Monday 12th September 2011

Guatemala City, Lago de Amatitlan & Antigua

I am now back in Antigua after another two action-packed days. Yesterday was election day in Guatemala, and after dropping Jacqueline at the airport, I accompanied my hosts to a nearby polling station, where I was impressed by the apparent efficiency and smoothness of the voting procedure. Apparently there were some troubles in other parts of the country, but certainly not here.

Shortly after democratic duties had been performed, we set off southwards, descending by car to the Lago de Amatitlan, where my hosts have a house on the shore, with a magnificent view across the lake with the active Volcan Pacaya directly opposite, and the Volcan de Agua towering over the end of the lake. We took a walk along the lakeside road, admiring different views of the lake, which looked much cleaner here than it had been at the Villa Nueva end when we visited and took a boat tour a month ago. Guisela even plunged in for a swim, but the green waters failed to tempt me to follow her!

Amatitlan panorama from the house

The sunset behind the Volcan de Agua, with a lightning show alongside it was a sight to behold. My great grandfather visited the lake on 13th January, 1880. His letter to his mother of 23rd January contains the following:

“On the 13th I made a flying trip to the Lake of Amatitlan (distant 6 leagues) returning to the capital in the evening; had previously travelled here but never round the lake, the view was very fine indeed.
The bright blue water of the lake and the very lofty mountains (with the two volcanoes Agua and Pacaya) on every side, seen under a cloudless sky, it made a splendid picture.
I have not seen the mountains so clear of clouds for many months, often the sun sets in a cloudless sky and as it goes down behind the distant mountains, we get magnificent views, the mountains gradually changing in colour, till very suddenly we find it dark, but as a set-off against all this we have the heat and the dust, which make travelling very unpleasant.”

Volcan de Agua at sunset

After a rather short night, I was up again and on the road to Antigua with my new birding friends, this time heading straight for the wonderful Finca El Pilar, complete with hummingbird feeders, thermal swimming pools and a road that leads through a quarry and upwards into mixed broadleaf and pine forest, ascending to a high clearing with a splendid view across the valley to the volcanoes Acatenango and Fuego on one side, and Agua on the other. Here Karen had arranged to meet up with Thor Janson, one of the most famous nature photographers and conservationists in Guatemala, and she disappeared up into the cloud forest on foot with him, while we started the long descent through the beautiful, lush forest, finally dropping rapidly down a series of steep but very well constructed wooden staircases, before finally emerging at the hummingbird feeders again, which were not particularly well patronised today, although we did have excellent views of a very cooperative Rufous Sabrewing, which darted about, showing its very distinctively marked tail pattern very clearly.

El Pilar panorama

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