Having fun in Wisconsin

Sunday night we took Fabio’s advice and found the small mall around the corner from our hotel in Guatemala City as he said the best restaurants were to be found there.   We wandered in and realised that it was pretty upmarket when we noticed some international brands plus an indoor car dealership selling expensive sports cars.   We walked around and weren’t really drawn to any of the food offerings so ended up deciding on Chinese.  It was definitely the wrong choice – the food was average and the price was astronomical!    

Last night in Guatemala

Up early Monday morning for the five am shuttle to the airport.   It was on time and full….   It was chaotic at Guatemala City airport even at that time in the morning but we eventually made our way through the crowds and found the check in kiosk for American Airlines.   Got checked in, bags dropped, and went through security.   Not too bad an experience but we were glad to be on our way.

The  new AA plane took off on time and we enjoyed playing the seatback brain training games to while away the short hop to Dallas Fort Worth.  

New AA plane

We arrived ahead of schedule and, as we were disembarking, we were a bit shocked to see a large plane fuselage on fire just by the control tower.  Oh no…that doesn’t look good!   Everyone was watching through the window and, eventually, the fire was brought under control.  We got through the automated passport control kiosks and were referred to a live person for the final check – all going very smoothly – until it was my turn and, of course, my profile crashed the computer!   Hmmmm……    Well, the Homeland Security guy was really chatty and told us that the burning plane was an exercise – phew glad about that!    Anyway he restarted his computer to no avail….so he got me dealt with by his colleague without having to wait in another line.   That was a relief.    Then we picked up bags – quickly cleared customs – and followed the signs to recheck them onto our next flight.

We took the airport shuttle to the domestic terminal and, having cleared security again with our hand luggage getting the usual extra attention, we got to our gate for the next flight to Minneapolis.  We didn’t have a lot of time so ended up with a quick chicken meal.   Richard took the middle seat and ended up being squished by the huge lady sitting next to him – so big that she took half of his seat – and she eagerly demolished a whole family sized bag of sweets during the trip whilst watching Downton Abbey on her tablet.   Glad she didn’t ask us anything as we’ve never watched it LOL.

We arrived on time in Minneapolis, collected our bags, and were met by Ruth.    It was lovely to see her.  Realising that she was limping we found out that she had very recently had surgery on her knee.     We drove the couple of hours trip to their beautiful lake home in Wisconsin and was met by Dan who had just returned from golf.  We had a lovely reunion over pizza….and there were a few reunion Dark & Stormys consumed!

Tuesday morning, after a leisurely breakfast, we decided to make the most of the weather as it was so warm out – and the forecast was for it to deteriorate later in the week.    So Richard and Dan headed to the golf range and the shops while Ruth and I got the speed boat out and went for a lake drift and a girlie catch up.  

Girls having fun on the lake

Later on we spotted Richard and Dan on the dock so we went back and picked them up before heading back out on the water.    And, of course, we had to celebrate the reunion properly by having a bobbing session in the lake – sadly Ruth couldn’t come in the water at this point as she hadn’t been given the all clear from the hospital – but she was a handy boat barmaid for replenishments LOL.

Waiting to be picked up Lake bobbing Hold onto your hats!

Back to their beautiful home and we had Dan’s speciality of home-smoked ribs on the deck with fresh corn – fantastic!   It was a lovely day.

Smoked ribs

Wednesday and Dan, Richard and I headed out to a family farm to pick fresh corn – and met Ruth’s Uncle Lee who was a great character and, at 94 years old, was still going strong.  Amazing.  This area of the US is flat and stretches for miles of stunning farmland.    

Picking corn with Uncle Lee Family farm Family farm 2 Family farm 3

We came back and then the rain started to come down.   So we spent a while playing cards which was great fun and Richard, unusually, was the winner!   When the rain cleared we decided to go out on the boat for a sunset cruise – really nice way to see the sun go down.  

Sunset cruise Sunset cruise 2

Back on terra firm and Dan went into BBQ mode, this time it was New Year Strip steaks.    Yumm…..

Steak night

Thursday morning and Ruth had to go for a medical check-up so we had a lazy morning.   She returned very happy as she had been given the all clear to go swimming in the lake – yippee….   The weather was lovely and warm again so we headed down to the dock – and had a few pontoonies….  

Richard on the dock

Today it was absolutely stunning with the clouds reflecting on the still water.   This is such a beautiful place to live although I didn’t fancy the stories of the ice and snow in the long winter!   We reminisced about our old system of purchasing odd (Morpheus) and even (Evensong) rounds of beer – although no need to walk up the beach to fetch them here though LOL. Oh yes, Ruth and I jumped into the lake for a little bob so that she could, at last, enjoy the water.   

Look at those clouds! Panorama of Beaver Dam Lake Must be an even round

Thursday evening we picked at leftovers from the previous couple of days plus, of course, some more fresh corn!   And then, suddenly, the weather changed and the clouds were heavy and black.  So we took ourselves to the front porch – beer in hand of course – and watched the weather coming in.  It was a pretty good rain storm.

Here comes the storm

Friday morning and it was still raining so we headed out to go shopping and managed to pick up a few necessary items like a new laptop and a Bluetooth speaker!!!    Both were better value and higher specification than the UK – despite the poor exchange rate – so was definitely worth the effort.   We then went on to visit the Jacob Leinenkugal Brewing Company which is a famous brewery in Wisconsin.  We had a great time visiting the shop and tasting their range of brews – my favourite was the Red Grapefruit.   Very refreshing!    Richard preferred the Leinies original.    Great time had by all…..   

Visit to Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company Leinies Leinies 2 Leinies 3 Leinies 4

We then headed out to a local restaurant called Cameron House – a pretty ordinary exterior – but a very friendly and homely interior with great food.   Feeling completely full we headed back to the house and all ended up having an early night – Dan’s 9.17 pm falling asleep deadline appears to be catching LOL.

Time for dinner

Saturday morning and we had another relaxed start before heading out around 2pm to Still Water, Minnesota.   This is a quaint tourist town on the river full of interesting little quirky stores and lots of bars and restaurants.  Oh yes and, of course, there was a West Marine so we had to visit – was almost like old times and Richard managed to find some more boat stuff to buy….

Still Water Still Water 2 Still Water 3 Still Water 4

In the town we particularly enjoyed the kitchen store and I loved the unique olive oil shop – sesame oil got my approval while Dan did not enjoy the truffle oil LOL.    Wandering around Richard fancied the Madcapper Husband DayCare Centre but we didn’t let him or Dan indulge themselves!  Sadly we didn’t have time to indulge ourselves further by trying out the bars as we were meeting the newlyweds Andy and Kirstin for an early dinner.

Olive Oil store Madcapper Madcapper 2

We all met up and had a fantastic dinner – Richard and I both opted for the lamb as we had felt deprived of this for a long while – and thought that this was the best food we had tasted in the US.   Fantastic flavours and very well executed.   Great evening and lovely to catch up with Andy and Kirstin too.  

Dinner with the newly weds

On the way back to Wisconsin we stopped for another drink ….   And we kept Dan awake throughout the journey even though we didn’t get back until after 10 LOL.

Sunday morning and it was already our last day.  Couldn’t believe that the week had gone by so quickly.    Ruth and I decided to head out to the casino for a girlie trip – while the guys did another golfing range run.  


When Ruth and I decided to return home we realised that Dan, Richard and Danny had gone out on the Hobie Cat.   So Ruth and I filled a cooler and took ourselves off in the speed boat to find them.   They were having a great sail around and we cruised by a few times before heading back to the dock.   

Rescue crew Boys having fun Sailing nicely

They finally returned and while Ruth, Richard and Danny put the boats to bed I escaped to the kitchen to chop some ingredients while Dan popped out to get some last minute ingredients.  Tonight we were being treated to Dan’s smoked meat paella.   It was scrumptious!

Chef at work


After dinner we all played Guitar Hero with Danny showing us up with his expert skills – before finally retiring to bed at almost 11 pm, definitely almost a Dan record.   What a fantastic fun-filled trip – can’t believe it was only one more sleep before going home.

Monday morning and we were up early and packed our bags.   By 10 we had said sad farewells to Dan at home while Ruth drove us to the airport in Minneapolis.  We had a good run and just before 12 noon we said sad farewells to Ruth too.     Had been a fantastic trip – thank you both so much – we had a wonderful time.

We got our first flight having grabbed a sandwich first and found ourselves on one of the older American Airlines planes – but it was only a couple of hours to Dallas Fort Worth our first stop.   We were slightly late arriving into Texas as we had to route around a few thunderstorms in the area.    We finally got off the plane and made our way on the Sky Train to the international terminal.  

sky train DFW

We found our gate and were surprised to find that they were already boarding although the departure time was almost 45 minutes away.   So no time to wait or hang around – suits us.   This was a lovely new plane again and was only about half full so, once the doors were locked, people spread out so we had three seats between us so that was nice.    We took off on time as the rain started to fall and quickly reached our cruising altitude before there was the most spectacular sunset…..

Beautiful sunset

Back to a heat wave in London this morning – Tuesday – and the traffic wasn’t too bad so we got home pretty quickly.    We have had a few hours sleep and are looking forward to catching up with family and friends soon.

Bye for now


Exploring Guatemala City

By early afternoon on Friday I had finished all the laundry and Richard had completed the laying up checks on Morphie.  But he’d noticed that there was standing water on the stern rail which means, as the scuppers are definitely clear now, that Morphie isn’t properly level.  So he reported this to the boatyard asking them to sort it out before we left.     In the meantime we packed up our apartment and returned to Morphie with the vacuum packed (clean) items that we were leaving on board.  We said our final sad farewells – and were just taking down the ladder when the travel lift operator said he would be back shortly.

Goodbye Morphie

So Richard waited – while I returned to the apartment to do some pizza bites to share at the cruiser’s happy hour.    And he waited and eventually at just gone five o’clock Morphie was lifted up, rechocked and buckets of water were chucked over to ensure that no water remained standing.  The guy was very careful and we were particularly impressed that the marina responded to our concerns so quickly.

But, of course, this meant that we were late for Poppy’s birthday party.    We quickly got ready and headed off to NanaJuana – by which time the kids had attacked the huge piñata and we missed the fun although I did get some chocolate.   Poppy was happy with her little birthday presents and I got a lovely cuddle in response.   We settled down watching the kids having fun and enjoyed our last night with our fellow cruisers even being treated to a beautiful final Rio Dulce sunset.  All too soon it was time to go and say our sad farewells….  

Birthday girl Time for cake Party underway Time for cake 2 Beautiful sunset

Saturday morning we were up at six and got ourselves sorted – I did a quick tidy up – and we waited for our transport.   RAM marina sent us a driver to take us to the bus station free of charge but we were expecting a car not the truck that turned up LOL.   Never mind, we arrived at the Litegua bus station in good time.

The bus turned up on the dot of eight and, hurrah, it was an Especial Plus version which was pretty comfortable.  We had great seats at the front although we couldn’t see the movies – which didn’t matter as they were in Spanish anyway – and the guy opposite us snored loudly throughout the whole journey!!!    We stopped about three hours into the trip and grabbed a burger and food for later – having learnt our lesson on the previous journey.   And, of course, this one was really fast by comparison and we arrived into the outskirts of Guatemala City at around 2 ish – got transferred to another bus and were taken to the next terminal – and had to wait for the other bus to come which had our luggage.   All very confusing and worrying and I got quite stressed especially as everyone on our second bus was going to Antigua and we weren’t – but Richard pointed out this was a ‘gringo only’ bus.   I really couldn’t understand why we couldn’t identify our luggage and put it on the bus with us rather than it having to go separately.   It was all very strange….   But finally we were reunited with our luggage and tried to hire a taxi to our hotel.   The first taxi wanted a fortune – then he dropped it 20% but still too much – so we asked around until we found one at a better price.

We finally arrived at our hotel and checked in quickly and smoothly.    And our room is absolutely huge.  Lovely!  Nice views from the 10th floor too.

Hotel room 1 Hotel room 2

View from our room

After recovering from our trip we ventured out about five – and were told it was safe to walk for two blocks in any direction but beyond that, not a good idea.   OK, we can do that.  So we wandered off and were surprised to come across a Hard Rock Café, Dunking Donuts, Burger King, McDonalds all within this small area.   Hmmm…not what we had expected at all!    We just wanted a drink so avoided the Jack Russell burger place – yuck don’t fancy them!


Continuing to wander around we found ourselves faced with a police cordon and a road block with something clearly going on down the road with ambulances in attendance and everything.  Richard was all for going to see what had happened but, fearful of all the hired guns that protect every business around here, I wasn’t having any of it.  

Finally we found a little sports bar which looked attractive and went in – we ended up drinking Coronas as they didn’t sell our preferred Guatemalan beer and enjoyed watching the world go by.  

Bar selfie

Then the heavens opened.  We waited for the rains to stop before heading back to the hotel.    What I hadn’t realised earlier was that the pavements in this Viva Zone are made of a kind of granite which are treacherous when wet – and, of course, I’m only wearing flip flops with no tread of any kind.    I did the limbo quite a few times almost hitting the deck but got saved by Richard’s strong grip pulling me back upright.    Absolutely crazy design!   We ended up walking in the road trying to avoid getting run down along the way.  

Back to the hotel and we sat in the bar watching GB winning gold on the track – well done Mo!  Then we went to the hotel restaurant and enjoyed the ambience of the (fake) rocky wall and waterfall.    We were pleasantly surprised by the excellent quality and presentation of the food. It turns out the chef is French….

Hotel restaurant

This morning, Sunday, we were up early and enjoyed the huge breakfast buffet before meeting Fabio, our tour guide.   He took us on a drive through different zones and we learnt a lot about the city and the country more generally.    A violent past and present with dictatorships, military take-overs, a long brutal civil war and Fabio was grateful that they were now in a democratic period – although he despaired over how cheap life had become; the scourge of the gangs; widespread corruption; and the poor living conditions in the favelas.    The private security business is the largest growing business in Guatemala with armed guards at almost 90% of all businesses and many private homes too.   Guns are cheap and easy to get whether on the black market or through legal means.   Fabio believes in higher education but recognises the problems that poverty brings with many children working and helping their families instead of being in school.

We ended up going for a walk along 6th Avenue which is permanently pedestrianised.  We walked a number of blocks enjoying the sights of some ancient buildings – often marred by really ugly structures nearby – and watched the entertainment and listened to the music.   Walking around in family groups, shopping, eating street food, selling their wares, listening to music and being entertained is clearly how the Guatemalans like to spend their Sundays.

Guatemala 1 Guatemala 2 Guatemala 3 Guatemala 16 Guatemala 4 Guatemala 5 Guatemala 6 Guatemala 7 Guatemala 8 Guatemala 9 Guatemala 10 Guatemala 11 Guatemala 12 Guatemala 13 Guatemala 14 Guatemala 15

Moving on we went to visit the oldest church in Guatemala City.  The El Santuario de Nuestra Senora del Carmen was built on top of the Ceritto del Carmen hill after the Genevese penitent Juan Corz brought the religious image of the Virgen del Carmen from Spain and settled for years as a hermit in a cave.   After it was burnt down and rebuilt around 1620 they had the image stolen in 2001 but it was miraculously recovered in 2003 and it remains housed within the sanctuary. Eventually Juan Corz moved out of his cave into the tower that was built to house him.  The Church celebrated its 400 years in 2013.  The statues and the landscaping of the park obviously came later.

Coez 1 Coez 2 Coez 3 Coez

While we wandered around we saw a number of girls in beautiful prom dresses being professionally photographed and the rest of their family clearly in a party mood.  Well, it turns out, that 15 is the magic age here in Guatemala when girls are celebrated and given a ‘welcome to womanhood’ type party.    And this is what was going on.    Boys, on the other hand, are welcomed to manhood at 18.    Fabio told us that, particularly among the indigenous population, many girls were betrothed at 14 and had their first child by the time they were 15 or 16.

Sweet 15

The views across the city from the top of the hill clearly shows the mismatch of old and new sitting side by side.

View from hill 2 View from hill 1

When driving down the hill back towards the city we saw some slums – and Fabio confirmed that these people had come to the city having been driven out of the mountains either by war or earthquakes. They squat and build their homes on top of each other living in pretty terrible conditions – with many of them exposed to risks such as landslides.  You can only imagine what it would be like to live in such a harsh environment.   Hard to believe it’s 2016 sometimes.

Slums Slums 2

Leaving this area we then drove past the military building (now largely a museum) which was being patrolled by heavily-armed military police – and checked out the ancient Cadillac that used to belong to one of the dictator generals.   Nice!

Ancient car 1 Ancient car 2 Ancient car 3

Then we drove off to see a new development called Cayaluca.   This is another world.   Guatemalan and overseas investors have combined to create a new city within a city.   This has residential, commercial, retail space all built together around a large plaza in the style of a Spanish town.    It was a beautiful place – although still under construction – and was full of local tourists wandering around admiring this very exclusive new addition to the city.   We were surprised to see large brands like Starbucks and high-end retail outlets here.   Fabio liked it but thought it was a shame that people felt it necessary to live and work in such a fake, albeit safe, environment.  

Cayaluca 3 Cayaluca 4 Cayaluca 5 Cayaluca 6 Cayaluca 7 Cayaluca 8 Cayaluca 9 Cayaluca 1 Cayaluca 2

We then headed back towards our hotel in Zone 10 and came across a huge Pokemon event going on in the main road…queues stretched back miles. 

Pokemon crazinessArriving back we said our farewells to Fabio and thanked him for such a great tour.    Although we enjoyed the contrasts of ancient, modern, beautiful, ugly warts and all we really weren’t inspired by our visit.   But at least we can now say that we have visited the largest city in the whole of South America.

Jan & Fabio

Back in our hotel room now and going to head out for dinner again this evening.    Then it’s an early night as we have to be on the airport shuttle at five in the morning to start our next adventure.

Bye for now


Getting ready to leave the Rio Dulce

On Friday having got ourselves unpacked from our trip we moved into work mode.    The first job we had on our list was to wash and remove the sails.    This year, as we are so far inland and outside of the “official” hurricane zone, we are leaving the main on and are only taking both headsails off.  So we made the most of the light winds, unfurled them and washed them in situ….

I got on with some canvas cleaning / waterproofing while Richard got on with other engine-related jobs down below.   Finally the sails were dry and we took them off and had to drag them onto the grass area so that we could bag them up properly.   Job done….phew!

We then hauled dink out of the water using the genoa halyard.  We usually scrub his bottom on the dock as I like to use a bleach-based product – but, unfortunately, the dock here in NanaJuana just isn’t wide enough so we hauled him straight up onto the deck and I used plain old boat wash to clean instead.  After dink was dry we covered him in a tarpaulin and tied him down.   Another job done….

Having got incredibly hot and bothered we then took a little time out before heading off to the cruisers’ happy hour and had another nice evening.

Friday night happy hour

Saturday morning we were up really early and got the anchor chain onto the dock – I cleaned out the locker and washed down the chain and, while it was drying, I also got on with the laundry.    Richard was busy ticking off jobs down below……    During the day Arnie came by with the doors to our heads – he had done a great job on restoring them back to a good condition.    We were very happy with the quality of his work both on this and the repairs to our gelcoat.  

But we were not happy that we still had a blocked scupper on the starboard side caused by varnish / wood scrapings – we had tried in vain to clear this – so pushed it back to Arnie.  His crew caused the problem so they can fix it!   He promised dutifully to come by on Sunday.   I made the mistake of paying him the cash for all the work and should, with hindsight, have withheld some of the final payment…..  

Anyway…..after a hot and productive day….we relaxed for a little while and did some checking off our haul out lists and our final West Marine order.  Later on we sat in the cockpit, pretty exhausted,  we enjoyed the latest thunderstorm and had a very early night.

Sunday morning and we were going through the diary and realised we’d made an error – we had it fixed in our mind that we were hauling Monday morning when, in fact, the date we had scheduled was Tuesday.  Great – that gives us another full day to get ready – so we told NanaJuana that we would be leaving Tuesday morning instead.    And, of course, we carried on working hard through the morning and by three o’clock in the afternoon we had had enough – and Arnie had not shown up.   Damn…..    But we have an extra day now on the dock so we’ll hunt him down on Monday LOL.

Having done well with the lists – including the servicing and storing of the outboard engine – we decided to take ourselves off to the pool later in the afternoon and enjoyed putting the world to rights with some of the other cruisers.  

Cooling off

There are definitely two groups of cruisers here – those that keep themselves exclusively to themselves and exclude the rest of us.   They do not talk to us in the pool or attend the weekly Friday happy hour or the Sunday BBQ event.  They even go into town together all the time….    All very strange – the rest of us just dip in and out as the mood takes us – and that suits us very well as we don’t feel obligated to attend all the time.   This is exactly what we decided on Sunday night when we elected not to attend the BBQ in favour of a quiet night on board.

Monday morning, up bright and early, and we got on with boat jobs.   Richard tracked down Arnie and got an apology for Sunday.   Arnie thought that a powerful vacuum cleaner might suck out the blockage – Richard agreed it was possible and took his machine hostage to ensure his attendance later LOL.  Good thinking my man!!!    Anyway…he did turn up…and it didn’t work so he made arrangements for Wednesday morning and he’ll investigate when we are on the hard as there will be better access to the through hull.  OK, we’ll live with that.

Anyway….by Monday afternoon…we were ready to go.   We disconnected the electricity, paid our marina bill, and went to the pool to cool off before having an early night.

Tuesday morning it all went like clockwork, we slipped away at 8.30 and reversed onto RAM marine fuel dock by 8.45 am.   We filled up with diesel – as we leave the tank full on the hard to avoid condensation building up in the tank – and waited for the travel lift to turn up. 

Waiting to be hauled

We were scheduled to be lifted at 9.00 am.    Of course, it didn’t turn up.  By 10.00 am I went to the office to find out what was going on.    Oh sorry….someone didn’t splash….we need to move some boats to make room for you….there is polishing to be finished…..  Hmmmmmm…..  Anyway I asked for the key to our apartment thinking that, at least, we could shift our bags and left-over food.   This was available so I spent the new few hours moving things ashore.    The apartment is in the middle of the boatyard and is pretty basic with an uninspiring view.  But it has AC and a big-screen TV so we are happy….

Our apartment Not much of a view! Apartment 1 Apartment 2 Apartment 3

Finally at lunchtime we are told it will be later in the afternoon so we locked up Morphie and told the office we’ll be in the apartment waiting to hear.   We watched the Olympics and just generally chilled in the cooled air.   Bliss…..     By 3.30 pm we were getting anxious – we do not want to leave Morphie on the fuel dock overnight – so we returned to the office.  We were advised that we would be lifted tonight – and the guys would work overtime if necessary.   So we returned to Morphie and sat in the cockpit waiting admiring the local boats moving their cargoes along the river – today it was a mattress delivery LOL.

Mattress delivery

Finally at almost 4.30 pm the travel lift turned up and the guys took control.   Here in RAM they do not let you reverse into the strops – you get off the boat at the fuel dock and they pull the boat into the slip by hand.  Morphie is pretty heavy so we were surprised at the ease they moved her.  We were, of course, standing watching anxiously……   Interestingly then a swimmer went in the water and started to position the strops and tie them off under Morphie’s hull.    Never seen that before!

Being moved into place Here comes the swimmer Checking the strops

Finally Morphie was on her journey – she was turned around 180 degrees – and moved through the boatyard to our spot on the hard, just by the huge sheds.     Morphie was chocked up and enjoyed being pressure washed.  

Here she comes Through the boatyard Getting a wash down

We borrowed the pressure washer for a short period to blast the through hull and think that we might have cleared the blockage – but tomorrow will be the test.   We were pleasantly surprised by the condition of Morphie’s bottom…as the antifoul had been applied two years ago.    We headed back to our apartment and had a nice cool evening in front of the TV before sleeping in a bed that doesn’t move!

Wednesday morning and we were up early and climbed on board.   Richard was pleased that the scupper was now clear and we tested it a number of times to make sure that water drained properly.  Woo hoo…..  Very relieved that was sorted.  Charlie picked me up to take me into town as I needed to get our bus tickets; some Guatemalan rum to take home;  and I wanted to get Poppy’s birthday present.  I also managed to pick up some  strong antibiotics which are available over the counter here without prescription which are a great addition to our first-aid kit.

In the meantime Richard was cleaning all the wood and fibreglass down below with a water and vinegar mix area by area.   He had finished our cabin by the time I returned – so we covered the bed with a plastic protector and then started to stow things.   This clears up other areas to be cleaned.    I was scrubbing the heads when Richard went off to meet Arnie – who, surprisingly, actually turned up early only to be told thanks, but we have fixed it!  He was very relieved….

We carried on working until about two when the heat caught up with us.  So we retired to our apartment and then wandered back to NanaJuana pool to cool off – catching up with Charlie, Joe and Ulla.   We had a great time.

Thursday morning we had booked one guy to work for us.   The cost here in RAM is a very reasonable US $50 a day and was actually offset by the generous offer of our first night in the apartment free of charge to compensate for the seven hour delay in being lifted out of the water.  By eight I had him washing down the hull…..   He doesn’t speak a word of English so it was all in Spanish – or my version anyway LOL.    Richard continued to work stowing and cleaning things – while I worked outside cleaning the propeller, the grounding plate and the cooler plates for the fridge / freezer.   By the time I had done this my young man had finished washing down….so I set him off going around again using fibreglass cleaner and buffing the hull.     I started scrubbing the awlgrip which had heavy salt deposits…..     Then it was time for his lunch – so I went back on board and cleaned the fridge, freezer, oven etc while Richard finished the wood.   He had applied a lovely coat of wax polish to condition the wood in our absence.   The lad came back from lunch and he then used a special Awlgrip conditioner on the bootstripe while Richard and I continued on deck.  I cleaned the plexiglass and we removed all the canvas.    By this time Morphie is looking very clean and shiny – and then it was time to apply wax which we’ll leave on to give the hull some protection from the UV in our absence. 

Looking shiny Looking shiny 2 Hard worker

Phew….a long long day….from seven to five thirty in the heat…..   So we collapsed back at our apartment and had a very early night.   During the night we had a horrendous thunderstorm and lost power – so we lost the AC and it got hot, hot, hot – and we had to use the flashlight app on the phone to go to the loo LOL.

This morning – Friday – and it’s our last day here.  Richard is on board doing our final checks while I’m doing the laundry.   We’ll then pack – return items to the boat that we don’t want – and say our final farewells.  We are hoping to attend the cruisers happy hour tonight as it is Poppy’s birthday celebrations and it is our chance to say goodbye.

Tomorrow morning – Saturday – and we are off to Guatemala City on the 8.00 am bus.  This takes about six hours allegedly…..but, just to make sure of making our flight on Monday morning….we have checked into the Hotel Clarion Suites for two nights which is in the ‘safe’ area of Zone 10.  Then we are heading to the US for a week of fun in Wisconsin before returning home to the UK. 

Hotel Clarion & Suites

Bye for now


Exploring Guatemala – Antigua

Monday night, just as we were settling down for an early night, reception phoned to say that our pickup to the airport had been moved back an hour to 6.45 am.   We argued – as our ticket says we have to be there two hours in advance of our fight (at 8.00 am) but they said, no point, the airport doesn’t open until 6.45am anyway.   So, reluctantly, we gave in and accept the new departure time.

Tuesday morning and we were down in reception early – checked out – and then waited to be picked up.   And, of course, they were late so we are getting rather anxious as the clock ticks towards 7.  Finally two vehicles turned up for us!   So we jumped in one quickly and headed to the airport. 

On arrival we had to queue up for a physical bag search before being allowed into the building.  Then to check in which was smooth and efficient before we went through the next level of security into the departure gates area.  What we didn’t realise was that there were no facilities air side so we missed out on the opportunity to get coffee or a snack.  Oh well…..never mind……

The small propeller plane flew in, passengers disembarked, and we watched their bags being manually off-loaded.  Then the guy went off and came back with a new trolley and we were close enough to identify our bags being put into the tail of the plane – so at least we know they are coming with us LOL.

Our plane

Finally we boarded and were surprised by how nice it was…..   We took off about five minutes late and then there was a stewardess service giving us complimentary Pringles, chocolate biscuits and a soft drink.  Not exactly a healthy breakfast but we were surprised to this on a one hour domestic flight.   

On the plane

As we headed towards Guatemala City the topography changed dramatically and we are flying over stunning green mountain ranges as far as the eye can see – and then the city came into focus below – and it is huge!

Mountainous terrain Guatemala City

We landed safely, entered the terminal and, straight away, we came across our driver.  He had been sent from the hotel to pick us up.    We weren’t sure what to do about collecting bags but everyone was just standing around so we did too….and then the bags came through a hole in the wall and were handed out.   Great service – we were in the taxi less than 15 minutes after landing.   The most bizarre view of the day was having to go to the side of the road to let the small plane pass us on the street!

Plane in the street

We drove through Guatemala City – surprised by the huge amount of industrialisation and wondered where all the workers lived – and crawled through endless traffic jams.   We finally cleared the suburbs and headed into the mountains but the traffic didn’t abate at all – just crawling along slowly.  We were lucky that our taxi driver was quite aggressive otherwise I think we would still be stuck in the city LOL.

The roads increasingly got steeper – and sharper – and hairpin bends with large drops to one side became the norm.   And of course the trucks struggled with the inclines so the traffic moved even slower……   Finally, after almost two hours on the road, we arrived into the cobbled streets of the ancient city of Antigua.    We were very happy that they let us check into our room early at our hotel – Convento Santa Catalina – which is over 400 years old and attached to the famous arch right in the centre of the City.

Hotel Convento entrance Hotel Convento 2 Hotel Convento 3 Hotel Convento Famous arch

We unpacked and decided to chill for a little while – after all it was still only 11.30 am.   We turned on the TV in our room to catch the first news item which was about the blockade at Tikal.  What?!?   Mayan workers were blockading the entrance to the national park in protest at their poor wages – and no-one was being allowed in or out, so people were missing flights, tours, stuck in hotels etc etc.    Wow – thank you Tikal Jungle Lodge for tipping us the wink and getting us moved out to Flores a day early – we certainly dodged a bullet there!    As an aside we think they should reconsider their entry pricing structure as we paid Q200 (£20) to enter – Gringo prices – but Guatemalans only pay Q20 (£2).  If Guatemalans can afford to stay in the hotels and do tours they can afford to pay more to get in – just saying!

Early afternoon we headed out to wander the city – and dodged all the hawkers selling everything from Mayan handicrafts; original artworks; materials; jewellery; musical instruments; fruit etc etc etc….   And spoke to a few of the licensed tour guides who were hanging around the central square area to get a better feel for what was on offer.    We then found a little Bistro and had a lovely sandwich lunch before heading back to the hotel.   Our first impression of Antigua is just WOW as it nestles in the valley beneath three active volcanoes.

Antigua 1 Antigua 2 Antigua 3 Antigua 4 Antigua 6 Antigua 7 Antigua 9 Antigua 10 Antigua 11 Antigua 12 Antigua 13 Antigua 14 Antigua 5

In the evening we went out again looking for a place to eat – was a bit surprised to come across a London Pub and both an Indian and a Chinese restaurant.    But we wanted authentic so went into a local restaurant which specialised in BBQ food – I had the chicken off the grill while Richard indulged in the fresh fish dish.   It was all very tasty and we had a lovely time.  

Antigua 8 Dinner in Antigua 1 Dinner in Antigua 2

Wandering back to our hotel we came across Fridas Bar which was in memory of Frida Kohl a famous Mexican feminist who was renowned for her native art and brutally frank self-portraits.    So we had a nightcap before returning to the hotel.

Fridas 1

Wednesday morning and we were up early and headed into town enjoying the coolness of the mountain air – was so nice not to be ‘glowing’ constantly LOL.  We found a lovely coffee shop selling pastries so that was breakfast sorted and we were surprised to see one of the volcanoes spit out some ash.    Just amazing….

Volcanic activity

We then wandered to the central plaza and hired an English-speaking guide David for a three and half hour walking tour.   Historic buildings – often rebuilt and remodelled many times due to devastating earthquake damage – hence the decision in 1776 to relocate the colonial capital of South America from Antigua to Guatemala City.   This place has it all –  a stunning history particularly around the Mayans adopting Catholicism;   the Spanish invasion;  wonderful architecture; and traditions dating back centuries particularly the use of the locally-crafted colourful cloth and Jade which is found naturally in this area. Fascinating….  Interesting fact – Mayan children are often born with a cleft palate due to the lack of Vitamin A in their diet.

Tour 3 Tour 4 Tour 5 Tour 6 Tour 7 Tour 8 Tour 9 Tour 10 Tour 11 Tour 12 Tour 13 Tour 14 Tour 15 Tour 16 Tour 17 Tour 18 Tour 19 Tour 20 Tour 1

After resting up back in our hotel we went back out and hired a tuktuk to take us out of the cobbled streets and up to Cerro de la Cruz where there is a view over the city.  We weren’t sure we would actually make it up the steep inclines and wondered whether we should have got a proper taxi….but we made it without having to get out and push LOL.   Finally we arrived – and OMG what a view!

In the Tuk Tuk Afternoon views 2 Afternoon views Afternoon views 4 Afternoon views 3 Afternoon views 6 Afternoon views 5 Heading back down

Back down to the city we found another bistro and had a sandwich lunch and a couple of cold ones before walking to a local bar to meet Paul, Fiona, Celeste, Lincoln and Poppy – from Gone Walkabout one of our boating neighbours in the Rio – who are in Antigua doing a Spanish course.    We had a few drinks and it was great fun to see them all again – Poppy apparently missed me sooooo much LOL.   Here are a few shots when we were playing with the selfie stick!   We said fond farewell to them – promising to go to Poppy’s fifth birthday celebration just before we leave Guatemala.  

Fiona and Celeste Jan and Poppy

We then went for a late dinner at a small intimate restaurant.   Richard thoroughly enjoyed his steak but my food was bland and unedible … never mind… the wine was lovely!   We were surprised we were locked in the restaurant when it was time to leave – and then we had to knock on the bolted front door of our hotel to be let in.  This was only 10 pm but the whole City had gone to bed!

Dinner in Antigua 3 Dinner in Antigua 4

Thursday morning and we were up very early – time to get back to Morphie.   While we were away we had been tracking the formation of Hurricane Earl and were relieved that it did not do a direct hit on Guatemala although, sadly, there are reports of damage in Belize.  So, for Guatemala, just a rain event but that can mean mudslides and traffic disruption so we had fingers crossed for the bus trip back!   After enjoying a good breakfast overlooked by angels in the Convento we packed up, checked out, and got into our shared collectivo (eg minibus).

Hotel Angels

We went around the City picking up backpackers until the minibus was full to the gunnels with luggage loaded on the roof – then finally we departed for Guatemala City.  The traffic was bad….the pollution was worse…and we just kept on going.   The overall impression of Guatemala City and its suburbs is an underlying threat of violence – most customers are served through steel bars;  shops / offices / gated communities have heavily armed private security guards;  armed police and army are everywhere doing roadblocks;  wealthy houses live behind huge walls topped with glass and razor wire and solid steel gates.  And, of course, don’t forget the drugs and gangs….who often leave body parts in the street as a warning to others….      

Finally just before 11 we arrived at the Litegua Bus Station for our transfer.  We got our seat allocations; got our bags tagged and loaded onto the coach; and then we queued up to get on board.  Everyone got patted down by the gun-toting security guard – we think he was checking for weapons – and then we got on and found lovely spacious Pullman seats.  

At 11.35 we departed on time and started to make our way out of the city through the heavy traffic.  Then about half an hour later we unexpectedly pulled into another Litegua garage and were told to get off.  So we got off – the bags were transferred to another coach – and we boarded this one instead.   And, of course, this coach is not as comfortable, the seats are smaller and harder and less room all round.  Sigh….   We took off again and headed out away from the city through the mountains – enjoying the sights of the countryside all surrounded by lush green jungle.    But against this beautiful scenic backdrop is the poorest housing we have ever seen –  just blocks or wood shacks with tin roofs – no electricity or water with the rivers supplying their needs.    And rubbish is strewn everywhere along the road and into the river.   Shacks perch precariously on top of cliffs and although some are shored up many are just crumbling limestone walls…  But, despite the hardships, Guatemalans are some of the friendliest and happiest people we’ve ever met.  They have nothing.  But the kids are always playing and laughing – there is often girlie hair braiding groups sitting around – and they all look clean and well fed.

Anyway….after a torturous trip with just one 15 minute stop to grab food…. 11 hours later we arrived back on Morphie via Fronteras gripping an emergency box of fried chicken to go with the cold beers we left in the fridge.  Just what the doctor ordered….  

This morning, Friday, and we’ve just listened to the cruisers net and I’m blogging while Richard is putting the kettle on.   We have had a wonderful trip and really glad that we took the opportunity to see some of the sights of Guatemala – but it is time to shake off the holiday mode and get back into work mode – Morphie is due to come out of the water on Monday morning, so lots to do.   

Bye for now


Exploring Guatemala – Tikal

Sunday afternoon we were picked up by a tourist bus to take us to Tikal which was about an hour away from Flores.   We enjoyed the tour guide’s banter and, by the time they dropped us off at our hotel, we had signed up for a ‘sunrise tour’ for the following morning.  We checked in and walked through the gardens to our room at the Tikal Jungle Lodge.   This turned out to be a lovely little bungalow with outside seating….with jungle views.   Very nice!

Lodge bungalows Room 1 Room 2

Tikal Lodge RoomWe quickly unpacked and went for a wander looking at the hotel grounds, checking out the pool and the restaurant / lounge area.   

Lodge 3 Lodge 2 Lodge Lodge gardens Lodge pool Lodge gardens 2

Then we decided to take ourselves off out to explore the park.  We wandered to the visitor centre, admiring the little Mayan stalls, and the model which gave us a better idea of the scale of this place.   Oh yes, and we avoided the crocodiles along the way!

Tikal visitor centre Tikal shops Watch out!

Tikal was discovered in 1848 by the Coronel Modesto Mendez Ambrosio Tut.   It was opened to the public in 1955 and it was recognised as a site of humanities heritage by UNESCO in 1979.   Tikal, in Mayan, means In the Lagoon but it is still known as the Place of the Spirit Voices.   The Mayan civilisation dates from the year 800 BC until 900 AD and the nucleus of the city was about 65 km sq.    The park has 19 main areas with five main temples, a Gran Plaza (which took an estimated 1,000 years to build) and numerous unexplored areas which have been reclaimed by the jungle.   It is home to many species including jaguars, cotis, wild pigs, howler monkeys, spider monkeys and is a bird watcher’s paradise.  

Although not ready for a trek into the jungle we did walk for about an hour along well-maintained paths cut through the area.  We enjoyed the sounds and sights and we got quickly exhausted in the heat of the day. 

Tikal 1

So we turned around and went back to our room for a rest up.   After a while we went out for dinner and returned to our little bungalow for an early night.

Time for dinner

Waiting for us in our bathroom was a large spider and Richard tried to trap him in a glass but the diameter of the glass wasn’t big enough!!!   So this agitated the spider who then scampered around jumping like a lunatic and took refuge under the sink – sadly he had to be despatched as we couldn’t have slept knowing he was there. 

Monday morning – at 3.00 am – and the alarm went off.  This eco-lodge shuts off the generator from 10pm to 7am so there are no lights at all so we even had to wash using a light from a head torch LOL.  Equipped with that and a flashlight app on the phone we headed into the pitch black – so dark you couldn’t see a hand in front of your face – and made it to the hotel reception where we were met by Carlos (our guide) for the sunrise tour at 4.15.  

We walked in the dark – at a steady pace – for about an hour and learnt a lot about the Mayan culture until we reached the base of Temple IV and then we started the long climb up the 200+ steps to the top.    They were, thankfully, wooden with handrails until we reached the very top.    Then we climbed the original walls until we took our place against the wall and sat waiting along with other tourists.   The forest canopy started to be seen through the gloom but it was too misty for a view of the sunrise or the tops of the temples poking through the trees.   We sat for a while but had to admit defeat after an hour or so….so made the long walk back down.  

Tikal 2 Tikal 3 Tikal 4 Tikal 5 Tikal 7 Tikal 8

We visited lots of sites with Carlos before we returned to the hotel for breakfast at 9.00 am.   After breakfast we headed back out into the jungle and returned for the canopy view now that the mist had cleared – and it was certainly worth the effort – and, if it looks eerily familiar, think George Lucas and Star Wars!  Tikal is a magical place and we enjoyed the visit greatly.

Tikal 9 Tikal 10 Tikal 11 Tikal 12 Tikal 13 Tikal 14 Tikal 15 Tikal 16 Tikal 17 Tikal 18 Tikal 19 Tikal 20 Tikal 21 Tikal 22 Tikal 23 Tikal 24 Tikal 25 Tikal 26 Tikal 27 Tikal 28 Tikal 29 Tikal 30 Tikal 31 Tikal 32 Tikal 33

Back to the lodge and we decided to get connected, so went into the lounge area, for the internet.    We also told reception that, as we were flying in the morning, we were going to be leaving at 5.00 am for the airport so would check out this evening.  What time did reception close?

This was met with a stunned silence – oh no they said – you can’t do that!   Why not?  The park is closed tomorrow morning until 7.00 am.  Why?   A meeting.   So what – all we want to do is leave by minibus.   Oh no, you won’t be able to, as the minibus will not be permitted to enter the park to pick you up.  So what’s the answer then?   We will transfer you to our sister hotel in Flores (the Isla de Flores) put you up in the best room and then transfer you to the airport in the morning free of charge.   Disappointed – but what can you do – we headed back to our room and started to pack ourselves up.  Just grateful that we hadn’t prepaid for the airport transfer.    

At 1.30 we left Tikal and arrived back here in Flores an hour later.    Oh yes….and guess what….it was like ground hog day as they gave us the keys to the same room we had before!   

We are now enjoying the air conditioning again before we have an early dinner.  We are out of here at 5.45 am in the morning to go to Flores airport – where we are flying to Guatemala City – and then transferring onwards to our hotel in the ancient city of Antigua (which used to be Guatemala’s capital city).    On with the adventure!

Bye for now