March 11, 2012

Holidays in Central America

Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Chichicastenango is home to what is surely the most colorful native market in North and Central America, perhaps in all the Americas. Market days are Sundays and Thursdays and we were able to time it right to arrive on Thursday morning.  We were greeted by a hustling and bustling city, full of many sights, sounds, and smells. Maya craft sellers from across the highlands set up makeshift booths around the central plaza, spilling over on to sidewalks, the church steps, and up various side streets. The vendors sold a broad selection of Guatemalan handicrafts, ceramics, native textiles, fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers.  

Chichi may also be home to the most colorful cemetery; perched on a hill, the candy colored tombs are a site to see. We spent much of our time walking through this cemetery, admiring the natives appreciation for vibrant colors; each above ground tomb, a different design and color for each family or individual.  We also witnessed traditional rituals performed on the alters in the cemetery-- the burning of all kinds of materials and even the sacrifice of a chicken.

One last, fresh squeezed watermelon drink on our journey through Central America. 

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Our last stop during our Holidays in Central America was the Quetzaltenango LDS Temple, recently dedicated in November 2011.  The temple sits on top of a hill, above the busy city.  We saw many beautiful churches during our travels but this ones beauty surpasses the rest.  It does because of its sacredness as a dedicated House of God. It is amazing that we can travel to all parts of the world and find the LDS Church and Temples to attend.  We are so blessed to have the Gospel in our lives!

We were able to spend the night in church housing on the Temple grounds and do two sessions at the Temple before we had to leave. 

Our Holidays in Central America has come to a close.  
It was a remarkable journey through culture, history and nature we had never experienced before. It opened up our eyes and gave us new perspective and new appreciation for what we've been blessed with and for the world God has created. We are so thankful to have the opportunities to travel together; it is a bonding and learning experience for the two of us.

Thank you and so long Central America...
for now.

Holidays in Central America

Lake Atitlan

We drove a few hours north of Antigua to stay on the beautiful Lake Atitlan.  It was refreshing to be by the water, where the weather was much warmer, and the calm waters-relaxing and the pristine beauty- mesmorizing.

We took a boat tour to three villages surrounding the lake.  Each village was perched on a hill, each had it's church, and its people who would meet us at our boat to sell us souvenirs. And each village had its uniqueness that drew us in and entertained us.

A young boy, carrying wood up a windy and steep road.  Stopping every few steps to regain his strength and balance.  As we passed him heading up the hill I couldn't help but feel so sorry for him. I could barely make it up the hill myself and I wasn't carrying such weight on my shoulders! What hard, disciplined workers. They learn at a young age to work, a value that is all too often not taught or learned in our society today.

After our boat tour we spent the evening on a busy street, full of restaurants, shops and people.  We ate tacos-- the staple food of our trip. And we went shopping and bought Ben a gorgeous handmade leather bag for him to carry to church.  It was my birthday gift to him. 

Lake Atitlan was not on our original itinerary for this trip but we had heard from the natives that it is a MUST see and they were right. We are glad we made the detour on our journey to spend a day or two here. Well worth it. 

March 10, 2012

Holidays in Central America

Pacaya Volcano

We were up before the sun to hike Pacaya Volcano. The weather: damp and cool.  The hike: about 4 hours long.  The views: breathtaking.  The experience: memorable. 

Pacaya first erupted approximately 23,000 years ago and after being dormant for years, it erupted violently in 1965 and has been erupting continuously since then. We were hoping to see lava flow on our hike but just weeks before we arrived the lava flow stopped.  Despite no fiery red lava flow our experience was amazing, one we'll never forget.

We followed a guide up the the rocky steep climb and a group of about 6 others joined us.  One of our fellow hikers was quite brave... no shoes. Barefoot. Can you imagine!? Why, I'll never understand. We weren't surprised to find him with shoes on not too far along on the trail.  

As we rose higher and higher the air became bitter, the wind became fierce, and the fog was dense.  At one point we could barely see one another because of the fog; we couldn't even see over the edge of the volcano!  We had to be careful because the wind was so strong it felt as though it could blow us right over the edge. INTENSE. To say the least.

The fog cleared, the winds subsided and we enjoyed the beautiful views of the volcanoes and valleys in the distance. 

We climbed into this heat vent in the volcano-- it was toasty warm in there. 

 We even roasted marshmallows in the heat vents!

We left our mark on top of Pacaya Volcano. 
A rock pile, just like the one we built alongside the crashing waves in Aruba.  
It is said that yours represents a prayer or a wish... 

After our hike, we slept for much of the afternoon.  
It was exhausting, exhilarating and we loved every bit of it.

Holidays in Central America

Antigua, Guatemala

We packed up our bags again and headed west of Guatemala City, to the town of Antigua; which once was the capitol of Guatemala until a volcanic eruption destroyed much of it.  Today, it has been rebuilt and is a tourist hot spot where old architecture and volcanoes in the near distance can be admired. We stayed at this quaint hotel in a room just big enough for the two of us and our bags.  Perfect.

We spent our first day in the city strolling the cobblestone streets, snapping photo after photo of the amazing architecture all around us.  We admired this church, in particular, that was destroyed in the volcanic eruption years ago.  The pieces that remain are such a beautiful site. It lends us a view of what Antigua was, what it has endured and what it has become.  

I'm in awe at the astonishing details. 

 When we weren't admiring the architecture we were shopping... of course!

How happy were we to find gummy candy, just like we love at home!? 
Over the moon! 
Especially since it was Ben's birthday and there's absolutely no better way to celebrate than by eating gummy candy on a backpacking adventure, in the lands of Central America, in the country of Guatemala, on the streets of old Antigua. 
Nope, no better way.