Liquid Hot Magma , Lago Attilan and Antigua

Trip Start Aug 09, 2007
Trip End Jul 29, 2008

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Al Doggy, I would like to say that Nik and I are thinking of you as we type because we are in a cafe full of gamers - like 25 guys -  playing the same game you played for years and all we can hear is 'Puta!' and 'Mierde!' and 'Stupido!' which means 'C*nt', 'Shit' and 'Stupid', obviously, en Espanol. 

If anyone is interested the Map location is a bit wrong.  We are in Antigua which is close to, but not, Guatemala City.  The general consensus among travellers is not to stay in Guatemala City because it is really dangerous and to stay in Antigua which is more tranquil, beautiful and safer.  There is no way we would stay in Guatemala City unless we wanted to be mugged...

So we left Xela, sadly, and headed off to Lago Attilan.  Getting there was pretty sweet.  As per usual our bus broke down on the way there, but luckily every bus driver is also a mechanic so we were on our way again in no time.  The final road into the Lake is incredibly windy but the bus drivers know it really well, so for us, we were flying down this insane road with drops offs on both sides and it was just like a rollercoaster - hanging on to our seats and everything, super fun!  In the end, we didn't spend too much time at the lake because it rained every afternoon, being winter, and only allowed us to do things in the mornings.  So we basically toured around the lake visiting small villages via boat.  
The lake itself was really beautiful and turquoise and surrounded by volcanoes and hills.  We stayed in the main town called Panajachel.  It's also the main port where you take boats to different little towns.  We saw some towns, markets, art and hippies around the lake called Santiago, San Pedro and San Marcos and took a tuk-tuk between San Pedro and San Marcos, about 10km, which was really fun too.  The boats were a bit of a rip off because we had to pay 2.5 times the price that locals paid, so the tuk-tuk was a sweet and square deal.

Panajachel was alright for kicking back and contemplating life.  We had this really sweet place to stay at, it was fairly cheap, had a mountain view, private bathroom with hot water and we could use the kitchen.  Unfortunately we think it was right next door to the town's crazy house as there was this one guy that would shout out his window (mainly at night) virtually right into our window and would bang on shit and make all sorts of noise.  So we had to spend a fair time away from our room to avoid ending up over there too... 

This town was prime for haggling as the lake was oversaturated with all sorts of indigenous people peddling stuff.  Anything you could ever want from Guatemala was here, and at pretty decent prices.  But, due to my Bob Sloan gene, we didn't end up buying much, if anything....  The only down part to this place was that all the tourists make it a really dependent-type market so you end up with a bunch of kids...or their parents...needing them to sell stuff to tourists.  So, you sit down for a meal and immediately kids (6-8 years old) swarm you and ask you to buy some of their stuff.  It's not so bad when it's one or so, but, it usually is about 4 or 5 kids 4 to 5 times during your meal, and you can't walk away.  It was a really sad situation all around and really frustrating on both ends.  Sarah was saying that her mom told her numerous times not to touch a dog when it's eating.  Same thing goes for humans; I wanted to bite one of their hands off when they kept asking me.  We stayed a few days then left for Antigua.
In Antigua we checked out a bunch of ruins in the city.  The city is full of them because in the year 1700 Antigua was hit by a ton of earthquakes and now there are about a dozen ruins of churches etc.  There is no real point to repair these churches because there is no money and the ruins that weren't churches have no function as government buildings (Guatemala City is the capital and is about 40km away).  We looked at a handful amount of ruins, took note to stand under archways if we are ever hit by one, and then called it a day.  Absolutely gigantic pieces of these churches, say 8 feet high and about 15 feet around, were all over the place from the roofs of these buildings, but all the arches were perfect. 
The following day was amazing.  We visited this organic macadamia farm working for the environment through less CO2, errosion, more water, more shade for crops.  We got a tour of what they do and how they help local farmers.  Macadamia nuts are the most expensive nut on the market, so this farm give free trees to other farmers for all the above reasons and then buys back the nuts at $0.25 per pound of shelled nut.  That is about 5 times the price the farmers get from other places.  Since it is organic they only use the shells of the nut for fertilizer.  The guy showing us around, a quirky gent named Laurence, went through the steps, first to pick from the ground, then to shell the exterior nut, sort by size and then crack the internal shell. We also learned that a macadamia nut requires 2000 ft per sq inch to crack the internal shell or to use a knife and crack along a break.  That would take forever and so the farm uses a gas powered wheel, tire actually, that has a wedge shaped grate, so the nuts will eventually crack.  This machine was powered by a motor but that's too expensive for people down here so they are making a more practical bicycle powered machine, *awesome*.  It was really delicious, free samples of nuts, pancakes and then we both got free facials, free!, with macademia based products.  Eating just 7 macademia nuts a day is enough to flush your whole body of it's toxins too. 
In the afternoon we visited Volcan Pacaya.  This is one of the three active volcanoes in Guatemala.  We've now seen two of them, Pacaya and Volcan Santo Igito via Santa Maria in Xela.  The volcano was a fairly easy hike, about 1.5 hrs up and then 45 minutes down.  The whole way up we were followed by kids on really tired horses and they kept yelling 'Taxi! Natural Taxi!' and so on...these poor horses were drenched in sweat and smoking by the top and no one even got one, kinda sad!!

When we got to the top we could see this incredible expanse of a lava wasteland at the foot of this huge volcano - it's like this because the volcano is continually erupting.  So we went closer with our awesome guide after he told us how we can die a terrible fiery death since lava eruptions are virtually instant and can shoot 600m high!! He brought us to where we could shove sticks in the lava and have fire shoot out of the hole.  Man was it ever hot, we had never felt a heat like that before and we also heard that some people melted their shoes walking on the volcanoic rocks near the lava

After the stick poking the guide took us up on the lava waste field (before we were still on solid earth).  This was super freaky, we were walking on cooled lava, the lava rocks felt really hollow and they were also super sharp.  We got up about half way then this bolder-like lava stone fell down and lava was coming after it.  That was it, we and others behind this lava-slide were pretty freaked out, and we got off that cooled lava pretty quick.  About half of the group didn't go up too far on the wasteland.  Everything else turned out fine, since we are alive; we descended the volcano skiing style, I loved it!  This guide of ours led us down 200m on this volcanic dirt pathway that was like skiing 1 foot deep powder, really fun and really fast and then we hiked out the rest of the way in the dark and took the shuttle home.  This guide of ours does this daily, pretty crazy, he hikes up twice a day and then walks on some lava and then skis down this volcanic screet.  I think he loves his job because he is so enthused, happy and energetic.  The volcano was awesome. 

We are leaving Guatemala tomorrow for Honduras and are a little bit sad.  This country is so colourful and the people are incredible, so much to see and such great memories.  We didn't have any trouble with violence and we felt it was a safe country (knock on wood).  I would highly recommend visiting this country to any one, lots of culture and lots to see. 
We will write another entry soon, thanks for reading them!  Adios.
Niko y Sarita xoxo
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