Ecuador – Andes, Amazon and unexploited charm… (so much more than the Galapagos!)

I spent a fair chunk of time in Ecuador – close to 6 weeks, but still only scratched the surface of this beautiful, accessible, and diverse country. The plan was to slow down a bit after my hectic trips through Cuba and Jamaica – this was the perfect place for it.

Highlights

  • Football in Quitos – intensive local rivalry, and international powerhouse:
    • LDU Quito vs Emelec (the best football teams from the two biggest Ecuadorian cities). After purchasing a shirt of the local team (LDU Quito), and going through 3 layers of security pat downs and searches (the most I’ve ever experienced – anywhere), I quickly realized I somehow ended up in the section of the stadium reserved for the visiting fans (from Emelec). These fans congregated around a couple of guys with massive drums and before I knew it I was in the middle of what seemed to be a mix of an extended ‘haka’ dance combined with drums and whistles – for a good hour before the game even started.  It was pretty intense! I slipped away from the crowd to the bathroom where I changed my shirt (removed the Quito top I had on). The security presence at this section was massive, hundreds of riot police, police with large dogs, combined with regular police, after the game we were forced to wait 20 minutes until after the rest of the stadium had emptied out – I figured something serious must have happened between these two clubs in the past, and after some quick research learned that a considerable part of Ecuadorian history includes the rivalry between the ‘conservative’ Quito and the ‘progressive’ Guayaquil – and this has manifested in different ways (starting from when the Spanish had just arrived, to different presidents in the 20th Century, to alignment with different foreign powers, and more recently conflicts between football fans!). Fortunately the crowds behaved, there were no incidents as far as I know, and it was a good game to watch.
    • Brazil vs Ecuador – world cup qualifier. I had on my bucket list to see an international game – was thrilled to learn that the Brazilian team were playing Ecuador in a do or die World Cup Qualifier. A light rain storm hit at the perfect time just when I was negotiating with some scalpers and we scored a massive discount to see the game. The quality of football was high, and it was a great game to watch. It was interesting to see how one of the superstars of the game (Neymar) reacted to a fan that slipped through security, made it onto the pitch and hugged Neymar. Neymar waved away the incompetent security, and called for his long sleeve top to be bought out, he then gave his own top to the runner to the applause of the crowd! Wow.
  • Majestic Quito – in addition to a bedridden week of sickness (caused in part by the disgusting diesel exhaust fumes belched out by the local buses), I spent close to 2 weeks based in Quito: a charming and historic city in its own right, but with easily accessible day trips. By the end I had turned into an unofficial tourist agent convincing visitors to extend their short stays by a few days. My favourite memories included:
    • Half day climb up Pichincha Volcano – an easy cable car ride, then 3 hour hike/scramble to get to the peak at close to 4700m. Was extremely accessible and a nice quick challenge with incredible views (and great way to start to acclimatize to the Andes after a couple of months in the Caribbean).
    • Short hikes up local parks and peaks in Quito, including Park Itchimbia for a daily yoga/meditation routine with the powerful sunrise, Basilica Vota Del Nationa for awesome birds eye view of the old historic City, and walk up El Panecillo (despite numerous warnings that we’d be mugged, it was a lovely peaceful walk up with great views).
    • Day trips to Otavalo (pitched as the biggest South American local market), Cotopaxi (climb to Refugio at 4800 meters on a clear day, then mountain biking down) and Mindo (known for its chocolate, trails, and butterflies). All of these sites are solid destinations in their own right.
  • Quilotoa loop – a multi day hike in the Ecuadorian highlands, through gorgeous deep, farmland valleys, friendly and curious locals, awesome backpacking hostels to the majestic Quilotoa Caldera. This was a really special experience which is unlikely to remain as off the beaten path in the future – it is already becoming more popular and no doubt more development and infrastructure will follow.
  • Tena and the upper amazon – just a few hours bus ride from Quito you can get out of the Andes and into the upper area of the Amazon, and it feels like a completely different country with different climate, activities, and indigenous populations. In Tena I spent a few days doing day hikes which were unique and memorable, including the Gran Canyon (didn’t meet a single other person on the hike to the remote cave waterfalls), and Jatun Socha (jungle biological reserve which features large colourful butterflies and a tricky 30 meter vertical canopy climb up a very skinny swaying structure of three poles).
  • Banos with gorgeous but precarious surrounds – heading back towards the Andes I made a obligatory stay at Banos, which is wedged in a valley surrounded by very steep mountains on each side. It is both breathtaking, but also a little scary given how common earthquake induced landslides are in this part of the continent. The highlights from Banos included the downhill 60km ride to Puyo, bridge jumping of a 100 meters (without any elastic ropes), relaxing in volcanic heated spa baths, and feeling like a kid again swinging on swing high above the City). On my last morning there I felt a tremor from an earthquake in Peru – then I knew it was time to move on! Btw while in Ecuador I was monitoring the earthquake situation closely, and it is shocking to realize how common earthquakes are across South America.
  • Cuenca – another charming old UNESCO listed City (like Quito old City).  This city was the ‘northern Inka capital’ for a short period of time as the Inkas expanded northwards before the Spanish arrived. After the spanish arrived they introduced their own architecture and Cuenca is known by some as the ‘Paris of Ecuador’. It would be easy to think you are in Europe walking the streets of Cuenca, many old churches, cathedrals and museums.  The highlight for me was a day trip to Cajas National Park for some hiking in the Ecuadorian highlands – some flora I haven’t seen anywhere else before in my life, and bagging another 4000m+ peak – Cerro San Luis.
  • Vilcabamba  Yoga hostel retreat! A serene hostel which crosses as a retreat and yoga / alternative healing center. A real highlight and a great way to finish the time in Ecuador. Free morning yoga sessions on a beautiful open air studio overlooking the valley.

There are many sites to see in Ecuador which I didn’t get to – as I prepare to swing into Northern Peru then deep into the Amazon, I remind myself that you simply can’t see it all – but to focus on what is calling out to you.

 

Bridge jumping at Banos. Have never had such a adrenaline rush before.

Bridge jumping at Banos. Have never had such a adrenaline rush before.

The equator line... well at least according to the statue that was built several decades ago. Some more recent measurements put the equator to be a few hundred meters north of this spot.

The equator line… well at least according to the statue that was built several decades ago. Some more recent measurements put the equator to be a few hundred meters north of this spot.

Gran Canyon walk - the highlight was the cave with a powerful waterfall in the background here,

Gran Canyon walk – the highlight was the cave with a powerful waterfall in the background here,

On top of Pichincha, overlooking Quito in the background.

On top of Pichincha, overlooking Quito in the background.

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One of soccer biggest superstars – Neymar, hugging a ‘runner’ after the game, Neymar proceeded to give him one of his own shirts while the security guards looked on sheepishly.

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Quito vs Emelec – I was sitting in the only section for the rowdy Emelec supporters (hiding my Quito shirt).

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Before the game vs Quito, the Emelec supporters gathered and started a intense party under the stadium. It got pretty crazy after this,

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Quilatoa loop trail – final day. Ignore these signs at your own peril! There is a constant stream of rocks falling on top of this prior avalanche.

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Quilatoa Caldera, a massive extinct volcano. The locals say it has no bottom. Either way it is massive! Would take a good 4-5 hours solid hiking to go around it.

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Another beautiful sunrise over Quito

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Muchos perros dosing in Quito – at night they wake up and get very active.

 

View from above the refugio on cotopaxi - a little above 4800m.

View from above the refugio on cotopaxi – a little above 4800m.

Herd of wild horses in front of cotopaxi - it is a beautiful volcano, especially on a clear day.

Herd of wild horses in front of cotopaxi – it is a beautiful volcano, especially on a clear day.

Misahuali, on the upper amazon. This river goes all the way across the continent.

Misahuali, on the upper amazon. This river goes all the way across the continent.

Jatun Sacha jungle biological reser

Jatun Sacha jungle biological reserve, we climbed 30m structure to get a great view of the jungle. The climb certainly made my heart skip a couple of beats – especially when it started swaying at the top (there were 3 of us on it).

Gran Canyon walk - reached a remote cave waterfall.. so beautiful.

Gran Canyon walk – reached a remote cave waterfall.. so beautiful.

Locals watching the volleyball game, all of the small towns I went to in Ecuador had a volley ball court and I was impressed by their skills.

Locals watching the volleyball game, all of the small towns I went to in Ecuador had a volley ball court and I was impressed by their skills.

View from Cerro San Luis, Cajas NP, near Cuenca.

View from Cerro San Luis, Cajas NP, near Cuenca.

Arriving to izhcayluma hostel/resort/yoga center. I ended up staying 6 days and it was very hard to leave! Great free yoga classes in the morning.

Arriving to Izhcayluma hostel/resort/yoga center. I ended up staying 6 days and it was very hard to leave! Great free yoga classes in the morning.

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Eating ice cream in style – Vilcacumba.

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Getting into some big speed chess.

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One of the greatest things about backpacking is how many great people you meet from around the world. Here a bunch of us are enjoying the food at a local restaurant in Vilcabumba.

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Izhcayluma (the Quchuan word for 2 mountains) hostel features free yoga classes every mornings – it was the perfect way to start the day and kick start my yoga practice while on the road. The location was impeccable, large studio completely open on three sides with nice views of the large valley.

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Jamaica

Although geographically very close to Cuba, Jamaica is culturally a world apart. A relatively small island, packed in with beautiful beaches and thick jungle in famous mountains. The island is loaded with interesting history, from the large pirate based at Port Royal, to the ferocious and rebellious Maroons who hid and fought colonial powers from the mountains. The two things I really came for were to see some Cricket and experience some raw Reggae music up close and personal.

Highlights

Cricket – Seeing the first two days of the West Indies vs India Test Match at the Historic Sabina Park. After traveling on the road for 8 months it was great to indulge in a familiar sport and get to know some incredibly passionate and knowledgeable locals as several bottles of local OP rum disappeared. I was also lucky enough to get up close to many legends of the game, including the legend Sir Vivian Richards who I bumped into in the car park after day 2.

Sumfest – I was over the moon to hear that two of my all time favorite roots reggae artists (Luciano and Tarrus Riley) were headlining the world’s biggest reggae festival (Sumfest). Many of the top dancehall artists from the world were there as well. The vibes at the festival were great however they were long nights before the top artists came out – if I were to do this again I would arrive around 4am rather than 11pm.

Reggae in Kingston – I was lucky enough to experience every night of the week out in Kingston. There are completely different styles of Reggae and no two nights were the same. I’ve been into roots reggae for a long time and dub and was lucky enough to see along concert from up and coming Jah 9. The real eye opener for me however, was seeing first hand the raw intensity of dancehall music on the streets of Kingston – WOW – it is spectacular. A deserted car park, or a seemingly random street would be quickly converted into a raging dancehall party, going into well into morning. There is a whole culture of synchronized dancing, and the top songs have their own set routines. The big dances right now seem to be ‘snapchat’, ‘ski’, ‘tom cruise’ and ‘breadfruit’. The wildest parties weren’t advertised and could only be found by driving around with a local.

Danger – I had heard many warnings about how dangerous Jamaica is, especially parts of Kingston. I had a very minor taste of this my first night in Kingston where a group of us were robbed just outside our hostel (I didn’t loose anything though the two people in our group that had a phone and wallet strapped over their shoulder did). Some locals try to use the reputation to their advantage, for example a cab driver from the airport was telling me if I took the local buses I would almost definitely be shot and robbed – but that didn’t happen and it was a pleasant ride. Most locals I spoke to really resent this reputation and go out of their way to explain how safe Jamaica is becoming. As with all places you travel – common sense is needed to avoid real trouble.

Beautiful beaches – needless to say Jamaica does have gorgeous beaches. This is well known and there are some big resort towns built up to accommodate fly in fly out tourists. A surreal highlight was swimming in the ‘luminous lagoon’ near Montego Bay, apparently the strongest luminescence here in the world.

Next steps I’m changing scenery and heading back into the Andean Mountains to tackle some large volcanoes!

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Sabina Park Kingston, West Indies vs India. A gorgeous ground.

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West Indies Speedster Gabriel bowling to Virat Kohli.

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Cricket – hanging with some locals who are die hard cricket fans. The two on the right hand side of the picture have been to every Sabina Park test match since 1980.

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Room in the ‘dub club’ event on the hills overseeing Kingston. Late on Sunday night.

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Kingston – Crazy dancing at a local dancehall party in northern part of Trenchtown. I saw things at this event that I won’t unsee! Here there were three girls doing a dance off on the dirt, she did much more than just a headstand.

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My favorite reggae artist (Luciano), and Sumfest 2016. Notice it is daytime – a long night! Well worth it though I’m so thrilled I saw him live, especially given it was his first live performance in almost 6 months.

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Tarrus Riley at Sumfest, Montego Bay.

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Late night chess game while waiting for the dancehall parties to fire up outside!

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Jah 9 – after a promotional gig. One of my favorite roots reggae artists – check her out on youtube!

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Swimming angel – Lumious Lagoon. Surreal stuff and very hard to capture on camera.

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Port Royal beach – having a crack at some body surfing,

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Classic Jamaican breakfast – Acqee and saltfish. Good way to start the day.

Cuba!

Given the changing relationship between Cuba and the USA, and the fact I was already so close (in Cancun Mexico), I decided to check it out – foolishly without much preparation. The stories I had heard from other travelers had diverged massively – people either seemed to hate it, or love it. I didn’t know what to expect..

Cuba can be a brutal wake up call for an unprepared backpacker on a budget, but once you learn the ropes, and get out into the countryside – you can see why so many people love to visit. By the end of my trip I was sad to leave and I wish I had booked a few more days (and bought some more money).

The experience you have in Cuba is dramatically different depending on the type of traveler you are. Cruiseliner tourists, or people on a honeymoon or very short break with a higher budget will have a completely different experience to those really wanting to see and feel how the locals get by.

Oh yeah, one critical tip … bring all the cash you’ll need for the trip when you arrive.. don’t rely on withdrawing from ATMs (especially if you have a US bank card!)… I learned this one the hard way.

Unique (and memorable) day to day experiences

– Wifi parks – Public parks jammed packed with people socializing whilst staring at their smart phones / tablets! There are very tight restrictions to where you can access wifi/internet – i.e. can only access in designated parks after you purchase access. This leads to hundreds of people hanging out in the park together using wifi at the same time, especially late at night when it is cooler – a sight to behold. It is a bit of a twist on the connotations on introverted behaviors we see in the west.

– ‘Ultima!’ queuing – Cubans have this system where instead of lining up in a straight line, they stand around randomly, each person needs to know who the person is in front of them. When new people arrive they call out ‘ultima’ to ask who the last person is. This system works well for very small groups of people, but I saw it fall apart terribly several times for larger groups and the ensuing chaos.

– Dual currencies – CUCs and CUPs (or locals call them ‘cooks’ and ‘pesos’). So confusing and unnecessary. The CUC is approx 24 times more valuable then the CUP. In many places (such as museums and some modes of transport) foreigners are charged CUCs (i.e. pay 24 more times the locals). Can feel like another slap to the face. The traveler needs to pay close attention to which currency they are being charged / receive change in.

– Ultra lazy workers – Going into a government run restaurant for a pizza. I thought it had 4 customers sitting in it, I turned out they were all workers. After putting in my order for pizza, I saw the hierarchy of the workers as they passed on the order one by one to the boy who stood up and got me my pizza!

Unbelievably cheap rum! – quick question: which do you think is the cheapest out of 1) 350ml bottle of water, 2) 350ml of straight rum, or 3) the local cuban version of coca-cola (Tukola)? Answer: Buying straight rum, 350ml only cost 10 pesos (around 40 US cents)!! Cheaper than the cheapest bottle water! The rum was around 4 times cheaper than local beer by quantity. Extremely cheap rum and staying in hostels is a dangerous combination..

Bad timing for brown out – stuck in elevator – Was a bit unlucky to have a brownout while I was in the elevator halfway between floors. I was stuck for 35 mins pressing the various alarm buttons and calling out for help. Finally one of the tenants yanked open the door and I was able to jump down to the 8th floor. It was all a bit sketchy. Brownouts seemed to happen roughly once a day while I was in Cuba.

– Quickest way to turn someone vegetarian – show them the conditions of the meat in the local meat markets…

– Confronting prostitution – Disturbing scenes of ‘pimps and whores’ on the main streets. I was not expecting this. Many of the main streets you are approached by young girls or pimps. Not just at night in a hidden away area – but right in the middle of the day, at some of the main attractions. It was shocking. Also shocking to see the number of grey haired old men dining and drinking with very young looking girls at some of the restaurants.

– Embracing the local transport system (much cheaper than what most foreigners pay) – Ihe local buses are reliable, safe and scenic and you go can go decent distances up to about 40 kms (unlike what you’ll read on the internet – I took over 15 different trips with no bad experiences), and cost approximately 240 times less than what you’ll pay taking one of the taxis targeting foreigners (that is half to one local CUP, vs 10 to 50 CUCs).

Next steps

Jah-maica. Time for some Cricket & Reggae music!

A 'yank tank' outside the historic National Hotel of Cuba.

A ‘yank tank’ outside the historic National Hotel of Cuba.

Havana, overlooking the malecon.

Havana, overlooking the malecon.

Havana, fishing next to the main port (historic light house in the background). These fisherman all appeared over a 20 minute period. They were catching a lot of fish!

Havana, fishing next to the main port (historic light house in the background). These fisherman all appeared over a 20 minute period. They were catching a lot of fish!

Sculpture of 'Che' on side of a building next to the Plaza of the Revolution.

Sculpture of ‘Che’ on side of a building next to the Plaza of the Revolution.

Havana street, around 10 mins away from old Havana.

Havana street, around 10 mins away from old Havana.

Locals checking out some pens they had just acquired, they were completely fascinated by the pens. Btw pens are great gift to bring with you, I gave some pens away to some ecstatic locals.

Locals checking out some pens they had just acquired, they were completely fascinated by the pens. Btw pens are great gift to bring with you, I gave some pens away to some ecstatic locals.

Vinales, very heavy downpour which went for 1.5 hours. Fortunately we just got back into town before it hit.

Vinales, very heavy downpour which went for 1.5 hours. Fortunately we just got back into town before it hit.

Dual currencies of Cuba- very confusing.

Dual currencies of Cuba- very confusing.

Everywhere I went there are large signs of Che, Fidel, Camilo or close friends of Fidel.

Everywhere I went there are large signs of Che, Fidel, Camilo or close friends of Fidel.

The hosts at the Casa Particular I stayed at in Cienfugos. Very friendly folk!

The hosts at the Casa Particular I stayed at in Cienfugos. Very friendly folk!

 

Mexican Caribbean – Cenotes, local hospitality, snorkeling, chilling boss style

I’m now finishing up my time on this trip in the Mexican Peninsula. What a great part of the world!

Recent highlights:

Getting off the heavily beaten tourist and backpacker trail – connecting with locals again and enjoying their hospitality and genuine human friendliness. I’ve met some great people who have gone out of their way to offer assistance. From getting a free bus ride from Semuc Champey to Coban on a premier bus with AC (after chatting to one of the locals on the back of a 4×4), to getting offers for free accommodation with the sister of a restaurant owner I had spoken to in Chetumal, then offers of a free local tour guide in Valladolid and many others. The further away from the tourist trail you are, the more exotic you must seem to the locals (and perhaps the more in need of assistance)

Cenotes! Before this trip I didn’t know what a Cenote was, but now it is one of the favourite things I’ve seen in Mexico. For those who don’t know, they are basically like sunken holes into the earth filled with water (often crystal clear cool water), they have come about due to the type of rock that this part of Mexico sits on and how it has only recently been pushed above the ocean level. There are hundreds and hundreds of these Cenotes in Mexico (perhaps thousands?), and many of them have few touristic layers of expenditure you need to get through to visit – you just need a local to tell you where they are.

Serious chilling at Laguna Bacalar – this place is the most chilled town I’ve been to in the Americas. Everything was chilled and relaxed and it is sitting on a beautiful freshwater lake. After one night I had to keep moving as I was fearful I was get stuck there! But if I was ever going to host a meditation or yoga retreat…

Snorkeling and beautiful beaches – the beaches here are genuinely spectacular. The sand, water color and temperature, the marine wildlife and coral reefs.. I stayed at 5 different coastal cities, but by far and away my favorite experience was snorkeling at Akumal. I met a guy from Texas who loved snorkeling and was looking for a snorkeling buddy to head out with (his girlfriend was afraid to), he knew where to go and had gear on offer – perfect! We went out for a solid 2 hours session, saw around 10 massive turtles up close, then founds some schools of fish, and some corals. It was my first real snorkeling experience and I loved it. I tried to replicate that experience up in Cancun and at later islands but I think Akumal is where it is at!

Other highlights were seeing some more Mayan ruins including the obligatory and probably over- hyped Chichen Itza, hanging out in the separate cities of Flores and Coban in Guatemala.

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Local Cenote (Oxman) near Valladolid. I had this to myself for over an hour. I did swim but was weary to dive into unsure about the depth… turned out the reason why I can’t see the bottom is that is another 67 meters down!

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Semuc Champey before swimming in the lovely cool water..

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Laguna Bacalar – our own jetti complete with multiple hammocks and shelter. Spend a lot of my day here after kayaking across the lake.

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Tulum ruins, Mayan Ruins in a picturesque location. It was basically a walled City on next to a low cliff. Beautiful stuff, and the water was pretty nice too.

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Chichen Itza. Impressive large site, but very heavilly touristed. Fortunately I was one of the very first few people there and avoided the crowds and heat.

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Serpent heads in Chichen Itza.

Guatemala – shear power and beauty of nature (Volcanoes and Lakes)

Lake Atitlan – beautiful clear lake surrounded by volcanoes

I spent a little over a week in a lakeside town San Pedro La Laguna, I came down with the flu which was unfortunate, but this was the perfect place to chill and recover. Clear clean waters at a perfect temp for swimming, a moderately sized lake ringed by cute little villages and three decent sized volcanic peaks. There are quite a few outdoor activities you can indulge in, Spanish courses, good quality food, coffee and chocolate, and a lively tourist ‘party’ scene – it isn’t hard to see why people get ‘stuck’ here.

I ended up finding a great room to myself, on the balcony sitting on top of the lake (literally), and right next to a main swimming spot, had cable, hot showers, etc – this was only 70Q (or just under $10 US per night). It is almost like a little slice of heaven on earth, I spent a few days cycling between reading in the hammock, swimming with the locals, going to the local gym and practicing my Spanish with some new local amigos. After recovering from the flu, it was great to have energy again and I was feeling a sense of urgency to get my skates on and start getting the momentum going again with new sites. A key focus will be minimizing time spent in transit.

Lake Atitlan, San Pedro La Laguna at sunrise.

Lake Atitlan, San Pedro La Laguna at sunrise.

Volcan Acatenango / Fuego – raw power of volcanic eruptions amidst lighting

I did the overnight hike up Volcan Acetanango, where you are right next to the constantly erupting Volcan Fuego – it is one of the top experiences I’ve had anywhere in the Americas. I’m still recovering from the tough ascent and descent of this climb – will probably be hobbling around for a few days. But it was easily worth it.

It was truly a sublime experience, one that I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I’ve never seen or heard raw lava coming out of the earth before, and it was beautiful, incredibly loud, and spectacular. All night in our tents we could hear Fuego raging and roaring, at around 1am I decided to get up and see what it looked like now the rain had stopped (it was raining when we arrived in the late afternoon) and WOW!!!!… one of the most beautiful scenes I could imagine possible:

The cloud level was below our campsite, and it looked like a white sea under the bright moon, the sky above was clear and the stars were out in full force, with the three large volcanoes surrounding Antigua were all poking out of the clouds like islands. Fuego had a long stream of lava going down one side (creating a glow in surrounding clouds), and every few minutes would blast out some more. Off in the distance behind Volcan Agua, there was a pretty bright and consistent sheet lightning storm which provided the perfect backdrop. There was no way I was going back to bed after seeing this! (we had to wake at 3:30am anyway to do the final ascent to the very top of Acatenango). 

Although our final ascent was only 1.5 hours long, it totally dominated me. I was wiped out primarily from the altitude. After catching my breath, it would only take around 2-3 steps before my heart rate when through the roof again. This was compounded by the battle of scrambling up the ash.. one step forward, then before you put your next foot forward you’ve lost 50% of the distance from the first foot… and on and on..  But, the view at the top here was easily up there with the best sunsets I’ve ever seen (btw I’ve seen a lot!).

Me climbing, long story, but basically, rental backpacks was crap, so I needed to use my day pack and carry stuff by hand!

Me climbing, long story, but basically, the rental backpack was not usable, so I needed to use my day pack and carry stuff by hand!

Group enjoying a quick snack before packing tents and descending. Fuego is actually quiet in this pic!

Group enjoying a quick snack before packing tents and descending. Fuego is actually quiet in this pic!

One of the many eruptions during the night. It is such an awesome sight.

One of the many eruptions during the night. It is such an awesome sight.

Incredible sunrise from the top of Acatenango after a brutal steep early morning ascent.

Incredible sunrise from the top of Acatenango after a brutal steep early morning ascent.

Fuego just burped. This what the eruptions look like in the day (the lava is much harder to see).

This what a Fuego eruption looks like in the day (the lava is much harder to see).