Monday, November 1, 2010

Interlude: Off the bikes in western Guatemala and Chiapas, Mexico (again) (October 1- 18, 2010)

Needing to return to Mexico to renew our Central America visas, and still wanting to visit various places in western Guatemala, we left our bikes in Panajachel and headed on towards the western highlands of Guatemala via boat and bus.  Our first stop: San Pedro La Laguna.

San Pedro La Laguna sits perched above Lago Atitlán in a tremendous natural setting

street food found near the market in San Pedro.  These are tostadas smothered in beans, guacamole, onions, pickled carrots, pasta, and parsley.

chillin' in the afternoon on the edge of Lago Atitlán

local fishermen

We walked around the lake from San Pedro to San Marcos, passing numerous idyllic landscapes en route

coffee beans near San Pedro

Volcán San Pedro on the right, Volcán Toliman to the left

Our Argentinian friend Natalia and a local boy in San Marcos La Laguna

Jeff launching from 10m into Lago Atitlán (near San Marcos)

local reading the Bible on the boat back to San Pedro

street food in San Pedro

warm plantain beverage, incredible and nutritious.  Called "atol"

San Pedro La Laguna, and Guatemala in general, is off the deep-end with religious madness... Catholics and evangelicals everywhere and their obnoxious propaganda:

Jesus is Lord

God has been good (on the facade of a language school)

"Only Jesus can change your life"

this wins the prize however, a Jesus-luminous transmission shifter knob in the bus we rode to Xela

much more to our liking

siesta time on the stoop

Mike trying to hang with the locals in Quetzaltenango (Xela)

only 5 minutes in Xela and Christ is coming

pan de elote, otherwise known as cornbread.  cheap and delicious

From Xela, we decide to climb the nearby volcano Santa Maria...

milpa on the lower slopes of Volcán Santa Maria, beans and corn planted

a nice view of the Santa Maria cone

once again without guides, once again lost (not knowing this at the moment, however, as we had followed what seemed to be a promising trail a long ways up the mountain)

we knew we were in trouble when we were crawling on our stomachs up through thick cloud forest on an ancient foottrail long in disuse.  We worked our way up through cloud forest chutes-and-ladders craziness into the darkness, and camped on the only flattish spot we encountered, somewhere around 3400 m.

near the summit, just after sunrise

what are they doing here?  The summit of Santa Maria at 3776m

incredible views of the whole Guatemala volcanic chain

Santiaguito erupting on the lower slopes of Santa Maria!!

views towards 4260m Volcán Tajumulco (a future project of ours), and out towards the Pacific

Volcán de Fuego erupting in the distance

At around 8 AM, bunches of locals began arriving at the summit, and immediately began chanting religious songs.

this was one of their prayer leaders.  contents of curious bottles unknown.  Many of these folks were in trance, unintelligible. Apparently, many Guatemalans practice ancient Mayan religious rites, substituting Catholic imagery but retaining their original significance (much like voodu has done)

another group assembled on the other side of the summit.  Xela spreads below in the midground

this is what Mike thinks of Guatemalan religion.  These people climbed up here, to 13000-plus feet, with no food or water!

here at the summit we spent long hours in the warm sun with crystal clear views over the Guatemalan highlands

starting down through pine forest

relaxing in a meadow, nearly down

back in Xela.  Here we are with our English friend, Alice, who has settled in Xela for a bit.  Alice preparing curry, and Jason preparing zucchini bread...

... for a great dinner party at Alice´s flat in Xela... Americans, Swiss, English, Guatemalans

Jeff does up loaves of whole wheat roasted garlic bread

the market and bus area in Xela, with Volcán Santa Maria in the background

Mike finds Guatemalan buses so comfortable and relaxing that he starts to meditate.  Here we are en route to Mexico (again), to renew our central America visas.

this business depends on God and you (Guatemalan transport company)

Craig and Sonia in Comitán, Chiapas.  We met Sonia at the border, and she is also heading to San Cristobal.  She has been seven months in a Guatemala village, volunteering with a womens' weaving collective.

making mixed drinks just next to the cathedral in San Cristobal, moments before the tourist police booted us from this spot

amazing selection of beans in San Cris

Sonia downing a green smoothie in the San Cris market.  A full week with us in San Cris, making communal vegan meals, seeing live music (French gypsy jazz and Latin folk guitar) and she promptly changes her plans, decides to head back to Guatemala, and cycle south with us!  Our numbers are growing...


Marilyn said...

This is so awesome. Hello from Jerry, Marilyn, Dave and Christy!

Carlos Castellá said...

Fascinating and unbelievable trip.

So, I'm sure you are learnig Spanish now!

Best regards,

Carlos from Barcelona (Spain)