Becoming Fools!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Day Four - Last of Antigua

With nothing planned for the day we slept in. When we got up we realized it was a nice hot sunny day! We checked out of our hotel but they let us store our baggage so we didn’t have to carry it all around with us.

On a side note, if you (reading this) go to Antigua, we highly recommend staying at Entre Volcanes. The staff there is wonderful and it is quite beautiful. The rooms are small and simple. But very clean and you get your own bathroom.

For breakfast we went to our favorite, Rainbow Cafe, for the last time. Since I hadn’t been feeling well I stayed and chilled at the cafe while Matt walked around town and got some sun. Matt came back after about an hour to report on some of his interesting finds. He had found an eccentric American who had been in Antigua since 1989. He had a small shop where he roasted and sold coffee beans. We went back to his shop to stock up, since Guatemalan coffee is extremely delicious!! After walking around for a bit more we headed back to our hotel to catch our shuttle back to the city. When we got to our street we saw a large catholic processional starting! We let our host know we would be back in 10 minutes. So off we ran. The air was filled with incense! We photographed quickly, and ran back to our hotel in hopes we hadn’t missed our shuttle. Our driver was waiting patiently and said not to worry, so we went back out on the streets for more photos.

After the processional had passed our hotel we jumped in a truck with our driver and the owner of the hotel, who was also going to the city. They took us up to the hill that over looked Antigua since Matt and I had not had a chance to get up there yet.

We were very thankful our hostess had decided to come with us. She spoke very good english and proceed to call to find out our exact location of where we were to stay once we were in the city and talked to the people at the gate to the seminary. She wouldn’t let us go until she dropped us right in front of our door. She said if she hadn’t been able to drop us off safely she would take us back home with her. And if we had any troubles she said just come back to the hotel and she’ll take care of us. Our driver warned us to be careful, and thought we were crazy for the area we were staying is apparently known to be quite dangerous. We checked in to SETECA. SETECA is a seminary school. It is a large complex with high walls and barbed wirer all the way around the top. There are two entrance gates locked and guarded twentyfour hours a day. We were very warmly greeted. After dropping our stuff off in our apartment we rand to the nearest Dominos, a block down the street, to get supper before it got really dark. When we got there and had ordered we realized we did not have enough cash in the write currency. So we ran back. Matt dress in loose clothing, with his hoodie and toque in attempt to blend in, leaving me behind. As a girl with short bright red hair and big green eyes, I tends to draw too much attention around here for some reason. Matt made it back just fine. Another day enjoyed and complete.

Over looking Antigua.

Beautiful Flower and Sawdust "Carpets"

Ringing of the bell.

Day Three

Matt enjoying beautiful San Pedro

San Pedro

We woke up at 4:30 am for a 4:50 am pick-up. We had quite the day planned, but nothing prepared us for what happened. We expected a day out on what we were told was going to be a chilly day out on a Atitlan Lake. Nothing could have been further from the truth! It was a crazy two hour drive through windy roads up and down steep inclines. We arrived in Panajachal just as the shops were starting to set up. After breakfast in a local shop we checked out items other shops were selling before heading out with our guide to get on our boat. It was a simple clean outboard, longer than most North American boats and it had a roof with open sides. The lake was incredible. There were three large volcanos that sloped into the lake with more visible out on the horizon. These were dormant volcanos covered in lush green vegetation. It was starting to get quite hot by now. Much warmer than Antigua! And with the sun reflecting off the water, it soon reached tropical warmth. A 45 minute boat ride took us to a small village on a steep hill, San Juan. Almost as soon as you walked 50 paces on land you were walking up a steep hill. The road went up this hill and into the town. The town was an arts town. Of all the towns it was the one with the painting and the textile shops. Each lake town had its own speciality. For this one it was art. the paintings were nice and well done, but we especially liked the weavings. In one of the ‘out of the way’ shops, we walked in and saw the ladies making the fabric. They make their own dyes and spin their own thread. Then there was an old lady working on a simple loom making beautiful patterns. We were impressed. These took a lot of time to make. Everything was done by hand the dyes were extracted from plants. Even their ‘silk’ was a fabric made from plant fibers. We bought a beautiful blanket, another piece with Mayan pictographs weaved into it, and then a scarf. San Juan was a quite town, very peaceful. We miss it the most.
After laying in the sun on the dock, our whole group arrived and we left for the next place, San Pedro. This place was more of a tourist town, lots of bars and restaurants, street vendors and advertisement for almost anything. Quite a few white people, as well. This town was known for its bars and the coffee. Apparently, the best coffee in the world.
The next town, Santiago, is where things got interesting. It was a fishing village. In the previous town, our guide, a short Mayan with greased hair, asked if we wanted to see a Mayan god. We thought he was asking us if we wanted to smoke pot with him in the next town because of his pot smoking hand signs with his thumb and fore finger. And he said we would have to leave the village. We both couldn’t understand him very well. We were hoping maybe there was a rock sculpture in the hills that that we could see. We told him politely we don’t smoke. Eventually he said that most of the group wanted to go, so we thought maybe it wasn’t about smoking pot so we decided to tag along and see what what we would be getting ourselves into. He called his connections to get us a taxi. The “taxi” came, it was pick up with bars to hold on too in the back. Those of our group who wanted to go piled into the truck box and drove through the town. We drove through tight alleys and streets, then along the lake before heading inland through the forest. After 15 minutes we came to a small family farm. In one of the small huts there were people milling about. Some were tourists, and some were Mayan locals. We thought we were meeting a friend of the quite to get permission to go see the rock statue or whatever it would be. But when we looked more closely we could see smoke billowing out the entrance to the hut. And as we got closer we could hear some sort of chanting. There were cheap party decorations that hung from the ceiling of the hut and shimmered in the fire light. For fire there were quite a few candle on the floor. Some were quite big, some small. Near the door there was a man and a woman kneeling on straw mats in front of the candles. The man was swing a tin can full of incense. That was where the smoke was coming from. Incense, not pot. We went in and sat down. Behind the candles was the Mayan god. It took me a second to see and realize what it was. It was a shaped like a man, but a man with out arms. It wasn’t very tall so maybe no legs either. Only four ft. It had 2 hats on and probably a dozen or more ties over its suit. It had a well carved wooden face. His name was Maximon. The story goes that a long time ago his village was going off to fight a battle. Maximon opted to stay behind and “protect the women”. When the warriors returned, they found all the village women to be pregnant. THey took Maximon and killed him. Cutting off his arms and such. This greatly upset the women and the men were forced to worhisp him and give him gifts of tobacco and alcohol. Every year Maximon would be moved to a new house, a new host. Behind the god, were a bunch of older men sitting at this table drinking and smoking. I suspect there were smoking pot, but wasn’t sure. Maximon is known for his smoking. They actually put cigarettes in his mouth and light them. Apparently he drinks too, but I have no idea how that works.
On the way back to Antigua we were told to take a different bus back that took a different route. Not knowing spanish meant being unsure if we were even going to actually end up in Antigua. Even thought we tired to ask as the response was always “Si, Si”. But we made it back just fine. We found a quiet place to eat then went to bed happy with our day.


Mayan Textile Artisan

Matt sun tanning with the locals.

San Juan

Lots of plastic bottles floating in the lake. At first I thought it was garbage but learned it was for fishing nets.


Maximon Ceremony


One of the many children trying to sell you trinkets.

In Santiago

Ground zero of the terrible flood that happened five years ago in Guatemala and wiped away houses. They are still digging to find pieces of houses they can reuse.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Day 2 - Antigua Guatemala

Farm fields on the side of the volcano.

Volcano Fuego

First site of lava.

Hiking on all lava.

Flowing lava!

One of the guides lighting his cigarette.

Roasting marshmallows.

Farmer who lives on the side of the volcano.

An old cathedral we visited.

Guatemalan wiring.

Traditional Catholic procession in celebration for lent.

My little shoe shine friend Carlos.

So yes it is day five by now, but I wanted to catch up on all that has been happening. We have been keeping ourselves very busy! Getting up at 4 or 5 am and being busy till nine at night. By the time we get back to our hotel we are exhausted! As well, internet is a bit more difficult than I thought (unless I’m technically challenged). Most places have internet, but we are finding that either it is a very weak connection, or we can’t seem to get it to work, or there are no electrical outlets. You feel spoiled when little things like that frustrate you at the end of a long day.

We are having a great time out here! Experiencing things we never even expected. So I'll get down to it.

Our second day here in Antigua we booked a hiking tour up one of the live volcano Pacaya, one of the live volcanos in the area. We were told to do most activities out of the main city by tour, otherwise we would be robbed.
So we found a good price, $7 per person (we discovered later that day that sometimes even if you pay more in hopes to have a better tour, you still get lumped all together in the same group with cheap people like us).
We were picked up from our hotel at 6 am. Our driver proceeded to drive around the town picking up 12 more people. We all fit in to a Mitsubishi van. It took about an hour/hour and half drive to the volcano. It was a great drive, we were able to see more of the country side and towns where the Guatemalans live.
When we got to the "parking lot" immediately kids were opening the door of our van to offer us walking sticks for rental. They tried to convince us we would need them for the very steep hike. Matt caved as a very cute little girl looked
up at him with her sad eyes. So off we went. The beginning was quite steep. Men with horses followed us till they couldn't go any further, trying to convince anyone in the group who looked tired to take their taxi. We met a couple of older
gentleman who were in our tour group. They had been friends since high school and now lived in separate states but still kept in contact with each other (they had another friend who had stayed behind for the day). They had taken a trip to Mexico
many years ago and wanted to repeat their trip and have a reunion. They had quite interesting stories of places they had been.
The first part of the hike was through the jungle, 200 year old cypress trees, small vines, and gorgeous flowers.
Once and a while the foliage would break and we could see the views of other volcanoes and farms and fields on the volcanoes' slopes.
Guatemalan families who had hiked up earlier in the morning were camped out along the way ready to sell you fruit, water and even
souvenirs. After two thirds of the way the jungle stopped and there were hills of dried lava and we could see the top of the volcano smoking.
The last 30 mins we were hiking on hard dried lava. As we got ascended the cool breeze transitioned into warm air.
We knew we were getting closer to the lava. When we did it was unbelievable. Rivers of lava were bubbling up and flowing.
You could hear the crackling and see the steam rising. Other groups had marshmallows and were trying to roast them. We stood
there in awe for quite some time. We were unable to go all the way to the top. Most guides to do not like going further as the path becomes
more unpredictable.
After our hike, Matthew asked our gentlemen friends if they would like to join us for lunch back at Antigua, they were delighted, as they had
enjoyed our company thus far.
Back in Antigua we quickly showered and then met our friends at one of our favorite places, the Rainbow Cafe. We exchanged more stories,
and they were delighted to hear why we had come to Guatemala. They decided to treat us and pay for our dinner. We said Adios as they were off the city
as they were leaving the next day to return home.

We were tired form being up so early and hiking but definitely not ready to sit and relax, we wanted to do some more exploring. So off we went walking
the streets of Antigua. We made our way to central park, to our surprise a celebration for easter was just starting. We ran to get closer and take some photographs.
For the rest of the afternoon we perused shops and store fronts, explored an old cathedral.
On our way to get some refreshments from central park, we saw a large gathering of people and heard music. As we got closer we could see a procession starting. My photographer instincts kicked in and I started running to get closer. It was a very unique thing to see, and a great way to end the day.

Stay tuned for more stories and visiting Mayan gods.
(ps. sorry for the lack of updates, working internet is hard to find here)