Gautemala. It was an odd destination for a holiday which literally came about in short conversation with my friend Leo. Why did we settle on Guatemala? Well I remember watching Survivor Guatemala and seeing Mayan temples! It was the only thing I knew about Guatemala and at that point my sole justification for going there. As this was a group holiday, the destination was up for discussion however we never discussed the destination again. So Guatemala it remained.
I bought my Guatemala Lonely Planet, so I knew what we were letting ourselves in for but as a group we decided that we didn’t want to have a detailed plan and to allow for a bit of spontaneity. So we all bought our flights. Olivia would be the first to arrive on the 27th of April, followed by me on the 30th, Drew, Leo and Jacqui would be arrive on the 1st of May.
29 April 2010 – Tripoli to London
So my journey would involve an overnight stop over in London, where drinks would flow freely until late. The next morning the early sunrise slowly woke me from my slumber and reminded me I still had a long journey ahead of me. So back to Heathrow airport I went. The chaotic traffic in London meant the taxi driver wouldn’t make to the airport in time and had to make the rest of journey by express train. At Heathrow, the uber competent (please note the sarcasm) staff of American Airlines had two bookings on my name, one connecting in Miami and another connecting in Dallas (this was what I paid for). So after much confusion I finally checked in and went straight to the gate. My first cross Atlantic flight went fine but couldn’t sleep much.
30 April – London to Guatemala City
I arrived in Dallas Fort Worth airport on time. I had two and a half hours for my connection. I thought I would fine. Then got to immigration, which for some reason you need to clear even though you are not staying in the US. Hundreds of passengers queuing up. Only four of the many immigration posts were open. Brilliant. I spent the connection time (the whole two and half) hours waiting in a queue, only to then be helped by a very friendly if somewhat annoying border official. He was interested in the difference between Portuguese from Portugal and Brazil. Not the time to get into that mate! Murphy was back to screw with me. As Voldemort is my witness, I will strangle the next Murphy I meet.
I was certain I had missed my connection to Guatemala due to the wait in Immigration and subsequently and customs, but thankfully the flight was delayed. I would still be going to Guatemala the same day (doesn’t change my disliking for Murphy!). Two hours behind schedule I emerged from the arrivals lounge to hear Olivia and a complete stranger shout ‘TONITOOOOO’ in a very finally-where-the-hell-were-you tone. The stranger turns out was a friend of Olivia’s, Miguel. Miguel was one of the many Guatemalan friends Olivia made while volunteering in Haiti with the Un Techo Para Mi Pais organization. They will henceforth be referred to as Techeros.
From the airport, we went to Miguel’s house to get changed as we were heading to a party of another Techero. So another night of slight inebriation. At the party we met 3 other Techeros who would be spending a lot of time with us during the trip. Papito, Angie and Karl. Karl. The name we would turn to when things weren’t looking good. More about him later. The combination of jetlag, alcohol and exhaustion was deadly. I don’t remember much of that first night. But I know it was fun or was told it was! That night me and Olivia slept at Karl’s house.
1 May – Guatemala City to Panajachel
D-Day. The day the self proclaimed Guat Squad would unite and conquer Guatemala. Once we all woke up, we headed to the airport to pick up Drew and Leo. We arrived at the airport to see Drew wandering around desperate for a sighting of the Guat Squad. Soon Leo emerged from the arrivals lounge as well. As Jacqui only arrived later in the day we went back into central Guatemala City for some food and a brief walk around the centre of the capital before heading back to the airport to pick up Jacqui. The Guat Squad was now complete. We went back to Karl’s house to pick up our bags as Karl was taking us to our first place of interest. Panajachel by Lake Atitlan.
The three hour drive involved poor Karl driving most of the way with most of us sleeping away in the back seats. We arrived in Panajechel to find a small but clearly busy party town, there were bars, restaurants all over the place. We were awaited by Miguel, Papito and Angie. We went to our hotel and left our bags and cars and headed straight to the centre for some more partying! At a certain time in the night the exhaustion got me again and I drifted in and out of short five minute naps on the pavement to dancing. I don’t remember getting back to the hostel, but that wasn’t out of drunkardness. I don’t remember because I actually slept while walking to the hotel. Most of us collapsed on beds while others went out and hung out with the Techeros.
2 May – Lake Atitlan
I was the first to get up that morning. The curse of still being on GMT. I opened the door to the hotel room and was left completely and utterly speechless at what I was faced
with. Lake Atitlan. The pure beauty of the lake surrounded by volcano’s completely blew me away. I got myself a coffee and went to sit on a chair to soak up the view. One by one the Guat Squad were waking up and discovering the unparalleled beauty awaiting them beyond the hotel room doors.
After a while we all had some breakfast and headed to the shore of the lake where we would find a lancha (boat) to travel to the different towns which sit next to the lake. The first stop though was actually a point at the lake where there were some strange thermal effects in the water. We just called it schizophrenic water. One second cold, next scalding! Reminded me of the Ubari lakes in Libya.
Next we went to a little lakeside town called San Antonio. Here we climbed up to the where the church sits with some amazing views of the lake. Here we also were surround by Mayan women and girls trying to sell of the things they made. One little insisted that I told her I was going to buy something from her on my return from the church. It was quite funny as she kept insisting it was me that told her that!
Next we headed to another lakeside town whose name eludes me right now, where we had lunch and the shisha I carried from Tripoli would be used for the first time, a baptism of sorts. So set everything up and started to light the coals which took a long time… but finally got the shisha going. It was getting cloudy and the wind was blowing some chilly air in, but there was still a nice feeling of sitting on this nice balcony enjoying a shisha with the amazing view of the lake.
We had our lunch and headed back to our lancha waiting for us. It was late already so headed back to Panajachel and to our hotel. Here we said goodbye to Papito, Angie and Miguel who were heading back to Guatemala City, while Karl was going to take the Guat Squad to Casa Palopo in Santa Katerina for coffee.
We drove our way to this little town on the lake again until we arrived at Casa Palopo and for the second time that day I was blown away but the sheer beauty of the lake. We sat and talked and viewed the sunset from the terrace of the hotel. At one point we all just remained quiet and absorbed the pure beauty that we were faced with. This place was to be one of my favourites in Guatemala.
After our amazing sunset coffee at Casa Palopo, we (Karl) drove us back to Gautemala City and to his house where we were hosted once again by his family. Before I go on I think it would be appropriate to thank the Brenner Family for their amazing hospitality.
It was with Karl’s dad, Randy that we planned out what we we’re going to do for the rest of the trip. We sorted out a rough itinerary and then Karl’s dad suggested getting a car as it could be more economic between five people than taking buses and it would also give us more control to do whatever we wanted instead of depending on tour companies etc.
With a plan sorted out we all headed to bed to catch some sleep.
The posts on Guatemala will have a common theme. If anyone realizes the them early on let me know. In the final post I will explain what the theme is and why the theme was used.