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Goodbye Fronteras – We go to town for the last time

May 2013

We set June 1st as d-day to depart Mango, and we’re just about there. Ironically, June 1st is the start of the hurricane season, exactly when one would want to be coming to the Rio for protection. Oh well, so it goes. On this last visit to town, we finally take the walk up onto the bridge where we get spectacular views of the Rio. We also enjoy the bridge as it is commonly used by locals; beside it serving as the major regional artery, it also works as the town’s main plaza. With a perch like this, residents make the trip up just to hang out and meet up with friends and family.

While in town, we finish provisioning and say goodbye to the many people we’ve come to rely on for many-a-stuff. Fronteras; an urban strip that appears at first sight to lack all connection to the modern world, is ultimately, as the singular crossroads in the area, a plentiful town that hides an infinite amount of amenities and products that only time allows a visitor to uncover. And we have spent a considerable amount of time here, so in a way, we’re leaving a familiar place that maybe we can even call our home town.

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Final Preparations – We’re sailing to Maine

May 2013

When we return from Ricardo’s daughter’s college graduation in Ohio, the last thing we want to do is hop on another plane to go to Linda’s parents’ 50-year anniversary in 8 weeks. They decided to hold the family reunion in Bar Harbor, Maine, so our options are a bit broader than the graduation in Ohio offered us. Maine? Well, Ricardo sailed there as a teenager and always thought he’d go back at some point. The decision comes almost automatically, and so we get ready in earnest to get moving. We decide it’ll take us 6 weeks to comfortably make the 2,400 nautical mile journey – that’s about 2,750 statute miles. We’re interested in doing longer passages at sea, so our plan is to go pretty much straight to Florida, followed by a long run up to New England from there. More on that later; for now, we’re tying up loose ends here in preparation for our  - “Journey to Maine”

But our final days in Guatemala are not all boat work. Linda starts a new knitting project: a lap blanket for her parents. She’s using gold bamboo yarn and knitting a really nice pattern that features candle flames. Her thinking is clear: gold commemorates the 50-year achievement and the flames symbolize the love that keeps the relationship healthy. So, with Linda tied up solidly on that endeavor, Ricardo takes up whittling, a pastime he soon discovers is a new passion.

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More Mango Days

April-May 2013

Our projects and our endless summer continue…

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Mango Days

March-April 2013

We come home from our Lake Atitlan excursion and make a decision. We need to go to the states in May (and again in July) and have some big projects to tackle before we can move the boat. So we decide to take the pressure off and just stay here at Mango until we need to fly out. This gives us plenty of time to laze around in hammocks, read aloud to one another, soak in the pool, cook, goof-off and still conquer our outsized to-do list.

Some days we get a lot done and some we just take a picture of a beautiful meal we’re grateful to be eating. In fact, at times this starts to look like a food blog, but it’s not. It’s our journey, and as we grow we find the more we give up our expectations and unnecessary, self-imposed pressures the happier we are.

Plus, this isn’t such a bad place to be.

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Guatemala City and the Bus Ride to Rio Dulce

February 2013

We’ve been here to the city more than a few times now, each adding a little something. This time, we didn’t have a reservation at Residencias Las Torres, our stand-by hotel in the city. It’s cheap, yet in “la Zona 10″, the “safest” part of town. And it’s near the airport. That’s one reason it feels different to be here this time – we’re not going to or coming from the airport. And secondly, we made the best of our windowless room, dancing to the laptop. Thirdly, we have a passeggiata and entertain ourselves making puppets with the street lights. And lastly, we take a different Litegua bus to Rio Dulce. This one makes a few more stops, has no air conditioning, no movies, and as such, it has opening windows… Perfect! We finally have a chance to photograph some of the landscapes and details we’ve been seeing every time we take this six-hour ride. And best of all is that we’re traveling practically empty for much of the time, so we run around like kids, shooting out the windows, misbehaving.

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Lake Atitlan – We leave Santiago for Guatemala City

February 2013

Well, we’re bumped from our hotel room so we need to leave; all things come to an end so here we are. Goodbye Lago de Atitlan. Due to our timing, we decide to hire a driver to take us straight from here to Guatemala City. We travel around the south side of the lake, then south into “el Pacifico” – the rolling savannah-like coastal area bordering the Pacific Ocean. From there we’ll come northeast into the capital. We get a whole new panorama of this beautiful country, albeit from a back seat.

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Lake Atitlan – Santiago

February 2013

Santiago is the largest town on the lake. It’s a hard working place; dusty, noisy, bustling, but not annoyingly so. Many micro-businesses find their home here. The town fronts a small bay on the southern side of the lake, squeezed between the two adjacent volcanoes. On a map, Santiago looks like the most interesting setting on the lake, but the truth is that from here, the volcanoes – they being the primary contributors to the lake’s intrinsic uniqueness and beauty – don’t really have as much of a presence as they do as seen from the north. And maybe that’s why this town doesn’t rely on hospitality as a primary source of income. We walk across the whole length of this gridded city and only find two hotels, for instance. And, consequently, the one that does have a room available has it only for one night. It’s a popular place, though a bit out of town. The in-town alternative was empty, but not too inviting…

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Lake Atitlan – Back to San Marcos

February 2013

From San Juan we decide to go back to San Marcos – and the best thing is that we take a tuk-tuk along the road that spans from San Pedro, through San Juan and San Pablo, ending in San Marcos. We had seen the dirt road while in San Pedro but didn’t know how or when we would get on it. Well, this is a great time for it. In San Marcos we visit with an old friend who broke his foot since we last saw him. We stay a few days and enjoy yet another great bedroom, one built in adobe.

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Lake Atitlan – San Juan

February 2013

This little town on the western end of the lake is known for it’s residents’ obsession for cleanliness. It’s true; the town center is broom-swept, tidy and colorful. Many sources recommend that we go visit, so we decide to get on a lancha and check it out. The highlight is lunch at a Swiss garden restaurant where we dine al fresco on a spectacular cheese plate. Whereas the town is pretty and quaint, it’s not our cup of tea; it’s essentially a tourist trap. So we take the drastic decision of staying only for the day.

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Lake Atitlan – Up up up in Santa Cruz

February 2013

Santa Cruz sits way up on the mountain’s shoulder. The town has a road that links it back to Panajachel, but beside this healthy artery, the town’s urban fabric is stitched from a web of pedestrian callejones and stepped walkways. We set out on this uphill trek from our lakeside posada early, knowing we’ll be out and about all day.

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Lake Atitlan – Santa Cruz

February 2013

We leave Casa del Mundo and hike over to Santa Cruz. It’s a great walk, not only the mountain trek, but also the long haul along the surreal water’s edge. We follow rickety plank walkways that re-claim from private property the once public access along the lake’s shore, now lost following the dramatic rise in water level. This spontaneous and resourceful solution makes for a truly unforgettable circulation path that gives “boardwalk” a whole new meaning. So far, Linda’s birthday celebration on the lake continues to delight us in memorable ways.

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Lake Atitlan – Jaibalito

February 2013

Jaibalito is the nearest town to Casa del Mundo; we take a hike along the mountain to visit it and return by way of the shoreline. This is an authentic town with little tourist influence; no gift shops, no hustling. People aren’t mean or anything, but we don’t get the feeling that they really care if you’re here or not. Now, regarding politics, they do seem to care quite a bit about letting you know what party is best.

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Lake Atitlan – Casa del Mundo

February 2013

We hear this is a must-see hotel; it clings to the side of the mountain with a Mediterranean flair. Because it stands alone on a stretch of coastline between Jaibalito and Santa Cruz, the room includes dinner which is served at one large, lively table for all the guests. It’s a well-run operation and a good spot to vacation, but it isn’t quite our cup of tea. A great place nevertheless. Oh, and we can now categorically confirm that real people are actually on the internet and competing with you for a reservation, not just bots.

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Lake Atitlan – More design and nature in San Marcos

February 2013

We’re having a good time exploring the town, which is quite rural in feel. There aren’t any cars, although there is a road that comes to the town center where it ends. We’d like to share more of Aaculaax, a small, exquisite hotel where we’re staying. It has about 10 rooms, ranging in price from elegant all the way to barefoot. We tried all types over two visits, starting at the top and dropping all the way to the basement. Somehow we’re taken by some of the decorative elements on the property, but also by the general sensibility. We usually shoot things just to keep an image of something we like, but here we’ll post some of those record-keeping images out of respect for these hand-crafted details. But this project doesn’t begin there; letting the native rock forms into the interior spaces is a gesture of integration, and literally the foundation in many areas of these buildings. And the gardens are lush and imaginative, as is nature itself.

We go for a hike too. But we don’t go jump in a lake.

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Lake Atitlan – San Marcos

February 2013

We come to San Marcos not knowing what to expect, though we’ve heard about the many spa-like places here that integrate meditation, yoga and other transcendental endeavors and pastimes. Many take it very seriously here, in large part because the lake is believed to be one of the few places on earth where the energy field is such that everything is just so for that ever elusive sustainable connection with the ether. The venerable volcanoes, the expressive clouds, and the majesty of the lake itself sure look the part.

We come to really enjoy it here; without a doubt we luxuriate celebrating Linda’s birthday in an exquisitely crafted hotel, which of all things, it features imaginative stained glass, Linda’s specialty. All the glass is salvage, but more fascinating is that in lieu of lead cames holding the pieces together, these are fabricated using a kind of paper mache, reinforced and durable. Another feature is the integration of the natural stones and rock formations into the interior spaces, which are themselves real explorations of hand-crafted vernacular architecture. We begin our stay in the Honeymoon Suite way up at the top of the property (the only room available when we dropped in), and slowly trickle down into any available room, all the way down to the basement, where we shared our hostel-style room with a scorpion.

Oh yeah, the town is nice too.

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