Guatemala is a big country and the interesting places to visit are literally spread throughout the complete country. For this reason I’m quite happy that this country is equipped with what I call undercover-super-busses. They look exactly the same as they do in Europe except; They can carry about 3 times the amount of passages and luggage. Instead of slowing down, they just squeak when they hit a pothole or have fully road/bottom contact. If you hit a shallow river you don’t need to find a bridge or boat, you simply continue driving. This all happens enjoying some loud music and a smiling driver. The biggest variant of these busses is called Chicken bus and is basically a pimped US school bus.
Guatemala has a total of 29 volcanoes. Although most of them are not active anymore it still means that there is a lot of activity below the earth surface. This can clearly be seen when walking the streets of Antigua. Most older buildings like churches are damaged or even (partly) collapsed due to high amount of earthquakes. The damaged buildings together with the small colorful buildings and the massive volcano in the background give a very special scenery. I spent almost two weeks in Antigua, most of my time working in the small coffee shops or exploring the environment.
Climbing volcano Acatenango (3.976 m)
Although I like to hike short daytrips and I see myself as quite fit, I cannot call myself a trained hiker. Yet I signed up for this fantastic adventure. Around 5 am in the morning we were picked up from our Hostel and taken to the starting point which was around 2500 m. There I stood with my big 65L backpacks filled with camping equipment, food, water and lots and lots of clothes. Completely ready with my rented walkingstick branch we went up. We had a group of about 20 people and plenty of guides since some people rented some porters to take their gear up. While walking the climate slowly changed. The jungle plants, warmth and humidity slowly changed to a colder, dryer pine forest. The track was unforgiving with the loose soil and steep incline in steps. The thin air started to kick in after 4 to 5 hours of climbing. Slowly my knee started to play its part and I was happy that we carried the heavy tent between 3 people. It was very clear; I’m Dutch, not a mountain goat. We don’t have mountains.
When we got closer to the top the scenery changed again from pine forest to a more dry and dead environment. Around 5 pm we reached the spot to setup basecamp for the night. The campfire, hot meal and hot chocolate was very welcome. Especially since all my layers of clothing where moved from the bag to my body. At night the sound of the nearby active volcano Fuego was very clear. Every 10 to 15 minutes a low sound like a thunder strike could be heard. Due to the cloudy weather it was not possible to see what was going on.
The next day we started at 4 am to do the last few hours to the summit. When we opened the tent we were so happy that the sky was completely clear. The pitch dark basecamp gave an amazing view over the city with all its lights. Next to that was the active volcano Fuego, still making its noise every few minutes. Although this time we saw Fuego spitting glowing stones in the air and let some lava flowing in the form of a small river. A few seconds after each eruption the “thunder strike” sound was hearable again. Amazing!
The loose gravel together with the hard winds made the last meters to the top really rough. Because we were walking in the clouds there was nothing to see but we where sooo happy that we finished the challenge! Back in the basecamp we got breakfast and the good news that we could leave the tents for next group. Walking down was faster but also killing for the knees. The whole experience made me realize one thing. What are we small and tiny next to this natural phenomenon.
After the hike I needed some time to relax and to catchup with work. Lake Atitlan was defiantly the place to do this. Atitlan is located around 1500 m in a gigantic volcanic crater surrounded by multiple smaller volcanos. The lake is surrounded by small villages which act like one with lots of boat taxi’s. This became clear when I needed to print and sign a document. I ended up taking a boat to the next village to be able to print. That’s what you call a small village.
Lanquin and Rio Dulce
Lanquin is a small mountain village close to a set of water terraces called Semuc Champey. Unfortunately I rained a lot before I visited them and the water was not blue as it should be. Nevertheless I spent quite some afternoons in the amazing infinity pool and floating in the nearby river with a tube and a beer. I love my lifestyle 😊
Rio Dulce was my last stop before hopping over de border. The place I stayed was so remote that it could only be accessed by boat, there was no internet, no phone reception and only power during the day. Good for detoxing, nice environment but not for a digital nomad.