A colonial gem, a sublime lake and Mayan wonders


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Published: June 8th 2006
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My time visiting the beautiful country of Guatemala has been an undeniably positive and memorable experience. I hand wrote the draft for this journal from atop a monument in the majestic grand plaza of the Tikal Mayan ruins, and it's a glorious location to provide inspiration for my travel blog! The ruins of Tikal, along with the sublime beauty of Lago de Atitlan, and the gorgeous colonial city of Antigua with it´s vibrant nightlife are wonderful attractions to rival the tourist highlights of any country in the region The tourist industry in Guatemala has potential for substantial growth, but let´s touch base again from the start of my visit...

We left off in San Salvador, dear reader, where I caught connecting buses across the border into Guatemala and on to Antigua. Once again I experienced a very smooth commute with excellent connections. I would like to pay a brief tribute to the Latin American bus fraternity at this stage, the drivers and assistants have taken me several thousand kilometres and have been unfailingly helpful, professional and honest while busing me around. Buses are the lifeblood of travel in this continent and the workers have great spirit; whether you are riding
Lago de AtitlanLago de AtitlanLago de Atitlan

The lake is a sublime tourist attraction not to be missed!
on an executive coach, a chicken bus or a collectivo van. OK then, after that well deserved pitch it's back to the travel blog... I caught up again with my American friend at a prearranged hostel, and was impressed to see that he had crewed up already, which made settling in to a new town a breeze for me. Antigua is an extremely impressive colonial town and ranks easily amongst the top three from my trip thus far, along with Cartagena and Cusco. You must come and visit if you get the chance, it's a gorgeous part of the world. The town is also a magnet for language students, and features a vibrant nightlife even during the middle of the week when I was visiting. The tourism infrastructure is superb, and the locals are relaxed and friendly.

My friend and I jumped on a bus to Lake Atitlan, which features a backdrop of three spectacular volcanoes at over 3000 metres reaching to the shoreline of the lake's pristine waters. It's absolutely gorgeous and a superb tourist attraction. We took a speedboat on a short commute to the other side of the lake, and on to a beautiful little town on the lake by the name of San Pedro. It's a predominantly Mayan population in this region, and we inadvertently provided entertainment for one lady while walking along the cobblestone streets. While strolling around by some fluke we were both tripped up at exactly the same time on different cobblestones, in fact this incident couldn't have been choreographed better. This caused the lady sitting nearby to laugh it up good style, I smiled and shared a comment with her and she laughed some more. It was good to see her reaction yet it is very easy to come-a-cropper while walking along cobblestone streets if you aren't used to them.

We headed back to Antigua and on to Guatemala City, which at over two million inhabitants is the biggest city in Central America. What can I say about the subsequent bus commute north to Tikal, it was another of those overnight trips I will not forget in a hurry. We didn't choose a chicken bus (former school buses from the United States) but this coach was probably worse. We started the trip from Guate packed to the rafters with up to twenty people standing; my seat was completely broken which
Lago de AtitlanLago de AtitlanLago de Atitlan

Panoramic views from the hostel.
made it impossible to sleep, and to top it off a poor lady who was standing nearby took a bad turn and suddenly launched into a technicolour yawn. My friend and I made brief eye contact with looks of tired resignation; this was going to be a long night as we still had over six hours of travelling time to negotiate and the lady had thrown up in the aisle next to us. My friend then kindly offered a plastic bag to her in case she was still feeling unwell, but all in all it was not a fun commute.

We arrived in Flores early in the morning and booked into a hotel in time to set out for a full day trip to the most famous of all Mayan ruins at Tikal. The scale of the ruins is staggering, and it's a joy to be writing this while sitting atop a monument overlooking the grand plaza, and listening to the eerie sounds of the howler monkeys and other animals from the jungle that completely surrounds the ruins. It's a wonderful experience here in the jungle amidst the impressive ruins at Tikal.

Guatemala has been at peace for less than fifteen years at the conclusion of a brutal thirty six year civil war. However the people seem to be friendly; relaxed and comfortable in their own skin, and the tourist facilities and sights are world class. Of course there are many attractions in the country that I haven't been able to visit on this occasion, but based on what I've experienced during this enjoyable stay, basically all of you should be here now!


Don't be so humble, you're not that great." Golda Meir


As I continue my travels, until next time it´s signing off for now

Tom

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Flores lakeFlores lake
Flores lake

The beautiful views at sunrise from our hotel balcony


22nd January 2006

nice work
Nice report and some good photos - you've really got some excellent photos on your travels. PS. I have visited your sponsors for you also.
23rd January 2006

Tikal
Hey Tom, Jealous of your trip to tikal. was there 5 years ago and had quite probably the most serene and enjoyable day of my life. In Baraloche at the mo with shaun. Is also stunning. Take care and enjoy the rest of your journey, Anita (colombia)
23rd January 2006

Glad you had such a cool time in Guatemala. One of my favourite places. The memories, especially around Atitlan, made me smile when I read your journal. Have fun, amigo. Oh, and by the way: Happy Birthday!

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