WHERE IN THE WORLD IS ERIN? (you can zoom in!!!)

Search This Blog

Monday, June 7, 2010

Paradise Lost

So it´s been a little over a month since the last update....oh, what you have all missed.

I have spent the past month-ish in Canoa, Ecuador. I love Canoa, it is a quiet, beautiful little fishing village, with sand roads, lots of sunshine, good waves so i can surf everyday, and amazing people. It is inexpensive and has everything I need to be happy. It is paradise. Everyday in Canoa, I encounter amazing new people, surf, I started to take capoeira lessons on the beach daily, as well as salsa lessons nightly. My plan was to stay in Canoa for as long as possible, 2 months more, then work my way south when it was a little warmer. Owen told me that it is super cold in Peru and Bolivia right now, and I m not ready for cold...so the plan was to wait...but the plan has changed, Canoa is no longer an option for me, paradise has been lost.

On May 30 at 3:40am, Makako, one of the locals who had become a close friend of mine, was shot and killed while we were at a bar on the beach. It all started a week earlier, on a friday night. While in the street with a crowd of people after the bars closed, a single man pulled out a gun and started firing at the crowd. I had just started to walk back to my hostel, so luckily, was a bit ahead of the crowd when I hear someone yell ¨Corre!(run)¨ and then heard a series of 7 shots fired. I have never run so hard in my life.It was one of the single most frightening moments in my life up until that point. Shortly after seeking refuge in my hostel with a group of other people who needed to get off of the street for fear of being shot, one of my friends recieved a phone call, and a group of the guys started to run back to where the shots had been fired. Fearing that one of my friends had been injured, I followed behind. I was wrong in my assumption. It turned out that a couple of the guys had managed to get ahold of the shooter, and started to beat him up, then the group joined in too....as soon as i realized what was going on, I ran again, as fast as I could back to my hostel, the last thing I wanted to see was someone killed, no matter who it was. This was the beginning of chaos in Canoa. Luckily that night, nobody was shot, nobody was killed.
It turned out that apparently the guy who had been beaten, the guy who had fired the shots was a part of the Colombian mafia...and now wants revenge on the people who beat him. Last weekend, on saturday night, while at a full moon party at a bar on the beach, two men with guns opened fire, killing my friend. I myself was nearly hit by 3 bullets. One hit where I was sitting, another missed my foot by millimeters( i could feel the sand as the bullet hit the ground), and another just missed my head, I could feel the air as it passed by. You feel the bullets before you hear them, its scary, because you dont have time to react. The sound is something you will never forget. Everyone ran for the beach, people were running into the water, you could hear a vehicle drive away....i was sure i heard that someone got hit...but I didnt see it... it was surreal, straight out of a movie, this stuff doesnt happen in real life...i thought.  I managed to get back to my hostel...not far from the beach....trembling, not able to fully comprehend what had just happened, having just found out that my friend had been shot. I was joined by a number of people who where also at the bar during the shooting....none of us spoke, we all just sat there, none of us could sleep....it was really screwed up.
The next day, after having slept for a couple of hours, I learned of my friends death. He had been shot 4 times and died in the hospital. He was one of the most energetic, friendly people I have ever met in my life....it is so crazy how one moment a person can be so alive, vibrant and so present in the lives of those around him, and then next moment they only exist as a memory, it really makes me appreciate every moment in life. That night (sunday) we went to pay our respects at the funeral home. The next day was the actual funeral. It was something that I had never expected to experience in my life. It was beautiful....sad, but beautiful. It started in the funeral home with frineds and family paying their respect, sharing their stories, their memories. Then the crowd hoisted the coffin and carried it through the town, through the park to the church. The procession included all of the friends, music, alcohol, things that Makako loved. At the church, a Catholic funeral service was held....the first (and hopefully last) time in my life that I have to attend one of these services.  After the service, the crowd again carried the coffin to the cemetery, where Makako was laid to rest. Everything happened so quickly.
That night I left Canoa...its not the same now. I am now in Quito. I have been here the past 4 days with a few friends from Canoa, trying to figure out where to go now. I  fly to Cusco, Peru on Wednesday where I will go to see Machu Picchu, and will then work my way north from Cusco up the coast to Mancora, where I can surf and live cheaply for a while. I want to return to Canoa in a month or two, when things cool down a bit. I want to leave Ecuador on good terms.

RIP Makako, You are missed by many.

Monday, May 3, 2010


Well, we are all in Ecuador now...Good bye Colombia, you will be missed!

From Taganga, Jesse, Owen, Corey and myself, along with the 3 germans from the trek to cuidad perdida headed to Medellin, a large metropolitan city in Colombia. I was pleasantly surprised with Medellin. It is a very modern city with a convenient (and cheap) metro system very similar, but better than the Vancouver skytrain. The metro system made it very easy to explore the city, allowing us to go in search of places to skateboard, which was nice. We also went to a huge waterpark in Medellin, but were dissappointed when we got there to learn that due to a lack of people in the park, that only 3 of the bajillion waterslides were actually open....bummer.
From Medellin, we took an overnight bus to Popayan, another really nice, but little colonial town. The nice thing about Popayan was that it wasn´t really touristy, and all of the buildings, litterally all of them were white. We ended up going out while we were in Popayan, and the first place we ended up was this really local bar...never in my life have i been stared at sooo hard before...the place was filled with locals only, and not even young locals, they were all at least in their 50´s...and litterally every single one of them was staring at us as we went up to the bar and ordered our beers...pretty funny. Then, these two really old ladies started hitting on the Germans, and Felix was totally down for it, he ended up chatting with them for quite some time. After that bar, we ended up at a really expensive, really tacky salsa club, with everyone dancing old school, and vibing on us hard...we left.
From Popayan, we went to Quito, it was a loooong trip, that had to be done by day due to the high risk of being hijacked on the night buses on that route. Quito is a cool place...I loved Quito. Its a surprisingly large city, but is very interesting. It has lots of really cool looking churches and buildings. We stayed in the old town, which of course is visually more stimulating than the inner city. While in quito, we only had a couple of days together. Jesse and corey were in a rush to get going to Peru, as Corey had to fly home today I think...and owen wanted to go with them. I on the other hand did not want to rush through Ecuador in less than a week, so opted to stay in Quito a few more days with the Germans. So, I said goodbye to my three friends. 
I ended up spending 2 more days in Quito. I went to this wierd convent, where they have all these creepy pictures and statues depicting the different phases of christs life, as well as the bones of Santa Catarina, the saint that all the nuns there worship. They wouldnt let us take pictures while we were in there, so you cant really get the reality of just how wierd it was, but i got to see 2 of the nuns... The nuns go into the convent by choice, the earliest age at which they can enter is 18 years old. As of right now, the youngest nun is 19 years old. The nuns remain in the convent for 5 years, during which they are ¨training¨. During these 5 years, the nuns may decide at anytime to leave the convent. However, after the 5 years, should they decide to stay in the convent, they can never leave again. Also, these nuns live in silence, and solitary confinement for most of the time. They are alotted only one hour per day in the garden to speak and socialize with each other....its really strange to me... they also make these creepy dolls and crafts, and use their own hair in the crafts. Anyhow, definately the strangest thing i did in Quito.  On my last day in the city, the germans and I decided to take the public bus out to the ¨Mitad del Mundo¨ or the equator as we know it. Its an overly touristy, kind of dumpy place, but its cool to know that you can stand on both sides of the equator at the same time. We also paid the extra dollar for the planetarium, which ended up being this totally irrelevant show about the spots on mars.

From Quito, Tino, Bernd and I left Felix, who has decided to go to the Galapagos Islands (JEALOUS!) and headed for the small mountain town of Baños. Baños is beautiful. It´s main attraction is the plethora of hotsprings in the area, none of which we visited. It is also the hub for a lot of adventure tourism. You can rent any type of motorized vehicle there, dune buggies, motorcycles, quads etc. We rented bicycles and rode around for the day. We ended up crossing this bridge, where people were jumping, and Tino and Bernd decided that they were going to jump too...it was like a bungy jump, but instead of a bungy line, they just used climbing rope...was too high and too sketchy for myself..but was fun to watch the Germans get their adrenaline going.

I am now on the coast...how nice it is to be warm again! It was really really cold in Quito and Baños, the first time this whole trip that I had to wear jeans, a tee shirt, a hoody, jacket, socks, shoes and a toque just to be comfortable. It took us two day to get from Baños to Canoa, where we are now. Its hot here, and there is surf, so im happy. Will hopefully be able to find a cheap (ish) surf board to buy to use as I travel down the coast from here to Peru. Not sure how long I will spend here, but hope to be in Ecuador for at least another couple of weeks, im trying to figure out a way to get to Galapagos without blowing my budget. I got a message from Owen today. He and Corey and Jesse are currently on a 26 hours direct bus from Guyaquil, Ecuador to Lima, Peru. Corey flies out home to Canada tomorrow I think...although, i thought it was today. And Owen will continue on to Cuzco with Jesse and her boyfriend Geoff. They plan to do Macchu Picchu next week, which is a shame, because I will be unable to join them, it will be next to impossible for me to get there in time unless I spend the next week entirely on busses. So I am officially travelling solo now. I am still with the Germans, but not sure for how long. Will hopefully be able to meet back up with Owen somewhere in Peru, but at this point, Im just going to enjoy  being back on the beach in the sun and the surf.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Thank you! Stick!

Wow, where to begin....
We are in Colombia now, we flew into Cartagena from Panama City just a little over a week ago, after spending my last day in Panama in the Hospital Nacional due to a severe kidney infection.
The hospitals in Panama City are amazing, the private ones anyhow. They are all huge, new, modern buildings, and the fact that they are private means no waiting....at all!!!  Being accustomed to the 4-10 hour wait times in Canada, I was a little thrown off when they took me immediately from the reception into the hospital, and the doctor was waiting for me. In all, I spent about 5 hours there, got 2 IVs, one of morphine for the pain I was in, and another antibiotic, had a bunch of tests done, was given a couple prescriptions, and then sent on my way...all in spanish of course ;)  The bill ended up being about $500, but luckily i have health insurance to cover that..

Anyhow, on to Colombia.
We flew into Cartagena, and spent one night there...its a beautiful city, and we were lucky to meet some people from the plane who were willing to share a taxi and hostel with us. That night there was also a huge conference on South American culture, and they had a huge stage set up in the main square of the walled city that night, with a whole bunch of different dance performances from all over South America. Very Cool.

The next day we headed for Taganga, where we are now. It took 4 hours by shuttle. Taganga is a nice little beach town about 10 minutes outside of Santa Marta . Its a hippie haven...very mellow, tranquillo....  This is where Jesse and Corey met up with us. After they arrived, we decided to book a trip to the lost city- Cuidad Perdida. 

I had read a little bit about Cuidad Perdida. That it was a strenuous trek in the Colombian Jungle, in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, and that it actually rivaled the Inca Trail trek to Machu Pichu. This was intriguing to me, that and the fact that it was half the price of Inca trail, and twice as long. We booked a 5 day trek through our hostel, being promised a round trip by an indiginous guide, one day in an indiginous village, as well as time with a shaman. Everything was to be included, food, accomodations, guides and porters.  We were stoked. We packed a couple pairs of clothes, a few snackes and were ready to go. We were picked up from our hostel the next morning and driven to Santa Marta where we were loaded into an off road truck with all the food and supplies for the week. 3 hours later we were dropped off...Jesse, Corey, Owen & I in a small town called Machete. Only once the truck unloaded the supplies and drove away, were we informed that our guide was nowhere to be found. The guides from another company were in machete with another group of 7 people and offered for us to join their group, however, the tour was different, they paid less, would return after the third day via the same route, and no shaman, no indiginous anything. We were a bit choked, but agreed to join the group up until day 3 when we would arrive at the lost city, then would be joined by another guide, who would take us four the rest of the way we originally planned. So we were off with our 3 new guides, Carlos, Che (the cook) and Ariel ( the porter)
20 minutes into the trek it started to rain....and not just rain...torrential monsoon type downpour.....for the rest of the day. This made the trail ( which is very rugged as is) extremely muddy and difficult to hike. We were headed straight up a mountain for 2 hours....slipping 2 steps back for every one we took, and loving every moment of it....soaking wet of course. After 5 hours of treking in the rain, muddy and soggy, we arrived at our first camp. The camps were very basic, just shelters with hammocks hanging, and some fireburning stoves for the cooks. The first night was special. There is no electricity, only light is by candlelight. We ate a simple dinner, hung our clothes to dry and played a round of cards before hitting the sack early. We were to be up at 5am to start again.
We rose early, to find that due to the nearly 100percent humidity in the jungle, that our clothes from the day before were still wet...and that everything else was damp. We put on our wet clothes, ate breakfast and then were asked if we wanted to see a cocaine factory..it would only cost us $20000.00 pesos each ( about 10 bucks) Considering that I probably would probably never have the opportunity to visit a colombian cocaine factory in the middle of the jungle ever again in my life, I opted to go. It was not what I expected. The factory was in fact a small little shack in the jungle. We were allowed to take pictuers of everything, as long as we didnt take any photos of the guy who worked there. He walked us through the entire process, from the harvesting of the coco leaves, to the final product. He showed us EVERYTHING including the names of the chemicals, how to mix them etc. it was pretty unreal. We were also given the opportunity to test the finished product (PURE colombian cocaine) which we all declined.
The rains did not stop. It rained every day.
The first 3 days of the trip were amazing. Everyday, the most spectacular sights lay before us, things that i never thought I would ever see! At the end of the second day, we were informed by Carlos, that due to the heavy (unexpected) rainfall, that we would not be able to do the round trip, because the trail had been washed out by a huge mudslide and was unpassable. We were all a little bummed, but accepted it as fact, and moved on.
Day 3 we reached the camp for Cuidad Perdida. Let me point out to you all that this whole time, we were wearing wet clothes, and wet shoes. THE WHOLE TIME!!! By this time we were all blistered and starting to get sore, and the fact that we arrived to camp before the afternoon rain storm was  comforting to us all. We got to relax, and again tried desperately to dry our clothes and shoes...to no avail.  Carlos told us this day that we would not be visiting the Cuidad Perdida due to the rains that were starting, and that as a result we would have to visit it the following morning. Due to this fact, our trip would have to be extended by at least one more day, making it 5 nights, 6 days total. He also told us, that he had been told of an ALTERNATE trail that we could take out of the jungle, but that it was rarely travelled by tourists or the indiginous. We all decided to go for it, all 11 of us in the group.
Day four we rose at 5am to go to Cuidad Perdida....our goal. The hike in took an hour and involved climbing 1200 ancient stone stairs up the mountain to the base of the ruins. The city is dated to be pre incan, it is very very old. We spent a total of about 3 or 4 hours there, climbing about 2000 stone steps in total.... very cool. Among the lessons learned in the Cuidad Perdida:
1) Dont eat or smoke the plants or leaves, because you will go crazy, take your clothes off and jump from the terraces, smashing open your face.
2) If you find an artifact, dont tell anyone.
3)Indiginous women are not allowed to move or make any noise when they are making love.

After Cuidad Perdida, we returned to camp, grabbed our backpacks and began the most difficult hike i have ever done in my life.
We had 5 hours ahead of us on the alternate trail.... which was not a trail at all. Carlos had only travelled it once or twice, and the other two guides, had never travelled it at all. We were litterally trudging up mountains, off trail, in torrential rain. By this point, the ground was so soggy , that in some places you couldnt even stand without slipping. And let me emphasize this....we were litterally going straight up and down the mountains. The first ascent took us about 2 hours....2 hours of sheer hell...we  thought, but going down the other side was even worse. I kept falling, it was funny the first 10 times or so, but then it just started to suck. At one point I decided that it was probably best to just sit and slide down the muddy mountain instead of falling and sliding. By the time we reached the bottom, I was covered head to toe in mud, cut up, and felt as though my legs could no longer support me. I just sat in the river....the cold cold river, in the rain, and tried to relax...preparing for the next hour and half up the next mountain. 
Now, you may think that this was miserable, but as hard as it was, I actually loved every moment of it. It was a challenge, I didnt think I was going to make, and the view from the tops of the mountains made it worth it....but Im glad day four will never live in my life again.

After the fourth day, things were just difficult. We were all beaten up, bruised, bloody, and wet...wet to the bone. The next two days were a challenge. Hiking out of the jungle. Drinking from the rivers, just trying to make it to the next mountain top, so that we could then make it down to the next river crossing. Luckily everyone in our group was really really tough...nobody complained, nobody cried, everybody helped everyone out. We shared our little bits of snacks, our water and our conversation. We became a family.  Yesterday was our last day. It was by far the hardest, we were tired before we started, and knowing that we had 5 hours ahead of us, 4 of which were uphill made the day hard to start. On top of that, my kidney infection had returned, and I was barely functional as it was.  To reach the final mountain top was a feeling like no other...I honestly didnt think I was going to make it. I felt defeated just 10 minutes before finishing...I had no idea how close we were to being done...We all collapsed at the top, we couldnt move.

I can honestly say that it was the hardest physical thing I have ever done in my life. I pushed myself to the limits of what I could handle, we all did. We made it, but barely. On our trip we met some people that have done alot of treks including machu pichu who said that this trek was the most difficult, as well as the most spectacular trek they have ever done. We did something that not alot of people get to do. We got lost, then found in the colombian Jungle. You cant buy that tour. We had the best guides, and unreal experiences.
I cant wait to post the photos.
Oh yeah...i forgot to thank my stick.  Thank you stick!!! you saved my life....quite a few times actually.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Back in the city

This is the first time in 7 months that I have been back in a real city...its strange, and the first sight of highrise buildings and smog through the hostel window this morning, really threw me off. At that moment I realised just what it is that I have been doing, and it blows my mind. I want to get out of the city. I've only been here for a few hours, but it offers me no allure. Nonetheless, I must remain here for a few days and complete this journey that has been Central America. Only then will I be able to move on to the new adventures and experiences that await me on the Southern Continent.
I have learned many lessons over the past seven months...things that will change my life forever.
First and foremost, I have learned the value of a true friend. I have learned that they are hard to come by, but appear when you least expect it. I have learned through a lack of seeing them, just how much I miss my true friends at home, as well as the select few that I have met along the way. These people are life changers, offering up lessons that cannot be learned in any other way, other than through them or by them. The best thing about travelling is the new friends....its also the worst, because they are the people that make an impact in your life, then disappear with only hope that you will encouter each other at some other point in life.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Pics and whatnot...

Okay, so because it would take about 10 years to upload all the pics from our trip so far, I am giving you all a few links to view my albums on line. Here they are, enjoy!

Guatemala - http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=143896&id=517421794&l=49aaff1b5b

Belize, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua:


Nicaragua & Costa Rica

Costa Rica and some of Panama

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Bocas Del Toro, Panama

This is the most amazing place for surf. I have never been on such a beautiful wave in my life. It was a bit scary at first, because it is a reef break, and this was the first time ever surfing a reef. We have to hire a local boat to take us out, and the just stop outside the break and dump you off in the water, then they come back a few hours later and pick you back up.  We are staying at a hostel called Mondo Taitu, very cool vibe there. The people are all amazing, and the hostel has one of the most popular bars in it, so its always busy, and there are a lot of people from all over the world. Add the free pancake breakfast and internet, and it is easily one of the better hostels around. Despite the laid back, mellow atmosphere here, crossing the border was anything but. I couldnt believe it! You walk across this old rickety bridge into Panama, and there is a little border office there, but they tell you that you need a return ticket from panama to somewhere else before they stamp your passport. The lame thing is, is that even if you have an onward ticket proving you are leaving the country, unless it lists Panama City as the departure point, they wont accept it. They sell one way bus tickets that will never be used  to every tourist entering the country for $12.  Luckily, I had my ¨fake¨flight itinerary that I made with me, and by chance it actually listed panama city as a departure, so we didnt have to pay. But what a joke.

Monday, March 22, 2010

And so then....

Ok, so where did I leave off? Ah, yes, Flores. After meeting up with Steve and Travis in Flores, Guatemala, the 5 of us (Owen, Morten, the other 2 guys and myself) we decided to go check out the ancient Mayan ruins of Tikal. We were told that if we went after 3 pm then we could get in that evening, spend the night in the park then have the next day as well all for the price of one days admission. We were sold! We all piled into a shuttle bound for Tikal. Tikal is simply amazing. We made it with plenty of time to explore the main temple complex and watch the sunset while being litterally the only people in the park. This was also my first experience with Howler Monkeys. That night we camped at the Jaguar Inn and rose early at 5 am to watch the sunrise from the Jaguar Temple...very cool, and we were the very first people in the park!

Happy with our group, we all decided to travel together to Caye Caulker, Belize, a beautiful little island in the Carribean. While there we took a boat trip and went snorkelling with huge sea turtles, ate great food and watched beautiful sunsets...paradise. From there we all split up. Steve and Travis decided to head north to Mexico, Owen to El Salvador and myself to the Bay Islands of Honduras for a few days before meeting back up with Owen in El Salvador. In El Salvador we camped in a little place called El Tunco, which is home to a beautiful point break which provided some of the best surf of the trip so far.
Despite the nice waves, the small town was starting to get boring so we hopped on a bus bound for Leon, Nicaragua and headed straight for our hostel: Via Via. When we arrived, we were greeted by our friend Morten who was also staying at the same hostel. We invited Morten to continue travelling with us. While we were in Leon, we were drinking the local rum: Flor De Cana , which is actually really good, and decided that we would like to visit the factory, so the next day the three of us, plus two french guys: Christoph and Bertraud, who were also staying at our hostel, decided to hop a crazy chicken bus and find the factory... which after about an hours ride and a short walk through a random small town, we actually succeeded in locating. Unfortunately though, they wouldnt let us in, so back on the bus and back to Leon we
went. From Leon the three of us travelled south to Granada where we met up with my cousin Kelly and her boyfriend. From there we were picked up by my Aunt Shelly and taken to her home in Rivas. Staying with Shelly was great. It was nice to eat some canadian food ( she cooked us christmas dinner!) and visit with some family after 6 months of being without both. We also had a lot of fun with Shelly, going full moon fishing in San Juan del Sur, swimming, and having a tour of her property.

From Rivas we hopped a bus bound for Costa Rica. First stop- Santa Teresa. We had been told that this was THE place to go. Upon our arrival we realized that it was infact the place for every Costa Rica bound tourist who wanted to try surfing. It felt like spring break in Cancun, with prices to match. The only plus side to Sta. Teresa was that the surf was amazing and we met a really cool Swedish couple, Marc and Johanna. Just 40 minutes from Sta. Teresa is Montezuma. Montezuma is a cool place. Very laid back, very tranquilo. That's where we ended up after a couple of days amongst the tourist crowds of Sta. Teresa. We were met there by the swedes, making us a grand crew of 5. This unfortunately was Morten's last stop with us before having to head back up north to Mexico from where his Norway bound flight leaves. We all made the best of this last nit of time togethet. We went swimming in a beautiful waterfall, spent the day at the beach bodysurfing, had a
nice dinner and watched a movie. We all caught the ferry to the mainland together and said goodbye to Morten the Viking, with whom we had been travelling with for two months... It was sad to see him go.

With Morten on a bus for Mexico, Owen, myself and the Swedes all headed for Monteverde, high in the mountains of Costa Rica. Monteverde is home to the beautiful cloud forests, which are actually very reminicent of our west coast rainforests in Canada, and surprisingly, the climate was not much different either, which was a nice break after the 45 degrees we encountered on the coast.

We are now in Panama in Bocas Del Toro, an island archipeligo on the Carribean coast . The Swedes are here too. Its raining and there is no surf, so, we are going to leave the Swedes and head for the pacific coast.

Thats our last six months in a nutshell. Sorry to leave out the interesting details, but otherwise id be here typing this forever. I promise more frequent ( and interesting) updates.

Ps. I will post pics when i find a real computer :)

Check out my blog: www.erin-owen.blogspot.com

Friday, March 5, 2010

Well, we finally left Mexico....can you believe it?

I am really really bad at this whole blog thing....its really hard to find / make the time to track down a computer that will actually allow me to update this site, so I do appologize for the lack of current happenings. Nonetheless, I will attempt to share our going ons with much more frequency in the future.

So, we left mexico....it only took us 4 months, but we actually managed to leave the lovely place that I could easily call home. We made a direct dash for the Guatemalan border leaving Melaque by bus. We took 2 days to go direct to Puerto Escondido, where we spent the night to sleep and shower before continuing from Pt.Esc. to the Guatemalan border. The total trip time from Melaque to Antigua came up at around 50 hours... which isn't that bad considering the distance.  We arrived in Antigua where we stayed for a day before going to the coast for a surf camp called El Paredon. Apparently El Paredon has the best break in Guatemala....it was alright, but definately not something special. The camp is located on an island, and you have to get there by boat from Sipicate. It is really secluded. The people there are antisocial, and there are no grocery stores...so the fact that the food at the camp was probably some of the worst I've encountered ever, was not a good thing. Anyone going to this camp should seriously consider bringing their own food supply. On the plus side, while we were in El Paredon, we met up with an  American named Steve, and two Norwegians: Morten and Jonas, with whom we would continue to travel with throughout Guatemala.

From El Paredon we went back to Antigua. We spent 3 days there. We stayed at a hostel called the Black Cat, which was a really good value, and included a free breakfast. Antigua is a really cool old colonial town. The food there is really really good, and there is a decent night life....there are also a lot of travellers there, so its really easy to meet people. While we were in Antigua, Owen and I decided to go to hike Volcan Pacaya, an active volcano just an hour and a half from Antigua. The volcano is really neat....its a long hike, about 5km, but is really worth it. The trail is really sketchy...infact, it really is nonexistant once you reach the base of the volacano, so hiking up the volcano through the lava fields is a bit tricky, and definately would not be allowed if located in Canada or the US....it really could be dangerous, but that is what made it fun. We hiked up to the top where you could watch the lava pumping out of the volcano. You could feel the lava moving under the rocks we were walking on, and if we weren't careful where we walked, our shoes would actually start to melt.

From Antigua, Owen and I decided to meet up with Morten (the Viking)  in Lanquin, a small mountain town outside of Coban, which has a series of caves, and the amazing Semuc Champey river pools. The journey from Antigua to Lanquin took us 7 hours by shuttle through the mountains...it was a very beautiful journey. Once in Lanquin we went to El Retiro Lodge, an eco hostel run by the local mayan indians. It was really nice, with all you could eat dinners....and good prices for tours. We stayed for 35Quetzales each, which works out to less than $5 a day.  Our first day in Lanquin, we went to Semuc Champey and the caves. The caves are really cool, but you must have a guide to go in them. The caves go on for about 15km into the mountain. We only went about 1 km deep, but that was enough. The caves are formed by an underground river system, so as you can imagine, we had to swim through them...it was amazing. Swimming under the ground, in caves, with waterfalls and pools...by candlelight. It was one of the coolest things I have ever done. After the caves, we tubed down the river, then hiked another 2km or so to Semuc Champey, a series of clear blue pools formed by the underground river. The water is unlike anything you have ever seen, clean & clear....
From Lanquin, Owen, Morten and I took a shuttle to Flores to check out Tikal, and were met later that night by Steve and his friend Travis. We stayed at the Los Amigos Hostel in Flores, and were able to rent hammock space for $2 a night. The food at the hostel was really good, boasting the only all vegetarian menu in Flores, which was especially nice for me, after eating nothing but rice and beans for the last little while.  oh shoot....computer time is up...i have to continue next time...anyhow...right now we are in Nicaragua, will fill you in on the in betweens next post.
Lots of love to everyone!!!