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Guatemala

Volcano Challenge and Community Development

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Looking for something more flexible? Get in touch and we'll chat through options more suited to you.

Discover Guatemala

Majestic and glorious.

'Glorious Guatemala' has been a huge success, the volcano trek tested the MidLifers with their summit ascent...and the project work gave a huge sense of satisfaction. Repeat this for 2020? Yes indeed.

Just so you know, Guatemala is uber cool - think 'shabby chic Cuba' on steroids...groovy cafés, great music and ancient culture.

In a nutshell - we are going to take some selfies with a colonial city backdrop, summit a volcano (non-active), cool off in the breathtaking crater lake of Atitlan, before bumping along in the chicken bus to the glorious sandy beaches of Monterrico, where we will contribute to a spot of community development and, fingers crossed, witness the end of the turtle breeding season.

Who's coming?


This MidLifer has an expedition feel to it, as we are going to be on the move experiencing the volcanic core, lakes and beaches - trekking, exploring and contributing.


Trip Itinerary

Our 8-night, 9-day trip will start in the beautiful colonial city of Antigua, where we will catch our breath, meet each other (think first day of school), and sample a few local sundowners. From here we will explore the city, culture and the lake before summiting the Acatenango Volcano and contributing to community life beach-side in Monterrico. Sound good?

This is what we've lined up...

Overview

Guatemala

Welcome to Guatemala

Just so you know this is one of the 'current happening destinations' of central America. Some of you may have been there "back in the day" and I can assure you not much has changed. You are still going to find local dress, fabulous markets, chicken buses, the puffing volcano of Fuego, coffee plantations, and stunning Mayan ruins. The old pace of life still dominates ... just what we need.

Accommodation

This trip will include a mixture of stylish boutique hotels, pop-up tents and a hip beach side hostel.

Food

Breakfast will be provided and included in the cost but lunch and supper will be extra - out and about...

Mon/Tues

Antigua Arrive, explore city and Lake Atitlan

Settle in and explore

We will be picked up from the airport and taken to our hotel in the centre of old town Antigua. Here we will meet Tim who will be in charge of steering us around the country.

Antigua is a former capital and boasts an impressive selection of colonial relics in a magnificent setting - imagine streetscapes of pastel façades beneath three towering volcanoes. Many old ecclesiastical and civic structures are beautifully renovated, while others retain their tumbledown charm.

The next day we will be up bright and early to explore the oh so chic city (a UNESCO World Heritage Site, BTW) and if brave, walk up to the Mirador viewing point (you know you will, first one to the top gets a prize) before exploring the enormous Lago Atitlan.

Just so you know - Lago Atitlan is at the heart of the Mayan culture. Here you will have a cool down dip, visit local Mayan ruins and take part in a traditional Mayan ceremony to give thanks and promote good health and well-being. Welcome to the soul of Guatemala, literally.

The villages we will travel through still hold on to a strong indigenous identity, where many of the local women still wear huipiles embroidered with colourful birds or flowers. It really is stunning.

If time - back in Antigua, we can visit the chocolate museum - if for nothing else to stock up on provisions for the trek ...

Accommodation

Here we are going to stay in a very cool hotel in the center of old town. It is run by an organisation we have partnered up with called Nonio de Guatemala, where all the profits go back into funding local schools.

Check it out - it's dreamy, this is your treat! The Good Hotel

Double or single rooms available.

Food

Breakfast included in cost. Lunch and dinner is extra, out and about.

Wed + Thurs

Volcano Summit Acatenango Volcano

Up we go...

Leaving the Good Hotel at 8.00am we will travel out on a one hour drive to reach the Mayan village of Soledad which is the start of the Acatenango trail.

....Brace yourself for an overnight hike to summit the Acatenango Volcano, which towers above the landscape at nearly 4,000 metres.

The ascent winds its way up through four distinct ecosystems, starting with a tapestry of fertile agricultural fields where local farmers harvest corn, flowers and snow peas, into an old tropical cloud forest that harbours a diversity of flora and fauna, emerging into sparse, high, alpine forest that reveals views of six additional volcanoes, making it a great spot for lunch.

Aside from providing panoramic views of the entire region, Acatenango will give us a birds-eye-view of the nearby (and the very active) Fuego volcano which has been blowing off steam since colonial times.

The following morning we will complete the summit which should take about an hour. At the top we will find 360° views of Fuego, the Antigua Valley and the distant Guatemalan highlands that stretch all the way to the border of Mexico.

After many a still and peaceful moment at the top, we will trek back on a 3 hour descent and head back to The Good Hotel for the night.

Awesome.

Accommodation

Overnight camping volcano side and then back to The Good Hotel in Antigua.

Fri - Mon

Monterrico Beach Life + School Development

Head west to the beach

On Friday we will hop on board one of Guatemala's notorious "chicken buses" and head out to the hip little town of Monterrico on the Pacific coast. Life here has a slow, tropical vibe to it and is surrounded by the Biotopo Monterrico–Hawaii, a nature reserve that embraces a 20km-long surf beach, home to turtle-nesting grounds, and wildlife rich wetlands. A fun, chilled and beautiful place to be based.

We aim to get here by lunch and check into our beach side hostel. We will then explore a bit before we meet the community leader from the local school who will talk us through our project, where we are literally going to roll up our sleeves and get stuck in...are you ready?

This is our chance to engage with the local community - to be so much more than a tourist...

The Curvina National School would like us to upgrade some of their school facilities. We have scoped out two potential projects that would significantly enhance the physical environment of the school, making it a safer and nicer place for the kids.

The first task is to mend the gutting across the main porch into the school yard. It is 30 metres long and currently does not function properly, overflowing and quickly making the school yard slippery and hazardous.

The second is to erect sun screens across the basketball hard court. Right now when the sun beats down it makes the school yard a very inhospitable environment. Our aim is to reclaim the space for the kids. We will engage local builders to prep these projects, e.g. digging holes and setting concrete, sourcing materials, so the project is ready for the final push when we arrive on site.

Afternoons/free time - lots to do here from kayaking through the mangroves and surfing to visiting the ARCAS Turtle & Wildlife Sanctuary, where hopefully we will be able to see some baby turtles making their first dash for the sea.

Accommodation

El Delphin Hostel - beach side with pool, restaurant and bar. Accommodation will be in single sex dorm rooms – max 3 per room. Bathrooms have western style WC and showers with cold water.

Food

Breakfast included at the hostel. Lunch and dinner will be extra in one of the local restaurants.

Tues

Departure Day Transfer back to airport

Airport Transfer


Early morning departure by private taxi/minivan to Guatemala International airport (3 hours).

Trip Details & Costs

We can only take 10, so it will be on a first come, first served basis...

Any questions email me at: milly@theleap.co.uk

Exciting!

May 2021

2021: 10 May

Costs

Shared room - £2150
Antigua + Volcano trek + Monterrico Beach
2021: £2150

Single room - £2350
Antigua + Volcano trek + Monterrico Beach
2021: £2350

Please note there is limited availability for a single room, so be flexible.

Community development

We will contribute to a bite-sized, effective school development project.

Physical challenge

Summit the Acatenango Volcano at 4000 metres.

Culture

From the colonial city of Antigua, to the stunning villages of Lake Aticlan.

Off grid destination

Definitely a destination for the intrepid explorer.

Time in, Time out

The itinerary will follow its plan but we promise there will be time for you to chill and do your own thing.

MidLifer Favourites

  • Kayak through the Mangrove Forest.
  • Surf the big rollers on Monterrico's beach.
  • Turtle, whale and dolphin watching.
  • Quad bike along the beach.

Central America has recently come back in favour with the discerning traveller as they look for pastures less travelled. Pastures where there is adventure, history, culture and NGOs responsibly contributing to community and conservation issues. Guatemala delivers on all fronts and we have our team in place to pull it all together.

The Guatemala Team

Our MidLife co-ordinators in Guatemala will be Tim Poullain-Patterson, Gabriel Gonzalez, (who delivered our programs in Venezuela for many years, including leading adventure expeditions into the Gran Sabana and Orinoco Delta) together with Grace Hilling, a graduate in Environmental Sciences, who came from upstate New York to Monterrico two years ago.

Leaper's Highlights

Have a read of what our current Leapers are doing around the world to get a flavour of Leap life...

Misaotra and veloma Madagascar Ellie Harland

Day trips in Cusco and the final project begins Aela Morris

Farming and Teaching in the Karina Community Aela Morris

Namibia week 1: Camera traps, hiking and tree babies Millie Edwards

Settling into Madagascar Life Ellie Harland

Ex Head-Hunters and Mulu National Park Ellie Walton

Watch our videos

Guatemala

Showing you around Antigua

Guatemala

Best of Guatemala MidLife

"Their passion and committment was infectious."

Being at Oana really was one of the happiest and best experiences of my life and I am going back in 2020.

The hands on conservation work included removing old fencing to enable wildlife migration, building a wildlife hide, putting out hay mangers and setting camera traps for wildlife monitoring - all of which was great fun. On our last day we visited the local village where we had a soup kitchen and had 90 children come along. The children were unforgettable, singing and dancing with huge smiles on their faces.

- Elaine Mackensie Yates

"Soul and mind rebooted and the most amazing group of new friends"

I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with the sleeping arrangements and roughing it, especially as I’m a contact user and need clean hands and a mirror to get them in, but it wasn’t a problem and all the things I worried about before I left were forgotten once I was there.

I had to pinch myself that we actually swam with manta rays and whale sharks and saw the most perfect beaches and yet balanced this with making other peoples lives better on ‘work days’, when we painted a school and health clinic and made bricks for a school build project.

- Emma O'Grady

"An extraordinary and memorable trip"

If you are feeling motivated to make a difference and looking for an off grid adventure, have a look at The Leap’s website.

If you enjoy a challenge and want to feel intrepid, you can join a group of like minded individuals for an extraordinary and memorable trip, organised for you by experts. I cannot recommend The Leap more highly.

- Penny Mountbatten

"The trip exceeded my expectations."

When I signed up I was a little apprehensive as I only knew one person and wasn’t sure how the dynamics of the group would work. As it turned out the group could not have gelled better. The trip exceeded my expectations. I felt we had the chance to give something to the local communities as well as have some fun.

I would highly recommend doing a MidLife Leap – super-duper organised, with attention to detail which meant we were all able to relax and enjoy every minute as we had nothing to think or worry about. It was the most fantastic amazing opportunity that I feel blessed to have experienced.

- Nicci Caswell

"Quality time with girlfriends, old and new. "

Having not been backpacking at the traditional backpacking age this MidLife Leapers' trip was an opportunity too good to pass up. It was a chance to leave the husband and kids behind, to experience a little bit of what kids do while travelling and to spend quality time with girlfriends, old and new.

I was initially attracted by the opportunity to help conserve the turtles and, despite being there in the turtle ‘low season’, we were exceptionally lucky to be involved in locating and moving a nest of recently laid eggs and to watch newly hatched turtles being released into the ocean. A totally unforgettable experience. At Cirenas we met some inspiring young Ticos and I would love to go back in a year or two to see where their vision and hard work has got them.

Thank you Milly, and Chris on the ground, for organising such a fabulous trip for us. We loved it all - the zip wire, the cloud forest, the baby sloths and the anteater, the turtles, the absolutely delicious food wherever we went, and the scary light aircraft to get us home. An amazing trip.

- LIza Curtis

"Incredible camaraderie and kindness"

During our time we slept in dorms, washed out of a bucket, painted a school, planted shrubs and trees for nesting turtles, swam with whale sharks and manta ray. What struck me through all of our incredible experiences was the camaraderie and kindness of everyone. No-one thought of themselves first. Mosquito spray was given to your pal before you used it yourself. And we're tough old birds! No whingeing at all which was quite something for a bunch of mums who have got used to a comfortable way of live back at home.

The Leap's people on the ground are vital to the smooth-running of anything so off-grid and they found the dream team who were largely locals and knew exactly how the islands ticked and what would work. I think it's brilliant to 'take the leap', venturing outside your comfort zone and realising that at 40/50/60 you've still got what it takes.

- Emma Cripwell

"How we laughed .. I felt reinvigorated"

It was all I had hoped for and with much more. I felt I had a glimpse of a gap year which was exactly what I had wanted. I loved staying in the hostel at Monteverde, testing my nerve on the zip wires and finding I could do it. A great mix of fun and learning.

Throughout we were looked after with kindness and thought. Gently pushing us out of our comfort zones from where I feel we all flew away from our cosy safe nests! In all this I think the Midlife Leap is very clever. We were able to experience a country, get under the skin of it and see it properly, feel comfortable without it seeming we were on a ‘holiday’. Which we weren’t . Volunteering and meeting locals and having Chris guiding us through it all made the ordinary extraordinary . Milly you are brilliant and cajoled and encouraged us keeping up any flagging spirit.

- Nicola Hussey

"Reflect and Reset"

Although I had been promised true wilderness, it wasn’t until we finally arrived in camp that I properly understood that this was exactly what we were getting. Completely off grid, in beautiful surroundings, we were made incredibly welcome by Red and Dre, who then proceeded to put us to work!

What was so extraordinary about the trip was that not only did we feel that what we were doing, along with all the other volunteers, really would make a difference in helping to transform and rewild the landscape in this remote corner of Namibia, but also that by being there as individuals, with no other halves or children to worry about or manage, it was a chance to reflect and to reset. I came home a changed person and cannot recommend the experience highly enough. If you can, just do it!

- Lucy Walsh-Waring

"The most rewarding and valuable trip of my life"

My trip to Namibia will be the platform for the rest of my life. It was vitally important for me to be challenged, tested and taken far away from home. The environment in Namibia is so far removed from the privileged life I lead in England and the enormous personal strain from family illnesses and teenage demands. Namibia was so utterly dramatic in its beauty and so humbling in its simplicity. To be ‘unplugged’ from my life was incredible. It made me ‘regroup’ amongst nature that is so pure - I felt honoured to be there.

Living in tents and being part of a group was fantastic fun. Getting to know myself in that environment was valuable and liberating. So many fears were dispelled by the whole experience.

Thank you for organising a fantastic trip with love and laughter! Thank you for letting me rest when I needed to and encouraging me to ‘push on’ when it mattered. Thank you for the most fabulous memories and happy times.

- Sara Koe

"Extraordinary and inspiring"

On arrival the trepidation and pre-match nerves soon disappeared and I realised it was the best decision I had ever made. The photos are amazing, but to be there is even better. Having never had a gap year, been camping, been away without family, been to Africa or known anyone on the trip beforehand I was taking a big Leap into the unknown…..and I LOVED every minute. It was a wonderful and unique experience.

I now miss waking up in camp every morning, chatting and laughing with a very special group of now lifelong friends, being inspired by the amazing Dre and Red, looking at the beautiful stars, trekking to the top of mountains to admire the never ending breathtaking views.

The white water rafting and camping on the side of the Orange River towards the end of the 9 days enhanced what had already become the most phenomenal trip. I feel everyone should now make that Midlife Leap and then truly understand why it is so extraordinary and inspiring….

- Alice Fisher

"Meaningful adventure has been a wonderful experience"

Going on The Leap MidLife was a great decision for me: spending time with a very entertaining and engaging group of people in the amazing and ancient landscape of Namibia on a meaningful adventure has been a wonderful experience.

Oana is a very special conservation reserve, and the passion, vision and determination of the camp managers has inspired a long term make-a-difference approach in us all. Although I have left Namibia and am now back in England, the memories of a fantastic and happy community thrown together for a purpose under the African skies will stay with me for ever.

- Carrie Watson

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