Before I begin, I feel obliged to warn you this won't be the most positive blog post you're likely to read on our site. So if you're looking for tales of wonder and dreams maybe give this one a miss. However, in keeping with the macabre season, if you are still craving horror stories read on...
The worst of it being, I have been temporarily blinded in my left eye for the last four days. More on that later but to reassure you my sight has started slowly to return (allowing me to spread my misery online).
So when I last posted, we were getting sick of Xela. We thought it was too cold. Otto was still sick in general with strep throat and dissent was creeping in amongst the normally upbeat travelling Newitts; it was time to move on, a change of scene was needed. Unfortunately, things were only going to get worse. For starters, no more devine baked goods from the celestial kitchens of Xelapan.
We descended from 2400m to 1900m to the famed market town of Chichicastenango. I was envisioning cobbled streets, bargain souvenirs and a smattering of tourist restaurants. What we found instead was a shabby, run down town, half built, hilly and utterly freezing. With towels acting as draft excluders, it was still so cold inside our hotel room we had to wear coats and scarfs (well sarongs wrapped around our heads), or get under the blankets in an attempt to get warm. There was just nowhere to get warm, even the restaurants were all open to the elements! Miraculously, Otto's fever did break, despite the freezing temperatures, which was a minor high but otherwise Chichi is best forgotten about.
From there, we took three local busses (camionetas) to Coban over the Western Highlands route - prone to landslides and according to the guide book not passable at some points in the year. It was, for sure, a bumpy ride but not all that bad despite there being eight of us squashed on five seats and it saved us around 7 hours travel time not having to backtrack to Antigua and Guatemala City.
Coban was a pleasant enough overnight stop, still jeans weather but it was warm in the hotel room and we found a great restaurant, Kardamamouss which even had a fireplace (unlit but still the potential for warmth was comforting).
We had been off the tourist trail for only 8 days, since leaving Lake Atitlan, but it felt like much longer and so it was quite a shock when we landed in Lanquin at Zephyr Lodge. We should have heeded the warning signs - notably the chalkboard at the entrance that said ‘3D Tinder’
We were a little different to the normal clientele. Old enough to be the parents of some of our fellow guests, we found ourselves surrounded by gap year students barely out of their teens downing beers and mojitos in the pool at 10am. So what to do? If you can't beat em join em! Well maybe we waited till 4pm but still we tucked into some drinks. The lodge was stunning, with an infinity pool set on the cliffside of cloud forest covered hills.
And we were made to feel really welcomed, the kids got a huge bag of trick or treating sweets and even got to carve pumpkins.
We were here for the natural wonder of Semuc Champey, a limestone bridge which forms a series of stepped swimming pools and waterfalls. Semuc Champey was beautiful and it felt good to be surrounded by warmth and beauty again after all that cold - maybe things were on the up? Or maybe not!
We left Lanquin village and Zephyr party hostel on a hunch that we could catch a bus from a main junction heading North through an unpaved section of road in order to save us backtracking to Coban again. We waited for nearly 3 hours at the junction, the last hour in drizzle, before we gave up and got a bus back to Coban.
It was around this time I began to feel ill. Disease was about to strike. Back to Coban (my eyes itching like hell and me feeling a bit dizzy). Back to Kardamamouss for ribs and fishcakes.
The next day we left for Raxruha, little more than a hotel and a few houses by the roadside, to visit the Candelaria caves. The rains blighted our caving trip: the azure gentle cave river you can normally tube down had turned into a raging torrent of brown muddy wash. No way of tubing that! The caves were great though, Jess and Otto loved having their own headlights to explore around.
That afternoon is when my trouble started. All of a sudden my eyes went fuzzy. Suspecting a migraine I went for a lie down but an hour later it was worse. My left eye was blind and I felt sick. To top it all off we were 5 hours away from medical help. The town had a so called doctor who the owner of the hotel informed us was not a doctor at all.
A sleepless night followed with pain and blindness only increasing as my hypochondriac mind went into overdrive. The next morning, still blind in my left eye, Mikey organised a taxi to take us to Flores where we are now, waiting out the latest Newitt disease. Luckily we’ve found a great eye clinic, Vincent PescatoreI, who have been very professional, they speak English and have looked after me well. I have an infection in both eyes which has caused a large inflammation in my left eye and a rise in pressure. I'm on three different tablets and three different eye drops (13 drops per day in my worst eye!). But the positives are after three days of blindness, I can see colours and shapes again and I feel much better. Monday sees me back in the clinic. Wish me luck!
Meanwhile, the kids are loving guiding me across roads and we've a lovely pool in the hotel which they've been loving (I'm not allowed in of course!) Also Mikey has been able to watch rugby internationals and match of the day so it's not all bad!
If all goes well we should be heading on to Mexico sometime next week, and not a moment too soon. Guatemala has dealt us some rough blows and as much as we've enjoyed some beautiful sights, we are certainly looking forward to a new start in a new country. Less than 6 weeks and we'll be back in UK (albeit briefly).
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Kelly and Mikey (but mostly Kelly). We sold up in the UK to travel with our two littluns for a year or so. If you want to know more click the about us!