Saturday, January 12, 2013

Day Eleven - Antigua to Atitlan

(I'm really frustrated with the picture uploading function, sorry for the layout)

My chosen drink at the nearby coffee shop is the "black Fernando", otherwise known as a "shot in the dark" or a "Depth charge". It's two shots of espresso in a cup of black coffee. Yes. That's how I roll. I also can't get enough of the freshly squeezed juices down here, and they have my favorite combo - carrot, apple, beet. I'm set for the day!

High quality baskets woven by hand from pine needles and raffia.
A cooperative of basket weavers work together to improve their quality of life.
We packed and gathered our bags and met our driver, Juan. He will take us on our tour today in his Toyota HiAce van. Yeah, I love mini vans. I called "shotgun" and the ladies didn't seem to mind, so I had the privilege of a front seat view today. Our first destination was to visit a small cooperative of basket weavers up in the mountains. We went through several small towns on roads of decreasing quality, climbed in elevation, and eventually found ourselves in a tiny community. We parked and gathered in a covered terrace behind a "pulperia" (small "everything" shop that sells junk food, toiletries and miscellania) where a group of about ten women in colorful woven outfits were sitting and weaving baskets of pine needles, raffia and string. One of the women gave a brief presentation and we shared names, ages and stories. Many of them spoke their indigenous language. The baskets were beautiful, sturdy and high quality. They had set up a nice table to display some of their work. Business has been good for them, and their cooperative has added several new members in the past month in order to keep up with demand. It appears to be a wonderful cooperative, focused on education, sustainability and improving the lives of their members. Two older women, still weaving, had been in the co-op for nearly 20 years. Some members were as young as 12, still in school, but also working to help their families improve their quality of life. Their baskets are primarily sold wholesale through some consistent buyers that they have relationships with. The few that they had for sale on site were snatched up by our group. "How often can you buy a basket like this RIGHT from the maker, and know their name?" I overheard. Indeed, it was pretty amazing. Although I'm not much of a basket guy, I picked up a few as gifts. I was happy to see these women working together, earning a living and enjoying a spartan but apparently good quality of life. They were shy, giggly, beautiful people.
An Oak takes over Iximche ruins

Acorn stuffed in Pine by woodpecker
Our next stop were some little known Mayan ruins, Iximche. We didn't have too much time, but were able to tour the site with two guides and got a good feel for the place. Guatemala doesn't have a huge budget for these incredible archaeological treasures, but the guides did well and the ruins were just that - rubble for the most part. Many of the original stones from the buildings were stolen to build nearby churches. Huge oaks and pine trees sprouted up, cracking, shifting and burying the structures. A Swiss archaeologist had rebuilt some of the structures in the 50's and I'm glad they didn't let him go too far, as the reconstruction didn't appear to be all that well done or authentic - but that's my novice eye. A highlight for me was a giant pine tree that had woodpecker holes bottom to top. What was shocking is that the bird s had stuffed an acorn from nearby oak trees into nearly every hole. It was quite unique, and the guides had a traditional story to share about the process that I didn't quite understand.

It was mid afternoon and we still had to drive a few hours and get across the lake, so we cut the tour short and headed out in the HiAce. A fairly smooth four lane concrete road twisted around mountains, back and forth, until we hit the turnoff to Panajachel, the most easily accessible town on Lake Atitlan. As we approached, the dress of the folks walking the roads really stood out. Even the men were wearing colorful, intricate woven outfits. Each community has a particular style, and there were a surprising number of people still adhering to this ancient identity.
Is this kid having fun or what?
On the boat ride across Atitlan, taken by Zack.

Random pics from the day:

Corn is god.
Love this truck. Love it.
We stopped at the office of 13 hands, a group I'll talk about later in the trip, to drop off some boxes, then made it to the dock just at the sun started to set. The lake is truly indescribable. Surrounded by volcanoes, the lake has an eerie, magnificent aura. The beauty is overwhelming, with a balanced sense of power and foreboding that the volcanoes bring. We loaded all of our bags in the boat and set across the lake while the sun set before our eyes. We arrived at the dock of our hotel in Santiago as dark was setting in. We settled into our rooms, enjoyed a meal with more great conversation, met new friends and shared another few rounds of Euchre before retiring. Tomorrow we will learn what great things are going on in this community.
Gotta get the rebar home somehow.

1 comment:

  1. I've not played euchre in a while. Let me know if you have a playing gathering anytime.