had sorted my cash flow problem out, I met up with the boys at the Split at the northern part of the island. We had some beers and laid in the sun for the rest of the afternoon. We then cooked up a big curry, whilst Gary made up a massive jug of rum punch. We went to the reggae bar but I bailed at 12:30ish as I couldn't really be bothered with more drinking as my ribs were giving me grief.
I woke up this morning to find the local guy in the bed just down from me had gone and so had my phone that had been resting next to me. Travellers don't generally rob each other mainly because of karma but this guy was known to be dodgy and the hostel still let him in. The staff at Bellas didn't really help and neither did the Police. As soon as they knew I needed a Crime Reference Number for insurance purposes, they didn't want to know. Typical.
After I barred the phone and SIM, we took out one of the free canoes we could use and went around the island. This turned out to be way more difficult than we bargained for as the current was against us the whole way. Still it was nice to do something different.
We spent the afternoon at the Split again. The boys that I was with were already set in their own little group and this was made more apparent when the girls they knew came that evening, turning me into an outsider. I guess it shows more about them than anything else.
I didn't really have a big night tonight but did manage to meet a bunch of other people.
Today is the final of the World Cup! We had breakfast then went to the sports bar to watch the game. The day was particularly lazy as not a lot really happened. Simone and Nina (who I had met in Semuc) had also caught up with me so I would now carry on with them all the way to Cancun.
We also booked our Raggamuffin boat tour, which we'll do tomorrow.
We woke up at 8am, had scrambled eggs on toast and all walked down to the Raggamuffin office of the shore to get our fins and masks sized up prior to the day of snorkelling. We then boarded out sailing boat and headed off for a good hour or so. The day consisted of 3 snorkelling stops, which included the Hol Chan Marine Reserve and amazing Shark Ray Alley.
We were allowed to swim with many nurse sharks (it was my first time swimming with wild sharks) and huge manta rays in Shark Ray Alley. When I say many I mean so many they are everywhere. You could easily get creeped out by it. Hol Chan was much more relaxed as I got to swim with turtles for the first time, which is just such a speechless and effortless site to witness.
The day trip included fish curry, prawn ceviche and basically unlimited rum punch for the journey back. Imagine that just sailing along with perfect weather and a group of friends listening to UB40. Very good times.
Due to my phone being stolen by some ruthless local in Belize, there has been a hiatus in my blog. I managed to pick up a fever on my return to the UK, hence the delay. I'm now going to finish what I started in order complete the experience!
I left early this morning on a minibus bound for Flores. I booked through a company outside of the hostel so had to get on a separate minibus to Shay and Ofir. As my luck would hold it, I was last on and this meant I had to be in the temporary fold-out chair for the 8-10 hour journey. This was made worse by the fact that my ribs were still killing and everytime the bus stopped it would pull on my core muscles making it one long and uncomfortable journey!
The bus ride was one of my most boring yet. No one spoke to each other and it wasn't until the end that I met Yannick from Germany. We both ended up staying in Los Amigos, which I believe had links with Zephy Lodge. The hostel was good with decent showers and ample amounts of hot water. We decided to look for street food as I was on my last quetzals at this point as I knew I was the leaving the country in the next two days. We managed to watch the sunset across the lake and eat these cold burritos for only 80p each, which came with everything from guacamole to chili.
Having had dinner, we headed back to book our Tikal tour for tomorrow before playing pool and a quick beer prior to bed.
This morning we slep in until around 10am and had a late breakfast, basically brunch. We opted to do the Tikal tour in the afternoon as the mornings were notoriously misty at this time of year. This also meant that we would see the sunset too.
We paid 100 quetzals (£7.50p) to get there and back (an hour drive each way) and a further 170 quetzals to get into the park (this included a rip-off 20 quetzals to stay in the park an extra 30 minutes. The day was actually a lot better than I was expecting. Our guide was informative and we learnt more about the UNESCO World Heritage site and the pre-Colombian Mayan history of area.
We spent a good 4 hours or so looking around various temples, taking pictures and seeing the varied wildlife - from bats to monkeys, before finishing on top of Temple IV for sunset. This sunset also happened to be one of the best I've ever seen. Imagine being in the middle of the jungle, the local animals calling each other, while you sit 30m up overlooking the canopy below, which was laced in a mist that gave a distinct depth to the landscape. For miles around all you could see is jungle. Simply amazing.
After sunset, we scurried back to the minibus where we would be taken back to the hostel. We repeated the same dinner pattern as last night mainly because it was cheap.
Tomorrow I'm leaving Guatemala and going into Belize!
Having spontaneously decided to go to Semuc Champey in the east of the country, we left Antigua at 8am. I went there with Ofir and Shay but met two English girls on the shuttle. They happened to be Jewish and so did everyone else as most of the others were Israeli. It was a hilarious journey consisting mainly of turning the music up to full volume, the Israelis arguing about politics and general banter throughout the whole 9-hour ride. One of my favourites so far anyway.
We arrived at a hostel called the Zephyr Lodge, which was set in one of the most breathtaking sites I've stayed at. In an open setting, the hostel overlooked jungle-based mountains and flowed around the surrounding area. The place was also meant to be the party hostel of Lanquin and had a pool.
Once we ate we sorted out our Semuc Champey tour for tomorrow, which cost 190 Quetzales ($24) for a full day of activities. We then showered and started drinking the bottle of rum we bought in Antigua as the price of alcohol in the hostel was high.
I quickly had a breakfast smoothie (no where enough for the day) and we then all jumped into the back of a jeep and had to stand up for 45 minutes to get to Semuc. The easiest way to explain what Semuc Champey is to imagine many turquoise blue pools that run above a verocious river. Basically paradise in-land.
First we went caving where we had to walk in the dark with just a candle each! This was actually a bit disappointing as it ended at a pitch black waterfall, which I wasn't going to jump off! It just meant the way back out was the same old thing. We then went on a massive rope swing that you sit on as it fires you out into the river. I managed to land wrong on my side and I'm now pretty sure I've cracked a rib or two.
We then headed to the mirador (lookout point) up a massive hill that would give us the first view of Semuc Champey from above before going in. It was unbelievable. The colours really were fantastic. The water itself was so refreshing and we basically dropped down each pool whether that was jumping in or sliding down. This was definitely one of the highlights of the trip simply because of the natural beauty in such an unlikely area.
We then went back to the hostel, saw that Brazil got smashed by Germany and then played some pool before going in the pool! The night was tame as I didn't have much cash left (no ATMs in Lanquin).
Tomorrow I'm back on course to Flores in the north east of Guatemala.
Our shuttle today wasn't until 12 so we arrived in Guatemala around 6 hours later having viewed yet more impressive scenery. We checked into The Terrace Hostel based on various peoples opinions of the place. The views were incredible as it quite literally has a terrace overlooking Volcán de Agua (pictured at the bottom of this post) in the east. The hostel itself wasn't bad but not amazing. Ofir's friend, Shay, was flying in from Brazil so we quickly grabbed a burrito and nachos. I also saw some of the guys I met in Nicaragua here too so ended up going out with them although it was a bit of a flop as the police shut down all of the bars/clubs at 1am. I wasn't too fussed though as I have to be up at 7:30 to hike up Volcán de Pacaya.
After eating a quick breakfast of huevos rancheros on the terrace, I was picked up to go hiking. The group was actually pretty good although most kept themselves to themselves. We spent an hour in the shuttle to the start point and then another 1.5 hours walking up to the crater of the volcano. The views were spectacular, which looked over the surrounding cities and lush green jungle.
The volcano itself last erupted in March so we couldn't walk to the very top. The lava flow had cooled and hardened from what we could see from the lookout. After a few pictures we then bumped into Mr McKinney (blue, second from the left in the group picture) who happened to be the old guy who the new crater was named after! He was absolutely fascinated by the GoPro and requested pictures of me and it! We then wondered down to the lava flow where you could still feel the heat. We could toast marshmallows on it it was that warm! When we were walking back it absolutely pissed it down and I only had a Tshirt and shorts!
Once back in Antigua, Ofir and Shay we were waiting for me to book onward travel for tomorrow. Once booked, we had another burrito for dinner and wondered around the beautiful city. It's basically a blend between the touristy San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and Leon in Nicaragua. Most of the buildings are nicely kept with a cobbled road running though the maze-like city.
I've now decided to go to Semuc Champey, which wasn't originally in the plan but it's on the way to Flores. Not only that, where I have saved a few days over the last month or so, I decided that seeing something unique to Guatemala was better than sitting on another beach in Mexico.