Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Roads not taken

Hmm.  On the one year anniversary of my arrival, it seems appropriate to make a list of
"Stuff that I didn't do".  There are obviously dozens of places that I didn't visit, ecological sites and tourist places, but only a relatively small number that I was actually interested in visiting.
1)    Visit Tikal. Or any of the large archaeological sites. I wanted to go to Tikal but not enough to sacrifice what I was doing. I did actually intend to go and even made reservations when my family was here but we decided it was too much driving in too little time and went to Todos Santos instead.
2)    Climb a volcano. At one point, a few weeks ago, I thought I would actually be able to accomplish this. I didn't want to do it alone, and in general it is not recommended to make these climbs alone, as much for issues of personal safety as anything. There have been some assaults on tourists on Volcán de Agua, the dormant volcano that looms over the town of Antigua.  A Guatemalan friend insisted that I couldn't leave Guatemala without climbing a volcano, and so I responded, "Well, do you want to be my bodyguard?"  My friend suggested it was best to climb up, spend the night, and climb down, and we got as far as discussing dates... and then said friend dropped out of touch.  So, that one stays on the list. I haven't had any other offers to make the trip and I have exactly a week left.
3)   Go to the beach. I didn't really take a vacation while I was here. I am not a big beach person. I like the ocean, but like it best when there are mountains and places to walk and bike nearby. I do not have a high tolerance for sitting in the sun near the water, and while I love to swim, ocean water stings my eyes so I cannot do a lot of swimming in the ocean.  If I were to go on vacation, it would have to be with friends, as I would not want to be in a beach area on my own. I am not a timid person; however, something like a day or two at the beach would be more enjoyable with company. No one I knew planned a beach vacation to which they invited me, and I was not in a position to "invite" a group of friends. "Invitar" in Spanish has a double meaning. It can mean to invite someone to join you, or it can mean that you, the inviter, will pay the costs of the invitee. So I was not in the position to pay the costs of a group of friends to accompany me at the beach.
4)   Visit the Ixil region of el Quiché.  The towns of Nebaj, Chajul and Cotzal comprise what is called the Ixil triangle. People in these towns speak Ixil, not K'iche'. They were among the areas hardest hit during the conflicto armado interno (big massacres in Nebaj and Chajul), and this is supposed to be a spectacularly beautiful area. Of course, nearly every place I visit seems spectacularly beautiful; it is hard to imagine a place with more natural beauty. I met women from Nebaj on various occasions; some came to participate in the activities of Ixmukané. The güipiles from Nebaj and Chajul are very impressive, with animal and geometric designs in vivid colors. I have one of each, but didn't get to purchase them in situ.
That's what I can think of for now. Perhaps there will be other abscesses and missed opportunities as I think through this year.


  1. I realize you have less than a week left, but if you wanted to climb a volcano and you are in the Antigua area I would recommend Acatenango anyway. It's a much more pleasant climb than Agua, plus if you camp out near the top then you have time the next morning to explore the top and get a little closer to Fuego. And I haven't heard of any asaltos on Acatenango because it gets fewer tourists, so men with guns wouldn't find it as reliably profitable.

    I hate to sound self-serving by my husband is in the process of attempting to start up an adventure tourism business in the Antigua area. He actually needs a "guinea pig" tourist to go up Acatenango with him so he can a) take pictures of said tourist and put them on his future website and b) test out his memory and make sure he knows the route OK (it's been nearly 10 years) and troubleshoot any problems that might arise (if the camp stove doesn't work, setting up the tents, etc).

    You could contact him and ask him if he would be willing to cut you a deal if you are his guinea pig. His email address is and you can look him up on facebook under backcountry guatemala adventures.

    1. Thanks, Sonia. Volcan de Agua was a suggestion of the friend who disappeared from view. But there isn't enough time now. I have 5 days left and plans for all of them...So maybe in the summer.