Feb 14

update

by in Guatemala, Honduras, North America

Yesterday was a day of heavy travel, involving catching 4 busses, one ferry and one launch, starting at 6:20 AM on the Utila Princess leaving Utila for La Ceiba and ending with the launch from Puerto Barrios to Livingston, Guatemala.

I went for the regular public bus transportation instead of a 1st class bus and actually enjoyed it more. I was really able to take in the incredibly lush scenery which just went on and on for miles. Quite a bit of it was on farms, coconut, banana and other fruits. However, there was a tremendous variety of plants and trees in other areas. It actually made me wish I knew more about horticulture so I could figure out what they all were and what fruits they were bearing. Sometimes, you would only see greenery for miles except for a couple of cows or horses grazing or bathing and then a small hut with a corrugated metal roof would pass by. Corrugated metal roofs were on every building 100 miles either side of the border area between Guatemala and Honduras. Even multistoried buildings used them but painted them red so they resembled more expensive shingles. Thankfully I saw most of them were latched fast to the walls. In poorer areas, they are often just weighted with bricks and can fly off in hurricanes, killing people as they tear through them.

I was very amused when a guy with a sack walked on to the bus at one stop and started selling these legitimate looking medicines. I couldn’t understand everything but he had many different drugs he was selling, good for any ailment. After his schpiel that went on for 10-15 minutes, he walked down the aisle selling to interested passengers. I saw one very professionally packaged medicine was named “Neurobion”. Wonder what he claimed that would do? Whats funny is I witnessed this same thing riding a bus in Quetta, Pakistan on the other side of the globe. I guess brown people everywhere are similar in some respects. At bus stops I was able to get coconut water with chunks of coconut floating in it which made for nice snacks.

Arriving in the dock area at Puerto Barrios, some smart pickpocket relieved me of my camera. I noticed it missing only minutes later but by then it was too late. This is a very shady city, known for lots of prostitution. Even the cop was trying to get me to pay him for what I don’t know. This blind woman wanted a dollar for letting me use the public bathroom. I ended up giving her 2 Quetzals (I’ve seen this paying 2Q for toilet use at bus stations too so it’s legit although a little wierd). Anyway, back to the camera. I suppose I am partly at fault for taking it out so much and then leaving the cord dangling out of my pocket, making it the easiest of snatches. I had used a little over a full GB on the 2GB SD card so hundreds of photos were lost, of new friends, all kinds of fun activities and parties and great scenery including the view from atop Volcan San Pedro which took me 8 hours to get up and down. I just hope some of my new Facebook friends from my travels send me their pictures so I have something.

Livingston, where I am now is an interesting place. I’ve run into a lot of travellers from other towns here again. It is a Garifuna town, which means the people are mainly of African descent. It is on the Atlantic coast and has more of a Carribean look and attitude. No roads go into it and it is only accessible by boat. Unfortunately, I’ve seen a lot of obvious hard drug addicts roaming the streets, stumbling around or screaming at no one in particular. I’m told they are crackheads. One who greeted me at the dock upon arrival wore no shirt, had dozens of scars and both his nostrils were slit as if someone had filleted them with a knife inside out. He wanted to show me to a hotel on the main road which was actually quite decent so I took it. After that he begged me for money, showing me a scar on his leg that he said was from a dog bite the day before. I don’t know if his idea was to evoke pity but I gave him 5 Quetzals anyway. He came back later that night and I turned him away. Livingston did not strike me as the safest place to be but OK as long as you stick with lots of other people.

The second night in Livingston, I tried the Tapado for dinner. I understood it was a local dish that comprised of seafood in a coconut milk soup. When it was put before me, I realized I should have gone with the shrimp pasta. There were 3 sets of lifeless eyes from 3 different species staring back at me. A tailfin was sticking out at one end, pointed to the sky. Pushing it in caused the fish head to surface on the opposite end of the bowl. After removing the crab carcass and moving the soup around, I discovered a few additional unfortunate sea creatures as well. This was the most unappetizing dish I have ever tried. It truly was a chore going through it, the scales on the fish came off with the meat so I just ate it all until only the tailfin and head were left, just like in the trashcans in Tom & Jerry cartoons. Sopa del muerte is what it should have been called. Here is what I got for Tapado on Google: seafood soup with coconut milk, shrimp, prawns, conch, WHOLE crab, WHOLE fish, and little octopi hiding among Blogroll leaves.

Now I am leaving Livingston for Rio Dulce by taking a launch across the Rio Dulce river/lake. I hear its quite beautiful and in a canyon at points. After that, I travel by bus to Flores where the volunteer group with which I’ll be volunteering will pick me up. I hope to be put on either building the school there, which is under construction, or building ovens into homes there in San Andres, a poor mayan village of ~4000 on lake Peten Itza. I’ll also be taking Spanish lessons so hopefully I’ll be decent in Spanish by the time Colleen gets in to Antigua on Feb 27.

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