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Published: February 6th 2013
Sara here, Mark has gotten pretty busy and I've stepped in to guest blog for him. It has been a long week and half since we've posted anything and, as Mark has earned the "featured blog of the week" I thought we should get on that train.
Last we left off, we were leaving Lago Atitlan, headed for Quetzaltenango - shortened to Xela (pronounced Shela). We arrived in Xela and found Case Argentina, a pretty large hostel that also shares space with the Quetzaltrekkers. The Quetzaltrekkers are a fully volunteer group, who lead treks and give their profits to a program for street kids in Guatemala. They were running a full moon hike up Santa Maria, the nearby volcano, and, as I was feeling sick, Mark signed up to do the trek alone. As the day wore on my stomach began to make it clear that I would need Mark´s company for the night, so he canceled his treck and we resigned ourselves to a quiet weekend without a trek.
In the morning, I felt much better and we happened upon a most wonderful couple in the kitchen who let us know they were planning to hike Santa Maria
that afternoon and spend the night at the top. We asked if w could go along and they were ok with it. We rushed aroung town gathering food, warm layers, and other such supplies and, by the afternoon, we were ready to head out.
In the taxi, on the way to the volcano, our new friends informed us that he is an obsessive runner, and that he had ran up and down mountain on a daily basis for the past week. Interesting information for us, as we are both pretty stationary people. Our worries proved true, they hiked that mountain like it was nobody's buisness, and we were left in their dust, catching our breathe. However, we were determined to continue and, slowly but surely, we hiked that volcano. Hours into our climb, we found ourselves walking steadily forward, no uphill, thorugh a jungle-like path. This was fishy. The volano definitly climbs up consistently. We kept walking, each imagioning the possible scenerios being on the wrong path could wind us up in, until we thought it might start getting dark.
Disappointed, we turned around, and hiked back until we reached a clearing in which there were fire rings
and garbage, the two signs of human activity. We set up camp, collected fire wood, and tried to eat some dinner. It soon grew incredibly cold, and we snuggled into our sleeping bags for warmth and watched the stars come out.
We awoke to light and ice on our sleeping bags, it had been a cold night. We go up quickly and made the journey down the mountain. Soon into it, we founbd the path we had not taken, the one that would have led us to the top of the volcano.
Later that morning, Mark found out that our friends had reached the top and seen the neighboring volcano erupt nine times! We missed out, but had a good time anyway.
We spent the rest of the week in Xela. And, on Thursday morning, took a shuttle to Fuentas Georginas. We had read about Fuentas Georginas, that they were the most popular hot springs in Guatemala, and expected pandamonium. Instead, we find one of the most tranquil spots we had ever been to. The natural hot springs there are gently guided into several separate pools, of varying degrees of hot, where we could soak our achey
muscels. We rented a bungalow there, with a fireplace. One set of pools that we particulary loved could be found by taking a short but steep hike down into the woods surrounding the area. There was a cold waterfall rushing by and a hot stream for us to soak in. It was breath taking. In the morning we took a hike to the nearby mirador - lookout - which was tough and definitly worth the climb.
Heading out from Fuentas Georginas, we decided to make our way towards Rio Dulce, a place closer to the pass into Belize, were we could spend the week. We wanted to avoid spending time in Guatemala City, so we took a shuttle headed for Antigua. After a series of events including jumping onto a moving chicken bus that threatned to leave without us (our luggage was already on board), we finally made it, safe and sound, to Antigua. It was late and we took one of the first rooms we could find, dropped off our stuff and headed out to find something to filll our bellies.
We came upon quite a scene in the Parque Central, there was a free concert going
on and lots of noise and merriment. We stayed out long enough to find the best pizza we had had in a long time, then made our way home.
The next morning, we found a shuttle bound for Rio Dulce. After paying and beginning our ride, we found ourselves in Guatemala City, at a terminal, waiting for a connecting bus to Rio Dulce. When we finally arrived, it was late, and we latched ourselves onto the othe travelers on the bus, who were planning on staying at Hotel Backpackers in Rio Dulce.
Destiny? Who knows, but this was definitly the place for us. In the morning, we met Diane, who started and runs an organization called "Sharing the Dream Guatemala" which helps cooperatives of artists in Guatemala sell there stuff for a fair price. We had quite an interesting converstaion with her, she has adopted two Guatemalan children, now grown, and told us about why adoption to the U.S. is now closed. She also told us about Casa Guatemala, the orphanage where here children had been previously, and offered us space on a boat that would be visiting there later in the day. We let her know that
we would love to visit.
Casa Guatemala. I belive it may be the most beautiful place I have ever been. Casa Guatemala houses about 300 children, providing them with food, shelter, education and a medical clinic. It is also so full of love and joy. The children range in age from around 3 to 18, although it seems the older kids continue to come back after outgrowing it. The center can only be reached by boat and runs on a generator some of the time and solar panels for other times. How can I say this? I fell in love. The children were all so sweet and affectionate, Mark got into a lovely game of passing a toy truck between the little boys, I got enough hugs to last a lifetime, and I think we both wanted to never leave.
It´s morning now, and as I write I am still considering the ways we could make volunteering at Casa Guatemala a part of our lives.
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