Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

roatan island - what's in the water?

Roatan island is surrounded by the world's second largest coral reef.  Thus it is a mecca for divers and snorkelers.

We are staying at a great little hotel run by two Canadians meaning they have Caesars.

The place is surrounded by lovely gardens filled with flowers and Coconut trees.  Countless geckos live here and watch you upside down with a wary eye to see whether you have spare fruit or watermelon to share with them. It is funny to watch them sneak down to grab a piece of fruit too big for their little mouths and try and chew it down to size before dashing away.

Also abounding the grounds are many Jesus Christ lizards called his as they are able to run across water. They run away as you walk by resembling a mini Jurassic Park of fleeing velociraptors.

finally there are the agcooties.  Rough approximate of the actual name. They are like a cross between a gopher and a bunny. They half hip hop but have tiny little ears.

Yesterday we did a snorkeling trip to Spooky Channel. We hitched along with scuba divers who assured us that it was like an aquarium just off the boat and they weren't wrong.

jump into the water and countless fish appear in colours that put the rainbow to shame.  Giant parrot fish, a dark blue luminous fish with sparkles all over their body: juvenile damselfish.

we caught up with a school of grey angelfish and with the brain and fan coral you felt like you were in Finding Nemo.

After an hour of snorkeling we were summoned back to the boat to pick up the divers. one a very gentle young man was already surfaced and hanging off a buoy. He admitted he was a nervous diver and had used up his oxygen early as a result.

While waiting for the others to ascend the captain suggested we could continue to snorkel. At this time the swells were so large and weird I suddenly remembered the long ago feeling of being sea sick.  I jumped off the boat looking green, hung off the ladder and began dry heaving as the captain laughed and said "get it out man, it happens to everyone".

By the time I was feeling better the gentle young man had lept back into the boat and I hear him say jellyfish pointing to red lashes over his legs. Just as he said this I felt the pinching sting on my left calf and jumped up the ladder. The captain poured vinegar on our legs while bubbles appeared one by one around the boat as the divers began to surface.

An older canadian couple were ecstatic, raving about the underwater caves they went through in Spooky Channel while another diver relayed his dangerous encounter with  moray eel.

I told them I still had PTSD. From seeing The Deep as a kid where Louis Gossett Junior gets his bald head crunched in half by a moray while fighting Nick Nolte.

the Canadian woman remembered the scene well saying "oh yeah!" And laughing. She remarked that every time she dives she always second guesses herself about what's in the water.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

tetanus bus

Damn. 2 whole weeks of freak cold weather followed by unseasonable pouring rains have made much of our trip a misery. The fact that all the hotels or hostels have no hot water; a curse upon us,  then followed by places with no water at all.

we fled livingston a small town. It was recommend by the rough guide as the 4th best thing to see in guatemala. A place of emaciated dogs, filth and garbage. And as my father would say: and other than that, how did you enjoy the play Mrs. Lincoln.

we got on an overloaded open boat at 630 am.  The guy gave us big tarp and rocketed through capsize waves that threw the small boat and us flying thru the air.  I had an India moment: I was sick from both ends, tired, fed up and angry.

Jesus fucking Christ I started screaming as Catherine and the guy next to me hid from the torrents of rain under the tarp.  I am so fucking sick of the recklessness  of these countries. I can't take it anymore!

but I did and survived though catherine wouldn't talk to me the whole day for embarrassing her.

Next a man picks us up in a tourism bus.  I began to feel like we had hired human smugglers. Only 20 minutes to the border he said taking our money and telling us how to fill out immigration forms.

Next the border where the line I choose had the one guy  taking all his elderly relations into honduras.

them some weird taxi where we were handed off to maxi.  He would take care of us we were assured.

maxi was supposed to take us into the bus station and buy our tickets for us. However our rudimentary spanish  led him to believe that he could abandon us with a clear conscience.

We were 2 Canadians and a very young  brit woman.

as soon as we got into the station  at San Pedro Sula, voted world's most dangerous city in 2012, a hustler grabbed young brit and took her to get tickets to make the 430 ferry to utila.

we followed being polite canucks. Usually I am more savvy but two weeks of being sick takes the stuffing out of you.

I have never seen a more gross bus.  I mean that in the 12 year old nineteen seventies meaning of the word.

To say it was filthy would be mild.  Hondurans are very clean people. How the hell did this bus get this way?

all the panels were kicked in and broken or just ripped out.

the seats had bugs on them and gum. There was a decking of filthy Bus Curtains Stained With God Knows what on each window.

Catherine just looked at me.

as the bus got going I cheered up a bit.  The driver wasn't a maniac as most drivers are believing that if you drive super fast and dangerously you are less likely to be car jacked.

then the sun came out and the mountains were beautiful and it took my mind off the possibility of contracting typhus from the curtains.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

the colour of my skin impedes me - Livingston

It seems we've entered some weird X Files world on the carribean coast of guatemala.  A 6 hour bus trip of 120 km as the roads are all unpaved rubble. This followed by  2 and a half hour boat trip of 30 km to get to the lake and sea locked town of livingston.

Jungle hot and humid and juggling between fire sun and dense fog, livingston is home to the Black Caribs.

I met Phillip today a 65 year old dreadlocked man who took myself, catherine and two British medical students on an improvised tour of the Garifuna, side of town.  Turistas don't go there.

The Garifuna are a mix of aboriginal Caribs and African slaves.

Phillip tells us that the Garifuna once ran livingston. During the Civil war many Mayan and metitzos, fled the death squads and supplanted the Garifuna. All the tourist stalls feature authentic Garifuna crafts not made by garifuna.  Reggae music blasts from the restaurants and bars all owned by those who speak spanish. No one will hire the Garifuna nor intermix as they are all Black.

A communal community who live in bare shacks. Garbage everywhere and these two dogs who keep following us the whole way and just won't stop fucking.

We return to the whiter side of town. The medical students canoe back over the river to their jungle lodge.

Catherine and I realize today that our small hotel is hosting a group of Guatemalan gay male activists; this in a country where being gay is a very possible death sentence.

Tonight as we left the sustainable tourism restaurant the skies opened with a torrents of rain so tropical I thought of the movie Platoon.

I stood under the small roof my sandals soaking from the water flooding down the street.

5 of us taking shelter.  I noticed the guy next to me was a gringo. Where are you from I asked. Roswell, new mexico.  I made a joke, so are you half alien and half weather balloon?

Some people think so he laughed back.

are you touring around I ask.  No. I am here on mission work.

oh are you building schools or clinics or so something?

no. We have a few prospects and are teaching them how to spread the gospel.

back at the hotel the entire bottom floor, albeit 4 rooms or so,  is home to the Guatemalan gay men.

One staircase up are the American evangelists plotting conversion strategies. I can hear them talking right now. Tell them they will fall into evil and there is only one God of the whole world. Americans again out of their depth.

and then it starts to rain again so hard that it sounds like thunder.

on the way back from the restaurant I realized the female, from the amorous pair of dogs in the Garifuna town had followed me the many kilometers out of her home territory. She left just before I reached the hotel.

I worry about her shivering in the rain.

Monday, February 15, 2016

mist shrouded mountains and turquoise pool

After a number of days incommunicado I can get WiFi again.  We were in a very remote part of guatemala high in the mountains.  The only tourists who venture here are 20 year old backpackers who don't mind the 3 hour terror trip on winding  mountain roads barely large enough for a truck let alone two.  Then the hour drive at 10 km an hour or less all road covered with dirt and rock. It is a truly spine busting experience. Thus no hotels way up here: only party hostels.  A strange vista as you sit overlooking breathtaking mountains dotted with goats and jungle. Down on your left is  the pool with non functioning swim up bar and hot tub. The aussies make it their home. Staff start with techno and urban music blasting by 6 pm. The staff, all kids travelling stay for six weeks then move.

By 7 pm Frankie the young bartender from Manchester has already downed 6 tequila shots, all while on duty.

We managed to flag down a truck which acts as the local taxis. One cab and a large open platform with bars everywhere.  The mayans all climb in the back and stand holding onto the bars as the truck sans springs jolts and tosses the occupants into the air as it struggles up the clay rock roads.

today we had to sit in the back as there was no cab room.  Catherine and I and our packs were flying all over the place as the driver belted over the rubble roads. After  half hour I tapped on the window. My spine was done. I got into the cab where there were shocks and felt as if I was floating on a cloud.

it was then when I understood why no maya sit down the the back of the truck but stand and climb the various bars hanging there like actors in an avant garde play circa New York 1962.

Yesterday the 1 and a half hour drive the 8 km over breathtaking valleys; corn growing willy-nilly over the mountainsides.

We get to semuc champey. A brilliant river of turquoise pool after pool you climb up down and over, swimming in each soft sand bottomed step while tiny fish nip at your feet.

A look into eden.  Watching the steps of pools flow down onto you from the jungle above.

Later we go to watch hundreds of bats fly out of their cave homes at dusk for their breakfast. They are as thick as to resemble the masses of gnats that group over the roads in the evenings of the late canadian summer.

we start walking back to the hostel when it is getting too dark. A tuK tuK comes blasting around the bend at the top of a ridge. The young drivers flashes his lights and beeps. We crowd in beside the old Mayan man and his grandchild. The tween boy who acts as the cabbies secondo gives us the quarter seat and hangs off the side as we zoom along up to the hostel on the high hill where the tuK tuK stalls.

the cabbie asks his Mayan passengers to step out so he can get the gringos up the 90 degree hill to the hostel.

We jumped out. We can't be responsible for some mangled clutch or toasted gear box to get two gringos up hell hill.

at the hostel the techno and tequila has commenced

Man, I am tired.

The mayans all

Thursday, February 11, 2016

hot springs

An hour and a half via tortuous spine ripping dirt roads worse than even Costa Rica where roads go by names such as the axel grinder and a river runs through it.

I expected Roman luxury at the springs and the guilt inducing slow drive along the road only exacerbated my anxiety. But I began to wonder. What the hell kind of rich turistas drive impassable roads to go to some suave spa?

We arrived at "the spa".

completely ingenius.

For a few dollars and cents these honduras guys have utilized physics, nature and common  sense

they live with cascading streams of molten hot water.  Why not just cut the flow for a few days:  Build 6 or 7 small tubs down the mountain  side then pipe in cold river water at different rates of flow. Voila 6 to 7 different temperatures of hot tubs without the need for electric power, pumps or cleaning.  Let the mountain do your work. The water always flushes the rock tubs as it flows, like the streams themselves, downhill.

Catherine and I are lounging in the hottest pool right  next to a huge waterfall, of water coming straight from inside a volcano.

Brilliant.  Alone literally in the jungle in these crazy steaming pools.

you would never get away with it in canada.  The hot water comes into the small pool at some 100 something Celsius. It would remove skin. You just have to not touch it. But there are no warning signs.  You mix the scalding water and cold water with your hands.

I begin to relax and look up to the canopy.  Ancient trees, vines: the mist from the river.

Catherine then says "I hope there isn't an earthquake.  That would be an awful way to go".

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


The country of honduras is the 2nd poorest country in  the western hemisphere after Haiti.

This was no more evident than today where we took an 1 1/2 hour bus to some hot springs. Most people live in what could best be described as shacks.  Small one room buildings made of brick and mud; others, the poorer type, of wooden boards, the luckier, out of concrete blocks. All the roofs are corrugated tin.  The wealthier ones have clay tiles above the tin.

Like medieval Europe the small villages are not segregated by rich or poor.  One person does very well and while he have a more well appointed casa his next door neighbour lives in a shack. How many kids and relatives in those one room Casas?

The men climb into the hills and cut firewood bringing it down by horse to sell or to use for cooking.  Even our modest b and b cooks only with a wood powered stove.

The roads are ruts.  Signs along the tortuous dirt route thank US Aid, World Vision and the Rotary Club for small drinking water and power projects.

Abject poverty.

I get more grumpy as I get older.  In my undergrad we spent our entire time focused on third world issues as they were called then.  We all went to Nicaragua to help build infrastructure. Sent money to the ANC

Families stand along the roadsides chatting.  A gaucho Mayan man in a group carefully combing his young sons  hair. 10 kids playing soccer on a field barely cut from jungle in their one of two pairs of clothes.

There is a kid staring at me through the window. He is up on a hill. I am an alien. Blond. I have glasses. No one here has glasses, medicine, doctors, dentists, shoes, potable water, power or money.  No dinero.

The boy  and I stare at each other.

I say Ola and start to wave.

He breaks into a huge smile and waves back. Ola!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

a bus trip

We boarded a bus to honduras this morning. A tad intimidating to have your bags searched and go thru a metal detector before you can actually get on. Then off the 6 hour trip to copan. The one thing I will never understand about Latin America is why there are so many paint and tire stores along the roads into and out of towns. The repair shops I understand: these are very poor countries but does everybody really paint things all the time?

off through winding highways that go through village after village of impoverished mayans.

The children and families working or sitting at the roadside wave as they get nasty warning or more often cheerful hello honks from the driver.

Shortly before the border to honduras we are met with an onslaught of probably well over a thousand motorcycles doing some rally up the winding mountain roads.  Not only a show it had the added benefit of forcing our driver to actually slow down instead of showing his usual disregard of the many signs stating: velociDade maximum 40.

Many of the motorcyclists wore face paint of strange skulls and added feathered adornments to the helmets. Not sure if it was a Mad Max inspiration or Mayan gods. Perhaps both.

When we finally cleared the rally our driver resumed the suicidal driving driving style by which he liked to accelerate into the blind hairpin curves.

That must have made it more fun.

into copan a relaxed Mayan town with virtually no turistas.  Mountainous like guatemala the way to get around is by blasting up and down the sheer cobblestone hills by tuK tuks: these nifty open air three wheelers that rule the town.

best signs e spied today: mini-disco bombastic: a small music shop complete with tiny disco ball hanging outside while traditional campensino men stood outside dressed in cowboy boots and their sandino fedoras.

Next just outside of copan: sign advertising for Dr. Jesus Nuevos Chinchilla.

the thing about travellin

An awful night and day. Woke up at 320 am after a whole day of working to catch the shuttle to the airport. A 6 hour lay over in the Panama airport 50 km from Panama city. Sitting in a hot humid bar the only one in a large airport  only devoted solely to high end commerce. That's how aeropeurtos make their money now.

Nursing lite beer as I sweat.  A large gregarious American saddles up. The guy with that weird us accent that sounds half Houston half south though he's from neither of these places.  "How you long here fer girl?" Asking while laughing that bray only americans can do.

"5 and a half hours"

"You serious? If I was you I would get ripped.  Just jacked shit. "

He bought 8 beers 6 doubles of rum and coke all the time calling the bartender Jose though that I think was not his name.

He told me to buy myself a drink and a drink for the panicking young woman who ran up next to me. She was going to be late for her plane.

Why do I travel?

24 straight hours of travel and no sleep.

This morning I awoke to purple and pink flowers tumbling over walls  next to the vista of a jungle running up the side of a volcano..

And at sunset watching Volcan fuego erupt every few minutes . At dark she sent fiery plumes into the sky. I woud clap at the really good shows.  Catherine said it was one of the best days of her life. Watching the volcano erupt fire lava sitting in a garden sipping wine and listening to kids run and play like crazy puppies. Men loud drunk and like a vocal fuego

The  mass at the cathedral ends with chants  communion done by a woman.

A feral cat returns the volcano erupts again

this is why I travel