Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Buses, Germans, ¿and Pineapple Pie?

At times on my travels so much happens during a short period of time that by the time I sit down to write about it so many other things have happened that I quickly forget what I was originally going to write about. So here is a brief list of things that I remember I wanted to share (sadly there are probably twice as many that I simply do not remember right now).

- I was hit by a car in Xela. It was scary as hell, but thanks to my superpowers I survived with only a sore shoulder.

- I went to the Sunday market in Chichi. It was crazy!! I met this German guy there who I had bumped into the night before in Xela. At the time I thought he only spoke Spanish and German, so we spent a bit of time trying to converse in Spanish before, to my surprise and relief he started speaking English, though we practiced Spanish as much as possible all day. We spent the day bus hopping through Guatemala (nine buses four destinations).

- I fled Xela after two days with my tail between my legs. It was super cold, and as I am doing a six day trek next week through the highlands I decided I wanted a bit of warmth first. I hit Monterrico Monday night and have been loving it. I am splurging a bit and spending $8 dollars a night on a room. It is super nice with a great pool! Monterrico is deserted, there are like maybe 6 or 7 travelers here. Apparently on the weekend the place is packed with people from Guatemala City. I ran into a fellow traveler (Paul from UK) who I have been meeting everywhere I go (except Xela). He is headed to San Salvador and I am thinking about tagging along and, doing a blitzkrieg strike into El Salvador for a couple of days.

- I am giving a lot of thought to trying to fly to Cuba in about three weeks, and skipping Nicaragua. Castro will only be alive for a bit longer and if there is ever a time to go NOW is it.


Finally, I want to quickly try to explain the emotional events that are occuring on my travels. I have had many great times (now is one of them), but also a lot of bad. The sense of isolation that I feel every single day can be, at times, incredibly overwhelming. The week I spent learning Spanish in San Pedro was the worst. Even when I hung out with fellow travelers or locals I felt completely alone, but not in a good way. Yet, despite this I can definitely say the best experiences I have had have been when I am alone (or at least without fellow travelers around). For example, I have been taking only Chicken buses through Guatemala, something that I quickly learned most travelers only do when necessary. I have maybe seen three or four other travelers on the chicken buses. Meeting locals on these buses is great and, excuse the language but there really is no other way to say this, the bus drivers are fucking insane! If you want an adrenaline rush forget extreme sports, ride a bus in Guatemala! As a rule they pass on blind corners at 80-90 km per hour whenever they get the chance. Any bus designed to hold 50 people can easily accomodate 125. On Monday I held two children because we were so crammed in and their poor 100 pound mom was dying trying to hold them both. Memories like this, as well as the overwhelming kindness of the people I meet on these buses have been the best experiences I have had.

Arriving in Monterrico at about 6:00 p.m. Monday night I quickly discovered the town was deserted. After checking into the hostel where I stayed the first night I decided to find some food. Despite the fact that I was the only one in the town I was filled with happiness from the wonderful experiences I had had on the buses all day (and it was warm and humid, two very welcome sensations after the freezing temperatures in Xela). I found a small restraunt, which of course was completely empty, and using my new found Spanish skills I started a conversation with the two women owning it (for those of you who don't know I should mention that these restraunts also double as their houses, so you basically just sit on their front porch). I said that all I wanted was a huge plate of beans and rice with a basket of hot tortillas. They were more than happy to accomodate my request and soon I was stuffing myself on an incrediblely simple, yet delicious meal. I savored every bite, taking in the flavors as if I had never eaten anything so wonderful in all my life. Afterward, I paid the bill, which was 15Q ($2 dollars) including a Coke and walked back to my hotel as happy as I have ever felt in my life, enjoying every noise, smell, sound, and sight. A truly wonderful night, one which will not be forgotten no matter how many other wonderful nights I have!

1 comment:

Daniel said...

August,

Great post. Keep the news coming. A couple of items to note:

1) Stay away from heavy moving objects.

2) A generation ago I could report on an insane bus trip through the mountains of Mexico. Incredibly, these drivers seem to have a normal life span.

3) Travel to Cuba is err... interesting but made a bit difficult by US regulations. Check your email for info.

4) We've shared many meals of rice and beans. What else would you order?

Ciao,

Dad