Over the mountains and through the woods, to Lake Atitlán we go!

When flying into Guatemala City, the first thing I noticed was the beautiful landscape. The city is nestled between high mountains and old volcanoes that date back 80 million years! Not only that, but the countryside is riddled with forests. The name “Guatemala” originates from the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) word “Cuauhtēmallān” which means “Land of many trees”.

 

Even though Guatemala is a developed city with millions of people, you can still see trees everywhere!

Even though Guatemala is a developed city with millions of people, you can still see trees everywhere! Nestled between the mountains at an elevation of 4,900 feet.

Being a bit of a nature bug, you can imagine my excitement upon first coming into this lovely country!

We didn’t stay around the city very long (usually only to fly into Guatemala or do business for the day) and left the highlands to reside at sea level in Puerto Barrios.

Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty to see throughout the country (Puerto Barrios is close to beautiful rain forest and the Rio Dulce, just to name a few things) but we hadn’t really experienced much outside of Puerto Barrios for the first few months of being here.

That all changed in July of 2013! My friend Adam and I came to Guatemala City to visit our good friend Katterine. She had helped us with many things in our time here, and her mother had accepted us into her family. Anytime we needed anything, they were there to help us and make us feel right at home!

This particular week, Katterine wanted us to meet one of her best friends. Alejandra! (Ale for short). They both knew we hadn’t really experienced much of the country, even though we had been living here for 3 months at this point. This was about to change!

On the Wednesday we arrived in the city, we ventured to Antigua for the evening. I fell in love with this city that same day. All the beautiful architecture and rich cultural history, I never wanted to leave!

Content with visiting the old city, I didn’t expect things to get any better. Ale and Katterine had other intentions, however. They told us on Thursday that they had another surprise for us. They only asked if they would like to go on an adventure for this surprise, and anyone who knows me already knew my answer.

Now, they wouldn’t tell us where we were going, but we were driving through a lot of mountain roads. Even more funny is the fact that they barely knew where they were going! We stopped and asked directions from random people on the way to our destination about 5 or 6 times! (This became a running joke for the day about being lost and the eagerness of random strangers to send you in the right direction)

I wasn’t familiar with this part of the country, but it seemed like we were going to travel up the mountains forever. Then I saw this:

After going up the mountain, you pass through some small towns and see the huge lake!

After going up the mountain, you pass through some small towns and see the huge lake!

Like we had wandered into a mystical land, there sat beautiful Lake Atitlán, resting between volcanoes and mountains! I felt like I had discovered hidden treasure!

This picture doesn’t do the justice to the majesty of the place, but after arriving to a little town called Panajachel, we hopped on a boat for a tour around the lake!

After driving around the lake for 20-30 minutes, we had time to check out the little town of Santa Catarina Palopó. Upon getting off the boat, there is a long street that takes you to the center of the city. There is a large Mayan population there, and they happened to be celebrating something that day. People were dressed up and dancing in the streets.

We stayed here for about 30 minutes and headed back to Panajachel. Famished from the day’s adventures, we grabbed some food at one of the restaurants on the dock:

I ate this entire thing and was still hungry

I ate this entire thing and was still hungry

Since it was getting late, we decided to call it a night. There is a funny story involving the television and some electrical technician work at the hotel where we stayed, but I will save that for another time. I did manage to get some final pictures of the lake before nightfall! Enjoy!

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A year in Guatemala

Qué pasó en un año?!

Mucho! A lot! Let me explain the journey this far!

From mid February to the middle of March, my friend Adam and I came down to the town of Puerto Barrios (of the municipalidad Izabal. Click here! to see a map with some photos compliments of Google Maps). We were assigned with the task of automating our store called “Dakota Pawn Bodega” with a POS system. This was sort of a “trail” period for us to getting everything running smoothly and inventory our entire store. Since we hadn’t finished moving our stuff on the state side, we had to return and tie up any loose ends before settling down here permanently.

Here is a beautifully mastered picture of our store in Puerto Barrios:

The Puerto Barrios store

The Puerto Barrios store

Upon arriving back in the United States in the middle of March, we had just enough time to pack up everything, celebrate, and move down here by April 1st. Of course, the Midwest was going to miss us and didn’t want us to get to the Omaha airport easily. I remember having to be at the airport by 4 am to make our 5:30 am flight time. We left Sioux Falls around midnight and a winter storm had just settled in. Having lived in South Dakota my entire life, we laughed in the face of the storm and made it to the airport with time to enjoy a quick breakfast.

From above the storm, things look a lot more friendly and nice.

A view from above the storm

A view from above the storm

We arrived in Guatemala City around noon and relaxed at the hotel San Carlos. We spent a few days taking care of business and we would start our journey to Puerto Barrios on the 3rd of April. I managed to snap a photo of myself after the early morning flight. I definitely needed to take a shower!Take a shower

Fun fact about Guatemala City: People here simply call it “Guatemala” or “Guate” if you are a hype man for the chicken bus lines. This confused me for the longest time because when you get on the bus, they attendants will ask you were you are going. I would say “Guatemala Ciudad” and they would say “Guatemala. Ba”. All I would think was “But I’m already in Guatemala, don’t you want to know where I am going?”. I now simply say “Guate” because it’s fun to say. 😉

The drive to Puerto Barrios isn’t actually to far in kilometers. However, the principal road (highway) is very busy and you rarely travel faster than 40-50 mph for an extended period. This makes the drive take around 5-7 hours, but luckily there is plenty of beautiful landscape to look at along the way.

Countryside2

Countryside1

So maybe you are wondering, “I thought the title of this post was ‘What happened in a year’? He has only been talking about what happened in a few days!” Worry not, I have many stories to share from the past year, but everything has to have a beginning, right? Allow me to give you a rough outline of some important events I will elaborate on in future post:

  • Puerto Barrios Bike Rally
  • Trip to Belize
  • La Feria
  • Living in Livingston
  • Quedely
  • Pizza Party
  • Nuestra Casa (donde esta?)
  • Moving to Guastatoya
  • A very Guatemalan Christmas
  • Happy New Year
  • Moving to Antigua
  • Neil Diamond 69′ Reunion Tour Bus
  • y mucho más

I will be mixing a little bit of the old with the new. Stay tuned for more updates and thanks for reading. If you have your own blog page, comment/follow and I will comment/follow you back. 🙂

And as always:
Que tenga un buen día! (Have a great day!)