Saturday, March 5, 2011

March 1-3, The Beach at Monterrico

Tom here.  After Jeanne took off for Thailand, I decided to return to the beach town where we had spent a day with Adam and Catherine.  I arranged for my MWF Spanish lesson to be rescheduled so I could go Tuesday,Wednesday, and Thursday.  Tuesday morning we left Antigua in a minibus with six people, headed for Monterrico.  Descending from the volcanic mountains, we saw lots of interesting things across the 2.5 hour drive.  Lush fields of sugar cane were being harvested, with two-and three-trailer trucks hauling the cane to processing plants to make sugar (and rum!).  There are lots of small towns with very busy people growing things and doing lots of construction work.

When we pulled into Monterrico I was dropped off at the Pez de Oro (fish of gold) hotel, where we had been before.  Actually, it's a group of small cabins (they call them bungalows) made of masonry, with palm-thatched roofs, covered porches (with hammock, chair and table), clustered around two swimming pools.  See below:

That's my cabin (with private bath), and the pool is right in front of it.  Very clean and well-kept, and cost about $37 a night.  There's a good open-air restaurant at the hotel, too.

The sand on the beach is volcanic, so is dark.  They call it black, but it's really more of a coffee color.  Very nice and clean, but hot as blazes in the sun.  In the shade, though, it's really nice, with ocean breezes cooling everything.

I met some very friendly people - a couple from Australia, a mother and adult daughter from Canada, an 80-year-old woman and her adult son (they live in Antigua, she for 40 years), but she's British by birth.  She's a painter who visited here long ago and decided that this is where she would spend her life painting.  Very interesting woman.  She's invited Jeanne and me to get together, which I think we will.

A high point of the stay was a visit to a sea turtle refuge (tortugario) run by the University of San Carlos (I think) in Monterrico.  They have a museum and big display area where you can see the turtles, alligators and crocodiles (caimanes), iguanas, birds, lizards, etc., that they protect and raise.  I posted a bunch of pictures of this on Jeanne's Facebook page in a separate album.  They collect turtle eggs at night from the beach and take them to the tortugario to hatch.  When the hatchlings are one day old, they release them into the sea.  They say the survival rate is many times greater than for eggs left on the beach (predators, etc.).  They release about 30 hatchlings each day about 5:30 p.m., and the public is invited to watch, or even pay 10 Quetzales to release one yourself.  When I went there were lots of kids there, and it was fun to see them release the baby turtles.  Here's a couple of the pictures I posted:

There's a line scribed in the sand, and the crown stands behind it to watch.  The little ones, when released, are confused for a matter of a few seconds, but then know immediately which way to go, and hustle down to the water, where the surf picks them up and they head out to start eating algae.  When grown, they get quite large, with a diameter of over a meter sometimes.

It was a relaxing and interesting trip, and the drive home Thursday afternoon/evening was good, too.  Back to work on Spanish lessons in Antigua now.  Life's good.  I hope everyone's doing well in blog-reader land.



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