05/12/2013/11:25 am, El TOrtugal Marina, Rio Dulce
The Litegua Bus dropped us off in town, we trundled our bags across the street to the dock, and one phone call and ten minutes later we were on the shuttle boat to El Tortugal.
It was a wonderfully easy homecoming to our favourite marina. The guys dragged our very heavy bags to our room for the next two nights - Cuarto 1 - and after a walk along the docks to see who was here, we settled down with drinks in hand on the airy restaurant patio. Manuel welcomed us with his quiet smile and a "Bienvenidos, Senor Jim", Daphne came out from the kitchen with a warm hug and a "Welcome back". We enjoyed a good dinner of pollo cordon bleu amidst a large group of land visitors (the hotel was packed)and fell into bed.
The next morning, we really knew we were back! We joined fellow cruisers for the ritual coffee on the deck and were delighted to see so many familiar faces - Cathy, Alan and Mary, Peter and Eileen, Ellen and Dave, Deborah and Gerry, John and Anne and some new faces too.
Blanca stayed over last night (after giving a full day of massages) to ease the knots out of our backs after breakfast. She is working from the tree house this year - a sweet little thatch roofed hut up a few steps and behind a big tree back in the garden. That woman has magic hands and we were so glad to take our turns on her table. She's here every Tuesday, charges 200Q (less than $30 Cdn) for one of the best massages you'll find anywhere.
We walked to town for the necessary sim chip for the TiGo stick (for internet down the river) and a few groceries - and a little bit of culture shock again as we dodged cars and trucks and tuktuks. We caught the 5 o'clock lancha back and enjoyed happy hour under the palapa with the cruisers before another good dinner in the restaurant.
Now we are waiting for Casey and Linda to come up from Cayo Quemado to pick us up, do another grocery run - for the cold things today - and then we'll go find our boat!!
02/12/2013/12:56 am, Antigua, Guatemala
We went to hear Miguel and Sunny and Jerry play guitar and harmonica and sing soft rock and blues in the garden at Angie Angie's, and we joined Lori and her mother, Muriel, along with Judy and Gene (formerly on Skylark) at Don Martin's - a terrific little restaurant that served very good international and tipico food. I had the Pepian de Res (a traditional stew with a rich, complex gravy) and Jim dined on tender pepper steak. This is the first beef we've had since we got here - chicken and fish are much more commonly found.
Jim made one more visit to the dentist where he had the impression made for the crown that will top the post currently adding interest to his smile. Muriel flies home to Florida tomorrow, and we board the Litegua bus for Rio Dulce. Lori will get the rooms freshened and be ready for the next crop of clients.
It has been a wonderful stay in Antigua, but it is time to go find our floating home. We'll stay a couple of days at El Tortugal Marina where we'll get haircuts and massages from Blanca, and stock up on a few groceries and then we'll climb into a lancha with all our bags and boxes and head down to El Gofete.
I've got some pictures in the gallery - of New Zealand and of Guatemala. Check out the links in the side bar if you'd like to take a look. For some reason I can add only a few at a time - I never did get the picture part of this blog figured out very well.
And this picture is what I saw walking home tonight - over Volcan Fuego. Is that not impressive??
01/12/2013/12:01 am, Antigua, Guatemala
Nancy and Doug picked us up in the morning and took us off for a visit to a golf course - and not just any golf course. This was La Reunion Golf resort and Residences, about 40 minutes outside town, at the foot of Fuego. (www.lareunion.com.gt)
To get there, we drove along cobbled streets through San Miguel Escobar where the churchbells were ringing. I looked up and there were the boys hauling on the ropes in the bell tower. Clang, Clang, Clang! Pull, Pull, Pull. We drove farther through Ciudad Vieja. It was market day and the streets were thronged with people walking, shopping and selling. This is the town with water faucets here and there along the road for the homes with no running water, with the lavanderia in the central square where women wash their clothes in cold water on stone washboards, where the cooking in many homes is done over open wood fires. We watched women walking with baskets on their heads, and men pushing carts. Nancy edged the car between cars and trucks and motorbikes that were sometimes moving, sometimes parked on the narrow street. Vendors sat behind piles of produce and textiles and plastic and leather and everything you could imagine that someone might want to buy and sell - and this was not a tourist market. This was a local market for local people.
We drove past walls and gates of what used to be coffee fincas (farms) and are now gated communities of condominiums.
We got closer to the base of Volcan Fuego (the fire volcano) and crossed a bridge that spanned the gorge where huge volumes of mud and water flowed down a few years ago and wiped out part of a village.
We passed the road that used to lead to the golf course but now leads to the housing development and is closed to outside traffic, and we continued to the next long driveway leading off to the right. We stopped to pick up a worker on his way up the hill - and Nancy knew what she was doing - it was a very long uphill walk. And then we got to the top and it was awesome.
The golf course spread out around the base of the volcano, and rental bungalows lined the sloping driveway and the magnificent clubhouse stood at the top. A valet took the car away as we pulled up at the front door, and we walked into a foyer with huge floral arrangements and high ceilings and ornate woodwork. We walked through to the patio that overlooked the infinity pool that overlooked the green. We checked out the locker rooms and showers (opening right onto little gardens) and the fitness room and the rooftop bar and the elegant dining room before finding a seat on the patio. Although we really weren't hungry enough to do justice to the brunch buffet, we wanted to sit down and enjoy the ambiance. Waiters spread linen napkins on our laps and poured coffee and brought baskets of croissants and sweet rolls followed by fruit plates and pancakes and eggs benedict.
While Nancy talked with the staff about offering some yoga classes and massages here, Doug, Jim and I climbed into a golf cart and a driver took us off to visit one of the bungalows. The front door opened to a large bedroom with mosquito netted beds and floor to ceiling windows, outside of which was a private infinity pool - and the bathroom had an indoor and an outdoor shower (in a private, leafy garden) as well as a Jacuzzi tub that overlooked the infinity pool - that overlooked the greenery of the golf course - that was overlooked by the volcano. It was all so gorgeous.
And this is Guatemala. The indigenous people and the poor people and the everyday working people live and work side by side with the wealthy people, both Guatemalan and foreign. There is not much in the middle.
As we left, we picked up another worker and drove him back down the hill where he joined the queue waiting for a chicken bus to take him home. And we drove back along the cobbled streets and back past trucks and bicycles and men pushing carts and women in colourful dresses with loads on their heads.