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Captain Log ID: 994
Title: Sea Sprite and Guatemalan Highland
Boat Name(Id): Sea Sprite ( 2454)
Sailor Name(Id): Hans-M. Fruergaard ( 6446)
Geo Region: Rio Dulce, Brunos Marina
Date of Occurance: 2007-08-02
Latitude: N 15º   39.54'
Longitude: W 89º   0.06'
Sender (if email-in):
Earlier log from "Sea Sprite":  993
Newer log from "Sea Sprite":  1009
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Part 5: Our experiences as a live aboard cruising family:

Monday 23 July was the day for the start of our inland travel in Guatemala. We left Rio Dulce by buss, Maya Travel, a comfortable 5 hours trip on a buss with air condition, movies and a stewardess onboard to serve us. The buss was only 1/3 occupied so there was plenty of space on board. The departures offered toward Guatemala City are at 0800, 1200 and 1700.

In the City we where booked at Hotel Residencia Del Sol, in Zona 9 which is a quiet and peaceful area of “Gua” (the official nickname of Guatemala City). The room standard on the hotel was nice and comfortable and the price for a double room very convenient, USD 52 per night including taxes and breakfast. We had planned to stay there for 2 nights, giving us time to visit the Swedish and Colombian Embassy’s as well as makes some personal shopping.

The visit at the Swedish Embassy was fast done we had all necessary papers required, Dead Certificate, Post- Morton Certificate and his passport for maculation, to report the Dead of Kenneth to the Swedish Authorities in Stockholm.

The visit at the Colombian Embassy was “of course” not finished that day. The Consular required an additional certificate from the Guatemalan Minister of Foreign Affairs. When visiting that office we got the message to organize and sample 5 stamps, 3-4 days traveling, from different Authorities in Rio Dulce, Puerto Barrio and Livingston. All these stamps had to be on the original Dead Certificate and could not be replaced by the papers we already had collected and brought with us to Gua from the same Authorities. When that was done we could in person return to the office in Gua and apply for the missing certificate.

After that message we decided to wait a while with the paper work addressed to Colombia and instead make some shopping in this cheap part of Central America. The biggest shopping area is named Mira Flores and located in Zona 7. This shopping areas is properly very expensive compared with the areas where the locals performs their business; but the general price level is still around 35-40% lower than the prices in USA. Carmen loved this area and we went back again the next day before our further travel to Antigua.

Wednesday 25 July was the travel day to Antigua which we made by the “chicken buss” the local colorful buss stopped whenever somebody asked or waved on the chauffeur. The travel took altogether just 75 minutes due to the high speed he was driving the buss between the stops. My guess is that the special expensive dedicated tourist vans would have difficulties to make the travel on shorter time than 60 minutes.

We had a booked double room at Hotel St. Jorge a 2 star hotel with a beautiful garden with direct entry from the rooms. Price USD 55 per night including taxes and breakfast, which is on the lower end of hotel room prices offered in Antigua. In a way a surprise due to the great number of hotel and Bed & breakfast rooms available in Antigua; all descent sized houses are reconstructed into restaurants, tourist shops or accommodation facilities and the average prize level set above standard norms.

Antigua is a historic town which has passed through both earthquakes and civil wars. The result is that only the strongest buildings have survived the destructions. These buildings have all been reconstructed and today give the character of the town. A nice little town to explore with an old cathedral placed on one end of a square surrounded with all the activities expected by visiting tourists.

At Friday 27 July we said good by to Antigua and traveled this time with one of the tourist vans bound for Panajachel on the Northern lakeside of Lago Atitlan. Carmen called the last 70 minutes of this 2 ˝ hours drive a terrible experience. The reason was the narrow mountain roads we had to follow; a road without any fences or barriers to the very deep valleys along the roads.

Panjachel is the center for all further transportation, buss or boat, around the Lago Atitlan area. Again this means plenty of tourist facilities like in Antigua, but with a more moderate Guatemalan price level. This time we had booked room at hotel Primavera for USD 31 including taxes, but without breakfast due to lack of restaurant facility on the hotel. The hotel has recently been renovated and the rooms are all of good standard.

The lack of breakfast on the hotel didn’t create any problems for us since plenty of nearby restaurants offer all type of breakfasts, American or European, for very low prices USD 2-3 depending on the portion required. I found the town being a pleasant place to visit with usual tourist activities available and a wonderful view to the lake and 2 volcanoes, one still active, in the area. A little bit chilly during evening and night time, but wearing a sweater is enough to feel warm and comfortable. Most of the population are Mayan why also all the tourist shops mainly sell Mayan products.

Sundays and Thursdays are the big market days in Chichicastenago, 90 Minutes drive from Panjachel. So next day Saturday 28 July we decides to temporary leave Panjachel and visit “Chichi” for the market attractions on Sunday. This time we had booked a terrible hotel, Maya Lodge USD 31 including taxes, but without breakfast, due to the fantasy that the hotel should be similar to hotel Privamera in Panjachel. We very fast realized that our room standard requirements would cost at least twice as much, but there were no other hotel rooms available in the whole town. So the result was a very cold night in a room with only one small double bed and a shower room none of us dared to use. Carmen bought some disinfection so we at least could use the toilet and hand wash basin. Next time will we take the 0700 drive from Panjachel to “Chichi” and the 1400 return drive the same day, that will give us 5 hours to explore the town and the market and we can avoid all over priced hotels in “Chichi”.

The whole population in Chichicastenago and the surrounding mountain areas are Mayan. These people seem all to be hard working individuals and specially the Mayan selling their products on the market. It is impressive to se the heavy sack they are carrying on their back on the road to the market place. That burden is by the women combined with the scarf containing their last born minor or child and bear in mind that the average height of these Mayan women are lesser than 145 cm tall.

The “Chichi” market was just fabulous; the market square together with all centre town streets were occupied as part of the market itself. No transport possibilities available, busses, cars or scooter taxis, were not permitted entry to the centre of the town during the market hours.

The color specter was just fantastic with the typical Mayan colored clothing’s, arts handcraft, vegetables, meat and agricultural product, all mixed together side by side on the stalls. To bargain a price is just a must, everybody expect a difference of 40-50% between initial price offered and the final trading price. The lowest prices will be found during the last 2 hours before closing time (1700). We bought some hand made Mayan colored pillows for the sofa and cover and pillows for the beds, and the interiors got a new Mayan look in Sea Sprite.

The following day we made a boat trip crossing the beautiful Lago Atitlan to the town Santiago Atitlan squeezed between the volcanoes of Toliman and San Pedro. We had a very clear and beautiful morning when we left Panajachel, to cross the lake, so we where able to see all 3 volcanoes and managed to get some very nice pictures of the area. The transport was made by a Lancha (fast going water taxi boat) which now seems to have replaced the slower and more comfortable ferry. The crossing with the Lanchas takes only 20 minutes compared with 60 minutes on the ferry boat.

Tuesday, July 31 we returned to Sea Sprite by a Tourist Van to Guatemala City 3 ˝ hours and a comfortable buss, Mayan de Oro, to Rio Dulce 5 hours. It was a long day to travel this 350 km, but due to the narrow roads and heavy truck traffic the average speed becomes very low.

A summary of the past 8 days; it was a pleasure to make this inland trip in Guatemala and we met a lot of friendly local people specially in Panajachel. Personally and mentally Carmen and I had a problem to mentally be reminded by the tragic dead of Kenneth. We realized that it is impossible to run a way from the memories, good or bad, and Kenneth was all the time, some where together with us, during our period in the Guatemalan Highland.