Monday, March 26, 2012

Going with the 'River' flow...

Hi everyone! I'm back!
Me at the Zephyr River Lodge Hostel in Lanquin, Guatemala
I am ready to report back on the extremely interesting weekend we had. To sum it up really quickly: Nothing went as planned! But as we all know... sometimes those are the memories that you will never forget.
Public Bus: Friday after lunch we had Don Fransico drop us off at the public bus stop and we bought our tickets to Coban for Q65 (which is about 9 bucks). The bus was basically a normal charter bus you would see back home, but when we stepped on to the bus it was like 1000 degrees and no air flow at all. Once again... I hate being high maintenance but this is one of the things that truly gets to me. I can't do a hot, crowed, long and bumpy car ride... no thank you. So after I freaked out for a good 10 minutes I realized that the bus was finally cooling down. They had turned on a small amount of AC that was coming out by the window and at least it wasn't as stuffy anymore. Not perfect, but phew..... I was scared there for a bit. The bus ride took about 5 hours and the whole thing was extremely winding, curvy, bumpy and tons of road construction. We were definitely ready to get off once we made it to Coban.
Finding Casa Blanca: According to the map we had of the city we found the best place to get off the bus based on where we thought the hostel we were staying at was. The map seemed as if it would only be a 4 block walk. AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER - we were still looking for this dang hostel and we had basically walked throughout the entire town. I was starting to get really anxious and nervous because we were walking in some bad areas with all of our stuff and clearly looked lost. I had my pink pepper spray ready to go the whole time, haha. Finally we decide it would be worth it to ask a taxi to take us there (it's not usually a good idea to get into a random taxi) but we were desperate. The driver didn't exactly know where Casa Blanca hostel was so that was automatically frustrating but he ended up getting us there. We were extremely relieved to have FINALLY made it to where we were staying.
More trouble: So Clark's guide book had recommended that we stay at this hostel and we had made reservations over the phone for the three of us that past Thursday. Of course we are sure that they will have room for us based on the reservations. As soon as we get inside the girl at the front desk is having trouble communicating with us and we are originally thinking she just doesn't have our reservation. Okay, crap... so we try and make a new one. Well after some extreme confusion between the four of us, we realize that she is trying to tell us the hostel doesn't exist anymore and it is now just a travel agency called Casa Blanca. Uhhhh what? So we argue with her a bit wondering why they let us make a reservation and all that mess but the conversation was pointless. So we left...... on the road again.... with all of our crap!
Casa Luna to the rescue: During our travels around the whole city searching for Casa Blanca we had passed Casa Luna hostel a couple of times and had decided if we couldn't find Casa Blanca we would stop there. So that was our first decision after the bad luck at the last hostel and headed that way. Thankfully as soon as we arrived the man at the front desk told us there was plenty of room and took us into a 4 bedroom room and we had it to ourselves! He told us we could pay in the morning and recommended a nearby restaurant for us to eat at... and by this time we were starving!! We ate an amazing meal and were taught by the waiter how to do Tequila shots Coban, Guatemalan style. They do the usual salt/lime but chase them with tomato juice.... verryyy interesting.
Since it was still a little bit early we headed to a nearby store and grabbed a 6 pack of Gallo (Guatemalan equivalent to Keystone haha) and bought some playing cards off the store owner for Q25 and it was only a deck of 40 cards. Haha! Clark showed us how to play Golf and Lili kicked our butts over and over again. She gets lucky.
*Overall the night turned out to be a lot of fun even after the ridiculously long day!*

Semuc... or not!: Alright so, the whole reason we set off on this journey this weekend was to eventually make it Semuc Champey which is a giant natural swimming hole that is absolutely beautiful. The volunteer Matt that was here when we arrived showed us tons of pictures and we had decided we really wanted to check it out. So Saturday morning we were suppose to join a tour group (they had some leave from our hostel) but we didn't wake up early enough and we decided it wasn't a big deal and that we could just go by ourselves. Wrong. We had so much trouble finding a bus to Lanquin and probably almost got on a the wrong bus a couple of times. Finally we had someone help us find our way to a bus that was leaving in an hour to head to Lanquin. It was a small bus, with no AC, with a large amount of people on it. Someone told us if they seat sits 4 they will put 6.

This bus ride ended up taking about 2 hours and I was struggling the whole way. Finally with about 45 mins left I told Lili I was absolutely going to throw up. Yep. So thankfully we were in the very back seat and I just stuck my head out the window and did my business. Not a single person on the bus even noticed... and I felt so much better after that! I'm telling you... I don't do these car rides well at all.
We met a guy from Holland on the ride named Chris. Usually if someone speaks English we strike up a conversation with them just because we are excited to talk to people. I had no partake in this conversation though because I was too busy trying not to throw up half the ride. Lili and Clark made friends with him but he ended up telling us some bad news. It was too late to get a shuttle to Semuc from Lanquin and even if we got on one we would have about 45 mins at the park. Whhhatttt! So we immediately start planning for the next day because we don't want to have made this obnoxious trip for no reason. In the meanwhile we talked with Chris about where we could stay for the night in Lanquin. He fortunately worked at a hostel so he helped us out and even took us there once we finally arrived!
Where we were suppose to go... Semuc Champey.
What a beautiful mistake: So even though we weren't suppose to be staying at this hostel we were more than happy to find out what we were getting ourselves into!! It was absolutely beautiful. We checked in and got settled and got even more bad news that we wouldn't be able to do a Semuc trip on Sunday because the buses don't run at certain times and we had to catch the bus back to Guatemala City at 8am. So we took a deep breathe (once we realized we had drove all this way to stay in a hostel) and decided to take advantage of the beautiful scenery.
This hostel was called Zephyr Lodge and it was located right off a really cool river. Normally if you have enough time there they will take you to float the river, but we didn't get there early enough and it's too dangerous to go alone. Sigh! I really miss a good river float!!
The view on the walk up to the Hostel
This ended up being the first actual Hostel that I would be staying in where we shared a room with people I didn't know. I was a little nervous about this but immediately forgot and got excited once I picked out my bed it had cats on it, though! I didn't get a sketchy/unsafe vibe from any of the other guests. They were basically all Gringos just like us traveling around and most of them had been up at Semuc for the day. Anyways let me get to the point and show you how freaking cool this place was!
My bed for the night
The view from outside the window next to my bed

Looking out for the back of the Hostel
The River down below
The back of the Hostel/ the Bar area
The view from the open shower!
As you can tell this place was basically amazing. And yes we did get to shower in that... but we forgot towels and they didn't provide them so that made for another interesting story. Before we showered and got ready for a fun night at the hostel with all the really cool guests... we took a trip down to the river below the hostel (it's walking distance) and also a small trip into town. It was so hot so the freezing cold water was perfect... except for the little boys pointing and laughing at us (who knows what they were saying). In town we went on a mission to find Ice Cream which is usually really easy but everywhere we went they just tried to sale us frozen milk in bags. We passed on that.

After our adventures into town and down to the river we decided between all of that and the AC-less bus ride we probably needed to shower. We got ready and then went down to the restaurant/bar area for happy hour and to meet everyone. All the guests hung out in that area so it was really easy to get to know everyone... and fun because everyone has such a unique story. We had some drinks and made some friends and all together it was a great night!

 The next morning we had no choice but to be up by like 7:30am and get on a tiny crowded bus back to Guatemala City. It was about a 7-8 hour ride and ... it sucked! Lili and I were both sick for most of it and it seemed like it lasted forever. Once the driver finally got us back into the city he dropped us off about 40 blocks from our house and said, adios. So that really pissed us off and we ended up taking a taxi home because we were sick of walking after how much we did all weekend. It was so great to be home and we were extremely exhausted so we ate and slept and that was that! OH! I almost forgot...
New Roommates: Two new roommates arrived on Saturday while we were gone and unfortunately they had to meet us once we got home on Sunday when we were a mess, lol. The girl (Debbie) is 25 and she is a nurse/ grad student from Puerto Rico and she speaks fluent Spanish and English! The boy (Joe) is 18 from Cleveland and finished his high school credits early and has free time until Graduation. They will be here until we leave and I really think we are all going to get along great! The 18 year thinks he's super cool, but we decided that every 18 year usually does. ;)

Back to work: Today at work it was very, very weird feeling. Jose and Gembli are both gone and there are a couple of new children. It's almost like a whole new unit and it was really quiet. It was nice because Carlos has made friends with one of the new girls and they were having a lot of fun today. It was cool to see him so interactive and talkative because he usually isn't at all. It was a very laid back day.. Brena and I talked about some of the personal problems going on within the families in the unit... I colored with the new girl... and got to spend the rest of the afternoon with a really happy/smiley Isaias :) gotta love that!
The new little girl I was spending time with in the morning has only a little burn on her forehead. She came in this weekend and should be leaving by tomorrow so that was probably the only time I will be able to spend with her. She was very cute and we had fun coloring and playing with balloons. It's amazing how easily those two things will keep a child happy :)
This afternoon we had a really great guest speaker come in and talk to us about Holy Week in Guatemala. It is the 2nd biggest Holy Week celebration worldwide next to Seville, Spain. The best part about the lesson today is that everything we were learning about we are going to see first hand. Lili and I have already planned our trip to Antigua, Guatemala where a giant crowd from all over the world comes to celebrate Holy Week! I am super excited and can't believe I'm actually going to get to experience something so BIG and very special to this culture. Woohoo! That is going to be Wed-Fri during our last week in Guatemala.
So all together I had a great weekend...
* Officially stayed in my first hostels and survived
* Realized I still suck at long car rides
* Met some awesome people from all over the World
* Learned how to take a Guatemalan Tequila Shot 
* Made it home safely.
 But as for now... I feel a lot like this guy so I think I'm going to get some rest and enjoy this beautiful weather out on our terrace here in Guatemala City.


  1. Okay. This was by far my most favorite blog yet!!! I am just so happy I wasn't having to deal with you on that long hot bus ride is all I was thinking most of the time! lol anyway, I think the place you ended up at was absolutely gorgeous and definitely worth doing over the Semuc Champey. I AM SO JEALOUS!!! Also, the new little girl with the small burn is adorable. I couldn't help but smile everytime the balloon blew in her face - it made her so happy and giggly :) Too cute! Even though you had a long weekend, it def looked like one filled with fun and adventure which is def YOU! Love you, so proud. AND DONT GET IN THE RANDOM TAXIS NO MATTER HOW FRUSTRATED YOU ARE! I need my sister back here SOON. Gotta get back to my presentation that I have known about since we got our sylabus and I am just now starting on it....I present tomorrow.....hahaha k bye.

  2. Wow, what an adventure you had! Glad you made the best of it! Clark should no longer be allowed to choose the! Be safe!

  3. Wow! What an adventurous life you lead! I don't think I would deal with it all as well as you do. You have to keep a positive attitude through it all and you are making the best of your time there. Kenny keeps saying it sounds like your on a long vacation! It does look beautiful and you are lucky to get to do all of this. Love ya, Karen. Xoxoxo.....