Walkabout: Travel Life and Photographs

Yo Estoy Aqui, Barracho y Loco

April 5, 2007

My parents arrived late on a Friday night. Rach and I were lucky enough to get a ride down with the shuttle to pick them up and greet them. Glad to see them we caught up as we spent the first 3 days in Antigua showing them around and touring various churches, meeting our host families, and so forth. In the evening of the last night we hiked up Volcano Pacaya. Rach and I were impressed with this hike our first time around, but it was even better the second, as more lava flows were visible. Our guide also made it exciting, because as we approached what we thought would be the “don’t go beyond this point” line our guide momentarily paused before ascending further. He called back for all of us to follow him; most of the group hesitated and hung back. I knew that I wouldn’t get another opportunity like this, especially in the States, so I set off following him with Rachel coming behind and both my parents too. We came within about 10-12 feet of a lava flow slowly falling down the mountainside. It was great.

For our next few days we headed out to Lake Atitlan. We heard about a sweet Zip Line Tour outside of Panajachel that we had to visit. This was our first destination. We had to first climb up the mountainside to the first leading zip line, attached into the cable from our body harnesses and away we went one-by-one. The tricky part was slowing down. Each of us had a leather glove that was used to grab the cable near the end of the zip line to slow us down in order to stop. It seemed scary at first, but once you got a feel of the ride it felt rather safe. The ride continued onto 5 other zip lines until we reached the bottom base camp where we had started.

The next two days we took boat rides out to the different pueblos scattered around the lake’s edge as well as a thermal area where the water shot up to scorching temperatures and dropped in cold spots just inches away. In was neat seeing all the little towns and how they varied from one another. Some were very tranquil and peaceful and for the most part we went unnoticed, while others were packed with people and kids harassing us to buy things or give them money even before we could get off the boat. One pueblo is well known for it’s ceramics that we’ve surprisingly found sold throughout Guatemala, others for their weavings, one for their wooden “maximon” figurine that the local people worship and give offerings in form of liquor and cigarettes to help with crops or deal blows to their enemies. We saw the way of life of the people around the lake and visited a few smaller towns that appeal to foreigners who are currently building homes and resorts in these areas.

From the lake we made our way to the Mayan ruins of Tikal on a 9 hour bus. The bus ended up being less glamorous than what we were originally told at the travel agency, making Rach and I feel really bad for my parents, but we all managed through it. We spent two days inside the park exploring the vast expanse of ruins left behind, many of which are still being excavated and reconstructed, not to mention unburied from the tropical jungle that quickly reclaims the limestone ruins. My favorite time in the park was towards the end of the day one most of the tourists had left, leaving the park relatively empty. In the afternoon we were walked back through the main plaza after watching the sunset from atop the “Lost World” temple. We found ourselves surrounded on all sides by towering temples and ruined complexes to match, almost no one around, quiet and a nearly full moon to light our way.

To round out our travels we stopped in Flores on the way back to Antigua and toured through a very unique zoo which had a variety of animals and birds like wild pigs, toucans, a puma, a jaguar, and spider monkeys. And finally we toured La Azotea in Antigua which is a small, working organic coffee plantation and a couple museums. Some interesting facts being that a single coffee tree produces 8.5 pounds of coffee fruit once a year, this makes one pound of coffee beans after processing, and is good for 40 cups of coffee. One worker can pick 100 pounds a day by hand in an 8 hour period, and get paid $4US dollars for every 100 pounds that’s about fifty cents an hour. The plantation exports the final product at $3US dollars a pound, where it’s sold in the States for $10US dollars a pound.

Our goodbye to my parents ended up being quicker than expected and therefore maybe a little more sad. All in all we had a good trip with the parents and are now looking forward to our travels to come in Costa Rica.