Monday, December 9, 2013

Volcano Bashing in El Salvador

Our neighbor to the East, El Salvador doesnt seem to get the tourism focused on the outdoors quite like we do here in Guatemala.  So we decided to head over and check things out.

I must say we were pleasantly surprised by what we found.  Only a few short hours from La Antigua, Guatemala you can be cruising the "Ruta de las Flores", an old back-roads Salvador feel with cool little colonial and artisan towns with quaint B&B's and fun bars.

But crusing Salvadors backroads wasnt why we went.  We wanted to check out the rarely visited interior of the country with her National Parks, caves, waterfalls and volcanic peaks.  We headed first for the sulfuric crater lake volcano of Santa Ana.  Its an hour or so hike up to the cone where you are looking down on this super cool blue crater lake.  Its not a super hard hike but is very different from the Guatemalan peaks that we normally hike.

Its an easy 4 hour drive to Santa Ana from Antigua and after your hike its only a bit further to the Ruta de Las Flores where you can find food festivals, outdoor beer gardens, scenic lakes, caves and waterfalls.  We headed to Juayua first and caught up with the street-side feast that was going on.  It was like a little piece of Guatemalan Europe.  Folks drinking beers and eating food in the streets.

Just outside town is a waterfall with a system of caves that you can swim through.  Each tunnel takes you further into the mountainside and into a larger chamber.  Pretty sweet! After lounging in the pools we headed back to town for beers and a night out before we headed over to Lago de Coatepeque, the Salvadoran version of Guate's Atitlan.  It wasn't as big but it sure was pretty, we had seen it from the tops of Izalco and Santa Ana volcanoes and knew we wanted to head over and check it out.

Funny how after so much time here in Guatemala that I had neglected our Central American neighbor.  She's so close and offers so much to do than just hanging on the beach and surfing.  Dont get me wrong, Zonte and the rest of the beaches are pretty stellar.  But this highlands "Ruta de las Flores" side of Salvador was a great change from my normal trip.
We'll most likely be adding this to the long list of amazing trips on the Old Town Outfitters website.  Stop in and get yourself booked up on our next adventure!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Surfing the Pacific Coast

We have teamed up with our good friends down at the Paredon Surf House on the sleepy but up and coming surf beach of El Paredon.

Unlike many other Guatemalan beaches Paredon as its known, has a good surf break and super fun waves even if your not a surfer.  Our new trip will be sea-kayaking and surfing focused.  Like our kayak trips to Monterrico we will spend some time exploring the back waterways and mangroves before heading out to the beach for a fish lunch.

We'll overnight in ocean front thatch bungalows.   We'll have an afternoon surf lesson as well as one the following morning before breakfast.

Get in touch with us at Old Town Outfitters for more information on this new great trip down to Guatemala's Pacific coast

Friday, November 8, 2013

An Exploratory trip to Guate's Green Heart

This past weekend we took off and headed north from Antigua the the lush green department of Alta Verapaz to the hidden travelers hang out near Las conchas.  This is a place that we had heard about for years but just hadnt for whatever reason found the time to get out and check it out.  It had always be rumored to be what Semuc Champey was before the tourist crowds had taken it over and made it a mainstream Guatemalan dstination of the "Gringo Trail."

No, no, this place is legit!  It is a bit far removed from Antigua but perfected placed in the middle of the country to become THE stopover spot on an overland trip between Antigua and Tikal or the Rio Dulce.
Las Conchas definitely lived up to all the hype that had been circulating  about the remote jungle river and cave system.

We loaded up the 4x4 and rolled out to our friends hostal on the Rio Chiyu just downstream from Las Conchas.  We set out not only to take advantage of cold beers, jungle swimholes and jumping off the staircased waterfalls but to create an all-in-one tour of this area of Guatemala that is not focused on Semuc Champey and the overrun town of Lanquin.

What we found was pretty amazing!  A short pick up truck ride away from the lodge is the trail head to the Setzol caves system.  Its an hour hike through the lush forest to the entrance of Setzol where a beautiful river emerges from the cave.  We spend an hour or so exploring this cave before heading further down the trail to yet another cave that seemingly no one knows the name of!  This cave still has Mayan artifacts inside, making it a truly special place.

Our recee trip has turned into a new classic Old Town Outfitters tour called the  "caves and waterfalls"  tour.  Get in touch with us and join onto our next adventure to Las Conchas before it gets turned into another Semcu Champey!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Opening new routes

We're always looking to find that special trip, something that hits the bucket list of every person who comes to Guatemala. The must do, must see and for us at Old Town, must ride.

We've certainly found our version if it! There's a sweet cross country ride from the cobblestone streets of colonial Antigua to the amazingly picturesque blue waters of Lake Atitlan. Not to mention all the views, culture and glory lines in between.

Called the Atitlan XC this ride takes two or three days depending on how hard and long you want to go. We hit all our favorite pieces of trail in between and add as much highlands culture to the mix as possible.

Much of the ride passes through places that most tourist will never get to see or if they do at all it's from the inside of a turismo van. This ride gets you out there in the "real" Guatemalan outback crossing ravines the Maya have been hiking across for hundreds of years.

The ride is a mix of terrain. Anything from sweet technical single track to jeep track and a bit of pavement. There's a bunch of up and down, some long tough climbs but to crest over the rim and see Lake Atitlan for the first time and then drop in in some of Guatemala's sweetest trail seems to equalize all the effort it took to get there.

If you're looking for something unique and have a few days to spend in the back country get in touch with us at the shop and let us show you the goods.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Tis the season

The rains have stopped and the trials are open for business and better than ever!

We fight through the rainy season because we are cyclist and to be a cyclist here in Guatemala means that you have to ride during the rainy season too.

 However, every year about this time, just as you are about at your wits end with muddy bikes, rutted trails and soggy shoes the clouds break and the sun comes out.  The days are crisp and warm and afternoons turn gloriously golden and the temps start to give way to evening.

This is when the single-track in Guatemala is just right.  The trails are technical, tacky and everything is green.  Now we drop the wet lube for dry, leave the rain coats behind and  get out as much as possible.  You shouldnt take my word for how nice it is though, grab your steed and head down to Guatemala and join us on the trail.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Nebaj to Todos Santos Trekking

This past weekend we headed out to the Ixil triangle town of Nebal to start a pilgrimage to the western highland indigenous town of Todos Santos.  Every November 1st there is an enormous celebration honoring those loved ones that have moved on to greener pastures.  The "Dia de los Muertos" as its called is a a day to fly kites, party at the cemetery and remember loved ones.

 Depending on what route you take you can make the journey in 3-5 days.  We always take the path less traveled and opted for a route that not many tourist take.  It is harder and takes a couple days longer but the vistas and trails are absolutely stunning.  We extended our trip with a cushy start hanging out at the "Finca San Antonio" the day we arrived to the area.  It was a great chance to tour the pueblo of Acul, one of the first military "model villages" during the civil war.

The Finca has a few guest houses where you can chill out and enjoy the Swiss-like surroundings.  We got dropped off at the trailhead and started our 3+ hour grinder up into the mountains.  It was tough but the views made it all worth while.  We stayed the night a cool community hostal high up on the plateau and enjoyed an afternoon swinging in hammocks.

The rest of the days push further into the Guatemalan back-country on a myriad of braided trails criss-crossing the rocky plains of the alti-plano.  The trek takes you through lush green valleys, steep ravines, plenty of remote villages into a place where time seems to stand still.

 It is a truly unique experience, one that should not be missed.  If you make it to Guatemala and are looking for something different, something that feels connected to the people and places that you see, this is your trek.  It really is a once in a lifetime experience.  Peg it during the right time of year and you can stop in at Todos Santos in time for the fabled horse race.  For more information on this walk and many more visit our website.

See ya on the trail!