#3 (final) Mozambique, Sept. 18, 2014

Dear Everybody,

Yes, this is what I mean. Monday morning I was clomping around at 3:15 AM getting ready to leave on the shuttle using only a flashlight as I didn’t want to turn on the light and wake other sleepers. I needed to take down my mosquito net in the dark and pack up my pack. Getting from my dorm room to the bathroom entailed stepping down (and up again) off a 24-inch step into soft sand. Then it was quite dark in between the buildings and so I was afraid of tripping on something. Falling is a constant danger on my mind, as there are jillions of opportunities to do that, and it would be a disaster! I made my way in a poorly lit area to the reception area. This is not to criticize this hostel, as their target market is NOT 79-year-old ladies!

At 3:45 I (finally) was able to wake the security person in the bar/restaurant area. Two other young men came to take the shuttle, as well. It came and we boarded right at 4:00 AM.

Much of the transportation is like this—in the middle of the night or just uncertain. When I inquired earlier how to get to my next destination, I was to take an early chapa to Inhambane, then walk out on the jetty and get a ferry to Maxixe, then walk straight up to DSC06364town, through the market and MAYBE there would be a bus there for Vilankulo. When I was younger I did this stuff—I remember Ethiopia was quite like this. Now, however, it seems too difficult.

Preparing to leave the next day, I did take one more walk-around on the beach, which is sensational! The water is so pretty, the sand so clean and soft. It was worth coming here to see the ocean, even if I’m not much of a beachy person.DSC06325

So I went back to Maputo (even this was an 8 ½ hour ride in a small bus) to get my ticket DSC06395changed to go home early. The scenery was mildly interesting—we went through quite a few small towns and finally arrived at the bus depot in Maputo. We were put into a taxi and taken to Fatima’s Backpackers, where I got a dorm bed, walked out to Mimmos for dinner, and then took a nap!

A group of tennis players from Zambia and DSC06420Botswana were my roommates. There is a well-regarded tennis tournament in Mozambique where these young people will play. One (on the right) was the defending champion from last year, although he said it would be hard to win the championship this year as the tournament attracts better and better players.

This same young man had gone to college at a state college in Louisiana, on a tennis scholarship. He described an incident with a policeman who stopped him to check his car license. He said that when he got his license in Louisiana, they had made a mistake and his birth date was one day different from his passport. When the officer checked it out, it passed muster, but he said he couldn’t drive until he got that fixed. He was with his girlfriend, who was white (maybe the reason that he got stopped?) and the officer said she would have to drive. She didn’t know how and didn’t have a license, but the officer insisted! So the young man helped her to drive away.

One night while sitting around in the hostel I made the acquaintance of a local artist DSC06421named Villar. He had spent three years in New York on an artist exchange program. I asked him if he had any paintings displayed in the Nucleo de Arte, that I had enjoyed so much. He said that he did! So the next day I walked back there and found his—unfortunately it was one of the paintings that I liked the least—but what do I know!

Villar insisted that there was a Malangatana painting in the National Museum of Art. I couldn’t believe that I had missed it, so I also walked back to this Museum the next day and it WASN’T there. This time there were three men to ask. Apparently it has been moved.

DSC06426It appears to me that most Mozambique women spend lots of time ‘in the chair.’  This is a reference to elaborate hairdos that take a great deal of DSC06200time to execute. They are quite fascinating for their variety and creativeness.  But it must take a lot of patience and DSC06169money!

I had a dickens of a time changing my flights (4!) home, but finally managed. On Wednesday (and Thursday) I flew from Maputo to Addis Ababa, then to Rome, then to Toronto, and then to Minneapolis! Home at last!

So, what does this bailing out mean for my future traveling? The Lonely Planet had warned about difficult transportation in Mozambique, but I poo-pooed it, since I’ve done this before. However, I guess the years do take a toll, and from now on, I will probably not visit more of Africa, as the infrastructure just isn’t there. Still, I think lots of other places will be fine—at least in India you can get a bus or train anywhere, anytime without having to awaken in the dark and stumble around getting to the bus depot. And there are a few spots in Europe, especially Eastern Europe that I haven’t visited. (Easy-Peasy) So I’m expecting to visit eastern India in January/February—we’ll see.

Posted in 2014, Mozambique | Leave a comment

#2 Mozambique Sept. 14, 2014

Dear Everybody,

DSC06181Monday was a public holiday—don’t know what, but I decided to do the thing where you go to the fish market, buy a fish and DSC06191then go around the corner to a small restaurant where they cook and serve it. Picking a fish is a tricky business, especially for tourists! I decided on one, and it was grilled at a next door restaurant. I suspect 20 years ago, this was a rewarding thing to do, and perhaps it still is for the locals, who know what they’re doing, but my fish was sort of mushy and the whole thing was expensive. The best thing about the meal was the local 2M beer! Still, the atmosphere was fun with its ‘holiday’ flair, so it turned out OK.DSC06187
DSC06202The next day was one of those times when expectations are low and yet one encounters a fun thing! I really only wanted to go for a long walk for exercise, but to have a place to walk to, I decided to go to the Nucleo de Arte, a place where ‘up and coming’ artists DSC06203work and display. The display exceeded my expectations—it was much more enjoyable than the National Museum of Art—and I spent an interesting hour looking at the paintings. They were all for sale, too, with prices from about $300 to $2100.

DSC06208Walking back a long ways toward Fatima’s Backpackers, I stopped in a familiar restaurant, Mimmos Eatalian (!) to have some pasta comfort food. The seafood pasta was OK and the white wine was drinkable, so all was well. I saw they had a motorbike at the ready to deliver pizza, too.

And, walking along the street, I encountered a display of shoes for sale—none of which interested me, but interesting, nevertheless.DSC06207

DSC06210The next morning I was planning to take the shuttle from Fatima’s Backpackers to Inhambane, a town north of Maputo on the coast. It left at 5:00 AM, but turned out to be only a taxi to the bus station, as I was the only person going on the shuttle. Here, in DSC06215the chaos that is all African bus stations at 5:00 AM, I was deposited into a small bus. On arriving I inquired what time it was going to leave and thought I heard, “7:30”! And yes, it was two more hours before we were full and could leave! Several vendors came by while the bus was loading. It was finally full with baggage piled upon the front seats and into the isle. There was a young ‘conductor’ that admirably managed the whole mess!

The ride was quite boring and uncomfortable with tiny seats and not much of interest to see, but after eight hours, we arrived in Inhambane, which is a nice town on the coast. I got a hotel room (solo, as when I asked for dorms, the clerk said that it wouldn’t be good as other people would be joining me in the other beds (!)—I guess he didn’t think that was appropriate) and settled in. Actually there wouldn’t have been any other dorm people anyway, so a regular room was nicer.

DSC06235Inhambane is a town to my liking. It has very few tourists, yet enough to provide infrastructure, and not much poverty that I saw, anyway. It is three-sided by water, with boats constantly loading at the local jetty to ferry passengers across to Maxixe, (pronounced Ma-shee’-shee).

I stopped by a new fancy hotel to see if they had wifi, as the internet I had used the day DSC06261before was difficult to use, and I prefer to use my own computer. I visited the local mosque and was invited in by the imam, after removing my shoes and having my head draped with a cloth. It appears that DSC06268Mozambique has a variety of religions—Muslim, Christian Evangelists, and Catholic for starters. Continuing on, I came to an 18th C. Catholic cathedral, but it wasn’t open. Next door was a modern (1974) huge replacement.

I stopped for a cappuccino to rest a bit, then continued to the market. I bought a papaya and a knife to cut it with, as I’m now in a hotel with a restaurant, rather than a backpackers’ with a kitchen. The market had sternum-throbbing ‘music’ playing—a common occurrence in developing countries. Cashews are commonly on sale here, and tempting. So far I have managed to resist, as I know if I buy a bag, I will eat them all in a sitting. Actually I did bargain on a bag of them, but luckily the vendor wouldn’t meet my price! So hopefully, I will continue to resist.DSC06272

DSC06280The next day I visited the train station (it said it was ‘disused’); there were people in offices in there, yet the train tracks were covered with sand and obviously were ‘disused.’ Near the station was part of the university, which apparently rents some rooms for a hotel. I asked if I could use their wifi, and he said I could. Maybe someplace around here can work out for wifi, as I truly DSC06287miss it.

DSC06286I walked to the Regional Museum, which had some things on display regarding Portuguese colonialism, their independence and the slave trade. Very little was in English, but old pictures were fun to see and there was a wonderful boat on display, painted in colors very much like fishing boats that I saw in Porto, Portugal years ago.

DSC06290I continued to the New Mosque, which looked like the Old Mosque, only bigger. Why two? Are there factions? Perhaps.DSC06241

Observations:
*There is a lot of pedestrian traffic; when one meets oncoming, one goes left. For some reason I tend to go right, which messes up the whole procedure.

*Women commonly carry HEAVY bundles on their heads, balancing them while they walk along. I have read that this is very damaging to their necks and backs over time.

*On Friday there was an especially long line at the ATM. I suspect local people get paid DSC06302directly into their bank accounts and then draw the money out using the ATM.

*As you would expect, everybody (locals and tourists) carries a cell phone. I noticed in signing in for a hotel, they asked for your cell number, rather than your home address!

Well, I finally got to use wifi at the University. It worked so much better than the internet service available—what a treat! I offered to pay, but nobody could figure out how, so it was gratis!

Saturday I left after breakfast and got a chapa (minivan) to go 23 km to Tofo, which is the big beachy scene. I’ve been in crowded vans in my life, but NEVER like this! At one time there were 30 passengers and two babies in this 14-person van. We stopped a million DSC06311times and kept picking up MORE passengers! In the picture, these people are not just getting in—the van is moving and this is how they rode! A lady in a seat took the baby to hold—no wonder it took an hour to go 23 km (15 miles). But we made it to Tofo, and I walked a few blocks to Fatima’s Nest—the same company as has Fatima’s in Maputo.

The setting is exquisite! Yes, Mozambique does have beaches like no other! I got settled in DSC06331a dorm bed and then looked around a little. I also inquired how to get to my next destination, as the Lonely Planet guidebook isn’t really clear. And transportation is tough in Mozambique. I’m wondering if I’m really up for the whole itinerary that I have laid out. We’ll see.

DSC06330For my linner I was urged to try the lobster, which I did. Imagine my surprise when the platter arrived with three medium sized lobsters! Additionally, there were fries and a big salad. Well, I certainly got enough lobster, for today, anyway. The cost of the meal? $7.50, although this place is considerably cheaper than where else I’ve been. Then I had fried bananas for dessert.

Just now I’m listening to the most wonderful music, and it occurred to me that it sounded like Yosef N’Dour, and it IS! He’s Senegalese—I saw him perform in Dakar, Senegal in DSC063551991. Apparently he’s still popular—I can see why—his music is so good. When I saw him he wore a yellow satin jumpsuit with a yellow satin maxi-coat over it—sensational!

As I was sitting on the terrace, relaxing, I saw a man point out into the water—it looked like maybe it was a whale, at a great distance. He said it was a whale—I tried to DSC06345photograph it, but it was very far away, although I’ve got a good camera! And here it is! The staff says they are humpbacks.

The staff here are very nice—their native language is Batonga but they also speak Portuguese and some tourist English. The Batonga comes out so fast, it’s a wonder they can understand each other.

There was a small band that played in the evening. I think I’m just ahead of their main DSC06344season, as there aren’t many tourists here. I was alone in the dorm for the two nights.

I’m going to take the shuttle back to Maputo in the morning (it leaves at 3:45 (!) as the transportation is just too challenging here in Mozambique, and maybe I am too old! I shall get my ticket changed and go home early.

 

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#1 Mozambique, Sept. 7, 2014

Dear Everybody,

DSC06076Here I am in Maputo, Mozambique. It took quite awhile to get here—two hours to Toronto, then 13 ½ hours to Addis Ababa, and then five more hours to Maputo. In Toronto, I encountered yet another Richard Serra massive art piece. I first saw his work in the Guggenheim in Bilbao, Spain, and then saw a smaller installation in the Toronto airport, years ago. Now they’ve come back for seconds, with this new piece.DSC06122

In Maputo I’m staying at Fatima’s Backpackers, a hostel with a friendly clientele and pleasant staff. There are quite a few Americans staying here, which I find rare. Two of my roommates (Vermont and Tennesee) and I had a nice visit. They are teaching school in Botswana, and left the next day to return. I also had breakfast with Joe, a young accountant from West Virginia, who spends most of his time doing Christian missionary work.

DSC06081DSC06086My first day of DSC06093DSC06107sightseeing I walked a very long ways and visited the Cathedral, (a modern church), the Iron House, (a house made of iron by an Eiffel student), the 18th century Portuguese fort near the ocean, the Central Market, where I bought some fruit, and the 19th century train station, which was all wrapped up for reconstruction.DSC06116

My first impressions of Maputo are: 1) it’s a sleepy, slow-moving town with the light (from the north) streaming into the streets in kind of a ‘funny’ but beautiful way; 2) the cars are all quite new and there are lots of them; they often park on the sidewalks which makes walking difficult; 3) the ‘slow’ extends to waiters in restaurants, where it takes forever to get your order and more than forever to get the check; 4) there’s a lot of trash in the streets and the sidewalks end here and there in sand/dirt; 5) the people are friendly and I don’t see much abject poverty.

DSC06123I spent my second day at the National Art Museum, which was small and didn’t seem to have the collections in it that were described in the Lonely Planet. That was disappointing, but I pulled myself together over a nice DSC06129salmon dinner and a couple of draft beers at a restaurant in a park. Then I walked home and took a nap!

We only have wifi at the hostel from 7:00 PM until 6:00 AM. The whole city of Maputo has it (free) from midnight until 6:00 AM, so the hostel only needs to pay for it from 7:00 PM until midnight. Everybody sits around the living area at 7:00, ready to wifi!

I have gotten money from at least three ATMs, unlike when I was in Colombia last winter, when they were on the ‘European system” of needing an extra security chip in the ATM card. Last week I applied for a Visa credit card, which has the extra chip, but it didn’t arrive in time. The bank said they are going to convert all our debit cards to this system in the future. In the meantime, it looks like I won’t have any trouble getting money from ATMs in Mozambique.

DSC06138After having breakfast, I went to see the Saturday Craft Market, which had a lot of batik, woodcarving and clothes. The salesmen were not nearly as aggressive as in many countries. Obviously if I buy something, I will wait until the day before going home, so I don’t have to carry it. This was near the port, where the fishing boats come in.DSC06136

On my way home, I stopped for a shoeshine—my shoes haven’t looked so good since I hadDSC06140 them shined in Oaxaca, Mexico last March!

There’s a big election coming up—there are pictures and election ads for ‘Frelimo’ everywhere you look, even on DSC06143this woman’s skirt! There was some talk about this election causing ‘trouble’ (a resumption of the civil war that ended in the mid-90s) but a Mozambique man staying at the hostel said that there was nothing to worry about—all would be cool. I hope so!

After walking toward home for 45 minutes, I stopped for a (Mozambique) beer in a neighborhood restaurant where I usually eat my breakfast. The weather is fine—highs of about 79 with a nice cool breeze that you notice when in the shade. In the evening I’m more comfortable with long sleeves.

The next day I found the Natural History Museum in a pretty building that had lots DSC06146DSC06150of stuffed animal exhibits. There was also a collection of elephant fetuses (!) from one to 18 months gestation. One never knows what one will see in these funky museums.

I took a very spiffy tuk-tuk back to the hostel. Most of the taxis are yellow cars, but there are a few tuk-tuks.

Sunday afternoon I joined most of Maputo DSC06164DSC06175on the Costa Do Sol on the ocean. I ate at a restaurant of the same name, having grilled prawns that were extra good! The lemon/butter/cream sauce was spectacular!

A couple more days here, and then I’ll be heading north.

Carol

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#4 Mexico/Guatemala, Jan. 4, 1981

Once again, we’re home and in the cold weather!

img704We left Guatemala, crossed the border into Mexico and stopped overnight at San Cristobal de las Casas. Here we began to see some of the feelings of the locals expressed in grafitti. “Death to the Yankee Government” did not seem at all friendly. However, we really didn’t notice any animosity directed toward us on a personal level. Well, OK, there was one lady who gave Burt a light slap because she thought I had img705taken her picture (I hadn’t) and should pay her.

 

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On the way to Oaxaca, we encountered many bucolic scenes, which we all enjoyed.

 

 

 

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img717Once in Oaxaca, we visited Monte Alban, that great Zopotec City that was begun in about 500 BCE. What we see now is mostly from 300 to 700 AD, when the city reached a population of about 25,000. There is the traditional ball court which involved a game somewhat like soccer where the players tried to make the ball go through stone hoops, using only their legs, hips and head.img720

The ends of the Gran Plaza are dominated by the North Platform, and the South Platform. Burt and Alan climbed the South Platform, photographing some of us looking very small from their position. The Gran Plaza is a huge open area lined with foundations of temples and buildings on all img716img718sides. We all climbed up the North Platform, which also gave a lovely view of the Gran Plaza.img710

Moving on, we went to the village of El Tule to see the Tule tree. This ahuehuete tree is thought to be from 2,000 to 3,000 years old, and is said to be the largest single biomass in the world. It certainly is nothing like any other trees that I’ve seen before.

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A stop at Mitla rounded out our sightseeing around Oaxaca. This site is Zapotec, also, but DSC02407from a much later period than Monte Alban.  Mitla’s heyday was in about the 14th century.  The buildings are unusual in that they have decorations featuring various forms of geographic patterns of stones.

That evening we had a very good Oaxacan meal in a casual restaurant that, again, featured a mouse! This time it was being played with by a cat, who was lolling about right in the way where the swinging doors opened for the waitresses to bring food. Every time the door swung open, we could see the cat still playing ‘cat and mouse!’ It added to the luster of our dinner!

From Oaxaca we drove back to Mexico City where we took one more last excursion. We img603drove to Xochimilco on the outskirts of Mexico City to ride on the boats on the canals. Mexico City was a city of canals at the time of the conquest. This area was once img604part of a lake, but in Aztec times they had mud rafts floating in the lake on which they raised produce. In time the ‘rafts’ grew roots to the shallow lake bottom and the lake turned into a series of canals. We had a ride on a boat on the canals, which was most pleasant, even though we were pretty tired from our demanding trip.img579

The following day, Peter and Cindy flew home to Minnesota and the rest of us rode in the van, which took four more days! One night at a motel, the manager woke up Burt, telling him that his van was being burgled. Bob and Burt ran out and chased the robber away, but not before he got a garment bag with coats in it, including Cookie’s leather jacket to which she had attached her motorcycle key, as well as two bolsas containing many beautiful Guatemalen fabric pieces that Jeanne and I had bought. Worse yet, my two cameras were stolen.  How horrid! Well, I suppose we should have taken EVERYTHING into the motel that night. A lesson!

When we got to my aunt’s house in Harlingen, Texas, Burt had to get a new key made for the motorcycle. Cookie stayed over a couple of days and then left on her motorcycle for California, again.

Before heading off to Minnesota, on our last night at Aunty Helen’s we celebrated Cookie’s GetAttachmentbirthday (January 3rd) with some cards and a special dinner. It was a capstone to a wonderful, if strenuous trip!

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#3, Guatemala, Dec. 30, 1980

We were all together again as the seven returned in the van to join Jeanne, Bob, and me in Guatemala City. We did spend part of a day ‘seeing the sights’ before leaving that city, the img649least favorite on our trip.

img650We went to the Parque Central to see the Cathedral—a plain Jane, which had been built in 1782 but had been badly damaged by earthquakes in 1917 and 1976. Still it had been repaired and preserved.

Across the plaza was the Palacio Nacional de la Cultura, built in 1936. It was an img651interesting building, which we toured. One could easily spot the damage that had been done to it in the political img655uprisings that had taken place recently. Some interesting art deco windows had pieces missing—I hope they will be restored.

img677The Yurrita Church was our next stop—a fantasy church like no other Latin American church that we’ve seen. It was img680built by the Yurrita family in 1929, somewhat resembling the Gaudi works in Barcelona, Spain. Alan made a ‘pal’ of one of the statues on the grounds.

We decided to have lunch before leaving town, which we did at a small outdoor restaurant with woven straw ‘umbrellas’ and much Guatemalan décor. While we were eating, a small Topo-Gigo-like mouse (with the big ears) came out on the tile floor and sat next to our tables, surveying us while we surveyed him. Cindy, on her first trip to Latin America, had her legs up under her on her chair pronto, as the mouse certainly seemed friendly! No one in the restaurant payed any attention to him—they just went about their waitressing duties, ignoring our pointings and starings!img666

On to Antigua. This city had been founded in 1543 as the capital of Guatemala and during the 1600’s and 1700’s had been embellished with 38 beautiful churches. It had been damaged from time to time by earthquakes, but the BIG one hit in 1773, causing the capital to be moved to Guatemala City. It lay dormant for awhile, but then began being built up again with some restoration of some churches, until the present day when it is again a beautiful city. Still, there are many ruined churches throughout the city.

The cathedral, a pretty building, has been earthquake wrecked and damaged on many img658occasions, but now presents a beautiful anchor for the lovely Parque Central. Also on the img662Parque Central is the Palacio de los Capitanes, the government center dating from 1558. Originally this building was the seat of government for all of Central America from Chiapas in Mexico to Costa Rica until 1773.

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On the north side of the Parque Central is the site of the Palacio del Ayuntamiento, or City Hall built in 1743.

Other churches and stately buildings such as the Universidad de San Carlos were nearby img663and evoked times gone by—so pretty in the lovely sunshine. Once again we found an atmospheric hotel with a pretty img676fountained courtyard for us to stay in. Next door we breakfasted with especially good coffee, raised in Guatemala for our enjoyment!

Soon enough we were on our way back toward the border. The Guatemalan countryside looks very different from Mexico. One can tell when you’re in one or the other. The img695img684farming patches are more organized and neater; and one is img690never very far from volcanic mountains. On the highway going through small villages, we saw that many Guatemalans wore img696traditional, colorful clothing as we had seen in Chichicastenango. Apparently this clothing is worn for ‘every day’ and img694not just fiestas. On one occasion we encountered the coffin builders, bringing their wares to market.

Observing the people going about their daily lives as we drove back toward the Mexican border was a highlight of our trip. And, of course, having so much family to share it in our van was special, too. We are headed for a stop in Oaxaca, Mexico.

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#2, Guatemala, Dec. 26, 1980

img559The small town of Panajachel and some small surrounding villages were a welcome respite after the fun chaos of Santo Tomas Chichicastenango. Scenes with women img560washing clothes, children carrying other children, img570and the sad specter of a procession for the funeral of a child presented everyday life of the Guatemalans.

Moving on to beautiful Lake Atitlan was a thrill. We were lucky to find a pleasant hotelimg591 img585img584overlooking the lake that had a beautiful img599courtyard full of Poinsettias, in full bloom! Claire and Alan went for a dip in the ice-cold lake, but the rest of us img600were not so brave. Still we did enjoy some leisure time at the hotel, enjoying the beautiful view.img596

img595img594The lake is surrounded by volcanoes, which makes for a pretty backdrop, although it also makes for a difficult existence for the people who live here. They have had many cities destroyed over the centuries by volcanoes. Our next destination, Antigua, was once the capital but suffered so many earthquakes and such devastation that they moved the capital to Guatemala City.

The next day we were back in the van, moving on to the southern beach, an opportunity img602that the youngsters didn’t want to pass up! Living in the Midwest as we do, the chance to img605img606be on an ocean beach is exciting. Burt and all seven young people stayed a couple of days here, while Jeanne, Bob and I decided we wanted to see the important Mayan ruin of Tekal, in the north of Guatemala.img609

 

 

We got a local bus back to Guatemala City—everyone crowding into the front seats (?) while the conductor hung out of the open door calling “WHAT-A-MAL-A” over and over, trolling for more passengers. We got a taxi to a hotel, with growing nervousness about seeing armed, uniformed men on every street corner. Yes, Guatemala had been having some political problems, but we really didn’t expect this.

Since this was Christmas Day night, we decided to go out for a nice dinner. However, when we left the hotel and walked down the street, each time we came to a corner an armed, uniformed man pointed a rifle at us as we continued on our way. This was not pleasant. The first restaurant that we came to was definitely our choice! We ducked in, ate a rapid dinner, trying to be cheerful and not mentioning the unmentionable, and left. On our way back to the hotel, in spite of it only being about 8:30 PM, the streets had become totally deserted, except for the armed men on the corners. We were very relieved to get back to our hotel.

The three of us were sharing a triple room. During the night I awoke to a tiny sound of what sounded like/looked like the doorknob being tried. I couldn’t quite make it out in the dark, and tried to relax to fall back asleep. Before I did, Bob got out of his bed, went to the door and tried the knob. Yes, it was securely locked. Obviously he had heard what I had heard!

The next morning the three of us had tickets on a flight to Flores, the town next to the Mayan ruin of Tikal. We went outside to get a taxi to the airport. A cab was right there so we all got in the backseat. Just then the hotel bellman knocked on the front passenger window—he had followed us outside. The taxi driver opened the front door and the hotel bellman lifted up a jacket that was lying on the front seat., put it down again and closed the door. Apparently he was looking to see if there were guns under the jacket!!

Then we discovered the taxi had taken us to the wrong airport. I suppose, in spite of what img615we told him, he assumed we would be going to the international airport, when, of course, we needed the domestic airport. Luckily we had enough time to make our flight.

We landed in Flores and got a taxi to take us to Tikal. What a stunning site! It was deep in the jungle with many pyramids and other img637img632edifices having been excavated out of the tangle of growing things. This city was img643settled about 700 BCE, with these img617monstrous buildings having been built by about 250 AD.

The many pyramids, temples, and acropolises took us img624hours to climb and investigate. Some giant pyramids had not yet been cleared of the jungle growth, which made them even more dramatic. It is amazing to contemplate how they could have built these huge temples so long ago, without sophisticated tools. They were indeed a mighty people!img628

 

Late in the day we caught a flight back to Guatemala City. Our other people drove up from the beach and joined us. We shall explore Guatemala City a bit before we move on to Antigua.

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#1, Mexico/Guatemala, Dec. 21, 1980

What a planning exercise! Our family and my sister’s family were set on going to Mexico and Guatemala over the Christmas Holidays, but we all had many commitments and were scattered over the globe. My husband, Burt, and son, Alan, would drive a 12-passenger van down to Mexico City, stopping on the way at my aunt’s house in Harlingen, TX, to pick up daughter, Cookie. She would come from CA on her motorcycle, which she would leave at img493my aunt’s house. Daughter Claire would fly directly to Mexico City from Berlin, where she had been staying with our friends, the Fischers, for six months. The rest of us, Sister Jeanne and Brother-in-law Bob plus their three grown children Laura, Mark and Peter, with his wife, Cindy and I would fly to Mexico City.

img498As we got off the plane in Mexico City and got a taxi to go to a hotel where we had stayed many times, we got into a gridlocked traffic situation and there we sat! Finally we grabbed out suitcases, left the cab and walked the rest of the way, about half a mile.

We still had time that day so we did a little sightseeing at the Zocalo, reacquainting ourselves with the Cathedral of Mexico City, which we had seen many times before. Soon all had gathered at img510the hotel and the next img502morning we left for the Hacienda Cocoyoc, just south of Mexico City. This is a 16th century hacienda made into a modern hotel, but with many remnants of GetAttachment-1its days as a working hacienda. It made a nice day to relax a bit and become reacquainted with each other!

Pushing on toward Guatemala, we stopped at a 16th century convent img521near the town of Yanhuitlan, Oaxaca, Mexico. It reminded us of the convent of Acolman where we had stopped before on our trips to Mexico. img518What a huge church with its attached img520convent. The kids took the opportunity to soak up a few rays on the church steps.img517

Our schedule called for arriving at the town of Santo Tomas Chichicastenango in Guatemala by December 21st, as this was the culminating day of a week-long festival that we wanted to see. After clearing the border and hurrying along through the mountains, we came upon that most spectacular sight of a live volcano. There were volcano mountains all around us, but to see one live was thrilling!img522

img524The terrain was rugged, the load in our van was heavy, and problems with the van developed. Burt felt that we needed to let the van cool off, as it was overheating, but I was prodding him on since I was afraid of missing the fiesta! This caused some harsh words between us in the nervousness of our concerns, but finally we came to the small town of Santo Tomas Chichicastenango and the fiesta!

img527What chaos, what noise (cherry bombs going off every few minutes), what a crush of img535people. Laura held on to six-foot-tall Alan as he cleared a way through the crowds. All that color and img546beauty! The clothing that they wore was spectacular. Still the local color was difficult to take in since we were img555being caught up in the stream of people, all trying to see the procession, as were we! The cherry bombs were quite img552scary as they constantly seemed to go off right at our feet. There was a procession of the saints from img554the church, although this fiesta had a rather thin overlay of Roman Catholicism over the native practices of the Guatemalans. There was incense and copal resin burning on the church steps, which incidentally seemed reminiscent of Mexican native pre-conquest pyramids.

A few hours of this cacophony left us exhausted but satisfied. We repaired to an upscale hotel restaurant on the edge of town for some revivingly good food and quiet. Wonderful marimba players treated us to soothing music while we ate our very good dinner. We drove on to Panajachel for a quiet overnight.img557

I was so happy to participate in the Fiesta of Santo Tomas. It was worth the struggle to get there in time, and to brave the crowds crushing the town. We will be moving on to Lake Atitlan.

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