Erika Logie's Travel Blog

Finally, an update!

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I´ve been really procrastinating sitting down to write a serious update. Sitting in front of a computer to write just doesn´t sound like that much fun when there are so many cool things to explore outside!

Guatemala has been amazing so far.  I landed in Guatemala City two weeks ago after an overnight flight in which I didn´t sleep at all. I decided to go straight to Antigua from there, which is an easy two hour taxi ride from the city. Antigua is quite possibly one of the most picturesque towns ever. It´s touristy, but touristy in the way that Florence or Venice is touristy, and you still can´t help but love it. Antigua is a colorful colonial city with cobblestone streets and a gorgeous central plaza that is the main gathering point for everyone in town. The Central Plaza is the best place for people watching, and I would go there a lot of days and pretend to read while peering over my book at the people walking by.

Antigua is also a great jumping off point for a lot of people that are traveling throughout Guatemala or Central America, so there is an air of excitement as people get ready to embark on incredible adventures.  It´s definitely a party town, which I was totally into for that first six days.

From Antigua, most people do a trip to the Pacaya Volcano, which is one of three active volcanoes in Guatemala. I booked a day trip up to the volcano with two really awesome Austrian guys that I was hanging out with my first couple of days in Antigua. The hike has some of the most spectacular scenery ever, and when you get to the top you can literally touch the lava that is flowing down the side of the volcano.

Antigua is a super popular place to go to Spanish school, but since there are so many ex-pats and travelers who speak English there, I decided that doing Spanish somewhere where I would be forced to use it more would be a lot more beneficial. I decided to go to Quatzaltenango, the second biggest city in Guatemala, which is located in the Western Highlands, a mountainous region 4 or 5 hours to the west of Guatemala City. This region is where most of the Mayan people live, and in the small villages surrounding Quatzaltenango, many people wear the traditional dress and speak their own indigenous languages and very little or no Spanish.

Before heading to Quatzaltenango, I made a stop over for three nights at Lake Atitlan, a stunning lake between Antigua and Quatzaltenango that is surrounded by volcanoes. Among the numerous amazing people that I met in Antigua were two girls who were just finishing the exact reverse of my trip (they started in South America and worked their way north). We really hit it off, so we all traveled together to Lake Atitlan. One of the many villages that surround the island is a place called San Pedro, which is a laid back town with sort of a hippy vibe. We went kayaking, drank wine on the docks, played cards, and just generally had a really mellow great time.

After saying goodbye to Ashleigh and Jamie, I took a rickety chicken bus up to Quatzaltenango. Chicken buses are the standard cheap way to get around in Guatemala, and are old American school buses that are often painted with crazy murals or patterns. After an arduous journey on an extremely windy road in which I was pretty sure the little girl next to me was going to throw up on my lap, I arrived in Xela (the standard nickname for Quatzaltenango). The city has a distinctly different vibe from Antigua, with far fewer tourists and not many people who speak English. Most of the travelers who are here are either doing Spanish school or volunteer work.

Based on a recommendation from a girl I met on the Pacaya Volcano, I decided to enroll in Celas Maya Spanish school, and also to live with a family while I´m studying, so I get more of a true cultural immersion. The family is super nice, and they have three children, two girls, 6 and 12, and boy who is 15. It´s tough though, because between five hours of Spanish class, three or more hours of homework, and speaking Spanish all the time at home, I am speaking very little English.

Yesterday I took a nice break from studying and I took a day trip with two girls I met here in Xela to Los Fuentes Georginas, which are hot springs whose heat source is the Zunil Volcano near Xela. It was my first experience with hot water since arriving in Guatemala (every hostel says that they have hot water, but so far the closest it has been is lukewarm).

My original plan was to stay in Xela and study here for at least a few weeks, but it is so cold here at night that I think I´m going to bail this next weekend in favor of somewhere warmer. I haven´t decided where I am going yet, but there is a beach town on the Pacific Coast called Monterrico that sounds nice, and they have Spanish school, so I´m leaning towards doing that.

Will post pictures tomorrow or the next day. I have to go study and enjoy the rest of my day!

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Written by erikalogie

January 25, 2010 at 3:53 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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