Freshwater Frolics

El Estor Travel Blog

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This view was fabulous

Warm Waterfalls

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.

Jaggedy mountains of The Verapaces
  And behind the waterfall is a small cave system with stagamites (they go down, right?) as well as an area that really is like a sauna.  One gets the same feeling of slight breathlessness that a sauna gives you and it is a very pleasant way to spend a few minutes.  the sensation is all a little hot.

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 usual form of transport in Guatemala
  As Santa Semana had just finished, there were lots empty stalls set up near the river, the customers all of whom had disappeared back to wherever they live. Sadly, there was also the ubiquitous litter that plagues the ithimus, although Guatemala is this dirty than some places.  A couple of locals were knocking about, one of whom took me up the canyon (so to speak) in his canoe for the bargin price of 15Q's.  This place is a natural wonder and I find it incredible that it doesn't seem to be that well known (basing this on me being the only one there).  It is a steep-sided Cheddar Gorge of a thing with jungle on either side and Howler Monkeys howling away.

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.

Waterfall. Hot
  You're thinking how do you get back, aren't you?  Easy, you swim down with the current and it is great.  No hot springs here, but the wter is cooling after the mid afternoon sun and it is a great way to lookk more closely at the rock systems either side of water's edge.

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.

Higton says:
No pihranas (however it is spelt) but there are some fish around that have a little graze on ones feet. Or maybe that was just my feet.
Posted on: May 06, 2007
dougal says:
Damn - too late. I was going to correct you on the stalagtight vs stalagmite question too.

Don't they have piranahs in the rivers round here?
Posted on: May 06, 2007
Amanda says:
Actually, Stalactites go down, if you mean that it started on the roof of the cave and headed downward - is that what you meant? I little trick my mother taught us as children (one of many)...Stalactites "Hold TIGHT" to the roof, while Stalagmites "MIGHT" reach the roof someday if they keep growing... isn't my mother a smart one?
Posted on: May 04, 2007
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There is a snake in there somewhere

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.

The Canyon in all its glory
  This was the latter.  This little minibuses should fit 14 in that they have 14 seats.  This being Central America, the owners fasion more wooden seats that slot into the aisles.  And get 5 people in a place comfortable for 3.  And cram children on the front parcel shelf.  And get the conductor on the roof.  In this way, it seems it is possible to get 27 people in or on a collectivo.  In this instance, it was only about 22 although I did have a seat between seats, meaning I literally had a rod for my own back which dug into my spine at every bump in the road.  Given we're on a dirt track, that's a lot.

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.

Canoe man with ubiquitous baseball cap
  So I got on a pick up truck; an flatbed vehicle with a large bar arrangement for people to hang onto.  This circled town for twenty minutes looking for more passengers until I heard the phrase "El Estor!" shouted from somewhere.  Another collectivo.  So I leapt off and joined the new mode of transport.  Which circled town for 20 minutes and then left. 

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.

Amanda says:
When??
Posted on: Apr 30, 2007
This view was fabulous
This view was fabulous
Jaggedy mountains of The Verapaces
Jaggedy mountains of The Verapaces
The usual form of transport in Gua…
The usual form of transport in Gu…
Waterfall. Hot
Waterfall. Hot
There is a snake in there somewhere
There is a snake in there somewhere
The Canyon in all its glory
The Canyon in all its glory
Canoe man with ubiquitous baseball…
Canoe man with ubiquitous basebal…
El Estor
photo by: gopackjo