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"To see a world in a grain of sand, And a heaven in a wild flower; Hold infinity in the palm of your hand, And eternity in an hour." William Blake

Two Girl's Adventure on a Moto (plus one couple on a bmw)

February 21st, 2009 by sunflowers

takaliktakalikI was heading off to a jungle lodge with my riding amigos from Guate City (thanks to Julio and Lusia for arranging the weekend and putting me up) and as Andres was out of town I left all my luggage in the city and had Karla on the back of my bike.

Since being in Guatemala I have mainly been in the mountains so it was a shear pleasure to finally ride in the southern warmer part of the country. The view of the volcanoes and mountains was spectacular and having Karla on the back we took quite a few videos.

takaliktakalikI must admit that going through one town I was a bit over excited about not having the panniers and seeing as how filtering is the one thing I think I can do reasonably well having learnt to ride in London I passed Julio and accidentally ended up squeezed between a huge truck and a long SUV and camper set up from Illinois. I hold the camper from Illinois to secondary blame as filtering is not allowed in most of the US and he had closed the gap that had been there.

We stayed in this beautiful jungle lodge where the rooms had no electricity and at night lamps were lit and we could walk down to a waterfall and pool to swim. The best thing was how loud the insects were, at first I thought I had really bad tinnitus it is so loud and high pitched.




Posted in Guatamala | No Comments »

Slang Situations (Hot and Horny)

February 20th, 2009 by sunflowers

I was invited back to Guatemala City to go for another riding weekend to some Mayan ruins with Julio who is studying the Mayan culture at university so it was an offer that couldn’t be passed up.

meDuring dinner I was telling them about being escorted by the police to Antigua and I mentioned that one of the officers that I had met had asked to buy my motorbike outfit and I had explained to him that it was too hot for me to wear in Guatemala. When talking to the officer I used the spanish word caliente which is apparently ok to use when referring to liquid but that when used by a person it means horny. So they joked that was the reason I had a police escort. Actually thinking about it I have been saying that I was muy (very) caliente quite a lot when I have gotten hot. I thought people were smiling at my bad pronunciation.

They also said it was good that I hadn’t asked for a chile in Mexico. But at least I am not named Randy and travelling in New Zealand or Fanny (as one girl I met in Mexico was called) in the UK.

btw – a huge thank you to everyone that emailed, put comments and signed the guestbook. I am sorry if I don’t respond to you but most of my computer/internet time is spent writing my blog and I need to save some time for riding 😉 But please keep contacting me as they make writing the blog worthwhile!

Posted in Guatamala | 2 Comments »

Hot Lava

February 19th, 2009 by sunflowers

PacayaYou know when someone tells you that a movie is the best one that they have ever seen and when you see it you are a bit disappointed. Well unfortunately someone told me that Pacaya (an active volcano near Guatemala City) was the coolest thing that they had seen in their lives and inevitably I felt slightly let down.

Still it was pretty cool standing beside hot, rocky lava toasting a marshmellow (donated by a kind family from Boston).

The rest of my time in Antigua was spent with three women who have built a beautiful house just out of Antigua and kindly let me spend a couple of days recovering from my horrible dormitory in San Pedro, taught me canasta (a card game) as well as inspired me to retrain as a teacher one day.


Posted in Guatamala | 2 Comments »

Bees, Bats and Macadamia Nuts

February 18th, 2009 by sunflowers

Macadamia NutsWhen I told one of my fellow travellers that I had been writing my blog he told me that I shouldn’t be disappointed that nobody reads it (even though he had never seen my blog). Particularly if I wrote about what I was eating each day. So here is what I had for breakfast with a bit of environmental evangelicalism thrown in.

This morning I met up with Julio (Guatemalan amigo) for a morning ride and breakfast. He took me to a macadamia nut farm where I had the most delicious nut flour pancakes topped with macadamia nut butter.

Macadamia NutsWhile having breakfast you could hear the buzzing of the bees pollinating the macadamia nut trees. And I was told that Guatemala’s farms are having difficulties as apparently bees are very sensitive to pollution. There has been a huge decrease in bee numbers for the last three years as well as bats which are also big pollinators.

Macadamia NutsThere was a sign in the shop (where I purchased some macadamia nut cream that is sorely needed as I have been getting really dry skin) about the environment which I have written out below.

Scary stuff!

Someone forwarded me this blog entry from a manager at google about the internet http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/02/from-height-of-this-place.html. I hope that the widespread availability of communication helps heighten awareness and care of our environment.

Btw even if you don’t believe in global warming you have to admit that it wouldn’t hurt if we treated our environment better (check out my pictures of the orange layer of pollution in the UK).

Macadamia Nuts1. The earth’s tree cover is shrinking by over 70,000 square miles per year as a result of forest clearing for agriculture, lumber, firewood, as well as the effects of air pollution and acid rain.

2. Some 24,900sq miles of new desert are formed annually because of land mismanagement.

3. Extinction of plant and animal species is now estimated at over 140 daily. One fifth of all species may disappear over the next 20 years.

Macadamia Nuts4. Some 50 pesticides contaminate groundwater in 32 American states. Over 2500 US toxic waste sites need urgent clean up.

5. As a result of atmospheric increases in heat trapped by carbon dioxide, the mean temperature of the earth’s surface is projected to rise between 1.5 and 4.5 degrees Celsius between now and the year 2050.

6. Thousand’s of lakes in the industrial northern countries are now biologically dead and thousands more are dying because of pollution and acid rain.

Posted in Guatamala | 4 Comments »

Gracias Guardia de la Guatemala

February 16th, 2009 by sunflowers

PoliciaBefore I left San Pedro I had asked some locals about the back road to Antigua and was told it was all safe except for a 10km section just after leaving town, that people had been robbed on. It had been recommended I contact the policia and ask for an escort from the next town as the only bit of the road that was unpaved and was dangerous was in Santiago Atitlan. Actually they are called policia rather than guardia like in Spain and Guatemala is very tourist conciousness and even have special tourist police.

PoliciaI actually started off along the road by myself as they had also said the four banditos that were doing it had been put into jail and I had hidden the only thing I didn’t want to lose (other than my bike) which was my custom earplugs (see my post) in my bra. But I turned back as I decided I might as well let the police know as being robbed might spoil the trip.

PoliciaWhen I got to the police station I managed to convey in broken Spanish that I was off to Putzan (halfway to Antigua) as I thought if I told them Antigua they would tell me to take the longer highway route and I didn’t fancy doing the switchbacks from the highway again.

PoliciaChatting with the police while I waited (I was told a couple of times it would be twenty minutes) about the price of various bits of motorcycle gear we all agreed that the US has extremely cheap consumer goods (compared to Guatemala and New Zealand) after waiting about 45 minutes I soon realised that they were actually going to accompany me right from San Pedro rather than meeting me in the bad section so I headed off with a police truck in tow.

When we got to the bad stretch I was glad I had the police with me as the unpaved road included five inch deep sand going down hill and I almost lost the bike a couple of times.

PoliciaAfter about thirty minutes the San Pedro police met up with the Santiago Atitlan police who then accompanied me. When we got to the town I thought the escort would be over but they then escorted me out of town and after about twenty minutes later there was another police vehicle from the next district to accompany me. Three escorts later we got to Patzun and there was another escort waiting. This time when they did the change over I took off as I was getting a bit embarrassed that somehow I might have conveyed I was a bit more important that I was and I needed to use the toilet but I was soon caught up by two police trucks and soon afterwards there was another one that I was handed over to.

PoliciaPoliciaSeven various county police escorts later I was in Antigua and we stopped at a Tourist Policia area that also has camping and I got to ride in a ex-police Tuktuk and a couple of the police officers tried my bike and someone that had English explained that I had been convoyed as it would have been bad press if something had happened to me.

PoliciaI was then taken right to the place I wanted to stay and when I got there a New Zealander that was living in Antigua spotted the kiwi stickers on my panniers and took me to her place for a Marmite sandwich (that is a picture of her garden with the pointesettias) which topped off the day.

A big thank you to the Guatemalan Polica for caring and such a wonderful experience!

Posted in Guatamala | 7 Comments »

Feliz Dia del Amor

February 14th, 2009 by sunflowers

San PedroSan PedroAfter finishing my Spanish class I stopped in a little diary (NZ for convenience store) and met a Guatemalan girl that was brought up in the US, post graduate in Holland and France and worked as an international event coordinator. She was taking a bit of time out to spend time with family, evaluate life and work in her grandmother’s store. It was great to talk to someone else who was in a similar place in her life and to top it off she was a sunflower fanatic.

Posted in Guatamala | No Comments »

Spanish School in San Padro

February 13th, 2009 by sunflowers

I am starting my last day of Spanish classes in San Padro. When I asked if I could stay with a host family the school said my Spanish wasn’t good enough so I ended staying in the school’s dormitory. At first I thought I was getting a great deal paying half of what you would pay in Antigua – $60 for 4 hours per day for 5 days and $20 for 7 nights accommodation. But you get what you pay for. My living area isn’t all that and my Spanish teacher spends most of her time looking at her watch and coming up with example sentences like, you have much money, you need exercise and when are you leaving. As my school doesn’t have activities I haven’t met anyone. But it is a beautiful setting with mountains surrounding a lake and I have found all the cafe’s that have wireless. They also have a couple of places that show movies at night – I have been studying and reading most of the week but finally watched Easy Rider as I thought that I should.

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Posted in Guatamala | 2 Comments »

Guatemala Casa Alianza Gone

February 11th, 2009 by sunflowers

When I emailed Casa Alianza UK to find out about seeing one of their projects their reply is below. I am going to go and try and see them next week hopefully it will inspire people to donate so that it doesn’t close down in other countries.

Dear Annette,

We have been following you blog with great interest. It was a pity that you did not get to visit Casa Mexico as they were open …not to worry.

Re: Casa Guatemala – it is with great sadness that we learnt that Covenant House , after much deliberation, took the unprecedented step of formally closing Casa Alianza Guatemala as the costs had escalated and with a corresponding downturn in income due to the global recession it meant that Casa Guatemala could no longer offer or sustain the costs of providing quality programmes for the children.

Whilst this is a disappointment it shows that the economic downturn is having a dramatic effect on our programmes, which will hopefully encourage your supporters to realise how important their donations are and that they really do count.

Our formost concern is for the children and Claudia and her team are working to find satisfactory alternative care arrangements. A team of about 25 key staff and volunteers remain in the project including Sam and Katy two volunteers from the UK. We emailed Claudia, the National Director, and Andrea who you have been in contact with and also Sam and Katy, to advise them that you had arrived in Guate and to ask if they could meet up with you so we the hope that a visit may still be possible.

I am pleased to advised that Casa’s Nicaragua , Honduras and Mexico are operating as normal. I hope that this email will be a catalyst for everyone.

Hope it all works out.

Posted in Childrens Charities, Guatamala | No Comments »

Spanish Speaking Filly

February 9th, 2009 by sunflowers

Western HighlandsOn Sunday morning it was an early start to ride the three hours up to a hotel that offered horse riding high in the western highlands at an altitude of 3200 metres. On the way we stopped at the mirador (scenic lookout) for a group photo. The other couple I was riding with were Andres a mechanical engineer (personally I think that is what you have to be to keep a ’95 bmw going but that is just my opinion after I had all the problems with my ’94 f650) and Carla a creative director for a media company (she has the typical media person good looks).

Western HighlandsWhen we were getting the instructions for the horse riding I had a bit of a blonde moment. Though in my defence the horse did respond to vamoose rather than giddyup. Anyway you can watch the youtube video and see for yourself. That night my confidence was further shattered when I played scrabble in English against all Spanish speakers and came last. Mind you I wasn’t the only one as earlier in the day when we were filling up the tanks and Andres had a Zoolander moment as he didn’t notice that the tank was filled and as the pump had a faulty safety catch he poured a half a gallon of petrol over his hot engine and then had to quickly spray it down with water.

Western HighlandsWestern HighlandsIt was a well cool weekend riding with the Guatemalans and a special thanks to Andres and Carla for being warm and friendly, capturing my magic moments (I will also upload a video of my typical finesse for manoeuvring my bike) and for their gift of accommodation and the horse riding.

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Posted in Guatamala | 1 Comment »

Riding with the locals

February 8th, 2009 by sunflowers

Western Highlands

Western HighlandsThe next morning we were off at six am on the dot. Julio is originally from the Austrian part of Italy and has the Germanic sense of time keeping but has a great sense of humour which helps with the Guatemalan time keeping (which is more mañana than the Mexicans).

Western HighlandsThough like anything that comes through the internet I think Julio was slightly underwhelmed by my getup as his first question was whether my bike was a 250cc. When I gave him an affronted reply of 650cc he said it looked smaller due to the amount of luggage. I think that a ladies luggage like her age is a subject best left unmentioned.

Western HighlandsAfter going through the city traffic Julio asked me how I was doing on the speed. I must remember never to say I am ok with the speed as that is the second time that I have been asked that question and right afterward the other riders have zoomed off. It took all my track day training to keep up to two locals riding big bmw’s on the curving mountainous roads. It seems that undertaking is part of how people drive here. I am programmed not to undertake and it is one of my pet peeves in the UK when motorcycles weave in and out of high speed traffic. I finally realised I was going to have to undertake a truck as it just sat in the fast lane and was passing in the right-hand lane until I came around the corner into a bus parked in the slow lane and I was squeezed between it and the truck.

Western HighlandsWe had beautiful weather as we rode up into the Western Highlands to see the two volcanoes, stopping at a cheese factory (when I tasted the cheese later I really regretted not getting any), a rustic restaurant where they make homemade jams and stopping a lot of times to ask for directions through the small towns (I found out that this is how even the locals get through the towns with no bypasses, main roads or signs).

Then we had a bit of marathon riding to make it back to Quetzaltenango (Guatemala’s second largest city) to stay the night. We had stopped at 11am and decided not to have lunch which I regretted later after six hours of riding!

Thank you to Julio and Luisa for inviting me along, picking me up from the petrol station, letting me stay at their place, a glorious weekend of riding, speaking english to me, having such a dry sense of humour and their friendship.

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Posted in Guatamala | 1 Comment »

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