But I don’t think I would ever live in Monterrico, Guatemala. Funny, because I feel like I could live just about anywhere else in Guatemala (Mom, stop cringing).
It’s not that I don’t like beaches. I do. And I love the ocean. One of my favorite places ever is the Olympic Peninsula, WA, where sand and seawater abound. It’s just…
I don’t think I could live in a place where, even after applying three different chemicals (SPF 30, DEET 25%, and Deodorant with Aluminum) to my skin twice a day, after showering– twice a day, I still end up sunburned, bug-bitten, and smelly. YUCK.
That said, Monterrico is a lovely place to take a vacation. And I had a lovely little… vacation.
From the time I left Xela (where I had developed the rather self-destructive routine of sleeping in, eating a big breakfast, and proceeding to tour the city’s coffee shops through the rest of the day) I felt like a total tourist. Not that I feel like an “insider” otherwise… but at least otherwise I have a general handle on how things work. Generally.
First, I was herded on to a Pullman (first class) bus, after insisting to the ayudante that I wanted a Chicken Bus (camioneta). I had to repeat no fewer than 5 times that yes, Escuintla is where I was headed, not Guatemala. And no, I would not be connecting to Antigua there but rather to Taxisco. Yes, Taxisco. Right past Escuintla. You haven’t heard of it? Taxisco! The cheese capital of Guatemala!
The micro driver in Taxisco refused to speak to me, resorting instead to gestures all the while I was repeating back to him (in Spanish) what I thought he was trying to say. Then he tried to charge me double for the bus fare. Oh, it was a joke? Ha ha, so funny.
Needless to say, I was a tad frustrated.
Seven hours later, I arrived in Monterrico dripping with sweat (and those who know me realize that that’s no euphemism) and really frickin’ hungry. My hotel was really nice (Café del Sol), with incredibly friendly management. I settled down to a chicken sandwich (on whole wheat bread!!!) and a mind-blowing papaya licuado (smoothie).
Took a cold (and much needed) shower, trained the fan on me, and fell asleep. I think the mosquito netting over my bed was mostly for decoration, but I attempted to arrange it in a way that would actually be… effective.
Woke up with minimal bites. Off to a good start.
I had a big breakfast (french toast!! delicious) and headed off down the black sand beach to take pictures and find the sea turtle reserve. I have to say, the pictures in Monterrico are my favorites so far from this trip.. I’m having a difficult time getting the ones I want to upload, but I’ll try again tomorrow.
I found the smaller sea turtle reserve run by USAC (University of San Carlos) and took a tour. By the time I left, my legs had been feasted on by the mosquitoes in spite of my DEET applications. I started back down the beach, and stopped for a water at another hotel.
While I was sitting and admiring the view from an adirondak chair (yeah, it’s rough, but someone has to do it…) a guy about my age came and sat down next to me. He was Austrian, traveling alone (so he implied) but had met up with a bunch of other lone travelers in Antigua (warning bells). They had rented a car and drove down to Monterrico together. He invited me along on a mystery tour that he and his group were taking later in the day. Cool!
I swear he was hitting on me, but then his girlfriend came and sat down with us. Traveling alone??
So I met up with his group after lunch; the group consisted of four Canadians (three guys and a girl), one Brit (girlfriend of Austrian guy), a girl from Denmark (?) and a girl from the Netherlands. I was the only American, and they made several comments to that extent. We went hiking (with a guide) to this pretty little waterfall. Lovely. Went for a dip, took some pictures, all was good.
They were headed back to Antigua on Sunday, and offered me a ride as far as I’d like. I said that I would definitely take them up on their offer. I met them again for dinner at the place across the street from their restaurant. Probably the best meal I’ve had in Guatemala (for real).
Next morning, I wake up with red, bumpy, itchy feet. Oh, lovely. I believe it’s from dinner the night before….
Apologies for the gross photo. It has been minimized, a la National Geographic, for your safety. Please view previous post for pretty photos.
I got up extra-early to take an “eco-tour” of the mangrove swamp (5 am). It’s really beautiful, and very interesting. I was the only one on the tour, so I got to chat with the guide. We saw a river otter!! Very exciting. I took a lot of pictures (see previous post, or http://www.flickr.com/photos/fultzie).
After the mangrove tour, I have breakfast at the hotel again: granola, fruit salad, yogurt, coffee, and papaya juice. Have I mentioned the papaya juice? No, not the licuado, the juice. Fresh squeezed. How do I know this? There are bits of seed in it. And chunks of papaya. Holy….. amazing. Just amazing.
I head off down the beach again, fully intending to reach the sea turtle reserve in the next town over. I walk for about an hour, and then turn back. I stop for a licuado at the place where the group I met is staying. The Canadian girl is at the bar, and I say hi, but she doesn’t make eye contact. Hm.
After my licuado, I head to get something substantial for lunch, and then sit and read/ write at my hotel for a while. I go back to the same restaurant for dinner… yes, it was that good.
Next morning, I get up and have an early breakfast. The group told me to meet them at 8 am at their hotel (across town from mine). I crossed the main street just in time to see them drive off. Without me. 15 minutes early. WTF?!
I had the strangest feeling that would happen…
I wasn’t angry so much as kind of hurt. I mean… sure I was the only American in the group. That doesn’t mean… well… I don’t know. They made a big deal out of that. Maybe they could tell that I wasn’t “one of them”… not here on vacation, not here for the beaches (didn’t even have a swimsuit)…. Maybe they were mad that I spoke Spanish (and they didn’t). Did I seem too… snobby?? Wah.
Oh, well. I had originally planned to take the bus anyway, so it wasn’t too big of a deal.
One lancha, a local bus, a chicken bus, a pullman bus, and another chicken bus (6 hours in all) later, I’m back in lovely Xela (until Friday). In closing, a view from the balcony restaurant above the central plaza, where I sipped some wine last night.