Lake Atitlan
chicken bus

Santiago Atitlan
Independence Day
language school

a new year
Semana Santa
las Americas
Machu Picchu
year 2
Santiago Sacatepequez
lake weekend
UK in winter
Caye Caulker
El Salvador
year 3
Carnival Trinidad
Rio Dulce
Semuc Champey
journey's end


Guatemala Journal



1 marzo
It was my first excursion behind the wheel beyond the Guatemala City/Antigua metro area. Driving to the beach at Monterrico, a 3 hour trek southeast to the Pacific, I followed instructions from friends carefully. Once out in the countryside, the blue volcanoes that surround the city towered over the horizon - Fuego, Agua and Pacaya - seldom visible from inside the city itself through all the pollution. The road, Aguilar Batres, was pretty direct until it ended in the little town of Puerto San Jose where you catch the ferry. I was told the road to the ferry is a dirt road and it’s easy to get confused - "it looks like you’re going down an alley, but just keep going" said one teacher who goes there regularly; "I’m not even going to try to tell you, I just keep asking people whenever I get down there" said another. Both turned out to be good advice. I went way past the dock and kept asking where the "lancha" was until people started pointing back the way I came. A narrow dirt opening between tiendas (stores) revealed a river and a few cars waiting to cross.

I pulled up beside a taxi, the driver smiled as we explained it was our first time here. The ferries were two or four car platforms with a motor on one end. The taxi drove across the little ramp onto the lancha followed by another car and they pushed off. Another ferry drifted in as they were pulling away, two cars quickly drove off and up the hill. The men directing traffic immediately signaled me forward - I drove on until the ferry driver motioned me to stop (the car was almost touching him) and we were floating. Prepared for a little sightseeing down the river, I was surprised when we abruptly stopped - the boat went straight across the river and the ride was over. I looked over to the next ferry preparing to return and saw the grinning taxi driver waving, on his way back with a new set of passengers.

The road into Monterrico on the other side passed through several small beach towns whose agricultural specialty was cashews. They were sold by the side of the road with the bright green or red fruit attached, looking like green and red peppers with a little hat on. As we approached Monterrico, we checked our notes - there were no directions to the hotel, the owners said it had a good sign. We drove down two wrong streets that appeared to be hotel lined, and became stuck in deep black sand twice, once receiving a push from a helpful resident. When we finally found the right street, the sign eventually presented itself - Dulce y Salado (sweet and salty), a semi-circle of thatched roof bungalows around a small pool, fronting the ocean with a flag of Italy waving, the origin of its owners. An inviting spot with a sprinkling of palm trees and hammocks, "V"’s of birds passing by overhead, 3 km down the beach from the busier hotels and nightlife.

At 5pm on the beach, the local ecological group prepared to release baby sea turtles into the ocean - a crowd gathered. Tiny black turtles in a red bucket would start their new life with our help. I "bought" a turtle (10Q, about $1) and gave my ticket to the young girl standing next to me. Abriela looked very serious and embarrassed by my gift, although her father seemed pleased, until the time came to choose her turtle. She proudly picked a squirming young specimen from a red bucket, we petted him and wished him luck. At the wave of a flag, the turtles were released, some confused and needing redirection, but most headed straight for the shoreline. As the sunset lit the sky a soft orange, the briskly moving baby turtles entered the water and were pushed back a few times until the waves welcomed them and carried them away.

As darkness fell, the mosquitos attacked with a vengeance, now I understood why there was mosquito netting over the bed in the hotel. Doused with bug spray, we checked out the restaurants in town. Two men carried a third man, obviously passed out, out of one establishment and down the street (drunk? beaten up?), followed by wife and family members. We chose a less lively spot for dinner. After a relaxing morning walk on the beach and dip in the pool, we headed back to the city.


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