Parasites in La Antigua, Guatemala & Lago de Atitlan

After a pretty physically disgusting (referring to my own personal health issues, not the environmental landscape of the outside world) and very difficult 5 days (4 of which involved traveling somewhere other than the bathroom), Logan and I made it to Antigua, Mike having forged ahead a day before us…

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La Antigua is incredible…a beautiful, cobblestoned “Spanish” colonial city cozily nestled at the base of several behemoth volcanoes, at least 1 of which (Volcan del Fuego) belches smoke not infrequently and last significantly erupted in September, 2012. Antigua’s Spanish Baroque ruins are interspersed amongst chic restaurants and bars, local fruit vendors, and indigenous Mayan women peddling their beautiful and intricately woven textiles. These architectural “victims” of recurrent earthquakes vary in degree of dilapidation, but each of them retain enough of their original majesty to lend an eerie living yet dead sort of shadow to the entire city.

As luck would have it, we made it here, in time to experience 2 of the Lenten processionals that lead up to Semana Santa. Each Sunday in Lent, one of the local parishes sponsors a procession through the streets of Antigua. Elaborate and beautiful carpets, or alfombras, constructed using dyed sawdust, flowers, pine needles, and other primarily organic materials adorn the processions’ path and are promptly destroyed by the tramplings of Roman centurions, creepily cloaked penitents (who kind of resemble KKK members with an ironic love for the ” Color Purple”), and the devoted bearers of the up to 8,000 pound andas (floats) that are topped with pretty graphic and frightening scenes depicting some aspect of Jesus’ cruxifiction. The ephemeral nature if the alfombras makes them even more beautiful and a true testament to the devotion of their creators.

After a few days in Antigua, we made our way to the ridiculously beautiful Lake Attitlan and one of its many small pueblos, San Pedro. Logan and I took 4 days of Spanish lessons, which really only served to reinforce my afore drawn conclusion that my brain is just too age (and, maybe a little substance) addled to ever learn this language. The little town was cool, but with all of its European tourists and expatriots, along with their restaurants and bars, ended up feeling pretty absent in its Guatemalaness until, not completely surprisingly, my parasitic visitors decided to recommence partying in my intestines.

Enough said…we returned to Antigua in time to experience our 2nd Lenten processional and begin planning our next move.

Travel Photo - Guatemala

Baby coffee plants at Finca Filadelfia.

Travel Photo - Guatemala

Our guide at Finca Filadefia knew absolutely everything about coffee. It was probably one of the best educational ‘tours’ I have ever taken.

Travel Photo - Guatemala Finca Filadelphia

Raw coffee drying in the ‘parchment’ stage.

Travel Photo - Guatemala Antigua

Props awaiting Semana Santa festivities in Antigua.
Travel Photo - Guatemala Antigua

There are a lot of beautiful old churches that all harbor evidence of past earthquakes.

Travel Photo - Guatemala Antigua

An interesting Frida themed jukebox.

Travel Photo - Guatemala Antigua

The markets here are amazing… and cheap.

Travel Photo - Chiltepan peppers

Chiltepin peppers in the market. This is probably enough heat to wipe out a small country.

Travel Photo - San Pedro de La Laguna

On the street of San Pedro de La Laguna.

Travel Photo - San Pedro de La Laguna

The traditional gentlemen wear an interesting combination of patterns here.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

A view of Lago Atitlan with Volcanoes Atitlan (left) and Toliman (center) and San Pedro (far right).

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

Another view from San Marcos.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

Loading some avocados on the dock at San Marcos.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

This gentleman os preparing a sling to carry this massive load using his forehead… the typical method of transport in Guatemala.

Bicycle Touring - Xtracyce

Met this guy, Land, in San Pedro. He started his tour in Mexico City and decided to pull a nice bike-ballet move when I asked for a photo.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

A stop on our way up to Nariz de Indio (Indian Nose).

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan Indian Nose

This is Indian Nose… a pretty good hike/climb.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

A nice view of Atitlan from above.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

Gin taking a load off in the tower atop Indian Nose.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

Some interesting freshwater crabs in the Santa Clara market.
Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

In the Santa Clara market.

Travel Photo - Lago Atitlan

Our guides hat in superimposed with cotton candy.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

One of the many carpets for the procession in Antigua.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

Alfombras made of flowers, dyed sawdust and other interesting media.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

During the procession these get trampled and immediately cleaned up by a crew that follows the massive procession.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

The procession highlight is this massive 3.5 ton teak float (containing elements dating back to the 17th century) that gets carried by an ever-rotating crew of faithful men in purple robes. An emotional event, even if you are not religious. Another major aspect of the procession are the Marchas Funebras – This is the Spanish phrase for funeral marches. Music plays a big role in Semana Santa processions, cueing various actions and setting an appropriately somber mood. The sound is not unlike the brass bands associated with classic New Orleans second-line funeral processions.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

A detail of the float. Some of the sculptural images are slightly disturbing.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

Only men carry andas with Jesus on them. Only women carry andas with the Virgin Mary on them. Originally done as penance with the faces of the bearers covered, it’s now clearly an honor to carry the load of an anda.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

Another group in the procession.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

The whole procession is permeated with incense.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

A man carrying a miniature model.

Travel Photo - Antigua Jesús Nazareno de la Caída

The families making the ‘carpets’ know precisely when the procession will come through their neighborhood and finish their design only hours or minutes before the fruits of their labor are trampled by the massive group.
  • Amee Houghland

    I looked. I read. Awesome. Hope you got rid of your gut bugs, Gin. Love to you all.

  • Jason Hulbert

    I’m jealous to the point of nausea…or am I getting the stomach bug? It looks like such a wonderful, life-affirming adventure. Can’t wait to meet you guys upon your safe return!

  • Bruce Gordon

    With every blog post I get more Jealous – Your photos and descriptions make it almost like being there except for the stomach distress – Hope Virgina is feeling better.

  • Thanks Bruce… looking forward to talking soon!

  • Hopefully not a stomach bug… I think she is finally back to normal! We read about another girl doing a bike tour (solo, no less) recently and she got hookworms, dengue fever and giardia in Nicaragua… all at once. Look forward to meeting you as well!

  • Yep, I think so (see above comment reply)… we need to stop eating street food, but it’s so good and cheap… and now we are in papusa-land!

  • Amazing photographs! Can you get probiotics for your tummy there?

  • Kathy Krabill

    The pictures are incredible even I am a little jealous ! But only a little. Maybe if we were staying in a five star hotel and French cuisine was all we ate.

  • There are definitely plenty of great Krabill-friendly activities afoot in and around Antigua. i am pretty sure there are even 5-star hotels, and French cuisine to boot. Actually we went out to one really nice restaurant while there (our splurge night), called Hector’s, and I had tenderloin medallions in a roquefort cream sauce layered with roasted tomatoes and leeks… kind of French.

  • Thanks Sarah! Great to hear from you… we haven’t seen any, but there may have been some in Antiqua (there are a couple healthy-type stores there), but we left there several days ago and I didn’t even think about it. Probably a pretty good idea though…

  • Thanks for taking the time to record some of your adventures/experiences with us Logan. It’s inspiring.

  • Ed Clay

    Wow, once again you guys amaze me. We will be living vicariously through your plog.
    The photography is awesome! Take care!

  • Thanks Chris, glad you’re enjoying it!

  • Thanks Mr. Clay! Hope all is well with you…

  • nms

    seriously awesome blog! great pictures. makes me excited to go.

  • Christine

    Do you recommend a certain map? I’m flying into Guatemala City and looking to pedal to Antigua, Lake Atiticlan, Quetzaltenango, and elsewhere in that general vicinity. Any suggestions for how to find the best roads?

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