Written by Ron, our man in Guatemala
Four weeks ago, I flew into Panama City with no real ideas about what i was about to experience. Tomorrow, not by choice, I leave the group to return to my own part of the world. This is an attempt to detail from my point of view some of the defining moments of the Los Conquistadores trip:
- The first night, swimming in the very warm pacific waters, while a spectacular lightning display played over Panama City two hours away. Even though it was the same ocean that I swim in at home, it was clear to me that I was in another world.
- The Pope! Who would have thought that on a Costa Rican backroad we would almost force the PopeMobile off the road?
- Music. A couple of recurring musical themes were established very early in the trip: El Condor Pasa courtesy of Marianne, Y.M.C.A. and Abba courtesy of Elisabeth and JoJo, and the Dutch National Anthem (Helmet Song) courtesy of Catrien soon became entrenched in the trip mythology. Particularly defining moments came later in the trip when assorted restaurants were cleared because of renditions of any or all of the above.
- Diving. Resting on the bed of the ocean watching the others descend towards you through the turquoise clear waters, then seeing the looks of achievement and absolute pleasure on the faces of Orla and Caroline as they hauled themselves back into the boat half an hour later.
- Sunsets. In particular at West End, Roatan, and the Sunset Cafe, Lakje Atitlan. Group members gathered together at the end of the day for a quick drink and a few moments of reflection. But even more spectacular sitting in a sea kayak off-shore from the Bay Islands watching the sun dip into the Caribbean.
- Volcanos. Ten of us huddled together behind the volcanic rock 2,500m above sea level on the lip of the crater of the the active volcano Pacaya, gale force winds so strong we couldn’t stand up and visibility of 2 metres – we really knew we were alive.
- Jungles. First thing in the morning, walking through tropical rainforests. The sounds, the heat, the sights, the insects, the colours, the smells.
- Bushcamping. On top of a hill overlooking San Juan del Sur. Perfect bay, perfect views for 360 degrees, my tent pitched on the edge of a cliff with penthouse vista, campfire and good company. Great!
- Roofseats. Not only good fun and a great way to travel, but a fantastic way to hear the sounds, smell the smells, and interact with local people. It’s hard to forget the smiles, waves, and whistles of the very friendly local people as we pass. Searching for a bushcamp off the beaten track one afternoon, it occurred to me that I was probably one of the only Australians ever to have passed that way before. The others were on the truck with me.
- The people / the parties. Never before have I travelled with a group of people who mixed so well, looked out for each other, and partied so eagerly. Whether on the truck, in a restaurant, on top of a hill, by a campfire, each minute was memorable.
So there you have it, some defining moments from my point of view. There were 14 other passengers on this trip, all of whom will have their own special memories and I’m sure that they will be only too happy to tell you what a fantastic time it has been – just ask them