El Remate, Guatemala

What a great decision this was, avoiding Flores and staying in the significantly more chilled-out village of El Remate. El Remate is a small roadside settlement on the shores of a huge lake, about 40 kilometres closer to the Mayan temples of Tikal than Flores – the usual Tikal stopover.

El Remate, Guatemala

I just spent my time here (in between visiting the Tikal temples) swimming off the jetty in the photo above, wandering around the lake shore with wild horses, and listening to the howler monkeys from the nearby bio-reserve.

Photos of El Remate

Video: Climbing Pacaya volcano in Guatemala

This video shows you the amazing active volcano Pacaya in Guatemala and us climbing it.

UPDATE: Thousands Flee their homes as Pacaya Volcano erupts (BBC News May 2010).

Climbing Pacaya volcano was quite an exhilarating experience. We left Antigua at 06.00 in the morning and arrived at the base of the volcano at 07.30 and started the summit trail. The initial climbing was through a forest trail. Suddenly the trail ended and the land in front of us was barren and grey looking like pictures from the moon. You could still see the beautiful landscape around us, but rivers of grey had run into it. At this point we started climbing through dunes of grey sand dust and the wind blowing was strong and cold.

The last part of the climb, to the point where hot burning lava is flowing, was the hardest part. The trail was very steep and you had to climb in either lava sand which kept disappearing under your feet (so that you basically took one step forward and two back) or you had to balance on the dry rivers of hot lava rock. Now for those of you who have not seen a lava stone, let me tell you "it is very very sharp and putting your hand down would surely cut you. But the color and formation is amazing it looks like silver and is at times shaped like waves.

While climbing the old lava waves you could feel the heat from underneath getting increasingly hot and finally we reached the point where the river of hot, burning lava came flowing out it was truly magical.
Good advice: I suppose it is needless to say that you need warm clothes and solid hiking boots to climb the volcano. It would be impossible to climb the sharp rocks in thin shoes or stand the cold without a proper jacket and pants.

Directions: You can buy a ticket to the volcano from Antigua for about 50 quetzals. This covers a return trip to the volcano. At the base of the volcano you pay 40 quetzals for entering the parquet. Some travelers report having a guide with them with a shot gun for protecting (against robbery). We had a good guide but without a gun. The tours leave Antigua at either 06.00 in the morning or 14.00 in the afternoon. I would recommend you taking the early morning trip because climbing down from the volcano in pitch dark (the last trip) is dangerous.

Good luck.

Studying Spanish one-on-one with Marlon

studying_spanish_guatemala

Thomas has already written about studying at the Cooperative – so I will concentrate on telling you a bit about my personal experience studying Spanish one-on-one.

I also study with the Cooperative and my teacher’s name is Marlon. Marlon is 9 years younger than me, but this is usually not the case. Most teaches are around mid 30s and have many years experience teaching Spanish.

Marlon, on the contrary, is an artist and an intellectual and have studied Art at the university in Guatemala city.

I really like studying with Marlon because he has A LOT of patience. He never makes a face when I repeat the same mistake for the 10th time and is always mentally present for all 4 hours we spend together every day.

Having your “own” private teacher is great. He will correct me every-time I make a mistake and we have gotten to know each other really well. He tells me stories (in Spanish) from his life and I tell him stories (in Spanish) from my life.

I will miss my teacher when I leave San Pedro 🙂

Video: San Pedro la Laguna, Guatemala

This video is a short video tour of San Pedro la Laguna on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. It includes the streets, the docks, the shops, hostels, volcano, lake views and center of town.

San Pedro La Laguna is a small lakeside town on the shores of Lake Atitlan (Lago de Atitlan) in the highlands of Guatemala. It has a population of about 13,000 and is populated predominantly by indigenous Tz’utujiil people. There are about 100,000 Tz’utujiil speakers living in various towns and villages around Lake Atitlan.

Since the 1960s travelers began to discover the place, and some of them have never left. There seem to be three types of foreigners in San Pedro at any one time: Firstly the long term hippie ex-pats, secondly the Spanish language students who often stay with local families and don’t go out much, and thirdly the hedonists/party people who come here to party and take drugs.

San Pedro is one of the cheapest places to stay around Lake Atitlan and a good base for tours of the other villages around the lake. It’s easy to reach Chichicastenango, Solola, Santiago Atitlan, San Marcos, Panajachel, Santa Clara, San Juan & Santa Cruz by boat or bus from San Pedro.
Links

To find out more about our personal experiences living and studying in San Pedro, please follow the links below:

Links

Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 1
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 2
Podcast: Studying Spanish in Guatemala Episode 3
San Pedro and the longing for empty spaces
San Pedro and the dreams from another dimension
San Pedro Photos
Photos of our rental house & garden in San Pedro

Video: Packing for Latin America¦what not to bring!

This video shows a classic example of how NOT to pack for a big trip. It is unfortunately my packing for Latin America (I am sad to say) and it is way too much stuff to bring. Judge for yourself by watching the video comments are most welcome 🙂

As I am already traveling with this huge monster of a bag, I can say one thing for sure "something has GOT to GO". I have travelled for years and years and am used to not bringing very much. I usually travel with about 12 kg, which is a good amount for a woman my size (I weigh about 58 kg). But this time I have brought 18 kg plus my small bag which weighs another 4kg. This means I am almost carrying HALF my own bodyweight now that is STUPID! However, it can be quite difficult to pack for a trip in which you will be spending time in both hot and cold countries (from -5 to +40). Furthermore, as you can see, I travel with a lot of equipment for video making and a lot of women’s stuff such as two electrical shavers, extra face creams, shampoo etc. But seriously..I NEED to empty out things from my bag in the very near future :-).

So there you go – don’t pack like me!

San Pedro and the dreams from another dimension

Lake Atitlan

Having to describe this place to you or rather the energies here would be quite a challenge. But I can say one thing for sure – I have never been to a place with such strong energies before. There are many ways in which energies can materialize – here the energy is especially evident in dreams.

I have always been a dreamer but my dreams have taken a completely different shape and form in this place I have seen deep into my past, crossed bridges at night that were never crossed before and been shocked and amazed. And I have met many travelers who tell a similar story "a story of very vivid, strong and present dreams. And it can’t be a coincidence that so many places here have dream catchers as decoration surely they are a needed interior.

One thing for sure – this place holds a different dimension. For generations the elders here have told the young people to be careful when in nature around here. To be careful not to touch unknown objects because they might be a gateway to another dimension. There are many tales around here about people having lost days of their life without knowing where they went thinking they had been gone for 1 hour but were missing two days etc.

So when I woke up this morning at five with a very strong dream about giving birth to a boy, I was not surprised. I lay in bed for one hour and took it all in and then I decided to get up and write this article that has been on my mind for as long as I have been here. Perhaps the dream symbolized the birth of an idea or a project or maybe a foresight into the future or maybe a longing I don’t know…but the dreams are ever-present in this place.

To tell you the truth; when I first arrived here I felt really at unease with the place. I felt like someone had taken me by the legs and hung me up-side down and I couldn’t make any sense of neither myself nor the place and I was really upset and disturbed. I knew all along that it was a matter of strong energies that I had not adjusted to and thank God my Spanish course forced me to stay in this place. My initial confusion has been replaced by appreciation appreciation for being allowed to fall in tune with the place, to dream the dreams I dream and to have a chance to peep into that other dimension.

With admiration for Lake Atitlan,
Tina

San Pedro and the longing for empty spaces

San Pedro, Guatemala, Lake Atitlan

Arriving in San Pedro was by no means a surprise because I had no expectations for neither San Pedro nor Guatemala.

San Pedro de Laguna is a relatively small village (although not as small as I could wish for) on the shores of Lake Atitlan. It has 13.000 inhabitants spread out on the hillside.

Obviously San Pedro is very different from Asia where I have spent a long time. It’s much less developed than Thailand, but it is also much more traditional which has its own charm. The people here are very friendly and despite a growing tourism not jaded and unfriendly.

But don’t let this fool you San Pedro have been discovered many years ago and is not your "undiscovered paradise". It’s a growing village living from tourist, coffee and maize. It has everything from beautiful scenery, kayak trips, horse riding, restaurants, market, and internet shops to bars and drug problems.

We arrived at the end of the rainy season and thus the landscape was very damp, cloudy and misty. My feelings for the country are mixed. The people seem very nice despite the horrors of the past, the landscape is also beautiful, but the country suffers from the same problems as other developing (and developed) countries pollution. They still cook with firewood so three times a day the village of San Pedro is smoky wherever you go and it makes me long for empty spaces with neither people nor buildings just nature.

I admit though that I have had this longing for a very long time now Chiang Mai was too big and polluted for me, Copenhagen also contains too much cement for me too many people, too many cars, too much development. The older I have gotten the less of a city person I am I long for peace and quiet and stopping smoking (nearly 2 years ago) has not made me more tolerant to pollution, smoke, dust, fumes and all the other things that big cities "offer" on the contrary.

I suppose ideally I would live in a very deserted place surrounded by nature, sea, animals and with very few inhabitants I know it sounds like Alaska .however, I couldn’t live in such a cold place. I hate darkness and cold so more like the south pole than the north pole 30 degrees all year round is great J Any suggestions?