Thursday, July 21, 2016

Guatever, Antigua. [CAT2016: Guatemala]

After our two days of frolicking around Lake Atitlán, we boarded a shuttle that took us to stop two-- Antigua, Guatemala. Where, I'll be honest, Sarah and I spent almost the entire time looking for Derick and Jill Dillard. We were unsuccessful.

We spent our first day wandering the cobblestone streets (it was very Comayauga-esque) and mostly looking for something to eat. Which we found when we stumbled across a baleada restaurant conveniently located next to a bubble tea shop. I'd call that a solid win.

In our wandering, we also found one of Antigua's most famous landmarks, the yellow Santa Catalina Arch. It was originally built to connect a covent to a school and allowed nuns to cross from one building to another without having to walk into the street. Yeah, I Wikipedia-ed that. Because, honestly, all I knew about it was that it was a yellow arch in Antigua. 

While choosing the roads less traveled (or something like that) had been awesome for the first few days in Guatemala, we were more than ready to participate in an organized tour offered by our hotel. Said organized tour consisted of climbing an active volcano and then rejuvenating at the spa. 

The volcano that we set out to conquer was Volcán Pacaya, located about an hour-ish outside of Antigua. There was a pretty major eruption in 2010 which shut down the international airport and caused some of the residents of nearby cities to evacuate, but it's been, more or less, calm since then.
It does erupt fairly constantly, but not like huge lava flows. More like spewing some rocks into the air a little bit.

Volcán Acatenango, Volcán de Fuego, and Volcán de Agua from Pacaya 
I'm not about to lie and say that the hike was easy because I was definitely heavy mouth breathing about two minutes in. It wasn't a long hike, but there were some steep parts. Although it wasn't easy, it wasn't the hardest hike I have ever done either. (I'm looking at you, Pico do Papagaio.) As it usually is with hiking, the view from the top made it worth it.

You know what else made it worth it? This. Roasting marshmallows in some of the hot lava vents. The lava underneath made the rocks so hot that we were all able to brown our marshmallows to perfection. Some people in another tour group were roasting hot dogs, which would have been a really tasty idea.

After such a grueling hike (and bellies full of marshmallows), we travel to Santa Teresita Hotel and Thermal Spa. We didn't splurge on the most expensive spa package, but we did receive complimentary fruit smoothies, time in the thermal pools, a 10 minute chair massage, and access to the swimming pools. And big fluffy robes, which may have been my favorite part.

After five shorts days divided between two very different cities, it was time to say "Adios" to Guatemala and "Hola" to one of my favorite countries in the world-- Honduras.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Guat's Up, Lake Atitlan? [CAT2016: Guatemala]


After months of dreaming and planning and hotel searching and shuttle booking, the day to embark on our Central American Tour 2016 (affectionately known as CAT2016) finally arrived.

Let me explain. Sarah wanted to go to the CEE graduation and I'm always down for a trip to Honduras, so we had basically been dreaming of the trip ever since we left Honduras two years ago. About a year ago we decided it was actually happening and in April we really started planning. So we're spending three weeks traveling around Central America and its going to be awesome.

Our main goals included eating as many baleadas as possible, speaking copious amounts of Spanish, and trying not to cry when we leave Sigua. Other than that, we have very few plans, goals, or expectations. Wherever the wind takes us is good for us.

We've begun our trip in Guatemala. One-- because neither of us have been to Guatemala before and both of us have some pretty lofty travel goals. Two-- it was the cheapest airport to fly into.

We spent the night in Guatemala City at Quetzaroo Hostel. The beds were comfy, the bathrooms were clean, the breakfast was delicious, and the staff was incredibly helpful. We weren't there for very long, but it was an enjoyable experience.

EXCEPT FOR THE FACT THAT MY LUGGAGE STAYED IN COLOMBIA WHILE I CONTINUED ON TO GUATEMALA AND STAYED THERE FOR THREE DAYS! But that wasn't anyone's fault and it all ended up okay, but it was a bit of a rocky start there for awhile.


After a night in Guatemala City and a brisk bike ride to get the blood flowing, we boarded a shuttle that took us to Panajachel, or Pana to the locals and the wannabe locals, which is located at Lake Atitlan. It was pretty gray and rainy when we arrived (oh hey, rainy season), so we didn't get to truly appreciate how beautiful Lake Atitlan really is.

Not the view we had on the first night.
The next morning we woke up and wandered down to the lake in hopes of seeing, what is claimed to be, the most beautiful lake in the world. We were not disappointed. When we arrived at the lake, we were able to see all three of the surrounding volcanos.

We ended up taking a boat tour around the lake to visit some of the other neighborhoods. We even splurged for the private boat tour because we're fancy like that. Honestly, I wasn't that impressed with the whole thing. The riding around on the boat was awesome. But we knew nothing about any of the neighborhoods and didn't know how to get around, so we kind of just aimlessly wandered around all day. Was it fine for a day? Absolutely. Would I do it again? Nah.

Dinner overlooking the lake and volcanoes at sunset wrapped up our short time in Pana before heading on to Antigua.

Minus the missing luggage and the lack of water at our hotel one morning, CAT2016 was off to a great start.