Saturday January 10th, 1970
Awoke at 5:45AM- got up at 6:15AM. Packed, ate breakfast and we were worried when the car didn’t arrive at 7:45AM. He came and we made the airport in time. Read a magazine and had breakfast in route to Atlanta. Because we were late in leaving Philly via Delta we had to rush to catch Delta flight for New Orleans. We were served sandwiches on the flight. Everything was crowded because of the Super Bowl game tomorrow. We had some down time at The New Orleans airport. I ate some praline while writing to Mom and my sisters. We purchased coffee at the last minute and boarded the plane. On route we had some more sandwiches. I bought a painted wooden carving. We headed for Guatemala at 5pm were came into the airport.
The Clark Tours representative met us at the airport and after passing thru customs. There was much flurry about getting us a taxi to the Ritz Continental hotel. The natives seemed so happy to help and their movements were rapid. The Ritz is in the center of the city and on our way to it we passed along a broad boulevard with a circle like Mexico City and a miniature Eiffel Tower. After checking into the hotel, we took a walk along the streets which had modern American like clothes, appliances, etc. (We walked into a couple large churches on our later walk.) Back to the hotel for a nap – we were located on the eighth floor and had a view of the churches from our window. The city is built on hills which surrounded it and in the distance are large mountains, which were often covered with clouds at their top.
For dinner we to the Penthouse of the hotel and had German wine and a Guatemalan platter; tenderloin steak (so tender, rare, and delicious) black beans mashed, rice, parsnip like vegetable, cheese with hot seasoning on it, mashed avocado and onion salad, banana cream pie and Guatemalan coffee (so good!) The view of the city was nice from this glassed in restaurant but it was cold. As we left, folks were arriving for the night club dancing (we danced one dance) and listening to a Vegas vocalist. Another walk on the streets and then to bed. We hear blasting sounds irregularly spaced – sounded like shooting but we learned they were fireworks going off.
Sunday January 11th, 1970
Arose at 6:15AM, had breakfast in the basement of the hotel and were met by our guide and along with two women from Minnesota we left Guatemala City and headed west towards the mountains. We saw two different volcanos puffy smoke and saw beautiful clouds surrounding mountains and forming fog layers low in some of the valleys.
Along the roadside were (near the city) Eucalyptus trees, but as we climbed the evergreens, mostly white pines became more abundant. On the roadside we saw beautiful deep blue birds, called blue jays by our driver, Salvador.
Along the roadside, were natives carrying objects on their heads, or riding small horses (occasionally or carrying bundles on their backs. As we approached Chichicastenango we saw a group of men carrying a coffin headed for town with a cluster of family behind them. Burial must be within 24 hours and they had at least a 2 hour walk ahead of them.
Along the roadside also were groups sitting and waiting for buses. We saw one mother searching her sons head and our driver said she was looking for lice which are prevalent and often they would eat the lice to prevent typhus (their belief.)
The road became curvier and at 10 o’clock we reached Chichicastenango 6660ft high.
We quickly check in at the Mayan Inn. It was lovely and we later learned that the food was good. The setting is on a hillside and the rooms are at varied levels. A vividly painted cemetery can be seen from the gardens. Natives walk to and from the market under our window. At a certain corner the men and boys wee-wee and think no one sees but we look down on them. Squealing piglets beyond pulled via strings to and from market, weeping drunken Indians, barking dogs, and firecrackers blasting all produce much noise in the daytime under our window (takes a while to get to sleep.) Spanish Colonial and Indian furniture are displayed throughout the hotel. House servants are barefoot, Indian boys in native costumes and a special fire boy builds the fire in the fireplace. There was a performance in one of the courtyards.
After checking in, we returned to the local market and made a quick tour of it. What a picturesque sight! We then left to view a small Marimba band (Guatemalan originated and is noted for Marimba instruments) and to view local girls dancing in native costume. These children attend a school run by the Catholic priests and nuns. We went back to the market on our own and made some purchases. Salvador took us into the Church of Saint Tomas. On its steps we viewed the Indians ceremony which they placed in a metal can and swung as they mounted the steps one by one offering a prayer on each step. Smoke filled the air. In the late afternoon I observed the worshipping wiping their eyes and sweating as they mounted the steps. Once at the top they put down the incense burners and went to the front altar where they held a package up and made the sign of the cross. Some scattered rose petals around and then each went back to a spot in the church, candles were placed on the floor, the natives would lay out their packages or bundles (usually corn, seeds, plants) and then prayed and prayed out loud each asking for good luck on the next crop. It seemed the entire family joined on the candle prayer. Postcards called this the “shaman” praying.
We went to the Mayan Inn for lunch which was excellent. We then laid in the sun on sun chairs (much to Joe’s regret later as he was burned too much with additional sun from the market shopping.) Then we walked back from the hillside gardens of the hotel where we saw poinsettias, hibiscus, roses, and azaleas in full flower, humming birds and butterflies on the way to our room. Then it was off to the shop! The market was buzzing still. Back to the hotel for a nap, as the sunset it became very cold in our room. We awoke drained, we were trying to start fireplace when our fire boy came in and helped. I bought two cards, wrote them, and then waited for dinner which would not be served until 7. We walked to town and observed the market being taken down.
2 young girls approached us and became our guides. They had danced during the morning and were students at the Catholic school (attendees about 1,00) which has tuition. About 700-800 attend the public schools. The little girls showed us all the places they eat lunch. They seemed disturbed about the drunken Indians who lay on the street, or were being held up by friends. They took us into the market where we saw tortillas being made. A little boy had joined us along the way. They took us in the Church of St. Tomas and showed us thru the back door. The worshippers were pretty much gone by now so we were able to see where they do baptisms and where they confess their sins.
We gave each child 25 cents as a tip and the oldest girl took the 75 cents to have it converted to Guatemalan money and never gave the little boy his so we found him weeping at our hotel door. Joe gave him 25 cents and although he was sobbing he seemed happy.
We had dinner at the hotel and afterwards a hike to town where there were fewer people now. The many stray dogs we saw earlier were not visible now. A marimba band played intermittently which was enjoyable. We stopped at a jeweler but they had no gold charms. As we left small boys were enjoying football made with a wad of paper. We bought them a ball for $1.25.
Back at the hotel we packed and I wrote in this journal until 11. Joe had gotten into bed at 9:30. I put the last batch of wood on and now at 11PM I am retiring.
Monday January 12, 1970
At 6:15AM the alarm went off. I rang and a fire boy came in and built our fire. We dressed, packed, ate breakfast and met Salvador and 2 other travelers at the car. We headed out of Chichicastenango with beautiful mountain views surrounding us. We saw natives going to and from the market. There were shops set up as we left town and we saw a tremendous firecracker on the church steps. I had been awakened by blasts of firecrackers and drums. At 6:30 the same thing occurred. Salvador said that this is all a part of a religious precession that occurs early in the morning.
As we drive toward the village we see the natives who appear to wear different garbs then the Chichicastenango. The men have pajama-like pants with shirts in red, blues, and whites. Salvador says that the women typically wear red skirts and white embroidered blouses.
We arrived at Panajachel on the shore of Lake Atitlan to board a boat to cross the lake, which was 11 miles wide and 18 miles long, 1500 feet deep, and 80 miles around. They have black bass but there’s not much fishing. Surrounding us were towering mountains and there were three cone shaped volcanoes. Fuego, which we saw yesterday, was puffing. There was a little village nestled in the mountainside. Wide flat spots were evidently where flash floods poured into the lake. Agriculture flourished made evident by the patchwork quilt effect that appeared on the hillsides. How they plant on such steep inclines is a mystery to me. We headed for a small village known as Santiago Atitlan.
As we approached, we passed thru a channel and saw natives fishing in dug-outs, women bathing and blending with the stones and fishermen. As we came to the dock we saw many natives mobbed on the dock. We climbed up the stone street and were besieged by young girls selling wares. The first house had a loom working. I paid to take a picture but the grandma became angry because of the U.S. travelers only giving a penny and pulled everything into the hut. All along the street side children were posing saying “Tik pich.” It was a bit nerve racking but as we approached the city all calmed down (relatively.) We climbed steps to look at the old church were there were many window statutes that were grouped together. The results of an earthquake in the 1800s they never rebuilt places for the statues. On into the market we saw so many colors from tomatoes, pineapples, bananas, corn, baked goods, etc. were all for sale. Small sections on the side sold clothing. We then walked to a store where I purchase pants, a blouse, and a sash. Then we went back to the market where we each ate a red banana and then back to the boat for 11:30. We crossed the lake to head for lunch.
Lunch was good and we left Panajachel and traveled on winding roads downward. We caught glimpses of Lake Atitlan below. Corn and wheat were planted on the hillside. It became warmer as we descended. The small village had their houses painted in gray colors but the natives did not wear typical old fashioned clothes but more American style.
We came into Antigua (5,000ft.) and checked into the Hotel Antigua and quickly changed for a dip but because the sun soon sank we dressed and decide to go to town. The central square was three long blocks away. What a quaint city with ruins surrounding the entire square. Then we walked along a so called shopping street but most of the shops were closed. We hiked on to the market which because of it being entirely enclosed has an unpleasant odor. We sat on a bench in the central square and tried to converse with 3 native children (2 sisters and a brother with their dog.)
We went back to the hotel. Because it was cold, we went to the bar and sat near the fireplace. We had a coffee blossom (rum, coffee, and lemon juice.) We went to dinner at 7:20PM and had cheese tortillas, black beans, steak, fried potatoes, and a caramel sundae for dessert. After dinner we hiked with the 2 Minnesota women to the home of an artist- Dale Nichols. It was so interesting to hear him talk about how he is now doing work on Guatemalan people and sceneries. His earlier work was mostly mid-west people and sceneries. His real interest now is in Archeology. He believes the Mayan’s fantastic architecture derived from Vikings who landed on the coast and infiltrated Indian culture. He believed the collapse of the Mayans came from introducing their primitive culture in place of Phoenicians (number 9 important to them.)
We went back to the hotel and tried to build fire. The fire boy came in and built one for us and we finally went to bed.
Tuesday January 13th, 1970
I got cold during the night. Bells woke me up early. I got up at 7:20AM, built a fire and got dressed. We walked around the pool which had mist rising from it. The sun was brightly shining while the birds and parrots were being fed toast. From the dining room we could see an inactive volcano in the distance, with the pool and lovely landscaping in the foreground. We ate poached eggs Guatemalan style, tortillas, papaya, hot sausage, and Guatemalan coffee.
We left with Salvador at 9AM to view the city. We went outside the city via cobbled streets and then dirt roads to visit a church built in 1534- The Cathedral of Ciudad Vieja which was in the process of restoration. The three crosses on the top were unusual.
We went back to a coffee plant where we saw the beans with the black husk, the beans being washed, the drying beans spread over the concrete beds, women selecting the beans and the beans being packaged in bags. The unroasted beans tasted like a green beans- not at all like coffee after roasting.
We headed into the city which was the Colonial capital of all Central America from 1543 to 1773. In 1773 it was destroyed by earthquakes. It is still filled with ruins but there were attempts at restoration.
The first church in the city was Merced built in 1548. Its exterior painted in yellow had an elevated design of concrete painted. It was the only church not destroyed in the quake. At the church of San Francisco, we saw lonely ruins and in the courtyard Joe snapped a picture of 2 natives sitting on the fountain. It was nunnery before the quake.
The museum of colonial pieces is housed in the old University of San Carlos. Murals on the walls depict university life. After the quake the university was moved to Guatemala City where it still functions.
On to Mrs. Palmer, who had a private home which her maid showed us without tip. In the front room were articles all hand loomed. Mrs. Palmer attempted to sell us some - they were beautiful and all had been washed before sale but we bought nothing. On to the square where the women bought dolls and we took a picture of a baby nursing.
Back to the hotel where we sat at the pool and dipped in the water and where we took a picture of a hand loom.
We dressed and went to lunch which was so good, and the orange cream pie (like lemon meringue) was amazing.
We left Antigua at 2:30PM and climbed a bit before coming onto a hillside overlooking Guatemala City. It is located on a flat valley and is surrounded by hills and mountains. We saw a baby coffin being carved. People were in groups by the roadside waiting for a bus. Two women were trying to put a pig in a bag.
We checked in at the Guatemala Biltmore which did not seem at all exotic - so Americanized. I tried to get film at a pharmacy and the super market but no luck. We walked around the park then took a nap and dressed casualty for dinner. I had a tremendous fresh fruit salad after a drink in the bar adjoining the dining room. Then to bed at 9:30PM-10PM because we have an early flight tomorrow.
Wednesday January 14th, 1970
Arose at 6 via phone call and alarm. Packed and dressed, had breakfast and rushed to the airport by 7AM only to find that we do not board until 7:45AM. Wrote cards to Mom, sisters, and Bill.
Boarded a plane for Tikal at 7:55AM or so and took off. It is one of the most primitive places I have seen. Almost 30 persons were on board. We travelled away from the city over dense jungle. As we landed our plane bumped and skidded and the jungle was in front of us. We were unloaded only to find that our plane had left the runway about half way down and was in the mud - how we missed hitting the jungles edge is a miracle. Trucks came down to meet us. In 20 minutes we climbed on an open truck to head to the ruins.
We were shown unexcavated mounds as they appeared before discovery. We saw a temple thru the jungle trees. And as we continued on we were shown the base area of the temples with a deep cliff 75 feet deep leading down to the reservoir.
Then we came upon the central plaza with remains of temple all around. We climbed Temple #1 via a chain - one 150ft tall. From there we could see the shorter Temple #2 and in the distance Temples #3 and #4. The sight from the top was spectacular but scary. To get onto the chain was difficult but the climb backward was not as bad. But how our thighs ached after we got down.
We then toured to the most distant spot and upon coming into an opening we saw Temple #4, the tallest of all. On our way back we stopped to see spider monkeys swinging in the trees. And as our buses moved on I spotted a coati mundi crossing the road behind us.
Our tour was led by an English fellow, Peter Alden, he was young, he wrote a book on birds of Mexico. We have seen toucan, orange breasted hawk, and some sparrow-like birds. It is hot in the open spaces and cool in the shade. The birds are hiding in the day time.
We had a wonderful lunch - noodle soup, tough steak, potatoes, cabbage, and good coffee. We rested a few minutes and at 2:15PM we went with our guide to the museum to see ruins of the Mayans dating from 250+ B.C. to 550 A.D.
After leaving Joe walked down to view the plane still on the runway and because a plane was to come in at 3PM we waited but no plane. Finally back at the lodge we found a small plane on the ground. It had brought in a crew to work on the plane. At 4 we joined a group and hiked to The Capitol Plaza. On the way we viewed spider monkeys and a large variety of birds. Some animals seen by the group were lizards, crocodile, coati mundi, squirrels, bees, and many butterflies.
Back to the bungalow for a rest at 7:30PM we were served dinner - pea soup, tough stringy meat, noodles, chopped raw cabbage, and fried bananas for dessert. Terrible! We sat in the lounge and went thru and checked the bird list. Then towards our bungalow with a step into the jungle to see the moonlight. Then to bed at 9:30PM. Lights were on from 6PM-10PM only. During the night Joe had "La Tourista" - up several times.
Thursday January 15th, 1970
The alarm went off shortly after parrots awakened me with their loud fussing. We saw some of the birds viewed the previous day but also brown jay, melodious blackbirds, various parrots, toucan, flycatcher, green beacon, and egret,
Back to the lodge for 7:30 breakfast then Clarence, our guide, took us to the ruins of The Inscriptions. There was a giant slab with inscriptions which had not been deciphered.
Back to the hotel and our bungalow for packing. The plane came in around 9:15AM and had to stop before reaching ours which was still stuck in the mud. Several officials arrived and materials to help lift our plane. We took off as soon as unloading was accomplished and flew over the Mayan ruins, with two other tourists. The town was on an island and connected to the mainland by a cause way. We walked along the road and saw the Maya Intercontinental Hotel being built and a cattle market. Firecrackers were heard in the distance for this is January 15th - The Feast of The Black Christ at this time.
Leaving the lake surrounded by flowering lilies and their pods, we crossed over jungle and finally more rugged barer mountains. And then we came upon Guatemala City.
No Clark Tours driver awaited us so we took a taxi to El Camino real and went to bed for a while. Then we sat by the pool and took a dip. Then to the dining room for soup, to the Pharmacies for cards and we sat in the lounge while we wrote out the cards. Then to our room where Joe napped and I wrote this. I then lay down and dozed until Joe called me for dinner.
In the Jaguar Room for a drink - I had the specialty. Joe had gin on the rocks. Into the dining room where I ordered escargot and Baked Alaska. Joe ordered oysters and Baked Alaska. I couldn't eat mine. To the room almost immediately because I felt sick and Joe was.
We had a bad night.
Friday January 17th, 1970
Arose at 7:15 and went down to breakfast. Had cream of wheat and tea. Bought some postal cards and wrote them but the driver arrived at 9AM to take us for our city sightseeing tour. There was another couple with us from Seattle, Washington. We drove along The Reforma Boulevard with statues and homes on it. Then we went to La Merced Church with a beautiful interior containing items moved from La Merced in Antigua after the quake in 1773. We saw tremendous buildings for football tennis and swimming still remaining from the Central American Olympics of 1950.
We then went to the top of a hill to see The Church of El Carmen built in 1620.
We visited a relief map built in 1900-1904. It illustrated very well the northern jungle and central mountains and Pacific Coast. Our driver Angelo told me that coffee, sugar cane, bananas, cotton, and cattle are main items from the coastal area.
On our way back to town we passed a park with a large tree- the national tree of Guatemala. We glimpsed at the Presidents home and went to the main square where we entered The National Palace and viewed the mural on the wall. A businessman asked us if we would like to see the reception hall and called a guard to turn on lights so we could see the mahogany floors, stained glass windows, cut-glass chandelier and presidents table. Onto the square to view the cathedral and passersby.
To Clark Tour's Office and then to El Camino Real where we quickly changes and went poolside. It was warm, had two dips then had lunch which consisted of avocados stuffed with shrimp, tomato slices, and boiled egg slices, iced tea and iced coffee.
Then to the hotel shops where I found only a blouse. To our room for a siesta and at 6:30 I'm writing this diary in the bathroom while Joe sleeps. I went to Hotel Biltmore shops and purchased a pink dress. Joe joined me and we ate in the Biltmore dining room and listened to the pianist and two band members play good music. Then back to Camino Real where we packed and went to bed at 9:30PM.
Do you even remember what you had for dinner last night? Thanks to Cath's detailed journals, we know she accidentally had sloth soup for dinner 53 years ago while visiting the Amazon. Read through these interesting chronicles for memorable anecdotes from Cath's travels.