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I should”ve known not to take the word of a Mexican bureaucrat… After originally being told that my South African partner in crime would easily be able to get a Visa to enter Mexico, the ku-day-graw came three weeks later not by a cap in our crowns, not after forging my bosses name on federal documents, not after running to-and-fro the immigration office while I should have been working, but by them telling me she was allowed to come in to Mexico only if I were to give them a 20,000 peso (2,000 DOLLARS) „deposit” which I would get back when she left the country… we soon began plotting possible ways to smuggle her across the border. In the process of wondering if it was a good idea or not to sneak her into Mexico by means of covert operations (by covert operations I mean, having her sit in the back seat of a car with my back pack and clothes covering her) and also how to break through the mexican wall of immigration defense (tunneling?); we noticed that Guatemala was a very fine looking country, worthy of exploration, and a Visa by any traveler from any nation was not needed. Good news on all accounts. Less than 24 hours later, I was on a bus and she was packing her bag to catch a flight to meet in Guatemala City. Sorry Mexico, I love you, but if we were to get married, I definitely would make you sign a pre-nup… something about corruption and dishonesty that just don’t sit well with this guy.
Some sort of plan other than, „We should spend time on the beach,” might”ve come in handy, but then again, that (planning) takes away half the fun of traveling in a new country. If we even had a „tentative schedule” it might’ve looked something like this…
Meet in Guatemala City, explore the city for a few days, head to the beach for a week or so, go somewhere for New Years, and then back to Guatemala City for more urban fun. That’s not exactly the way things panned out… Here’s the itinerary that worked itself out through random decisions/encounters with people along the way.
Guatemala City- The first few days consisted of eating fruit from odd yet glorious fruit carts, seeing sights, and odd barters for beautifully ironic (and catholic) t-shirts. The nights were spent in Che Guevara”s old watering hole, where we drank out of fish bowls that held „five-shot cocktails” (sorry, as would be expected cant remember the actual name of them), and met a handful of interesting characters, including one ornery old Culinary-Reporter who kept telling me how special I was, for being in this particular bar…. uh, thanks.The next person we happened to meet was infinitely more amiable… a fun-loving funnyman who not only had us falling off of our bar-stools with cheek-cramping laughter, but also talked us into (you two should really go there… okay, done) heading to Tikal, aka, the Mayan Capital of the World. A day later, after a 13 hour bus ride and a near case of hypothermia thanks to the sub-zero constant air-conditioning, we found ourselves at the scenic little lake town of Remate, waiting to walk through the 2000 year old Mayan temples of Tikal.
Tikal- We walked through the lost world of the Mayan cultural epicenter, being overwhelmed by the size and grandeur of the temples, both excavated and unexcavated. Half of Tikal still has not been discovered and if you are wondering why the mountains/hills you walk around to get from different parts of the city look like pyramids… it”s because they are pyramids, overgrown by shrubs, bushes, and ten meter trees; waiting for one day to be unearthed and shine their true colours. Photos were taken at every turn, and we were lucky enough to be there when hardly any other tourists were around, allowing us picture perfect photo opportunities. Ofcourse, time was also taken for a few modeling photos to be taken and will be issued in the next episode of Mayans Next Top Model.
Antigua- Upon leaving Tikal, we met a lovely Thai traveler named Chai on his way to Antigua. We originally were on our way back to Guatemala City to continue on to the beach, but after hearing about Antigua, and after avoiding the possibility of being robbed, mugged, or worse on a „chicken bus,” (Thanks Nats) we all found ourselves randomly on the same bus back to Guatemala City, and the next day, not so randomly found ourselves in the same taxi heading towards Antigua. Spent time walking around the cobblestone streets seeing the sights of the city, did a little shopping in what possibly could be the best/worst market known to mankind, and kept an eye on the ominous Volcano in the background. Also used Antigua as a decision-maker by either heading to Lake Atitlan or the coast. Finding out we were closer to the beach than expected, and tanning time was a necessity (at least for one of us) for the trip… off to Monterrico we went.
Monterrico- A beautiful little beach town, in the shape of a „T” with the top part being the coast/beach, and the lower part being the main road leading into „town.” We came to relax and tan and that is exactly what we did; by playing on the black sand beach,enjoying fresh ceviche and cold beer, taking photo shoots (thank you Hostel Geko for providing such an inspiring work of art, not to mention the person who made the fine looking sombreros we sported on the beach that day), and also managed to celebrate christmas and a birthday. Wanting something more for New Years, we headed back to Antigua to see how Guatemalans like to get down for „Feliz Año.” On the ride back to Antigua couples in the van were talking about the Volcano Pacaya, so we soon decided that since we were in an area with an active Volcano, these two globetrotters would soon be trotting to see magma. Information was also given about „the most beautiful lake in the world,” so we decided after new years and volcano, Lake Atitlan would be our final destination of the trip.
Antigua- checking in to a very fun yet very busy and poorly managed hostel, we met some new found friends that we would pass the next few days and into the next year with. New Years was spent under the Arco de Santa Catalina on top of a firetruck, watching thousands of people dance and be merry in the street, while fireworks were exploding over head. We soon retired to Kafka”s Bar to chat and sing songs until the bar staff asked us to: one.) stop singing the same lyrics to the Cranberries song, and two.) leave. After a day of recovery, we left at 6 in the morning in an attempt to roast marsh mellows over molten hot lava, and after being told it was the hardest climb since Everest, we properly prepared by deciding if flip-flops would be appropriate footwear (last minute decision was to go with sneaks), stuffing my bag full of cold pizza and one litre of water for the both of us… definitely prepared. Compared to everyone else”s full-body trek-ready, survivor gear; Nats” boob-tube, jeans, small sneaker (although admittedly she did buy a walking stick) and my Panama hat, fake polo, jeans, and small sneaker combinations, fit in as well as Pablo Escobar in a D.E.A meeting… However, the hike ended up being a breeze. I munched pizza as I meandered up the way up the volcano, while lava meandered it”s way down the volcano. We got to within a meter or two of the red gooey river of fire, and let me tell you… HOT. SO HOT. After another exciting photo shoot, we left the volcano, made our way back to Antigua, only to leave in a few hours heading towards Panajachel.
Panajachel- Panajachel is the biggest town around Lake Atitlan, which is also known throughout the traveling community as „the Most Beautiful Lake in the World.” Three Volcanos strategically situated around this lake, which is actually an inverted volcano in itself, makes for a view that is exquisite and at times, almost unreal. Not having much time we decided to take a boat tour of the lake, which took six hours and stopped at three other little towns around the lake. Six hours was not enough time to soak in the majesty of Lake Atitlan, but it was enough time to leave a very, very good impression. After a fabulous dinner of beans, tacos, and corn, (and a box or wine of two) we chatted and ended up falling asleep somewhat early. We parted ways the next morning, she headed back to Guatemala City for her plane back to Costa Rica, and for what should have been an easy ride back to Puerto Escondido, soon turned into a long way home for this guy.
Planning would have been futile for travelers like us… even when the original „plan” was for her to come to Mexico, the only real plan we had was to drink margaritas on the beach and see where that took us. This trip seemed to be like an episode of the A-Team. While Nats and I are not former Special Forces soldiers on the run from a crime we did not commit (not yet, anyway), we constantly were coming up with, through random chance, new/better ideas that led us from one great place to the next, and in a sense, planning would have only restricted the marvelous possibilites that can happen only when you dont plan… As the sarcastic/ironic words of Hannibals closing catch phrase go, „I love it when a plan comes together.”
Tekst i foto: Hannibal Agrees