This is the third and final flush of random impressions from my last week of travel, this time mostly from Chiapas (Mexico).
This shot is from within a dormitory in a backpacker hostel at lake Atitlan (Guatemala). It’s almost like a tree house :-)
A note in the same hostel: So the news that a particular cash machine was tempered with in Antigua, a city which is about 4 hours away from the lake, reached some relatively isolated backpacker hostel but not the authorities right at the bank? Wow. I guess this is Guatemala :-P
This is how a tourist village can also look like :-). Even though it’s very developed touristically, San Pedro la Laguna has a nice laid-back atmosphere.
This is one of these typical mini tiendas (kiosks) at Los Encuentros – a crossroads where many travellers change the busses. In Guatemala, many shops at crowded places are secured like this. Note the advertisements :-)
In this church, they put Jesus in another pose for a change, not just on the crucifix. To create this radiant effect on Jesus, they tied lots of white (cotton) strings from the center to the border. Gives a nice effect, IMO.
A pimped up VW Käfer in the streets of San Cristobal de las Casas (Chiapas, Mexico). There are loads and loads of VW cars in Mexico, and most of them are VW Käfers and VW vans (T1-T3 – the old ones). I think I saw more VW cars in Mexico than in Germany, actually – VW has a very good reputation here :-). The VW vans are used as public transportation as the so called “collectivos” – more or less taxis with a fixed route and a fixed price which will leave as soon as they are full.
The best advertisement for a barber shop (peluceria), isn’t it? Who wouldn’t like to have a mane like him?? :-D (Who exactly is that, by the way?)
The market area in San Cristobal. I like those shots of chaotic streets with a lot of people doing their business. But this is not how whole San Cristobal looks like, it looks like…
What meat+potatoes is for us Germans, the taco is for Mexico. It’s basically just a wheat tortilla with meat, onions and salsa but it’s really good :-) (at least this one on the picture)
This is the second flush of random impressions of Central America. This time, more focussed on Guatemala.
This guy was selling some kind of water ice shake. The best thing about his cart was the ice-crusher machine :-)
Yeah, what an unforgettable adventure it was travelling with this bus company (Fuentes del Norte)…! I read this poster after I spent one night without any sleep in a bus with no leg-space (I mean, even less than normal! ^^) and with no working AC plus windows that can’t be opened. They “solved” this problem by opening the emergency exit windows a little bit and fixing them into position with screws, thus destroying the emergency exits and creating a wind tunnel in which the wind constantly blew through. I was sitting at the window. So while we stopped, it was unbelievably hot and while we were on the road, a strong wind blew into my face all the time o_o
I finally got to converting and uploading the videos into the blog. You need a HTML5 compatible browser for this. Check out the following updated blog posts:
Falta en tu mente la libertad
Faltan monedas para viajar
Faltan fabricas, falta hasta el pan.
Falta buen día, como te va
Faltan vecinos para matear
Faltan esquinas, falta quemar
Faltan amigos, falta confiar.
Faltan abrazos, falta emoción
Faltan gestos de buen corazón
Falta tu risa, falta el calor
Faltan trabajos, falta un motor
Sobran políticos, sobran políticos
Missing the liberty in your heart
Missing money to travel
Missing factories, missing for feeding
Missing good day, how are you
Missing neighbours to drink mate with
Missing corners, missing smoke
Missing friends, missing trust
Missing hugs, missing emotion
Missing gestures of good heart
Missing your laugh, missing the heat
Missing work, missing a motor
Superfluous are politicians, superfluous are politicians
There is a special truth in that song for Central America, and especially for Guatemala. From the countries I have seen in Central America (so, excluding Honduras, San Salvador and Belize), Guatemala seemed to be poorest, most corrupt and dangerous. In Guatemala, a lot of things seem to be missing. But one thing is certainly not missing: As a taxi driver told me, there are about 36(!) political parties, though he added that “only” about 12 have a realistic chance to get into parliament.
He also told me that currently the country is governed by the wife of the president. And that the same is now getting a divorce just to be allowed by law to run for president in the next elections. As long as they are in power, they can not be prosecuted as the president seems to enjoy some kind of immunity. Why is that important? Here it comes:
The president and his wife have been formally accused to several murders – in a videotaped message of the victims lawyer that was to be released in the media in case of his (the lawyers) death! Sounds like a movie, doesn’t it? – “If you watch this, I am probably already dead….”.
I don’t know about the details of the accusations, but do make a google or wikipedia search if you are so inclined. What I know is that the news of this incident died down within a few weeks and since seems to be forgotten by the media.
I was currently leaving Guatemala City in a bus into the mountains which – as usual – stopped for every passenger on the main road but otherwise was in such a hurry that the bus driver had to overtake all other cars on the road and rev the engine every time he accelerated, leaving a black cloud of smoke. 30km/h limit signs were blatantly ignored. (Perhaps this was because of the fact that his speedometer always showed 0km/h? Well, at least there were no traffic lights he could run :-))
The main street of Guatemala City leading out of the city was lined with election posters that show the many different visages that want to be president after the next elections. The difference between the modern megasized posters which rose high above and the dirty and chaotic street life was striking. The politicians depicted on the posters looked like they come from another world or at least another country – I couldn’t really make out any difference between all these parties, anything they would stand for, anything they want to or don’t want to do when they are in power. I would have thought that in a country with that many problems, politicians would be more outright with what they want to do when in power but the opposite seems to be the case.
The only thing I read were hollow phrases like “Baldizón. yes he can!”, “Only the people can save the people” (Lider), “There will come better times for everyone” (UCN), “Guatemala, I accept you for what you are” (UNE + GANA, the presidents wife), “I love Guatemala, I am a patriot” (Patriota) or, the best:
Another one of these house-paintings, they are everywhere. I heard that this particular party offers that if they may put their logo on your house, they will pay for the paint to paint your house… oh man.
The scenic serpentine road from Solola to Panajachel gave great views onto the Atitlan lake, we came by even a few waterfalls. However, the landscape around the streets has been disfigured by taggings of the logos of the various political parties on the bare rock. Did they try to mark their territory? ;-)
A French student that currently studies in San José (Costa Rica) explained to me hat democracy works differently here. It’s called “popularism” – officially it is a democracy but there is no deep democratic culture or tradition here. One could assert the people just vote for a new dictator every few years here – perhaps that guy who gives out the most presents before the elections?
We got this from some people handing out info on the Lider party. Now, what do you think does it say about what exactly they want to achieve when in power?
Semana Santa is what is for us Easter. However, as the name suggests (=Holy week), it is a much bigger thing in Central America. It is one week full of processions, other religious rituals and a tremendous stream of locals that use the opportunity to have a vacation with the family and rush to tourist locations, primarily beaches. The beaches were incredibly full during Semana Santa.
In Nicaragua, this lead to a traffic situation on the public busses that was as bad as the normal situation in Guatemala. Taxi drivers telling you “no hay autobuses” (=there are not busses) were not even really lying – all the busses were packed!
In the bus Thorsten was ranting about.
However, we succeeded in mostly avoiding the crowd, except for the one or the other (accidental) bump into the processions.
Just to give you a short insight: In a procession, they carry figures of Jesus (normally carrying the cross), Maria and sometimes other saints through the town into a church, where a short mass is held afterwards. A procession is accompanied by a priest, an orchestra of brass players, a cart with a diesel generator to light the figures (“wrwrwrwr…”) after dark and of course lots of people who march together with procession.
Before the procession starts, however, the locals often create colorful “alfombras” (=carpets) out of dyed sawdust along the way of the procession. In Granada, a van with megaphones roamed through the town hours before to announce the procession.
Before I get on with writing about the Semana Santa, here are some random pictures from the last weeks which did not fit into a particular story but are still worth to show :-)
A vending machine at the bus station of Panama City. The yellow warning sign says: “Warning! Never incline or rock the machine. The machine can fall and cause serious physical damage, including death. This machine does not dispense products for free!“
Gallo Pinto with eggs (and cheese, bread). This is pretty much how the typical breakfast (at least) in Costa Rica and Nicaragua looks like. Gallo pinto (=Spotted rooster) is a mix of rice and beans. Love it!
Random sign on the road: “My eggs are not the solution. VIAGRA.” Tortoise eggs are (illegally) sold as aphrodisiacs.
Pretty adventurous wiring for a shower, eh? These kind of showers are pretty common in central america. They heat the water directly at the showerhead while it is flowing through: 110V, 4000-5500W. Sometimes when switching it on, one can see a little flash of light inside the shower ;-). People told me that they already got an electric shock when they turned it on, hmmm.
Our hostel in Flores, Guatemala. We arrived there at 2:00 in the morning and they told us that everything is full – however they let us sleep on the hammocks there :-)
Classical Tuc-Tuc shot (=Auto rickshaw). The flag on the top says: “GOD, bless this TUC-TUC and its passengers” :-)
While I rummaged through the pictures, I found lots more I want to post. So you can be sure that there will be at least a second “random pictures” post :-)
Another thing I noticed on Ometepe was the odd condition of the beaches.
At the hostel I stayed, there was supposed to be a beach. There was none. And at the beaches near it, lots of disrooted trees were lying across the narrow beach. Rey (see last post) told me that normally, the water in the lake is several meters lower than it is this year. During the last rain season, it rained much much more than usual, creating a flood that made hotels near the beach repair the damages months after. With the water still being as high as now (my hostel had a sand beach, but it is under water now) at the end of the dry season, the people on and around the Nicaragua lake will have to face an even higher flood. According to him, it is the biggest flood since 30 years.
Now that I was also in Guatemala at the Atitlan lake, I can say it is the same situation there: vanished sand beaches, disrooted trees and even flooded buildings. Actually, the flood there is this high that they had to rebuild many of the docks as the old dock is now under water. According to a local, the water now at the end of the dry season is 3 meters higher than normal. He said, the last time the water was this high was during the eighties. If the next rain season will be similar, many lakeside hotels and houses will be flooded.
The lake of Nicaragua is the biggest lake in central america and right in the middle of it, there lies a truly magical island called Ometepe. The island was formed by two volcanoes, one of which is still active. It is a pretty rural place, great for exploring the nature or just hanging around. Here are some impressions.
When we were at the beach, there suddenly appeared a group of horses (and earlier: cows) out of the nowhere to take a dip in the lake :-)
More adventurous than the island itself however was the boat ride from San Jorge to Ometepe. A “proper” ferry to the island was only leaving every few hours, the other passengers were transported by smaller wooden ships.
Since these kind of transports were also about one dollar cheaper than the ferry, I went onto one of those wooden boats. These boats are also used to transport cargo to the island so before we left, the crew went to greath lengths to stuff as many people and as much cargo inside the boat as possible. :-)
The cargo for this boat mainly consisted of soda tins and sacks full of sugar which were thrown into the cargo hold and er… between the passenger benches.
But well,… those boats really came into age I guess: during the way, the crew had to operate a (manual) pump all the time to pump the water which got onto the passenger deck out of the ship again. Didn´t help too much to keep our feet or luggage dry though ;-)
Later while on the island, I saw two ships of the same type in a “dry dock” on the beach where large scale repairs were being conducted.
I talked with one of the workers that introduced himself with “Me llamo Rey, como el Rey de Espana” (I am Rey, like the King of Spain). He told me that the ships on the beach are kinda emergency-repaired right now because they were sinking during their (last) journey. Having in mind the condition of the ship I came, I imagine their sinking was a little bit more serious than the passengers getting their feet wet. While the repairs are being conducted, there is no replacement for the routes that they served.
After Panama, I made my way up to Nicaragua in several all-day bus rides. One thing I noticed when reaching Nicaragua that apart from Internet cafes, everything is full of those game centers where kiddies go to play the newest videogames. Most of them play football videogames, also popular are egoshooters and GTA.
The cool thing about that, however, is that some of those game centers have really nice paintings on their wall. Here are some :-)
This is the first game center I came across, in Rivas. The sign on the left says that they also sell cacao-milk – it tasted disgusting :-(
Absolutely awesome artwork, isn´t it? On my further travels, I have not seen anything that looks similarily professional yet. Also from Rivas.
I added the blogs of two people I have been travelling with the last days to the link list. I have not so much (computer) time here that I can keep up with the blogging, too much happening at once and too few computers with Internet around. The few computers at the hostels we stay in are normally blocked by Facebook nerds. :-P
So for updates about my travels, you might want to check out these too:
Footprints in the Sand from Senana. I have been travelling with her the last few days in Nicaragua and in Guatemala. The blog is sometimes in German and sometimes in English, depending on her mood. Now that she gets to speak enough German with me though, I think it will be in English for now ;-)
Rico Custa 11 from Thorsten. A German soon-to-be student who I met on Ometepe (Nicaragua) and with whom I visited some places in Nicaragua. The blog is in German.