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19.10.09 Guatemala: San Pedro
Today is the day where we leave San Pedro, after having spent 7 weeks here.
What else have we been doing during that time? We walked through steep cornfields up to a mountain. It was a 3 hour climb and some of the cornfields were about 45 degrees steep. How do they do the harvest? Maybe they have joined a rock climbing course, I don’t know. I find it quite amazing. We passed lots of coffee fields, zucchini plants and bean plants. When we arrived on top of the mountain, it is called “The Indian Nose”, there was one of the few rubbish bins that I have seen. The care takers carry the rubbish on their back all the way down to the valley on the other side of the mountain. We also hiked down towards the other side of the mountain, arrived in another village and took a public transport back to San Pedro. Most of the public transports are pick up trucks. People stand in the back and hold on to the steel poles. There is so much street life here. People sit on their doorsteps. There is an old man who sits on his doorstep every day. His name is Jose and most of the passing people shake his hands. One evening we had another power cut for several hours. It was a power cut in the whole country. That means, the whole country was dark. Image all the millions of people in Guatemala city, all being in the dark. I wonder how many candles have been lit.

I have been helping in a center for disabled children. I picked these lovely spirits up from their homes in the morning. Then we sang, and played altogether. The children are between 2 and 30 years old. At 10 am I helped to prepare breakfast and some of the kids need to be fed as they cannot use their hands and arms properly. At 12 pm I brought them back to their homes. These beautiful children are so innocent and trusting. What a new experience for me, when I picked them up from home holding their little hands. There is one 6 year old girl, her name is Paulina, she cannot walk and she cannot walk. Her mom carried her every day to the center and I carried her back home. One day, the children and their parents met all at church. They sang and prayed together for the children’s health. The energy was intense, sad and beautiful somehow. Some parents had tears in their eyes. One little 2 year old girl who was disabled was sitting in her dad’s arms and wiped his tears off. It was a touching moment. And I couldn’t stop thinking about Paulina, her big brown eyes. She is so innocent, helpless, trusting and beautiful. There was a wheelchair needed for her, but there was no money, so her mom and the workers from the center kept carrying her all these years, while she is getting older and heavier. There is so much help needed in the center, but there is no money. I made a video with my intention to find sponsors and people who want to support the center financially. You can watch it on our website under “EXTRAS”, “PEOPLE, STORIES, NEEDS”. The center also has their own website: www.hijosdellago.es.tl. It didn’t take long, my parents were the first sponsors to help Paulina to get a wheelchair. Bhinti and I spent a couple of days in another city, in Antigua, where I found a center that produces wheelchairs. The people who make them are all disabled. They also produce sports wheelchairs for basketball players. They have their own team. One person, he had only one leg, showed me photos of their basketball team. All players are in wheelchairs. With tears in my eyes and a little wheel chair I left the production place and pushed the wheelchair through the city to our accommodation Antigua. We spent 2 days there until we got back to San Pedro.

On our last day I went to the center of the disabled children to say good bye and to hand over the wheelchair. I sang and played with the children for the last time and I handed over the wheelchair, sat little Paulina in it. She looks like a little princess. The children grew quite close to my heart and I found it difficult to say good bye. For the last time we walked through the labyrinth of small roads and then packed. I will miss our family here. I will miss the happy vibe of this town, the singing people in the streets, the kite skeletons in the wires, even the canons, that the church has been firing off during the night and also at day time. I will miss the little tiny stores, almost every third house has a store. I will miss all the stories of our host dad. Our host parents are so proud of her daughter. She finished college and for one of the examines they let her and her 15 classmates sleep in their house, occupying the whole house, while the parents slept for several nights in the other house on the floor in the computer room. They let her do everything she wants, so much trust and pride. I will miss mamasita, clubbing her hands when she makes the tortillas, and I will miss the rickshas.

After we said good bye to our host family we took the boat in the afternoon, back to the other side of the lake, back to Panajachel and rode to our accommodation where we stayed before, we even got the same room. He we are again, 7 weeks later. When we came here at the first place we had no idea that there was this beautiful village on the other side of the lake, a mamasita who makes tortillas every day, children that let their kites fly, Doña Clara who makes the chocobananos, these beautiful disabled children, Jose who sits on the stairs every day and people shake his hands when they pass. And we also had no idea that there was that little neighbor boy on the roof letting the kite fly right next to him the chicken, the teacher whose 1.5 year old son starts to cry when he sees me and is so scared because he thinks I am a doctor. We had no idea that there were these beautiful women on the market, that sit on the floor. We didn’t know that there were the three fruit juice stands that were all at the same spot. They didn't want to spread because they had their houses where they sell the juice. So when people pass, they all start shouting the juices that they offer. They all offer the same. It sounds like echoes. They all start and stop almost at the same time. It is hilarious. We had no idea that there were the canons going off in the middle of the night, roosters on the roofs, the street vender woman with her wicked laughter hunting us down to sell bread to us, the clicking tongue when people speak their local language Tzutujil. And we had no idea that there was Señor Cortez who is passionate about his job, maintaining the school garden, cutting the grass by hand with scissors...
Resume: San Pedro-Panajachel by boat.

LINK: Photos 250-299 , videos 134-136

22.10.09 Guatemala
We enjoyed our last days at the lake. Had breakfast at our old place and shared it with an 14 year old shoe shiner boy that asked for some water. He looked much junger and was skinny. He lives in a neighbour village, doesn't go to school because there is no money for it. He tries to make some income as a shoe shiner, carrying his little polishing kit around. The bus ticket cost him 20 Quezales per day, he earns about 20 to 25 Quezales a day, easy calculation to know the the profit. He was so shy, we could hardly hear him when he talked. An old Mayan woman tried to sell us some scarves. Her skin was thin as pergament. When I asked her how old she was, the only thing I could understand was something with hundred. How many years has she been selling clothes??? Another woman passed and showed us how the Mayans do their hair with a colourful strap. Also, they carry the things they sell on their heads. I tried it, but I couldn't do it. I couldn't keep the balance and the bundle of things fell off, catching it with my hands. They start carrying stuff on their heads when they are three years old. On our last day we fixed a flat tire, cleaned our drinking bottles and found new material for our flagpoles as part of the old ones got lost.
Back on the road again. We left Panajachel and climbed up to about 6400 feet. We rode into the clouds, which we saw every day from San Pedro. They were building up around of one of the big vulcanoes. It started raining. I guess the weather is always like that here. Then a long downhill started. It was about 30km long. We rode back into the heat and humidity. Eveything changed, the climate and the vegetation. We left the coffee fields and rode through a forest, passed lots of bush, then banana trees. During the downhill we had to stop to change one of our brake pads. What a monster downhill..I guess the next up- or downhill this length will be in the Andes. For my part, I experienced temperature changes when the season changes but here you can chose it by changing the altitude, in which temperature you want to be. You can be in the heat in no time, and the other way around. We dropped about 5700 feet, almost 2000 meters. It was a quiet road, we had it almost for ourselves. After a while we arrived at a city. Lots of noises and traffic here. A dog gave birth on the foot path. The puppy was half out and there was blood all over the place, but nobody paid any attention. At 3.30pm we found an accommodation. Not much later it started pourring down, it rained all afternoon and all evening.
Resume: Panajachel-Potulul, 49km, started at 4700ft, ended at 1100ft, max. 6800ft, 21-36 degrees.
LINK: Photos 300-305 , video 137
23.10.09 Guatemala
It was hot and humid during the night. We didn't need a blanket anymore. When we left we still rode downhill. At the busy intersection at the main hyway we had breakfast. There were lots of hungry dogs, people, simple food stands, trucks and buses, yelling people and tooting horns. People ran to the chickenbusses to sell some stuff to the people who were in the bus. Lots of dirt, exhaust, people ran after busses to hop on or climb on the ladder in the back while they already left. With full tummies we left the craziness and passed lots of sugar cane fields and pinapple stands. A little butterfly sat on my arm for a few minutes while we were riding. There was lots of roadwork going on, lots of gravel we rode on. We were in the hills... up and down and up and down, then cycled a flat area. It was hot and hard to imagine that we were in the cool mountains only yesterday. We waved to a police truck on the other side of the road. Not much later he drove behind us. They told us they are escorting us to make sure we are safe. After one hour they were still behind us, driving in our pace. How nice is that, having our own personal escort! They said that their district ends here and they sent a replacement vehicle. They even showed us a secure hotel where we stayed for the night. People don't wear traditional clothes, no more Mayas. Instead they were guns. I haven't seen so many people with guns before. We felt like being in the Wild West. Our hotel had a razor fence and the receptionist carried a gun. We walked along the street. Some stores weren't accessable. There was a big steel grid in front of it so people had to point to the stuff from outside what they wanted to buy. We ended up in a restaurant where they had a buffet. We skipped the pig feet, pig head, stomachs and cows tongue and focused on salad and ribs. They played marimba music. There was a mirror at the wall. I little boy ate icecream in front of it and watched himself eating the icecream. He was really faszinated it seemed. We had loud thunder and lots of lightening in the evening. Once the thunder and lightening were almost simultaniously, so loud! This is the last week of the rainy season.
Resume: Potulul-Siquinala, 34km, 29-41 degrees.
LINK: Photos 306-308
24.10.09 Guatemala
Our hotel had a night guard, we bought him a coffee in the morning. We left at 9am and were still in the hills. Stopped on the side of the road and had fresh coco juice. We rode through Espuintla and it was not very obvious which road to take. Bhinti picked up a key that he found on the side of the road and we gave it to a police officer in Esquintla. He told us that we were on the wrong road. Finding a key, dropping it off, everything happens for a reason I guess. The key fullfilled his purpose. We dropped more feet and passed lots of coco palms. We passed a sign: 105km to the border of El Salvador. Yay! We were looking for an accommodation, but there was none. My power left me and after 65km we saw a big house with the sign: Finca el Paraiso. We stopped and asked for a room. We moved our bikes underneath a shelter and not long after it started to pour down. It was a big building with lots of land around it. They had a room for us! Bhinti took advantage of the downpour and had a nature shower in the garden. They had cocopalms, a big mango tree, banana trees, papaya trees, lemon and orange trees and a chico tree. There was a pool and 2 rivers. They also had 3 chicken moms with their little chicks. They were running around everywhere. Then there were 3 dogs and 2 parrots. 12 chicks were sitting under her big mother. Then they came out, one by one, more and more... They climbed on top of her mother. There were 2 houses. One big old house and one tiny house with only one room. A Guatemalan family lived there. Father, mother and 2 sons. The other 10 sons and daughters didn't live at home anymore. These four people lived in the small house, sharing one room. The owner of the big house is from the States. They haven't heard from her since 1.5 years. They don't even know if she is still alive. They are the caretakers of that property. They could have lived in the big house, but they prefer small... Something to think about. They had an extra building for the kitchen. they cooked with the firewood from their garden. Great stove, the bricks were laid in a U-form, in the middle a roast, no chimney. The bricks in the wall have holes through where the smoke escapes. So the big house was empty. We got the room on the second floor. The parents have 10 more sons and daughters, they are all married and have kids. They all live in Guatemala City and every second weekend they come over for a visit, imagine about 40 people in total! So they all stay in the big empty house! The mother has 36 grand children. Great that they have that huge house! What karma is that? They get to live on this beautiful property for free, can sell the fruit, live on the land and have lots of space for the family... They had a washing area in the back garden. They used the water coming from the river. They also boiled it and made drinking water. Our room had 3 beds in it, the biggest room ever. In the evening, the mother made tortillas in the kitchen, and all 3 hen mothers sat in the kitchen with their chicks under their wings. They invited us for dinner. Chicken soup and tortillas. We rolled our bikes into the empty house. A bat was doing his turns in the room. We wanted to pay for the accommodation, all Cristina (the mother) said was: God doesn't charge. I realized that the less things people have, the more generous they are, something else to think about... We had a nice bath outside in the dark, using the water from the river. Nice to get the road grime off. We listened to the crickets, the birds and later to the bats that where flying through the house downstairs. They were the only occupants of the house. And not to forget the 2 big spiders on the other side of the room. Some fireflies flew also around, blinking.
Resume: Siquinala-Taxisco, 65km, 32-41 degrees.
LINK: Photos 309-324 , video 138
25.10.09 Guatemala: Taxisco
I was awake during the night, I could feel lots of energy, mistery energy, good energy. I listened to the crickets, the water in the river and the bats. We decided to stay for a day and wanted to go to Monterrico, a beach town. The 14 year old son came with us. We took 2 busses, then a boat to cross the beautiful mangrove swamp waters. Then we walked about 15 min to the beach. The sand was black.There were lots of palm trees and palapas. No big hotels. It felt good to be back at the ocean. When we got back, his parents were already waiting in front of the property on the side of the road, so sweet. We spent the evening with the family, brought some food for dinner, the other chickens were already in their chicken tree and the 2 parrots climbed already back into their cages. Cristina normally gets up at 5am and prepares the tortillas. She goes to bed at 8pm. Her 2 sons never surfed the internet, hard to imagine these days. We went to our room. A little bat was flying around and then landed on the floor, she hardly moved anymore. What a cute little bat. Not much later we saw a rat running around in our room hiding behind some boxes and jumped. The crickets did their evening song, it was a warm night, we didn't need any blankets. Here we are, in a big old empty house with one rat, one bat, at least 2 big spiders and lots of fireflies. Many of the firelies were flying around, others sat on walls, but they were all blinking, it was like lying in a big Christmas tree. All the insects and animals shared their room with us.
Resume: Rest in Taxisco, trip to Monterrico.
LINK: Photos 325-332 , video 139
26.10.09 Guatemala
The little bat, that landed on the floor the evening before, was gone. Thank earplugs I didn't hear the rat. Early in the morning we heard the family cutting wood and Cristina making tortillas. We also heard the two parrots. We packed and had breakfast with the family. They have their own cornfield. The harvest is twice a year, in April and in November, and it takes 3 months for each harvest. Half a year they spend harvesting the cornfield. They do everything by hand, kernel by kernel with their fingers. They live pretty much off the grid. They get water from the river, water for washing and drinking. They use the wood in their garden to cook, they don't need a heater, they grow their fruits, they have a cornfield. All they pay is for electricity for the fridge and 2 light bulbs.
They all waved when we left. The road was flat, nature is so green here. Getting closer to the border. We stopped for a coco juice. There was not much going on so close to the border, there was hardly any traffic, only few big trucks loaded with goods. One truck had 2 hammocks on the side. I guess these are the beds for the drivers. Nice and simple. After 50 km we had a break. I was so exhausted that I fell asleep on the bench. 45min later we were on the road again, being in the hills The sky in front of us was black and we counted the last kms. Our destination was the border town. Finally we got there, had a shower and crashed on our bed... I didn't want to move anymore. Somehow we carried our tired bodies to a restaurant to feed them. After dinner, I wanted to write my diary. I lied in bed on my tummy, having the pen in my hand. I didn't start writing, no memory anymore...
Resume: Taxisco-Ciudad Pedro, 70km, 32-38 degrees, 475km through Guatemala.
LINK: Photos 333-339
27.10.09 Guatemala, El Salvador
We had our last meal in Guatemala. Guatemala has been very good to us. We were right at the border, big trucks were lining up. We rode between them until we got to the immigration office. The officer told us that the 3 month visa that we got in Guatemala is not only valid in Guatemala, it is also valid in El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua. We didn't know that and so we had only 2 weeks left, not enough time to pass all these countries on a bicycle. We could extend our visa in the capital of El Salvador, in San Salvador at the immigration center. I guess that's what we have to do then.
Having crossed the border we rode on a quiet road. People look different here. The people use the public road to spread out their corn on the side, on the shoulder, to let it dry. Great tolerance that they can use the public road. These patches look like carpets. Busses are very long here, they almost look like short trains. For the first time we saw ox drawing carts. People wash their clothes in the river. They are very welcoming. We got lots of greetings, holas, hellos, adios', 'gringo' shouting, thumbs up, wavings and tootings. The road was flat. Our destination for today was a town at the ocean. When we got there we realized that it was a port town, a little bit of beach and old and dark hotels, not really secure. The hotels weren't looking that inviting. The vibe was strange here. We asked some people before we got here, how this city is. They really liked id and recommended it to us, and they ment it. People are so humble. We made our way out of that town and found an autohotel where we stayed for the night. There was a little door in our room that looked like a trap door. All in a sudden we heard some knock knock knock coming from there. I was almost scared and Bhinti had to open the door for me. Oh, through a tiny door they handed us over some towels, we even coudn't see the people. A new system for me... The currency here is US$, something you would not expect. Paying US$ in a third world country.
Resume: Ciudad Pedro-Acajutla, 58km, 32-42 degrees.
LINK: Photos 10-19
28.10.09 El Salvador
We left at 7am. The first 30km were easy. Flat road and tailwind. Then we ended up in the hills. Long uphills and then down all they way. Another long uphill, and then again, down all the way. The hilly area was isolated. People don't live here. We had the road almost for ourselves. Trees on one side of the road were hugging the trees on the other side of the road, forming an arch, their roots were hanging down towards the road. So beautiful. Our destination for today was a beach city called 'La Libertad'. We didn't make it. We stopped for coco juice and lunch and got an insider tip, a hidden beach village with some nice accommodations. After many more uphills we finally arrived in 'El Zonte', the hidden beach village and took a tiny street off the road, down to the beach. We found a beautiful accommodation right at the beach. Most of the things were made out of seashells, driftwood, rocks and sand. Even our bed side lamp was made of seashells. Underneath the palapa were lots of seashells windchimes and dreamcatchers. Nice to hear the ocean. The water was very warm. We lied in the hammock and rested our tired bodies, watching the sun going down, dropping slowly into the water. It was the first sunset above the water after a long time. Even on the mainland in Mexico the sun went down above the land. In our bed, we listened to the waves and also to some Cuban music that they played outside of our room.
Resume: Acajutla-El Zonte, 66km, 27-41 degrees.
LINK: Photos 20-40
29.10.09 El Salvador
It was a hot night with hardly any air and the moscitos ate me alive. We packed and left at 10am, planning on riding the rest to 'La Libertad', which is about 20km far away from here. We had more up and downhills. All in a sudden on top of a hill we saw flat land far away in the distance. Yay! The road became less and less isolated and we passed villages. We rode through some tunnels. They were dark and one of them was about 600 meters long. I found it quite scary, rode as fast as I could and was glad that there was almost no traffic. Then the light on the other side of the tunnel got closer and closer... After 20km we arrived in 'La Libertad', thinking this is a resort town for the El Salvadorians. Looking for the center, we already passed the city and had to cycle back. There was a short promenade and few simple hotels, the beach was only 200-300 meters long with many rocks on it. This is the main beach destination for the country. Very humble. The different appreciations of rich and poor people... Something else to think about... After we found an accommodation, we had a siesta and then fresh fish. It has been a while since we had fresh fish. We were surrounded by children who wanted to sell us stuff. Also one life band after another kept popping up wanting to play songs for us. Our shower in our room didn't have pressure, hardly any water came out. So we pulled the garden hose from the courtyard through our room into our bathroom and used it, having a nice shower. The hotelowner also gave us a big bucket with water. We spent most of the time on the bed, resting...
Resume: El Zonte-La Libertad, 20km, 27-38 degrees.
LINK: Photos 41-42
30.10.09 El Salvador
Today we took the bus from 'La Libertad' to the capital of El Salvador, to San Salvador. It took about one hour. We went to the immigration to get a visa extension. When we got there, I filled out some forms, copied my passport, paid the fee and thought, the process didn't take long... They did a prober job and took fingerprints of both thumbs, they asked me questions like what kind of work I did in New Zealand for how long and why lived there. Then they wanted to know what I did in Fiji, China and India. They also wanted to know in which city and hotel we stay at the moment and what our expenses are. The woman went through my passport, again and again. Lots of questions... Well, after 2.5 hours I finally had my stamp, yay! We had lunch in one of the small street food places and took the bus back to La Libertad. We stopped in another city and the bus turned into a busy market place. People walked into the bus and tried to sell their stuff. One guy hold a speech in the front of the bus, about his chocolate candies. We got back in the afternoon. When we had dinner in a restaurant, there was a powercut. The woman who cooked had only one candle, she did the cooking in the dark. The food was tasty. It rained again. We walked back into our room and had another early night...
Resume: bus trip from La Libertad to San Salvador and back.