Lancha ride back to Chal Hun Ta Hostel, San Miguel, Guatemala,
Photo by Heather Rae, In Search of Squid

Well, I think I mentioned that I had a big summer planned. I am currently starting my second week in Guatemala at the moment, traversing the country with Hearther Rae, from In Search of Squid. Even though its only been a little more than a week, it seems more like we have been here for closer to 3 to 4 weeks. Time moves so much more slowly here and by 7pm the sun is down and its already dark. You’re ready to turn in thinking that its already been a late night. In only 10 days, we have done so much and covered so much ground. We’re adding in Belize to the itenerary and Heather will finish up in Utila, an island of Honduras. I’m considering Panama and another 3 weeks somewhere.

Bridge to El Portel at Semac Champey
Week one started out with 2 nights in Antigua and a long shuttle bus (minivans) and boat ride out to Lake Atitlan. These busses can be really packed to capacity and sometimes even more to capacity. And these guys drive like they are hoping to get picked up by a NASCAR scout or something. Lake Atitlan was a gorgeous place. We stayed on the Santa Cruz side of the lake at Islaverde Hotel. Can’t say I was all that excited about the place. I was thrilled at being there, but the accomodations weren’t as we hoped. In a nutshell, the place was simply overpriced. Excellent food, though. But we paid hotel prices for hostel accomodations. We’d planned on 4 nights there but only spent 2. And that’s the cool thing. There’s no obilgation to stay. I don’t have a strict time-table that I have to regulate my travels according to a clock. This place didn’t work out, so we left. On the other hand, we did hike over to Casa del Mundo. THAT place was cool. Nice views and plush accomodations for the same dog gone price of Islaverde. We tried to do out last few nights there but they were booked solid. I will be back at Atitlan and Casa del Mundo will be my spot.

Temple 1 at Tikal, Guatemala

Next was off to Semac Champey. That was another shuttle bus ride out into NOWHERE! We were deep in the jungle on winding roads, that you can only make with 4-wheel drive. This is where you got to see some of the poorest areas of the country. Very simplistic living on dirt floors. As we passed, some of the locals would just stare at you with blank faces and others were more cordial. Many of the kids definitely liked seeing us pass by. I began to wonder how they felt about us being there. Yes, the tourism is a big part of their local economy, but is there too much of it? Many of the blank faces came from the elderly. Maybe they know what its like when the tourism slows or even halts. Vegas is very much like this and we know we’ve got to stimulate our economy in a way that isn’t so heavily dependent on tourism or any one thing. The same thing happens in the towns near military bases when the soldiers are deployed for extended periods of time.

My cabin at Chal Tun Ha. MUST get a model here!!

We stayed at the El Portal Hotel which is right next to Semuc Champay which has some of the most goreous pools you’ll ever see. The day was complete with caving (by candlelight) and tubing down th river. I hate taking touristy pictures, but there was not getting around it here. Its almost like being challenged to come up with different angles in Disneyland. We got there early in the morning, but by the time we returned from our adventure down the river, the main pools were crowded and packed with people. I’ve met some great people and made some new friends. You see faces from everywhere on these travel escapades. I’ve started a portrait series based on who I meet while I’m here. I’m off to a great start.

Presently, we are on our 4th day at Chal Tun Ha Hostel in San Miguel, near Flores, Guatemala. This is the best location I’ve stayed in and I will come back here within the year just to be in this place. I’ll bring a model with me of course, but this place is tops. Its run by Neil and his wife and you definitely get the low down on the local hot spots, cultural history, and travel tips. If we can get out of here without Heather absconding with the man’s dog, I’ll leave here with a clear conscience. She’s in love with “Co-co”, the Chihuahua  whom she calls “Loco”.

More later. Currently figuring out how to work the transpo to Belize and Utila. These pics are snapshots I took with my waterproof camera. The best shots won’t be available til I get back and can edit them.