Lava In Guatemala

On arriving in Antigua, we finally found rooms with HOT WATER! It had been awhile, and I had forgotten how nice it felt. Of course, it was a tad chilly in Antigua so that explains why. And my bathroom wasnt exactly what youd expect. In fact, it was the smallest bathroom – and the smallest bathroom door – I had ever seen.

Narrowest bathroom door ever!

We found an enormous market in Antigua. All covered. The building just seemed to go on forever, everything imaginable was for sale there. We even found some Cherimoyas for the first and only time on the trip, and they were SO delicious. They look kinda like an armadillo but taste rather like a tangy custard pie. They dont ship well so you never see them in the USA. Bought Crystal a shirt since it was a bit cold and I bought a sweater. We figured we were getting close enough to home that we could haul a LITTLE bit more stuff along. Up until now all of our belongings and clothes fit in one typical school backpack each. And we brought more stuff than we needed! Other travelers were constantly drooling over our packs, saying Dude, how do you DO that! and we stared at their 3-foot-tall, 2-foot-wide packs saying Dude, how do you DO that! with equal fervor. Going light is the only way to travel. My pack weighed around 15 pounds, give or take 5 pounds for food. Crystals was usually a bit lighter. After all, she was only a girl.

The place we decided to eat dinner had a power outage, so we ate by candlelight. We thought they were closed at first, but the food was good. Liver in tomato sauce! Yum!

Next day we took a tour to Volcan Pacaya. This is one of the most active volcanoes in Guatemala and one of the only places where you are practically guaranteed to see lava. It only cost about 10$ each, including the hour and a half ride each way, which wasnt bad.

Hey, it was cold!

Hey, it was cold that morning! Then it was an hour and a half hike up the volcano, which was mostly a pretty drab hike after Chirripo in Costa Rica. Once we started getting above the trees though, it started being pretty cool. Lava dust and enormous rocks that only weighed a few pounds.

Volcanos Sucre, Fuego, and Agua - sugar, fire, and water

More Volcano Shots...

Lava fields, El Salvador in the distance

Then as we got closer we started feeling the temperature rising. And in one place we walked over a volcanically active spot with hot rocks, and one guy lingered too long and his shoes started melting! As we got closer to the top, the rocks got looser. Now I am quite sure on my feet and am very good at balance. But these other people were walking disaster areas. By myself, it was quite safe. With a bunch of 10-pound-camera-toting clumsy-boot-wearing-tourists walking above me tripping and dislodging rocks onto me it was rather like playing donkey kong. (Warning: 80s pop culture reference). And it was a long ways down.

After finally getting to the lava flow in one piece however, there was only a space for about 4 people at once, and that was a bit precarious. So when my turn came around, I got up there, and the lava was quite impressive, moving at about 40 feet per minute or so down the mountain. As you can see in this video, which was not as stable as I would have liked, but it wasnt all my fault

I had planned to juggle in front of it, but it wasnt to be. The volcano itself was starting to dislodge hot rocks to roll down the steep slope at is, so it was time to vacate the premises. Anyway, after everyone had seen enough we walked back down. Crystal scraped the back of her heel, gently, twice, against these rocks and it ripped the back of her socks to shreds. The rocks were really brutal. I of course, being me, walked the bulk of the way back down barefoot. But thats not the sort of thing I would recommend to others

Lava

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On the way back down the mountain, Crystals knee flared up again (the strain that it took on Chirripo and later Corcovado still bothers her every now and then, when she exerts it), so we caught a horse that was on the way up and paid him to carry her down. The owner, not the horse. That is, we paid the owner, but the horse carried her. Somehow, that seems more confusing than it needed to be anyway, you probably know what I mean.

So after descending and returning to Antigua to collect our stuff, we decided to skip Atitlan and go straight for Mexico. We were sorry to miss it, but it sounded pretty touristy and we were tired of bus trips and wanted to find a place to just chill for a week without having to move. At all. So we took the bus to Huehuetenango and spent the night there, had tamales with a spicy adobo-type sauce for dinner and a soup.

Next day caught a bus to the border. The road was rather curvy and downhill, and not too wide, and the bus driver must have been in a hurry because we arrived 15 minutes AHEAD of schedule (something that doesnt happen often in Latin America). But the guy threw out the rule book in driving – he went around EVERY corner on what felt like two wheels. Is there even a WORD for Traffic Violation in Spanish?

This trip made me wonder. It literally required your full attention just to keep from sliding out of your seat at every corner. Seriously – having your hands on each side of the seat wasnt enough. I had to cross my arms and hang on to the seat in front of me, with my hands fully tensed, for the whole ride, just to keep from crashing into the people across the aisle. But somehow we arrived intact and walked across the border, and caught a collectivo to Comitlan and from there took a shared taxi to San Cristobal. We shared it with an Italian who had moved to Mexico (we later learned that there were TONS of Italians in San Cristobal, although I never learned why). She directed us to a certain hotel when we got out of the taxi, so we thanked her and she left.

We tried to tell the next taxi driver where this hotel was (and she had even written down the street it was on) but he didnt know it. So I told him to take us to a cheap hotel. Usually, those instructions get us to some decent hotels. But this guy took us into the most seedy district in town and I went in to the hotel, they quoted me 3$ (wow!) for a room, and I went to inspect it and seriously, it was one of the worst rooms I had ever seen. It would have been like sleeping on a towel in an old bus station. Needless to say, we moved on and I instructed him to take me to a slightly more expensive hotel! (Never thought Id say that, eh?)

After dismissing the taxi driver in a hotelly district we finally settled on one in the middle of downtown, right off the main square, for 12$ p/p, and it was very nice. It even had hot water. In the SINK! I had to go get Crystal and show her that there was hot water even in the SINK (she didnt believe me!) And FREE shampoo! Wow! The rooms really were nice, up to USA standards even. Well, almost.

Anyway, we were to spend a week in San Cristobal, so you can read all about it in the next entry

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Posted on March 31st, 2009 by Natnee and filed under Guatemala, Mexico |

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