El Retiro: paradise on Earth

I got another minibus (a bit bigger and more spacious than the first one) to Lanquin, a small village in the middle of the cloud forest, famous for its caves.

I gotta say I love the approximate locations, directions, time tables (if any) in Guatemala. Everything is ‘over there’, ‘ a few blocks away’, or leaves ‘soon’.

We made it to Lanquin on another dirt road through the cloud forest. More amazing views, indigenous, mud houses snuggled in between palm trees or purched on a hill, touching the clouds.

I wasn’t too happy with the ride as I think I might have been ripped off with the bus fare. What followed though more than made up for it and erased all bad memories.

I walked to El Retiro – the most amazing hostel ever! It’s situated next to a fast running river in the middle of the cloud forest. The view from my hut is amazing. I wake up every morning to the view of the mountain tops covered in clouds.

There are hammocks all over the place, a sauna, and tons of activities. The place looks like one of thoe magical retreats in the middle of nowhere. We sleep in huts, purched on hills, hammocks dangling on the porch. All is green and flowery. It is beautiful, peaceful, relaxed. I am spending some time here before I continue my journey.

I haven’t done anything for 3 days now. Partly because I am a bit sick, but mostly because I’m just enjoying the setting, the views, lying in a hammock all day, reading, sleeping.

I read about this place in the Lonely Planet Guide and it did sound great. On the way here I imagined it beauitful, green. I was so happy to find out it looked exactly like I was picturing it!

Here’s how a typical day goes by:

– get up around 9am
– walk out of your hut to greet the cloud forest, hear the birds and the bees
– wash up and have a delicious breakfast. Bread is freshly baked round the corner, fruit comes from the surrounding forest.
– go back to hut, lie down in hammock
– read, write, listen to music, sleep, or all of the above. The sound of the rain, the birds, and the humming of the river help the sleeping.
– wake up for lunch. They serve the most amazing home cooked fries.
– walk a bit, enjoy the scenery and go back to hammock (alternatively use Inet or take up an activity – tubing, swimming, caving, hiking)
– talk to people, make friends, gather travel tips, share stories, watch movies
– get ready for a gorgeous buffet dinner at 7pm. It’s almost like a ritual. That’s when we all gather around long tables for our plate of amazing food (lots of it!). We look like a sect or a weird community. It reminds me of ‘The Beach’.
– have a few drinks after dinner, eat desert, chat with fun people.
– go to sleep

Wake up and repeat cycle 🙂


CouchSurfing or the new way to travel

Oh well, here we go again. I haven’t written for a few days, and I don’t have a good excuse for it. There you go!
Let’s recap, shall we?
Monday was a rather memorable day. I got contacted by a Swiss guy here in Monterrey, asking whether I wanted to go out for drinks. Before I continue, some background info is in place. Lukas (Swiss guy) found me on the CouchSurfing website. It’s somewhat of a social project aimed at bringing people together and promoting cultural exchange (the business woman in me is speaking!). It is a place where travellers meet and exchange experiences and couches. You create a profile and offer people a sleeping place while they are travelling. Same goes for you – others host you when you are travelling. You can also be someone’s guide and show them around through the eyes of a local. Pretty cool! Although, there are people using it in the wrong way, just like any other social website out there. So, meeting Lukas through the website was my first CS experience. He saw I was in the area, and decided to meet up.
I thought it’d be a good idea, especially since I hadn’t left the house all day. So, we arranged to meet in Barrio Antiguo and start with a couple of beers at his hostel together with the rest of the travellers. There were a couple of Aussies, some girls, a few Mexicans, all in all a good mix. By the time I got there (which wasn’t too late) everyone was decently drunk.
A couple of hours later we headed to a local bar (El Monasterio) which seemed to be open for just us. There was hardly anybody else there and the band did an extra special performance. The live performances at local clubs is one thing I really like about Monterrey, there are hardly any DJ’s. This time the two guys sang heartfelt Mexican love songs and a few other less significant ones.
By the time we left, the rest of the gang was pretty wasted. All in all we had a good time.
Then not much happened the last few days, went to a basketball game and played poker last night. For money. And I lost. Didn’t go out first though. A couple of guys went out before I did, and I bet they had played more than I had. This was only my second time playing poker. Jolly good fun! I was seriously considering going back in but I didn’t have any cash on me.
So, another basketball game tonight, and maybe clubbing. We will see how it goes.