February 6, 2014 Chichicastenango, Guatemala

 

Thursday

Beautiful handwork on huipiels, the embroidered blouses without buttons - just a hole to pull your head through

Beautiful handwork on huipiels, the embroidered blouses without buttons – just a hole to pull your head through

Many of the towns in Guatemala end with “tenango.” I was told it meant “town of.” So, Chichicastenango is “town of Chichi.” Today, we take a shuttle to Chichicastenango, home to the largest textile market in Central America. This is one of two days in the week that vendors bring in their crafts, produce or whatever else they want to sell. As the van picks up passengers from different hotels in the area, we are pleasantly surprised to see Val and Paul, our bungalow neighbors from Tikal!

The monitor collects el bano tickets

The monitor collects el bano tickets

Fresh meat!

Fresh meat!

 

 

We’re told to all meet at Hotel Santo Tomas for the ride home. If you need to find a clean, well-maintained restroom, Santo Tomas has it! Have some quetzales ready as you have to pay for a ticket to use the facilities.

 

 

When bargaining, be bold to get a great price, but please be kind. It’s hard enough to make an honest living in such a poor country.

We walk through the crowded, colorful crafts and textiles areas before heading toward the produce area.

 

 

What ARE these?!?

What ARE these?!?

 

Fresh fruit!

Fresh fruit!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where the locals eat at market

Where the locals eat at market

 

 

After cutting through a couple of long inner alleyways, we wind up in a very large eating area. We look around in wonder. There are no tourists! Locals are looking at us strangely, probably wondering what we’re doing here. Wow, just discovered the (hidden) dining area of the locals!

 

 

 

El Calvario, the church next to the market was built on hallowed Maya ground. The Maya embraced Catholicism and blended in their cultural rituals to create a unique religious experience.

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February 5, 2014

Wednesday

The colorful squares you see are in the cemetary

The colorful squares you see are in the cemetary

IMG_5469

 

We tour Santa Maria de la Concepcion, a small town near Panajachel. Duncan, a local tour guide, says he’s the only one giving tours to Concepcion. In his opinion, the town is a little-known gem.

 

 

 

 

Concepcion 1IMG_5475

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a tranquil little hamlet with a 400 year old church. The bell continues to peal.

 

 

 

There are very few visitors to the sleepy little town.

 

 

Another centuries old building being put to good use

Another centuries old building being put to good use

 

 

On the way back, we stop in Solala and visit the museo. It was dedicated maybe a year or two ago by the queen of Spain!

 

 

 

 

 

The building was originally shorter

The building was originally shorter

 

 

 

In another life, it was a government building.

 

 

 

Back on the streets of Panajachel, we talk to Frank. He’s lived here 20 years. Some of his tips if you are staying in Pana:

*Don’t use the local BAC bank. If there’s an issue at their ATM and it keeps your money, the bank will NOT give you your money back.

*Primavera is the best hotel in town.

*El Bistro has the best steaks.

 

Please refresh the link occasionally when viewing my blog. I have been known to add more information in the form of videos, or possibly more photos, to previous posts!

 

 

February 3, 2014 Lago de Atitlan

What a view of the lago!

What a view of the lago!

 

 

Our second night in Casa del Mundo is in room #17. After room #10’s coziness, this room feels so open. The private terrace is also bigger.

 

 

The casa has picturesque balconies and trailing greenery

The casa has picturesque balconies and trailing greenery

 

Views from all levels of the property are breathtaking!

In the hotel’s drive to reach self-sustainability, a high tech solar-heater system harnesses Lago de Atitlan’s sunshine to provide all the hot water for the property.

 

 

We go hiking. I’m fussed at because I stop to capture so many moments! In the Ben Stiller movie, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, a photographer pauses in shooting the rare sighting of a big feline. I’m sorry, if I can get the shot, I will. Sharing is a good thing. And … my memories will fade, so it’s always nice to have a reminder!

Casa 5Casa 3

Casa 2Casa 2

Casa 6

February 2, 2014 Jaibalito, Santa Cruz, San Pedro

Sunday

Our cases are added to the cargo

Our cases are added to the cargo

Time to leave Panajachel and go across the lago for a few days at La Casa del Mundo, a multi-tiered hotel with cabins snuggled up against the hillside, between the villages of El Jaibalito and Santa Cruz La Laguna. The launcha is full of locals, indigenous peoples of the area.

Locals wear beautiful weavings like this every day! The head wrap is formed with the woman's hair woven into a long cloth.

Locals wear beautiful weavings like this every day! The head wrap is formed with the woman’s hair woven into a long cloth.

A young girl is mesmerized by the water flashing by as her mother holds baby brother

A young girl is mesmerized by the water flashing by as her mother holds baby brother

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The boat cuts through the waves!

The boat cuts through the waves!

 

The boat flies, sprays of churning water shooting out! Rain pelts the launcha for a few minutes and a colorful yellow tarp is pulled down, somewhat shielding the front row.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Employee and La Casa del Mundo owner, Bill

Employee and La Casa del Mundo owner, Bill

The ferry pulls up to the private dock and we’re told to leave the two heavy cases, someone would bring them up to our room. It’s about 75 steps up to the main building/dining room. We come too late for breakfast, but are able to order snacks from the menu. Two men with our suitcases on their backs go by, nimbly hopping up the steps like mountain goats! We slowly walk another 75 steps up to our room and run into Bill, the owner, along the way. It took him nine years to construct the first four rooms to rent out. He was working elsewhere and spent his time off building his vision. Now, there are 17 rooms with breathtaking views, each with its own unique personality!

Wake up to a gorgeous day!

Wake up to a gorgeous day!

 

Our room is like a charming little treehouse cabin. The views in two directions are spectacular! It’s been updated and has a shiny stainless steel bathroom sink.

 

 

 

Casa d MundoNot wanting to waste time, we visit San Juan La Laguna. Its dock comes before San Pedro La Laguna, but if you get off, it costs Q5 more! We look around and decide to take a tuk-tuk over to San Pedro. There are lovely weavings that I haven’t seen in Panajachel or elsewhere in Guatemala. The works are more intricate, with different textures.

 

The peaceful cove of San Pedro La Laguna

The peaceful cove of San Pedro La Laguna

We wander further down to the water and have a great view from the second story Dolphin Cafe & Restaurante. The owner, Memeta, nicknamed the “Dolphin,” serves us a delicious pizza before walking us down to the dock and making sure the launcha captain doesn’t over-charge us.            p.s.: Their restroom is really clean!

 

Casa d Mundo 9

 

Back at the casa, we are thrilled with the views of lake, volcanoes and blue skies!

 

 

Casa d Mundo 10

Dinner is a communal affair. We laugh when we meet our closest tablemates and learn that both couples are from Houston! Making friends at a candlelit meal with a big table is good. Everyone has stories to tell!

 

 

February 1, 2014 Reserva Natural Atitlan

Saturday

Tuk-tuks around Panajachel are Q5 a person. I’m sure the locals pay much less. We could have taken a long walk to the Reserva Natural Atitlan, but decide to pay Q10 a person for the ride out of town and up to the 400 acre site. Yes, tuk-tuks sound and look like lawnmowers under three-seat golf carts, but they are fun rides! Quick turns make it easy to play “corners”, the game where you purposely sqeeze the person against the door as the vehicle races around street corners and curves, squealing with laughter! I feel the breeze and grin with joy as lake views rush by. So truly blessed to be here at this moment in my life!

R N Atitlan

Guatemala has exciting volcanoes and forest lands. The Reserva Natural Atitlan, located in the San Buenaventura Valley outside Pananjachel, may not be as large as other preserves, but it has many areas to explore!

 

 

We visit the butterfly sanctuary, walk down to the lake, cross hanging bridges by waterfalls, marvel at a spider monkey vigorously swinging by its tail, and soak in the peaceful forest!

   R N Atitlan

 

Oh, look who we run into again! Nicholas and Johanna, the backpackers we met in Tikal who gave us Equi, the grasshopper. It is so nice to see them again!

Equi the grasshopper made of reeds, reunites with his first "family." Can you see him? He is perched on the rail post.

Equi the grasshopper made of reeds, reunites with his first “family.” Can you see him? He is perched on the rail post.

We end the day with dinner at Circus Bar & Restaurant. Tonight, Carlos, a local flamenco guitarist, invites two brothers to join him on stage.

Three Blog Tips

I just read a comment from one of my posts. The blogger mentioned that she is an “aspiring blog writer” and asked for suggestions. I thought about it and decided to share some basic steps for newbies.

1.   Bloggers are learning all the time. Check out sites like Dear Blogger, greg@dearblogger.org. I follow Greg as he’s generous with his advice. Anyone can ask him anything, whether they are a beginning blogger or well established. He started a YouTube channel, https://www.youtube.com/user/narayguy/videos, with tutorials on how to start a blog, different costs of hosted sites, how to make your site more attractive, etc. I started with WordPress.com before following him, but he uses WordPress.org to be able to do some beautiful enhancements to sites using plugins, etc.

If you’re hoping to profit from your blog, there are several big guys out there, but I like Nate Smith, nate@nathanialsmith.com. He is encouraging with good tips and spiritual inspiration. You can search around and follow many others, but look for sites that fit your needs as a blogger.

2.   This is very, very important! Please remember to pull from your passion. Post articles that you are truly interested in, not those that are just current topics that you hope people will link to. Cover subjects you know or that you researched and have a working knowledge of, that might be of value to others.

3.   Mix it up! Some entries I will post describe just what happened and photos. Others, I will add some background about the area we visited, photos and a video or two. Sometimes an opportunity arises that I can’t let go by, like when I learned about The Internet of Things, https://soosoosees.com/2013/10/14/day-30-new-york/. It’s fascinating to me how everything is moving at warp speed!

Experiment with tones and textures. I posted a video of a Savannah, Georgia Trolley Tour in sepia. “Johnny Mercer” came aboard and gave a spiel of his life in music. It begged for that treatment, https://soosoosees.com/2013/10/02/day-16-savannah/.

And, here’s a photo I took of actors in a Tombstone, Arizona re-enactment of the shoot-out at the O.K. Corral. (p.s.: The gunfight wasn’t really in the corral!) Thought it would look more striking with texture and a feel of the Old West. Edited it on my iPhone in Snapseed, blurring present day shoppers and vehicles in the background with TouchReTouch. Both are free apps. It could have been nice in black and white, but I do like tints!

Doc Holliday and the Earp Brothers are ready

Doc Holliday and the Earp Brothers are ready

There are plenty more tips I could give, but off the top of my head, these three simple steps will help you on your way!

January 31, 2014 Lago de Atitlan

January 31, 2014

AtitlanWe cross the lake to San Marcos La Laguna, a village known for wonderfully restorative yoga and meditation retreats. Unless you enjoy hiking, launchas (boats) are the way to reach neighboring communities.

Glistening streams of the lago

Glistening streams of the lago

Once you land, some of the villages have tuk-tuks to take you farther inland. Some also have pickups that offer rides in their truck beds. Hop in and hold on tight! It’s all part of an excellent adventure!

Panajachel vendors hope last minute shoppers will come by.

Sundown in Panajachel

Sundown in Panajachel

We dine at Guajimbo’s, a Uruguayan restaurant. The food is so good! There’s live music, dogs wandering the tables and shoeshine boys buffing clients’ shoes as they eat.

Guajimbo's Uruguayan restaurant is packed on a weekday!

Guajimbo’s Uruguayan restaurant is packed on a weekday!

We stop by another restaurant for dessert and music. Lonnie watches someone from the kitchen walk out and come back with his dessert in hand. It’s like borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor!Panajachel3