A bloody hard hike and other stories.

Trip Start Oct 06, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Thursday, October 14, 2004

Well I am just typing this entry for the second time (arghh!), electricity being kind of erratic here sometimes. From now on I'll surely listen to the "Save Entry Often" advice given on Travelpod. Repeat after me 500 times.

Yesterday was party time here, as Guatemala beat Honduras 2-0 in a firecracker (ehh, well) of a match. At least it was a big improvement from last weekends game when they lost 5-0 to Costa Rica. Anyway, football is huge here in Latin America, Guatemala being no exception. I watched the match in San Pedro La Laguna (kind of on the other side of Lake Atitlan from Panajachel) over a few beers with Catherine and Steve (as I said I knew I would bump into them again, and probably not for the last time).

I am just back in Panajachel after two days in San Pedro La Laguna. So if you haven't heard from me for a couple of days, it's because I have been in a CIZ (Crap Internet Zone). I just invented that I think, at least it's not exactly the same as the well established NIZ (No Internet Zone) that you hear about along the backpacker circuit. San Pedro La Laguna is the Goa (or something) of Guatemala, with a pretty nice atmosphere and a beautiful setting down by the lake. Probably some of the reasons you'll find Backpackers, Expats and a few dopeheads who have stayed here for months or even years. Although it was nice, I only stayed for two days, and instead opted for "cosmopolitan" Panajachel. A town most travelers claim they don't like, but still end up staying in for a few days. Me being honest, I actually like the place.

One of the reasons I went to San Pedro La Laguna was to hike the San Pedro volcano (not active) at 3020 meters. Something that turned out to be a bloody hard hike, taking me, the two Dutch guys and our Spanish speaking guide Luis 3.5 hours to "summit". Back down was a bit quicker, and surely harder on the knees, taking us in at just over 2 hours. We were rewarded with a spectacular view of Lake Atitlan from the top for about 30 minutes, before the clouds and fog made it all soup. It usually takes Luis 2 hours to reach the top when going solo, and his slowest "ascent" ever being about 6 hours with a bunch of botanists and bird watchers. Luis told us an interesting story where he claimed that a Norwegian had the summit record of just 1 hour, and this Norwegian guy also topped it all off with a 35 minutes record breaking descent. That's fucking unbelievable I said, and immediately thought of Bjørn Dælhie or Vegard Ulvang. For sure it must have been one of those guys, with "Smirre hakk i hæl" while "Brimi'n roterte småsvidd grovhakket charlottlauk nede på sletta". If the story is true, I would have to applaud the guy as I don't see how it's possible (that's coming from a 35 year old at the prime of his life, who used to play badminton once a week, ...well that was about 18 months ago.) Another "interesting" aspect of hiking San Pedro in a small group, was the likeliness of getting mugged or robbed according to other travellers. The area around San Pedro La Laguna is notorious for it's muggers, at least so I was told. I heard about quite a few backpackers who have been traveling around Latin America for months or years without any trouble whatsoever, before ending up being robbed around San Pedro La Laguna. Anyway, we felt pretty safe with our local guide Luis and his "El Machete."

Tomorrow I am heading for Quetzaltenango (also known as Xela) about 2.5 hours due North-West. Xela is the second largest city in Guatemala, but with a population of just around 200.000 it probably has more of a small town feeling to it. Apparently it's a great place to study Spanish, so that's my plan for the next week or so.
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cajunkayak on

San Pedro la LaGuna
I am an experienced solo, female traveler going to Guatemala for the 1st time for the month. After reading your blog and other internet info on San Pedro la LaGuna, about the muggings, what are your thoughts about my going there alone. I wouldn't normally think twice about muggings, but ... since you've been there I'd like an informed thought. Thanks!!

Lafayette, LA, USA

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