A Travellerspoint blog

Guatemala

Antigua

Guatever

all seasons in one day 29 °F

Back to early mornings. Our ride to Antigua was cool, again in an 11seater with the locals we later had to switch vehicles. All roads leading to Antigua were blessed with stunning views of nature juxtaposing with the true living conditions of the locals – very distressing to look at but inspiring to see the happiness that they projected when doing daily chores. My 1st honest response when arriving Guatemala City was like ‘ewww’ and glad that I was going through it. I was surrounded by millions of billboards (1 was promoting a clothes store called ‘Bollocks’ lol), vehicles, chicken buses where the fumes were gushing out, no sense of queue, noisy and chaotic! All of a sudden I felt that I was in Europe. Cobbled streets, small dinky shops, the facades of some of the restaurants had a very French feel to them I saw horse and carriages taking people to their destinations, you could hear a live band playing classical music, – it had a very romantic feel to it. Many couples were walking hand in hand from ages as young as 13yr old to 80 yr olds it was really nice to see. In the distant you were surrounded by 3 of the most amazing, enormous, gigantic volcanoes – the main one was Volcan de Agua! I had arrived in Antigua.

We stayed at The Jungle Party. This hostel was for serious party goer’s lol. They would play tracks like Peter Andre, UB40, Big Mountain, even KRS one thru to salsa. The only annoying thing was my bunk was right next to the bar so my bedtime was more and less like 1am. Didn’t stay there for long as I signed up for a weeks lessons of Spanish classes and a home stay with a Spanish family….how exciting!
So Antigua and other surrounding towns in Guatemala are renowned for learning Spanish lessons. So we signed up as we seriously needed to learn the basics. The classes were really intensive – we would start our lessons at 8am, have a break at 10.30am then through to 1pm. So 5 hours a day for 5 days took it out of us. At 1pm we would go to the Gracia’s to have lunch till 2pm then we would go to our afternoon activities. One of the activities that we took part was to visit local important sites. One of them was Cerro de la Cruz. Antigua has only 3 crucifixes and the main one is on a steep hill that over looks Antigua and you also get to see the size of Volcan de la Agua. One of the mornings I decided to run up to the hill which more and less killed me lol but the view at 7.30am was breathtaking! You could see smoke escaping from the crater you could see the brightly painted facades of some of the buildings in the town, the domes of the churches all set against blue skies!

So the family…Francisco was the padre he looked like Robert De Niro but De Niro is so much better looking lol, the madre was Maria, the hija Anna was married to Carlos and they had a little chica, Lalita was a 3yr old so adorable and the sobrino also Francisco aka Panchetta who was 17yr old. Living with the family was really weird but I was so looking forward to see and experience their way of living. I hate to say this but I was quite disappointed. Our daily intake of food was Frijoles (refried beans), Pan (bread), some form of fruit (2 slices of Papaya/pineapple) and water for breakfast! Lunch was Frijoles, Pan, with 2 vegetables or soup and boiled fruit/jelly and for dinner we would have FRIJOLES, rice and a vegetable with pan/tortilla. Now tell me how on earth am I supposed to get through on this diet???? Christina actually had gone to Pollo Campino (there version of KFC) after dinner a few times! The family would eat with us with the same food but even smaller portions but what we couldn’t understand was that they weren’t the slimmest of people. Were they trying to save money? It was more annoying to know that the other host families were cooking up proper filling meals. So we complained and it was kinda scary to go back to the family knowing that the school had words with them…did it change? Well slightly as in the portions grew slightly and we finally had some of protein yay! As for being able to converse with the family…yeah I did have the odd convo but we still felt like outsiders. There was one time where the mum had brewed fresh coffee and when I asked the son-in-law if I can have some he went to ask the mum. The next day they gave me the freeze dry Nescafe crap! Also for breakfast the mum would give the nephew this oaty hot drink (called Aveno) and not to us…we get to have this once complained and it was really nice! Glad to be out though.

Anyways during our stay in Antigua we saw an armed officer who was looking after a Steak house lol in fact armed officers were like everywhere even for maccy d’s. I really wanted to take a picture but they all refure! I did go in to MacDonalds (no to buy anything) but just to see the interior. I was in shock it was the most stunning MacDonalds I have seen in my travels even the Maccy D’s in Dubai could not top this one. It had the most amazing garden, mini water features inside the restaurant and there was table service!

The queue’s for the banks were a joke…they were so long. I found out that everyone in Antigua get paid by cheques as they don’t have a direct debit policy from work so every Fri the locals would queue up to deposit their cheques. We had learnt how to tell if a mayan girl was single or married by the type of skirt she was wearing…refer to pictures for this. The main area that the locals would hang out was ‘Parque Central’. A very cool square that was surrounded by cafes, restaurants, churches etc it reminded me of a mixture of Leicester square and Covent gardens. There was only 1 supermarket in Antigua but had many Tiendra (newsagents). We went to the local market, which was crazy it was what you would imagine a market to be like in Central America. Full of colour, a variety of everything ie chilly, pulses, fruits, smell of Bar-B-Q food, locals shouting out daily deals I also realised that the main craze at the moment here is the Smurfs.

During our stay in Antigua we visited Lago de Aititan a lake that is surrounded by remote vilages. We had to get to a place called Panajachel where we had to get a speed boat to the island. Our 1st stop was a place called San Marcos you could hear prayers through speakers throughout the village. It had a really nice relaxed feel to it a no wonder it is best known for its mediation retreats. An extremely small population, they basically had one store for all conveniences. We chilled here for an hour and moved on to San Juan. This for me was an artist hub the minute we walked towards the town we were bombarded with loads of very cool art stores that were selling local paintings. These painting were full of bright colours depicting the culture of everyday chores to dream-like imagery. We also came across very cool stores that looked like they came out from Lord of the Rings where the goblets lived in hahah. Next stop was San Pedro. This village was the biggest out of all of them and the cheapest. There was plenty of traditional dress and the daily agriculture of coffee to be seen. This was out last stop before we headed back to Antigua.

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 16:15 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

The amazing Semuc Champney....

sunny 34 °F

So the next morning I woke up had a shower in a crazy shower room! Imagine a box room which has half a wall without any windows...this was the shower room obviously overlooking at valleys of green, never-ending blue skies and the water was hot! I've seen and heard so much about this place called Semuc Champney and decided to head out there. So our mini bus came early and off we went. Our transport was a truck where we had to stand at the back holding on to a steel frame lol. We got to Semuc within the hour. Our guide Carlos (who later told me that he would like to make me his Mayan wife...ahhh bless) started out long day at the Caves but before this we were initiated by this orange paste that came from a local plant on our face to show that we are Maya's lol. Like all tours we expected to just walk and see the local beauty but we did not expect what we was planned ahead of us. The 1st task was to perch on this wooden swing, being pushed towards this wide awake lake and to jump in mid air....erm I thought hell no lol.

Here come the caves. We were told to leave all electronical devices at the office as they will get wet. I didn’t take much notice of this and thought water….how much is a lot? Before we entered the caves we were give candles to hold. My 1st step in to the water felt like stepping in to ice cold water…arrrgghh lol. Anyways as we entered the water inside the caves were quite a lot as in we had to swim from point to point but thank god I met Emma my lifeguard who had helped me when I needed that extra hand. The candles blew out a couple of times which was scary as it was pitch black! Before signing up for this tour we didn’t expect to be swimming in the caves more like walk inside the cave and walk around, see a lot but not to do anything physical. Boy was I in for a shock lol. Try to imagine that you’re swimming in ice cold water trying keeping alight your candle and taking in the gigantic caves around u? Well this was what I was faced with for an hour! It was more and less weaving in, out and through rocks with water sounds do-able right? Wrong! Lol. The 1st obstacle that I we were faced with was to basically climb up this ranging waterfall with the help of a knotted rope. One of the girls to go 1st basically got dragged through the waterfall and smashed her chest against the rocks grazed her elbows and her bikini top was turned inside out. I was next. The hardest thing was to close your eyes and to pull yourself up. I tried but the force was too strong so the other way was to go through the waterfall and somehow grab the safety (lol) ladder. The next obstacle that we were faced with was to go through a waterfall slide without knowing where we were going to end up obviously the candles were not blown out. Carlos had told us the drop was 100meters and the slide looked very narrow. Close your eyes hold your breath and go was our instructions –Nicola was not having it but there was no turning back. Once she got through the other end all I could was hear was laughter I was relieved as the drop was more like a few meters. The next obstacle was not compulsory…thank god. We had a chance to jump off a rock within the cave in to the water with the lack of light. Coming out of the caves in to the warmth I was pumped and ready for some more. We went towards this bridge that overlooked the river that we 1st came across at the beginning. Not sure why but found out that we could actually jump off this bridge. The guys were excited the girls well they were like hell no lol. As I saw Jerome, Nicolas and Pierre jump off with Carlos doing the back flip I went to Emma and asked her whether she will do the jump with me and she’d agreed. I was stoked. Standing at the edge of this 10 metre bridge and looking down towards the strong currents I starting to think ermmm I don’t think I can do it but something inside of me was like ‘Do it, Do it’. I held on to Emma’s hand and after 3 min and the count down ready steady go I jumped. I actually jumped off in mid air. The feeling was crazy…a sense of being free, time felt like it was on hold, like a floating feeling. But the free fall went within seconds next minute I knew I was in the water. I was so glad to see Emma on the side. Throughout the day I was still in shock at the fact I done this lol. We passed coffee, cocoa and cardamom trees as we headed up through very steep slippery man made steps that were surrounded by terracotta soil, sweet smells of lavender and pine wood. It took us roughly half an hour to reach to our next destination. Needless to say my view was out of this world! From a very great height I was faced with masses of green trees that were hugging the most amazing series of aqua green pools with a power-full waterfall behind. I could see the odd limestone’s appearing through the waters. Eager to get there I hurried down those steep stairs…I did slip up a few times hahaha but I got to the pools! I was welcomed by a free fish pedicure, warm waters that were so clear it was crazy. Carlos was my swimming buddy he had taken me underneath more caves that were really cool but I felt claustrophobic but glad I went along. He took me to the mouth of the waterfall – so powerful that I can not even compare it to anything that I have seen. The waters became warmer you could even see the very faint rainbow passing through. It was like a fairly tale. Looking back at my pictures I feel that the pictures do not do any justice to this place also there were time where I could not even take my camera so I am glad I have a mental picture…truly an exquisite place!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 14:22 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Flores to Lanquin...

Are we there yet?!?!?

sunny 34 °F

27.09.2011 – Flores
We only stopped over in Flores as it was the closest town near the Belize border. Everyone was surprised that we did not go to Tikal, which is also renowned for its ruins. The reason why I decided to allow this as that we had already seen Mayan ruins in Mexico and to be honest you see one you have pretty much have seen them all – and the bottom line is it is a touristy money trap – which I can live without. When arriving in Flores the weather was scorching hot with a mixture of warm rain….nice.

Had a great sleep and we were up and ready for our 8hour journey in a 11 seater van to Lanquin at 9am in 34 degree heat....nice! Our bags were tied to the roof rack and we were welcomed by 10 new faces. The van journey was well different. The driver had lost his nuts, very aggressive at times, drove like a looney, played Lionel Richie over and over again didn't even change the music we even asked him to just switch it off...nothing and it was a very bumpy ride! The driver who had wanted to stop for a toilet break, so he parked the van on a busy stretch, food stalls on both side, very busy and he went to an open area to go for a slash in the open no privacy whatsoever. Jerome, one of the travellers had wanted to use the toilets and the driver just told him to piss in the open lol what a joker. Jerome found the toilets! The crazy-ness didn't stop here he quickly got in the van whilst the side door was open with all our belongings were there and he drove off towards some barge (which was to take us over to the other-side of the river - something like Greenwich but at a very small scale). We stood there all confused, ran after the van, we had to jump to get on the platform as this was being raised and he did not apologise nor did he think anything was wrong. Don't worry we all had words with him and finally apologised but then drove frantically this time to Bryan Adams 'Everything I do'. We were craving for a lunch time stop but this was ignored until we all demanded one - got to a petrol station. Nothing decent to eat apart from crisps, chocolate basically crap. Next to the petrol station was a gun shop and a police officer who was guarding the area with his hefty gun tried to take a picture but he just had to look at me once for me to realize that I shouldn't even try to lol. Half an hour later the driver decided he wanted to stop so he did. He had left the van without saying anything, after 5mins we got out and there he was munching on some decent hot food - piss taker. Anyway enough about him the scenery to Lanquin was green, green, green! We did eventually arrive at our destination...well we wanted to go to El Rietro hostel but coz all the travellers were going to the same hostel we decided to join them as we got to know one another pretty well - we stayed at Zephyr Lodge. On arrival this hostel was amazing in the middle of a valley where all you can see was green trees, green valleys, green grass, blue skies, you could hear waterfalls in the distant, the lodge itself was built with thick wood it had that cosy feel to. The main common area was half covered by a thatched roof and wooden walls the other half was open to the most amazing view and hammocks to chill in. As this was a very remote area ATM were non existent but there was a very small high street as in 3 shops at the bottom of our drive (which was a 15min walk). The 1st night was pretty much taking all this beauty in - at one point I was sitting on a wooden chair just starring at the night stars it was a moment of pure relaxation. Our rooms were like wooden cabins like the one you would expect to see when you go to a Ski resort very nice!

Posted by jasdeep_virdee 09:43 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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