Archive for June, 2010

Now that’s using your head

Posted on June 30, 2010 by No Comments

I carry around a ridiculous amount of stuff in my backpack. No wonder my back hurts. Maybe I just need to distribute the weight better.

I’ve seen women carrying their loads like this for quite some time and I’m used to it. Then, my mother-in-law says something about it, and I realize I don’t think there are any women in in U.S. carrying their Trader Joe’s load on their head.

Also, some folks have reported problems connecting to our Facebook page… we think it’s fixed. Let us know if you still can’t see it!

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Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Posted on June 29, 2010 by 5 Comments

Jason’s parents found The Ocelot, next to our hotel. The restaurant/bar had just opened a few weeks ago and owner Shaun, from Wales welcomed us immediately. The proximity, food and familiar faces kept us coming back each day or evening for a drink or meal.

This town is small enough that it doesn’t take long to start recognizing people on the street and everyone is keen on  becoming friends quickly. Now, like Norm on Cheers, when Bode walks into The Ocelot, people all say “Bode!”

On one visit, Shaun attempted to show Bode how to play backgammon. Every table had either a backgammon or checkers board painted on it. Bode is getting quite impressive at checkers, but taunts his opponents a bit too much.

The grandparents were sad that they missed Bode’s 5th birthday, so they planned a surprise party for him at the Ocelot. He’s got a shiny new bike and we can hardly keep him off it.

Jason and I had a night out without Bode, and guess where we spent the majority of it? And, when Jason’s parents left and we went out for dinner, Bode still begged to go back. Of course we had our regular places back home. But, it’s funny how after only a week in one city we can already have a spot where we are the regulars. Creatures of habit, I suppose.

A few nights there was live music, so we’d pop by to see what was going on. Bode was quite at home in this place and several times left our table to go speak with women at the bar. He finds the English speakers immediately, climbs up the bar stool and starts talking. We’re not sure what he says, but usually they laugh. Eventually, one of us has to go pull him away, but he’s really impressed his grandparents.

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Jason’s parents found The Ocelot next to our hotel. The restaraunt/bar had just opened a few weeks ago and owner Shaun, from Wales welcomed us immediately. The proximity, food and familar faces kept us coming back each day or evening for a drink or meal.

The first day Shaun attemped to show Bode how to play backgammon. Every table had either a backgammon or checkers board painted on it. Bode is getting quite impressive at checkers, but taunts his opponents a bit too much.

A few nights there was live music, so we’d pop by to see what was going on. Bode was quite at home in this place and several times left our table to go speak with women at the bar. He finds the English speakers immediately, climbs up the bar stool and starts talking. We’re not sure what he says, but usually they laugh. Eventually, one of us has to go pull him away, but he’s really impressed his grandparents.

These grandparents were sad that they missed Bode’s 5th birthday, so they planned a surprise party for him at the Ocelot. What does every kid living in a van need? A bike!

Jason and I had a night out without Bode, and guess where we spent the majority of it? When Jason’s parents left this weekend and we went out for dinner, Bode begged to go back there. Of course we had our regular places back home, but it’s funny how just a week in one city can make you crave the familar.

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Antigua Days

Posted on June 25, 2010 by 3 Comments

This a  beautiful town to lounge around. It’s small, so it’s easy to get acquainted (9 blocks by 9 blocks.) Cloud-covered volcanoes hover over the crumbling town and it’s cobblestone streets. Aimlessly wandering the streets doesn’t disappoint, no matter which calle or avenida you are on. There are cafes on every corner, so frequent lingering is mandatory. Every so often the clouds clear and you realize there is a massive volcano directly in front of you.

It’s also a great place to meet up with the famalia. My dad and step-mom came to visit  – not to see us, of course – but to see Bode.

He was in heaven and has been spoiled every day. Candy for breakfast? Sure! Ice cream for dinner? Why not?  I’m exaggerating, but only a little.

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On to Antigua

Posted on June 24, 2010 by 1 Comment

After a few days of sitting in the rain at Lago Atitlan, we decided to go sit in the rain in Antigua. In Atitlan, we met Kyle and Justin – two other folks driving down to Argentina. Their ride of choice was a ’74 Chevy camper van. The beast actually has an oven and 4-burner stove inside. They’ve never used it. There’s no telling what this thing weighs, but they claim they have lost 50 pounds in rust since they left. I took a look at their rocker panels and I don’t doubt it.

They were headed to Antigua as well, so we followed until we got lost.

The rain had made the waterfalls really rage on the roadsides, and we drove through more and more landslide debris and road and lane closures. It was still a nice ride. Once we were up and away from the lake and the weather cleared, we pulled over for a nice view of the volcanoes ringing the lake. Nice.

This is also where we learned that stuffed squirrels make a great roadside souvenir. We decided there was no room in the bus.

After an hour or so diversion in Chimaltenango due to construction and detours (where we lost Justin and Kyle,) we finally made it to Antigua in late afternoon. Although the weather is nice and mild, there’s no real camping around here. Several folks mentioned camping at the police station, but we deferred and decided to get a room.

Since parking is a big deal here (never leave your car on the street overnight is the overwhelming recommendation of everyone) our hotel actually allowed us to pull the bus into the hotel lobby, where they closed the gates behind us. We barely fit. All I had to do was move it back out when the first guests woke up and were ready to leave the next morning.

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Rain, Rain…you can stay

Posted on June 23, 2010 by 5 Comments

It rained in Chichicastenago every day, but after being in the sweltering jungle we were happy to enjoy the cooler weather. I never thought I’d be able to refer to last week, when we were in the jungle, as opposed to this week when we are in the mountains…oh, and there were those few days we were also in a cloud forest. Guatemala has everything packed into a small space.

Anyway, we have all hit some level of exhaustion, and felt it was a good time to recharge. The continuous rain helped make our decisions for us.

It was also a good time to finally let Bode watch Star Wars. He’s been talking about it for over a year, knows most of the story and insists he knows about “Dark” Vader and the “Light-savers.” Even though he loved it as a kid himself, Jason had been worried about introducing the imagination-altering movie series at age 5. But, it was now time for schooling. So far so good (and if anyone knows what the Sand People look like under their bandages, he’s dying to know.)

After a few days of lounging in ChiChi, we finally mustered enough energy to hit the road during a lull in the rain. After packing the van it began to rain again. The rain fell harder and harder as we left town and entered the mountains. I had to use my Spanish dictionary when we spotted a new sign which translated to ‘Careful on the hairpin turns.’ The turns were so tight no one actually steered all the way into them, preferring to drive over the yellow lines in order to save some energy. The problem was that they were blind turns, so often there was a chicken bus coming at us head on in our lane. In the rain. Mostly downhill, so that Jason was using his emergency brake. Needless to say I was terrified for a good couple of hours.

We finally reached Lake Atitlan and through the bad weather we were able to see the beautiful Lake and town of Panajchel. Tropical storm Agatha did some damage to the small villages around town a few weeks ago, but Pana was up and running. It was just waiting for the tourists. Lots and lots of souvenir stalls and only a handful of backpackers.

It storms every evening here, so we had food delivered once, and brought our camp stove up to the terrace another night. We continue to be pretty lazy and it feels good.

We took a boat to San Pedro on the other side of the lake one day. Another backpacker haven. We had some pretty good curry and chai – something we haven’t been able to enjoy very often. Apparently we caught the boat equivalent to the local bus, as we stopped at every town around the lake on the way back. It was interesting, but the wind had picked up and the water was extremely choppy, and it was raining again.  Over an hour later, we finally got back to Pana.

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Some Days…

Posted on June 22, 2010 by 4 Comments

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It Sucked, But Then I Got to Shop

Posted on June 18, 2010 by 8 Comments

Our friend Francisco recommended we travel the Highway we believe to be CA-7 – they aren’t labeled. Soon after passing through Coban, we started to really wonder about this route.

It was dirt and mud most of the way. At one point, the entire side of a mountain had crumbled down, leaving us to detour on an even worse dirt road than the one we were supposed to be on.

Several hours after the detour, we finally met pavement. It wasn’t much better. The rest of the way we only saw half the road…rocks and gravel covered the other half. Since it was a mountain road, this was a bit unnerving  on the curves.

We drove ALL day. Luckily, we had no van troubles because there was no place to pull off the road. We made lunch and ate it in the car as we rolled on. We limited our beverage consumption, and we loaded Bode up with movies and games. Again, he earns the award for the best traveler of the day.

In trying to avoid thinking about the road conditions, I focused on the fashions. In Coban and the surrounding areas, women wore long skirts that were sort of a combination of madras and plaid. They also wore lace shirts, mostly in orange. What was interesting was that in the center of town, I saw many women in their traditional dress, but wearing high heels and a slightly more fitted lace shirt.

As we drove through the small towns and villages, the clothes changed slightly in each community. An apron was added over the skirt in one town, shiny satin shirt with lace colors or embroidered tops in another. And every woman in each town wore the same thing.

Finally, we got to Chichicastenago, a small village in the mountains known for it’s fantastic Sunday market. We checked into a sweet little hotel with a fireplace and lots of Mayan decorations. It was chilly and raining.

We celebrated our safe arrival with a roaring fire, and a cheap box of wine. And once it got dark, the church next door started their fireworks celebration. Quite impressive, I only wish it didn’t continue at all hours of the day and night over the next two days.

The market here was better and bigger than we expected. There were plenty of handicrafts, and here they had gone to the trouble of making things tourists might want. It was wall to wall people and the array of colors was something I can’t explain.

Taking photos was tricky, as we didn’t want to offend anyone.  We handed Bode the camera and let him take photos. Most people though it was cute.

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