Guatemala

Tikal – Maya Ruins in the Rain Forest of Guatemala

30-31 August

4.30 in the morning, waiting for the sun to rise at Temple IV inside Tikal National Park. The morning mist is lying heavily over the jungle. Just before the sunrise, the howler monkeys wake up and start to shout their strong growling howls out over the forest. Then the birds wake up and you can hear the characteristic babbling sound of the Toucans in the tree tops. Later the parrots start shrieking and you can hear the rustling of leaves and cracking of branches as the spider monkeys start moving around from tree to tree.

Temple I in the morning mist

Temple II

The Central Acropolis

Temple I – and in the foreground one of the small ball courts for playing the mesoamerican ball game

The sun is starting to burn through the morning mist behind Temple I

The forest at Tikal

Many ruins are still embraced by the forest

A partly unrestored temple, gives an idea of the great work that lies behind restoring the structures at Tikal

Temple III or the Great Priest Temple, ca 60 m tall                                          

Temples I, II and III rising above the jungle

Temple I and the Gran Plaza as seen from the Central Acropolis

Temple II or the Mascarones Temple, 38 m tall

The Central Acropolis at the Gran Plaza

Gazing up at Temple I also called The Big Jaguar, 47 m tall            

Temple V, 51 m tall                                           

Ceiba, the holy tree of the Maya, the tree of the world, connecting the underworld with our terrestrial world and with the heavens. The tall tree often rises above the rest of the trees in the jungle. The branches grow thick thorns which the Maya used for piercings.

Ceiba tree                                          

Tikal wildlife

Tarantula…!                                   

Spider monkey                                 

Ocellated turkey                                               

Toucans in the morning mist                                       

Parrots                                               

Finca Santa Margarita – a Coffee Farm in Coban

1 September 2012

Our guide and Marco walking through the plantation.

Still green coffee.                                           

Some red, ripe coffee berries. You can eat the red skin, it is nice and sweet, and inside are the white coffee beans, usually two each berry. 

In between the coffee plants grow a variety of other things such as cardamom, corn, avocado, papaya, bananas, allspice.

Here the coffee is roasted, ground and packaged.

 

On the road from Coban to Huehuetenango

1-2 September 2012

The landslide that killed 58 people in 2008. The new road runs across the lower left part of the picture.

The road winds its way through green hills with corn fields. The first approximately 1/3 of the road is unpaved, then paved with big holes and slides over the road and finally the last part of the road is quite good.

The road passes through a lot of small villages.

Some villages can be time consuming to pass through, even if they are small!

One of the colourful old american school busses.

Grandmother, chicken and a big pig (in the shade under the chicken) all going to the market.

We found a lovely place to stay overnight outside this restaurant run by a very kind lady.

Finally relaxing – driving on road 7W is quite demanding!

 

Huehuetenango

2-3 September 2012

When we arrived to Huehuetenango, this fantastic band was playing on the central square. Seven men on xylophone!

We wandered the small streets of Huehuetenango, looking for the market with the local colourful handicraft products.

Also this guy was wandering the streets, warning about the upcoming end of the world.

Here you can buy your own cross to carry, just in case.

The colourful food market, always a pleasure to the eye.           

These women allowed us to take their picture, although being a bit shy!

Beautiful and strong Guatemalan women!

Chicken quilombo!                         

Late afternoon sun on the cathedral on the main square in Huehuetenango.

Hotel Central in Huehuetenango, a place with atmosphere.

Breakfast in the courtyard of Hotel Central.

 

Quetzaltenango

4-5 September 2012

We spent a couple of days in Quetzaltenango, a city where a lot of foreigners come to learn Spanish. It was good to relax a couple of days but the city in itself was nothing special. We found a good place to buy traditional fabrics though, a fairtrade shop, where you can be sure that the products are made by the local women using a good quality thread. Here is a few pictures from the city.

 

Volcan Tajumulco

4 September 2012

Waiting for the sun to rise at the summit of Volcan Tajumulco. Temperature around zero. Altitude 4220 m. The moon was almost full and the sky above full of stars.

View from the summit to the northeast.

View from the summit to the southeast.

Finally the sun rose….

The summit picture!

View to Volcan Tacana to the west, starting to see the shadow of Volcan Tajumulco imprinted on the morning mist below.

Volcan Tacana (right) and the shadow of Volcan Tajamulco (left).

View to distant volcanoes to the southeast.

Marco at the summit of Volcan Tajumulco.

We stayed overnight outside this lovely restaurant (El Rincon Ismail, very good home cooked food) just 100 m down the road from the trail head. 

El Cruce del Tajumulco. From the city of San Marcos you take the road towards the village of Tajumulco and arrive to this cross road (Cruce del Tajumulco) where the road goes left to the village of Tajumulco and right to Ixchiguan. The trail to the summit of Volcan Tajumulco starts here (see next picture). Altitude approximately 3000 m.

The start of the trail to Volcan Tajumulco. The first 45 minutes to 1 hour you are walking on a road which is passable by car. However, if you arrive by your own car, it is advisable to park the car with someone (for example at the restaurant El Rincon Ismail) in the small village at the trail head. 

After 10-15 minutes of walking you will meet this cross road. Just continue straight ahead towards the volcano. After another 30-40 minutes you will reach the end of the road and the beginning of the foot path. There are several paths diverging and converging – just keep going up and in the direction of the volcano. 

 

Chichicastenango

6 September 2012

The market in Chichicastenango used to be legendary, full of original products from the villages. Now a lot of things are not produced in Guatemala anymore but it is still an experience to go to the market and to just walk around and enjoy the busy market life.

Yound and old alike show up for the market in Chichicastenango.

It is full of colours! 

You have to bargain hard!          

There is also a big food section. Here selling a variety of fresh and dried chilis.                                  

Selling fresh cheese wrapped in the leaves from the corn.                                 

Selling corn – pale yellow, yellow, blue.                                    

Cooking .                                          

Making tortillas.                            

More tortillas.                                  

Selling fruit juice.                            

Still, in this chaos of people and smells and noise, some find a piecefull corner. Here sleeping in a ray of sunlight.  

Sleeping….and still sleeping all three times we past by.

Sleeping!

The conversation went something like this: “Buy one of these dolls, only 1 quetzales!” “No thank you.” “Yes!” “No thank you.” “Yes, buy one!” And after a while back and forth: “But I don’t need one.” “Yes you do!” “No I don’t!” “Yes you do! You can put it on your fridge.” “But I don’t have a fridge.” “Yes, you do!” No, am living in my car and I don’t have a fridge.” Some silence. “Buy one!!!”  etc. 

In many cultures, it is only the women who still wear the traditional clothing and often it seems wrong or even suppressive to the women when the men are strolling around in jeans and t-shirt and the women are dressed in all the ethnic gear. So check out the 3 men on the following pictures. I love it! Respect!

But it is still the women who dress most beautifully!

Marco seems kind of underdressed even in the normal supermarket.

 

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan – beautiful but unfortunately it is unsafe to climb the surrounding volcanoes at the moment.

 

Antigua

7-13 September 2012

Frida fitted perfectly into the gateway at our hotel Posada San Sebastian in Antigua!

Our room is up there on the 2nd floor with a view to the garden. Posada San Sebastian, Antigua.

Detail of hotel Posada San Sebastian, Antigua.                                

Hotel Posada San Sebastian, Antigua.                     

Hotel Posada San Sebastian, Antigua.                     

The lower roof terrace with access to the upper roof terrace. Posada San Sebastian, Antigua.

View over the red terracotta roofs of Antigua. Posada San Sebastian.

View to Volcan de Agua. Posada San Sebastian.    

Breakfast at the rooftop terrace with a view to the still dormant Volcan de Fuego and neighboring Volcan Acatenango. Posada San Sebastian, Antigua. 

The central square in Antigua. Especially nice when the marimba band is playing!                                   

One of the innocent virgins in the fountain at the central square…..                                                       

…..and in another part of town, Christ was silently being crucified stage by stage on these floats for the religious holidays.

Under the afternoon thunderclouds in Antigua.      

 

Volcan Acatenango

10 and 12 September 2012

First attempt to climb….failure! (10 September 2012)

A very quick summary (see the Guatemala text for a full trail description): The first time we tried to climb the volcano Acatenango, we took the wrong trail! We walked up some 1100 m before we had to give up because the trail disappeared and the weather was very bad. Two days later we tried again and succeeded in making it to the summit, where we had a fantastic view to Volcan de Fuego and the surroundings. The day after Volcan de Fuego went into eruption! But that is another story. 

The trail starts at 2400 m in the small village of La Soledad. It climbs up through corn and bean fields to the beginning of the jungle. We walked all the way enveloped by a thick mist, very humid and with very low visibility.

Walking up through the corn and bean fields.                                                   

Beautiful flowers along the way.                                                                         

The path was very steep!                                                                                     

The thick jungle in the mist.                                                                               

Second attempt….summit! (12 September 2012)

This is the spot where we made the “mistake” the first time! At this intersection you have to take the trail to the left and then you will find the right trail to the summit! The trail is very easy to follow and well marked once you reach the forest.

The trail passes through the corn and bean fields on the slope of the volcano.

When you see this small wooden hut you have reached the well marked trail through the forest to the summit of Acatenango. 

Almost at the summit, spectacular view!                          

And then another 200 m up to reach the summit Pico Mayor at 3976 m, the highest of the two separate peaks on Acatenango.                                         

Just as we reached the summit of Acatenango, neighboring Volcan de Fuego gave a nice puff!

Summit picture!

Summit gymnastics!                                                              

View to Volcan de Agua and the villages below. Antigua is in the far left of the picture.

Volcan de Agua and beyond. The view was fantastic. 

Volcan de Fuego. Still sleeping….                                            

Marco trying to provoke Volcan de Fuego to give us a nice eruption! Little did we know what would happen the next day!!!

Puff! This is all we got. But it was a brilliant view and a very nice climb.

 

Volcan de Fuego – Eruption 13 September 2012

Volcan Fuego went into eruption on the morning of 13 September 2012. At first it was a “normal” eruption as they occur every year, every 6-8 months as Luis said. It was spectacular! Just to the right of Volcan de Fuego stands the slightly higher Volcan Acatenango where we were sitting enjoying the view just yesterday! 

Thick clouds of ash were spewed high into the air and even with the bare eye one could see huge pieces of lava (bombs) being slung out of the volcano hundreds of meters into the air. To the left, a small lava stream is flowing down the flank. 

And so things seemed to be quite stable while we had our breakfast with a nice view to the erupting Volcan de Fuego.

But after a while the eruption seemed to gain in strength. 

And suddenly, thick ash clouds raced down the southwestern flank of the volcano at incredible speed! Most probably a mix of hot gasses and ash. See also the next pictures. 

In a few seconds the hot ash/gas flow reached the foot of the volcano.

An enormous ash cloud rose up from the eruption center. Local volcanologists estimated that it reached a height of some 3 km above the eruption center. 

Slowly things quieted down. Around 33000 people were evacuated from the villages at the foot of the volcano. It was the strongest eruption from Volcan Fuego since 1999. An impressive and amazing thing to see!

 


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