Participants touched land for the second time yesterday since the beginning of the May 2012 voyage when the MV Explorer docked in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala for the day.
ISE field trips departed on arrival for the following activities: a tour of a jade factory, a visit to a coffee plantation, a hike up the Pacaya volcano and a trek through the cobblestone ways of Antigua.
Antigua is one of Guatemala’s most famous and celebrated entities; it was established in the 16th century and later declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is rife with artisans and handmade goods, and many participants returned to the ship later in the afternoon, their bags filled with linens, tapestries, scarves and other locally-made goods.
Others spent the day exploring the city’s various points of interests, such as the dilapidated El Carmen church and the iconic Santa Catalina Arch. For many, Guatemala was a great first glimpse at Central American culture and helped build excitement for all the countries to come.
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We’re on a marathon stretch of port days! Okay, we’ve completed day three of five in a row, but how else does one explain the whelm of visiting tropical destinations one after the other? There is a feeling, when one disembarks in these places, that a promise has been made to see the wonders belonging to it unfold before the eyes. It’s as if an attitude of seriousness about travel occurs. It makes a person straighten up in preparation for experiencing the tide.
The ship arrived in Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala on Monday and remained in port until Tuesday evening. Many participants took excursions to the colonial city of Antigua, once the capital of the Captaincy General of Guatemala—the Spanish new world colony encompassing present-day Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Chiapas. Antigua remained the capital from the mid-16th century until a series of earthquakes in the 1770s damaged the city. The seat of power moved to Guatemala City, which is the capital today.
Close to the port are vast stretched of volcanic black sand beaches. San José, a town neighboring Puerto Quetzal, is an up-and-coming oasis for travelers. Small restaurants line the strand, all proudly decorated with the red banners of Brahva and Gallo. The sand is a delicate mix of black and red granules. Powerful currents dash the coast, perfect for surfers and adventurers. Locals of San José love the water. On Monday and Tuesday many were swimming in the warm Pacific water for a break from the cloudless sky and unrelenting sun.
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, the cuisine of San José is not the standard fare enjoyed throughout country. Marisco, ceviche, and pesca* dominate the coastal menus, the freshness of ingredients verified by men walking down the beach with large fish hanging from wooden poles carried over each shoulder.
*shellfish/seafood, ceviche, and fish