Saturday, November 19, 2011

This is my camera on Guatemala

I'll try to keep these photos to a minimum.
So I've returned to Xela after 6 weeks on the road, traveling through Guatemala and Mexico.  The trajectory of my journey changed a bit -- I opted not go into Honduras and Belice, as I was enjoying getting to know Guatemala.  I have troubled views of tourism in general at this point, and I was working through these views on my sojourn.  Nevertheless, I'm thrilled to be back in Xela.  I am volunteering almost everyday at a home, called Hogar Abierto (Open Home) for children of Xela -- taking them exercising, running, teaching English, playing games, eating, cooking.  I opted not to return to language school, as I feel as though my Spanish is at a point where I only need to converse in order to improve.  I also interview tomorrow to be an English teacher here in the mornings, while continuing to volunteer in the afternoon and evenings.  But enough about my time here now.  Here's my time passed...

Una caminata a Lago Atitlán

Thorbjorn getting ready for the
first leg of our journey.
I began my travels by embarking on the three-day hike from Quetzaltenango to Lake Atitlán -- about a 50km journey.  It was gorgeous, replete with rolling hills, cloud forests, pueblos, and rivers.  The hike was let by Quetzaltrekkers, the organization with which I now volunteer.  However, it rained 80% of the time, and I got violently ill on the second day.  Let's just say I marked a lot of territory on this journey.  Therefore, there weren't many photos taken.  But I do have a few.

The first day, and the first inklings of rain.

Peering through the cornfields.

The ever-present mist
that followed us like a specter. 

One of 10 river crossings.

Lago de Atitlán

After spending two days recovering from my maladies, I ventured off to explore the lake area.  I got a 2 hours massage, ate some delicious fare, and took little boats to the various points around the lake, my favorite being San Marcos, where I jumped off a 7m platform.  Evidence below.

Some mountain, I don't know the name.  Lo siento.

Jumping off El Trampolín.  All you do while
traveling Guatemala is jump off high / dark /
scary things into water.

Antigua de Guatemala

Or, home of the
scary-assed statues.
This quaint little tourist hell used to be Guatemala's capital until a succession of earthquakes rendered it null and void.  It's been built back up again, but was my least favorite part of Guatemala -- it lacked culture and most importantly -- Guatemalans.  The hostels were loud and noisy.  Over-priced restaurants, jewelry shops everywhere and too many tourists.  There are churches galore to visit, but one always seems enough for me. I inadvertently stumbled upon a beautiful convent -- Santa Clara -- where I wiled away three hours.  And maybe my solitude started to get to me.  You be the judge.

Oh yes, the convent

Volcán Pacaya

I hiked a volcano, ran through volcanic mist, and jumped into the air.

On one volcano, en frente de Pacaya.



Flores was a quaint island town where I ended up staying almost a week.  It's typically a jumping off point for those traveling to Tikal, the Mayan ruins, which is about 1.5 hours north of the city.  Here I read many many books and dove off the docks into the river every afternoon to ward off the heat.  I befriended the German owner of a hotel, and his Guatemala wife, and spent most of my time staying up late chatting with them in Spanish.  I also saw a pet monkey, explored pitch black cave systems, took an artsy photo and rode in the back of a pickup truck for the first time in 20-some-odd years.  Oh, regulationlessness.  

Don't tell PETA.

The cave system where I got lost, due to a rapidly
dying flashlight battery and a temporarily diffused
sense of direction.

But you can call RISD, if you want. 

Pickup.  90km/hr.


You know the drill: temples, temples, temples.

Early morning de-mistification, from atop Temple IV.

Temple: 1.  Jeremy: 1.


More epicness.

Rio Dulce

We often played cards by
 Rio Dulce was a bustling river town.  I only stayed there for a few nights, using it as home base while I explored other locales: namely Aguas Calientes, which is a hot spring waterfall that empties into a refreshingly cool river; and Livingston a coastal spot where I got my first glimpse of the sea since my arrival in Guatemala. Oh, I also got my hair braided.  A maybe recorded a video of my singing in a Caribbean accent.

Aguas Calientes. And yes, I jumped off the top of the
waterfall into the river.  Duh. 

The Caribbean Sea!

We bonded for a half hour.
Then she tried to rip me off.

The braids lasted 2.5 days.

Lanquín & Semuc Champey

We cut her off after one.
 Lanquín had a wild and fun hostel called Zephyr where I made some great friends and spent way more time then I ought to have.  But, it was worth it.  We went tubing, explored bat caves at dusk, traversed a river cave with nothing but lit candles, and had a fantastic Halloween party.  One day we headed off to Semuc Champey -- in my opinion the most beautiful place in Guatemala.  It's an underground river with tide pools, waterfalls, and caves atop.  You can just leap from pool to pool, diving and splashing and being gay.  Oh, and I jumped off of a 12m bridge.

Janus & I in the best of 8 attempted photos. 

Post-Halloween respite with one of the Aussies. 

BFFs for two days: Janus, me, Brenn,
Nico and Jakob. 

I'm a Margaret Atwood book.
Nico is me.
Any questions?

We swam in the pools pictured below.  Some of us naked.

Brenn & Morgan take the plunge.

Can you spot the 16 differences?

Tuxtla Gutiérrez & San Cristobal de las Casas

For my final trick, I headed up to Mexico to visit the dear Christie Moulton.  Between days of cooking the most delicious meals (finally!  It was impossible to cook at any of the hostels I stayed in due to lack of public kitchens) and yoga, stretching to Beyoncé and working out to Rihanna, and traversing the city, I headed to San Cristobal for a few days and then made my journey back to Xela.  Photographic evidence below.

La Corona in Chiapa del Corazón.  Architecturally
inspired by the Spanish Crown.

Chiapa del Corazón: home to the scariest
fucking mannequins in the world.

Christie & I used a homemade bow to harvest this
unknown fruit from a tree.

Peace and fornication.

Oh, just some carrot and squash quesadillas we made.

Indigenous chic.

The Orchid Garden.


Okay, we get it.

The greenhouse, designed by a Los Angeles native!

The key to assimilation: FIT IN.

Mexican huaraches.  For two days I ate nothing more. 

The andador in San Cristobal -- a
carless street with shops galore.

Anyone need some Golden Shower incense?

In conclusion...

Mom, and others, I hope you enjoyed this photograhic trip down my Guatemalan memory lane.  I'm happy to have traveled, but moreso to be back in Xela, putting down some roots, and using these hands of mine that grew too idle over the weeks of traveling.  All my love.

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