Diary 6 I start on the last leg of this journey.
The entire day, I see nothing but old houses and roads, sealed with natural rocks. Some houses are in a pristine state, other ruins. Those in ruins are nicely closed in, and just wait for restoration, it seems. The gas station look like the rest, and I actually miss that it is a gas station at first.
Unfortunately, here are cars parked along most sidewalks, else I would get some real great photos of the old houses in the early morning light. It is amassing how large the area, with huge old houses is. I have only seen mighty colonial towns like this in Colombia - and I love them.
Besides from the rich people who used to live here, there are the governmental buildings and of cause all the church's precessions. The blocks are huge, and some have a vast area in the back. Some are hotels and restaurants, other supermarkets, homes for the workers and alike.
I reach the central square, and it sure have it's part of impressive buildings. I look for a cup of tea or coffee, but get frighten by the prices. Then I spot a local shopkeeper with a cup, and find his source. Real good latte, and to a forth of the price - along with a great macaroon. I sit in the appreciated warm sun on the central square, and enjoy it and life in general. As it is 1550 metres height, the morning is a bit chill.
If it wasn't for the cars, mopeds and modern people, everything would be motives - and it almost is. In the evening, it look like I have been photographing cars all day! The sky is fantastic ,with deep blue sky and bright white clouds. Unfortunately, they do cover the sun from time to time. I see the Cathedral inside, and it kind of look like a Danish church; not flamboyant at all.
Most shops are quite neutral in the front, but have a lot to tempt tourists with, especially female ones. The jewellery, jade and weaving dominate, but leather bags, modern clothing, perfume and alike is easy to find. I just like to find a replacement for my GPS-car-charger.
In one of the larger squares, I find the old laundry, with room for a lot of women. The tank offers a astonishing mirror effect to the palms and yellow church, in the other end of the square. I have a long chat with a guide, who give me some hints, while I wait for the sun to return. He recommend the Mayan museum, and it is interesting. As always, I am astonished about their abilities to form flint! And it seems like they knew the trick about casting clay. The entire building is a real nice old house.
In an attempt to cover the entire town, I walk around in a square spiral. But while I consider to head straight to the market, my host offers me a lift, just there. I see the bus station, and the tourist market, which is huge! Here are some real expensive works in jade - and a lot of other useless stuff. I find an USB-charger and a few natural rocks pearls. Then I find the way more low-key vegetable market. It is huge, and I only see a part of it.
While I'm here, I figure I might find some nice vegetarian lunch. I find a place, who toss together a lot of real nice ingredients. They ask me where I'm from - like every body else, but then ask me to play some Danish music. The 80'ties are real big here, and I play Aqua; Barbie Girl - a great choice. I get to play a lot more, and I have just the list.
I get an idea, and buy a few, black, white, and yellow corn, along with black and white beans. Put in a tiny glass, it might look good. I buy a piece of raw chocolate at the same time: A bit like sugar with chocolate taste. It seems like the tourists never get to see this part of town, although everyone are so friendly and smiling. Pity they only get to see the artificial useless stuff...
I remember to see the famous arch, allowing nuns to go from the convent to the church - or the other way. It is sure popular, not only among tourists, but also locals, some getting their wedding pictures taken here. Personally, I could do without them all, except the Mayan dressed souvenir sales-women. I do manages to catch them from time to time, in front of my other motives.
As the sun moves around the squares, new buildings can be photographed. Around four, I finally feel I have seen the most, and retire to a cup of tea¨, at the central square. I set next to a guy, looking like a mix of the Marlborough Man and Danny Trejo - on a bad day! Well, if it wasn't for the 80'ties music in his ears and the ice cone in his hand... Some Canadians ask, if we are on a movie-set!
I make a tour around the very white cemetery, then I find my way back to Mama Napoli, who give me a huge vegetarian pizza with a big discount, due to my pathetic attempts on speaking a bit Italian. Then it have gone dark, and I walk all the way home again. Unfortunately, we now have a female visitor, and I'm kicked into the other guy. He is a professional football player, but start at medicinal school in the morning. Antiqua.
13. I just have to cross Guatemala City and drive 100 kilometres, then I'm in cacti-land. Well, I'm not the only one in the road this morning, and further more; I have to stop for some views all the time. The way up to Guatemala City and down on the other side is dotted with views. Unfortunately, most are too big for my camera.
I stop for a mug of coffee at a truck-stop, which have a great view. A lot of times, the view is there - on the other side of the naked bushes and trees. The huge mountains in the distance, are covered in mist, and barely visible. At one view-stop, I find some strange fruits on a vine. Might be Asclepiadaceae, although one at a time? The area is covered in a thick layer of dust from a open mine - or gravel-dig.
Then the first large Cereus-cactus emerges on the mountains sides. I had a hoped they would grow solitude, but they tend to be buried in bushes all the time. And despite my early start, the sun is already high up by now. It seems like here are a woolly and a non-woolly Cereus along with a big, bushy Opuntia with red flowers, a real skinny and tall one and one or more low one with yellow flowers. A few other cacti like the triangular, slightly climbing one and a small finger-sized Cereus-like along with a few huge clusters of Mammillarias.
It is hard to find a place to park the car, and most fields have endless barbwire fences, protecting the rocks. Besides from the cacti and dormant bushes and trees, here are some Jatropha with loads of spines. And the purple trees are in full flower, which look out-of-this-world. The Bursera are dormant, but some have huge buds. One tree have huge baize flowers.
A few places, I find trails leading deep into the land, and down or up the steep slopes with loose gravel. One end at a scattered pineapple field, but it seems neglected. Another stop is at two almost barren and round hills. Besides from the expected dry-plants, here are some lovely bromeliads and large clusters of orchids with leaves in the trees.
I stop at the little river Puente Hato, which is almost dry, but centre of the area's laundry. I meet another river by walking across a steep field. Her are several species of herons and martins. One of the trees have spines just like an Opuntia stem. I find some polished rocks, which I believe are Guatemalita.
Then I reach the waste farmland area, which the river feeds. It is mainly vegetables, and the fields are huge, but hand-maintained. I have reach the end of the cacti area, and turn around. I have 145 kilometres home, and it is once more across Guatemala City at rush-hour. The GPS estimate of two hours do not account for that! And I find a few places, I just have to stop at.
I find my bed right next to the airport, and it is a nice villa, which I share with an American lady. I ask our host, living in an other villa, for a nearby restaurant, and she tell about Don Mario's, right around the corner. He open around seven. It is dark then, and it feels a bit strange, knocking on a huge, rusty gate with no signs.
I have to give the password, before the gate opens an inch. Inside, I find another world. Three back-packers are placed at the only table in the garage, which is so cosy, with lots of plants and ceramic - and garage storage in general. I feel like I'm in a Quentin Tarantino movie, and Mario create a vegetarian plate right away. The back-packers leave (they are, to my big relief, not going to be served in the morning), and I have a longer chat with Mario. Home to look at endless pictures of cacti and stat wrapping Guatemala up. The cactus day.
14. After breakfast in the other elegant house, served by a so charming older housekeeper, I sit and work, till it is time to drive the short way to the airport. A couple of hours to kill here, then four in the US and four in England.
out to be way better than expected.
It is for sure the most beautiful and
interesting country around here. The perfect beaches, the high mountains,
rainforest, desert, lovely old towns and so nice people. And in contrast to
the surounding countries, Guatemalans work hard. It is a land in progress, in
a whole other way. Better roads, more factories, better schools and so on.
The three weeks I have spend here is a minimum!