Beyond Mexico: Guatemala and Honduras/ Yaniv Singer

It was first in San Cristobal, Mexico, When Time caught up with us. One of the most fabulous things about travelling is the change that takes place in your perception of time. Presumably it moves at the same rate as every*where else, but the lack of schedules, deadlines, news, family dinners, holidays, and other such time-linked shenanigans makes it so that you are less aware of its passage.

We traveled in Mexico going from city to city, staying where we wanted till we felt like leaving, and before we knew it we had been on the road for 2 months, and still in Mexico. We did the math a few days later, on the shores of Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Assuming we want to get to Patagonia by the end of January so we could spend a week or two hiking (and possibly grab a stand-by seat on a ship to Antarctica?), and assuming we take a week or so to allow Erika to complete her SCUBA certification in Utila, Honduras (we are here now), and assuming it takes us a week to find a boat that will take us across the Darien Gap between Panama and Colombia, and assuming we can cover about 150 miles a day on these roads, we really don’t have a lot of days in which we don’t have to ride. To be exact, if we ride without resting days through Chile and Peru (countries we’ll have a chance to visit on the way back up), we have 15 non-riding days to be spent somewhere in a half a dozen countries or so. We just have to figure out how we want to spend them.

lake Atitlan

From Mexican Border to Lake Atitaln and Antigua

two Guatemalan women carrying wood

From Mexican Border to Lake Atitaln and Antigua

The first of these days was spent coming up with this thought in Lake Atitaln. We spent the second one in Antigua, climbing an active volcano with the hopes of seeing lava. For this purpose, we signed up for a tour. The first half an hour was a wake-up call to us concerning the travel realities of most travelers. We got picked up by a 15 seat van with loud bad music pouring out of shitty speakers. The van then continued to pick up 12 other tourists from different hotels. Three of these tourists were Israeli. While we met a handful of Israelis who were good people and respectful travelers, I’m sad to admit that these three snugly fit themselves into the mold of the stereotypical Israeli Traveler. Loud, highly judgmental, self-righteous, rude, and, sadly, racist (they thought I was American, and I kept my mouth shut to allow for the anthropological experiment to proceed).

So that I won’t become myself a victim of my last judgment stated above, allow me to offer an explanation for why Israeli travelers tend to behave in the way I described. It’s quite simple. They are, almost invariably, terribly young and fresh out of the army. In the army there is a very clear hierarchy, and immense homogeneity. They (we) are all Israeli, all Jews, all the same age, all speak Hebrew, all following the same orders. Rudeness is built into orders you receive and the way you carry them out. In a regular society you learn not to be rude because of the consequences—the person you’re talking to might just leave the room. But no such danger exists in the Army, so for three years you are reconditioned to a state where rudeness has no consequences. Not only can your commanders be rude to you, and not only can you be rude to the civilians that you might be handling, but you can even be rude to your friends, cause they are stuck in the same goddam place as you. The self-righteousness and racism could very easily be explained by the army as well (admittedly they could be explained by Judaism itself, with a little bit of modern Zionism to fill in the gaps), but I shall spare the reader from further analysis. Hopefully, as Israelis (or anyone for that matter) get older, they become a little more wise and moral.

The volcano hike itself, following the van ride, was fabulous. We climbed past the clouds into the volcano peak and the realm of the sunset. You could feel the heat beneath you as you go up the mountain. Some pockets are so hot, in fact, so we were able to roast marshmallows in them. And guess what? We even got to see the glow of lava. Check.

on the volcano

From volcano to utila

strawberry flavored marshmellow. yuck.

From volcano to utila

spectacular sunset at the top. right before the descent in complete darkness

From volcano to utila

the air coming off this baby was hot enough to singe eyebrows

From volcano to utila

We also met our good friend Gui (Gee. He’s French-Canadian) again. We first met him at a burger king in Mexico, then in San Cristobal, then in lake Atitlan and now again in Antigua. He’s plan was to ride a bike, the pedaling type, from Alaska to Ushuaia. He rode till Mexico, and then started taking the occasional bus (he’s a family man, with a wife and two kids waiting for him back home). Whenever we meet we make lots of pasta and drink lots of wine. He’s a gentle soul.

From San Cristobal

Other than that Guatemala is nothing to write home about. The drivers are atrocious. We got pushed off the road several times by trucks passing other trucks going in the opposite direction. The food is not as good as it is in Mexico, and the people are not as nice. Consequently, we had a mind to cross over to Honduras as soon as we could. However, the night before we left Antigua our tool kit got stolen. Along with a few minor issues with our bikes that became a reason for us to head over to Guatemala City, buy more tools, and go to the BMW dealership.
While we were looking for the dealership, Erika dropped her bike and broke the clutch lever. Luckily we had a spare. We replaced it, found the dealership, discovered how awfully expensive it was, and spent the night in town.

don’t let the bright colors fool you, this is the ENEMY!

From volcano to utila

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