September 2, 2009,Wednesday,Massages at the Bela Spa, a relaxing day with some planning and laundry.
September 3, 2009,Thursday,Market day to stock up for the Atitlan trip, an update the website day and Paid bills..
September 4, 2009,Friday-Left Antigua for Lake Atitlan-Camped at Hotel Vision Azul.
We took John and Sharon out to breakfast at a beautiful garden restaurant next to their complex. It has been so nice to have hot showers, a large bed, and a beautiful home for recuperating from daily traveling and decision making.
We then left for a 2 hour drive(?!) to Lago Atitlan. We missed the sign very small our direction but Large from the other direction. After 5 hours with the short detour we arrived at Hotel Vision Azul just outside the city of Panajachel, on the shore of Lake Atitlan. This campground has an unobstructed view of all three of the Volcanoes on the opposite shore of this large lake. The hotel and the grounds had just recently in the last year had a management change. We met the new managers, Eduardo and his wife, they had just moved from Huston Texas, back to Guatemala, their birthplace, to take up this new opportunity. We told Eduardo of how different the place looked since the last time we were here in 2008. They had put a great deal of work into the condition of the grounds, pool, and surrounding garden and farmland. They were happy to have us report the difference. We paid about $12.00 a night for the next three nights at this magically beautiful place. We found a large shade tree to position Paco and had a wonderfully delightful evening toast to this grand view as the sun sat.
September 5, 2009, Saturday-day in Panajachel, shopping, eating and birding.
We walked from the hotel to Pana in about 20 minutes. The streets were not as crowded as we remembered from our last visit, but this was not an official market day so things were unexpectedly slower. While walking the streets, I noticed an Old Willys (1950)Jeep. It was blue and white and had a huge sign on it with a picture of the Three Americas (South, central, and North) and line of the completed route so far. The license plate was Argentine. I was surprised to meet another couple that were doing the same thing we were but in the opposite direction. They were a young couple, mid twenties. I talked to them for about 20 minutes in my broken Spanish. They had been on the road for 15 months. They were selling postcards and jewelry their only source of income. So I gladly bought a post card from them for $10.00 us. I had to help. Juan told me of his good experience with the crossing from Columbia to Panama, with his car in a container, he said it was better to have two cars and you could split the cost which was about $2000.00 American. I told him of our travel partners and that both of our cars should fit into one container. This is Aymara and Juan's website to follow their trip thru Mexico and the Us. Www.Uniendolastresamericas.blogspot.com, or their email address Uniendolastresamericas@hotmail.com, they hope to reach Alaska in another year. So they are traveling slowly.
After a nice lunch at a street side restaurant we walked back to Vision Azul. There was another camper there. It was a young French family, I thought they were from Florida but later found out they were from the Caribbian Island of Martinique. They were both teachers and had three sons, from 9 to 2 years old. They had purchased the Motor home (a 30' Mini Winnie) in Florida and had been on their way to Panama for the last 5 months. They were planning to sell their RV in Panama then fly home to France for Christmas this year. We may meet them again along the way. They took a year off of teaching to do this trip. We enjoyed the late afternoon and evening watching a soccer game in the area next to us.
September 6, 2009, Sunday- a market day in a small town north of Atitlan, Chichicastenago.
We had arranged transportation to this famed market with a tour agent on Saturday. Karla really wanted to travel by chicken bus but I didn't feel confident enough to get there and back(an hour and one half drive one way). This village is famous for the market that it has on Thursdays and Sundays. This is the time all the indigenous people come to sell and buy for the week. We arrived in town at 9:30. and things were hopping. There were so many colorfully dressed women it made awesome impression. There was no hope that we could blend in, Karla and I were at least 2 feet taller than most of the people. We got use to saying no porfavor, to the many vendors enticing us to buy their work. The main streets into the center of town were blocked and booths of all shapes and sizes were erected to sell absolutely everything that one could imagine. From tools to shoes, to all the vegetables and fruits as well as hand made articles. It was nice to know that we have no room for anything else in Paco. So we weren't in a buying mood. Although,Karla had a tough time denying herself a nice embroidered jacket, but she did try a few on. We visited the two small churches that were rather stark and old. We also found the mural that depicted the plight of the indigenous people from the last revolution about 10 years ago. This was a very cryptic display of the powerful government trying to beat the poor into submission...
The return bus trip had some other tourist in it. A traveling couple from Chile, whom invited us to visit them when we go through Chile, and an Israeli female student traveling before she returned to start her studies at a University in Israel..
A nice evening in camp. We visited some more with the French couple about camping in Copan and Antigua. We then had to retreat to Paco from a cloud burst, after dinner we read. I had purchased a used book in Pana the day before.
September 7, 2009,Monday- Breakfast in the Atitlan hotel garden, walk through the Buena Ventura Nature persevere, drove back to Antigua.
Our treat to ourselves was to have breakfast at the Atitlan Hotel. Its gardens are immaculately kept. Of course the hummingbird activity is a benefit that I am expecting. This is a beautiful setting again with the flowers all in bloom and the view. I had an ham and cheese omelet, and Karla had scrambled eggs and bacon. We spent about 2 hours walking through the gardens, Yes the hummingbirds were in full force. We saw two species, the Sparkling tailed wood-star(a lifer), and the Azure crowned humming birds.
We walked back to Paco, changed into cooler clothes and then went to the Buena Ventura Nature Preserve. This was a small little oak/pine forest that covered the old coffee plantation. We saw Coatimundi, and spider monkeys. Some forest birds and a beautiful waterfall. Right at the top of the steep climb we were treated to a view of a Blue throat-ed Mot-mot, another lifer for the day.
Back at camp we had another new camper that was from Florida. Again, this was a couple from Spain rather than Florida. They were on a two year journey to Terra Del Fuego. They were on their 3rd month of the journey. Josu and Anna gave us some suggestions of the Panama/Colombia problem and wanted to keep in touch by email. They were planning on taking longer to get to Panama than us, I plan on giving them a heads up on what we encounter when we finally make the connections to cross the Darian Gap. There are sure more people that are doing this than I thought. There seems to be a growing network of Overlanders helping one another.
The drive back to Antigua was wet and rainy over the 8 thousand ft passes. Arrived safely back in Antigua at around 5 and took John and Sharon out to a nice dinner.
September 8, 2009,Tuesday,Day of restocking at Sharon and John's home in Antigua. We needed to buy some auto safety equipment (triangles and flares) for Honduras. We also needed to fill the propane tank, before we go into Honduras.