Guatemala, Part 2 of 3

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.

Antigua

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.”

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Santa Catalina Arch!

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We camped in the Tourist Police parking lot a very popular place for Overlanders. They let you park as long as you have a toilet. There is no set free but they expect a donation to maintain the area. The location is ideal, just a few minutes walk to the hearth of Antigua, grocery stores, market, restaurants, central plaza …

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One of the officers at the Tourist Police compound where they live. They make very little money and they have to pay for most of their equipment. Every three weeks they go home by bus to visit their family!

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It didn’t take long for everyone to feel right at home!

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Eva and Noah made friends with two young French Overlanders that were parked next to us!

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Kids speak the international language of fun!

The day after they arrived, we celebrated Noah’s 6th birthday with a cake and a new soccer ball.

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No shirt, no shoes, climbing trees, I think Noah is happy!

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

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While Mariana was visiting we rented a room in this cute hotel just down the street from the Tourist Police parking lot. Venga is never far from Eva!

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These were quite a treat: mango popsicle dipped in ground pumpkin seed with a splash of lime!

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Mariana, Eva and I attended a free theater performance at the Spanish Cultural Center

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It’s nice to walk around town and bump into people you know! Chris and Jen from The Globe Trol,  a fun couple we first met in Mexico!

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Eva and Noah learned how to make chocolate at Choco Museo.

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Tuk Tuk ride to go visit an American couple we had met a few days earlier. They had just opened a small bakery (Del Corazon Bakery) in the near by town of San Pedro Las Huertas, apparently they made pretty good burgers.

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There was no Tuk Tuk to go back so we took a Chicken Bus. When we got on, it was empty so we spread out but it didn’t take long for the bus to fill up along the way and by the time we got to Antigua we were 3 or 4 per seat!

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One last ice-cream in the central Plaza before we leave Antigua to go explore more…

Palin

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.

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Nothing like a bowl of mac and cheese after a good swim!

Pacaya Volcano

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.

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Pacaya is one of the most active Volcano in Guatemala, the last big eruption was in 2010!

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I was determined to walk up but with the altitude it didn’t take long that we all opted for the horses! Afterwards Eva was making me laugh by imitating me, saying: “Honey I thing I will reconsider the horses”

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We came across this beautiful little store in the middle of nowhere. They set it up everyday with fresh cut flowers and all!

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Their display incorporated natural elements, it was incredible. The kids each chose a bracelet made out of coconut shells and lava! Eva chose a dragonfly and Noah a dragon!

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Walking on lava flows!

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Roasting marshmallows above volcanic heat vent called fumaroles, an awesome and unique experience!

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Volcanic Smores!

Auto Mariscos

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How cool is having a water park in your campground! Doing the dishes while the kids are having fun in the slides! Nice to have running water next to the rig!

Whole fried fish is a typical dish throughout Central America and Eva loves it!

 

Monterrico

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!

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We parked Silver in the guest parking lot and checked in this beautiful little bungalow for a few days!

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We spent all day enjoying the pools and eating the best chicken fingers ever! We feel so fortunate to have the financial freedom to splurge once in a while which truly enhances our journey!

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Eva said “Hey grandma we are roughing it in Guatemala, don’t tell daddy” ha! ha! I love that girl!

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Pretty much every night was movie night! We didn’t have many kid movies on our hard drive, we watched Despicable Me 1 and 2, Ace Ventura Pet Detective, Elf and Dirty Dancing a gizillion times!!!

Lake Atitlan

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!!!

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This was our first view of the lake while navigating down one of the most treacherous road we’ve encountered. We had red about other overlanders rig’s brake pads overeating but we still weren’t prepared for the road’s terrible conditions. An endless amount of switchbacks, potholes the size of kiddy pools and often encountering very narrow passages around the blind hairpin turns!

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.

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Evening dinner with our new camp buddy named Beagle! I know, I know he’s not a beagle but that was really his name! Note the volcano in the background!

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Pasaj-Cap from the dock!

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Waiting for the lancha (water taxi) to go grocery shopping in the next village called San Pedro. Eva and Noah loved meeting our Overlander friends. Here with Josh and Jenna from Travel Amateurs

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The roads are so bad that lanchas (boats) are the main mode of transport. Cheap and fast!

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Grocery shopping in San Pedro! One of my favorite photos, we had it enlarged and gave it to the kids for Christmas! Note the dog’s tongue in Noah’s ear!!!

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Did you notice that Eva is a dog lover just like her Pop Pop!

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The ice-cream place was closed so Eva had to settle for a popsicle!

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Guatemalan women can carry a surprising amount of weight on their heads, San Pedro.

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Another favorite! Pop Pop , Eva and Noah doing their best pose!

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A couple of days after we arrived we were invited at Pierre’s house (the owner of Pasaj-Cap) for a BBQ.

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After a few nights of sleeping in our rig we decided to rent a house! View from the first house!

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View from the second house we stayed in because the first one had a previous reservation. This one came with a roof top terrace and a beautiful side garden from where we could keep an eye on Silver.

On July 30th, 2016 Jason and Mariana joined us in San Marcos after a pretty sketchy transfer from Antigua!

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Hanging out at the dock reminded us of our house on Blue Sea Lake in Canada. In the background, the youngest couple of Overlanders we’ve met so far, Mitch and Taylor (22) from South By Land

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After 3 weeks with us, the kids were happy to see their parents!

Atitlan Organics

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”

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Look at that face! Pure happiness and just from holding a chicken!

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After the tour we enjoyed a delicious vegetarian meal at the Bamboo Guest House at their farm to table restaurant.

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This is the only road to access the farm!

More discoveries around the lake

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Small door for a not so small girl!!! Eva loves wearing her Guatemalan dress and purse.

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Strolling through the narrow streets of San Pedro.

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San Pedro.

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Zip lining in the Atitlan Nature Reserve in the town of Panajachel 

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Atitlan Nature Reserve in Panajachel

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Overlanders flock to Pasaj-Cap. We spent quite a lot of time with this happy bunch here in Guatemala and also in Mexico. It was nice to  introduce our family to some of our traveling family! John and Mandi, Mark and Saskia from Dream Drive Repeat, Gary from Adventure-Continued and Carolina.

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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!

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Picture of a painting depicting the life of Mayan women keeping the traditions alive around Lake Atitlan.

 

Next, Guatemala Part 3 of 3 … stay tuned!

21 thoughts on “Guatemala, Part 2 of 3

    1. Joe and Josee,

      Wonderful pics, and great seeing all of you folks together, and having a good time.
      We are all well here in Pennsylvania
      I’m flying down to Fla Wednesday 28th, spend a week with my kids.
      I’m having the Slingshot (aka, Batmobile) trucked down
      to drive around Fla.
      Health and work still good, Alla’s keeping busy, etc. We may go to Israel, China, or Bermuda in the Fall. No final decision ?

      Love,

      SLP

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Glad you enjoy our journey brother! Bring that slingshot down and enjoy the flat roads of Florida! Why not we only live once might as well enjoy it! the kids will go crazy!
        Cheers
        J&J

        Like

      1. Your pictures are wonderful. Getting tp know you guys here at the Lake was a good memory to keep. I admire your traveling spirit, but I find Lake Atitlan too mystical, magical to leave. I had a bit of a scare recently because the owner of my house received an offer to sell. It made me realize that I just never want to go from here. He later told me the place was not for sale, he wants it for his kids, and that I can stay as long as I wish. Keep the stories coming, I can live your adventure vicariously that way.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Magnifique récit inspirant et comme c’est une bonne idée ce partage annuel mais ô combien enrichissant pour les petits-enfants!
    Merci de partager!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I confess I got a little misty-eyed as I watch the blessings being rendered to you, as grandparents, and to your grandchildren by sharing these experiences. Those memories will endure for a lifetime for all of you. Thanks for letting me read about your times and adventures.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Allô Josée et Joe!
    J’avais bien hâte de recevoir d’autre nouvelle ,les photos sont magnifiques .Vive l’aventure! Merci encore et à bientôt ……

    Like

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