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Published: October 11th 2009
Leaving Honduras turned out to be the best move I have made all trip. Just days after leaving the country´s president Zelaya was allowed back in and the country went into turmoil. Borders were closed, curfews were put back into place, and the possibility of having all human rights stripped were very real. None of this mattered to Natalie and I though because we were home free in the colonial city of Antigua.
Cobblestone streets displayed under the large expanse of a big volcano with expenisve tourist shops on one side and cheap local markets on the other. It was almost too good to be true. Until now, we had not been in such an interesting city. This place is a great holiday for anyone´s budget, but even better for those with medium-large wallets on a short vacation. You could go out and spend spend spend without it really costing you much in comparison to other popular vacation getaways. A great meal costs $10 with beers around $2-3. The shopping for artisinal products is mind numbing. Wonderful handmade goods for almost nothing. From here many tours are offered, but Natalie and I only did 1. A trip up Volcan Pacaya.
It was a guided tour through steep jungle terrain with views in the distant of many other volcanos. Near the summit we encountered the part that makes volcanos ¨cool¨...hot lava. Pacaya was smoking and hot lava was meandering its way down the slope like a really slow river. We got to within a few meters of the lava and its about as hot as one would/could imagine. Some of the hot, very sharp, and pourous lava rocks were melting the soles of our shoes as we scaled the last few meters. One of the popular activities is for people to bring marshmellows and roast them over the medium temperature rocks. It was a great day and one more thing I can check off my life list of things I have done.
Next up, was the town of San Pedro on the lake of Atitlan. The lake is home to many small hammock swinging towns cropped up next to more large volcanos. In these towns you really get a mixture of the indigenous peoples, western tourists, and wealthy Guatemalans with lakeside dream homes. We spent our few days relaxing and enjoying our lake views ($6/night) while filling myself on the
the lava pictures arent great and the computer is too slow to add lots of pictures, but this is a view from our hike. I am standing on hot rocks.
(people in picture are unknown)
first tasty tacos of the trip. The further north we get, the better the food and for the first time we got our hands on real tortillas with flavor filled meats and salsa. It was from San Pedro that we also took a day trip to the famous market of Chichicastenango. It is the largest market in central america and for some of you reading this it was time to buy some Christmas presents. We were able to secure some good prices on many things because we are here during the low season and people willl do what they can to bargain down prices. They would say for example, ¨this blanket is $600 Quetzales, but the price is negotiable¨. Therefore, the price was not $600 Q, but really closer to $250. We had a lot of fun bargaining and left the place with wonderful gifts. My favorite, as selfish as I am, was for me. I bought a very large handmade Mayan bed spread cover pieced together from the shirts of the indigenous women. There is also other fabric from the other local products. It was about $26 and its amazing. Large enough for a queen size bed or so.
typical clustered view at Central America´s largest market
The fun was not done though, it was time to move on Lanquin.
We did make some stops before Lanquin in Antigua once more and in Coban, but not much happened besides trouble sleeping because of inconsiderate neighbors which only got me in a bad mood. So beyond the brief mention I wont get into more detail. So onto Lanquin, home of Semuc Champey. In this small, mainly indigenous town, we got as lucky as two travelers can get. After getting hounded by local tour operators while still on the bus, we chose the one guy who spoke clearly and concisely and he took us to heaven. A brand new hostel run by an Englishman and Dutch guy on a hill overlooking the lush valley for $4.5/night. They used to run the big hostel in town for a few years and decided they could do better and they can. They run a fresh bakery and cook wonderful food. What was supposed to be a 2 night stay ended up being 7 nights. Part of the time Natalie and I were the only guests. They were very interesting guys with lots of documentaries about conspiracy theories which consumed many of
A gift for myself
here is proof of my blanket, i had to take pictures just in case it gets stolen before making it back to the USA. it costs too much to send so its stuffed in my small backpack.
our conversations. From here we also did a tour of Semuc Champey. This reserve consists of swimming and climbing in water filled limestone caves. Without lights or candles it is the darkest place I have ever seen. Natalie and I had a private tour through here and it felt like we were on another planet. We climbed up waterfalls, jumped through holes of rushing water, and played like kids for a good hour. Then we climbed out and floated down an aqua green river in small intertubes before heading to the pools of Semuc Champey. (for the record, these are all technically 2 parks) Anyway, we enjoyed a big lookout over the crystal clear pools that displayed an assortment of blue, green and orange colors and then we went down to them for a swim. Lastly, we climbed down a rope into another semi cave to watch where the underground river finally met up with the external river. It was a cool display made better by the little rush of adrenaline climbing down and up another waterfall. Our last couple days in Lanquin were spent lounging around and getting sick. One day Natalie was sick so we couldnt leave, and
Cave in Semuc Champey area
We swam and climbed deep into this cave
the next day I was on the toilet all day so we couldnt leave again. By the end though we had had enough and said our goodbyes. We were the longest staying guests the hostal has had thus far and it felt good to have relaxed in such a place for so long.
Next on the list is the tourist town of Flores where everyone makes the jump to the Mayan Ruins of Tikal. The ruins are famous because of their location in the middle of the jungle. A few of the ruin tops poke out of the jungle and provide vast views of endless green. They were a pretty sight and enjoyable, but nothing out of this world. We spent about 6 hours here climbing ancient pyramid structures before colapsing on the bus ride back to Flores. This was our last full day in Guatemala. As sad as it was to say goodbye, we were heading for my most anticipated country, Mexico, where I could eat endless plates of tacos.
Thus far on the trip, Guatemala proved to be my favorite. The people were welcoming, mixed in race and languages, the sites were beautiful, sleepy towns, and
Semuc Champey pools
good food. An excellent place for anyone looking to get away. Now its time for Tacos.
Here are some of the pictures, I hope you enjoy them because they might be the last. My camera has been rendered useless and does not read memory cards anymore. Ill try and make one more entry before Natalie leaves for Australia taking her camera with her. I miss you all.
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