Saturday, August 30, 2008

Lake Atitlan

well, we have made it to one of our last destinations of this epic journey, bringing a trail of dust, bug bites and diarrehea with us.

Semuc Champey, the end of the world in the middle of Guatemala was something you do not forget easily. But wait, do I have to go back to Tikal and the Maya temples in northern Guatemala? We saw the sunrise sitting on the top of a Maya temple 70 meters in the air and had a great guide to show us these ruins that were at the height of power around 700AD.

We had 2 amazing sunsets in Flores drinking cheap beer on a small terrace on the lake and even saw a drunk local dive into the lake for our amusement. Thanks dude!

The long bus ride from Flores to Semuc Champey was 2 or 3 hours longer than they had promised but it was worth it. In the midst of a deep valley along a river was a small hostel with bungalows. The last 20 km of the road was steep and dirt and bumpy. 20km may not seem like a lot but I guess you have not been on so many slow bumpy roads like that in your life but the scenery was amazing, deep valley of lush greenery and corn and sheer limestone cliffs all competing for the fading sunlight.

There are some natural limestone pools for swimming, all the while the river is somehow flowing underneath the pools and you cannot see them. It was incredible.

Yesterday we got up at 6am, and from 7am to 6.30pm we were in private shuttles, paying a whopping 38 dollars each to get us there but in normal busses we would have needed at least 2 full days of travel to get there. We ended up choosing an overwhelmingly crappy hotel last night called Hospedaje Santa Elena which depressed us, us both having some food wanting to come out quickly and painfully, yeah!!! hahaha

We are in Panajachel, the biggest town on Lake Atitlan. Tomorrow we are going to the village of San Pedro. We bought 100 dollars worth of souvenirs today after some bargaining but I do not want to say what they were because some of them are for my folks and I know some of you would tell them!

Less than 2 weeks left in this 6 week trip, aching for some normalcy soon but I know it will come soon enough. Cheers yall!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

I slept!

Yep, still sweating but at least I got some sleep last night, had not had a good night of sleep in 2 weeks. We stayed on a Finca, like a working ranch and had a pretty good dinner and were asleep by 10pm. The reason we were there is because we were unable to get money in Livingston as I said and so we took off.

The boat to take us back to Rio Dulce did not work for a half hour and so we drifted in the waters between the river and the Caribbean. We got back to Rio Dulce around 3pm, finally were able to get money so I took money out twice and then took a bus 2 hours to the Finca. Along the way we saw a turned over semi that was burned out and still smoking a bit.

Shit is expensive here in Guatemala. The dinner was 8 bucks last night, twice was the dorm bed cost. True, the dorm bed was inexpensive but it has been a bit of sticker shock here so far.

We are taking a bus at 5am tomorrow to go to Tikal, some famous Maya ruins. Then we will have about 2 plus weeks to check out southern Guatemala.

Stay strong folks and be glad that the fear of diarrehea is not your first thought when deciding which food to order from the menu!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Sweat

well, we tried to like livingston but it is just sweat and lack of money. my atm card doesnt work in the only atm in the whole town and you cant get a cash advance anywhere so we are leaving one day after arriving. we have seen some interesting stuff the past couple of days, slept in a bungalow on the river Ducle 2 nights ago and in a bungalow loft last night, sweating deliriously through attempts at sleep. I will give a more proper account of what has been going on in 2 or 3 days, but i promise you, stuff has been happening!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oscar Wilde forgot a 3rd great tragedy

His famous quote: There are 2 great tragedies in life, not getting what you want, and getting what you want. He may have forgotten a 3rd one that I experienced this morning in the most likely overrated town of Santa Rosa de Copan, Honduras: Paying for what you want and not getting it.

Had a rough night of sleep, the little lady hasn't been feeling too well, don't think it's eboli but we're gonna wait it out. Point is, we desperately needed a hot shower this morning (me much more than her) and when I went to turn it on...it didn't work. I asked the unhelpful guy working about it, he turned a switch and it didn't work. I told him that since the hot water didn't work, we were gonna need some of our money back, seeing as that we paid for the more expensive room because of the hot water. His feeble retort was that we had used the television and fan, two other perks for pay 33% more for a room. I told him that that was all well and good and we could negotiate a different price than what I was asking but we were now asking ourselves why we had paid more for something we weren't getting. He said he didn't have any money. And that, more or less, even without an apology, was it. I told him again as we were leaving that I know it wasn't his fault but maybe next time they might want to have some money to have on hand because now, when I'm back from this trip, I'll go back to the same travel sites that I went to to get information and let them know not to stay there. It's unfortunate but that's how the world works.

Anyway, we're back in a place more to our liking, though I'm not a big fan of our hotel. We've planned to stay one night and then change to the much hipper and only 50% more expensive place. We had lunch there today and it was pretty damn good. Fresh food seems to taste better than I remember.

Tomorrow, we're going to visit Copan Ruins, one of the main reasons I planned a trip to Central America. We're gonna go early so as to avoid the heavy rains we're experiencing right now.

ciao and my next communique will be from Guatemala!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Sore

Yesterday Franziska and I went on a 4 hour guided hike up around a crater of a former volcano and down to the green laguna below. It kicked our ass. My legs are sore as hell but it was a nice little adventure. Our guide, Jose, had a machete with him the whole time and even pointed out a small snake as we went by and another animal like a squirrel in a tree. You shouldn´t forget that the hike was around 5 to 6,000 feet so we were pretty winded. Franziska also has a nice bruise on her right thigh that I said looked like a nebula and a little chunk off the palm of her right hand. At times, we were literally walking on the edge of the crater with a sheer drop on one side.

We had planned on going to Suchitoto tomorrow but we started changing our mind, either to go up north into Honduras or first west to the capital of El Salvador and north to a town called La Palma to stay one night before heading up into Santa Rosa de Copan, just a couple of nights away from visiting our first Mayan (I think) ruins of the trip, Copan. After that it´s into Guatemala and the last 2.5 weeks of our crazy adventure.

We met a couple of surfers from Santa Cruz at the place last night and one of them is a park ranger at a state park near Santa Cruz where big 5,000 pound elephant seals come to mate and fight on the beach. We might have to check that out...

Friday, August 15, 2008

Alegria

Wow, where should I start? Should it be crossing into Honduras yesterday and as soon as all 23 of us were in the minibus, the police stopped us and made all of us get out and even frisked a few of us, us being all locals and an Australian couple and us. We descended from the hills and made it again into the lowlands, to a place I´m free to call a shithole called Choluteca, Honduras. Now I´m sure there are worthwhile things there (like the small turtle pond by the colonial church) but we checked it out yesterday and it was not to our liking. At night we actually ordered pizza hut and watched a little TV until a gigantic storm blew out the electricity.

This storm, while somewhat normal in Honduras possibly, was the biggest of my life. It lasted over 2 hours of constant pouring and seriously, it was nothing but lightning every few seconds and sometimes thunder, a very strange thing indeed. We swung in hammocks for a half hour and just sort of watched the occasional flashes of brilliance while drinking an Imperial beer.

We couldn´t sleep because of bugs (again) so we were up by 7, walked around the ¨colonial¨part for a bit, found the turtle pond and thought okay, that´s enough. We took a taxi to the station and then a bus to the border, took a motorcycle taxi across the border and then a bus that was blaring the movie 300 way too loud and then another minibus and then another bus before getting to Alegria. This small village, 5000 feet up in the mountains of El Salvador is our first favorite place of Central America. It´s quaint and colorful, there are photo opportunities and the people are nice. We are going on a hike to a crater with a lake in it tomorrow.

Two days ago we went on a hot ass hike to a waterfall that underwhelmed us. Now we are nice and relaxed. I had a real sweet tamale yesterday on the bus for about 20 cents and today I bought a semi cooked ear of corn for a quarter. It was delicious...

Monday, August 11, 2008

hotel america

vepWe told 2 different people yesterday, a woman working at the pharmacy and the french husband of the nicaraguan woman who washed our clothes where we were staying and they both said, oh no, you´re not staying there, are you? It confirmed our suspicions...

We left Granada and went to Catarina, a small village with a great view over a lake and of granada and of lake nicaragua. However, the village didn´t have enough to hold our interest more than an hour or so so we waited for a bus for Masaya, a place we hadn´t planned on going to but, wanting to think that our trip is fluid and not rigid, we decided to check it out. We immediately got a good feeling of it, found an okay hotel for about 9 bucks a night with a bathroom and shower about 15 feet away and then went out to explore the town. It turned out that one afternoon was plenty there and, like many nights on this trip, we were chilling on the bed and reading at 9pm. This trip hasn´t quite aged us but we´re acting like old people! haha

So we took a microbus with 15 people in it (think soccer mom minibus and you get an idea how packed it was) 45 minutes to Managua and thank god left right away. It had the feeling of despair and dirt and shantytowns. We saw a little girl´s birthday party happening in a dirt parking lot. Luckily, this new microbus was nicer than the first for the 90 minute journey here to Leon. We got here yesterday, took a taxi with another guy from the bus, checked into our drab and old school and barely passable Hotel America and then went to explore the town.

Our first choice for lunch was closed so we chose a vegetarian restaurant that had interminably slow service and we made the mistake of ordering a falafel and a curry lunch in a nicaraguan restaurant. You do the math...

We walked around more, checked out a free museum of old school religious paintings and more modern Latin art and then called the folks for the first time on the trip, I took many pictures of faded doors, got some cream for the rashes on my arms (thanks ,Hotel Esfinge in Granada!) and then went back to the room, showered in cold water and then went and dropped off our clothes to be washed which, along with the movie we saw after that was the highlight of the day somehow.

This trip hasn´t quite been what I expected it would be and there is a certain, vaguely miserable feeling to sweating nonstop, questioning the cleanliness of everything you eat or sit on or drink from, and not sure if this street is safe or not but we are having a good time together and just getting through the trip seems to be enough of an accomplishment.

We decided to leave Leon today and we´re planning on going to Esteli for a night or two, we´re moving faster on this trip than I´d planned but I think we want to spend more time in Guatemala.

cheers!

Friday, August 08, 2008

12 cocktails costs how much?

you know you are far from home when you can drink 12 cocktails: 1 pina colada, 2 strawberry daquiris, 2 mango and 1 peach daquiris, and 6 mojitos for 15 euros. it set our night off on a good track, for sure. Unfortunately the air conditioning didnt work and I literally sweated all last night and it was pretty disgusting but I want any and all to know that the sweating would have occurred regardless if I had had alcohol or not.

We went 10 dollars over budget last night but it was worth it.

Now we are in Granada, a "beautiful" colonial town that is packed with people doing nothing. Our hotel is across from the chaotic market and costs 15 bucks for a room with a private bath but it does have a fan that we will be using to great effect tonight. I have done nothing but sweat all day.

It took us 2.5 hours and 2 buses to go from San Juan to Granada and cost a total of $4.50 for the both of us. We´re going to the movies tomorrow night, to see Get Smart in English with Spanish subtitles. We might do a canopy tour tour, we might not.

I also stepped in a small drain in the sidewalk and hurt my leg but luckily didn´t break it. it is swollen and it took a half hour of walking to find ice but it´s gonna be okay...I think. See ya soon!

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Now THAT was a border crossing

We stayed in Liberia last night with a nice guy named Max who is a teacher at the university and relatively complicated syllabi for his courses, even using the word ¨constructivist¨ describing the method!

We were up at 7am and he gave us a ride to the bus station and we waited in line with others and then by 8.15am were on a bus headed for Nicaragua.

Now yesterday was pretty crazy, with a big rig parked across the highway in some kind of protest and we later had to change buses because a bridge was coming apart so we literally had to walk across the bridge with all of our things, me sweating up a storm and onto a new bus for the last couple of hours through heavy rain.

But today, we get to the border and I´m immediately reminded of my border crossing from Paraguay back into Argentina back in August 2006. You can find a description of it probably on my blog.

Anyway, we wait in a line, find out it´s not a line and so have to change and some guy wants a dollar a piece for the entry cards we have to fill out. I give them back to him and we wait. Luckily, there was a very nice young Nicaraguan woman named Carla waiting ahead of us and she helped us through the entire process that consisted of waiting in that line and getting the stamp, then walking a kilometer across to the other side where a guy at a small wooden table is checking passports again, then into another line to get a stamp and paying 7 dollars, all the while with people wanting to selling us sweets or overpriced taxi rides or who knows what but she gave us the confidence to say no to all of them and then we had to pay another dollar to pass through some little gate where a guy is yelling that the bus is leaving, now 5 or 6 guys are standing around us wanting to whisk us away to San Juan del Sur but we decided to take the bus with her and then we would have to change in La Virgen.

Oh yeah, I forgot the whole point of this post! We literally crossed through a chain link fence that was broken open and Carla now said, ´Now you´re in Nicaragua¨. I couldn´t believe it! She was on her way home for 1 night to bring money home to her parents in Rivas. I told Franziska that it´s amazing in this part of the world people give money to their parents when usually it is the other way around for us.

We took the bus about a half hour, complete with a young boy of 8 or 9 with cross eyes walking through the bus asking for money and then suddenly we had to get out and wait for a connection but instead of waiting up to a half hour for the 50 cent ride, we paid a taxi 5 dollars for a direct ride to the town. We arrived, rejected the first room we saw because it was dark and depressing and opened up into the kitchen and communal bathroom area and then decided on a hotel around the corner which costs 24 bucks.

It started raining at that moment, around noon and we ordered a large, 1 liter beer for a $1.50. Then a Norwegian girl came and we talked for awhile, then 2 Canadians and then 2 New Yorkers (though they are actually from boston and south carolina) and the 7 of us proceeded to catch a buzz in the early afternoon and then walked down to the beach for lunch. I had a steak with jalapeno sauce which was pretty good.

We went back to take a nap but I mostly just sweated and now it´s after 8pm and we´re going to get a bit to eat soon... now THAT was a border crossing...

Monday, August 04, 2008

Liberia

I am curious how my lunch will feel as it digests. We are the bus stop and have another 90 minutes to kill before our bus to Liberia. The first 3 days of our trip have been fantastic, staying in a Marriot as a gift from my folks. I sure hope the lil lady doesnt get spoiled from that. Our 5 hour bus ride today costs about 5 bucks and hopefully we will be couchsurfing with our first host of the journey. There are very few couchsurfers in this part of the world, a mere 47 in Nicaragua on hospitality club when, in comparison, there are more than 1,200 in Freiburg alone!

San Jose is a chaotic place and only reminded us not to venture too often into the capitals. The most poverty and danger await there though we have felt safe to this point.

It has rained every day so far at least a little bit except for the first day but it is humid as hell but the travel companion has made it all worth it. I also realize that I am a jackass for not having improved my spanish before leaving on the trip, I can usually say what I want but it is an adventure trying to understand what they are saying to me! hahahah

anyway, next update will probably be from Nicaragua, adios!