1 We arrived in Guatemala City, and drove an hour to Antigua, the colonial capital of Guatemala. I would mention the name of the guesthouse we stayed at, but it sucked, so I won't. :)
2 Breakfast at Cafe Condesa, a very famous and highly overpriced cafe in the Old Town center.
3 The lovely fountain in Antigua's central park.
4 A very interesting facet of the fountain...Boob faucets!
5 Matt likey the Boob Faucets (as they were later known).
6 Town Hall, one of Antigua's most famous landmarks.
7 When we saw this, all we could say was "WTF." An L. Ron Hubbard plaque, prominently displayed in front of Antigua's Town Hall. No one knows why. We scoured the internet. We never found an answer....
8 San Juan Church, one of Antigua's many colonial churches.
9 San Juan Church.
10 Cool architecture on the San Juan exterior.
11 St. Theresa's, another landmark. It is a former convent.
12 These are the baths outside, where the nuns would bathe. In public. Weird.
13 Another lovely church.
14 IMHO, the prettiest church in Antigua.
15 Front view.
16 I love the bright yellow- it's much more well-kept than most of the other churches.
17 The bright red rosary was a lovely contrast against the yellow paint.
18 The Guatemalan mountains border the town.
19 Beer break! Gallo, the official beer of Guatemala. Moza is a darker porter, and harder to find.
20 Chocolate break!! Guatemala is famous for its chocolate, but weirdly, they don't eat or sell very much of it.
21 Strolling Antigua's colonial streets.
22 The iconic arch of Antigua...
23 ...and with more colorful buildings in the shot ;)
24 Weird find: A churchyard filled with abandoned Santa Semana (Holy Week) floats.
25 It's like Disneyland and Carnival, brought to you by God!!
26 Matt with his new Antiguan friends.
27 The infamous Guatemalan chicken buses: They buy old schoolbuses from the USA, then pimp them out with wild decor, and call it public transit!
28 At promptly 2pm, the daily Guatemalan downpour began.
29 In ten minutes, the gutters started to flood.
30 Antigua's Town Square at night.
31 Pretty night shot :)
32 The next day, we took a bus 3 hours to the northwest to visit Lake Atitlan. Here, we wait for the ferry to cross to San Pedro...
33 Lake Atitlan is the most-visited place in Guatemala.
34 It's been compared to Lake Como and Lake Tahoe for its beauty. I agree...
35 Two volcanoes ring the lake, and create a gorgeous landscape.
36 The view from the speedboat ferry ride over!
37 Arriving at the shores of San Pedro.
38 We walked to the Gran Sueno and booked ourselves a lovely room.
39 Private double ensuite, lake view...$15 USD. I love San Pedro.
40 The lake view from our room.
41 The town of San Pedro, as seen from our cute little hostel room.
42 Our room was a steep spiral staircase up to the 3rd floor....I spy Matt!!
43 Lunch at Nick's, right on the waterfront.
44 So this photo needs explanation...Guatemala has an omnipresent fried chicken chain called "Pollos Camperos." Its name, food, and cartoon chicken mascot are so awesomely reminiscent of "Breaking Bad"'s Pollos Hermanos, that we were obviously smitten. And they make ketchup!
45 What a Guatemalan table looks like after we devour food and Gallo beer.
46 San Pedro's cute cobblestoned streets.
47 We strolled the waterfront, and got some great views across Lake Atitlan.
48 ...and the 2pm downpour began. San Pedro is pretty hilly, so raging rivers formed in the streets.
49 Local kids caught in the downpour...huddling in a doorway just like we were. :)
50 Getting soaking wet is irrelevant if you find a cool bar in which to wait out the storm :)
51 After the bar, we went next door to a jungle hot springs! Hot tubs! In the jungle! With beer!
52 Guatemalan hot tub deliciousness.
53 Enjoying a beer in the downpour.
54 The next morning, we returned to Nick's Cafe on the docks for a lovely breakfast.
55 Mmm Guatemalan coffee....
56 We found a little tour company owned by a woman named Cecilia, who helped us book our bus tickets to Chichicastenango, then back to Antigua, then back to Guatemala City to catch the overnight bus to Peten in the north. Total travel time: 90 minutes to Chichicastenango, 2 hours to Antigua, 1 hour to Guatemala City, 10 hours overnight to Peten. We arrive at 6am. Whee!
57 Au revoir San Pedro....on the speedboat ferry back to Panajachel.
58 We found a little German-owned guesthouse in Panajachel, right off the main road, called Hotel Utz-Jay.
59 It had a little porch! With chairs!
60 ...and a Mayan calendar marking the days until Armageddon.
61 Panajachel was celebrating its Independence Day while we were there. The small town was filled with a carnival and parades.
62 Ferris wheels! Dancing!
63 In the Town Square, there was a re-enactment of the Mayans driving the Spanish out.
64 The Town Hall church, all decorated with festival flags.
65 We stopped into a tiny restaurant held in the front entryway of someone's home. They were making fresh tortillas and soup!
66 The parade went right by our lunch table.
67 Kind of a sad Cookie Monster...
68 Big-headed guy....
69 And I call this photo: The Day I Shot Elmo.
70 That night was the first of the 2012 US Presidential Debates, between Obama and Thurston Howell Romney III (I think that's his name). We watched at a beach bar with a bunch of other US travellers.
71 After a long night of debate watching, one needs street tacos.
72 OMFG!! "Breaking Bad" fans of the world, this is the GREATEST PHOTO EVER!! Long live Gus Fring! Pollos Hermanos! LET'S COOK!
73 The next day, we headed to the small village of Chichicastenango, which is famous for its twice-weekly crafts market. It's shoppin' time!
74 We wandered in the MEAT market, which we realized is different from the CRAFTS market.
75 Mmmm cow.
76 Window shopping for all our carcass needs.
77 Ooh, then we found a NUT market. Mmmm peanuts.
78 And then we finally found the craft market, which took up the ENTIRE REST OF THE TOWN.
79 Chichicastenango's town church, where the locals hold Mayan ceremonies on the steps.
80 The highland Guatemalan tribes identify themselves with weaving patterns, unique to each tribe. But every pattern is a riot of bright color.
81 Hand-woven, bright sweaters.
82 This was a typical stall- so bright it almost hurt your eyes. They sold blankets, bags, sweaters, shirts, etc., all with the tribe's pattern.
83 Highland women in their everyday clothing.
84 Me with all my goodies!! I bought 2 purses and a scarf (shown), but this photo doesn't show the awesome bag I bought. Man, I do luvs me sum haggling.
85 The market had small stalls selling lunch. Guatemala is famous for its Pollo Frito (fried chicken), and this nice lady is cooking up our lunch!
86 Mmmm pollo frito...Almost as good as Pollos Hermanos.
87 Chichicastenango's famous town arch.
88 Parrots! In Guatemala!
89 We stopped at this lovely garden in the middle of Chichicastenango.
90 The other side of the garden.
91 Making friends with the natives.
92 So here we are...after all those hours of bus travel, we awoke at 6am in Peten, in the north. This is jungle territory, so we found a little jungle hostel called Mon Ami, in the sleepy village of El Remate- about 30 minutes from the Mayan ruins of Tikal.
93 Mon Ami is a little palapa-hut jungle hostel run by a Parisian ex-pat. The location is gorgeous- in the jungle, and right on the turquoise Lake Peten.
94 Our little jungle hut's hammock!!
95 Inside our jungle hut. It was shockingly clean and neat.
96 I read the entire book "The Perks of Being a Wallflower" in that hammock. Good times.
97 Our private little dock on the lake.
98 We were completely alone on the entire lake.
99 Enjoying the solitude.
100 I conquer Lake Peten!
101 We walked along the jungle road, and found this cool place for brunch.
102 We were the only ones in the restaurant. This is the view from our table.
103 The restaurant was a family's home, and they had built this cool bridge out to the lake.
104 Matt on the deck!
105 Enjoying the gorgeous view over Lake Peten.
106 Jungle brunch!
107 What a jungle brunch looks like when it's been devoured.
108 Walking back over that rickety bridge....
109 Walking along El Remate's road, you come across some wacky architecture.
110 I loved this- someone built a Baby Tikal. In their garden.
111 The lake was so warm, blue, and inviting...
112 We had to go for a swim.
114 Matt enjoys the bathwater-warm lake water.
115 Lake mischief managed!
116 Going for a swim, in a literally deserted lake. No boats, no people. It was bizarre.
117 Enjoying my personal lake time. :)
118 So we're in the jungle. In a palapa. And yet...there is wi-fi. Gotta love travel in the new millenium.
119 Nighttime in the jungle (it's barely 6:30pm, but hey, without streetlights, it gets dark fast!).
120 This is why one should travel with headlamps: so one can eat chocolate-covered Guatemalan bananas in the dark.
121 Today, the Indiana Jones portion of the Guatemalan vacation begins: We are off to the Mayan ruins of Tikal!!
122 We begin our expedition into the Mayan jungle with a visit to the Visitor's Center, and its MASSIVE model of the lost city of Tikal.
123 I always thought that Tikal was just this huge pyramid. It's not- it's an entire city, buried in the jungle.
124 The ENTRY pyramid. That's right, they have a spare pyramid just to show off at the park's entry. It's gonna be a long day.
125 Ooh! I spy a woodpecker!!
126 The symbol of Tikal...the Grand Pyramid.
127 At sunrise.
128 The twin pyramids sit in a grand open field amongst other ruins of the city. The gravestone-like objects are "steele," which have glyphs written on them.
129 It was a majestic sight to trek through the jungle, and find the pyramids in a clearing...with no one else around.
130 The twin pyramids were the "downtown" of the city of Tikal.
131 Me at Tikal!
132 Indiana Matt Jones at Tikal.
133 A close-up of one of the steele. You can still see the carving on it.
134 A very cool mask carving set into the pyramid's entrance. It was almost as tall as I am.
135 An awesome shot of Tikal's Grand Pyramid.
136 So to avoid traipsing up Tikal's pyramids, the park helpfully installed wooden staircases up to the top!
137 Another steele.
138 The Grand Pyramid, taken from the top of an adjoining ruined building.
139 An artsy side shot of the grand Pyramid.
140 The pyramid as it peeks through the jungle...
141 Matt atop one of the many ruined buildings. Note that we discovered that climbing UP is far easier than climbing DOWN.
142 A high-level view of the great field.
143 Climbing farther up....
144 Matt gets to the top of a nearby building.
145 ...but now the REAL climbing starts. And let's not forget that it was about 90F, humid as hell, with NO shade. And bugs. Lots of bugs in the jungle.
146 While the excavated pyramids are amazing, we also found the NOT-excavated pyramids fascinating. This one only has its comb (the top, decorative portion) excavated. It makes you wonder how much more is out there that they've not discovered.
147 Farther into the ruined city, more pyramids to be found....
148 Matt conquers Tikal!!
149 Hmm. I'd like to think this is wise advice, no matter where you are.
150 We headed out farther into the jungle to find all the other pyramids (there are 5 excavated for viewing). We found this massive one through a clearing in the jungle.
151 What a pyramid looks like when it's hiding in the jungle :)
152 So the country of Guatemala doesn't want people climbing on the mossy, slick, crumbly, scary pyramid. Fair enough. BUT. That is one hella scary staircase to the left. We chose NOT to attempt climbing....
153 This was awesome!! In the middle of the jungle, we found a model! In progress!! Matt of course had to conquer it.
154 Pyramid III, as seen through the jungle. For reasons we couldn't discern, no one is allowed to climb it, or go to it. But it makes a pretty photo.
155 This is what the Tikal National Park calls "The Lost City." We're not sure what makes THIS part any more lost than the REST of the ruins, but hey, we're not in charge here. Kinda cool, though.
156 Just enjoying the view. :)
157 And for the grand finale...Pyramid IV, the tallest pyramid in Tikal. And to get up there, you have to climb a HELLA HUGE STAIRCASE.
158 Keep climbin', Jones....
159 But at the top...what a view. Unbelieveable. You can see the Grand Pyramid and its twin peeking up from the jungle canopy, over in the top left.
160 One of my favorite shots of this trip. Also, does this shot look familiar? It should...Star Wars (the original) was shot on this very ledge. Pyramid IV played the part of Yavin IV. Pretty cool.
161 The Guatemalan jungle, as seen from Pyramid IV.
162 And as a final treat: Howler monkeys. These monkeys live in the trees, and "howl" to scare away intruders. But "howl" is a misnomer: It is closer to a massive, lion-like ROAR that echoes throughout the jungle. Rarely do you actually SEE the monkeys- they hide in the branches, and if they sense you're not scared away by their roars, they will throw things at you. "Things" being fruit, branches, rocks...and feces. We hate monkeys.
163 After a hot, dusty day climbing pyramids, we stayed the night in the lovely island village of Flores.
164 The island of Flores welcomes us! And so do its tuk-tuks (Thai taxis)!
165 Our little lakeside hotel, Casa Amelia.
166 Our little cozy room at Casa Amelia.
167 Note that amazing lake view from our window....
168 The view across Lake Peten from our window...including our hotel's swimmin' dock!
169 Flores' lovely lakeside promenade. It was really tranquil.
170 ...and the best part of Casa Amelia: ROOFTOP LOUNGE. Where we enjoyed ourselves sum Guatemalan rum. Mmmm rum.
171 ...but even in a cute hotel, you're still pretty near the jungle. Yuck. Jungle bugs.
172 At night, the lakeside promenade becomes a local food market. The residents make amazing tasty food and sell it for DIRT CHEAP to residents...and smart tourists. :)
173 The next day, we decided to visit another ruined Mayan city: Yaxha. It's not as famous as Tikal, and few people go there. We're not exactly sure why. But this is what "traffic" is like in the jungle....
174 Me at Yaxha!!
175 When you buy your admission, you don't get a ticket...you get a green wristband. We were expecting free drinks with our wristbands, but sadly they did not materialize.
176 The requisite model of Yaxha National Park.
177 Getting oriented with the helpful park map...
178 Yaxha is beautifully paved, and astoundingly clean. There were few visitors, but LOTS of park rangers, who doubled as sweepers!
179 Yaxha has only been excavated since 2003. Most of it is still underneath jungle canopy. This is one of the many buried pyramids/Mayan homes.
180 Another buried ruin.
181 Employees sweeping the park!
182 Yaxha is a lakeside city. The Guatemalan government built this gorgeous stone pathway down to the lake.
183 What paradise might look like :)
184 Enjoying the absolute solitude and beauty of Yaxha.
185 I have never experienced absolute silence- not even wildlife or waves lapping- as on that lake. It was amazing.
186 ...but the only bad thing about a long stairstep path down to a lake...is the LONG stairway back UP.
187 What a toilet looks like in the jungle. Amazingly, these bathrooms were fully stocked with toilet paper, soap, and towels, and clean. In the jungle!
188 One of Yaxha's amazing pyramids.
189 ....and where there's a pyramid, there's a bone-crushing staircase to climb to its top....
190 The view from the top.
191 Matt at the top of the pyramid. You can see another pyramid in the distance.
192 A tiny "village" with ruined homes.
193 Twin pyramids in an open field...much like Tikal, and a common Mayan design.
194 Climbing up!
195 Admiring the view from the top :)
196 When there's no one but you in a 20-kilometer-square park, you have to make good use of the self-portrait function of your camera. :)
197 Matt at the top....
198 This is the one photo I got that really gives an idea of how HUGE these pyramids are.
199 So there was nobody but us, and a few park rangers, in this entire park. When we found the open field with twin pyramids, we climbed "his" and "hers"....and proceeded to have a yelling conversation across the field. This is MATT'S pyramid!
200 Self-portrait #2!
201 MY pyramid :)
202 My favorite shot of the entire trip. I am Queen of the Pyramid :)
203 Lunchtime in the jungle. Bananas, oranges, and biscuits.
204 Scaling another pyramid.
205 Interesting fact about Yaxha: when they began excavating, the government needed money. So they allowed "Survivor: Guatemala" to be filmed IN THIS PARK. The money from CBS allowed a lot of archaeological work to commence.
206 The view from atop the final pyramid.
207 Matt takes a breather...this was the one time all day a breeze blew in to kill the hell heat.
208 Who says you can't balance your digital camera on some ancient pyramid wall to take a self-portrait?
209 ....and the inevitable long stairway down.
210 After another long day exploring Mayan civilization, one requires creature comforts. Lucky for us, we found this amazing lakeside bar in Flores, selling 80 cent rum and Cokes.
211 Cheers to exploration, and beer.
212 The next morning was our final morning in Guatemala. It began with Casa Amelia's Breakfast of Champions (Froot Loops).
213 We decided to take a 50 cent passenger ferry across to San Miguel, a tiny island near Flores.
214 Matt enjoys the ferry ride...
215 The view of Flores from the lake.
216 Arriving in the teeny village of San Miguel, we were amused and charmed by their town's dock...and its welcome. :)
217 Traffic in San Miguel.
218 Well, after a few minutes of walking, we found San Miguel's "downtown."
219 The charming lakeside of San Miguel.
220 It looked kind of like a jungle movie set :)
221 Artsy shot...
222 Yet another smooth, crystalline, gorgeous Guatemalan lake.
223 This photo looked like stock photography, the scenery was so perfect....
224 More cute ferries in San Miguel.
225 ...and all good things must come to an end. At 5pm, we boarded this tiny prop plane for our 60 minute flight south back to Guatemala City.
226 Our final Guatemalan purchase: A shoeshine. By Guatemalans who apparently don't know sh*t from Shinola.