Antigua and Volcan Tujumulco...

Antigua, one of the few UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Guatemala, appealed to me from the moment our collectivo trundled into town over its cobblestone streets, past the well preserved Spanish Baroque architecture, round the corners with tumbled down spectacular ruins of colonial churches and up to our hostel of choice for a 3 night stint, Yellow House. We were using Antigua as a base for a few days before heading West a few hours to Guatemala’s second biggest, yet less travelled city, of Quetzaltenango, or Xela (pronounced Shey-la) to all and sundry in the country. We had booked a 2 day volcano hike, before a weeks Spanish lessons and homestay, both in Xela, and Antigua was the perfect jumping off point to break up the journey. Colonial towns always hold a big appeal to me; the throwback to history, the untouched unspoiled roads, the abundance of care that is given over to all the small, intricate signs and doorways, the apparent lack of smog filled car lined streets, and the ease of travelling and safety of the area. Antigua was no different, yet also had the added attraction and vista of three main volcanoes that surround the city, one still quite evidently active. We headed out to dinner on our first evening, taking the advice of the local hostel staff, and finding our way to an intriguing hidden restaurant that had a small tienda (local snack shop) as its store front. After being grinned at by a couple of old, wizened individuals, we got escorted round the crisp packet stand, past the cash register and into the hidden, small, cardboard box strewn tabled area. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery The menu consisted of chicken broth, or chicken broth, and after...

Halves, full’s, knees and straits

The month of June pulled me through on a manic adventure ridden tour, that before I knew it July was settling in to its mid term lazy sun driven days, and August was getting excited for it annual month long tour. And so as I write this on the first trip back for a year to the heat-wave sun-burnt England, I take a deep sigh, relax, and reflect on what has been an amazing variety of fun and frolics in Vancouver and beyond over the past 40 days and 40 nights since the last update. Early on in June, as the remnants of spring were finally subsiding and summer was shining brightly on the horizon Han had her inaugural Half Ironman race across in the wine region of the Okanagan. Lying between the Coast Mountain Range and the Rocky Mountains, we’ve visited this area twice before to taste and gargle our way through 6 or 7 vineyards a day, but this time as we headed East along the scenic mountain road of the I5 mine and David’s minds were firmly set on crewing Han and ensuring her race went as smoothly as possible, rather than on Elephant Island, Borrowing Owl and the Hidden Chapel vineyards. Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery The original Ironman started in 1978 (where the 1st place athlete on the final running leg ran out of water and was given beer instead, only to finish in 2nd), has long been coined the toughest of tests of human endurance, and the Half Ironman is no mean feat clocking in at a 2km swim, followed by a 90km cycle and then finishing with a 21.2km (half marathon) run. Han set off on a beautiful wind swept morning as highs, lows, grit, determination, helium filled aerial camera failures, and the usual dose of food, beer, and good times with good friends were had, but the small film that David and I made can explain Han’s race more succinctly and emotionally than I could here. A week later, and in a concerted effort for Han to rebuild the lost muscle and used up calories, fun fuelled Friday found four of us drinking and dancing our way through Vancouver Craft Beer Festival, sampling a host of weird, delightful, crazy, surprising, obnoxious and mind flowingly tasty beers. Although the event finished at the rather subdued 10pm, meaning the next morning was headache free and breakfast ready, we found it pleasantly surprising to be drinking outside in a city that usually outlaws such crazy behaviour, especially as the sun was shining throughout the event. The next weekend arrived and Han and I took a well earned rest over on Sechelt as we shut down at my aunt and uncles house for 3 days, enjoying the 180 degree panoramas of the Strait of Georgia. A week passed, Saturday arrived, I looked up from my GPS watch and I took in the heads of 7,000 runners as I stood near the front of the Vancouver Scotia Bank Half Marathon, hoping to improve on my personal best that I had set in February of the year in a time of 1:21 and 20 seconds. I knew that over the 21.1km course, a 3:45 min/km pace would find me stepping across the line in just under 1:20, so as I ran down the gradual decline before traversing back up the said hill and shooting by the 5km mark, I was happy to see my pace just hitting under the target at around 3:40. With a 6km downhill section to follow, I knew that I had to stay around that pace, if not slightly quicker, to give myself some leeway on the elevation neutral zone, before the slight uphill, round the coast on Marine Drive, over Burrard Street Bridge, and around to Stanley Park and the finish if I was to stand a chance at...

Maui Part 2 – The Holiday We Envisaged Mar10

Maui Part 2 – The Holiday We Envisaged...

This is part two of my blog posting on our trip to Maui. The first part can be found here It says something about this enchanting island that after 4 days we hadn’t partaken on a ‘beach day’ yet; added to Han’s need for surf, sea and sand, this was doubly surprising. However, in a sun soaked snorkel swimming way, her wait was soon to be over. We had reconnaissanced the original debaucherous whale hunting turned touristy town of Laihana the previous evening, so wasted no time on our 5th day as we found ourselves walking in the early hours to the main beach strip a couple of kilometres away laden with the beach necessities; towels, frisbees, books, sun tan lotion, snorkel gear, snack food, juggling balls and a hope of swimming with turtles. We had heard a rumour that turtles prefer the early morning for their leisurely eating from the sea floor greenery (presumably they’re hungry after a good nights sleep), and so it was only a mere 5 minutes of setting the towels out in regimented British fashion that Han announced it was snorkelling time. I tried to warn Han that we should snorkel for the sights of the wonderful pacific fish and a sighting of a turtle would be a bonus, but I could tell she harvested ideas that turtles would come to her with gifts of exotic fruit and a pennant for conversation, and so it was after try one I could sense an emotion of disappointment that the turtles had not turned up to welcome us to their underwater domain. However we didn’t have to wait long, and a few hours later in the 75-80 degree Hawaiian heat on another reconnaissance mission, we finally swam with a turtle we named...