22 Nov

Hike to El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito, Guatemala

It started, as most volcano hikes do, in the dark.

I was excited. Seeing an active volcano is on my not-a-bucket-list and today we were going to have the opportunity to see a real, live, smoking volcano.

As the day dawned, we were already halfway to the mirador, or lookout. We stumbled into this meadow just as the sun was touching the peek of Santa Maria; one of the other, albeit inactive, volcanos in the close vicinity of the city Quetzaltenango in Guatemala.

Santa Maria Volcano, Guatemala

We continued to hike through the forest. It was an easy hike, although quite chilly without the warmth of the sun.

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

 

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

Our first view of Volcan Santiaguito. It belches smoke and steam regularly although our guide, Edwin, explained that it stopped for a number of months last year causing great concern among the locals.

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

And so we waited; both for the volcano to to put on a show and for the sun to reach us.

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

The sun won the race. We were beyond grateful for the warming rays to finally reach us!

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

And then, a small explosion from Santuaguito. I realize that this picture doesn’t look much different from the other, but there is an extra plume of smoke and ash and we could hear the explosion even from our lookout more than 5 KM away.

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

The view of the rest of the valley showing past craters from the same volcano.

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

Both the sun and an active volcano. Two happy Giant Steppers.

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

The hike down was much easier, and warmer.

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

Next on my not-a-bucket-list? To see flowing lava!!

El Mirador Volcan Santiaguito Hike

I apologize for the poor quality photos. I have been having all kinds of technical issues this past few weeks. :(

 

05 Nov

Adios Playa del Carmen! We Won’t Be Back.

My Mexican dreams were awash with early morning runs on the beach, margaritas with new friends in the evenings, and a chance to really settle down and get to know a place.

Playa del Carmen was not the place of my Mexican dreams.

Filled with all inclusive resorts, pumping restaurants, and expensive shops it’s a place built to please holiday-makers; it is not a city in its own right but exists solely for the purpose of tourism. For me, it lacked soul.

I was conflicted about coming here; I have friends who have stayed for months on end and love, love, love it and others who have come and couldn’t wait to leave. I didn’t know how it would work out for us but, with tickets already purchased, we decided to give it a shot. You can put us in the camp that couldn’t wait to leave.

It wasn’t all bad though.

Our skimpy budget may have forced us into a cheap apartment on the outskirts of town, but we did manage to turn it around and started spending less than we’re making. Europe was tough on our budget and, although we didn’t spend more than we expected, I didn’t expect how it would feel to have chipped away at our savings. Lesson learned.

The funk that I had been battling for a while landed with full force, but it also made me really think things through and figure out what was going on. Through plenty of talking and teasing it out I discovered that it was a toxic combination of peri-menopausal hormones (Seriously!? I’m old enough for this?!), a homesickness that I didn’t recognize, a frustration with our budget, and a realization that being in Playa del Carmen was not turning out how I had expected. The funk has lifted, thank goodness, but it was a lot of work and I don’t plan on letting it take over again.

I discovered yoga. In an effort to find some peace and deal with the anxiety that would not go away I decided to try yoga. I found a donation-based class (good for the budget) held in a quiet palapa (think grass roofed, open walled building) in town. As the instructions floated over me in lilting Spanish, and I pretzeled my body into shapes I didn’t think possible, I also learned how to breath, and relax, and let the anxiety drain.

This travel thing, this serial expat thing, this figure-it-out-as-we-go thing; it’s definitely not all rainbows and puppies all the time. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes it’s really hard. Sometimes it’s hard because of where we are. Sometimes it’s hard because of what’s going on inside. And sometimes it’s hard because of a perfect storm of where we are and what’s going on inside.

I’m sorry Playa del Carmen; it’s not all you, but I’m afraid we won’t be coming back.