I saw many cool animals, but no tarantulas. Some of the other tourists claim that some guides leave pet tarantulas on trees to “find” for their groups, but Erdo didn’t do that. And how do they know their spider won’t crawl away? I’m skeptical. Perhaps hidden cages?
I barely touched on Tikal’s splendors in my last post. The search for electricity/wifi is more difficult in Peten than it has been elsewhere. And my post had to be quick to grab the fleeting waves.
So I uploaded some photos out of order, just because they show me in lovely Tikal. Back to the narrative, chronologically. After Plaza Q, we went through the jungle on one of our many shortcuts. Our guide, Erdozain (acento on the “i”) has been a guide for nine years, and knew many quick ways through the park.
As a botanical aside:
We saw chicle trees (and chewed some gum) rubber trees (and made rubber) allspice trees (and rubbed the delicious smelling leaves in our fingers) and tasted the various edibles from other trees.
But my favorite tree in the world is now ceiba. Sorry beech and katsura trees, you just can’t compare.
We went to Temple IV. This was the highest building in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, and it’s very high indeed, with a view beyond compare. Photos don’t do it justice.
Then, more trekking through the forest. By the way, I saw ONE mosquito here. There are very few bugs evident anywhere in Guatemala. I see more in my basement.
More temples, pyramids, etc. Lots of epiphytes, especially Tillandsia.
I can only post so many photos at once, so I will continue with the Grand Plaza and many animals of Tikal soon.
Today, Tikal, in El Peten. I almost decided not to come here, out of simple tiredness and an assumption about how touristy it would be. I am so grateful I forced myself to do so. Tiakl is gorgeous, the jungle is wonderful, the guide was great, even the food was good. People aren’t kidding when they say “you must go to Tikal,” it’s not just a tourist thing like the Eiffel Tower or something.
Tikal is enormous. We could only see some of it during our five hour tour. But we hit the high points and climbed so much that any more and my legs would have simply fallen off.
We climbed the pyramid in Plaza Q and checked out stelae.
Much more coming…
I arrived in Flores last night after 11.5 hours of travel. My over-priced hotel wasn’t because of it’s beautiful hot shower.
I leave in a few minutes for Tikal, and my rainforest hike.
Today was one of my favorite days in Guatemala, largely because of the two women I shared it with. J and S are from Seattle and we met at Valhalla Macadamia Estacion. We ended up spending the entire time together, and it was lovely.
So let me tell you about macadamias. Guatemala exports most of its macadamias to Hawaii, so that can of deliciouness you devoured that labeled itself “product of Hawaii” was likely 25% Guatemalan.
Macadamias are great for the environment. When grown properly, using appropriate varities, organic methods aren’t difficult. The incredibly tough shell of the nut is carbon-rich, both a good carbon sink and slow-to-decompose paving material. The trees are not super-heavy feeders, so the don’t deplete the soil. Valhalla gives young trees to local families to build the economy and sustainable agriculture.
Valhalla uses all parts of the nut. Their drive and parking areas are paved with shell, the green pithy outer layer mulches the trees. Whole nuts are sold as grade A nuts, nicked nuts are used in chocolate or oil.
The leftover meal from pressing out the oil is used in flour, which make unbelievable pancakes. With organic blueberries, which they also grow.
Also, Valhalla makes all sorts of machines to sort, press, and otherwise process their nuts, which are better-tasting but also more variable in size than Hawaii’s.
I highly recommend a stop at Valhalla for those near Antigua. The tour is brief but interesting, the food is great, the people and dogs are nice, the place is lovely. And they offer free face massages with macadamia oil, which is, frankly, bliss.
After our nutty adventure (I couldn’t help it, that phrase has been trapped in me all day. Apologies.) we returned to Antigua and went somewhere really cool. Can you guess where?
I never would have even considered entering such a place myself, but their coffee is actually quite good here, and the courtyard was great. S and J were right to suggest it.
Then we walked up to Cerro de la Cruz, a stone cross that overlooks the city. S is a total BA, climbing a zillion steps to the cross four weeks after knee surgery.
Afterward we went to Nim P’ot to drool over the things we can’t fit into our carry-on bags, but which were tantilizingly inexpensive.
Then to Hector’s for a light meal of roasted tomatoes with gouda and balsamic vinegar (at least, that’s what I ate). Hector’s is a tiny but nice restaurant next to El Merced.
A lovely day with lovely women.
I have had things to wrte about in the last few days, but unfortunately my camera has the photos stored in internal memory, and I haven’t a mini usb cord to retrieve them. So those posts will have to wait.
Today I left Xela and returned to Antigua, on my way toward Tikal. My days at La Democracia escuela are over. I already miss Tatiana, my wonderful teacher, and Y and J, the students I hung out with. And Antigua feels so different.
Partially it’s because it’s a weekend. Partially because the gringo/Guatemalateco ratio is very different. But mostly it’s because it’s me. After Xela this place looks so groomed and falsely tidy, as if it IS the Disney village I claimed it was not when I was here two weeks ago.
I almost can’t stand the prettiness, the considered and primped air of the place. The place is seething with slightly rude tourists (they don’t move on the sidewalk to allow others to pass, and they block doorways–I swear I don’t do that!) And there are groups playing the sort of Muzak “folk” music that offends no one and charms tourists. After the grunge and edge of Xela, this town feels alien. Fake.
And yet. It is so damned pretty.
I went to a very lovely set of musems, ate fantastic Indian food, and wandered through the park, bought a present for G (at LAST. Do you know how hard it is to buy man-gifts in Guatemala?!)
And now I’m swinging in a hammock at Yellow House hostel. This is blissful. It’s about 70°, the sun is low, birds are singing…while the traffic noise it constant, it’s almost peaceful as well.
There is something to be said for tourist-inspired attractiveness.
Like most cities, Quetzaltenango loves it’s memorial statures. Here are a few of the zillions that abound here that I particularly like.
Consider this photo storage! I worry that I’ll lose my sd cards, so I’m just storing photos here.
Today was just a boring school day, so I’m just posting photos.
Yesterday, I didn’t do much for most of the day. I went to the Parque Central for a while. I shopped for a few small gifts, I was pickpocketed, I ate at a cafe…
Yes, I was pickpocketed of 30 quetzales, or about $4. It was my fault. I was buying something and just stuffed my change in the pocket of my bag. Then when I went to pay for someting else, someone just grabbed the change from my bag as I paid the vendador. That vendador totally saw it, but said nothing. I saw his eyes flicker behind me for a moment, and looked in my bag a second later.
I WAS smart emough to have bits of money secreted about my person, so they got very little. I normally have death grip on my bag, so I think el ladron was watching for his moment. Anyway, it was no big deal, and is hopefully the only unpleasant thing that happens to me in Guatemala–knock on wood!
At the Cafe Utz Ha (great sopa de zanahoria) I met another American student and chatted with him for a while, then returned to my house to do laundry and other boring things. In the afternoon I went to my favorite study spot, Cafe Baviera in zona 3. Who should I find there but los otros estudiantes, playing a game called “Jungle Speed.” I played this most excellent game with them for hours, then we cut out to grab some street food and go to a concert in a park for a little while.
The street food was awesome–muy barato and tasty. I simply had a taco, but the guys ate a torta, which is a sandwich involving chopped up hotdogs, chicken, ham, mayo, mozarella, peppers, onions, and salsa dulce (like ketchup) on a large bun, fried in more mayo. Enormous and gross sounding, but delicious. I tried a bite. Just a bite–that mayo looked deadly. I am totally making these tortas at home, even though they are essentially a heart attack on a bun. We also ate the greasiest, most fabulous churros you can imagine.
At the concert the banda was quite good, but of most interest, at least to the men I was with, were the two dancing girls on stage. The were clad in tiny bikinis and fringed chaps. Their dancing consisted mostly of shaking the fringe, if you know what I mean.
I have no photos of any of this because I stored my tablet at Y’s house. Having just been robbed of a small amount in broad daylight with people watching, no way was I bringing a computer to a crowded nighttime concert, nor mi hija’s camera. You will just have to imagine the dancing girls.