Sunday, October 31, 2010

Day 20 - Lago Atitlán - Panajachel to San Pedro to Santiago de Atitlan and back

RobT:  We decided to take in the sites and culture of the small villages around Lake Atitlán. The towns are called "Los apóstoles" because they all have biblical names. The lake is absolutely stunning in beauty and quite large! It would take several hours to circumnavigate the lake. The lake is surrounded by volcanoes.  The only way to get to the villages was by boat.  We hired a private boat (15 USD for a 1 hr tour) to San Pedro.  Toured San Pedro.

 Not sure what Rob is looking at ....

 A whole boat to ourselves.

Opulent homes (owned by foreigners) and hotels along the shore of Lago Atitlán.

Ancient Atitlán-type fishing boat still used today.

Next we took a public boat to Santiago de Atitlán.  Now THAT was an experience!!  The boat was crowded with people (I believe I saw 4 life jackets for 20 people) and their belongings. The lake was very rough.  Two guys had to hold a blue tarp draped over the bow of the boat so we wouldn't get wet.

Crowded boat.

Outdoor patio in Santiago de Atitlán.

Street market in Santiago de Atitlán.

RobC being accosted by young girls trying to get his attention and money.  :)

Local boy flying his plastic grocery bag kite.

Poor girl doesn't look impressed by having to sit and tend to the stall.

A gaudy bus loaded with locals and their belongings.  These drivers are CRAZY!  Yesterday we saw one pass a line of cars on a curve, blaring his horn!!  Oncoming traffic moved to the shoulder to let him pass.  The guy pulled over 400 m up the road.  These guys work on numbers and time, so it makes sense, however dangerous it is.

Some more street vendors, the boy on the right selling corn may have been 9 years old.

Lots of hand woven materials.

These guards can be seen everywhere, from outside street ATMs, to a broken down truck on the road to hanging out in a side street like this guy.

This is how they sell a Honda 125 motorbikes in Guatemala.  LOL  Yes, there was loud music and narration in the background.

Relaxing and waiting for a boat back "home".

Do you think she saw me taking her picture?  Yikes!

 Young ladies in typical Caqchiquel dress.

Typical friendly smile. nothing shy about these people.

Santiago de Atitlán was overrun with street vendors right from the dock all the way up the hill to the center of the town.  These little stalls spilled over into the side streets as well. The peddlers were extremely persistent in trying to sell you their goods.  It got to where it was annoying.  There was a neat little outdoor market selling everything from dried fish and shrimp to tomatoes to soap and Colgate toothpaste.  We were warned that the people were not as friendly, and they weren't at this particular town.  Spent maybe an hour here and hitched a boat ride back to Panajachel where we finished the day with a beer at an outdoor restaurant patio overlooking the lake as the sun was starting to set.

 Late afternoon on Lago Atitlán.

 Lovely flowering vegetation in this area.

RobC:  Our hotels are usually rather non-descript, but the hotel at Panajachel is worthy of special mention. We drove into the parking area of the first decent-looking hotel we saw, and it turned out to be a jewel. The kind of place you would like to take the family and stay a week. Our hotel requirements are always the same: secure parking for the bikes, Internet connection, hot water, free breakfast, decent beds and modest cost. The El Cacique hotel was fabulous and...don't be shocked...22 USD a night. The manager, Mr. Emilio greeted us in perfect English and was very accommodating and helpful throughout our two-night stay. All the rooms had big sliding doors to the internal patio, which had a multitude of flowering tropical plants. We had the place all to ourselves, as it is low season.

At night we strolled into town and had some nice, simple food and we met our first group of Dutch-speaking tourists. Of course, I just had to introduce myself and we had a lovely visit. Would have loved to spend more time with them. They were fascinated by our adventure.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Day 19 - Antigua to Panajachel, Guatemala

RobT:  We spent the morning walking along the cobblestone streets of Antigua with the crumbled churches that collapsed during past earthquakes.  We hired a local guide who took us on a walking tour around the major historical sites.

Shop door in Antigua.

Central Plaza.
 Central plaza.

RobC:  I was in Antigua Guatemala in 1973 and the place feels very different now. 37 Years ago there were hardly any cars and the indigenous women could be seen washing clothes at the public laundry facilities. Now these same women are walking around town, hawking their weavings and other handicrafts. They still wear their traditional dress, however (even the little girls), and they still speak their native language, some variant of Mayan. The Guatemalan people are very friendly, always greeting and smiling at strangers. There are also a lot of Americans and Canadians who live here permanently or at least during the winter months. Can't blame them - life is cheap here and the weather is great.

 Here is RobT, buying some gum from a little girl in Indian dress.

 Caqchiquel woman with back-strap loom.

Old church destroyed in an earthquake destroyed in the 1700's, which caused Guatemala to move its capital city to what is now Guatemala City.

 Some flowers in a hotel courtyard.
 Our hotel.

Another one of the churches destroyed by earthquakes.

 One of the columns knocked down.

Down the 'hole" in the church floor is the Black Christ.

The Black Christ.

 Public laundry which is actually used by the locals. The little circle is for the soap.


 RobC had some loose bolts that needed to be tightened.

 Where`s the bridge?!?!?

Outside lane is down river somewhere.  Notice the white boulders as warning pylons.
RobC crossing the river.

RobC's bike decided it needed a rest right in the middle of a hairpin.

Scene of the crime.  :)

RobT:  We ran into some motorcyclists from Guatemala City on a variety of motorcycles.  They gave us a route to get to Lake Atitlan with some via points along the way.  I think we missed one because we took one of the most treacherous roads to date but we were rewarded with some breathtaking views of the valley below and of Lago Atitlan from the surrounding mountains.  Note: Guatemala has had heavy rains since May that only recently stopped at the end of September.  The most rain they have had in 60 years, so naturally the mountains were saturated.  That explained the numerous landslides, road erosion and washed out bridges.  The mudslides were cleared and dirt pushed to the side but the partial road erosions were only marked by boulders painted white, nothing else, with half the road gone.  One bridge was completely gone and the only thing marking the danger were a few stones, a car tire and some brush.  We had to do our first river crossing.  There were a few kids playing in the river.  Like engineering experts, they told us the safest route across.  Rob and I investigated the shallow route and the deep route.  The shallow route seemed to be strewn with underwater boulders and rocks and the deep route was free of that but we weren’t exactly sure how deep it was.  An SUV passed through and it seemed doable.  I went first, hit a rock and just about went for a swim.  Rob had no issues.  His problems came trying to negotiate an extremely tight, steep upward hairpin that had sand and debris strewn across it

Here are some pictures of the route to  Lago Atitlan:

 RobT negotiating the river and bouncing over a big boulder.

 "CURVAS PELIGROSAS" (Hazardous curves).  :-)

First glimpse of the volcanoes surrounding Lago Atitlan.

RobT:  Today my camera quit functioning.  The trigger didn’t want to release the shutter.  It would work intermittently and finally not at all.  Changed the settings and fiddled around with it.  Nothing.  Tried it again later and it seems to work okay.  Debating on whether to chance it or buy a new Nikon body in Guatemala City on the way through.  I hate technology.
Another little side note .... Dukoral inoculation for traveler's diarrhea DOES NOT WORK.  Did I already mention that?!?!?  Relapse, but there’s no way I’m going to stop eating the salads, veggies or worry about the water ....  my body is simply gonna have to adapt!

Tonight we strolled through the streets of Panajachel on the shores of Lago Atitlan with its street vendors selling everything from textiles to jewelry to food to carvings to hammocks.  Scooters, moto taxis, dogs, people, kids all busying along.  The smell of various types of food cooking on open flames. Music blaring from restaurants. There were even 3 young women playing 3 separate xylophones (marimbas) together, producing some amazingly  wonderful music. Sorry, no photo.