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Guatamala is one of the most vibrant, colourful countries in all the world
Come with me for three weeks through the highland villages and into the jungle where you’ll learn a little Spanish and live in the midst of this glorious culture. Guatamala travel is as cheap and authentic as you can get, so this is the trip of a lifetime for the intrepid traveler.
We’re leaving February 7, so get your bags packed!
One of the things I remember clearly about Antigua Guatemala are the ancient gnarled cobblestone streets. They make for great photos–at night just after it rains and you can see the window lights dancing across them like diamonds.
In the glaring light of day, they’re a bit precarious for walking and like any artistic impression, they are what they are in reality. You watch where you walk, avoid the rough bits and steer clear of the dog poop.
So there I am walking up from the Parque Central and loping towards me are the cast of what looks to be Miss Universe–or maybe Miss America,
Most are 5’7″ or 5’8″ tall to begin with, coiffed to the nines obviously dressed for a date with a television camera with sashes across them per country (yes Miss Canada is there) And they’re wearing these! Or some version of these–stilletto, at least an extra 4 ” taller and tottering precariously across those unforgiving cobblestones while dodging doog poop. Who comes up with these ideas???
Miss Mexico–pictured above–seems a bit put out–she’d been left behind at the Cathedral to do a photo shoot. She has no idea how big a bullet she dodged by not having to join the rest on the walk through town!
Imagine this road after a torrential downpour of 18 hours. Now imagine that it could be the next best thing to a running river of mud. It might in fact have ruts and divets. It might have a hole at the bottom of a small hill big enough to swallow a small car. Okay maybe not quite that big.
But it is a hole and there is a pile of truck and collectivo traffic passing through here for a Sunday. Still not sure about the trucks–mining up the road maybe?
Two guys who look like they spend the rest of the week tending maise in the fields or picking avocados are going at it–fairly successfully with a pick and a shovel and a small pile of rocks. It’s absolutely passable now.
I see the helper in the dumptruck ahead of me hand something out the window to one of the guys. The driver of my collectivo shouts back to his helper and a note is passed forward. As we pass, I see 5Q (less than a dollar) pass out the window to the other worker. The conversation is in the local Maya language.
I THINK I’m seeing free enterprise at work. No chance the local roads department is driving around rural Guatemala after a bit of rain seeing what they can fix. So a couple of farmers gather up some stones they likely had to pull off their land anyway, fill in the hole and the grateful commercial drivers hand them a tip for doing so. Road gets fixed well enough to pass and for a couple of hours work on a slow day, the farmers get some much appreciated paper money.
And then we get here. Finca de Perdido–the lost farm. Steam rising off the waterfall as it cascades from its hot spring on top into the cool waters of the stream passing underneath. Climb by way of the vines on the side and you’ll find the mud–charged with minerals–to cake yourself in. After the tepid showers that are Guatemala, it’s an extraordinary thing to feel the hot water kneading the muscles in your neck and shoulders and washing away the mud treatment. For 25Q (15 for the collectivo and 10 for the entrance))–about $3.50, you have just received a $200 spa treatment–in a much nicer location!
It’s been a crazy couple of days. I’ve taken care of business in Antigua. The hotel (La Posada Merced) is much brighter than I remembered and I know everyone is going to love it. More on that later. Now with the business out of the way and the group not coming for a couple of weeks, I thought I’d hop a bus to Rio Dulce and spend a few days chillin’ on the river. I’ve never been there so the idea is quite exciting.
I picked Hacienda Tijax–the ‘x’ is soft in the gentle Mayan way based on a recommendation from Gerlinde who runs Posada la Merced.Great recommendation! $21 USD a night for a beautiful little cabin-shared bath on a small creek and a swimming pool!. No bugs to speak of–there were mosquito nets over the beds if that became an issue.
So–what to do in Rio Dulce? Well you can take the boat downriver $200Q if you go from the hotel–I suspect less if you go from the public dock across the river–will get you down to Livingston and back. Plan for an all day trip. It’s kind of a tour–the Captain will point out a few things as you go but really it’s the public bus. I think the 20 minutes we stopped at some hot springs on the way was not how the locals on board were planning to spend their day.
What a great day! Drifting through mangrove swamps and patches of lilly pads in the backwaters of Rio Dulce on the way to Livingston. One hour further on in a launcha, you’d come to Punta Gorda in Belize–which is exactly what Brian and Elly from Conneticut were doing. Their boat was moored up in Placencia for repairs and they’d driven down to Punta Gorda , and hopped a launcha to spend a few days playing around in Giatemala.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Ally at the United Airlines check in desk. We’ve overbooked the flight today to Houston and we’re looking for volunteers to stay behind. We can offer you a $400 United flight voucher plus accommodation and food vouchers tonight if you need them, in the mile high city.”
Are you kidding? I’m a couple of weeks ahead of the group so I’ll happily take advantage of that. Often the best experiences are not about the destination alone. The getting there is a big part of the equation.
So I’m ensconced in the Denver Renaissance in the middle of the Cattleman’s Convention and Stock Show. There’s a boot cleaner bolted to the ground outside each of the doors and country music in the lobby at the reception desk. Stetsons and bolo ties and “yes ma’am’s’ and ‘y’alls’ in the lobby bar–glad I stayed. I wouldn’t have missed his for the world. I’m a million miles away from Guatemala tonight. Ye haw!