A Travellerspoint blog

Juayua

We made our way to Juayua which is a sleepy little town in the mountains. It sits along a scenic stretch of highway called La Ruta de las Flores which is known for its coffee and floral plantations.

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This town was a very nice place to visit. It was clean (at least by Central American standards) and quiet with a mellow vibe which was just what we needed after being so horrified by Santa Ana. The town had a little plaza area with a lovely church and market place. There were lots of murals painted all over and you could see that the locals worked at keeping this place as nice as they could.

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The only downside to our visit there was that the room we had came with quite a few “exotic beetles”. We didn’t really notice that we had visitors on our first night but the second night we were woken up by the sounds of cockroaches scrambling around our room. These critters were big! We got up and killed a couple thinking that we had gotten them all but as soon as the light went out more came out of the cracks. Needless to say, we spent a couple sleepless nights.

We met a couple at our hostel that told us about a clinic in the town that specializes in testing for parasites. We decided to have ourselves checked and sure enough, we both had giardia….ack! The local doctor gave us three types of medication that we have to take for 10 days to rid ourselves of our cooties. This is why we’re traveling to these countries when we’re young…..

We ventured into San Salvador on Christmas Eve and spoiled ourselves with two nights at the Hilton (special thanks to Mom & Dad Gullett for the sponsorship). It’s tradition in Central America to light fireworks at Christmas and so when midnight rolled around, the skies of San Salvador lit up. It was amazing to see the entire city skyline with so many colors and the collective noise of 3 million people setting off fireworks was pretty impressive. Sure wish we did that in Canada!

Posted by ReneeJared 12:55 Archived in El Salvador Comments (0)

Santa Ana

The first city we hit in El Salvador was Santa Ana.

To start things off, we had quite the experience getting into town. We had taken a bus from Guatemala City that was destined for San Salvador and they kicked us off the bus at a highway intersection and told us that we could catch a local chicken bus into Santa Ana. The only problem was that the currency had changed from Quetzals to the US Dollar (for some reason El Salvador has adopted their currency). We didn’t exchange any of our currency at the border (too dodgy with the money exchange guys trying to rip you off) and there was nary a bank machine to be seen. We went to the one and only gas station within sight and asked for an ATM and they told us that we needed to go into Santa Ana which we couldn’t do because we had no local currency for the bus! We were stuck. Finally, I asked if we could buy something at the gas station on our card and get some change back for the bus. Luckily, the lady was able to help us out and we managed to make our way into town.

We thought it would be a pretty colonial town but instead we found ourselves in a very ugly, dirty place. The biggest claim to fame there was their church.

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The things that made Santa Ana memorable were the last things we expected to find there. Firstly, the people were amazingly friendly. We had quite a few people stop in the middle of the street (while driving past us) to wave and say hello. Many commented on our light hair and blue eyes.

There was every big brand name under the sun in the tiniest little shops and in the market. I imagine that like Guatemala, there are quite a few boxes that “fall off the back of the truck” from the local factories and make their way to the street. You could buy yourself a new wardrobe for pennies.

We discovered that the city had quite a seedy side to it. There were a ton of hotels renting rooms by the hour and we saw several prostitutes milling around (two of which were transvestites). Throw in a few crazy bums and voila, we had a surreal experience in a town that we thought would be lovely and quaint.

We spent less than 24 hours in Santa Ana before we fled to the next town with our fingers crossed that it would be better than this horrible place.

Posted by ReneeJared 12:37 Archived in El Salvador Comments (1)

Semuc Champey & Lanquin Caves

About 2 hours outside of Cobán is Semuc Champey which a series of waterfalls that you can swim in. It was similar to Agua Azul but the main difference was the lack of development surrounding the area. There are just the paths leading to the falls and the water which is various shades of torquoise.

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The strangest thing about the pools are the gazillions of little fish that would nibble on you if you stood still for too long. The first time you feel them, you can't help but screech like a geek until you realize that they don't actually hurt you.

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The swimming holes were deep and the perfect temperature. What a lovely spot!

On the way back to Cobán, we stopped at Lanquin Caves. Apparently, if you're an experienced spelunker you can cruise for more than 5 hours into the caves and find lava pools...crazy! The color of the river flowing through the caves was absolutely beautiful if not somewhat surreal. It was almost as if someone had put dye into the water.

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Posted by ReneeJared 11:31 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Cobán

Cobán is a little town high up in the mountains of Guatemala and is known for its coffee and orchids. We stayed in the center of town which surrounded a very rundown plaza with shady characters milling about so our first impression of the place wasn't good. However, we spent a morning walking around the neighborhoods and found the rest of the town to be much nicer.

We did a tour of a finca (coffee plantation). It was cool learn about one of our favourite beverages.

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There was also an orchid plantation just on the outskirts of the town and the main feature was the miniature orchids that they grew as well as the Monja blanca orchid which is their national flower.

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Cobán is definitely the kind of place that grows on you....

Posted by ReneeJared 10:36 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Volcán Pacaya

There are over 30 active volcanos in Guatemala and one of them is Volcan Pacaya. We took a sunset tour of it and can honestly say that it was one of the coolest things we have done on our trip so far.

The approach to the summit goes from a jungle setting to a landscape that seems like you're on the moon. Loose black volcanic rock (very sharp!) without a breath of life anywhere on it.

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Our guide (who was an absolute madman) hauled our butts up to the summit in record time to show us the main event.....lava flowing everywhere! He then proceeded to leap frog from one 'cool' spot to the next to show us the way between the various lava flows and insisted that we follow him.

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As you crossed over the various 'safe' fields, you felt the heat almost burning your legs from the vents. You also couldn't stand in one place for very long as your feet started to heat up through your shoes and there was a chance that your soles would melt! We both were thinking 'only in Guatemala are you allowed to go hang out on active lava fields like it's a walk in the park'. Absolute craziness but SO COOL!

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After an adventure like that, we've decided we need a more mellow vibe and are heading back into the mountains to check out some flowers and coffee plantations.

Posted by ReneeJared 08:54 Archived in Guatemala Comments (2)

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