High Times in Central America

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My first impression when entering south-central Guatemala from Honduras was surprise at how developed the country is. The roads are nicely paved, the buildings solid and clean, expensive cars on the road… then two and a half hours later when we pulled over on the side of the road in Guatemala City, a chicken bus drove just close enough to pull our driver’s open door straight back and off the hinges. Reality check, we’re still in Central America.

The local transportation a.k.a. chicken bus.

The local transportation a.k.a. chicken bus.

Now nearly three weeks later, my impression of Guatemala is love, love, love. We’ve spent our time in the central highlands experiencing the rich Maya culture, unbelievable scenery, snuggly animals and the other amazing travelers.

Our home base has been Antigua which is a colonial city chalk full of hostels, travel agencies, bars, restaurants and gift shops, a large artisan’s market and numerous church ruins from the major earthquake in 1976. The cobblestone streets are aesthetically appealing and make viewing the buildings and surrounding mountains/volcanos an adventure when cruising around the city.

Volcan Fuego provides a spectacular backdrop no matter where you find yourself in Antigua.

Volcan Fuego provides a spectacular backdrop no matter where you find yourself in Antigua.

The arc is one of the tallest structures that withstood the major earthquake in 1976.

The arc is one of the tallest structures that withstood the major earthquake in 1976.

Fuego is most certainly active, on a clear night you can see it glowing red up top.

Fuego is most certainly active, on a clear night you can see it glowing red up top.

Typical fruit stand at the market in Antigua.

Typical fruit stand at the market in Antigua.

The highlight of our time in Antigua was spending three days living with a local family and taking Spanish lessons. For $27 a day we had four hours of lessons, all three meals and accommodation. The family was patient with our Spanglish, served us delicious, local cuisine and had children and puppies eager for cuddles, which I loved.

Our last lunch with our host family in Antigua. Not sure why I look like I just woke up. :)

Our last lunch with our host family in Antigua. Not sure why I look like I just woke up. πŸ™‚

With Justin the seven year old grandson of our Spanish teacher. He was always trying to steal kisses.

With Justin the seven year old grandson of our Spanish teacher. He was always trying to steal kisses.

Our first venture out of Antigua was to Lago de Atitlan (Lake Atitlan) where we set up shop in San Pedro. We planned to spend three nights, but ended up staying for a full week. San Pedro was a village with corn and coffee farms, a variety of cheap, diverse food (including Asian and Mediterranean, woooo!) and locally made textiles and other fun stuff to purchase. We stayed at Hostel Pinocchio where we met a fabulous group of travelers from all corners of the world including Israel, England, Argentina and Australia. We also got to watch numerous World Cup games and the NBA Finals at our neighborhood bar!

The lake was beautiful and we found great places to jump in in San Pedro and San Marcos, another lake village a short boat ride away known for the yoga centers and psychedelics.

Logo de Atitlan.

Logo de Atitlan.

Indian Nose - named for its resemblance to the face of a Maya Indian.

Indian Nose – named for its resemblance to the face of a Maya Indian.

Volcan San Pedro from a viewpoint in San Marcos.

Volcan San Pedro from a viewpoint in San Marcos.

Jordan jumping from the "trampoline" in San Marcos. 35 feet!

Jordan jumping from the “trampoline” in San Marcos. 35 feet!

The second venture out was a bit of backtracking for us, but totally worth it. The place is Semuc Champey and is surprisingly not touted in the Lonely Planet as a must-see, but it is! It is best known for the tours to a 300 meter long natural limestone bridge over top of a raging river and the caves formed by the river. We opted to skip the guided tour and hiked up to the viewpoint with our friends Kate and Millie and back down to swim in the turquoise pools. A fabulous way to spend the morning.

Hiking to the limestone bridge.

Hiking to the limestone bridge.

A natural limestone bridge over the raging Cahabon river in Semuc Champey.

A natural limestone bridge over the raging Cahabon river in Semuc Champey.

The powerful water flowing under the beginning of the bridge.

The powerful water flowing under the beginning of the bridge.

Small falls and natural waterslides, nature's playground.

Small falls and natural waterslides, nature’s playground.

The pools make for a refreshing swim after a pretty steep climb!

The pools make for a refreshing swim after a pretty steep climb!

In the afternoon we did decide to join a group to see the caves. The candlelit tour was an hour long, led by a local guide and involved swimming through stalagmite and stalactite formations, climbing up waterfalls and ladders, jumping from the rocks into the pools and even being pushed by the guide through a small tunnel into a wading pool.

In addition to exploring the area, we enjoyed staying Hostal El Portal set just above the river with astounding views and a chill atmosphere.

Our bungalow - a Guatemalan tri-plex.

Our bungalow – a Guatemalan tri-plex.

The gorgeous view from our bungalow at El Portal in Semuc Champey.

The gorgeous view from our bungalow at El Portal in Semuc Champey.

Tonight is our last night in Guatemala and while we’re sad to leave such an exquisite country, we are excited to descend from the mountains and head to the Pacific coast of El Salvador tomorrow morning. Surf’s up!

Buena onda, amigos!!

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2 responses to “High Times in Central America

  1. Hi Jordan and Candace, This is very cool. It is great to see that you are well, learning lots and meeting great people. Thanks for the father’s day call. Sorry I missed it. Look forward to the next post. Love you both.

    Dad

    Like

  2. Love, love, love! Looks amazing! And those kiddos…adorable πŸ™‚ Glad you’re having such a great time. I love how you immerse yourselves right in the culture- language, people, food, explorations. Every bit of it looks amazing. Keep sharing!

    Like

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