Even Paradise has Cloudy Days

Trip Start Jan 20, 2004
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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Thursday, February 22, 2007

Weather-watching from our vantage point high above Lake Atitlán is a fascinating business. A few days after Adi and Tanja left, the weather changed from sunny and clear to cloudy and cool. A low pressure system seemed to be stalled over the highlands and it was quite miserable for almost a week. From early morning the lake was covered in haze which gradually thickened during the day and in the evening the clouds swept in and even the volcanoes were eventually totally obliterated. This is rather unusual for this time of year, but it added another facet to the ever changing view out over this fascinating panorama. Some evenings the pine trees appeared as silhouetted sentinels standing their ground as the mist swirled up from below.Other times just the tips of the three volcanoes were visible above the glowing dusky-rose haze as the sun set in fiery splendour. The local paragliders have also been enjoying the weather no matter what it brought, and delight in defying gravity with their aerial acrobatics.  They have provided us with additional entertainment in the skies over the lake, and sometimes as many as six of them are swooping and swirling down in graceful pirouettes before catching a thermal and magically gaining height again. "Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth.....*"

Last week Eddy Maudilio turned thirteen. We threw a surprise birthday party with candles on a cake from the 'pasteleria' in the nearby village, and Juliana brought down the traditional birthday treat of chuchitos (boiled maize flour tamales with sauce and small piece of meat in the centre). It is such a privilege to be able to share some of the milestones of life with this family! As usual the kids were extremely well behaved when they were eating at the table under the watchful eye of Alberto and Juliana. However, after the last smears of icing had been licked off their sticky little fingers they were allowed to go off and play on the grass and things got a little rambunctious. Meanwhile, Coyote was busy vacuuming up the few remaining crumbs of cake under the table.

Another one of our onerous tasks here at the hacienda is making sure that the birds and flowers behave themselves. The flowers are certainly easier to photograph, but we endured several days of anticipation before the cactus bud finally revealed itself early one morning as a fabulous white bloom. For our feathered friends we generally reach for our pair of field glasses and the recently purchased bird book - unfortunately, even the x12 zoom on the Canon S3 is woefully inadequate to do them justice in a photograph. While we enjoy our early morning tea the diminutive rufous-browed wren loudly proclaims its presence with clear liquid melodious notes as it shyly hides among the epiphytes draping the catalpa tree on the patio. During breakfast the eastern bluebirds are busy foraging in the avocado tree lower down on the terraces, no doubt building their strength for the long flight back to Ontario to spend the summer months. Another winter migrant from more northern climes is the white-eared hummingbird which is continually flitting from flower to flower on the hibiscus bushes, getting its fill of the sugar-loaded nectar to sustain its frenzied blur of a wing beat. Infinitely more bold and aggressive are the large, steely-blue Steller's jays which swoop into the fig tree to feed on the luscious fruit, and frighten off the little flock of bright yellow lesser goldfinches which were busy minding their own business. Just after dawn is the best time to spot the orange and yellows of the orioles - a mix of Baltimore, Bullock's and orchard - that are basking in the first warming rays of the early sun, perched in the very tips of the pine trees down towards the lake. Meanwhile, throughout the day the hawks and eagles are soaring high overhead. With only the occasional lazy wing beat they maintain their favourable position in the updrafts - periodically taking time out to check up on those other peculiar fliers, the paragliders.

About a week ago we dragged ourselves away from the tranquillity of the hacienda and braved the rush hour traffic and horrendous construction delays on the CA-1 to head into Guatemala City to pick up more friends arriving at the airport. Janine was coming in from Ottawa, and Sherry was arriving from Thailand, via Chicago. We had heard about a vicious snow storm in the eastern US and Canada the previous day and were concerned about their flights being delayed. We worried for nothing, as they both arrived on time and we talked and laughed non-stop on the drive back to the highlands. They brought good luck with them, and that very day the weather cleared and they were treated to a superb sunset minutes after their arrival at the hacienda.

The following days were spent catching up on all the news, and going on short trips to explore the villages in the area around Lago Atitlán. Mornings inevitably started with tea on the verandah, followed by a leisurely breakfast once the sun had warmed the patio. No matter what our activities during the day, we always made sure that we were back in time to enjoy the spectacular sunsets. Once dusk had set in, we kept an eye out for the brilliant speck of light in the western sky that Adi had noticed a couple of weeks earlier. Definitely not a plane as it didn't move, and way too bright for either a star or a planet. After a bit of research on the internet, we discovered that it was in fact a comet - McNaught's Comet - which is mainly visible in the southern hemisphere, and is the brightest celestial visitor in forty years. So now every evening we check it out and track it until it disappears below the horizon about 8 pm. Combined with the waxing of the new moon, it has made for quite a display, together with the twinkling lights of the settlements around the lake. Long before then, however, we have generally retreated from the chilly evening air and have all found the blazing fire in the living room too inviting to resist!

* The opening line of RCAF Pilot John Magee's beautiful poem "High Flight"
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Comments

lancebarrs
lancebarrs on

Great Shots of Lake Atitlan
Gerry & Sharon:

Great shots of the Lake. Your travel log is so descriptive, makes me want to be back there enjoying those sunsets. What colors and what beautiful
people. Life is good - travel safe.

Lance

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