Hola! ¿Que pasa amigos? Our week in Spanish school is really paying off! We spent a week in Antigua, a small city full of cobblestone streets and dozens of short term spanish schools! Lucky for us, we are in some desperate need of language skills these days, not to mention it might be very nice to stay put and hole up in a place that has more than a foot of headspace, and grub on some tasty foods. We got right to business and settled in at Hostel Antigüeño in our very own private room. This place was exactly what we need for our week as students... quiet, friendly local owners, a big beautiful garden for studying, and really delicious free breakfast! Our days in Antigua were comfortingly routine. We would wake up and head outside to the hostel garden for breakfast and coffee while studying and doing our homework, quizzing each other, and preparing to get schooled by our teachers day after day. We would happily hop on our bikes, like excited kids going off to kindergarten, and pedal 10 minutes down the bumpy roads across town. There were little plastic tables and chairs dispersed quaintly all over the big garden we had class in, with students from all over the world conversing back and forth with their local Guatemalan teachers. Our Spanish teachers were amazing, and while Chris' teacher was firm and straight to the point, Mallary's teacher was chatty and curious... both very effective teachers that matched well with our learning styles.The two of us would each go off with our own teacher for 4 hours a day (the most time we have spent apart in months) strictly conversing back and forth in Spanish. After class we would reconvene and head out for either a bike ride around town, a stroll through the artisanal market, or a few brewskies, all the while trying our best to beat the daily afternoon downpour. At night we would either cook dinner or grab some tatsty food in town, before chilling out at the hostel catching up online or chatting with other travelers. Life was good. We had something resembling a schedule for the first time in 2 months. There are a lot of things we liked about Antigua, but we unexpectedly appreciated the expat presence because where expats go, American stuff will follow. A special treat for ourselves was Dominos, twice, and are still tasting that lovely cheesy greasy meaty flavor in our mouths!! Guess it was time for small taste of home after so much beans, rice, and tortillas!
|Chris leveling up|
|One of the many colorful artisan markets of Antigua|
|Family time via skype!!|
Next stop was Lake Atitlan, which is close to Antigua on a map... but oh so far away in a car! We wind up and down through mountains, and even fording a stream due to a washed out bridge. We were on the most direct route for about an hour or so, when Chris says, "there has got to be a better way to get there!" (Premonition). We pushed on cause we are already commited to this route, but about 5 minutes later we come to a huge landslide blocking the road. The only option is for us to backtrack back through the mountains, head out of the way some, and pick up the PanAmerican Highway. A bit frustrated, but laughing it off, we were on real pavement roads again headed for the always lovely PanAm, and ready to make good time and get to the lake, when of course, we come to a dead stop in a town that is having some sort of fiesta. Chris stopped laughing at this point, but mad Chris makes Mallary laugh even more... And here we sit still and wait for not one, but two different parades to pass, then wiggle our way through the crowded streets out of town. Ok, now we are on our way, its time to finally drop into the valley that the lake sits in, and boy was it a drop!! We know we say this a lot, but the road was steep, switchback after switchback, dodging potholes and buses driven by lunatics the whole way down!! The "75 mile drive" took us 5 hours total!!! Cervezas por favor!
|A detour sign would have been nice, at the last turn off, an hour ago!!!|
|Fiesta for them, siesta for us while we wait|
|Digging the braids!|
|At least when we fly over the edge, our last memory will be a beautiful view! ;)|
|Our first glimpse of beautiful Lake Atitlan|
Lake Atitlan is a large lake guarded by steep cliffs and three volcanos, with about a dozen small towns dispersed around it's shores connected by rough roads and water taxis. Our friends Nick & Leah are working here for the next 6 weeks or so, so we camped out in Lola at Del Lago Hostel to spend some time with them. Del Lago is in the town of San Marcos... an epicenter of all things hippy and natural. The smell of BO was like a layer of smog, and the presence of MC Hammer pants interspersed with yoga attire was unreal. Any possible holistic services you could imagine exist here, such as: reiki, cacao tea spiritual ceremonies, yummy organic products, yoga, rebirth therapy, massage classes, medicinal herbal courses, and even barefooted, dreaded, stinky people selling homemade "energy" balls with the main ingredient being Love. We would have loved to partake in most of these things, but we spent only 5 days on this eclectic lake, and to be honest most time was spent with friends, knowing that we wouldn't be seeing them or any familiar faces for a long time to come. Highlights include a beautiful sunrise hike to Indian Nose, a bday splurge for the ladies at a legit fancy wine and cheese restaurant, meeting our booze quota for the month, yoga on the lake, ample kombucha intake, simply enjoying the absolutely gorgeous views of our surroundings, and many hours laughing with friends.
|Yoga platform at Del Lago overlooking the lake|
|Looking good for a bunch of vagabonds that live in cars!!|
|Friends for 17 years and counting, still finding random adventures together around the world|
|Sunrise at Indian Nose|
|Totally worth the 4am alarm clock|
|White girl wine drunk tuk tuk ride home after wine and cheese!|
|Tuktuk ride back from the sunrise|
Our last stop in Guatemala was to hike up to Volcano Pacaya. We showed up first thing in the morning and were immediately surounded with guides and about a dozen guys and kids on horses offering rides up the volcano. So, first of all, it is not uncommon to be absolutely bombarded with people at times in central america, people trying to sell you things, people trying to "help you cross a border", or people trying to make you give them money. It is easy to get frustrated in these times, but we usually keep our cool and shrug it off. This particular morning though, we were in a hurry, we wanted to hike during the morning and cross over into El Salvador that afternoon. We almost got in the car and left because so many people and horses engulfed us making it impossible to think or make a decision. Mallary finally flipped out and told them to back up some, however all they really did was quiet down for a moment, "Seriously, we dont need all these horses! We only need two horses and a guide, and if we take horses we will take the first two that talked to us, so the rest of you can leave, please!!!" she shouts in Spanish once more. Most of the folks must understand that this woman is getting mad, so they wisely disperse leaving us to hash out details with a guide and two horses. Mallary was gung ho about horseback riding....how many times can you ride a horse named Tequila up a volcano?? Chris wasn't feeling it, and choose to hike promising he could keep up with Tequila on foot. It was a stunning hike with incredible views, even getting to see and hear the eruption of nearby Volcano Fuego. 2014 was the last time Pacaya erupted, covering large swaths of forest and cropland with black rock and ash. This debris field is the main destination for hikers, even a year and a half after the last eruption, the scorched earth is still smoldering just a few inches under the surface. Lucky for us we packed marshmallows, grabbed a couple sticks, and in less than 30 seconds roasted the most perfect golden brown ooey gooey marshmallows over hot volcanic rocks. Once we had our fill, Mallary kissed Tequila goodbye and we ran down the soft, steep volcanic scree, feeling almost weightless on the powdery ash. By the time we got back it was almost noon, and we still had a border to cross. Knowing borders can get busier as the day goes on, we wasted no time and headed towards El Salvador!
|Fuego tooting in the distance!|
|Halfway up Pacaya|
|Tequila makes her smile|
|At the end of the trail, summit is closed due to noxious gases|
|We shoulda made smores!|
|Mallary nimble as always|