Off to Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

Trip Start Feb 01, 2012
Trip End Feb 21, 2012

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What I did
Solola market, church & clock tower

Flag of Guatemala  , Western Highlands,
Wednesday, February 15, 2012

 I got up a bit later than expected but we got ready in time for 6 am departure.  We crossed into Guatemala without problems.  We waited until 8:30 or so to stop for breakfast.  I got a tortilla wrapped around cabbage and beef that Lou likes and I ate it for breakfast and lunch.  I have been eating meat on trips now for the full experience.  I am surprised at the amount of meat here in Central America.

We stopped a second time for snacks and bathrooms and it wasn't until much later that we stopped for lunch at a roadside restaurant that reminded me of US diners.  It specialized in sausages but since I wasn't hungry after my breakfast, I had a pickled salad - still too much but I finished it.  It was quite good - it had peas, carrots, lettuce, cucumbers, onions and cilantro with a light vinegar dressing. 

We drove through great landscapes with mountains, the chi-chi plant with purple flowers that Lou said Chichicastenango was named after, and some trees and plants with yellow flowers.  Lou said the trees with yellow flowers were buttercup trees.  There were tons of terraced fields climbing up the mountain slopes.  As we progressed to Lake Atitlan, which is at 1500 meters, we went as high as 2300 meters before we reached Panajachel.  The roads went from potholes to three-lane newly poured concrete but were very windy and our new driver Immanuel did a great job of driving.

While we were en route, Lou gave us background on Guatemalan politics and the massacre of Mayan people at various times - from colonization, to the civil war, to afterward during one of the military dictators. It was quite sobering and horrifying.  She also described some of the traditional clothes worn by Mayan men and women.  Different areas have different patterns.  The women weave the distinctive cloth and then they embroider the various patterns, including lots of birds.  Their skirts are made of fabric whose threads are dyed previously to weaving to give their wavy patterns.  The skirts are usually tubes tied at the waist and held up with embroidered belts.  They have embroidered huipils as blouses and special headdresses that we did not always see them wearing.  Sometimes they wore folded cloth on their heads.  The men wear pants that end mid-calf.  They are often striped with embroidery on the bottom half of the leg.  They also wear shirts that they embroider themselves, a blanket wound around their waists and cowboy hats.  The Mayans are notable for retaining their traditional dress.  I have a hard time taking my eyes off of them and even harder time not taking photos that will offend them.  Another thing is that their separate articles of clothing have different designs but are remarkably color-coordinated.

Lou had the driver stop the bus in Solola where there was a school with the Maya calendar painted on the side of the building with a symbol of the town in the middle of it.  The symbol was a stylized bat.  I kept looking for a copy of it somewhere - like a t-shirt or other souvenir - but found none.  I did take several photos of it though.  We stopped where a parking space was offered to us and walked around the town square.trying to take unobtrusive and non-offensive photos of the wonderful traditional garb.  Some of our tour group asked people if they could take photos and were told "no" or given a price of $10 so not many photos were taken that way.  David got a photo of a woman by asking - I think he was the only one.  I see Kerry had one as well.  We saw the same bat symbol embroidered on the back of some men's shirts.  How I wanted to find one in that little market, but none was to be found - by me.

We arrived in Panajachel around 5 pm.  We had to walk to the hotel because the bus could not get in by the driveway but they transferred the bags by truck.  The hotel resembled a motel in the US - I can't remember if we could hear the roosters at that point or not.  We walked around the market stalls for a bit and then joined Naomi, Jane, Jan and Kay for drinks.  I had happy hour pina coladas and told David I think that they split the liquor between the two.  Jane convinced me to leave Clare and David to themselves so I went to dinner with her and Naomi.  They were very sweet and went to a place that had ceviche because that was what I wanted.  I ordered the ceviche and nachos with guacamole because I thought one wouldn't be enough but it turned out as usual to be way too much.  Kerry found us and sat down.  When we left at around 9 pm (or maybe later), the restaurant closed its doors behind us.  This seems to be a recurring theme.

When we got back to the hotel, I found Clare and David sitting outside our room and chatted to them until David suggested that Clare and I go inside because we were all freezing.  I had forgotten that I had the key.  Poor Clare - I am always inconveniencing her but she is so tolerant - I am not sure I would have been.  I was cold with my sweater on.  After chatting a little bit, we were ready to go to sleep.  That's when the rooster started crowing!

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