.Map.

Here’s a map to give some perspective as to where I am… The yellow is where I’ve been, the orange where I’m going… And I’m supposedly a little over halfway done time-wise… but the second half looks like it’s gonna require a whole lot more mileage per day 🙂

MapPrelim

Mas Fotos

I’m now in a town called San Pedro la Laguna… which is on the shore of Lago de Atitlan… “the most beautiful lake in the world” if the locals will have anything to say about it… and who can argue… I haven’t had a clear day to take a picture fully showing how beautiful the lake really is yet… but I do have some pictures from around sunset that I’ll post along with this entry…

I’ve somehow got it in my head that I want to work on a farm this summer… specifically an organic farm… and I e-mailed 3 farms in the Riverhead area and one has already gotten back to me with a promising response… so I’m really excited about that… even if the pay is really bad, at least I won’t be doing something I hate just for the sake of money… not that I’m not going to need as much as I can get when I get back… but still…

Before I left Xela to come here, I visited the Natural History Museum… which is really, really creepy… the room with all the dead stuff most of all… I got some pictures even though I kept getting yelled at by the old man watching the place for taking them… I just couldn’t miss out on pictures of things like the Devil of the Sea… a creature which surely does not and has not ever actually existed… alongside specimens such as a stuffed pair of piglet twins who share one head… and a stuffed dog… adequately labeled “Chow Chow”… the most disturbing of all, however, is a human fetus in a jar… which I actually think IS real… Pictures of all these wonderful things can be found below…

I also climbed up to a vegetarian restaurant on a hill overlooking the city… I’ve included a couple pictures from that trek, as well as a picture from my hotel balcony showing the house where I stayed while I was studying Spanish last time I was down here…

That’s all for now… Back to my heavy relaxation and the arduous task of volcano-watching and tofu-eating…

.Me gusta Guate.

I’m still here in Xela… for one more night anyway… yesterday I made the trek up to the Fuentes Georginas hot springs… far up in the clouds clinging to the side of a volcano…

The journey involved a half hour ride in an old American school bus sitting with 3 indigenous Mayan women (one with a baby in a pouch of intricately-embroidered fabric on her back) in a seat designed for 3 American elementary school children…

The bus drops you in the town of Zunil… which is pretty enough as it is… a very much agricultural town… where this time of year with the lack of rain, the patchwork of mountainside fields on the hills are dry. Down in the valley below, however, an intricate system of tiny irrigation canals snakes through the bright green plots containing all sorts of different vegetables… the scent of onion making it the most pronounced… the scene is completed by men walking along the canals and, using a shovel-like device, throwing the water over the fields… It’s amazing how labor-intensive it is… all day walking along and shoveling water…

Once off the bus, you need to find a pickup driver willing to drive you up the mountain through the fields and clouds… The drive is beautiful as it is on a road which clings to the side of the steep mountain. Theres a line painted in the middle to separate it into lanes… but they are certainly not wide enough even for 2 vehicles to pass without being really careful (which the pickup drivers are not)… Last time I was here I walked the 9 kilometers up with a couple of my fellow Spanish students… and that was a beautiful walk…

Today, however, it was thick clouds a few minutes after ascending from town… so conversation with my driver ended up being the highlight… I was actually really amazed how well I was able to carry on conversation… using only the present tense and my rudimentary Spanish vocabulary. We just chatted about our families and our homes… he going on for some time about how much he loves his region of Guatemala… I sharing my lacking descriptions of the beaches and mountains of New York… and finally discussing how he had friends up in New York working to keep their families going… It was quite a nice experience… as I don’t think people in any other country have been as interested in carrying on a conversation with a foreigner… especially one with only a basic understanding of the language… though I suppose mine is better than some…

Once we arrived at the Fuentes, I went for a soak… the water being actually just barely warm… which was somewhat disappointing… but I found out later from my driver that this is owing to the fact that it’s the dry season… and the lack of rain means a lack of water to be heated in the mountain and drop into the pool from the cliff that forms it’s back wall… The experience was still just as atmospheric as it should be… Though emerging into the cold air was somehow less refreshing and more tortuous than it was when the water was nice and hot…

The drive down the mountain was pretty quiet… as we pretty much used up all the Spanish conversation I’m capable of on the way up… I hopped on the bus back to Xela to ponder the day’s experiences…

Back in Xela I hiked way up a steep hill on the edge of town to this little vegan restaurant with a view looking over the entire city… The food was as excellent as the view… which together more than justified the arduous climb…

I didn’t take my camera along for the day’s adventures so I wouldn’t have to worry about it… but I managed to snag a few pictures from the internet to give you an idea of what it all looked like…

¡Ay!

So I’ve been walking all across the city for like 2 hours trying to get my cell phone activated with a prepaid Guatemalan cell company… ’cause they have rates of 10 cents a minute to the US… which is even cheaper than the internet places charge for sometimes-crappy internet calls… I tried one place and the woman sent me to this other place like 2 miles away… I tried 3 places there… and then came back where I started and spoke to another woman who told me that it would definitely work with one of the companies that told me no… Gah! I’m not walking back there… at least not today… I feel all gross from being kinda sweaty from walking with the horrible exhaust and dust feeling like its stuck on me… like being in Manhattan for a whole day in the summer kinda… Just plain grimy…

Anyway… Gonna go back to my room and shower and rest a bit…

Mmm… Antigua

Ok so this town has amazing food… I must say… I was able to get a Chinese meal last night with tofu… which was really good… then for lunch today I went to this place where I got a sandwich of curry-hummus with huge avocado slices and lettuce/tomato… that was ridiculously good… and then tonight I went to this place where I got a yellow Thai curry vegetables dish with tofu… So good… Yum… eating in this town is so veg friendly… ’cause it’s so touristy really… but that aspect of it is ok with me… 🙂

Tomorrow I’m headed over to the city of Quetzaltenango (usually called by the original Maya name: Xela)… the second largest city in Guatemala which is way up (like a mile and a half altitude)… which also is where I spent 2 weeks of intensive Spanish study last time I was here… I plan to visit some amazing hot springs on the side of a volcano while there… and possibly check out the HUGE Mayan market in the semi-nearby town of Chichicastenango…

I made an amazing discovery today while perusing the market… there were TONS of stalls selling ripped-off music… So for $10 I was able to stock myself with 8 cd’s worth of stuff… including the Keane album and Nirvana Unplugged in NY… and a Malacates album (a Guatemalan ska band) among others… Now I’ve got plenty of music to occupy me aside from the radio.. Score!

I walked around town this afternoon and took a few pictures… displayed below for your viewing enjoyment…

¡Guate!

Wow… it’s been a long day… I woke up at 4am in order to get to my bus which left La Ceiba, Honduras at 5am and I only got into Antigua, Guatemala at like 8:30pm… that’s a long friggin’ day right there… but the bus investment paid off… the bus was WAY comfortable and there was beverage/snack service… which was nice ’cause then I didn’t have to buy any food when the bus would stop for a break…

So Antigua… the first place I’ve been that I’ve been to before… almost 4 years ago now… and it’s changed quite a bit since then… (as much as a 500 year old city with no new construction allowed can)… there’s a lot of fancy restaurants and American fast food restaurants around… and even though they’re inside old buildings, it still takes away from the effect of the place… basically a crumbling colonial city… I’ll take some pictures tomorrow when it’s light out and post them tomorrow… It’s really the kind of place where you can’t take a bad picture… there’s earthquake tumbled old cathedrals all over town and beautiful old colonial homes.. with volcanoes in every direction… it’s a lot like Granada in Nicaragua… but somehow a bit prettier… if over gringo-fied these days…

But that’s what’s up…

Back to reality…

…WHOAH there goes gravity…

Err.. Yeah.. anyway..

So I’m back on the mainland after my week out on the island of Roatán… which is F&/(\’ing amazing… it’s beautiful… in every way… I spent my days diving and my nights at the bars with my fellow dive students and the instructors and divemasters in training… which was quite fun… God I love it there…

I did my PADI Open Water scuba certification course which involved 4 dives out on the reef which were AMAZING… the reef there is in pristine condition… and I got to friggin’ swim with a little sea turtle… SO ridiculously cool… he was probably about a foot across… and SO cute… it was so surreal… he was just hovering like a foot from my face checking me out like “what the hell is this weird thing doing down here?” I also saw larger turtles but they stayed further away… Hmm… the coral and the fish were beautiful as well… If I only had an underwater camera I’d be able to share some of this with you all.. but I don’t…

After I finished my open water course I wanted to do one more dive and opted for a night dive that was going out… it counts as an Adventure dive so I can eventually apply it toward earning an Advanced Open Water certificate…

During my stay I also decided that the beard that I’d been growing for the past 6 weeks or had to go… ’cause it was making my mask leak a bit… and it was just getting to long… So 2 blade cartridges later (and one funny facial hair-do) later… I was clean as a whistle… With less facial hair than I’ve had in years… Upon seeing me Georgia (one of the dive instructors.. from England) began calling me ”Mickey Mouse Bum-Chin” ’cause my face was all pale where the beard used to be… And some people didn’t recognize me… But my mask stayed nicely sealed afterward so it’s all worth it… I’m gonna grow it out again now… fun fun… There’re progress pictures below…

I do have some other pictures from the island though… though I was too busy chilling out to even think about it for the most part… Tomorrow I’m getting on a bus that’ll take me from here (La Ceiba, Honduras) to Antigua, Guatemala by tomorrow evening… I leave here at 5am and get into Antigua at 7pm… YIKES! But I paid a lot of money ($60) for a luxury bus so it’s no biggie… and they take care of all the border formalities so that’s great as well..

Anyway… I’m gonna go call some of you… Enjoy the pics 🙂

Roatán

Hey all… I’m now on the Caribbean island of Roatan… and it’s beautiful… but that’s all I can say for right now cause internet is like 20 cents a minute here… Ack!

No more Marzena :(

So Marzena left me this morning at a little after 6am… I sat and plotted my next move for a couple hours while I watched Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (in english) before getting weirded out by being in the big empty apartment by myself… I got here (La Ceiba) a little before 4 and got an overpriced hotel room… but there’s a/c and tv to occupy me at least…

Yesterday for Marzena’s last day we spent at a much, much nicer beach we found on the outskirts of town… there’s a nice resort hotel there and we just parked ourselves in front of it and made use of their on-beach bar facilities… Then we ate dinner at the pretty nice hotel on the top of a hill with really nice night-time views of the town and the water…

It was really cool to have a friend from home down here for a week but it went by SO fast… Now I’m readjusting to being on my own again.. which is kinda weird… but it shouldn’t be long til I’m back in my routine again…

I head out from here in the morning for a 2 hour boat ride over to the island of Roatàn, where I’ll be spending the next 5 or 6 days getting my PADI Open Water SCUBA certificate… which should be amazing… I don’t think I’m going to be able to call or e-mail from there so I might not update for almost a week… But for now I posted pictures to my last entry for your viewing enjoyment…

¡Adios!

¡Caribe!

I’m now in the peaceful (maybe?) town of Tela on the Caribbean coast of northern Honduras… We made the trek over from Copán Ruinas on Tuesday and that took up most of our day…

Yesterday we spent a little while down on the beach… which is nice if a bit garbage-strewn… We also moved into another hotel which has spacious apartments with a/c, tv, and a kitchen and everything… and it’s really nice…

We woke up early this morning to go on a tour of Punta Sal, at the tip of a long peninsula jutting out into the Caribbean. The boat ride to land took about an hour before we got on shore for an hour or so of hiking through the tropical forest where we saw a lot of these crazy crabs and HUGE spiders (but no monkeys unfortunately)…

We met the boat on the other side of the peninsula where we reboarded and made our way to another spot along the shore where snorkeling equipment was handed out and we explored a little offshore reef along the coast… At first Marzena was freaked out by the prospect of breathing underwater but after some coaxing she grew to love it…

After an hour or so of snorkeling we got back on the boat and went to this small settlement of houses on a nice beach where one of the two families allowed to live in the National Park have their homes. They cooked us a great lunch which a little green parrot watched us eat in the open-air thatched dining area… After lunch we had a couple hours to just relax on the gorgeous beach before heading back to town…

I have a bunch of amazing pictures from the trip but I don’t have my camera with me to put them online… I’ll post them asap, so check back.

Hope everyone is well… TTYS