Guatemala: 1/22 – 1/28

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San Pedro (Lake Atitlan) >>> Antigua >>> Monterrico >>> Antigua

 

1/22
+ Woke up and had breakfast for the last time with our family. Some sort of weird hot oatmeal and milk soup thing that wasn’t good, but wasn’t bad, just a little weird.
+ Went to our last day of Spanish class and the school had a graduation ceremony for all of the students who were finishing their last day. Both of our maestras introduced us and we both spoke to everyone in Español about our experience in San Pedro.
+ We definitely made major progress with our Spanish abilities, especially Liz who started at almost zero. We are able to carry on conversations with our teachers for 20+ minutes at a time, entirely in Spanish! (Although we each make many many grammar conjugation mistakes) However, we know that outside the school people speak much faster and less clearly so we still tend to struggle to understand everything at times.
+ After class we gave our teachers their presents (little zip up clutch purses from a local tienda), took pictures and said goodbye to our school.
+ After eating 1 last time with our family, we packed up our stuff and moved out of the room/house. We said goodbye to the family members that were there, but most were gone so we promised to return the next day for a photo.
+ We then bought tickets for the boat to another nearby pueblo called Santiago to explore for the afternoon. While waiting for the boat we got some delicious licuados from a restaurant that the son in the family we stayed with manages, and talked with him for a while.
+ On the boat ride to Santiago, the water was pretty rough with lots of splashing into the boat so lots of people were wet by the time we arrived. Luckily it was hot and sunny outside so no big deal.
+ The town of Santiago was a bit disappointing with not much to do, so we just walked the streets for most of the time. We did however watch a large group of teens and guys playing some sort of soccer game with a mini sized ball where the object was not to get the ball in the net, but to hit the pole of the basketball hoop (they were playing on a basketball court). That was really interesting and entertaining.
+ On the way back to the boat, we stopped into a nice looking little cafe to get Liz a nutella cappuccino (and secretly needed a place to use the restroom). The barista was very friendly and also very talented at making drawings with the foam. He made Liz a cute bear that said “Love You”. Afterwards, he offered to let us make a drawing, but we declined the embarrassment that would have ensued to watch him make another one instead. Really cool! (Especially to Corey since he’s never in a Coffee shop)
+ The boat ride back was really intense with lots of major rocking and we were praying we wouldn’t capsize in our tiny boat the whole time (especially since it was very dark). Luckily, the boat captain took precautions and put up a bunch of tarps this time to block all the splashing.
+ Finally back on land safely, we checked into a new hostel we would be staying at for 2 nights on the other side of town (near all of the tourist shops and restaurants instead of the residential area we had been in).
+ Our hostel was called Mr. Mullets and is known as a party hostel, so we opted for a private room instead of a dorm so we could escape the madness when necessary.
+ Although quite a long day already, we wanted to celebrate the completion of our Spanish school, so we headed down the street to another hostel that was having it’s weekly trivia night (same as last week – Hostel Fe).
+ Luckily, we ran into James and Jonathan from our Homestay at trivia and we all teamed up again for the game. We tied with 2 other teams for 1st so to determine the winner, there was a chugging contest with 1 person from each team. James went up, but unfortunately didn’t win so we finished 3rd but were happy with our prize of 5 free tequila shots.
+ After many cervezas and Tequila there, we headed to another hot spot called Sublime. A really cool place situated right on the lake, the place was half filled with hippies vegging out and smoking weed and the other half with people dancing and drinking the night away. We situated ourselves in the middle at a campfire and talked to people.
+ We ended up meeting another guy who went to FSU the same time we did and talked about travel plans.
+ After some time we finally called it a night and luckily only had to walk a little bit back to our hostel instead of all the way across town again to the homestay.

1/23
+ Woke up with Corey feeling a little sick, but since it was our last full day in San Pedro, we wanted to make the most of it.
+ In the hostel garden we had our free breakfast of chocolate pancakes for Corey and an English muffin with eggs and fruit for Liz. Not half bad for a free hostel breakfast!
+ Afterwards we caught a boat to go to Panajachel for the day, another town across the lake. Panajachel is the biggest and most touristy of all the towns around the lake, but we were not interested in shopping the local street market stalls.
+ We quickly caught a taxi to the main attraction of the city, Reserva Natural. It is a big animal reserve with lots of cool zip lining through the jungle and over the lake!
+ Corey opted to do the most extreme zip lining option, while Liz was content with walking through the pretty gardens and looking at the various waterfalls.
+ After getting the harnesses on the whole group, we all walked up the mountain for about 30 minutes to the launch point of the first zip line. Along the way, we stopped to observe a bunch of Coatimundi and Spider Monkeys playing and eating bananas!
+ At the top, Liz said goodbye as Corey and the group began their zip line adventure. She spent the next couple hours hiking, taking pictures, observing the animals and talking with a nice Kentucky family she met.
+ Corey did a total of 8 different zip lines, ranging from a few hundred feet, to over 2000 feet on some of them! Amazing views while gliding over the lake of all the mountains, volcanoes, and the city!
+ At the end of the tour, we met up as Liz watched Corey (and the rest of the group) struggle through the little ropes course at the end of the tour.
+ We then headed straight for the butterfly garden which was very pretty with tons of different butterflies!
+ Next we hiked to the park’s private beach which was really pretty and had a lot of really cool looking, giant gnarly trees seemingly holding back the massive rocks from tumbling into the water!
+ Afterwards we decided to take 1 last look at the Coatimundi and monkeys and were delighted to find them much more friendly and abundant than earlier in the afternoon! They walked all around us (and some almost tried to climb on us!) and we took a bunch of photos and videos for a while until we said our goodbyes.
+ With no taxi or tuk tuks around the reserve when we left, we walked half an hour back into town. Luckily, we had amazing views from the road/mountain side of the sunset and various boats cruising the picturesque lake.
+ In town, we grabbed some delicious street food, said “No, gracious” to about 500 different street vendors, then caught a boat back to San Pedro (much smoother ride this time thankfully!)
+ As promised to our host family, we made the trek back to that side of town and said proper goodbyes and took pictures with them. We really enjoyed our time with them and felt very sad to be leaving them and San Pedro, both of which we had come to love and feel comfortable with.
+ San Pedro is definitely our favorite city we have visited so far! We would definitely come back to visit 1 day, and can see why so many tourists either spend a few months here, or end up moving to permanently and becoming ex pats.
+ We ended the night just hanging out in our hostel and readying ourselves for our first travel day in nearly 2 weeks!

1/24
+ Woke up for our last half day in San Pedro. Had some delicious breakfast at our hostel and then checked out.
+ Walked over to hotel Mikaso to take pictures of the city and mountains
+ Hung out at a nice restaurant on the lake called “Lake House” where we sat in swinging chairs, did research on the Internet, and had pizza and green tea.
+ Before jumping on the bus to Antigua, Liz made one last stop at a smoothie bar and got a oreo+banana+Nutella smoothie. IT WAS SO GOOD!
+ Rode in the crammed shuttle bus to Antigua and found our hostel named “Terrace Hostel” after arriving.
+ Ate dinner at Monoloco  (crazy monkey) where they were showing the nfl playoff games (with lots of American fans there too!). Food was very westernized- huge portions and much more expensive than we were used to in San Pedro!

1/25
+ Walked around the city and took pictures of the famed old churches of Antigua.
+ Decided on lunch at a Indian place. Delicious and cheap!
+ Booked a tour to Monterrico for tomorrow with a nice local guide named Pablo.
+ Made our way back to our hostel for the 4pm bar crawl!
+ Made new friends and explored 4 or 5 other bars and hostels as one big group. Played a hybrid version of Beer Pong and Flip Cup at one bar, and a funny game remembering alternate names for numbers at another bar.
+ After we got back from the bar crawl, Corey and I ate gourmet burritos at El Burro down the street from our hostel.

1/26
+ Shuttle to Monterrico picked us up around 8.
+ We arrived at Monterrico around 10:30 and were both groggy from napping in the shuttle.
+ After declining multiple offers of tours from locals, we made our way to Tortuguerio Monterrico, an animal nature reserve close by.
+ One of the same guides was there again and showed us around the small animal sanctuary. Iguanas, caiman, fish, freshwater turtles, and one very sad looking sea turtle.
+ Corey released one baby turtle into the ocean! They said it was an olive ridley but it looked just like a loggerhead to me.
+ Afterwards, we walked back down the beach and found a cafe with hammocks right on the sand. We both ordered a licuado and relaxed in the hammocks.
+ The sand here is black! I believe it is from the multiple volcanos nearby.
+ The waves are very rough here with multiple undercurrents. Swimming is not advised but it’s very pretty! Much hotter here than any other city in Guatemala so far.
+ Often when the large waves swelled before the break, you could see multiple sting rays in them illuminated by the sun.
+ Corey braved the waves and swam for a bit and body surfed the biggest waves he’s ever been in!
+ Caught our shuttle back to Antigua, and this time we were the only passengers in the whole van! (Often, the shuttle companies completely pack the whole bus to maximize their profit for the trip, so this was a pleasant new experience for us.)
+ Ate dinner at a cheap, Mexican restaurant.
+ Got late night coffee and hot chocolate at rainbow cafe. We just missed some cool didgeridoo music!

1/27
+ Explored the huge markets with everything from arts and crafts, clothes and underwear and even pirated dvds!
+ In the market, we were casually looking for a place for lunch. A local woman noticed we may be interested and started strongly pulling Corey’s arm towards her little food stand. Then another local woman from across the walkway started pulling Corey’s other arm across towards her cafe! Liz turned around and noticed Corey was being aggressively pulled in different directions! To settle this ASAP we said ok ok and went with the first local woman to her family’s table. The food (chicken, rice, and coleslaw type salad) was delicious and cheap and we were happy to finish the meal in 1 piece.
+ We had initially entered the market to find a new bathing suit for Corey. After asking a few guys in the market, we kept being directed “just around this corner” repeatedly. We eventually found our way to a large supermarket outside the traditional market and realized this was where they had been directing us just in very fast spanish!
+ Bought a few snacks and a new bathing suit for Corey.
+ On the way back to the hostel, we stopped to satisfy Liz’s soda craving at the fanciest McDonald’s we had ever seen. There were lush gardens and a fountain, along with a very European McCafe area.
+ Guatemala is known for their coffee and chocolate. Antigua has a whole museum dedicated to chocolate! We decided to not purchase a chocolate workshop where you learn how to make your own chocolate bar. Instead, we tried many samples and then got some fondue with fresh fruit. Yum!
+ After much deliberation about our next destination,  we decided to skip El Salvador this trip and head to Honduras. We would have liked to visit both countries but transportation between them seemed more costly and more complicated. We decided to head directly for Copan, Honduras from Antigua.
+ Before leaving our hostel  for dinner, we realized the water seemed to be turned off. Not thinking much of it, we set off for dinner.
+ Antigua has tons and tons of restaurants and bars varying from pretty cheap (<$5 per person) to very expensive for the budget backpacker  (> $20 per person).
+ We finally decided on a small pizza place and found out the water was out here as well!
+ After asking the waitress and later our hostel owner, we were told that Antigua will periodically shut off the water with no warning and for who knows how long. We were warned it may be  1 hour or it may be 12!
+ Luckily the water came back after about 5 hours. I have never been so happy to hear the sound of flushing toilets!

1/28
+ We checked out the artisinal “handicrafts” area of the market. No great finds. Corey did find even more DragonBall Z merchandise! DragonBall Z seems to be for sale everywhere but yet we don’t see anyone actually wearing it.
+ On the walk back to the hostel, we passed by a shop that advertised “sodas de americano”. They had a small fridge with Dr. pepper, root beer, and other sodas we hadn’t seen since we left the US! (In case you are wondering: you can always find Pepsi, coke, grapette, orange soda, 7up, and sometimes mountain dew). Liz got the Dr. Pepper she had missed so much!
+ Decided to continue the American Tourist theme and picked up a pizza from Little Caesars. As in nearly every store or business that handles a decent amount of money, they have armed guards with various large guns (such as sawed off shot guns) standing watch inside and/or outside the store. We’re not sure how often they have to use them, but it is a formidable sight.
+ Ate a quick lunch at the hostel of Little Ceasars pizza and Dr. Pepper. (Today was obviously not our most authentic Guatemalan day).
+ Caught our shuttle and rode the 1 hr ride to Pacaya volcano. Super curvy roads up the mountain.
+ Met our guide and hiked up to the base of the lava flow from the 2014 eruption of pacaya. Easy 1 hr hike.
+ No visible lava but awesome terrain and palpable heat from the geothermal energy! We were all able to roast marshmallows using the heat from underground!
+ Our guide showed us a rock that was pretty hot and handed it to us to hold. When it was Liz’s turn, the rock was much sharper and hotter than she was expecting so she accidently tossed the rock back at Corey! Corey had to jump out of the way. The guide thought this was hilarious.
+ After we explored the lava field, we hike back down to the base.
+ Corey and I talked with 2 girls from London on the hike down. Margot and Teresa. We gave them tips for visiting the Keys and they gave us tips on South America.
+ Back in Antigua, the power went off in the whole city for about 10min. Luckily it came right back on. Antigua is super dark without streetlights or anything!
+ Wandered around looking for a good dinner spot. Decided on Sky Bar Cafe. We had the whole 3rd floor to ourselves overlooking the city for dinner.
+ Stopped in to Cafe No Se for a nightcap before heading back to the hostel to shower and pack for our 4am shuttle to Copan, Honduras.

Click here for more of our pictures from Guatemala!

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