Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Colorful Guatemala

One of the benefits of anchoring in Bahia del Sol, El Salvador is its proximity to Guatemala. Yes, we did just sail right by Guatemala when we crossed the Tehuantepec, but we opted not to stop in Puerto Quetzal because it would have cost us at least $100 a person just to enter the country via our boat.

So instead we anchored in the estuary in Bahia del Sol and enjoyed a few full nights of sleep without having to get up for watches, and then visited Guatemala via the traditional bus.

With Maya and Kai on unicycles and our toothbrushes packed, we made our way first via the one and a half hour chicken bus to San Salvador, then a six hour bus ride to Guatemala City and finally a short hour (but with traffic two hours) taxi ride to the colorful city of Antigua. Add it up together and the sum is a horrible day of traveling.

Once in Antigua with its colonial buildings and tasty food, we quickly forgot how we got there. Antigua goes all out for Semana Santa (Holy Week) with huge processions and colorful "alfombras" decorating the streets. We lucked out and quickly found a family that would take us in for the week, while we studied Spanish, ate ice cream, climbed an active volcano and gawked at the alfombras.

Alfombras originated in the 16th Century with simple pine needles that were placed along the streets to soften the rough cobblestones for the people/penitents walking in the processions and carrying heavy wooden floats. Overtime, the carpets became much more elaborate. Some are constructed with flowers and fruit.

Some are made with vivid colors of sawdust, dyed sand and salt. And all are trampled on which sends the message that beauty is fleeting.

Here are the heavy floats called andas. People carry them, swaying slowly for hours and hours as they weave through the streets of Antigua. Musicians follow, playing serene music.

It's hard work!

Kai and I loved visiting the markets full of colorful fabrics - all handmade.

In the mornings, we went to The Spanish Language Institute for personal Spanish lessons. I finally learned how to speak in the past and the future. Here's Christina teaching Kai and Maya.

After Spanish class, we'd walk back to our home, eat lunch and the kids would spend hours playing with the adorable French poodle puppies.

Volcanoes surround Antigua and there's one that is active and spews hot red lava. We woke up at dawn and made our way to Pacaya to hike as far as we could go. Since it was a pretty steep hike, Maya and Kai opted to saddle a horse that took them up the volcano.

When we reached the hot lava, we had to walk super carefully as some of the rocks were sharp and could cut you. It was hot enough that Tim's tennis shoes melted a little and we were able to roast marshmellows. Yum!

Then we made our way to Lake Atitlan where Maya met many of the indigenous Mayans. Here's Maya learning how to embroider.

In the town of San Juan, Kai tried back-weaving with the cotton dyed with natural dyes, similar to what we found in Oaxaca.

To celebrate my birthday, we biked along the lake.

And we stayed at a lovely hotel overlooking the lake. What a sunset view!


rebelleader said...

Happy Birthday, Ruth!
Sounds like an amazing way to spend the day!

Anonymous said...

¡Feliz CumpleaƱos! What beautiful pictures. We are envious of your incredible adventures. What a wonderful education for Maya and Kai. Hi to everyone! Love, Fuentes

Mark said...

I guess the question is whether saving a few bucks was worth the day-long trip, which presumably has a return leg as well.

Anonymous said...

Hey Tim,

I was in Guatemala in January/February, spent time at Atitlan and Antigua, but was mostly in Santa Cruz. I recently exchanged notes with your bro Rob. I'm in Columbus, Oh, work as an optometrist, travel abroad a couple of weeks a year to set up clinics in developing countries. It looks like you're living a good life. keep at it. Visiting with Dave Koch this weekend . . . I'll point him to your blog.
Dave Gill

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