School girl in Panajachel, Guatemala, selling fabrics. She says "Why don't you buy my stuff?" I gave her a little Australian flag.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

South Africa's Garden Route

The southern coastal route between Cape Town and Port Elizabeth, known as the Garden Route, is the premier tourist attraction of South Africa. This is a distance of about 800 kms travelled by bus or car, private or rental. At each end, or in the middle at the town of George, you can hop on a plane and return to the hinterland at Johanesburg, and so go on to other destinations.

You need at least two days and preferably a week or more to "do" the Garden Route. The favourite single stopover is the seaside resort town of Knysna with its nice harbour, yacht club and many seafood restaurants. The route is very popular with backpackers and budget accommodation abounds. The unique backpackers' Baz bus services the region and makes it easy to stop off en route. A typical backpackers would be Wildfarm located near Wilderness. The Baz bus calls in and they pick up travelers at the George airport. You don't need a car as the staff run a shuttle service to local sights, including the beach, Knysna and Wilderness.
(Click on fotos to enlarge)

The Garden Route relies primarily on tourism for its prosperity. Transport, accommodation and services related to tourism are what keeps the cash register tinging. The top attractions are the beautiful ocean beaches with their whale watching, diving, surfing and fishing. Each little seaside resort town around Wilderness has a unique attraction linked up by an antique tourist steam train. A little inland is the popular Cango Caves in a limestone region where you can cool off underground in a world of stalactites and stalagmites.

Ostrich farms are a tourist attraction. You get to ride and "race" ostriches, and at one backpackers I was served an ostrich egg omelette for breakfast. Details of a visit to an ostrich farm are given in my Bootsnall article Oudshoorn

Not to be missed at backpackers is an evening braai, or friendly barbecue washed down with the local beer or vino. It is a good way to meet up with fellow travelers. Each of the stop over points listed above have their accommodation websites listed ranging from backpackers to luxury lodges and motels, which give details of local tourist attractions. For starters try exploring the accommodations and associated details offered at Knysna, the premier tourist resort town on the Garden Route.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Dogs I have met in my travels

Dogs are man's best friend, much more so than any other animal. More useful than cats as can be seen by glancing to the right at the career opportunities listed for dogs. It is the Europeans, more particularly the Anglo-Saxons, who have realized this potential for dogs in helping mankind achieve a better life. Other cultures lag beyond in this regard. The Arab and some Asian cultures do not fraternize much with dogs.
I am fairly ignorant of dog breeds, so I will describe them like ordering coffee, e.g., small black, or large white etc. This small biege dog is taking me for a walk at a backpackers in South Africa, near the Drakensbergs mountains. He has a great life showing all the visitors the wonderful scenery. (Click on foto to enlarge it).

This dog is a pedigree Rhodesian Ridgeback which is on a walk with me above the Mt Lebanon Park backpackers, also in the Drakensberg region of South Africa. The Ridgebacks have a peculiar hair ridge to their back. Originally they were a hunting dog and good for chasing lions. On my first visit to this backpackers I was greeted by 3 magnificent specimens. Next visit a year later they were no more. Gone to stay with Uncle Fred, it's rumoured, for they started chasing the neighbour's sheep. Bad luck for them.

This is a toy dog with wheels. It is an exhibit in the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City. Well, you may say, what's so important about that? It illustrates that the Aztecs and Mayans had dogs and put wheels on their toys, but wheels on nothing else. No wheel barrows or drays or chariots. All their pyramids were built without the aid of wheels, by human beasts of burden, and llamas with the Incas. The Spanish conquistadores brought with them horses and the marvelous invention of the wheel. The thought gap from toy dog with wheels to the wheel barrow was not bridged in ancient Latin America.

This small white dog is a pet dog that likes to go to the pub with his master. The pub is on the south coast of South Africa at Mossel Bay.

Obviously a watch dog. This little white dog lived at an hospedaje (guesthouse, Casa Teresa) I was staying at in Puerto Natales, which is a seaport in the fiordland part of Chile. He knew everybody that stayed in the house and walked along the street. It was a shame he wasn't allowed to go walkies with the guests.

The water spout dog on a building in Guanajuato, Mexico. The chain guides the rain water away from the side of the building. Why don't we have them in dry South Australia? Answer, too many regulations in a nanny state.
I shall add more dogs as I find fotos of them. Cheers, Allano

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Antigua Guatemala is the place to go in the Western Highlands

Antigua was the original Spanish colonial capital of Guatemala but it was continually being wiped out by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions..... so the capital was shifted to the present location of Guatemala City (but still plenty of earthquakes). Antigua town remains surrounded by volcanoes which steam away dormant fashion and contribute to a fascinating landscape. It is the tourist centre for Guatemala, ranging from catering to the well-heeled tourist and backpackers, with accommodation to match all budgets.
Arco de Santa Catalina in Antigua

Two big attractions are the ready availability of Indian style handicrafts from shops and street vendors, and the huge numbers of Spanish Language Schools that cater for young visitors and oldies like me. I stayed for a week in a local home to brush up my Spanish and go to school again.

Street vendors are hard to resist when you are resting up at an outdoor restaurant or cafe. This little mite is fingering an Aussie flag I gave her. Soon her mate arrived wanting a flag too. One should always carry a stock of Aussie trinkets to give away. A most useful handicraft to buy are the woven bands or scarves which back home I wear as ties or cravats.

View across the Cenral Park and of Catedral Santiago, Antigua.

Antigua is the center of the jade industry for Central America. Valuable jadeite is mined locally and fashioned into exquisite jewellery. Replicas of Mayan and Aztec museum artifacts sell well. Here is a Mayan figure carved in black jade.
more to come

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

San Pedro La Laguna, the prize village on Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

San Pedro is my favourite village to chill out in around Lago Atitlan. One starts out by staying a few days exploring Panajachel, the main town on north shore of the lake. San Pedro nestles at the base of a volcano of the same name which is 3029 metres above sea level (Lago Atitlan is at 1562 metres).The direct "lancha" trip across the lake from Pana to San Pedro, a distance of about 12 kms, takes about 1 hour and may cost $3, with boats leaving every half hour or so.

A boat waiting to take you across the lake from Pana to San Pedro, with Volcan San Pedro (3020 metres) on the skyline.
The landing spot at San Pedro is quite steep and hilly and is dotted with cafes and restaurants. San Pedro is a favourite place for backpackers and hippies because of its cheap accommodation and lifestyle. There are many Spanish language schools. The hippies sell handicrafts, jewellery (and marijauna); there is a large coffee bean processing plant in town; economic activity revolves around the tourist with accommodation, restaurants, coffee shops and Language Schools.
Drying the coffee beans after processing.
Main street in San Pedro with many stalls selling handicrafts.

It's time for lunch and a beer.
More fotos to come.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Lago Atitlan, the jewel of the Western Highlands of Guatemala

All roads lead to Panajachel, main town on the shore of Lago Atitlan. Well, there is only one road to the lake which is sheltered within the Western Highlands of Guatemala, with mountains and volcanoes surrounding it. Population is about 14,000 and elevation above sea level is 1560 meters, or 5115 feet. The lake measures roughly 8 km across and 18 kms lengthwise. It originated some 85,000 years ago with the massive Los Chocoyos volcanic eruption which left a gaping crater that filled up with water. Further volcanic activity left numerous volcanic cones around the circumference adding to the present scenic landscape.

Panajachel, or Pana for short, is a great place to rest up awhile, or chill out. It caters for backpackers and well-heeled tourists alike, with accommodation ranging from $10 to $100 or more per night, with many cheap hospedajes and luxury tourist hotels, so take your pick. Along the lake front are many restaurants offering meals and entertainment with superb views of the lake.
Besides enjoying the Guatemalan cuisine there are ample opportunities to buy Indian handicrafts, such as fabrics, weavings, wall hangings etc, you name it and they've got it.

You can do an all day boat tour of the lake, stopping for food and drinks and buying handicrafts at the lakeside villages of San Pedro, Santiago, San Antonio and many more. San Pedro is more favourite and is worth staying there a few days or longer. You won't want to come home. Next week I shall post some fotos of San Pedro. Cheers, Allano
PS; Click on fotos to enlarge somewhat.