Santa María Volcano, towering over 3772 meter adobe sea level, is Guatemala’s fourth highest volcano. (more…)
Archive for the ‘Quetzaltenango’ Category
Maximón is one of the most venerated Mayan deities of the Highlands. (more…)
Aguas Amargas or Bitter Waters, was a very important destination for local tourists in Zunil, Quetzaltenango (more…)
Every time I travel to Guatemala’s Highlands my companions or my wife asks me to stop by a Xelapan, (more…)
Quichom, a dish only found on the Quetzaltenango province, on Guatemala’s Highlands.
Las Fuentes Georginas, hot springs were discovered by two peasants from the town of Zunil, in the year 1902. Later the springs were turned into communal bathing pools.
The name comes from the wife of former Guatemalan dictator Jorge Ubico. Ubico’s wife used to frequent the hot springs for relaxation and vacationing. And in her honor the hot springs were named Fuentes Georginas. If they are good for a dictator’s wife, they are good for Elí!
The water temperature is about 89F, heated by magma deposits from the Zunil and Santa Maria Volcanoes.
Getting to these hot springs is very easy, a short bus ride from Xelaju, Quetzaltenango to the town of Zunil, and from here it is an easy 8 kilometers ride to the Fuentes Georginas. And the ride’s view is amazing. This area is Guatemala’s – and some people tell me: Central America’s- bread basket. You’ll be amazed by the amount of vegetables grown on the slopes of these ravines.
Surprisingly there is a restaurant all the way up there and food was great. A little over price for the Guatemalan traveler, but you foreigners won’t mind paying Q70/$9 for a wonderful meal: large piece of chicken with mushroom sauce, a salad, fried potatoes, rice and a large piece of sweet corn, and of course; you get your tortillas, chirmol and chile en escabeche. Q20/$2.55 for a bottle of beer.
Oh, by the way, there is an entrance fee of Q25/3.22 for nationals and double it for foreigners.
One more thing, the waters are supposed to be medicinal because of their rich mineral content, specially sulfur and yeah, I did try it, I did drink them and I’m still ok to write this post.
Volcan Santa Maria, 12,375 ft in Altitude.
Getting to the volcano is easy, a four hour drive from Guatemala City to Xelaju, Capital city of Quetzaltenango. From here it is an easy 10 or so minutes drive to the little town where one can start the hike up the volcano.
There is plenty of private parking lots, where you can leave your car overnight for a small fee of Q30, less than $4.
From this parking lot, it is an easy three kilometers hike, with a slight degree of inclination, to a small plateau where one can witness a great view of the volcano. At this plateau we found dozens of people resting from their hike down from the summit.
I saw a large group of children, maybe around 10 years old, led by three or four foreigners, they sounded like USAians. Next to them were 10 large black trash bags full of empty plastic bottles. Of course, left behind by fellow hikers. Yeah, it is one of the realities here in Guatemala, whenever you hike up a mountain, the easiest way to find your way is to follow the trash… I’m glad there are people like them who are willing to help clean up our mess. Too bad I never got to ask who they were.
Locals are mean.
When we starting the hike up the volcano from this plateau, we asked a local coming down from the summit: How long to the reach the top? He replies: about two hours. Much later we ask the police officer escorting us, how long to the summit. He says: About two hours. Great! We were not moving at all. A little later we encountered another local coming down the summit and we enquired the same: how long to the summit, he tells us about two hours. We continue hiking up on this very difficult terrain and about thirty minutes later we found a couple of local elderly men coming down from the summit and we ask them the same. Oh, you still have a long way to go, but keep a steady pace and you’ll get there. Our moral is shattered but we continue up hill.
Much later when the summit is within reach, there were three local children, no more than twelve years old, coming behind us. They were running, seemed fresh, no sweat on their faces, while we were consumed by exhaustion. They passed us and we witness them running up this very steep road like there is no tomorrow. Meanwhile we could not keep a steady pace form more than ten minutes without having to stop a few to get some rest.
On our way up the volcano, we find this couple of Guatemalans coming down from the summit. Surprisingly, someone from our group knew who she was. She is Barbara Padilla he says, she is climbing Mount Everest month. Next day when we were returning from the summit, half way down we found the same couple again; I enquired: Are you going up again. Yes! “solo vamos a subir y bajamos de una vez.” We are just going up (the Summit) and immediately coming down.
At the summit
Our large group split in several small groups, some way behind. I remain on the leading group along two other hikers. We were exhausted but the summit was within reach and we just kept on going. We reach the summit and they stayed on the crater, while I ran up the rock that were the highest elevation! Just to please my arrogant competitive spirit. Don’t you dare doing the same! I mountain-goated (my word) up these rocks to reach the highest one and when I stand on the top one, with my backpack on, there was a very strong wind gust which almost knock me over.
Great! Another summit and it is very cloudy, one could see nothing down bellow. I was able to observe the sun, few minutes before it set, but it was of course covered by clouds the rest of the time.
I quickly went down the campsite area and set up my tent to withstand the extreme cold temperatures and the wind.
A little later I leave the comfort of my tent to see if I can do some stars photography but, once again, it was too cloudy to see any, and the cold temperatures and strong winds forced me back to my tent.
A little after ten o’clock, I peek through my tent’s window and see a very clear sky!
I get out and start to do some night photography. Nothing great came out of this session, the cold was almost unbearable, too harsh to keep handling a cold tripod and camera.
I went to small group of people who were attempting to heat up some water for soup. There was no firewood at the summit, and everyone was too cold and tired to go down and get some.
We all ended up using lukewarm water for our instant soups before going back to the tents for some much needed sleep.
Eli does not sleep much.
I getup around 3am and to my surprise, there was no wind and skies were 100% clear! I set up all my equipment and start playing with my camera and finally got some nice pictures of the dense area of the Milky Way. I saw some shooting stars and bumped into some other sleepless people like me.
Sun rise and an insolent Santiaguito Volcano
Everyone starts waking up around 5:30ish and we line up to see the sun rise. This is an splendid show: one can see a series of volcanoes on the horizon, we see a large gas cloud from the erupting Volcan de Pacaya, and closer to us; Volcan de Fuego is also giving us a great show!
After sunrise, Paul, a friend of mine, invites me to go see the Santiaguito Volcano, a tiny but powerful volcano next to the Santa Maria. We reach this cliff where one has a nice view of the volcano and we started waiting for some activity. I’ve heard the volcano is very active, with constant small eruptions. We were seated there waiting for some activity and nothing happened. We waited and waited for around 30-40 minutes and finally we hear some rumbling, some large rock rolling from up high and we start observing some gas emissions and we hear a loud Bang and there it is, the volcano erupts! I got some nice photographs during the eruption and a little later I start walking back to base camp. I’m coming up this cliff and I hear the same symptoms of the previous eruption and I tell myself: This bad boy is going to erupt again! I stopped walking and set up my tripod and camera again, and there it is, another smaller eruption of the Santiaguito! I stay there for another 15 minutes or so, just waiting to see if anything else happens. Nothing! I leave towards camp.
There is some folks boiling water with a gas stove, I approached them and asked them if I could have some of the water for my soup. Of course they say. I go back to my tent, leave my tripod and camera and grabbed a cup of instant soup. No more than two minutes later, water was ready.
And I turned my head towards the other side of the camp site (where the cliff were Santiaguito is visible is) and I see a huge, ginormous cloud. That’s from Santiaguito I tell my self. I leave my soup behind and ran to that side! Paul: you just missed it! There was an explosion ten times greater than I had seen. In fact, Paul tells me, there was some red magma at the bottom of the explosion!
I hate you Santiaguito! Couldn’t you have done it 10 minutes earlier!?
Oh, by the way: there was a Mayan Ceremony at the summit. I’ll give a better account of that later.
Xelajú, Guatemala’s second largest urban center, known as “Xela” by most Guatemalans who refuse to pronounce the entire name “Xelajú” is famous for its delicious “Pan” (bread).
A friend of mine came from Xelajú tonight and he brought me some “Pan de Xela”. I was supposed to save it for tomorrow’s breakfast but Eli could not wait.
Here we feature “Shecas” (the flying saucer looking one) with anise seeds, “Bolas de Berlin” (round ones stuffed with Manjar), and last we have “Pan de Manzana” (apple marmalade stuffed bread, the long ones).
Oh, I so wish I had a cup of Antigua’s coffee and I’ll be in Nirvana.
The small house movement is a popular description for the architectural and social movement that advocates living in small homes. It is particularly vocal in the USA, where the book “The Not So Big House” is credited with starting the backlash against supersized homes. +wikipedia
I’ve been thinking seriously about starting one of these projects. All this social nonsense about having a huge house to live isn’t my cup of tea. So, I remembered this construction that I found a few months ago in Xela. I don’t even know if there’s people interested in Guatemala City, living already with all this philosophy. Maybe it’s time to find out. What do you think? Do you know someone with this lifestyle?
Tangerine comes from tropical Asia. It is believed that it was named after the color of the costumes used by the mandarins, rulers of ancient China. In some Latin American countries is called China orange. We can say that is a fruit native to China and Indochina. Its cultivation was introduced in Europe in the nineteenth century. (via wikipedia)
These days in Guatemala, where Christmas is coming, we eat lots of fruit, particularly grapes but other citrus fruits are not left behind.