Archive for the ‘Guatemala’ Category

Guatemala Volcano Erupts

Thursday, September 13th, 2012

We drove past the Volcano Del Fuego (Volcano of Fire) on our way into and out of Antigua de Guatemala on our trip.  This is a picture that I took on our way out of town, Del Fuego is on the left as we departed the city (we were headed southwest), they were twin peaks, and both were smoking:

Twin (Volcanic) Peaks ~ Approach to Antigua

I think the pictures in this article (see 2nd pic from right) are taken from basically the same vantage point, on exit from Antigua which connects to the main highway that goes to Esqulinta and then to Guatemala City.   Antigua is without a doubt one of the most charming places I’ve ever been….a fabulous colonial city that was flattened (by an earthquake, go figure) in the early 1700’s.  If you ever get the chance to go there, it can’t be beat.  Super friendly people, great architecture, fabulous climate, and cheap accommodations.

There’s been quite a bit of seismic activity in the region of late, there was a big earthquake (7.1) in Costa Rica a few weeks ago, and another volcano just north of Managua, Nicaragua erupted last week.  It is a beautiful land, but hearing this news reminds me that Mother Nature is much bigger than any of us.

~ Blonde Gator

I’ve updated our Guatemala Photo Page

Sunday, July 11th, 2010

So you can see what the “mountain” trip looked like….it was truly gorgeous. 

The HD camcorder took these stills…I’m not thrilled with them, I have been having problems with the focus and I don’t care for the size of these pictures.  The videos are amazing (although there are still problems with the anti-shake feature on the camera).  But when I think back to the first “camcorders”….LOL, fifteen pounds of battery slung over one’s shoulder and a camcorder the size of a twelve-pack. 

I’m not James Cameron…but we’ve purchased some software and I hope to have videos available soon.

Next up, Copan Ruins in Honduras.  Amazing stuff.

~ Blonde Gator

P.S.  Sitting in our “office” on the patio outside of our room….the World Cup is obviously on and the cheers from around town are quite amusing.

Screwing “La Systema”

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

Well…it’s been a week ago (yesterday) since I’ve blogged (although I wrote a nifty piece from Granada, Nicaragua, which I couldn’t get to upload)…and do I have news!

We left Costa Rica a week ago, and have had a pretty nice road trip thus far.  We had a bit of a whoopdee at the Costa Rican border, seems we were “missing” a paper (que’lle crap)….which took a hundred dollar+ bribe to fix.  Short letter to follow to Costa Rica Immigration, I have the name of the asshat who jacked us.    I’m convinced 95% of the border cops in Latin America are corrupt.

Before I go on my rant…let me say that my take on Nicaragua changed drastically after seeing the country during the rainy season…it transformed from a drab, dusty, awful place to a beautiful paradise.  On the advice of our friend, we stopped in the colonial town of Granada.  It was fabulous.  Unfortunately, we were once again bitten by the “festival bug”….we had a room in a lovely hotel for one night, but after that…no room to be had at the inn, nor anywhere else in town….some sort of “Eco Festival” was happening.   So, we just didi’d and went to Honduras (I’ll write more later about that).  If you’re dying for a preview, check out COPAN.

We had a bit of an adventure in Guatemala (sarcasm on full throttle)….First, we got lost, and found a nice postman who had a much better map than we did.  He directed us to go the direct route, through the mountains, rather than around.  At about 4,500 feet, and on dirt roads, we only got more lost once (but we did find a great camp ground) we managed to finally (2 hours later) find the road we were looking for.  It was actually pretty fun, but would have been alot more fun if I had been driving…but I digress.  I LOVE MY XTERRA.

As I’ve mentioned before, there is not a great way to “get there from here” in some of these mountainous countries.  On our first pass, we drove through Guatemala City….NOT NICE!  So we decided that was something to be avoided at all costs…which we did, by driving G-7, which was, as we were told, “terra for the first hour…paved after that”.

Well….”dirt” was about 5,000 feet, mountain roads, and the recent storms were apparent, with rockfalls and dirtfalls and washed out roads everywhere.  The scenery was awesomely beautiful…but it was a scary trip in the right seat.  Iguana Man deserves a Purple Heart for surviving my screaming.   I promise to post some pics and video (when I figure out how to do that)….you’ll not believe it at all.  I still can’t. 

Okay, back to my original point.  GOVERNMENTAL INCOMPETENCE IS EVERYWHERE!

When we tried to leave Guatemala on Wednesday, we were told that our car was not in their “systema” as having ever left Guatemala.  Never mind we had our paperwork with the exit stamp from Agua Caliente (Hot Water…I should have known!!!).   Further evidence of our car being out of the country would be like….entry Visa into Honduras (in my passport….I wrote about this earlier with the sisterly solidarity of the female immigration officer insisting the car be on my passport), Nicaragua papers, Costa Rican papers….and reverse the trip….CR, Nico, Honduras.

BUT NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

Iguana Man tells me there is a basic bureaucrat mindset (I think he’s correct, BTW)….a simple “yes or no” answer from a paper pusher has drastic consequences.  I was furious (!!!), but Iguana Man’s experience prevailed (thankfully)….and he didn’t go ballistic as I’d have done…and the Aduana (cop) let us leave the border with our car.

You see, in Latin America, they use “Napoleonic Law”….which means, mas o menos (more or less)….lock ’em up now, and sort it out later. 

SOOOO….even though, we had transmigrated Guatemala the first time, correctly, and had all of the appropriate stamps, paperwork, etc…..some moron didn’t enter us into their computer system.  And the poor little government drone knew that, but didn’t have the authority to fix it…all he could do was say “NO….can’t leave”….and we found the one honest guy in the country.  Actually, he was very nice, as I said about the Napoleonic laws here, he could have impounded our car and been done with it…and sorry, American Tourist…you must pay 50% of the Blue Book value of your car to get it back…if you can find it?

SOOOO….we turned around, and went back to HueHue (I know, great name!!!).  We checked into a nice hotel I saw on the way out of town (after we’d earlier spent a night in a cute little hotel downtown, $12, but the water wasn’t turned on due to “issues”…LOL, it was just a fine place, more later). 

We called the American Embassy, got some advice (note to travellers, Embassy staff aren’t ALL morons, but most of them are).  We were referred to a tax guy, rather than an abrogado (shyster).  He was such a nice man, as was the fellow at the hotel who helped translate, a man who is married to a Nebraskan, but is properly waiting out his two years to get his green card, God Bless legal immigrants!!!). 

After two days of trying to get the paperwork fixed, our “fixer” suggested another way out….ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION!

So, this morning, we hotfooted across the Guatemal/Mexico border, down a back dirt road, where there were numerous trucks and cars coming and going.  Needless to say, I was scared out of my wits.

We got into Mexico…and with the good sense of our “tax advisor”….we were about 3 KM from a town with customs…where we presented our paperwork, and became legal once again. 

So….I suppose the moral of the story is never panic, never be rude (the Guatemalan customs guy was just as captured by his “systema” as we were).  NEVER BE RUDE.  If it had been me, talking to the customs guy, I’m sure he’d have impounded the car, because I’d have gone ballistic at the stupidity.  But the Iguana Man finessed the situation, and we are now in Mexico (did I mention it feels like coming home?  Because it does…the US media deserves to be shot over their coverage of Mexico…alas, I digress again).

Actually, it was kind of fun (and lots of scary) running the border.  But, when all is said and done, I feel like I just shot a huge bird at bureaucrats everywhere.  We’ll never be allowed to bring another car into Guatemala (like I care)….although I have to think their “systema” sucks so badly that it doesn’t matter one iota.  I have to give them a hat tip for trying to rip me off for $10 grand….but so solly, estupidos!

After all is said and done, I have to think, SCREW THE SYSTEMA is the right tack to take….sometimes it’s a little more scary than not, and sometimes, it just is what it is.  It’s been a pretty fine life lesson.  Do you hear me, Obama…and you stupid democrat Critters? 

~ Blonde Gator

OK – an Iguana Man Update ~ Traveling among countries – or How to Drive Safely

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Its about time, as I am reminded minutely.

Driving here through Guatemala has been fun to say the least. Guatemala does not have the $$ that Mexico has and when you cross over into Honduras there is another notch down.

Some observations.

We miss Mexico OXXO stores at the national PEMEX stations which sell KFREEZ drinks – mostly frozen cappacinos and they are good!

No KFREEZE in Guatamala or Honduras.

Notes to the wise. Do not pick up any ‘border’ officials and let them ‘ride’ in your car unless they are wearing a uniform or have guns.

Bad news for people crossing into Guatemala as these guys have a racket. I got taken but the good feeling is that a guy from Oklahoma who has lived in Costa Rica was almost taken. He let the guy hitch a ride to the border but was smart enough not to give him any papers. Do not deal with or give any of your paperwork to anyone except official Border Custom or Immigration people behind a desk or cage. Do not be taken.

‘nough said.

Anyway, once across the border from the beautiful town of Antigua, Guatemala to Honduras the change is like looking at the old ‘color’ puzzle map of the US. The border changed. So, did the scenery, the agriculture and the native dress.

Honduras is a small country that cannot build a straight road from the North Border to the South where one may enter Nicaragua. We are about 1/3 of the way there and hope to finish this leg tomorrow with a final run at the Nicaraguan border crossing before it gets too late. I think we will stay the night in Honduras and cross in the morning.

Roads deteriorate after Mexico. Guatamala gets a 6.5 on the scale, Mexico a 9.0 overall and Honduras about a 4.0 as of this writing. I’ll let you know if it goes up or down.

We are having a hell of a good time and wish everyone could go with us, but no room in the XTERRA. A good car and a great ride even when it is rough.

~Iguana Man

A Few Photos from Guatemala

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Another 200+ Year Old Ruin in Antigua de Guatemala

Twin (Volcanic) Peaks ~ Approach to Antigua

Another Smoker (note volcanic boulders in foreground)

Several of you have asked about the XTerra.  It has been absolutely perfect thus far.  I wouldn’t recommend taking this trip in a smaller vehicle.  It’s got more than enough muscle to handle the requisite passing on mountain roads, and isn’t the least bit uncomfortable on bad roads (as the smaller rental SUV’s were in CR).  I suppose a bigger SUV would be useful….more room to pack junk!  As you can see, the Gator chairs are on the roof….did I mention we bought a double hammock?….all ready for that beach!

Gas stations are plentiful here, and gas is (oddly) sold by the gallon.  The price varies, between $28.5 to $30.25 quetzies…..between $3.85 and $4.00 USD a gallon.  Although Guatemala does have petroleum reserves, apparently the industry has not yet been developed.  Hence the plethora of squirrel powered vehicles.  We saw many young families (mom, dad & two little kids) riding one minibike.  Scary.

XTerra in Guatemala

And finally…..just to make you laugh….

They're Everywhere!!!

Okay….time to get a move on.  We’re going to pack up, have breakfast, and backtrack about a half a mile to get some photos of the Basillica here.  If you read the wiki link from yesterday, it is famous for it’s statue of the Cristo Negro.  Then….we’re off to Honduras!  Hope to “see” you before we reach Junquilal…we’ve been pleasantly surprised w/finding internet availability.  Ciao, baby.

~ Blonde Gator

From (Almost) Honduras

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

We left Antigua de Guatemala early this morning, and ended up in Esquipulas, another gorgeous colonial town which is right on the frontier (border) with Honduras.

After talking to many people, ex-pats, touristas, and locals, we decided discretion was the better part of valour and it was prudent to avoid El Salvador altogether.  Hence, we found ourselves winding our way north and south to make headway east.  Also, unfortunately, we could not avoid Guatemala City….where we got lost for a bit (about a half an hour, including a navigation stop).  The roads on the way in were well marked, but the signs petered out on the east side of town, along with the freeway (we needed to go South to North to pick up the road we needed…there is no ring highway, alas). 

However, with our trusty Garmin hand-held GPS, which does NOT have street level maps, but does know where exactly the hell you are at all times, we were able to wind our way through the (crazy) city streets….to an insane intersection where we knew we were on the right track.  Don’t even think about driving in Central America without a good GPS.  Maps are fine, but the GPS has saved our butts on numerous occasions before (in CR).  Today was as low stress as being lost in a foreign country could possibly be, thanks to our handy little GPS.  Plus, the Iguana Man knows how to drive like an expert in the mucho macho insanity.  Life is good.

The roads in Guatemala were terrific in comparison to the first 100 km in-country.  No worries on that count.  Antigua de Guatemala is in a volcanic region…rather a jungle.  Getting past Guatemala City, the terrain became much more like the high mountain desert in Mexico.  After a few hours on mountain roads, the road (CA9) straightened out, running along a river valley, all the way to Puerto Barristos on the Carribean.  We left that road (and most of the big truck traffic) thankfully, about 2:00 p.m.  Headed back south, again through mountainous terrain, toward the Honduras border.

There is just no good way to get to there from here.  Once you accept that fact…and enjoy the very scenic scenery, life is good.  As we winded our way to the south, the country did not seem to be so poverty stricken.  In fact, we saw some beautiful estancias.

Incredibly, once we left Guatemala City, there seemed to be some sort of Guatemalan cycling confab….we passed hundreds of cyclists, in twos and threes, slogging up and down the mountains!  Loco.  As we made our approach to our destination for today (Esquipulas)….there were numerous signs for hotels (finding hotels is somewhat of an art usually…but that is for another post)….including one that at first glance I thought said “internet gratis”.  Well, upon second sighting of said sign, it did in fact say “Hotel de la Fe” with free internet.  And as we made the final turn into town (this is a large town)…it was on about the second block into (insane) traffic (Easter Week again) and conveniently located on the correct side of the road.  So we pulled over, and lo and behold, they even had underground (and secure) parking.

So….all is grand.  It’s about time to go walkabout and find some food and a farmacia to replenish our Immodium (’nuff said!).  I’ll log back in later and post some pictures….and if I get ambitious, start a new Guatemala photo page. 

~ Blonde Gator

Greetings from Antigua de Guatemala

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

What a lovely little town.  Originally founded in the 1500’s the town was demolished in an earthquake in the 1770’s….there are still many ruins here, which are slowly being restored.

Here’s where we are today….at a nice coffee shop on the main square in town.  It is quite beautiful, as the Jacaranda trees are in full bloom.  Purple flags are up everywhere for Easter week….lavender and yellow seem to be the colors de jour.

Plaza Centro de Antigua de Guatemala

Antigua de Guatemala

We’ll stay here until tomorrow….as the Procession for the Easter Holiday begins Thursday.  Yesterday we also wandered around the town, and there was a street fair….the street foods smelled delicious.  The textiles here are quite interesting.  I’m going to buy some of the native weavings to make some pillows with when we get home….the weavings here are colorful and quite beautiful.

Street Fair

Cathedral

There are people selling local food, and textiles everywhere.  The town is filling up fast for the Easter weekend.

There are many ruins here….this is just one of many, it is beautiful.

Ruin

Detail of Ruin

Okay…that’s it for now….we’re about coffee’d out (I bought some local coffee and chocolate yesterday….so I can try my hand at mole once we get to Costa Rica).  We’ll be on the road again tomorrow, I have no idea whether we’ll be able to find wi-fi in Honduras and Nicaragua, so it may be a few more days until you hear from us.  We plan to be at our destination in Junquilal on April 5th.

Until then, start thinking about making this trip some day.  It is truly an amazing adventure.  We’ve met lots of people from all over the world, just this a.m. a couple of Brits & Kiwis.  Cheers!

~ Blonde Gator