This world is on FIRE!
It is strange how a plan can sometimes completely shift. Originally we planned about 2 – 3 weeks in Belize and no time in Guatemala. As it turned out we only spend 3 days in Belize and 3 weeks in Guate. We still believe it was the best choice for us.
2 Days in Belize
Entering Belize was a strange experience. The food was extremely expensive and the people spoke English again. At one point we were using our limited Spanish to ask a question in a grocery shop and they actually send for a Spanish speaking colleague because the cashier could only speak English! After a month in Mexico, this was a world upside down. The few days we were there though we found some true gems. Firstly, Big Rock Falls. We spend the whole day chilling, swimming and jumping at this amazing waterfall. We are still amazed by how lucky we were to find this spot. Thank you again Ioverlander! Secondly, Rio Frio cave. A fun stop on the way with some hiding places full of bats. Thirdly, Rio on Pools. Beautiful scenery and for the more adventurous a couple of natural slides downstream. We did get our share of small leeches from these slides, but hey that’s the price for fun I suppose :-P.
3 weeks in Guatemala
By entering Guatemala the world felt right again. People were speaking Spanish, all prices went down again and we immediately noticed the indigenous culture was still very present here.
Our first stop was Tikal. These Maya ruins are huge and what makes them extra special is that they are located in a big dense jungle. You literally need to walk for hours to catch every site if you want to. We had done some Maya ruins in Mexico already, but these were still very impressive. Most of our attention went to the wildlife though. In the few hours we were there we saw spider monkeys, howler monkeys, a coati, a fox, woodpeckers, and a toucanet.
After that exhausting day, we went to do a very local cave. It was fun to walk and crawl around in the dark on our own! But what almost made Britt turn back out in the first 10m was this creepy looking spider. Does anyone recognize the creep? YES! It is the Harry Potter 4 spider! Yuk, yuk, yuk! And not only do these ones look exceptionally filthy, but they also move ridiculously fast! It took a lot of pleading of Jeroen to pass this one on the first steps.
So done with the spiders for now… We had to make haste to get to our language course in time, but we did manage to squeeze in one more stop on the way and we are sooo glad we did so. When reading about Finca Paraiso we had put this stop on our map, but we kept our expectations low. I mean ‘hot waterfall falling into cool river with hot springs on top’ sounds really cool, but it can always be one of those overhyped things right? But it was not!! Shower hot water falling into a cool river: check! Hot springs on top: check! And they also looked really nice! After that we also met a local guy who showed us a couple of underwater caves around the base of the fall. It really was the perfect stop on the looong drive to Xela.
Hablamos un pocito espagnol
We had realized that the Spanish wasn’t growing as much on us as we had hoped, so we settled in Xela for a week-long Spanish course with a homestay to immerse ourselves as much as possible. We stayed in the house of a lovely lady ‘El mama’ or ‘Martha’ who cooked for us 3 times a day! This kind of luxury was very appreciated because the Spanish itself went along slowly and with a lot of headaches. But next to the homework (Yes homework!) we got to enjoy some salsa, do some quizzing and enjoy a really great BBQ. In the end we did ‘Hablo un pocito espagnol’, but the rest would need to be learning on the job!
Although climbing spots are really scarce in Central America we managed to find two in Guatemala. One with a really nice view on Lago Amatitlan and some good routes and one just a little different… We arrived at Cerro Quemado, a very local town, to go and enjoy the rock wall. What we didn’t expect were the hundreds of Guatemalan pilgrims praying on the side of the same mountain. We must have passed more than 20 different groups all with their own preacher. Everyone was either singing, shouting or crying in their group. The climbing wasn’t really interesting, but to experience a send while hundreds of people are praying loudly behind you was spectacular. We actually only did one route. Jeroen went up first and halfway his climb there were at least 50 pilgrims just watching the show. People took their phones out to start filming and just watched mesmerized until we were done. Then a couple of people congratulated us and went on with their day. :-D
Best hike eveeeeeer
Due to some coincidence, we fell onto the Acatenango summit. I believe it went something like this: We had met a guy in Mexico who told us about a hike in Guatemala where you could see lava streams. When we researched this hike, it turned out that they almost insisted on taking a guide while you were actually not obliged to. We didn’t really feel like having a hassle there so we typed randomly in google ‘Guatemala Lava’. Et voila! The Acatenango volcano came up. During the summit at night, you would be able to see his brother volcano ‘The Fuego’ erupt. Like that, we were sold. Now, most people do this trip in two days… but since we are not like most people we did it in 1 long night/morning!
Time for the stats again:
12:30 AM – Start of the hike: Yes we started at half-past 12 at night. We didn’t want to miss a nighttime eruption of the Fuego for sure!
12:35 AM – Start of the rain
01:30 AM – Realizing this is not going to be a walk in the park. The path is made entirely of volcanic grind which means you slide a bit with every step. At least the rain kept everything a bit more together
4:10 AM – Reaching the camp of hikers who hiked up the day before just in time for two eruptions! LAVA!! These hikers were waking up to go up to the summit for the sunset with their guide while we were trying to take a good picture
4:45 AM – Passing the guide with his hikers on the way to the top
5:15 AM – Summit reached!
5:30 AM – Sunrise time: The sky actually really lit on fire for this one. We can’t believe how lucky we were this day to have everything come together like that!
10:00 AM – Back at the car: Time for a little nap we thought
Elevation gain: 1650 m
Lowest point: 2430 m
Highest point: 3976 m
Distance: 12,26 km
It would have been impossible to beat our view of Guatemala after all that fire so we hurried along to Honduras!