Gonzalo Figueroa and Nina Maria Eidheim...

LA to BA

UPDATE 5, Jan. 31, 2001,


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Sorry about the long silence but we've been moving right along, shying away from the internet. I'll pick it up from where we last left off, that means, near the Guatemalan border in Mexico...

Well... Crossing the border into Guatemala at La Mesilla was a very simple affair. For those motorcyclists interested in the formalities Grant Johnson and I will soon be providing a databank full of official info. on Panamerican border crossings. Here you will be able to see how much it costs, what procedure to follow, etc.

Where was I? Oh, yes, crossing into Guatemala... Our first stop was on Lake Atitlan. We had heard so much about it that we just decided to check it out for ourselves. What can we say? Yes, its beautiful... But there are so many gringos running around its shores that we just could not feel the magic. It's like it's been shrouded behind the "cool traveller neo hippie thing". The epitome of this is the town of Panajachel. Of course the smaller villages around the lake are worth a look but the path is just too trodden on. As musician Roy Harper once said: "I just don't dig this scene that's all".

But worse was to come. And everybody might hate us for this one, but sorry, it's our opinion. The name of the place is Antigua. If you want to get away from Guatemala the best place to do this is Antigua, Guatemala. 9 out of 10 people walking the streets is a Gringo or as fellow motorcyclist Chris Bright put it: a member of the backpack brigade. All this topped off with a rowdy bunch of yankee college students screaming about how many credits they got on their last physical education class. Sorry, maybe we are just not cool enough but it really was a pleasure to get away. Too much of a mise-en-scene. Guatemalan culture is pushed so far behind the commercial Spanish learning business that it just ain't there.

We headed off into the Cuchimatan mountains and ended up in the small town of Nebaj. Here we got a feel of what years of war had done to this country.

Did you know that 200.000 people were killed here? Not just killed, but tortured, raped, mutilated. We were taken around by an Ixil Indian who had lost his entire family. The Indians in Guatemala were literally caught in the cross fire. If they helped the guerrillas they were annihilated by the military. If they in turn refused to help the guerrillas they were exterminated by the insurgents for not helping them. This was the case of our Ixil indian friend. The guerrillas came to the village, walked into the houses spraying gunfire and erased the town from the map. Kash, (our friend), jumped out a small window and together with other children spent 7 months fleeing and hiding in the mountains until the were rescued by "some Cubans" in Chiapas. (I wonder what the Cubans were doing there???). The sad thing about all this is that with Guatemala's extremely high rate of illiteracy we got the feeling that not even the victims knew what the war was about.

On to a happier note. We eventually got to the Guatemalan lowlands at Rio Dulce. The Rio Dulce area is fantastic. We spent quite a bit of time here, hanging out at a jungle lodge (Hacienda Tijax -very good) and at a small "finca" smack in the middle of the jungle on a small tributary known as Rio Tatin. "Finca Tatin" is owned by some very nice Argentines who landed there with there sailboat when travelling around the world, bought the land and built a very laid back and unpretentious place. Top hospitality and family atmosphere. And they have the nicest bunch of babies on the planet. Go there and see for yourselves.

We then decided to explore the Belize barrier reef and took a sailboat out to the Sapodilla Keys. The place is paradise but we only had one day of sunshine and even worse, Captain John Clark of the Las Sirenas sailboat is one of the most greedy and stingy bastards I have ever met. He is a slave driver who exploits his crew of two Guatemalans. For example, he overfills his sailboat and makes the crew (who work 14 hour days and actually live on the boat between trips) sleep on the floor like dogs. I cannot NOT recommend this guy strongly enough. The cook's mother died while we were onboard and we all pitched in for the funeral. All except the captain who wanted his 40 dollar contribution paid back by the tourists. He ended up only giving 4 dollars to his employee (who, I repeat, sleeps on the floor)!

Bleeding bastard, if we can each give 50 bucks, so can you! It is not the first time we run into American ex-pats running exploitative businesses in Latin America. They do the same thing many huge companies do but on a minor level. But this does not change the nature of the affair. They do what they can't do in their own countries: Brake laws, take advantage of people, and get rich on it. Disgusting. 500 hundred years of history have not changed much.

Sorry about this tirade but as a Latin American it is what I, Gonzalo, feel. The entire continent has and will be bled for its riches unless we put a stop to it.

Before crossing into Honduras, we made a short run for the ruins of Tikal. Unfortunately, Nina was able to get more out of it than Gonzalo who spent most of the day running into the jungle and defecating on 1200-year-old Mayan pyramids. If they only knew what this dumb tourist was up to. But, once more I was fed by somebody who just did not wash their hands well enough and so I got another stomach explosion.

We are now in Nicaragua. The bike and equipment are top of the line and working beautifully (knock on wood right?)

Take care everybody. Besos y abrazos, Gonzalo and Nina Granada, Nicaragua, January 30, 2001

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So who are we?

Update 1, November 2000, First road report

UPDATE 2, Dec. 5, 2000, Baja California, Hola amigos y que viva Mexico!

UPDATE 3, Dec. 17, 2000, Central Mexico

UPDATE 4, January 4 2001, Southern Mexico

UPDATE 5, January 31 2001, Guatemala

Update 6, Feb 7 2001, Honduras and Nicaragua

Update 7, Feb 15 2001, Costa Rica

Update 8, Mar 8 2001, Huaraz, Peru

Update 9 April 7, 2001, Cusco, Peru

Update 10 April 23, 2001, Bolivia

Update 11: May 15, 2001, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Story and photos copyright © Gonzalo Figueroa and Nina Maria Eidhein 2000-2001.
All Rights Reserved.
Grant Johnson

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