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Inland to Guatemala

In early May, we took a week-long inland trip to Guatemala, leaving the boat at Bahia del Sol in El Salvador.  What a wonderful country, our favorite so far!  We spent 3 days in Antigua, 2 days in Panajechel on the shores of Lake Atitlan and one night each in Guatemala City and San Salvador. 

Antigua has a very European feel to it.  The feeling is old world, but the town is very tourist friendly while still maintaining it's unique atmosphere and culture.  It is easy to find a good coffee shop or internet cafe here or arrange for a tour to climb a volcano or visit some of the nearby towns on market day.  We spent one day climbing nearby Mount Pacaya, an active volcano.  You can get as close as you dare to the lava vents, so close it fact that lava spurting up into the air (video) can fall on you, poisonous gases can waft your way (video) if the wind shifts (there are signs saying so!) and the ground feels hot to the touch and can melt your shoes if you stay too long!

From Antigua, we caught a shuttle bus to Panajechel, one of the wonderful little towns on Lake Atitlan, which is very picturesque and one of the "1000 places you must see before you die" .  80,00 years ago, a huge volcanic explosion created the crater where this 1000 foot deep, crystal clear lake now resides.  From our hotel room looking out over the lake, we saw steam in the mornings rising from the still-active volcanic vents lining the crater rim before the regular afternoon rains come in around 4pm like clockwork.   No streams or rivers exit the lake, the only outflow being through underground volcanic vents.  As such,  the lake level sometimes varies dramatically from year to year with volcanic action as vents close and open.  Unfortunately, the introduction of sport bass fish to the lake 50 years ago has had a dramatic and negative impact on various native aquatic species and the species dependent upon them and the local ecosystem has greatly and irreparably suffered.

The human population of this part of Guatemala includes many native Mayans and it is common to see both men and women wearing their colorful, traditional dress.   While staying at Panajechel, we visited a Nature Preserve located on a shade-coffee plantation.  The use of shade tree techniques to grow coffee plants instead of the more common open field techniques provides habitats for many species (not to mention better coffee!) and over 150 species of birds can be found on the preserve.  Spider monkeys (video) can also be found here, most having been donated by pet owners who no longer find their adolescent, more aggressive and illegal pet monkeys quite as cute and cuddly as they were when they were infants.  The illegal Spider Monkey pet trade has had a devastating impact on the wild monkey populations in the area and although once abundant on the slopes of the surrounding hills, now there are few places in the area where wild monkeys can be found.

As always, click on the images to see a larger view.


Our hotel in Antigua.

One of the many beautiful churches in Antigua

5th Ave Norte in Antigua, the main street. Lots of cool coffee shops and resturants here!

Mayan women in traditional dress on her cell phone outside her tienda in Antigua.

Mel and the kids shopping at the saturday bizarre in Antigua.

Tradional Mayan dresses from all the different regions in the area hanging in one of the may shops displaying local handicrafts

Antigua motorcycle club of El Salvador.

The Volcano 'Pacaya' as seen from half way up the trail to the top.

The trail to the top of the volcano.

Kelsey and cows, let lose to graze on the heavly forested lower slopes of the volcano.

Kelsey gets a ride part way up the volcano.

Our volcano climbing group

Above the green area on the upper slopes of the volcano.

Melissa and Kel near the top of the volcano

Hey, thats us on the volcano!

Steam vents and sulfer deposits near the top of the volcano

Kelsey and RJ at the top. Note the flying lava in the backround. You couldn't get this close in the states for sure!

Boom! Look close, that is lava flying in the air and you can see the lava in the cone.

Melissa at the top.

Kelsey and RJ at the top.

RJ orders a grande club sandwitch in Panajachel near Lake Atitlan in Guatamala.

The kids loved the local 'Boca Colorado" fish dishes here, even when served with eyes and head!

Lake Atitlan as viewed from Panajachel. Th entire lake is an old volcanic crater formed 80,000 years ago. Volcanos on the rim are still active.

The view of the lake from the Hotel Playa Linda, where we stayed in Panajachel.

This fellow was hanging out in the butterfly enclosure at the Nature Preserve in Panajachel.

Kelsey and RJ check out a very large butterfly!

The kids on a rope bridge at the Nature Preserve in Panajachel.

Kelsey and Melissa in the butterfly enlosure.

Hunting for butterflys

Hanging out in the nature preserve.

Spider Monkey at the Nature Preserve in Panajechel.

Another Spider Monkey. The illegal pet trade in wild monkeys here has had a negative impact on the population surrounding the lake.

Mel and the kids at the Spider Monkey observation platform at the nature preserve in Panajechel.


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