Lake Atitlán - The Reserva & Mardi Gras

The thumbnail for this post is the view from Bill's dining room table where I did most of the writing and picture-editing for the blog.

Tuesday, February 17, the only scheduled activity was the Mardi Gras party in the evening, a fund-raiser for the International School. More about that later.

My tire man had promised Monday afternoon that the rim would be fixed by 10 AM on Tuesday so we dropped by the shop only to find out that the tire wouldn't be ready until 3 PM. We then headed for the Reserva Natural, close by Panajachel, the closest town after the village of Santa Catarina del Palopo where Bill's house is located. 

The road to Panajachel was very familiar. I became expert in dodging the worst potholes in the pavement. Going through Santa Catarina and Pana you have to drive very slowly and watch out for tumulos (speed bumps). Some are mild but some are real attention-getters, 5 inches high and a couple of feet across. Few are posted with warning signs you just have to drive carefully and slow down. They're really effective in the villages and cities for slowing cars and trucks down to make it safer for pedestrians.

The Reserva is located on the far side of Pana, very close in to town. Here's the entrance:


Once we'd paid our $8 per person admission Bill took the lead and directed us onto the nature trail. We expected to see a waterfall and monkeys. We were a little surprised by a series of hanging bridges. 

It was the dry season so the trails were dry and dusty and the vegetation was not as lush as you'd find in the rainy season. On the other hand we didn't have to worry about slipping and falling on the steep trails. The first area we came to offered views of coatis (plentiful) and monkeys (just one, way up in a tree beyond picture range.) Here's a coati:


I've never seen these raccoon-like critters anywhere except in Guatemala. Continuing on we came to the first of many hanging bridges. The cables and boards on the bridges are substantial but that doesn't ease your feelings as the bridge sways under your feet with every step. Here's Merrie adjusting her camera after surviving one of the bridges:


Bill's used to the pitch and roll of a sailboat so the swaying of the bridges didn't bother him at all. He led the way on all of them.


Here's a shot of the waterfall, in Spanish it's a caterata.


The vegetation was lush and tropical even though it was the dry season.


After the nature trails we headed for the butterfly enclosure, a geodesic frame enclosed by fine mesh netting.


The water cascading from the top of the brick arch provided a nice feng shui aural background as we walked around viewing the gorgeous mariposas.

Procreating in broad daylight!

Procreating in broad daylight!

The last thing we saw at the Reserva was the laboratorio. In large glass cases extracted chrysalises were strung on wooden racks for incubation and hatching. Pictures of the racks didn't turn out well because of the reflections. Here are a couple of cool looking stained glass pieces which hung in the arches buy the laboratory.

stained_glass 1
stained_glass 2.jpg

We headed back to Bill's house for lunch and to rest up for the Mardi Gras party in the evening. On the way through town I stopped at a downtown bank to change dollars for quetzales. I had to open an account before going to the teller line to make the exchange. Here I am, account number in hand, waiting my turn.


I later found out that taking pictures in the bank was not permitted. Oh, well, nobody said anything at the time.  I spent a few minutes finding a mask for the party after the money-changing. Bill knew just the right store and it was close by the bank.

Went to pick up the tire, big surprise it wasn't ready. It was a difficult task to heat up the aluminum rim to smooth out two dings. My tire guy told me to come back at 3 the next day.

Merrie's stomach was a little too queasy for a party so she let me use her wig. The party was outdoors. Tables were set up in the courtyard with a bandstand and dance floor on a small basketball court. We had plentiful, tasty food:  an appetizer bar, the main course, and desserts (limit two). Funds from the cash bar and silent auction went to benefit the school. Here's a shot of Bill and me enjoying the Fat Tuesday revelry:


And it wouldn't have been a real party without a limbo contest...


The bar went lower and lower until everyone dropped out except the winner, an exceptionally limber woman wearing a long party dress. An amazing and crowd-pleasing performance by all the contestants! A Guatemalan woman performed two solo expressionistic dances after the contest and showed a lot of talent, even throwing in a bit of belly dancing. She was heartily applauded by the increasingly well-oiled crowd.

The party continued with dance music from a live band. Bill and I headed back to Santa Catarina over the bumpy road. The super-dark tinted glass of the rental car made driving at night pretty dicey. It was hard to tell which way a curve went until we were into it. Fortunately, the road was almost deserted. Most people have better sense than to drive at night!

We covered a lot of ground on Day 3. Our plan for Wednesday--cross the lake and visit a couple or three villages. Hasta luego!