Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala - It is basically just a port quite a ways away from the nearest town. They have erected a tourist market there for all of the cruise ships, but mostly they all sell the same crap. It was very nice, however, to pull into the port at sunrise and be greeted by 2 towering volcanoes on the horizon. We quickly boarded our bus and went on our way to the highlands. The focus of today's trip was Lake Atitlan, a caldera lake surrounded by volcanoes. It has some family history for me since my dad's cousin's family died in the lake 40 years ago. The only survivor was a son who just happened to be staying with us in the States so he could attend school with me to improve his English. The lake itself is incredibly beautiful. It is a very spiritual place to the Maya who live all around the region. The bus wound its way up the mountains from the coast, first passing sugar cane fields and then coffee plantations. We then boarded a boat for a ride across the lake to a large hotel. There we enjoyed a very tasty buffet lunch. It was then time to wade into the hoard of peddlers selling their wares. We ended up with some Mayan tapestries and some wooden animal masks. It was then time to head back across the lake and back to our bus. The funniest story was that a speed boat passed us on our way back to the bus. It contained all of the peddlers from the other side of the lake. They were following us to get more sales. We appreciated their tenacity. We also did a little shopping at the tourist market by the ship. I had fun haggling and wound up with 5 lbs of coffee for less than $5/lb. I figured $5 was the price break point since I can get coffee at Costco for about $6. It was then time to get back on the ship, hit the Sunset Bar, and enjoy one of the best sunsets of the trip.
Puntarenas, Costa Rica - I think I drove through the town back in 2001, but it was such a blur. Seeing it again I can realize why I have little recollection of the place. We boarded our bus and headed east to an old narrow-gauge railway. I have had no luck finding information about the history of the line, but I think it hauled produce between San Jose and Puntarenas in the early 1900s. It was a pleasant ride through the Costa Rican countryside. We disembarked from the train at a grade crossing and re-boarded the bus. It was then on to a boat ride on the Tarcoles River. The lower end of the river is famous for its wildlife especially birds and crocodiles. We got up close and personal to a croc as our guide fed him some chicken. It reminded Kitty and myself of our alligator tour in Louisiana where our guide fed marshmallows to the gators. The boat trip was all too short and soon we were back on our bus heading back to Puntarenas. We decided to do a little exploring on our own since we had plenty of time in port. We only lasted an hour or so as the heat, humidity, and crush of people took their toll on us. It was a Sunday so all of the locals were also out enjoying the beach. It was then back to the ship for a relaxing dip in the pool and refreshing beverages. And now...PICS!
Guatemala Volcanic Sunrise
Volcanos around Lake Atitlan
Town on the shore of Lake Atitlan
Guatemala Sunset (made even more perfect with a drink in paw surrounded by friends)
Iguana friend I ran into while walking around
Costa Rica Sunset