Guatemala, lagoons and volcanoes on fire

Early morning at Laguna Lachua

Our minibus is runs into a deep pool of lime dirt. The vehicle gets dark inside and driving visibility is reduced to zero. We stop to wash the windshield. A few more hours on a bumpy road towards Flores, the town located in northern Guatemala. Passing the colorful buildings and narrow cobbled streets we find hostel Los Amigos. It comes out to be a pleasant and relaxing place, crowded with people from around the world, hammocks attached to the posts, cheap drinks, desserts and licuados de frutas.

In the morning we go to Tikal to see Mayan ruins. It is a pity that the fog and rain reduce visibility. Being here you can easily imagine and feel the atmosphere of a community living here a few thousand years back in time. Sizeable temples, residential buildings and the plaza, the main market, a vibrant place of town’s daily life. Today the only inhabitants are the monkeys jumping on the branches of jungle canopy.

Well, maybe not the only, looking down my feet I am able to have spot a small tarantula.

Mayan ruins in Tikal, Guatemala

Three more buses, two more rickshaws, crossing the river, ten hours on the road in total and we are in the area of Chemuc Champey. We find an accommodation in el Retiro, an ecolodge picturesquely situated on the river flowing from the cave Cohabon. We have a selection of hammocks, tents or one of palapas (palapa (Spanish) is a thatched wooden hut with palm leaves on the top). Punctually every day at dusk one thousand of bats fly out of the caves Grutas de las Lanquin. Walking through the cave on our own we have to be careful not to slip. A high level of moisture leaves a lot of slippery mud. With a little imagination you can easily get lost as the cave has not yet been fully explored by speleologists.

An Italian guy, a fellow-traveler named Matteo encourages us to join him to visit Laguna Lachua. It is a meteorite-origin lake situated in a deep jungle. After few hours on bumpy roads again we reach a beautiful inland body of water. The crystal clear twenty-eight degrees warm water is blended into the landscape of rocks are submerged crater. We got up at dawn and indulge in a unique view, peace and quiet, delicately accompanied by subtle sounds of surrounding jungle. Perfectly smooth surface is momentarily disrupted by a lively jump off a crater rock into the blue-water basin. Here begins a new, beautiful day!

Traditional Guatemalan clothing

Guatemala City is not impressing at all, so we move straight to Antigua, the colonial city located in the shadow of three volcanoes. It turns out that Antigua is really a nice place for that reason we are here a few days longer than planned. Visiting Antigua we spend some time in municipal parks to sit on shaded benches overlooking the fountains and lazily ongoing local life. The latter becomes a vital and noisy only when we go to the marketplace. On the market you can find literally everything, starting with live chickens, dried fish, pig carcasses and diverse varieties of exotic fruit. The products are usually fairly cheap and on the top of that, which is a feature of every market, you can also haggle!

Lava on the Pacaya volcano

Pacaya is one of the several volcanoes in vicinity of Antigua. It is also the only active one. It is quite an amazing experience to feel the heat of liquid magma under your feet. This liquid mass is constantly moving, the top of it cools down forming still hot yet walkable crust. Not for long as new eruptions occur relatively frequently. Today we have a cool evening, but I have got this feeling as if someone put me into a big oven! Just put a stick down a hole in the crust and it instantly would set on fire.

Not an easy task to get up at four in the morning. Unfortunately this is the time when a hired minibus would bring us to Cop├ín, a Honduran town few miles pass the border. Strange thing tend to happen with transportation means in Guatemala. This time is not an exception. On the way a brake cord brakes leaving us with no means of reducing the speed. We are feeling lucky, so we just mention to the driver “just drive slowly.” We’re going slowly, adjusting the speed just until the car stops itself a few miles away at a garage. After having broken brakes fixed the driver invites us for a coffee and breakfast. After a few hours we get to Honduras and once again there comes back this exciting question, what sort of adventure is going to happen?

A few interesting facts:

Giant ants
  • local buses are terribly crowded and there is no such concept as no seats available
  • Gallo is one of the best beers in the Central America

  • while visiting bars and restaurants it is common to come across the live-show artists playing on xylophone, a popular national instrument
  • Guatemala is famous for its textile industry, the high-quality colorful and stylish merchandise is available at every marketplace
  • the textile products sold at markets almost always have a tag "hecho en Guatemala" (made in Guatemala), as opposed to ubiquitous “made in China

Cuanto cuesta?

licuados de frutas con leche (with milk, fruit desserts, various flavors): $2
entrance and accommodation in Laguna Lachua: $8
crossing the river on boat: $0.3
taxi rickshaw within the city: $0.5
t-shirt at the market: $3
trip to the ruins of Tikal: $14
trip to the active volcano Pacaya: $7 + $5 (admission)
beer at a party in Antigua: $2 – $3