Belize & Guatemala Part II

People and Places

People, The Group

Belize and Guatemala happened for me this past January because of adventurers Deb and Bob Stelton, through their mom and pop travel company Mexi-Mayan Travel.

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Deb and Bob Stelton climbing the ruins, Mexi-Mayan Travel

And they really are my mom and pop.

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At the Ruins of Tikal

Forever curious, an inspiration to countless students and seekers, hosts and trip organizers of expeditions since the 1960’s, they are only now at 88 and 91 years young just starting to slow down.

I’ll admit to a tug at the heartstrings.  Climbing around ruins and getting in and out of boats or beat up trucks is a challenge at their age.  I am an arm for my mother to lean on, (darn arthritic knees!) or a cheerleader as she navigates a high ledge, on her butt, backwards.  I am an ear for my dad’s failing hearing, and also sometimes a stabilizer for him also.  It’s not easy for them and sometimes I worry.  Well, enough of that.  You get the picture. We treasure each of these excursions.

It has been an honor and delight to accompany them and sometimes work as guide on many of their madcap journeys.

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Travelin’ in high style!

Talk about gratitude, my life has been rich with culture and experience.  They’ve modeled viewing the world with wonder and curiosity.

Follow their lead, my friends!  Pursue your passions, interests and loves as long as you can!  It keeps the mind, body spirit, strong and supple like a cheetah…

Other than the ‘rents and I there were 12 more adventurers.  All intelligent, mature, considerate, and often hilarious individuals, including 3 archeologists.  All curious about and considerate of the culture of Belizeans and Guatemalans.   Many archeology passionistas who appreciate a cold local beer at lunch.

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The group at the Mayan ruins of Tikal

More People, Local People

A few words about the people of Belize. They are funny, kind, patient, and generous.  Names of businesses and street signs reflect their humor and generally easy-going nature.

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More good natured monkey bizness…

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Out in the jungle some funny guys transformed this tree stump into cigar smokin’ creatures with pebbles as eyes and sticks for cigars, can you see?  Oh, and the tree moss as hair.

Our local guides took care of us like family.  Once even ingeniously packing a home cooked lunch feast (made by one of their sisters in the wee hours of the dawn) which we enjoyed at a ruin in the open air replete with china plates!

I was touched to see a young taxi driver holding my mom’s hand and slowly walk her to his old cab with the cracked windshield and peeling window darkeners.

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A verdant house with a red sofa in San Ignacio?   Yes, please!

In San Ignacio the dogs are plump and adored.  They wander the streets freely and bark all night. All night.  They bark all night!  All.  Night.  Yawn.  Supposedly they are watch dogs, but I think they are more just party animals.

I’ve been to Guatemala about 6 times.  Here too I find the people are kind.  Traditional Mayan spirituality is intriguing and very alive in Guatemala.  If you can experience a Mayan shaman ceremony or visit a Maximon shrine, go for it!.  The shamans will speak directly to the gods on your behalf, building a sacred ritual fire.  Maximon is the saint of drunkards and whores.  He can be bought off with offerings of cash, booze, and cigarettes.  I mean just do it!  Can’t hurt, right?

Places

In San Ignacio we stayed at the Rolsen Hotel.  The Rolsen sits atop a hill a bit out of the hustle and bustle of downtown.  Modest and clean accommodations, very kind and helpful staff.  Nice Pool.  Although the coffee was dreadful, the breakfasts were hearty and the fruit plate was super fresh.  Best thing on the menu – Pork Pibil.  There is a lovely view of the city from the dining room.  And it’s easy to get a cab or tour company and take excursions from here.  We used the dependable and friendly family-run local tour company,

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Restaurant at the Rolsen Hotel (See the green house over there?)

BTW  – we about fainted over the food at San Ignacio’s restaurant The Crave.  So yummy!

Also the Belize Zoo is lovely place, small in size with lush flora.  I am not keen on zoos but this zoo is more of a rescue center.  I petted a rescued jaguar!

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A walk through the Zoo.
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Junior, a rescued jaguar.

In the Peten area of Guatemala we stayed three nights at the remote  El Sombrero Lodge.  Run by an Italian woman who came to visit as a young lady then fell in love with the land (and a man) and never left.  She is assisted by her adult sons.  This lodge was my favorite on the trip.  Outstanding service and delicious home cooked meals (they baked me a birthday cake with only an afternoon’s notice, and served it warm for desert!)  The lodge is tucked in the jungle on a crocodile filled lake (no swimming).  I found the rooms utterly charming – screened-in thatched roof structures.  You will hear the howler monkeys!  Some rooms are more “communal” then others.  You may hear your neighbors!  The lodge generates their own power (which goes off at night unless you make other arrangements), keep their own bees, and serve the honey with homemade pancakes.  Excellent coffee.  The owners are highly knowledgeable about Mayan archeology and offer excursions to nearby ruins by boat, horse, or car.  The road to this place was exceedingly bumpy, but worth it!

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El Sombrero dining room
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Walkway at El Sombrero
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My lodgings at El Sombrero
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The bar at El Sombrero
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The lake at El Sombrero
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The boat we took to see ruins at El Sombrero
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Happy horses

 

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Tree roots in Guatemala

Deb had the brilliant idea to finish our trip at the most luxurious of the three “hotels.”  So we were off by a scenic boat ride to, The Lamanai Outpost Lodge.  Private, quiet rooms, service, food and cultural and ecotourism activities here were first rate.  Hot showers, air conditioning, comfy beds, beautiful landscaping, hummingbirds everywhere.  24 hour coffee is forever in the communal room. Our hosts mysteriously and repeatedly offered drinks on the house.  Was it something about us?  Or is it the norm?  Hard to say…  Regardless, cheers!

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View from the restaurant at Lamanai Outpost Lodge
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Restaurant at Lamanai Outpost Lodge
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Lamanai Outpost Lodge
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Lamanai Outpost Lodge
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Lamanai Outpost Lodge
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Lamanai Outpost Lodge
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Lovely view from my cabin…
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The river ride to Lamanai Outpost Lodge
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The river ride to Lamanai Outpost Lodge

Beautiful Ruins

Finally, we visited many ruins…  I’m sorry the names escape me (there were so many!) but here are a few favorite pictures…

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My feet on the top of a ruin
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Me

Thank you for reading! I’d love to hear about your adventures – please comment!

More Links

Here’s the itinerary for the trip:
Belize and Guatemala – A Mayan Ecological Adventure

Belize & Guatemala Part I

If you’ve more interest in Mayan culture, and scent here’s a little Mayan Story I wrote:
Sex and Scent – A Cautionary Mayan Tale

And here’s another blog about Guatemala and coffee from a previous trip:
Smelling the Coffee, Generosity of Spirit

 

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Me again…
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Belize & Guatemala Part I

Scent & Faeries

What perfumes to bring on a jungle faerie hunt…

“A cozy one, a sexy one, one for the weather, and a wild card.”  Inviting advice offered  from friend and blogger Julie Johnson of The Redolent Mermaid to my quandary on a last trip.

I confess that mostly I’m a last minute packer.  Sure, I have grand plans to pack  two-three days before a trip and then re-pack the day before,  removing half of the stuff, etc.  But no, mostly, I just end up shoving everything into the suitcase last minute.  Yoga mat?  Check…

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Hmmmm – packing bags in my bag…

Careless as I might be in packing clothes, not so with perfume.  Not always.  But mostly.  Laying the potential fragrances out ahead of time to sniff and dream gets me in the mood.  And it’s an adventure to see if the way I predict fragrance interacting in an environment will play out in just that way.

For this jungle faerie hunt I selected a small vial of rare Hawaiian Jasmine in oil for my weather (tropical) scent.  A gift from a friend who procured it at a farmer’s market in Kauai it seemed an obvious choice.

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Rare Hawaiian Jasmine and Butterfly

A small potent vial of verdant faerie’s Butterfly was my cozy scent.  More of an aromatherapy scent than a perfume, Butterfly is bright with Geranium and Mint, and grounding with Clary Sage.  It is perfect for jet-lag or the disorientation that sometimes accompanies travel.  The bottle is now empty…  Somehow it’s brightness was a soothing tonic.  Helping me to feel stronger and ready for adventure.

My sexy  scent was verdant faerie’s Eau De Parfum, Duskblossom, a rich scent with a seductive heart of Jasmine & Tuberose and a complex narcotic patchouli / tobacco base.

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Duskblossom

On the trip I ended up slathering Butterfly on my wrist to wake up and then layered my sexy pick DuskBlossom on top, day and night.  During the day I would occasionally layer on the straight up jasmine.  I found the Hawaiian Jasmine and Jasmine-heavy Duskblossom perfect for the jungle.  It’s heady seductiveness lured me into lush jungle spirit.  Blooming, thick, both ethereal and and of the earth.

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The wild card was J. Hannah’s award-winning Skive.  I especially love to take this one traveling because of it’s nifty eco-lux and travel ready packaging.  The scent itself is always a surprise to me, although I’ve known it for several years.  And its smokey, woodsy, musky, tea scent always brings out unique nuances in the environment I am exploring.  I reached for Skive just once.  At the Lamanai Lodge deep in the jungle.  On a night when I got the itch to enjoy a scotch at the lodge bar.   Stay up late listening to the songs of night critters as the Howler monkeys finished their last throaty bellows.  The smooth smokiness matched the scotch and the sounds.  I felt far away.

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J. Hannah’s Skive with its leather ‘glamping’ wrap
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That’s my scotch over there at the Lamanai Lodge.

Once, as an experiment I put some drops of Butterfly into a pair of smelly sneakers.  My brilliant idea did nothing to mask this funk.  Then they just smelled like funk and Butterfly.  C’est la vie. They are now sitting with good ol’ baking soda.

Interestingly, the lush intensity of the jungle softened all the fragrances, and I was really digging DuskBlossom with Butterfly as I wandered around under massive vine covered trees investigating endless variations of miniscule mosses.

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Copal

In the off-the-beaten-track shop of Miss Garcia I hit gold in the form of Copal Resin.  Miss Garcia opened the door of her pink shop to us on a Saturday night.  Her smile and transcendent Saturday night copal smudging scent greeted us. Still soft and fresh, she unwrapped the copal and cut me off a 1/4 pound piece.  I mentioned I wanted to tincture it for perfume, and she instructed that it should soak for 9 days, a sacred number as per the Mayans.

I left the shop floating on an incense cloud basking in the radiance of the kindly Miss Garcia.

I will tincture some in organic alcohol and oil.  For 9 days, as recommended.

Incidentally, Copal is a resin from the Copal Protium Tree.  It is used mostly as an incense but can add a lovely incense base note to perfumes.  A bit like Frankincense only sweeter and more ethereal.

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Miss Garcia

 

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Miss Garcia’s shop.

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All the gorgeous imperfections.
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Cutting it is like cutting a very firm cheese
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The tree is nicked to cause the resin to flow.

Mayan Faeries – The Alux

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The faerie hunter.

This dapper fellow and frequent travel companion is my dad.  In addition to being an incredibly literate professor, he shares my curiosity in faeries.  He always gets his question out in the most serious and professorial of manners, asking our local guides what they know of the Alux (pronounced ah-loosh) a Mayan sprite or faerie.

As children our Belizean guides were cautioned not to go into caves.  In the caves the Alux lie in wait and will get you.  And parents are advised to have more than 1 child as the Alux are less likely to talk a child into going off with him if a sibling is present.

“Does anyone ever come back from there after being caught?” asks yours truly.

“Ummm.  No.”

Now, doesn’t that make you just a touch suspicious?  Don’t you wonder what it’s like in the land of the Alux?  Maybe it’s super nice and the children don’t WANT to come back…  Hmmm.

Belize & Guatemala Part II coming very soon..

In the meantime for more scented beauty, check out Julie Johnson’s blog –

The Redolent Mermaid

Do you travel with perfume?  How do you decide what to bring?

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Smelling the Coffee; Generosity of Spirit

 

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Portrait of an Angel in Coffee – can you see the wings?

Birthdays always make me a little uncomfortable.  I feel awkward with all the attention.  Wishing on the candles always feels … odd.   I try to be gracious and go with the flow.  But secretly I hope everyone will just forget.

This year my birthday arrived while I was in Guatemala traveling with a group of kind and intelligent persons with Mexi-Mayan Travel.  Including my mother, who insisted we make a surprise stop at a bakery for cake, while on the way to our destination in the Guatemala forest, Takalik.

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Takalik Maya Lodge is near the ruins of Takalik.  An old coffee plantation turned lodge.  Tucked on a steep hillside our group would have struggled to make the hike up the hill to the restaurant, so the staff generously brought coffee down to the porch for my birthday celebration.

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While waiting for the coffee I slipped off  the porch for some yoga and meditation.

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Birfday Yoga Studio
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Forest Meditation Here
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The Path View

Meditating on the energy of the land, I was surprised at its gentle and feminine energy.  The forest, while not quite jungle, was thick and dense.  Yet so generously soft…

Everyone was very patient while I kept running down the hill to finish my yoga poses and meditation.

Then the cake and coffee.

 

The heavenly earthly coffee, the cake also.   But the comradery was supreme.  Such good will!

It was here that I finally found the solution to my birthday awkwardness.  From the sweetness of the land and my comrades and the generosity of the Guatemalan people hauling coffee down the hill.

I blew out my candles and wished for myself to be generous of spirit.  Done.  Happy Birthday to me.

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Later I talked my loving, wise mom into reading my coffee grounds.  Thick coffee sludge in my cup.  She hunched over the cup and saw everything that she knew I wanted…

Pics of the Lodge

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The Plantation Chapel

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And One Little Bean Trying To Grow!

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To travel with Mexi-Mayan Tours contact me directly or visit the website: Mexi Mayan Academic Travel

 

Flora & Fauna, Guatemala

 

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Our knowledgeable and distinguished guide, Prof. Jose Benitez, has jokingly taken to calling me Princess.  Really, I am flattered.  Guess it’s better than wart-hog, and he means it in the most fun loving and fond way.  A professional archeologist by trade, Jose is a wealth of information.  We are lucky to have him.

There are 8 of us fauna making our way through Guatemala.  All with a passion for archaeology, art and world culture.  All of retirement age who have traveled extensively throughout their lives.  Following their passion?  Check!

My parents, at 85 and 88, are the organizers and leaders.  How sharp they are!  And resilient!  Each in our group are a reminder to live life to the fullest.  Use it or loose it.  Have cane, will travel.  I am full of the greatest respect for these travelers who have ventured the world.

Guatemala is bustling and seems to be enjoying economic boom.  Last I was here was 22 years ago.  Much has changed.  But the beauty and openness of the local fauna (native Guatemalans) remain friendly with smiles and welcomes.

Guatemala City smelled of car exhaust.  Oh the traffic!  Right now in Panajachel (highlands) by Lago Atitlan I smell pine/cedar…  Lemon Verbena (is that my roommate?)  In the lowlands yesterday, hummingbirds and giant bees busily gathered flower juice.  Air smelled of smoke, sweet subtle florals, and lush green-y earth.

Here are some pics of local flora to brighten your day.

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Sweetly Scented Plumeria

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Invigorating Pepper Leaf

 

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Pepper tree

More from Guatemala soon, sacred practices, beauty, archeology – when I am in Wifi.

Faerie Without Borders – Guatemala!

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(image from unknown source, not my own)

Greetings From The Free Range Faerie

I’m writing from the madness of what will soon be my ex-condo in Chicago.  Crap is strewn everywhere as my son and I close down this condo for a series of adventures.  It feels good to clear out and make room for the new.

While he is off at school, Missy and I are embarking on massive faerie hunt.  Travel, mystical exploration, blogging, faeries, and especially dedication to my perfume course with the Natural Perfumery Institute and launching the Verdant Faerie perfume line.

Keep checking for fun stories and beautiful images!

First Stop Guatemala

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There is still space to join the trip organized by my fascinating parents, Deb and Bob Stelton to Guatemala.  You can read a bit about them on the  Antiquities Shop Page.  Apologies for the late notice – we leave Jan 12th!  I am a tour director for this trip with my parents.  (Missy doesn’t get to go on this one.)

Bob is also fascinated by faeries.  We’ll ask locals if the Alux faerie we learned of in Mexico is also present in Guatemala.  The Alux  are mischievous faeries, that when treated well will protect your home and especially crops.

I will also seek out copal.  Resinous sacred Mayan incense, with intent to tincture it upon return.  Years ago I bought a stash wrapped in a husk of some sort, tied with twine.  Burning it on special ritual occasions…

We’ll be visiting markets and Mayan ruins.  Eating well and enjoying a few cocktails and laughs.  Staying in lovely accommodations and swimming in pools.  For those interested I will informally lead meditations and yoga.

The group is small, comprised primarily of academic and artistic people of retirement age or slightly younger.

If you have questions email me directly!  doreen@verdantfaerie.com

Trip Itinerary

MexiMayan Tours

Museum Quality tours 12S675 Knoebel Drive, Lemont, IL 60439 meximayan@meximayan.com

Guatemala Expedition: Investigations led by Prof. Jose Benitez January 12 – 19 $1306 per person (Extension Jan 19 -24, 2016)

Itinerary day by day

Day 1: Jan 12th Tues Arrival

Meet & greet at the airport by our host and transfer to your hotel, The Grand Tikal Futura Hotel in Guatemala City. http://www.grandtikalfutura.com.gt

Day 2: Jan 13th Weds Guatemala City
Tour to the stunning Popol Vuh Museum with artifacts from the
earliest settlers starting with a Clovis point and continuing through
periods of funerary ceramics to the Postclassic. At the Museum of
Archaeology you will say, “I see marvelous things!” Afternoon visit
Kaminaljuju, This vast city was a very important trading center for
the Mesoamerican region from the Preclassic (1200 BC) to the
Postclassic period (900 AD). It may have had settlers from as early
as 2000 BC. The Jade Museum in Costa Rica claims that their
ancient artisans imported jade from Guatemala to carve and then
exported Olmec carvings back. Most of this vast ancient city,-(Ka
meanal-hoo’ yu) has been destroyed by urbanization. We will enjoy a festive dinner at Kakao Restaurant with Jose Benitez. Grand Tikal Futura Hotel (B, D)

Day 3: Jan 14th Thurs Costa Sur: Olmec sites
Morning transfer to Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa. Today we visit El Baul and Bilbao with their acropolises connected by a wide sacbe and (foundations of) a 92 foot bridge. The Finca Las Ilusiones displays several fascinating sculptures. We continue to the site of Monte Alto in La Democracia to view several Olmec type heads and other enigmatic sculptures. Do these heads have similarities to the features of the heads of the 16 ritual figures at La Venta? Lunch and dinner at the lodge on you own. We suggest (best deal, pay

with quetzals) Afternoon transfer to rustic Takalik Mayan Lodge (B) 1

Day 4: Jan 15th Fri Takalik Abaj / Lake Atitlan
Today we explore Takalik Abaj the site of the recently excavated fabulous burial of an important priest, or king or chieftain K’utz Chman who ruled about 700 BC. Hundreds of beads, Jade jewels included a necklace with a green sculpted pendant in the shape of a vulture and a jade mask were included. Did K’utz Chman innovate changes that led to the development from Olmec to Maya?

Lunch at Takalik Mayan Lodge. Afternoon transfer to famous cobalt blue Lake Atitlan and checking in to the Porta Hotel in Panajachel (B,) http://www.portahotels.com

Day 5: Jan 16th Sat Free Day and Optional Tours
Today you can take the morning off to swim, shop, rent a bike or look at the gorgeous lake. Or:
Optional: A LAKE TOUR to Santiago Atitlan to learn about the Maya god, Maximon, a weaving village, a visit to the studios / homes of

the celebrated naïf painters and a ceremony with a shaman at San Marcos. Boats, tuk-tuks (3 wheeled vehicles w driver and guide $50).

Day 5 continued: Lunch at Posada de Don Rodrigo and visit to their “Museo Lacustre” (Lakeside Museum) and witness the result of underwater archaeology. Learn about the volcanic activity that created Lake Atitlan’s breathtaking landscapes and the underwater Maya city of Samabaj that was discovered by a scuba diving tourist. Lodging La Porta Hotel in Panajachel (B)

Day 6: Jan 17th Sun Chichicastenango / Iximche / Antigua Guatemala
Today you will visit Chichicastenango (1 hour) mask makers, morerias (dance costumes, drama scripts, props), Iglesia Santo Tomas, Cemetery, after the tour we will have lunch in tiny Tecpan probably at the friendly cozy Paseo Xejsminthe. After lunch we will be visiting Iximche archaeological site. Iximché was a Maya Cakchiquel city founded in 1463, less than a century before the arrival of the Spaniards; it played a decisive role in the Spanish conquest of this region of Guatemala. When Linda Schele visited on a Catholic holiday she was excited to find crowds worshipping with candles and altars to their gods. Even today, its four ceremonial plazas with their temples and ball court host ceremonies for the gods. We continue to Antigua and Conte-Nast award winning hotel the Casa Santo Domingo (Best Hotel of Central and South America. http://www.casasantodomingo.com.gt

Day 7: Jan 18th Mon Antigua Guatemala
Antigua visit Jade House and archaeologist, Mary Lou Ridinger with important stories to tell about her discovery of the source of jade, her founding of an archaeological conservancy and the recent theft of jade by a Chinese company. Optional Colonial Tour of Central park,

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Cathedral, Convent of the Capuchinas (home of unmarried daughters of rich Spaniards) and La Merced Church. (Transport, guide & fees $40)

Afternoon visit all the museums at Casa Santo Domingo, Dinner in a local restaurant in Antigua Lodging at Casa Santo Domingo (B)

Mail to MexiMayan Academic Travel 12 S 675 Knoebel Drive,
Lemont, IL 60439

Day 8: Jan 19th Tues. La Azotea Guatemala (Optional Tour) Breakfast at your hotel,

/ Antigua

Optional: Visit La Azotea Cultural Center with a Coffee farm Tour and an excellent Museum of Maya Musical Instruments. Take home some famous Guatemalan coffee for your pet sitter. Afternoon transfer to the airport to continue to Flores or back home.

End of the first part of the expedition. Price per person $1306. Single supplement $400

Payments by check to MexiMayan Travel. A $400 Deposit will hold your reservation. Please call Deb Stelton at 630 972 9090

ALL Hearty Breakfasts and 1 dinner are included.

Jose Benitez will take us to safe restaurants for lunch and dinner.
You will be able to choose and pay for your own meal. (Currently 7.5 quetzals per $1)

Extension to Tikal, Quirigua & Copan area
Day 8: Jan 19th Tues Flight to Flores
Continuing travelers will be transferred to the Guatemala City airport at 3:30pm Your flight departs for Flores at 6:30pm, and arrives Flores at 7:30pm.
Dinner (on your own) at the air conditioned Hotel Villa Maya, (B)

Day 9: Jan 20th Wed Tikal National Park
After breakfast you will be transfer to Tikal where you will be guided along the paths of the most important city in the Mayan world. Abundant wild life, the Mayan forest, temples millennial silent witness of the birth and splendor as well as of the collapse of one of the most important civilizations in the planet. Did Tikal collapse because they did not have enough sustainability to serve 50,000 citizens? Dinner in a local restaurant in Flores. Return to your hotel in time for viewing the sunset over the lake Lodging at Hotel Villa Maya (B)

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Day 10: Jan 21st Thu Quirigua / Copan
Breakfast at your hotel and transfer to Copan (6 hours) on the way you will have guided tour at Quirigua, a site with the tallest stelae. What was the purpose of the zoomorphic carvings?
Dinner and lodging in Copan at Hotel Clarion Suites (B)

Day 11: Jan 22nd Fri Copan full day
Breakfast and tour to majestic Copan archaeological site including ruins, tombs and Museums
Dinner and lodging at Hotel Clarion Suites (B)

Day 12: Jan 23rd Sat Guatemala City
Breakfast and transfer to Guatemala City
Dinner and lodging at Grand Tikal Futura Hotel Guatemala City (B) http://www.grandtikalfutura.com.gt

Day 13: Jan 24th Sun Back Home

Breakfast and transfer to the airport in time to catch your international flight back home (B)

Prices in US$ per pax $1600 Single Supplement $300 $400.00 deposit will hold your reservation.

First information needed: Your name as it appears on your passport, date of birth, your home address, your e-mail, your home phone number and your cell phone number. Do you need help with the airlines or travel insurance? Call MexiMayan Academic Travel at 630- 972 9090 and ask for Deb Stelton

Karina at Exito Travel can help you find the best fare if you need help.

This could be a rugged trip but you will be able to have tuk-tuks or other vehicles at points that might be considered difficult. We will start out after 9am in the morning.

Hepatitis A shots are generally recommended if you are traveling anywhere in the worls. Preventative pills for malaria or soroche might be suggested by your doctor. Long sleeves and long lightweight pants are suggested.

The northwest part of Guatemala is an area known to have a high crime rate. This trip does not go there. Downtown Guatemala City is another place that we do not visit.

You will need to fill out an Enrollment form. MexiMayan@neximayan.com or 630 972 9090 for questions.