3/15/15

Last post for our Guatemala trip - December 22-25

Let's finish posting this trip, so we can move on to more recent adventures! These posts are long.

December 22 - Hike to Pacaya volcano.
Sergio worked a few days while we were there, so he was going from one place to another; either showing other tourists around, or showing us around.  He was definitely VERY valuable to have around and probably pretty exhausted after we left.  Once when we were in Panajachel, we went down a road that had a big hole in it, no warning of construction going on anywhere, of course (it was a large enough hole, that if we drove over it the van tires would have fallen in it).  Sergioby got out of the van and found a board to put over the hole so we could drive over it.  Aw, so sweet.  We teased him a bit about being our hired slave/tour guide. 
 Sergio was taking a couple to hike this volcano, so we joined in on the fun.  We were following Sergio to the volcano and we got talking, and all of a sudden we realized that we passed Sergio.  He finally caught up to us, and we had to get off on a ramp to ask directions back to the volcano.  We made him miss the exit, because he was chasing us down. Ha!!  We were laughing pretty hard about it (I'm sure Sergio didn't find it very funny).  Luckily we realized just in time - there was toll road at the next exit.  Adam has a lead foot when he drives, he can't help it, he just has to pass. :)


 This hike was quite strenuous going up (I believe it was a 3,000 ft. elevation gain), so the kids got to ride horses the whole time.  It's funny, they bring all the horses on every hike, even if they don't have a passenger, because they are hoping that someone along the way will cave and buy a ride.  Smart, since I was one of those suckers, sort of.
 It's uphill the entire time, and I was dying.  I know I'm out of shape, but I was really huffing and puffing.  Finally, I kicked Grant off his horse (he volunteered - he was getting tired of the horse) and took the easy way out for awhile.  Wow, riding horseback was a piece of cake. :)  I felt a bit stupid, but later felt justified when I got home from Guatemala and found out I had pneumonia and pleurisy (which took over 2 months to heal). 
 More volcanoes.  One of those (I think the middle one) was active and you could see the smoke from it.  Pacaya is also an active volcano.  There was smoke coming out the top the whole time. We asked the guides how they know when it's going to erupt, and they told us they can measure the pressure, or something like that.  Then they told us about one of the eruptions that wiped out a few of the villages nearby.  We asked them if they could tell when it's going to erupt, why the villagers weren't warned, and they didn't have an answer.  So, basically they really didn't know, but want tourists to pay them so they made up something to make us feel safe. :)  We got a good laugh over it. 
 Pacaya lava fields
 Once you reach the "top" (it's actually just the base of Pacaya) there is this random little shop there.  A couple guys run it and sell some cool jewelry and other trinkets made out of the lava.
 There are a few 'hot spots' near the store where the guides hand out marshmallows to roast inside the hot rocks. Pretty cool.

 The kids loved riding the horses, and it was cool to see the volcano and scenery from the top.   I was amazed at the guides.  Adam was talking to the girl leading Grant's horse and we found out that she does that hike up to 3 times a day!!!  Holy crap, I barely made it once.  She was 13, and lived in one of the little villages near the volcano.  Her shoes didn't fit and they were so worn and ragged it was sad.  At the end of the hike I gave her my shoes and socks.  They weren't in great shape either, but way better than what she was hiking in. She told us she actually really enjoys her job, which we could tell was true, because she was smiling and happy the whole time.
 
After the volcano hike, we went back to the house and the kids played all afternoon with the neighborhood kids.  They made a dog house for Phil. :)  Poor dog got LOTS of attention from those kids.
 
December 23 - Beach, zoo and presents
The beach was about an hour drive from Antigua, and it was shocking how much the temperature changed. Actually every place we went was so different: Leah's house is much cooler and at night rather chilly, Panajachel and Antigua seemed similar, although Antigua was a bit warmer - perfect in the day (70's) and cool evenings, and the coast was very hot and very humid.  I was expecting Guatemala to be very humid, but for the most part (minus the coast) it was actually very similar to California. 
  
The beach we found had black sand that burned your feet if you didn't stay where it was wet.  The water was super warm (probably in the 90's), so the kids loved it.
 Aw, so sweet.

 We found out Sergioby isn't a huge fan of water, but he was a great sport and played in the ocean with us.
 Kind of dirty beaches, but they did had big tents all along the beach for people to go under and sit in the shade.
 Grant karate chopping the waves.


 People selling fish and fruit to beach goers.


 See, I was there.




 
 Hm, I wonder why Ava had sand in every crevice possible?!?!

 Phil didn't care too much for the beach.  He was too hot.  He dug himself a little hole right behind me while I was snapping pictures.
 Little tortilla shacks are all over the place.
 We found a restaurant by the beach to eat at, and while we were waiting for our food, Ava bit one of the chairs (don't ask why, we have no idea) and her tooth fell out. She was so happy.  It was her first tooth one to fall out.  It was pretty loose at home, and we kept telling her to pull it out before we left for Guatemala, but she insisted that it was going to fall out in Guatemala.  She was right.

 The kids thought my lunch was cool because you could see the fishes teeth still.
 Bike taxi
 
 I really wanted to get a picture of a family riding a motorcycle, but I never had my camera out when one would pass by.  It was not uncommon to see an entire family (4 or 5 people) on 1 motorcycle.  This one has 4 (there was a little kid in between the parents too) people on it.  Moms have their babies strapped to their backs on the motorcycles too.  Crazy.  We saw this a lot in Indonesia as well.
My kids thought it was so unfair that Guatemalans didn't have to wear seat belts.  When we got home, there were quite a few discussions about why they have to wear seat belts.  They still think they are being treated unfairly. :)
After the beach we went to a drive-thru zoo, which was on our way home.  It was so cool.  For half of the zoo (most of the big animals) you stay in your car and drive around to see the animals.  Since there aren't really rules in Guatemala you can keep you windows down, or open the van doors to see them better. :)  Once you get to the lions, they do make sure to roll up the windows though. 


It was really cool to be in the gates with all these animals.  They pretty much roam free (minus the Lions) and get pretty close to you.
It was surprisingly frightening being so close to the Lions.

These weird looking animals were running everywhere.
When we drove through the giraffes, one of the workers drove behind us and asked if one of us wanted to get out and take a picture.  It was pretty cool to be next to these huge animals.  As I was standing there I could tell one of them was leaning down next to me and it was a little spooky. :)
The other section of the zoo is where you get out and walk around.  They also had a huge swimming pool, but it was closing so we didn't get to swim.

Pretty awesome setting for a zoo.

Noah kept pestering this monkey, and it would scream at him.  Noah thought it was hilarious.
I thought this cat was so pretty.



A little park at the zoo.  We loved the zoo, by far the coolest zoo we've been to.
After we got back to the house, Leah and Sergio gave us our Christmas presents (ironically they had our names for Christmas).  They sent Adam and I to dinner in downtown Antigua at a really good restaurant while they watched the kids.  We tried the traditional Guatemalan Christmas hot drink Ponche de Frutas.  It sounded bizarre, but surprising really good.  We'll have to have Sergio teach us how to make it.
  
Adam pulled out Ava's other tooth.
The Navas' Christmas present to the kids was perfect.  A giant snowman pinata filled with fireworks!!  What kid wouldn't LOVE that.  Every evening, anywhere in Guatemala (at least where we were), you can hear fireworks going off.  You can set off ANY fireworks, whenever you want. 


This last video is pretty long, but my kids love to watch it, so I added it here anyway.


The kids couldn't have been happier.  Those little sticks on the table were pretty cool.  You swipe them across a surface and they spark. 

Thanks Navas', it was probably their favorite Christmas present ever.
Next we gave Leah and Sergioby their Christmas presents from Eli.


Christmas Eve - we packed up and then headed to Sergio's parents house.  Mama Navas made us a huge breakfast (homemade tamales, eggs, OJ, cake).  The kids, of course, went for the cake.  When they talk about their house they remember the cake for breakfast.  
This picture is to show you how there are men EVERYWHERE with machine guns (kind of hard to see him in this picture).  They stand outside all the stores, restaurants, parks, etc.
Next we went to Guatemala city to the airport.  We said our sad goodbyes to Leah and Sergio and headed home.  Noah when we left that he wanted to live with Leah and stay in Guatemala.
I had some Quetzales left over, so we bought 2 of these knitted balls at the airport, and they provided hours of entertainment during our layovers.
We had a layover in Mexico City and then got to San Francisco at 11:30 pm.  We walked into our house around 2 am Christmas morning.  We told the kids that this was probably their greatest opportunity to see Santa, because we would be flying at night on Christmas Eve.  They all fell asleep until right before landing, but they gave it their best shot as we were landing.
No Santa sightings. :(
Guatemala was such an incredible vacation.  We loved every bit of it!!!  We can't wait to go back.  

Here's a list Leah sent me about why she loved our trip.  Hope she doesn't mind me sharing it.  Not that anyone really reads blogs anymore anyway, so only a handful of people will read it, and those people probably gave up reading awhile ago since this post is really long. :)

I'll make a list of reasons why I think your trip was so great.

*You didn't get duped by all the souvenirs--you just bought a few solid items.
*We spent 24-7 together, just hanging out.
*We never drove in a car for more than a few hours at a time.
*We found all those poor kids and gave them Christmas.  That was such a highlight.
*We made a great balance of eating out and cooking at home.
*You gave that girl your shoes.  That was so neat.  Right after that I heard a talk by Pres. Holland describing President Monson traveling through the airport in his slippers because he'd given his shoes away.  So, that ups your Celestial status:)
*We weren't in super touristy feeling places very often.

Lee