Well, that was an exciting 20 minutes. I was just tucking myself into bed when the puppy starts barking like crazy at something on the ladder in my room. Since it is dark, and the light switch is not close, I had to use the flashlight on the phone to see what it was. Turned out it was a rat, well maybe it was a mouse. It was either a big mouse or a small rat. In any case I don’t want it in my house.
So I call for kitty to come and do her job. I mean I do everything else, she has to earn her keep sometimes. Of course she was nowhere to be found. I went and got her and put her at the top of the ladder so she knew what she was supposed to do. And she saw the mouse, by now it had climbed up the wall and was in the corner of the ceiling. Well Pixel climbed up a bit, smelled the mouse and jumped down the ladder and ran into the other room. The puppy and I just looked at her.
So then I had to climb up the ladder and try to catch the mouse. I had my big juice jug and hoped I could just get it into position under the mouse so it would fall in. But there is a random piece of rebar sticking out of the ceiling exactly where I need the jug to go so it won’t fit. Of course.
So the mouse falls onto the floor and starts running around. Along the walls as they usually do. Puppy chased it behind some framed pictures sitting on the floor. While she kept it cornered, I shut the door and blocked off the space under the bed, sure don’t want it going under there! Then I started moving all the items around the mouse off the floor. When we got down to the picture frames, it ran out and puppy got it in her mouth. But I think she was so surprised that she actually had it, that she dropped it right away. Then it started running again, luckily I had blocked off the bed because that’s where it headed.
This time I was quick enough to slam the juice jug down on it, and caught it. I think I might have squished it’s tail a bit, but I lifted the edge and put it inside. Then I just had to slide the plate under the opening and turn it over. Then I took it outside and let it go across the street.
When I got back in I blocked off the opening under the door with a cardboard tube. I better buy some door sweeps this week. That will help with spiders and scorpions too.
Puppy is still looking for it. I hope she’ll give up soon, I want to go to bed.
Well, today is the 2 week mark! So far I have done pretty well sticking to the budget, but I am out of money and need to go home. My current totals are: $1490.25q or $209.89 so I was just over my goal of $200 CAD for 2 weeks in Guatemala. That puts me at an average of about $15/day.
I know some things I would change for next time, bring a jacket and a blanket. I would also bring my own shampoo and hand lotion, and some protein powder and granola bars for snacks. Also some utensils, a couple tupperware containers for leftovers and liquids.
One of the most restrictive things was trying to find Internet so we could work. I would invest in a mobile Internet modem that could pick up signals from most places in central America. I think the 2 main companies are Tigo and Claro, and Claro has the most coverage for this side of the globe. They have pay as you go plans and you can get a basic 1.5mbps stick for the 3G network for about $175q. To get 30 days and 8GB of data is about $325q. Not bad for the convenience and better service.
Today was our day to really explore the market in Santa Elena. I just wanted to look around and Travis needed some clothes, especially since it has been chilly the past few days.
Before we left I went to the burrito shack and got a torta $10q, which is a type of sub/sandwich. It was alright but quite messy to eat. Not as good as the tacos and burritos we had previously enjoyed. I went back to the hotel and drank some iodine after that one.
I wanted to see if there were any of the traditional Mayan clothes for sale there at lower prices than the shops in Flores. I figured I would try and take some money out of the ATM and see what exchange rate I would get. Alas the machine wouldn’t finish the transaction with my Canadian bank so I didn’t find out that information and I couldn’t get any extra spending money. The places around here that exchange Belize currency only give 3:1, but at the border it was $3.6:1 so I decided to just keep my Belize$. The Guatemala banks will only exchange US currency so I didn’t have that option but Travis did, and he got $7.66:1 which was a lot better than the $7.4:1 he got at the border when we started this journey.
We made our way through the maze of aisles and shops at the market, passing lots of clothes that wouldn’t fit either of us, nice looking vegetables, and the meat market – which I couldn’t get out of fast enough. Travis was lucky enough to find a sweet reversible jacket for $150q and a plain white t-shirt for $10q. Then we got a bunch of veggies to make sandwiches for $20, bread $8q, and cheese $10q.
I needed to find an Internet cafe some walked down the street a bit and spotted a place that made pupusas! We had been craving those since leaving Belize, and they are one of Travis’ favorites. We ordered 3 each of the small cheese filled ones for $25q and they were pretty good, even though we missed the pickled cabbage that they usually come with. In Belize, we get them at the shop from el Salvador so maybe there are different ways to serve them in different countries.
I went and used the wifi at one of the hotels and then we go look for a barber for Travis. For $10q she trimmed his hair short and did a great job with the straight razor.
Later that night we go for tea and a game of crib at the language school and then back to the hotel to do more work.
Total for the day $71q ($10)
Today we woke up to another rainy and cold day. I had gone down to the main restaurant area to see if I could get some hot water for tea or something to warm up but no one was there yet. The place seemed deserted which was surprising for how many guests had checked in the night before. We surmise that everyone had gone on trips to Tikal, and buses usually leave the depot about 6am and return around 2.
Since it didn’t seem like the rain was going to let up, and we couldn’t do any work due to the lack of Internet, we decided to return to Flores. I bought some water ($10q) and we finished off the banana bread, packed up what was left of the tomalitos and headed to the bus stop. There was a little store near the bus so we got some snacks and more water ($18q) and sat down to wait. We never did catch the bus because a collectivo ($20q) of sorts came by and we decided to take that, since it was pretty chilly out there. You may think that sounds crazy being in Guatemala rather than Canada, but we only had backpacks and were traveling light, neither of us had brought jackets.
Anyway the 28km trip took about 15-20 minutes including a stop for gas. We arrived back at the bus stop adjacent to the market in Santa Elena just after lunch and walked back into town. We decided to stay at la Canoa Hotel again.
We were glad to be able to use the Internet again, check our email and do some more work. We went back to the hostel to see what was happening and pick up something we had left behind. I took the chance to get another smoothie $17q at the cafe Amelia before returning to the hotel to do some work and warming up with a cup of coffee $14q.
We start to get hungry in the evening and head over to our favorite Taquitos place for supper and tea $35q, and the over to the hostel to see what is happening. It is a pretty full house with guests from the UK, Australia, Germany, the US, and other parts of Guatemala. We are treated to another fire spinning show which was excellent again. Things start to quiet down so a group of us head to the other hostel – Los amigos because they have a bar upstairs that is open late. As we wait outside the gate to be let into the hostel everything is dark and quiet. As we head to the back corner and upstairs it is still dark and quiet until we open the door to the outdoor bar. Here we are greeted by music and the chatter of about 30 people. It is so surprising that none of this sound can be heard in the rest of the building! We know the bartender/DJ from one of the nights at iguana rana and he makes us a couple of special drinks $20q. The fire spinner has also migrated over and does another show. We spend a bit of time talking to another guest and watching a BBC Planet Earth documentary on Antarctica. Makes me feel a bit less cold.
We had another long day with traveling and all so we call it an early night.
Total for the day $97q ($13.66)
Today we moved on to another town called El Ramate. It is about a half hour bus ride east of Flores, closer to Tikal.
Before we got ready to leave we planned to have a good breakfast but we were short on supplies so I went to the corner store that I had discovered last night, it had a lot more selection than the other 3 I had been at. I got some eggs (4 for $5q), flour tortillas (10 for $11q), and a 1 gallon bottle of water for $10q.
As I walked past the stationary store I thought I would stop in and see what they had. I was delighted to find that they had all kinds of art supplies! Everything has been so picturesque that I have been wanting to sketch so I picked up a few things. For only $43q ($6.05) I got 4 drawing pencils, a pack of 12 watercolor pencils, a paintbrush, another 12 pack of colored pencils with a sharpener, an eraser and a pad of drawing paper.
Back at the hostel we made a surprisingly good breakfast that was a bit like manicotti. We’ve been looking for the appropriate pasta in Belize but can never find it, but the tortillas were perfect for it.
The French couple from last night met us at the hostel so that we could travel to El Ramate together. We walked across the bridge towards the mall and down to the area of the market where the collectivo and buses park. We found the appropriate “chicken bus” and found seats. It was an old school bus so people were 3 to a seat. There were racks inside to put bags, and a rack up top too for bigger items. Vendors were getting on and off the bus selling fresh fruit, plantain chips, cold drinks and baked goods. It was super hot on the bus as we waited to leave the station, I was glad for the intermittent cool breeze that came in through the window. Finally we left and headed out of town. We travelled quite a ways before the conductor came by to collect the $10q fee for the ride. We stopped again to get gas and let the passengers get off for a bathroom break and to buy snacks. Lots of people bought ideals, which are a bit like Popsicles. They make some kind of fruit drink and then pour it in small plastic bags that they freeze. To eat the ideal you bite the corner of the bag and suck out the liquid. They sell these in Belize too.
When we arrived in El Ramate about 30 minutes later we got off at the side of the road and walked in about a mile to get to the town and tourist area where all the hostels and hotels were. It was a beautiful walk alongside the lake and we passed many quaint places to stay and small stores (tiendes).
The place we stayed was called La Casa del Dona Tonita. It seemed more like the rooms we were in were added as an afterthought to someone’s house rather than the main focus of the place. The rooms only included beds and a fan. The bathrooms were downstairs in outhouse style. You can see photos below. It was $50q/person per night, which was more than we were expecting for such a small town. We checked around at some other places too and found that all of them charge $50q/person for shared dorm rooms. Even private rooms have different rates depending on how many people are staying there.
While we were waiting to check in the local bread maker (an expat who had been there for many years) came by selling some banana bread. It was $25q per loaf and we got some for snacks and to save for breakfast. It was quite delicious.
After checking in we decided to go swimming to cool off. The lake was beautiful and clean, though around the pier the bottom was very squishy. We swam out to a little deck out from the shore to find the sandy bottom and practice some diving. It was good to cool off and get clean at the same time. Travis needs to do laundry so he swims in his clothes.
By then we were all getting a bit hungry so we decided to look for some supper. We walked along the road away from town until we found a place called mon ami. It is a hostel/restaurant run by a French man, and the couple from France had read about it in one of their tour books. The main building was decorated in a cozy way and had about 6 tables to sit at. We had a look around at the rooms and dorm area. We were pleased to see a sign that they had wifi. We had a look at the menu, which had quite a variety but on the expensive side. In the end we decided to share an order of bruschetta and had some tea and a bottle of water $18q ($).
We then walked back into town to see what else we could find. First we came to a store where we got some margarine $2q ($.28) for the banana bread. Then we found a place on the other side of the street where we could get some fresh empanadas, which are a bit like fried perogies with either cheese or chicken filling. They were 3 for $3q ($.42) so we each got a plate. I also got some cookies from the little corner stand for dessert $8q ($1.13). We walked around town a while longer after that. We passed the church where they were having a full service and a lot of singing. There was also an empty pool hall, and several empty bars along the way. We decided to take a side road and we stopped to check out another hostel that advertised internet, but it wasn’t wifi and the rooms were also $50q/person ($7.04). We passed another little shop where we got a 2L bottle of water $7q ($.99). While we were circling around to the main street we walked beside a place that was lit with interesting colors and had great lounge music playing. We went inside and found that it was a new restaurant/bar and soon to be hostel called the Fifth Creation. They had a great vegetarian menu and a good selection at the bar. We decided to stay and have some food there, and got the home fries $15q ($2.11) which were pretty good. We also had the drink special of 2 Cuba libres for $15q and an ice tea for $12q.
It was a long day so we returned to the hostel after an hour or so. It was a quiet night and we fell asleep quickly.
Total for the day $187q ($26.94)
Today was a hot day so we stayed around the hostel and did work. Some of the guests at the hostel decided to go swimming. Travis was busy helping with some tasks around the hostel, he is such a helpful guy.
We had enough groceries to cook all our meals that day and saved money on eating out. Travis made home fries with scrabbled eggs on toast with a marinara sauce for lunch and I made spaghetti for supper. This saved us a lot of money.
We did venture out in the afternoon for an ice cream $6q ($.85) cone up near the burrito shack.
Since it was Friday night we decided to socialize with the people that had come to visit the bar at the hostel.
We met a couple from London who were traveling through Central America for 6 months. They were 2 months into it and they plan to go to Belize for a couple weeks this coming week so we will probably see them there too. We also met a couple from France who travel for 3 months each year, seeking out unique jewelry to sell in their shop back home. There was a girl from Sweden who has been traveling around for a few years to different countries and plans to go to college after she visits Dubai in the fall. There were also various interesting young people from Flores that we talked to. Everyone was so interesting and friendly.
Basically we spent the rest of the evening at the hostel.
Total for the day $37.50q ($5.28)
Alright, we’ve reached the one week mark, time to evaluate how I am doing with my budgeting.
So far I have spent a total of Q$819.75. ($115.46 CAD) for 7 days. So I’m $15 CAD over my goal of spending $100.00/ week. I guess that’s not too bad. Especially since I’ve still managed to eat enough to be full including treats, and been able to explore the island. I know I can’t buy any souvenirs from here because the prices are all higher. We are planning to go to Tikal one day soon so I need to set aside some money for that.
Anyway, feeling pretty good about my progress so far, I went over to the internet cafe to do some work and had a smoothie $17q ($2.39). Such a nice treat for the morning. After that I needed to get some mayo and cassava chips for lunch $31q ($4.23). We had toasted veggie sandwiches that were great.
Later in the day we went for a walk so I got some good sunset photos. I also saw a flyer from pizza hut (a place I haven’t eaten at for at least 7 years!) I decided that it would probably be in the budget to order from there. We got the special and split it with a couple of guys from the hostel. For $120q delivered ($16.90), we got 3 large pizzas. We each chipped in $30q ($4.22) and each got 6 slices of pizza. I thought that was a pretty good meal and deal and we were very full. I even had some leftovers!
After supper we played a game of crib and visited with the other guests while we enjoyed some of the drink specials, namely mojitos and beer. $15q ($2.11)