Antigua to Panajachel: Part II

We stayed in Antigua until Friday when we drove to Panajachel on Lake Atitlán. On Thursday, we went to Philip and Christina Wilson Finca el Pintado organic coffee farm to retrieve the truck and camper. In the morning, I had intended to go to the Santo Domingo Hotel/cloister/church/museum, but we stopped at too many shops along the way so it was too late to visit the museum by the time we got there if we were to meet Philip at 1:45 as we had agreed.

We met Philip at the Texaco station at the south end of town and he drove us to the Finca. The coffee harvest was near its end and they were picking everything, including the green berries. Philip told us that the harvest was about 35 per cent down from the previous year. Although there was a slight increase in prices it did not compensate for the reduction in harvest. We had an excellent lunch with Philip and his mother. Philip’s father had been in the oil industry and they had lived all over the world. His mother now lives in Washington DC.

The last of the beans

The talked ended up on the Canadian health care system: Mrs Wilson asked us how we liked it. We, of course, replied we loved it. She was sceptical of state-run health care after her experience in England when she would have had to wait for three weeks to see a doctor, but when she agreed to see the doctor privately, all of a sudden he was available the next day. She asked us what the waits were like in Canada. We had to correct yet again the many lies spread by the Republicans in the States. We told here that there was no wait for urgent procedures, but some elective surgery could wait as more urgent cases took precedence. Essentially, I pointed out, that one’s doctor acted as one’s advocate with the hospital system. She asked us whether there was no private system. I explained that until recently, at least, a doctor was either in the system or out of it. But if he was out, he had no access to the hospitals which are all non-profit institutions run by community boards (none are for-profit).

Coffee bean waste being partially composted

Philip gave us a tour of his worm farm: 24 million worms who turn the waste from the coffee processing into fertilizer. The finca is also planting legume trees so that they can fix nitrogen in the soil.

Worm farm bins (note bird netting)

Ecofiltro filters being painted with colloidal silver

We then visited the Ecofiltro factory run by Philip. The Ecofiltro is a low technology water filter that can be used to purify drinking water. It consists of a flower pot shaped ceramic and sawdust filter impregnated with colloidal silver which fits into a plastic or terra cotta container. I think it would have many applications in many places in Canada (mining camps, outfitters, First Nations communities, Walkerton and other places that depend on privatized water inspection services, etc.). Anyway, it is something worth exploring. We retrieved our truck & camper and drove it to the hotel parking lot.

Luigi cradling Malbec bottle

On Thursday night, we went to a rather fancy parillada (steak house grill) restaurant. Marilyn ordered the filet mignon and she got—get this—two tournedos at least one inch thick wrapped in bacon. And they came rare rather than medium as she had ordered. They do not stint on the meat in this country. She was not able to finish them & I had to help her. On the waiter’s recommendation we had an absolutely superb Norton Argentine Malbec. Actually we had two bottles, one in honour of Deb Pitt who asked me to have a glass of vino for her.

The next morning (Friday) we visited the Casa Santo Domingo museum, a former Dominican church and convent that included a number of crypts, a broken down earthquake-damaged church, a regular church under a tent, and a number of museums all within the precincts of a hotel, not to speak of a patio full of parrots. We found all quite interesting, especially a museum of ceramics and glass which compared modern art glass with Mayan ceramics. Each exhibit juxtaposed Mayan art with glass art work from all over the world (but mostly from Sweden, France and Canada). There were sections on different animal representations, human figures, plants, etc. Really cool and well done. There was a museum dedicated to contemporary Guatemalan art, one with painted religious statuary, and another on artisanal work. All very well done and we appreciated having a guide. It is quite impressive that the hotel manages to do this.

Fruit offerings with flower carpet above

We had a very bad lunch of tacos (the second worse after Mexicana Airlines) and then went to Jocotenango just outside of Antigua where they had made a flower carpet on the floor of the church. The flower alfombres are a typical Lent activity in the Antigua area. Quite attractive and there were a lot of food vendors outside. We bought some mangoes and sweets but could not find coffee. It was really stupid of us not to have waited to eat and being subjected to the barely edible tacos.

Jocotenango church

We then drove back to the Pan-American Highway on a narrow twisty road and turned towards Whitehorse – the Alaska Highway is theoretically part of the Pan-American. We turned off the highway and drove down another even narrower and twistier road to Sololá and then another 10 klicks to Panajachel. By that time I was pretty burned out and stopped at the first decent looking hotel we saw, the Rancho Grande Inn. It actually turned out pretty well, with a fairly cheap room with fireplace and bath, a gorgeous garden, and a great breakfast with one-inch-thick perfectly-cooked pancakes. We could not have the nicer room because it was already reserved for the Saturday night.

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