Saturday, December 1, 2018

A Recap of November 2018 - Part I

It’s hard to believe that an entire month has gone by already! It seems like it was just last week that I was living at “Casa Perez” in Guatemala. Now I am living at “Casa de Lourdes y Luis” in Honduras. In reality, I left my cozy home in Linda Vista at the end of October and, with the exception of returning for a couple of days in mid-November to visit Victoria and Alfonso, I have been on the move continuously until a few days ago. I have covered so much ground between then and now: approximately 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles) by car, van, various types of buses, and even by small boat, through three countries. What follows is a recap of the past 30 days.
man standing with chicken buses guatemala

Week One

On the afternoon of October 31, I transferred from the Perez house in Linda Vista to a hostel in Zone 1 of the capital. After dropping off my luggage I went to a soccer match featuring Municipal vs Comunicaciones with Andrés and Karen which was quite a cultural experience. An entire blog post will be devoted to that event in the near future! My friend Corey arrived from New York as scheduled late that evening. He and I spent the next two days exploring the city on foot and on the Transmetro. In spite of all the naysayers, I enjoyed my time in Guatemala City even if it doesn’t rank anywhere near the top of places to visit in the country. Some of the places we explored were the buildings and streets around Plaza de la Constitución including the Mercado Central; La Avenida Sexta; Zones 4 and 10; and La Avenida Reforma. We also visited a craft brewery, El Principe Gris, and had a delicious meal there celebrating Corey’s birthday. And we unintentionally ended up at a strip club, but that's another story...
man standing in front of large mural
Corey and I traveled to Panajachel at Lake Atitlan by tourist shuttle (i.e. small, cramped van with uncomfortable seats and no AC) on November 3rd. This required over six hours of travel on winding roads including a transfer in Antigua and a pit stop in Tecpan. Then we took a 45 minute ride in a small boat (lancha) to San Pedro La Laguna on the opposite side of the lake. We spent two nights there followed by two nights in San Marcos La Laguna. The lake is beautiful and we enjoyed exploring both towns on foot and chilling on the roof/decks of our hostels. We also rented kayaks in San Pedro and spent a couple of peaceful hours paddling along the lake one afternoon.
person in kayak on lake atitlan guatemala

Week Two

Our time on the lake continued with two relaxing days and nights at La Casa del Mundo near the tiny village of Jaibalito. On our first night there, I ended up sitting outside at 2:00 a.m. because I was astounded by the number of stars I could see in the night sky. On the second day, we hiked about an hour in the midday sun along the waterfront cliffs to the next nearest town, Santa Cruz, and then returned in the late afternoon, accompanied the entire way by a friendly stray dog.
mountainous coastline of lake atitlan
The next morning we woke up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a private boat back to Panajachel where we connected with a tourist shuttle to Antigua and then connected with another shuttle to Monterrico. We reached the unbearably hot and steamy Pacific coast before noon and within a few hours knew that we did not want to stay there for the originally planned three nights because, even with AC, being in our room was like baking in an oven which is also what it felt like outside. Things only got worse that evening when, just after sunset, the mosquitoes seemed to multiply by the minute and savagely feasted on any exposed area of flesh, DEET be damned. The most enjoyable part of our time in Monterrico was meeting and spending time with new friends, Tina and Zikander from Germany, and Lalo, who is from France but is living in Colombia. I particularly enjoyed our sunrise mangrove tour with Tina and Zikander. We also ate one of the best meals I had in Guatemala together at Taberna El Pelicano, along with another couple, Donna and Jonathan from Wisconsin.
sunset on the beach pacific ocean monterrico guatemala
On the afternoon of November 11th we shuttled back to Antigua for Corey’s final night in Guatemala. We spent part of the evening enjoying the magnificent view of the erupting Fuego volcano from the rooftop of Antigua Brewing Company, which also happened to have the best beer I drank in the entire country; in this case, the appropriately-named Fuego IPA. Then we had one last meal together at Pollo Campero since most of the other restaurants in town were already closed at that late hour.
brewery in Antigua Guatemala
We woke up the next morning without a definite plan other than that Corey’s shuttle to the airport would depart around 12:30 p.m.. We ended up reconnecting with Lalo and walking around town together for a little while, then Corey and I hiked up Cerro de la Cruz to enjoy the view of the volcanoes and of Antigua before returning to the hotel and saying our goodbyes. I caught an Uber to Casa Perez where I was happily greeted by Miriam and then enjoyed a relaxing evening catching up with Victoria and Alfonso.
view of Antigua Guatemala with volcanoes
The next 48 hours with the Perez family and friends were a wonderful way to wrap up my time in that part of the country. It was so much fun to see more of the city by experiencing some of their favorite places together with their loved ones: lunch at Arrin Cuan restaurant with live marimba music; visiting with Andrés and Karen and eating homemade tostadas at their condo; taking pictures with the Guatemalan Elvis; walking around Paseo Cayala; attending the closing performance of Ríos Dance at Teatro Nacional; and eating dinner at a 24 hour diner called Cafesa. We may have been a little short on sleep but our days and nights were filled with love and laughter.
couple sitting on park bench

I will recap the last two week of the month in my next post.

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