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Julie & Joe's Travels

La Vida Guatemalteca...

GUATEMALA | Monday, 14 April 2008 | Views [553] | Comments [2]

So, here we are.. our last few days in, what seems to be, the mango and avocado capital of the world. We have consumed so many of the two that we find it hard to believe there are extras laying around.

Currently in Flores (the north of the country), we just experienced a bittersweet experience in the ancient Tikal National Park, but we will get to that story later.

Upon arrival into Guatemala City we had a birdseye view of the capital in all its glory.  Layouts of slums covered the edges of the city while the center seemed like a dense concentration of colonial style buildnings with a little bit of post very hard war torn years.  The airport gave quite the Bienvenidos style atmosphere with a brand new building equipped with a little mariachi band alongside the baggage claim for obvious entertainment purposes.

When leaving the airport you get a glimpse of what is to come in this country.  Ahuge crowd of people waiting for loved ones and of course the inevitable taxi boys throwing city names in your face for shutytle services.  We drove straight to Antigua.  The drive to Antigua was refreshing after the cold winter in Chicago and the tropical forests greeted us well as we chatted with our new found Canadian traveler friend.

Antigua is, as the guide book puts it, what Guatemala would look like if the Spaniards decided to stay here instead of colonize a few places and peace out because they could not conquer the Guatemalan jungles.  Pussies. The city is set up in a grid like pattern with endless blocks and turns.  each block consists of one large wall containing many different colors in order to distinguish where one hotel ends and where the other begins.  Tourists flood the streets and for that reason Antigua is probably the most expensive city in Guatemala.  There is definately an international flair with cuisines coming from all corners of the world. A few days in Antigua was suffice.  We loved being able to walk around in barely no clothes.. but then it became clear that the culture is very conservative so decided to ditch the short shorts and settle for longer options.

So from Antigua, off to Lago de Atitlan we trotted.  The main town, Panajachel, is bussling with Mayan textiles, endless rows of hammocks for sale and the great hippy culture.  Along the sides of the roads you can find a random gringo hippy couple with their baby selling hand made jewelery and textiles.  Because the Spaniards were lovers of courtyards for an afternoon cooling effect, most hotels include a beautiful courtyard with various plant life and brightly colored hammocks.  Did we mention that the Guatemalan´s love color?  Lago de Atitlan is a large fresh lake with a few volcanoes in the backdrop.  From afar it is a site to admire.. however, as you inch closer it becomes more of a Guatemalan reality.  The Guatemalan people seem to think that the Earth is their personal garbage bag and therefore everything ends up in water sources and roadsides.  By everything we mean carbonated beverage bottles because it seems to be all they drink.  Back to the lake, the shore is like a little garbage dump with pretty much anything you can imagine laying around.  We took a boat ride across the lake to a village called San Marcos la Laguna where we met a Mexican man playing a Bolivian style guitar.  He owned a hotel in the village and there we rested our heads for a few days.  San Marcos is set up as a sort of hippy commune where activities range from Yoga to month long meditation and spiritual cleansing courses. Interesating place.

We decided to chicken bus it to our next destination... Quetzeltenango.

Chicken buses are old yellow american school buses that are sent down to Guate, souped up and painted up with bright colours and festooned with religious icons to "protect" them. The drivers have a rep for being of their heads. Anyway the first journey was fine, the driver was doing well and it was as cheap as chips, then we got to the town where we were to change and all hell broke loose. First this guy wearing a shirt with chickens all over it (rather ironic) came up to us screaming Xela, Xela, Xela (the nickname for Quezteltenango) grabbed our bags and threw them on the roof of a busted looking chicken bus. We jumped onto the thing and the driver took of like he was in the Monacco Grand Prix and for the next hour we were screaming around mountain roads and cliff tops at break neck speed, overtaking huge lines of traffic up hill around corners with only a toot on the horn to warn vehicles coming the other way that. Even though there were road works everywhere the bus did not stop, incredible journey and one that we will never forget.

Upon arrival in Xela we had no idea where we were and found ourselves walking around a market kind of joint where they were selling MP3 players and butchering cattle. We jumped in a cab and said take us to the center please sir, well Jules did but he didnt listen to her, silly females. So we went to the center and found a hotel. Here we met Christina an sweet little Quiche mayan girl, working for a pittance as a maid, babysitter, cook for the hotel owners.

Meet a little bloke with one of those beard that only go around their chins, you know the kind where they shave of their moustache. Anyway he offered to take us on "Central Americas" most difficult trek to an active volcano called Santiaguito. So we bought some water and crackers and off we went on this 2 day trek....things were not as they were expected to be.

It started with a walk down a road and I knew that we were in trouble when we both started puffing, Jules started to feel it early and we had to shift all the weight she was carrying over to Joe the Burro. What followed was 7 hours of treking through jungles with no paths, down a river bed that was as smooth as an ice rink up almost sheer slopes covered in rock and volcanic mud. As we approached the volcano we stopped at a series of "beaches" which were surreal, like a lunar landscapes with mists and ash floating in the air. We finally made it to the last beach where we were to camp, after clambering up another sheer cliff. Julie jumped straight into the tent to sleep, but we had front row seats to watching volcanic eruptions, the real kind and it was mind blowing, lava and shit going everywhere, amazing experience.

The next day saw tears, blood, sweat, diarrehea and spew from Jules as we climbed back down and up the dreadful terrain that we covered the day before. We crawled back into the hotel where Christina sorted us out and we rested for a few days.

OK.. too much typing for now... we will be back soon with the conclusion of the second half of our Guatemalan trip.

As for now, we are waiting around this unnaturally blazing hot town for our bus tonight to Guatemala City.  From there we were off to Nicaragua, but as fate has it, we met an American couple while our computers were down who totally talked us into going to Honduras.  We swapped our Guatemala guide book for their Honduras one, and off we are to Honduras!  The joys of travelling aimlessly....

¡Hasta Luego!

Joe and Julie (because Joe had to have his name first...)





G'day J&J! I'm excited to hear more stories from your trip and thanks for not sparing the details (tears, blood, sweat, diarrehea, LOL). When you go to Honduras, look out for the Lisa 'Left Eye' Lopes memorial. That's where she died, in a car accident, six years ago. Peace out. Dinesh.

  Dinesh Apr 18, 2008 11:45 AM


Hey Joe, good travel stories! But I agree with the last comment, a litte bit too detailed no? Anyway i am writing my own travelstory to my friends and once again, I want that spectacular video to show them!

Here are my pics, ok ones but I don't know, its kind of hard to recreate the feeling of that place, I still wish that we went for the crater though...

all the best, I'll keep checking in here for the vid, don't hold me out too much;)

  Jian Apr 23, 2008 3:53 PM

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