Sunday, January 30, 2011

Memories of a Guatemalan camping trip....1993

A Brief Foreward.......

I love to go back to other blogs where I have left comments just to see what has been followed up. This morning I was left somewhat disappointed in that one remark, pointing to a bit of veteran travel and expat living humour I had left, really stung and it stung in a way that still speaks to the sexist notions in that women are not expected to be adventurers or possess a certain "edge" when it comes to their discourse. That women with strong voices are "scary". Then again, I could be wrong but because I run into this so often an unclear remark can be taken the wrong way.

It got me to thinking that if this person thought my humour or attitude was scary now then he or she should have been traveling with me back in 92/93' back when road tripping solo as a woman was downright dodgy. Still is in some regards but back then I had no idea as to the craziness of the times such was I immersed in my missions of photography, learning Spanish and learning to believe in myself.

Yes, very scary at times but it was always my strange sense of humour that got me through some surreal moments. I guess some folks just cannot handle certain realities. To them I say what is the purpose of your snarky remarks if not to cast aspersions on someone who through years of experience has learned that it is best to be who you are for that honesty and integrity of character is so appreciated in many countries. And in turn I learned that one does not know everything. That is often the hardest lesson of them all - to body check one's ego. (and yes I am being a bit egotistical right now) I am older now (20 years have passed since that inaugural road trip to become the first of many) but still just as feisty if not more so - I just move a wee bit slower and laugh at myself more.

So, Mr. or Miss Anonymous judge keep in mind that being scared is limiting....and a terrible way to be.

Oh well, let us move on to the stories.....always fun to take a trip or five down memory "rutted road"!


I had already been driving since December of 1992 through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras where upon "discovering" the Bay Islands I called my husband John in Canada and urged him to fly down to meet me for some dive time in Utila. Once he rendezvoused with me we both completed our Advanced certification and I had an invite to come back the following year to do my Dive Masters.

He had taken three weeks off and was raring to explore the back roads as was I. A nice component I had worked into my months of travel was the documentation of the many Maya sites and ongoing archeological works - at that time I think there were five "new" sites (since then many more "discovered") some of these sites accessbile only by boat. For this part of the trip though being that I had to drive John back to Belize City to catch his return flight we mapped out a strategy that would not have us rushing around, one that would play nicely into my readings of Linda Schele's examinations of glyphs and the great society that once was.

We caught the Cessna from Utila and waiting for us at the La Ceiba airport, quite dusty with the musings of Hondurans finger-written into the dust was my trusty Honda Accord sedan. The teens who hung out at the airport were quite proud that they had "guarded" my car so well and were thus rewarded as I had promised two weeks prior. That seemed to be a theme for those many months, folks wanting to look after my wheels whilst I took off back country....

Santa Rosa de Copan and onwards.....

I had stayed in Santa Rosa at the Hotel Elvir believing that I was going to meet up with some other Winnipeggers a few weeks back (they went to Roatan and I wound up on Utila - that story to be told another time) this day the gang of us still laughs at the mixups but this was back in the day when the net and cell phones were virtually unheard in many places.

John and I arrived mid-afternoon and the staff was very happy to see me again. Within minutes of checking in there was a timid knock on my door and upon opening it I was greeted by the laundry lady, grinning and holding up a pair of fancy hiking socks I had forgotten. I loved their rooftop washing area and would go up to work on my diaries after a day of exploring, cold beer beside me.....I made sure before we left that a "propina" got into her hard-working hands.

After a night of relaxing it was off to the ancient "city" of Copan, not be confused with the village of Copan nearby that since then has grown to accomodate the needs of the thousands that arrive each year to take in this Honduran wonder.

There are not enough superlatives to describe in full the wonder of this place, of any of the ruins sites for that matter for each one has its own particular history and style. The world of the Maya was not homogenous but was rather more like several city states, sometimes warring with each other and other times engaged in commerce. There is so little we know but I highly recommend the writings of Linda Schele. That we never crossed paths (and we did come close) is one of the few travel regrets I have.

Majestic Trees and Killer Bees.....

It is difficult for me sometimes to tell some of these stories, the ones where for portions of these travels I was not alone for the person with whom I shared some of these journeys with is no longer my traveling companion and co-conspirator in all things adventurous.  Not to be a downer here but I had to eventually come clean.

The plan that day was to hang around Copan and cross into Guatemala sometime in the afternoon.  Given that we were only 7 miles from the El Florida crossing it made sense.  We figured we would keep driving until we got closer to the next Maya site in Guatemala, Quirigua.  

Copan that day was blessedly uncrowded and very quiet except of course for the gaggle of children who laughingly accosted us in the parking lot hoping to sell some handicrafts to us - later we were to oblige these entrepreneurs, the necklaces made out of local plant bits still hang in spots in my home.  We were quiet as we took everything in trying to guage the light and make the most of what we figured would be about two hours of good shooting before the light got too harsh.

In the background, blending in with the sounds of cicadas that would rise and fall, was the sound of men grooming the expansive lawns with machetes.  These descendents of those who once ruled, perhaps, these cities, still small in stature compared to their ladino countrymen, maintained a connection to their heritage and took great pride in their tasks at hand no matter how menial it may have seemed to a casual observer.  These men whom I came to have great respect for in subsequent years traveling, working and living in the Maya diaspora were very eager to drop what they were doing and teach us things that being on a tour would rarely be revealed given that the tour guides invariably were well-off "blanco" students from the cities who had nary a clue for the most part as to what rituals were still performed, in subtle ways, on these manicured grounds.  I will not go into here, the plethora of plants growing there that have been proven to have medicinal much to learn.

more to come regarding bees and such.....


John Dobbin said...

I find that travel usually requires an equal balance of knowledge and stupidity.

The knowledge is generally in having some idea about where you are travelling to. The stupidity is finding things that make you wonder if you ever put any thought into the travel at all.

However, it ends up being a rather amazing adventure when you makes these kinds of leaps of faith.

DriveGoddess said...

Thanks John...the story is not done yet...I have been playing with my layouts today and got sidetracked....will post more hopefully today, energies and such willing....btw this being the first big road adventure and this month being another anniversary, 20 yrs since that trip, I was thoroughly researched but that still did not mean that I did not make gaffes or get is in the sidetracking that often the best parts of the journey occur.