El Estor Travel Blog› entry 66 of 72 › view all entries
El Estor is great for some of the places close by. About 20km out of town towards Rio Dulce is a place called El Paraiso and there is located a volcanic waterfall. A nice little walk from the road and a 5 Quetzales charge leads to a natural swimming pool and the falls. Time to get the old budgie smugglers out again. The first thing you notice is how warm the water is, which seems a little peculiar. It is also very clear and clean. Then, a few swimming strokes later, you fighting against the current from the waterfall as the water gets warmer, warmer, then hot. Ow, very hot. The heat of a bath that is just too hot to step into pelting down on ones head.
And then there are the snakes... OK, I saw one, but it was the biggest natural one I saw, a long, whiplike thing with a very green head. We looked each other in the eye, then it looked down my camera lens. I sort of got the impression it was thinking whether or not to go for me. It made swimming again later a tad more scary.
Odd Canyon Stuff
Then, back on a bus towards El Estor to El Boqueron canyon, 8km outside of town.
The best thing is, the canoe bloke drops you off about 800m upstream and leaves you there. To stand alone in such a magnificent place is what this travelling lark is all about: nature everywhere and not a human soul around.
It was about halfway back that the word "crocodile" entered my head. Sometimes logic works in these situations, but so does fear. Rationalisations like "people do this all the time, it must be fine" on one side compared to "yes, but you have also walked 2 metres above molten lava on this trip, what do they know about safety?" on the other. Needless to say, I was fine, but it added a certain spice to an otherwise sleepy sort of day.
Into the Valley of Death
OK, a bit melodramatic, but the journey to El Estor from Lanquin was fabulous. Must dig a photo or too out. As the crow flies, it is probably 50 miles over the mountains and into El Estor. That should not really take 6 hours should it? People, you need to appreciate that in this part of the world, a dirt track wide enough for two vehicles consitutes a highway. Still, I did go door to door; starting the journey from right outside the front gate of El Retiro. It was very tempting to walk back in and spend a couple more nights, but then the collectivo arrived. Ah, collectivos, potentially comfy but more often not so.
One and a half hours later, we're in Cabahon. If you have a map at the right scale, this shows as the end of the road. However, it isn't true - there are single carriageway dirt tracks.
The "Real" Guatemala?
Up to this point, we'd been following a beautiful river valley, now we climbed into the real Guatemalan outback. The only white faces were mine and todays' travelling companion Marika for Holland. Every now and then we passed some wooden huts and drew an audience, passing cars seemingly to be the rural television. And some of the views got breathtaking - massive vistas across miles of mountains. I've said it before, Guatemala is beautiful.
At this point we arrived at a large rooved space in the middle of nowhere and the vehicle emptied. It would be quite possible to panic here, but I had faith that I had heard "El Estor" correctly. And lo! in 5 minutes, up comes another pick up truck, including provisions for a local shop 10 miles down the road and we're off again.
After half an hour of this we began to go downhill and then entered a valley where the sky appeared in the distance instead of hills. We rounded a corner to one of the most incredible views I have ever seen. The valley winded to a huge valley floor that must have been the Garden of Guatemala. A river meandered through it and then Honduras rose in the distance. The scale was incredible. I suspect the photos won't do it justice, given they were taken off the back of a pick up, but it will always be in my head. We joined a relatively main road at the bottom of the valley for a rather uneventful trip into El Estor, where I said adios to Marika.