Hey World. It’s 2013. Did you ever assume by this year we’d all be driving spaceships to floating chunks of earth that was striked by an asteroid?
How was the GuateMayan festivities, you’re wondering? It was Calidad!
After a vacation paradise at Mal Pais (which I was sad to leave and almost canceled my flight to Guatemala in trade for more waves), Paul and I took a bus to Alejuela. We met with our Couchsurfing host, Cezar, at the Coffee Dreams Cafe. We caught a bus to Cezars home, owned by his father in the beautiful green hills outside of Alejuela. Paul and I spent a day back in Alejuela shoe shopping, and back at Cezars, we watched the current released documentary about Eric, Paul’s big brother. He has a cool (literally cool) life, living with his family in the Artic, where polar bears are a nuisance like the raccoons sneaking around in your backyard. Eric studies the oceans salinity levels and reports them to global warming studies in France.
The following morning, on December 16th, Paul and I exchange our Christmas hugs and said goodbye at the airport. I boarded a flight to Guatemala.
Back in GuateMaya
I was picked up by my friend Digo, who I met back in April when I went to Costa Rica on that mystery tour I was too lazy to write about. I stayed a couple nights at his house. I had a dentist appointment the following day. I had two cavities filled and a cleaning for less than 100 billies .
After a couple days in Guate City, I boarded buses to my next destination, Maya Pedal. I remained in Antigua for a few hours to enjoy the best cup of coffee at the Refugee and purchase rolls of waxed thread and stones. I saved a couple dollars on every roll and the imports are comparatively cheaper than if I were to have purchase them in Costa Rica.
Hey Family! I’m Home!
I arrived to Maya Pedal late afternoon. The family welcomed me with hugs and other forms of “welcome”. First, was Bradley, who gave me the welcome home surprise by lighting fireworks and chucking then down a meter away from me. (It would not be the last firework attack by a little Guatemalan boy…) Looking around the shop, I was presently surprised to see the evidence of previous volunteer projects since Paul and I left. There were some machines that were built like a mobile washing machine and a pedal-power gravel filter. There were two volunteers resting in one room, Jacquie and Julio. Turns out, that I had answered their volunteer request by email, back in July. In their email, they introduced themselves as Raices Roots, a group of 20 something Americans with Hispanic heritage, undertaking a bike tour from Los Angeles, across Mexico, and central America. On the tour they host workshops on permaculture and meet with distant relatives of their Latin background, some they never met before. The other “Ridas” were on the other side of town checking out Carlos’s independent bike machine project. The entire team of Raices Roots made a visit to Maya Pedal. I was so stoked to meet the Californians. They arrived when Alex and I were trying to figure out how to build a mobile bike machine. Leugim (thats Miguel backwards) and Samwell, added their brilliant solutions to the process. As the night before the 21st was winding down, we all wished each other farewell as next day, we were off to celebrate the solstice.
Well apparently, I’ll be in a PBS channel version in Korea sometime this year in 2013. A team of four Korean filmmakers arrived on the 20th to film the shop and volunteers. They interviewed me, asking what was I doing there working, and not getting paid. The simple answer should of been “It’s for the love of volunteering!” But instead I said “Uhh.. well.. like… ‘cus I like to make things with my hands” I wasn’t too sharp at that moment. I wasn’t ready for an interview in the early morning with a Canon and recording mic in my face.
A nice day for a bike ride…
Next morning, the alarm woke me up at six in the AM to prepare for the big day, as I was going on a morning bike ride to the Goa Gil festival, to celebrate “THE END OF THE WORLD” (If you heard the music, you would believe these were the sounds of world ending). I took a look out the window to forecast the morning conditions: doomsday clouds and a high chance of hells chariots and horsemen trampling the city.
I set of with Bradley’s bike (which use to be my bike from the States), heading for the town of Tecpan. It was a 32 km ride on a steady incline all the way up to over 2,000 meters elevation. About 5 hours later, the air was chilly as I arrived to the area of Tecpan. I stopped to snap a photo, when a young girl left her sitting family on the roadside, to greet me. I asked her how her day was. It was good, because it was her birthday. I said “Wow! That is so cool. Today is a very special day, many people are celebrating this day.. do you know why today is so special, my friend?”
“Umm because it’s my birthday.”
I laughed and agreed. “Exactly!”
I arrived to the festival grounds at noon. A group of Guatemalans were the only ones there setting up. To the rest, was “early”, because at Psytrance parties, its a fashionably-late attendance crowd. I wandered off to find a place to hang my hammock and nap for a few hours after the long morning ride. After the nap, I walked back into the festival grounds before sunset. It was foggy and the air was growing colder. The reunion with longtime friends had begun, starting on the trail to the party, with Joel and Johnny, two fellow party goers I knew back in San Francisco. It was nearly 3 years since I had seen them. Turns out, Johnny toured on a bike, in India, a couple years ago.
I continued exploring the festival. I arrive to the stage just as a big gust of wind blew it over, nearly crushing the little dj, Gil, and set helpers inside. Hippies gathered to support the metal structure from falling completely over, and eventually, it was taken down.
The music began sometime after midnight. I was in Joel’s tent with every fabric piece I brought with me (which was not much and i lost my blanket to a hippie guy at the bus station) to keep warm. It was quite hard to sleep because my feet and hands were going numb. In the morning I thought, “Screw it. It’s been a total of 2 hours of sleep and I don’t think I will get anymore in this cold tent.” So, I went out into the hazy morning, and began the socializing and dancing.
As most folks in the world were passed out in deep hangovers after a bar themed “end of the world” party, a small freak group was gathered, somewhere in Guatemala, just beginning the celebrations to a theme even more theoretically ridiculous- celebrating “the universal shift in human consciousness”. For the rest of the morning, I made several returns to the tent for short nap and back to the festival area to find more friends from SF. Gil was getting into the second quarter, afternoon weird-ness, of his 24 hour set, the freaks were raging, grooving, twitching, whatever they were doing, into the afternoon.
The party would have been almost great, if the location of the festival wasn’t on top of a mountain during the coldest low in Guatemala, and if the dance floor wasn’t set on a hill. We were left to our devices to find a way to dance in these unpleasant conditions. It ended up being a dance with gravity. I made little climbs and fell backward catching myself in a playful fashion, off the hill side, and called that trance dancing. Still, it was an erroneous dance floor location. I nearly slipped and back landed after stepping on Dave’s Halogen bottle.
The music played on all night and ended with a droning hypnotic finish, somewhere around 1 am. Dave and I popped-in backstage to check how little ol’ Gil was doing. He was happier that he had his down jacket. I squeezed in a moment to let him know that the bike ride was a bit long to see him in Guatemala (Not just the 21st day ride, the route from America too). He gave me a little 25 cent vending machine necklace of a deity and two burned CDs of his mix and his wife Ariane’s. Thanks Gil!
Navidad in Guatemala… Calidad!
On Christmas Eve, festivities were celebrated with the Molina’s at their home down the street from Maya Pedal. I and Chupamoco, were the Christmas orphans at the table. Chupamoco may sound like a cute name for a Guatemalan child, or a Star Wars Ewok, but the breakdown of his name is: Chupa=kinda like licking the upper lip, and Moco= booger.
In Guatemala, Christmas is all about food. They had two enormous pots bubbling in the back. One was filled with tamales and the other was this delectable seasonal drink, ponche. Now, the tamales were O.K. but I couldn’t eat more than three, because at three, my stomach said enough. As far as tamales go, the best are my moms, second would be those like my moms (chupitos), and after that, these Christmas tamales. It’s just the consistency of the maiz (thats the corn dough) was soggy and a bit greasy. The new years day tamales are these chupitos that have a thicker tamale.. well whatever, the ponche was damn good…
Then after dinner we went outside to burn a pile of de-kernaled corn ears on the street for bon fire, and played a game of football (thats soccer in Latin America). I dodge a second firework explosion in my face, thanks to Chupamoco, who claimed he didn’t see me, as I was walking towards him, under a well lit street lamp…
At midnight the traditional fireworks show began, so we hurried to the top of the 3rd floor. In America, theres no way they would let inhabitants of a suburb shoot off aerial shell rockets. Here, there are no ATF regulations stopping the locals. The entire village was firing rockets for hours. We circled around to catch every sight of sparks and fire. I don’t think I have ever witness such a impressive 360 degree show of Class A explosives, in a neighborhood.
I woke up Christmas morning at the home of my adopted Christmas family. I still had to make bathroom visits that disturbed my sleep, so I limited myself to half a tamale, and more servings of ponche.
After a lazy Navidad day, the remaining days at Maya Pedal was time for building a couple bike machines for the Cosmic Convergence Festival. We had two more live-in volunteers, Scott and Cortney. They teamed up with Julio and Alex to build a pedal-power generator.
A couple bike blenders were finished up and one was picked up by Daniella, a Guate City resident, who was on her way to help set up the festival. The team of volunteers, Alex, Julio, Scott, Cortney, Jacquie worked away to finish the bike generator and a clever light-weight bike stand.
The generator was nearly finished… but unfortunately the circuitry was a bit rough to keep a consistent electric connection. At some point, the flow of the power circuit switched, causing the stored energy from the generator to send power to the machine, which caused a ghost pedaling the bike at a violent cadence. We had to cancel the completion of the generator. Nevertheless, great work made! Alex and Scott were geniuses when it came to designing the bike generator… it was too bad we ran out of time.
Vamos a la fiesta!
On the morning of the 30th, Jacquie, Julio and I got a late start to leave San Andreas Itzapa for the festival. Buses were hard to catch, as these Chicken Bus drivers hardly stop for the last little old Mayan woman to finish climbing into the door- they already roll off! We hurriedly loaded up on the fifth bus that was inching away to drive off. The henchman threw the bikes on the bus roof. Jacquie and I loaded the bags into the back of the bus and squeezed into the isle of sardines. The bus took off and just as we though we lost Julio, he swung through the back door from the railings that he jumped onto, as the bus was taking off.
We arrived to Panajachel late afternoon. David gave us free admission at the gates as volunteer passes. David surprised me when he said I was just in time to see Buena Vista Social Club perform… WHAT? The Buena Vista Social Club at a psytrance festival? For those of you who unfortunately don’t know who they are.. here is a little sip of the Cuban music.
My friend Daniel gave me their track last year in Hermosillo, Mexico, and I have constantly listened to it since. I listen to it on the road with images in my head dancing salsa in Panama.. and here they were playing at the New Years festival in Guatemala! It was my dancing highlight of the entire weekend.
I got down at the other stage too, to a different grove. The new agers were swaying and stomping on the floor. The ground was flat this time and the weather was comfortable. The floor was packed with people smiling and dancing having a great time.. which in new ager lingo, they would describe it as “the energy was at an all time cosmic level!” Or, something like that…
On the last day of 2012, Julio was at work trying to repair the bike machine apparently the blades were rotating backward due to an incorrect position of the motor to wheel. When that was fixed, the contact between the motor and wheel suffered from friction. Blending was only possible if Julio had put enough muscle into pedaling. The bike blender had to be set aside for the rest of the festival. We moved on speak to a group of learners by the tree at the cinema and education stage, for a presentation on bike touring. But as advertised, “The Long Way Home” didn’t hint very well that we were going to talk about bikes. Jacquie said it reminded her of a movie about a gang of cats and dogs who went missing from home, as their owners went desperately searching for their house pets in the national forest. So, we had an audience of 2.5, the other .5 was Johnny playing frizbee and having a short attention span. Ok, so bike tour presentation was a failure too. But, answering questions about my bike tour for the rest of the festival (before and after,) made up for the fraction of an hour scheduled presentation.
The New Years Eve, was quite a night to remember. I recall when I began my bike tour, I estimated that by the end of 2012, I should have been in Peru. As it turned out, I met Paul, met Paola and David from La Clau in San Pedro, who tried to convince me to return to Guatemala for the new years gathering, and ended up doing so since Pauls brother (not the Artic resident) made a special arrangement to visit him in Peru for the end of 2012. In the end, I ended up in Guatemala, with everyone I love, from new friends made from that night and others historical from the days when I was just discovering this strange new scene in San Francisco. Since I returned to San Andreas Itzapa, I have been on a high. My heart still happily beats. I feel, like this trip was exactly what I needed, to have closure, and inspiration to move.. not further.. but to take action. As the new year turned, and the fireworks in the sky exploded, the stupid dogs went chasing the falling flames, and a mysterious red orb floated over the lake (we were sure they were the visitors from the outer limits) were all happening, I felt joy in the moment, love, and a strong premonition of what lays before me. I’m afraid it wont be easy in the coming year. Yet, the bliss and gratitude I have for everyone and every miracle that has brought me this far, is all I could ever want. I am living a great life. So now, is to take it to the next level. It’s time to make decisions and channel my focus more. Thats as much as I want to rant now. Other than that moment of cosmic talk, I had a fantastic time in Guatemala, that I will remember and cherish. I am overjoyed that I got to reunite with my friends, the beautiful being that exist in all forms and from worlds oceans apart.
On the evening of New Years Day, I hurried to catch a last boat with some tears in my eyes. I had written exchange with Amelia, who has been touring for peace, during the last year. I have not met her yet, but I heard about this Detroiter who began her bike tour from Alaska last year. So with out notification, other than the last email said I would come before Christmas. I took a chance to find her at her temporary home in San Marcos. It was a familiar return to the San Marcos Dock, but this time I went down an unknown path looking for the “Caza Ahau” where Amelia claimed to stay. I found the house, and fortunately someone was still awake. I was greeted by Amelia’s mom, her friend Diana, and later Jonah. Amelia was in Panajachel… damn, what poor timing. But, Amelia’s mother, Barbra, was the voice for the incredible Amelia. She is very supportive of her daugher’s tour and she had so much to share on the accounts Amelia’s experience. Then we got to talking about the silly misconceptions people commonly have about the “dangerous risk of bike touring”. They too, listened patiently and I scattered my heart on the floor sharing my reflections about the festival and the feelings released about my traveling year. It felt so good to share with them and even through it wasn’t Amelia, it was incredible to talk to her mother. I can feel she is the source of Amelia’s strength. It was nearly less than 12 hours of interaction, but I left the Caza Ahau feeling complete that I had the chance to have meet Amelia’s family. I hope there will be another chance I will meet Amelia down the road.
I caught a ride with Daniella and Daniel and the bike machine, back to San Andreas Itzapa. The following day, the 3rd, there I greeted the incoming volunteers and hugged goodbye everyone, the family, Rudolfo the welder, Jackie and Julio, my dear bike pals. I think out of all the new friendships, I will miss them so much. They wished me goodbye at the bus station.
Daniel invited me to stay at his home the night before my flight. We had a dinner of pupusas in the dark because the street lights were out. He showed me all around Guatemala City, and we visited a dark underground bar. And next day, he dropped me off at the airport. Daniel, you saved me last minute because I had no idea how I was going to get to the airport, besides a taxi. Gracias amigo!
And after an hours flight, or a 5 month bike journey, back to Alejuela, I met back u with Cezar at Coffee Dreams and we bused it back to the home.
After I finish writing this blog, I’ll pack up to prepare to go back on the road tomorrow. I am suppose to make it to Panama City sometime before the 14th. This will complete the last leg of cycling Central America (finally, it’s been a year!)
From Costa Rica, Happy New Year, everyone! May you seize the new year!