When I was young girl growing up in Guatemala, my mom would delight in dragging my siblings and I around the country in search of history, culture and adventure.
“But Maaaaaam,” I frequently whined, “it’s just another bunch of rocks!” I was of course referring to the legendary and renowned ruin cities of the great Maya civilization. Back then, the derelict pyramidal structures were mostly jungle covered mounds (with exceptions such as Tikal). I certainly lacked the appreciation, negotiating my attentiveness for today’s history lessons in exchange for a chance to slide down the hills on a battered cardboard box.
Sometimes my mother would heave us into the back of the 4X4 or onto one of those famed ‘chicken buses’ if we were lucky. We’d ride endless hours on ramshackle roads (that disappear during times of heavy rains) into remote villages of the Western highlands. These volcanic chains are the heartland of Mayan tradition, unchanged for thousands of years. On any given weekend, exuberant and vibrant celebrations take place. My mom revelled in educating us about Guatemalan culture and heritage. The colourful dress, energetic dancing, hand carved masks, and superstition based performances, were fascinating teachers for our young minds and short attention spans.
My childhood was a series of spectacular places and events few have experienced. I’ve climbed active volcanoes, camping out late into the evening to roast marshmallows on the super-heated lava flows. I lost my big toe-nail to the massive Volcan de Agua. I got to skydive over the black sand beaches of the raging Pacific Ocean (I was 11 years old) and learned to water ski in the cool fresh waters of Rio Dulce. Once I joined my mother on an exploratory white water rafting trip. It was all the joy and chaos one could hope for, being the first people to adventure into uncharted lands.
To say that I have exposure to this dramatic and resplendent country is an understatement.
Many things have changed in the 20 years since I left my native land. For example, no longer must you make a mid-night run from the tent to the outhouse for fear of getting pelted by poop by the territorial howler monkeys of Guatemala’s northern jungle. The mischievous mammals lost the war. The areas around Lake Peten Itza now boast multiple 5 star resorts and enough light pollution to conceal the starry nights. Archaeological research and knowledge of the Maya civilization continues to grow and impress. There has even been a recent discovery of Maya city completely submerged under Lake Atitlan!
Other changes include improved infrastructure and inter-regional transportation. It is easier than ever to explore the natural and cultural gems my mom so hard-fought to reveal to us. It is an impressive and highly commendable feat that a woman with 3 little ones in tow conquered so much rugged terrain.
Beyond the memories, she instilled in me the courage to explore, the fortitude and wisdom of a traveler, plus the desire to share and inspire.
~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~
One of the first things I hear whenever I encounter new friends on the road is always: “I wish I could do what you do!” Well you can, and I would love to help you. I truly believe traveling can change your life, because it has changed mine. I don’t want to get cheesy, but I want to incite fiery excitement in you. I want you to come travel Guatemala with me!
Click here for the official invitation and all you need to know about this extraordinary opportunity.
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