Written By Ava & Alesh
Hola chicas! It’s your student leaders, Ava and Alesh updating you about our epic student directed travel week! Leaving the beautiful town of Tzununa at Lago Atitlan, our adventure began with a 4 hour bus ride to the riverside docks of the Acome river. As we stepped out the bus onto the banks of the mangrove forest lined river, we were instantly hit by a wave of heat and humidity. With the only alternative route to El Paredon being another two hour drive, we chose to pile onto an old wooden barge which would take us to the river docks of El Paredon. Sitting low in the water the barge ventured past the thick mangrove forests teeming with wildlife, before arriving at El Paredon. Donning our heaving backpacks, we slowly made our way through the sparse but lively community. After a short walk, we finally reached our home for the next few days: the El Paredon Surf Camp.
The Surf Camp is a quaint and rustic oceanfront hostel situated on black sand beach of El Paredon. Complete with grass huts, outdoor showers, and an abundance of lush vegetation and tall coconut palms, we truly felt as if we were in the tropics.
After the long day of travel, we all haphazardly threw our belongings in our rooms and ran down to the ocean to receive our reward for the long day, a beautiful sunset swim. We spent the next hour being pushed and pulled by the waves and bodysurfing back to shore. If you’re hoping to cool off in the water, well good luck, it is about 85 degrees.
We began our first full day here in El Paredon with an 8am one-on-one surf lesson. Many of us had never surfed before, making the experience even more entertaining with the mental and tumultuous waves and currents. Regardless of the conditions, all of us loved our time in the water.
The rest of our days in El Paredon were quite relaxing with few planned activities. We spent the subsequent days in hammocks, playing Dutch Blitz, and creating fires on the beach. After a chill three days in El Paredon, we said goodbye to all those we had become friends with, and headed to Antigua to do a less relaxing activity. We would be hiking up Acatenango, one of the three volcanoes surrounding the city. From this volcano, we would get a great view of Fuego, one of the most active volcanoes in all of Central America.
Spending the night in Antigua, we woke up early the next morning to shuttle over to the supply center of CA Travelers, the organization which would be guiding us up the mountain. Once at the supply center, we received all of our food we’d need for the trek, as well as any necessary equipment.
Taking a large van over to Volcán Acatenango, we began the trek at around 11:00am. The first two hours were nearly completely uphill with no switchbacks or flat area. This was the most difficult part of the trek, so thankfully we got it out of the way first. About two and a half hours in, we sat down to enjoy the lunch that had been provided to us. Once we were all finished, we continued up the mountain stopping occasionally to rest our legs and regroup. Five hours of grueling trekking later, we made it to the base camp where we’d be spending the night.
As the sun set, we enjoyed breathtaking views of Fuego intermittently erupting every 15 to 20 minutes. As it got dark, the clouds began to roll in leaving only the faint glow of the lava visible through the thick mist. The communal fire was a magnet for interesting conversations with our fellow trekkers coming from a variety of different places around the world.
Kept awake by the resounding booms of the volcanic eruptions, we were eventually able to catch glimpses of lava and rock being blown high into the air and cascade down the sides of the mountain.
We woke up at 3:30am early the next morning in order to summit the volcano. After an hour and a half of climbing and slipping up the scree covered mountain, we made it to the top. From the summit, we had an amazing vantage point over much of Guatemala. From the summit we could see many of the places we had traveled, from Lago Atitlan, to the beaches, to Antigua and Guatemala City. After a freezing 45 minutes at the top, we quickly ran down the loose volcanic rock and finally arrived back at camp to eat breakfast. Once done with our meals and with our bags packed, we descended down the volcano in only 3 hours. Arriving at the base where we initially embarked on the trek, the same van picked us up and returned us to our Hostel where we met up with the others who had chosen not to hike the volcano.
After a brief wait, we boarded another small shuttle and took a quick ride to Earth Lodge, a beautiful hotel and yoga resort in the outskirts of Antigua. We had much time at the Earth Lodge to relax and reflect upon what we had experienced so far in our travels through Guatemala, and how we hope to move along through our future journeys through Costa Rica. We spent two nights at the Earth Lodge before packing up our belongings, and preparing for our early morning departure for Costa Rica!