July 7 – August 7, 2016.
We left Florida on May 5th, 2015 so after more than a year of being on the road, having family visiting was more than a big deal for us. On July 7, 2016 after saying goodbye to our new friends Julie and Ricardo who wined and dined us for almost a week, we picked up our daughter in law Mariana and two of our grand children Eva and Noah at La Aurora International Airport in Guatemala City. Driving in a big City like Guatemala City can be a bit overwhelming when you don’t really know where you’re going with a large truck. We were so exited that we got to the airport 2 hours before, just to make sure we would be there when they arrived! It’s a weird set up because you can’t just park and go wait inside, you have to wait for them outside and it’s total chaos! While Joe waited in the truck I was able to spot them, it was a very emotional moment, such a great feeling to be able to hug them.
Mariana stayed with us for a few days in Antigua then went back home. We spent about three weeks with our grandchildren and then on the fourth week, Jason (Joe’s son) and Mariana came to join us on Lake Atitlan for a week, then they all went back home to Florida together.
From the airport we headed straight to Antigua only 40k from Guatemala City but it took us 2 hours because of traffic and a few navigation glitches.
“A place of rare beauty, major historical significance and vibrant culture, Antigua remains Guatemala’s must-visit destination.
A former capital, the city boasts an impressive catalogue of colonial relics in a magnificent setting. Streetscapes of pastel facades unfold beneath three volcanoes. Many old ecclesiastical and civic structures are beautifully renovated, while others retain tumbledown charm, with fragments strewn about park-like grounds.
Thanks to the dozens of Spanish language schools that operate here, Antigua is a global hot spot. Yet it remains a vibrant Guatemalan town, its churches, plazas and markets throbbing with activity. Outside the city, indigenous communities, coffee plantations and volcanoes offer ample opportunities for exploration.
Perhaps the real miracle of Antigua is its resilience. Despite earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and floods, followed by virtual abandonment, it has re-emerged with a vengeance, buoyed by the pride of its inhabitants.”
Excerpt From: Lonely Planet. “Lonely Planet Guatemala.”
The day after they arrived, we celebrated Noah’s 6th birthday with a cake and a new soccer ball.
We all fell in love with this dog who was following us everywhere! The kids named him Venga Spanish for “come on”. Months later Joe recognized him in a picture on Instagram, I contacted the guy and sure enough it was Venga now called Jake. He was adopted by Benjy Davenport a full time Overlander traveling around the world in a Land Rover. You can read his very interesting story on his website Cornwall 2 Cape Horn
The kids said goodbye to their mom and we took off from Antigua. Our fist stop was a run down waterpark/campground near the town of Palin.
There is many volcanos around Antigua, one of the most popular tour is an overnight hike of Acatenango where you can enjoy the sunrise overlooking the very active Fuego Volcano. After talking to our friends who had done it, we decided that was just to much for us! We opted for the milder hike of Pacaya Volcano.
Whole fried fish is a typical dish throughout Central America and Eva loves it!
When we left the waterpark, we followed the proposed route on maps.me, our navigation application. Little did we know that after 3 long hours of driving through small towns on rough roads we would arrive at a dead end (Embarcadero La Avellana). We had reached an unknown body of water (we found out later that it’s the Chiquimulilla Canal). Small wooden barges powered by a single outboard motor were sitting idle with a bunch of young operators signaling us to pull up and board! They did not seem bothered by the fact that our vehicle weighs over 13,000 pounds (6,000 kg). The only alternative was to drive back to take the 4 lane highway that takes you to the coast!!! Too late in the day for option #2, so without overthinking it we powered on and were guided onto the small barge. That’s when we really started to get freaked out! We were possibly going to loose our home with everything we own in this world, but most of all we were worried sick about our grandchildren! We envisioned we were all going to die in a swamp in the middle of nowhere Guatemala!!!
We thought we were just going to cross to the other side but it turned out to be a 30 minute ride through the mangroves! We started relaxing when we came across other barges transporting trucks, buses and people!
Once we reached Monterrico, a small beach town on the Pacific ocean, we were going to camp at an Ecopark on the black sand beach and maybe see some turtles but when we got there, the parking lot was full due to a special event and coming from an higher elevation made the heat even more brutal!!! Then I remembered Julie and Ricardo talking about a beautiful resort they had stayed at not to long ago. We headed for the Hotel Dos Mundos – Pacific Resort and we were not disappointed!
We had heard a lot about Lake Atitlan but we had no idea how much we would fall for it! We ended up staying 7 weeks (July 18 – September 6, 2016). It is our Coup de Coeur in Central America!
- Extraordinary raw beauty of the views and landscape
- Incredible weather (80’s during the day and 60’s at nigh)
- Local Mayan women wearing their colorful traditional clothing
- Numerous Mayan villages around the lake each one with it’s own flair
- Access to good food
- Modes of transportation are either walking, riding a Tuk Tuk or hopping on a water taxi, all adding to the experience…
Located in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range, lake Atitlan is shaped by deep surrounding escarpments and three volcanoes on its South flank. It is filling an enormous caldera that was formed 84,000 years ago by a volcanic eruption. It is also the deepest lake in Central America with a maximum depth of about 1,120 feet (340 meters). It is approximately 12km x 5km. Elevation is 5,100 feet (1,600 meters)
But first you have to get there! When you’re driving your own rig it could be some what challenging, maybe that’s the real reason why people stay so long!!!
We chose to stay at Pasaj-Cap in the village of San Marcos La Laguna located on the North shore of Lake Atitlan. It is an unbelievable property owned by a genuine and charming Frenchman who knows a thing or two about hospitality! Pierre is always around to make sure we have everything we need to ensure a memorable stay! He offers 12 different rental units and camping for Overlanders. He sells beef, shrimps, pâtés and wine. We can pick any fruits from the many trees throughout the manicures lawns and pick herbs in the garden … just a magical place that we hope to visit again one day!
We can walk to town for basic groceries and take a Tuk Tuk to come back if we have to many bags. From the dock we can jump in one of the many water taxis that drive by every 20 minutes to go to any of the many villages.
On July 30th, 2016 Jason and Mariana joined us in San Marcos after a pretty sketchy transfer from Antigua!
Mariana came across this farm on line and contacted the owner to see if we could go visit. Sure enough on Friday they were offering a free tour! It was a 45 minute walk from Pasaj Cap in the neighboring village of Tzununa. Atitlan Organics is a fully functioning, profitable, organic, permaculture farm. They offer classes like Intro to Permaculture, Permaculture design and Natural building. “Small-scale food production and localized resource utilization is the wave of the future”
More discoveries around the lake
When we embarked on this crazy journey one of our biggest concerns was leaving friends and family behind, most of all our grandchildren. We were not going to be around to watch them grow up. After much thinking we came to the conclusion that being able to spend quality time with them in a different country every year would enriched their lives on a much deeper level in the long run. For as long as they want to join us on their summer vacation we will welcome them no matter where we are and share our nomadic lifestyle, opening their eyes and minds to new experiences and cultures. We strongly believe that travel helps all of us become better human beings by renewing our sense of gratitude and appreciation for life. Hopefully giving them a healthy dose of adventure and cultural awareness, will have a positive impact on their lives or at the very least give them great memories of the time they spent with their crazy grandparents …
After a month in Guatemala, Eva and Noah returned home to Florida on August 7, 2016 with their parents! See you in a few more months for the holidays kiddos, hope you had as much fun as we did!
Next summer (2017) our third grandchild Vivian will also join her cousins and come visit us in Colombia!