Feb 092014

The first view of Lake Atitlan was from up high on a winding road. Across the lake I could see the volcanoes I had read about. They each had a cloud sitting on top of them like a little hat. I managed to catch this one before the cloud moved on as the day heated up.

The dock in the foreground is one of the lake’s ferry stops, the little white boat is a ferry. I couldn’t figure out if there was a schedule or if they just bounced around the lake. People would wait for quite a while for a boat to turn up heading to where they were going.

cloud capped volcano and ferry stop with ferry on lake atitlan guatemala

Feb 042014

To get to this vantage point we hired a tuk tuk to take us up the volcano. There’s a weird shack there with a viewpoint on top. The ground floor housed less than friendly dogs that snarled as we walked past. The tuk tuk driver hadn’t told us there was a charge for the viewing platform when we decided to hire him to take us up the hill, but sure enough, this weird structure in the middle of nowhere had a ticket booth complete with turnstiles.

The view back across the lake was pretty spectacular though.

Panoramic view of San Pedro la Laguna and Lake Atitlan, Guatemala surrounded by moutains.

Jan 302014

Today’s shot is of one of Lake Atitlan’s many volcanoes. This was taken while a tuk-tuk driver offered tours, eventually leading to my visit to the evil saint Maximon. It is one of the weirdest experiences I’ve had. If you haven’t seen the picture and read the story, I’d recommend you click here now.

canoes on the shore of lake atitlan Guatemala with a volcano and blue sky in the background

Jan 232014

For viewing archaeological sites in something close to their natural state, it doesn’t get much better than Tikal. This temple has been excavated, but it’s sister, which was located behind me was still very much in the condition it was found in, buried and covered in trees. It looked just like a big hill.

We had the added bonus that we were on a sunset tour, meaning we started in the blazing afternoon heat that most tourists aren’t stupid enough to mess with. As a result, we had the whole place to ourselves. I thought it was worth it, though it officially marked the sweating through of every t-shirt I had brought to Guatemala on my second day there.

Back when Tikal was buzzing, the entire area was cleared of vegetation and paved with gleaming white stone. The temples and stele like those shown in the picture were painted in gaudy bright colours.

I found it interesting that the Mayans had flattened a large portion of the jungle for their city and farmland, considering that we have this idealized view that the ancient natives of the Americas lived in tune with nature.

Mayan temple and stele at Tikal, Guatemala HDR


Jan 182014

It was a sleepy Sunday morning in Flores, Guatemala. I’d been woken from a light slumber by the increase in temperature from sweltering to unbearable and made my way for a cool shower before heading out to catch the last light of sunrise. I went out with one photo in mind, this one.

After taking that picture and watching the mist over the jungle burn off, I began making my back to my hostel for breakfast. On the way, I came across this brightly painted building and decided I wanted a photograph. As I unpacked my camera, a tuk-tuk drove by and the image I wanted entered my mind. So, I stood there, waiting for tuk-tuks to drive by and attempting to perfect my timing to get one to blur nicely in the foreground. Then, I got extra lucky and caught another tuk-tuk further up the road.

Tuk tuk in front of a colorful building in Flores Guatemala near Tikal

Jan 162014

While staying in Flores, I took a day to ride the minibuses around the lake. I arrived in a sleepy town and made my way up the hill to explore. I’d climbed as high as I was going to when I came across this cane house.

Cane house in Guatemala

Jan 142014

New Smugmug

So Smugmug, the site that hosts my images, has made their galleries much more customizable so I was able to make it match the main Traverse Earth site, just about. It’s an ongoing process as a few bits aren’t quite right, but take a look by clicking <Browse Photos> above. Let me know what you think of the new layout!

The Mayan Palace

This shot is of the remains of the palace at Tikal. It was a large building but the royal bedroom was nothing like we’d expect of a European palace. It was about 8 feet wide by 10 feet deep with a stone slab for sleeping on beneath a small window. There were small holes in the walls throughout the structure where, it is believed, candles or lanterns of some sort could be placed to light the interior.

Moving to the left from where I’m standing we walked around to enter a huge temple complex. Shortly after this, we heard the howler monkeys in the nearby trees. The whole experience made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.

The ancient Mayan Palace ruins at Tikal near Flores, Guatemala


Jan 092014

On my first day in Guatemala I was woken up by the intense heat. I’d spent the night sleeping surrounded by 3 fans but still woke up drenched with sweat. I took a shower, and set out to explore my new surroundings. After a quick lap of the island town of Flores, I flagged down a kid passing by in a launch and arranged to be taken on a tour. I took this shot as we returned to the boats after our first stop, a breathtaking hike to a viewpoint looking out over the Lago Peten Itza.

Two traditional launches or boats on the shores of lake petin itza, Guatemala

Jan 062014

In Guatemala, just outside Antigua there’s a Macadamia nut farm, owned by a German from California, and named after Viking paradise. It’s called the Valhalla Research Center. I decided this would be an interesting place to visit. When I booked a hike up a volcano, I saw that the tour shop also offered tours to the farm and the surrounding villages. The problem was, the price would vary depending on whether or not the tour was filled up, and two days in advance there was currently nobody booked. After I said I’d have to think about it, the nice lady behind the desk mentioned that her brother was a tuk tuk driver and he could take me on the tour for a very low price. I thought this sounded like a much better solution and quickly booked the tour.

As it turned out, the volcano climb I had booked for the day before the tuk tuk ride was pushed back by a day due to inclement weather. I was in Guatemala at the beginning of the rainy season, and it was coming down harder than any rain I’ve ever seen. As a result, I had an early morning ascent scheduled followed almost immediately by a tuk tuk tour of the surrounding village.

As it turned out, I met another solo traveler from Singapore while climbing Pacaya who was looking for something to do in the afternoon. Once he’d heard my plans, he decided to join me.

The odd thing was, the rain held off all day. It was cloudy and miserable on the ashy slopes, but it wasn’t raining. Five minutes before the tuk tuk was due to pick me up the heavens opened. Luckily, when the three-wheeler arrived, the usually open parts had a nice vision obscuring plastic cover. So, off we went, two guys in a tuk tuk that felt like it was going to get washed backwards down every hill we ascended by the torrent cascading down all around us. There were times when I had to wonder if we were actually floating.

After hopping out in one of the towns and finding a couple of hundred somber looking people standing around, we sidled up to one of the onlookers to ask what was going on. My Spanish isn’t the greatest and all I could pick up was something about a husband and a wife. I interpreted that to mean it was a wedding.

We stood back and watched. Then, two coffins exited the church and were carried up the street followed by a brass band. It turned out my interpretation was incorrect. We decided to make a quick exit, but while on the way back to our trusty stead, I snapped a quick shot of it in front of the silhouetted volcano in the distance. We asked our driver where the cemetery was as the pall bearers were carrying the coffins. He told us it was the cemetery we had passed on the way into the town. It had to be two miles away and uphill, and they were going to carry them all the way there.

tuk tuk and volcano near antigua guatemala

Jan 042014

Most pictures of this arch that I’ve seen were taken from the other side, with the volcano in the background. I think the forested hills disappearing into the haze may be equally interesting.

Yellow Santa Catalina arch Antigua Guatemala with the hills in the background and cobbled sreet in the foreground