Monday, January 10, 2011


La Antigua, Guatemala is about 30 miles w. of Guatemala City.  Once you get out of the city, it is a nice drive on a nice road.  Getting out of the city (Guatemala) is not for the faint hearted, or someone who doesn't know how to drive in a 3rd world country!  Luckily, Jim is a good driver and knows his way around, so off we went to spend most of our time in the beautiful colonial city of la Antigua.  It is really a small town, and after a couple days, it is simple to navigate and figure out things.  It also has so many cool things to see, and good places to eat and shop.  One of our favorite things was just to sit in the "Parque Central" and people watch.
Connie in Parque Central

     Since we lived about 3 miles from the town we had various options of how to get in to Antigua, walk (too rough), bicycle(too dangerous), tuk-tuk(last resort), cab(we usually got home this way), or the proverbial "chicken bus" which stopped right out side out compound about every 10 min. and only cost  Q2.50...or about 30 cents. Some of us took the chicken bus alot!  

Antigua is surrounded by  beautiful volcanoes, Pacaya, Acatenango, and Agua, and Fuego , which spewed smoke daily.
When the Spanish arrived in the 1500's they built some beautiful cathedrals and convents.  Some of these are still being used, while others have been destroyed by huge earthquakes . We spent some time climbing over ruins and investigating the old convents.  many of the existing businesses are housed in old ruins of church buildings, which just adds to the charm of this city.
Thom, Jim, Denise, and Jill at ruins of Santiago

La Merced

     We shopped and bargained with the local.  If you sat in the Park for any time, you were sure to be approached by indigenous people selling all kinds of woven things, jewelery, flutes, and  Chiclets!   No, was not answer they would take, and actually it was fun to talk to the vendors.  One thing everyone wanted was a woven bracelet, made in less than 5 min. right in front of us.  You could tell them the words and the colors you wanted...Q10.  about 1.20 US.  Here's Steve's and a few shots of the kids and Denise watching the ladies work their magic.

        We went into the town everyday to use the Internet, have our laundry done, have the most wonderful cappuccinos , eat lunch, shop,  people watch, and just hang out.  Our meeting place was always the "parque', where there was music playing and families enjoying some time together just like us!

Saturday, January 8, 2011


On our way back to La Antigua from Lake Atitlan, Jim decided to show us a little known Mayan ruin that he and his family had discouvered the year before.  He said when they visited it, they had the place to themselves.
As we pulled into the parking lot, there were many more people, mostly Guatemalans, because of the Xmas holiday.  Still, it was a beautiful peaceful spot nestled in the pine forests of Central Guatemala. It was called IXIMCHE" and dates from the 1400 century K'che' Maya.  As we walked the grounds and saw the ancient site, it was fun to imagine what life must have been like before the Spanish conquered these lands.

Ruins at Iximche'

As we were wandering around the grounds, Jim, Steve, Joaquin, and myself decided to walk down a forest path, just to see where it went.  We came upon a clearing where some Indigenous people were performing some sort of ceremony.  There were just a few people standing around, as and we got closer, we could hear the shaman chanting in native K'che'.  He was holding a chicken and blessing the four corners of the space they had covered with pine needles.  I wasn't sure if I should take pictures, but moved farther to the trees and tried to be discrete.  What we were witnessing was not a public display of made for tourists.  It was an actual sacrificial ceremony, probably from centuries past, and Denise thought it may have something to do with harvest.
After the Shaman blessed the grounds, the helpers poured alcohol down the chicken's throat, I am not sure why, but soon the chicken was on the ground and his head was cut off.  Quickly, the women slit him and reached in and grabbed the heart which was still beating.  The Shaman then offered the heart to the alter that was near the clearing.  The chicken was then held upside down, still flapping, as his blood poured out at different spots on the clearing, and even, purposely,  on some of the participants.  It was hard to watch, but also fascinating, as one could tell , they were very serious, and it was from a very ancient rite that the Mayans used.
An Indigenous family had arrived and had settled in the background and were also watching the sacrifice.
After the blood was drained, the chicken was cut in half and offered to the fire, where he was burnt, while the shaman poured salt on him.  Then, everyone involved in the ceremony drank the rest of the alcohol.  I looked around to see how my grandson,Joaquin, was handling the event, and caught this picture of him....biting his lips with hands over eyes.  Not exactly watching, but also wanting to see what was happening!
We felt we had just witnessed something very primal and extremely interesting.  We took the road less traveled  and that led us to something most visitors to Guatemala never see, and added to our understanding of the ancient Mayan culture.


As we left Lake Atitlan for the drive back to Antigua, Jim decided to take us to a little known Maya ruin off the beaten path.  He and his family had discouvered it the year before and had the whole place to themselves when they went to visit.  This time, since it was Xmas holiday, there were more people there, and mostly Guatemalans. It was a coolish windy day as we walked around these ancient sites and explored what life must have been like in

Saturday, January 1, 2011


All I can say, is I am glad I have been doing Zumba!  Xmas Day we were sitting by the pool at our hotel and heard some really fantastic music coming from a place next door.  The gals decided it was worth taking a look see.  We found the trail and the entrance to the ¨Sunset¨... a pretty nice resturant on the shores of Lake Atitlan.  The music was coming from a great ¨Garifuna¨band from Livingston, Guat.  They were called the Punta Boys.  I remember the Garifuna from previous trips to the Carribean side of Guatemala, near Rio Dulce.  They play a very infectious music called Punta. We talked to them and found they would be playing that night, but meanwhile did we want to buy some of their whiskey.  Of course, it cured everything, and was also a proven aphrodesiac, and a whole host of other benificial areas.  They poured, we tasted...after all, it was about ¨wine time¨.  Whew! nasty!  Never the less, all 8 of us returned for a wonderful evening and dinner.  After a glass or two, the band started playing and a person could not stop moving.  The leader came and got ME! Myabe it was the left over affects of the whiskey, but I got up for ¨punta instruction¨in front of everyone, including ALL my family.  Then the guy said...¨go alone, mama¨...and I lost all my inhibitions , and had alot of fun.  The band had two really ¨hot mamas¨¨, who, in kind terms, had a ¨a lot of junk in their trunk¨¨, to put it mildly.  That certainly would have helped my dancing, but I made up for it in enthusiasm, and got a standing ovation.  Denise also did the ¨punta¨in skin tight jeans, and of course, she got a much bigger applause.!!!  The ¨punta¨involves simple footwork, alot of booty undulation, and some ¨getting down¨.  I bought one of their CD´s and will be holding lessons at my house soon.  All the boys signed the CD, and I don´t think I embarrssed my grandsons or family too much!