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July’s To Done List
To Done List
Backpacking is full of surprises and adventures. Below is a list of the top things we’ve seen, experienced and accomplished in the month of July. They’re not on our ‘To Do List’ anymore, this is the ‘To Done List’.

1. First Canada Day in Guatemala.

How do you celebrate Canada Day when it seems like no one else is from Canada? After months of meeting travellers from all over the world we had met very few Canadians. We resigned ourselves to celebrating Canada Day just the two of us. Then, a decision to have afternoon beers at the hostel bar led to meeting a group from all over the world that wanted to celebrate with us because one of their own was a fellow Canadian. We then geared up for a night of toasting Canada with every sip. Ingenious shots of maple syrup were poured, and suddenly the whole bar was celebrating with us.

2. First time attending a sound healing session.musichealing1

The sound healing ceremony we attended in Flores, Guatemala was very unique and left us with a lasting impact. The dedicated group of nomads from the Caravana de Cura are travelling Central and South America, performing Sound Healing and massage sessions at a backpacker friendly price. We were happy to record our session, which makes for great meditation or yoga music. Listen here.

3. First time caving by candle light.

Semuc Champey is one of the most amazing sites in Guatemala. The natural pools of clear green water running over white limestone make the slippery climb to the El Mirador Lookout totally worth it. Swimming in the pools was really cool but the caving by candle light was one of the most exciting things we’ve ever done. Our tour included scaling makeshift ladders up slippery vertical rock one handed (don’t let that candle touch the water – you don’t have a replacement!), climbing up a waterfall with minimal help from a rope, and jumping into an underwater black hole in total darkness. We left thrilled, proud, excited and a little bloody while others were ecstatic to see daylight. The day was finished with tubing and a leap of faith from 35 feet into a moving river.

4. First cave tubing.

Leaving Semuc Champey we were excited to see more of Guatemala’s caves. We were happy to hear about the Candeleria Caves, a giant cave network over 23km long. However we had to backtrack a bit, back to Coban, to get to them. All the tour companies in Coban were charging a fortune to take us to the caves, so we decided to go it alone. An exciting journey there, via some of the craziest bus drivers we’ve ever experienced (4 people had to exit due to motion sickess!), resulted in a private tubing tour for just us and our friend Marvyn, who decided to join. The giant cave caverns reminded us all of the Batcave, so this photo had to be taken.

5. First weaving lesson.

In the small town of Nebaj, we were returning to our room when we met Tina selling textiles at the reception desk. We couldn’t buy anything (our bags are stuffed as it is) but we wanted to learn more about traditional Ixil weaving. We organized a lesson, where we learned weaving is much harder then you would first think. To read the whole story see here.

6. First mountain summit.

As we arrived into Todos Santos, our jaws hit the floor when we saw the beautifully scenic mountain landscape. We couldn’t wait to start hiking all the trails around town. After walking the main road into town and scoping our the scenery we chose our destination for the next day: radio towers at the top of one especially tall mountain. We made it to the summit by random luck, following one of the many paths out of town and were surprised to find a little village only minutes from the top. The view on the other side allowed us to see for miles and miles. See more photos of our Todos Santos hikes here.

7. First Marimba recording.

Throughout Guatemala we’ve been interested in recording a Marimba band as Marimba is the countries historical instrument. It’s heard everywhere and very important to the Guatemalan culture. In Xela we were introduced to Marimba Princesita, one of Guatemala’s premier Marimba bands and had the opportunity to record the 9-man band as they practiced for a big performance.

8. First night on top of a volcano.

Since touching down in Mexico at the beginning of this trip, our goal was to climb one of the regions volcanos. It was in Guatemala that we got our chance. We climbed Volcan Tajumulco with a group from Xelha over 2 days. Our ascent to base camp was cold and damp, with none of the spectacular views we were told about. Cloud cover stayed until the middle of the night as we shivered in our tents under 4 layers of clothes. We were rewarded early on day two. As we climbed to the peak using headlamps in the 3am darkness, we could see the sky was clear. Sunrise provided a fantastic view of the entire mountain range surrounding us, and the hike back down in bright sunshine was spectacular.

9. First home away from home.

The first place we stayed that felt like a second home was found on AirBnB. A small eco-cottage on Lake Atitlan that not only lived up to the stunning posted pictures, but surpassed them. Our wonderful host was a pleasant surprise too – she welcomed us to her home and showered us with gifts from her garden. This was her first AirBnB experience too! With a little kitchen, living room, office, yoga area and giant loft bedroom, all surrounded by stunning views of the Lake Atitlan’s 3 volcanos, we were in heaven. We decided to stay an extra week.

The view from our bedroom in Lake Atitlan

10. First birthday outside of Canada (for Bryan).

We celebrated by climbing to the top to Volcan Tajumulco on the weekend before, it was always a dream of Bryan’s to stand on top of the world and see as far as the eye can see. We then planned an awesome dinner and drinks on Bryan’s actual birthday at our new place on Lake Atitlan.