Humboldt wasn't mistaken. The calm waters of the Atitlan lake adorned with majestic volcanoes promise an exceptional emotional trip. On its banks, the inspiration-seeking artists find again their muse and the too-hurried travelers freeze for a couple of days to recharge their batteries. I sit down on the dirty pebble beach and look at the wavelets which ripple on the surface of the lake. I make ricochet some stones and my eyes get lost in the distance following the refined outline of the Toliman, Atitlan and San Pedro volcanoes. I intensively live my last Guatemalan place because I'm leaving tomorrow to Panama and an only-3-day stop. I had planned to stay longer over there but the northern part of Central American brought me so many sensory treasures that I stayed there and postponed my visit to Panama and Costa Rica for a next trip.
Guatemala is a fantastic country. Despite an obsessive fear roaming around the insecurity of its cities and remote lands, the encounter of its extremely kind and hospitable people leaves a deep mark on me and some indelible prints in my memory.
On the boat that links the coastal villages of the lake, I make the acquaintance of two Guatemalans. This kind of encounter you can't take a picture of, you can't precisely relate but you fully live. What could be better to summarize a marvelous sojourn where the good humour of the verbal exchanges stands out on a fabulously beautiful scenery.
Keyword - nature -
Friday 12 December 2008
Tuesday 9 December 2008
At first sight, the name of the Pacaya volcano doesn't make us think about something awesome and seems insignificant besides the prestigious Stromboli, Etna, Kilauea or Krakatau. Unfortunately for the latter, the safety laws of the countries prevent the average visitor to get to the bedside of the molten magma. Some people will shout for foolhardiness but with the Pacaya, we can go to the lava up to get the skin burned. The outing starts in a minivan, departure from Antigua up to the entrance of the park. We get off the shuttle for a short trek which goes through a sparse forest and opens out onto a lookout where the dark cone of the mount Agua shatters the horizon line. The grass rarefies and big volcanic grains pile up on the access side of the volcano. Following the example of a sand dune, our feet sink, the ascent gets harder and the balance begins staggering. We step on the still-hot flow of the previous day. Some translucent filaments extend the glistening- and purplish-hued rock. The heat increases up to become unbearable. The lava flows at a few meters away. A magmatic torrent gets out of the volcano and goes dying at its feet. According to the draught, the atrocious heat burns our faces. Natural sauna session before heading back into the more refreshing atmosphere of Antigua.
A red façade replaced with a yellow section before turning pastel blue. The streets of Antigua revive the thoughts tarnished by the tasteless streets of Guatemala city. The whole historic center of Antigua is on the Unesco World Heritage List. The division into blocks, typical to the cities of the “New World”, don't infringe, but the painters gave the finishing touches to the streets. And the result attracts, encourages to the consumption of covering another block to watch what happens at the next corner. An invigorating urban stroll.
Saturday 6 December 2008
the route of a trip is often based on the fortunes of the encounters. That's the way I sit down in a minibus which drives on a winding road towards Semuc Champey. We penetrate into the heart of the valley to end up at a greenery-wrapped campground where smiling, cumbia-fans Guatemalan young people welcome us. The rustic bedrooms lodge in the wooden huts scattered in the campsite. We need to walk a little bit further to enter in the Semuc Champey park. A river follows the outline of the valley bottom when it suddenly disappears over 300m for a brief underground pass before gushing out downstream. But, instead of a horde of trees and bushes spreading over the surface, a trickle of water diverts from the river to form a set of natural ponds. A lookout gives a bird's eye view over the clear- and stagnant-watered pools. The effort to reach this viewpoint quickly fades as we walk down. I slip on my boardshort and go to jump into one of the basins. Our guide planed an aquatic course with a descending of a rope ladder, the discovery of the grotto where the water of the river gushes out of the earth then a jump from the top of the rock. A local way to marvel at a fantastic place and to release a little amount of adrenalin in the same time.
At the end of the afternoon, the Las Marias grotto offers me the extraordinary experience of moving in a dark cavity, only lit by a mere candle. Sometimes walking, sometimes swimming, the community reaches the depths of the gallery. A swimming not really academic since we can only use one hand, the other one holding out the burning candle. Like a procession or a band of explorers-wannabes, the group trudges in a single file with these simple flames as a guide. Our sense of sight clings to this orangy and flickering glow which dimly lights the walls. The one of hearing captures the hollow sound reflecting each one of our moves. Two magical hours for this sort of caving of an ancient time. Unforgettable!
And to finish this day of adventure, we hop on inner tubes of trucks to let the current of the river carry us for half an hour.
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