Thursday, July 9, 2015

Guatemala Road Trip Post 5 – Lanquin and Semuc Champey south to Guatemala City and back to Mexico

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Lanquin to Guatemala City and back to
Marina Chiapas, Mexico - purple line
A Zephyr Lodge tiger prowling
Zephyr Lodge in Lanquin was the perfect spot to use as a base for Semuc Champey and surrounding area. The food was great and the bar a friendly social location. Backpackers from around the world gathered every night. Although all the staff were great, absolute special kudos go out to Holly, the sweetest Welsh lady we have ever met. She was always a happy, smiling energy source.

Mural in our bungalow
The 3 guys who own it have done a lot of work in the last 6 years and their vision is definitely taking shape. The new kitchen equipment is on site, the pool bar is almost complete and new walkways on a steel framework are being finished. It was interesting to see how their construction methods and materials have evolved into a very robust long term approach that will withstand the rigors of a tropical environment and drunken partying Aussies – just joking, we all had a great time, but there is no denying they know how to party!

Holly arranged our van transport to Guatemala City after we had conversations with Sean, the bar manager, who is planning to open a business in Guat City. Travellers are often advised to avoid Guat City but Rob confirmed what I felt: If you pay attention to what is going on around you it is like many big cities with lots to see and do, you will be safe.

One final word on the fabulous Holly! When we got to Guat City, the van was continuing to Antigua with the rest of the passengers, only Mags, Judy, Paul and I were getting off. It was a street side disembarkation and in my haste to be outside to catch our luggage coming down from the roof rack, I left my camera behind. Eric, one of the other passengers, found it and emailed the Zephyr Lodge. Holly got the two of us in contact. Cool, only travellers can appreciate how important a camera can be. Fortunately, I had downloaded the SD card the day before so rather than try to get the camera from Guatemala to Mexico, Eric is going to find someone in Antigua to give it to. So now I get to shop for a Go-Pro!

Palacio Nacional, Parque Central, Guatemala City
Guat City is huge, set in a network of deep valleys radiating out into the surrounding volcanic mountains. Like Antigua, its history is defined by a series of devastating earthquakes. Its most recent severe earthquake in 1976 caused major devastation that is still visible in some of the old church facades. The large plaza, Parque Central is bounded by the Palacio Nacional on north side and La Catedral on the east. Both are beautiful structures. The perimeter columns of the Catedral are inscribed with the names of the tens of thousands of people who disappeared in the military’s purges of Mayan villages, mainly in the Verapaces, that just ended in the mid 1980’s. Sexta Avenida, Sixth Avenue, is a pedestrian street running south from the plaza and is alive with Guatemalan families, young and old, enjoying their vibrant city.

La Catedral
We stayed at the Hotel Spring, formerly called the Hotel Colonial, housed in an old two storey building with three courtyards and twelve foot high ceilings. She is a somewhat tired establishment and therefore fit our budget, but she is so ingrained with colonial character we loved it. It was just off Sexta Avenida and within walking distance of the sights of Zona 1, the central district.

Some very cool students
We also went down to see the Museo Nacional de Arquelogia y Etnologia in Zona 13. It contained an amazing collection of Mayan artifacts from various sites throughout the country. On the same grounds directly in front was the Museo Nacional de Arte Moderno with a vibrant collection art. The art reflects the Mayan heritage and is shadowed by the repressive civil war that engulfed the country from the early 1970’s to the mid 1980’s. As so often happens in Guatemala, a group of students wanted to talk to us at the Museos, asking where we were from and what we thought about Guatemala. They were a cheerful, intelligent group, Guatemala will be in good hands.

We could have spent several days in Guat City, but the boat was calling so we took a first class bus to Tapachula Mexico and returned to find everything fine on Kanilela. It was an intense but totally rewarding three weeks of travel.

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