Guatemala is often described by travellers as their favourite country in Central America.
The country is everything you anticipate with colourful traditional dress, cobble-stoned colonial towns, shimmering lakes and active volcanoes surrounding locals who seemed to be oblivious to the perils of lava.
But on this occasion, we were on a tour and our tour leader was a shocker. At the time, I thought it was the worst thing that could possibly happen.
I was ready to get off the tour, forfeit our money and make it on our own.
But each new day, I stopped myself from leaving. As a group we spent more time ignoring the optional activities to look at yet another church from colonial times.
We stayed because we made friends.
We stayed because each day we came together around a jungle campfire, a roof-top bar in Antigua, early morning walks up a volcano, or laughing about eating cone-shaped food in Panajachel.
It was where we were meant to be. Playing card games, trying to get a movie working, going through photos or trying to find a good spot to eat.
When you travel with people, it seems that the to-do-list can take a proverbial jump and you open up for one-of-a-kind experiences. There are many towns to see dotted around Lake Atitlán like the new-age town of San Marcos or backpackers haven of San Pedro.
Then there was also our non-planned option of a boat ride to the back entrance of a national park.
We walked across loads of hanging bridges over bush, which covets camera lens caps. Navigating a path we were all uncertain about including the promise of a return boat ride.
Our skipper did come back!
Writing this a few months later I look back on Guatemala with kinder eyes.
Remembering the best Mayan ruins I am likely to ever see.
The colourful (if touristy) offerings at Chichicastenango Market.
Flying paper planes with Jorge and making tortillas with our homestay family in San Jorge de Laguna.
And one of my favourite places – Rio Dulce.
I’ll be back Guatemala.
I want to swim in Semuc Champey and take a slow-sail around your coast. Hike a couple more volcanoes followed by eating your almost-everywhere-available fried chicken.
Until then put a few more marshmallows on the lava rocks for me.
Listening to jungle beats on Frisky Radio.