The Cruising Adventures of Joan & Ben Schuetz aboard
Part 25: Panajacel and Chichi
Thursday, 23 March 2000
After a day at Lago Atitlan we concluded that it was better to spend more time in this area and less time at Antigua. So we made arrangements with the travel agent to stay there another night. The hotel was a little more expensive ($25 for a double), but it had TV with CNN, nice beds and soft (heavenly) pillows. At first, they were going to turn Maggie away. We couldn't believe it. Maggie is not a pet, she is an accessory. After several anxious moments Maggie worked her magic and the hotel owner gave in. No one can resist her charms.
The next day trip was from the Panajacel at the lake to Chichicastenango (pron. Chee chee casta nango). Chichi is on a hill side and has cobblestone streets, adobe houses and also some very fine hotels. Some of the guidebooks say that the best hotels in Guat. are here. We visited a couple of them and pretty much agree. They are very old, but have spectacular gardens and greenery. Orchids were all around and in the courtyard of one hotel they have at least a dozen Macaws (two or three times the size of a parrot and with a full rainbow of colors). Several Macaws greeted us with Hola (pron. Olah, - hello). Another hotel had a Mayan man in traditional and very colorful dress playing an indian marimba. The marimba was made of selected pieces of rough wood and used hanging gourds for resonators. It sounded very nice, but he only played one Mayan tune and after an hour and a couple of beers it got pretty tiresome. We should have stopped at one beer, the lasting impression would have been better.
This mountain town is a tourist Mecca for getting the best buys on any of the various local crafts. Leather products, hand woven shirts, shawls, handbags, pottery, you name it. If you can't find it in Chichi, you probably didn't need it anyway (Garrison Keeler). There are a dozen blocks or so of street vendors packed so tightly that there is barely room for the buyers to walk. We didn't have any trouble, but were warned about pick pockets.
After a tough day of shopping, walking, eating and drinking, the van picked us up around 3:00 PM and we made the one hour trip back to Panajacel. We weren't really prepared for how cool it was in these mountainous areas. I guess with a little forethought it should have been obvious, but well, sometimes there's only afterthought or no thought. Anyway, I only had one pair of long pants along and after four or five days on the trail it was getting a little stiff. So, the next morning, when we were to head back to Antigua, it was back to shorts. There were some other backpackers so dressed, so I didn't feel totally stupid.
Returning to Antigua, we moved to a different, recommended hotel. It was the Hotel Santa Lucia #4. Oh this was much better. Let's see, the shower didn't drain, the shower curtain was torn, the towels were rags and the pillows were filled with sand and rocks. But, the beds were better! Also, the hotel was cleaner and had a really nice atrium. That night we again walked the dreaded cobblestones and sought out new culinary experiences.
At 4:30 AM, the van picked us up at the hotel for the return trip to the Rio. Again, these vans are just amazing. They are diesel powered and run up and down the steep mountain roads with amazing pulling power. But, the seats are straight from hell. Our buns took on flattened and maybe permanent new form during the five hour return trip. I'm still having flashbacks.
Well, when we got back to the dock, Francesca and Delphys were just like we left them. The panga (water taxi) driver that brought us to Suzannah's said that two men were captured trying to make off with someone's outboard motor. We all cheered. A couple days later though we heard that several new bad guys had arrived in town. Everyone locks up their dinghies and outboards, but these guys have the necessary tools of the trade to get around most security measures. Mostly they steal them from the people out at anchor. I put a security alarm on the dinghy, its something they're not used to. But, Suzannah's has a full time security guard who is up and walking the docks all night. We feel reasonably secure. No one has gotten away with anything there for several months.
Joan, Ben & Maggie