So I went to the nature reserve today. Amazing! Spider Monkeys, coatis, views, flowers, waterfalls. I did the zip lines which was great. Reserva Natural Atitlan. Also I did some little gymnastic walking across a tightrope, swinging stairs, that kind of thing which was so much harder than it looked! I was exhausted when I finished. Tomorrow I´m going to head to either San Pedro de Laguna or Santiago. I don´t particularly care which, since I intend to go to the other one afterwards.
It was an overall amazing experience. Watching wild monkeys swing from trees & coatis scramble under them. Walking under coffee & banana trees, through a jungle canopy. Suspension bridges in front of waterfalls and views of volcanos…. not to mention the amazing fun of the zip lines. I am really glad I did it.
Well, it´s been a while since I posted so I´ve done a lot. I finished my month at the language school. I can sort of have conversations in Spanish, with a very limited vocabulary. I also went to the Chichicastenango market, and had a fabulous time. I bought quite a few things, but had a lot of fun just gawking as well. They had ducks, geese, and turkeys in baskets and just held them by the wing to sell them. It was funny seeing baskets of live ducks tucked under peoples arms. They had both full sized and duckling. They had piglets on leashes, and more blankets than you have ever seen. Also table cloths, etc. The girl in the picture above charged me 5Q for the photo. Another boy, angrily, charged me 5Qs for his photo right afterwards.
I´m now in the lakeside town of Panajachel. It´s breathtakingly beautiful here, and my plans are to sip a fruity drink in a restaurant with live jazz with a view of the lake for the evening. Then tomorrow I head to the local reserve, which I hear has such fun things as zip lines, tons of monkeys and a butterfly garden. Then either one more night here, or off to one of the other lakeside towns for tomorrow. But we skipped a little bit fast over just how amazingly beautiful it is here. A gorgeous, clear, blue lake. Soaring volcanos behind, cliffs all around, verdant greenery everywhere (especially the cliffs), waterfalls that don´t even draw notice despite being the size & aspect of the more famous falls in Yosemite, and flowers everywhere. Actually there are flowers everywhere in all of Guatemala, but it doesn´t make it any less pretty here. The town is touristy, but I get the feeling quite a few of the tourists are Guatemalan. There are tons of hippies here – soy&vegan options available at most restaurants, dredlocks and macramae. Many seem to live here. Overall, I definitely like this place. It´s still an easy travel spot, but breathtaking. I did have to speak Spanish more than in Antigua, though many people seem to speak English very well. I had a begger boy demand a kiss, and when I said no and tried to shoo him off he called me what sounded like some pretty tough names, but in Spanish.
I´m now posting from Red´s Bar here in Antigua. The thing about this place is I can sit here sipping on a Pina Colada – that costs about 2 bucks – and playing on the internet for about a $1-hour. There is waitress service, it also sells a pretty good selection of used books, and I can choose to either speak English or Spanish, because it´s a mixed crowd of Guatemalan and traveler customers and there are staff members that speak both. But enough about the bar… on to the volcano!
So I climbed a volcano today! It was awesome. Our guide roasted marshmallows, many people melted their shoes, I definitely felt the heat. I climbed over lava, and was within oh two to three feet of the main flow. The hike up was intense as well. I was gasping for breath at times because we were booking it! We´d gotten tickets for the 2 pm trip but didn´t end up leaving Antigua until after 3 pm. The volcano is apparently pretty dangerous at night because of the dangers of sharp rock, unlit paths, and bandits. We had no problems, but wow was the hike tiring. It was very pretty though, with walking next to some steep corn fields, a little lightly forested area, and some open grassy expanses. Then the lava field, and the playing with lava. It was altogether fun.
Storytime. A few little anecdotes about Antigua, Guatemala.
-Yesterday morning I stood on a corner opposite a ruined church, waiting for the usual assortment of brightly colored old school buses, minivans of more descriptions than I can count, bicycles, motorcycles, and scooters, to pass on the cobbled street. One particular scooter caught my eye because the driver had this ´leader of the pack´attitude that just jumped out as she sucked on her lolly pop. She was maybe 12 to 14 years old, had another girl sitting just behind her, and was dressed in a pretty standard Catholic school girl uniform.
– Corpus Christi!
Yesterday was Corpus Christi. This is apparently some sort of Catholic holiday, I don’t know anything about the religious part except it is also celebrated in Germany. So here in Antigua they celebrate with:
1) a large procession around the main square leaving from the Cathedral at Parque Central and the procession consists of: little children dressed like angels walking out of the Cathedral(on a path made up of green leaves and plants) scattering flowers, followed by boys carrying flags and monks carrying things that look a little like metal tiki torches. Then come the old ladies wearing gold and black veils, also with a flag. Then comes a man(priest?) ringing a bell and the priest under a little tent that is being carried as well. The priest holds a gold pointy thing, and there are men walking around with incense. Then comes the marching band. This is all done in a huge crowd so it’s hard to tell who is officially in the procession and who isn’t. The pictures are on my flickr page.
2) Religious ceremonies lasting all day
3) Men give their girlfriends toy pigeons and women give their boyfriends monkeys. When I asked my host family about this, I believe they said (my Spanish isn’t that good yet) the pigeons symbolize the womans sexual organs, and the monkeys the mens. So women buy the monkeys, then give them to there boyfriend. This interpretation is substantiated by the fact that everyone at the table burst out laughing, and the 12 year old girl blushed particularly furiously, and eventually ran out of the room as the explanation was going on.
– banana bread!
Many people, starting with Lonely Planet, had recommended this one bakery. They particularly recommended the banana bread. I’m not generally a fan, but I was hungry and walking by and it smelled good so… I bought some banana bread. It was so amazingly delicious! Not too moist, not a weird texture, just super yummy bread. I finished a half loaf in a day and a half. I found out recently they also make mango and coconut and papaya and all kinds of other fruit breads, and cookies. I’m so going to have to try them all.
I just got back from Parque Central and Antigua´s main cathedral. Today is Corpus Christi, and a big celebration here. I´ve never heard of it before, unless it goes by a different name in the States. I finally broke out my camera today, and took many pictures of a small area of Antigua. I´ll post some later. Now, back to class, then I´ll write about the children, the banana bread, the celebration, and my plans for the rest of the trip.