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Guatemala.

January 3, 2017

 

Guatemala.

Unlike Belize, this country surprised me in a good way. 

I took a shuttle bus from San Ignacio (Belize) to Flores (Guatemala), which was half an hour late, of course. Nothing happens in time in Central America. Crossing the border was not very fast because of Belize side (huge queue). And the exit fee in Belize if you leave the country by land is 20 USD (when you live it by air it's included in your ticket). 

And besides, the day I left, the hostel I was staying at took some money from my card. I still don't know why because I had paid for everything. My bank is now trying to solve this problem (I hope they are really trying). So, in general, Belize is definitely not my favorite country. 

So, let's forget it.

Flores is tiny and charming colonial town located on the small island in the lake. Nothing really interesting and exciting, but there is such a good atmosphere, that I've decided to stay there for one more night, just to walk, chill and make beautiful pictures. And from Flores you can take a tour to Tikal, one of the most beautiful Mayan places. I did it, you know, I love ruins. And for me that one is the most beautiful so far. Even better that Mexican Chichen Itza and Tulum. There you also can take a boat trip or to rent a stand up paddle (SUP) board. Probably other water activities are available, I didn't check. 

After few days in Flores I booked a shuttle bus to Antigua and that was not the best experience for me. Shuttle service is supposed to be from the place you're staying straight to the place you're heading to. That's why it's usually a bit more expensive than public transport, but much more convenient, so, I prefer to book shuttles while traveling in Central America. Luckily they have this service everywhere. 

But that time everything went wrong. At least not like I expected. It was not a comfortable bus that picked me up from my hostel. It was a guy on a minibus who brought me to the bus station and told me that I need a public bus number 2 and left me there. Here I should mention that my Spanish is very poor. I'd even say it was zero level that moment. And English of Guatemala people is even poorer than my Spanish. And I had to figure out where is my bus. Well, it took some time but I succeeded. I had to wait for the departure for about 40 minutes and the bus was shit. Of course I didn't sleep that night (it was a night bus departing at 10 pm). But it was not the worst part. At 5 am I arrived to Guatemala City whee I had to change the buses again (very shitty shuttle service)and finally go to Antigua. All the locals got off the bus and quickly ran away. I stayed there. The only tourist. Almost the only person at the bus station. At 5 in the morning. In one of the most dangerous and criminal cities in the world. And you remember about my Spanish and their English. I was quickly surrounded by a bunch of taxi drivers who offered me their "help" and when I told them that I don't need taxi because I was waiting for a bus they became quite aggressive. Just imagine a bunch of aggressive people talking to you in a language you don't know. In that surrounding. I found out that in a stressful situation I speak and understand Spanish much better. But anyway no one could have helped me because no one knew when the bus was going to show up and if it was going to show up at all. Luckily the bus showed up at 6 am. But it had been one of the most scary hours of my life. 

Antigua is amazing old town with a lot of beautiful churches, buildings and views. Quiet and peaceful because lots of policeman everywhere. So better not to go outside the town, it may be very dangerous. 

Antigua is surrounded by a lot of volcanoes, so, of course, I decided to climb one. I chose the most difficult one, Acatenango (I consider myself a very fit person, haha). If I had known what would expect me there in advance, I wouldn't have done it. The most unpleasant and useless part of it is spending the night in a tent at a base camp. But the views were definitely worth it. So, we started climbing at 11 am from the altitude of 2300 meters and we reached our base camp at the altitude of 3600 meters at around 4 pm. It was not the easiest climb in my life. And we made the last part of it in the middle of the cloud not seeing anything further than 50 meters or so. Then I thought that if in the morning it will stay that cloudy and I will not see the view from the top, I'll kill myself. 

So, we had to spend the night in a tent and in the morning go to the top (almost 4000 meters) to watch the sunrise. Shortly, the night was awful. Damn cold, very uncomfortable. None of us could sleep. So we were quite exhausted in the morning. The last part was the hardest. We started at 4.50 am and reached the top (not all of us could do it) at 5.20 am. Very steep. Very cold. Climbing in the dark. Lack of oxygen. The wind is so strong that you can hardly keep an upright position. Because of all those reasons it's incredibly hard to breathe. I felt like my lungs are going to explode. Though I do a lot of sports and I don't smoke. 

And thanks to the universe, we were lucky with the weather, so the views were amazing. Not all the climbers are so lucky. 

To sum up, Guatemala is amazing and strongly recommended by me. I wish I could stay there longer but the road is calling me.

P.S. And it is the first country in Central America where I didn't have to pay any fees to get into the country and to get out of it.

 

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SPECTER photography

 

Inna Nikitina