Gast schrijfster: Off the beaten-track!

Walter, 4 Sep 2005 02:45 uur
Guatemala, Lago Atitlan: San Marcos de Laguna


Aangezien het leven hier z’n gewone gangetje begon te krijgen was het tijd voor een beetje meer spanning. Een weekendje off the beaten track door de ogen Nerine:

Well, I have just got back from another trip in Guatemala. Went to Zipacate which is coastal.
The trip is meant to take about four hours, but in Guatemala, it takes more than double. And you know that you can never get impatient here, because then you could stop enjoying yourself in manana country. Manana means tomorrow.

So Walter and I first waited a time for the first boat away from our beautiful home. Waiting for the boat was a mixture of the pleasant and unpleasant. Lying on the pier with my feet in the sea green colour used by Gauguin was most pleasant. Especially looking through the crystal clear water to that which lies beneath…

And that which lies beneath comprised a water spider, which I saw very clearly, some water plants which looked like orchards and some fish. The downside was the heat, which I stoically endured. Not a word of complaint. After all I´m a seasoned traveller??? Then the first boat arrived which took us to Santiago on the other side of Lago Atitlan. From there we walked through the village and saw Guatemalan handiwork at its best.

Then we took a huge boat to the mainland. That was fun, but rather slow. But as I said, no choice but to sink into the experience. Then it was onto chicken buses. Chicken buses in Guatemala are brighly coloured and very attractive from the outside. However, inside they are packed, and verily it seems that there is never not enough space for just one more family. And Guatemalans do appear to be the epitome of patience. They calmly wait in the aisles until it´s their turn to get a seat. Really, their eyes manifest an enduring patience and acceptance. A lot to be learnt there.
In the seats I´m ok, but poor Walter does have difficulty with his long legs. Needless to say, like the rest of that portion of humanity on the bus, we all seem one way or another to survive. And it´s fascinating to observe life around. One incident: A Guatemalan lady with husband and three kids suddenly looks so sophisticated because she´s wearing sunglasses. Yes my dear, sunglasses can make a big difference.

so after much time – we don´t even bother to look at our watches anymore, Walter and I arrive in Zipacate. We take a tuc-tuc right to the beach, only to discover that resorts built for dazzling beach holidays have stagnated into wrack and ruin. That is what comes from going off the beaten track. All travelllers complain that they are tired of lonely planet and the beaten track, but there is some rhyme and reason to it.

So we cautiously walk around a bit, and finally we find a place. We go into a room with a bed that has dirty linen on it, not even having been made. Skande ek se. And I, with my predilection to turn a blind eye to much, could not find it within my entity to accept these conditions for my entity.
So Walter and I then had to begin the long trek back to town. And even though we had a magnificent sunset to gaze upon, we concommitantly had to ward off thousands of mosquitoes.

so never let it be said that I just went in for easy travelling.

Anyway, enough of me and back to my story. So when we found a nice place to stay in town, ie a bed with mismatching but clean linen, a clean concrete floor,and about three paint colours on the wall, we were well pleased.
Then came the time to use the shower, which comprised a hole in the wall resembling an electricity box. After bending down to get in, I was affronted by some man´s old underpants, which formed part of the allure no doubt. But luckily there was tepid water in abundant supply, which drained out via an opening in the wall as opposed to the floor. Also, the shower had a little lookout, with a panel that could be inserted to prevent the family from peering in. But really, once all is said and done, I´d rather someone glimpsed a bit of my flesh than go through the arduous task of fitting in the panel.

Our evening then comprised walking around the town with only dust roads and three funeral houses. Most shops sold exactly the same rudimentary household needs. Walter and I then discussed at length the meaning of three funeral houses on our path. Any ideas.

And it was most interesting to see the Guatemalan ladies there in mini skirts. In San Marcos they still wear their traditional long skirts and are loathe to look a man in the eye. And the men were obviously very image conscious with their styled hair and carefully picked clothing.

The men who have arrived drive motor bikes, while those still awaiting their time make do with their bicycles. Sadly, they do not get the women. The ones with bikes always have a pretty damsel on the back seat, and they drive around the dirt roads all evening, because there´s no where else to go.

so after walter and I had had our fill of sitting on the side of the road watching Zipacate townfolk go by – the evening´s entertainment, we went back into our hotel, wherein the whole family lives too, where Walter ate the only food for sale – deep fried chicken and chips.

After that we joined the family – grandmother and all, to watch a very very bad spanish movie. Our excuse was that we were learning Spanish by watching.
And then to our room for a night´s sleep, accompanied by the buzz of a whirring fan.

The next morning at the ranch resort specially created for ´gringos´, we gaily sat down to a table covered in a white table cloth and presided over by a fake red rose. These touches are much appreciated, believe me. Yes, stop snickering. I know you only approve of the real thing, but if you had to contend with dirty linen, you´d definitely stop turning your nose up at a fals roosie.

Anyway, we proceeded to order our breakfast of eggs, cheese and black beans etc. with coffee. The waitron then politely asked if we´d like some milk with our coffee, to which we duly responded with the affirmative. When the bill came, we noticed we had been charged double for the coffee. When we proceeded to ask why, we were told that we had ordered milk. This was a blatant rip off, and it happens a lot here, in a big way, often to the extent that I´ve been assured there´s no meat in take-away food, which in actuality contains meat. Soon we had opportunity though to be more militant in that we decided that we didn´t want to pay the unreasonable fare for a tuk tuk home as we had recently paid far too much for a short boat ride to the restaurant. So when the tuk tuk stopped, we said we´d pay half the fare.
The driver said no and drove on, and we calmly kept on walking. And then he stopped his tuk tuk and let us in. The endless games around money here – part and parcel of the experience.

On the way home, two days of travelling for one day at the beach, we got into a chicken bus that had left the petrol station to come and fetch us and some other locals. But instead of carrying on with the trip, we were taken back to the petrol station across the road, which meant we missed the next bus. So we started on our first leg of the journey home, which was 50 km and took just under 3 hours. Yes, three hours. And this was because we had to accommodate one of the drivers who was taking his nap and then a meander to the local flea market for 25 minutes shopping.

But really, we enjoyed ourselves immensely, because within the unromantic is much beauty, especially if you have the right travelling companion.

Back home again, which is truly paradise. Walter made beautiful bread yesterday, which we are eating today. He even had time to sit next to the oven and watch it rise. Then we went to the vegetable patch at the bottom of our garden and got spinach, cucumber (with tiny white thorns on it?), yellow flowers that our Italian friend Antonella says are very good served tempura style) and lettuce. We made a magnificent curry and salad and really felt a sense of elation at eating vegetables we had picked ourselves. Walter also
wanted to try prickly pears, which were still too unripe.

And now another day has sped by. I thought it was 11 and felt aghast to discover it was two. All I have left is less than a month in this godsend home, so if you can possibly come and stay, seize the moment while it´s available.

Lots of love

En ook van mij de groeten,