JOE Backpacking Diary #2 - "From partying in Miami to shitting myself in Guatemala City,  it's been a strange week" 6 years ago

JOE Backpacking Diary #2 - "From partying in Miami to shitting myself in Guatemala City, it's been a strange week"

A hell of a first seven days.

My name is Joe Harrington, I'm travelling through Central and South America for the next eight months, here's what happened on week one.



"Party in the city where the heat is on, All night, on the beach till the break of dawn, Welcome to Miami."

Ah, the lyrical genius of Will Smith.

I was joking with my friends that my weekend stay there would be just liked that, except for my pasty Irish complection and sweat, all that sweat.


But you know what? I wasn't far off.

I crashed on night one because I'd been flying all day and didn't get much sleep the night before. I know, I'm mad craic.

Waking up on day two, I looked out the window to see gorgeous sunshine, so I headed straight for South Beach which is two blocks away.

All that sunshine-soaking left me with tanlines that looked like I'd been wearing a bra all day, I was actually wearing a bikini...


No, my small backpack had little strings that went over the shoulders and when I went topless on the beach (FYI - worst body on the beach), the sun did its work.

My "bra lines" were kindly pointed out by a rather loud gentleman on my walk home. Sound man.

The hostel arranged a trip to a nightclub called Story that night, $20 for two hours of free drink and entry to the club, not too shabby. Flo Rida was there the night before so I knew I'd fit right in...



The club was huge, freezing because of the air conditioning and expensive - two gin and tonics cost $44. That's pretty standard for Miami Beach, a beer cost me $20 another day, safe to say I nursed it.

The mad thing about the club Story is that it's managed by an Irish girl called Sarah who's been living there for five years. It's one of the biggest clubs in the city so kudos.

My third and final day was spent on the beach with two Belgian people I met. It was very chilled.

The hostel were going to another huge club that night, but I left it off because I was off to the airport the following morning at 6am. A mad man!

Accomodation: I stayed in the Miami Beach International Traveler Hostel and it was good, it's literally a three minute walk from South Beach and Ocean Drive.


The beds were comfy, the shower was hot, it provided complimentary breakfast, lunch and dinner and it had a pub crawl/nightclub offer every night.

It cost me €25 per night.

Highlight:  Getting plied with round after round of tequila by a gang of 60-year-old Argentinian women while I was watching El Clasico at a bar on Ocean Drive.

They also high-fived, fist-bumped and hugged me when Cristiano scored the winner.

Lowlight: Meeting a Donald Trump supporter in the flesh, I was in disbelief. I tried to convince him to make Donald Drumpf again, he wasn't having it.

Next stop: Guatemala City

Talk about a culture shock.

I got from the airport to my hostel on a local chicken bus and it was an experience. A 50 seater bus with about 75 people crammed in and guys hanging out the doors.

The 30 minute journey cost me €0.12 and dropped my off a few streets from the hostel which I reached after a bit of hassle from guy who was either trying to figure out the texture of my shorts or trying to steal my camera. Who knows?

I got to the hostel at 2pm and the first thing they told me was "don't go out at night" which kind of set the tone for my stay.

I did go for a walk around about an hour later by myself and I was the only white person and the only one wearing shorts in the whole area I walked in.

I literally didn't see one other tourist in an hour, it was weird.

I stopped into a local cafe for food, it was like someone's kitchen. I got a meal and a can of beer for €2.80. Ridiculously cheap.

I obviously didn't go out that night but I met some very cool people in the hostel so that was a silver lining.

The following day I pottered around again and went to the museum and an amazing market near the main plaza. It was in an underground carpark and was the size of the pitch in Croke Park.

Back to the hostel for the night and met some new people so that was nice, but not being able to do anything after dark was crap so I decided I'd leave the following day.

Accomodation: I stayed at the Theatre International Hostel in Zona 1 and it was lovely.

The rooms were nice, it had a little pool, a lovely relaxing area and they made panackes and coffee in the morning. It cost me €7 per night.

Highlight: Finding this amazing food market in an underground carpark near the main plaza in the city. Me and a French-Canadian guy had lunch there with the local people, it was fantastic.

Lowlight: Not feeling safe. I might have been spooked my too many Tripadvisor reviews and people's horror stories, but I just didn't feel comfortable walking around there by myself.

Next stop: Antigua, Guatemala

I'm writing this diary in an internet cafe in the middle of Antigua and I couldn't feel more at home in the place. I love internet cafes... no, it's such an amazing city.

It's an old colonial town so it has cobblestone streets, stunning architecture and the backdrop is just beautiful.

This is the view from the terrace of my hostel.

The people are incredibly friendly too.

I bumped into a man named Fernando Montoya outside my hostel two days ago and he asked if I liked football, I said I did, and he invited me along to see the local team Antigua GFC free of charge.

I'm not great with numbers, but I'd say there were at least one million two thousand people at the game... I captured a penalty on camera.

Here's another example of the genuine generosity of the people.

A local guy called William who works at the hostel insisted on bringing me to the best Irish bar in the city before going to the late night party place. Late night being 1am.

The Snug was frickin' great. Irish Rover was blaring as I walked in the door and there were GAA jerseys all over the walls.

The night ended at 1am and I hit the hay straight away because I had to be up at 6am to hike up the Pacaya Volcano.

I was pretty groggy that morning to be honest and the journey to the start of the volcano climb didn't help. The drivers are pretty wild and some of the overtaking manoeuvres are plain insane.

The hike was amazing though. It took about two hours but walking on old lava ash, toasting marshmallows near the summit and seeing the views from the top was really special.

Here I am looking like a complete plonker at the very top.

Accomodation: I'm staying at the Terrace Hostel which has a brilliant rooftop bar and restaurant. It's only €8 per night.

Highlight: Seeing the Fuego Volcano erupt on Wednesday night, we could see lava being spit up in the air and flowing down the side of the volcano. A  real bucket-list moment.

Lowlight: I don't really have one to be honest. The place is so great.


I'm in Antigua until Sunday and then I move north to Lake Atitlan. which I can't wait for.

If you've any tips, let me know on Twitter at ImJoeHarrington. Talk to you next week.