Guatemala 2013 trip diary: Saying goodbye

Travelers on last weekend with their guide - Manuel (center). Back row (L-R): Sue Fernbach, Colleen Blanchfield, Cristina Ramey, Rosemary McGee, Sheila Cook Front row: Lauren McCarthy, Manuel and Lynn McClenahan

Travelers on last weekend with their guide – Manuel (center). Back row (L-R): Sue Fernbach, Colleen Blanchfield, Cristina Ramey, Rosemary McGee, Sheila Cook Front row: Lauren McCarthy, Manuel and Lynn McClenahan

By Christine Ramey
Atlanta (GA)

Friday morning, October 11th, we are up for our last day in Panajachel where we have until 10am before our journey to Antigua begins. Some of us head off to a used Huipil Market, others take a walk to Lake Atitlan to enjoy the view one last time and several wander the main streets of Calle Santader for some last minute bargain shopping.

At 10am, we load up our bus with our trusted driver of Four Directions, Noel, and take off. Not too long after taking a final ascent up our favorite windy road of Panajachel, we come to a complete stop amidst a parking lot of traffic. We discover that the local community is protesting the high cost of electricity. This puts a less than desirable kink in our journey, as we make the decision to turn around and head back down into Panajachel to take an alternate route. What would have been a roughly 2.5-3hour trip, quickly turned into a 5 hour ride! But, hey, we can at least say we experienced everything Guatemala has to offer, right!

Once in Antigua, we find ourselves at the beautiful Hotel Posada Hermano Pedro. We have about two hours to explore this gorgeous city until we have to meet back up for our “secret” dinner that Kira Walker (Atlanta Chapter, Lead of the trip) has put together for us. Several take in the sights while a few stay back to rest and recharge. Those out and about find themselves at Frida’s, a bar themed around the works of Frida KaIoh, to enjoy drinks and apps to hold us over for dinner since our journey took us straight from breakfast to 3 pm with no lunch!

A restaurant run by children

Once back at the hotel, we all climb into our shuttle which will be taking us to our “secret” dinner evening. Everyone is excited and eager to know where and what we will be doing. We come to KIDS Restaurant, to find out that it is a restaurant completely run by kids (under adult supervision), where children have an opportunity to learn English and cooking skills, as well as working as a team, which will provide an invaluable education for their future. They have a set three-course dinner, prepared and served to us by the children. It was a lovely way to end our trip together, as this was our last night as a whole group and provided us an opportunity to reflect and share some stand-out and touching moments with everyone.

We were able to discuss all the wonderful and impressive organizations we met and how they impacted us individually. We end the night back at our hotel ready for our last day together.

Tomorrow morning, our first DFW member leaves for home, while the rest of the group will split into two, with one group staying their last night in Antigua before heading off back to the States the next day and the remaining members take a flight out of Antigua to begin their extension trip in Tikal!

Saturday morning greets us with breakfast at the hotel and our first DFW member, Cindy Badocious (OH) preparing to leave for home. After saying our goodbyes, the group has until 11:40 am to enjoy the city and take in all its beauty.

I had the pleasure of spending the morning with Barbara Myers (Newton, CT) as we strolled the cobbled streets of Antigua heading to one of the markets, doing some window shopping at one of the many jade stores (Guatemala is known for its jade. Who knew?) and ending up at the Choco Museum where we enjoyed a delicious hot chocolate beverage. Now, back to eating, which we have done a lot of, we head over to a very trendy restaurant (of a friend of Kira’s) to enjoy an absolutely exquisite lunch.


We now must split into two groups and continue with our goodbyes, as nine of us stay behind while the rest get ready to head off to the airport to begin their extension trip in Tikal!

Seven of us participate in a three-hour walking tour of Antigua. We are greeted at the main square fountain by our guide Manuel, with Antigua’s Tour & Travel, and become engrossed in the rich historic depths of this beautiful city. As much as I would like to indulge our readers, I would do a great disservice to Manuel if I attempted to spout out all the amazing facts he shared with us.

Learning about jade’s discovery in Guatemala

One interesting bit of our tour was visiting a jade Museum where we were schooled in the history of jade. As I had discovered earlier in the day, I personally had not known jade was discovered in Guatemala. It was great to hear the history and see their craftsmanship in action at the store. Interestingly enough, not only does jade come in a variety of colors, but this precious stone is sacred to the Mayans. It is harder and denser than the more common Nephrite type of jade (common in China), and is gaining in popularity throughout the world, especially for the rare color black. We had an opportunity to peruse their store and learn what our Nawale sign (Mayan energy symbol) is, in hopes that some of us might leave with a purchase.

The tour was a great way to wrap up our amazing time in Guatemala! With evening drawing near, we decide on dinner and end our night at the Ocelot (thanks to the recommendation by Lynn McClenahan) enjoying a fun ‘girls night out’ – and fun we had!

For our last morning together, a few of us grabbed breakfast together, per the recommendation of our guide Manuel, and met back at the hotel just in time to catch our chariot to the airport bidding farewell to Lynn McClenahan, who stayed behind to continue on her adventures meeting up with her husband!

I must admit that saying goodbye to all these amazing women and friendships built and to say goodbye to the gracious and embracing Guatemala, came with mixed emotions. Humbleness at all we experienced, sadness to leave it behind so soon, but excitement to see loved ones and families and be able to share all this with them. I can’t speak for all the women, but a little piece of my heart will always be in Guatemala!