road trip view

Today we celebrate our one month anniversary of travel in Antigua, surrounded by mountains and volcanos, lined with cobblestone streets, crumbling colonial buildings and cathedrals. Weire staying at a hostel called The Jungle Party, and our room smells like fart because these guys have been living in it for weeks. We went and bought room spray.

We took a mini bus up to Coban a few days ago, that, just when you thought it was full, it kept stopping to pick up more and more people. People were in each others’ laps, standing up and leaning out the open side door. At one point I counted 25 people in a van meant to seat maybe 14. Hilarious. Super safe. Coban was a cool little town, we saw our first Central American McDonalds. The food here is too good. All these cool things they sell on the street like fried lima beans and coconut candies and fruit coming out the walls at these stands run by tiny Mayan ladies dressed in so many colors.

Semuc Champey

We took a tour to Semuc Champey, which is taking petitions to be counted as a wonder of the world, and it definitely should be! So beautiful!! We got up super early and rode in the bed of a 4×4 truck, sitting on seats that had been poached from other vehicles and hammered in. It was about one hour of solid asphalt, winding up a mountain past tiny villages, and then another hour down and up and down and around on the least-maintained, graveliest road in the history of the world. It was akin to the Indiana Jones ride at Disneyland, except without seatbelts, and eight times bumpier.

We had to make him stop on the side of the road so we could pee. Quite bad. We´re all getting pretty shameless about popping a squat. Katie just holds on to the back bumper and lets it go. Our friend Steve told us about this invention called a She Pee, whereby women hold a funnel like object between their thighs and can finally pee standing up. Useful when camping, or traveling Central America. I want to buy stock in She Pee.

climbing up and down waterfalls

We arrived at Semuc Champey, and had been told there was a bit of a hike. Oh no. Not a bit. Its more like the hike of death. 2 miles straight up hill. I was sweating in places I didnt know I could sweat, holding onto trees for support, heart pounding in my head, practically crawling up the stone steps and sliding on mud, but when we arrived to the look out point, called El Mirador, it was so worth it.

We hiked back down and got into the pools, jumping and diving off trees and cliffs and crazy fun stuff, and then we hiked down waterfalls, climbed down a rope ladder through a gushing waterfall, ladder held in place by a large rock and looking entirely unsafe, to go check out a cave and jump off more cliffs. It was pretty sweet.

THE BAT CAVE STORY

After swimming around for a bit it was time to go explore a cave. We were told all we needed was a swimsuit and some shoes. We each got a candle to hold to walk into the bat cave. I was expecting maybe a nice twenty minute stroll, some information about the cave, maybe I’d need to duck to avoid a friendly bat. Oh no. Nothing quite so tame.

Our guide was a 15 year old Spanish-speaking only boy, who laughed nonstop at us. I would translate things from him for the group like “keep your hands off the walls, that’s where tarantulas are.” (We all had our hands on the walls.) We started walking, then wading about knee deep, then wading chest deep, in freezing freezing water, in total darkness, running into sharp rocks, scrambling over waterfalls, and trying to keep up with our cheeky guide who I think got off on watching our faces contort with panic. Soon we were swimming through deep, dark waters, still holding onto candles, crawling on our bellies through tiny crevices, jumping into swim holes and having to relight our candles while treading water.

first steps into the cave…you can tell because we still looked happy and unafraid

Then we came up to a rushing waterfall of death that we were told we had to use a rope to climb up. I went about ten feet up before the water was dumping into my lungs so crazy I couldn’t open my eyes and felt like I was drowning, panicked, and went back down to use the ladder for wimps. Wimp Ladder was still a pretty tough climb, while holding a candle and dripping wet. At the end of an hour and a half, we then had to slip ourselves through a waterslide tunnel only about two feet wide in complete darkness, trusting the guide to catch us and guide us over to safety, as we, along with our candles, were completely submerged in water. Of course, we didnt know any of this was happening, since the guy spoke no English, and as I said before, got his kicks by watching us get really scared.

Dana cliff jumping.

In the end I´m glad I did it, and if I had known all that we were going to do, I would have needed a lot of coaxing to get through that guano cave of madness, but I feel a lot braver now!

Yesterday we traveled to Antigua. I could seriously live here forever. I love Guate! Its incredibly beautiful, people are so friendly and so happy to help you, food is great, living is cheap, friends are amazing, I meet so many awesome travelers to talk to….life is so good right now!!

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