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June 3
Arrived on time without any problems.  Guide, bus, and all ammenities were excellent.  Toured Guatemala City mostly by bus and some on foot.  Visited Central Plaza where the National Palace and the National Cathedral are located.  We toured the cathedral which is very active with daily Masses and people continually stopping to pray. 
 
We also stopped to see several temple mounds built by people predating the Mayas.  They are located in the middle of an expanding area of the city.  To give you an example of how this is, while the group was walking from one mound to another, we spotted a McDonald's restaurant where half the group went to use the restrooms and get a bite to eat. 
 
Traffic is horrible in Guatemala City.  It took us a couple of hours to get from the mounds to our hotel across town.  The hotel is probably a four-star by USA standards.  We had a fabulous meal and are now ready for bed.  We leave early tomorrow (5:30 wakeup, 7:15 departure) to beat the traffic as we head for Chichicastenango.
 
FYI: We are two hours earlier than you.  Mountain time zone in the U.S.
 
June 4
 
    We have had problems with the internet and it is late so this update will be short.  We began our day with fireworks.  We watch two volcanoes erupt repeatedly.  What an experience!!!  The market and sights at Chichicastenango were spectactular but wet.  Guatemala is in a pattern of getting rain at 1:30 sharp.  The streets became rivers and we looked for cover.  Lots of fun though.  Everyone is safe and now dry.  We all think pictures of Guatemala's landscapes can't do the country justice.  What an artist our creator is.  Hopefully pics tomorrow.
 
Pictures by Chris Zylstra
 
June 5
    Today our journey started at 5:30 a.m. with a wake-up call. Our hotel was right on Lake Atitlan or the Mount Atitlan cauldera. We were up and at breakfast at 6:00. After the delicious meal we proceeded down to the docks to get on a boat that crossed Atitlan. It was an hour ride over and an hour ride back with beautiful scenery. We even saw Mount Fuego erupting.
 
    When we got to the other side of the lake we crammed through the busy market with the Mayans shoving us the whole way to the Cathedral Santiago Atitlan. We were able to walk inside and see the wonderful artwork displayed inside. We then had some free time to walk around and do a bit of shopping.
 
    We then made our way back across the lake to get on our coach and ride to Antigua. We rode through the beautiful countryside with the mountains in the background. We had a three hour drive with one bathroom break in the middle. At 2:30 we arrived in Antigua for a wonderful authentic Maya lunch of either beef or chicken.
 
    Then, we were able to walk through the city. We saw a Jesuit church and monastery which was being repaired. Also, we saw the beautiful town square with the picturesque mountains in the background before another afternoon rainstorm. We arrived at the hotel after the walk and we are settling in and getting ready for dinner.   
 
-written by Marina Hurt
 
June 6th
 
Greetings Travel Studies parents and friends! It's Graham Morris (go Seniors!10!) writing to you on the fourth day of our journey. We woke up at an amazing time of 5 A.M. (ugh!) and got on the road to head to Pacaya, an active volcano, to hike up it and hopefully see some lava. And what a hike it was. We had a rather bumpy road to the starting point of the hike. We were offered about a million walking sticks by children for around a dollar each, but it was much better than the many vendors of the crowded city. We had the option to rent a horse for the hike, but only a few people took it. The hike was breathe-taking, figuratively and literally. It was about a mile and a half up and the same distance back down, and very little of the terrain was even close to flat. The views were amazing, it was hard to believe. We reached the lava fields where lava had flowed before and hardened into either rock or ashy sand. We reached a point and everything got hot. We went over the edge in groups of ten to see lava actually flowing. Even around 35 feet away, the heat was enough to cook marshmellows all the way through. The hike back down was tiring, but we all enjoyed ourselves, singing and keeping the spirits high. When we got to the bottom, we got on our bus and had a 5 hour ride to a hotel outside Coban. Most everyone slept, at least a little bit, on the road. We enjoyed an excellent dinner here and are getting ready to chase some ZZZ's.
 
Sunday, June 7, 2009
 
Bouncing along over very mountainous roads, up and down hairpin turns, and then swimming and relaxing in amazing azur pools.  Today we traveled about 3 hours into the Semuc Champey.  There a river plunges underground into rock formations and comes out in beautiful, cool pools.  Some of the group climbed to the top for an even better view.  Most of us relaxed and enjoyed the amazing, crystal clear pools.  It was a welcomed relaxing day after all of our sight seeing and climbing.  Stops on the way home included the church started by Bartolome de las Casas and a orchidary.  We are ready to have a good night's sleep!!
 
Internet connections will be questionable for the next 5 days.  So if you do not hear from us, don't worry. 
 
 
Pictures by Chris Zylstra
 
 
 
Tuesday, June 9, 2009
 
This morning came very early. We woke up at 4:45, which gave us 15 minutes to throw our clothes on and lather on the sunscreen and bug spray before leaving at 5 for Tikal. It took approximately an hour and a half to get to the park. When we arrived we headed straight for the central acropolis. We spent some time exploring the temples and palaces there before heading to one of the park's hotels for breakfast, where we had eggs, ham, potatoes, and watermelon. We then left for the three hour tour of Tikal.
 
It was very hot again today. It was around 100 degrees, but the humidity makes it feel about 200 degrees (I used to think Florida was bad). On the tour, we were able to see several howler monkeys, tucans, a giant spider, a scorpion, and a variety of wildlife. We also explored the many Mayan temples and ruins. We climbed up several of them, including Temple 5. The climb was 57 meters practically straight up. When we arrived at the top, we clung to the wall as we admired the spectacular view. We could see the other ruins sticking out of the trees in the surrounding jungle. It was extremely difficult and to climb down and it took about twice as long. This temple was the place where Mayan rulers went to bleed themselves in order to connect with the spirits of their ancestors. We continued on the tour and then returned to the same hotel for lunch, where we had a choice of chicken or beef. After we were refreshed, we went to some small shops where we could bargain with the shop keepers. We returned to the bus and made a drink stop at a small store.
 
We returned to the hotel in the mid-afternoon and are going to enjoy some relaxation and swimming. We are staying in a very nice hotel that actually has air conditioning, which is something that we have been missing. We are going to eat dinner at the hotel and go to bed. Tomorrow we get to sleep in until 5:15 before heading to Yaxha where we will be exploring more ruins and taking a zip-line through the jungle canopy.
 
-written by Courtney Dykstra
 
6/10/209
            Imagine waking up in the middle of the jungle to the sounds of macaws chirping outside your window.  Well that is where we started our journey into the jungles of Yaxha. We woke up and after 30 minutes of eating a egg and toast breakfast, Gerard, our guide, came over and told us it was time to go.
We hopped into the bus and set off for Yaxha, also known as Tikal Junior. We pulled up to the gate and the guards told us to put on a lot of bug spray because the mosquitoes have been a problem the last few days. Everyone lathered up in Deet and prepared for the worst. Immediately we saw a Maya pyramid half the size as the ones we saw in Tikal . Gerard walked us to the scale model of the city. It seemed pretty big but looked a lot like the ones we saw the other day of Tikal . We hiked around the pyramid and headed off into the forest. Then we came across 3 howler monkeys, they were sleeping about 40 feet up in the trees. Immediately after we spotted a beautiful bird that resembled a Quetzal bird but without a long tail. Mr. Welton was extremely excited!!!
 
Then we hiked a bit more around the Pyramids and came into a plaza surrounded by 3 pyramids. They were steep and tall. Graham thought that this is where they filmed the Survivor - Guatemala show. It was beautiful -- there was jungle as far as you could see, and a beautiful lagoon off to the side.
 
We stayed up there for a few minutes and headed for the lagoon. We headed down some steep steps and reached a hut at the end next to the water. After a quick picture we headed back up to the top, it was extremely hard. At the top to much of our surprise was 9 or 10 monkeys. They were perfect for pictures. Baby ones, big ones, small ones, it was amazing. Mr. Welton, Chris, and Michael G. took a long time taking pictures.
 
The bus than headed to the zip line. Once there we divided up in 3 groups of ten, and went off on a small Jeep up the steep mountain into the heart of the jungle. It was so scary and so much fun. The jungle was beautiful and the trees were 50, 60 feet tall. We had 7 zip lines about 50 to 100 ft long. Mr. Welton and others went on a hike into the mountains and crossed huge rope bridges that were swaying back and forth over 80 ft in the air. Others went back to the hotel and enjoyed some free time.   
          Tomorrow we head down the Rio Dulce.  We are not carrying the computer on the river, so you will not hear from us for 3 days.
 
-written by Michael Golden
 
June 11-13
        June 11th was an exciting morning because we got to sleep in till 6:00. We boarded our bus to head for the Rio Dulce, which is said to be the most beautiful river tour in Guatemala. We road in small river boats to take a tour and see mangrove forests, huge cliffs, and a wide diversity of birds and other wildlife. We finally made our way to the hotel in Livingston. Livingston is a small town that you can only get to by boat and is on the Carribean Ocean. We all chilled out by the ocean and sat in our hammocks in the breeze. After dinner we would look out into the sky and see all the stars. It was so dark outside because there were so few lights that when you looked past the trees you could see a light glow from other cities.
        June 12th we woke up at 5:30 and boarded our boats once again to Belize. We loaded up on sunblock and wore t-shirts because we were going snorkling. It took us an hour and a half to get to the small island where the water was absolutly beautiful. The ocean was so clear that you could see the bottom 20 to 30 feet below. We went out to a coral reef with tons of different colored fish. We stayed out on the island for three hours. We then arrived back at the hotel and headed to the restaurant where we were shown a cultural dance and instruments. There were three girls and four boys. The girls danced and sang while the boys played two small drums, maracas, and a turtle shell. It was very cool and interesting. Then the dancers grabbed Graham, Kristy, and Danielle to dance with them.
        June 13th we got to sleep in until 6:30 and we boarded our boats for the last time. We climbed back on our bus and left for Quirigua to see 30 foot high estela. That is higher then our gymnasium. WOW! Each of the estela were covered with hieroglyphs and carving of gods and kings. Each of the estela were carved out of a single piece of sandstone and were very detailed. In Quirigua there were also Mayan alters with large carving of the after life and the spirits on them. When we left Quirigua, we started toward Hondorus. We arrived at our hotel that is in Copan. In our hotel there are huge courtyards, large rooms, a pretty pool, and air conditioning!!
       
-written by Danielle Lampman
   
Sunday, June 14, 2009
We got to sleep in again this morning until 6:30! Then after breakfast we headed out for Copan, it was a short bus ride to the site, and we got a new tour guide for the day named Saul. He was fun, energetic and taught us about the life and culture around the city of Copan.  It was so amazing to come out of the forest and see more new and exciting things to explore. As we walked through the ruins of the marketplace, you could just pictured thousands of people walking around a market place starting off their day. Saul told us that this city was a big party town, and the people always had big festivals and gatherings. But my favorite part was walking through the town and then seeing the Mayan ball court. It was definitely the best one we've seen yet -- almost exactly preserved as it would have been when the city was still in use. Saul explained to us how the hierglyphic stairway was carved to show how the progression of the government and kings would have looked like in Copan's history. We had time to explore the museum and reconstructed temple inside the museum on our own. After we left the museum, we made our way over to the resturant and were treated to an authentic Honduran meal. We left soon after our meal, on our way back to Guatemala City for our farewell dinner at Montano Steak House.
 
        -Written by Gabby Fisher and Robby Elliott