Hola de Guatemala

Trip Start Apr 30, 2008
Trip End Apr 17, 2009

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Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Thursday, May 29, 2008

Our arrival in Guatemala was eventful. Torrential rains hit, making our trip to Antigua from the Guatemala City airport a bit slow going. When we got to Antigua, the streets were so flooded that we couldn´t cross the street to the hotel we had booked. Instead, we found a room at a hotel on the side of the street the cab dropped us off at. We emailed the other hotel to cancel--which they completely understood!   

The next day we took a bus to a somewhat active volcano called Pacaya. The bus stopped at a town insanely close to the volcano. Still, we had to hike 2.5 kilometers to the lava field. This hike was almost all steeply up hill. (Candy said it was the hardest thing she´d ever done, including a spinning class with Joy. Ray was reminded of the hikes up Cathedral Hill after hockey games but this hike lasted much, much longer) Along the way, locals with horses yelled ¨taxi¨ to get us to give up. Whether it was pride or fear of riding a horse up that mountain, we completed the hike.

Walking on the lava field was amazing. Our feet were quite warm. Candy took the opportunity to toast some marshmallows over a minor lava vent. It was dusk at this point and a light rain started to fall. As we took our last look at the volcano, we could see for the first time the major lava flow coming down from the peak.   It was a sight we will never forget.

If you go, some advice---first, buy the stick. Second, go soon, the volcano´s only getting taller...


The walk down the volcano in the dark (and in the rain) reminded both Candy and Ray of other fond memories.

Candy was reminded of her Uncle Jerry´s downhill skiing instructions and her brother Craig teaching Curt and her how to walk on a roof. Ray was reminded of walking the trail down to the cabin every Friday night before the road was put in.

Transportation around Guatemala was also interesting. It probably wasn´t subtle enough to be called an omen. But, when the bus driver throws a 10 ton jack at your feet before he starts the van, you quickly recognize the trip might be eventful. Yep, on our way back to Antigua, the bus had a flat tire. Then, the next day, we took another van to Lake Atitlan. This was two and half hours of winding roads through the mountains. Candy claimed she´d rather be back in the van in El Salvador. When we got to the lake shore,

we took a 30 minute boat ride to a village called San Pedro. The lake is about half the size of Mille Lacs and surrounded by several inactive volcanos.

Both San Pedro and Antigua are known for their Spanish language schools. If you or your kids want to learn Spanish, definitely go to Guatemala. There are so many 1-2 day trips from each place that it would be a great learning vacation. Some of the schools are affiliated with a local university if you need credits to get your college degree. It´s a lot more fun (and cheaper) than U.S. college credits. For example, we each paid $10 for a four-hour private lesson in San Pedro, and the school and instructors were thrilled to have us.

San Pedro is a bit of hippie mecca (so if you send the kids there, make sure you´ve had the talk about drugs). After our Spanish lessons, we were too mentally drained to do much else beyond find food, study, and sleep. The counter-culture ex-pats provided us with the chance to eat things like bagels, Pad Thai, and fish & chips.

As some you know, El Salvador and Guatemala were free adds from the airlines. We didn´t have nearly enough time in Guatemala and can definitely see ourselves going back. In fact, Candy´s Spanish instructor invited us to her wedding! 

Finally, a note about the blog. We´re amazed to see how many of you are following our adventures. If you´d like to be notified when we post an update, you can register with the site. Then, when we post an update, you´ll get an email with a link to the new posting. (it only takes a minute or so and you can easily select not to receive junk mail from the site -- we did that ;) )

Tune in soon for our update on adventures in Peru where you can hear about alpaca pizza, our first border-crossing problems, and much more.

Candy and Ray
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