Sunday, March 1, 2009

No more Topes! (sort of)

(Palenque, MX - Lake Atitlan, Guatemala)

We made it!
The border only took 45 minutes and 15 of that was backtracking because we passed the Mexican Aduana where we needed to have our visas canceled. The people here are beautiful, with fuller lips and round faces. This afternoon we visited the famous Chichicastenango Market which was great (endless booths of beautiful weavings, carved masks, cloth animals, purses). It is the Guatemalan version of Chatuchek in Thailand, though perhaps slightly smaller.

We hadn´t anticipated the 97F at the border crossing of La Mesilla, nor the grand entrance once you´re on the Guatemalan side. You end up in the bottom of a giant ravine where the clean, Tope-free road winds it´s way up along a river. We reached an altitude of over 8,000 feet on the way to Huehuetenango, where we stopped for the evening. The difference in temperature was surprising! We thought we were heading into the jungle, but apparently not yet. Not to be gross or anything, but last night was a bit of a cuddle fest. We were cold!

We now find ourselves on the shores of Lago de Atitlan which is absolutely splendid, and where we plan on spending the next couple of days relaxing before we head to Antigua.

So, no more topes (speed bumps) in Guatemala, but we now have Tumulos which are the same thing with a different name. Less frequent, which is wonderful. We did have five thrilling minutes after the border crossing completely free of any bumps at all, and just as I was about to exclaim, "Wahooooo!", kabaaam. Uno más tumulo. The thing is, we hate them because they force us to do exactly what they want us to do: slow down for pedestrians in poblados, pueblos, and cuidades (settlements, small towns, and cities). It is a bit of an epiphany, really, when you think about it: rather than expect people to follow the rules just because they´re supposed to, Make Them Do It. It works every time. Unless of course there is a gap somewhere that we can slide through without slowing down. (We´ve also been known to drive over them at 50mph, though this is unintentional in every case.)

While we´re on the topic of riding motorcycles through Mexico and Guatemala, I would like to add that several times (we´ll leave it at that for the Moms) we have found ourselves thanking the powers that be that we are on a motorcycle as one more bus or double semi truck comes barreling around a tight corner completely usurping both lanes! Due to the narrowness of Peter, and her maneuverability, we are safe from harm.

I bought two beautiful long scarves/wraps today at the Chichicastenango Market. They are beautiful, and though they cost 400 Quetzales, she started at 750 and I feel like I did a pretty good job talking her down. (At 8 Quetzales to the $1 U.S., it´s still a lot down here, but hey! I did it.) We have no room for extra things, so shopping is definitely not a common thing on this trip, but I have always wanted to come to Guatemala for this reason: They have truly beautiful, handwoven tapestries that you will not find anywhere else in the world. And now I have two!

Lake Atitlan lays out before us, her three volcanoes across the waters with their pointed tops reminiscent of something in a Japanese painting. Tomorrow we catch a boat to San Pedro and plan on a night there without Peter! *gasp* Hiking the volcanoes, wandering a bit, and then in the days ahead visiting Antigua, Copan, and by Friday we will be in Tikal! Jungle pyramids, and potentially some serious booty-shaking down in Livingston. Or at least that´s what my sister Bethany is looking forward to...

Today is Adam´s Mom Marilyn´s Birthday so HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!
Sending love and best wishes for a fantastic year.


  1. Wow! I'm jealous of those waterfalls. We missed you guys extra today in celebration of Marilyn's b-day! Have fun with Bethany and Kyle!!!

  2. You're in a wonderous place! Thr markets, the lakes, the clothing, the little children...miniatures of adults, the pines. Amazing how everyone walks miles with loads on their heads. Good for you getting over the border! When we were crossing, years ago, as long as we were just 2 females, everyone was SO nice but when we have had a man-friend from the states they turned rancid. Grace - send a photo of your shawls...I'm dying to see the textiles ! Stay safe. We love you! Palma
    PS: In THIS case, cuddling is not gross.

  3. When we left Panahajel, the toyota was getting really bad compression at the high altitude, so I had to jump out on the road going up, up, up and push to get it going. The Guatemalan ladies by the side of the road got a kick out of Billye driving off leaving me in the middle of the road...standing there in the quietude. We drove the back road out to go S, Hwy 1, going through the area where the last massacre of gringos in Guatemala took place years earlier. Groovy! Thanks for listening! Palma

  4. I love the Thailand reference! Yay! Sounds like you are having a blast. Drive safe!

    So, to update you, I have finished my research proposal (38 pages). Yay! Now all I have to do is the actual research/project and then come up with another 50 or so pages! You so wish you were me right now. :)