Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 03:47:45 +0100
Subject: Travel report 6. Opportunities (too) choose.
To made chooses is an important part of travelling, but less important than the choice the people of Guatemala now have to made. Because this is my last report about Guatemala and I will not be in the country when the result of the election (9 Nov.) in Guatemala will be known, I want to tell you something about that election.
This election is very important for Guatemala, because it can save the country from it's corrupt and chaotic government, but it can also pull the country in chaos and fear. I shall try to explain:
Guatemala is now ruled by a government of different groups who all want what's best for them and don't think about what's best for the country. The result of the coming election can bring this to an end, but it can also make it worse. There is also somebody running for president who had already been the dictator of Guatemala before, a few years ago. During his rule he was responsible for the death of hundreds of people. Last time I saw the prognostication, he was 3e on the running-list. Normally nobody expect him to win, but if he doesn't, he will also lose his political immunity and they can bring him to justice for what he did in the past. You understand that he will try everything to prevent that from happening........ Let's hope that he will not succeed?
All right, let's go on with my travel report:
Now I've visited a number of places on Lago de Atitlan, I can say that they're all very different, but they've also 3 things in common. They`re all build up against a hill, it seemed almost that they've reserved the lower part of the village for the tourist, the upper part for the local people and above that, for their garbage. The last thing seems to be a problem in all of Guatemala, they don't care about their environment, terrible...
Some things I still want to say about some places in specific are:
San Pedro (La Laguna); Although I wrote in my last report that I found it not very beautiful, because of the things you can do from there, the lots of nice places to eat, drink and met other travellers, you will spend soon more time in San Pedro than planned.
From S.P. we went looking for the place that supposed to have no electricity and where they've dinner together, with candlelight. We found Hotel Casa del Mundo and although they do have some electricity, it's still a very nice and luxury hotel with a beautiful view over the lake. And they do have dinner with candlelight.
Santiago Atitlan, is bigger but less touristic than San Pedro. From here you can hike some volcanos, but perhaps the place is more known from Maximon. Maximon is a small wooden statue of the god Maximon, the god of amor (love) and power. The people give this statue money, cigars and alcohol to honour him.
Panajachel, is even more big and also more touristic. Although Chichi is famous for it's markets, I found that the market of Panajachel seemed to have a bigger selection. Perhaps it's only a little more expensive? If you are in Panajachel, don't forget to visit Reserva Natural Atitlan.
Than it's time to go to Quetzaltenango, the city almost nobody seemed to like. I don't know why?
From this city I would start my hike on the Volcan Tajumulco (4220m), the highest Volcano of Central America. The hike is organized by the Quetzaltrekkers, a group of volunteers who organize hikes to collect money for the street kids in Quetzaltenango. They try to give them a chance to get a better future.
The hike is moderate, but, also because of the wind, more cold than I expected. who said that you can travel in Central America with only sandals, shorts and t-shirts???
Although it was cloudy and a little misty, the landscape was beautiful. Deserted green grassland with rocks, varied with brushwood and pine-trees.
Because we had a very fast group of totally 17 travellers and 4 quetzaltrekkers, we arrived more than an hour earlier on the place where we would made our camp for the night. This time we could use to try to find some dry wood for a fire that could keep us warm during the evening.
It`s still dark as we wake up the next morning to walk/climb the last hour of the hike to the top to see sunrise. Unfortunately it was still to cloudy when we arrived, so we could see almost no sunrise :-( Only I had the luck to go with 2 Quetzaltrekkers to the other side of the big crater and from there we had, for a moment, a very beautiful and impressive view down on the Pacific coast and the border of Mexico!
Guatemala City, a dangerous city according to really everybody I speak. I spend there only one night, so to short time to tell if it's true or not. During the day I didn't feel unsafe, but I thought it was perhaps better to avoid the streets during the evening.
Then I had to cross the border to El Salvador and I was surprised how easy that went? They found it not necessary to scan my bags, look inside them or even look at them!?
San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. They told my that I had to go there to get permission to enter Parque El Imposible. it turned out that that it was not really necessary to do that there, but because of this, I had the opportunity to join a small group of birdwatchers who would try to record as much species of birds during a bird-watching-marathon of 2 days. It was organized by SalvaNatura, to collect money to preserve the nature in El Salvador.
San Salvador and surrounding; although it looked big and has chaotic traffic and a very big and noisy market in its centre, I still liked the city.
From San Salvador it's easy to make daytrips to, for example:
Joya de ceren, a small village that was covered with volcanic ash during an eruption in 600AD. Because of this, it's very well preserved and important to archaeology. To me it was much to small.
Boqueron (or big mouth), a volcanic crater witch is almost perfect round and has another small crater in the middle.
Or go to Lago Llopango, a crater lake that looks a little like Lago Atitlan, but only, smaller, more tropical and more quiet.
During the last few days I think I've still seen only a few tourists, but, according to the reactions of some women on the streets, they're not used to see a tall blond European man. But for those who think that's a luck for me, they don't now me and the forget that most women are already married before they're 20 years old...
Than it's Friday evening, time to meet the 3 birdwatchers I will going to join on their marathon.
To record birds we visited this weekend:
Parque El Imposible; A big national park in witch I especially enjoyed the beautiful views.
Barra de Santiago; a nice laguna with mangrove and a lot of birds.
Parque Montecristo; a beautiful park with a big varicosity of vegetation and birds, under witch some very special ones.
Lago de Guija; an other crater lake on the border of Guatemala.
Sunday evening 26-10-2003. During the last 2 days I've seen a lot of bird species and heard even more of them, but I've also learned that you not only need to have very good ears and eyes to be a good birdwatcher, but also need a very good memory to remember all the different looks and sounds of the birds. The group i had joined delivered a great achievement to register 182 different species of birds, under witch a few very special ones, like the Quetzal.
Yes, I can say that I had some luck these past 2 weeks.
Yo Afortunado :-)