Thursday, January 19, 2012

Guatemala Day 4: San Pedro & The Mayan Face

On Day 4 we packed up our gear and went down to the lake to get on a public boat to cross Lake Atitlan. Our destination was the town of San Pedro la Laguna and we had a date with a mountain!! After some heckling we finally gave in and paid the price for a private boat to get us there more quickly.
View of one of the many boat docks in Panajachel and Volcano Atitlan in the distance. Took about 20-30 minutes to cross the lake.

When we arrived in San Pedro, we walked around and luckily found our hostel (Zoola) very quickly. We got our rooms, changed and were off to climb our mountain!

We found our hiking guide in San Pedro and most groups take a shuttle, tuk-tuk or bus up to the starting point on the mountain....but oh, no not us. We somehow agreed to walk the entire way there. This added 2.5-3 extra miles to our hike. (We felt it later...)

We walked to our guide's building, which was on the edge of San Pedro where he grabbed his machete and gear. We also snapped one of our first pictures of our beautiful mountain. It's called Indian's Nose (or the more politically correct version- The Mayan Face) because it looks like a face laying on its side. The highest point being the tip of the nose.

Our guide was amazing and very informative. He stopped along the way and showed us the coffee beans that were drying. Poor Rob had to translate a lot of this for me since I was the weakest link with my Spanish. :-)

We took the back roads from San Pedro to San Juan, another small town on Lake Atitlan. Here we are looking back on San Pedro. Beautiful view.

Here's another picture of the mountain a little bit closer. We didn't scale the front, which would have been horribly difficult. We came in from the left side of this picture, hiked the flat portion, then up the forehead and nose.

And here is a photo of the face from the start of that flat part. Doesn't look so bad from here.

Photo from the start of the flat part, overlooking Lake Atitlan. Our guide was funny. He had a daughter named Raquel and so he and I became buddies. Since I was the only person in our group who had never been to a higher altitude, this hike was really rough for me. I was in shape, but not acclimatized. Everytime I would breathe, it was like I was only getting half a breath. So I was huffing and puffing like a fat kid in gym class all the way up. Our guide used his machete and made us walking sticks! Saved. my. life. :-)

Almost there! View of Volcano Atitlan from the forehead of the mountain. From here on out, this climb was brutal.

I called this the "Door to Heaven", because I felt like I was dying. The climb from the forehead to the nose was absolutely brutal for me, but so worth it!

Finally made it! What a view!

Kappa Alpha Theta!

We stayed at the top of the mountain for about 20 minutes, took lots of pictures, Kim nearly fell off (seriously, she did a jumping action shot and felt backwards a bit scaring the beejeezus out of everyone). We began our decent down the back of the mountain and into the town of Santa Clara. It was much smaller and had some killer steep roads that my legs were not happy about.
By this time we were absolutely starving so our guide took us to his favorite comedor for food. We had chicken, rice, tortillas and a cold salad that none of us should have eaten....but it all tasted so delicious!

Walking all the way back to San Pedro would have been insane, so we thought we were going to take a shuttle. When our guide told us to follow him onto a chicken bus packed to the gills with people, we were shocked! First chicken bus experience for KyleAnne too! It wasn't that bad, but none of us would have gotten on there without the guide.

Back in San Pedro we bee-lined to our hostel and immediately grabbed a drink and relaxed by the pool with a gorgeous view of Lake Atitlan. I think we were all asleep by 9:00pm.

Next post: Day 5 & 6: Santiago, San Marcos and back home

Monday, January 9, 2012

Guatemala Day 3: Panajachel, Lake Atitlan

Day 3: Panajachel, Lake Atitlan
From Antigua we boarded a crowded and hot shuttle van for a 3 hour trip west to Panajachel on Lake Atitlan.

Word to the wise: Plug in your camera battery while you sleep, NOT while you are waiting for the shuttle because it is very likely you will forget said battery and charger. We had only driven a few blocks by the time I realized I had forgotten it. Since we were stopped I was told to just run back and get it. However, I am completely disoriented in Antigua because all the streets look the same. I jump out and start running in the direction we came from. After about 3 blocks, feeling lost and realizing I have no ID, phone or money on me, I freak out and turn around. A few disgruntled travelers rolled their eyes at me, but the driver agreed to turn around so I could get it. That driver saved my trip! I took so many photos to make that worth it!

After 3 hours of twisting and winding, and bumpy roads, we finally get to the beautifully breathtaking Lake Atitlan. The lake is also surrounded by volcanoes. Volcán Atitlán lies on the southern rim of the caldera (the sunken part containing the lake), while Volcán San Pedro and Volcán Tolimán lie within the caldera.

We checked into our extremely nice hotel (Dos Mundos). It had a private pool and hot showers! A huge step up from our previous night's accommodations. Seriously, almost like a resort!

Then we immediately donned our hiking gear and headed for Reserva Nacional Atitlan to the northwest of town to go ZIP-LINING! I have never done this before and it was an awesome experience! The view over the valley was amazing! I wish we would have been able to take a picture, but that was mid-zipline! haha

Here I am coming in for a landing! So much fun!

Then we took Tuk-Tuks from the Reserva Nacional Atitlan back into Panajachel. They are little 3-wheeled taxis. Kim and I thought this picture would be awesome!

Here is a good photo of the main drag in Panajachel. Lots of markets and shops along the street.

Here Kim and Kyle are talking with 2 young girls who were always trying to sell us something. "Special price for you." "You want? Tomorrow? Next month? Next year?"

We ended the night at a bar called Pana Rock (Aka the Chicken Bus bar) Inside the bar was part of a chicken bus. Chicken buses are used to transport a lot of people at a time. You are crammed in there like chickens. And it is usually not very safe. Oh, and much to our surprise, we rode one the very next day....

Next Post will be Day 4: San Pedro la Laguna and the Mayan Face!

To Guatemala and Back! | Day 1 & 2

How this adventure started:
Sitting in a bar, watching our football team lose miserably I had a conversation with one of my good friends about life and how I was feeling down about it. (This is also the same conversation that sparked the 30 by 30 Bucket List). She was talking about all of her travels to other countries and it really moved me to think about my traveling experience lack of traveling thus far in my life. So she casually mentioned that I should join her when she travels to Guatemala in December to visit her sister. Keep in mind that this conversation was around the month of October. I immediately said "Seriously? Can I come with you?!" And the next day I booked plane tickets. Totally random, spur of the moment decision. Loved it!

The adventure | Day 1: Guatemala City
We flew into Guatemala City where our friend lives and works. (She teaches English at an International School). We had a great traveling group! Kim, KyleAnne, Rob and myself. We stayed the night with KyleAnne and ate breakfast at a neat little place in Guatemala City.

The breakfast restaurant called Saul. Had interesting holiday decorations and artwork on the walls.

Day 2: Antigua

We took a taxi southwest from Guatemala City to the town of Antigua. It was amazing with cobblestone streets, fountains, interesting architecture and little shops! We stayed in a hostel - which was my very first experience! It was called the Black Cat Hostel and the 4 of us shared a room with another traveler from Arizona. He was an older Japanese fellow and a "long distance walker"! We stayed in Antigua for one night, walking through the artisan market and shops. Here I experienced my first Michelata which is beer with bloody mary mix, similar to a red or tomato beer, but slightly better. :-)

Some of the neat old architecture that remained in the town.

View of the stairway in our hostel. Lots of the buildings had open air areas in their architecture. Some areas contain a garden and others had sitting areas. Let in a lot of natural light.

Antigua is surrounded by 3 volcanoes. Agua, Fuego and Pacaya. I'm not sure which one is pictured behind us, but my guess would be Agua.

One of the many shops in the market. Lots of handmade, woven items and other fun trinkets.

For dinner we ate at an elaborate hotel restaurant. Since most of us were tourists, they put on a traditional show with costumes and dance. They even persuaded Kim to join in!

Some of the more interesting bars/clubs were closed for the holidays, so we decided to call it an early night since we had a big day coming up. Next post will be Day 3: Panajachel and Lake Atitlan! So many gorgeous photos to share!!