A Travellerspoint blog

Guatemala

Río Dulce & Livingston

A lot of water, a lot of boats

sunny 30 °C
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Once again it was an early morning last Tuesday, when I had to get up at 5.30 to get the bus to Río Dulce. We were 4 people from the hostel on the bus, the only tourists on it, and when we arrived in Río Dulce we all got a boat to the same hostel together. The hostel was located on the side of the river, with nice views of the water and the surrounding forest. After settling in, we decided to all go visit the hot waterfalls together. We had to take a boat back into town from where we caught a bus. When we arrived at the entrance to the falls we were told that the water had gotten too high and we could not go swimming, what a disappointment. The place was still very nice though, very quietly situated in the jungle. There were only 4 other people and a girl was selling tasty banana bread.
Hot waterfalls

Hot waterfalls

We had a good dinner and a nice quiet night at the hostel afterwards. The next morning, I enjoyed the quietness at and the views from the hostel a bit more and then got the afternoon boat to Livingston.

Just before the boat arrived, it started raining. The boat was full, everything and everybody had to be covered with canvas sheets - it was not very comfortable. Luckily, about half way to our destination, the rain stopped and the ride became much more enjoyable. By that time my backpack was very wet though...

In Livingston I went to stay at a hostel outside of town. I realised straight away that it truly was a party hostel like I had heard, and that night this was definitely comfirmed. Apparently we had to celebrate the leap year and so we had a pretty crazy party where many funny things happened. I can understand that some people fled to bed ;-). The hostel staff and owner were the ones partying the hardest...
Party at the hostel in Livingston

Party at the hostel in Livingston

Still tired the next morning, I got on a tour to some waterfalls (called 7 Altares) and a beach. It was just what I needed, a nice quiet day. It was only 2 of us on the tour, me and a Swiss guy, and at the waterfalls we were all alone. Well, I say waterfalls, but unfortunately because of the recent lack of rain, there was not much water falling. It was basically just the waterfalls' pools we were looking at. However, it was still very nice there.
7 Altares

7 Altares

On the way to the beach, we were really lucky and saw some dolphins. We stopped to watch them and take photos for a while. There were a lot of them and even some little ones. It was amazing!
Dolphins between Livingston and Playa Blanca

Dolphins between Livingston and Playa Blanca

The beach was great too. It had white sand and loads of palm trees and was very quiet. Since you can only get to the beach by boat and there were only 3 boats, there were only about 10 people on the whole beach. It was a great place to just lie in the sun and think of nothing (and get a bit sunburnt if you all asleep like I did...).
Playa Blanca

Playa Blanca

Back from the tour, I finally went to see the town. It is very small and there is not really anything to see, but it is an interesting place because of its mix of different cultures.
Boat with birds in Livingston

Boat with birds in Livingston

It was much more quiet at the hostel that night and I managed to have an early night, getting some sleep before getting up early again to get on yet another boat.

Posted by sarahm_lux 09:53 Archived in Guatemala Tagged livingston rio_dulce siete_altares Comments (0)

Flores

A nice boat trip and the last ruins of my trip

semi-overcast 30 °C
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The journey from San Ignacio to Flores went well and quickly, so that we got there early in the afternoon. Enough time to relax a bit and then have a look around town. We met quite a few people at the hostel that either of us knew, so it was of course party time again that night. The hostel had a nice bar where we stayed for a while. Then we went to a bar down the road, but this was very quiet, so that some of us decided to go looking for another place. We found an interesting bar full with locals, but almost only men... We had a few drinks here until they closed at 1am, just like everything else. So we had no choice but to go back to the hostel bar, where the party continued for another hour or so.

The next day, I spent a long time in a restaurant eating breakfast and chatting to some people. We then decided to get a boat together and go to a viewpoint across the lake and a zoo. We recruited more people at the hostel and ended up being 7 people going. The boat driver showed us the way to the viewpoint and gave us a bit of a tour. We saw some howler monkeys on the way back and then drank and ate some coconuts before getting back on the boat. The next stop, the zoo, was really nice too. We saw tucans, crocodiles, monkeys, jaguars, pumas and many more exciting animals.
Boats on Lake Petén Itzá

Boats on Lake Petén Itzá


View of Flores from the mirador

View of Flores from the mirador


Jaguar in the zoo

Jaguar in the zoo

When we got back we were all really happy with how we spent the afternoon. We then got some tasty street food and went to see the sunset at a pier to finish it off.
Street food in Flores

Street food in Flores


Sunset in Flores

Sunset in Flores

That night, we only had a few drinks at the hostel bar because some us us had to get up at 4 in the morning to go to Tikal.

The American guy I had come to Flores with and I had booked the tour to Tikal with a guide while the others went exploring the site on their own. Our guide did have some good information, but what he said was often incoherent and he made too many comparisons with other cultures and even current events. So unfortunately we both did not really like him. The site was really interesting though. It is very different to the other Maya sites because it is in the middle of the jungle. There are trees everywhere and only the tops of other buildings can be seen if you stand on one. This made it all a bit more mysterious, especially early in the morning when it was still very foggy.
Tikal

Tikal


Tikal

Tikal


Tikal

Tikal

Back in Flores, I went for a shop around for a hammock. I really wanted to take one of these home with me. I eventually found a really nice and big hammock which would make my backpack very heavy for the next week...

At night, I went to get dinner with some guys from the hostel and then we all had a good night at the hostel bar again. We were all in a good mood and a bit silly, so it was loads of fun.

Posted by sarahm_lux 19:26 Archived in Guatemala Tagged flores tikal Comments (0)

Quetzaltenango

more commonly called Xela...

sunny 25 °C
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Quetzaltenango, which Guatemalans usually call Xela, is a really interesting city. It has a lot of nice buildings, churches and markets to see and you can spend a lot of time just walking around, which I did. The street food is good and cheap too. I liked it a lot there.
Teatro Minicipal de Quetzaltenango

Teatro Minicipal de Quetzaltenango


Church in Xela

Church in Xela


Xela from above

Xela from above

I took a tour from Xela to visit the indigenous villages and some colonial churches in the area too. First, we went to a village called Almolonga where they have a huge fruit and vegetable market on Wednesdays. Most of the market is wholesale. The crops from this town are being exported to all of Latin America and even to the US. There are also local people buying the goods in the wholesale part of the market and then selling them in their retail stalls on the other side. The market is huge and the size of some of the vegetables was incredible. I had never seen such big carrots!
Fruit and vegetable market in Almolonga

Fruit and vegetable market in Almolonga


Fruit and vegetable market in Almolonga

Fruit and vegetable market in Almolonga


Fruit and vegetable market in Almolonga

Fruit and vegetable market in Almolonga

We then went to Zunil. Here, we visited the house where San Simón, or Maximón, is worshipped. It is a Mayan tradition, even though they call him 'San'. They have a figure of the 'saint' in the house, which was pretty much just a plastic mannequin. He gets dressed up in different ways and changes clothes regularly. On this day, he was wearing a suit, a hat, a scarf, sunglasses, and in his mouth he had a cigar. It looked really weird as you can imagine. In the next room, Mayan priests performed ceremonies for people who came and asked for one. These were performed around small fires, into which different things were thrown, mostly candles. The priest also used eggs and limes for the ceremonies, which he passed around the people's bodies and then threw into the fire. This way, the bad inside the people are supposed to be transferred into the eggs and then burnt in the fire.

After this, we went to the hot springs Fuentes Georginas to relax in the hot water for a while.

In the afternoon, we visited San Andrés Xecul, with a bright yellow church. There is also a smaller yellow church, next to which the indigenous people do Mayan rituals to pray for different things, all next to a catholic church and in front of a cross...
Yellow church in San Andrés Xecul

Yellow church in San Andrés Xecul

The next stop was San Cristóbal Totonicapán, a town with a huge church and a nice convent attached, and a big and colourful cemetery.

After this, we visited Salcajá and the oldest church in Central America. On top of it being really interesting, the church looked very nice too. We also went to a place where the fabrics for the local dresses are being sold. They have such nice patterns and colours and we got some explanations of the meaning and use of these. Then, we went to try a local alcoholic drink, the Caldo de Frutas. It is made with whatever fruits are in season and is really tasty. We also got to eat the fruits that were used to make it, which are obviously soaked in alcohol. Very good, but very strong...
La Ermita Concepción la Conquistadora

La Ermita Concepción la Conquistadora


La Ermita Concepción la Conquistadora

La Ermita Concepción la Conquistadora


Caldo de frutas and the alcohol-soaked fruits

Caldo de frutas and the alcohol-soaked fruits

All in all, it was a good and long day tour, and I was pretty exhausted at the end of the day.

At night, I went to a dinner at a Spanish school with some of my hostel friends. They were going to start classes there, but I felt a bit out of place and guilty about eating the free food without studying there. It was a really nice event with great food though, so I still enjoyed it. And then we went with some of the other Spanish students to a salsa club where free classes were given. But then it was time to go home because everybody had an early start the next day.

Posted by sarahm_lux 14:10 Archived in Guatemala Tagged xela quetzaltenango Comments (0)

Lake Atitlán

Blog Entry No. 100!

sunny 25 °C
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I've had a busy year it seems. I've written 100 blog entries in the last 378 days. It was hard work, but I have managed to keep up with it somehow. And I'll try to keep going this way until the end of my trip.

So, about Lake Atitlán:

After stopping over in Antigua for another night on the way down from Cobán, I travelled on to Lake Atitlán. I stayed in Panajachel, the easiest to reach town on the lake. It is a small and very touristy town, with a lot of nice and relatively cheap restaurants and bars and great views of the lake!
Panajachel

Panajachel


Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán

On Sunday, I went to Chichicastenango. The town is just over an hour from Pana and is famous for its Thursday and Sunday market. The market was really busy and really colourful! I enjoyed walking (or squeezing) through the aisles and looking at the goods sold. But what I enjoyed even more was watching the indigenous people in their traditional Maya dresses. They are beautiful! I spent some time sitting in a cafe with a good view over part of the market just watching people.
Chicken for sale on the Chichicastenango Sunday market

Chicken for sale on the Chichicastenango Sunday market


Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango


Chichicastenango

Chichicastenango


Chichicastenango Sunday market

Chichicastenango Sunday market

The next day, I wanted to see more of the lake and the surrounding villages. I took a boat in the morning to Santiago Atitlán. There are a lot of shops selling similar handicrafts to those in Chichi and there were very different Mayan clothes to admire.
Santiago Atitlán

Santiago Atitlán


Santiago Atitlán

Santiago Atitlán


Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán


Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán


Lake Atitlán

Lake Atitlán

I then went on to San Pedro La Laguna. I had heard a lot about this place because it is very popular with backpackers. And you can see this straight away. It is full with foreign-owned bars and restaurants. But they are really nice and if you make your way up to the centre of town, there are no tourists near.
San Pedro La Laguna

San Pedro La Laguna

Back in Pana, I thought it was time to try some more Guatemalan food. I went out and ate Pollo en Pepián, a chicken stew, served with rice, guacamole, nachos and tortillas. It was really good, nicely spiced and served with a great guacamole.
Pollo en Pepián

Pollo en Pepián

Posted by sarahm_lux 18:41 Archived in Guatemala Tagged panajachel santiago_atitlan san_pedro_la_laguna chichicastenango lake_atitlan Comments (0)

Cobán and around

An orchid garden, Semuc Champey & the Lanquín caves

semi-overcast 25 °C
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In Cobán itself there is not much to see or do, so on Wednesday I just walked around town a bit and then went to the orchid garden, Vivero Verapaz. It is not very well maintained and not too many orchids were in bloom, but there were some very nice ones to see.
Vivero Verapaz

Vivero Verapaz


Vivero Verapaz

Vivero Verapaz


Vivero Verapaz

Vivero Verapaz

The next day, I went on a last adventure with my travelling partner of the last 5 weeks. We went to visit the highlights of the region, Semuc Champey and the Lanquín caves. Semuc Champey is a natural limestone bridge under which a river flows which creates pools in the bridge. After a 2-hour minibus ride and then 35 uncomfortable and bumpy minutes on the back of a pick-up truck, we finally got there.
First, we walked up a very slippery path to a viewpoint from where we could see the whole bridge and all its pools. It was beautiful, so worth the effort!
Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey


When we got back down (without any major slips and falls) we went to see where the river flows underneath the bridge. The current was so strong, it was pretty impressive!
Semuc Champey

Semuc Champey


We then went for a swim in the pools. You get into one pool and then jump, slide or walk from one pool into the next, and at the end the same thing back up until you reach the first pool again. Although a bit scary in some parts, this was good fun.

When we were done in Semuc Champey, we went to the caves. They are really big, have a lot of interesting rock formations inside and many stalactites and stalagmites. You can also find quartz in the caves, a lot of bats live here and there is a Mayan sacrifice altar. It was very slippery again, so very tiring at the end of this long day, but the caves looked really great!
Lanquín caves

Lanquín caves


Lanquín caves

Lanquín caves

When we were finally back in Cobán, we celebrated our last night together with a mulled wine/hot chocolate with rum and then smoked our second cigar, while wearing our New Year's Eve devil's horns ;-) We thought about all the things we had done together in the last 5 weeks and were very sad to split up. From now on I'll be travelling on my own again :-(
Cigar and devil's horns - what more do you need on a Thursday night?

Cigar and devil's horns - what more do you need on a Thursday night?

Guatemala's national flower: the monja blanca

Guatemala's national flower: the monja blanca

Posted by sarahm_lux 11:39 Archived in Guatemala Tagged coban semuc_champey cuevas_de_lanquín Comments (0)

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