Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Guatemala

P.S. i assume it's supposed to be something other than p.s. but i'm writing this part last, and didn't know what else to call it. this is a long one. breaking it up to make it easier to read...maybe. feel free to read at multiple sittings, or do anything you want to - like read a sentence each morning with your coffee or breakfast, or just as you wake up, for those who don't drink coffee or have breakfast immediatly after getting up.

entering guatemala - we now go back in time to half an hour or so when i began typing, and then back in time again to a few weeks ago when we really entered guatemala for real: hello, it's me again, A. (for ease of reading organization) it's time for the guatemala stories for all those readers who actually read. never know if people read or open, see how long it is, then close it. hope the length of some of these emails don't discourage anyone. we'll see how this one goes.

sailed, yes, happily sailed, without the motor we call RonDog, from honduras to the livingston, guatemala, the entry into the rio dulce. the sea breeze happily filled in right after we got underway so we made good time and made it to the livingston sand bar with plenty of light to spare but not much in the way of tide. the charts and books told us the depth was six feet - we draw about six feet. needless to say we were paying attention when we entered the strip, but we were confident we could get through, with the waves that were following us in. and sure enough, we felt the sandy bottom a number of times but never came to a standstill. i was up on the bow, looking uselessly into the muddy water to try to guide rob or ted at the helm. the boat would slow or move in a way it didn't usually move when it had water below its keel, but then we'd be off again as the waves pushed us further from behind. and in this fashion, we made it to the comfortable depths of the livingston anchorage, where we checked in with the authorities and had some dinner. good to have some land food again, as the state of food affairs on the haus have reached an all time low. generally we never cook, maybe have cereal for breakfast, maybe nothing. nothing is really appatising, especially when there is land food nearby. when we do have to do a few days worth of sailing, our food consists of ramen noodles, some candy bars for the boys, some fruit for me, and that's about it. our last effort at shopping for food to stock the boat ended in our exiting the store with the following crew holding the following items: me: nothing; rob: gatorade and brownie mix; chris: gatorade and cake mix; ted: gatorade and cake mix. the cake mix phenomenon was born in april when two of us had birthdays. ted's girlfriend had sent him the mix, and not having an oven to bake the cake in, we just added water, and ate it by the spoon. quite tasty and quite cake like even in liquid form and without what some might call necessary added ingredients. (other birthday adventures were stirred up when the three others, upon meeting some nice colombian ladies, who were very talkative, invited them back to the boat for my birthday party. i was not present for the act of inviting the ladies, and only later, on their walk back to the boat, did they start to correctly realize that these nice ladies were not the kind of ladies we wanted to hang out with, and i certainly did not want them there for my birthday, nor was a party really planned. so one of the guys nicely turned them away when they arrived, amongst some friendly big smiles from marina security guard, who then confirmed the girls were the type of girls we thought they were.)
B. anyways, after waking up in our first morning in guatemala, we headed up the river and through the canyons - cliffs on both side. strange to be on our boat, might have felt more realistic in a kayak or something. arrived in fronterra after about six hours - we were able so sail a good bit of the way through intermediate lakes and wider parts of the river, with the wind always at our backs funneling up the river. fronterra is a small town, not many travellers there but it's a place where many boats are holed up for the summer hurricane season. that first afternoon there i took a bus for a little solo excursion to the ruins of tikal, which were fantastic. spent two days in the park and for less than what it would cost to rent a hammok and get the sunrise tour of the park, i slipped the two night guards a few bills and they let me sleep on top of highest temple in the park, temple VI, an excellent place to view the sunset and the next morning's sunrise. i had thought about trying to sleep on temple IV, but had not expected to, but as i was heading up to see the sunset, i saw two guards with big guns - this prompting me to decide i was definately not going to sleep on temple iv, but then i figured i'd just go right to the source. they were pleasant fellows, happy to talk, and at first they said that sleeping there wasn't possible, but then all of a sudden, they said it'd be okay. so as the park closed right after sunset, i raced back to the park entry to gather all my belongings, cancel my hammok reservation and early morning tour, and raced back up to the temple. i hadn't had that much exercise in months and it felt great. made it up to the temple just before sunset, which was excellent, and as soon as the guard, friendly rafiel, began escorting everyone down to the ladder, he motioned me to go around the other way. they all left, and i was just me on the top, temples one and two poking out of the jungle to the east, among a few others, and venus and a tiny cresent moon to the west. stayed on the west side for a while, shielded from the light wind, writing in my journal, waiting for the moon to set, and contemplating things worthy of contemplation, feeling like i was having my own outward bound solo.

the night was a bit chilly, having no pad for the rock, and no blanket, just a rain jacket, and having not had enough time to have any dinner, but it was mostly clear and the view made it worth the frequent wake ups. wouldn't be right to sleep soundly through the night in such a unique place. sunrise was cloudy but i stayed there for a while after the crowds had come and gone. (i had ducked around back as the guided sunrise groups came up and then reappeared as if i was on some other sunrise tour - as rafiel had instructed.) after a morning in the park, i headed back to fronterra to see the boys, and to meet sister farley who was coming for a visit. hi far. took a long bus to guatemala city to meet her, and then a bus ride back to the boat, to relax and explore the surrounding fronterra area for a few days, while it was just the two of us on the boat. ted and rob had gone to antigua, chris had gone home for a visit. then to antigua for a few more days and nights, where we hung out with ted and his visiting girlfriend, and also climbed volcan pacaya, which is active and spewed molten rock from it's summit cone only 50 meters away from where we stood at the top of our hike. quite spectacular. great to get into the air and see the clouds and sun and earth from somewhere other than sea level. felt i was in the middle of the atmosphere, rather than on its edge. it took only a few hours to get to the top with guided rests "descansados" every 15 minutes. coming down from the summit was like skiing in loose volcanic rock. quite fun, though only travelling in sandles, i endured some uncomfortable sharp things between my sandles and the soles of my feet. (we had planned to have gone to the volcano the day before but a communication mix up had us at the drop off spot at the pick up time. the guide with whom we had the mix up with just said, "Dios sabe" or God knows. and with that, all frustrations aside concerning everything, because, well, Dios sabe.
C. before leaving antigua, far and i walked the 300 or so steps up to the cerro de la cruz to overlook the city. while doing our overlooking a small mayan boy and girl and two mayan teenagers in their lovely colorful traditional clothes, asked us if we wanted to play tag. i was game and was deemed it. the chase was on as were the smiles and laughs, coming from the kids themselves but also from the 15 or so adults who they came with to see la cruz. much fun we had, my cheeks were tired from smiling so much. i played well, but so did they and seemed to play even better when they called, "gringo, gringo." this just got the adults laughing. sadly though, they had to leave, the game ended, but as they walked up to their van, we waved to the kids and later the adults returned our waves and joined in the fun. we could not hear what they were saying as the departed - only the word gringo, which was followed by much laughter, and more waves. quite a fun afternoon. we had experienced this same type of waving game earlier on the way home from a small castle. bunch of boys riding in the back of a truck coming at us, waving. stuck my hand out a little farther as they passed and slapped one of the boys a high five, which caused much excitement and many smiles and enless waves until they sadly went around the corner. then back to the buses, which are always interesting, especially when, as in during one of my voyages, in the normal routine of natives troughing their trash out the window, i was showered with rice, that initially had been on an outward and awayward trajectory, though as it mingled with the air currents around the bus, it changed course, turning inward along the path of least resistance: my open window. surprising, but a new experience. a lot can be tolerated if it's the first time it has happened. the other bus things that far and i had often were men coming onto the bus to sell miracle drugs to many willing passengers. they talked loudly and with much conviction as they should their biology books, thereby illustrating that the pills they offered, probably for a reduced price, would help every subsystem of the human body and then some. we declined, feeling confident in our own subsystems.

took the bus back to guatemala city, and then flew home with far, where i am now, so that i can teach one outward bound sailing course for the coast guard academy. will head back to guatemala city as soon as the course is over, then to belize, if the guys haven't sailed it there already, then up the coast, then to home.

so that is guatemala, sorry it was a long one, but hopefully it was somewhat enjoyable. thanks for reading, especially those of you who have made it all the way down here. i give extra credit, and would stamp your computer with a "super" stamp if i could, for those of you who read the whole thing in one go. i myself would not be able to do it, so don't feel bad, and i know go into the world of the "above" not to proofreed for disjointedness but to add spaces between some paragraphs so it's easier to look at. adios muchachos y muchachas.

ben

Friday, May 06, 2005

San andreas to honduras

hello readers,

we are now in puerto cortez, honduras, poised to make the next move to the rio dulce region of guatemala. from panama, we had an uneventful sail back to the colombian islands of san andreas. here we rested, played lots of basketball and soccer games, had a few fair days of surfing and then headed on to honduras. we were also able to get the satellite radio to receive a signal, which made us all happy, but a few kinks and worn raw places in the wire prevented us from getting a reliable reception. chris has gone home for a visit and will hopefully bring a new one back with him so we can hear all the news and baseball games.

we had initially planned to stop in costa rica and nicaragua on the way to honduras from panama, but the east coast of costa rica isn´t well set up for cruisers and the coast of nicaragua is dangerous because of coral shoals and mean people.

the ride to honduras was smooth, nice sunshine, and some good winds. the highlight was the awahoo, we caught, not sure on the spelling, but it was a three feet long, very muscular and excellent tasting fish. arrived at the bay islands of honduras, at the island of guanaja. quickly moved to rotan, and then to utila, where we stayed for about a week.

the activity here was diving and more diving. utila is basically a diving destination. dive shops everywhere, and divers everywhere. hardly any americans but a ton of folks from canada and the u.k. our new british friends were much amused by our attempt at speaking with an english accent, and we were even more amused when they spoke with an american accent. while in utila, ted did his open water and advanced, i did my advanced, rob did some fun dives, and chris stayed topsides. we did deep dives together to 120 feet, night dives, and wreck dives. the highlight for me was the night dive. we took our dingy out to the dive buoy, all dressed in our wet suits, like navy seals. ted and i spent much of the time upside down, trying to get disoriented, trying to feel like we were in space. it was magical when our lights were turned off, we were in a black abyss, a most unreal experience and the coolest thing i´ve done in a while. on the deep dives the instructors made us do little exercises to test our intellectual functioning at the depths where many divers feel the temporary effects of nitrogen narcossis. like a little anesthesia. i felt fine but was a little slower in counting the numbers scrambled on the instructors wet board thing. we also cracked an egg which stayed together, brought a ping pong ball with us, which imploded at 40 feet, and partially inflated a balloon that inflated as the pressure decreased with our ascent.

the stay in utila was nice. good food, good movies for $2 (i love huckabees, butch cassidy and the sundance kid), and good friends we met though our dive center. hard to leave, but guatemala is calling to us. we should be there tomorrow night. now in puerto cortez, we spent the afternoon with the port captain, the immigration officer and the customs people, getting endless stamps. but all is done now, and we are heading to a soccer game tonight at the local stadium, then heading out early tomorrow morning for livingston, guatemala to continue the adventure. that´s the story from down here. the sun is almost directly overhead and should pass us in a few days or so, heading your way.

adios,
ben