Our first time in the country, so a few minutes after stepping ashore, my Hero and I looked at one another and went “Ker-ching”!! We love to visit new places, to see new countries and to experience different parts of the world. How fortunate we are to be able to do so.
Even before we stepped ashore, we were excited. We’d spotted a couple of volcanoes from our balcony this morning and recalled what we had learned about Guatemala in the last few days (not to mention what we knew already, from friends who’d been here)
Our impressions were formed from a single day, so are really not worthy of deep discussion or great consideration and are really quite shallow. But here goes.
Our immediate impression as we drove from the port, through the flat, coastal plain was of a lush, verdant landscape. What I thought was corn turned out to be sugar cane – and oh boy, was there a lot of it!
So when I mistakenly said “it’s like driving through Iowa”, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
Thankfully, we had the benefit of a great guide, Hugo, who gave us lots of information and a bag of worry dolls. Thank you, Hugo. Nothing to worry about now!
Our driver, Nixon, slowed down as we passed the roadside market place, which was a fantastic place to buy fruit. Not much else, mind you!
The highway was well maintained and a little quicker than the country road we’d been travelling on, and soon, our ears popped as we started to make the ascent to our destination.
Soon, the sugarcane fields were overtaken by woodier, more shrubby plants and Hugo pointed out the coffee bushes.
There was also the looming presence of a volcano, named Agua as a result of a lake in its crater.
Actually, it dominated the landscape rather more than we expected.
Whilst over my other shoulder, there was “Fuego”, the opposite volcano which was venting steam and dust – the lower of the two peaks above, shrouded in mist and ash.
Drawing our attention away from seismic activity, Hugo pointed out the plant growth on the overhead cables. It seems like anything will grow anywhere here and in spite of all cables being cleared of vegetation in the last few months, it’s already reappearing.
Our first stop was Azotea, a coffee plantation with a great introduction to coffee production and Guatemala generally.
Yes, of course we saw the beans ready for harvest (almost complete at this time of the year)
We saw the “parchment beans” drying in the sun, having had the outer husk removed already. Some were drying on concrete, others on red terracotta tile, especially for the Japanese market. Though we asked what difference it makes, we failed to get an acceptable answer!
Here too were the inferior quality beans, drying in the sun too – given to the workers, we were told.
Having been dried, there’s still another layer to be removed before they can be sent for roasting. This is a far from speedy process!
Yes, of course we bought some!
Next door was a small textile museum, demonstrating the features which distinguish the clothing design of one village from another. The principal “set” was a wedding scene.
Needless to say, the one which interested me most was the backstrap weaver.
Next door focused on musical instruments of the Maya. I rather liked the figures made from corn husks – but then I seldom focus on what I’m supposed to be looking at!
I mean, who can look at maracas and drums when there’s a skeleton party and a cute armadillo above your head?
OK, onwards, into Angtigua Guatemala, the old capital and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Hugo told us we’d know when we arrived by the cobblestones.
I recognised the streets from friends’ photographs.
It’s an attractive city with some distinctive buildings.
Quite a lot of traffic too.
First things first: Lunch.
Then….to the Zocalo.
I love these places. The people!
Of course we don’t want a football or a bag of candy floss, but oh, my, just look at that!
Oh yes, look at that too! The central fountain was pointed out to us by Hugo with a wry amusement!
We looked at the cathedral and admired the saints.
then we walked to the market and admired something else
As we walked through the streets to our final destination, I couldn’t help but notice and admire some small features of the doors and heavy gates along the way.
I’d have bought a live orchid plant if I could, wouldn’t you?
But we were headed for the jade factory. Did you know jade comes from here? No, we ddin’t either.
We didn’t want to buy so spent the time people watching and admiring these dangly plants hanging from the ceiling.
Oh, and generally avoiding the crush of sellers at the gateway to the place with the exception of this young woman and her baby, Astrid, sleeping in spite of the commotion but opening one eye to look at the strange British woman who stroked her hair and said “Hola, Astrid”… so sweet!
Looking at the sunset as we arrived back this evening, I wondered what we’ll remember of our short time in Guatemala? After such a rich day of colourful experiences, I need time to assimilate them, for sure, probably over a cup of coffee.
I think Astrid will feature in my memories too.