A Travellerspoint blog

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hitching through beautiful Guatemalan countryside

Army searches

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Friday 27th September 1985

...crowded all night hard rattling bus ride over dirt roads. Gave up my seat to local lady who looked very mayan with seemingly 8 children under 1. Perch on a can of petrol. Live turkeys in string bags add to the rural ambience. At 4 in the morning all out - again, to be ferried across a river in small boats. Stopped at least 6 times by the army, all out, men line up one side of the bus, women the over, hands up and lean against the bus, frisked and luggage searched. Great interest and suspicion about guide book from the soldiers, who are younger than me.

Nearly miss Sebol as starting to nod off by dawn. And it amounts to nothing, just a fork in the road. A pleasant green and leafy place, a few cane huts and local mayan types. Snooze in a palm leaf shelter before catching a lift from a passing truck.

Stay in 2nd gear all the way to Coban. Its that sort of road. But! what a magnificent place, alpine in its beauty, dense forests and high mountains, simple villages cows and horses. Stop for a shave and a swim in a river. Co-driver rescues my soap dish which had floated away mid shave, Eric and Mick they call themselves.

Fail to get a lift out of Coban in the hour before dark and stay at the Monterrey for 3Q.

Posted by 1985 trip 02:23 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

beautiful Alta Verapaz country in 1985

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Saturday 28th September 1985

Change some money at a bank at about 3.6 to the $ and eventually get a bus for Tactic, followed by one to Purulha near the quetzal reserve. Lots of rain, green and lush cloud forest. Walk into the little mountain village in the afternoon. Low lying cloud obscures the mountains and tattered shreds of cumulus drift down the stony high street. Old lady in shop directs me to a posada, 2Q.

Leave bag and walk 4km to biotopo and find Hospidaje at entrance. Its like Tolkein in late autumn, dripping fernery, tumbling brooks, cows grazing in valley pastures, men carrying bundles with forehead straps, women with baskets on their heads, everyone carrying something and I'm not for once!

Posted by 1985 trip 02:56 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

trying to glimpse the Quetzal bird

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Sunday 29th September 1985

Get up at dawn and plod back up to the Biotopo. Check into the charming pine chalet Hospidaje, room for 9 but just me for 6Q. Bathroom en suite, meals brought up on a tray.

Wander the quaint leafy trails all morning, was that a quetzal or a parrot? It startled me just staring back. No tail streamers but colours right. Flash of grey/white from its wings as it took off.

Cloud forest, lots of moss and dripping ferns lush creepers and always the sound of water. Sit for hours watching the twittering little insectivorous birds come close. Squirrels too.

Simple meals at the log cabin. Light the log fire and smoke the place out, the eye watering gloom makes the paraffin lamp too dim for reading. Dreadful colic all night. Perhaps 18 large tortillas is more than my digestion should attempt.

Posted by 1985 trip 03:22 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

bus station frustration

Guatemala City

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Monday 30th September 1985

Catch a passing bus to Guatemal City 2.5Q Arrive at lunch time a bit lost in time and think it is Sunday. Waste the day expecting a bus to turn up at closed down office. The bus station around the market is spread over many muddy streets and quite impossible to work out. Give up and go to bed.

Posted by 1985 trip 03:32 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

hippy lake

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Tuesday 1st October 1985

Find Rebulos bus station no problem this morning after yesterdays frustrations and catch the 10am bus to Panajachel. beautiful descent from Solozia to the lakeside. Marvellous.

Panajachel hip and trendy village with many foreigners and much ropa tipica. Catch an afternoon boat across the lake to SanPedro where alittle girl shows me to Pension Chuasinahi, 1.5Q con ropa came and demand 10 centavos for her services. Its not a very attatractive place on the lake shore, all breeze block and crowded out with noisy Italians gone hippy in local costume, el tipico.

Posted by 1985 trip 03:36 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

back strap weaving

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Wednesday 2nd October 1985

Wash day and domestic chores. Pensione supervised by a fussy old man. Apparently its owned by a 'colonel'. Persistent rude girls aggressively hawk oranges and tamales off my balcony.

Chris, a dour Canadian, shows me to Senorita Rosa Gonzalez and I agree to a few days back strap loom weaving lessons for 50 cents a day materials extra - about 1.5Q. Later that day I start by threading up and sizing the weft with corn starch.

Sergio, Rosa's husband, is tying a fishing net. Their three boys Chester, Orbe, and Louis make tipica knotted bracelets. They eat tortillas and frijoles morning noon and night. The little three year old girl paddles about trying to keep her skirt up but her fat tum defeats her.

Bisteck con arroz con papas fritas 75 cents.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:12 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

colourful costumes

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Thursday 3rd October 1985

San Pedro is authentically grubby, roughly cobbled streets are steep and narrow and full of farmyard smells. Brightly costumed locals always carrying something, ladies do it on their heads, men on their backs. The ladies wear a long loop of cloth which is wrapped around as a skirt but without getting into the loop, different dressing technique to asia. The men wear calf length home woven white trousers with a black dash running through the weave, other villages will have a different pattern. Rosa makes the San Pedro trouser fabric. Two woven lengths are needed for a pair of trousers at 5Q each, materials cost her 2Q and it takes her about a day and half to weave 2 lengths, in between cooking and childcare. The bottom half of the trousers are brightly embroidered with stylised animals. The women's tops are known as huipiles and are elaborately embroidered. Men's shirts are from similar material to the skirts. You can imagine how colourful the villages look on market day. The houses seem to have piped water but the washing water is chucked into the street. Many flies. Weave all day, painfully slow compared with Rosa.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:21 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

pig out on pancakes

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Friday 4th October 1985

Pancake piled with chopped banana pawpaw and apple, smothered in yoghurt sprinkled with roast grains and drizzled with honey. Is it a dream? no its lake Atitlan. What a feast for 75 cents. lake Atitlan is at about 1500 meters, the surrounding high mountains and volcanoes are a rich green colour due to the forests coffee plantations and maize. Dug out canoes slide across the lake, silhouetted by the glitter of the water.

Pescado de laguna x2 con arroz con frijoles con papas 75 cents. I eat like a fat westerner. Te hierbe or te manzanilla (yellow).

Posted by 1985 trip 01:32 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

kite flying on Lake Atitlan

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Saturday 5th October 1985

Watch and learn as Rosa's boys make kites. The usual design is a hexagon made from three crossed grass straws, cotton thread around the edge and brightly coloured tissue paper in fill. They use a sticky plant bulb for glue. In the late afternoon sun San Pedro has a colourful barrage flying on the rising wind before the evening rain, like a host of dancing butterflies.

Finish weaving. 4Q in total. Mega disaster on the last day as I drop all the odds in the weft. Have to unpick a lot and start again.

Two English guys at the Ultima Cena cafe (couldn't resist a eating at the last supper restaurant) where I usually eat, and two Argentinians. The pommes are heading south. Sounds expensive as Nicaragua demand $60 at the border, and there is a forced currency exchange at a bad rate. Hear of a Guatemalan airline flight to Columbia for $120 and news of fighting at the Nicaragua / Costa Rica border. Think I will fly from Costa Rica to Ecuador.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:46 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Fiesta in Panajachel

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Sunday 6th October 1985

I want to buy some indigenous costumes and today is market day in Chichiquatstenango so up at 5.30am and just MISS the boat, but it comes back for me. Plagued by dreadful stomach pains on the boat. After waiting a while for the bus in Panajachel decide enough is enough and find a hostel to sit it out - literally! Treatment consists of coca cola and boiled sweets. Feel a bit better by the evening after day writhing and moaning in bed. Book says there's a market at Comolapa tomorrow, and this is in the direction of the capital.

Fiesta in the village, a little fun fair, a tissue paper hot air balloon with a fire inside soars up into the clouds without catching fire. Endless pageant of masked dancers in the square, lively marimba and saxophones. All look like caricatures of Spaniards, the masks have big noses and moustaches, large sombreros and pistols. There is also a very large woman and a character with horns. The local's clothes are really colourful, a vibrant mish mash of patterns in the weave then lots of embroidery on top of that. Yet most of them don't have 2 cents to rub together.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:01 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

secret lodgings


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Monday 7th October 1985

Hang around in the early morning waiting for a bus that will put me down before Zaragoza. Dirt road from Zaragoza to ? Comalopa where I hope to find some indian costumes at the market. Appalling road, helpful locals, pine forests.

Quiet town of one storey breeze block houses, many people riding horses, bare back. But too quiet, no market, its tomorrow! The pension won't take me in and I am sent to find Oldga near the cemetery. Olga turns out to be a shop and it all seems not quite legal 2Q shhh!

Posted by 1985 trip 01:12 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Hot water comes at a price

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Tuesday 8th October 1985

Market gets going. Enjoy some gentle bargaining. No hassles here. The ladies wait quietly for your custom but are hard negotiators. Everybody is wearing colourful local costume (except me). Huipiles 12 - 17 Q, 6m of cloth for blouses 28 - 35Q, local's price about 25Q.

Head back to Guatemala City.

Hotel Tranquillidad, 3.3Q, and there is supposed to be hot water, but I never got the hazardous kettle heating element attached to the shower head with insulating tape to work. Cold showers, but at least not electrocuted in the process.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:19 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Travel business

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Wednesday 9th October 1985

Successful business day. Changed KLM reservation to December 6th from October 28th, not ready to go home yet. Also made reservations for flights to Costa Rica and Equador, flying these legs will save time as I want to see the Andes next and I have enough money. Flights 1500Q. Banks offering 3.6 - 3.7Q to the dollar, which is similar to the street rate.

Watch a film, Greystoke. Tarzan returns to his aristocratic Scottish dukedom, his eccentric animal behaviour fits in nicely with his eccentric ancient granfather's. Ralph Richardson's last role.

Hear of a flight from US to Guatemala for 130$.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:26 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

Guatemala City in 1985

its the 80s , it must be Rambo

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Thursday 10th october 1985

Have some spare Quetzals to spend and visit the market behind the cathedral. The cathedral has numerous shrines. The roman catholics seem to worship their numerous saints just like the Mayans have the plethora of deities for different spiritual roles. Get patchwork bolsas (bags) down from 15 to 10Q.

Spend the afternoon at the Post Office. Posting parcels is very cheap, small packets are expensive, no printed matter or letters.

Watch Rambo 2 in the evening. Rambo has a mission, to kill every Vietcong and Russian on the planet. He accomplishes this with the minimum of dialogue and a miraculous never ending supply of ammunition. Ghastly stuff.

When walking along the streets of Guatemala City choose which side of the street with care, not just sun or shade, but which way are the buses running, the all emit a lingering choking blue smog.

Have a blow out final supper in an Italian restaurant.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:34 Archived in Guatemala Comments (0)

San Jose

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Friday 11th October 1985

11.30am check in at Guate airport - La Aurora - and collect voucher for the night in a Bogota Hotel, La Presidentia. Promises to have many more stars than I am used to.

Half empty flight through the clouds to Costa Rica. Money situation: 1$ : 51.5 Colons.

Check in to Tika Linda at 533 2nd Avenue in cute little San Jose. Small sign on otherwise anonymous door, ring the bell and it silently swings open, released by a piece of string runs the length of the 30 foot corridor behind. Tiny rooms with hard board partitions. 75 C a night.

Post Restante. No mail. Misery.

Posted by 1985 trip 01:43 Archived in Costa Rica Comments (0)

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