Guatemala, my unrivaled queen jewel of Central America…first love and unmatched beauty, the most breathtaking countryside one can lay eyes on… and to discover its mountains is to witness some of the most indescribably beautiful landscapes in the Western Hemisphere. Being here is learning how to live a long and cherished life, how to learn how to breathe again, the Highlands in all its splendour and magnitude. The indigenous Maya are dressed so elegantly, it puts me to shame.

Solala, Lago Atitlan…and Antigua, Guatemala

From Huehuetenango to Panajachel to Antigua is a winding highway that passes through the most majestic Guatemalan landscape, with waterfalls cascading down steep mountains and villages surrounded by verdant corn fields. Over some of the switchbacks you can see all the way to the faint Pacific Ocean, but mainly we are 8000 feet high. It looks cinematic and felt cool, rivaling the precipices of Alaska. September and October is low tourist season in this entire region, which means up to 50% off prices, our comfortable and nice hostel is curiously only Q60 ($8.10 per night) and includes a generously large omelette with avocado, mushroom, sausage…toasted bread, fruit, and refried beans. Weather is excellent, we have not been affected by the hurricane so far. The girl that I am traveling with is British.

I am now in the ancient Spanish capital of Antigua, spent the morning photographing ruins and local people, and having had a Thai spring roll lunch and waiting for my Milk & Honey Bath and Relajante Hot Lava Rocks Massage at Skin Deep Day Spa at the Garden Oasis. I may get a pedicure as well, just a little afternoon treat for my interim day before we go to Honduras and El Salvador. Very early tomorrow morning we plan to visit the bat caves and ruins at Copan, and drop into the north of El Salvador to a small village-town called La Palma. In fact, of this trip I am looking forward to El Salvador the most… the locals are sweet and hardworking, (mostly) honest and easy to get along with.

For the remainder of the day, I will visit an old Guatemalan friend, Jose, who owns a coffee plantation and is interesting because central Guatemala has some of the most superb coffee in the Central American region because of its rich volcanic heritage and spectacular geography (no joke, Mexico cannot compare.) I had been wanting to go to Nicaragua to see the organic work of a sesame seed and macadamia nut cooperative, which sources directly to The Body Shop, as Anita Roddick recommended this to me three years ago. I will skip Belize, though there are friends in Toledo whose grassroots cacao operations I want to visit–especially Green & Blacks— I am not fond of the country at all. People are especially lazy and complacent there, and I think they just make up prices judging by how much they can rip you off.

It is possible that I shuttle all day to hit Costa Rica and Panama, but they aren’t the Third World Central America that usually I fall in love with.