Elly Blake

Joined January 2017
  • Day188

    Cancun/ Isla Mujeres

    August 9, 2017 in Mexico

    I've always wanted to go to Cancun, just to see what it's like - and now I know. If you're into American spring break type of partying, or want to come on a family package holiday, or simply just use Cancun as a base for the surrounding Yucatan/ Quintana Roo area, then Cancun is ideal. But, it is not at all representative of Mexican culture - it's a bit of an America bubble really.

    That being said, as a traveller, there are some cool things to do in Cancun which shine through. The first is Isla Mujeres which is a fifteen minute ferry ride from the port. When I arrived in Isla Mujeres, the sun was shining and it was glorious. The beach had the clearest blue sea and white sands. The perfect way to end six months of travelling, right?

    Little did I know that a hurricane was headed towards Yucatan and the next two days would be torrential rain and winds, meaning all chances of last-minute sunbathing or snorkelling with whale sharks was eliminated. Typical.

    I spent the evening watching Netflix before getting the ferry back to Cancun the next day. Although I did get an idea of what Isla Mujeres was like, I definitely did not get to see the best of it due to bad weather. I would definitely like to go back one day in the dry season (and low season because it's insanely busy) and give it another chance.

    The next thing for me which shines through is some of the food in Cancun. When you look past all the American fast-food chains and Western panaderias, you can find some awesome authentic Mexican food. In Parque de las Palmas you can get 3 tacos for 30 pesos (that's the equivalent of £1.25 or something ridiculous).

    I also went on the hunt for souvenirs at Mercado 28, which is great for tacky tourist presents and also a good way to practice Spanish bartering skills. There are some bargains to be had, and I managed to get prices down as much as I could to get presents for the fam and Josh. Top tip - half it, and then walk away. They'll say no at first and then come calling after you.

    My trip ended with drinks at my hostel and a failed attempt to go out. Standard. The next day I caught my flight home from Cancun - back to the motherland - LONDON!
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  • Day185

    Chetumal

    August 6, 2017 in Mexico

    Arriving in Chetumal, I was like a deflated balloon. I was pretty miserable and at a crossroads. The holiday was over - I was exhausted and wanted to go home - and I didn't know what to do next.

    I booked myself into a hotel, reasoning it would have good wifi, so I could go on the internet and devise a POA. Of course, the wifi was rubbish and hard to search for anything. I decided I would have a good night's sleep and if I still felt the same the next day, that I was ready to go home, then I would book a flight.

    The next day I was still felt the same and booked my flight for the next Wednesday, home from Cancun. This would give me a few days to see Mexico and do some of things I wanted to do before going back to London.

    My first stop in Mexico was a twenty minute drive across the border to the town of Chetumal. It seemed like an okay place, but not much of a tourist stop. The people were very friendly and seemed interested that tourists were staying in their town (you got a lot of stares). I didn't do much here apart from have a good night's sleep, get my first taste of Mexican cuisine with huevos rancheros at breakfast, before heading to the ADO bus stop to catch the 6-hour bus to Cancun.
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  • Day183

    Caye Caulker

    August 4, 2017 in Belize

    After a failed attempt to get pizza, shuttle to Guatemala City, 4am start and flight via El Salvador we arrived in Belize City - ready for Caye Caulker. Still wrecked from the hike, we deserved it.

    Arriving in Caye Caulker was like arriving in paradise. Crystal clear water, Caribbean vibes, no cars, colourful houses and some of the most easy-going people I have ever met. I loved the 'go slow' mentality here and it's hard for this place not to rub off on you.

    First thing was first: beach. We went down to the Lazy Lizard on the split and sunbathed for the remainder of the day. Al and I went for a swim, not realising the current was actually really strong and I genuinely had to be saved by a local who grabbed my wrist and pulled me to safety ("my saviour"). We had lunch and then went to Sip 'n' Dip - one of my ultimate favourite bars ever. It has hammocks, swings and tubes in the sea and the happy hour was pretty lethal.

    After we got ready for our first night out and had a cute BYOB dinner at Chef Juan's. We then set out to the sports bar, basically where everyone goes for a night out. Lots of dancing, shots, you name it and we were also happy to see some of our Irish friends we'd met in Lanquin. It was such a good night, everyone on great form, ending up in Reggae Bar and then back to our hostel for more drinks.

    The day after was a bit eat, sleep, rave, repeat starting with the split, jokes at Sip 'n' Dip (one of my fave parts of the holiday - "you look like a well pissed woman"), dinner at Enjoy and then onto the sports bar for karaoke which was amazing - basically every single Shaggy song you can think of and no night is complete without embarrassing English people trying to sing the words to Despacito.

    Deciding not to go to reggae bar, we decided to go back to our hostel and drink the gin we had bought earlier. Laura (the key bearer) was nowhere to be seen, and after brainstorming ideas of how to break into our room we decided to pop the window out of the frame and one of us to climb in and unlock the door from the inside. This was hilarious until we realised the owner of the hostel was watching us. In the morning we got fined $75bz as we broke the window. Bright sparks.

    The next day we woke up with pretty sore heads, in time for snorkelling along the second largest barrier reef in the world. This was amazing as we got to swim with manatees, turtles, nurse sharks, green eels and loads more crazy wildlife. Unfortunately, my GoPro footage is pretty crap of the snorkelling as I was so tired I couldn't really be bothered, but it was an amazing experience - although I was really tired/ hungover and at times, quite seasick.

    When we had finished snorkelling we had unlimited run and the storm to end all storms. It was at this point, when we were all singing on the boat, that I realised this was probably going to be one of my last happy memories in Latin America, and the end is neigh. I've decided to cut my trip short (about 5 weeks early).

    We were dropped off at KoKo Kings where we had a few more drinks, before going back to get ready for our last night out. The girls were leaving to go back to England the next day and I had no idea what I was doing or where I was going on from Caye Caulker. After more cocktails and food at Enjoy, Phi and I were exhausted, went to the sports bar for all of five minutes and decided to head home for an 'early' night.

    The next day we paid our fine, and got the boat back to Belize City. The others heading on to the airport and me to Chetumal in Mexico. Saying goodbye was pretty emotional because I had such an amazing time with them and was sad it was over. I also had no POA of what I was going to do next but I knew I'd be seeing them again pretty soon.
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  • Day179

    Acetenango

    July 31, 2017 in Guatemala

    It's taken me a while to summon up the strength to write about Acetenango. I joke, but this one is a hard one to right... stick with me and you'll soon understand why.

    We were picked up at 8am by an old school bus, and taken to a house outside of Antigua to pick up our equipment for the hike. Although extremely chaotic, we were eventually given sleeping bags, a tent, mats and food for the next 2 days. There wasn't enough food to go around - a sign of things to come.

    We then drove for another hour to the starting point of the hike. At this point, we rented walking sticks and hats. Phi's bag was towered over her head, and lots of the Guatemalans were laughing and pointing at us, telling us that we would regret not getting porters to carry our bags.

    The first part of the hike was a complete shock to the system. With our 10kg+ bags we walked uphill for what felt like an eternity, although it was probably only for about 20 minutes. A few breaks on, we made it to the halfway point. This was my low point as I started feeling really drained of energy. The hike up to base camp was 4 hours of pure uphill, probably one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done.

    When we arrived at base camp, we were all in high spirits to have arrived. It was pretty cold, at around 3,600 metres above sea-level. Our tents were assembled and with six of us in a tent we were pretty confident that we would have a warm night's sleep. This illusion was shattered when we found that our tent didn't properly close and had a huge gaping hole at the bottom.

    With our lovely group, we sat around a campfire with some tunes, pot noodles and hot chocolate. It was a bit later into the evening when one of our guide's (the bright spark) came up with the idea of sewing our tent shut with a needle and thread. Begger's can't be choosers and that was the only solution we had.

    Around 8pm we all collapsed into bed. Freezing cold and pretty uncomfortably, we were sewn into our tent and "slept" untill 3.30am. Throughout the night we were woken up with the sounds of the heaven's opening - and our tent leaked and my sleeping bag and shoes got completely soaked. After little rest, we were woken up at 4am to walk to the summit to see Volcan de Fuego erupting.

    It is probably at this point that I should actually mention the whole reason we were doing this hike - not because we are insane human beings who enjoy 4hr uphill hikes and freezing cold conditions. The point of this hike is because, from Acetenango, you can see the active Volcan de Fuego erupting at night. Tbf, this was absolutely wicked. The volcano is steaming and erupting all the time, and in the pitch black you can see the lava exploding. Without a doubt one of the coolest bits of nature I've seen on my whole travels.

    So, at 4am we started the 1.5hr steep uphill hike to the summit. I found this part a lot easier than the hike the day before with our heavy bags, although I know a lot of people struggled more with this part. The gravel slips below you as you try and climb up to the summit. When we arrived, my brief joy was soon overcome with some of the harshest winds I have ever experienced and it was freezing cold. We were on the top for around 20 minutes, with enough time to see an amazing sunrise over the whole of Antigua/ Guatemala City/ the volcanoes, before starting the descent down.

    So going down should be the easy part right? Wrong. Nothing about Acetenango could be described as 'easy'. Going down was like freestyle skiing over loose gravel and I was terrified of falling headfirst. Alice and I slowly descended, reaching base camp before packing up our tents. We then started the 2 hr descent back to the starting point. This was a different type of endurance and my knees were in absolute pain because of the steep downhill. It was also so slippy because it had been raining all night. Reaching the end was amazing and we had celebratory beers before getting the bus back to Antigua.

    Looking back, I don't know if I'll ever be sure if it was entirely worth it. It was definitely one of the most physically demanding things I have ever done. But tbh, getting to watch an erupting volcano was pretty cool.
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  • Day178

    Antigua

    July 30, 2017 in Guatemala

    We got on the bus. Celebrations! It was still pretty stressful, with the bus company overselling tickets, meaning they had to 2 people in 1 seat. But we got on the bus to Antigua!

    9 hours later, we got there in pretty high spirits and cooked some homemade couscous and started pre-drinking ready for our night out: the infamous Saturday Antigua pool party.

    I don't exactly know what went wrong - I'd like to think it was because I had become used to drinking the watered down alcohol at Zephyr Lodge for the past four nights - but I definitely drank far too much and remember too little. What I do remember I think I would rather forget.

    The next morning, after a few sore heads, we got together to try and piece together what happened last night over breakfast. We then headed out to the local artisan market and they must of seen us coming because between us we bought the whole place. After we had lunch at Bagel Barn and then decided to go to the supermarket to get snacks for Acetenango.

    That night we went out for pasta to fill our stomachs and debated whether it was possible we could get hypothermia on the mountain the next day.

    All in all, Antigua was short but sweet.
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  • Day173

    Lanquín

    July 25, 2017 in Guatemala

    From Flores we moved onto Lanquín for tubing, caving, and Semuc Champey.

    It took us eight hours on the bus but the time was passed playing 'would you rather' and annoying every other passenger with our inappropriately loud conversations. We were pumped to have arrived in Lanquín and got a shuttle up the hill to our hostel, Zephyr Lodge. The setting of the hostel was amazing - set in between the hills of the Guatemalan highlands. We were excited to be there and had a really fun first night at the hostel.

    The next day we woke up and did the tubing but Al wasn't able to come because she had spent most of the night over the toilet being sick (a sign of things to come).

    I've done tubing before in Colombia, but this was different because the current was a lot stronger and you had to be careful of falling into trees. I had loads of fun but getting out of the river was so stressful because of the current. I ended up falling out of my tube, hitting a tree trunk and losing all my beer. After that we got back to the hostel in the afternoon and carried on the drinking by the pool, as the sun was out.

    The day after we did the day trip to Semuc Champey. First we went to the Kaa'mba caves, where we did caving. At first I found this mildly terrifying because you have to swim through caves which are pitch black, so you have to hold a candle to light the way. As we went further into the cave I chilled a bit more, and it was good fun because you went really deep in and saw waterfalls. The way back was equally as intense because I was at the front and didn't have any light in front to help lead the way.

    After a BBQ lunch we walked up to a viewpoint to see the natural waterfalls and pools of Semuc Champey. They were really pretty, and the countryside around it is really beautiful too. We then walked down and were able to swim in them for a while. After we got the shuttle back and spent the evening playing cards and other games.

    The next day we were supposed to be getting the bus to Antigua, but a lot of us had got ill after eating the food at Zephyr. Lottie was too ill to take the 12 hour bus to Antigua, and after a pretty stressful morning we decided to stay in Lanquín for another night and see if she was better the next day. Three of us had to move hostels because there wasn't any more room at Zephyr.

    Luckily it was a really sunny day, so while Lottie slept it off we spent the day by the pool getting tans. In the eve we had a pretty chill evening because we were all really tired and wanted to be on top form to made sure we got the bus the next day.

    The next day, Lots had recovered enough to get the bus, but it was Laura's turn to feel sick. Despite all the illness, and having to squeeze onto the bus and share seats because the bus company had oversold tickets, we managed to get the bus to Antigua second time round. After everyone hyping up the journey as one of the worst things they'd ever done we were pretty happy to arrive in Antigua only 9 hours later (instead of the 12 hours everyone has said) in high spirits.
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  • Day172

    Flores

    July 24, 2017 in Guatemala

    Flores was super fun because of the arrival of five familiar faces 😃

    When the girls arrived from Belize I was SO happy to finally see them. It was hilarious because I ran up to hug them but there was a man in front of them slowly walking on crutches and I couldn't help but laugh, although it probably seemed like i was laughing at him.

    We caught up over a few drinks and some food and headed to bed pretty early, because we had to get up at 2.30am the next day for Tikal.

    Tikal is an old Mayan site of temples and ruins. We got there for around 5am after a huge pilava over whether we needed our passports for entry or not - too much stress for that early in the morning.

    When we got there we watched the sunrise but because it was overcast it was not that spectacular. We then had a 4-hr tour around the site which included climbing up to the top of the temples and seeing some of the wildlife in the area (monkeys, tarantulas, etc).

    This was good but we were very tired and hadn't eaten anything. By the time the tour finished at 10am we had been awake and eaten nothing for nearly 8 hours and were starving - breakfast was guuurd.

    We went back to the hostel and had a nap, played cards and generally just caught up which was so nice. We got pizzas and salads to share in the evening and had a few drinks which was fun.

    We're headed to Semuc Champey in the morning and I'm really looking forward to that. So nice to have the girls here for the next two or so weeks 😃 let the good times roll.
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  • Day168

    León

    July 20, 2017 in Nicaragua

    The briefest stop in León ft. Cuban style salsa lessons, unlimited rum and a wait for my shuttle to Guatemala at 1.30am😴

    On my road trip to Guatemala I got to see some of the most 'dangerous' countries in the world.

    In Honduras, apart from the potholes which were pretty, I got to see: school girls laughing; people selling Coca Cola on the side of the roads; people going about their daily lives, heading to work in 4x4s; the most beautiful green rolling hills which stretch for miles and are absolutely untouched.

    What's all the fuss about? This place is beautiful.

    El Salvador was a little rougher around the edges but it is comparable to any Asian town. Hey, they even had a burger king here. I definitely want to come back here if I have time.

    My road trip to Guatemala was like being a child at Christmas. I didn't want to sleep because I was way too excited and afraid I might miss out on seeing amazing stuff.

    That being said, I've decided what ruins Central America for me a bit is the American influences everywhere. I definitely prefer South America on the whole because it has its own unique culture, especially Bolivia and Peru.

    Anyways 18 hours late and a good nights sleep meant I was in Antigua, Guat.
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  • Day168

    Isla de Ometepe

    July 20, 2017 in Nicaragua

    So here I am, on a wind-swept boat heading across Lake Nicaragua towards two volcanoes. Bienvenidos a Isla de Ometepe.

    Even though we left at around 3pm, it took us until probably around 9.30pm to reach our hostel - only a short distance away from San Juan del Sur. First lesson for Nicaraguan travel is that nothing moves fast here. Nada se mueve rápido aquí.

    Sofie and I had some dinner and headed to Little Morgan's - a party hostel on the island. We fell asleep in the taxi and really weren't feeling it when we arrived but lots of familiar faces from Surfing Donkey were there to greet us. We had some drinks but weren't sleep for ages because our room was right above the bar and the music was very loud.

    The next day after a bit of a lie-in (badly needed) we moved hostels to the Lazy Crab which is a lot more of a chilled out vibe.

    In the day we rented a scooter and drove around the island. This was so cool! We went to a natural springs pool which was really relaxing, then went for lunch and got some food from the supermarket.

    When we left the supermarket it started torrentially raining and we waited for ages for it to stop. When we thought it had stopped we got on the scooter to head back only for it to start raining again even harder which was an adventure. We were lucky enough though to see the top of Concepción (one of the two volcanoes) whilst driving past.

    In the evening we played pool (we were both terrible but this made it funny) and made dinner. I didn't sleep very well because I kept getting bitten and also roosters woke me up really early. I had to get to León the next day but there had been a power cut and so my phone had no charge.

    In the morning I got up early to catch a shuttle, boat, chicken bus, collectivo, and then tuk tuk to León. It took 7 hours but only cost £6.80 for the whole journey 😱 es muy muy muy barato.

    I'm now heading on a 16-hour shuttle to Antigua in Guatemala so I can get to Flores in time for me mates to come out. I've yet to decide whether I'm going to come back to Nicaragua yet but I'll keep you posted 😉 🇳🇮 hasta la próxima!
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  • Day165

    San Juan Del Sur

    July 17, 2017 in Nicaragua

    As I write this I am sitting on a wind-chilled boat across Lake Nicaragua - but that's for the next blog post.

    So having crossed a fair few land borders now, I was naively underprepared for the shitstorm that they call the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border.

    After taking a public bus to Penas Blancas (border town in Costa Rica) I got to the border and had to pay $8 for the privilege of leaving the country, waiting two hours in a queue just to get my passport stamped to leave 🙄, a 1km walk over the border in the midday heat, another $12 to enter Nicaragua and then the swarm of taxi drivers and most likely being completely ripped off. Anyways, I made it to San Juan in the end and I couldn't of been happier.

    The hostel I was staying in (Surfing Donkey) was really social and I met some really cool people. That night we played beer pong and cards but it was relatively chilled because of the next day - Sunday fun day.

    Like Filthy Fridays, Sunday fun day is a bar crawl/ pool party and it was a big one. Very hungover the next day which was just a big slob day of eating too much and watching Netflix.

    The day after, my final day in San Juan, I went surfing with these two really lovely Dutch gals I met. I've never been surfing before and it was hard but SO much fun.

    The waves were quite brutal but with some practice I improved over the 2-hour surf lesson. I managed to stand up a fair few times for more than a couple of seconds, so I was pretty proud of myself (although I did accidentally kick the instructor in the head which was sort of hilarious but FML at the same time) definitely do it again in Central America.

    After we got some lunch and headed back to the town to catch a chicken bus (the first of many, I'm sure) to Rivas to get the ferry to Ometepe.
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