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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cruise: Guatemala

The next day found us in Guatemala. From the harbor we saw 3 perfect conical volcanoes - a very pretty site from the ship.
Our excursion this time took us to Lake Atitlan, several hours bus ride away. We scored a front seat this time and had great views of the countryside. Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America... but they have never been able to locate the bottom! The guess is that it's about 1100 feet deep.
Lake Atitlan

River coming down from the mountains.

One of the first things we noticed were the many sugar cane fields. Most were ready for harvest, and the field were being "fired". This is a burning off of the outer leaves that gets rid of their brushiness and any vermin in the field. But it doesn't hurt the rest of the plant. Then it is whacked down to just above root level with machetes. It eventually is piled haphazardly into big trucks and taken for processing.

Sugar cane flowers

Firing the fields

Truck load of sugar cane

Smashed cane on the roads... bet it is sticky!

Sunset thru the sugar cane field smoke.

Alongside the road were all sorts of fruit stands. Each area seemed to specialize in a particular fruit... some pineapples, some coconuts, some mangos and so on. In towns, every stand had a little bit of everything. Talk about looking appetizing! You don't see this sort of fruit in the grocery store!



and a little bit of everything!

As we got closer to Lake Atitlan, the people's appearance changed. Physically they were shorter and thicker, but what you really noticed were the amazing woven clothes the ladies wore. The people around the lake are Maya. Because of the Spanish colonial method of keeping the native peoples and the Spanish peoples separate, there are strong cultural customs and handicrafts kept by the people.

When we arrived at the lake, there were MANY vendors waiting for us with those Maya handicrafts for sale. Had you not seen the people on the ride in, you would have guessed the beautiful clothing they wore and were selling to be costumes. The colors were just incrediable!

But I'll tell you... these were the most aggressive vendors on the whole cruise! There wasn't the quiet desperation of Nicaragua... this seemed more like pure competition. Full contact hawkers! Several people seemed quite overwhelmed and ran onto the waiting buses after our boat ride on Lake Atitlan. But that was no escape...they would follow you right up in the bus!

However, they weren't the most aggressive hawkers I've seen (they are lightweights compared to the Maasai ladies of Kenya!) and I did some FINE shopping! Beautiful items.

The Gauntlet!

Buy from ME!

Hitting up the buses

Or you can buy this, or this, or this...

When we had boarded the bus in the morning, our guide noted that a nearby volcano had started erupting earlier. As we motored along getting closer, we could see the lava scorched sides and steam rising up. On the way home, I was sitting down in the guide seat by the front door of the bus (GREAT for photos!) when Deane called out suddenly "Look at the volcano!!" As we watched (!!!) it erupted again... shooting out ash and stones in a high mushroom cloud. WOW!

Here's what the volcano web site said about that eruption (25 November):

GUATEMALA - Fuego volcano
November 29th, 2008
As of the 27th of November, the National Institute Of Sismología, Volcanology, Meteorology and Hidrologia, has reported that during the 25 November explosions from Fuego produced ash plumes that rose to altitudes of 13,500-15,100 ft and drifted West and South. The explosions produced rumbling and degassing sounds, and shock waves were detected 10 km away. Lava flowed 150 m W towards the Taniluyá ravine and incandescent material rolled down the flanks . Fuego, one of Central America's most active volcanoes, is one of three large stratovolcanoes overlooking Guatemala's former capital, Antigua. Frequent vigorous historical eruptions have been recorded since 1524 and have produced major ashfalls, along with occasional pyroclastic flows and lava flows.

What a send-off from Guatemala!

Mt Fuego as we arrived...

And as we were leaving!

** Our Guatemala souvenirs **
A bag of coffee, a small weaving, a musical instrument, a traditional shirt, a water bottle holder and a native jade necklace.

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