On the road again...

Trip Start Jan 10, 2007
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Thought I love Costa Rica and I love living in La Estrella and I love teaching and staying in one place for more than a week, I cannot even express here how good it felt to get back on the road again!!!  Once again I am the pregnant turtle, the wanderer knowing that anything can happen, totally free from responsibility.  It just feels SO great!  Already I've changed my plans.  Instead of heading to El Salvador from Lago Atitlan, I have now decided to check out some interesting caves and rivers in the northern part of Guatemala first.  So here I am in Coban...but I get ahead of myself.  Some snapshots of my journey so far...

So, still a little hungover (or at least dehydrated) from my birthday celebrations two days earlier, I make it bright and early to the Juan Santamaria airport.  I'm sitting there kind of wishing I could just go back to La Estrella and sleep for about twelve more hours when I hear my name called out.  It's Lucy one of my WorldTeach friends.  She's on the same flights as me - first to San Salvador and then to Guatemala City.  We chat and then go to our different assigned seats.  When we get to San Salvador there is an announcement that offers $300 travel vouchers to anyone who will give up there seat for a flight five hours later for Guate.  And of course what poor traveller could give up an offer like that?!  So we spend the next five hours chatting, eating our free breakfasts, drinking our free drinks, using the free internet, and planning how to use our free tickets in the VIP lounge in El Salvador.  A perfect start to the vacation!

I decide not to go to Antigua once I get to Guatemala City, so after saying goodbye to Lucy I make my way intothrough the massive crowds of people outside the airport to find a taxi.  Immediately I realized that I wasn't in Costa Rica anymore!  It was madness!!!  And not tranquilo madness, MADNESS madness!!!  I was very tempted to run after Lucy and get on a nice safe plane to Flores, but then I heard "Taxi?" at my elbow.  I took a deep breathe and followed what turned out to be one of the nicest taxi drivers I've ever met to his car.  I hardly had to haggle over the price at all and he told me how I was staying in a safe place in the city, that I could walk around without worrying.  When he dropped me off at the hostel he warned me to be careful what taxis I take, since some aren't safe.

I wake up from my nap to Orla walking into the dorm room.  She is in Guatemala on a visa run from Mexico City where she's living with her Mexican boyfriend.  She's British.  We start talking, establish that we were both going to Lago Atitlan the next day, and that we will now go together.  And so begins the longest chat fest ever.  We talk on the chicken bus (not as crammed with people as I had feared), on the boat from Panahachel to Santa Cruz, sitting with beers on the patio of La Iguana Perdida overlooking the lake, in our open air treehouse dorm room, at the hostel family dinner, and on the hike to San Marcos the next day.  We never stop talking.  By the end of two days we feel as though we've known each other forever.  We giggle over the dog that meets us at the top of the stairs/ladder to our dorm room.  Apparently he has adopted Orla's bed as his own...well, until he wants to be let out sometime around 2 am.  We wonder together at the beauty of the lake and the perfectness of our hostel.  We laugh at our other dormmate who we nickname Peanuts.  We struggle up and down on a hike that wasn't as easy as we thought it would be and come back to life together over a massive breakfast afterwards.  And then she gets on a boat back to Panahachel to start the trip back to Mexico City.  A best friend for two days.

Peanuts is tall, really tall, with almost white blonde hair and a beard.  He's so calm that it's sort of awkward.  One of those guys you just want to shake and yell at just so they'll show some sort of reaction, some sort of life.  He has been learning Spanish for two weeks and has just started an exciting new volunteer job...designing and making pedal machines.  Uh?...  And what exactly are pedal machines?  Well, they are machines that are opperated by stepping on a pedal.  Some husk corn, others shell macademia nuts.  The one that he is currently working on (and here he actually showed a bit of excitement!) is a machine to shell peanuts!!!  It will save poor farmers without electricity hours of labor shelling all the peanuts that they eat!  AND it's the first machine of its kind!!!!  Some people come to Guatemala to travel, some to learn Spanish, some to teach English, and some come to Guatemala (apparently) to design a pedal machine that shells peanuts...

Today I set off at 6:30 am from Santa Cruz on the epic journey to Coban.  And my new trusty partner is now Sara, a Canadian I met at the family dinner at La Iguana.  We start out on a boat squeezed between colorful baskets of produce and little old men falling asleep sitting up.  Then we get picked up by a chicken bus (picture a school bus painted orange and purple and green and yellow with Te amo Jesus signs painted all over it) already crammed with people.  We manage somehow to squeeze into the crowd, half sitting in the aisles, half on the seat, one leg squinched up on my pack, the other stretched out over a bag of something, standing on the seat every time more people are picked up so that they can pass further back into the chaos.  Welcome to public transportation Guatemala style.  But eventually we manage to get ourselves and our bags into our very own seat after about an hour or so (three hours to Guate).  In Guate we get on a relatively nice bus with spacious seats and actual tickets for the five hours up to Coban.  We sleep, we chat, we stare out the window.  And then we get close to Coban and our driver asks us where in Coban we're getting off.  We tell him and then assume that he will tell us when to get off.  But then it seems as if we are leaving Coban...huh?  Then he tells us not to worry, that we will return to Coban after we drop some people off in the next town.  And he keeps talking about cocinas and eating together.  It sounds like we are going to return to Coban and eat together and then he'll take us to our hostel.  But then the other tourists who missed the Coban stop are getting pissed.  Sara and I are hysterical laughing.  We have no idea what's happening, but we're up for anything.  But once we get back to Coban, dinner plans have been scratched and we head to our hostel...well, in the direction of where our guidebooks say there are hostels.  Tomorrow we head to Lanquin to a hostel that has hammocks, tubing, eco-toilets, and who knows what kind crazy adventures.

It feels like old times again....  

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