Perhaps You Need a Little Antigua Guatemala

San Bartolo Becera Procession turning into Parque Central. Thousands participate in the procession, thousands more in attendance. Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega
San Bartolo Becera Procession turning into Parque Central. Thousands participate in the procession, thousands more in attendance. Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

San Bartolo Becera Procession turning into Parque Central. Thousands participate in the procession, thousands more in attendance. Antigua, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

I’m overwhelmed with excitement. Semana Santa (Holy Week), the most important week of the Catholic calendar, is nearly upon us. And I am in the place where it is celebrated with more colour, more vigour, more tradition and more sacrifice than any other! I want to take a moment to share (and brag a little) about Antigua, Guatemala. This is where April and I are living out our dream, exploring, networking, learning Español, and witnessing the magnificent displays of pure faith by devout Catholics and penitents for an entire month leading up to Easter.

Antigua is romantic! Antigua, Guatemala - -Karina Noriega

Antigua is romantic!
Antigua, Guatemala – -Karina Noriega

Antigua is the former capital of Guatemala, and was once the unrivalled mecca of the Kingdom of Guatemala! Destroyed multiple times by massive earthquakes, the city was eventually abandoned.

This small valley city at the base of 3 towering volcanoes is now reborn as a premier tourism destination and UNESCO World Heritage Site where you can walk through the ruins of history. Literally.

Colonial preservation. Antigua, Guatemala - -Karina Noriega

Colonial preservation. Antigua, Guatemala – -Karina Noriega


Perhaps you need a little colonial heart, by Guatemalan artist Ricky López Bruni, is a dramatic introduction to the heart of Antigua. This short film, from the series Perhaps you need a little Guatemala (on Facebook #Perhaps you need a little Guatemala). Both are worth checking out. Continue reading

Obeisance & Alfombras in Guatemala

The first steps taken onto the alfombra by the procession bearers. Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

 

Alfombras made of coloured sawdust and flowers adorn the streets of Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Alfombras made of coloured sawdust and flowers adorn the streets of Antigua, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

The first article in the series devoted to the Lent celebrations of Antigua, Guatemala introduced the Velaciones, honouring the Catholic icons within their church home.

This week, I explored the concept of the alfombras or carpets created before each procession. These elaborate but temporary works of art are some of the most beautiful displays that can be observed colonial Antigua and the surrounding towns on a weekly basis throughout the 6 weeks of Lent.

I took to the streets to learn how the long-lasting tradition began and why it continues to be important for local people.

Alfombras range widely in design and materials. Each carpet is unique and changes for every procession. Antigua, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Alfombras range widely in design and materials. Each carpet is unique and changes for every procession. Antigua, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

What are alfombras?

Alfombras are large hand-made carpets normally created out of brightly coloured sawdust, flowers and vegetation.

When are alfombras the created?

Alfombras are expressly created prior to the arrival of a procession. Depending on the hour the procession will pass, people may spend an entire sleepless night preparing the alfombra.

The bearers of the procession’s andas (the massive display platforms) will then carry the image of Christ and the Virgin Mary over the alfombra, completely destroying it.

Alfombras - First steps

Who makes each of the alfombras? Who covers the costs and labour? 

Continue reading

Semuc Champey, Guatemalan Heaven on Earth

Lower pools, panoramic @ Semuc Champey, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

~ It’s only paradise until discovered! ~

Bliss, high pools panoramic @ Semuc Champey, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Bliss, high pools panoramic @ Semuc Champey, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Semuc Champey has been known about to locals and few nationals until the last few years. Once a few hearty explorers and adventurous backpackers made the precarious trek deep into the remote valley of Alta Verapaz, the secret began to spill out slowly. Nowadays, it’s the absolute premier destination in Guatemala, if you are enduring and venturesome. Though infrastructure near the area has been vastly improved as far as the town of Pajal, the last 22 kilometres remain a steep and beaten path impassible to anything less a 4X4 machine with high clearance and horsepower.

Good!

I not so secretly hope that it never improves.

Extraordinary places like Semuc Champey should require tremendous efforts to be reached.

Semuc - LowPool

And an extraordinary place it is!

Cascading pools of Semuc Champey, Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Cascading pools of Semuc Champey, Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Continue reading

Velación at Santa Inés, Guatemala

Veladora PanoOur arrival in Antigua, Guatemala has been punctuated by fascinating, religious celebrations corresponding with the 40 days of Lent in the Catholic religion.

On the second Friday of Lent, we joined thousand of people making the pilgrimage to a hilltop church outside of historic, colonial Antigua, Guatemala. The church was packed with wall-to-wall parishioners who came to honour the ‘Venerada Imagen de Jesús Nazareno, Aldea Santa Inés del Montepulciano.’  We were calmly sucked into continuous rotation of Guatemalans trying to reach the pulpit. The altar has been replaced by an exquisitely adorned handmade ‘carpet’ of coloured sawdust, flowers, fruits and vegetable, a cultural staple of Easter in Guatemala. Above the carpet, a nativity scene is set depicting a story from the bible. They come to pray, to ask for forgiveness and to give thanks. And they come to take pictures of the stunning display this year. (Changes every year)

We found ourselves easily funnelled back out to the celebratory atmosphere of the night. Live music, food vendors and revellers gave out spirited joy and sugary sweet aromas. Veladora Combo

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A Chance Encounter: Travel Inspiration

A message of inspiration to women worldwide.
Our world is full of surprises.
And so are you.
Discover what you are made of.
Take a chance. Travel.

Find out how to take your first steps:

https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2015/02/10/travel-girls-be-one/

Show your support by sharing, liking, commenting and subscribing 🙂

Cost breakdown for travel through Guatemala

Volcano Panorama viewed from atop Volcan Pacaya -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega
The main 'anda' carries Jesus Cristo de Nazarene through the street of Antigua, Guatemala. -- Karina Noriega

The main ‘anda’ carries Jesus Cristo de Nazarene through the street of Antigua, Guatemala. — Karina Noriega

Guatemala offers so many possibilities for every type of traveler. As a worldly backpacker and efficient shoestring traveler ($10/day in hostels, chicken buses,eating street food is a breeze), but in a country like Guatemala, $100/day means you travel like royalty. Most of you will land somewhere in the middle.

Tucan of Peten, thousands fly wild in the Northern jungles -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Tucan of Peten, thousands fly wild in the Northern jungles — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

I created a very general breakdown here to give you an idea. (Actual cost will depend on the number of people traveling and what level of comfort and adventure desired.)

Flight

Costs will vary depending on your departure locations and tend to increase in price as departure date approaches.

I have flown several times from Toronto, Ontario for $500-700 roundtrip. My friend Jesse once scored a roundtrip flight from New York City for $350. I can send you tips on how to get the best price.

                   * A quick search today, January 13, 2015, brought up more than 30 options for less than $600 round trip from Toronto’s YYZ *

The infamous, colorful, Chicken Buses of Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

The infamous, colorful, Chicken Buses of Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Transport

Continue reading

Guatemala – Growing up in the Land of Eternal Spring

Temples of Tikal Tower above the jungle canopy -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

When I was young girl growing up in Guatemala, my mom would delight in dragging my siblings and I around the country in search of history, culture and adventure.

A wonderful coincidence I should find a photograph the 3 of us riding a pony led caravan with the heading "Turistas" (Tourists) -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

A wonderful coincidence I should find a photograph the 3 of us riding a pony led caravan with the heading “Turistas” (Tourists) — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

“But Maaaaaam,” I frequently whined, “it’s just another bunch of rocks!” I was of course referring to the legendary and renowned ruin cities of the great Maya civilization. Back then, the derelict pyramidal structures were mostly jungle covered mounds (with exceptions such as Tikal). I certainly lacked the appreciation, negotiating my attentiveness for today’s history lessons in exchange for a chance to slide down the hills on a battered cardboard box.

Sometimes my mother would heave us into the back of the 4X4 or onto one of those famed ‘chicken buses’ if we were lucky. We’d ride endless hours on ramshackle roads (that disappear during times of heavy rains) into remote villages of the Western highlands. These volcanic chains are the heartland of Mayan tradition, unchanged for thousands of years. On any given weekend, exuberant and vibrant celebrations take place. My mom revelled in educating us about Guatemalan culture and heritage. The colourful dress, energetic dancing, hand carved masks, and superstition based performances, were fascinating teachers for our young minds and short attention spans.

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An Extraordinary Journey to Guatemala & You Are Invited

Volcano Panorama viewed from atop Volcan Pacaya -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

This is your official invitation to join me on an extraordinary journey through landmark destinations in Guatemala. 

Temples of Tikal Tower above the jungle canopy -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Temples of Tikal Tower above the jungle canopy — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

Join us on this Extraordinary Journey around Guatemala! For more information, please contact:

Karina @ karinasextraordinarylife@gmail.com

April  @ aprilberesford@hotmail.com

Path to Agua -- Guatemala -- Karina Noriega

Path to Agua — Guatemala — Karina Noriega

I want to take fear, uncertainty and hard work out of going to a foreign land (specially if it’s your first trip). I have the research, connections and the know-how. Unlike big, established tours, traveling with me means traveling with a friend who is eager to explore, share, and help you travel safely. Our small group will result in more freedom, flexibility and a personalized experience.


Before you come

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Lighting up 2015 – Pacific Guatemala Style

Fisherman throw nets over the Pacific waves -- Karina Noriega
Happy New Year's 2015 from Karina and April

Happy New Year’s 2015 from Karina and April

The holidays are always an adventure when traveling. There is a slight panic of demand for experiencing something special, a trip within a trip. This New Years’ was no different. For the first time in my life, I found myself in my native country, with no family to whom I could simply attach myself too. I suddenly realized my dependency when I began constructing a list of possibilities. The only conclusion I arrived at was a bit dreary. Elevated prices at every hotel and increased chance of runs ins with drunk drivers on the road. April and I don’t exactly subscribe to common practices of hard partying and staying up all night either. We glumly agreed to stay in Guatemala city and ‘guard’ the homestead.

Another thing I don’t like is telephones. I shy away from ever having to carry on a conversation without present company, or at least written word. I’ve even been quoted saying “I’d rather go hungry than have to call to order a pizza.” But as a dutiful grand-daughter and grateful guest here, I answered the telephone in lieu of my Manina. Forty-five minutes later we were loading baskets of random food hastily collected from the house, a change of clothes and our neglected books into the back of a chauffeured SUV Crossover.  Continue reading

Tropical New Years – Chulamar, Escuintla, Guatemala

A new film for www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

As we set the stage for a perfect New Year’s celebration (crystal blue waters, black volcanic sand beach scattered with coconut trees), we are reminded that no explorer’s adventure is complete without a worthy a perilous battle against a worthy adversary. Witness a stubborn ‘Gringa’ face her opponent head on and the passionate rage that ensues when she loses the fight. Wait for the final moment when our two heroines ride towards the sunset, in style, hoping that next year will be filled with even more adventure than the last.

A film by April Beresford


 

Find out how this impromptu New Year’s celebration came to be and check out some more pics –> Lighting up 2015

 

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Casa Guatemala Fundraiser and Volunteer Mission

A film by April Beresford for www.karinasextraordinarylife.com

In November of 2013 I launched a prodigious campaign to positively affect the lives of hundreds of children at a remote Guatemalan school and orphanage called Casa Guatemala. My mission was to raise funds for the organization, utilize them to personally purchase necessary supplies, and delivered them to the homes, classrooms and kitchens of the jungle haven. I cut out the middle man and ensured accountability for every cent of every dollar meeting the needs of the kids.
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Read the whole story @  https://karinasextraordinarylife.com/2014/12/31/heroes-for-guatemala/

~ An Extraordinary Story by Karina Noriega ~

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Heroes for Guatemala

In November of 2013 I launched a prodigious campaign to positively affect the lives of hundreds of children at a remote Guatemalan school and orphanage called Casa Guatemala. My mission was to raise funds for the organization, utilize them to personally purchase necessary supplies,  and delivered them to the homes, classrooms and kitchens of the jungle haven. I cut out the middle man and ensured accountability for every cent of every dollar meeting the needs of the kids.

Crowdsourcing

Donations for Casa Guatemala - Karina Noriega

Donations for Casa Guatemala – Karina Noriega

I began raising funds online utilizing the crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo. It was my first time attempting a fundraiser and my knowledge, as well as my audience, was extremely limited. My co-conspirator April and I began contacting all of our collective friends, family and coworkers. But I found the web campaign slow and impersonal so I created little cards with my mission, and attached ‘wish bracelets’ I recently purchased in Brazil. April and I diligently took to the offices and homes of everyone we knew enticing them to take part in our quest to improve the lives of others. In addition to funds acquired, the Garcia family generously donated 200 pounds of children’s toys, unopened games and clothing. (200 pounds was the limit the airline would allow us to carry without adding stiff penalties.)

Casa Guatemala

Continue reading

Feliz Navidad: Christmas Tradition in Guatemala

Merry Christmas eCard 2014 -- by Karina Noriega

Merry Christmas eCard 2014 — by Karina Noriega

The very best holidays wishes from your most consistently absent best friends 🙂

One of the hardest cultural differences for me to accept when I first moved to Canada was the ludicrous idea that kids didn’t open presents until the morning of the 25th. I was instantly threatened. If I had been any younger I may have questioned Santa’s dedication to Canadian children. Continue reading

Mercado Tradicional – Guatemala

This week’s film spotlights our experience at a local market.
Come explore Guatemala City’s traditional mercado, “La Villa” and travel like a local.

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Watch our ‘Quema del Diablo’

A clip of our small and personal ‘Quema del Diablo’ with my grandmother.

Read the story here

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