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2008 update
Manfred Kohl's Finka Bosque YouTube presentation

These Corridorites look like they've found the prefect retirement place!


 

2007

Letter from Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala
Corridorites open a Bed & Breakfast in Atitlan
Kayaking, Lake Atitlan, Finca Bosque Bed & Breakfast, Guatamala
Kayaking, Lake Atitlan
Finca Bosque, Atitlan Bed & Breakfast

Some time ago, I was listening with rapped attention to my friend Scott Tobias who was regaling me with his adventures in Latin America. Back in the 80's he was on his "Grand Tour", and had many interesting observations to make.
Offhand I asked him what, in his opinion, was the most beautiful place he had been to in his travels. He didn't hesitate. "Atitlan."

A couple of weeks ago, I was getting ready to practice with the Layabouts, and I was small-talking with Mel Rosas, the band's drummer. He had just been to Guatemala, and he was spellbound by a place he had visited, called "Atitlan"

Where had I heard that name before? Now I find that three Corridorites have pulled up their roots and bought a bed & Breakfast in - yes, you guessed it - Atitlan. It's called "Finca Bosque"

One day in the not too far future, I'm thinking of finding a place where I can hang up my boomerang and relax. I'd be foolish not pay Atitlan a visit.
Through mutual friends, I got in touch with Manfred Kohl, Tim McGuire and Katie Reed (who formally worked at the Cass Cafe) asking them if they'd consider writing a "Letter from Atitlan" for us Corridorians, and I'm pleased to say, this they have done. Enjoy!

SG

Greetings to Stephen and all the good folks who live and hang in the Corridor and beyond!
Just a few lines from Manfred Kohl, Katie Reed, and Tim McGuire, all long-time denizens of the Cass Corridor,
to share a little bit of our extraordinary new life in the Western Highlands of Guatemala and what drew us here.
To begin with, Guatemala is a mountainous swatch of Central America located just below Mexico. It spans
the isthmus from the shores of the Caribbean to the Pacific connected by mountain chains including more than
a dozen incredible volcanoes, several of which are still actively belching smoke, ash and lava. These active
volcanoes can be hiked for an awe inspiring adventure and an up close experience with the power of the earth.
Interspersed throughout this rugged landscape are strung spectacular forested ridges, lakes, gushing streams,
hot springs, cloud forests and lush valleys sprinkled with remote villages where life goes on much as it has for
centuries.
Lago de Atitlan itself is surrounded by three of these volcanoes, San Pablo, Atitlan and Toliman, none of which
are active, but nonetheless add to the spectacular landscape around the lake that lead Aldous Huxley to fa-
mously label it the most beautiful in the world. The western highlands are considered by many to be the most
fascinating and beautiful part of this country, and Finca Bosque is conveniently centrally located in the midst of
it all.
While the beauty of the country was a strong draw for us, perhaps as important, the western highlands are home
 

Katie at Nahuala fiesta
Katie at Nahuala fiesta

to one of the western hemisphere's largest groups of surviving indigenous people, the Maya, who made Guate-
mala the center of their culture and have lived here continuously for the last two thousand years. They make up
the vast majority in the region and still maintain their society, languages, distinctive, colorful dress and traditions, despite efforts over the years to assimilate them into Latino culture. In the area closest to Finca Bosque four villages speak a Mayan dialect Tzutujil, with many speaking no other language. Finca Bosque's caretaker or guardian Emiliano Ixcaya and his novia Sonia, from the nearby village of San Pablo, live on the Finca with us and are a great window into the fascinating Maya culture and language. They are simply wonderful people as well. Emiliano is a great guide for excursions to San Pablo where you will still see local women drying Maguey cactus leaves, then shredding them and winding them into rope along the streets. San Pablo is one of the few remaining villages where many of the hand-crafted skills are still in use, including weaving reed mats made from reeds harvested from the lake right in front of Finca Bosque. Guatemala is justly renowned for the hand woven fabrics and embroidery that make the local markets a riot of color.

For a glimpse into Maya religious tradition, Emiliano can take you on a hike into the mountains to a small cave
where religious ceremonies are held. The cave itself is small, but nestled under a giant boulder the size of a
house on the side of the mountain. It is blackened by the smoke of fires and copal incense from unnumbered
ceremonies and littered with candle stubs and the shells of armadillos that are used in some rituals. And it's just
a 20 minute hike from the Finca gates.

All three of us really enjoyed the recent coffee harvest here. Guatemala is one of the premier growing areas
in the world and our side of Lago de Atitlan is one of the best in Guatemala. The climate that makes fine cof-
fee also makes for beautiful living. Warm, sunny days followed by cool evenings, often leavened with a soft
fog. The coffee harvest is a time of great excitement, with people working late into the evening with the roads
lined with campesinos with huge bags of the fruit strung from tump straps from their heads carrying their loads
to weigh stations. Harvest starts in late November peaking at Christmas time and going on for another month
or more with many religious festivals sprinkled along the way. People are happy to be making money, making
Christmas a time of prosperity and celebration. Easter is the biggest celebration of the year with the streets cov-
ered with fantastic designs made from flowers, pine needles and colored sawdust on the Saturday before Easter.

That night The body of Christ is carried over these designs by hooded bearers followed by a candlelit proces-
sion. It's incredible.

Katie Emiliano Sonia coffee picking
Katie Emiliano Sonia coffee picking

Coffee is almost a religion here amongst some and we all got into it this year, even though it was our first. All of
us joined Emiliano and Sonia in picking, cleaning and drying the coffee. We were happy to send a few pounds
back to some of the folks in the Corridor and pleased to get an enthusiastic response. It is a labor intensive
process-hand selecting the beans, cleaning and drying and we took great care with our coffee, wanting the best.
With about a half acre of coffee planted on the Finca, we harvested about 600 pounds of the cherry red coffee
fruit this year. Next year we hope to keep most of it for ourselves to process and share with our friends back in
the states.
After months of repairs, cleaning and painting we are finally ready to accept reservations for our bed and break-
fast guest house. We've had some great guests so far including friends from Detroit (Hi Ralph Koziarski, Carol,
Becky & Karin) and we hope other friends will visit in the future.
In the meantime, we are proud that we are becoming an important part of the economy of San Pablo, the village
closest to us. It is the neediest village on the lake and we have made an impact by employing many of its work-
ers to do much of the work here. Everyone from stone workers who split the local rock to make stone floors to
plumbers to workers to cut and split wood has felt the benefit. It is amazing to see their work, much done by
hand as has been for centuries, and it feels good to see it make a difference in their lives. Your stay here will
help us continue to make a difference.
Finally, there is also a strong Bohemian culture that has flourished on the shores of the lake since the 1960s that
we have found very welcoming. It sort of reminds us of the Corridor back in the late 60s, 70s and early 80s. In
Panajachel across the lake there are great restaurants and bars with great music on many nights. San Pedro is
smaller, but with many excellent bars and restaurants, too. Located along charming dirt paths with stunning lake
views, these places transport you to an earlier, gentler time. In New Age San Marcos you can study yoga, get a
massage or acupuncture.

Finca Bosque Cantina
Finca Bosque Cantina


And Finca Bosque is situated right in between all this on the shores of the lake in the serenity and shade of
banana trees and coffee. It is heaven to sit on the shore at the lake and look across its glittering surface to the
volcanoes beyond and feel your natural rhythms return, free of the bombardment of media and other modern
distractions. It is a return to a way of life in a natural harmony with your own body and with the land on which
you live.
There is so much more that we could talk about. There are dozens of archeological sites to visit, including Tikal, probably the most important such site in the world. There are really cheap Spanish language schools and there are wild chicken bus rides. Or maybe just meeting an old Maya lady walking along the road, her face etched by the weather, feet bare and looking as though never having worn shoes. You share a greeting with her and see something in her ancient face that gives you a feeling that you can't adequately describe. You have to experience it.


A few more pictures:


Relaxing at the Finka Bosque


Easter Alfombra San Juan


Easter Procession San Pablo
 

  Click here for more information on the Finca Bosque