Traveling. It’s like me and chocolate…. give me a taste and all I want is more. A measly 7 days of escape from the middle of my busy final semester of college when I’m already suffering from major senioritis was just not enough to satisfy my wanderlust.
And speaking of chocolate — in some unimaginable way I don’t think I had any chocolate (or sweets, for that matter), until Allyn and I realized the absurdity of this and subsequently devoured a brownie sundae on my last night, immediately followed by a second one.
I had actually noticed our lack of ice cream on the trip the day before I had to leave, and made clear to everyone my determination to find some good helado. Specialty helado shops were everywhere to be found, yet we always seemed too busy or too full from the meal before to stop in. And still this was the case on that day until it was about 9:30 and we were all ready for some helados… only to find every helado shop in the little lake-side village of San Pedro to be closed. NO! We ended up settling with cheap ice cream bars from a freezer in a tienda. I was not happy.
Then as we meandered back down the dirt paths of the town to our hostel, lit by the full moon and nuzzled by the warm breeze, Allyn says to me, “I know something that will make you feel better about eating your ice cream.”
“What?” (could that possibly be..?)
“I think this is the only thing that hasn’t worked out for us on this trip…”
It was true. And I felt instantly better about eating my sweet, 5-quetzal Sarita ice cream. Things could be worse.
It was a bittersweet trip all around — enjoying every moment while knowing our time is so limited. Much emphasis on the sweet though ;
We began from all different spots on the East Coast — Boston, D.C., Charleston SC and Florida — and met up for a spring break adventure, starting with a flight to Guatemala City. We wasted no time and headed straight to Antigua, a cobblestone-covered, colorful colonial city (please excuse my annoying alliteration) nestled between three volcanoes. After a couple days of wandering the streets, stuffing ourselves with street food, watching the elaborate processions held each Sunday during Lent, and hiking nearby volcán Pacaya, we smushed into the back of a pickup truck with 9 other travelers + their bags and headed up the mountains to Earth Lodge, a magical avocado farm complete with tree houses, unlimited hammocks, and incredible family-style vegetarian dinners.
Are you convinced to go yet?
We spent much of our time at Earth Lodge in full-out relaxation: reading in hammocks, staring for hours at the gorgeous view of the valley and surrounding volcanoes, doing early morning yoga, eating well, steaming in the Mayan sauna…..
…and then having one exciting hiking adventure through the surrounding hills. This is a funny story ending with “boys are stupid for never taking directions.” So we took a (note: very inaccurate) map from the lodge with paths through the hills, which we may or may not have followed, but anyway led us through a small village where we let excited little kids see photos of themselves on our cameras and chatted with for a bit en español, then stumbled up and down some slippery, sandy hills, up the so-called “steep hill,” through the area marked “forest” (it was all forest), followed by a few zigs and zags until we reached “lots of corn,” which is where we got stuck.
It had been about 3 hours and we were near the top of the mountain, able to see Earth Lodge below, just not sure how to reach it. Of course the boy of the group, Juan Pablo, was convinced that we could just plough down the mountain through the trees and fields and fences until we reached the lodge. We were not so fond of that idea. JP walked a little further and yelled back at us “I see a sign labeled Camino Público!… That must take us back!”
Funnily enough, our shady and unhelpful map had one big X on it, and that was next to the words “El Camino Público – DON’T go down this road!”
I yelled back to JP, and I assume he thought I made that up because he said “see ya back there” and was gone. We shrugged, reasoning that as a huge white guy and a fluent Spanish-speaker he’d be fine, and turned back down our path to try the opposite direction of the fork in the road.
A short 15 minutes later we found ourselves skipping down the mountain to the driveway of Earth Lodge, exhausted and relieved not to be lost. But no Juan to be found. We figured if his direct route actually worked, he should have been back either before or around the same time as us.
….Two hours later, just as the daylight is beginning to dim and we’re feeling a bit nervous, I hear a huffing and puffing and feet slowly stomping down the steps to the lodge, and a completely dirt-covered JP emerged!
Turns out he hiked alll the way down to the valley (level with the city of Antigua), then alll the way back up the mountain to Earth Lodge, after we had all hiked to the very top of the mountain and around for 3 hours. Like I said, that’s what stupid boys get for not taking directions.
After a couple nice days in the mountains we headed 3ish hours west to Panajachel, a town on the shore of beautiful Lake Atitlán. We ferried straight across to the little Mayan village of San Pedro La Laguna, where we were enticed to stay for the rest of our trip (or maybe forever..?)
Apparently this is a common occurrence with travelers here, as San Pedro is filled with expat hippies, both young and old, who came to visit and never left.
Days were spent wandering the narrow streets and dirt paths, eating many-a-plato típico and slurping down licuados (fresh fruit blended with milk/yogurt and ice… and better than any smoothie I’ve ever made!), kayaking on the tranquil blue water, jumping off cliffs (..can’t say I did that, but I took the pics ;), celebrating the full moon with a cleansing ritual and the great company of other travelers, bathing in thermal pools, and visiting the sweet “banana bread ladies”—as they are known—no less than twice a day.
But enough with all the telling, let me show you my little taste of Guatemala.
La Antigua. A wonderful place
fresh mango pops at the street food market
pupusa de queso topped with guac, spicy veggies + picante
Sunday festivities during Lent
stuffed nuns for sale!
view while hiking volcán Pacaya
a beautiful wasteland of dry lava & ash
well-deserved rest back in Antigua
nuestra cabaña de árbol
huge bowl of fruit, yogurt + homemade granola
fried eggs + oatmeal topped with fruit preserves
if only I could start every day like this!
delicious fuel after an exhausting hike
schoolchildren in the nearby village
las chicas enfrente del Lago Atitlán
best breakfast in the world: eggs, beans, queso blanco + raw veggies (and grilled plantains if I got lucky!)
Zoola: Hebrew for laid-back, to relax, a state of half-conciousness on a lazy summer day when there’s nothing to do but sit outside and stare at the sun. We literally stumbled upon this hidden oasis while wandering around on the night of the full moon. The cozy floor pillows, colorful tents, Israeli food and crazy people seemed to transport us to some exotic Mediterranean island..
San Marcos La Laguna
market in San Pedro
A brief but alluring taste….. It was bitter to leave; sweet knowing that my wanderlust will bring me back.