Saturday, 16 November 2013

First steps into Central America.. Guatemala

The journey into Guatemala was a bit rubbish. We were meant to be on a 6.30am bus but the company told us at 10pm the night before it'd changed to 8.30. Couple of hours to the border were fine, but then once we'd paid our border bribes & entered Guatemala the next bus failed to turn up.  Sat in the rain for 3 hours until it finally showed & then took another 6 hours to get to Lake Atitlan, by which point the boats had stopped running so we found a bed for the night in Panajchal & headed out for a beer. Strangely exhausting being thrown around a bus for hours at a time. 

The next day we took an early boat across the lake to San Pedro- small town with a few hotels & bars & a lot of language schools. 

We stayed in hotel Fe for 2 nights - great bar & restaurant but rooms like prison cells. Time to crack open the sleeping bag liners we bought to save us from rancid sheets, & the travel towels which are in effect human shammy leathers. 

As it's been a while since we climbed up/down anything, we arranged through a barman to meet a local who could guide us up a mountain in time for sunrise. So at 3.30am we met a machete wielding man & paid him money to take us off into the plantations in the dark.  One local bus later we strapped on our head torches & followed Jorge up a pathway.  Head torches are great for being hands-free however it does make you a magnet for every flying insect in the jungle. And having a guide at a strapping 4ft 10 (tall for these parts) meant we got to walk into every web above his head height. Grateful for it being dark really. 

Steep climb up but stunning views of sunrise across the Lake & the volcanos surrounding it. We've been advised not to bother climbing the volcanos here as the tops are permanently in cloud & you can see bugger all. Not my idea of pay-back for hours of climbing so we'll wait until Antigua where there's a live one to go up. 2 hour descent followed, and was glad of Jorge's machete when a bunch of snarling dogs appeared out the undergrowth to warn us off their turf. 

The walk back was mainly through maize & coffee crops with great views of the lake towns below. Sunrise is accompanied by cockerels who crow & annoy the dogs who then bark at the cockerels who then crow & annoy the dogs who then bark.....  To that soundtrack the towns appear to catch fire but it's the cumulative effect of every household burning wood to get the stoves ready for morning tortillas. 

Back to the prison cell in time for breakfast & a day of snoozing in a hammock. We also signed up for another week of school, this time with a home stay. Eek. A real dilemma as to whether we should- everyone says your language skills advance much better in a locals house than with other gringos but we haven't done shared living for a long long time. Took the plunge anyway & after our first day at school (the Hub- 1 to 1 lessons this time) we were taken to their house. 

Not sure how good our poker faces are but we needed them to be great....

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