Our Trip to Guatemala

We began our trip in northern Guatemala, just north of Flores in a place called Tikal, which is considered the New York of the Mayan world. This hallowed place consisted of various temples and monuments surrounded by jungle. We arrived very early so we were able to hear the jungle wake up, including many different bird calls and howler monkeys.

This is the Grand Plaza:

And this is Mundo Perdido (Lost World):

We were fortunate enough to be there for the Winter Solstice as well so many Mayan spiritual leaders from all over Guatemala came to Tikal to perform ceremonies. Luckily they allowed tourists to witness these events and at times we were even encouraged to partake in them. The main ceremonies took place in the Grand Plaza:

That evening we spent the night in Flores where we saw a beautiful sunset over the lake:

The next morning we woke up early and walked around the town a bit…

…before taking a five hour shuttle to Coban, which is located in central Guatemala. We took many pictures from the bus. Here’s one of our favorites:

We decided to stay with a Mayan family in their home in the mountains near San Lucas. We took two busses to get there and the second one was all “up”. I don’t think the driver ever got out of first gear. Then we walked for an additional half hour to their home:
Communication was difficult because we did not speak Q’eqchi and only one member of the family spoke Spanish and we don’t speak that very well. There were lots of smiles though which seem to be international. We learned some Q’eqchi words however, like thank you, cold and delicious. We also learned the numbers 1 to 5 because we taught the children a card game. Here’s Ligeia being the teacher that she is:

Mindy was particularly excited about learning how they cook their food. Nothing was served that wasn’t grown on their section of the mountain. Fresh tortillas were served at every meal. And when we say “fresh”, we mean as fresh as they could possibly get. Here’s the process of making a tortilla from beginning ot end. First you boil the corn:

Then you grind it in a corn grinder. Here’s Mindy giving it a try:

Next you grind it finer using a large mortar and pestle:

Then you flatten the corn dough and shape it into a perfect circle. It was amazing to see the skill of the grandmother doing this. Here’s Mindy learning from the master herself:

Finally, they are placed on the fire. Because Ligeia realized very quickly that she couldn’t form a circle, she added her own style and created “heart” tortillas which were generously accepted by the family:

We also took a hike deeper into the cloud forest and up to a place called Chicacnab. We were hoping to see a Quetzal, which is the national bird and the name of their currency, but it was raining so we couldn’t. It was still a beautiful and challenging hike however.

Christmas morning we awoke very early and hiked down the mountain in the dark to try to catch a bus back down to Carcha and then on to Coban again, where we caught a bus to Lanquin but none were running because it was Xmas day. So we got a hotel in Coban for the night and because there was nothing open we had to get Dominos pizza delivered to the hotel. Can you believe it? We travel all that way just to eat pizza!

Early the next morning we took a bus to Lanquin, which is two hours away. One hour into the trip, the bus driver goes over a pothole and something happened either to one of the back tires or the rear axle. Either way, we all had to get out of the shuttle…in the middle of a jungle road, in the cold and the rain while the driver tried to fix the problem.

After waiting for some time, there was a whistle and all the Guatemalans went running for another shuttle. Being at the back of the mass of people who crammed their way into the shuttle, we and a Mayan couple didn’t make it. We were told to flag down every shuttle that passed and ask if they would going to Lanquin. We must have flagged down 10 busses (and waited for an hour) before we finally found one going our way. Even though we would have considered that bus “full” back home, we became Guatemalan and shoved ourselves in there too. We finally made it to Lanquin.

In the evening, we took a tour to the Grutas de Lanquin otherwise known as the bat cave. The tour did not disappoint as we saw many bats, especially when we sat at the entrance to the cave at dusk when they all flew out.

The guide found a spider and said it wasn’t “peligroso” so Ligeia was the first to volunteer for a chance at holding it:

The next morning we went on another tour of caves and Semuc Champey. We were each given a candle at the entrance to the caves and we explored around by candlelight only. Sometimes the water was so high that we couldn’t touch the bottom and had to swim. It was quite the adventure. Because of the water we didn’t bring our camera for that but afterward we hiked up to an outlook point called Mirador to overlook Semuc Champey, which is considered the most beautiful place in all of Guatemala:

We then hiked down to the poles where you could go swimming in the pools:

Our next stop was Antigua, which was an 8 hour drive from Lanquin. It is a very colonial town with beautiful old churches and cobblestone streets:

The next morning we took a shuttle to Panahachel a small town on Lake Atitlan, full of tuktuks (small taxis),…

… street vendors,…

…and of course don’t forget the beautiful lake. Here’s what it looks like in the morning:

From the Mayan legend, a strong afternoon wind that comes from the West called Xocomil kicks up the waves of the lake. Our guide book says sometimes these waves reach 3 meters high! You can see the affect Xocomil has on the lake when comparing the two pictures. It doesn’t even seem like the same lake:

After watching a beautiful sunset at the lake and a restful sleep, we took a short ride to Chichicastenango, which is a biweekly Mayan market. It was VERY easy to get lost. Finally though Mindy found a place where she felt tall:

After purchasing some items at the market, including a fruit called granadias that we first tried with the Mayan family, we headed back to Antigua to bring in the New Year.

In the morning of the 31st, we awoke before the sun and took a tour to climb Pacaya, an active volcano. It was a VERY difficult hike and Ligeia’s asthma didn’t help any. But we finally made it to the top and it was well worth it!

New Year’s eve celebration were very festive and they started in early afternoon. Marimbas were played on every block on Calle de Arco.

There were also huge costumes that people later put on and danced in the street to the marimba music. There was also acting, comedy, and some sort of girls beauty contest amidst vendors selling their weaving and the like. Here’s Mindy posing with one of the giant puppets:

Ligeia really fell in love with the Guipils from the Coban region in particular so the last evening in Guatemala we came across a store that sold some second hand. Ligeia bought this one and wore it home:

The next morning we flew to Tampa, where we intend to stay for a week visiting Erick. We really enjoyed Guatemala and recommend it to everyone!

Happy New Year everyone!
Love, Ligeia and Mindy :):)

6 thoughts on “Our Trip to Guatemala

  1. Nathalie

    Ligeia, you shopped, and the shirt looks beautiful on you, I am so proud hehe!!!! lol The pictures are amazing. I am very excited to hear all the stories. Dinner date soon, I hope xoxoxox

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