La Camioneta con A y B

January 26, 2016

Salud!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brandon @ 8:39 am

We’re at the airport. Quick post to wrap up. It’s morning now and we don’t fly until the afternoon so we plan to check our bags and walk up the street to the national zoo. Yesterday, we visited Yaxha. The style of pyramids and jungle setting of Yaxha are similar to Tikal, but Yaxha is worth visiting for two reasons: (1) it is almost deserted. For the vast majority our little group of four was visibly alone in the jungle. There are no crowds around the temples. (2) You can climb the original limestone stairs on the faces of the temples. In Tikal, you could only climb to the top of the temples via wooden stairs around the back. In Yaxha, you can scramble up to the top on the temples’ facades, and because of (1) you can be entirely alone up there. You can then look down into the courtyards and see nobody else down there. You’re alone on the top of a Mayan pyramid, alone in the jungle. This is an incredible feeling. Our walk through Yaxha was also far more relaxed and less rushed than our visit to Tikal, and the sunset we saw over Lake Yaxha was a fitting end to the trip. Well, it’s time to head home now, to la nieve. Cheers and salud!

January 25, 2016

Ruins

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 10:20 am

This will probably be my last post on this trip. We’ll be riding an overnight bus again tonight instead of staying in a hotel or hostel, and while the bus has WiFi, I doubt I’ll feel much like writing on my laptop. There’s the possibility of writing in the airport, but I think I’m going to try to check my backpack, laptop and all.

Anyway. We’re currently in the Peten region of Guatemala, where the famous Tikal Mayan ruins are. We’re staying on the tiny island of Flores, which is a colorful, relaxed tourist hub village. I really like it. I find island towns fascinating (even if the causeway from the mainland to the island is only about a quarter of a mile long), and I love that we’re able to walk pretty much every street in the village and see everything. Restaurants are a little overpriced compared to what we’re used to, but we managed to score some burritos and a taco for about $3 each last night. Point being, it’s a cute town.

I enjoyed the ruins at Tikal. Our group felt a little rushed around, especially because we were trying to get to the top of one of the higher temples to watch the sunset. Still, I enjoyed seeing a bunch of cool birds and adorable spider monkeys (including a baby!!!), plus the actual ruins themselves. They’ve been amazingly preserved, and there are still loads of the buildings yet to be “unearthed,” so to speak. They’re intact, but they’re covered in dirt and grass, so there are just these pointy hills all over the place. I was about to say “random pointy hills all over the place,” but they’re not random. There’s a certain symmetry to Mayan complexes, and I learned that important points in the complex are constructed to reflect the “Seven Little Sisters” constellation, AKA Pleiades cluster. Because of being guided around by so many different guides and several of them speaking in Spanish, I’ve not gotten a complete picture of ancient Mayan history and cultures, but, as one guide reminded us (in English) yesterday, no one actually knows. It’s all theory.

One thing that has struck me as interesting/thought-provoking is that we visited a bunch of “ruined” churches in Antigua on Saturday, and I’ve been comparing the church ruins to the Mayan ruins. (To provide some background, there were a lot of earthquakes around the Antigua in the late 18th century, so a lot of churches there were destroyed.) I think it’s interesting how, in several thousand years — or maybe even just several hundred years — the Mayan ruins and church ruins will just be… ruins. Maybe the lines will be fuzzier between 8th century Mayan temples and 18th century Catholic churches. It also intrigues me that both represent such life-altering spiritual powerhouses. To think of the immense trouble people went through — and the labor they made other people go through — all to please God/the gods and all to draw themselves closer to him/her/them. It’s mind-boggling in a way. And then to think about what it all meant when they lost it. Theory is that the Mayans had to leave Tikal because of a drought. How did they say good-bye to their homes and temples? Did they carry their gods with them? And how did the 18th-century Antigua Catholics feel when their houses of worship were destroyed? Did they dust themselves and build again? Did they start to gather in homes? Did they leave and find God somewhere else? It’s all been quite fascinating for me…

Well, thanks for reading and following along with us. Love to you all!

January 24, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brandon @ 11:03 pm

Trip ending soon. Tonight is our last night in a hotel. Tomorrow, we take an overnight bus back to Guatemala City and fly back to the States the following day. Guatemala has really impressed me. For a country the size of Ohio, it offers a huge diversity in terrain, climate, and quality of things to see. You have the beautiful Lake Atitlan with its indigenous cultures, the colorful colonial city of Antigua, the famous Mayan ruins in the north, the peerless Semuc Champey in the middle of the country, and beaches including a volcanic black sand one (Monterrico, which we didn’t visit). What other country this size or region this size can boast such a wide range of places so different from one another?

Today, we visited Guatemala’s most famous site, Tikal. Unlike any other ruins I’ve seen, this one is massive and buried deep in the jungle. We had to drive 20KM past the main gate into protected jungle just to reach a visitor center from which we had another long walk further into the forest. For such a famous tourist site, it’s fairly inaccessible (though tours regularly run to the site). Tikal was the site that made me first want to visit Guatemala, several years ago. While that trip didn’t end up happening, it endured as a meaningful magnet pulling me to Central America. It’s not an especially easy part of Guate to get to, either. You either take an expensive ($250) flight from Guatemala City to the only other commercial airport in Guatemala, or you take an overnight bus like we did (this “luxury” bus is completely bizarrely luxurious for Guatemala). Yet many folks do regularly make this trek, even sometimes flying up and back the same day just to see this place far from Guate’s other big sites in the south (Antigua, Atitlan, Monterrico). If you’ve never heard of Tikal, you might recognize it as “that place this part of Star Wars was filmed.” Me, I just enjoyed how unique these pyramids are, so different from those of other cultures, so steep and so imposing. I also loved the jungle setting and we saw an impressive sunset from the top of a temple as well. We’re spending a little more time in the Peten (this northern part of Guate), and seeing another, less-touristed Mayan site tomorrow, Yaxha, before we head home.

I also enjoyed our recent return to Antigua, where we were able to see many of the churches and ruins around the town. I especially enjoyed exploring the extensive complex of these sprawling Ruins of Recoleccion, but there were also many gorgeous facades without interiors to explore. And, of course, the colorful colonial structures as well.

January 22, 2016

More from the Bunny

Filed under: Uncategorized — Conejito @ 9:33 pm

Hola, amigos. It’s me, Bunny again. Boy, have I had fun lately! We are in the capital city, Ciudad de Guatemala, and we visited a good giant map of the country and two museums today. One museum had lots of traditional Mayan weaving stuff, and the other had artifacts from parts of the country. Somewhere the word “archaeological” came up. Whatever that means. We walked a lot, but it was kind of a slow-paced day because Brandon is not feeling well. Yes, please send him good thoughts; he is not 100%. But he is what they call a “trooper” because he still walked a lot and saw all the cool things.

Earlier this week, we saw some old Mayan ruins. I especially liked the ruins in Copan, Honduras. One of the great rulers there went by the name 18 Conejo! Conejo means Rabbit in Spanish!!! What a cool guy. Unfortunately, one of the kings from the OTHER place we went, Quirigua (back in Guatemala) captured Conejo and decapitated him. Which I think means he killed him. Somehow. Anyway, that guy is a jerk because all Conejos are, by nature, awesome. I also liked Copan because it was in a different country, and our tour guide was very nice and spoke slow, clear Spanish. To top off the evening, the humans took me to a bar/restaurant, where we all met some nice ladies who are teachers. I think Amy talked about them recently??

I am a little sad to hear that there is a lot of snow back at our home in Virginia. Bunnies love snow, and I am no exception. However, it is very pleasant to be in a place where the weather is warm and sunny. Amy actually got kind of sunburned today, and her nose is red. I think this is funny, but don’t tell her I said so.

Oh! I just remembered another thing we did! It has been a week ago, but we all went to the Solola market together. We rode a thing called a chicken bus to get there, which confused me because there were no chickens on it, nor did it even look anything like a chicken. Also, we did not eat chicken at any point on the journey or at the destination. So… what’s up with that? Anyway, the market was crowded and busy, but I kind of liked it. However, at the end of my last post, I said I would like to see some bunnies in Guatemala. Well, I did get to see some at this Solola market. It was kind of sad, though, so I didn’t take a photo or anything. The bunnies were tied up with ropes around their necks like collars and leashes, and there were two of them sitting very uncomfortably together in a big basket. This was at a part of the market where they sold live animals like chickens. They also had little kittens and puppies tied up with rope “collars” and “leashes,” though the kittens and puppies got to stay outside the baskets. The whole scene was… different. I was kind of sad, but I heard Amy and Brandon talking to another human later that day about how they had to try not to judge people who treat animals differently. I guess they are right about that, but I still felt kind of sad for those bunnies.

Well, that is enough sad writing. I have enjoyed many beautiful views and some fun long car rides. I have been helping Amy study lines for a play on the car rides, and I keep taking lots of pictures. I think we are all almost ready for bed now, so I will stop writing. Thank you for reading!

January 21, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brandon @ 10:54 pm

We’re on the last leg of the tour. The trip can roughly be divided in three parts. The first consisted of our self-directed time in Lake Atitlan and Antigua. The middle, which we just concluded, was a company-operated tour of the center of the country, including a quick trip into Honduras. Amy mentioned some of this. It was an extremely small group - just us and two Spaniards. The trip was a bit exhausting - we spent a huge amount of time in a van driving around - though doing it through a company certainly minimized our time on the road by efficiently and directly conveying us from A to B. We did see some great sites: Semuc Champey, perhaps the most beautiful place I’ve ever been (cascading crystal clear pools of water connected by waterfalls); I think I won’t even post a photo as it wouldn’t do it justice. We also saw our first Mayan ruins (also, Copan had macaws), got a Honduran stamp in our passports, and spent some time in the Rio Dulce-Livingston area; our river lodge accommodation was another highlight of the trip. We stayed in a gorgeous lodge and spent a lot of time in their bar-on-stilts enjoying great cocktails.

Though the tour was great (albeit hard sometimes to follow since our guides spoke almost entirely in fast Spanish since our tourmates from the Canaries could understand them easily), I’m glad to be back on our own. We have one more day in Antigua (which I would have put next to our previous days there, except that the guided tour only departs on Mondays so it dictated the schedule a bit), a day to explore Guatemala City, and then we head up to the Peten, to see some more Mayan ruins, including the famous Tikal.

p.s. bonus GoPro photos: Lake Atitlan, and a different view of the diving platform;
and a photo from Pacaya Volcano, which we hiked a while ago now.

January 19, 2016

In Good Company

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 10:06 pm

So we have, briefly, hooked up with a tour company for a few days of our trip. We were asked to be outside our hostel in Antigua at 3 a.m. to be picked up by a private driver, who then toted us to Guatemala City. Once there, we then had to wait an hour and a half for our next driver to pick us up. We got to wait in the lobby of a very posh hotel, but waiting there at 4 a.m. wasn’t exactly exciting. Anyway, we got picked up around 5, then I was able to sleep in the van for quite awhile, which made me feel more human. The tour company has, so far, taken us to Semuc Champey and Copan, Honduras. Semuc Champey is this amazing area of sapphire pools of water surrounded by monkey-filled tropical forests. It was a total pain in the butt to get to (mostly because of all the bumpy dirt roads) but well worth the effort. I enjoyed swimming in the water, even when I was joined by very friendly little fishies. Today’s stop was the ruins at Copan, Honduras, which are a renovation of the Mayan structures originally build on the site. Even though most of the tour was given in Spanish, I understood most of it, and I loved what I learned! Fascinating culture, and it seems to have a lot in common with the ancient Egyptians, in some ways. I also enjoyed the macaws that abound around the ruins. They’re beautiful, of course, and I loved seeing them in a more natural context (the ruins double as a bird conservation area for the macaw, the national bird of Honduras).

The company will take us to some more ruins tomorrow (back in Guatemala), and I believe we’ll finish with them at a place called Rio Dulce, literally “sweet river.”

Moving backwards a bit, we had quite a few adventures in Antigua. Brandon has already mentioned a few of them, but I’m going to write about them again! I really enjoyed our time at Choco Museo, where we learned about the history of chocolate, especially in Mayan culture. We got to roast cacao beans, grind them up, and then make a variety of traditional chocolate beverages. We ended that experience by mixing our own chocolates to take home with us. So delish! The second part of that day was devoted to a Guatemalan cooking class. This was incredibly fun! Like the chocolate experience, we definitely had to practice our Spanish to succeed in this class, but also like the chocolate experience, our hosts were very gracious in speaking slowly and occasionally throwing in a few English words as needed. I completely loved the cooking class, and I can’t wait to go home and try out the recipes! I think one of the biggest bombs dropped was that they use FRESH MINT instead of cilantro in their guacamole. Apparently, this is a regional thing, but since B and I both agreed that this was some of the best guac we’ve ever had, there may be something to that. Anyway, we also made tamales, refried beans, tortillas, and plantains with mole. I’ve got a lot of practicing to do when I get home!!! This was truly a great day, and it was made even greater by our fun walk to the central park of Antigua in the evening. There was a live marimba band, and they had these huge puppet-type statues of several popular saints. At one point, some local jovenes (”young guys”) got inside them and made them dance, right in front of us!! I loved it. We wandered into the main church on the square for the last bit of mass, which was also a very special experience. Church is a big deal in Guatemala, and I was excited to experience even a tiny bit of it firsthand.

The following day, we visited a coffee farm, which was extremely educational and well done. Then that afternoon, we hiked up a volcano. I was a little nervous about this experience because I keep being unpleasantly surprised by the physical strenuousness of some of our activities. Fortunately, I think I overshot this one because it was entirely tolerable. I think the worst was not bringing my jacket OR flashlight, but that’s my own stupidity. The goal was to see the sunset from this volcano, but the clouds that moved in planned otherwise. At least we got to roast marshmallows over some of the open vents near the top. It’s one of three active volcanoes in Guatemala, so there’s still a lot going on in there, hence the bursts of warm, toasty air. It was quite a treat (especially when you factor in the pastel-colored, fruit-flavored marshmallows that are popular in Guatemala!). I will say that my awesome, magic, accupressure Psi Bands failed me horribly on this day. I can’t say why, except that maybe I missed the pressure point when I put them on??? I don’t know. Made for an extra challenge. Plus knowing we’d have to get up at 2:30 the next morning. Which, of course, has brought us full circle, back round to the beginning of this post. =D

Not much “commentary” to add to tonight’s post, except to say that we have met some very interesting people recently. Between the coffee tour, the volcano excursion, and the tour company, we’ve encountered quite a variety of other tourists. Some whiny Americans, one amazingly UN-whiny 4-year-old, another singer and lover of world choral music, a sweet gay couple from Spain whose Spanish is very hard to understand, and a woman who just took off from Minnesota to see Guatemala on her own. Because why not. This evening, we settled into a cozy basement pub/restaurant, run by a German ex-pat who brews his own beer, and after enjoying our delicious food and beverage, we were joined at our table by two young women who teach in the bilingual school here in Copan. It was so interesting to hear about their lives and their experiences here, and I enjoyed talking to people who are not tourists but not exactly ex-pats either. So fun!

January 16, 2016

Having it both ways

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brandon @ 10:07 pm

UPDATE: photos added

We’re in Antigua now. Compared to Pana, which felt like a port town (or something like Hoi An), Antigua feels like a city. It’s still small (45k) but comparing it to Pana is night and day. Pana (12k) has a couple of main streets, a few popular gringo hang out spots, a laid back atmosphere. Antigua feels huge by comparison with its urban grid structure and long blocks. While I kind of miss the settling into Pana and having our two or three spots we like to frequent, Antigua is ripe for exploration. It’s beautiful (La Merced). Pana wasn’t, though it sat on a beautiful lake. There is one echo between the two: both are in view of volcanoes (Antigua’s Volcan Fuego spews smoke and we can watch it from the roof of Casa Amarilla). Antigua’s cobblestones and colors contrast Pana’s bare market stalls.

After enjoying jumping into Lake Atitlan from the 30-foot platform Amy described, we headed to Solola’s market, which as Amy said was gloriously tourist-free. It was one of the highlights of the trip so far. Coming to Antigua has illuminated another of the trip’s highlights: la idioma Espanol. I am incredibly grateful to be competent in Spanish and I think sometimes in Guate I take this for granted. I’ve never been on a trip before where it was truly essential that I know the language. Everywhere else, for the most part, I could to some extent expect that many folks would speak English if pressed. Perhaps it’s because we try really hard to engage folks in Spanish, but here I absolutely don’t feel that is an option I should take for granted. But even in the most touristy of places (we did two today - a highly polished seminar where we learned about and created chocolate, and an incredible cooking class where the wine kept flowing; we made this) we are greeted in Spanish, and even when we struggle there is only the most minimal effort to try to translate… and I love it. I wouldn’t love it if I didn’t speak the language but because I do I feel vindicated in having learned it to begin with. This is absolutely one of my favorite things about this trip thus far.

January 15, 2016

Swimming and Sunshine and Circus and Shopping

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 10:44 pm

The past couple days have been wonderful! We walked through a couple of the villages surrounding Lake Atitlan yesterday, ending in the village of San Marcos. We had read that, just outside the main village, there is a great spot for “rock diving” into a very deep swimming hole. Well… what we found was a wooden boardwalk-looking apparatus, christened “El Trampolin.” I cannot tell you how high above the water it was, and I think I’m content not knowing. It scared the **** out of me to look over the edge and consider jumping off into the water, but I did it anyway!! Not quite as heart-stopping as certain moments of the ziplining had been, but it still took my breath away. It was maybe a… four-second(??) fall, maybe five??? I enjoy the first two seconds; think “high-dive at summer camp” distance. The final two or three seconds, when the water was so much more quickly approaching my body, were the scary parts. Anyway, I landed in the water without much problem, and I vowed that that would be the end of that. Fortunately, I found a cozy nook a few yards a way where I could safely dive like a normal person and swim and swim and swim to my heart’s content. I think my heart’s content ended up being about 20 minutes, but still… it was utterly pure bliss.

While swimming was the absolute highlight of the day, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention our little walk/hike adventure to get to the swimming. We started in Santa Cruz, which must be Spanish for “really ginormous hill” because that’s all this village seemed to be. Okay, just kidding, but it was still a long, steep climb up to the actual village. For me, it was worth it because I got to see inside one of the most fascinating churches ever. It was dark and crumbling down, and there were clusters of statues and candles everywhere and sashes draped across the ceiling. I saw a pair of brown leather sandals near the door and heard a female voice (possibly praying) somewhere, as well as some music, but I saw no one. Somehow, that little church has been haunting me!

From there, we returned to the lakeshore and started the beautiful, scenic trek to Jaibalito. This involved walked across rickety bridges and walkways right over the water, and we got to pass through and in front of some beautiful gardens, including a small patch of banana trees! Eventually, this all gave way to a dusty mountain trail that I thought for sure would lead us to some Mayan priest’s hideaway cave or… something. I was wrong, and we did get to Jaibalito. The appeal of Jaibalito is that there are no taxis or tuk-tuks or buses or anything, and it’s one of the villages that has remain largely unbesmirched by tourism. Santa Cruz is actually quite similar, and it was really cool to see locals living their lives without the desperate need to sell us intruding white people stuff. In Jaibalito, we also encountered a lot of coffee groves, which was super cool. All in all, I enjoyed this walking part of our day, and we were really lucky to have such excellent weather for it.

Yesterday ended with a trip to the Circus Bar, back in Panajachel. It’s popular with both tourists and locals for its delicious pizza and its live, Spanish-influenced music. We spent hours there, replenishing the day’s calorie deficit with pizza and rum and enjoying the music of several gifted performers.

Today saw us venturing via chicken bus (una camioneta) to the nearby village of Solola for their bi-weekly market. This is not the kind of market where you stock up on tourist trinkets and get bombarded with artisans and salespeople offering “good price” or “you like this one?” No, this is where the locals come to do their own shopping, and they will buy everything from tomatoes to dried fish to bras to live chickens. It was INSANE. I actually had to just quit after awhile because it got a little crowded/pushy-shovey/”lots of time under one roof”-y for my taste. I wouldn’t trade the experience, though! It was colorful and bustling, and the smells and sounds were so varied and interesting! The “backdoor traveler” in me was also a little proud that we saw no other tourists there. At. All.

The rest of the day was spent wandering aimlessly around Panajachel, then we caught a shuttle bus thingy to Antigua, where we are currently relaxing. We have a great hostel, and we enjoyed a delicious and cheap meal of pupusas before crashing. As always, more adventures to come… My only goals for the evening are to publish the post that Bunny wrote last night to try to figure out (via the Internet) the Gautemalan fascination with fireworks.

January 14, 2016

Bunny’s Eye View

Filed under: Uncategorized — Conejito @ 6:10 pm

Hello, world! This is Bunny. Or in Spanish, “Conejito.” I am traveling to Guatemala with Brandon and Amy, and I have asked for the opportunity to post on the blog. I am currently petitioning that this blog’s title be changed to “A, B, y C,” since “Conejito” starts with “C.” I am currently awaiting a response. I have accompanied them to places like South Dakota, Wyoming, Vietnam, and Cambodia; and it’s about time I got a little more credit. Anyway. We are all still travel buddies. I like to travel, and I like to have my photo taken. Usually, Amy helps me with the photos, and she is helping me write this blogpost today, too. I thought I would tell you a little about MY adventures in Gautemala so far.

EDIT: Because all of my stunning photos are on Amy’s phone, we are having trouble uploading them to the blog. Until we figure it out, just… use your imaginations. Haha. No seriously. Enjoy my excellent writing, humans.

My first big adventure was hiking up a mountain called Indian Nose, so we could watch the sunrise. The hike up was really boring because it was dark, and I couldn’t see anything. I was beginning to think it was all a hoax and that humans must be quite stupid to go walking around for so long in the dark. Finally, we stopped at the top of a high mountain, and the sky started to get lighter. The light parts of the sky changed colors a lot, and I was pretty sure that we had seen the sunrise. It was beautiful! I accepted that humans may not be so stupid after all. Just as I was certain we’d seen as much sunrise as we were going to see — it was very foggy, so I thought the pretty colors were basically the main show — I heard Amy gasp. “Woooowww,” she said. “What? Just the view?” Brandon asked. “No,” said Amy, “the actual sunrise!” Brandon and I looks, and, sure enough, there was a VERY bright reddish orange-ish arc of light starting to show behind one of the mountains. Imagine, being up there all that time and not even realizing we hadn’t seen the sun yet! It was very amazing.

After the sunrise hike, Brandon and Amy took me around the village called San Pedro. I was very interested in the churches there, and the Catholic church has a big garden in front of it. I thought for sure I would meet some other bunnies there, but no such luck. There was a huge statue of San Pedro (Saint Peter) in the garden, and I liked it so much, I told Amy I would take my own photo there. I think I look great. I heard Brandon say something about “the patron saint of chicken buses,” then Amy telling him a story about Christ predicting Peter would deny him three times before the cock crowed. I don’t know what “deny” means, but whatever it was must have happened very early because we have heard some SERIOUS cock-crowing in the very early mornings here in Guatemala! (Also, the national beer of Guatemala is called “Gallo,” which means “rooster” in Spanish. That is maybe important in this conversation, too.)

Before leaving San Pedro, I insisted that I have photos taken in our hostel, “Hostel Fe.” I really liked the painting on the wall of the room. However, once we got settled into our hostel in the next town we went to, Panajachel, I decided I liked that room even more. Very comfy beds! Also very clean.

Near Panajachel is this cool place called something like a Natural Reserve. I LOVED this place! So many plants! And lots of butterflies. We even saw monkeys, but I was a little scared of them, so no photo. Still, with monkeys, I thought for SURE that I’d see other bunnies. Again, no such luck. Oh well. Amy and Brandon wanted to do this utterly stupid thing called ziplining. I’m not terribly clear on it, but I believe it somehow involved flying. I said, “No no no, absolutely not, No way Jose” (that’s a Spanish name). “Bunnies do NOT fly. Also, you might drop me.” The dummies locked me away in some closet with their purse and backpack, so I didn’t even get to enjoy them making absolute fools of themselves. I at least got a consolation prize: jugo de pina. That’s pineapple juice.

Apparently, drinking beverages is a big deal in Guatemala. The humans certainly seem to think so. Later that same day, I drank more pineapple at a place called Pana Rock, only this drink was called something like… pina colada. This morning, we tried Guatemalan coffee, and A y B could not agree on whether it was better with or without sugar. I prefer it with sugar.

I think that is all for now. Oh, except that I got to ride a boat today. I mean, I’ve been riding boats all week, but this one was the first I got a photo with. I was feeling especially nautical today. I was feeling LESS nautical when we walked across these walkways that were basically just boards sticking out of the water. I guess I’m lucky that I’m so good at hopping.

Well, the quest continues to find another bunny in Guatemala. Until then, thank you for reading.

January 13, 2016

Nail File

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 10:06 pm

EDIT: This post is, basically, a run-down of things that have been difficult for me but how I welcome the opportunity to be challenged when I travel. I want to add, here at the beginning, that I love this place, and I love how laid-back we’ve been able to be here so far. The people and the afternoons are warm, and the drinks and the nighttimes are cool. This area of the country is very “wander-able,” and it’s a feast for the eyes and ears. Okay. Now on to my, uh… reflections? Meditations?

Day Two. Okay, technically Day Three, but FULL DAY Two. I feel like I’ve already been here a week. Kind of. It’s that weird time warp thing that happens when you travel. Anyway, those of you who’ve followed along with these travel blogs of ours before (mostly our parents) may have noticed that I tend to write at least one “Well, today was a really hard day for me” post every trip. With it only being Full Day Two, I don’t think I’ve yet earned the right to say something like that, but I think I can say that I’ve had a few difficult experiences on the trip so far.

First of all, we got up super early to hike yesterday, and I swear, it had to be one of the most challenging hikes of my life. It was short but very steep, and there was one stretch that was ALL STEPS. I hate steps. Especially when it’s pre-sunrise, and you don’t know how many steps you have left!!! Anyway, I huffed and I puffed and I very slowly trod on up behind our guide, and after we all stopped to rest a bit, we trudged the final few yards to the top of a very pointy little mountain and awaited the sunrise. We weren’t disappointed, as this was possibly one of the most magnificent sunrises I’ve ever seen in my life. But still… it was a lot of work (and a little embarrassment, being by far the fattest person up on that mountain and definitely the slowest).

Second so-far difficult thing. Ziplining. Yeah, yeah, ziplining. How awesome, how fun, it’s like you’re flying, blah blah blah. I thought I thought all those things, and I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. Nope. For starters, more hiking. More hiking that was steep and difficult and, this time, hot. After what felt like a six-hour hike (I think it was about half an hour), we finally made it to our first line. I won’t bore you with the details of each line, but I will tell you that I screwed up on all of them. I could not get the braking thing down (I’ve never been on the kind where you have to brake by applying pressure simply with one gloved hand to the cable), and I kept spinning uncontrollably! Yes, I tried all the tricks to right myself, but… I just kept plopping around out there. The other weird part of the ziplining was how scared I felt. I would generally say that I, while sometimes a little animated, am not a jumpy person. I can keep my head and remain relaxed under pressure. I’m not prone to fears or anxiety. Something about this ziplining experience, though, brought out a whole new side of me. A scared side. It wasn’t that I felt unsafe; I knew all the proper precautions had been taken and that nothing bad could actually happen to me. It was more of this primal fear that can only really be described as, “I’m flying, which I’m not supposed to do, and I’m flying faster by the second, which I’m really not supposed to do. None of this adds up. I must be about to die.” Fortunately, modern mechanics took over, and I survived.

Then… There was our pitiful attempt to take a boat from our current village, Panajachel, to another village, Santiago. Long to short, we didn’t know about one of the boat docks at Panajachel and had to do some extra boating around from village to village to get to our destination. Once there, we saw the sights we intended to see (which involved haggling a bit with a tuk-tuk driver/tour guide) and eventually made our way back. It was kind of frustrating, and it tried my patience. (Perhaps my nerves were a little worn after flying over the nature reserve earlier in the day??)

On one of the boat rides, we were joined by two posh British chicks, who were dressed in attire I had been warned was inappropriate and used the bow as their own personal sundeck and selfie studio. Apparently these vacation mating rituals involved cuticle care because of the girls was obsessed with filing her nails for awhile. I was a little miffed because I couldn’t understand how nails could be so important when you’re in such a beautiful place. But I had to remind myself that their whole preening routine was none of my darn business and get on with it.

And it hit me later on: Filing is not such a bad thing. Perhaps I mean in a… metaphorical sense. I have felt so challenged the past couple of days, with the early rise and the hikes and the haggling and the newfound fear of ziplining, and I remember other times in my travels that I have felt challenged. Sometimes physically, but there have been mental and emotional challenges, too. One of the mental ones of this trip is having to communicate in Spanish way more than I ever have in my life. There have certainly been others on other trips. Anyway, in these challenges, I’m reminded of why I do this. To file myself down. Whether it’s pushing myself an extra few yards in a pre-dawn hike up a steep mountain or bumping up against people I don’t fully get or even like all that much (in tour groups, hostels, markets, etc), I feel like I’m letting myself be roughed up a bit for the purpose of being shaped into something better. Travel isn’t the only way to do this, of course, but it’s the way I’m doing it at the moment.

So, to that chick with the nail file (that I probably made some unfair assumptions about), thanks for the object lesson. Also, have fun and try to learn a little something about this awesome place.

P.S. I’m too tired to proofread. Y’all can figure what I’m saying, I think.

P.P.S. Bunny is on this trip with us. At some point, I will share some Bunny photos.

Bienvenidos

Filed under: Uncategorized — Brandon @ 7:52 pm

Today is our third day in Guatemala and at Lake Atitlan. I want to share how incredibly impressed I am thus far by this country. This is my first independent (without a tour company) trip to a developing country and based on experiences I’ve had in other developing countries, I was anxious about touts. So far, there are virtually none in Guate. Those that I have encountered will generally leave you alone after one or two “No gracias”es. Arriving at the airport: no touts outside (one or two folks approached us asking if we needed transportation but were easily dismissed as we waited for our pre-arranged driver to retrieve his car). Walking down the streets of Panajachel: no touts whatsoever (occasionally someone trying to show you the menu of their restaurant). Approaching the public dock at Pana: you can easily walk past the touts; they don’t approach or follow you.

Most of our trip has been pretty laid back. Amy especially likes this. We’ve been here for two full days plus arrival day and we’ve really only “done” three things: (1) hiking to the top of Indian Nose to see the sunrise over Lake Atitlan, (2) ziplining through canopies and with beautiful views of the lake and volcanoes, and (3) taking a boat to Santiago Atitlan where we had a tuk-tuk driver toured us around the town for about an hour. Other than that, we’ve just walked around, enjoyed some drinks in San Pedro and Pana, wandered aimlessly. The ambiance is really nice. None of the places we’ve visited are overrun with tourists or Westerners; there are enough around to make a nice mix while still letting us feel like we are surrounded by authentic local culture. We’ve seen a lot of indigenous Mayans in traditional dress. We considered going to Santa Catarina Palopo, where all the local women wear a striking blue, but ended up not going… primarily because the main reason we wanted to go was to see the blue blouses and we ended up running into a large number of women from Santa Catarina waiting outside the Dispensa Familiar supermarket in Pana waiting for rides home. It seems, anecdotally from observing folks and from talking to our drivers and guides that there are more Mayans than Latinos here.

Lake Atitlan is beautiful. I understand why Atitlan is a haven for retiring expats. Our first night, we stayed in a place right on the lake, and we enjoyed some drinks on their bar which was propped up directly on top of the lake by stilts (then, as Amy said, I jumped off their diving platform into the lake). But the other major attraction to Atitlan is that many of the villages that surround the lake are still bastions of Mayan culture. When we were in Santiago, one of the things we saw was the roving shrine (every year a shaman chooses a new “host family”) to Saint Maximon. Though the Catholic church refuses to accept Maximon’s sainthood, he is a folk/cult figure in many parts of El Mundo Maya. This is his story (I’m quoting Wikipedia): “The legend has it that one day while the village men were off working in the fields, Maximón slept with all of their wives. When they returned, they became so enraged they cut off his arms and legs. Following this, he somehow became a god.” Though it’s not clear how he became a god, it’s apparently important to keep him well stocked with rum and tobacco, presumably to not piss him off and incur his wrath. I love this guy and hereby petition the Church to accept his sainthood, sins and all.

January 12, 2016

Psi’m a Believer

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 11:29 am

Woohoo! We’re here. We got here yesterday afternoon, landed at Guatemala City airport. We had arranged for a private ride from there to Panajachel, a village on the big, beautiful Lake Atitlan. Our driver was very friendly, and he spoke refreshingly slow, clear Spanish for us. We were able to carry on several interesting conversations with him, all in Spanish. This was especially encouraging after I spent our entire flight from Atlanta to GC trying desperately to understand the 8(or so)-year-old girl who sat next to me and was traveling alone. She was precious, but she definitely talked a mile a minute.

Anyway, for those of you who know me fairly well, you’ll know that one of my biggest fears about this trip was my motion sickness. It’s never caused loads of problems when we’ve traveled, but I knew I was signing up for a trip full of very bumpy, curvy mountain roads and several jostling boat rides. After some research, I decided on Psi Bands. They’re like those Sea Bands, the things that look like tennis wristbands with little knots on them, in that they rely on the anti-nausea accu-pressure point on your wrists. I like the Psi Bands better because they’re more attractive, and they’re adjustable. So, now after three intense, mountainous car rides and one speedy boat trip across Lake Atitlan, I think I can safely say… HOLY CRAP, THESE THINGS ARE AMAZING!!! My life has changed.

Well, I don’t want to waste all of this sunshine-y, 70-degree morning writing on my dumb laptop, so I will cut this short. Aside from my (SO FAR) being cured of motion sickness, I can report that we hiked up a very steep mountain to see the sunrise this morning, and we walked around the two main churches here in San Pedro, the village where we spent the night. Our hostel has been a lot of fun, and they have great food and drinks. Brandon jumped off their porch into the Lake; he is very brave, and I wussed out. There will bea video posted soon. Perhaps when we return to the village of Panajachel, we’ll have more time to post more photos, videos, anecdotes, etc.

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