The expectations one has when traveling are directly proportional to the positive experiences you’ve had throughout the trip. As everyone knows: the higher the expectation, the bigger the disappointment, and this applies to trips, romantic relationships and high-end restaurants, of course. After everything I had seen in Mexico it was very probable that Guatemala would be disappointing, and it was.
It was nighttime when I arrived in Santiago de Atitlán. I decided to splurge and spend the night in a nice place: some cabins that would have been fit for Heidi and the goats, with chimney and hammock included. I woke up the next day and was dazzled by the gorgeous view of the lake surrounded by volcanoes.
|Arriving to Atitlan|
|The view from my cabin.|
Feeling a little better the next morning, I decided to continue my route around the volcano towards San Pedro. This is when I rode a few miles of horrid ´terracería´, a rough dirt road plagued with bandits and thugs, and fell twice on the bike, which did nothing to better my mood (Read the November post: “The problem is the ‘terracería”, for more details). I thought things would be better once I reached San Pedro. Fat chance. San Pedro is a kind of theme park for people studying Spanish, and narcotic lovers. If I was fifteen years younger I could have probably enjoyed myself, but after the tenth well-dressed kid with tiny eyes and a hoarse voice politely invited me to join his private esoteric world (“wanna smoke a joint with us, bro?”), I just had to pack-up, spur Roro and ride for my life.
The road to Antigua was dangerous but fascinating. Antigua Guatemala, (literally “Ancient”), was the old Capital city of Guatemala and it was practically destroyed by an earthquake sometime in the 18th Century. It was such a wreck that its inhabitants decided to move and founded a new Guatemala a few kilometers Northeast, building what is Guatemala City today.
|The road from San Pedro to Antigua.|
This is when the Universe, god, human energies or plain coincidence conspired so I wouldn’t leave the country with a bitter taste in my mouth. A simple decision: to grab dinner at a restaurant that was close-by and had good reviews on TripAdvisor.com, made my experience of Guatemala take a 180-degree turn.
|The restaurant that saved me.|
|Buying groceries for Thanksgiving dinner.|
|Jorge in a meeting with his patients.|
My search for human beings who do something extraordinary for other human beings took me to one of the poorest regions of rural Guatemala: Patzun. Its population is mainly indigenous, descendants from Mayans, and many of them don’t speak Spanish. Because there is no money to go to a Hospital, most women have their babies at home, assisted by local midwives, many without formal training. The great photographer Rodrigo Abd introduced me to one of them, Francisca Raquec. She’s 70 years old and has been bringing babies into this world for more than 30. Sometimes she gets paid something, but most of the time she gets nothing, because they have nothing. If her services are required at 3 am, she’ll get up and go wherever she’s needed.
|Francisca taking care of a woman who’s 6-months pregnant.|
|But there are those that fight their whole lives…|
But a traveler who doesn’t travel is like a garden without flowers, and I have to move on, there’s a lot of miles until the end of my journey. When I said goodbye to Hector I thought of Father Solalinde’s words to me, and felt them as true as ever (read the November post: “Leaving Mexico behind me” if you’re curious).
Guatemala became ‘Guatamazing’, thanks to a last minute decision.
|Don Solaris thinking about what to write in his blog.|
|Sharing your experience is mandatory at the Help Center for Addicts run by Jorge.|
|My Roro in Patzun.|
|With Héctor y Paola|
|Like Tifas would say: Garotas from Antigua.|
|Antigua, across the Park.|
|Jorge talking to his patients.|
|I’ll come back soon.|