Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 February 22-28 Earth Lodge

February 22nd

Wednesday morning I packed up, made a quick breakfast and was at the Jungle Party hostel in time to see Dobrosia on her way (and chat with her for like 30 minutes because her shuttle was late, as they always are!) and then I went to catch my shuttle to the Earth Lodge.  Somehow I had accidentally not been added to the pick-up list but after a call to Earth Lodge the guy who was working, Ian, arranged for the shuttle to come get me for free!

It's now 1:15 pm and I am sitting on the patio of Earth Lodge after having taken my own private shuttle to get here! Earth Lodge is only about 8 km away from Antigua in the hills to the north-west. I have no idea what the actual elevation difference is but I would estimate it's at least 1000 ft higher than Antigua.

Central hang-out area at Earth Lodge
This place is really amazing and totally "my type of place". The last couple km or so of the road to get here is barely large enough for two vehicles to pass each other and it's pretty rutty so you have to drive really slow. After about a 10 minute drive the shuttle stopped and the driver directed me to a little footpath leading downhill. Almost immediately I came to a sign that said "Welcome to Earth Lodge- keep walking 250 meters”. The path was pretty steep (not exactly looking forward to leaving on Saturday!) and the hill dropped away sharply to the left, with an amazing view of Jocotenango and Antigua and Volcáns Agua, Fuego and Acatenango visible in the background.

Reception was easy enough to find and I was soon getting settled in the dorm, which is located down the hill from the reception/central hang out area at the west end of a large field where people can camp for 25 Q. It's a cute little cabin and although there are 4 bunk beds I have it all to myself for the time being! I love how often this seems to happen! I have discovered how to make a shelf for my clothes and stuff out of my camp pad and clothes line, which gives me a ridiculous amount of pleasure. Also discovered that these handy elastic tie things that I decided to bring to strap stuff to my bag double as coat/backpack/whatever-I-feel-like-hanging hooks so my space is feeling very homey and quite organized. :o) The bathroom is about 30 feet away and between the dorm and the bathroom is a mayan sauna that we can use for free whenever we want! Tonight, maybe... :o)
Bathroom (on left), mayan sauna and the dorm (on the right)- my home for the next 6 days!
Pretty flowers growing on the side of the dorm cabin
camp pad + dorm bed + clothsline = shelf!  YAY!
Sunset my first night here.  Volcáns Fuego and Acetenango (double peaked) are visible on the left.
February 23

Success! Finally got my Antigua blog post uploaded! Blogging occupies way more of my time than I ever thought it would and I think about stopping or maybe just uploading photos instead of my journal as well, but every time I seriously consider it I get an email or a facebook message from someone saying how much they are enjoying my blog. I am glad you people appreciate the sacrifices I make for you. ;o)

Nah, just kidding. :D I was just talking with two guys I met yesterday, Kevin and Mitch, about how nice it is to have a blog because it's basically a digital scrapbook of your life. Kevin was saying that he was reading a post that was several years old the other day and there were things in there he had totally forgotten about. So, it's a good thing because maintaining my blog forces me to maintain my journal so I will be able to remember so much of this trip 10 years from now.

I have a feeling that this will be a very short blog post (well, comparatively short!) because there just isn't a ton to do around here- in a very good way. Beautiful grounds, very cool buildings with neat architecture, amazing views, perfect temperature, spectacular sunsets... it doesn't get much better than this!

Dinners here are served family style so everyone sits together and it's very conducive to making new friends. Last night's dinner was güisquil (or chayote, which is a type of vegetable similar to a squash that is very common here in Guatemala- and delicious!) chilaquiles (a typical Mexican dish that has a tortilla for the base, veg/meat in the middle with everything “bound” together with egg and cheese, served with a tomato sauce poured over top), rice with fresh veg, a cold broccoli and onion salad and chocolate cake for dessert. At 60 Q it was one of the most expensive meals I have had here in Guatemala and definitely overpriced for the cost of the ingredients, but since my room is so cheap I guess I can't complain too much. And it WAS delicious.

I think I forgot to mention that there is no kitchen access here, which is a major bummer for me- though I knew it when I booked my space so I wasn't surprised by it. The kitchen is open for breakfast and lunch from 8 am-3pm and the menu is extensive, though pricey (ranging from ~ 15 Q-60 Q for full meals). Coffee and tea are 6 Q- a little expensive but cheap enough that I can justify a cup or two but that's about it. Luckily I have tea bags and some powdered drink mixes (similar to kool-aid) and hot and cold water are free.

Lots of studying castellano today. I borrowed a few books from this guy Evan who is here now- he's in his 11th month of traveling on his 600 cc dirt bike. Pretty cool!

Evan, hard at work.  He able to finance his travels by doing web design.  Jealous!
Also worked on my sun tan! I have such a hard life. :o)

Lunch for me was a delicious sandwich with fried eggplant, tomato, lettuce and homemade pesto.  Seriously delicious.

Tomorrow morning I'm hitting up the mayan sauna. :o)

February 25th

Well, I was supposed to leave this morning but that didn't happen! I just didn't feel like packing when I woke up and I was still planning to leave but I just wanted to have a cup of coffee or two before I started my packing, and then I sat down at the bar and started talking to one of the other guests and she ended up being super fascinating so before I knew it it was nearly 11 and that's checkout time so I booked myself for another three days (they have a three for two deal here)!

So, to catch up- I DID hit up the mayan sauna yesterday and it was a lovely way to start my day. Had a bit of a hard time getting the fire started, which was a bit embarassing since I think I'm such a pro when it comes to starting fires! However, I finally got it started and it was very nice to just sit there with the steam, sweating my ass off without even doing a thing.

I had breakfast (big bowl of fruit, yogurt and homemade granola) with Mitch and Kevin and basically just spent the morning/early afternoon chatting with them, since they were leaving for Xela that day to do a three day hike to Lago de Atitlan so I wouldn't have the chance to talk with them anymore once they left. 
Mitch and Kevin (left to right).
After that I practiced a bit of castellano and then went on a hike that took me about 2.5 hours- should have been a bit less but I kept stopping to listen to the forest and try to figure out what was causing all the various rustling noises (mostly birds I think but I saw a quick glimpse of something that was probably a squirrel, though it looked much bigger than that- maybe an oppossum?). There are no mosquitos (that I've seen so far!) at the lodge but there were tons in the forest, especially at the end of my hike, when it was approaching dusk. I killed about 7 or 8 and I ate every single one. I've decided that I will eat mosquitoes and hopefully become immune to their venom, like when people who have allergies eat bee pollon to help desensitize themselves to pollon. I think it's working. I haven't had a very itchy mosquito bite since I was on Holbox. And, I'm certain that I got bitten last night and I don't feel at all itchy.  It also allows me to exact a little revenge on the little bastards so that's an added plus.  :o)  Of course, I guess I could also be increasing the likelihood that I'll contract malaria... I haven't been taking my doxycycline (anti-malarial) because I haven't been in areas where malaria is really a problem, and I hate the idea of being on an antibiotic all the time.

This picture is for Pam.  Hope you like it friend.  :o)  You would have loved it in real life!

HUGE tree.  With really cool "Medicine Man" type flowers growing at the very top.
Cute, very friendly Kaqchiquel (I assume?  That's the group of Mayan people who live in this area...) kids I encountered on my way home.  They gave me gum!  lol
Bouquet of flowers I got from the kiddos.
Fuego sending up a little puff of smoke!
Another delicious dinner last night, followed by chatting with Evan and a bunch of the other guests, including a Peace Corps chick who was here with her mother. This girl (whose name I don't think I ever learned) isn't being relocated but I had talked to a bunch of Peace Corps volunteers up in San Marcos before I left and they were all being relocated due to perceived violence in the highlands, which is just ridiculous because if there is anywhere that is safe in Guatemala it's in the highlands!  

Today I treated myself to the bacon cheeseburger, which was 60 Q but sounded delicious so I HAD to have it.  I haven't had a burger since the ones I had for Feorella's birthday.  The bacon was pretty awesome but I honestly think Mimi's burgers were better!

February 27th

I don't remember what it was that interrupted me while writing my last post but I haven't really had time to journal since!

To continue updating... I ended up talking with Chimene for a huge chunk of the day on Saturday. We started talking at like 9:30 or 10 and I don't think we stopped until like 3:30! 

Another delicious dinner followed by a night of amazing conversation with Chimene, Stacy, Tom and a Korean girl named Bo who is teaching meditation in Guatemala City. All of them have been traveling off and on for like 10-15 years so it was really neat to listen to all of their stories- they are all so experienced and worldly and I feel so ignorant talking to them! I hadn't really talked to Stacy or Tom before that but they both work here- Stacy had working here for like 10 months and I think she'd been gone on vacation or something and was just coming back to see everyone on her way to Mexico, and Tom has been here since September or October and plans to be here for another few months. Both of them are really interesting people and the more time I spend with Tom the more I enjoy her. She told me about this travelling band of people that go everywhere on horseback and visit different villages performing for a small fee. Amazing! Who knew that such things existed outside of books!!? I can't really perform a thing but I would love to learn poi and I can cook and contribute in other ways so it sounds pretty f-ing cool and I really hope to check that out.  This night was definitely one of the best nights of my vacation so far.
Sunset- with the new moon in attendance!
Yesterday was the annual Earth Lodge corn hole competition, which made me think so much about my friends Susan and Jonathan, who introduced me to the wonders of corn hole a year or so ago. Corn hole is a yard game that is popular in the midwest (of the US) where you toss a bean bag at a wooden box with a slanty top that has a hole in it. A bag in the hole gets you 3 points, one on the box gets you 1 point and points cancel each other out- so if the person you are playing against gets one in the hole and you get three on the box the net score is zero.

Evan had a friend come up or I might have had to play! :D Not that I would have minded playing just for the hell of it but it was a competition and I wouldn't burden anyone with having me for a partner! :D
Evan, looking sharp!
So, it was a fun day of watching people play and chatting with Hannah, a girl who has been camping here but who I hadn't seen much of due to her having a bit of a stomach bug (Welcome to Guatemala!), and a Canadian woman named Natalie.  They grilled burgers and also had these baked ham sandwiches that were pretty phenomenal.  Though, I really think my favorite lunch has been the marinated eggplant with homemade pesto!  Those of you who know how serious of a carnivore I am know how great that sandwich must have been for me to chose it as my favorite!

Stacy had made a special request for her last dinner and I offered to help Tom in the kitchen. We made “happy balls” which are balls of fried deliciousness that you make with leftover (mashed) potatoes and whatever fresh veg you feel like tossing in; she had also put some mashed garbonzo beans in the mix. I was in charge of a salad, which was pretty basic except that we added some toasted flax, cardamom and pepitoria (a type of squash here) seeds and she used a handful of some type of spice that I wasn't familiar with, which I think was from somewhere near her home country of Israel. We also made fresh pitas and she had baked some veg with one of the most delicious marinades I've ever tasted in my life! For dessert Stacy had requested fried plantains baked in a bunch of alcohol (and set on fire, but I don't think that happened!).

There was a bit of a party for Stacy's last night but Tom and I were chatting so when it got loud we moved into the movie room where it was a bit more quiet and after a bit Chimene joined us. At one point there was dancing and moonwalking happening on the big table in the main room of the lodge! : D

I woke up early so I could say goodbye to Stacy and Chimene. If it had just been Stacy I probably would have slept in because I barely know her and I knew she would be preoccupied with saying goodbye to her crew but I hadn't gotten a picture of either her or Chimene and I definitely wanted to say goodbye to Chimene! It's the weirdest thing but I totally didn't feel like I'd only known her for a couple of days. There have been few times in my life that I have had such a feeling of familiarity with a person I've only just met- so few in fact that I can't even think of another example... She said she felt the same way so it was nice to know that I made as much of an impression on her as she made on me. She said she has a feeling our paths will cross again someday. I hope so.  
From left to right, Stacy, me, Chimene and Tom.  Probably SHOULD have taken off the blanket/robe thing that I had found in the movie room but it was deliciously warm!
It's now about 9 am on my last day here (full day- I'll have to leave tomorrow) and I'm getting ready to go on a hike with Tom.

February 28

The hike was awesome; Hannah came with us but turned back halfway there because her stomach was still bothering her. We ended up hiking a loop around the previous hike I had done and the first half of the hike involved some “bush wacking” as we managed to take a wrong turn and our trail eventually deteriorated to what we think was probably a bunch of kid's trails through the forest! Much of the time was spent climbing up hills steep enough to necessitate the use of our hands. Good times though!
Hannah, and (almost invisible) Tom walking up a hill in one of the clearer areas.

Tom has a wonderful connection with the Earth.  She was barefoot for most of our hike.

Really tiny and SUPER SUPER vibrant (my camera is shit!) Indian Paintbrush (?).
We eventually found our destination- a “pila” in the middle of nowhere! Pilas are sinks that Latin American people use to wash their clothes. They usually consist of a shallow, sloped sink that often has ridges on the bottom of it (like a built-in washing board) and then one or two other, deeper sinks filled with water. You wash clothes (or dishes) in the shallow side and then rinse with water you scoop from the deep side. So, yeah. Pila in the middle of nowhere- seriously! There may have been a family or two living within a couple of kilometers of the pila but the closest actual town was at least an hour's walk away! Unfortuantely we only had a few minutes to hang there because Tom had to get back to make dinner.

Looking down onto the pila
This picture is actually of these weird wormy looking deposits (or maybe they are creatures?  I don't know!  I spent at least 5 minutes trying to figure which they were!) on the sides of the pila but if you have a fantastic imagination (or are on some type of hallucinogen!) it looks like a scene out of Dune, with a night sky behind two of the giant worms... or maybe it's just me!  :D

I had an amazing time at Earth Lodge, really didn't want to leave and even up until the point where I put my pack on and started hiking out I was still really close to booking for another three days!  Luckily there is this wonderful thing called technology so I can stay in touch with all the amazing people I met there.

I'm back in Antigua at the Jungle Party hostel again.  Not sure where I'll go next!  Was thinking about Monte Rico but apparently it's not turtle season anymore so that sort-of squashes my motivation to go there.  Not sure why I am not just moving on to the lake already... maybe tomorrow...

Goodbye Earth Lodge!  I will miss you!

1 comment:

  1. And you said nobody was reading this...This place looks gorgeous. I wouldn't want to leave either.