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I spent the whole day on buses again, with a short stop in Guatemala City.  I didn´t feel safe there and I moved on as quickly as I could.


I´m getting used to this scenario: mountainous roads and falling apart buses driven by crazy drivers overtaking on bends.  The rule is simple: if my car is bigger, I go first.  On the bus I met Daniel from Guatemala City and we went to a hostel together.  There we met Mayu from Japan.  We had great tacos from stalls in the street.  I feel I´m traveling when I sit amongst locals, eating the same as them.  It´s all primitive but that´s why it´s so tasty.  
I loved this city, called Xela in short, from the begining.  The people are friendly, climate refreshingly cook, food is great, postal and internet cheap.  The next day I met up with Cecilia and Kristine who I traveled in Belize with.  We went to Fuentes Georginas, hot springs high in the mountains.  The surroundings are beautiful, steep mountains covered in thick, green vegetation.
We stopped in a small town of Zunil, where every single woman wears a colorful, traditional dress.  Actually, in Xela most women wear it, too.  It takes 5 months to make it.  It costs $130 so many women can only afford one.  Most people work in the fields surrounding the town.  This is a vegetable producing area, but farming brings little wealth.

Santa Maria

The next day we decided with Mayu and Daniel to climb the highest volcano in the area - extinct Santa Maria.  At 3772m it is a long, exhausting climb.  We packed our camping equipment and set off at 5pm.  We walked uphill passing corn fields and people returning from their fields.  Yellow and white flowers produced colorful displays.
The path turned right and we entered high pine forest.  It became steep and slippery.  We continued after darkness for 3 hours, until reaching the top.  3 local people also camped there, but for different reasons.  They come there to pray every 20 days.  Their ceremonies are a strange mix of catholicism and local customs.  They made a fire for warmth and spend the night under plastic foil.  We heard noises as if planes were flying nearby.  It was the active volcano Santiaguito, 1200m below us, as we realized in the morning.  Every 30 minutes it was throwing a huge cloud of dark smoke up into the sky.  It was an amazing sight when this mushroom pierced the low clouds rising up.
Two more groups of local people came to pray in the morning.  After a freezing night we enjoyed warm sunshine but eventually had to go down.  It was a fantastic excursion despite sore muscles and a long, tiring descend back to the village.    photos