9 Thoughts - Part Three

February 18th, 2018

7. Hola, buenas dias

What I remember most about Mexico is the friendliness and helpfulness of the locals. After what you read in the news, I was very positively surprised. Of course, we bypassed the big cities and followed certain rules and there must have been also a measure of luck. On our drive across the country we came again and again past people who sit on the side of the road all day long next to a small stand at the "Topes" and try to sell enough fruits, vegetables or nuts to feed their families. Our looks into their eyes are always greeted with a friendly smile and greetings.
The same goes for us on the campsites, for example, when we explore the overnight accommodations. Our Spanish is at best no more than basic. Nevertheless, we always try to communicate in the national language - English is hardly spoken here. We quickly realize that our willingness to at least try to express ourselves makes a big difference and is appreciated here. For the everyday questions our Spanish is good enough, but we all wish that we would master the language better to be able to communicate with the locals, to learn more about their lives. Hopefully at the next visit - until then: "muchas gracias para todos y hasta luego".

8. Force of Nature

I am fascinated by volcanoes. So it is no coincidence that my travels lead me to volcanic destinations over and over again: New Zealand, Hawaii, Fuerteventura, Iceland, Nicaragua and now Guatemala. We arrive in Antigua three days before my journey home and that leaves us just enough time to climb the volcano Acatenango. The ascent is really hard. We start at about 2,000 metres above sea level and cover only seven kilometres in just under five hours, but over 1,600 metres in altitude. The lack of physical fitness and the thin air put us to the test physically and mentally. Nevertheless, we all make it to the camp and as soon as we arrive, the sun is shining and the active volcano Fuego - on which you have the best view from Acatenango - thunders away and lets a cloud of ashes rise to the sky. We spend the evening enjoying the view, warming up by the fire (it has become quite cold) and admiring the eruptions of Fuego. The active volcano lives up to its name and we witness several lava eruptions. After a sleepless night in the tent we get up at 4 o' clock in the morning to put the remaining 300 meters of altitude up to the summit behind us in the dark and enjoy the sunrise at 4'000 meters above sea level. These last few meters are another big challenge and it's freezing cold at the top - but it was worth it. The view is gigantic and the sunrise magical. The shapes and colours of the landscape are so unusual due to the volcanic origin and especially for me. Through the power of the eruptions, the glowing lava I become aware of the power of nature again. What a miracle that we exist at all and that we can experience all these moments.

9. It's the People that matter

Four on the road, four weeks, in the van? I think that we were all sceptical about whether this was going well or whether we would end up staying in hostels often or even go separate ways after two weeks. But: we were all positively surprised how well we got along. However, a certain amount of flexibility and openness as well as a not too specific wish list regarding the places of interest and overnight accommodation were necessary. It is clear that in this "short" time not everything is possible and you have to make compromises - "life is a compromise" as Marc reminded us several times a day - so there was plenty of room for good surprises. We knew what we were getting involved in; life in the van is simple, not a luxury hotel with a chef, you wash your own dishes and have little space. Fortunately, the weather was good. In case of rain it would have become quite narrow and maybe a bit uncomfortable.
But the most important thing, in my opinion, is to have such an adventure with the right people. It wouldn't have worked so well in another group. We were the perfect combination of four, which complemented each other very well. Many thanks to you Anouk, Mathias and Marc for letting me experience this unique journey. Thanks also to Douglas for taking us with him, which is not a matter of course, as we noticed.
A huge thanks to camerivan. It was very nice to see how you are travelling and what life on the road brings with it. I wish you all the best for your journey and I am looking forward to hearing / reading / seeing what you will experience.

This article was written by Madlen after 4 weeks of accompanying us through Mexico and Guatemala.