Ziplines & Bus Rides

Waking up at 5:00 a.m. may seem a bit extreme, especially for a group of high schoolers, but that didn’t stop some of our SSTTers. Around 10 students rose with the sun to plunge into Lago Atitlan. The water, though frigid at first, quickly became much warmer than the air around our students. Luckily the rising sun provided great photo opportunities for the students as they snapped some pictures of each other in the water.

Leaving our hotel in San Juan on Lago Atitlan was hard, to say the least. It’s difficult to leave a place so beautiful, but it’s also a sign of our time coming to an end here in Guatemala. Tomorrow will mainly consist of readjusting and reflecting on our time together as well as attending our last two class sessions and going to a park. Time has flown for this group these past two weeks. Many of them have mentioned how it feels as though these two weeks have felt both incredibly short, and yet they feel like they’ve known each other for far longer than they’ve been together.

So, after breakfast this morning, all twenty-five of us hopped on a boat for the other side of Lago Atitlan. The boat ride across Atitlan (about 10 kilometers) takes roughly thirty minutes, but no one was complaining, especially when being surrounded by mountains and volcanoes in the middle of a pristine body of water.

Before heading back to Guatemala City, however, we made an extended stop for some zip-lining and lunch at the Atitlan Nature Reserve. We quickly and excitedly signed our lives away on a certificate to enter this adrenaline-filled reserve. We had around an hour of free time to explore the butterfly geodome and the trails before getting suited up in our harnesses and helmets.

The hike to our first zip-lining platform was a 25-minute uphill journey. Students bravely crossed suspension bridges and a towering waterfall to reach our destination. At the first platform, we waited for our guides to take the first crack at the zip line. A few of them needed to get across first to ensure that we’d brake safely upon arriving at the other side. Our program assistants and leaders were stuck near the end of the line which ensured that we’d be able to watch each student fly across the ravine. We continued flying back and forth across a ravine overlooking Lago Atitlan eight times, with some zips being 40 seconds long and some as short as 10 seconds. There was an eagerness to continue the sky-borne adventure but everything must come to an end. Safe to say we have some adrenaline junkies in the group.

Who knew that after an hour and half of zip-lining and high-ropes-course crossing that these twenty students could be so hungry. We ate lunch under the plant-covered canopy of the nature reserve. A distant relative of the raccoon scrambled around outside where we ate. Some notable events from lunch include a ferocious quarrel between two Coatti, and uncovering an ancient method of eating spaghetti.

If you haven’t noticed yet, we’ve had the best luck when traveling to and from activities, especially ones out of Guatemala City (news flash, we haven’t). So who would have guessed that after our first eight-hour travel to Atitlan, it would take another six to return to SEMILLA? Certainly not these twenty students. But luckily, they were able to keep their active minds at bay by playing games like Contact, heads up, hangman, and simply having conversations about what life will look like after SSTT. This evening it’s good to be “home” at SEMILLA, and back in our familiar rooms.

-Alexander Koscher