Monday, April 12, 2010

Tikal Trip, Day 1

This weekend I went on a fantastic tour that culminated in a visit to Tikal, one of the largest Mayan cities in the world. But before we got there, we did a lot of other sight-seeing around Guatemala!

On Friday, I was waiting outside my Guate-house at 3:35 am. It was dark, and a little scary. Then a big stray dog stopped and stared me down for three minutes. Then he barked at me. Then he walked away. Then I peed my pants :) The bus showed up at 3:50. We picked up two other people (both from the Netherlands), Cindy and Jasper (pronounced "Yasper"). Then we were on our way!

I was really counting on finishing up on sleep in the bus. However, this was not like the Korean buses I am so used to sleeping on. This was the bumpiest road trip I've ever taken. Remember my comment about the tuc-tucs in Antigua? Imagine that, but for at least 4 hours at a time. Ouch.

However, Guatemala is an extremely beautiful country... this is a view from the highway (when we were essentially stopped because of a terrible accident... one of at least 5 terrible accidents we saw on the road):

We stopped at Quiriguá, which is a smaller group of Mayan ruins. The really special thing about this place (besides the beautiful jungle setting) is that it's home to the tallest stone monuments the Mayans ever created! From what I read on the stones, most of these were constructed around 750 A.D.

It was also home to one of the tallest trees I've ever seen in my life:

There was also a great plaza area:

Cindy taught me how to spy birds in the trees... And I saw my first real hummingbird! He buzzed around our heads, and the noise was amazing. His movements were like a cartoon... it was fantastic!

I also liked this lizard:

It was super hot in Quirigua, so I was kind of glad that we just had an hour there. Our next stop was a coastal town called Puerto Barrios, where we had to wait a while for our boat to leave. Apparently, rather than have a fixed schedule, the boat leaves when there are 20 people on it :)

That's our boat, front left:

Then we cruised on the Caribbean Sea (ok, a bay on the Caribbean) to a little town called Livingston. Imagine Jamaica, but in Spanish. Our hotel was right on the water:

We had a great fishy lunch at Happy Fish... I'm sure glad I got used to shrimp with heads (camarones con cabezas?) in Korea:

We then took a look at the beach:

Then... we were bored. There wasn't much to Livingston. So we sat on the pier and read/studied Spanish/worked on a crossword. Then later we decided to go back into town (read: the one street with restaurants and shops) for dinner. We found a quaint little hostel with a restaurant.... and the menu was THE EXACT SAME as Happy Fish!! It was hilarious - they even had the "Happy Fish Plate Special." It was explained to us that this is related to Guatemala's tourism policies, and is a way of keeping competition to a minimum so everyone can benefit from visitors.

The one thing this place had that Happy Fish didn't was this guy:

He seemed to be the owner. And was hilarious. And told us lots of silly jokes. And made my gin-tonics strong. And when a scary homeless man kept wanting to fist-bump us, he sat down and pretended to be my boyfriend. And then gave me a free gin-tonic. We all loved him. He was the highlight of Livingston for us.

After dinner, we all went to bed. And slept quite well, after waking up so ridiculously early :)

More on Day 2 tomorrow - But First! A bonus picture!

Jasper is quite tall. But this picture of him attempting to sleep in the bus makes him look like a GIANT (notice the space between head and knee). So I love it:

What do the Dutch feed their children?!?!

Love you all!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Losing a Bet, Winning an Afternoon...

So Pablo and I had a very intense bet about the movie Saw V. We bet a piece of pie about the distance the man and woman had to cut their arms in the saw-box. He won. So yesterday we went to Antigua for pie, travel booking, and more convent ruins.

First, we went to Cafe Condesa, which had excellent desserts and coffee. Here's Pablo with his giant tea and lemon pie:

And I had my first brownie a la mode in almost 2 years... Yum!

ps - the actual name of this in the menu was "La Revancha de Mayordomo" or "The Butler's Revenge." Ha!

This is the fountain in Cafe Condesa, similar to the one in El Parque Central:

Next we went to the travel agency so I could book a weekend trip to visit some Mayan ruins, cruise on the Rio Dulce and the Caribbean Bay, and sleep in the jungle :) Expect photos!
My itinerary:

Afterwards, we went to another old convent... Las Capuchinas, I believe. This was even more beautiful than the last one. And we took lots of silly pictures:

The garden was beautiful:

Apparently this building was (depending on who you ask) either the showers for the nuns or a form of punishment (think water torture) when they did something wrong:

I choose to believe it's a shower :)

Pablo, part monkey, shown here rocking the MegaDeth hand:

These were actually the tiny bedrooms:

They even had a couple of them done up so you could see what life was like for the nuns:

Pablo and I are very pious:

This is the fountain in the center of the main building:

This is a fountain that made me laugh:

I believe this is where they used to hold services... According to Pablo, they now hold fashion shows here:

All in all, it was a fantastic afternoon. Even though I lost the bet, I was happy to finally have some company to explore the city.

Love you all!

Friday, April 2, 2010

El Volcan Pacaya!

I just got back from my night on the volcano... It was amazing! I went with another student in my school - an Dutch man named Peet (I call him SoloPeet because every time he introduces himself in Spanish, he emphasizes that his name is just Peet.)

Here's SoloPeet and I ready to tackle the trail:

The hike was a bit tough with a huge, overstuffed backpack, but I made it without taking advantage of the dozens of "Horse Taxis" available up the trail :)

When we reached the top the view was fantastic. Here's the peak of the volcano - it looks farther away than it actually is:

Can you see the old lava directly in front? That's from a 2004 eruption!

We could also see el Volcan Agua (the one I can see from Antigua) from there:

We set up camp with the rented tents. I had to help SoloPeet because apparently he's not too experienced with tent-building. When I got around to mine, I learned that one of my tent poles didn't have the elastic string in the middle... so it was basically 10 pieces of tent pole... anyways, it made it MUCH more difficult to pitch my tent, but I rocked it! I was really proud :)

Then our guide, Leonel, set about starting a fire. It took a little time, my packing list, and SoloPeet's copy of his passport, but he got it going strong!

We stood around the fire for a while, eating sandwiches, having a beer, and waiting for all the other groups to leave the volcano so we could walk over and see some lava! The whole time we were there, we could hear the "boom boom" from the volcano, about every 20 minutes or so... When it got dark, we could see the fire at the top (sorry, terrible quality):

Finally, we walked over to see the big lava rivers flowing down the side of the volcano. It was like nothing I've ever seen before.

The sound was wild, too - it had this almost watery, but thicker sort of noise... just amazing.

Afterwards, we all went to bed. It got extremely cold, windy, and wet during the night, and I kept hearing things scampering around my tent. So I maybe got an hour or two of sleep :)

The next morning, Pacaya was still gorgeous:

After breaking camp, we were all set to hike up right next to the lava flow... unfortunately, I was in bad shape - Terrible cough, upset stomach, etc. - so I couldn't make it up the trail :( However, SoloPeet took my camera and got the pictures I couldn't!

Here I am watching them hike up:

SoloPeet did great capturing the lava!

I was sad to have missed being that close, but I still had one of the most incredible experiences of my life :)

The view of Volcan Agua on the way down was amazing, too:

By the time we finally got back to Antigua, we were POOPED! Then, because of the Holy Week Processions today, our bus had to drop us off on the outskirts of the city. I then had to walk clear to the other side in order to catch a tuc-tuc back to Jocotenango.

My view in the tuc-tuc:

Tired and filthy Emily ready for sleep and shower!

I hope you enjoyed reading about this as much as I enjoyed doing it! Love you all!