Long Time No Write

Trip Start Feb 03, 2006
Trip End Jun 20, 2006

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Wow. We have not written in a long time.

First we didn't write because we holed up in Xela for Semana Santa, and it was mostly boring. A lot of shops were closed for Holy Week, so we didn't get to do much or eat much. We did, however, get sick for the first time on the trip. I blame Enanos (the Dwarf), a restaurant that had been divided into two levels, each one about 5 feet tall. A la "Being John Malkovich". We basically read books, slept, and watched processions for a week.

And took Cipro, of course.

The processions were pretty interesting, much more powerful than Easter in the US. No rabbits or Easter bunnies in Xela. They make elaborate "carpets" of colored sawdust and flowers in the streets, that the processions then trample. The processions consist of men and boys in purple robes and girls in white dresses, and they carry floats featuring Jesus in a glass coffin, or crucified, or a weeping Mary, all accented by copious incense and fluorescent lighting (Andrew thought the generators on the floats were "cheating").

After Xela, we spent three nights in San Pedro la Laguna, a very cheap and therefore backpacker-filled town on Lago de Atitlan (the biggest lake in Guatemala, and supposedly among the most beautiful in the world, but you know how the tourist literature goes...) The town does have a road going in, but for the most part, it is a series of labyrinthine paths no more than 3 feet wide, that no map can begin to depict.

On the bus to San Pedro, a hippie Euro girl sat behind us with her new fling Danish boy. She had a stubby dreadlock about 1 inch long hanging on her forehead, from a nasty little pendant hung. For about five hours, we got to listen her say really deep things to her new friend like "like, to ME, you know, like life is so like, so beautiful", and other platitudes over and over and over. We are having less and less faith in our fellow travellers...

In San Pedro, we stayed at the best and most expensive hotel in town. We lived the high life for $10 per night. The food in San Pedro has a world and hippie bent, with nary a bean in sight. The drug culture in San Pedro is rather....unfettered. We did see a restaurant advertising "spacial brownies". We didn't try them. On more than one occasion, we were offered weed, or a guy sneezed "hashish" at us.

The overwhelming smell of San Pedro is kalamata olives. It isn't really olives, though, but rather the fermented husks of coffee beans. Yech. It made Andrew want Greek food. Also, we did have great coffee there, perhaps the best since Boquete.

The funniest thing we saw in San Pedro was a group of National Civil Police in full uniform, with assault rifles, attempting to break into their truck with a coat hanger, as a group of 40 children laughed at them and climbed all over the truck. Although we had the camera with us, we didn't think they'd be keen on having a photo taken...

After San Pedro, it was a gruelling 10 hour bus ride to Rio Dulce, complemented by our first puking child (who was thrown off the bus immediately, along with his family, along the side of the road--we watched his mother bop him repeatedly upside the head as we pulled away). From Rio Dulce, we sailed out last Friday on Las Sirenas, a 46 foot catamaran. With us on the boat was the Guatemalan captain and his ayudante (assistant), two Brit ladies (in their sixties), two Canadian girls, two Austian boys, an Aussie, and a Swede. Luckily, English was the common language.

The boat trip was good. We went from Rio Dulce inland to Lago Izabel and out to the Caribean sea port of Livingston. We went to some excellent hot springs--a hot waterfall falling into a cold stream. Saw a Spanish fort, heard some howler monkeys, went to a Mayan artisan cooperative, saw some sad sad penned up crocodiles (one of which appeared to be dead, some algae-covered humping turtles, more hot springs, and 4 days later we are back in Rio Dulce getting laundry done.

It is strange to feel dizzy on land and right on the boat...

Overall, the boat was not what we expected--the front sail was up only about 1/4 of the time, and the main sail only went up for about an hour. Mostly, it was a glorified and slow motor boat. Still, it was worth the money to see many things we would not have been able to see otherwise, and we were well, if not inspiringly, fed. Plus, we did get at least a small taste of the sailing life.

Here in Rio Dulce there appear to be many other operators that will take you on similar trips, maybe even better, but Las Sirenas advertises from Mexico to Costa Rica, so they get the most business.

Tomorrow, we will leave, although we are not sure by what means....Andrew would really like to try to hitch a ride on a sailboat to Belize, but that is evidently sort of hit-or-miss. In any case, we will try to hit Tikal and the Cayes of Belize in the next week or so....
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