Page 18: - No Return Ticket - Just a Ride Report /w Pics - From the beginning
Guatemala: Xela.I say a last goodbye to my boot shine buddies while enjoying another fabulous Guatemala breakfast. $3.50 including the best coffee ever (and wi-fi).
Vilma enjoyed practicing English while I practiced Spanish. “Goo moreing Toom”, then I repeat “Good morning”. Vilma would repeat everything at least once or twice to make sure she got it right. Pollo Campero is Guatemalan owned and it’s one of the countries most successful companies. Heidi and I talked with an English teacher who works for Pollo Campero, he said the company has incentives and travel prizes for learning English. This restaurant is top notch and only 3 blocks from our hotel, can’t beat it.
The road around the park was closed today for a craft market. To these food vendors setting up is an every night occurrence at the North East corner of Parque Centroamerica but it’s even bigger on Friday and Saturday nights. Heidi and I like to sample new things, this is a good place to do it.
Heidi is waiting for her donut holes to cook.
The activity in the park continued into the night.
The later it got the wilder the entertainment. Guatemala rap, we thought it sounded pretty good and so did a dozen or more screaming girls in the front row, but no one else seemed to appreciate it much, not the music anyway.
The crowds stuck around though.
-The next day we are on the road early. It took a little backtracking to get out of town but we found the right road and we made it.
We started climbing up and up. The sky was sunny but we both started getting cold. I was warned by a tour guide I met in the hotel parking lot this morning about possible half hour traffic delays along this route. We soon hit a long line of stopped traffic. Some locals selling sandwiches 'car to car' told us we can drive around the line and continue, Nice. We rode around and in front of at least 4 long lines of traffic that day that were stopped by road work. When we approached a blockade we would just ride around it to the front of the line, the road crew would then move the barricade over, just enough for us to pass. We rode on like we owned the road. But, we moved way over and off the road when we saw a Chicken bus barreling toward us from the other direction. They are the true owners of the road here……We saw one side sliding around a steep sandy corner, it was coming right at us.
Also when I saw a chicken bus behind us I would do everything to pull over and let them pass. I would usually get a friendly beep when I did this. My father, without knowing, always taught me to respect people who are trying to make a living; truck drivers, sales people or whoever. These people are trying to feed their families, I’m just a guest here.
Before we knew it we were in sight of Lago de Atitlan. This is Solola, a bigger city just before the tourist town, Panajachel.
Lago de Atitlan…………….
We should have grabbed a sandwich on the road from those kids selling them at the first road block. We were hungry. We find the lakeshore and pull into a friendly looking restaurant. Sweet….
This is a big tourist area for Guatemaltecos but we also see a lot of Europeans walking around. I practiced my Spanish with some of the young kids who wait tables and solicit people off the streets and into their restaurants about who comes here and when is the busiest time of year. They told me that most people that come here are from Guatemala and Guatemala City. They said the busiest time is Samana Santa (Easter week) and Ano Neuvo (New Years). The waterfront has dozens of Restaurants and cafes but all are mostly empty at this time of year. A good time to visit, I couldn’t imagine what this place would be like if everything was filled.
We check out a couple hotels right across from the waterfront. The guide book recommended a few places that are more in town but we like being on the water. About a block away from the restaurant we found a cluster of about 5 small hotels, all budget priced. We pick one with great bike security, was super clean and had hot water. I negotiate for a 5 night stay, $21.00/night. Plus it has a roof top terrace 4 floors up, the highest point on the waterfront.
We get settled into our hotel. Heidi yells out “We have the Turner classic movie channel!” We both noticeably enjoy not having a TV in our room. We read and play cards with each other more and it just seems we are more in tune with what we are doing. But not having a TV makes us enjoy having one all the more also (does that make sense?) Anyway, around 5:30 PM I get this sinking feeling that I’m missing out on something. I tell Heidi, grab the camera and tri-pod and race down to the water. Score………….
The next morning I knew I had a mission. I have been dreaming about photographing places like I saw in National Geographic since I was small. In the sixth grade with the money I saved cutting grass I bought a used photographic enlarger.Well, I’ve saved my whole adult life for moments like this. I head out before dawn and wait to see what happens.
This guy came paddling out of nowhere. He secures his canoe, walks up on shore with his arms around his chest saying “Muy frio” (It’s very cold) I yell back with some silly comment saying it’s not cold. He got it and had a laugh.
He suited up in some warmer clothes and gets back in his canoe. This dude is focused.
OK, I finally get the camera settings right…… :)
The guy in the canoe went from buoy to buoy about 300 meters out. I suspect he has some live traps set that he’s checking on.
Well, not much of a sun rise but I enjoyed being down at the waterfront watching the day start. I hike the two blocks back to the hotel and grab my fishing rod. Right across the street from the hotel are some unused or rarely used boat piers. Sounds like a good place to start.
When I was packing up the camera stuff a guy pulls up on his bicycle with a sack and a spear gun. As I’m passing by him, we greet each other. I then wished him good luck (Buena Suerte!) He gave me a huge grin and a nod.
When I return with my fishing tackle the guy with the spear gun was hard at it. It’s difficult to see but that’s him between the two docks on the right.
I was out on the pier for at least 40 minutes fishing, this guy was underwater spear fishing the whole time.
I can feel the crispness of the lake air hit my face. I smell burning fires off in the distance, it smells like incense to me. On a lake during a calm day you can hear everything so clearly. I can hear the spear fisherman sucking air through his snorkel, as if I was hearing my own breathing. You can tell by the sound of someone breathing when they are engaged in an intense aerobic competition, him against the fish. I’m watching local people unload from the water taxis with all their handmade stuff to sell to tourists while they jabber away. Down the shore a ways I can hear a husband and wife washing dishes and taking a bath. At one point I glanced over to see the woman without a top on facing me, just washing away. The whole scene looked as routine as if she was just washing her hands. This is Guatemala………..
My new friend finally emerges from the water. He looks at me talking away with a big grin. I pretty much understood what he was saying. (I didn’t catch any fish, Nothing! All that time) That Spanish language class we took in Xela has seemed to pay off already. I told him I didn’t catch anything either, I said “No tienen hambre” (The fish aren’t hungry) He agreed.
He sat on the pier with me while he dried himself off. He said there are a lot of Black Bass down there. I asked if he’s coming back tomorrow (?Regreso manana por la manana?) He says “Si, siempre tengo hambre para pescado” (Yes, I’m always hungry for fish) I say “hasta manana!”. This guy is full of life and was enjoying talking with me.
Spear gun strapped to his bike………
Well, again I came up with nothing to show for my efforts except a couple good shots and a new experience of how life is in Guatemala. I can live with that………
The screw and bolt that holds the seat onto the Sportster came off. I need to Jerry-rig something to hold the seat on. There are 3-wheel motorcycle taxis everywhere. I ask a guy to take me to a hardware store. While cruising along I explained my problem and what I need. He then pulls over at a bicycle repair shop a couple blocks later and walks me over. I finally explain what I need (I will never again go out to buy something technical without knowing the exact words of the things I want) These guys are on it!
The guys finally dump out a large bucket of screws, bolts, nuts and washers. We Score.
Heidi read in the guide book about a trail leading to the next two villages along the lake, a two hour hike. What a girl, we are on it.
The trail disappeared after about 40 minutes. We passed several huge gated compounds with beautiful houses and yards along the trail before the trail dead ended at one of them. The guide book talks about this trail and local maps show this trail but I guess money talks, the huge gated estates won.
We backtracked a few K and headed to the road. The road is curvy and narrow with steep sides. It is a beautiful walk and we see big exotic plants, pretty flowers and fabulous vistas.
We made it! It was a difficult hike but well worth it. After making our way down to the lake we were mobbed by cute little girls hard selling handmade items. Everything they had was so beautiful and so cheap but we had to just stop buying stuff, it’s just way to costly to ship home. We stop at a nice little café right on the water to re-hydrate
And of course I needed to de-hydrate (wink) a little more with some GREAT Guatemala espresso and heated milk. Heidi says that’s enough about the Guatemalan coffee.
A taxi boat arrives at a dock. The girls race over to try to make a sale.
An ice cream truck pulls up playing typical ice cream truck music. He makes a few quick sales from the people running the café.
A young guy pulls in with his canoe. It looked like he was out fishing.
The guy hauls out a large sack filled with something. The young girl who waited on us hurries out to him and buys some crabs he pulls out from his sack. Cool…..
Get a load of those canoes. The hull is a half log hollowed out with wood planks on the side and back. I need to rent one of those boats.
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