Well, we finally made it home – safe, sound and cold. Not a lot to report from our last couple of days; we mostly took it easy, got ourselves mentally prepared to go home and then watched the final hours tick down. We did have a touch of excitement when in San Pedro Sula we realized, thanks to the wonders of Internet banking, that somebody at the bank in Utila helped themselves to almost $500 off our VISA after we used it to take a cash advance. Who knows, though, maybe that’s just their normal service charge.
Anyway, the following odds and ends are mostly just a bunch of stuff that came to mind when we started thinking back on the past month.
Coming down the side of Volcan de Pacaya
Waking up in San Pedro La Laguna and having a view of Lake Atitlan from our bed
The views from the back of the pickup truck on the way to El Estor
Our whole first day around El Estor (El Paraiso waterfall, El Boqueron canyon)
Standing on top of any of the pyramids in Tikal
The first ray of sun coming through the water while I was on a dive in Utila (after four days of constant rain)
The fact that none of our bus rides made our Least Favourite list
LEAST FAVOURITE MOMENTS
Anytime we were caught off guard by fireworks
Trying to sleep at 2am on Jan 2 in San Pedro La Laguna
Going to the “bathroom” in the middle of the night in Lanquin
The egg/frijole breakfast in El Estor that proved to be the final straw (that was our last truly Guatemalan breakfast)
Being accosted in Livingston and hassled for money, beer and cigarettes
The many, many disheartening moments of rain in Utila
20 MISCELLANEOUS MEMORIES
1. Coke in a bottle (great); the stuff from machines always seemed to taste like Cherry Coke, though
2. Little kids shining shoes
3. No salt shakers, you had to use your fingers to pinch salt onto your food
5. Cobblestone streets
6. Coffee plantations and coffee beans drying in the sun (San Pedro La Laguna)
7. “Jesus Es Amor” religious graffiti on every building in San Pedro La Laguna
8. People riding in the back of trucks
9. Laundry being done in lakes and rivers
10. Salvavidas bottled water
11. Lots of dogs, very few cats
12. Eggs & frijoles (refried beans) over and over again
13. Security guards with sawed-off shotguns and semi-automatic machine guns
14. Terrible Spanish soap operas
15. Lots of bathrooms without doors
16. Gallo beer (Guatemala), Port Royal (Honduras)
17. Fields of banana trees
18. Bacini-brand bikes (Utila)
19. Heated milk on corn flakes (that also seemed to be the only cereal)
20. Gold-rimmed teeth (even seen advertised on a billboard for a dentist’s office)
5 FORGOTTEN FILES
1. Nobody in Guatemala ever has change and they make it very clear that they are aware of our evil plot to leave them utterly changeless and therefore destined to wallow in eternal poverty each of the three or four times a day we would recklessly attempt to pay a 65q bill with a 100q note. On the other hand, in Honduras at least 90% of their bills are 1, 2 or 5 lempira ($1 = 11 lempira). As a result, our pockets were routinely bulging with 25 to 30 bills worth a total of somewhere around $5.
2. On the highway between Guatemala City and Coban we got our first glimpse of a Guatemalan ambulance when we were passed by a tiny foreign truck fittingly painted blood-red with a hand-painted white cross on the side. It had no lights or sirens but we were able to monitor the paramedic’s progress thanks to the missing tailgate. We can only assume that the woman on the stretcher was more securely fastened in than she seemed to be since we never spotted her lying on any of the following steep mountain roads.
3. While travelling in the back of our hired truck in the middle of nowhere on the way to El Estor we came across an old man biking up a steep hill. We stopped and after exchanging a couple pleasantries with our driver he tossed his ancient 1-speed bike into the back with us and then climbed into the front where he rode for over two hours in completely opposite the direction he had been going.
4. Returning to El Estor from Boqueron canyon we flagged down a truck (which is how it’s done around there) before we realized that it was a military vehicle with two fully-geared soldiers riding in the back. We tried to wave them on, assuming they weren’t interested in picking up hitchhikers, but they would have none of it and insisted that all four of us pile into the king cab area. A couple miles later the officer-type in the front seat explained that they just had to make one quick stop. After pulling to a halt in the yard of what looked like a ranch we watched nervously as the “officer” presented some papers to the men who came out to meet him, all the while with two armed escorts at his side and another who was casing the perimeter and brandishing his machine gun in all directions. The obvious displeasure of our hosts did nothing to relieve our anxiety as it only seemed to increase the chance of finding ourselves in the middle of some crazy outlaw feud. Since you are reading this, however, you’ve probably already guessed that in the end it all transpired bloodshed-free.
5. Just like in Asia, we found our prissy North American sensibilities were always slightly offended by the fact that toilet paper must be put in the garbage and not flushed as we would much prefer. Roli’s Hotel (a Swiss-run guesthouse in Omoa, Honduras) must have redone all of their own plumbing and, as a result, one of their most important selling points was prominently displayed in every bathroom – “Feel Like At Home! Put Your Toilet Paper
In The Toilet, NOT The Garbage!”.
Well, that about wraps it up. I hope you enjoyed reading (or deleting) these e-mails as much as we enjoyed putting them together. So bye for now, and hopefully the next instalment from, maybe, Peru……or Africa……..or Turkey…….or god knows where, won’t be too far down the road. See ya then.