New Zealand: 4/2 – 4/8

(New Zealand) New Plymouth >>> Taupo >>> Lake Okaro >>> Rotorua >>> Oruatua >>> Whakamaru >>> Bethlehem

4/2- Waitomo Glow Worms Cave!
4/3- Bungee Jumping, Hot Springs, and Huka Falls
4/4- Thermal Wonderland and Kitty Wonderland!
4/5- Walking Amongst Giants!
4/6- Gearing Up for our last week of Adventure!
4/7- Hiking the Famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing and Mount Doom!
4/8- McLaren Falls and Fun in Mount Whanganui

Continue reading “New Zealand: 4/2 – 4/8”

Guatemala: 1/8- 1/14

Semuc Champey >>> Xela >>> San Pedro La Laguna (on Lake Atitlan)

1/8
+ We were concerned we had missed our 8am shuttle to Semuc Champey when it had not arrived by 8:25. We are slowly realizing that Guatemala seems to run on “island time”… despite not being an island.
+ The 8hr ride to Semuc Champey turned into closer to 10 hrs with the multiple stops at convenience stores for bathroom/snacks as well as a stop for a flat tire!
+ When the shuttle stopped in the small town of Lanquin, (keep in mind, it is already dark now) we were met by teenagers yelling out each hostel name and the glamorous  amenities each offered. (I.e. “a bed!” “Water: hot and cold!”, etc)
+ A little bewildered, we found the teen shouting Casa Zapote ( the hostel reservations included in our Semuc Champey package). Our bags were moved to the back of a pickup truck and we were directed to climb on in.
+ We took off in the back of the truck for a 25 min ride up the very dark, pot-holed, boulder-filled road.
+ Arrived at our hostel to find the beds were actually only box springs in a loft in the middle of the jungle. All in the name of Adventure, right?
+ Spent the evening eating, drinking and meeting other travelers  during the hostel happy hour.

1/9
+  Toured Semuc Champey with 1 other couple from Costa Rica. Our guide was named Manu. He looked and acted like he was 16. He thought it was hilarious to repeatedly yell “What up mannggg!”
+ Hiked up to El Mirador (the viewpoint) to get aerial view of pools. The river runs from the mountains feeding the pools from underneath.
+ Explored the 7 cascading pools. Jumped from one to the next, slid down rocks. Swam around and talked with other travelers.
+ Joined up with other larger tour group to explore cave by candlelight. Swam, climbed, slid and jumped. Met expat from Kentucky who now owns hostel in Antigua.
+ Corey did a rope swing into the river!
+ Our group of 5 tubed down the river. Great views of the waterfall!
+ Corey did bridge jumping into the river. Manu only wanted to jump once but Corey called him a Rojo pollo! Lol! Then Manu shouted “No polloooo!” As he jumped off the bridge again.
+ Rode back to the hostel in the back of a pickup truck. Truck stopped halfway back to load up with firewood and many locals. Corey talked with nice guy from Switzerland who has biked entire west coast of US. He started biking in Vancouver and was now in Guatemala! That’s insane!
+ Met our new roommates in our boxspring-loft: a couple from Tasmania  (“Tazzy” as they called it) and a nice German guy.
+ Spent the evening comparing dangerous animals from our respective countries and learning new card games.

1/10
+ We were up and ready to go at 5am to catch a ride to Lanquin (nearby larger city) to catch the shuttle to Antigua and then onward to Xela. No hostel staff was up and we appeared to be only guests leaving that early. At 530, Liz had to wake the hostel staff who groggily called us a pickup truck to get to Lanquin. (We assume the hostel staff must have forgotten we were leaving at all)
+ Found the shuttle in Lanquin with a few other tourists from other hostels. Eventually left and rode 9hrs to Antigua.
+ After arriving in Antigua, immediately jumped on another  shuttle bus for 4hr ride to Quetzaltenango (Xela).
+  Half way there we stopped for bano  near Chicitenango. We had been eating chips and snacks all day and really wanted some real food. Corey ran across the street and found some delicious fried chicken and potato wedges. When we were done with the chicken, Corey fed some of the street dogs that were hanging around the gas station.
+ We arrived at Parque Centro in Xela after dark. (That’s over 12hrs of travel! ) We met our air bnb host, Rosita, at McDonalds and she led us back to her apartment.
+ Rosita and Irvin were great hosts during our stay! Very accomodating and friendly!
+ Ate delicious street tacos for less than $1.50!
+ Xela is known for their fresh bread and drinking chocolate. Yummm!

1/11
+ Explored historic Xela. Booked Tour for volcano hike the next day.
+ Stopped into Xelapan – a delicious bakery chain that offers everything from French bread, huge chocolate croissants, and even funny bread shaped like snapping turtles!
+ Refilled our snack arsenal at the local super Mercado.
+ Ate lunch at restaurant  tipico- authentic guatemalan food.
+ Did some research back at the apartment while Corey watched the 1st half of the national championship game in spanish. Lols
+ Went out with Rosita to local sport bar called “Playroom” to watch 2nd half of game. Very westernized with sports paraphernalia all over the walls from every sport or activity ever invented! (Even chess and luge!) Corey explained americano football rules to Rosita.
+ Irvin met up with us after he got off work. Drank local beers and then moved to another bar for local dark beer- Moza. It was served out of a carafe!
+ Walked back together late and had to avoid the street dogs. According to Rosita and Irvin, the street dogs are much more aggressive and territorial at night!

1/12
+ Caught shuttle to Santa Maria volcano at 5am
+ Began hiking around 5:30 am. Finally arrived at the summit (12,375ft) at 9am. We were above the tree line and clouds. We could see all the  other volcanos in Guatemala! (Lake Atitilan, volcanos bordering Mexico, etc) Stayed until 10:30am. Watched the nearby volcano, Santiaguito, erupt! Many locals also climb the summit to pray and make offerings.
+ Ate our chocolate croissants from Xelapan. Delicious!
+ Began climbing down at 10:30am and finally made it back to the shuttle at 1:30pm. We were completely exhausted and very dusty.
+ Ate lunch special at Giro’s gourmet pizza. Delicious and cheap!
+ Went back to apartment, showered, and napped for a few hours.
+  Liz got one last hot chocolate at nearby cafe. Yummm
+ Ate dinner tipico- soup, entree, tortillas, and drink for $6 total!!
+ Went back to apartment and researched transportation to San Pedro for the next day.

1/13
+  Hung out at apartment, packed up, and updated blog.
+ Ate lunch at Pollo  Campero- a Guatemala chain similar to PDQ.
+ Caught local city bus (collectivo) to Minerva bus station. Very hectic.  Everyone we asked for San Pedro directed us 2 blocks away from the bus station.
+ Confused and nervous with all of our gear, we walked through large local markets offering everything under the sun! from Holister clothes to raw meats! Eventually we came out on the other side of the markets, to see many more chicken buses. (We’re still not sure why so many buses were blocks away from the actual bus station!)
+ Hectic situation again, we eventually found one of the brightly decorated buses to take us to San Pedro on Lake  Atitilan.
+ Chicken bus dropped us off in San Marcos, caught another chicken bus to San Pedro.
+ Views coming into town of the mountains, volcanos and Lake Atitlan were INCREDIBLE!
+ Frantically jumped off bus with all our gear and walked through city to San Pedro Spanish school.
+ Checked in and were escorted to our homestay by the youngest daughter of the local family, Billie.
+ We have a nice size room with a private, albeit very tiny bathroom. The bathroom is about the size of one you would find on an airplane. Corey barely fits in bathroom sideways.
+ Met all the family members: Rosa (madre), 4 daughters and 1 son: Melissa, Lezlie, Linda, Billie, y Julio. 2 babies: Abigail and Guillermo (cutest baby ever! He blows kisses when you say hola)
+ Met 2 other students staying with same family: Yvonne and Alice both from Australia.
+ Ate a nice authentic dinner with the family and students.

1/14
+ Started 1st day of Spanish school at 8am in a beautiful garden right next to the lake! Corey and I have individual teachers.
+ Finished class at 1 (5 hours of study) and went back to our homestay and had a big delicious lunch with our family and other students. (Lunch is biggest meal of day in Guatemala).
+ Spent the afternoon researching online and having a siesta in the hammocks overlooking the lake.
+ Ate dinner with everyone and studied Spanish in the evening before bed.

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