Tag Archives: bored dogs

Guatemala 2.0: The Extended Stay

Me and Maya love to wrestle on the bed!

Hey Adventurers! I sure hope you enjoyed our ‘year on the road’ posts as much as My Family and I loved putting them together. It’s been quite the journey so far, but it’s also far from over. We celebrated our year travel-versary in Guatemala, and I just realized I haven’t yet told you about our time back in this amazing country! Well, it’s long overdue, so here we go…

After our quick trip through the border, we pointed the Big Truck straight towards Antigua, and didn’t stop until we arrived. Antigua Guatemala is a great human city, one we spent a bunch of time in during our journey south (you can check the details out here), and we were more than grateful to return. We parked once again at the Tourist Police, a nice grassy field patrolled by smiling officers and scattered campers. Exhausted after our long day of border crossing and driving, I was ready to snuggle up and call it a day. Victoria’s back, however, disagreed with me. All the driving time had left her in a bunch of pain, so we ventured out into the city to find a pharmacy that might have something to make her feel better. Two stops later and we were back at the campsite.

The next couple of days were a blur of boredom. Victoria was super duper sore, and any time she’s not feeling well I end up on constant High Alert. I tried to snuggle up with her and lick her nose a bunch, but even that didn’t seem to make her feel better. Jason kept wandering out into Antigua to try and find something to help her out. Nothing was making much of a difference. I had been so excited to revisit this beautiful place, but our week in Antigua was basically spent in the camper or out on the grass, keeping Victoria company. Jason ventured out to work, to buy groceries and to look for a good massage place for Victoria. That was about it. So instead of wandering the parks, sniffing the local dogs and hanging out in the restaurants, Maya and I were reduced to whining for leftovers and worrying about Victoria. No one slept well this week, and I was starting to wonder if the adventurous portion of the Big Adventure was well and truly over. The only bright spot was the couple of nights we hung out with Adam and Rikki, cool travelers who kept us company at the tourist police.

Here we are parked at the Tourist Police. Look at all that space for running around!

Finally, Jason decided to pull the plug on our failed Antigua trip. He and Victoria had thought about possibly finding an apartment here to hunker down and let some of the rainy season pass us by. With Victoria laid up and Jason having to work, clean and keep us all fed basically solo, there was never any time to research and explore. So instead of sitting around the campsite for another week (with what My Family said was possibly the most devastatingly terrible bathrooms and ice cold showers they had ever come across), Jason packed up the camper and we set out for another return trip: to Lake Atitlan.

The drive to the lake is one I plan on forgetting quickly. Victoria was miserable, and Jason was more than a little bit stressed out. Lake Atitlan is an incredible place (you can read about our last trip there here), a massive lake surrounded by volcanoes with super cool towns all around it. But it also features some of the steepest, most treacherous roads we’ve encountered. On our previous trip here we almost lost the brakes on the Big Truck, and Jason smelled of residual fear and anxiety for the whole next day. This time around we were certainly pros, but at this point, months into the rainy season the roads were disastrous. We bounced and braced our way down steep inclines, around ridiculous switchbacks and through narrow, cobblestone streets until we finally arrived back in San Pedro, one of our favorite stops on our way south.

We pulled into Cafe Chiyuasani, a coffee shop/pool/parking lot where we had spent a week previously. The owners remembered us, and couldn’t believe how big Maya was. This was Maya’s first campsite when she was a little baby, small enough to fit in Jason’s hand. Now Jason and Victoria have to lift her with two hands and sling her against their shoulders to pick her up! Anyway, we took our old spot, set up, had some food and relaxed. The journey was hard, and not so great for Victoria’s back, but we got there in one piece and snuggled up early for bed.

Our first two weeks in San Pedro were spent sampling all of our favorite restaurants, relearning the town and trying to find some sort of cure for Victoria’s pain. Between the croissants, barbecue, kung pao and guatemalan tacos there were massages, acupuncture treatments, internet research and muscle relaxers. Slowly but surely, Victoria started to feel better. Sitting still for a while probably had something to do with it, as well as the super nice people and laid back atmosphere, but whatever did the trick I was sure happy about it. Victoria started to smell less tired and strained and more relaxed and happy. My nose licks started doing the trick, and our walks around town got longer and longer. We were cooking more, staying up later, meeting more people and even dancing a little bit! After so little fun from El Salvador on, I was pretty darn happy about our change in fortunes.

Things got better for Maya and I as well. The Cafe is set on a wide stretch of lawn, and since it’s all gated in My Family let us run around off leash a bunch. Maya likes to pounce in my direction and then dash off, egging me into chasing her. I bark and bark, even though I kinda like this game. She’s getting really big now, and I can’t catch her anymore. I’m definitely still the older sister, though. If I want a toy she’s running after, she gives it to me no questions asked. As it should be.

A couple weeks into our stay in San Pedro, My Family made the decision to stay a bit longer. Jason met a nice girl at the Sunday barbecue at the coffee shop, and she offered to give Victoria a job at her hostel. Meanwhile, My Family went house-hunting. I guess they had gotten tired of the ice cold showers at the coffee shop, and having to trudge up a hill and awkwardly hand wash dishes without a sink with running water. They found a place to move us to, and Victoria started working at Mr. Mullets, a spot we would soon get to know very well.

Of course, we weren’t out of the woods yet. During Victoria’s very first day on the job, things took a turn for worse. I could sense that something funky was going on with Jason the whole previous day, and sure enough by the time Victoria got home Jason was glued to the bed. He was shivering and shaking, and Victoria said he had a bad fever. Things were just not going so well for us in the heath department! We were set to move into our new, temporary home just two days later, and Jason could barely move. He talked to some of our new friends about it, and people were concerned he had something called ‘Dengue Fever’. You know those stupid mosquitoes that bite you and leave bumps? Well, apparently they can leave something even worse behind, this fever that just sticks around. It ended up taking weeks before Jason felt better, so now Victoria’s super cautious about all of us where bugs are concerned, even us dogs.

Jason did manage to get out of bed long enough to drive us to our new home, a cabin in a place called Hotel Chi-ya. This was up the hill on the outskirts of San Pedro, then down a steep driveway, down an even steeper set of stairs and into what we started calling the Wee Jungle House. My Family liked it because it had a huge window that looked right out over the lake, where you could even see a shape in the mountains that people called The Indian Nose. I liked it because it had two beds, (two!) both of which I was allowed to jump on. Maya didn’t like it at first, because Maya is basically afraid of anything new and different. Jason could barely carry anything heavier than a pillow at this point, so moving in wasn’t too much fun as Victoria had to do most of it herself. Even worse? The bathtub was cracked when we moved in, and the owners didn’t know! So after being in the Wee Jungle House for just two days we ended up having to move all of our stuff across the way to another cabin, which we called the Little Jungle House. This would be our home for the next six human weeks.

During our time in the LJH, you could almost always find Jason sitting on the deck, enjoying a cup or coffee (or a super split) and enjoying the view.

At first I absolutely loved the LJH. It was HUGE, like ten times the size of our camper, with a big balcony on the outside where I could lay in the sun for hours and hours. There were also two beds here, as well as a big television! Well, that last part was more of a plus for the humans, as they got to practice their spanish watching movies in english or spanish with subtitles. Maya and I could dash around the house, chasing toys and snapping at bugs, which there were in huge numbers.

After a while, however, I started to dislike, and then hate this place. First off, there was the peeing situation. There were no grassy spots for me. Everything was stone stairs and overgrown jungle. Maya could care less; she would pee anywhere (even inside the house from time to time). But I had nowhere comfy to do my business. Jason started taking us up the hill to the flat driveway every morning, something he personally dreaded before coffee. The problem was, there were two dogs who lived at the hotel, and the younger one didn’t like me at all. She kept snapping at me, and Jason even had to scramble and pick me up a couple of times. I wish he hadn’t. I totally could’ve taken her. So the terrible outside situation, coupled with the massive rainstorms that would pummel the house on a daily basis, made me miss the camper fiercely.

After a little while the LJH started to feel like a jail...

After a little while the LJH started to feel like a jail…

My Family, however, fell into a happy and laid back routine. Jason would write on the deck each morning, and then move to the big table or head into town for delicious coffee during his work days. Over time he felt stronger and better, until finally his flu or Dengue was nothing but a bad memory. Victoria’s back was also feeling better every day, and she was working at Mr. Mullets three days a week, meeting a ton of great people and having a bunch of fun doing it. We’d head up the hill into the market once or twice a week, buying delicious fruits and veggies for My Family, and even found a nice vet in town who took care of the shots Maya and I were due to receive.

I was feeling grumpy about the LJH and Maya’s constant pestering when out of the blue, something amazing happened. I smelled them before the door opened, and immediately perked up. It was my human grandparents, Lorna and David, here for a visit! I couldn’t have been more excited, immediately jumping from lap to lap and planting kisses until I thought my tongue was going to fall off. Maya was a bit leery at first; this was her first time meeting them and she’s always on edge when other humans are near our living space. But Lorna and David are so awesome her tail was quickly wagging.

I love Lorna and David SO much!

I love Lorna and David SO much!

They stayed for a week, and we all had an absolute blast. Lorna and David love us a ton, so we got to go everywhere with them, to cafes and restaurants, and on long walks through town. Lorna and David had seen San Pedro once before, for a quick trip on their last visit to Guatemala. Now Jason and Victoria knew the town a ton better, so they showed Lorna and David everything My Family loves about San Pedro. The bustling food market, the beautiful textile shops in neighboring San Juan, the incredible restaurants all over town (with tastes shared all around every time!), and My Family’s group of new friends at Mr. Mullet’s. The only thing I could have lived without was the boat trip to Panajachel, a town that’s way on the other side of the lake. I turned green just as soon as we got on the boat, and Jason had to drag Maya on kicking and screaming! She had been on the water taxis when she was super young, but this time around she was just not having it. She leaped into Jason’s lap and wouldn’t move until we arrived on the far shore. We had a nice lunch and strolled through all the markets, but the ride back was even worse. The water was so rocky that we all got soaked, even after My Family helped hold a tarp up against the splashing water. Maya looked absolutely depressed when we finally got back to San Pedro, drenched and tired. Lorna and David headed home the next day, and I was seriously not thrilled to see them go. It’s always super fun when they visit, and I end up grumpy and sad for the whole first day I don’t see them. Victoria promised me they’d come and visit again when we get to Mexico, so at least I have that to look forward to!

Remind me again what humans like so much about boats?!

Remind me again what humans like so much about boats?!

The second half of our stay at the LJH was pretty boring, honestly. We were quite a ways outside of town, and since it was now raining for huge chunks of every day, My Family ended up leaving Maya and I home a lot. We always had plenty of fresh food and water and lots of room for playing, but the days sort of blended together. I know Victoria and Jason were having a ton of fun in San Pedro, meeting great people and sometimes staying out super late, but I was rarely invited. Maya has so much energy that she just pokes and prods me until I either play with her or snap and yell her into submission. It’s not pretty. I began to count the days we’d spent in this prison-like house, and wonder when I’d be paroled. I know My Family works hard, and now that they were feeling better they deserved to enjoy where we were. But I’m pretty sure this is NELI’S BIG ADVENTURE, right? When’s my turn coming around again? No beaches, nowhere good to pee, a puppy hounding me day and night and no good way to pass the time other than trying to trap and pester the hundreds of bugs that flew in through the cracks in the doors and windows every day. Suffice to say, I was starting to go stir crazy. Worst of all, the LJH leaked every time it rained, so Maya and I got blamed for peeing in the house a couple times before Jason and Victoria figured it out. When do we get a break?!

Me, caught in the act of plotting my escape from the LJH.

Me, caught in the act of plotting my escape from the LJH.

Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple more highlights. One day, Victoria plugged in the buzzer and shaved Jason’s head! It looked like there was a bird’s nest sitting there on the patio! Maya didn’t like it at first; she’s pretty dumb and I think she couldn’t tell it was him. I liked it right away, though. Now I can lick his head as well as his face! More real estate. My Family did also take us out into town for a couple of walks, and we even visited Victoria at work a couple times. Jason and Victoria also spent many nights at home, cooking delicious meals we always got to taste. Jason would throw toys around for Maya and I for hours on end. We ran and ran, playing keep-away and bouncing from bed to bed. The LJH was leaky and wet, and the bugs were seriously nutty, but it did have it’s strong points.

Near the end of our stay in the LJH Victoria celebrated her birthday! This was a super fun day, full of music and smiling faces. Victoria even had a birthday party at Mr. Mullets. We didn’t get to go, of course, but I heard all sorts of stories. Apparently, everyone dressed up like they were in Los Angeles, and Victoria got to break open a pinata. Maya and I made sure to give Victoria a bunch of extra kisses to make super sure she knew how much we love her. The next day Victoria and Jason started packing up the camper, and we hit another snag. The truck wouldn’t start. Our trusty home on wheels! Jason waved down a tuk tuk, which is basically a motorcycle taxi, to try and jumpstart the truck, but that didn’t work so well. Finally, a nice Guatemalan man dressed all in black with long curls and a big beard helped him get the truck started again. Jason said the man was a Hasidic Guatemalan, which I guess was pretty unique to him. I have no idea what that means, so I should probably look it up. Anyway, the truck was just fine after that, and the next day I was happy to watch My Family empty the LJH and finish packing up the camper. I could barely contain my excitement as we left that house behind.

Maya and I relaxing (um, not helping to pack the camper)  our last day at the LJH!

Maya and I relaxing (um, not helping to pack the camper) our last day at the LJH!

I had no regrets as we watched San Pedro disappear in the rearview. I know My Family was pretty sad to leave. They had met both old and new friends, and made a ton of memories in this unique place. I was more than happy to be back on the road, however. The house I thought was so super cool ended up being terrible, and with the constant rain I barely got to do any adventuring. If a dog could die of boredom, I guess I was close. Maya, on the other hand, was not that enthusiastic. She had grown so big that she barely fit in her old perch in the truck, and suddenly she started getting car sick! She had never had this problem before, but the entire journey away from Lake Atitlan she was a miserable, slobbery mess. She never vomited, but she soaked both herself and the bed under her with spit, and tried to jump down into the front seat at every opportunity. Victoria and Jason had no idea what to do, so it ended up being a pretty awkward drive.

We left the lake and drove north, heading for the Mexican border. We had one last night in Guatemala, in the parking lot of a hotel, before slowly but surely finding the border. It’s hard to say exactly how I felt about this part of our adventure. Jason and Victoria had been dealing with a ton of sickness and pain ever since El Salvador, and nothing that terrible had happened to me. Yet I was pretty unsatisfied. Don’t get me wrong, I know now how cool a life this is for a dog. We pass dogs every single day that don’t have families, and barely get enough food or clean water to survive. I’m doing great, and Maya basically won the doggie lottery. Yet I was yearning for something more. Some time out of the rain, footloose and fancy free, hopefully with a sandy beach I could call my own. It had been a long time since I’d seen Mexico. We’ve been on the road for just over a year now, and more than nine human months of that time had been spent in Central America! That’s a lot of great memories, but we were all super excited about what was going to come next. I stood up on Victoria’s lap, sniffing the changes in the air, thrilled to see the ‘Welcome to Mexico’ sign in front of us. Hopefully this would be the end of the rough times, and a new beginning for the Big Adventure!

PS:  To see some of the photos My Family took during their A W E S O M E time in San Pedro, head over to our Facebook page!

Oct 2014



Ailing in El Salvador

After a long day we F I N A L L Y made it back to El Sal!

After a long day we F I N A L L Y made it back to El Sal!

With our second journey through Nicaragua coming to an end, I knew that we had a big and potentially stressful day in front of us. Well, not so stressful for Maya and I. A border crossing should probably be renamed a boring crossing, if you ask me. It’s basically eight hours stuck in the truck, growling at Maya every time she tries to snuggle up, my tummy grumbling because there’s no treats and no food until dinner time. I’m dragged out of my snuggly slumber too early, and kept up too late. All my whining aside, however, I knew it was usually even worse for My Family. And this border crossing was no exception.

Leaving Nicaragua, our goal was to cross through a teeny tiny bit of Honduras (a big country that we didn’t have time to visit), and end up in El Salvador, a super fun country we had visited in the spring, with wide beaches and tons of delicious food. We had done this crossing before with no problems, so My Family’s confidence was high, despite not getting much sleep and probably drinking a beer or two more than they should have. The Nicaraguan border was super easy. Last time we crossed here it was during a holiday weekend, and the border was overrun with grumpy humans tired of waiting around in the heat. This time it was almost empty. Maya and I got to sit in the air conditioned truck while Jason handled pretty much everything. We were in and out before I knew it!

The drive through Honduras was quick and easy as well. This was shaping up to be a pretty simple day! That’s when the problems began… We pulled up to the border between Honduras and El Salvador, and it didn’t look anything like we remembered. There were all these tin shacks, and trucks everywhere we looked. We were just about to turn around when an official looking human waved us down. He told us we were at a special border for truck drivers, and NOT where we needed to be. Jason thanked him for the help, but he wouldn’t let us go. He wanted to see the health certificates for us dogs, and I guess My Family hadn’t done something properly. At the trucker border they deal with plants, food and animals all the time, and they simply weren’t going to let us just drive away. So there we sat, while Victoria worked with the nice humans there to resolve our paperwork situation. We sat, and we sat, and we sat some more. Jason started getting frantic, as hours were now passing by. All of a sudden, midday was turning into mid-afternoon, and we still had to get through this border and into El Salvador. Just when Jason looked like he was going to give up and turn us around, Victoria came back with all the papers. We were free to go!

After that, getting out of Honduras was easy. We were up to the final step: getting into El Salvador. We weren’t yet out of the woods, as Jason likes to say. And believe it or not, we ran into even more troubles! They had changed the border since we had been here last, and My Family couldn’t find the building where we had to register our truck and camper! Jason drove back and forth down the same road, and it took us another hour to figure out where we were supposed to be. Now the sun was getting low in the sky, and Jason was getting seriously worried. He left us behind in the truck while he went to handle the final round of paperwork, and we didn’t see him again for like two hours! At this point, even Victoria was starting to get nervous. Jason was as grumpy as I had ever seen him, and Maya could barely keep herself still anymore. The sun was setting, we had already been in the car for nine hours, and we still had to drive to our campsite! As they say down here, that’s no bueno.

Jason was almost silent as he sped us down the highway, grumbling to himself every now and then about the potholes (the roads in El Salvador are pretty bumpy), the disorganized car import process (he had to stand around with the truckers and the drug enforcement agents waiting for our paperwork) and our terrible luck in Honduras. It was almost pitch black when Victoria realized we might not make it to the campsite we had hoped to reach and started scrambling for more options. We pulled up at a place called Rancho Clemente after eight o’clock at night, exhausted and grumpy. Luckily, our hosts were super nice, and there was a restaurant open right above the beach! Jason and Victoria stumbled into their chairs, while Maya and I sniffed out crumb after delicious crumb off the sand. I don’t know why it was such a problem for us to be eating tasty crab bits, but Jason had no patience for it on this night! My Family got a bit happier after the food arrived, an incredible whole fish and the largest shrimp I had ever seen. We got to taste everything, and we headed back to the camper with bellies full, thankful that this long, stressful day was over.

Sunrise (!?!?) over the Pacific.  Vic and Jay were pretty excited about this.

Sunrise (!?!?) over the Pacific. Vic and Jay were pretty excited about this.

Before I knew it, Jason was waking us all up. The sun wasn’t even all the way up in the sky, and he was pointing excitedly out the window. Apparently, we were seeing the sun rise over the Pacific Ocean, which I guess is a big deal for humans. Jason and Victoria like geography, and Jason was even on a geography game show when he was a kid! It was a pretty sunrise, with pinks and purples and blues and oranges, but I could barely keep my eyes open. Maya just stared at me, all confused, until I managed to catch a little more sleep as My Family packed up the camper. We were off early, headed up the coast to a town called El Tunco. We stopped in a busy town, the marketplace packed with people and dogs and loud music, and a few hours later pulled off the main road and parked at Sol y Mar, the same campsite we had visited our last time in El Salvador. The owners remembered us, and were so surprised to see how big Maya was getting.

Maya holding it down at our campsite at Sol y Mar.

Maya holding it down at our campsite at Sol y Mar.

We spent about a week here, and the whole time we did… absolutely nothing. Victoria hurt her back during our stressful border crossing, probably from shoving Maya back into her spot over and over again, and she could barely get out of bed. I spent most of my time snuggling up with her, licking her nose to make her feel better. Jason, on the other hand, spent most of his time wrangling Maya, who has become quite the goofball. As soon as we wake up, she wants to play. After breakfast, she wants to play. At the hottest point of the day (and it gets pretty dang hot in El Salvador), she wants to play! The only time she doesn’t want to play is when she’s afraid of something, and that’s A LOT of the time. A new person, a random dog, a firework or even a squirrel in a tree is enough to send Maya, tail tucked, running to crouch between Jason’s legs. So between Maya’s nuttiness, Victoria’s soreness and my general grumpiness about doing anything but snuggling up, Jason had his hands full. Even worse, he got a bad cold at the same time. Jason tried everything he could think of to help Victoria feel better, including bringing a sweet human over to the camper and setting up a space so Victoria could have a massage. Nothing was working, however, and our moods were seriously in the dumps.

Not much going on in El Tunco in the green season...

Not much going on in El Tunco in the green season…

El Tunco is a super cool town, with nice humans, great food and a pretty sweet beach. However, this might have been one of the lowest points of the Big Adventure. Victoria was in a ton of pain, Jason was sniffling and sneezing all over the place, Maya was bored, and it rained every day! Even the beach seemed as grumpy as I was! It was completely different from last time we were here. The sand had been totally replaced by rocks, and the water was so rough that you couldn’t get anywhere near it. My paws were not happy, so we only played there one time.

Turns out a beach covered in millions of rocks is not that much fun to run on :(

Turns out a beach covered in millions of rocks is not that much fun to run on 🙁

The only fun thing that really happened was meeting the owner and employees of Tunco Veloz, the super delicious pizza restaurant right next door to our campsite. We went there several times, since everyone was so under the weather (and My Family loved the pizza). And they love dogs! They let me and Maya go anywhere we wanted, and played with us the whole time. Carlos, one of the nice humans there, even bought us ball toys and treats when he went into La Libertad! Our last night at the restaurant, Maya and I found this awesome toy laying around that the owners keep just so dogs will have something to do while the humans are talking and eating. We loved it so much that the owner gave it to us! How cool! It’s quickly become our favorite toy, and Maya and I spend hours wrestling around with it.

Maya and I giving Carlos a big thank you for our presents!

Maya and I giving Carlos a big thank you for our presents!

Although the original plan included another stop in El Salvador, the state of My Family was so bad that they decided we’d head right into Guatemala with no other stops. We were going to go to Antigua, and Jason knew they had doctors there that might be able to help if Victoria wasn’t feeling better. So Jason packed up the camper and we headed for the border.

I couldn’t believe we had to face another boring crossing so soon after the last one, and really no one was in the mood for it that day. Even worse, as we got close to the border the line of cars, trucks and buses seemed to stretch on and on forever. We got stuck behind several gigantic buses, and as we pulled into the border Victoria started to groan. The line at the passport station stretched all the way around the building. We were going to be here forever!

Jason left Victoria, me and Maya in the big truck and got in line. I watched through the window as the minutes passed, and he wasn’t making any progress. Out of nowhere, a man came up and knocked on the window. I recognized his smell, and Victoria remembered him too. His name was Jorge, and he had helped us out the last time we crossed from Guatemala into El Salvador! Jorge recognized the camper, and asked Victoria if we needed help. She was more than happy to accept, and Jorge went to talk to Jason. We were left in the camper, and I watched as Jorge worked some miracle and got My Family moved way up to the front of the line. It took us a little over an hour to get through to the other side, and Jason thought without Jorge’s help it might have been more like four or five. Victoria was in too much pain to wait that long, so Jason was more than happy to pay our way through. You see, humans use money when they want stuff like pizza and dog treats, but I guess money can help out at borders in other ways.

Our border buddy, Jorge,

Our border buddy, Jorge,

We left El Salvador behind and found the Guatemala border almost deserted. Since we had beat the line, we got through everything else super quick. My Family thanked Jorge and we were on our way, back in Guatemala once again. Our time in El Salvador was very short and super boring, so I was pretty happy we were moving on. I was worried about Victoria, and Jason wasn’t in great shape either. Only Maya seemed to be happy, oblivious to pretty much everything. It’s nice being a puppy sometimes. It’s never great being sick, but being sick on a Big Adventure is seriously terrible. I’ll let you know if things turn around in Guatemala!

PS:  My Family didn’t really take any pictures during our quick trip in El Salvador since everyone was sick but you might be interested in checking out my post from last time we were in El Sal.  Oh, and you can always check out our Facebook page to keep up to date on what’s going on (like me becoming a cover girl!)

Sep 2014

El Salvador