Quinta Maconda.Live!

National Geographic Traveler – Going Deep!

Posted in Adventures beyond, Authentic Journeys, QM PRESS by quintamacondalive on September 1, 2008

     QUINTA MACONDA – Signature Journeys

Old World Travel

Old World Travel

 

Featured in National Geographic Traveler50 Tours of a Lifetime 2008

Following is the unabridged  version of GOING DEEP.    

A  Journey to the authentic and unknown Guatemala, hosted by John Heaton 

Going Deep – The original unabridged text

Going Deep – The NGT Feature

 by Carl Hoffman

 Check it out!

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Quinta Maconda: Guest Review

Posted in Authentic Journeys, Latest Reviews, QM Helicopter Safar'is by quintamacondalive on January 15, 2008

     QUINTA MACONDA – FIVE-STAR GUATEMALA 

January 11, 2008 at 08:38 PM   From L. Laffont, NY

Posted on:www.indagare.com

“I am just back from Guatemala, where we went for the Christmas/New Year’s Holiday, and I would like to put the experience on your radar and the radar of your readers. We had a world-class, five-star experience in third world settings with hosts of impeccable taste who took fantastic care of us while truly showing us their country from hill to vale, volcano too! The fellow who runs this operation is John Heaton. He and his partner, Catherine Docter, maintain two guest properties and arrange guided experiences throughout their country. We stayed at their 16th-century villa in Antigua and also their jungle retreat on the Rio Dulce. Both were stunning.”

EDITORS’ NOTE: With political turbulence now a thing of the past, Guatemala is attracting more and more foreign visitors with its stunning, lush landscape; mild year-round climate and deep history (reflected in a number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites like Quirigua and Tikal National Park). One early fan, the French-born John Heaton, decided, in 1990, to build a small lodge (the “jungle retreat”) along the Rio Dulce as well as restore a number of colonial homes, including an Antigua property, which he named Quinta Maconda (after Macondo the village in Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s landmark novel One Hundred Years of Solitude). Originally just a guesthouse for visiting friends, Quinta Maconda, is, today, an exclusive four-bedroom residence that also features an extensive collection of antiques and primitive art, gathered from Heaton’s travels all over the globe. The jungle lodge, Rancho el Corozal, which sleeps up to 10 and can only be rented as a house, is a bona fide eco-lodge: torches and candles replace electricity; the buildings have thatched roofs and beds with safari netting, and collected rainwater is used for showering. For guests at either property, various rainforest adventures, including volcano climbs in Antigua and helicopter safaris over the Sierra Madre, as well as archeological tours of Mayan ruins, can be arranged—either as a one-off outing or as part a larger itinerary.
Quinta Maconda (private rental) from $1500 + tax. or  Quinta Maconda                                                     For Rancho el Corozal rates:Jungle Retreat

Madagascar: Heaven can wait!

Posted in adventure travel, Adventures beyond, Authentic Journeys, Madagascar! by quintamacondalive on December 22, 2007
Bleu Royal!

Bleu Royal!

A visit to the Sapphire pit mines of Ambondromifehy and the mining town of Ilakaka.
_________________________________________

Our last great adventure was our journey to Madagascar.

Catherine and I spent one month from September 22 – October 23, 2007, exploring remote corners this gorgeous country and meeting its wonderful and hospitable people along the way. Total immersion within the expanse of this new land, its customs and traditions, people and culture, provided us with extraordinary encounters.

Unusually, we traveled the first leg of our journey with the help of a NYC based tour operator to get the lay of the land. The travel logistics in-situ were handled by a partner TO in Madagascar. We were quick to realize that none had done their homework well and none were versed in the great chronology of travel planning, or for that matter, in Madagascar itself.

Nonetheless, we found this great island to be enchanting and the people, delightful.

On the second leg of our travels, we handled the logistics ourselves and let loose. We followed our instinct and curiosity, indulging in the extraordinary flavors of Malagasy culture to lead the way. It was sensational! Our excitement reached a peak when our driver-guide Fenu was starting to have fun discovering his own country. He was startled at what appealed to us, and never thought visitors would have any interest whatsoever in the aspects of his culture we were now discovering together.

One day, Fenu gasped at us with startled eyes when I expressed the desire to explore the sapphire pit mines of Ambondromifehy encroaching on the Ankarana National Park. “We will get ourselves killed,” he stuttered. ” Mining in the national park is illegal – worst yet, the local buyers will see us as competition, and will murder us!”. Feeling this to be more of a leitmotif to justify his fear than actual danger, Catherine and I did our best to comfort him. “Do not worry Fenu, we live in Guatemala!” He did not quite know what to make of this, but must have felt the tone comforting, as all of a sudden he became quiet and resigned himself to come along.

Sapphire can be found in northern Madagascar near Diego Suarez at Ambondromifehy. There the corundum is derived from basaltic source rocks, and so tends to occur in green, yellow and inky blue colors. In 1995, wood-cutters in the Ankarana forest near Ambondromifehy came across fistfuls of blue stones. At first thought to be useless, children were using them as amunition for their sling shots! When they were later identified as sapphire, the rush was on.

We met with the local sapphire dealer, Monsieur Jimmy. After some schmoozing, he arranged for one of his own to take us down to the river where the raw sapphires were being extracted from their muddy cocoons. We traipsed along a tiny trail through the Ankarana Reserve to the pit mines. On the way, a local character, thinking we might be foreign buyers, scrambled towards us clawing himself up from the river bank. He presented us with two raw sapphires. Knowing next to nothing about gems, bluff was the only way to go. I took the small bluish stones from the palm of his hand and one by one held them between my thumb and forefinger holding them up to the sun. The streaming light ignited the stone and its dull bluish color turned translucent. “Bleu Royal!” I exclaimed. Those words worked magic, “Oui, monsieur, Bleu Royal” the man repeated suavely looking at us with a glistening and proud smile.

Sapphires in the Ambondromifehy area are usually found in thick clumps of yellowish-grey basaltic clay brought up from the 120 ft depths of narrow, hand-dug mining pits. The thick clay is then washed in the river in metal strainers that look like chinese hats. The lucky miners find small blue, pink, green or yellow stones at the bottom of their pans.

“Bleu Royal!” has become the color of hope and wealth for the pit miners of Ankarana. Ten thousand kilometers away, the whisper of “Bleu Royal”, reverberates with awe and glamour and never fails to cast a spell on the stratospherically rich when presented with a perfectly cut stone by one of Place Vendome’s prestigious jewelers. For us, hearing “Bleu Royal” spoken by shoeless Malagasy men covered in thick clay emerging from the bowels of the earth sent shivers through our spines.

Oh yes! I forgot – we acquired the two stones presented to us, and in an act of sublime grandeur, the vendor offered us a wide smile and small yellow sapphire as a token of friendship. That does not happen on Place Vendome!

A few weeks before, when passing through Ilakaka, the infamous mining town of southern Madagascar in the province of Tulear, we had the urge to explore. Didier, our driver then, did not want to set foot out of the vehicle. He was adamant: “it is shear madness.” This made us laugh and of course we made a point of stopping there; nothing like the threat of shear madness in the pursuit of a good time.

Not only did we stop in Ilakaka to buy a sampling of cut gems, I decided to return to Ilakaka the following night to film the local action. Didier was beside himself, I told him to stop worrying and that it would be just fine. He was visibly uncomfortable. We rolled into town at dusk and it turned into a great evening. We hung out with the miners returning from the fields and filmed their transactions with the Sri Lankan and Thai buyers protected in small wooden kiosks with steel barred windows; I almost traded my video camera for a bag of multi colored sapphires. We later ended our escapade gloriously with a few shots of Madagascar’s famous rhum arrangé in a bar of ill repute.

When finally driving out of Ilakaka, as he exhaled a generous breath, Didier had only one word to say : “WOW!” But with a big smile on his face.

Such was our trip to the malagasy sapphire mines, full of adventure and of turning fears into fun.

J.H.

Madagascar: A Must! 

National Geographic Traveler – Quinta Maconda

Posted in Adventures beyond, Authentic Journeys, Guatemala Culture, QM PRESS by quintamacondalive on September 10, 2007


Keith Bellows (Editor in Chief, National Geographic Traveler) traveled to Guatemala.                                      Following is the account of his journey with John Heaton Guatemala Gifts

Video: The shrine of San Simon: 

Harpers Bazaar (UK) 2006 – Rancho Corozal – Rio Dulce

Posted in Authentic Journeys, QM PRESS by quintamacondalive on September 10, 2007

SPIRIT GUIDE  Harpers, Editor at large Carinthia West & Photographer Sebastian Pearson, escape on the wild side in (Guatemala) with John Heaton.

 Harpers Bazaar (UK) in Guatemala (2006) Take a look