Flores, Ruins, Volcanos & Salsa

Trip Start Oct 04, 2008
1
7
31
Trip End Jun 30, 2009


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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Friday, February 13, 2009

We arrived at the border to Guatamala on market day, the whole of the street was tightly packed with stalls selling t-shirts to chicken heads, our mini van edged its way through slowly catching on plastic sheeting overhead while groups of local men pushed it higher with poles. Chaos was everywhere as we tried to drag our cases through the throng, if it wasn't for Samantha, our guide, we would have passed over the border without realising we needed to enter a small building behind the stalls and get our passports stamped and of course pay the entry fee.Young guys with wads of money offered unofficial currency exchange. Chucking our cases on top we all squidged into an even smaller van to get to Panajachel, the ride turned into an extreme sport as it was compulsory to overtake on double lines and blind bends at the highest speed possible, spent most of the time with my eyes closed and looking for a seatbelt!

Panajachel, a bustling resort beside the beautiful steep-sided crater lake Atitlan surrounded by several immense volcanoes. The main options were boat trip or a massive market, so as Colin has a shopping phobia and Kim has a totally full backpack we choose the boat. A group of 7 boarded a small private boat early the next morning, first stop we climbed 56 rocky steps to eat breakfast with an awesome lake view and a scorpian behind us which the waiter tried to descreetly remove. Second we wandered around a small village, full of  Hippies who came in the 70's and stayed, and watched the basic coffee plantations operate.The third stop we wound our way through the market to the main square and church, as it was Sunday the church was over flowing into the square, traditionally dressed women in bright sari like skirts and blouses and men in stripy shorts, embroidered with flowers and birds, shirts and straw stetsons were everywhere. We sat and took in the atmosphere.

Moving on the following day to Antigua, here while Colin got up at 6am to climb a live volcano Kim wandered the cobbaled streets to find ruins and churches every hundred yards. At the top of the volcano groups scrambled about in the ashes, walking sticks caught fire and boots melted.....what can I say! Awesome.Colin walked up part way and rode a horse for the rest, sad old git.

Took a Chicken bus to a macademia nut farm, the local buses are old school buses brightly painted with loud music......a truely cultural experience!

In the evening the whole group took Salsa and Meringe lessons.....we all had a few drinks first so we all thought we were great.....Colin still insists his hips do not move that way and said what do you mean I need to lead....exchanging partners was hilarious, check out the photos for the concentration on everyones face.

Our final destination was Flores a pretty town full of pastel-coloured buildings set on another lake, with beautiful sunsets. From here we visited Tikal where magnificent ruins tower above lush rainforest and was once a great Mayan metropolis.Around 370 sq kilometres the atmosphere was awesome, howler monkeys roar, toucans screech and hoards of paraceets squable overhead. We saw crocs in the lake, humming birds and a coatimundi digging. Climbing to the top of one of the pyramids gave us a view of the other pyramids peeking through the vast canopy. Great day, in our opinion the best of the Mayan sites, but not enough time to see everything.

Guatemala is a bit like being in bandit country, with risks around every corner either from your bus driver, road conditions or indeed bandits. Every Coca Cola delivery truck has an armed guard as do 7elevens, gas stations, hotels and of course banks all toting pump action shotguns. Always kept you on your toes......thats what travelling is all about we survived to move onto Belize.
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