This is the REAL Guatemala!


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Published: November 21st 2012
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Sorry we are a little behind... internet connections are taken for granted in the United States. Boy do we miss our 50mbps download speed!!! We will trying and make up the days today or tomorrow!



We had a nice leisurely breakfast at the Casa Durante. It was a sort of black bean soup with tortillas and chicken in it. (Sounds like a great breakfast, no?) We were supposed to be picked up at 10a.m., but as usual, it was about 20 minutes later. (However, that is still relatively early for Guatemalan time.) There were other travelers on the bus already but we stopped to pick up more. In the end, there was a Spanish Couple, an Asian couple, new friends Pankaj and Laura, and two girls from Britain. Our first stop was a McDonald’s where the driver told us to get out and use the facilities if we wanted to do so, or to get food. Then he took off without an explanation! We watched as our luggage rapidly slipped away which was NOT comforting! However, he did come back and then informed us that there would be no food on the road for us as it was Sunday and restaurants would be closed. People accepted the situation and asked him to go on. VAMOS CHICOS!!! Away we go… er, not so fast. After all of the waiting, stopping and leaving us, he had the gall to proceed to the gas station to fuel the bus!!! Are you kidding me? So, we were not even on the road for about an hour after our pick-up. This situation was the precursor to our supposedly 5-hour transport to Flores (from Coban).

Our mini-van was much better than the day before but our driver had an attitude that befit a young male of about 15. He drove really at high speeds around curves, through pedestrian areas and the traffic, he ignored!!! We actually felt as if he learned to drive playing the video game “Need for Speed”, in which you are awarded points for such careless acts. In all honesty, you really had to hang on. At some point, he was apparently hungry and stopped at a roadside home where they were cooking “street meat,” beans, coleslaw and tortillas. He ordered his lunch and began to eat his. The driver never suggested that we could eat, but people did (and of course, we had to try it). It was really good and we had meat and tortillas for 10Q, or less than $1.50. Several of us needed to use the restroom and inquired of the driver. He told us we could use the bathroom there. Of course, he didn’t ask them first. However, a little girl was kind enough to show us to the family’s bathroom behind their house. It was very kind of her to do so. HOWEVER, let us take you on the short but crazy trip to the facilities. The roadside kitchen was located at the bottom of a very steep hillside, far more than 45 degrees. The kitchen was ground zero and our starting point. From here, the girl bounded up a harrowing flight of dilapidate cement steps that rose about 12 feet above the road level and into buildings that we equal in quality. We followed her as she traversed several dark alleyways in between one room homes and came out into what can only be described as her “backyard.” From the edge of the backyard, we could see salvation! About 25 yards away was a ramshackle structure that resembled an old style outhouse, but this one had two doors, one for men and the other for the ladies. Having spotted the bathroom is certainly not the same as reaching the bathroom. You see, between the bathrooms and ourselves, were pigs-o’-plenty and all that accompany the same. Have you ever heard the saying, “Happy as a pig in poop?” Well, that describes, quite accurately, the scene which lay before us.

CLAY’S STORY: I must admit that, being a male, I was tempted to bypass the pig-fest and proceed to the nearest clean hedge or bushes. However, I did not want to seem discourteous and so I took a deep breath and chose my path carefully to the men’s door. It was only after having achieved my goal of gaining entry into the outhouse that I was again reminded of another old say, “Out of the frying pan and into the fire.” What awaited me in the men’s room was indeed a fully functioning hole in the ground with a cement throne over it. Upon realizing the nature of the facilities, the location and proximity to the pigs, the system made perfect sense. I am not a farmer but fertilizer is fertilizer! SO, having braved the “local experience,” I returned down the hill to breath clean air and continue on our journey. It was at this time that the Japanese man was trying to ask the driver, in Spanish, where the bathroom was. The driver just shrugged. I took pity on the poor fellow and led him up the hill to the pigs and the bathroom. The look upon his face, as the realization of what was before him, was priceless! I left him to ponder and decide and I returned down the hill. We will never know if he braved the hardships but he seemed relieved to return to the bus. It is truly these moments that make the journey through life memorable.

On the road again, we were speeding away, headlong into the lowlands of Guatemala, when we encountered the fruit police. Apparently, we had entered a major agricultural section of Guatemala and there is currently a big concern regarding fruit flies and other plant destroying organisms. This was sort of like an agricultural check in the US, but we were a tourist van. Clay perfectly translated what the police asked. The officer nicely asked us to look in our bags and invited us to use the facilities there (which were clean, and luckily we had toilet paper with us). Since Ann would not brave the bathroom at lunch, this was a nice treat.

Once on our way, we saw beautiful landscape and estates of palm trees (think, palm dates). The next unscheduled stop was at a random location, it seemed to be in between here and there with nothing around us but fields of papaya and bananas. The entire road was completely closed and blocked by a small ambulance bearing the words, “Volunteer Fire Department.” We arrived only a few vehicles back from the actual blockage and there were already many spectators. Unfortunately, an accident had occurred and one person was dead. We do not know any details, but everyone who was stopped (no one was allowed to walk, ride bike, or drive car around it) came up to look. The body remained in the road while an apparent investigation was conducted. Besides the ambulance, there were various police and military vehicles and we were told that the police have to make the identification and figure everything out before it could open back up. The body never was removed from the road. We said a prayer for the departed and the woman standing over him, crying, and eventually we were on our way.

This delay would not normally be an issue, however, we were supposed to have a transfer in Flores to El Remate at 3:30 and it was now after 4 and Flores was still more than an hour away! Our driver was not very helpful until we called his attention to a name on our travel voucher. He reluctantly called the number and put someone on the line. Much to the company’s credit, that person was helpful, reassuring us that we would be retrieved and taken to our final destination, Posada El Cerro (hotel). When we arrived in Flores, it was clear that this area of the country is wealthier and more modern then the area we had just left behind. Our driver spoke wonderful English and even brought his wife along for the ride, “because it is Sunday and that is family time.” However, his saying does not apply universally, as he continued to tell us that in the small villages that we saw on the way to FLores, the men work hard all week, drink alcohol all weekend and spend their money and pass out in the streets; hence, significant speed bumps are placed through those villages.

As of this writing, we are in our beautiful room. The driver took us down a dark dirt road to get here and we used a flashlight to find it. We are not sure what this place looks like in the light of day. There are familiar and comforting sounds of the woods, such as beetles, crickets and scurrying critters of various types. We are on a lake, the second largest in Guatemala.

We were greeted by the owner and his wife, he is from Germany and she is form Brazil. She offered us some fresh squeezed lemonade that was marvelous! The restaurant kitchen is outside and our hostess was cooking dinner for her family. There are two small girls with dark eyes and hair to match, and a lively little fellow with blond hair and bright eyes. She asked us if we would like to eat dinner with them. Given that we were located in a remote area, there were no restaurants nearby and we had no form of transportation, her offer was golden! We, of course, took her up on the invitation and she simply asked, “Is chicken ok?” Dinner was a fantastic home cooked meal of tender chicken with tasty juice in which we could soak our potatoes, along with a green salad (Ann ate the lettuce because we saw it being lovingly washed by filtered water).

During our stay at this hotel, we met a wonderful family from Guatemala City. The parents were doting (in the appropriate way) and Carlos (Dad) told us that he had changed careers to spend more time with the kids. The kids were so well behaved! They had travelled to Mexico and were on the way back home. Their English was wonderful and we had some nice, political discussions. We learned things about the Guatemalan politics that we had not previously known - - good insight. If you would like some adrenaline adventure or just some downtime with relaxing yoga and running while in Guatemala, please do call our new friends, Carlos and his wife Miriam Ramirez – (502) 5922-2334 email mramirez@larocallagt.com, website: larocallaquatemala.com – everything from hiking to yoga to caving to climbing, vertical solutions and white-water. They truly are tremendously nice people!

Tomorrow we are on a day trip to some ruins.


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22nd November 2012

So Funny
You guys really made laugh like never before.
23rd November 2012

Happy Thanksgiving.
Thanks for sharing your journey.

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