Published: January 10th 2009August 26th 2008
Light the wings!
Months have passed where realities and dreams have for the most part been sorted from our jaunt to Guatemala in August. We're now into full swing with 2009, wishing all you peoples a healthy and happy new year! Long overdue: snapshots and impressions of Guatemala are finally up, heavier doses of the former.
We pieced together a spontaneous trip to Guatemala for two weeks, with the help of wanderlust and the time afforded by transitions between graduate school and the real-world. In that short span, we'd cover some ground (and water) while adrift in this former "Banana Republic" and Civil War ravished country of Guatemala. We immersed ourselves in the colorful, thoughtful, flavorful, and danger-full aspects of this Central American hotspot in our short microcosm experience.
• Our Route: Guatemala City- Chimaltenango - Panajachel - Santiago- San Pedro - San Marcos - Puerto Barrios - Livingston - Rio Dulce - Flores - Antigua
• Chicken Buses- Our early transportation and one that cannot be forgotten for the sensory overload trip of: Technicolor paints, inner decorum and flair, customized horns constantly blared, danceclub atmospherics, the characters riding on, and of course the nostalgia of these 1980's era American School buses made
by BlueBird (although no real birds made it onto our chicken buses).
• Volcanoes aplenty (San Pedro, Cerro de Oro, Toliman, and Atitlan) all hulking over Lago de Atitlan.
• Avocados- Breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
• Pollution- Air, land, and sea.
• Lago de Atitlan- Mythical lake in Mayan tradition, host to several small shoreline communities.
• Machine Guns- Much of the weaponry and opportunity left over from civil war between the 1960's to 1990's has translated into a current state of heavy banditry and lawlessness in certain areas since. We watched a plain clothed man with armed bodyguards sit down in a cafe we were in, while the pickup truck out front manned the doors and the street. All so this man could use the internet and say hello to the owner/worker.
• Gallo- The English translation is "Rooster". Also the National Beer!
• Rainy- August and the autumn months are tricky in Guatemala. Hurricane Mitch (1998) wreaked havoc here as well as Stan (2005), mostly in the form of vast flooding and mudslides.
• Spiders- Banana spiders and other creepy crawlies with serious fangs and venom.
• Pizza- A safe and tasty bet for food almost anywhere.
• Machete- The trusty tool (and sometimes weapon) that most Guatemalan
men own. Unfortunately an American couple was attacked and the husband met his fate on Lago de Izabal while aboard their own private sailboat nearby to where we were. All this loss of life, for dollars.
• Mythical- Mayan tradition resonates here where personified forces of nature and phenomena are visible in the form of volcanoes, peaks, moon, sun, animals, and the observance of these by the Guatemalan people.
• Boat taxi- Still probably my favorite mode of transit ever. Es muy tranquilo...
• Gringo- That's what us white foreigners get called, although it's not considered pejorative.
• Road Dogs- Lots of canine company, mangy lil guys.
• Quetzales- Currency and the national Bird.
• Shady Characters- Not surprisingly, a few of our travel operators and wannabees.
• Hippies- Lower cost of living, organics, herbals, aesthetics, holistics and ayurvedics.
• Pollo a la Plancha- How we like our chicken done.
• Pulsating/Vibrant- Usually to cheesy 90's dancehall and club music...occasionally Guatemalan sounds.
• Retreats- gotta have em.
• Coffee- This could be a blog in itself. Believe me I downed some cups. Plants were abundant in many villages around Lago de Atitlan and evidently all across the country as a major cash crop (to the detriment of some eco-related issues due
to run-off and environmental contaminants). Just some of the eco-humanitarian issues being raised and addressed. Yet another reminder of our imprint as consumers and global citizens.
• Guard up - Stories of Robbery, attacks on tourists, and machine gun toting guards at cafe's.
• Hammocks- ahhhhh.
• Trashed Sea - The Bahia de Amatique (Amatique Bay), which feeds the Gulf of Honduras (and Caribbean), was heavily littered.
• Locals- Guatemalan people we spent time with were genuinely friendly and welcoming. Many were forthright and provided us with help where needed and the ever important warmth behind it. A contrast to the attention grabbing headlines and warnings over heightened fears of safety that unfortunately prevent many travelers from venturing to Guatemala. The kids were adorable, some prone to begging, and some very inviting to this silly American who jumped into a 2 on 2 basketball game. Some universals that kids will always prove: Smiles, laughs, and recreation/sport- all bring people together.
• Stomach bug + Upper Respiratory Infection- Oh the pleasures of feeling reduced by "the road" and then having to self diagnose and self prescribe.
• Yoga- One of the more interesting and thunderstormy/mosquitoed/cultish yoga experiences while at San Marcos de Atitlan.
• Puerto Barrios - Once
a thriving port district for the now defunct United Fruit Company. Now home to a less than welcoming and grotty town. Thanks to the help of an older American man with with a Louisiana drawl and a Santa Claus beard who crept slow in his tinted Mazda, we were able to steer clear of "Curry Women" (prostitutes) and wipe the terrified look off our faces in trying to find a hotel at night here.
• Livingston and Garifuna- Some very cool and relaxed people (how about some stereotyping) who live along the Belizean, Honduran, Nicaraguan, and Guatemalan coast of the Caribbean. In our time in Livingston near the Gulf of Honduras, this community radiated the classic coconut palms and "feelin-iree" persona. Garifuna people here are Afro-Caribbean locals who descend from Carib, Arawak Indian, and African peoples.
• Mosquitos- Why not? (Malaria Rx needed here).
• Winding rides- Overstuffed vans and buses with racing drivers trying to outpace and overtake everything on the mountainous highways (most of which under construction), mixed with diesel fumes -makes for noxious and nauseous jaunts.
• Apocalypto- This movie popped up twice in two days with its Braveheart-like depiction of Mayan Mesoamerican inter-fighting of horrific and bloody proportions.
• Rio Dulce-
Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala
"Sweet River" between Lake Isabal and the Gulf of Honduras that hosts several communities in between limestone shelves and mangroves.
• Religion- Syncretism is practiced here where elements of both Christianity and Mayan belief systems meld into a cohesive form of coexistence.
• Tikal- UNESCO World Heritage site for its remains of an ancient Mayan Civilization and the secondary-growth jungle that has overgrown it. Rife with exotic monkeys, birds, felines, lizards, insects, and lore...the early morning and pitch black hike through jungle trails up to perch ourselves for a sunset view on Temple IV will forever be a treasured memory.
All around a brisk pace and shutter speed for this trip as we managed much in a short time. I'm once again reminded of the divine workings that make up this planet and it's people. Part of that reminder is an ever growing appreciation for what we have and for the moment. Enjoy the pictures and side stories.
There are more photos below