I wasn't really sure what to expect of Guatemala because I've never been to Central America and because I hadn't researched very much leading up to it, because we had finals. But I had an amazing time. I travelled with a group of 8 of my friends and we had a lot of fun.
The ship was docked at Puerto Quetzal, which is a small town on the coast without much going on, so we headed to Antigua. Antigua is a very cute, now touristy, colonial town. There is a small park in the middle with most things to do within a few blocks of it, including a market. The streets are all cobblestone, which makes car rides intersting. Here is a picture down one of the main streets in Antigua. The yellow arch down the street, Santa Catalina Arch, is a popular image of Antigua.
We got there around 1 pm and found a really cute, partly outdoor, restaurant. We were all very excited to have Guatemalan food, which is fairly similar to Mexican food, with a lot of rice and beans. We shared really good nachos and I had excellent chicken and rice soup. We met up with our other friends who were coming later and wandered around the city for the afternoon. We went to the market, where they sell everything from quilts and bags, to DVDs and chocolate.
We found a hotel and took naps for a little bit in the afternoon and then got ready to go out to dinner and out on the town. The ship had recommended that we be back to our hotels by 11pm because Guatemala can be dangerous, but we didn't experience any problems in Antigua. We went to a restaurant and had pizza because two of the girls we were traveling with have had pizza in every country (not a feat I would be particularly proud of, but still fun) and they had to continue their streak. Here is a picture of all of the girls (the three boys were sitting up in a lounge area in the restaurant). From the back left is Kristie, Jill, and Stephanie, and then Alex and I on the right.
The next morning we had a trip scheduled up to Volcano Pacaya that left at 6am. For some reason most of us work up at 4 am and couldn't sleep, so we had been hanging out since then. We got picked up in a minibus and driven up to Pacaya which was about 90 minutes away. The last half hour of the drive was on very rough roads as we were actually going up the mountain a bit. We got our guide and started the hike. For about 90 minutes the hike looked just like a mountain hike through the trees. It was not a particularly easy hike, but we had a fun time. We came out of the trees and had about this view. We had to hike on the volcanic sand and rock up to where you see those specks of people on the right and then up some more to reach the flowing lava.
Climbing up the volcanic rock was difficult because it was sharp and very unstable. Several people, though luckily none in our group, fell and cut up their legs pretty badly. But eventually we made it up to the lava flow and other molten rock and it was so so so awesome. Here is a good picture (taken by our guide Roni) of the lava flow, which was maybe moving about 1 mph.
Just up the volcano a bit was more lava like this, that was moving very slowly, if at all. A few minutes after I took this picture, that part at the bottom cracked and sort of fell forward.
We had bought tropical marshmallows, which were indeed very fruity, to roast in the lava. It was so hot that the marshmallows roasted perfectly in about 5 seconds. We roasted some on the lava and then here is a picture of Jill and I roasting some on the white hot rocks.
On our climb up and down we had a really good view of Volcano Fuego in the background. We got to see ash spewing out of it at one point because it erupts a few times per hour. Here is a picture of Jill and I in front of Fuego.
We got driven back to Antigua to walk around a bit and do some shopping that we hadn't done yesterday. Prices seemed to be pretty standard in the market and we couldn't get everything bargained down to price we wanted, which was a little frustrating. Then we got driven to Monterrico, a small beach town about 45 minutes from Puerto Quetzal. We were going to stay there for the night and go back to the ship the next day.
Monterrico is a black sand beach, which was so cool. It also had the roughest surf I have ever been in and we all definitely got knocked over and worked by many waves when we were playing around in the waves. We got there around 5pm and just hung out for the evening. There were a bunch of other SAS kids there, which was fun. Here is a picture of the place we stayed. We stayed in a bungalow, like the ones on the left. There was a huge storm and the power was out for a few hours, but they had good food and drinks at the restaurant, so we were happy.
Here is a picture of 6 of us lounging on the beach. We were all covered in black sand the entire day and for several days were were all finding it in our ears and bathing suits. From the left is me, Jill, Stephanie, Matt, Ben, and Conor.
That afternoon we got driven back to the ship and boarded it for the last time, which was strange. Since then we have had our second and last day of finals and have just been hanging out, getting ready to go home.