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weekly recap #30 – santa cruz & flores

q. current home/addy where i stayed (neighbourhood) and how longa.
a. lake atitlan (panajachel, 1 night & santa cruz, 2 nights), bus (1 night), flores (3 nights)

ferrying our possessions from panajachel to isla verde
our super cozy cabin with a lake view
after 150 stairs!
the shower pressure from this baby could’ve ripped the paint off my car
hammocking v1.0
communal lounge. we want this to be our new living room.

q. favourite meal
a. we’ve had some great meals this week thanks to our set menus at la isla verde in santa cruz.  our two dinners there were the best prepared meals we’ve had since arriving in guatemala, BUT, my fav meal was still our back to back street food night.  we stopped at a churrasco stand to pickup two plates of bbq’d meat (beef & chicken) served with grilled green onions, avocado sauce and slathered in a light tomato & onion sauce.  all that gets scooped up into crispy tortillas.  i wish i took a picture of the stand because it was quite sizable at over 7 feet long and 6 feet high.  we were wondering where he stored it during the daytime until we saw it as we were leaving panajachel… as a clothing rack!  it was just across the street as part of someone’s store with a few shirts dangling off the frame.

after getting charged the gringo price (25q ~$4.50cad) each, we walked down the street and stopped by a taco stand selling longanisa and chorizo tacos.  we ordered one plate between us to top us up and we ended up with a mountain of meat, onions, peppers with a mini mountain of sauteed pineapples.  i think we started with 9 tortillas between us and even after getting three more, we tapped out and gave the plate back with at least 3 more tacos worth of meat.  that set us back another 25q.

q. most memorable moment / best highlight
a. sitting on the deck of isla verde staring off across the lake at volcano atitlan & gazing upon tikal’s grand palace.  i had read enough about the ruins and seen enough pictures of tikal’s restored buildings but i was still blown away at the scale of the plaza while looking down on it from one of the nearby buildings.  it was nothing short of awesome.  tikal’s footprint is estimated at roughly 17km (estimated because there is ongoing archaeological and restorative work being done).  the unbelievable part of it is that at the busiest time of the year, they only see about two thousand people per day.  on the day that we went it must have been somewhere in the low 100s because they only other people we saw in the grand plaza were two security guards.  the calm and serene ambiance of the park really gives you time to sit, stare, marvel and think about how ingenious these mayans were at growing and advancing their civilization over a millenium ago.


deck life at isla verde
early evening looking up from the deck. no editing done, these colours and stars are for real
the grand plaza of tikal. one day isn’t nearly enough to enjoy these ruins. we’ll be back.

q. greatest challenge
a. transportation in guatemala is no joke.  we completely underestimated the number of options we had and got burned by planning out our itinerary the way we did.  because we chose to pass on semuc champay (cascading waterfalls seen as the holy grail of guatemalan attractions according to backpacking websites but less so from the 30+ year olds), we subjected ourselves to a 14 hour travel day via shuttle and bus.  staying coherent on the shuttle was no issue however we did have a passenger who was vomiting uncontrollably out the passenger side window the whole time.  the overnight bus ride, albeit good overall, got increasingly harder to deal with once the lady behind us parked her sour smelling toes on our armrests.  fighting off that smell coupled with the bumps in the roads and sweeping turns on the highway as well as being woken up by flashlights at 2am asking if we are transporting fruits (yes, i’m completely serious) made for a very memorable yet draining trip.  we didn’t do it to save money on hotels but to save a travel day instead.  the other option would be to have taken a flight from guatemala city to flores which would have cost 3x as much.  if only we had more time then we could have broken that trip into two smaller legs but as things stand now, we’re packing up to do it again in the opposite direction.  better luck this time we hope!

my look of excitement. planes, trains & automobiles prepared me well.

q. what i miss most from home
a. showering with my mouth open.  the things we take for granted…

q. next stop
a. back to the antigua region for three nights at an eco lodge!  unfortunately that will round out our stay in guatemala 🙁

q. weirdest observation about current culture
a. island time is in full effect throughout the country here.  nothing has been on time yet so we’ve gotten used to living without looking at the time.  3 hour shuttle rides turn into 5, food takes 30+ mins to arrive even with a quiet restaurant, drivers show up when they show up.  it’s uber relaxed and you gotta go with the flow.

q. one tip i would give myself if i were to come back
a. budget a complete day at tikal and for any ruins for that matter.  our guide was great and he delivered big on the sunset tour but i couldn’t help but feel like we barely scratched the surface of the tikal ruins.  cramming in all the sights of tikal into one day is virtually impossible because of how large the park is which is why i almost definitely see myself returning at some point to revisit it at a slower pace as well as the nearby ruins of yaxha which was the collateral damage of getting sick in flores 🙁

q. friends i’ve hung out with/visitors
a. just us two, again.

q. one random/weird/cool thing i learned about the country i’m staying in
a. during our week at lake atitlan, we met a lot of expats that moved down to live the slow life.  some had been there for weeks, others months and another, decades.  i hadn’t realized that guatemala was a big destination for americans in the 70s and 80s and that paved the way for a lot of american transplants to move down, setup businesses in the hospitality industry as well as working remotely as private contractors.  the longer we stayed at the lake, the more i could see my future changing and living nomadicly.

meet mike, a new york/californian who transplanted his family to panajachel over 20 years ago. he roasts a mean cup of coffee. wish we could send some back but, well, the guatemalan mail system is a whole other issue that i’ll fill you in on later…

q. portion of luggage that’s been the most & least useful
a. both of our backpacks are fitting the bill perfectly.  we opted for medium sized packs (35 & 40 liters each) and it’s really easy to walk around town, hop on and off buses & shuttles as well as repacking after short stays.  although it’s the first thing i’ve owned from mec, it made me stand out immediately as a vancouverite to a traveling canadian we met in flores.  i still have my doubts on this bag withstanding two months of travel (which is next to nothing in the world of backpacking) since my hip straps have magically disappeared.  i hope some guatemalan is repurposing those as something useful.

another thing that i thought about purchasing was a good quality inflatable neck pillow.  i talked myself out of it because we wouldn’t be taking long flights or likely even long bus rides.  holy smokes was i wrong.  i SO regret not buying that now.  and instead, the synthetic towel and headlamp that i did purchase?  haven’t used either yet.

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