Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Off to Belize!

Our tourist visas are expiring so we have to leave the country for a few days - so we're off to Belize today. We'll take a van ride down to Puerto Barrios (a big port city in Guatelmala on the Caribbean), then a ferry ride across the bay to Punta Gorda in Belize. We'll be back on the sea again! Whoopeeeeeee

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Antigua, Guatemala - The Old City

Bus trip! We grabbed seats on the early morning first-class bus from down here in the coastal lowlands and rode for 5 hours up to Guatemala City, then changed over to a shuttle van for another hour to Antigua ($12.50 per person total). Antigua is an old colonial city, and original capital of Guatemala up in the highlands and more towards the eastern (Pacific Ocean) border.

As we climbed in altitude, we went from our usual hot & muggy weather up to invigorating spring-like coolness and occasional gentle rains. The scenery was stunning with high-peaked green mountains, lakes, and of course, volcanoes. Tall waterfalls tumbled down along the steep cliffs, originating in the cloud covered pine forests.

Because this is an active volcanoe area, there are a lot of ruins in town from the colonial period due to several historic earthquakes.
We wandered around the cobblestone roads of Antigua, looking into shops, and eating delicious food - and coffee. We haven't had hot beverages in the afternoon in years, but the lovely temperatures made it possible to sit at an outside table, indulge in the local Guatemalan coffee and people-watch.

Besides the old Spanish colonial buildings, restaurants, Spanish language schools, and lovely weather, shopping for textiles and other handicrafts is another reason so many people travel here. There are so many shops to see that it would take a month to visit them all!

We like to visit the local market places and mix with the indigenous Mayan people. Check out the hand woven fabrics which are used for the blouses (huipils) and the wrap around skirts. It used to be that different Mayan villages wore different costumes, but it is sort of mixed up a bit now. Some of the intricate embroidery is still handmade, but most of what is for sale in the marketplace is machine made.

The fruits, vegetables, dried corn and beans were so colorful and fresh! Because of the cooler climate, there were apples, peaches and pears
for sale. And check out those gorgeous strawberries! Oh - the bees swarmed all over the cut watermelons and any stall which was selling made-on-the-spot fruit drinks.

These baskets (and the omnipresent plastic tub) contain naturally colored corn in shades of blue, yellow, red, and white. On the streets we saw women making blue tortillas which really do taste different than the white or yellow ones. Also you can see here a basket of mixed beans. In the low country where we are living now there is only white corn available and 3 types of beans - white, black and red. Period. LOTS of beans and corn, but it is all the same. Not all stalls are so tidy. Inside the permanent market building are literally hundreds of little shops. Here we found this pile of terracotta pottery for sale. Yikes! I kept my distance as I was afraid if I touched something it would all come tumbling down - but there was some interesting pieces in that mountain.

We did make it over to the touristy handicrafts market - again hundreds of little stalls. For the most part, all of those stalls were selling exactly the same merchandise! You can see in this photo how crowded with unsold merchandise the stalls were, and those people you see are just about the only other tourists in the whole market. It was pretty much empty except for vendors. Ha! I didn't see the trash collector in diving in the trashcan in this photo until I posted it here. It was a lovely, covered building, but it was just too much - color & "stuff" overload for me. Yes, I was so overwhelmed that I didn't think but to take this one photo at the time. Although I did recover enough to buy some little fabric notebooks and tiny gift surprises for my friends.

Although most of the vendors where friendly and just wanted to make a sale for the day, there were a few who were downright pushy! When I didn't want to buy a tablerunner from one young gal after she followed me around doing her hard sell, she called me "stingy" in English.

And here we have the "Mother of all Fountains" if you get my drift. It is hundreds of years old and is a copy of one in Italy. This fountain is in the center of the main square which is quite beautiful actually, and a good spot for people watching.

After a couple of days exploring Antigua (which is so not enough time really) we wanted to travel to a more remote location. Back at the guest house/hotel Jonesy pored over the maps to find where we would go. The choice? Lake Atitlan with it.s small Mayan villages, more textiles, active volcanoes, yep, that's the place.

Are there enough colors going on in this room for you? No? Well how about the fuchia colored bathroom? In order to get to our room, we had to walk through the interior patio areas (yes - 3 of them) of the owner's residence. These were highly decorated too - and swamped with all sorts of flowering and jungle plants. Kooky, but way fun.

Up on the rooftop, Jonesy settled in with his evening local beer and enjoyed the cool breezes and view. I scrambled up a wooden ladder to the tippy-top flat roof to take this photo.


I'm still cranking out socks for the kids in the orphanages in Kazakhstan. These are a very wild pair of monstersocks using leftover sock yarns in primary colors. Gee...I wonder where I got the inspiration for these bright socks??
These are another adult pair of socks in some wild self-patterning fuchia, turquoise, purple and orange sock yarn.
And finally a large pair of socks in a more tame colorway of self-patterning wool sock yarn.

Next blog: Solola, Santiago, and San Pedro la Laguna villages of Lake Atitlan in the Mayan highlands.

Sunday, August 08, 2010


House (Boat) Guests

Our friends are traveling for a few days so we are taking care of the pets that they were taking care of for a family who has gone to the states for a couple of months (did you get all that?). No, not soft furry pets, but a Leopard Gecko, and 2 hermit crabs (plus live crickets as food for the gecko). They're actually kinda cool! The gecko is big - about 6 inches long and quite chubby. The owners (kids) left lengthy handwritten instructions for the critters and a book about leopard geckos.

The hermit crabs sure are frisky when you pick them up! And scratchy too with their sharp feet. Nope, I didn't handle the gecko, she can just rest in her terrarium and digest the crickets she ate.

The river/lake has been rising steadily this past week due to heavy rains from a storm (which is now the Tropical Storm Estelle in the Pacific Ocean) which passed through here a few days ago, and the usual summer rains. It's getting hard to get on and off the boat as the docks here are on fixed pilings - not floating docks. As we rise up on the water (we float remember), the dock stays put. Sure wish we had longer legs!

One of the stores on the river that we like to shop in is flooded - but they are still doing business! Just go around to the side door and start wading. It's worth it - they sell great "gringo cruiser" foods and specialties from Mexico.

Here's the latest creation - a "real people" Christmas Holiday sock. Recognize some of the patterning? Yep, those are the same details that are on my Mix-It-Up Christmas Stocking stranded version. So, with some math and heel adjustments, I converted it to a sock in 2 sizes: Women's Medium, and Women's Large/Men's Medium. The pattern is being test-knit in Ravelry over the next few weeks.

For the lovely person who requested my Broccoli Salad recipe here it is.

Broccoli Salad
In serving bowl, wisk together:
1 Tbl mayonaise
2 Tbl cider vinegar
2 Tbl sugar

Add and Mix well:
2 slices of bacon (we prefer Oscar Mayer turkey bacon for great flavor) cooked crisp, then chopped
2 Tbl chopped red onion

Peel stem of broccoli and cut off bottom inch or two. Dice stem sections, and cut florets into bite-size pieces. Add to serving bowl. Mix well.
Add and Mix well:
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup walnut pieces

That's all there is to it! Jonesy will even eat the leftovers the next day, but I only like it when it is fresh and crispy. As you can see - it's kept him healthy and happy and still having fun.

Thursday, August 05, 2010


Quirigua Mayan Ruins of Guatemala

The big activity here at Mario's Marina last week (for us summer campers) was a 1/2-day trip to a local site of Mayan ruins called Quirigua. This small site is off the beaten track of the modern world and not visited much by tourists, but it is less than an hour away from the marina here.

Quirigua is known for it's stelae which are intricately carved stone pillars. Of all the Mayan ruins in Central America, these are supposed to be the best preserved. From what you can see in the pictures, there is still a lot of detail easily viewed. I really liked the feather motifs running down the corners of some of the stelae.

After the Mayans abandoned this area and drifted off into other areas, the jungle grew up over all of their building projects. It was eerie to walk around the site and imagine that over a thousand years ago this place was bustling with activity.

Today, the jungle has been cleared just enough for us to view these artifacts and surrounds the site, but just barely. Right beyond the boundaries of the park are large banana plantations. This is where YOUR bananas come from if you buy Del Monte brand.

It was hot and humid with the threat of rain which is what it is everyday here in the lowlands of Guatemala during the summer months. But we trudged through the sodden grass and even explored out into the muddy and buggy jungle to see more.

These are the "steps" (?) leading up to the major building area. We had a hard time climbing them as they were so tall. Wait a minute here...the local Mayan indians are quite short statured. These must have been (are still are) a tough climb. Oh look! Jonesy is wearing some of the socks that I knit for him. See? He really does wear his "all-season wool" socks when we venture out.

The largest structure was the Acropolis which is all made of large stone blocks. We could see where excavations were still being conducted here so perhaps there will be more treasures to see in the future. No big temples here. We'll have to travel to other sites to see those. But the artwork is beautiful at Quirigua.

So, we're doing fine. We both had our routine dental checkup & cleanings ($25 each) by an english-speaking dentist. Then, Jonesy had a small filling repaired (another $25). I had my annual mammogram ($35) which was done on a walk-in basis and I had the films in my hands with the radiologist's report of good news in 2 days. Life is good.

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