Over the last several weeks, Billy and I have been traveling through the Mexican Yucatan and on into Guatemala.
Can you say “humid?”
The Yucatan has been oppressively hot with the humidity levels vacillating between 75% and 92% daily. When the temperatures reach the 80’s and with matching humidity, these two young kids (that would be us) tend to slow down. The brain doesn’t function at its optimum and comfort levels are maxed out to the point where we are not.
Comfortable that is.
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When it rains it pours
Here in the tropics when it does rain, it comes quickly and in sheets. Crossing the street is all it takes to get you soaked all the way through. Which isn’t a bad thing and one can easily recover from that — unless you are caught with digital equipment that have no plastic wrapping around them. We travel with plastic bags here in these latitudes just for this purpose.
Stepping back into time
Leaving the Yucatan and its corresponding heat, we head on into the interior of Guatemala and cooler locales. Let me just say that traveling through Guatemala isn’t nearly as leisurely as traveling through Mexico and for several reasons. There are no comfy buses with air conditioning, movies, seats that tilt back and some complimentary food for your journey. And long after I think the Guatemalan collectivo or revised school bus has been packed to extreme, people are still being jammed in. Vehicles made for 20 people have 32 traveling in them. Buses that are filled with 6 people across every aisle have another 20 or more people standing who are also crushed in the aisles. Passengers have packages, babies and children and if the child is hungry and wailing, Momma discretely feeds the baby under her blouse. Saying we are shoulder-to-shoulder doesn’t quite describe it. It’s more like nose-to-nose.
The terrain in this mountainous country is also a challenge with hairpin turns being the norm. Having guard rails would be a dream come true for a later generation or two to build. We have traveled 3 kilometers an hour over unpaved, pitted roads with dozens of mudslides covering what used to be the roadway and boulders blocking what is left of the passage. Both roads and bridges are washed out from the last rainy season and yet nothing seems to faze these enduring people.
Gratefully, tips are given through the collectivo windows to the road workers to keep them filling those potholes and onward we trudge.
The Stupidest Question in the World
On occasion when I am at my most wretched with salt caked on my face and my arms in a constant bath of sweat I ask myself “What am I doing? We could have bought a nice little tour and bypassed all of this…”
But that isn’t our style and believe me, we have discussed it. Neither of us are willing – just yet – to trade the profound glimpse into mankind that these trips give us. Human beings with their ancient history written so obviously on their faces and in the displays of their culture. All of this with the backdrop of drifting fog through jutting mountains and rushing rivers the color of jade.
“You can’t buy this on a packaged holiday” we say to ourselves. So we suck it up on the lack-of-luxury level when we hit these points in our journeys. These times won’t last forever, and we mean that on various levels. Billy and I are aging and how long will we be able to travel like this? And humanity itself is being jostled – whether it likes it or not – into the future. Things change quicker than we realize. And we both know that in looking back over the thousands and thousands of miles that we have traveled “close to the bone,” that these National Geographic memories are etched into our brains.
And we wouldn’t trade that for all the packaged tours in the world.