Couple offers residents a Guatemala adventure
Years ago Mohamed Hamza helped a sailor friend who was stranded in Bermuda with a broken mast and without the funds to repair it.
A public appeal raised $50,000; the friend went off on his sailboat and, when he hit Guatemala, invited Mr Hamza to pay a visit.
It turned into the trip of a lifetime for Mr Hamza, who met his wife Clare Dominguez while there.
The couple are planning a return visit to Guatemala next month and are inviting Bermuda residents to join them for the experience.
“It’s an amazing country,” Mr Hamza said. “I was there for the majority of the first year of [the pandemic], getting immersed in the culture. Just over 50 per cent of the population is indigenous Mayan and, like anywhere beautiful in the world, it's really the people that made it for me – their hospitality, the kindness, the richness of culture.”
He met his Australian wife on the Rio Dulce, where she was working as a guide in the national park.
Once they settled here the pair launched a company, Ethos Bermuda, with the idea of showcasing “various aspects of the values that we've experienced, travelling the world together”.
“We’re used to catering for tourists and those individuals who are looking for exceptional experiences in Bermuda based on our four pillars – music, cuisine, nature and movement,” Mr Hamza said.
“We thought we’d offer the Bermudian public and residents of Bermuda an opportunity to experience another exceptional country and of course, Guatemala was our first choice for that because it was familiar to both Clare and I.”
Two weeks of exploration of the Central American country are on offer starting October 31 in Antigua, a city that served as its capital for more than 200 years.
“But now that city is a small, ten by ten block Unesco World Heritage location,” Ms Dominguez said. “It's surrounded by three different volcanoes and there are daily eruptions that you can see from the city. So just being there, in this kind of valley surrounded by coffee plantations, is just a beautiful experience.”
On the itinerary is the Festival de Barriletes Gigantes, a display of colourful “giant” kites. Guests can choose from one of two options: a five-day yoga immersion run by the studio Ms Dominguez practised with when she lived there or “a package of experiences” billed as “Antigua in depth”.
“So let's say that you wanted to travel with your friend. Your friend could choose yoga and you could choose the other option and it would be fine because you're in the same accommodation so you see each other for breakfast, and then you see each other at the end of the day,” Ms Dominguez added.
The following week will be spent in Rio Dulce where highlights include a boat ride to Livingston, Guatemala’s main port on the Caribbean Sea, which is known for Garifuna drumming.
“It is a kind of Afro-Caribbean drumming style that's very particular just to the Atlantic coast of Central America and some of the islands that are close to the mainland,” she said.
“So we will go to hear the music and we'll also go to visit a hot waterfall which happens to be the place Mo and I met.”
The group will also pay a visit to Tikal, “one of the largest and most significant Mayan sites”.
“It's part of a huge national park, a protected area. Going on that tour we usually leave very early in the morning, and we're there when the monkeys are awakening and starting to jump about in the trees, [plus] all of the birds. So it's a really diverse tour that takes about four or five hours, usually, to stroll around the site and see not just the temples but also this wildlife element.”
Flores, a “really charming city with colourful buildings in the Spanish colonial style” is also on the list of places to visit before the group takes “a scenic flight back to Guatemala City” and then moves on to Lake Atitlan, which is considered as “the birthplace of Mayan culture”.
“It’s a crater about 300 metres deep surrounded by three volcanoes and about 12 different villages that are usually, some of them, only accessible by boat,” Ms Dominguez said.
“There's a couple that are accessible, otherwise you walk along little trails between the villages to get access. So this is very rural, quite remote and just absolutely picturesque.”
Mr Hamza describes the time he spent there as a “life-changing experience”.
“Especially being a pampered Bermudian, actually getting a taste of seeing what actual poverty is like was very new. It was not only a humbling place to be, but also an eye opening place – of how very lucky we have it here, how blessed we are.
“Hopefully we can disseminate some of that to local people here – all the benefits that come with having a raised awareness of other cultures and other opportunities in this world.”
Added to that is their hope of making travel easier for people who are tired of having to navigate their way through a foreign country.
“We're trying to take away some of the decision-fatigue that really can ruin vacations for people sometimes. Guatemala is a little bit complicated if you're a solo traveller or a couple that maybe doesn't speak Spanish,” Ms Dominguez said.
Tickets to Ethos’s Guatemalan Getaway are $2,400 and include “accommodation, activities, private transportation and most meals”. Flights are booked separately. Contact trip.bm to book on 292-8747 or firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit Ethos Bermuda on Facebook and Instagram. Bookings close September 30.