Well, we’ve been back from Guatemala and Chiapas for about a week now, so time for a recap.
Photos taken: 632 (well, that would actually be “photos kept.” Many more were taken but culled as duplicates or not that great. The Flickr “best of” set was further culled to just about 160.)
Stayed in five different hotels, ranging in price from $6 to $35. Saw about eight cities/towns (Guatemala City, Antigua, Panajachel, Santiago Atitlan, Jocotenango, Chichicastenango, Santa Cruz del Quiche, and San Cristobal de las Casas).
Gifts for friends and family and colleagues made up the bulk of our purchases, but we got stuff for ourselves, too. Purchases included coffee and huipiles (traditional Guatemalan women’s blouses, hand-woven on backstrap looms) and jewelry (amber, silver, and beaded) and ceramics and wooden masks and weavings and EZLN souvenirs and posters and a bottle of really smooth Guatemalan rum (Zapata Centenario, aged 15 years). I had actually packed pretty well, so when I left, my pack was really pretty small, but by the end of the trip, it was well-stuffed, and we ended up putting a few things into the back-up duffel bag.
Food was pretty good, we ate in fancy restaurants and also at street and market food stalls/carts. Guatemalan food doesn’t hold a candle to Mexican, though; it was relatively bland, while the Mexican food was really tasty and flavorful. Loved the street cart tacos—eighteen tacos (nine each for R. and I) and a couple sodas, and it was just 45 pesos (about three dollars). Mexican tacos are different than Taco Bell tacos—they’re a couple small corn tortillas, warmed up, and with a bit of chopped meat (pork or beef or chicken or tongue, though we also had hard-boiled egg tacos) and maybe some chopped cabbage. You then put on a selection of sauces and/or lime juice. Small, but cheap and tasty. We did both get sick at the end of the trip; I’m pretty much recovered, though R. still is experiencing the effects…
Highlights include being right up close to lava oozing out of the Pacaya volcano. Close enough to poke a stick into it and roast marshmallows over it. Exploring a cave at a Mayan ruin that’s still used as a ceremonial center…the cave was all lit with candles and filled with incense and smoke. Seeing Maximon, a syncretic Mayan/Catholic “saint” whose statue gets prayed to and gifted offerings of booze and cigarettes. Walking through the central park of San Cristobal de las Casas and hearing the marimba band playing. Going to the autonomous Zapatista town of Oventik and seeing how they’re coming with their indigenous-rights revolution. Seeing the beautiful Mayan ruins of Palenque (as sick as we were that day…).
Stuff I brought but didn’t use: I didn’t use my monocular once, and I used my watercolor set only sporadically to color in drawings in the journal. Brought one too many maps, and didn’t need a big chunk of the Guatemalan guidebook (brought it anyway, just in case we set out for the Peten). Only used the laundry detergent once. Spent a lot of time writing in the journal—maybe next time just go with bullet points of things we did/things to remember, rather than narration? So I maybe could have trimmed my pack by a pound or two. Could have brought one less shirt, but otherwise we’re getting really good with the whole packing thing! Man, if I hadn’t bought a bunch of stuff, I could have done the whole trip with just a large-ish day pack.
If we go back (and we’d like to!), we think rather than biting off so much, we’d use San Cristobal as a base, and maybe take some day trips or multi-day trips to places in Chiapas (the coast, Lagos de Montebello, Palenque, or the more remote sites of Bonampak and Yaxchilan). And maybe not for as long…we were pretty exhausted and ready to come home after two weeks, though part of that was being ill the last couple days.
Anyway, Chiapas has tons to recommend it. Guatemala was cool, too, and we liked parts of it, but overall, it was just rougher. More dirty, more crowded, more poor, more difficult to get around. Coming into Mexico was really like coming into a First-World country.
Ugh. Nasty riding in today. Not slippery at all, but really, really wet. Snow sticks to my glasses so by the end of the ride I can’t see at all…I have to look over the tops of the glasses to see where I’m going (clear, but completely out of focus). Shoes wet, snow and road dirt all over the back of my jacket… I really need to take some time and fix up my snow bike, including installing the rear fender and fixing the brakes (can’t use the rear brake right now, which makes for fun coming down off the Hill…).
The Adventurists (www.theadventurists.com) have a new “race,” titled The Mototaxi Junket and the Search for the Lost City of Asuncion (But Not Really Because It’s the Capital of Paraguay). It’s from Lima, Peru, to (duh) Asuncion, Paraguay. Four thousand kilometers (2,485 miles), over the Andes, deserts, and “the most dangerous road in the world” (though like all Adventurist rallies, there’s no set route, you just choose however you think you can make it). With a time limit of two weeks. And the vehicle you use is a 125(ish)-cc mototaxi (“Invented in Peru and not really perfected anywhere”).
I want to do this race! (Though to be honest, I would have preferred to do their previous South American race, the Ruta del Sol, which was Peru to Rio de Janerio in a VW Beetle. Could carry a second person and more stuff. And be enclosed. Ah, well…)
I really like riding my bike in the snow. I love the *crump* sound of the bike tires in the snow, and the *crackle* of riding over ice. Yesterday afternoon, coming home about 12:30, there was about six inches of snow on the ground, and riding down the Cherry Creek bike path was lovely…the tires just sank through the snow, and you’re just gliding through it. Little more resistance than normal, but otherwise fine. Up on the streets, though, it was a bit different, as the cars had packed it down…still okay riding snow, as long as it doesn’t break up. Once it’s packed down and then breaks up, it gets slippery. But made it all the way home; even managed to ride it up the hill between Lincoln and Sherman on 12th (though there was a car behind me that I think was having trouble…). Anyway, 20-minute commute; Rocky was on the bus for like an hour and a half to get home from Auraria.
This morning, a little dodgier, as there was more of the broken-up stuff around. Had to get off 12th and go back to 11th, where the snow was more packed. But still, 20 minutes in beats any kind of driving.
Page has a couple of links to brilliant artists who cut up and layer various musical videos from YouTube (everything from old television performances to guys singing in the shower to amateur “how to play the bass guitar” videos) to create songs. Using the videos themselves as instruments—meta, and very cool. Good music, too!
Three days left, and then we head off to Guatemala! I am SO ready to go…I’ve had everything packed for the past week (like, literally packed. In the backpack, sealed up and ready. Clothes I’m wearing the day of are in a pile on top. Carry-on bag is packed.). Apartment is cleaned. Newspaper and mail are put on hold. Just a few things left to do at the end of the week: clean the cat box, empty the fridge, buy some stuff for lunch on the plane, that sorta thing, but otherwise…woot!
It’s fun getting ready to travel like this. I’ve put handy tabs in the guidebook for the cities we’ll visit, so we can find them easily. Copies of street maps for the cities we’ll be in so we’re not always hauling out the guidebook to see where we are. Hotels are already marked in order of preference, so we’ll know where to go first when we get into a city. Things we want to do highlighted. Hopefully, all this will mean much more efficient travel—not as much time spent sitting looking at the guidebook trying to figure out what to do or where to go next. We’ll find out…