Monthly Archives: October 2012

Journey Through Latin America (Part 4)

 

I left Xela around 8AM, taking a taxi to the Alamo bus terminal and ,putting my guitar and backpack below, I had a nice trip to Chimaltenango, where I had to step off, as the bus was going on to Guatemala City and I was going to Antigua.  I was hungry and tired so I found a comedor quite near the turnoff, and had a thin piece of steak and tortillas, beans etc.  A couple of young men, already drunk, sat down nearby and started talking to me about where I´m from etc.  After my meal they convinced me to play a couple of songs, and I have to say I´ve never had  a more enthusiastic response, singing along offkey and everything. “You´re Fantastic! Uno mas por favor!”  I didn´t think they would be happy with one more, so I slid out as quickly as I could and heaved my luggage a block to where a “chicken bus” was waiting. They heaved my backpack on the roof, hopefully secured it in place, and I climbed in the back door with my guitar in front of my seat.  It was a not unpleasant bumpy, half hour or so to Antigua, where I descended into one of the most busiest chicken bus centrals I´ve seen.

 

I struggled with my luggage to the address of Jungle Party Hostel, recommended my Lonely Planet, and it was everything they said it would be.  It would have been a perfect place for me twenty years ago, but I felt too old to hang with the crowd, who enjoyed a great happy hour listening to reggae music and cool rap until late in the evening, long after I was asleep.  I shared a dorm room with some Australian surfers who were heading to El Salvador for what is reputed to be the best waves in Central America.  I wasn´t thrilled with my lodgings, even though it was only around $6 a nite including a decent breakfast, so I was happy to meet Lhena through Couchsurfing, who offered me a place to stay at her home.

 

 

 

 

 

Unfortunately Lhena lives a long uphill twenty-minute walk from the center of town, so it wasn´t the best arrangement.  Her house is located near a beautiful park where I enjoyed my morning Qi Gong exercises under the pines, just a few yards away from these beautiful Spanish ruins:

 

 

I hit all the restaurants I had a line on that I could find, and I got a gig Saturday night at Rainbow Cafe, which coincidentally happened to be the same restaurant I had visited 15 years ago, and which I had been thinking about playing at for several years now.  Sometimes things are very interesting in that way.  Had a good show, got paid, and got a very good plate of food to boot.  Might be playing there again when I return in February next year.  Late at night I had to take a taxi back to Lhena´s, so that cost a bit.  Next day I moved to a new hostel just a block from the Plaza, and though it is a dorm, so far I don´t have to share it.  Got a great weekly rate, around $4 a nite, so I´ll be in Antigua until next Sunday.

 

 


Journey Through Latin America (Part 3)

Arriaga Mexico was a nice spot, even though it was steamy, I didn´t mind the heat, but then I´m from Arizona.  The afternoon shower was refreshing, and the room I had was cool with the ceiling fan just on low.  I like when you can take a shower and lay down with just a sheet and sleep comfortably.  I woke up before dawn and performed my Qi Gong exercises on the balcony as the sun came up, then I took a taxi to the bus station and arrived just 5 minutes before the bus to Tapachula left.   It was a ¨first class¨ bus and we arrived a couple of hours later and I lugged my heavy backpack a few blocks to take a shuttle to the border.  Crossing the border into Guatemala was extremely easy, though the Mexican Tricycle Taxistas wanted to overcharge me the Guatemalans were very reasonable.  I ate an awesome meal at  a cafe near the bus terminal for around $3 and talked with three backpackers who had been in Quetzaltenango (Xela) for up to two months! and now were heading to the beach for some warm days.

From Ayutla I took my first ¨chicken bus¨ ride, in the front seat, and boy was that exciting!  The driver had a great sixth sense as to when to pass on a blind curve, and only once did he have to back off quickly to avoid a horrible accident, and the cobrador meanwhile was hanging out the door calling out to potential passengers the whole time, with one hand holding his cellphone to his ear.   The route to Xela was continuosly populated, going from extremely sweaty Retalhuleu quickly up to the cool mountains of Quetzaltenango. 

The taxi driver took advantage of my ignorance as to the location of my hostel and charged me $7 when it should have been $6, then we couldn´t find Las Amigas and instead Hostel M&M looked good for just $6 per night, with a private room.  Martina,  a German lady, and Maynor, a Guatemalan, are the owners who also offer classes in German, Spanish, and English.  I talked alot with Alex from San Diego who has been living there since January and has decided to retire in Xela.  He was leaving the next day for the Gulf Coast and he gave me his eggs, sausage, and bread to eat while I was there, which saved me alot of money.  It was a very comfortable place to stay , and I often met my fellow housemates on the rooftop terrace: Marina, a retired Guatemalan teacher traveling with her neice Delmit, though they had been living at M&M for four months!  I loved to play guitar on the rooftop, and also ran into Martina and Maynor often, who are very gracious hosts. 

I didn´t have much luck finding a place to perform in Xela, but I had a great day at Zunil , where they have hot, HOT baths in private tiled rooms for $3 an hour.  I only needed half an hour to be extremely relaxed.  The next day I walked half way there to the pass where I could take some nice pictures of the valley.


Journey through Latin America (Part 2)

I stayed in Morelia for five days and got very rested up from my long trip there and what was sure to be a long trip to Oaxaca.  The trip to Oaxaca was indeed difficult.  I had to wait in the terminal at Morelia until 2PM for the bus to Puebla, as there wasn’t a direct route to Oaxaca.  Eight hours later I struggled with my heavy backpack and guitar through the huge terminal at Puebla where I discovered I had just missed the latest bus by 15 minutes and had to wait until Midnight for the next one.  I had a nice sandwich (Torta) and waited.  The trip to Oaxaca was only  four hours, and I slept the whole way.  I had made reservations the previous day for the Hostel Paulina, so I felt confident arriving there at 4:30AM, and they didn’t even charge me for that night.  It turned out to be a great deal, including a satisfying breakfast included, for around $15 and night.

garden at Hostel Paulina, Oaxaca, Mexico

 

The hostel was populated by a large group of students studying Acts (from the Bible) of the Covenant Church.  They were great folks, mostly Swedish with some Central American kids as well, and we got along quite well especially after I started playing guitar and singing.  I stayed in a dorm room, but shared it only with one Japanese guy who was very agreeable.

I spent my days taking my promo packets to hotels and restaurants, and I had interviews with a couple of interested parties, but mostly I played my music in the Central Plaza with my guitar case open for tips.  I gained a few dollars a day, enough for lunch, and I met a number of friendly locals that were big music fans.  One interesting fellow named Porfirio Diaz (!) had a helluva story to tell:  he had been a heroin addict for the last 20 years and finally pulled himself out of the gutter and was working in a sports shop in Morelia, just visiting family in Oaxaca, and passing the days shining shoes for extra cash.  He’s a really good guy and I sure hope he can keep on keeping on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oaxaca was actually quite comfortable, but even with the cheap hotel and free breakfast, lunch and dinner were pushing me over my $20 a day budget, so I was ready to head south.  My goal was Tehuantepec, a little town half way to the border of Guatemala that I had visited fifteen years before.  The trip was a long four hours and when I arrived I made the mistake of hoisting on my backpack and walking from the bus terminal to the hotel I had stayed at long ago.  The town had grown enormously and I was in great pain from walking more than ten blocks when I arrived at the Hotel Donaji, which had since become a grand hotel charging $30 a night for a single with only a fan.  I felt I had no choice, so I forked it over and planned to get up early to catch the early morning bus to Arriaga. 

 

 

The ride to Arriaga was quite pleasant, even though the bus was second class and spent alot of time picking up students and locals along the way.  Arriaga was much more my kind of town, and I could have spent more time there if I wasn’t so eager to reach Guatemala.  The taxi driver took me to a brand new hotel that charged $15 a night for single with fan.  The market was just a couple of blocks away.

I bought a few tacos at around .5o cents each, then bought some avocado, cheese and tortillas for my dinner.  When I got back to my room I realized I had forgotten my avocado, so I hustled back to the same vendor and told them what happened, and they went ahead and gave me my avocado without argument.

 


Journey through Latin America (Part 1)

 

I suppose the beginning of the trip was when I left Tucson, Arizona around Sept 16, 2012 at 3AM and drove to Las Cruces, New Mexico where I called my new Couchsurfing friend Paty who had generously offered her abode for my much needed rest.  It had been a stressful day before as I had packed all the belongings I could into my Toyota Camry, leaving behind everything else to my friends and the house I had lived in for the previous 9 years, to be auctioned off in October.

I slept for a few hours at Paty’s place, then had dinner in El Paso before driving all night until I was dangerously sleepy and decided stop at a rest stop outside of Junction Texas.  By dawn I was much better, then got out of the car to do my morning ritual of Qi Gong exercises before driving in to Austin, Texas.  Austin has changed a whole heck of a lot in the last 15 yrs since I lived there.  I stayed with a couple of friends of mine, Tim & Taz, and later Gary, and had a couple of shows playing guitar and singing my songs.  My stage name is Luis Sabor and I have been planning to sing my way through Central America and finally to Lima, Peru, where I will spend the New Year with my 9 yr-old son, who lives there.

I visited alot of friends and family on my way to Victoria, Texas, where I stayed with my parents for a few days and left my car parked in their driveway.  My folks drove me to McAllen, TX where we visited with my Uncle Leon before getting on a bus for Reynosa Sept 29.  Right in the bus station I met a lovely Mexican lady named Alejandra, who was travelling the same route to Queretaro Mexico.  We were instant friends and we talked a great deal along the way.  We said goodbye in Queretaro as I took a bus to Morelia, where I had another Couchsurfing friend , Marjolaine, generously offering me a place to stay.

 

 

My stay with Marjolaine was wonderful–I really got the rest I needed.  The second night in Morelia I played at a restaurant for food and tips, then my last night I got to play all night with a Salsa Band, playing my Guiro, a percussion instrument which is great fun.

Now I’ve used up my time in this internet cafe, so I’ll be posting chapter 2 soon. Hasta Luego! Luis


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