Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Guatemala: Lake Atitlan and Antigua

Sunset view from Panajachel
This blog post requires a few pages, but being short on time, it'll only be a few photos with captions.

I passed through Guatemala by bus and plane on my way to Belize. I thought, looking at the map, such a small country it would be easy to get to Belize City in 5 days and see lots in the process.

Yes, it's small, and no it's not easy!

The central highlands are mountainous and vast. The bus from San Cristobal de las Casas in Chiapas takes a full day from 6:30am to 5:00 pm. If a person is prone to sea sickness, this would be a good time to invest in patches or dramamine.

My friend David lives in Panajachel, on the edge of an enormous volcanic caldera filled with water, Lake Atitlan. The waters have been slowly rising, flooding the tiny "beach" areas and encroaching on waterfront homes. The reason is that the lake has no outlet and never has had one. There are enough cracks and fissures in the bottom that the water drains out at about the rate it flows in during the very rainy seasons. An earthquake a few years back apparently sealed some of those cracks. So....the travel advice is go visit while the town exists, it may not in a couple of decades.

David and I went around Panajachel, took a boat ride to another little town, and on Thursday went to Chichicastenango to the crafts market. David graciously acted as my pack burro and carried all the cloth items I purchased!

Then we bused over to Antigua, an old colonial city that was once the capital until earthquakes serially destroyed the cathedral, monasteries, and homes three times in the same century. They moved the capital to Guatemala City and never looked back. It's the most picturesque city in Guatemala, with towering volcanos on three sides and many ruins that photograph well against a deep blue sky or in the long glowing sunsets.

On Monday I flew to Belize City. It was expensive, but worth it. What took two hours, would have taken almost 2 days over more mountains!

Old rusting Mercedes staff car stuck in the jungle.
(Actually it's in the yard of an art gallery!)

Beach in Panajachel, now underwater!

Hetel in Chichicastenango

In the market in Chichi

Cathedral ruins in Antigua

Children vendors in Antigua,
watching a street performer

La Merced church in the setting sun

Famous arch in Antigua, it is actually a passageway
connecting two halves of a convent

Maximo, the "patron" saint of Guatemals. A native
version of San Simon, who smokes cigars and
drinks the many gifts of alcohol from his petitioners
The pool at the public laundry, women wash in a series of basins,
dipping water from the pool. Still used regularly by locals.

Reflections in the laundry pool.