Let me share with you some pictures I took in a country that I almost fell in love with, Guatemala. This is a fairly high remark since I really haven’t fallen in love with any country for that matter. Enjoy these pictures. Not only did they take a long time to downsize, upload, and write captions for, but they may be the last pictures you’ll see from me until I get a new digital camera.
16 Jun 07- Comitan to Panajachel (Lake Atitlan), Guatemala
At Lake Atitlan, Guatemala right now. Another really interesting day today, but I will talk about that later. Let´s just say that the mountains, rain, potholes, and mud don´t mix well together.
So I decided that I´m gonna stop copying and pasting the maps of where I´ve been. It´s kinda annoying thing for me to do and I bet not too many people care or even enjoy them. So I´ll post some real pictures and put some captions on them. This took me a long time to do, so I hope you enjoy.
This is quite possibly the craziest border crossing ever. It didn’t take long, but it was a rude awakening. From what I can gather, paperwork is much easier at this border than the other Mexico-Guatemala border towns. I am entering Guatemala at this point, so behind me is a sign welcoming people to Mexico.
As soon as I entered Guatemala, my car had to be fumigated. It cost me 18 Quetzales (around $2), and my car smelled like hell. Thankfully, they only did the interior of the car and not the trunk.
Next step is the Migration. Here, we get our passports stamped, once for myself and once more for the vehicle.
Next and final step is going through vehicle permit. Mexico granted me a lot of time, but Guatemala wanted me out in 45 days.
This is one of the reasons why this border is so crazy. Shops to the left and right, and believe it or not, this is a two way street. I could have easily reached out and poked the other passing driver in the eye. The last 250 meters of getting to the Guatemala border was even worse. It had a sort of a loop around because the streets were becoming so congested with shops and the road we got back on had to become a one way street into Mexico.
“I don’t know how any car that’s larger than a minivan could make it through that border. The shops are so close, and the people walk mere inches away from your car. It was a very different experience, something I will never forget. It seemed as though an entire culture of people so intent on thriving in their own world while offering a piece of their culture to the more economically savvy northern neighbors decided to concentrate their entire population within a small stretch of land.”
Political party affiliations are very strong here in Guatemala. Mexico didn’t seem very concerned with politics, if at all, and the contrast is striking. Here are few of the rock paintings you come across everywhere over Guatemala and people’s political affiliations. At first I was alarmed because I thought we had gotten into some gang territory dispute.
I am having pizza for lunch that I bought off one of the guys at a speed bump (called tumulos in Guatemala, tope in Mexico). This proved to be a great move because…
…soon thereafter, on our way to Lake Atitlan,…
…we hit massive traffic jam due to lane expansion work that Guatemala seems to be spending a lot of money on. It didn’t help that there was a huge mudslide that tractors were trying to clean up, and it started to rain like hell. To the right of my car is Fiona, and this was our view for about 1.5 – 2 hours, at about 7000 feet above sea level. Nobody went anywhere during that timeframe.
We got so bored in the car that Fiona started marking over the countries she’s been to. About 10 years ago, she spent about 6 months in Africa, and then she spent almost a year in Europe the following year.
We finally got through! This was exciting, but I felt so bad for the guys still waiting. There were literally hundreds and hundreds of cars, maybe even a thousand, just waiting on the other side.
17 Jun 07 – Panajachel (Lake Atitlan) to Chichicastenango to Antigua
Aldous Huxley called Lake Atitlan “the most beautiful lake in the world.” Although I have no idea who he is, (is he the guy that wrote Brave New World?) here’s why I think he said that. This is the view from Panajachel, one of the cities in Lake Atitlan with a clear view of the volcanoes on the other side of the lake.
On our way to Chichicastenango on Sunday, their market day. Here, an entire village seems to be working on making tumulos (speed bumps). This is just 1 of maybe 5 or 6 they were working on.
Chichicastenango. I doubt I will ever run into a more fascinating market city. Congested as hell, here is the view from the bottom of a Church. There was some crazy incense burning in the middle of it.
I managed to make my way up to the top and you can start to see the insanity down below.
Here’s a picture of shops after shops. I think I was walking like a penguin at this point, slow and steady.
Here’s one of my favorite spur of the moment shots. You can really see and appreciate the vibrant colors of the indigenous people that continue to populate this city. The daughter looked at me for a while, perhaps confused as to why a Korean is sitting in the middle of a Guatemala city, and I took this shot as soon as she looked away.
The market’s got some great street food.
Here, I had some awesome chicken, rice, french fries, and coke and salad for 15 Quetzales (less than $2). I still find street foods here to be much more delicious than overpriced restaurants. There was a lady with her daughter and a kid perhaps less than 2 years old sitting across the table from me. When they left I gave them 10 Quetzales and told them it’s for the kid. She smiled, didn’t say a word, and gracefully accepted.
They sure like to paint their buses around here. I think United States literally ships over their older yellow school buses, because some of them have the words ‘School Bus’ written all over it still.
Here’s Fiona showing some pictures of our travels to our hotel managers. The lady, Lilota, actually owns this Posada. It’s called Lilota’s Garden. The guy spoke very good English.
The Santa Catalina Church in Antigua. Very distinct colors and design, especially compared to the indigenous cathedrals in Chichicastenango.
The famous (infamous for being such a tourist attraction) Arch, Antigua.
THE Cathedral. That’s what the name of it is according to my book, anyway. They seem to have THE cathedrals in every major city, including one in Oaxaca, Mexico. But the designs and the colors are especially different…
… as you can see in here, Guatemala Cathedrals, I believe, have more vibrant colors without being as flashy as the Mexican ones.
18 Jun 07 – Antigua to Volcan Pacaya to Antigua
I don’t think anything will beat the experience of climbing my way to Volcan Pacaya. This was quite a hike up and down, about an hour and a half up. I haven’t cut my hair since I started my journey on June 1st, and I won’t be cutting it until I get back home. Same thing for the mustache and the beard, although I am keeping the side clean.
This is our guide up the volcano. He does this twice a day, taking people up the final 1400 feet or so of the Volcano. He was a good guide. When the other one didn’t want to keep going up because of the lava, this one kept going and invited us up. He never fell or used his hands. He was mainly using his machete to peel off the fruit in his hand.
Point of no return?
Here’s a picture of me in a lot of pain. That’s because the trail of lava you see flowing down behind me is only about 30 feet away, and…
…about 10 feet directly to the left of me is that heap of lava literally melting off pieces of rocks. By the way, if you ever go climbing up volcanoes, gloves are a must. You’ll thank me later.
On my way down, I saw this couple being helped up to the top. It’s a shame I didn’t really get to talk to them more, all I know is that they were from New Mexico. I think they would have really enjoyed this, it’s one my favorite spur of the moment pictures. I could comment more, but I don’t want to ruin the essence of it.
And now, I would like for you to get a glimpse of
19 Jun 07 – Antigua to Tikal
I don’t think any single place will beat the marvel of Tikal. The only place that I think has a chance is Machu Picchu, Peru. Right now, it’s Tikal > Palenque > Monte Alban. These are the stairs that lead up the Temple IV.
Some of you Star Wars fans may recognize the scene here. They used this exact place in Temple IV for Star Wars. Directly to the right of me is Temple I, which is no longer accessible. Temple I was also in the panoramic shot above. To the right of that is Temple 2, which is what I climbed up on to take that panoramic shot.
Even more right of that last picture is Mundo Perdido. That’s where people are gathering now to watch the sunset…
…and that’s what we’re climbing. This is also one of my favorite spur of the moment shots. I like the fact that the blur adds to the feel of the picture. The steps are steep enough that you’d be on all 4s without really stooping down. People are carefully side stepping down. We’re on our way up Mundo Perdido now…
… to bask in this wonderful view.
And here’s me at Mundo Perdido, with Temple IV on the far right hand side. If you go into Tikal after 3 (they close at 6 but they let us stay for the sunset and left at 7), they let you in the following day as well. Unfortunately, the sunrise was a bit hazy. Still worth the 3:30AM getup.
20 Jun 07 – Tikal to Rio Dulce
But I did get to go on Temple V. Here’s what it looked like when they first found it.
Here’s what it looks like now. The climb up is pretty scary, but the climb down is the worst. It’s so steep that I had to carry my backpack in front of me so it won’t keep bumping against the steps.
That’s it from Guatemala! Next time I upload may be in a week or so in Panama, or in a couple weeks from Ecuador or Peru.