Monthly Archives: February 2023



Deep in the rainforest of northern Guatemalan lies Tikal, the ruins of one of the most powerful kingdoms of ancient Maya. Discovered in 1848, more than 3000 structures can be seen on the site. And thousands of mounds with tree roots winding through them are yet to be excavated. The thought of all the historical treasures right there waiting to be unearthed sent me spiraling down the rabbit hole of my imagination! Tikal is one of the largest archeological sites of the pre-Colombian Mayan civilization discovered to date. It was populated as early as the 4th century but reached its peak during the classic period (200 – 900 AD) at which point it was abandoned. Overpopulation, pollution, and drought are the prevalent theories as to why.

Winding pathways through the jungle linked various sites. It took hours and hours to explore the entire site.
View from the top of one of the many of temples
The central acropolis
The Mayans believed the ceiba tree was the sacred tree of life
A wandering wild turkey
View from the top an astrological temple
On the beach in El Salvador I bought some salted, dried fish that reminded me of the fish jerky my dad made when we lived in the north. But I realized that it was probably only salted. So I’ve been carting this fish around with me until I was able to cook it today. It was a few different kinds of fish and was good but I’m glad to get it out of my pack.

Copan Ruins, Honduras

Over looking the ball field
The image of the macaw is found everywhere in ancient maya monuments but the most in Copan.
The hieroglyphic stairway is one of the most remarkable monuments built by the maya during the classic period. It has over 2000 hieroglyphics on 63 stairs and recounts much of the dynastic history. It is so far the longest known Mayan hieroglyphic text. The stairs are literally a stone book.
Named Rosalita, this temple was found intact under one of the temples in the main square of the acropolis
The majority of Copan’s population was distributed throughout the valley in residential groups with their own places of worship, courtyards and plazas.
The painstaking work of hauling up dirt, bucket by bucket, straining and sifting through it all looking for artifacts
The scarlet Macaw was a sacred bird for the ancient Mayan. Not only did they use their feathers to decorate the headdresses of the high and mighty but the macaw also represented the powerful god of the sun, K’ inich Ahau in flight between earth and heaven with its vibrant colors. It was a real treat to see them up close and personal, and in flight!

El Salvador


We have spent the last week in El Salvador. Via Santa Ana we made our way to the Routes de los Flores, a collection of five cute towns that were reputed to be lovely. I pictured a 27-kilometre route along a quiet country road lined with flowers. It was a loud, busy road, nice scenery, but no flowers. And expensive accommodation. So we skipped the last town and beelined it to the coast. As we walked along the road, with no buses in sight, a couple stopped and offered us a lift in the back of their pick-up truck. 45-minutes later, after a helter skelter ride down the side of a mountain to Jujutla, they let us off and pointed out the bus we needed to Metalio. It was just one of the many random acts of kindness that we experienced in the beautiful and mountainous El Salvador.

At the Metalio beach, at a virtually empty seaside outdoor home restaurant, the owners, for a small fee, allowed us to pitch our tent on their property for a few days. It was a nice rest with shade, sand, sun and surf. Except on the first afternoon. I was going full stride, eyes on the beach, reader in hand, and didn’t notice the low hanging bamboo support beam of the palm canopy. I nailed my head on the edge of it so hard it dropped me straight to the ground like a shouldered sack of oranges split open. Everyone rushed over with concern and I’d like to say that I was more embarrassed than hurt, but it took a couple of hours for the stars to dim and a couple of days before my head stopped aching, so I’m guessing it was about even. Because I was pretty embarrassed!

The main traditional food in El Salvador are pupusa’s. They are two tortillas fried together with a filling of beans and cheese and served with a spiced fermented cold slaw and tomatoe sauce. Very tasty and super cheap!

I’ve had some unfortunate ‘device’ luck on this trip. In Mexico my iPad dropped out of a top bunk to the floor and the screen got smashed. My kobo reader called it quits in El Salvador and yesterday a Guatemalan mini bus claimed my new iPhone. We were on a circuitous route travelling from the El Salvadoran border town of Sam Christopher, through southern Guatemala, heading for the Copan ruins in Honduras. I had my phone in hand, keeping track of where we were, when the crowded little mini bus stopped suddenly and we were immediately rushed off and onto another bus. It was 10 minutes later, zooming along in another direction, crushed by bodies, when I realized I wasn’t holding my phone anymore. My lifeline is my phone and it was a devastating blow. Not just the expense and inconvenience, but that my phone was currently unlocked (which I know better and in hindsight is embarrassingly ridiculous) and all my passwords are on my phone. Fortunately my broken iPad, now glitchy, is still functioning for which I’m very grateful. But what I’m the most grateful for is my genius tech wizard daughter, Sabrina! She was able to lock and wipe my phone from her home in Hinton. I can’t access a lot of things I need from my my iPad but at least I’m not worried about my life being hacked. A few months ago (through no fault of mine:)) I experienced a complete identity theft (phone taken over, bank accounts emptied, everything) and I don’t want to ever go through that again. Nevertheless, even with the relief of knowing I’m safe from being hacked, I’m feeling a bit battered and off my game. That’s ok. Life lessons are usually hard won and come at a cost, in one form or another.

We are now in the rowdy little cowboy town of Chiquimula. Tomorrow we will head into Honduras to see the Copan ruins.

El Fuego


We arrived in the lovely colonial city of Antigua and immediately arranged a guided climb up the 3975 m high Acatenango volcano. It is touted as one of the toughest climbs in the area and from the top, gives a great view Fuego, a highly active volcano that regularly spews volcanic ash. We weren’t expecting the trek to be easy but we didn’t realize just how deep we would need to dig on the two-day excursion.

Our group consisted of only Gord, myself and our guide, Vinciente, a wiry 57-year-old who has been guiding for 36 years and spoke no English. I didn’t know what his thoughts were when he saw our age and ability, and to be honest, I didn’t know what his thoughts were when we finished. Relief that we didn’t die on his watch I expect. But he was unfailingly kind, patient, and attentive.


Right off the mark the trail started steep and continued with unrelenting steep for the next five hours until we reached our camp an hour from the top of Acatenango. The itinerary was to hike up the last hour to the cone at 4 AM the next morning. We also had the option to pay extra and continue on right then for a closer look at Fuego. It meant climbing straight down the other side of Acatenango and straight up Fuego. Vincente told us it would be five more hard hours. Gord was physically finished and didn’t think he had it in him but, like me, he also wanted to see what we came to see. So he gathered his resolve and abounding grit, picked up his poles and we rallied forth. It was 3 PM at that point.

On the the narrow, steep, winding trail of loose volcanic scree climbing up Fuego all I could think was, how in the hell are we going to get back down this trail in the dark. We had headlights, but still.

These volcano excursions are a big business here. It’s a pretty unique experience and there were lots of people on the mountain (I’m sure there were some our age but we didn’t see any). We had periodically heard booming and seen belches of smoke and ash, but when we finally clawed our way over the lip of the lower ridge line, we could see Fuego in all its power and beauty.

Everybody was at a completely safe distance but we hung further back down the ridge line, more from fatigue than anything else. By the time it was dark I felt almost hypothermic. And then it happened. A thunderous boom and molten red lava exploded from the crater. A collective gasp went up as everybody stood in breath-taking awe of the extraordinary sight.

On the ridge line
You can see the people standing closer than us on the ridge line
I missed getting a picture on the ridge line because my hands weren’t working right when I needed them to. But here was another incredible eruption that we saw on our way back to camp

In the pitch black on the way down I wanted to take a picture of the headlights snaking down the mountain, but I needed my total concentration and focus on the task at hand. Namely, staying injury free and not falling. I found myself using the breathing techniques that I used during labor and repeating to myself over and over, “relax your shoulders, relax your body, you can do this, you can do hard things”. With nothing left physically and working to control the fear, it became a purely mental challenge. When we finally reached the bottom of Fuego and started up Acatenango towards our camp, I was exhausted and Gord was beyond exhausted. But at 9 PM, feeling a little the worse for wear, but injury free, we stumbled back into the rudimentary shelter we called home for the night. Gord and his new knees did great. As tired as we were, we were happy (and a little bit proud) we had done it. But we passed on getting up at 4 AM – we had seen what we wanted to see.

On the hike back to camp
Looking across to Fuego from our camp

The next day at a rest stop half an hour from the very bottom I overheard an out of breath girl on her way up earnestly saying to her guide, “Is it downhill now or do we have just a little bit more up and then down”. Oh sweet summer child, I thought. Good luck!


Hiking Lake Atitlan


It felt wonderful to be hiking again against the spectacular backdrop of Lake Atitlan. When the roads ended it was a treat to be only on trail. And when the trail ended at Santa Cruz we took a boat to our final village of Panajachel.

San Juan
San Pedro. A typical Guatemalan stove
A small cabana hotel in Jabalito where, for a fee, we were allowed to pitch out tent. Such a gorgeous setting but the barking dogs and disfuncional night crowing roosters were still in attendance.
Hiking the trail

I finally had a chance to try the traditional dish of cervechia – a cold seafood soup in Panajachel. It was a combination of shrimp, crab, calamari, oysters, avacado, lime juice, hot sauce, salsa, with tomato vegetable broth and some brown liquid she squirted in. I will be having it any chance I get and I think when it’s no longer available my taste buds will be yearning for it. I savoured every bite!

Today we say goodbye to Lake Atitlan and head to Antigua. Hopefully our muscles are conditioned enough to tackle the upcoming volcanoes.



We are now in Guatemala and have been exploring Lake Atitlan for the past few days. Getting here was pretty straightforward. We walked across the Mexico/Guatemala border into the town of Tecun, took a five hour bus ride, the driver let us off at a random street corner and pointed us down the intersecting road. We started walking, ten minutes later a chicken bus stopped and picked us up.

Chicken buses are easily recognizable by their bright colors, rickety appearance, noxious fumes belching out of the back, and the quantity of people and chickens aboard. The drivers often delight in passing on blind corners as they speed up and down the steep curving roads. Gord said that if a volcano blows, our driver is the man we want.

An hour later we were let out on a corner in Panajachel (the little town on the northern shore of Lake Atitlan where I had asked to be let out at). We walked up the road and found a cheap hotel. After three days of exploring we realized that we were not in Panajachel – we were in Santiago Atitlan, a town across the lake on the southern shore (no wonder I couldn’t get my bearings following the rough guide map 😂). Nobody here speaks any English at all and while I’ve been thrilled at how well my humble Spanish has been serving us, it’s clearly not foolproof. Too funny!

My go-to food has become fresh avocados, sweet onion, tomato and lime juice on a couple of fresh warm tortillas. So delicious! And cheap! I bought a bizarre looking brown drink on the bus (where vendors also sell food and drinks) that looked like mud water with floaties. From my past experiences, I anticipated it would be cold and delicious regardless of its appearance. Nope! It tasted like warm mud water with floaties. I figured it was some kind of oat, rice or bean water and good for me so down the hatch it went.

Lake Atitlan is a beautiful, turquoise lake encircled by three volcanos, at least 340 metres deep, it’s shores dotted with villages. Yesterday we left Santiago and hiked to San Petro along a steep volcano road lined with coffee and avocado trees and corn. Pickers and farm workers dotted the countryside. The farming is all done with a hoe, a pick axe and a machete, not one tractor to be seen. We’ve seen old men carrying loads on their back that defy logic and gravity (one man was staggering under the weight of three -one hundred pound bags). Truly astounding!

View from our little corner room

We camped for the night in small sheltered area out of sight and high off the road. We woke at 6:30am to people already working and chopping corn husks around us and were greeted with “buenas Dias amigos”. The Guatemalan people we have come across are all helpful and kind.

Our camp spot

We are now in a little hotel room in San Pedro with a gorgeous view of the lake. Like the room in Santiago we are paying $10 each a night. We will stay here for a couple of nights before hiking to the next village.

A village lady making tortillas