Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Shop Till We Drop

If these hats had been for sale, we might have bought one!

I really regret not buying a lot of things, these wooden
painted carved animals among them

The quilts were fabulous, all pieced together with
handwoven fabrics and rightfully expensive, although
obviously cheap by U.S. standards

A close look at the painted animals

We couldn't resist these wooden "puzzles". They come
apart and have hidden compartments inside - very lovely too

You wouldn't lose your child in a crowd
wearing these

We did resist buying one of these tamales for a snack and
waited for lunch. They did look good; lots of flavors.

Isn't this a handsome machine - it's a grinder I think

Lunch - can't believe how enormous - and delicious

Just looking...

This is like the clowns in the VW bug

I can't believe they all got in there

Restaurante el Pesca D'Or where we had our excellent
lunch. The tangle of wires over the streets here are

Even  though I'm wearing a traditional blouse
and headdress I don't blend in

As we head out on the dock to our boat these women
rush to make a last minute sale

Our boat driver waited for us patiently

These women were incredibly persistent and it payed off
I bought another blouse at the last second.
One of the volcanoes with a fisherman in front

Heading back to Panajachel after a great day

Dinner at the aptely named Sunset Cafe

Monday, January 28, 2013

A Day on Lake Atilan

Evangelical Sects have made large inroads into the supposedly
all Catholic population

"Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atilan is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes  It is too much of a good thing." Aldous Huxley
We don't agree (and probably neither did he). We hired a small tour boat and driver to take us around Lake Atilan for a day. We stayed in Panajachel for 3 nights at Hotel Regis but there are many villages and towns around the lake, each with it's own atmosphere and traditions. We visited 3 other towns; Santa Clara La Laguna, San Pedro and Santiago. The first two are local villages of course but have a heavy influx of "hippies" and those seeking a spiritual or otherwise alternate lifestyle. There were "Tin Tin" cafes, near east cuisine, signs for yoga, and such.
There is a lovely walk along the lake at Panajachel
We like Santiago the best. It is a lively local city with few tourists that we saw and only one larger local restaurant, Restaurante el Pesca D'Or, which was excellent.
At Santa Clara we visited a women's cooperative and had a demonstration of the process of creating textiles from scratch, which they do here. Their products were beautiful but probably appropriately pricey. Heather bought a traditional embroidered blouse and promptly put it on for the day.
At San Pedro we stopped for coffee and an enterprising and charming young woman sold Heather a long tie which they use to bind up their
Picture opportunity for many of the tourists or locals
hair. She arranged Heather's hair to match her's.
Our "docent" explained the process of
converting raw cotton into finished thread
In this cooperative they use natural dies.

After harvesting the cotton balls they beat them flat

Colorful display of their products, matched up already

We had an adorable onlooker

Heather couldn't resist this beautiful blouse

Down by the lake white herons preened

My friend arranged my hair to match

Curious kids everywhere

Tin Tin Cafe, always a favorite

We couldn't resist this photo opportunity
We wandered around each town enjoying the views and the local people. Of course vendors constantly attempted to entice us to buy - and in fact we often did. Both Jeanette and Heather bought blouses, scarfs and skirt material. We can both dress up native style from top to toe.
There were hedges of these orange flowers

The Lake is also a laundromat
Jeanette and Alan enjoying our private boat cruise

A group of kids wait for a bus -  notice the girls are in native
dress but none of the boys

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Muy Caliente! Hot Waterfalls

The water was calm in the river as we passed into the lake
at the Castle

Honoree took all of these pictures - here of our group before
taking off
Group leader Ella organized a half day tour to the Hot Falls for everyone at Tortugal and despite the cool overcast conditions we set out in fine spirits. It was calm as we headed up the river but once we entered the huge lake at the end the waves built up and we were headed straight into them. We all took a pounding for about 15 minutes before Walt called for a slow down to give our buts and spines a rest.  It took us about 40 minutes to get to our destination - a rather deserted looking "resort" on the lake edge. We walked down a dirt road to a small farm where we were supposed to get a tractor ride up to the falls. The tractor was in for repair so we took turns in the back of a pickup truck down to the parking lot. A elderly guide led us down the muddy path to the falls where we gingerly stripped down to our bathing suits and entered the water.
The whole pool is often hot we hear, but after all the cool weather we've had, only the falls and the hot spring entrance areas around the sides were hot. Plenty of heat for all though. Standing under the falls was like being in your "hot as you can stand" shower. There are a lot of minerals in the water but there wasn't an unpleasant smell.
Everyone soaked and talked. It was very relaxing and my face softened down considerable. It looked much better after this experience.
The ride quickly turned into a Amusement Park ride with
waves that bounced us around like crazy.
Several people climbed up the falls and one daring man (who'd explored the depth first) dove off the cliffs. But a young woman, Juliette, who was on her own and was there when we arrived, slipped and fell on her way down. Her foot was badly cut and she feared she had broken one or more of her toes. She had hit her head as well. Two young men carried her out to the road to get help.
After our long soak we walked back toward the main road and stopped in a local bar to get a cold beer.
Our truck arrived to take us back to our boat and we discovered that Juliette was stranded there with her foot unattended and bleeding. We bundled her up and took her back with us to the
You can get a better idea of the size if you can see the people in the water under the falls

That's our group testing out the hot sands in one corner
The heat came up through the floor of the pool and when
it did - it was hot!

Others who'd been there before said that normally the whole
pool is hot but it has been cool and rainy so the center
a bit chilly. Under the falls themselves it was as hot as you
could stand
Rio Dulce to the local clinic.
A few nights later she came over to have dinner with us at Tortugal and she had received appropriate treatment and was feeling much better. She is German and is hoping to get a crew position on a boat heading somewhere with her American boyfriend.
There are a lot of young people with backpacks seeing the world here, mostly Europeans and Kiwi/Australians. American young men and women are trying to work 60 hours a week with two weeks vacation. Our children among them. Heather was one of the "see the world backpackers" in her youth and she feels very lucky to have done it. She served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Philippines from 1966 - 1968 and then on Peace Corps Staff for another year. Afterwards she traveled extensively in Asia, Middle East, Europe and Africa.
We soaked for an hour and a half in our scenic hot tub,
On the way out we stopped for a cold beer and had this
one dog audience.

Studying Spanish in Antigua, Guatemala

A group portrait of the students at Ixchel our week

Alan and Jeanette Feuer on the shuttle up to El Tenedor del
Cerro restaurant

Heather and her Maestra Isabel at their work station

One of the beautiful churches still standing and in constant
use here in Antigua
First I should explain that we didn't start this sailing season alone. Our friends Alan and Jeanette Feuer joined us for the first two weeks. You all met them in our posts on our visits to their beautiful Ann's Point Inn the last two Junes. Ann's Point Inn is located in Bass Harbor on Mt. Desert Island right near Acadia National Park.
Scott flew down to Guatemala 1/3/13 to work on the boat, up "on the hard" at Ram Marina on the Rio Dulce. I spent a week in Washington and nearby in Maryland visiting our two younger sons and my sister Paula. On 1/10 I joined Alan and Jeanette in Ft. Lauderdale and the next morning we flew to Guatemala. Scott took the bus up from the Rio and we all met in Antigua. We stay at Chez Daniel there and it's a terrific place (www.chezdaniel.com). They let you use their fully equipped kitchen so we usually made either lunch or dinner there.
As you learned from my first two blog posts this year we met Bill and Mary at Pena del Sol restaurant and had a fun day there. They have live entertainment most nights and we enjoyed a number of meals there. Our other favorite places were Hector's and El Tenedor del Cerro, for our comments read our reviews on Trip Adviser. We just started doing this.
We chose our Spanish school from the internet. Ixchel (www.ixchelschool.com) worked out very well for us that week. We learned a lot and had a good time. We each had our own instructor for four hours a day, 9am - 1pm, Monday thru Friday. The following week our friends Alan and Jeanette continued with another week at Zamora Academy. They changed schools because our one problem with Ixchel was that it was crowded and therefore rather noisy. Zamora has a larger facility but otherwise the same methods. I think our cost was $30 per day (I'll check that but that's pretty close). Both offer many day trips in the afternoon and longer trips on the weekend.
The women mostly wear traditional dress 

Flowers are everywhere and are sold on the streets and in
flower shops. The rose petals made a carpet on the street

The colors of the houses are really lovely and sometimes
dappled in a lighter shade, as here.
During Alan and Jeanette's second week at Zamora they toured a coffee plantation up in the hills around Antigua to learn the process of growing and preparing the coffee beans. They enjoyed the coffee tasting afterwards too. Alan took another option, a bicycle tour, and ended up with his own teacher exploring 6 small villages around Antigua, just the two of them. His Maestro also took him to the hospital where he volunteers. They both highly recommend Zamora.
During our first week in Antigua we walked out of town and up to the prominent viewing spot with a large cross on a hillside. This is a popular picnic destination for both tourists and Guatemalans.
The details around this entrance to a private home are 

And I love the colors!

This functioning church had a nice park in front
A pretty brass detail 

Another smaller but lovely functioning church