Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Fascinating Guatemala--January 11

Our first port day was to be at Huatulco, Mexico and we didn’t have any plans. We woke up to rough seas and soon the Captain announced that the port was closed and we would not be able to dock. We laughed! This was sounding like déjà vu from our last cruise.

Jim is enjoying the balcony and the salt spray. Everything was covered in salt in short order…


We went to the Cruise Critic Meet and Greet. It was nice to put faces to some of the people we have been communicating with on-line for the last couple of months. Princess is now offering a pre-dinner hors d’oeuvres spot for Platinum and Elite members. Yum…we’ll be visiting here often! Here is Mike with his array of goodies for the day…

The next morning we arrived in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. The Guatemala flag...



A little history…the great Mayan civilization sprung up in the Yucatan around 2600 BC. The height of the Mayan civilizations was around 250 AD in what are now Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Belize. During this time the Mayans built temples, pyramids, libraries, observatories and other architectural marvels. Guatemala was originally the site of one of the major Mayan civilizations. The area was claimed by Spain in 1524. The Spanish were looking for gold, but instead found valuable cocoa, coffee, and indigo in Guatemala.

In the 1839, Guatemala became independent of Spain…

You can see volcanoes in the background. One of them is very active, spewing smoke about every hour. At night, if it hadn’t been cloudy, we would have been able to see some lava flows as we left port. It looks like smog in the picture, but it is actually smoke from the burning of sugar cane fields after the harvest.

We were joining a group of Cruise Critic peeps on a tour this morning. You can find similar tours to the ones that Princess offers, but at a cheaper rate and with a lot less people. Our tour this morning was “Go with Gus” and we were heading to the mountains to visit Colonial La Antigua, a UNESCO world heritage site.

Here is Gus stopping along the route to hop out and buy us some small bananas. They tasted like bananas that weren't quite ripe! He also hopped out at one point to pick up a machete that he saw on the road. I think that should have concerned us, but it didn't!

This face in the rock was carved by the Mayans to let other people know that they were in the area. It was meant to be a welcoming sign.

Here you can see puffs of smoke coming from the volcano…

Gus is giving us some information about Guatemala. Gus left Guatemala with his parents in 1953 at the age of 17 when civil war broke out. They went to New York, and when they returned in the late 1960s, Gus found that all of his friends who had remained had been killed. Over 200,000 people died in a civil war between the army and terrorists. If you were a terrorist, the army tried to kill you and vice versa. It was a no-win situation.

Gus is now working to provide education for children through his Go with Gus fund. He is also head of security for the state he lives in, and took the job without pay so that he could not be influenced by politicians. The government is still very corrupt.

Workers planting vegetables in the fields. Guatemala is a very poor country…

Our first stop was at a macadamia plantation, owned by Lorenzo who was a real character…



Here is Lorenzo with Gus. Lorenzo was encouraging people to come and retire in Guatemala. The temperature is always around 65 to75 degrees and you can come and live like “a rich person.”

This is one of Lorenzo’s inventions…a machine for husking macadamia nuts. It had to be built with parts that are readily available in the villages, so nothing fancy!

This method for sorting the nuts into various sizes was a simple solution for Lorenzo. You put the nuts by hand at the top of the ramp which has rods that fan out. The nuts then drop into the appropriate bags below.

The non-denominational church…a place to go and think…

Beautiful honeysuckle and flowers all around...

Oh this was a real business! We had tasting of macadamia nuts, with and without chocolate, and a talk on the benefits of the oil from the nuts. We all got a little hand massage compliments of Lorenzo and, for a small tip, a face massage.

Lorenzo giving a massage to Fred and Michele. Michele organized the tour for the Cruise Critic group, and she and Fred are getting married on the ship on Jan. 14.

Jim and Gus…

An outdoor sink for washing up…

We found a sunny spot to have our picture taken. Who thought it would be cold here! You can see the locals all had sweaters on while the tourists were freezing!

On our way to our next stop, the coffee plantation... Garbage is an issue and Gus has started an organization that buys garbage so that villagers clean up the garbage and get paid for it.

Patchwork countryside…

The coffee plantation…

The chef coming out to greet us. At first we thought he was American as he spoke English with no accent, but he quickly got rid of that theory when he launched into rapid-fire Spanish!

My kind of place!



Sadly, we weren’t having lunch here, although it looked beautiful. But we did have a wonderful cup of coffee and a chance (of course!) to buy some. Those are coffee beans sprinkled on the table, not droppings!

Not sure of the significance of this couple, but the band playing behind them was really nice.

A coffee bean…the red outer husk is ground and used in most commercial coffees that we buy (Folgers, Maxwell House, etc.). The bean beside it would be used in the next grade of coffee. When sorting, if 2 or 3 of these beans are found in a bag, the bag is discarded as premium coffee and is sold to places such as Starbucks. The third bean is the one that full, rich coffee is made from. The coffee was delicious…

It was back on the van and off to our next destination, the colonial town of La Antigua.

One of the 365 Catholic churches in Antigua…crazy!

An effective way to keep people out…we quite often saw this glass combination with barbed wire…

We stopped at a small butterfly sanctuary…nice juxtaposition…beautiful butterflies surrounded by barbed wire!

Lovely carving at the entrance…see how many animals you can find!

An explanation of the butterfly process by a young Guatemalan…Gus did the translating…

This will be a monarch butterfly. You can see the orange and black striations…

The final pupa stages…the green one is the initial one before it turns black. You could see the wing formation of the butterfly in the black one.

Michele with a butterfly in her hair…

You really had to be patient and wait for them to light somewhere…

Kids love to have their pictures taken…

La Antigua was the capital of Guatemala during Spanish colonial times. It was destroyed by a series of earthquakes and today houses some of the country’s most beautiful architecture and ruins. The streets are all cobblestoned. This was one of the many stunning church ruins…



The history of the church…

Sort of reminded me of the Roman Baths…

Enjoying the sunshine!

La Antigua is at an elevation of 5500 ft and Jim did amazingly well with his breathing! Beautiful scenery all around…

By this time it was after 2:00 and we were starved! We walked through the streets to what was supposed to be a special restaurant. More of the churches and ruins…



The intricate carvings were amazing…

We arrived at the restaurant finally…only to find it closed. Let’s say Gus was good with taking us places, but a little light in organization! He quickly went to Plan B and called for the van to pick us up and take us to another restaurant. We didn’t care at this point…we were all hungry! At last food…and something to drink! No, that is not my beer! I wasn’t that thirsty!!

We had lots of traditional food and Gus showed us the way they eat each dish. It was yummy!

A pedicab (or what we would call them)…no traffic lights needed in this town!

A very beautiful town…



From here we checked out a jade factory…jade in Guatemala…who knew?

I wonder how much they get paid…

There was some nice jewellery and carvings…

Some of the houses in La Antigua sell for over $1 million US. If the bars on the windows don’t stop you, I guess you could fight with the cactus!

Our last stop was a ruin that was a Catholic monastery and is now an upscale hotel. It was also destroyed in the earthquakes. Macaws weren’t paying any attention to us…

Our Go with Gus group with Gus in the middle. Thumbs up!

Carvings at the monastery…not sure of the significance.

Leaving La Antigua…a very beautiful, but expensive town…

On our way back to the ship…sugar cane burning in background. Guatemala is the second highest producer of sugar cane, behind Cuba.

There were some shopping stalls set up on the pier. The Guatemalans are known for their hand-woven textiles and we stopped to buy some table runners, before getting back on the ship. It was after 5 p.m. and everyone was tired, but happy with all they had seen!

We stopped in to see Mike and munch on the hors d’oeuvres of the day which was steak tartare. It was very good…carving made out of turnip on the table…

A wonderful day in Guatemala!


No comments:

Post a Comment