Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Travel Blog - Part tres

Phew! I'm only a month behind on my blog... that's not too bad, is it? Where was I? Curt, the bus ride.. yes, the bus ride. All 9 of us: Adrian, Nicholas, Tom, Damian, Franco, Sarah, Chantal, myself and the Israeli pimp whose name I forget. We had decided to eat dinner about an hour before the bus left. Dinner was good and pictures can be found somewhere here on facebook. At dinner we were joined by the soon to be infamous Curt, and Tina & Cecilie from Norway. Two nice girls who were just about absent from my life outside of the occasional smile and/or greeting and one evening conversation. Anyway, we finish eating some pasta (I had a salad first, of course) and make our way back to the hostel to grab our gear before hailing a cab to the bus depot. When we returned, the Israeli was half-panicked waiting for us because at this point, we had about 20 minutes to get to the bus station on time. Apparently, he had just crawled off the beach himself and peeled himself away from some local chica whom he was enjoying quiet time with. Luckily, we arrived with about 5 minutes to spare and board the bus with ease.
During the ride, Tom and I watched a horrible made-for-teenagers movie called "Twilight" on my computer. About halfway through our overnight journey and through this movie, we all hear this loud CRUNCH and then GRUMBLE, GrUmBle, grumble, gruuumble. The bus driver pulls over and we all begin to speculate we hit an animal or something big and crunchy. It turns out to be no big problem, but this is a vital point of our Escondido excursion because the man of all men, goliath of all things natural and supernatural and fixer of anything material or immaterial... Curt, begins his reign as our inside joke. (We are all going to hell with bells on for this one, but it was just too funny, and so, totally worth it.) "If Curt was here, he'd fix this", "Curt could make the sun shine right now!", "Where's Curt when you need him, he'd have this bus back on the road with wings on in no time at all". See, to us, Curt was like a god. He was creator and destroyer of our worlds and he knew it. The reasons for this are difficult to explain because he's just someone you have to meet to fully grasp the entire douchery. Imagine a guy who will gladly put women on pedestals, place the crown on his own head and then proceed to treat any living thing that doesn't have protruding breasts as if they are non-existant peons. On multiple occasions and to all of us guys -- he would do something to interrupt a conversation we were having with a lady friend or do and say things to make himself seem cooler than the other person. I'm talking some serious middle school-type stuff, like a situation where you do something good to make someone look bad and you look back at the other person with your lollipop reward and stick your tongue out. Now, with that mental image of a scene, take a twenty-something man who said he was from 3 or 4 different places, doing forty different things at once and traveling as if he were a prince to all women and cane-beater of all men. Striking poses shirtless, being abrasive and rude to the guys in the room but in a funny-look-at-me-ladies-se
e-how-cute-i-can-be kind of way and having no sense of the spacetime continuum as he'd show up in 3 different conversations at once. I hope you get the picture by now.
We arrived in Puerto Escondido about 630am and hopped a cab down to the hostel our awesome bartender had told us about, Sofia -- a mischievous queen in her own right. The hostel was alright, the rooms were clean and had bathrooms. We spent most of our time wandering around, even taking a boat ride which was supposed to be a fishing trip. We didn't catch any fish, but we did catch a sea turtle. I kept jumping off the boat to go swimming and when we caught that one, in the water again I went. The captain finally freed the turtle from our fishing line and told me to grab its shell at both ends where the head and tail were. So, I did and he let the turtle go. That little guy (or gal) took off straight south deep into the ocean, its flippers (or fins?) flailing away and scraping the crap out of my arms and legs. While a cool experience to say that I swam with the turtles in the Pacific Ocean in Mexico, I had hoped the story would be a lot more interesting and with fewer injuries. The first couple of days in PE, I was in a bit of a funk to be honest. I wasn't feeling 100 percent and my body was letting me know. That's why the pictures of me there, especially during the boat trip, always seem to show me with a look on my face like I just smelled something funny. A couple of more very interesting nights with these guys and sadly, they were off. Adrian and Nicholas had to head north to catch a flight home. Tom was heading East with the Israeli to San Cristobal. Chantal and Sarah were heading back to Germany. Damian and Franco were heading home soon back to Argentina.
One last anecdote before I have to free these guys from my blog... Tom had brought along a guitar. After we made dinner one night for everyone, Tom pulled out the guitar after a few drinks and starting singing well known rock songs... with the lyrics changed to coincide with the much awesomeness of this Curt character. Sublime, The Eagles, Bon Jovi, Prince, The Pixies, and other classics were creatively albeit mercilessly transformed into odes to Curt. Again, it's hard to explain the magic of this joke, but we had a muse and it wasn't getting old. Funny times.

Once everyone left, I fell into the beach with the mission to get tan. I found a nice little spot with super cheap drinks, good food, beach chairs and umbrellas near the water and just succumbed to my book and the short naps. I did this for about 3 days, heh. Puerto Escondido is a beautiful place. The town showed no signs of commercialism outside of local necessity. The grocery store was a warehouse-type with everything you could possibly need. The beachtown where we stayed, Playa Zicatela, had literally just finished their first road about two months prior to our arrival. (This is a good picture of Playa Zicatela looking away from the point up into the town. "SuperCHE" was the grocery store -- the big white building just left of center in town. Wipeout is right of center up in the town and it overlooked the beach from way above sea level. "") This place was by far the nicest and most relaxing I have ever been to.
I had moved into a new hostel once Tom left and then again into an even cheaper place for my last two nights. During my stay on the beach, I met a cool girl whom I discovered was there working, but was originally from Chicago, into house music, djing and even had a friend who threw a party at this spot called Wipeout. It was nice to be able to talk shop with someone for awhile. On my last night, I met some more people who were hanging out in the hostel. We went for dinner and drinks and then up into town to check out this Wipeout place as we had gotten a flyer for a party there. I was with some people from the hostel and it turned out the girl-from-Chicago's friend was there AND he had some empty dj time coming up soon, so I was going to get the chance to play. It turned out to be a decent set played to the sunset and moon rising. Afterwords, we went to this other place down at the end of Zicatela to finish off the night. Escondido was definitely a fantastic beach for surfing and being lazy :)

The next evening at 530pm, I boarded my bus to Guatemala City through Tapachula and across the Mexico-Guatemala border. When the bus arrived at the border, we were all ushered off quickly and left to walk across the bridge to the Immigration Station. Immediately, I was accosted by two younger looking teenagers telling me that I needed to give them $100 right now to cross the border into Guatemala as a fee; and to HURRY HURRY as the bus was leaving!!!! I kept walking. They showed me their uniforms and Immigration badges. Still, arguing in my broken spanish, I kept walking. They even lowered the price to $50 to be nice and grabbed my passport out of my hands as I was getting into line. Oops. I started making a scene and loudly asking for "Mi pasaporte por favor". They again lowered the price to 40 Quetzales (pronounced ket-zah-less) and then again to 30. Finally, they left me alone when a nice guy from Honduras stepped in and told them to basically F*** off. Other people weren't so lucky... this one guy who I ended up hanging with in Guate-City gave them $40 and we heard horror stories of people being robbed and all other kinds of craziness.
For future reference: one dollar American is equal to about eight Quetzales.
Arriving in Guatemala City, I immediately start looking around for another traveler and I found this guy from Holland whose name escapes me at the moment. We decide to head to this hotel I had heard of, the Hotel Fenix, not too far away from the downtown historic district. It was a decent place -- clean, nice rooms (with not a single power plug?), courteous staff, but it was very noisy with all the street traffic. However, they made some amazing chicken sandwiches next door in the cafe'.
This timeframe in Guatemala City coincided with a popular Spanish/Latin holiday called Semana Santa -- it's kind of like their version of Easter except without the chocolate, furry rabbit, and eggs. If the procession was heading down your street, you received the great honor of decorating the street with food and other biodegradable materials with elaborate designs full of color and detail. Flowers, scenes depicting religious stories, personal and cultural histories were all laid out on the street with such great effort that they made mind boggling displays only to be destroyed a few hours later by the procession. The procession entailed a male and female portion. The people would literally carry on their shoulders massive wooden 'floats' depicting Jesus' death, resurrection and other famous characters and stories from religious history. There would be the male-carried float with at least 20 men on either side carrying this down the streets on their shoulders, followed shortly after by the women doing the same. They would walk these through the city and around the squares. Where we were staying, near the historic district and square was where the processions always ended and major partying was had. The thing about Semana Santa in Latin cities is while, yes, it's beautiful and amazing, they shut down the city day and night. One night, the only place we found open to eat was a TGIFriday's. (ick.) The first night we were there, we decided to go out exploring, it was Sunday night and the first day for Semana Santa. The only place open was a tiny, second floor bar where a bunch of college kids had gathered to celebrate their cheerleading coach's birthday. A fun night indeed, especially when the girls insisted on teaching us gringos how to salsa and meringue. I spent four nights in Guatemala City with barely anything going on during the day, everything being closed and not much else to do but read and walk around exploring. Then, my friend Pamela arrived in Guate-City airport on Wednesday of this week.

More coming very soon :)

What's next? Flores, Tikal, a trip to Belize, Antigua and Lake Atitlan, meeting more travelers and embarking on yet another group adventure!