Friday, October 26, 2012

Buzzards and Babes

I have finally figured out that Picassa does not really like videos, and that the upload rates for videos  is glacial.  I think that I will find another way around this, and in the meantime I have been posting vids to my Facebook page.  I was particularly fascinated with the dancing horses from last week, and I am sure that my cousins, who may or may not be reading this blog, will appreciate the prancing ponies.  Notice that my last shot was of a very pretty Guatemalan senorita. Have I mentioned that the Guatemalan women are beautiful?

On Thursday, in the afternoon, I joined two of my friends and a bunch of travellers on a visit to a nearby volcano.  I was not Volcan de Fuego, which is close to Antigua, and in fact can be seen smoking outside of my window, nor was it Volcan de Agua, which sits directly south of town, and serves as a landmark for me when I get lost and confused...

Volcan de Fuego..this guy is active and periodically puffs out some fumes and reminds the Antiguans of their mortality.

This is Volcan de Agua.  When he last blew his top, he dumped a huge amount of ash and lava on folks, as well as flooded nearby peublos.  Hence "agua" is another constant reminder to the locals about the inpermanence of life.  I think that these two also serve as reminders that there is a Higher Power that is more permanent, and I am slowly beginning to comprehend the depth of spirituality which is part and parcel of the psyche of the Central American people.

We left Antingua in the afternoon, and travelled for about 2 hours by microbus towards the  newest volcano in the area.  I have lost the name, but I think it was Panachul, or close to it.  We travelled close to Guatemala city and eventually parked the bus in a national park, at which point we began a very rigorous trek up the volcano.

 Here are my two friends, Betty and Sithitha, whom I will be riding with for awhile.  We met on the Baja ferry...

These guys are the "Buzzards" a name I coined to describe their persistant and unyielding efforts to get me to hire a horse.  It was clear that they saw in the old guy a good chance for some dinero, and I was immediately targetted as the first to fall, or perhaps the first to have a jammer.  They were right in that I was by far the slowest getting up the mountain, and certainly I lost about 10 pounds in sweat and angst, but they did not know how stubborn I could be.  The more that they persisted in harranguing me for a "taxi, meester", the more pissed I became.  I did not blow up at them, but I came very close.  After a couple of miles, I think they realized that they were either going to carry a gringo out feet first or not at all, but I was not going to hire a horse to do what I should be able to do..My friend Betty, who has 10 years on me quietly trudged along, and Sithitha, to his credit kept her company.  I huffed and puffed for almost two hours, but I eventually convinced the cowboys and their steeds that I wanted no part of their offers.. proud, stubborn and stupid is a hard mix to beat.

I thought that I haven't taken my high blood pressure pills in a month, and in fact I don't think I still have them, so if I am going to have a jammer, it is probably a good thing that I am not on a horse so that I can fall off and hurt myself.

This guy was the first to accost me, and he and his horse became my shadow for a few miles.  I eventually convinced him that Buzzards circle around dead meat, and that I was very much alive and prepared to go up feet first.  He did his thing by continuing to offer his horse as a taxi ride, and kidded my along.  Guys trying to make a buck, but they did not get the issues involved, which of course were the Babes....

Far below we could see a variety of peublos and larger cities.  I had no idea where we were in relation to Antigua.  I thought that if she blows, it won't matter anyway...

Here we are getting closer to the top.  It started raining, and it seems that no one, except me, likes the rain, or is at least familiar with the rain.  All of the young bucks and bunnies scattered for cover..

It was interesting to see the beginnings of plant life, as the flora began to take back the soil and begin to green up the lava-strewn mountain side.

Getting closer to the top..

One solitary, burnt and dead tree to remind us of the devastation of a recent explosion, two years ago..

We were losing light quickly, so it was a scramble to the landing area over rough lava paths..not for horses or old men...

This is as close as we got to the crater. It was quite apparent that there were heavy things cooking inside that crater.

 And the Babes...our guide had brought some marshmallows, and the kids preceded to cook marshmallows over a vent in the volcano.  A good bunch of travellers, well-experienced in surfing Australia, trance-dancing in Berlin, and mountain climbing in New Zealand.

There was a mother daughter- team in the mix, and I was immediately smitten by the Mom side of the team.  She is a beauty, and to top off all of my good kharma, she was also a doctora.  I was hoping at least that I would pass out for a bit so that a little heart massage and mouth to mouth could be administered for the benefit of the old guy.  My fantasies were leaping over tall rocks and mighty chasms until she told me that she was an OBYGN...Sigh...double Sigh..
It was a wonderful diversion from Spanish verbs, an interesting peek at the lives of young travellers who can run up mountains, drink beer all night and live in crowded hostels.   When I think back on my youthful travels, I recognize that I opted for too much beer and not enough travelling, but what the heck, I made it this far...

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

R.I.P. Walter

Today is the anniversary of my Dad's passing.  To tell you the truth, I cannot tell you how many years that he has been gone, but I still miss him, and think about his influence upon my life.  For example, when I was dealing the the profile page of Facebook, I think that I quoted my dad when I said ;"You can play when your work is done." That I listened to my dad most of the time is a bonus for me, because I eventually did work hard, and now I am playing..

Dad was a post-war baby, and by that I mean the First World War.  He grew up with his twin, Jack and his sister Marg in the Depression times in Canada.  While he didn't elaborate on the tough times that he and his siblings had growing up, it was clear to me and my sister that his childhood was one of  work, effort, and support for his parents.  He was certainly not priviliged, and he learned to value  the product of his own labours.  He didn't talk much about the 5 years that his service to his country as a member of the Royal Canadian Air Force had upon him and his own hopes and dreams.  Neither he nor his brother, who also served complained about the time  away from family, the isolation of service, nor the sacrifices that they and their friends made.  It needed to be done, and that generation did it, many sacrificing everything.

I guess we can blame Dad's generation for creating the huge swath of Boomers who are now retiring in droves and creating a pain in the backside for the younger generation, my kids and Dad's grandkids, in that he and his cohort worked their tails off to provide for their families.  Demographics being what they are, I suppose there will always be a perception that the former generation was privileged and had the cream off the top of the milk jug, but I know that my Dad and Mom worked their tails off to provide for their kids.  I know that the times that I had with my Dad were special and I am so very grateful for his life.  I am the kind of guy that gets emotional over the photos in the shoeboxes, and the anniversairies that everyone else (except my sister) has forgotten. I value the lives of those who have come before me, and I celebrate their lives in my small way.  I can only hope that I can be as good a Father to my kids, and that they in turn will love and cherish the sense of family that parenting  should bring to them..Thanks for all that you gave me Dad, and best of all thanks for showing me what courage is all about...

Back to Antigua and another day fighting the war of the Verbs. My teacher is very cool, always supportive and encourage, and she has never frowned or made a face at my botched Spanish.  Today we walked to the post-office and mailed off some more weight from Blondy.  As my friend Anton predicted, I am starting to shed weight and pieces of stuff as I roll along, either deciding that this or that is unecessary, or too weighty.  I sent home my maps of Mexico, believing that by the time I see Mexico again I will have enough Spanish to not get too lost, or at least find myself again.  I sent home my backpacker stove and an accompanying pot: I haven't made one cup of coffee in two months.  Maybe I will be kicking my ass in the middle of Bolivia, but I need to pare down the weight and make some room in the panniers for necessary stuff.  I discovered today that it looks like I have left my tarp behind somewhere.  I had planned on a simple tarp over Blondy and I when the weather gets nasty.  It was a cool camouflaged tarp.  Now I suppose I will have to settle for a "Tahsis roof" tarp.

We walked around a market that I had not been in, and the colours and fabrics just blew my mind.  If I were heading north, I would be purchasing some colourful pieces to brighten up those Canadian winters.  Perhaps when I roll through here again I will do the market thing.

You know what?  These two guys got the message too, and I am very proud of them, as I am of their sister, who works double hard as a Mom and a journalist..

In addition to my upbringing by good parents with excellent values, I am so lucky to have very good friends who have always been there for me.

Around dinner time tonight, a friend whom I had met on the road rolled into town, and managed to get a room in the house where I am staying.  We have made plans to go look at a volcano tomorrow afternoon.  (Anything to avoid studying, I guess)

This is not the friend who rolled into Antigua. If you are wondering where your son is Mike, you had better look to his girlfriend(s)....
 I was whining about the number of firearms that I was seeing, particularly the sidearms and shotguns.  If I really understood the history of Guatemala, I would also better appreciate that some folks need to protect what they have, and probably have had first hand experience with la violencia.
I also was reminded that my friend Mike is a stainless steel shotgun kind of guy, too.
(And he lives in peaceful Canada)

And before anyone thinks that I have forgotten the beautiful art that we have in British Columbia, may I remind you of some of our native designs and colours:

Today, thanks to my son and Google, I learned how to download pictures from my phone.  I am gradually catching up on technology, but I am afraid that it is an uphill climb..
 I miss my family and am grateful that they are more or less together on the great Prairies of Canada.

Blondy on the streets of Antigua
 This little girl is guarding Blondy.  I think I have met her bigger brother a time or two...

 These are for you Doug...

There are at least a dozen colonial style buildings that are at least 200 years old in town..

 A back-strap loom from my balcony...

In spite of the serious earthquakes and the damage resulting from them, Antigua is a beautiful town and the people of the city are equally as beautiful..I am grateful that I was taught to work hard so that I could go out and play later....