Fulfilled my expectations as I had wanted to do this for the last 3 years. But not without its share of 'incidents' - solved as usual by Exodus expertise.
- What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?
Too many to pick just one but arriving at Lake Atitlan in Guatamala just as the sun was setting was awesome in the real sense of the word. Once we were in Mexico it was the ruins of Palenque that held my attention - each Mayan ruin had it own indiviual appeal but with Palenque being the first one it was magical. This was eventually eclipsed when we arrived back in Guatamala at the end of our trip and went to Tikal - now that really was something. As we arrived at the Grand Plaza there was an audible intake of breath from the whole group at the sight before out eyes! We even had to contend with rain forest rain that day but it added even more to the atmosphere.
In Belize, on Caye Caulker I went on the snorkelling trip to Coral Garden,Shark/Ray Alley, and reef snorkelling - brilliant! Some of the group went to watch the Manatees - the choice is yours.
- What did you think of your group leader?
After nine of us missed our connection at Houston in transit and had to stay at a hotel for the night we were mighty relieved to be greeted next morning in Guatamala City by our leader Miia Vilppula. She had organised another mini bus so that we could continue on our trip as planned. She reorganised our schedule, so that we went straight to our 2nd night's hotel at Panajachel and joined the rest of the group who had arrived on different flights. Her easy manner with locals, her language skills and her knowledge of the area made everyone feel at ease. This also came to our aid when we were caught in a road blockade for three hours on our way to the Mexican border on the 3rd day - the same day as we were again held up while a landslide was cleared from the road and we needed to make the border crossing before 6.00! She stayed calm and we made it through only to be stopped an hour further along the road and the bus boarded by armed police (military!) to search us for drugs and guns! She stayed calm throughout and went to the trouble the next day to re-organise the transport as the bus picked up at the Mexican border was not considered suitable. Throughout the trip she was calm and resourceful and very well organised - even entertaining us with DVD's on Mayan history on some of the longer journeys.
- Do you have any advice for potential travellers?
Be prepared for the unexpected! Accomodation ranged from really high quality in Gualtamala City to frankly poor in Caye Caulker - but it may have been the best Caye Caulker could offer! Long sleeves and long trousers in the evening are a good idea but we didn't see many mosquitoes. When the trip notes say it can be cold in the highlands of Guatamala - it definately was - the womens co-operative of weavers in Zinacantan sold plenty of scarves that day.
Also be prepared for quite lengthy drives - necessary to cover the groud we did, but Miia made sure we had plenty of stops as necessary
Once in Belize and Caye Caulker the snorkelling is great but your gear is included so you dont need to take your own.
- Is there anything else you would like to add?
Just go with an open mind and take a full range of clothing no matter what time of year. I couldn't get on Hotmail to let my family know I was OK as I had to use hotel computers so you do need your own form of communication with you - (note to self - upgrade my phone!).
Also check your plug converters - again mine weren't working so had to borrow from group member to re charge camera batteries.
It's also a good idea to read up on the Mayan history before you go as there is so much to absorb.
Just go and enjoy the experience!