Wednesday
May072014

Trail volunteer blog: Will and Ben

On our last day in Antigua, we travelled for ninety minutes by bus to the currently active Pacaya volcano. We met with a tour guide and started our ascent. Near the top of the volcano, we stopped to toast marshmallows over naturally hot volcanic rocks. The following day departed from Antigua and took a relatively short bus ride to our next destination, San Pedro de Laguna.

After having arrived, we spent the rest of the day getting to sample some local cuisine and relax in our lakeside hostel. There were many activities on offer in and around the town, including kayak rental, massages and hiking. One particularly enjoyable activity was kayaking, during which we crossed the lake to see a small town on the other side of the river from the water, with many stops on the way to apply plenty of sun cream and play some games.

After leaving San Pedro la Laguna, we crossed the border, leaving Guatemala and entering Honduras. Our first stop in a Honduras was Copan, famous for it ruins. We only spent one day in Copan, but it was one to remember. We went Canopy zip lining, which was composed of 16 stages, one of the stages was 1 km long: a combination of adrenaline and stunning views. After the zip-lining we went to an exotic bird sanctuary. Where we got to hold and interact with a variety of colourful birds. After that, we stopped off at a coffee shop on the way back to the hostel to sample some famous local Honduran coffee.

The next day it was time to leave Copan to embark on a week of volunteering in a school in Cofradia. When we arrived in Cofradia we met with the volunteers at the school who gave us a quick briefing. After the briefing we went to our host families where we will be staying the week. On our first day at the school we got assigned different grades. Our volunteering consisted of one on one work with pupils and helping out in lessons and break time. At the time of writing this we are just finishing our second day at the school. It has been very hot but the work has been very successful and rewarding nonetheless.

By Will and Ben, trail volunteers

Find out more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.

Thursday
Apr242014

Volunteer blog: Allison and Sophia!

Wow. La Isla de Flores is an amazing place. We arrived yesterday after a long bus journey. Doña Goya (our hostel) has an amazing view overlooking the lake that surrounds Flores. The hammocks on the roof were great for relaxing in between activities. On Monday afternoon we went to the Tikal ruins. The Tikal ruins are the largest Mayan ruins in Central America. At Tikal we got to climb around the ruins and explore. A fun fact about the ruins: a scene from Star Wars was filmed on top of one of the ruins! Around 6 we climbed to the top of the tallest ruin in Tikal to watch the sunset, which just so happened to be on the other side of the ruin where you couldn't walk. We still got to see the change in the skies colour though, which was pretty amazing while sitting atop a Mayan Ruin. During the bus ride back the driver played reggae music the whole time. Looking out the window we could see the moon change from orange to white as it rose through the sunset.

The group decided to stay an extra day in Flores, which was a great decision. It was awesome having the whole day to ourselves, and getting to explore the island on our own. Some of us wondered down to a restaurant on the lake and watched the Real Madrid vs. Barcelona Classic. After this a few us went for a run around the island, which was so small we were able to run around it several times. After the run we jumped in the lake, and went for a refreshing swim. In the late afternoon, 5 of us took a football and went on a search to find a place to play. We ended up at the local park, where we joined in with some locals. We split into three teams, and played on a rotating schedule. It was really nice seeing how football brought us all together. After a few hours of playing, we met up with the others for dinner. Due to the holiday, there were food tents lining the Main Street along the lake. Most of the tents carried the same delicious dishes for extremely cheap prices. Thursday morning we hopped on a bus to Lanquine, a nice 8 hour ride. The driver promised he could get us there in 7 hours rather than 8, so the bus sped the through the winding roads for hours. We arrived in Lanquine around 5, where we were dropped at our hostel, El Retiro. The hostel was amazing, located directly on a speedy river, which later proved to be a small problem. The volleyball court was right next to the river, so once we got a game going several people had to jump Into the river fully clothed to retrieve the ball. There were also free yoga classes being offered next to the river, which a few of us participated in.  After exhausting ourselves, we feasted at the all you can eat buffet at the hostel. It was Mediterranean night, and there was a delicious spread of food. It was the most I have eaten since the beginning of this trip! We were all exhausted and went to bed soon after stuffing our faces. 

Friday was a crazy day. We got up really early to get to semuc champey before all the local Guatemalans, who were celebrating Easter, and therefore were spending the day there with their families. We drove there in a truck where 12 of us had to sit/stand in the back. It was a lot of fun going up and down much like a roller coaster.

When we got there we hiked up to a view point overlooking the amazing turquoise pools. On the hike down Alexis twisted her ankle. So we learned that flip flops are not the best shoes for hiking. Then when we got down we swam in the pools. It was very refreshing after a long and sweaty hike. Getting into the pools was difficult with the rocks being very slippery, and unfortunately Brandon fell and hurt his finger. He went to the hospital and got it fixed. The rest of us stayed and swam in the pools. The pools had jumps and slides, and with a guide we were showed all the fun things you could do. The last thing we did was jump from a cave next to a big waterfall into the river flowing underneath and a very high jump from a bridge into the river.

We got back to the amazing hostel in Lanquine, where we had a few hours to rest/play volleyball before heading to the bat caves. The caves were full of rock formations, and if you used your imagination they seemed to be birds and mushrooms and elephants. We got to turn off all the lights at one point and watch hundreds of bat fly by us, slightly freaky. After a long and exciting day we had another great dinner at the hostel.

On Saturday was another travel day. We were leaving lanquine and heading to Antigua, the old capital city of Guatemala. A trip that was supposed to take 8 hours ended up taking 11 because of the bus breaking down and a lot of traffic. We arrived in Antigua at around 7 at night. Because of the Easter holidays, we had not been able to book a hostel in advance, so while Julia and Alex went to find a place to stay, the rest of us stayed in the beautiful main square and some played football with some local boys. They found a hostel and we found some food and relaxed before heading to bed.

Sunday was Easter Sunday, so there were lots of things going on in the city. People were decorating the streets with flowers and during the day a big parade goes through the city. We had Sunday off to do what we wanted to. So some of us went to the big marked with everything from handcrafted things to food. We wandered around in the beautiful city with colourful buildings and cobbled streets. When we came back to the hostel some people went out to eat. I stayed and had a fantastic homemade pasta meal.

By Allison and Sophia, trail volunteers

Find out more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.

Wednesday
Apr162014

Volunteer blog: Alexis Daudistel 

Tuesday 8th April - Today we took a tour of two different ruins and the shrine of Guadalupe. The first ruins we visited were the Tlatelolco. They were in the middle of the city when learning about them the your guide told is that the ancient city kept building layers and layers on top of each other. Today there is only a tiny bit of the ruins themselves but there is now a Catholic Church sitting on top of some of them.

Next we headed to the shrine of Guadalupe. This part was very interesting there are two different church's/shrines next to each other. The oldest one is so old that it is now leaning because it is sinking into the ground! When you first walk into it it's a weird feeling because you’re on a distinct slope; it has high ceilings and beautiful artwork all over. The second shrine is the newest one it's a very large modern Catholic Church with the shrine at the very back we walked in during mass so we all had to be very quiet.

After the shrines we headed to the massive Teotihuacan Ruins. We stopped right before them at an interesting home and shop where they make handcrafted everything; they showed us all the different ways they make everything from blankets to huge stone carvings out of all natural material. They fed us a delicious traditional Mexican food buffet and sent us off to the ruins - which were stunning! Two huge pyramids one for the moon and on we for the sun; between the two were smaller almost half pyramids where all of the people lived. The artwork in the stone was so interesting things like dragons with sea shells and such. The guide said that if the family was important enough they would even have their own condensed version of a pyramid in their home for ceremonies.

We climbed the moon pyramid first but none of us expected the stairs to be so steep so we only were allowed to go halfway up as the rest of it was shut off. Once on top it was an amazing view of the rest if the ruins and the surrounding landscape! After slowly getting back down the moon pyramid, some of us more gracefully than others, we headed to the sun pyramid preparing ourselves for the work out of a lifetime. Climbing the steps got so steep sometimes but we all knew that it would be worth it in the end to see everyone so high up and on top of that - who gets the chance to say they climbed to the top of ancient ruins! Although you actually have a better view from the moon pyramid reaching the top of the sun was so rewarding. We had almost two hours to wander around and be curious we took full advantage there were merchants walking around trying to sell us things every 5 minutes - those who didn't know Spanish learned quickly how to politely say no thank you! After retiring to our hostel we decided to see the city a bit we walked around and explored. It's so awesome to see how life works in a big city in such a different country then any of our own. The rest of the night we all hung out, ate dinner and decided to finish the night with a rooftop meeting to get to know one another and be briefed on our entire trip by our amazing trail leader Julia! We were all so excited to see what come next!

By Alexis Daudistel, trail volunteer

Find out more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.

Wednesday
Apr162014

Volunteer blog: Celia Smith

Day One - we all arrived at different times of the day in the airport of Mexico City on Monday the 7th of April. Our kind trail leader Julia was here to welcome each and every one of us! The first three volunteers Sofia, Will and Junior arrived at about the same time in the morning and there was enough time for Julia to bring them to the hostel before picking up the next volunteers! 

In the early afternoon Alex, Leah, Alexis, Allison, Brandon, Anna and I arrived in the airport where we all introduced ourselves! We headed to the hostel by taking 3 different metros in the chaotic and crowded subways of Mexico City. Finally at the hostel after carrying our heavy bags for hours we can now relax on the rooftop or in our comfy bunk-beds! We walked around the beautiful center of the city through the main commercial street where some of us stopped for mangos and others stopped to take a picture of the authentic architecture that can be found at every corner of the city! We were still expecting 4 more volunteers: Polly, Jonah, Ben and Jehan. They didn't arrive until late that evening; all of us were already sleeping after a tiring yet interesting day and a nice meal made by the kind staff of the hostel.

By Celia Smith, Trail volunteer

Find out more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.

Monday
Mar172014

GOODBYE TO THE TRAIL! 

All good things come to an end! I said good bye to the other trailer Nick this morning, and I will be headed back to snow tomorrow.


What an incredible adventure it has been! We started off as three strangers meeting for the first time in Mexico City. Ten weeks later we are friends that travelled Central America together! From exploring Mayan ruins, to hiking up volcanoes, to scuba diving and surfing, its been the trip of a lifetime!

We had the pleasure of spending our last four weeks in the Costa Rican jungle with some amazing people and animals. Our days were filled with turtle patrols, butterfly netting, primate surveys and football with the locals. Some highlights for me were seeing my first sea turtle, spending full days following monkeys though the jungle, camping out on the gorgeous Matapalo beach and definitely the wonderful people on camp. Truly a once in a lifetime experience that will never be forgotten!

By Robin Green

Find out more about the Central America Ethical Adventure Trail.