Hi all! We are really spoiling you lately, right?
After the spectacular Belize blog posted recently we are already informing you about our stay in Guatemala! We hope we'll not say this with each country we visit, but Guatemala was really really nice and without a doubt a place we would like to visit again in more detail. There is so much to be seen and experienced here and the people are very nice. In general we saw that they were people who were happy with the simple things in life and who enjoyed a nice conversation.
So after a pretty annoying boarder crossing (we met a Czech couple travelling from North to South as well and they spend an hour to clear their car as the computer did not recognize the Czech Republic as a country) we were in Guatemala! We decided to travel together with Marek and Zuzana through some parts of Guatemala. Our first stop was Tikal, another Maya ruin (after this there is one more for us to visit and then we have visited enough ruins). The site was enormous and super impressive, pyramids were large and steep and again located in the jungle. We could camp near the site and were surrounded by so many animals in the morning. Going south we pass the famous island of Flores, located in a lake which was significantly higher than normal, flooding a large part of it. Heading further down we reach Coban via some rougher roads, here we spend Christmas eve together with the Czechs.
From Coban we go into the direction of Nebaj, where we did a small hike to a waterfall. From this point, the Czechs went direction Atitlan and we headed direction Quetzaltenango, a nice small colonial town which is a starting point for many volcano hikes. After finding a safe spot to leave the car we made reservations to tackle the highest point in Central America, the volcano of Tajumulco at 4.200 meters. Our guide is Marvin, a super educated guide with lots of experience. To start our hike we first need to take a famous chicken bus, an experience we will not forget soon as we felt we would die any time due to the aggressive driving by the driver. Anyhow, we were a bit surprised when starting our hike. Normally you are rather alone on a mountain, but not here. We were surrounded by thousands of locals, which come here at the end of the year as Mayas consider the highest points to be closer to the gods. They didn't stop making noise all night long! Still the experience was very nice with amazing views of the surroundings. We spend the night there and enjoy a very nice sunset and sunrise.
After our surprisingly tiring hike we camp a night at the Fuentes Georgina, a set of natural therms where we can relax from the physical activity. The therms range from nice and warm to ridiculously hot, which we had to skip as we are not comfortable with being boiled. After being completely relaxed we went to the famous lake of Atitlán, for some, considered to be one of the nicest lakes in the world. The lake is rather big and has several villages around them which can be reached via quite steep roads. Our Tajumulco guide Marvin give us a great advise on a camping spot, as we had our backpacks left packed we were good to go for another camp. A local guide brought us to a small hill overlooking the whole lake with the volcanoes around where we were completely alone. We pitch our tent, make a fire and look the sunset. As dinner we have some pasta made previously and a rotten pineapple which we took :(. The place was quite idyllic all night long, till we got woken up by all the other tourists coming up in the morning to see the sunrise. Those last days we woke up too many times to see a sunrise, we got our dose of waking up early!
Enjoying the beautiful vistas here for a while we crawled back up to hills to go towards Antigua, a former capital of Guatemala but due to several natural disasters in the area it got moved to the current capital. Here we could camp on a free campsite secured by the tourist police of the city together with several other overlanders, some which we had met previously but there were also some new faces. Here we spent new years eve together with Erika and Michele, John and Betty, which turned out to be a fun night. From the campsite we could enjoy the fireworks (Guatemalans are crazy about fireworks, we couldn't sleep at Tajumulco due to the continuous fireworks banging around). The remaining days in Antigua we enjoyed to stroll around the charming city and enjoy the views from the city with the background volcanoes. One day we did do a one night trip from Antigua towards Guatemala city, skipped by mos people as there is not much to see and there is quite some crime. Although we can only agree with this, we were happy to have done our quick visit to see the different facets of the country. After returning to Antigua and relaxing a day we continued towards Honduras, stopping nearby the boarder in a government holiday resort where we got sleep and use all facilities for the night! From there we proceed to Honduras, a country about which we are a bit curious as most travelers we meet try to avoid Honduras due to recent crime stories.
But don't get worried about this, more to follow in due time! Till now we can only recommend Guatemala to everyone interested in a nice cultural and natural experience!
Mire and Alex
|Here is where we left you the last time: Tikal. The place is very impressive and is absolutely enormous!|
|Reconstructed temples are very large and steep. Guatemala is actually home to the largest Maya temples - which we did not visit as they are a 5 day hike away in the jungle|
|Beautiful views on top from the jungle canvas|
|Caution is required to safe the wildlife|
|Our campsite was packed with wildlife including this bird making publicity for Belgium|
|It has been raining a lot lately, which can clearly be seen on Flores where a large part of the islands exterior roads are flooded. Still, observing the people, they were not to worried.|
|The many piers on the island were all flooded as well|
|Oeps, no more road. We got to take a ferry powered by two tiny engines.|
|It must be clear that driving is part of the adventures and often provided for the highlights of a day|
|We meet the first other Land cruiser like we have (HZJ75)! Very exiting to see how they were absolutely in love with their vehicle as well!|
|The village of Nebaj and its surroundings are excellent for hiking and in general its an interesting place to see how Guatemalans are living. There is little tourism here and you can openly walk around town looking into peoples houses and gardens|
|Here we went for a short walk towards....a waterfall|
|Don't get me wrong, we love our car and wouldn't change it. We are very happy to have a solid 4x4 with lots of ground clearance, but often we have doubted if you really need it...|
|It seems like you pass by the office of the United Nations but in reality it are just the flags of FCB, Real and the USA|
|From Quetzaltenango we arrange our hike to the volcano of Tajumulco, for which we had to wake up eeearly|
|On the left you can see the volcano, which it the highest point in Central America at 4200 meters.|
|The hike was much harder than expected - we only started at 3200 meters but the large backpacks made it hard. So, as always, there were happy faces when we reached our base camp|
|Normally we do not like clouds - there are plenty of those in Belgium - but here we didn't mind to be fully surrounded by them, it is truly spectacular to be above them and having the sun on your face!|
|Obviously, the sunset was gorgeous|
|So was the sunrise - although we had to wake up super early again!|
|This called for a small celebrating jump together with our excellent guide Marvin - apologies again Marvin for jumping on your head with my butt!|
|After that we could go relax a bit in the Fuentes Georginas, a collection of therms|
|In this area we pass by some beautiful landscapes|
|We proceed to Lake Atitlan, a very popular destination. We were very lucky to have gotten some top advise from our guide Marvin: We could pitch our tent on top of hill, with no body else around us.|
|You can see it was quite worth to go there|
|Although it required us to wake up early again to see the sunrise|
|Some boys chilling near the lake|
|We have seen some traditional clothing in Mexico, but none of this could match the outfits from here|
|The largest fountain - although not working - in Guatemala|
|Camping in the city of Antigua we shared the site we several other overlanders - some which we had met before.|
|The city of Antigua with some volcanoes on the background|
|Everybody deserves a break - these guys were very inventive to find a comfortable position|
|Taking a chocolate class together with Zuzana - with whom we traveled together in the north of Guatemala|
|Obviously team VanBaelenGuillot won the competition and as a reward we got some chocolate!|
|Basic shot of the city of Guatemala, skipped by almost all travelers, but still worth to see in order to get a complete picture of the country|
|The national bank was pretty interesting|