Friday, November 12, 2010

Cops and Waters (and other natural wonders)

Angela writes:

Since leaving Panajachel we’ve put lots of KMs under our tires and we are now in the far north of the country.  We stopped in Antigua for 3 days where Daryll fell in love with the city and took about 200 photos in less than a day! Boy does he ever love his churches. Upon arrival in Antigua we were welcomed by an American tourist who had bicycled to Guatemala, a very helpful authority from the Tourism office and a man who owns the Honda & Yamaha dealerships in Antigua who recommended where we could buy some new back tires. “Ask and you shall receive”…see I pay attention to churches too;)


We again met up with our motorcycle travelling friends Naomi and Alberto and while we were checking out the free camp site they had scored, we noticed Volcano Fuego blow off some puffs of steam in the distance. Later on that day Daryll and I decided to take a tour to Volcano Pacaya to expand our volcano experience. After driving for a couple hours in a crazy collectivo van, we hiked up Volcano Pacaya to watch the sunset and toast some marshmallows on the heat of the glowing lava we could see deep in the earth.


During one of our days in Antigua we decided to have a typical Guatemalan lunch across the street from a busy, and chaotic market. We walked into the narrow opening of the restaurant and found a nice table in a deep and wide cement dining room. Now for the last 2 months I’ve become quite used to the sound of firecrackers. Children light them off all the time, any time of day, and the sounds of pop–pop-pop are easily recognizable in the distance, which often doesn’t even register as a sound in my consciousness anymore. On this particular day we ordered a delicious soup with squash, potatoes and big chunks of beef with rice and tortillas on the side. Muy buena!  Suddenly these huge cracking noises of eardrum damaging decibel, erupted on the street in front of the restaurant, echoing loud and terrifying. Immediately my brain decided there must have been a drive-by-shooting at the market across the street and so I dove off my chair, onto the cold cement floor of the restaurant.  Now I didn’t expect masked gunmen to come through the front door per say, but I figured under the table I would at least be safe from flying debris. I looked up at Daryll still sitting comfortably on his chair and was just about to pull him to the safety of the floor when it dawned on me that the cracking sounds out on the street was not in fact gun fire but most likely the sound of fire crackers up much more close and personal than what I’ve become accustomed to.  I immediately jumped back into my chair and hoped that nobody in the restaurant but Daryll, noticed my gross overreaction. Unfortunately that was not the case and the girl from the next table left her lunch to come over to make sure I was okay. Except for my terminal embarrassment, I laughed away the kind concern. Unknown to the other spectators, my hands continued to shake the rest of the way through lunch as Daryll glowingly admired my fierce survival skills.

After Antigua we had to drive through Guatemala City to get to our Northern destinations, so we decided that early Sunday morning would be the best way to avoid traffic and any dangers of city.  By 7:30 am we were meandering our way through the capital city and Daryll had stopped to ask for directions from a group of cops and army guys on motorcycles.  Instead of directing us, they all decided to lead us safely through the city on a little 5 motorcycle parade. By 8 am we were safely on the other side of the city, and on our way to our hardy breakfast destination. 

How to Navigate thru' Guatemala City from Daryll Naidu on Vimeo.

The next couple of nights we stayed in a beautiful hostel, in the middle of the mountains, in a town called Lanquin and we got there by riding a 20 km switch-backing, dirt road down into a valley.  Our purpose was to visit a beautiful natural water wonderland called Semuc Champey.   To visit the park we left the hostel with 4 other tourists and stood in the back of a pickup truck, hanging on to metal bars – not unlike Wayne Gretzky arrival to light the Winter Olympic cauldron. We drove another 15 km into deep, muddy valley and only felt like the truck was going to roll over the cliffs to our deaths a couple times;)  Semuc Champey in Maya language means “Hidden Deep in the Rocks”.  It’s a raging river, flowing down a valley that suddenly plunges into the earth, into a deep dark, treacherous cave.   Overtop of where the river disappears, there is a sold limestone roof that catches the trickling water that comes running down from the lush green jungle mountains surrounding the area. The water on top of the limestone creates collections of turquoise pools of water and is spread out over about 15 different cascading shelf layers.  It is like a natural infinity pool with waterfalls dropping from each pool into the pool below, and beside it.  Each pool is heated by the sun and are absolutely perfect for swimming in. Eventually the underground river connects to the last pool and all the water collects together again. We spent the day hiking up the mountain to get the perfect overview of all the pools and then for the rest of the afternoon we cooled down by swimming and lazing in the multiple pools.

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  1. Wow, you just keep finding the coolest places... great pics and I loved the firecracker story. Daryl will be lording that over you forever, Angie! Don't forget about him fainting, when he gets smug.

    Ride safe, have fun!

  2. I am sure there will be several embarassing moments by the end of our travels.