Well, I'm off to the states tomorrow. Guatemala and Honduras were really cool. I'm really glad I had the opportunity to do this trip. There were a few pit falls along the way; not knowing any spanish to begin with was a little tough, leaving my hat in San Marcos, and not being able to spend Christmas with Cassie. But reflecting back on it things have gone pretty smoothly (knock on wood). It was a good experience to do some traveling alone, and push my comfort level a little. Things were a little overwhelming at first, but everything seems to work out in the end. I have meet some really cool people along the way. The hostel life is where it is at. Everyone is very friendly and out going. It has been really easy to make new friends.
I ended up staying an extra day in San Marcos because on Christmas I wasn't able to go kayaking like I wanted to. When I eventually did get to go kayaking it was a little different than I was used to. The seat and cockpit in the boat weren't set up very well; the cockpit was fairly low volume and the set was fixed in a reclining position. I had to sit in the kayak with my knees sticking out of the cockpit. The kayak sat really low in the water and when the waves picked up on the lake you would end up spearing them and the water would run up the deck and hit the cockpit rim and spray right into my lap. In addition to the boat taking on water at every wave the paddle was taking on water as well. It was a cheak carlile knock off and it seemed to get heavier the longer I went. I thought I was just out of paddling shape and or used to my carbon fiber paddle, but when I was carying it back it wouldn't stay balanced. I lifted it to my ear and you could hear water running back and forth in the paddle. It was still really fun to go kayaking on Lake Atitlan. It was just a little different experience than I thought it was going to be.
After San Marcos I went to Antigua and hiked Pacaya Volcano. That was amazing! There is no way you could do this in the states! We hiked up an active volcano with tons of other people. It was a pretty steady stream of people all the way to the top. Once you got to the top you were walking on Pahoihoi formations that sounded hollow. I kept thinking I shouldn't be there walking on it because it might break through. As you go closer to the top you could feel the heat radiating up from the ground. The closer you got the hotter it was. It was so hot up at the top that the soles on some people's shoes were coming off! At the top there was a river of lava flowing down the volcano. There were no fences or anyone keeping people from going anywhere; it was a free for all! The guides were even showing people how to poke lava with thier walking sticks. The walking sticks were awesome by the way. I usually never hike with a walking stick, but it was perfect. There are a ton of kids at the bottom selling sticks for 5 Quetzales ($.65). I bought a big long one to poke the lava with, but it was perfect for keeping balance at the top on the hot rocks! The kid who came up with the idea of selling walking sticks at the bottom is a genious. Anyways, I regress, it was sooo freaking hot up there. You couldn't stand down wind of the lava stream or you would get roasted. To poke lava, get on the upwind side, grab your stick at the very end, run in as fast as you can with your arm fully extended, jab the lava faily hard (the lava is pretty viscous), and run away. That is about as much as you can do. The group I went with bought mashmallows and we roasted them over the lava. Same kind of deal as with poking it except you streach out as far as you can with a long mashmallow stick and you can get it nice and golden brown in a matter of seconds!
After poking lava with a stick I headed 8 hours north to Semuc Champey. I don't know what was more cool; hiking on an active volcano, or swimming in the terquoise pools and underground stream at Semuc. I paid 160 Q for the tour, which was awesome. We went caving with candles in an underground stream, tubing on the river that forms the pools, jumped of a 30 foot tall bridge into the river, and swam in the pools at Semuc. It was totally worth it, or more! I'll post pictures as soon as I can. It was too pretty for words.
I spent New Years in Antigua. It was also pretty fun. They closed off the streets and everone celebrated in the streets. It was really nice to actually get to celebrate new years rather than prepare or travel for US Nationals.
After traveling in Central America I have learned a few things:
* Guatemalans and Hondurans love thier fireworks!
- Kids just walk down the street tossing fire crackers over their shoulders. No body seems to mind, besides the unaccustomed tourists. They don't really seem to like anything with lights though. All the fireworks I have seen just make loud noises rather than send sparks everywhere. They especially like thier fireworks for New Years and Christmas. At midnight on Christmas Eve it sounded like they had set off the fireworks stand. There were fireworks going off like mad for an hour and a half. New Years was a given, but on New Years day at noon people went mad with the fireworks again. They would through strings of fire crackers out into the streets all over Antigua.
* Guatemala and Honduras isn't incredibly warm in December.
- When I was packing for Guatemala I thought it was going to be much warmer than it actually is. I brought two pairs of shorts, one pair of pants, a bunch of t-shirts, and one long sleeve shirt. Next time I'm bringing more pairs of pants, a warm blanket for the hostels and another long sleeve shirt. The first couple nights down here were pretty cold.
* Guatemala and Honduras isn't exactly all rain forest.
- I thought more of where I was going was going to be more tropical. There were definetly a few palm trees around, but for the most part a lot of where I was felt more like the pacific northwest. It wasn't until I went to Semuc Champey that I was in more of a rain forrest and jungle type setting and what I thought more of Guatemala would be like. A lot of this probably has to do with the elevation in Guatemala and my prevous revelation.
* You can get away with much more in Central America.
- You can probably get away with a bit more everywhere but the states because of all the lawsuits. But the volcano was pretty rediculous. I heard a report from a couple days after I went that while people were up on the volcano a new vent opened up and people had to scramble not to get cut off by the new stream of lava!
* Travel with a bigger bag.
- I feel that I traveled with the right amount of stuff (besides the lack of another pair of pants and long sleeve shirt). But it would have been nice to buy things along the way. As it was I could just fit the stuff I brought, and couldn't really buy much stuff until today. So next time I travel I'll go with a bigger bag and the same amount of stuff.
It has been really cool to experience the different cultures here in Central America, and I feel especially blessed with all the wonderful people that I have met along the way and helped me out. I'm deffinetally hooked on traveling and can't wait until I can go again. I already have the next couple trips planned out.
Once again you'll have to wait for pictures. When I get to a computer where I can post pictures and have a fast internet connection I'll do a Central America picture post.
By the way, Karl started up his own blog. Check it out at:
(I would make it a hyper link, but there is a block on pop ups on this computer and I can't access that function of blogger, so you'll have to copy and paste)