January 8, 2011

Dear Friends and Family,

Finally!  We got in the water last Friday evening about 6:00 p.m. just as it was turning dark.   The boat is still pretty well tossed but it is getting a little better to move around in.  They have been working on cleaning and polishing the top of the boat since yesterday morning.  They worked hard all day but had to come back this morning. For some tough spots.  Our boat is almost 15 years old and with the Florida and Caribbean Sun, the gel coat surface is not as vital as we would like.  It is hard to know for sure what can and can’t be expected.

We have learned that we still have a lot of Spanish to learn.  Talking with the workers and being clear on both sides of the conversation is difficult.  Somehow knowing the names of fruits and vegetables and family members doesn’t quite get the job done.

Rob got the engines started Friday night once we were in the water.  One gave us some pause but it all worked out.  He got the dinghy in the water and the dinghy engine is working fine so we have transportation of our own for the first time since we have been here.  Rob fired up the water maker and it is making water fine.

We had hoped to move over to a marina named Marios today.  It is a place so many of our friends who have been here have stayed, we wanted to check it out.  Besides, they have good water and we can fill our tanks there.  We can make water but it is harder on the water maker to run in fresh water so we will buy some at Marios.  They have water here, but they don’t recommend drinking it so we don’t want to chance putting it in our tanks.    We decided that it is already noon and they are still working so we won’t leave until tomorrow.  Rob wants to put the sail out on the dock here as the dock is new and clean.  Rob wants to make a repair where it was chafing from the shrouds.

Once we were in the water and visible at the outer dock, we were spotted by a Canadian couple that we met in Mexico the first time we were there about 6 years ago.  They recognized the boat and name.  They have sold their sail boat and are just staying at a guest house where they used to keep their boat and they have rented a launcha to get around in.  They invited us to a pot luck tonight at the marina next door.   We saw them this morning at a flea market for boaters.  They want to buy another boat but this time a catamaran.  A change in planning came when their daughter and her husband moved to Australia for 3 years.  Now they are wondering about getting a boat there instead!

Well, time to tell you about our New Years Day adventure.  Hard to believe that it was almost a week ago!

Seven years ago on New Years Day, we hiked up a volcano in St. Vincent with our daughter and her newly married husband who is now our blog master!  Julie and Craig will tell you that is was good walking up with me because I was the one who asked for frequent stops and thus, they didn’t have to ask.

The volcano here was about a 2 hour drive away from Antigua.   Jim and Derya from our dinner the night before, came with us.  Jim’s wife Anna had already made the climb when their son came to visit and didn’t want to go again.  Normally, if you go with the tour operations, you leave at 6 a.m. or 1 p.m.  One time is way too early and the other makes you walk down at dark which is something I don’t want to think about!  We chose to pay a little more and get a car and driver.  We left before nine which meant that we didn’t get a lot of sleep with New Year’s eve the night before but better than 6 a.m.!

The climb was not as difficult as the last one in St. Vincent but then maybe I am not the best one to say so because this time there was a “taxi natural!”  I used it!  Actually, we had been forewarned that you had the option to take a horse or donkey most of the way up.  I would have started the climb with a horse as I had resolved not to make this an ordeal.  (Do you see a trend here?  Making life hard when there are options doesn’t seem to make much sense to me anymore.  I think I am getting wiser!)  Anyway, there were so many people asking me to pick their horse, I just couldn’t do it.  After the first 5 minutes of the climb, there were only 4 horses following and I picked on of those.  I actually chose it because the saddle looked more padded!  What was helpful is that I was also able to carry Rob’s back pack and Derya’s as well.  We offered to take Jim’s but I guess he is not as wise as I am yet.  He just retired so he will learn!

It took about 1 ½ hours to make the climb.  The guide said that we were pretty fast.  Good thing I rode or I would still be calling for rest stops!  Part way up there was a place we stopped a little longer.  Some women were there selling very large oranges.  They take the outer peel off with a machine like an apple peeler.  It still leaves the white part on the orange.  They cut it in half and put salt and a type of pepper, not really hot, on to the open sides and then one eats it using the white pulpy outside as a holder.

The last part of the trip is blocked to horses so I had to make about 1/8th of the climb on my own.  It wasn’t bad though.  I had the option of taking a horse down but did that part myself.  What was disappointing was that there was no lava showing anywhere.  Last May when Steve and Nancy Johnson made the trip, they saw hot lava.  Even a week before our climb, there was a little.  They also didn’t want us to go to the very top and look over the edge because it was so windy and would be dangerous.  I met someone who had done it on another day and they said that it was pretty dangerous.  They had to crawl and look over the edge.  Besides it was a very steep climb and hard to come down in the loose volcanic gravel like surface.  Derya was very disappointed about this but I didn’t mind.

Rob brought marshmallows with us to try to roast.  It took awhile to find a vent hot enough to get them to go soft.  We did that but it took awhile and they never browned.  There was warm steam coming out in several places but no sulfur smell.  It is a live volcano and one wonders about people climbing there all the time.  This part of Guatemala is covered with volcanoes, some inactive and others active.  There was one we can see from Antigua and also from the one we were on, that about every 9 minutes or so, lets off a cloud of smoke.  I guess the regular venting keeps things from building up to an explosion.

The views from our location were amazing, seeing all the other volcanoes in the distance, the large expanse of valley’s, villages in the distance, etc.  The scenery on top was stark and though lots of plants on the lower levels, this is high up, even at the base of the volcano where we started, so it is not tropical like the one in St. Vincent.  It started out chilly but warmed up to where we were shedding clothes toward the top.

Before doing the climb, little children try to sell you walking sticks that they have made.  Rob bought two from the only girl selling.  With two daughters, he is a little partial to girls and it made it easier to chose among so many.  Once we were back down, the kids come and stand next to you with this look in their eyes and of course, though you have “bought” the sticks, you give them back and they resell them to the next climber!

We brought a lunch with us but didn’t carry it to the top so we proceeded to make ourselves some peanut butter sandwiches while standing next to our car.  I had bought a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter at the market the day before.  I made a sandwich for our guide, driver, Jim and of course Rob and myself.  Derya brought her own lunch.  I had already handed out the rest of the marshmallows to the kids who swarmed us at the bottom of the climb.  When I started to make sandwiches, the kids lined up very close to us, keeping their eye on the food.  They didn’t say a word, just stood there looking like they were ready to be in line and be served.  When I had made our sandwiches, I gave the rest of the loaf of bread and the jar of peanut butter to one of the girls and sent them all away to share the feast.  I hope they did share!

In a later log, when I have caught up on our adventures, I plan to write about the poverty situation here in Guatemala.  I won’t speak from true knowledge but I have been gathering impressions.

We got back in the mid afternoon and I will say, we were both tired.  We didn’t leave the house that night, not even for dinner.  We got some more skype time in.  It has been the last good internet access we have had.  The wifi is down here since we have been back and there doesn’t seem to be an inclination to fix it.  At least we can go in to the office and hook up with a wire and get messages transferred.   I am sure that access will be an on going issue but one way or another, I think we will be able to have something most of the time.

We left the next morning for our few days at Lake Atitlan.  That was another adventure which will wait for the next log.    I hope you all are enjoying the start of a wonderful New Year.  Sometimes the wonderful part is overcoming the difficulties that inevitably arise to give you the chance to stretch your comfort zone and enjoy the resulting feel of triumph.

It is sure nice to be a boater again!  Even if it is just at the dock!

Fair Winds,

Sue and Rob

Too many horses to chose from and this was only about half that were waiting.  One worried about the durability of the cinching as the saddles were pretty old and worn!

This was my view much of the way.  I think Rob got nudged by the horse a few times.

The guide gave me some mountain bay leaf.  It smelled really good but different from the Eastern Caribbean Bay leaf we had there.  They use it for cooking here as well.  You can see the back packs on the saddle horn.  The person in the picture was in charge of my horse.  He rode up on another one just in case someone else changed their mind.  I was led by him or a younger boy who was his helper.  Luckily, I didn’t have to control the horse as he wanted to stop often and turn around!

Here are the ladies selling oranges.  You can see her peeling one.  The older lady is putting on salt and then a pepper mixture.  I tasted the pepper but it was not very spicy.  I am not sure exactly what it was they put on it.  You may wonder why the oranges are not actually orange.  Most of the oranges I see in the Caribbean, both east and west, are mostly green, not orange.  I guess they are orange inside.

Here are some volcanoes in the distance.  The one on the far left lets off a puff of smoke about every 7 to 9 minutes.  These are some of the volcanoes we can see from Antigua.  The one we climbed is not visible from Antigua.

Here are some of the views.  It is hard to capture such expanse with our little camera.

This is the actual top of the volcano we climbed.  It was not much further but very steep, especially getting down.  It was also very windy and the wind pushed  you to the crater.  We did see a puff of smoke come out of it but no lava on this visit!

Rob took up marshmallows.  It took awhile to find a vent that was hot enough to make them soft.  You can see that one got soft but the one behind it wasn’t.  It was slow roasting but if you don’t like them burned, this was great!

You could see some interesting rock formations where the hot lava had come to the surface.  It must have been something to see when it formed.

The three Guatemalan boys wanted to have their picture taken with us so they could put it on their Face Book Page!  Many Guatemalan people come up the volcano and even camp out and have picnics.  These guys were going to carry home some volcanic rock.  Jim took home a pebble!

Here are the kids lined up to watch us make our peanut butter sandwiches.  You can’t see all of the as there must have been 7 or 8.  I was glad we had enough for ourselves and still half a loaf of bread and over 2/3 of a big jar of peanut butter.  I doubt they get either the whole wheat bread or peanut butter in their regular diet so I hope they enjoyed it.  At least it was better for them than the marshmallows I handed out.

Here is the top of a similar volcano – “La Soufrière” – on St. Vincent 7 years ago.  This is our daughter Julie and her blog master husband Craig.  They joined us for a belated honeymoon.  This volcano had been inactive for some time so vegetation started growing there already.  Also it was more tropical than in the mountains here.  No “natural taxi” either!

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