A Travellerspoint blog

Oaxaca and surrounding

sunny 25 °C

From Puerto Escondido, we left for Oaxaca State. It is a pleasant town, with a very well preserved Zócalo (downtown) and an impressive cathedral. Being from Europe Colonial cities are perhaps not as impressive to us as for Americans, but it was nice enough to hang out in for a few days. We were also craving to go to the cinema; last time we’ve been to a cinema was in Bolivia. We saw a great movie; I can’t recall the name but it was a true story about two boxers and brothers… We also tried the so famous Mescal, Mexican tequila. Drinking mescal requires a sort of preparation, first the salty chilly specie, then tequila sip, followed by lemon and finished by some orange slices to sweeten it up.

We also decided to go trekking for a few days. It was all a bit poorly planned, so we ended up in a village that you couldn´t really trek from. After that we had to take some sort of local transport, hike for a while, though we got lucky and got a ride with some guy. In the end we came to one of the villages part of the Pueblo Mancomunados. Basically these are villages that cooperate in some sort of eco/adventure tourism thing, where you can bike or hike between the villages.

Even though it was a bit late we decided to rent bikes and cycle a route. We asked how long it would take and calculated that we would make it back before dark. When we got to the first village we asked in their tourist office again and was again reassured that we would make it back in time, it was just a climb up for an hour and then 20 min downhill. After walking with the bikes up for 1 ½ hour it started to get dark. We kept walking uphill for another 1 hour in the dark until we met a car in the middle of the forest. They told us that in 30 min we would be back in the village. We must have carried on for another hour uphill and by now we were completely exhausted and having trouble not to panic. Laura was pretty scared going downhill in the dark so we mainly walked down. We were suppose to gotten back around 19, but in the end we came back at 22.30pm. It was a bit strange that the tourist office had not send out any help or search squad. Anyways when we got back they were waiting for us, worried that something had happened to us. Luckily we managed to get some warm food and drink from them. Its difficult to describe this ordeal, but imagine being lost in a forest in the pitch dark for 4 hours, after a while your mind starts playing tricks on you and you have to work hard not to freak out completely.

The next day we decided to walk to one of the other villages a 4 hour trek following a canon. It was really an amazing trek, the landscape was amazing, especially some weird trees that we saw along the way. I don’t know how quick the tourist office staff walks or bikes, but again, this was definitely not a 4 hour trek. Actually the signs that they had were wrong as well. It was pretty hard as we all the time thought that we were almost there until we asked a lady that we met, who told us that it was still 30 min uphill. We arrived to the village after 6 hours and walking on to the next village was definitely not possible.

After asking around we finally managed to get a ride with a bakery van delivering bread and other goodies to these remote villages. The only problem was that I had to go in the back of the van in complete darkness and with a risk of running out of air. Actually in the end there was a small hole in the van so that I could breath. It was funny, once the door opened so that he could hand over some bread to some guy working in a shop, the guy got a chock seeing a gringo sitting inside in the dark. The driver just went “Oh yeah we´re just driving around with a gringo among our bread”.

After that we managed to get a ride with a empty schoolbus from on of the larger villages down to the main highway. The guy driving basically just took us so that he could talk to us. He even drove slow so that he could tell as much as possible, sometimes he just stoped in the middle of the road to explain something with more enthusiastic with both his hands. One crazy thing was that he told us that he had sneaked over the US boarder for a bit just for fun, I mean not really because he had to, but just to see what it was like. It had definitely been an adventure, not all positive, but it was pretty interesting how we managed to get back as we planned in the end.
We had to take at least one pic of the colonial churches in Oaxaca

We had to take at least one pic of the colonial churches in Oaxaca

They throw these free concerts all the time in the center of Oaxaca, pretty nice thing to do

They throw these free concerts all the time in the center of Oaxaca, pretty nice thing to do

Laura look-a-like poster in Oaxaca...or wait its Laura

Laura look-a-like poster in Oaxaca...or wait its Laura

They were selling these fried worms everywhere, Laura was pretty dissguested, but I was willing to try some if she´d been up for it

They were selling these fried worms everywhere, Laura was pretty dissguested, but I was willing to try some if she´d been up for it

Laura taking a break during our crazy nightmare bike ride throughout the night between the Pueblo Mancomunados...this was just in the beginning though

Laura taking a break during our crazy nightmare bike ride throughout the night between the Pueblo Mancomunados...this was just in the beginning though

View from where we stayed in one of the Pueblo Mancomunados villages, think we were the only tourists in the whole area

View from where we stayed in one of the Pueblo Mancomunados villages, think we were the only tourists in the whole area

The trees along the Pueblo Mancomunados trekk had these grey long bushy things hanging down, pretty cool

The trees along the Pueblo Mancomunados trekk had these grey long bushy things hanging down, pretty cool

Pretty weird these trees that we saw along the Pueblo Mancomunados trekk

Pretty weird these trees that we saw along the Pueblo Mancomunados trekk

Henrik admiring the trees

Henrik admiring the trees

Forest Santa Clause came early this year...or is it ZZ top on a rural tour?

Forest Santa Clause came early this year...or is it ZZ top on a rural tour?

Natural tunnel when trekking in Pueblo Mancomunados

Natural tunnel when trekking in Pueblo Mancomunados

Posted by hmontonen 01:27 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Surfing at Puerto Escondido

sunny 33 °C

We could not really figure out how Puerto Escondido was laid out at first. We arrived in town, but according to Lonely most hostels were located closer to the beach where the famous break, Mexican Pipeline, is. We stayed at the cheapest bungalow we could find called, Eddas Cabañas. Pretty basic, but definitely ok for the price. For some weird reason there were loads of Italians staying there. They were all pretty nice, but there wasn’t too much atmosphere there.

After going for a walk we found out that Puerto Escondido consists of three different surf breaks, except the Pipeline which we had no intention of surfing, there was another beach break in a beach on the other side of town called Zicatela, maybe 40 min from where we stayed. We ended up going there the first day and went into a surf shop to ask around. The guy who had the surf shop was a really cool guy named Roger Ramirez an ex pro surfer. He told us that this was the easiest break in the area and we went out for a few hours to warm up. The waves were super slow and easy which was perfect for us the first day. The only thing was that you had to wait 20 min between the sets and most of the sets were actually only one wave.

The second day we went back again, but Roger told us that it would be better at the third surf spot called La Punta at the other end of Puerto Escondido. We went in car together with Roger and two of his kids. It was perfect for Laura as Roger gave loads of tips to her. Though the waves were pretty mellow at Punta I was pretty scared of hitting the rocks or getting hit by someone else’s board. It’s always great with point breaks, but some of them, like this one, just gets ridiculously crowded. Also a problem is that the locals goes so close to the rocks, sometime even standing on them and throwing themselves into a wave, that they always “own” the wave. Pretty annoying with these bloody surf rules sometimes. We tested to surf at Zicatel in the afternoon, but it was no waves at all during nearly 2 hours, we were just laying around sunbathing on our boards.

After that we were pretty skeptical to Zicatel, so we decided that since we will be surfing mainly at Punta and our hostel was kind of boring, that we should move out close to Punta. It was a great decision, as we moved into this amazing beach bungalow place called Buena Onda. Directly met loads of friendly people and the area was much nicer too. This was true surf lifestyle, walking barefoot everywhere, surfing from morning, go back, chill, eat something and go surf again, then drink a beer watching the sunset just outside from our bungalow.
We surfed at Punta for a few days, but then one day it got pretty big. I was rented a board and was just about to go into the water, when a saw a few gigantic set breaking far outside of the point tumble drying the 40 surfers or so that were too close to the point. No way I was doing going out in that. I got a few good shots of real surfers at least.

The good thing about having three different breaks is that when one goes too big the smaller one work great. We went to Zicatel for the rest of the days and got some really good surf days. I had never taken so many waves in a day in my life, must have gotten at least 20 good waves on one of the days. Laura was getting pretty frustrated now though as she was trying to surf properly now where the good surfers went. I was trying to calm her frustration and explaining that all surfers goes through at least for three weeks or so. However all she wanted to do was to catch a real big long wave and ride it herself. Finally on the last day I looked up and saw someone riding a nice wave. It took a while to see it, but it was Laura. Later on a saw her take at least one more big nice one. I was so happy for her. She was so relieved and said “great finally I did it, now I don’t have to surf ever again”.
Laura chilling outside our beach bungalow

Laura chilling outside our beach bungalow

Ex-pro surfer Roger Ramirez showing how to handle them waves

Ex-pro surfer Roger Ramirez showing how to handle them waves

Roger´s friend ripping

Roger´s friend ripping

Surfing some big wave

Surfing some big wave

The waves got way too big for us, I asked Roger afterwards and he was a bit dissapointed at the small size

The waves got way too big for us, I asked Roger afterwards and he was a bit dissapointed at the small size

Posted by hmontonen 12:41 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Lake Atitlán, San Cristobal de las Casas

sunny 25 °C

We got to San Pedro de Atitlan after a few bus rides from Xela. San Pedro must have changed a lot on the last few years. It is a very pleasant place by a wonderful lake but the gringo area is set up a bit separate from where the locals live. Still San Pedro has a lovely vibe. Some cool bars, life music…I even got to see life belly dancing performance!
The next day we rented bikes and went exploring a bit around the lake and got up to San Marcos, well known by its hippie vibe and yoga and other zen practices. Yet San Marcos is an expensive retreat for posh hippies. There is an interesting place where you can jump from a giant rock about 10 meters high. Even though this trip was supposed to be a way of overcoming some of my fears, I was not still ready for these ones. Before the crowds came, Henrik did not hesitate and jumped. Afterwards, it was really funny to see people freaking out and jumping, even crazy drunk girls playing around…
Also, a funny thing in the lake is that each one of the small villages and communities living by the lake speak their own indigenous Mayan dialect, each one different from the other, so they can’t communicate among them as in a common Mayan language! Instead they use Spanish, which is not the first language and you can almost feel it right away. They speak Spanish with weird Mayan accent 
We also wanted to hike up San Pedro Volcano. It was supposed to be a pretty stiff hike, but if you were like you could be rewarded with spectacular views of the lake. We started a bit late and hiked up from town, which delayed us 1 hour once we started at the entrance point. We made it up pretty fast though, but the clouds had already come when we got up to the top. We were kind of exhausted so we sat down and waited for the clouds to leave. We had some seconds when the clouds went away and could appreciate an incredible view of the lake and it was amazing.
The next day we wanted to head towards México. However, it seemed to be kind of a mission to get up there with normal buses, changes and times. So, for the very first and last time in our trip, and for convenient reasons, we took a shuttle bus up to San Cristobal. We would pay a bit more but we knew we would save time and that was definitely worth it.
However as soon as we got on the bus we realized that, even being so comfortable and convenient, this was not our thing. It is part of the experience to get on local buses, get lost, unreliable departing and arrival times, but definitely much more of a real experience. Sometimes I feel the concept of backpacker has radically changed. A traveler is that one who visits, but a backpacker is the one who watched, stays and share with the locals. That is the whole experience!
Anyway, we got to San Cristobal late eve and found a kind of cool hostel, recommended by a Canadian girl who we randomly run into while we were looking for hostels. San Cristobal is the main town in the state of Chiapas. Chiapas is probably the most fascinating state in México: it is the real México. Very attached culture, indigenous customs, beliefs… There are also many indigenous groups in the state. Tzotzil is one of the biggest in San Cristobal. We went visiting San Juan Chamula, a little town in the surroundings of San Cristobal, whose main attraction is its church. I have never seen anything like it in my life. As we entered the church we could see thousands of candles standing on the pine needled carpeted floor. Chamulans revere San Juan Bautista above Christ. We saw people praying while placing cents of candles, performing rituals with chickens and drinking straight pure alcohol. There was also curanderos rubbing eggs on people buddies as part of their treatment. It was shocking to see it…
In order learn more about Mayan medicine we visited Museo de la Medicina Maya, that has been created by Mayan communities and it has support from the government. You can see the different Mayan treatments, how the rituals are displayed, ingredients and animals they use to cure people, and some videos about baby delivering in the Maya culture.
They have good shops in México. I couldn’t resist buying a belly dancing long skirt. It was silk made and really unique, still very reasonable priced. Henrik, on the other hand, wanted to get read of some clothes, so he gave them away.
Another beautiful place around San Cristobal is Cañón de Sumidero, an impressive canyon surrounded by amazing rock formations in form of cliff walls. We took a boat along the canyon; the only drawback was all the litter we saw along the way. Aside environment reasons, this is a great tourist attraction that is making a lot of money, so I expected the water to be well maintained…

View of San Pedro Atitlán

View of San Pedro Atitlán

Beautiful lake Atitlán

Beautiful lake Atitlán

View of Lake Atitlan

View of Lake Atitlan

Henrik jumping from a 10 meters rock in San Marcos Atitlán

Henrik jumping from a 10 meters rock in San Marcos Atitlán

Birds flying over the lake

Birds flying over the lake

Busy time at the church in one of the villages in Atitlán

Busy time at the church in one of the villages in Atitlán

Colonial San Cristobal

Colonial San Cristobal

Church in San Cristobal de las Casas

Church in San Cristobal de las Casas

San Juan Chamula, San Cristobal de las Casas

San Juan Chamula, San Cristobal de las Casas

Through the canyon

Through the canyon

Impressive view of the canyon

Impressive view of the canyon

Entring Cañón de Sumidero

Entring Cañón de Sumidero

Strange rock formation in the canyon

Strange rock formation in the canyon

Posted by hmontonen 07:55 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Volunteering in Quetzaltenango aka. Xela

sunny 18 °C

I was not really sure what to expect from Xela. I mean it was suppose to be a extremely poor altoplano city full of indigenous people. However, right away we were surprised about how cool it felt. We saw loads of funky bars, live music etc. The first night we got there we went out for a few drinks. First we went to a wine bar. Usually I feel very out of place in these places, where you basically order the cheapest thing feeling like an idiot. However, this place rocked, all wine was the same priced, which was very cheap. It was mainly younger people, well under 45, and they played music like Beasty Boys. Not really the type of wine bar I´ve been in before. Later we went to see some cool live band in another bar. We were quite surprised to run into Jonny, the friendly English guy we had met when surfing in San Juan del Sur. He was studying Spanish there and would stay for a few weeks. He´s a really nice guy and it was great to know someone else in the town as we would be here for a while. Since he had been here for a while, he already knew quite a few people, including some local people that he had met via his Spanish teacher Carlos.

We tagged along Jonny quite a bit and had a great first weekend with him, Carlos and his friends.
One day we went playing paintball which was something we would never have found if it wasn’t for Carlos and co. It was Laura´s first time and my second time, so it was great fun. Don’t remember that it hurt so much though. One shot hit my mask, but some parts hit my mouth, and damn did it hurt. Another day the Guatemalan gang took us to an amusement park, apparently the largest in Central America. As we gringos were pretty warm when we got there they actually first took us to some pool area. They are super nice and took really good care of us, I mean they didn’t even swim themselves, just us gringos. After that we had a fun day playing around. It cost like 5 Euros and then you could ride as much as you wanted. We almost had the place for ourselves and road loads of things, still the scariest thing is the swings…still don’t know why I keep getting on those things.

After a fun weekend, we started to fix things. We were staying in an ok place but the staff had giving us a really bad vibe from beginning so we though this will not work for three weeks. Also the foundation we had originally wanted to work in, actually did not have a need for people. Though they are pretty stupid with this and don’t tell you this when you email them and even does not say it straight away when you visit the center (we were there for like one hour before they told us that they had enough volunteers)???? Last, but not least we were trying to sort out a salsa school. Laura had put up with surfing, so now I had to put up with a few weeks of salsa classes…every day.

We found a very cheap salsa place that we thought seemed ok. Unfortunately we paid the whole course up front. I didn’t really notice it that much the first class, but Laura was pretty sure that the so called teacher was not really a teacher. I mean he knew some steps, but he had no clue how to teach. We though we would give him one more chance, but during the second class even I noticed that this guy was a joke. He could not even explain the basic steps saying stupid things like “eerr which foot you start with depends on if you are right handed or left”… que???? I like to see a right handed person dance with a left handed in that case.

Now we had to try to get the money back and find a new salsa school. Luckily for me, Laura is one of the toughest people I know when it comes to these type of things. Thanks to her “I´m not getting fu**ing ripped off” attitude we managed to get almost all the money back. However this was after 5 visits, threats of involving the police etc. Unfortunately we never did get the promised last 100 Q (about 10 Euro) back. Right away we joined a great dance school called Salsa Rosa. Siamara, the dance teacher was by far the best one we had had so far.
We had called another organization and everything seemed good. Specifically we had asked if they really needed volunteers. We also went to an information meeting and the organization sounded perfect. However, the next day we went on a tour to visit the centers and we noticed that there were very few children, in fact there were almost as many volunteers as children. Really frustrating how the organizations seems to do this. In the end we took a difficult decision and told them that we were going to look for something else. Back to square one after 5 days in Xela, which was pretty annoying seeing that we only had so short time to volunteer.

Luckily we came across another organsiation directly and we managed to meet up with the coordination and go visit the organization. This time what we were told was finally true, this place really had a need for volunteers. The place is called Escuala de la Calle (School of the streets) connected to the school was a afterschool and day center called Caras Alegres (Happy Faces). In Caras Alegres there were no full time volunteers and some days there were up to 60 children. Also the school had a need for help, so we agreed with them to split our time, working as teachers´ assistance in the school during the mornings from 8am to 12.30pm and then go to after school center until 16.30. Pretty long days, but we only had a short time and we wanted to do as much as possible with the little time we had. More importantly we were so happy that we finally had found a great organization to volunteer. Our long search had finally paid off.

Now the only thing to fix was accommodation. Sounds pretty easy right? Not with Guatemalan´s. Its not really that they lie, its more that they always give you hope and never says no. We saw many places that sounded promising, but failed in the last minute for some reason. After quite a lot of search and waiting, one of the places we liked managed to find a room for us. The place was probably the only warmish place in Xela as all other places has large outdoor patios, something that’s not really necessary when its freezing in the evenings. This place was also more like a big shared flat, only having four other people staying there. Finally our fixing was over and we could relax a bit... Well relax perhaps is not the right word. Each morning we would get up at 6.15am work at the school until 13pm, swap to the center and be there until 16.30pm, then we would rush into town and just make it to start our salsa class at 17pm. Due to this we didn’t really do much in the evenings, but cook, watch a bit of tv, and fall asleep. It was really strange, but it felt like we were back working normal jobs in reality.

In the school, I was working with the first graders, ages anything from 6 to 12 years old and Laura was working in 3rd grade with children from 9 to 15 years old. The age differences were pretty weird for us, but some of the older children had been more or less found on the streets and put in school not knowing how to read or write. The school was actually quite nice as it was very well funded. However, the education and some other things, like some of the children’s´ situation, were pretty horrible. A criteria was that all children had to come from extremely poor families, often only single parent or at least on of the parents being alcoholics. In the 1st grade the children was constantly painting and drawing things. Also the teacher they had was way to serious and hard on the children, and I felt like I could not really contribute much. As a result, I joined Laura and her 3rd grader two days a week. The teacher there, Eric, was a superfun guy, but perhaps a bit too relaxed with things. I mean I would have loved to have him as a teacher, but many time it was complete chaos in the class. There would be fights, things being thrown, at least every 5 min someone would be lying on the floor, tipping over a chair or something. Some of Eric´s teaching methods would probably have been more suitable for 1st graders, e.g. when he did a puppet show to teach them the alphabet. However, no one who ever set foot in his class could possible say that his classes were boring. It was really non-stop action and fun all the time, something that I cannot say about the first graders.

In addition, Laura tried to do a few therapeutic dance classes in a special class organized by the two school psychologist. However, the psychologists didn’t really seem to get it, and just liked to play with the kids. I joined a few ones and it was great fun though. My best memory was when the children had built a fort and was hiding inside and I was playing a monster tearing down the fort. There was this very tiny kid that kept hitting me with a stick screaming “monstru malo” (bad monster) repeatedly. Hard to explain the scene, but trust me it was pretty funny. After that we just called him Monstru malo, and he was probably the cutest kid we have ever seen, Laura chasing him for kisses ever time she could see him.

In the day center things were pretty chaotic too. There was suppose to be a fixed schedule with activities, but we never saw them do more then to play football, and this was only for the older boys really. We spoke to the coordinatior, Andrea, and she agreed that we would do two sessions of chemical experiments. It was pretty hard to get all the experiments ready as we had we were had so long busy days, but in the end it worked out pretty good. I think that the teachers were equally or perhaps even more excited about the experiments though.
We agreed with Eric that Laura and I would do a full day of teaching in the 3rd grade. In addition to a shorter version of the science class we had done, we also decided to do some fun geography games, international culture (Sweden and Spain), and we had prepared an English game that we actually never ended up doing. It was again loads to prepare, but it went really well and was worth all the hard work in the end. The kids behaved sort of ok, but it was mainly because we kept rewarding them with sweets.

Three weeks had passed so quickly and it was time to move on again. Even though we had only been at the school and the center for a short time, it was still a bit difficult to say goodbye to the children. It was also a little sad to leave Xela, we had gotten very comfortable there and it was a place that we could have easily stayed longer in.

Laura hugging some of the girls in Caras Alegres

Laura hugging some of the girls in Caras Alegres

Two cute girls preschool class

Two cute girls preschool class


Henrik hanging out with the cool kids... West side!

Henrik hanging out with the cool kids... West side!

The gang posing up in front of some Roman palace or something at the largest theme park in Central America

The gang posing up in front of some Roman palace or something at the largest theme park in Central America

Seconds before getting soaked in the amusement park

Seconds before getting soaked in the amusement park

One of the kids took Laura to her house and gave her a Guatemalian makeover

One of the kids took Laura to her house and gave her a Guatemalian makeover

A quite moment in the third grade class, check out the indiginous teacher to the left

A quite moment in the third grade class, check out the indiginous teacher to the left

Some of the girls in their traditional clothing

Some of the girls in their traditional clothing

Henrik helping out...cant remember her name, but she has the greatest smile

Henrik helping out...cant remember her name, but she has the greatest smile

She´s just too cute so one more picture

She´s just too cute so one more picture

Happy monkey!

Happy monkey!

We went visiting this great natural hot pool set in a amazing setting...this was the closest we be for Laura to even come out in the photo

We went visiting this great natural hot pool set in a amazing setting...this was the closest we be for Laura to even come out in the photo

Saying goodbye to Jonny on the main plaza in Xela

Saying goodbye to Jonny on the main plaza in Xela

Seeing that we only took two pictures in Xela center during our three weeks, here is Henrik saying goodbye to Jonny

Seeing that we only took two pictures in Xela center during our three weeks, here is Henrik saying goodbye to Jonny

Laura telling the kids about Spain in International culture class

Laura telling the kids about Spain in International culture class

Henrik teaching the kids science...

Henrik teaching the kids science...

Laura with some of the teachers and children on Carnival day in Caras Alegres

Laura with some of the teachers and children on Carnival day in Caras Alegres

Some of the kids posing up on Carnival day...just love the red ridinghood outfit

Some of the kids posing up on Carnival day...just love the red ridinghood outfit

Carnival day in Caras Alegres...however for almost a week the teachers and kids were throwing paper and flour in the head of eachother

Carnival day in Caras Alegres...however for almost a week the teachers and kids were throwing paper and flour in the head of eachother

Posted by hmontonen 20:20 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Antigua and Chichicastenango aka. Chi-chi

sunny 21 °C

After not seeing any tourist for days in El Salvador, it was a bit of a chock to come to Antigua, Guatemala. However, there is a reason why this is one of the top tourist destinations in Central America. The city is really, really colonial. Pretty much every building has some interesting feature, and there are tons of old churches, cathedrals and so on. We stayed in a little place a bit out of town, that really made you feel like home. As a result we got very comfortable there and spent quite a lot of time in the “hostel”. We got to know a friendly French gay guy that more a more resembled Jose, the more we got to know him.

We did not really do too much in Antigua, actually there´s not really that much to do, but wonder around the streets looking at old buildings. Oh they actually got a pretty cool market as well, but that’s about it. We went out one night, or tried to go out, but all bars and clubs close before 1 am, so we only managed to have one beer out before getting kicked out.
We have been wanting to visit a active volcano during the whole trip and we heard that there were a few ones active in the area. It was pretty difficult to find any reliable information as all the agencies just want to sell their tours. However, we decided to take a risk and go on a more expensive overnight tour that sounded like the most likely to see lava action. We managed to get a last minute discount as we joined a full group, but it was still 70 dollars, which for us is a lot. They told us that lava cannot be guaranteed, so we were trying to keep our expectations very low.

The group we went with was pretty good. Everyone was very nice, though most were backpacking for a shorter time and didn’t have much trekking experience. Actually this suited us perfectly as it meant that we could go a bit before everyone else and enjoy the scenery fully.
The trek up was actually really nice too. It was a bit boring and hard in the beginning, just going up and up. However, after that the trek treversed around one of the volcanos. After that we walked down and set up basecamp in between two volcanos (one active and one inactive). The only worrying thing was that it was so cloudy, would we be able to see anything from the top.

After a bit of rest we set off to climb a hill that would put us right in front of the active volcano. During the one hour climb it actually started to snow, then hale and then suddently the sun came out. I made a dash for the top just to make sure that I would get at least one photo of the volcano before the clouds came back in. I arrived exhausted to the top and right away an explosing happened. I as really chocked to see how close we were, I mean it was still 500 meters or so left, but flaming rocks were thrown pretty far away. Our guide later told us that this was as far as you can go, and that he had once tried to go closer with a group only to having to run for their lives. No we were quite happy with the distance.

Amazingly the clouds stayed away and we had an amazing view of active volcano, the inactive one and the whole valley below. Off course everyones eyes were focused on the active volcano. We knew we would get some wine, but we were surprise to see that we almost got a bottle of wine each (some didn’t drink). There we all were sipping red wine, watching the sun set, in front of a active volcano. Don’t think things could have been much better. However, after dark the volcano action got even better. The rocks that we had barely seen coming out of the volcano were now lighting up the sky with their bright red color. Simply amazing!

I don’t think it was the safest thing to drink red wine up on a rocky ridge, two meters wide with 75 degrees walls on both sides. We managed to make it across the ridge in the dark safe some how. Everyone kept falling over on the way down, but I think it was probably good that we were all a bit drunk, because we were so relaxed when we fell. I suppose everyone having at least three jackets on and double trousers helped to cushening the fall too.

After a decent night sleep we set off walking down. It was easier the way back, but we ended up starving as we only got a bagel for breakfast and lunch was not included. So we had to wait until we got to Antigua before we could eat something. We ended up eating at Mc Donald´s, but this MC must be one of the nicest ones in the world. They have this great big courtyard with one of the best views of the volcanos in whole Antigua.

Tired and filthy as we were, we set off directly to Chichistenango, a town solely famous for its market. We had the craziest busride we have had in the trip there. Some people had warned us, but nothing can prepare you for how they drive on this route. The bus is first of all a old chicken bus (Old American school bus) that is made to go max 50kmh. However, the driver was overtaken brand new Mercedes and other cars. Not only that but he was overtaking cars in the craziest places, like curves with cliffs on the sides or road work (with speedlimits of 25km hand our driver going 80kmh). Most other local passengers were shaking their heads too, but laughing as they were trying to hold on to something not to be thrown on the floor. We were pretty upset with the driver, but what are you going to do about it. Forget roller coasters take a chicken bus on this route instead!

We got up early in the morning to beat all the tourist buses coming from other towns later in the day. The market was really living up to its fame. We found so many great souvenirs at great prices…or we got great prices after bargaining. In the beginning we were pretty shy about bargaining, but we got the hang of it and by the end we were down to prices so low that we had a few walk offs (i.e. they did not want to sell it to us at the price). In retrospect we wish we would have bought more, but you get a bit blind from travelling in a cheap country, thinking that some beautiful handmade woodcraft costing 2 Euro´s is way too expensive. Any way, we managed to get quite a few souvenirs as well as see loads of traditional cultural stuff.

Old nice street in Antigua

Old nice street in Antigua

Another nice old street in Antigua

Another nice old street in Antigua

Laura posing up before this nice yellow church in Antigua

Laura posing up before this nice yellow church in Antigua

Old Roman styled temple in Antigua

Old Roman styled temple in Antigua

We managed to sneak a photo of the otherwise photoshy local women

We managed to sneak a photo of the otherwise photoshy local women

Antigua´s main square with local cowboy in front

Antigua´s main square with local cowboy in front

This use to be the towns laundry place...

This use to be the towns laundry place...

Henrik getting friendly with Ronald Mc Donald in what must be one of the nicest Mc Donalds we have seen

Henrik getting friendly with Ronald Mc Donald in what must be one of the nicest Mc Donalds we have seen

And who said Mc Donalds does not put love in the food they make...coffee served on Valentines day

And who said Mc Donalds does not put love in the food they make...coffee served on Valentines day

Intent to arty picture during the trekk up to the volcano

Intent to arty picture during the trekk up to the volcano

View of the valley and another volcano

View of the valley and another volcano

Laura taking a short break after reaching the top...the ridge behind her is were we walked out...and back in the night

Laura taking a short break after reaching the top...the ridge behind her is were we walked out...and back in the night

Henrik posing up in front of the volcano

Henrik posing up in front of the volcano

A nice view from above the clouds

A nice view from above the clouds

Volcano lets out a bit of smoke and ash

Volcano lets out a bit of smoke and ash

Drinking red wine and waiting for the next explosion

Drinking red wine and waiting for the next explosion

The volcano crew sipping some well deserved quality red box wine

The volcano crew sipping some well deserved quality red box wine

This was about as close as we dared to go to the volcano...besos

This was about as close as we dared to go to the volcano...besos

Sun slowely going down behind the clouds..view from the volcano

Sun slowely going down behind the clouds..view from the volcano

When the sun started to go down, you could start seeing the red rocks and lava being thrown hundreds of meters

When the sun started to go down, you could start seeing the red rocks and lava being thrown hundreds of meters

Market action in Chi chi

Market action in Chi chi

Laura hanging out in front of church in Chi chi

Laura hanging out in front of church in Chi chi

Some guy kept throwing fire crackers in this fire right next to people...

Some guy kept throwing fire crackers in this fire right next to people...

Indiginous bargain hunters at the market make Henrik look like a gigant

Indiginous bargain hunters at the market make Henrik look like a gigant

Posted by hmontonen 20:07 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

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