Friday, July 17, 2009

Guatemala - May 2009

Infamous chicken bus.

May 12th, I wrote home:


Well, I brought all the wrong clothes. It´s cold, maid brought second heavy blanket yesterday, overcast, and pouring rain by 3 every afternoon. I brought bathing suit, shorts, 5 tank tops, and am ready for 2 weeks of outdoor activities. Not! Derik says I brought the rainy season. Beats bringing the Swine Flu, I guess. . .

The few warm clothes I have are getting pretty ripe. As am I. Would love to do laundry, or have the maid do it, but no way to dry them. Everything damp and wet where I am.

Took my first tuk tuk ride the other day - in a flying tuk tuk. Had no idea one could go that fast in a roller skate! Five Quetzals any where you want to go in Pana.

Took a shuttle to Antigua yesterday, what a beautiful antique city, reminded me of Patzcuaro. The drive was 2.5 hours of absolute lush forested beauty. Saw a wild Guacamaya circling the canyon. Narrow highway, small villages along the way, lots of agriculture, farmers, dogs, horses, and little villages.

Antigua has fabulous restaurants, coffee, architecture, hotels, shopping, and sights. Had a good time, Derik gave me a list of ´things to do´and between downpours I got most of them done as well as a few photos taken. Ate at Fonda Calle Real, tipico Guatemalan food, gorgeous flavors, spices, and presentation.

This is truly a stunningly beautiful place! Intoxicating, even. As are the people!!!

After a couple of rainy dreary days playing dominoes with Derik and shopping, I awoke today to blue skies and sun. Caught a lancha for Santiago Atitlán and slapped across the lake at high speed for 40 minutes.

The trip probably had the most beautiful scenery of any place I´ve ever seen in my life. Santiago lies across from Pana, between 2 volcanoes, and alongside a very deep and long inlet. The volcanoes are green and lush - and we know why - and studded with milpas and frijole patches as well as what looks like a few lakeside dotcom homes. Many dugout canoes with standing pescaderos poling their way along dotted the lake itself, with a few launches coming and going.

The hike up into town was not particularly interesting, sides of the narrow street packed with vendors, booths, and weavers and artists hawking, beckoning, and calling out to passing tourists things like. . .¨Berry cheep! or Barato! or Hola Amiga! ¨ Sigh. I hiked all the way up into town and watched the Mayan life unfold in the street, down the alleyways, and within the tuk-tuks. So colorful and so so interesting. Heard languages I can´t even begin to imitate, there is a little click deep in the throat. . .

I hailed a tuk-tuk (took-took) and he took me down mud hillsides and over muddy rock pathways into the countryside. We got stuck once, but we were off and tuk-tuking again shortly. He took me on a tour of the devastation of the village that was demolished and buried in 2005 when Hurricane Stan came through this area and slammed into a volcano bringing most of it down into this village. It buried hundreds of homes and 3000 people as it happened at 3 in the morning. This one hit a bulls eye in terms of loss of life and destruction. Even in Pana 300 houses along the river were lost and the survivors waited 21 days for food, water, power, and help while sleeping in the rain and mud of the river bed. Kids lost their limbs, babies carried out into the lake, furniture, cars, clothes, whole houses out into the lake. Kira says she can take me for a walk along the river now and point out colorful pieces of cloth sticking out of the riverbed that are bedspreads covering a whole bed buried there.

Outside of Santiago we stopped in particularly devastated areas where you can walk on the tin roof of a buried house and measure the mud that still stands in houses - taller than I. Nothing left of this area but a shell. Municipal Police, Hospital, homes, shacks, nothing left but the shell. Must have been so hard for these fine and noble people.

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