Sunday, December 15, 2013

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Xocomil - the best water park in Latin America, and my son's best day ever!

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We have been staying at a hotel, the same side just before the water park.
One excited boy was up at 5 a.m., but the breakfast only starts at 7.30 a.m., and the park opens at 9 a.m.
The park is open Thursday to Sunday, but if you don't want long line-ups, I suggest going on a Thursday like we did, or a Friday.
We are the first there. 
We are the first people in Xocomil (pronounced Shockomill).
 We buy our tickets, and my son is now so tall, even though he is only 8 years old, we had to buy him an adult ticket. this is double the price, but still only 100 Quetzales - about $14 so not that bad.
At the entrance to the change rooms, it has acceptable and allowable swim-wear.
But seeing this is a park for local Guatemalans, we saw all sorts of outfits.
Bike shorts, leggings, bras and undies and all sorts of combinations.
I dare-say many would come here like Disneyland - a one off, and might not even own swimwear.
 This is the area for little kids.  It is pretty cool.
 At the back of the park is another area for the ones up to 8 years old, but the adults love grouping under the big bucket when it downs its load.
 This bridge takes you to the splash ball area. It was dead most of the day, as you have to pay, and no-one carries money - you use the lockers.
 the park is quite ornately decorated in the Mayan theme.
 This is another volcano area - for the little kids. Opposite is another pool with a small slide.
But my son goes on, as nothing is working yet.
the water activities only start at 10 a.m.
 We are one of the first on the tube slide ride.
My son is nervous at the start, so tough Mamma goes first, to show him it is an easy ride.
 We then head down together, and it is a blast!
 Next is the "rapids".  This is a continuous tube ride, that goes in a few directions, and has several on and off points. It is shallow enough in most parts that parents can stay with the tube if they have toddlers.  It is best to sit flat on the tube, and not legs down, as you float more smoothly.
Again the Mayan theme is present throughout the ride. A couple of times I have to paddle like crazy, as my son goes off in one direction, and I am caught in another current.  But it is no big deal, as they meet up anyway.  We went around 2 times on this, and it took a long time.
 Next we went to the back of the park. Here is a raft ride. We videoed our ride and went 2 times with a father and son team who spoke English.  (One of only 3 families we met or saw who were not locals.
This was a great fun ride!
My son really loved the 2 wave pools. To me it was a waste of time. I love real waves at the beach, so I had a bit of a Mamma rest. The waves are quite tall, and I notice the lack of attendants watching on several occasions, so it was not that restful, as I walked up and down the side-lines.
 He makes friends with 2 ladies who have him dragging them around the pool. Nice one!
 One of the scariest rides is one that shoots you down tunnels and then you do a flip and go backwards. We loved this one.
This is another ride where you go down a tunnel and then do loops, and get sucked down a water tunnel at the end, mostly backwards.
 We loved the toboggan rides. By then my camera - which is meant to be waterproof had water in it - darn!
My son finished off with a really steep waterside.
It was so severe it gave him such a bad wedgie he cried for 1 hour. The assistants wanted to take him to get medical assistance and he was in a lot of pain. Silly us - we noticed no-one went on it, and  now we know why. They are beige and there are 2 different ones - avoid them!
So the end to our park time was not so good.  We had him rest and watch a few things, and then we noticed all the rises had finished and everyone was going home.
We were one of the last to leave the park.
Locals wait for a little train that picks them up and takes them back to their hostel - which really is a resort, but we go to walk home.
Explorason comments "This was the best day of my life - ever (apart from the wedgie!)".

Our journey from Panajachel, Lake Atitlan via Mazatanango to Retalhule, Xocomil Water Park.

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Walking; then a boat; then a tuk-tuk; then a truck ride; then a mini-van; then a chicken bus; and then the last mini-van; then more walking; then a final tuk-tuk.  Whew!!

Our hostel, Mario’s Rooms at Panajachel fortunately had wi-fi and a little open area to sit outside our room.
So I was up at 5 a.m. trying to find a hostel or hotel in Retahlau.  
I had heard great things about Xocomil Water Park, and we wanted to go.  
But it is quite remote, and not on any direct public transport route, so we asked around; Googled a map; and set off on our journey.
We had to walk about a kilometer from the centre of town, down a dog leg road to the wharf where the boats went to Santiago.  No boats go directly to San Lucas, so we found the shortest way. 
We got to the pier, and the guy wanted 50 Quetzales for the boat ride from us. Some paid less if they were locals, and some more. There seemed no set fee which annoyed me.  So we sat again, patiently waiting for it to fill.  
A small group came on and started drinking what looked like vodka, and were quite merry in a short space of time.  My son found it amazing where she kept her phone!
Unfortunately, the boat had a fuel lock, so we no sooner were out on the lake, and it didn’t move!  Mind you the happy drinkers, remained happy, and just sat and enjoyed their morning socializing.
We arrived at Santiago, and walked back up the wharf.  
We had left an important item at the hotel Bambu the other day, so we headed back by Tuk-tuk to retrieve that.  He looked about 14 years old, and only wanted 5 Quetzales for a round trip.  So we asked him to wait whilst I raced in and retrieved our item.  
We were going to take a boat to San Lucas next, but the lady at the hotel suggested a pick-up truck.  So we asked the tuk-tuk driver to take us to the pick-up point.  We should have asked him to take us to the road it went along. As soon as we hopped on the pick-up truck, we sailed back by the Bambu Hotel entrance!
The ride was pretty twisty.  Our bags kept belting some old guy, but we were pretty squished in. What is interesting in Central America, is that when they want to fix the road, they just put rocks in the way so you can't drive there. So you are constantly swerving white rocks.
When we got to San Lucas we had to walk to the central market. This is a completely local town – no gringos, and we had a hard time finding somewhere to get lunch.  
Dried white bait, and hot peppers are again sold at the market.
So I took pot luck and ordered off the only cafĂ© I could find.  We only order vegetarian in moments like this. 
This old lady was asleep by her food stand at the end of the street. Business for her is slow, but mind you, she is opposite the cemetery!
We then grabbed a mini van and it went to a town, where we had to swap to a chicken bus to Mazatanango.  This took a couple of hours each bus, and the day was getting long.  
I had to go to the bathroom, and the local men tried to help us get a bus, and grabbed our trolley bags and try to whisk them on the bus in front of the toilets. I had to grab them off. Completely the wrong bus!
After a bathroom and refreshment break, we wandered to find the next bus.  It was just taking off. Bags were thrown in the back, as we raced to the front. I hate that!  My son always races to the back to see they actually made it through the back door.
By now I have lost track of buses and vans!  But we get to a town and have to take a mini-van.  By now the people on the mini-van try to help us.  The van doesn’t go too far.
I soon discover I have written down the wrong town. Retalhuleu is not the place to stay. We should be staying at Xocomil.
So the mini-van drops us at the entrance to Xocomil Water Park. I tell them I don’t want to be here.  I had been trying to stop at passing hotels for the last 5 minutes and they wouldn’t listen to me. So annoying!
So there we stand. On a busy road with no hotel.  I am angry. I don’t do well with my attitude.  My son copped my bad attitude, and I walked off down the road with him behind me muttering my frustration.  We found a hotel. Expensive, dirty and horrid.  We left.
My son prayed for a tuk-tuk and of course it appeared that minute, in fact we had barely crossed the road! 
So we asked him to take us to a hostel.  Well – little did we know the 4 in the region vary from 3 – 5 star and all join as a big resort. So we pull up and they quote me a crazy price.
I had seen a hotel earlier so we head there.  We agree on a breakfast inclusive price and it has a pool and looks acceptable.  Mind you it took me 3 rooms to find one that was all working right.
We were pretty delighted – it had a bath – we hadn’t a bath for months. But it had no bath plug!  I could have cried. However my son decided to use the drinking glass and the suction held up long enough for a shallow bath.
As sunset was approaching we decided to head over and take photographs of the resort across the road.
We were pretty upset when we found out they had a Wednesday night special for 125 Quetzales – less than half the price of what we were paying!  It did say for Guatemalans, but the man at reception said we could stay.
We enjoyed a walk around the grounds.  They are all decorated for Christmas, and we feel like we are in USA.  Just glorious!
We checked out the restaurants and decided to go to the Mexican Restaurant which was lovely.  
So reasonably priced and included a great Mexican band. They invite us up, and we enjoy our tie with them, but want to leave and have an early evening - ready for tomorrow.
We left happy. 
We were disappointed with where we were staying compared with across the road, but we had a lovely big room, 2 double beds, and it included breakfast.
We spoke to the manager about the pricing and he gave us a slight reduction for the 2nd night.
Explorason enjoyed an evening swim, and we headed back to the dining area to use the wi-fi.
Tomorrow will be a big day, so we turned in.
As we had a nice flat screen TV including Sky TV and Cartoon Network, we popped on the air-conditioner and chilled out.
Today had ended well.

But my goodness, it was an ordeal to get here!!!