Guats Up, Guatemala? Chaos at the Border, Serenity by the Lake.

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Guats up, my people? What you see above is Lago de Atitlan or Lake Atitlan, the deepest lake in Central America reaching an average depth of 220 metres, which also meant that even juju couldn’t make me swim in it. Anyway, fun fact: this lake appeared as a result of a caldera formed due to a volcanic eruption some 80,000 years ago. The volcano on the left is called Volcan Atitlan, and I believe it was that bad boy that caused one heck of an explosion. Isn’t it amazing that from what must have been a terrifying sight of lava burning this gigantic hole in the ground, now sits a wonderful, calming, and peaceful lake?* Me thinks it is a reminder that one mustn’t dwell on misfortunes. The universe always ensures that when one door closes, another opens.

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This pose caused a splitting headache. The things I do for y’all! Don’t tell my mum.

In Santa Cruz, I found this very cool eco lodge where you rent a tent in a community of sorts and just spend time together. It was, without doubt, one of the best decisions I’ve made this trip. From the communal dinner to the epic/intense elimination tournament of corn hole that my team won, it was a stay to remember.

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Me and my tent
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Dinner with hippies
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Campeones, Campeones, ole, ole, ole!

The days I spent by the lake were some of the most restful I’ve ever experienced. There’s something about water that, when it is not threatening my life,  relaxes me and sharpens my thinking. I also got some of my sharpest images with my pro camera. I will upload some posts with just pictures when I eventually get around to transferring the images to my laptop (these phone camera images are not letting me be great). Patience is requested.

Before getting to the lake, I first had to make my way into Guatemala from Belize which was one heck of a journey; from the bad roads made even worse by the incessant rain, to the spectacle of again crossing the border on foot and almost entering Guatemala without stopping by the customs office which caused a slight uproar and an epic delay at the border. Let me explain.

When crossing into Guatemala, you first pay an exit fee at the Belizean side of the border, get your passport stamped and that’s it. No one explains anything to you, so you are left to your own devices navigating your way across. After getting through Belizean customs, I thought I’d just walk until I found the Guatemalan customs office/border patrol, but all I saw were Mayan women trying to get me to buy funny looking ornaments. So I soldiered on, until I heard what seemed to be chaos behind me. My first instinct was to run because I thought there was trouble behind me, but the sight of guns and men dressed in camouflage stopped me dead in my tracks. I almost pissed my pants thinking it was a hostage situation. You can’t imagine my relief when I realized it was border patrol!

I explained that I missed the office and had no intention of crossing illegally, but of course, that didn’t stop the intense interrogation and subsequent lecture from the border agent. My explanation and accompanying advice (once a consultant, always a consultant) on how to direct travelers across the border fell on deaf ears. It was all my fault! I must be honest and add that the guy was actually cool. He recommended the most delicious roadside food after realizing that I was just a poor backpacker.

I hesitated sharing this little story because I didn’t want to upset my family, but honestly, it was not as bad as you may have imagined. I mean, I’m writing about it!

Made me realize that even when you don’t seek adventure, sometimes adventure finds you. Oh by the way, please don’t tell my mum. Seriously, she worries too much.

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Border crossing. The calm before the “storm”!

Anyway, I got to Flores late because of that minor misunderstanding, but early enough to book my trip to Tikal where I checked out the second largest Mayan ruins in Guatemala! There is something about the Mayans that draws me to them. I can’t explain it, but if they fought for a cause, I’d be right there…all in.

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This part of the trip was especially satisfying because the Superintendent in my building back home is from Guatemala and had painted me a picture of the hike through the rainforest for hours before stumbling unto the ruins. Like an Indiana Jones movie. It actually turned out the way he narrated it. After fighting mosquitoes, “molesting” a tarantula, and upsetting a boa constrictor, we finally arrived at the ruins. I felt like a kid, running around with my arms spread out like wings up and down pyramids. All that stopped when I realized a serious ceremony was going on.

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Just so happened that we got there on the first day of the summer solstice, so a few traditional Mayan families had made the pilgrimage to the ruins to light a fire, pray, chant, dance, etc. We were warned not to take pictures of the ceremony, but someone did!

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Please don’t reproduce
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A snake and a tarantula in mouth. Don’t tell you know who.

After soaking up some Mayan knowledge in Flores, I headed down Guatemala to Antigua, another beautiful town along the gringo trail. This is another city/town full of Mayan people. It also meant that I ran the risk of getting suckered into buying traditional Mayan stuff – which happened too many times.

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Cerro de la Cruz

After I made it to the top of the hill, I found myself buying random stuff from this Mayan lady by the roadside. Stuff I won’t use, I still don’t even know why I bothered; only possible reason is that I fell for her. Dang it, I got suckered by a Mayan girl again.

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Downtown Antigua

Anyway, when I wasn’t getting played by Mayan beauties everywhere, I was traveling in one “chicken bus” or another. If you don’t know, chicken bus is the term given to transport buses in Central America because people are often cramped in these buses like chickens. Even worse, if you are anything above average height, you are in for a rough ride because these buses were made for the local people who are, how can I say this, short.

I would never be accused of being tall, but my knees still hurt from sitting in those buses being driven around by maniacs. I think the bones in my butt are still broken from all the pot holes we drove over.

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A Chicken bus

As always, more photos and videos are available on Instagram or upon request.

Song of the day: Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World by Israel Kamakawiwo’ole. I think the vibe of this song fits the mood the lake put me in. It truly is a wonderful world and I hope you realize that everyday. Israel died due to complications from being obese, but not before leaving us with this beautiful piece. I hope you enjoy.

*Except when it rains, which was everyday. A boat ride from one island to the next required some serious bravery and a strong stomach; one of my travel buddies “lost his lunch” due to the unbelievably turbulent ride to our island.

2 thoughts on “Guats Up, Guatemala? Chaos at the Border, Serenity by the Lake.

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