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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Christmas Day Pig Roast

Panajachel, Lago Atitlan, Guatemala

(Pronounced: Pan-nah-hah-CHEL, LAH-goh Ah-teet-LAHN, Gwah-tay-MAH-lah)

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Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

 

Boats line up at the Santiago dock in Panajachel

We sailed away from the safe harbor of Panajachel, Guatemala to get to the other side of the lake on this Christmas morning. Locals pay 15 Quetzales for the ride, but touts wanted 30Q's for tourists. We refused to pay more than 25Q and that amount was quickly accepted.

 

Pana, as it's known, is in the distance behind us as we make our way across Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan is known to be the most beautiful lake in the world. Whether or not that is true, it certainly is a lake of great beauty. Twelve miles long and 7.5 miles wide, locals crisscross the lake several times a day from various villages. We are headed to Santiago, the largest of the lakeside communities for our Christmas Day Pig Roast.

Years past when Billy was first here in the 1970's, there was only the mail boat that cruised the lake with any regularity. Twice a week this boat delivered mail to the towns dotted along the lake. You simply caught a ride on the mail boat, and if you got off at any location, you had to spend the nights there awaiting the next boat's arrival. Today there are many boats coming and going to all the towns several times a day.

 

A quiet morning this Christmas Day and the launcha is only half filled

Christmas Eve is a big event in Guatemala and this year did not disappoint. Large fireworks set off in the streets at midnight kept everyone up into the early morning hours. From our hotel floor-to-ceiling windows we watched the fireworks explode and rise to the sky from below. It was a tad close!

 

Our destination of Santiago, is tucked into the strait dead ahead

Almost 2 million years ago there was a huge volcanic eruption which formed the caldera now filled by the lake. This enormous eruption dispersed ash over 3.7 million miles and has been detected from Florida to Ecuador.

 

Lake Atitlan is one of the most beautiful places on the planet

The depth of the lake is disputed, but is considered to be more than 1,000 feet deep.

 

These fishermen head out in the wooden boats to set their nets

On February 4, 1976, an earthquake of 7.5 magnitude struck Guatemala and killed more than 26,000 people. This earthquake fractured the lake bed causing subsurface drainage from this body of water, and the water level dropped two meters within one month! Now, that fracture has been closed due to other earthquakes which have taken place since then and the lake is rising once again.

The pig is in the pit!

We arrived to our host's home and after some fresh tropical fruit and coffee, it was time to take the pig out of the pit. Last evening, Christopher and Kevin placed it into the earthen oven with glowing hot coals. It's been cooking all night.

 

Kevin and Billy are ho-ho-ho-ing the dirt out of the pit this Christmas Day

Now it was time to remove the pig and see if the overnight cooking did its job.

 

Christopher gets in on the action too.

It was a tremendous amount of work the night before with killing the pig, allowing it to hang for hours, stuffing the inside with fruit and onions, then wrapping it up in banana leaves, wet burlap bags and chicken wire. The head-sized volcanic rocks inside the pit had to be heated to bright red before the pig was lowered into it.

What would we find this morning?

 

The guys found the pig inside the dirt and hoisted it out

A little he-man power and the pig in all his wrappings is lifted from the hot oven and placed on stone slabs.

 

Checking with a knife to see if it is done

The general consensus was that the pig was not hot enough. Was it cooked all the way through? The boys shove a knife blade into the center of the pig to test the internal temperature.

 

We need more evidence and open its cage

After all this work and time, no one wants to believe it is not cooked through and through even though everyone thinks the temperature should be hotter at this point in the cooking cycle. So Mr. Piggie needs to be unwrapped to have a closer look.

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Christopher peeling back the layers of banana leaves

First the chain ties were cut, then the chicken wire peeled back. The burlap bags were next and then the banana leaves. What would the pig look like?

We expected steam to be escaping at this point...

 

Houston, we have a problem

Mr. Piggie is not completely cooked and must be returned to the flame. What are we going to do now? About 30 people are expected for Christmas dinner and the main course isn't finished just yet!

Stress!

 

Meanwhile we are taking in the natural beauty this area offers

It's hard to feel too troubled when living in paradise. The weather was a mild 78 degrees with clear skies and a gorgeous ancient lake in front of us just beyond the lush gardens.

Oh gee. What shall we do about the pig?!

 

More he-man power

It is decided that the pig will be finished off on a grill and Christopher just happens to be living next to a famous restaurant and is friends with the owner. How convenient is that? So the guys take the animal, table and all, down the hill and right next door to place him on the grill. The pig is very heavy and it takes four guys to move him.

 

Christopher's neighbor has a large grill that is perfect to finish off porky

Some heave-ho-ing and the pig and table are brought into the downstairs garden cooking area of the restaurant. An amazing 5 foot long grill complete with firewood and a lid is all prepared with a fire roaring below. Shouldn't be too long now. Amazingly, we are still pretty much on schedule - so far.

 

The fire is lit and the pig put to rest yet again

The pig is laid on a grill with drainage pans underneath that are filled with water to create steam and prevent a grease fire. He's a perfect fit, the lid is closed and now we just wait for the guests to arrive.

 

Now he is getting some color and looking good

The pig is moving along and getting the proper heat now, and we check the water pans to be sure they have enough water.

 

Others are enjoying their Christmas Day too

Here we see a family using their boat to attend a Christmas function farther down the lake. It's a beautifully tranquil day.

 

The guests are starting to arrive and Christopher decides how he wants to present this beast

The pig is looking good now and and our host decides he is ready enough to eat.

 

Zaira, Christopher's wife appears and is giving her approval as all the boys look on

A bit of a taste test while the men gather around to see what the next step might be. Everyone is loving being a part of this big project!

 

Mamacita takes charge

With a knife, Zaira starts carving porky. Pieces are placed into a cooking pot with a lid and are portioned out to the guests.

Let's eat!

 

Akaisha and May stop to take in the action

It's been a great day with the women bringing down the plates and utensils, making guacamole and washing dishes. The guys have set up the tables and chairs, filled the tubs with ice for the refreshments and carried porky back and forth several times. Everyone has worked up an appetite and the surroundings are idyllic.

 

Billy's ready to eat

Everyone is hungry, Zaira is doing a great job of carving and Christopher is passing out plates. Billy is ready!

 

Guests and workers alike sit down at the table ready for dinner

The guys didn't waste any time. Pork slabs, black beans, guacamole, tortillas, chips, cake. It just couldn't be better! Fresh poinsettias and tropical flowers dress the table.

 

The view of Vulcan San Pedro from our dining room table

Porky has sacrificed his life and we are all grateful. There was solid teamwork and the day was gorgeous. Mixed conversations in Tz'utujil, Spanish, and English are flowing between everyone and there are plenty of smiles and heartfelt warmth to go around.

 

Day's end

Our hosts were the best. Such open-heartedness and generosity! The day passed all too quickly and because we stayed well beyond the last water taxi, a private launch was called to pick us up at the neighbors dock.

What service!

 

Motoring through sea grass in the black lake water

We bounced along the dark waters for almost an hour as the sun set and the new moon rose. Stars were brilliant above us in the sky and it was the perfect ending to an exciting and fulfilling day.

Merry Christmas!

One not to be forgotten.

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About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurerís Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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