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Published: March 21st 2013
The bamboo trees
When we left Guatemala in November 2010 I did not know if we would ever return, but I knew that I had left a piece of my heart there. No country has affected me in quite the same way as Guatemala. In 2011 as we cruised the east coast of the U.S. Jimmy and I had to make a decision about what to do or where to go next. I previously thought I wanted to settle in Florida for awhile and take a break from cruising, but I knew that was not what Jimmy wanted. The more I thought about it I finally came to the conclusion that I could continue cruising awhile longer if I could just go back to Guatemala.
So here we were in late May 2012 back in the Rio Dulce (Sweet River) of Guatemala and very happy to be there. We again stayed at Marios Marina and kept the boat there (as well as ourselves most of the time) from May 2012 until January 2013. I remember my very first day back at Marios I was pleasantly surprised to see the leaf cutter ants marching along and the Jesus Lizards "walking on water." I laughed
when I saw them because I hadn't seen God's creations such as these since I left the Rio Dulce in 2010.
Highlights of our most recent season in Guatemala include our bird watching tour to Los Tarrales Reserve in the southern part of the country, a trip to Sumpango to the Kite Festival celebrating the Day of the Dead, and a trip to Copan located just a few miles across the border in Honduras. We had many other fun and exciting day trips and activities but these were the highlight at least for me.
It really took some convincing to get me to go on the bird watching tour at Los Tarrales. I was soooo not interested! Finally Jimmy talked me into it and I have to say that I ended up having a wonderful time. We went with our friends Dan and Kathy on s/v Sea Star who have been avid "birders" for many years. We spent a couple of nights in Antigua and enjoyed exploring this old city once again. Then we hired a taxi driver to take us to Los Tarrales which is located on the southern slope of the Atitlan Volcano. It was about
Day of the Dead decorations
a 2-3 hour drive winding through small towns with breathtaking sights of the volcanos surrounding the area.
In addition to tourism, Los Tarrales Reserve has a coffee plantation as well as an ornamental plant farm. Los Tarrales provides income to over 60 Maya Kaqchikel families who cultivate and process coffee and ornamental plants. The reserve is private and self sustaining and all the workers live onsite. There is a school that goes up to the 6th grade that is provided by the owner of the reserve. After the 6th grade students must go to the nearest town (Cocales) to continue schooling. There are also two churches onsite. We spent three days there which was just about the right amount of time.
We had a wonderful bird watching guide named Josue. He was extremely knowledgeable and was able to get birds to come closer by using the many bird calls that he knew. He took us out on two different nights to see owls and we were successful both times but most of our birdwatching was done during the day. We seemed to be the most successful spotting birds early in the morning. We saw over 70 different birds
Sumpango Kite Festival - 2012
Very crowded by the afternoon
and there is no way we could have spotted all these without the guide.
Day of the Dead is a holiday celebrated in Guatemala, Mexico, and many other countries. The celebration usually takes place November 1st and 2nd. During this holiday families visit the graves of departed loved ones and may bring favorite food, beverages, and other gifts for the deceased to the gravesite. One of the ways of celebrating this holiday in Guatemala is through the construction and flying of giant kites. We visited the Sumpango Kite Festival along with several of our friends. The festival in Sumpango takes place in a large field which is located adjacent to a cemetery. There were thousands of people there with all sorts of vendors for food, crafts, clothing and local Mayan handiwork. The flying of kites did not start until late afternoon. Many of the very large kites were just for show and typically had some sort of message or theme. The smaller kites were flown (or attempts were made) and caused much excitement and encouragement from the crowd, many of whom were seated in stadium type seats by then. All in all it was a fantastic way to spend
the day and well worth the trip.
Our trip to the Copan Mayan ruins in Honduras was not only a pleasure trip but also an opportunity for Jimmy to reset his visa. Typically foreigners are given 90 days when entering Guatemala. If you plan to exceed the 90 day limit then it is easier to just take a trip lasting at least 72 hours across the border to a different country rather than going through the formalities of extending your visa. Usually the Guatemalan immigrations officer will give you another 90 days once you have been out of the country for 3 days. I had made a recent trip home to Texas so my visa was fine but Jimmy was nearing his limit and so were some of our friends, so we all got together and planned a trip to Copan.
The Copan ruins are located in a lush, verdant valley. Copan is known for its temples, alters, stellae and in particular its unique hieroglyphic staircase. Copan was occupied from the Early Preclassic Period of the Maya Civilization through the Postclassic period, but the great period of Copan was during the Classic Period from 300-900 AD. Copan was
Carving of an old man's head
the largest and most powerful city in the southeastern portion of the Maya world which extended from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico in the north , to El Salvador and western Honduras in the south. The Maya created artifacts in jade, ceramic and stone. Many of these artifacts are displayed in the large comprehensive museum on site. Copan has been designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
These three trips we took represented history (Copan), nature (Los Tarrales), and culture (Sumpango Kite Festival) so there was something for everyone. We spent another great hurricane season in Guatemala, and when we left in late January 2013 to sail to the Bay Islands of Honduras, we had not made up our minds for sure whether we would return for one more hurricane season in Guatemala or whether we would take the boat back to the US.
Love & Cheers,
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