Guatemala – the country that took my breath away

When: 16th – 31st March
Where: Flores, Lanquin, Antigua, Lake Atitlan/San Pedro La Laguna
People I met: Nineka, Katy, Jerin, Guya, Cody & Cori, Mas, Hayley, Teamo

When I was looking into central america I never really considered Guatemala, I thought I might stop there for a few days on my way to Utila but wasn’t even sure I would do that. I ended up staying here for almost 3 weeks and could have spent so much longer. I cannot recommend Guatemala highly enough to everyone, it is a magical country with so much to offer!

9 people, 9 backpacks, 2 sedan taxis. That was an interesting fit! But we made it and had a smooth border crossing. After Linda haggled with a minivan driver we were on our way to Flores in air conditioning! Flores is a small island connected to the mainland by bridge, it was easy to find our new hostel ‘Los Amigos’ where we would do all of the drinking over the next few days. Linda, Jonas, Oliver, Dom and I scored the loft to sleep in while the others were scattered throughout the hostel. The hostel was amazing and had everything we needed; hammocks, 2 bars, tv room, hot showers, pool table, kitchen! That night we did our first ‘rum run’, this involved going to the shops buying a 2L bottle of rum, 3L of coke and drinking sneakily in the loft. 
The next day we woke u and wished to go canoeing, but weather conditions did not permit. So instead we embraced St Patricks Day and brought a number of 1L beers and began drinking! We ventured around Flores drinking beer and seeing all the small town had to offer. (We also ran into a very lost Katie and Alec who we met at Bellas!). After a few games of prudo  we did another rum run and didn’t it end well…we all awoke the next morning with little idea of what happened the night before. The one thing we did all remember was the game ‘chicken ready’ which then became our new wolfpack call. After a slow start to the morning we made our way down to the water and caught a longtail boat across to a rope swing where we swam and swung for hours.
On the last day we finally made it to TIKAL, our whole reason for stopping in Flores. Tikal is one of the largest archeological sites of Maya civilisation. We arrived there just after midday and were supposed to be on a tour, however, the tour guide was no good so a bunch of us just went off exploring the ruins on our own! The site was huge and we spent many hours running around the ruins and climbing up on top of them. Just before sunset we made our way to the largest temple which provided us a panoramic view of the forest and a beautiful view of the sunset. After sunset we headed back to the entrance, however, Katie, Alec and I ended up getting lost in the dark jungle with a bunch of other people…we made it out alive.  That evening was our last with the lovely Linda, so a rum run was in order! We drank till early hours of the morning playing giant jenga and flip cup with the bar staff.
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The morning after was not so fun…we all slept through our alarms so had to rush to get ready. I had to say goodbye to my lovely linda, who is most defiantly the coolest german girl I could ever have met! Katie and Alec had decided to come along with us while Jonas and Oliver wanted to hitchhike to the next location. We got onto a small minibus at 8am and because there were so many people going they blocked the aisle with two wooden seats which Katie and Steve had to sit on! The 8 hour bus ride was horrible to say the least, we were all hungover and the dirt/rock roads did not help! Luckily our destination was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. We arrived at Zephyr Lodge Hostel is in a valley which is surrounded by luscious green mountains and has a flowing river beneath it, the hostel is all wood cabins and had the most scenic shower view ever! The Danes also arrived later that night after a long day of hitch hiking. We all had a quiet one that night so we could be fresh for Semuc Champey the next day.
SEMUC CHAMPEY my oh my, I was immediately in love. We took the half hour drive from lanquin to semuc in true Guatemalan style, in the back of pickup trucks. Our first activity was caveing, we all got into our swimmers, were handed candles and set off into the dark caves. These caves were amazing lit by candle light! We began by walking through but at points we had to swim through pools (and try to avoid unseen rocks below), we even climbed up the face of a waterfall (no my candle did not stay lit). Once we reached the end a few of us brave souls climbed up some rocks and jumped into a dark pool below. Once out of the caves we went to a rope swing, a big one at that. The guide went first then asked for volunteers…no one spoke up so I did. I have to admit, I don’t think I could get more graceful if I tried! (I’ll try post the video one time, it should be on funniest home videos). Then we moved onto a 40ft bridge jump, again not many people wanted to go, so another Aussie girl and I gave it a shot! Then it was time for a street food lunch, the best kind! Then we headed into the national park, we had to hike about 30 minutes to the viewpoint, and after the last few weeks we were all very unfit and it was not easy! But the view was worth it. We went back down the otherside of the mountain and the guides took us through the pools, jumping/sliding/swimming, it was a lot of fun. This place is honestly one of the most beautiful places imaginable, it took my breath away.
That night we got drunk…shockingly.
Next morning was spent lazing around the hostel in a hammock. Met a canadian guy, Jerin, who came with Nate, Alec, Patrick, Katie and I to the bat caves that afternoon. These caves were super dark and muddy. So awesome inside though. Then just after sunset we got to watch the bats fly out of the cave! They were tiny. Nate, Jerin and I decided to walk back to the hostel but stopped in at a local guatemalan pub for a quick beer, Guatemalans are some of the nicest in the world! Back at the hostel big C, jerin, nate and I just spent the night star gazing.
Woke up most members of the wolfpack early the next morning so we could watch the sunrise. So so so beautiful. We then all got ready and headed back to Semuc Champey for the day, too beautiful to not go a second time! That night was Dom’s trial shift at Zephyr and our last night with him, so as a wolfpack we played prudo one last time and had some drinks!
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Said our goodbyes to Dom (staying at Zephyr), and Patrick&Steve (heading to Rio Dulce), the wolfpack was splitting 😦 The rest of us continued on to Antigua, this shuttle ride was much nicer than the last! We arrived in Antigua and found a cheap hostel called Onvisa, which also had a kitchen. We had spent a lot of money having to eat out all the time in lanquin so we were looking forward to cooking. We went to the markets and picked up some produce, got a little lost inside the massive maze of markets! Had a pretty chilled night, ate dinner, had drinks at a bar and in bed by 12. Next day was pretty chilled, I went out exploring the city with Big C and Nate. Antigua is just gorgeous, cobblestone streets, lots of old buildings and architecture, cute hidden markets and coffee stores and in the clear of the morning you can see the Pacaya Volcano! We all went to the markets in the afternoon and spent hours there! Markets have everything and all the clothing and accessories are so colourful. Went out that night and ended up at a Salsa bar which was a lot of fun. It is nice that all the bars in central america close so early! Next morning Nate and the Danes left for Lake Atitlan. Katie, Alec and I ventured around Antigua for a while then went and grabbed a very american dinner of Dominoes…Got a nice surprise later that night though when Patrick and Steve showed up! So got to have another little catchup with them before we were to head out the next morning.
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We were down to three…Katie, Alec and I set off to Lake Atitlan early in the morning. We arrived in Panajchela at about 10am after a long bus ride through the mountains. Immediately I could see two volcanoes across the lake, it was stunning. We caught a boat across to San Pedro La Laguna and made our way to a hostel. After settling in we walked around the town and bumped into Jonas and Nate…yay! We cooked dinner with the boys at their hostel that night and hung out there for a while drinking rum. We decided to check out the rave going on at Zoola…it was fun. San Pedro is defiantly a party town.
Next morning we slept in and then switched hostels to Yo Mummas Casa because it was a lot cheaper than Miguels, had a nicer kitchen and was more social. Had a nice nap then just hung out at the hostel all day with everyone there. Met Cody & Cori who were from Maryland and were awesome! They are siblings and amazing musicians. That night we went to Hotel Fe for their trivia evening. It was a lot of fun and people were buying bottles of tequila for the bar! We didn’t win and were devostated that Dom and patrick were no longer with us because half of the questions were related to England! Went back to the hostel quite drunk, but managed to buy rum on the way home. We still had to cook dinner and was that a sight to behold! Jonas and I (adorable buscuits) along with Katie managed to prepare the meal which we all ate. Then we moved into one of the rooms where everyone jammed out until early hours of the morning.
Said goodbye to Nate the next day 😦 Then just hung around the hostel jamming and chatting. At dusk the Danes, Katie, Alec and I went swimming in the lake, so gorgeous and the water was perfect! Later in the evening Cody built a bonfire which was nice considering it could get so chilly in the evenings. We tried to go to bed early because we were doing a sunrise hike the next day, but everyone was so loud that we had a broken sleep. None the less we woke up at 315 the next morning (people were still partying) and got ready for the hike. We hiked 45 minutes up hill in the dark, it was hard! The view at the top, as usual, was worth it. We could see the whole of Lake Atitlan from Indians Nose and it was surrounded by 5 volcanoes! We drank coffee and watch the sun come up over the lake. Going down the mountain was a lot easier than going up! Just floated around the hostel again that day, Hayley, a girl from So Cal arrived and was also an incredible singer so I just laid in a hammock listening to everyone jam all day. Said goodbye to the Danes! Now it really was just Katie, Alec and I! I was missing the beach and so us three had decided we would head to El Salvador. But first we had to catch an early morning bus to Antigua where we had to stay for one evening before going again. We stayed at the same hostel and got to see Big and Little C!
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