Guatemala: My Old Friend

A daily change of scenery makes finding a place for yoga + meditation a little tricky.
A daily change of scenery makes finding a place for yoga + meditation a little tricky.

Log: 15th June 2016 – 5th July 2016

• It doesn’t surprise me that I’m finding it difficult to write again. I often cultivate motivation and inspiration to start new projects which I begin, and that in itself is something to celebrate, but I struggle maintaining the discipline and motivation to continue. Thus comes inactivity and the mentality I have failed. I have recently listened to some of Robert Greene’s – Mastery (audiobooks – a wonderful way to efficiently ingest information when you don’t have time to read). It distills the traits and universal ingredients that are needed to master your craft. He says:

“Think of it this way: There are two kinds of failure. The first comes from never trying out your ideas because you are afraid, or because you are waiting for the perfect time. This kind of failure you can never learn from, and such timidity will destroy you. The second kind comes from a bold and venturesome spirit. If you fail in this way, the hit that you take to your reputation is greatly outweighed by what you learn. Repeated failure will toughen your spirit and show you with absolute clarity how things must be done.” – Robert Greene

So here I am pressing through this mental barrier I’m constantly setting myself; the ultimate defeat before I’ve even tried. The words don’t seem to flow so fluidly and my mind feels scrambled. However, I promised myself I’d write in all frames of mind because realisations and breakthroughs happen when we least expect it.

Sunset in Flores
Sunset in Flores.

Now on finally arriving to Guatemala, Neven and I first stopped in San Miguel, a village opposite Flores on the other side of the lake. We took some time to recharge and reconnect and I witnessed the sky showcase a spectrum of vibrant colours as the sun set. With no intentions to stick around for long we ended up spending nearly a week in Flores dealing with business involving car insurance and credit card fraud. I give so much credit to Neven for maintaining high spirits, it could only get better from here!

Tikal Ruins

Tikal

Looking on the brighter side we decided to head to Tikal, one of the largest archaeological sites and urban centres of the pre-Colombian Maya civilisation. After receiving a tip that is was possible to enter the site for cheaper with the potential of camping, we decided to try our luck. When you enter into the Tikal National Park you purchase a ticket for either Tikal or Uaxactun. They are both within the park but the distance between the two ruins is about 23km. To see Tikal it’s 150 Queztals, to see Uaxactun it’s 50 Queztals. Our tipper advised us he had purchased a ticket from Uxuactun where he was dropped off by his shuttle and then made the hike to Tikal. Luckily we had the car and on driving in we parked up by the empty restaurant in Tikal with our ticket for Uxuactun. Not once were we asked tp show our tickets. This gave us the opportunity to explore the ruins over the whole day before camping the night by the car and then rising early the following morning to see the sun rise.

Not only is Tikal an incredibly powerful place but it simply demonstrates the intelligence of the ancient Mayans. All the structures have been planned and laid out with precision and intention. Built by a civilisation long gone, the forest has taken back mostly what belonged to it, and the ruins exist only as a memento that anyone was ever there.

From 250BC to 700AD, Tikal became an extremely important city in Central America, but it is still unknown how and why the city lost its power and faded from memory so quickly.

Él Remate

Él Remate

Él Remate, one of my favourite places stopping in Guatemala. The water is crystal clear, shining with hues of blues and greens and the docks take you right out onto the water. Only a single night was spent but there was a subtle allure which sparked a flame of creativity in me. I found myself writing openly and freely about my present experience. You can click here to read my mind flush.

International Yoga Day 21st July
In absolute serenity I was also able to celebrate international yoga day which fell on the 21st of June. 

Rio Dulce to Coban


As we are driving down the rocky road between Rio Dulce and Coban, the afternoon starts to creep up and I wonder where we will spend the night. I never expected Guatemala to be covered in such impressive mountains but at each turn and pass they were constantly lined along our path. A small village sprinkled with palm thatching huts passes by my window and not a second thought crosses my mind.

Neven turns to ask “Did you see all those people gathered around that shelter?” I’m daydreaming. “Nope, what was happening?” “I don’t know but I think we should check it out!” We turn around and pull up in front of a building that has no roof and a thatching hut that seems to have all the villagers gathered underneath. A group of guys are kicking a ball between them and a young boy is chasing a dog. As we step out of the car I feel my face go red; we’ve drawn every bodies attention. “So what exactly are we going to do?” I ask. “I don’t know! Let’s just sit by the car maybe they’ll ask us to play” Something I have learnt since travelling with Neven is that there aren’t many situations he puts himself into that that make him nervous like they make me. And although I am often hesitant he reminds me gently, “you should do at least one thing a day that scares you, that way you can move out of your comfort zone. You’ll be surprised by what you experience.” With his wisdom echoing in the back of my mind, I take a breath in and reminder myself that fear is simply a limitation created by the mind, it does not dictate the true reality of a situation. What’s the worst that could ever possibly happen?

To no surprise, the locals invited Neven to play ball. I watched from the sideline before a little boy initiated a game of peekaboo with me. This than quickly escalated to all the children from the village chasing me around the car. I’ve never giggled so hard and my heart beamed when I had over 25 curious children trying to hoop and attempt yoga. A beautiful reminder of the gifts that arise outside of our comfortability and familiarity.

What laundry day looks like on the road.
What laundry day looks like on the road.

Queztaltenango (Xela)

Xela, our first big city pit stop. After a week or so in the car, it’s nice to dip back into the hostel life to refresh, reconnect and enjoy the luxury of a shower.  The city was much bigger than I anticipated but city life gets dull after a while. Neven and I instead decided to take to the surrounding villages and markets where we experienced a local festival with an array of foods, music and dancing.

Breadfruit. One of my favourite snacks I've come across since being in Guatemala. A skinless vegetable that's fried. Tasting like something between a potato and a sweet potato. Served up just like fries.
Breadfruit. One of my favourite snacks I’ve come across since being in Guatemala. A skinless vegetable that’s fried. Tasting like something between a potato and a sweet potato. Served up just like fries!
A chilly view from the tent. Camped in a village just outside of Xela.
Capturing the glorious stem of Volcán Santiagutio from the markets outside of Xela.

Returning to Lago Atitlan – San Marcos 

The view of Lake Atitlan from the yoga platform at Hostel Del Lago.
The view of Lake Atitlan from the yoga platform at Hostel Del Lago.

I didn’t expect to find myself returning to the lake so soon. The memories I held from the two months I called San Marcos home were still close to my heart. But unlike myself, the small community hadn’t changed a bit, just some fresh new travellers with most of the locals vacating for low season. Three days was a perfect amount of time to decompress, get some much needed puppy love and reconnect with those still around.

I’ll never regret deciding to explore Guatemala by car. Theres been a great difference between my first two months here when I was living as a backpacker, working in a hostel that drew people from all walks of life. To the last few weeks being on the road and develing deeper into the local culture and having distance from the common traveller. Both experiences have opened my eyes to some beautiful sides of this country and I value the importance of maintaining balance within these two spectrums. There’s always magic and lessons to be found in every corner, as long as we remain open to the potential.

Next stop Antigua!

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