Tuesday, February 06, 2018

A cool visit to Coban, Guatemala

As I mentioned in my post on Semuc Champey, we hired a driver and van from Otto Archila (otitoursplus@gmail.com) to take us up to the mountain city of Coban for three days. We took the slow road up on roads that looked more like stream beds and must have only averaged 15 kilometers an hour for most of the way. I really can't believe the van made it and our driver was exhausted at the end of the trip. None of the online directions gave us any idea of the difficulty so we arrived really too late at Semuc Champey and it took 11 hours to get to our hotel that night.
Tiny but often old churches appeared at the small villages

We saw very few vehicles on the road, generally only the
vans that provide public transportation.

This is a very rural area with few homes and only a couple
of "villages".  A vehicle going by is a source of
entertainment and everyone was surprised to see us.

As you can see these photos are blurred as they were taken
out of the window but I loved this family sitting in front of
their house - the few vehicles provide some entertainment.

The lovely view from the one "restaurant" we saw in 4 hours - it was a welcome sight!
Happily our hotel, Don Juan Matalbatz, was welcoming and comfortable. The desk clerk walked us over to his restaurant recommendation, El Penescal, and it was excellent. By this time I had every bit of clothing I had brought with me on! That night I slept in my fleece...and every blanket in the room.
Our driver and van in the hotel courtyard.

The view from our room showed the top of the Cathedral
in the main square.

Renate found a cart selling clementines (with seeds) but
Next day, after breakfast at the hotel (not that great), our driver took us to Orquigonia. This beautiful reserve has hundreds of orchids saved from deforestation throughout Guatemala by the family that lives there. Our young enthusiastic guide gave us a tour and we learned lots about these fascinating flowers. And of course, took tons of photos.  One thing we all found amazing was the tiny tiny orchids that we would never know existed.  The tour ended with a delicious cup of tea.
We drove back to the city to have lunch at Kardamomass - a beautiful restaurant that features the local cardamon seeds in many ways. We started off by enjoyed their excellent coffee flavored with it. A warming fire near our table took away a little of the chill.
In the afternoon we drove out to Chicoj for a tour of the coffee cooperative plantation.  This huge operation is run by local men and women who live right on the place. Our guide was very .informative and showed us the whole process. It was all in Spanish but Dave did a pretty good job translating. We sampled the coffee afterwards and bought some of their beans.
That night we had a excellent meal and experience at La Abadia. This small 5 table restaurant is first class and the food and service wouldn't have been out of place in Boston or NYC. The owner and chef previously had a restaurant in Venezuela but were driven out of there by the deteriorating political situation.
Our last day we had breakfast at El Penescal and took a MUCH easier road back to the Rio Dulce. It was quite scenic also as we went through the coffee growing area. We left at 9:30 and were home at 2:30.

Closeups are fun

The variety is amazing

The usual tourist photo opportunity

I had a hard time picking out only a few of these photos

This transparent butterfly was so gorgeous

Renate at Kardomomass

Dessert at Kardomomass - a cheese cake with tomatoes!
The group with our guide at lunch at Kardomomass
The view up into the hills at the Chicoq Cooperative Finca
The map of the coffee plantation at Chicoj

Our charming guide at Chicoq
Jim, Renate, Heather, Linda, Ellen, Dave and Scott. 
This is me in every piece of clothing I brought
having dinner at El Penescal Restaurant,
our first night
Busy streets in Coban.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Semuc Champey, Guatemala

My next post will give all the details of our 3 day trip to Coban. Here's some pictures from our visit to Semuc Champey, a remote beautiful series of pools and waterfalls in the mountains of Guatemala. It took us 7 hours to get there, 3 hours on a road that looked like a stream bed. Unfortunately it was overcast, cool and too late in the day to enjoy the wonderful swimming and hiking. The walk up to a viewing place where you can see all the pools at one time would have taken us another couple of hours. But this is a place we hope to come back to and stay for a few days - in warmer sunnier weather.
Dave & Ellen of Cordelia, Scott & Heather, Jim & Renate of Emerald Seas, our friend
Linda on Just Now didn't make this group shot.
This bridge tested our drivers fortitude - and ours too as we
were standing up in the back of the cattle car!
Here's the view on the way back. Only one
vehicle at a time!
It was fairly cold but I dressed even warmer
as I was still recovering from bronchitis
Looking down the valley
A series of paths and steps followed along
the pools.
The water varies in color and would be even more amazing
if we'd had any sun.

Water cascades down from pool to pool and
you can see the steep cliffs that form the
On our cloudy misty day the water often looks pale green.

A raging river comes down the narrow canyon and drops
underground, reappearing after several pools. These pools
are fed by a multitude of streams that pour down the sides of
the narrow valley. 

Renate and Jim pose with our guide.

The small pools are fringed with lovely ferns.

A few hardy young souls used the waterfalls to slide from
one pool to another.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Christmas in Guatemala

Enjoying a coffee at a cafe overlooking the busy street.
 We arrived in Antigua rather ill. Heather came down with something just after the Holiday Party and ended up in the ER in Florida. It was bronchitus not pneumonia thank goodness but the regimen on prednisone and antibiotics haven't completed a cure still on 12/29. Scott has caught it too so we're quite a pair. But we rallied enough to walk around Antigua admiring the beautiful Christmas decorations and Scott got 6 fillings done by a good local dentist. On the 23rd we took the long bus ride down to the Rio and are now on Scott Free. We enjoyed a very nice cruiser pot luck here at our Marina on Christmas Day with some old friends. But we're still dreaming of a White Christmas!

Antigua is lit up for the holidays. We joined the crowd celebrating a live Nativity play in front of .La Merced Church

It was a beautiful scene.

The 3 Kings arrived with great pomp and

This is the center of the main square at night in Antigua in front of the Cathedral. Lots of families are out walking around and playing.

Doris putting out the pot luck buffet. She made
the roast turkey and gravy.
Kathi, Luis and Daphne (owner of Tortugal Resort)
Scott in his shirt from the San Blas islands with a few other

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

End of the Year Travels

Scott, Heather, Nick, Tommy and Zoë hiking up above Palo Alto
This fall Scott and I spent a week each in Palo Alto, CA and Dallas, TX. The first was with our daughter Zoë, son in law George and 2 grandchildren Nick and Tommy. We got to see Tommy's school play "The Stinky Cheese Man" and visited San Francisco's Golden Gate Park.  Next we were off to Dallas to see our oldest son Joshua, daughter in law Michal and grandchildren Daniel, Cookie, Maya, Jonathan and Shira. A visit with them involves cooking, playing board games and watching movies - non stop!
We had Thanksgiving at home with James, Sean, Will, Will's parents Cathy & Gary, Larry, Luke and Christine. Great long weekend with a dusting of snow, fires in the fireplace and stove - and lots of great food (and of course board games).
Maya, Cookie and Heather love art!

Shira gave us all some advice.

Jonathan and Daniel prefer electronic media.

And so does Heather at times.
Another long weekend in Concord MA followed with a dinner on Friday night to celebrate two birthdays (Scott's and Bill Fonvielle's) and the Annual Holiday Open House on Sunday. This party has been going on since 1970!
Larry, Will, Sean, James, Scott and Christine at Thanksgiving
Bill, Carole, Russ, Heather, Marty, Debra and Scott at the Capitol Grille
Sean & James
Declan, Will and Sean at the Holiday Party
Doug, Carole and Nick
Jesse, Barbara, Scott, Patrick and Molly
Bill, Debra and Marty
Dick, Gene and Julie
Jeannie, Karen and Leslie
Marty, Nick, Heather, Leslie and Dave
Then we packed up and flew south to Florida to visit first Julie & Peter in Punta Gorda and then Uli & Thomas in Titusville. Both have been cruising friends for many years. After a wonderful week there we hoped on a plane to Guatemala and on to the old capitol Antigua.  We've been enjoying three days here before taking the bus down to the Rio Dulce and back to Scott Free tomorrow. So many photos - here are those thru Florida!
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah!
Peter & Julie get a hug!
The view from Peter & Julie's condo in Punta Gorda
Enjoying ice cream on Scott's Birthday - 70 now!
With our cruiser friends Uli & Thomas in Titusville
Their Christmas Card Photo on Toriba