Some of the highlights
21 October 2018
I just uploaded a bunch of pictures from our recent journeys. They aren't in any order other than how I downloaded them from our smart phones. Maybe when I'm bored with nothing better to do I'll rearrange them to be more consistent with our traveling timeline. But for now let me focus more on the things that impressed us the most recognizing that I could write many pages of commentary about these experiences but that would discourage you from reading further.
First, Antigua, (An-TEA-GWA), an historically significant town in not only Guatemalan history but that of Central America. It is one of my most favorite places on our journey. What remains bright in my memory are: the cleanliness, the beauty of the surrounding volcanoes, the streets and such awesome shops, restaurants and the local market that went on and on, just nothing like back in the USA. On an emotional level, Alice and I spend time visiting churches and Antigua has some 30 or so. Many are ruins now having been destroyed by earthquakes. And to us, seeing the ruins of these once so special buildings is cause for pause. We spent four nights in Antigua and walked most of the streets and visited all the churches, the only brewery and ate at some pretty fantastic restaurants. If I was to ever think about opening such a business, I would seriously consider modeling it after Antigua restaurants. Antigua was a most memorable highlight.
On to Lake Atitlan area, Panajachel, (Pana-Ha-Shell).
This trip was first considered because of the volcanoes. I got this thing in my mind about climbing San Pedro volcano, so off we went. We arrived after dark and we were dropped off at the hotel we had booked through an online web site, kinda sight unseen if you catch my drift. OMG, down this alley to a building that did not look at all promising. Check in and we were lead upstairs to our "room". No way Jose!! Three or maybe four beds, a tiny step up bath, a TV that didn't work and I was not pleased. My lady Alice is far more patient and tolerant than me and she tried to calm me down. Nope, not going to happen. I went went online, found what looked like a better room and headed to the office. In my best Spanish/English and Google translate I asked politely if this other room was available for the same price. After a lengthy phone call to some mystery person, I was lead up to the third floor and to this room. Yes!, so much better. A big screen TV that worked, a very modern and clean bath and shower, a view to die for and we were good to go. That room turned out to be home for some three days with breakfast served right outside our door looking out onto the lake and the volcanoes. So being polite but assertive won the day and we were very happy campers.
Let me skip to the chase, the hike up San Pedro volcano. We visited several other towns and toured Panajachel but it was the volcano that drew us here.
In your lives you may have experienced a situation requiring such physical exertion as to bring you to a point of complete exhaustion and inability to continue on. Such was my case on this volcano.
We started out together with our guide. After about a little less than an hour Alice was slowing and feeling her vertigo. She wanted to stop and go back. I told the guide to take her back and that I would go on. I was feeling good so off I went. No big deal until about two hours into the climb it started getting much steeper, sometimes with steps made of wood, of rock and others just rocks. I had to start pacing myself, I would take 100 steps and stop, wait, catch my breath, look up and, oh s**t, that looks tough. Then start off again. The 100 steps turned to 50 and then to 25 before stopping. My pace was really slow, I was 3.5 hours into the climb when our guide caught up to me. He had taken Alice down, turned around and caught me. We continued on, he would jump ahead stop and wait for this ole fogy to catch up.
Now I knew Alice and I had to catch the 5:00 lancha back to Panajachel and I was nearing 4 hours into the climb at 1:00. I figured it would take me 3 hours to get back and that might be cutting it close so I told myself to continue on until 1:30 and then if not at the top, stop and turn back. Well 1:30 came and I was still 200 vertical meters from the top. It wasn't in the cards for me to get to the top. I gave it my all, I kept thinking of athletes faced with challenges who don't quit. Don't quit, keep going, lift that knee, now the other, keep breathing. It was too much for my, what I thought was in good shape body. Now I had to face the trip down.
Many hikers might agree that going down after an exhausting hike can be more difficult. Yup that was my case. On the way down, much younger climbers going up passed saying if you, meaning me, could do it they could. They didn't know I hadn't made it and I was struggling to make it down with that hard stop of 5:00 beating on me.
I did make it back by 4:30. Alice was there, I love her so much. We took a Tuk Tuk back down to the boat dock and settled in for the 45 minute ride back to Panajachel. It was painful, I was worried I might have hurt myself somehow through my being overly optimistic of my ability, but Alice was there for me, helping me up the stairs to our third floor room. It was over, but will remain in my memory for ever, I can still see the trail, the steps. What an experience.
From Panajachel, our journey would take us to two more bucket list items, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu with lots of stops in between, but lets stop here for now.