Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala: Another quick update as we arrived back to the ship with maybe only hour remaining of Wi-Fi for me to post and I have a ton of photos. The Norwegian Bliss docked in Guatemala just as the sun was rising:
Our day trip on a tour bus to Antigua (UNESCO World Heritage Site, see link at bottom of page) left at the early hour of 7:30a. Ugh. Our tour was titled Antigua On Your Own, so it only included the ride up and back. A semi-luxury 45-foot tourist bus hauled us to Antigua in 90 minutes. As our route passed between the two volcanos in the center of the above photo, would you even believe the one of the left exploded - sending gas, ash, and who-knows-what up into the air! What are the chances of that timing? There are 37 volcanos in Guatemala, and most of them are active. At one point on the drive up, we could see where, four years ago, a river of mud and ash streamed down the same mountain, washing out a village and creating a total mess of miles of mountainside terrain. We passed miles of sugar cane, coffee, banana, and papaya farms.
We arrived just outside of the heritage site, and then had to transfer to smaller vans, as massive tourist buses are not allowed by UNESCO. The streets are super-narrow and all cobble-stone, so probably a good idea. We were all dumped off at a jade factory, and instructed to return to this spot by 1p. We were set-loose in the very small, but very interesting town. (Again, read all about it via the link below. These fingers are typing as fast I can before this ship sails.) I will post a ton of photos with captions. Thanks.
The town is filled with historic architecture - Spanish, Italian, and Roman roads, a ton of Catholic Churches, and 5 zillion teeny tourist-trap shops. The vendors are consistently consistent, but do not pressure. Again, nothing we need/want, so we just wandered. Time for brunch!
We stopped at a cafe that was still offering breakfast and had the Brazil v Croatia World Cup on television. Win-win. We had veggie omelets, absolutely fantastic potatoes (crispy on the outside, creamy in the center), cantaloupe, watermelon, papaya, and a glass of orange juice. Our eggs were stuffed with mushrooms, spinach, cheese, and fresh avocado. We were also given cups of the famous Guatemalan coffee. Our meals were $10 each. We really enjoyed our brunch, eaten at a pretty courtyard with a bubbling fountain, a street dog, and several pigeons. We also enjoyed hearing the Spanish-language broadcast of the match and hearing the announcer scream GOOOOOOOOOOAL after each score. We also were surrounded by pretty blooms:
Then we just continued exploring, looking at ruins, churches, squares, shops. I could not stop taking photos of the stone walls!
Then we needed to head back to the Jade Factory (and, of course, a gift shop) to meet back with our tour guide/bus. We had a quick look around the factory, watched a few items being produced. The owner is an American archeologist who was working in Guatemala with her husband. They excavated all sorts of jade jewelry and carvings in the area, but there was - at the time (1974) no jade mine, nor any know jade in the country. With the help of a guy from the Smithsonian (who had already passed away, but had left his research) they found jade. It seems they stopped being archeologists and became jade dealers?
Inside the jade museum/factory/shop was a garden with the oddest dang flowering tree I had ever seen. Another ship-board tourist and I were looking at them and decided they must be plastic… until we noticed insects inside the blooms, and a security guard said they are indeed real and are called (locally) Lady Slippers. The browny-orange flowers are only smaller than the massive crazy-blue ones. Anyone know about these??
No short bus from the jade factory back to the tour bus. We had to walk. All-in-all, I had 12000 steps (and I did not exercise before we left today - unlike my roommate who is absolutely off his rocker to get up before 6a to jog in the dark - though he said very few people on the track this morning, and he caught a gorgeous sunrise.
We arrived back to the dock just before 4p, so this world-record-speed blog post may be riddled with errors. Please forgive. No doubt, tonight there will be a cocktail hour, fine dining, and we will sleep very well after our adventure. Even though the 90 minute each-way bus ride was not fun, I am so happy we were able to experience this World Heritage town and get to know Guatemala a teeny bit. Not to mention see a volcano blow!
NOTE: We leave Guatemala in five minutes (5p), and sail all night/day to Panama City. Arrival is scheduled for 24 hours later, but we will dock for two nights in Panama City and transit the canal Thursday (day-time passage). So excited. Will update when I can.
Oh you just know there is going to be a Jimmy Buffett line in this post! Until my next update, I remain your “I don’t know where imma gonna go when the volcano blows” correspondent. (Except I do: Panama!)