streets of  San Juan, Valladolid, Yucatan province, Mexico

"I Almost did that"

My solo travels across the Central Americas.

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DAY 2: Walking in the streets of  San Juan, Valladolid, Yucatan province, Mexico.

Can you speak and understand Spanish? “It’s not worth the risk; just go see it on Google”. “Are you crazy? Those border crossings are dangerous!”. Such were the questions I encountered from friends. Most intriguingly, the phrase: “I almost did that” kept coming up in conversation. Just then, at that moment, I could sense the lingering regret behind that word. I knew I had to give into my pilgrim soul, for as a little boy, I always dreamed of overland travel to far-off places. Explore and understand the lost civilisation.

How does one explain what one does and why one does it? I guess it is a blessing and a curse of the calling. With that thought, I embarked on an epic adventure of a lifetime to the land of the Mayas. This highly-developed civilisation flourished and vanished without a trace in the Central Americas.

"

Stop dreaming about your bucket list

and start living it.

 - Annette White

 
Ek Balam

20°
20'
53.552262'' N
30°
88'8.152878'' W

Ek Balam 

DAY: 3 

GPS:  20,53.552262N 88,8.152878W 

Three hours from Cancun and one hour from Valladolid

These amazingly well-preserved sculptures uncovered at Ek Balam are an interesting Mayan site. Dating from 100 BC to its height at 700-1,200 BC, it is unlike any other Mayan site. The main temple here at Ek Balam is impressive, both in size and architecture. It's a massive size of over 500 feet long and 200 feet wide, the frescoes and sculptures decorating this temple is an artistic marvel.

20°
20'
53.552262'' N
30°
88'8.152878'' W

Ek Balam 

DAY: 4 

Three hours from Cancun and one hour from Valladolid

These amazingly well-preserved sculptures uncovered at Ek Balam are an interesting Mayan site. Dating from 100 BC to its height at 700-1,200 BC, it is unlike any other Mayan site. The main temple here at Ek Balam is impressive, both in size and architecture. It's a massive size of over 500 feet long and 200 feet wide, the frescoes and sculptures decorating this temple is an artistic marvel.

Cenote Zaci

The next afternoon I took a dip in another beautiful cenote, and I had it all to myself

Cenote Zaci

My pale feet

It's incredible as the sunlight filters through the blue waters of Cenote Samulá

My pale feet

Right: A Mayan Warrior at the temple in Ek Balm

 

Far right: More ruins at Ek' Balam Archaeological site 

 

A Mayan Warrior at the temple in Ek Balm
More ruins at Ek' Balam Archaeological site 

El Castillo

El Castillo

Day 8

El Castillo|Chichen Itza

From crystal clear seas of the Caribbean to the deep underground caves of Central Mexico, my adventures saw me dive into the blue waters of secret centos in the Yucatán Peninsula and scale the new world’s most impressive pyramids.

 

El Castillo | Chichen Itza
Uxmal is an ancient Maya city of the classical period 

I had the pleasure of the company of

Dr Santiago, who is a specialist in the Archaeology of the Americas

Uxmal is an ancient Maya city of the classical period 

Uxmal is an ancient Maya city of the classical period 

Temple of the Warriors

Chichen Itza (‘the mouth at the well of Itza’) is classified as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and, in 1988, was enlisted as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

El Castillo (the Temple of Kukulkan) is the famous pyramid that dominates Chichen Itza's site and actually sits on another much older temple.

El Castillo (the Temple of Kukulkan)
El Castillo (the Temple of Kukulkan)

Day 10

 
Belize City
Belize City
Belize
Belize City

“Young man you know nothing about fishing.
I tell you, man, I have been fishing for over 40 years in these waters”


Edmundo Emanuel, 78

Baron Bliss Lighthouse

Baron Bliss Lighthouse in Belize City was established in 1885 on the former site of a Spanish fortress which was highly damaged after the Battle of St. George's Caye in September 1798 

Baron Bliss Lighthouse
Tikal- The ancient Mayan citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala

Guatemala

Tikal- The ancient Mayan citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala

 

I hiked through the thick, dense jungles of Guatemala, completing my excursion by looking down on the lost city of Tikal. Then crossing the border to Copán- an archaeological site of the Maya civilization in the Copán Department of western Honduras.

 

DAY:15

Tikal, Northern Guatemala

An ancient Mayan citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala

Tikal

An ancient Mayan citadel in the rainforests of northern Guatemala

20°
17'13.456502'

N
24°
89'36.698802'

W

Antigua

Where cultures blend and time stood still

Santa Catalina Arch at night

Santa Catalina Arch at night

Santa Catalina Arch at night

Santa Catalina Arch

Antigua, Guatemala. With crumbling churches set against the backdrop of monumental volcanoes

Volcano de Agua

Antigua, Guatemala. With crumbling churches set against the backdrop of monumental volcanoes

Bienvenidos!

Above the clouds is a bright blue sky; Their eyes tell stories that no words describe. Yet I am surprised to see smiles on their faces to greet strangers passing by.

Lago Atitlan

 

 

Lago Atitlan

Time to do nothing just idling in a hammock and admiring the perfect lake view. 50cts a beer, Pork Pupusas for dinner $2.20. The room by the lake $9.50. This is where I want to be, woke up the next morning to this, The view, priceless !!

Day 20

Lago Atitlan

Panajachel

Lago Atitlan
The legend of Maximón

The legend of Maximón

The next afternoon I walked in the Little backstreets to the home of Maximón, well at least the effigy of Maximón, also known as San Simon, a saint venerated in various forms by Mayan people. spooky but worth a photograph

The legend of Maximón

The next afternoon I walked in the Little backstreets to the home of Maximón, well at least the effigy of Maximón, also known as San Simon, a saint venerated in various forms by Mayan people. spooky but worth a photograph  

 

El Salvador

Suchitoto

 

The town is set with cobblestone streets, and the beautiful Iglesia Santa Lucía church is in the centre. Laid-back, friendly and lovely people. They welcomed me with "Buenas" and a smile wherever I went. 

I know what you were thinking. El Salvador is a country with a high crime rate; yes, it is, and you are right, but I felt pretty safe during my time here. So friends, experience this great town. I am already missing it.

DAY 26
Suchitoto, El Salvador

Not all those who wander are lost

J.R.R. Tolkien

"

Hike to the Conchagua viewpoin Viran de Silva

 

Alone in the Woods

Hike to the Conchagua viewpoint

 

The lonely path to the viewpoint was covered with trees, and the wind brushed my face adding a little comfort to the hike to the top. It was hot and humid. An outstanding view of the Gulf of Fonseca and its islands is worth the trek.

Feel the magic of his creation from this mountain's top. Tomorrow will be an early start as I will be crossing into Nicaragua.

 

View from the lookout point at Conchagua

View from the lookout point at Conchagua

 Die with memories, not with dreams

"

Day 31

El Tunco in El Salvador is a tiny off-the-beaten-path beachside town. Made up of just two streets, it's the surface paradise, but I am not here to surf. It doesn't excite me to watch the incredible sunsets ranging from golden orange to ethereal pink.

El Tunco sunsets are something to marvel at with the colossal ocean rock that used to look like a pig as the foreground is a real treat for the photographs.

El Tunco beach has its wild beauty; once you've been, you'll know what I mean. 

1. Leaving El Salvador at La Union

1. Leaving El Salvador at La Union

3. Outstanding view of the Gulf of Fonseca and its islands

3. Outstanding view of the Gulf of Fonseca and its islands

2. Perfect Morning at La Union, but sad to leave El Salvador

2. Perfect Morning at La Union, but sad to leave El Salvador

7. Six hours later The first glimpse of Nicaragua 

7. Six hours later The first glimpse of Nicaragua 

4. Bridal path to the lookout point 

4. Bridal path to the lookout point 

6. Exhausted !!!! 

6. Exhausted !!!! 

DAY 33

Gulf of Fonseca

El Salvador to Nicaragua

8. Strong man Costello carrying luggage

8. Strong man Costello carrying luggage

9. Filling the landing card and Visa stuff at the boat pier - Nicaragua 

9. Filling the landing card and Visa stuff at the boat pier - Nicaragua 

5. Passing Honduras 

5. Passing Honduras 

 
Nicaragua
Laguna de Apoyo - Volcano Crater Lake

Be brave. Take risks. Nothing can substitute experience

Paulo Coelho

"

It frightens me to imagine a monstrous mythical creature lurking underneath. How long could I hold my breath…. How deep could I dive…. and the unknown…. bright beams of sunlight pierce the deep blue waters somehow fear gives way to excitement, exhilarating.....


DAY 35
Apoyo Volcanic Creator Lagoon
Nicaragua

Costa Rica
The long road to Monteverde
 

I'm not an Adrenaline Junkie

I jump off the cliff into the unknown. My heartbeat slows down as I fall.
There is no adrenaline rush nor a high.
Just a twinkle in my toe & sparkle in my eyes.
I feel calm as I wizz past the canopy of trees. 
I feel free like a bird in the sky.
Falling into the arms of the midday mist, then through the rainforest oh so green. 
The angel whispers into my heart I got you, my child; it's going to be all right.


DAY 37
la fortuna, monteverde,
Costa Rica

Storm


I hear the Storm high above the mountain tops. It's coming my way over the ridge as the clouds change their form and hang heavily amongst the branches, leaving a trail of raindrops to warn us that more is on its way. I feel the calmness before the Storm.

Forty days of bright blue sky, I guess it was inevitable for a storm of this size, especially this time of the year; well, there is a reason they call it the hurricane season. The wind blew harder. The lightning splits the sky, heavens open. It's time to move on; goodbye, Monteverde.



DAY 40
Monteverde,
Costa Rica

Panama City
Panama
 

Men past forty
Get up nights,
Look out at city lights
And wonder
Where they made the wrong turn
And why life is so long.

- Ed Sissman

(1928-1976)

 

A delightful afternoon with a gangster

Ten years ago, gangs and stray dogs ruled the streets of Panama City's Casco Viejo, a neighbourhood that dates back to the 17th century. Those days are long gone.

Miguel Rivera is a former gang member now married with five kids and spends his time as a guide. He is quite a comedian! He was the highlight of the afternoon instead of the tour. He is funny, full of jokes and never has a dull moment. The gang's graffiti has been preserved as wall art. He takes me along the back alley and points to his hangouts and safe homes with bullet-ridden walls—stories about his life in the hood in the years gone by. As the clock ticks and my time ends, I drown my second Panamanian mojito and bid him farewell.

Saying Goodbye to Bella

My time spent in Panama City’s Old Quarter ( Casco Viejo )

 

One afternoon I was playing with the kids in the neighbourhood. It was grim, but the laughter brought life back into the hood. They spoke in Spanish with few English words. I joined them most afternoons.. as we played along. "What's your name !!!" "cuál es tu nombre" shouted the little ones. They called me Gringo, the brown Gringo from a faraway land, and screamed and laughed at my football skills. I, too, needed time off, so we played all day long in the little-known streets of Panama Bay. 

Cute and friendly, Bella was one of a kind and gave me an attitude from the start as we played along. With big brown eyes, a snotty nose and chubby cheeks. Little Bella was the cutest of them all.
 
When it was time for me to leave, she hugged me tight with all her might and asked if I would return later that night. Broken promises and sad goodbyes, I was never the one to break her heart. I told her I had to go to a faraway land where I belonged. I took one last look and snapped a photo before her first teardrop fell on the floor.

Often I wonder what life would be like for Bella and her friends. I wish you well, my little friend, and I hope all is well in the Panama end. Birthdays, Graduations and Proms hope you have all of them. May life brings you the best in the years to come, but deep in my heart, I know I will not see you again, so be safe, Bella be safe. 



The Brown Gringo
form a faraway land
DAY: 41

Day 45

So this is where my journey ends. I am glad that this very spot that I am, at this very moment, is where I wanted to be when I was in the fifth grade. I wanted to come here and watch the ships go by. Yes, it's the Panama Canal, a 100-year-old engineering marvel and a dream come true to a boy so far away from home 

The charming cobblestone streets and vibrant colonial buildings of Suchitoto, a town set in the mountains of El Salvador, captured my imagination of what life would have been in the old Americas.

I sailed across the Gulf of Fonseca to Nicaragua, the most beautiful border crossing ever. El Salvador to Nicaragua from La Union to Potosi, then a bus to Leon/San Salvador. I experienced the smoking volcanos of Costa Rica. While I travelled, I was disappointed to learn that Columbus was nothing more than a gold-hungry Spaniard who destroyed as he discovered.

 

I've journeyed on chicken buses, private vans, back pickup trucks, cycles, boats, and ferries. I walked for miles across each border crossing and finally into Panama. It has been a humbling experience. In my quest to understand the culture and its people along the way, I met and made new friends, some for life and others merely for the moment. 

 

I have witnessed some of the most dramatic landscapes in the world and marvelled at the sights of golden sunsets and star-filled night skies of the Americas. 

 

Over 8000 km later, I arrived in Panama City on a rainy and wet December morning, safe but thoroughly exhausted. One rucksack, three guidebooks and a mind filled with memories and no wish to say 

" I almost did that !! ".

5th December 2016 

by The Miraflores Locks

Panama Canel, Panama

Central America - 8000 KM

" I almost did that "

is intended to elicit my wanderlust

“The biggest adventure you can take is to live the life of your dreams”