Guatemala Trip – Part 2

(For those of you who “follow” our blog, please be sure to read the updated version of the Guatemala Trip – Part 1.  While imputing the photographs, Eddie accidentally published before we were finished with the post.)

Waiting in the lobby of Hotel Casa Encantada for the shuttle to Lake Atitlan.

Waiting in the lobby of Hotel Casa Encantada for the shuttle to Lake Atitlan.

The prearranged shuttle picked us up mid-day at Casa Encantada in Antigua.  The drive to the village of Panajachel (called Pana by the locals) on Lake Atitlan is usually a 2-1/2 to 3 hour ride.  Since we had eaten a late breakfast, we figured we could have a late lunch in Panajachel.  Unfortunately, the drive was almost 5 hours long!  We ended up in a horrible traffic jam that we learned later was caused by a major demonstration by government employees who were rallying for more pay.  We were a little anxious that we would miss the last boat to our hotel as well as dinner, which is served at 6:30 p.m.  It would be rough going to miss both lunch and dinner!

Once we were past the demonstration, our shuttle driver drove like a maniac and we managed to get to the launch before the last boat.  But then, we had to wait for the boat to have more than just a couple of passengers and that was a 15 minute wait.  The boat ride to our hotel, La Casa del Mundo was about 15 to 20 minutes.  We just barely arrived in time to clean up a bit before dinner, but at least we made it.  The family style venue was a lot of fun.  We met people from all over the world.

The launch dock at Panajachel

The launch dock at Panajachel

La Casa del Mundo is a beautiful hotel that was built into the steep rocky cliffs that surround Lake Atitlan.

Hotel La Casa del Mundo

Hotel La Casa del Mundo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

_MG_6665eIt has a gorgeous view of three volcanoes across the lake.  This is not the place for someone with physical limitations as there is no elevator.  It was quite a hike to our room as we were almost at the top of the property.  It was 55 steps from the main lobby/dining area and probably 100 steps from the dock.  They were steep steps, too.   We really got a workout staying there!

_MG_6684e

Lots of stairs here

_MG_6655e

_MG_6664e

More stairs…

_MG_6687e_MG_6685e_MG_6666e

The next morning, we took the boat back to Panajachel to do some shopping.  We were told that Panajachel  has the best prices of all the little villages around the lake.  Along with many small stall shops, there are individuals hawking their wares in the middle of the street.  The individuals, many who are young children or older women, are very hard sellers.  They really hound you.  If you look at one person’s wares, then several more come over trying to compete against each other.  We bought most of our things from the stall vendors.  We found a shop with gorgeous woven fabric for a large bedspread and another shop with colorful pottery.  Due to the luggage weight limit, I had to restrain myself from buy too much.

The main shopping area in Panajachel

The main shopping area in Panajachel

_MG_6674e_MG_6643e

We ended up back at the hotel for a late lunch and then realized that we didn’t have enough time to visit another village on the lake.  The small boats run every half hour to an hour depending on where you are picked up and your destination.  So, after lunch, we climbed up to the top of the hotel property to walk along the ridge toward a village called Santa Cruz, which is a strenuous 45 minute walk.  We didn’t walk all the way there, but close to it.  Then, we turned around and headed the other direction toward the smaller village called El Jaibalito, which is just a 10 to 15 minute walk from the hotel._MG_6676eIMG_3265e_MG_6677e _MG_6678e

The next day we decided to take the small boat to a village called San Pedro.  It took us over an hour to get there as we had to stop at several docks along the way.  We were rather disappointed with this place.  There really wasn’t much there and being a Sunday most shops were closed.  We did find a nice place for lunch right by the water.  The boat ride back was very rough due to high winds.  We thought we were going to bounce out into the lake!

IMG_3268eIMG_3275eIMG_3276eIMG_3274e

That afternoon Eddie and I celebrated our anniversary with a bottle of champagne that we bought at the Duty Free shop.  The hotel kindly chilled it in their bar refrigerator for us.  Then after dinner, we had a nice soak in the hot tub, which is wood fired and takes about 5 hours to heat up.  It was the perfect way to end the day!

IMG_3280eIMG_3283e

On Monday we needed to be in Panajachel by mid-day to meet our shuttle to drive us to Guatemala City for our last night.  We had to switch shuttles in Antigua, but didn’t have to wait long.  The entire trip took about 3 hours, but it usually takes closer to 4 hours.  This shuttle driver took the back way to Antigua through the countryside and that seemed to be much quicker.  We found great restaurant within walking distance of our hotel in Guatemala City.  The food was fabulous here, too!

IMG_3264e

Guatemala Trip – Part 1

As we mentioned in the previous post, we took a trip to Guatemala to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary. (Let’s hope we can survive the trauma of building a home and make it to 36!)  The trip was wonderful despite some transportation issues and we would love to return there sometime in the near future. We spent two nights in Antigua, three nights in a lovely hotel on Lake Atitlan and one night in Guatemala City.  Since we have many beautiful photographs that we want to share, the trip is divided into two posts.

Instead of driving to the main airport in San Jose (2-1/2 to 3 hour drive), we decided to fly from the very small airport closest to us located in Quepos. We booked tickets on Sansa, one of Costa Rica’s regional airlines.  The plane had 12 seats not including the pilot and co-pilot, very tight quarters.  Because weight is always an issue for small planes, there was a maximum of 30 pounds for checked luggage, only one bag each, and everyone had to step on a scale with their carry-on bags.  We have a luggage scale here, but not a regular scale, so I had no idea how much I weighed. I couldn’t resist weighing myself without my carry-on bag.  Yikes, time to go on a diet, after our trip, of course!   If checked luggage is overweight, there is an extra fee of $1 per pound and in addition, there is a chance your luggage may end up on a different flight especially if the plane is full.  The good news is that the flight was only 25 minutes.  The plane traveled at 6500 feet, so we were able to take some nice photos of the Costa Rican landscape from the air.

Waiting in the Quepos airport to board our flight to San Jose

Waiting in the Quepos airport to board our flight to San Jose

We are boarding our "Luxuryliner"

We are boarding our “Luxuryliner” aircraft

We are sitting directly behind the pilot and co-pilot

We are sitting directly behind the pilot and co-pilot

IMG_3211eIMG_3210eIMG_3213e

On approach to San Jose International airport

On approach to San Jose International airport

The Sansa terminal adjacent to the San Jose main airport

The Sansa terminal adjacent to the San Jose main airport

We were supposed to have a 3 hour layover in San Jose, but unfortunately, our plane (Avianca Airlines) had mechanical issues and we ended up spending all afternoon there.  In true Costa Rica fashion, the departure time kept changing as well as the gate.  Everyone was afraid to venture too far off as not to miss the flight.  On the plus side, we were served sandwiches both at the gate and on the airplane.  The food was pretty good for an airline.  The flight was about 2 hours.

Ready to board our Avianca flight

Ready to board our Avianca flight

On our approach to Guatemala City with the volcanoes in the background

On our approach to Guatemala City with the volcanoes in the background

Due to the delays, we ended up in Guatemala City airport in the evening.  Once we were through immigration and customs, it was about 7:30 p.m. and we had an hour drive to get to Antigua.  We had wanted to take a shuttle, but the shuttle driver kept wanting to wait for “one more flight” so he would have more people than just us.  We waited for a half hour and then gave up.  We decided to take a cab, which cost twice as much, but at least we arrived at the hotel at a decent hour.

In Antigua, we stayed at a hotel that was in town, but far enough away from the main square that it wasn’t noisy at all.  The building in which Casa Encantada Hotel is located is very old, but has a lot of charm.  Our room was tiny, but comfortable and the staff was attentive.

_MG_6589e

To get to our room you had to pass the built-in sobriety test!

To get to our room you had to pass the built-in sobriety test!

IMG_3231e

The next day, we walked our feet off all over Antigua which is full of history and interesting sights. Antigua, the former capital of Guatemala was struck by a massive earthquake in 1773.  In 1776, the city was officially evacuated and condemned, when the capital was moved to its current location in Guatemala City.  However, many people chose to stay and rehabilitate Antigua.  It is now the most popular tourist spot in Guatemala.  There are ruins of old churches and convents on almost every corner.  Some have been partially renovated amongst the rubble.

The Arch of Santa Catalina with Volcán de Agua in the background

The Arch of Santa Catalina with Volcán de Agua in the background

La Merced Church and Convent (built in 1546).  It is still an active church.

La Merced Church and Convent (built in 1546). It is still an active church.

_MG_6598e_MG_6603e_MG_6611e

The Cathedral at the central park

The Cathedral at the central park

The "Chicken Bus" is the main mode of public transportation around Guatemala

The “Chicken Bus” is the main mode of public transportation around Guatemala

_MG_6612e_MG_6616e

We ate lunch at Casa Santo Domingo, an old church and convent that has been converted to a 5-star hotel and restaurant.  The food was fabulous!

_MG_6618e

The grounds were extensive and we spent several hours there wandering through the ruins, crypts and little museums.  In the silver museum, there were all sorts of ancient ceremonial headdresses and staffs, sacramental pieces and jewelry from centuries ago.  The silver was very tarnished and it was too dark to get good pictures.

_MG_6622e _MG_6623e

Look closely and you can see the skeletons

Look closely and you can see the skeletons

There was a museum with artwork dating back to the 14th century and one with statues of various sizes dating back to the 16th century.  Here is a photograph of a carved wooden statue of St. Joseph holding Jesus’ hand, which is from the 17th century.

_MG_6625e

Toward the end of the day, we had to take a rest in the central park where we saw to women in native dress hawking their wares.  The little boy was very entertaining.  We were so tired that we decided not to go out for dinner, but to share a snack at the hotel.  A fun, but busy day!  Stay tuned for Part 2 covering the rest of our trip.

IMG_3240e_MG_6631e_MG_6633e_MG_6629e

P.S. While Eddie was uploading the photographs, he accidentally hit the “publish” button before we were finished with the post.  Sorry about that!

With Permit in Hand…Building has Commenced!

Finally, we have our long awaited building permit!  Yea!!!  While we were on our anniversary trip in Guatemala (more on the trip later), our permit was approved. Anticipating that this would happen, Eddie arranged for our builder to pay the permit fee for us, so that he could pick up the permit and commence building immediately.  We returned from our trip Tuesday evening, so we had to wait until yesterday to stop by the lot to check out the progress.  The footings are dug and are in the process of being completed with re-bar and concrete.  Here are a few photos:

IMG_3317eIMG_3321eIMG_3323e

This area is the carport. The footings and partial walls around are being completed first so that it can be back-filled thereby creating additional work area and material storage. The lot does not afford much extra space!

This area is the carport. The footings and partial walls around are being completed first so that it can be back-filled thereby creating additional work area and material storage. The lot does not afford much extra space!

Patience is a Virtue

A week has come and gone and we still don’t have the permit to build.  Even with the help of the facilitator, the process is so slow. The facilitator has gone to the Quepos municipality on our behalf several times trying to spur them into action without much success. Now it appears that we are playing the “waiting game.”  Evidently, there is only one person (engineer) at the muni who can sign off on permits. The engineer told the facilitator that he is very busy working on a lot of other permit requests.

It’s been about five weeks since we’ve submitted our permit request. Originally, the facilitator was confident that he could have the permit within three or four weeks. He will tell us that it’s going to be ready in a few days and then those few days go by and still we don’t have that darn permit!  We continue to wait and wonder…what’s the problem?  Obviously, not having all of the paperwork (proof that the well water is drinkable and the certification from Senara that our well is properly registered) at the very beginning caused some delays. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the engineer put our permit request at the bottom of his pile while we gathered the two missing pieces. Or, maybe the facilitator somehow annoyed the engineer. The waiting is really testing our patience even Eddie who has the patience of a saint!

On Friday we were told that the permit would be ready today or at the latest tomorrow.  We haven’t received an update from the facilitator so it’s anybody’s guess. On Wednesday, we leave for Guatemala to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary and we’ll be gone for a week. If we don’t get the permit tomorrow, it will have to wait until we return. Tick tock, tick tock…we are running out of time!

Recently we planted some  Flor de Fuego (Ixora cocinnea) along the sides of our driveway entrance.

Recently we planted some
Flor de Fuego (Ixora cocinnea) along the sides of our driveway entrance.

IMG_3181e

The monkeys came for a snack today.  This little guy should be full after eating this big banana.

The monkeys came for a snack today. This little guy should be full after eating this big banana.

 

Still Waiting…

Well, a week has gone by and we are still waiting for our building permit. Sigh.  Even with a facilitator, the process is slow, slow, slow!   It seems that most things are slow here and that is something which is very difficult for most gringos. We aren’t used to having to wait very long for anything.  Sometimes the slow pace is enough to drive a person crazy!

Last Friday, we met the facilitator at the municipality office in Quepos.  He was already inside chatting with the employee at the desk.  When we arrived, he led us outside to tell us the bad news.  We needed two additional documents before the municipality would grant our permit – one document proving that our well water is drinkable (a simple water test) and the other proving that our well is properly registered with the government agency called Senara.  Interesting…seems that the facilitator should have know about these two requirements, but hey, it’s Costa Rica.

Earlier this week, we managed to get a copy of the document needed for Senara and we took a water sample to the lab in Quepos.  The water results take four days at this lab.  So, hopefully we will have the results in time to stop by the municipality office for the permit Friday afternoon.  If not, it will be next week sometime.

Ellen painting the column for the electric meter.

Ellen painting the column for the electric meter.

01679eca72c29d3eafb9b3dadbc14c70aa5b61ef20

Now it blends better with the jungle!