project review

10 Weeks in Central America

Review submitted by Andrea Dudas
Review date 15 Jun 2010

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I have experienced so much more than I thought I would during my 10 weeks in Central America. Following on from my time at camp in Miraflor, we headed to Frontier's turtle site in El Rosario, a small fishing village. This made a wonderful change as we got to interact with another community and see how they live. We spent a lot of time on the black volcanic beach and really enjoyed the Pacific. The water was beautiful. We took a tour out to some rock formations offshore with the local fishermen and had dolphins swimming behind us. We also got to sample the delicious fish they catch.

After our 4 weeks at camp, it was time to say goodbye to the other Research Assistants and continue on the trail. It was sad saying goodbye to our extended family but we only had just under 4 weeks to get to Mexico City. The next stop was Honduras. The bus journeys were long but worth it. The first stop was Utila in the Bay Islands. Here I got PADI certified and discovered that diving is a new passion of mine. I had the most incredible time on the island and we ended up staying longer than we thought (the fact that there was an earthquake whilst we were there is only one reason for our extended stay). I definitely recommend doing the dive course and by the time I left I had been on 8 dives, 2 of which were in the Cayos Cachinos National Park where we swam through mazes and under arches. I also snorkelled with a whale shark despite it being out of season. That was incredible as it literally swam right under me after feeding and still had it's massive mouth open. Something I'll never forget. We had some great dives and amazing nights, however, we had to leave at some point.

Following Utilla we went to Copan, which was our first Mayan ruins site of the trip. We met a local man who told us that we should get to the site as it opens to truly experience the impact of the place. We had Copan to ourselves for about 1hr and it was fantastic. The President of Ecuador also visited the site on the same day as us and so the place was postcard worthy.

Crossing into Guatemala was exciting as I heard a lot of good things about the country and couldn't wait to do some souvenir shopping. The places we stopped in were Antigua, Panajachel on Lake Atitlan and Tikal. Antigua was fantastic as there were so many markets where some good deals were struck. We also did a tour out to Volcan Pacaya where we stood 5m away from flowing lava. Luckily our shoes didn't melt but it was hot. Not something everyone can say they did...and I'm not sure how much longer the tours will be running! Lake Atitlan was beautiful and had even more markets. There were more foreigners than I expected but we had some great times with the locals, especially in their clubs (or discos as they are known in Central America). Tikal is also a major attraction in Guatemala, and with good reason. We did the sunrise tour and again avoided the swarms of people. The best bit of Tikal was having my breakfast sitting on top of Temple V, looking out over the world as the sun rose through the sky. Not something I'll forget soon. It's a magical place and the morning sounds are phenomenal.

Following Guatemala, it was onto Mexico, our last country. We spent a few days in San Cristobel de Las Casas where we went on a tour of Mayan traditions, which I highly recommend. It is run by locals, who also speak English, and so is a really personalised experience. Whilst we were there, there was a festival on - Corpus Christi - and so there were celebrations everywhere we went. We got to watch some incredible street dancing and I tried some of the local food and drink. Swine flu is still a rather big thing in Mexico but it means that there aren't as many tourists around and so you really get the Mexican feel. Following on from San Cristobel we headed to the big capital, Mexico City. At first I was skeptical about the place as I had heard so many bad stories but the city isn't actually that bad. The historical part of the city is beautiful and as long as you keep your wits about you, there shouldn't be any problems. It's also nice to have a bit of 'normality' before heading home so we are prepared for daily life.

Overall the trail was definitely a trip of a lifetime and I have seen and learnt so much, including some very useful Spanish. I had a brilliant time and really enjoyed sharing my experiences with Sally and Ash. Despite the earthquake and swine flu, I think we all would do the trail again, given half a chance.

Read more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.