Adventures at home, abroad, and online

Category: Maya Adventure Page 2 of 3

Placencia to Jaguar Paw

After saying goodbye to Lou, we drove south back to the coast, in a rented Suzuki Sidekick that seemed about to fall to pieces. There was a crack in the windshield that started at two inches long, that spanned the car by the time we were done. I thought I would die at any moment in a hail of glass. Stopped in Dangriga, and had an excellent meal at King Burger. Tried to see the Garifuna museum, to learn more about the unique freed slave culture, but it was closed. Hours here are seemingly at the whim of the proprietor. Spent the night in Hopkins at a place on the beach, and tried to hear local drumming, but it was preempted by a speech by Bush. Everyone at the local bar enjoyed jeering our President, and we surprised them by being reasonable Americans.

Hammock Bliss

Left Hopkins and drove to Placencia on 30 miles of unpaved mud, ruts and potholes. Still, that doesn’t stop the developers from building monstrosities for rich Americans. The town itself is smaller than Caye Caulker, but has a similar feel. Spent three days lounging in our hammocks at Saks Beach House, churning through book after book. Went to the Purple Space Monkey (silly name, decent food) to trade in my trashy scifi for John Le CarrĂ© spy novels. Nothing like reading about the Cold War on the beach, sipping Belikin beer.

Blue Morpho

After Placencia, drove inland again to Jaguar Paw, for one last dose of jungle. Did a cave tubing trip, which was less adventurous than ATM, but still lots of fun. Got to see a wonderful butterfly farm, and learned more about lepidopteran breeding than I ever needed to. Also took a zipline in the canopy, which seemed sort of hokey, but was actually a blast. Not an educational experience persay, but lots of fun to fly through the trees.


Antigua Guatemala

After a day resting back in Boston, I’m off on another trip, this time for pleasure, not business. Mom and Hannah came down on Wednesday, and we set off for the airport early Thursday morning. We met Ruth in the George Bush Intercontinental Airport, and then flew off to Guatemala.

Landing in the city, we were surprised by the size and efficiency of the new airport. The traffic in the city, not so much. Got a ride to Antigua, where we had an excellent dinner at Hannah’s favorite restaurant, and then slept soundly in Mom’s rented apartment. Walked around the city on Friday, sampling the fresh strong coffee, buying crafty things, and generally relaxing. We met Armando and Theresa for lunch in a garden restaurant, and saw Fernando for dinner. After hearing so many stories about this place, I’m happy to finally see it for myself.

Antigua Strolling
Iglesia San Francisco
Mom with her book

Around Lake Atitlan

We left Antigua early on Saturday and drove along the Pan-American highway north to the lake. It’s a curvy road, but apparently much better than it used to be. Children stand along the edges waving to the turisticos, hoping to be thrown candy.

Ruth's beaded brachylophosaurus

We had lunch and did more shopping in Panajachel, and Ruth found a beaded dinosaur that I thought was an igaunadon, but she declared definitively was a brachylophosaurus. I trust the amateur paleontologist on this one. All the kids knew was that it cost 175 quetzales.

Volcano view

We left Armando and took a small boat from Pana to Santa Cruz, where we are staying for the weekend. There is a ridiculous view out our bungalow window of one of the volcanoes that ring the lake. Had a lively diner discussion with some of the other people staying at the hotel, and retired early to a game of Hannah Montana Uno.

Santiago Atitlan

Today we had planned to hike along the shore, but delayed that activity due to the rain. Instead we took a boat across to Santiago Atitlan for the Sunday market. It was a far less touristed town, and apart from the area directly in front of the dock, the stalls were selling everyday goods. The market was crowded but my relative height meant that I towered over everyone and could see my way through. In the center of town is a large apostolic church and a relief map of the lake and the surrounding towns. I took an overhead picture for Jeff to rectify.

A small boy who claimed to be nine but looked seven follwed me around, eventually convincing us to take a tuk-tuk tour of the town from his father. We went to see Maximon, a Maya figure who accepts offerings of money, cigarettes, and liquor. We also went to a “peace park” at the site of a massacre in 1991, which interested Mom greatly. Back on the boat in the rain, and Hannah and Ruth went off for a weaving lesson.

Crossing the lake
Our tuk-tuk guide
Lake Atitlan relief map
Market day

Altitude Diving

In my quest to acquire still more bad-ass but useless skills, I took a course in high altitude diving. Lake Atitlan sits at 5000 feet, which means the air pressure at the surface is 15% lower than sea level. Because dive tables and depth gauges are all calibrated to one atmosphere, this necessitates slightly different protocols. Nothing too fancy, but I got to dust off some of my rusty knowledge of partial pressures and Boyle’s law.

Because the boat we dove off was quite small, we suited up on shore. Nothing felt quite so silly as walking past women in traje while wearing a wetsuit and carrying a tank of air.

There’s actually very little to see in the lake, so the altitude is the interesting part. We saw a drowned but standing tree, some volcanic formations, some warm mud due to underlying activity, and several tire-fish and cans of Gallo. More exciting than my training dives in Lake Mascoma, but only by a little. But now I have an extra PADI certification, and another useless skill under my belt.

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