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Published: November 25th 2008
Whoever said the mountains were quiet was mistaken but tranquill and peaceful definately!! Other than being woken by a loco 3am rooster and the occasional hocking guatemateca clearing thier throat its birdsong , the twitching of bugs and insects and the putt putt of the little fishing boat that fill my ears as i lay swinging in a hammock transposed to the pine studded volcanic mountain with an outstanding gorgeous view of Lago de Atitlan. Two days remaining(when writing in my diary) and a bit over 3 weeks thus far in Guatemala seems like a good time as any for a bit of reflection.
Primarily and notably is the kindness and generosity of the guatemalan people. There seems to be a class divide between the ladinos and the indigenous but which doesnt stop either getting on with their day with a laugh and a joke amongst themselves. They work very hard for their money. Its hard to see the anger of a tumultuous and bloodied past only a feew decades earlier it is spoken of as a bad past(with my teacher).
There is a strong traditional cultural influence where we have travelled where the indigeneous try to hold firm to
feeling top of the world
a slippery grasp. Seeing the abundance of maize fields they have a belief that they are also made from the maize it is part of them. I cant help but think of that american horror flick children of the corn and have a little chuckle.
Guatemala has such an array of natural wonders. Its got it all from beaches, volcanos ,mountains , national parks and beautiful lakes. Few of these Orianne and i have been able to revel in and enjoy thoroughly. I am lucky to be able to travel with my favourite partner Orianne which leaves me thinking of other things than myself. Although there is always plenty of self reflection as only travel can bring. But im also lucky to be travelling in the low season where i sit on the small hippy village of San Marcos with the only extra company of the owner and his dog and this crazy mountain cat which eats anything even our salad and tofu. Wat the?
I read in this book this statement i identified with that the thing you recognize most when you travel is the difference between wat you expect and wat you get. Guatemala for us has surpassed
active volcano in background
all expectations by miles. Quite often leaving me breatheless, literally! From the white knuckle chicken bus rides to volcanic climbs stuggling with weak fitness to the meeting of great new acquaintances and new friends to the dealing of a high carb diet and returning to bikinis for lazy days by the lake i have to say in the words of Manu Chao 'Me gusta Guatemala'
FLORES......Well we welcomed the sight of shops, banks and muchas restaurants displaying a vast aray of vegetarian dishes. This little touristic island admist an inspiring lake in the El Peten province of Guatemala is beautiful. In the past the excessive amount of backpackers all around the town would have upset Orianne but for a change she thought it a welcome sight. Im neither here nor there as im one of the herd as well on the gringo trail. Our hostel did seem a favourite with the Israelis as almost all the beds were occupied by them. Im a big fan of the water and the lake brings me calm or is it the goldfish bowl sizes of pina coladas. The lake so clear and safe for swimming it didnt take long for
me to take the plunge. The rainy season brings a downpour in the afternoon for about 2 - 3 hrs except for the day we roped two Israeli guys( Alon and Koby) into a bike ride with us it decided to pour all day. We found an off the beaten track past a military place oh and the rubbish tip and onto a small village that was supposed to be 15 mins away by bicecleta. Hmmm 1 hr later we were still reminded by Koby that we hadnt reached it and i think it was best for us to head back. The poor guy was way to tall for his bike and its not much fun for him on cobble stones or just rocks. A pampered few days with great vege food and other travellers to talk to in english. Time to head to Quetzaltenango via Guatemala city. Our economica bus ride was simple and we passed through the flooded roads with ease(not so lñucky for the more expensive mini bus getting stuck). I managed to read my book 'the alchemist' cover to cover from my last book exchange. I got to see my very first Volcano beautiful!!
trip to Quetzaltenango or Xela(shela) as the locals call it was to be our first chicken bus experience. Curvas Pelligrosas!!!!! Yee haa a white knuckle ride through the contours of the mountain landscape. Orianne and i had a spat before we got on the bus and we weren,t talking to each other which was quite funny as we were squashed together 4 on a seat and trying to avoid eye contact. Some of the roads were good some muddy and some with landslides and big rocks covering half a double lane. Our racing car driver had us flying off our seat in the back(best to sit first four rows) sending some poor kid behind the seat to throw up right next to my bag ...eeewww. The maize fields are everywhere and come right to the edge of the mountain where the road has scarred its way along. Funny funny everytime they squashed more people onto the bus the street vendors would jump on the front and back and sell you just about anything bar the kitchen sink. In mexico you go to the market in Guatemala the market comes to you!!
'El Nahual' 'Muchas practica espanol' my teacher Mariabel
tells me. We walk up a steep dirt road gasping for air , not from lack of fitness, but feeling the altitude. We enter in which looks like an ordinary house but is our punctually 8am start for spanish school. The schol runs a volunteer program where mostly students also teach underprivalaged kids english for a few hours in the afternoon after their classes in the morning. Orianne and i offered to dig some holes at the construction site we didnt seem to click very well with the teacher crowd. (they are a breed of there own). I chose to sit on the roof so when i get my bout of ADD i can stare out to the gorgeous volcano setting its muy bonito y tranquillo!!! We gave ourselves 2 weeks to brush up on our irregular verbs and ended with the towns halloween party with muchas muchas cervesas and big hangovers and embarrassing kissing boy incident.
Tajamulco was our first volcano climb...jeeebrs. Xela is supposed to be the 2nd largest city in Guate but it seems just like a big ol town and surrounded by these picturesque mountains and volcanos it is truly beautiful. Xela is 2335m above
sea level and has this fresh crisp clean air provided your not walking past the big chicken buses belching out there thick black smoke. Although walking a small incline left us out of breathe if we were in deep conversation. Tajumulco was our first feat, lacking fitness this overnight trek had us carrying water and tents up which looked like an easy incline but add altitude it was hard. NO bloody hard! At many times just before we had to set up camp it was step 1, 2 , 3 ,4 , pulse.(break). It didnt help that it was cold and pissing with rain. We were determined to get there and loving it all nonetheless. Shaking like a parkinsons leaf we set up camp firstly the wrong way round of course. Our group was mainly european which was welcome to the amount of 'Awesome' s we hear coming from the other campsite. Xela seemed like the ultimate student destination from the states. ' awesome' Our camp consisted of 3 frenchies + 1 austrian and moi. Etienne was a great guy and could talk under water with a mouthful of marbles and Justine was fab and easy to get along with
we caught up again with Justine at various drunked evenings around xela. An early 4 am trek to the summit, with every available dry piece of clothing i had, at 4220m not only the highest point in guatemala but central america!! Yay we made it! The sun occupied us on our walk down and surprised ourselves we actually made with the help of Eduardo 'vamos chickas vamos'! I was in pain for the rest of the week but was well worth it we recovered in time for our next climb the 'santa maria' a day trip at only 3772m.
Before arriving at the Lago de Atitlan i joined in the locals tradition at this time of the year and celabrated , with much gusto, ' El Dia de todos los Santos'. better known as all saints day or even better known as Day of the Dead. In a celebratory fiesta rather than a mournful experience the rememberance of a family member that has passed. I , like them , purchased a corona of flowers and lay them by the cemetary for my brother with a hangover. xxx
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