Guatemala · 92 Days · 13 Moments · December 2015

28 March 2016

Tikal – What Sunrise?! 3am wake up for a sunrise tour of Tikal… buuuut, no sunrise in sight. Perhaps we were just sleep deprived or maybe our guide was a bit shit, but Tikal wasn’t doin’ it for us. 400Q for the tour including transport, entry and a guide. The monkeys were cool and hearing the forest come alive was cool, but I’m not sure it was all worth it in the end...

27 March 2016

Flores, Guatemala A tiny town on a tiny island near Tikal. It was quite warm… Shop around for tour prices. The tour place near El Mirador is quite expensive.

8 March 2016

Acatenango pt3 - Summit time The closer to the summit we got the more we had to hug the mountain for fear of being blown off. It was almost like free fall. The landscape that greeted us at the summit was otherworldly. It's all a blur as it was much too windy to enjoy, but it was amazing. We tried to find a place to hide away from the force of the wind to enjoy the sunrise. I was thankful for my beanie but trying to take photos and keep my hands warm wasn't possible. My fingers moved past the burning phase and went completely numb. Fuego joined in on the party as we ate our jelly beans and oreos. I could have stayed on the moon for hours, but it was time to head back to basecamp. Going down for the most part was easy and quite enjoyable. It was like skiing. The soft gravel caught you on every long stride. We ate breakfast back at basecamp, packed away the tents and got ready for the descent. Fuego let out another sigh just before we left. An absolutely amazing 24 hours!

7 March 2016

Hiking Volcán Acatenango pt2 Moments after we set up our tent we found ourselves inside a hailstorm. We bundled inside the tent & waited it out. Our guides made a fire while we gazed in awe at Fuego spewing out plumes of black ash with each explosion. Sunset from above the cloud base was stunning. We huddled around the fire & ate our noodle cups. After spotting a satellite & some shooting starts & watching the red glow of lava flow down from Fuego it was time to get some sleep. For me it was a long, cold night. We woke at 4am to get ready for the final ascent. I dressed in my clothes still wet from sweat from the previous day & ventured out to find everything covered in frost. Finding a spot to go to the bathroom was a challenge. Tumbling down the volcano is a real possibility. All 23 of us set off up to the summit, head torches on, one step at a time, following the footsteps of the person ahead. It was like walking up a vertical ladder of quicksand. Slipping back down was inevitable.
Hiking Volcán Acatenango (3,975m) pt1 'A tough hike' is an understatement. It was one of the most physically demanding hikes I have ever done. We (a group of 23 plus 3 guides) arrived in La Soledad from Antigua to pack our bags with supplies; tents, sleeping bags, water, food & warm clothes. We started the climb at 11:40am. The first hour was a steep, loose sandy track surrounded by cornfields. The walking stick really came in handy here. After that the ascent became steeper and steeper. The tropical cloud forest was next, full of big old trees; green & lush. Then the pine forest above that has been weather beaten, leaving the trees stripped bare. The silent clouds rolling through the skeletal trees was quite haunting. After lunch we traversed to the southern face of the volcano to overlook Fuego, arriving at base camp just after 5pm; the climb took us about 5.5hrs. The last 20mins was hell! More steep, loose sand; two steps up and one sliding back. I thought it would never end!

23 February 2016

Caminata Nariz de Indio We hiked Indian's Nose while staying in San Pedro this week. The climb followed our Volcán San Pedro hike & my legs, especially my knees, were not cooperating. We were up at 3am & out the door by 3:20. We met our guide Samuel after a 20min walk into town & boarded the first chicken bus of the day. I've already broken one rule - no chicken buses at night - & the road out of San Pedro is known for being quite rough around the edges. We made it up the mountain to Santa Clara in one piece & followed Samuel into the darkness. It was almost 5am. The 45 minute trek was nothing compared to our experience the day before, but it was a much steeper climb. The summit came sooner than expected which was a nice surprise. We sat down on dusty stairs & waited. It was a brisk & clear morning and the sunrise was spectacular! Lago de Atitlan is certainly a very special place. It's too painful to relive the descent; I'll probably be hobbling around for a week!

22 February 2016

Volcán San Pedro Up at 5am and out the door at 5:30, we took a tuktuk to the park entrance (10Q pp), paid 100Q entry & greeted our guide, Samual. We started the hike at 5:40. For the first 45 mins we trekked in the dark & reached the mirador (just short of halfway) by 7. It was a hazy morning but the view was still pretty special. The climb was more difficult towards the top; steeper with more stairs, but the jungle around us was stunning. We reached the summit just before 9. Unfortunately visibility was very low, we were in a cloud. It was also cold and windy, which is quite unpleasant when your clothes are still sweaty from the climb. We ate our snacks (vegemite and avo sandwiches) & hoped that the sun would break through, but after an hour of the waiting game we gave in to the weather gods. On the walk down we tried not to dampen the spirits of the hikers on their way up. The decent took about an hour a half. So many stairs! My knees will never be the same!

2 February 2016

Jungle trek - Mirador Santiaguito One cloudy afternoon after a morning of Spanish classes and lunch with our Guatemalan host families we followed our trusted guide, Jorge, into the jungle. Machete in hand, he was literally forging a path for us through the jungle. At one point he's risking life and limb to make sure we get the best view of the valley below. This area played a major role in the recent civil war. Guerilla soldiers used the forest as protection while they fought for the people. This war spanned 36 years and only ended with peace negotiations in 1996. We visited a waterfall and a cave where soldiers took refuge. Currently it is home to many spiders. While walking through the dense forest, witnessing the giant leaves and bean pods on the giant trees, the strange flowers and huge caterpillars, I couldn't help but feel like we had gone back to prehistoric times.

23 January 2016

Better late than never! Right? Thanks TK for the inspiration to start my journey... The past 3 months have been nothing short of an adventure. Solo travel through some amazing places in Mexico and Guatemala has opened my eyes. Wide... I am currently in Xela (Quetzaltenango) in Guatemala. I have been living with a Guatemalan family and studying Spanish here for the past two weeks. It's been challenging in more ways than one but I am enjoying these experiences, both the good and the bad.
Yesterday's hike to mirador Santiaguito. After a lengthy wait in the cold for our guide, Amaro, we boarded a rusty, red van. The door mechanism was fixed with a piece of wire and the door rolled open as we travelled to our destination. We arrived at the base of the mountain at around 7am. As we climbed I felt the air get cooler and thinner. The ground and the greenery was covered in a layer of grey ash reminiscent of morning frost. I could feel the ash on my tongue and throat as I breathed. Along the way we met a number of characters, horses and dogs included. We reached the lookout point at 8:35am, less than a minute after Santiaguito had erupted. Amaro filled us in on the history while we waited for the next eruption. It came at 9:47am. Steam and ash pored from the mouth of the volcano for about 3-4 minutes; it almost sounded like a plane going overhead. The walk down was an easier trek than the way up. We were in the red van and back in Zona 1 before midday.

19 January 2016

Last week we visited a ceramics workshop in community near Totonicápan, Guatemala. They were really proud of their work and I wish I could have understood more of what they were saying to completely appreciate what they do and why they do it. The journey to and from this town was ever so slightly more fascinating. I am slowly becoming more accustomed to the second class buses (chicken buses) here in Guatemala, however, now I've seen it all...well, probably not. There were very passionate men selling ginseng and various 'health' products, ice-cream in a cone fresh from a plastic bag, bread, cakes, nuts, donuts and lollies; there was an overbearing preacher collecting money for his cause and a sassy clown who sung in a squeaky, high pitched voice and kept the beat with his softdrink can maracas. All this while we were packed in 6 or more across each row! Guatemala really has a bit of everything!

10 January 2016

My relationship with Xela is complicated. I had heard nothing but positive reports before arriving. I don’t know why, but I was expecting Xela to be a little bit like San Cristóbal de las Casas. The charm of San Cristóbal hits you immediately. There is something in the air; it has a nice energy and it’s a colourful and vibrant city. Xela is a sprawling concrete city. Its streets are busy with minibuses and camionetas (chicken buses) charging down the cobblestone streets and flying around blind corners. You really have to embrace the polluted air and keep your eyes on the ground so as not to step in dog poo or twist your ankle in a gaping hole in the footpath. Xela certainly has character. And lots of it. Xela also has charm, but it doesn’t hit you immediately, you have to look for it. At least this is how it was for me... but I was determined to find it.

27 December 2015

San Cristóbal (Mex) to Pana (part 2) It's hot, dry and dusty. There is distinctly different feel here than in Mexico, but it's more to do with being in a border town than a reflection on Guatemala. At the Guatemalan office we were asked to pay a tiny fee of 15-20 pesos (less than $2). I ran to the bathroom while others were getting stamped through. It was someone's backyard - 2Q (40c) to get a few squares of toilet paper & use the toilet. Our buses were slightly bigger and older this time. Our gear was secured on top in order of destination. Guatemala is so much more mountainous; the scenery blew me away but I was also feeling queasy and car sick. One vision that will never leave me are the giant burning trash piles on the side of the road; a distressing sight. After our first stop outside Xela the sun began to set. The road into Pana is a never ending series of jackknife turns with a view of the lake to die for. Unfortunately it was too dark to see, so I would have to wait...