Monday, May 14, 2012
I returned to San Pedro with the terribly brilliant idea of settling down for awhile. There was delicious veggie food, cheap accommodation, and most importantly, amazing people to spend endless hours wasting time with. The town itself invites the laid back backpacker to hang out, party, and connect with the community and I couldn’t see myself anywhere else for the moment. So I got a private room and shower, bought groceries, and settled in immediately. Yo Mama’s Casa, I did make that hostel my home. Collectively we’d put in money or vegetables and then spend a few hours whipping up a delicious home cook meal for 20 people. That was no easy task. Usually fueled by smoke and drink, we somehow managed pulling off unique gourmet meals about 4 nights a week, and I never stopped being impressed. Of course when the night came, we would eventually go out for 10 q drinks ($1.50) and random debauchery at the same few bars we visited almost nightly. It was fun to say the least. Eventually I got burnt out smoking and drinking everyday and had to escape for some legitimate detoxing. Plus I had card/bank issues and the intention of meeting up with others for travel. But in reality, I knew it had to end at some point. And I hate being the last to leave the party and so I exited semi-gracefully to Xela. Pronounced “Shaey-la” and located high in the mountains only a few hours away, Xela provided the perfect detox setting. I immediately went to Spanish school 5 hours a day and moved in with a local family. I stopped smoking and drinking entirely, wrote furiously, and began soaking in all the culture I admittedly missed in San Pedro. I felt great. I started exercising regularly again and even went running with the 72 year old grandpa I adored. I also joined a women’s only gym and I must say that was quite the self esteem boost. I showed up late the first day to a class of 6 and while I was concerned I wouldn’t be fast to follow, I quickly learned that I had a massive edge on 40 something overweight Guatemalan ladies. Besides their clumsy coordination and general lack of athletic abilities, I had a natural energy all their tortilla eating must have zapped. I thoroughly enjoyed myself to say the least. here. Yet the most rewarding experiences are always people related and that’s why my first family with 6 kids (a mix of cousins really), an old grandpa who runs, and a mother with the loudest, most genuine laugh was my favorite experience. I truly settled in cooking together, sharing recipes, birthday celebrations, dancing and singing, and Semana Santa. This holiday is massive in Latin cultures, but even more so in Antigua, Xela’s neighbor. Still, being the second largest city in the country, there were plenty of processions, alfombras, and street food. Quetzaltrekkers. They have an amazing reputation and based on my personal experience I’d highly recommend any of their treks to anyone traveling through Guatemala or Nicaragua. At some sweaty point we made it to the base camp, just below the two summits. That evening we hiked the lower one to witness a sunset that wasn’t really impressive with so many clouds. No matter, we were still nearly on top of the world and it felt damn good. After not much sleep in our freezing tents, we woke up before 4 am to climb the final ascent to the highest point in Central America. It wasn’t very far, but we were sick, exhausted, and constantly catching our breath. Kate in particular had been properly sick for awhile and I’m impressed I didn’t have to carry her up. But the struggle was well worth it. Finca Tatin, a gorgeous hidden hotel nestled in the jungle and right on the river. Nature enveloped this place and with as many hammocks as there were, it was virtually impossible not to relax there. Dinners were served family style and the 8 of us loudly took over what was supposed to be a quiet getaway. Not surprisingly, our last night included nude night swimming, super dragons (don’t ask), and heaps of rum. The girls that joined us were just the kind of girls I like: down to party and get weird. D & D is truly off the map; unless of course you travel with a Lonely Planet. Nonetheless, this hidden gem remains a growing trend among backpackers and locals alike because it is, by far, the best freshly brewed beer in Central America. From porter to apricot ale, they have it all and for a mere $2 a pint. If beer really isn’t your thing though, they have a pool, hammock, fire, and great food. After a few days there chilling out, exploring the natural beauty of the area, and getting drunk on yummy beer at night, it was time to move on. The Bay Islands were next on our itinerary and we were eager to get there. It’s hard to begin to explain the shenanigans that is Utila, so I won’t and will save it for the next installment. But I’ll leave you wondering about what kind of damage I could do with 50 cent tequila. I know, I know, bad idea. But I’ll never learn. And that's what makes my adventures so entertaining.