Pacaya Volcano

Today we took a quick tour up the Pacaya Volcano.  Pacaya is about an hour and a half drive south from Antigua and is one of 3 active volcanoes in Guatemala.  From the top of Pacaya we could see Fuego (active as well), Acatenango and Agua.  The three volcanoes are situated in a circle around Antigua.  Fuego has been casting big plumes of smoke almost every day and had a big night lava eruption our first week in Antigua.  Impressive!

A shuttle came to pick us up from our apartment at 6am.  After an hour and a half driving we made it to a small mountain village on the outskirts of Pacaya.  We were about to hike 5miles up the volcano.  The trails were made of fine crushed volcano rocks and lots and lots of volcano dust. The locals in the parking lot were insistent trying to sell a ‘taxi’ service (horse ride) up the mountain for Q100 (about $12 USD).  At first everybody in our group declined the taxi ride.  Nevertheless two kids on horses followed us up to mountain.  I guess they knew what usually happens … So, 10 minutes in the hike one of the girls gave up and hopped on a horse.  Next was … Teresa :).  Well, in her defense, the second kid was walking right behind her for 35 minutes and asking her more or less every 20 seconds “Taxi?”,  “Chika, taxi… ” ….  I think T eventually hopped on the horse just to get him to stop bugging her :).

We made it close but not all the way up the volcano (did not climb to the crater since it is dangerous).  By the way there was a huge plume of smoke that shot up in the sky while we were right under the volcano.  At the end of the trip we crossed a 2 year old lava flow to a place where superheated gasses were coming from the ground.  It took only a second for a bunch of dry sticks to get on fire after our guide tossed them under the rocks at that spot.  We finished the day with roasting marshmallows on the hot gasses before heading back.


Antigua, Guatemala

Today makes two weeks since we arrived in Antigua.  Both Teresa and I are totally loving our experience here.  We are taking Spanish classes in the mornings and the afternoons are a mix of homework and activities around town.  We rented a small flat at the end of town with a small kitchen and a kick ass rooftop deck with a view of all three volcanoes around.  One of the volcanoes is active and regularly puts a show spewing lava and smoke high in the sky.

Here are a few pictures from Antigua for a taste of what are our days like.  I will be adding more posts for Antigua since there is so much stuff around here.   The town is absolutely beautiful.

Family and friends have been asking to put pictures on the site from our last month and a half of travel.  We will be doing that in the next week or so.  I will be adding posts with older dates to keep events in order so look for new posts prior to this one.  We hit some really cool places to make it down to Antigua so stay tuned.



The most beautiful lake in the world

That was one of the many things I read about Lago Atitlan.  I was skeptical, but the lake didn’t disappoint.  The lake was our last stop with my parents.  Time to relax.

We got to the villa I had booked around 5 pm.  If you recall, we left Semuc Champey at 6:30 am.  We were for the most part distracted by getting the truck into the garage.  This took us the better part of an hour.  There was however time to take in the picturesque view.   Lago Atitlan is surrounded by 3 volcanoes.   Imagine this view framed by floor to ceiling windows and you’ve about got it.  Mom was giddy with excitement.

After all the driving, we took the last 3 days pretty easy spending our time exploring the local villages, flying around town in the tuk tuk taxis, and taking advantage of the hot tub and sauna.  G and I also had the pleasure of celebrating Mom’s birthday with her, although Dad did have the satisfaction of reminding me in front of her.  Classic Charlie Batten.

The lake is serene.  There is also plenty of  culture, hiking and boating to keep you busy.  We also heard rumors that you can kite board on the lake.

All and all, we had a great time with the parents.  And for all my worrying, they were troopers the entire trip.  Thanks mom + dad!

PS The submerged buildings in some of the shots are a result of the lake rising.  The lake is in a crater and doesn’t drain.  Each rainy season means the water level rises a little.  You’ll also notice a handful of shots from a local weaving collective.  All of the dyes they use are organic and made from local flora.



“…the road was worth it – right?”

Semuc Champey was the third stop on our little adventure through Belize and Guatemala with my parents.


It took us literally all day to drive from Tikal to Semuc Champey.  The day started with a lot of gravel road and potholes, the middle was mostly decent highway (with the exception of the cra cra chicken bus drivers), and we ended the day with a steep, rough, narrow road into the Semuc Champey valley.  I admit, I didn’t look at the topography of Semuc Champey before compiling my plan.  The owner of the hotel in El Remate (Tikal) had compared the drive into Semuc Champey to driving into the belly of the earth…you just go down and down.

We never did find the hotel I booked.  Put a sign up would you Utopia.  I felt anxious with no secured accommodations for the night, but we finally checked into a quaint little hotel near the park.  George and I were able to camp and the parents got a Spartan little casita (1 bed, no electricity after 11 or so, and cold showers).  The following day, we visited the turquoise pools of Semuc Champey.  There were truly beautiful and great for a dip.  Our photos don’t do them justice.

We had a little euchre tournament in the afternoon after visiting the pools (dad + g, mom + me).  G and mom were definitely the most passionate players, but G didn’t manage to deliver on his threats.  After a slow start, mom and I took the last two out of 3 games and are consequently reining champions.

That evening, I tried to force dad to admit the drive was worth it for some personal gratification.  He didn’t budge.  I do think the drive was worth it though, no matter what dad Batten says.

The following day we left at first light for the 10+ hour drive to Lago Atitlan.  I had booked some more cush accommodations on the lake to end the visit on a high note.