Caminata desde San Marcos a Jaibalito

We took a lancha across the lake to San Marcos, had breakfast by the water, walked through hippielandia to the main road, and then out of town to the east. The walk to Tzununa was on a dirt road, with views of the volcanoes and lake and the gated homes of wealthy ex-pats and Guatemaltecos on the right, and the impossibly steep cultivated hillsides on the left.

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San Pedro La Laguna, nestled at the foot of Volcan San Pedro.DSC01282smDSC01283smDSC01284sm

I found this amusing.  There was no fence on either side, just this gate.DSC01286smDSC01287smDSC01288smDSC01290sm

Then we walked down into Tzununa and up a steep steep hill to the little church, took off our shoes and went inside to look.  Afterwards, back down the hill and out the other side of town, up an even steeper hill to a fancy hotel with spectacular views.  There the road ended and we were on a footpath hugging the steep slope up and down and around small bays until we reached Jaibalito.

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Political graffiti left over from the 2015 elections.DSC01293sm

There was a futbol game in progress as we entered Tzununa.  The road went right across the field, so we had to hug the edge.  I turned around to snap this after.DSC01294smDSC01297smDSC01298smDSC01313sm

Volcan Toliman in the foreground, and Volcan Atitlan behind.DSC01315sm

This guy was a long way from home.  Our best guess was that he escaped from a fisherman on his way up the trail.DSC01317sm

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Jaibalito.  Not much there but some fancy hotels.  Next time we continue on to Santa Cruz. From here we took a lancha home for lunch and, in my case, two beers and a nap.DSC01326sm

 

 

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Gooooooooooooooooooooooolooooooooo!

I’m not much of a sports fan, but I’ve been swept up in the World Cup fever here in Guatemala. (I’m rooting for Uruguay because I have a friend from there). So I took the opportunity to head up to San Pedro’s football stadium for a match against Quetzaltenango (Xela).  Xela are nationa semi-finalists, so I expected to see a rout.  Surprisingly, it was a pretty exciting 2-2 game.

I’m also definitely not a sports photographer, but I took my camera along to see how it would perform.  All I have is a 24-105 f4, so I had to crop significantly, but I am quite impressed with the quality this camera delivers.

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Volcanoes Which Aren’t Currently Killing Anyone.

Recent tragic events stemming from the eruption of Volcan Fuego here in Guatemala have prompted concern from family and friends.  I am indeed in Guatemala, and residing in the shadow of one volcano, within easy reach of two others.  Only one of the three is classified as active, however, and it is unlikely to erupt any time soon.

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Volcan Toliman, on the left, is just over 10,000 feet high, and last erupted several thousand years ago.  In the center is Volcan Atitlan, at 11,500 feet, which last erupted in 1853. On the right, Volcan San Pedro is the smallest, at just under 10,000 feet, and is the only one I have climbed. San Pedro, where I have studied Spanish at the Orbita School, and where I have been working on my current Abuelos project, sits directly below it.  The town you see in this photo is San Pablo, across the lake from San Pedro.

Chichicastenango From The Hip in B&W

I’ve been to the market in Chichi four times now.  It is a riotous mass of people and color.  It has completely consumed the five centuries old plaza central of the town.  Tents stretch to the steps of both churches and into the streets beyond. If you wander in the right direction, you might come upon a small oasis of green off to one side, or, even more out of place, the now dry central fountain tucked in among the booths which sell everything from tourist souvenirs to bolts of handwoven cloth, to the yarn to weave them, to every kind of food imaginable, including live chickens, ducks, and turkeys.  There is a gigantic indoor vegetable market showcasing the rich variety of crops available in Guatemala, and a section where you can buy the more mundane items like ordinary cheap clothing, school supplies, hardware, whatever.  People come from all over Guatemala to this market to both buy and sell.  Tourists wander around taking photos.  I tried a different approach today, I shot from the hip, with only approximate aim, trying for more candid images, and then I treated all of them as black and white, eliminating the distraction of the rainbow of colors that usually overpowers photos in Guatemalan markets.

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Detour

The shuttle was almost an hour late picking us up from the hotel this morning.  It was to be expected, as shuttles usually go to the fancier hotels first, and we, although we weren’t slumming it, were budgeting.

After a three and a half hour trip which included a stop for a tasty buffet breakfast, we arrived at the border with an hour to spare before the Guatemala shuttle was supposed to arrive. We got our passports stamped, and all sat around to wait.  Rene and I shared some street food, and the smokers furiously cremated cilia as fast as they were able, trying to build up their nicotine levels for the smoke free journey ahead.

Considerably more than an hour passed, and we began to wonder if something was wrong.  Rene and I had heard about some sort of road collapse near Huehuetenago, and had seen an overflowing waterfall blocking a road near Panajachel. He called our travel agency here in San Pedro, and they assured him that the roads were passable and that the shuttle would be there by 1:30 or 2:00.  Meanwhile, more shuttles arrived from Mexico, and the group grew.  Finally, I looked at Rene and said “debemos tomar carro privado.” He agreed, and located someone willing to drive us to Panajachel for $150.  Not cheap, but it didn’t look like shuttles were going to arrive any time soon.

As it happened, the shuttles arrived just as our car did.  I’m glad we didn’t wait, however, because I doubt they made it to Panajachel before midnight, long after the final lancha leaves for San Pedro. As we drove off, they were still unloading passengers and baggage from Antigua and Panajachel, after which they had to cram too many people into too few seats.  We, on the other hand, zoomed off, comfortable in our own car, with music blasting from the stereo.

Maybe an hour and a half later, we came to a stop behind a line of trucks, buses, and cars. Our intrepid driver jockeyed his way forward quite illegally, but in tandem with numerous others, to get us near the front of the line.  Cars trickled through from the other direction.  We noticed that none of the trucks alongside the road had drivers.  They were off having a beer or a meal, most likely.  After about a half hour, we crept forward, past a half dozen soldiers who were standing around drinking coffee and ignoring the traffic problem, and finally arrived at this point:

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This is where we left the road, after being charged 5 pesos by a kid who just happened to be there to take advantage of the situation.  Based on the number of cars, he did quite well.  If you look between the backhoe and the bulldozer, you can see where the road used to be.

Our driver crossed himself, and we slogged down a muddy slope and across an equally muddy bridge made of I know not what. Logs and dirt?

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That is where the road was.

A few nailbiting fishtails later, we were up and out the other side.

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None of those trucks and buses are going anywhere except back the way they came.  On the other side, we saw the passengers of the buses toting all their belongings across to meet other buses lined up there.

I doubt anything as heavy as a fully loaded shuttle was allowed across, and not long after we heard on the radio that the road was completely closed.  I’d say the $150 was well spent.

Luck Of The Draw

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All across Latin America, cities have zonas peatonales, where vehicles are not allowed, with a few exceptions in the early morning for deliveries.  They make for wonderful gathering centers, for both tourists and locals alike.  It’s nice to sit at a table streetside and watch everyone go by.

But… there is a constant stream of people selling things, usually women and young children.  You can be sure that as soon as this little girl is old enough to walk and talk, she will not be going to school.  She will be selling friendship bracelets or little toys on the street.  I told her mother that I wasn’t buying anything, but that I would pay for a photo.  I think I gave her 50 pesos, or about $2.50, half the minimum wage for a day in Mexico.

Immediately, every other woman and child selling on the street surrounded me, offering their wares.  I suppose I could have bought a photo from each of them, but it was our first day, and I wanted to relax.  So I didn’t.  I shook my head and said “No, gracias” for several minutes until the last of them finally drifted away.

This is a constant struggle when I travel in the third world.  It feels wrong to eat a meal that for me is cheap, but which is unaffordable for the kid selling chicles, but I have to eat.  Rene bought a bunch of blouses for his wife and daughters while we were here.  Today he got a couple hand embroidered ones for 60 pesos each.  That is $3 for two days of work plus materials. I don’t know if he bargained.  Probably not.  Bargaining is another thing I am uncomfortable with.  I know it is a cultural thing, but if an item is already inexpensive for me, why would I haggle over an amount which is negligible from my point of view and the cost of a meal from theirs?

I got lucky.  I was born male and white in the United States.  That’s about as privileged as it gets.  I’ve never been rich, but I am to these kids.  They would seem rich to some kids I encountered in India, and both are lucky not to have been born into a war zone such as Syria or Rwanda. Luck of the draw.

So, what do you do?  I could give every beggar some money until I ran out.  I could buy something from every person selling on the street until I was broke.  I don’t think either would do much good.  It hurts to sit at my meal shaking my head at everyone approaches, gradually numbing to the desperate faces of kids.  They are kids.  They should be playing, laughing, running, not toting bales of cheaply woven crap around trying to sell to tourists who live a life they can never have.

I could sit inside.  Hide from them.  Or I could stay in the US, and really hide from them, as my government kidnaps them and locks them up to keep them out. That’s what most Americans do.

Maybe I should just buy a photo from everyone who approaches me.  That doesn’t feel quite right either, but I like it better than just handing out money or buying stuff I don’t need.  Of course that leaves the old woman who has twice asked me for money as I walked down the street.  She asked for one peso.  I offered 20 for a photo.  She dismissed me scornfully both times and walked off.