PAN AMERICAN JOURNEY PART VIII – GUATEMALA
Horsefeathers team rider Zuzana Salz travels through the Central America in a van! View amazing photos of Guatemala and read her travel journal!
Odometer: 67 131km
Hello Guatemala! After spending 22hours at the Mexican border we finally made our way across the border! Guatemala is known for it’s coffee, and to our surprise we found out that before WW II, 1/3 of all the coffee plantations were owned by Germans. That explains why there’s a European atmosphere in some of the towns. Anyway we spent a few days around the warm turquoise lake of Peten Itza close to the Mayan Temples of Tikal.
On the day we set out to explore Tikal we set the alarm for 5am to see the animals and the park without all the crowds. But when we arrived, a park ranger was like “oooohhh no entry, it’s only 5am, we have an hour less than Mexico!” So an hour later we were trekking around Tikal which was still immersed in mist. Long ago Tikal was another one of those great Mayan civilizations and is now a UNESCO site. The Temples are steep and induce respect, Howler monkeys hang out upside down by their tails and the only hills around are overgrown pyramids that are yet to be uncovered!
Now the Jungle is definitely a fun place,but its overwhelmingly hot and humid this time of year, and the “The Mosquito’s”are the biggest fear factor that put a damper on any party. These blistering buzzing bastards that suck the blood out of you are everywhere, by the hundreds!We’ve done what we could against these annoying, wretched, needle-nosed beasts but the only solution would be some sort of bodysuit like the spacemen sport! Other than the mosquito’s though, there are a ton of other creepy crawlies and soon you come to realize that in the Jungle you are never alone, there are eyes even under the smallest stone…..
One important thing to mention about Guatemala are the roads. Even though a map can indicate a main road, that doesn’t mean that a nicely paved road won’t suddenly turn into a narrow and rocky 30 degree slope with mudslides. Even when we asked the locals, one would say “Si, si, it’s a great road” while another person would tell you “it’s quite dangerous”. So most of the time you just gotta risk it and go by intuition. Since signs are scarce, we accumulated a few extra km….well actually, a few hundred km more than we expected! After we helped pull out a mini van out of a creek while a ton of locals just watched, we drove through some more rough terrain and finally ended up in a small town close to Semuc Champey.
Rumor has it, that Semuc Champey is the most beautiful place in all of Guatemala. It’s a place where a roaring river disappears under a limestone platform on which a number of small springs meet and flow into pools of emerald green and turquoise and slowly cascade over the natural limestone formation. But to get there you need a 4×4 so there’s a lot of trucks with anywhere from 2 to 30 people on the back of it and everyone is hooting and hollering!
Next was Lago de Attitlan where coffee plantations rim the lake and creep up the sides of the surrounding volcanoes.
We skipped out on the chaos of Guatemala City and the only city we visited in Guatemala was Antigua. An old colonial town with tons of coffee shops and every second person is a tourist. We stayed in a camping area right in the middle of town where we met a few other European couples, and families, also traveling the same way as us.
While in Antigua, Kamil had his birthday so we took advantage of the occasion and went out for dinner. I had arranged “something small and sweet” with the waiters for dessert, but when they brought a full sized cake to the table where only Kamil and I were sitting I was like Oooops! Later that night we cracked open a bottle of Mescal we had bought in Mexico which was intended for our friends in Czech, but it turned out we drank the liquid to the last drop with a couple from Holland…..so sorry about that my friends, but it went to a good cause! But don’t worry, we were severly punished the next day!
Anyway Guatemala has been a nice country to visit; friendly, smiley and helpful people with a strong sense for tradition; tortillas on ever corner; tons of markets with food and textiles, green vibrant landscape: lots of interesting insects; and everyone knows where Republica de Czech because of soccer since its their #1 game!
And now even though we are finally on the coast in Monterrico which has a nice black sandy beach, there are only sloppy onshore waves. So it’s time to go to El Salvador to find something surfable, even though by now our boards are probably covered with moss!