A Side of Guatemala

What do you do when you have extra time in El Salvador?  You rent a mini van with a bunch of your pals and drive the 5 hours to Guatemala.  (Note to all travelers in Central America, however long they say a trip will take, add 3 hours).   You breeze through the boarder crossing, so easy a dog can do it.

Guatemala border crossing.  I got in trouble for taking this photo, but I needed to get a shot of that dog.

Guatemala border crossing. I got in trouble by the authorities for taking this photo, but I needed to get a shot of that dog.

Then you hold your breath while driving across the El Salvador-Guatemala border bridge under repair.

No need to close the bridge, for repairs, just drive on through.

No need to close the bridge during repairs, just drive on through.

You are amazed at how huge and modern Guatemala City is.

Guatemala City

Guatemala City

You rent an over the top house, party with your friends and of course order delicious Chinese food.

Beautiful home we rented just outside Antigua, Guatemala

Beautiful home we rented just outside Antigua, Guatemala

Mike photo bombs Rob and Rose

Mike photo bombs Rob and Rose

Chinese dinner and they delivered!

Chinese dinner and they delivered!   Travel fun with our friends Ken and Julie (Kia Ora), Paul and Janet (Talos IV), Rob and Rose (R&R Kedger) and Mike and Holly (Wanuskewin)

You hang on for dear life as you take the local bus into town.  Minimum speed 70mph

Bus ride into Antigua

The fast and the furious, I mean the bus ride into Antigua

You enjoy a beautiful day exploring the Spanish baroque style 16th-century buildings, churches, cobble-stoned streets and the many ruins throughout Antigua.   Earthquakes have destroyed many structures, but they’ve done a wonderful job preserving the ruins and even incorporating them into functioning businesses.   DSCN2392 DSCN2428DSCN2413 DSCN2410 DSCN2403 DSCN240120140321_104159

 

design created with colored rice

design created with colored rice

 

Central Park

Central Park

If you are Peter, you jump out from a dark corner of the catacombs and scare teenage kids on a field trip.

Catacombs under

Catacombs under Santo Domingo

You renew your wedding vows…

Just kidding

Just kidding

But you do crash a wedding at Santo Domingo, which was an old monastery that they’ve repurposed into a museum and hotel.  The old alter which was destroyed in an earthquake is now used for special events.

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Fellow wedding crashers Mike and Holly

Fellow wedding crashers Mike and Holly

Take a 2 hour coffee break, because Peter and Mike found this woman who was a coffee guru.

Peter and Mike in coffee nirvana

Peter and Mike in coffee nirvana

You take a beautiful drive to Lake Atitlan.  A bit too touristy but stunning countryside and the opportunity to see the colorfully dressed indigenous people.

Guatemalan countryside

Guatemalan countryside

 

Atitlan

Lake Atitlan

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Traditional clothing worn everyday. And yes, the weather was cool enough for sweaters!!

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The men dress in vibrant colors too.

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Locals crossing at low tide

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Indigenous ladies of Guatemala

Indigenous ladies of Guatemala

You marvel at the vibrant and exuberant colors of the cemeteries.   Families think of the afterlife as something to celebrate, so why not make the graveyards a cheerful place.

Graveyard looks like a small city

Graveyard looks like a small city

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DSCN2553And you are so thankful you have the opportunity to explore another fascinating country.

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Two Down, One To Go

Sailing south from Mexico to Panama a boat has to pass three hairy spots where the wind can be fierce. These are areas where the trade winds from the Caribbean blow across the narrow Central America isthmus and accelerate as they are funneled through mountain valleys.  The first such place is the Gulf of Tehuantepec. We crossed this 250 mile stretch of water with little difficulty. The second are the Papagayo winds that blow along the coast from El Salvador to northern Costa Rica, but are strongest on Nicaragua’s’ Pacific coast.  The third is the Gulf of Panama which we will face on our way to the canal.

1 = Tehuantepec 2 = Papagayo 3 = Golfo de Panama

1 = Tehuantepec
2 = Papagayo
3 = Golfo de Panama

We crossed the second of these most recently.  We left El Salvador with a good weather window but quickly ran into a steady 20 knots of wind on the nose. The strategy for navigating these winds is to stay very close to shore.  Since the winds blow from the land, staying close to land gives little room (fetch, in sailing terminology) for the winds to build up waves. Dealing with a lot of wind is one thing, dealing with a lot of wind and big waves is another, and one we try not to face.  DSCN2754So hugging the shore and passing along the barren shores of El Salvador and Nicaragua, we, along with our buddy boat Mermaid, sailed into this stuff hour after hour. Finally, as dark was setting in on the second night, we had had enough and looked for a bay to wait it out (these winds can blow even harder after dark). We pulled into Astillera in Nicaragua, a largely empty bay, to anchor overnight. The winds howled all night but we slept well in the shelter of this remote bay. The next morning, we were greeted by a stern young man from the Nicaraguan navy on our stern. He asked what we were doing here and to see our papers.

Neko being boarded by the Nicaraguan navy.

Neko being boarded by the Nicaraguan navy.

Satisfied that we were leaving in an hour and were only there to wait out the wind, he went over to inspect Mermaid. Frankly, I was pleasantly surprised that we didn’t have to pay any “fees” or “fines”. With no choice but to leave, we went out into more wind than the day before. That day we had a blistering sail with gusts to 45. With 2 reefs in the main and the staysail up, we hit speeds up to 11 knots. We hugged the coast and with the wind more to the side of the boat, the sailing was easier. We flew down the coast of Nicaragua, past our last intended “bailout” bay and into the relative safety of Costa Rica. By the end of the day the Papagayo winds had slowed down, and we coasted into an anchorage tired and exhilarated. Now we can slow down and sight-see a bit (off to the Monteverde cloud forest).

Costa Rica

Costa Rica

Let’s Rally

When we first started this trip, I envisioned sipping cold beers on the beaches of Mexico, then sailing to Costa Rica for eco-everything, anchoring off a remote island or two, going through the Panama Canal and finally to the holy grail of clear waters – the Caribbean.   But there are four, yes, four other countries between Mexico and Costa Rica.  The “forgotten middle” as some call it.

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Neko heading to El Salvador

And I’ll admit it, El Salvador was not at the top or even on my list of must-see countries.  There are a lot of reasons boaters don’t stop places; too much crime, too expensive, too big a headache to check in, too few places to stop and on and on.  El Salvador’s main strike against it with boaters is that its entry is too “scary”.  (See crossing sand bar post) But after hearing others (that’s you Torben and Judy) say it was no big deal and that the El Salvador Rally was worth checking out, we decided to take the chance, put on our big boy pants, cross the bar and see what “the savior” had to offer.   And indeed, unlikely as it sounds, Neko was “saved” with fixes to our hydraulic steering and generator by helpful craftsmen in El Salvador.  And we were saved from missing out on a fascinating country.  Outdoor fun, indoor fun, city life, country life and sea life, what a mix.

Boquerón

Boquerón, one of El Salvador’s 22 volcanoes

Joya de Cerén

Joya de Cerén, is an archaeological site of a Maya farming village preserved remarkably intact under layers of volcanic ash. The “Pompeii of the Americas”

apron

The El Salvadorian ladies love their frilly aprons and can balance anything on their heads.

fish market

Fish market in Libertad

Iglesia el Rosario

Iglesia el Rosario, looks like a cement airplane hanger on the outside, but inside…

rosario church

Iglesia el Rosario interior. The sunlight coming through the windows changes throughout the day creating a stunning natural light show.  It has been a zillion years since Peter’s last confession, but he broke into this church so we could see the inside. It was well worth it and I’ll have him say 5 Hail Marys.

We spent a month meeting fantastic new friends,

Sweet Jan.  Lucy's best new pal!

Sweet Jan. Lucy’s best new pal!

learning that El Salvador is a proud country that is moving beyond their civil war (that was 20 years ago folks) DSCN2651

Crazy night at Che bar.  The bartender and his friend are both children of Guerrilla fighters during the civil war.  Their mom and dad.

Crazy night at Che bar. The bartender and his friend are both children of Guerrilla fighters, both their dads and moms.

DSCN2657and enjoyed exploring both El Salvador and neighboring Guatemala (see Guatemala post).  Because of their close proximity to each other and the fact you get a four country visa, land travel between Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua is relatively easy.

Indigenous ladies of Guatemala

Indigenous ladies of Guatemala

To all you fellow boaters out there thinking of doing the El Salvador Rally – give it a shot.  It is VERY informal and chill.  No need for morning nets, just wander up to the bar or pool and see what’s what.  I liked the fact there were only about 20 boats at any given time, allowing you to actually know everyone.

With Mike and Holly in the colonial town of Suchitoto

With Mike and Holly in the colonial town of Suchitoto

El Salvadorian artist, Llort's gallery.

El Salvadorian artist, Fernando Llort’s gallery.

 

I jumped in a fountain to save a dog!

I jumped in a fountain to save a dog!

 

Learning about indigo tie dying from women's artist coop

Learning about indigo tie dying from women’s artist coop

Indigo tie dying with Rose

Indigo tie dying with Rose

Cooling off the pool with ice blocks.  You'd think we were kids in a candy store.

Cooling off the pool with ice blocks. You’d think we were kids in a candy store.

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dork

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Dinghy raft up

Dinghy raft up

Suchitoto

Rally crew in Suchitoto

Peter getting neck message.  Wait!  What???

Peter getting neck massage. Wait! What???

Funky tree house room we stayed in during trip to Juaya

Funky tree house room we stayed in during trip to Juayua. It was a great place and especially enjoyed the cool weather up in the mountains.

Jayua food festival

Juayua food festival

Zip lining through the jungle

Zip lining through the jungle.  See zip line post

The laid back attitude of Bill and Jean (rally organizers) created a no pressure atmosphere for participating as much or as little as you desire.  We did both planned activities and explored on our own.  For god sake, if anything go for the $1 beer 😉

Bye to all our Rally pals

Bye to all our Rally pals

Costa Rica, here we come.

Costa Rica, here we come.

Flying Chicken

Hello, my name is Mary and I am a chicken.   I’m afraid of a lot of things; first and foremost moving fast and being out of control.  Skiing, motorcycles, boat racing, you name it.  Peter wants to do and does all these high adrenaline activities and my response 99% of the time is “no way”.   Then the next thing I know, I’m snapping skis on my feet, zipping down the highway on the back of a Ducati or racing JY15’s on a frozen Hudson River – bitchin’ and cryin’ the whole way.   So when Peter and a group of boating friends said, “let’s go zip lining through the El Salvadorian jungle”, I gave my pat answer.   I’ll let you guess what happened next…

At least we will fall to our deaths looking stylish

At least we will fall to our deaths looking stylish. Peter and his chick(en), Julie and Ken (Kia Ora) and Janet and Paul (Talos IV)

Why oh why?

Why oh why

Flying chicken

Flying chicken

Peter zip

Here we go

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We survived

We survived

Don’t tell Peter that I loved ever second 😉