From January 2006 I am spending 9 months working on a voluntary art project for the Artcorps in Guatemala. I am working for Fundación Riecken, an NGO who are constructing libraries in Honduras and Guatemala. I will be artist-in-residence at libraries in Chiché and Zacualpa, in the Quiché region of Guatemala. I also plan to do a little travelling along the way...

Thursday, November 02, 2006

El Oriente

Recently I went on the most inspiring trip! Immediately following my departure from Chichè, I embarked upon a journey out east. The reason? Fun, of course! Oh, and the obligatory crossing of the border in order to renew my visa. The borders between Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua have, since June this year, become “open”, meaning that we foreigners cannot get our passports stamped if crossing between these countries. A big headache for all the ex-pats living here, but for me it made the perfect excuse to head for the beach in Belize! I cunningly combined this exit with a reunion with the other two Artcorps artists in the most beautiful place…Rio Dulce.
First, I met up with Aryeh, who is doing fine theatrical work with youths in El Salvador.
We boarded the bus in Guatemala City on a lovely sunny day and stepped off 5 hours later into the muggy heat of El Oriente. The range of climate in Guatemala is quite astonishing, because of the varying altitudes. Quiché, where I have been living, is considered to be “frio”, a description which is handily printed on the signs at the entrance to each town in the region. “Cold”, I scoff, although real cold is becoming a distant memory for me! The Oriente is never referred to without the words “¡que calor!”
We found a lovely tree-house cabin in the watery jungly world of Lago Izabal, and our first excursion was off to Finca El Paraiso. ¡Que maravilia! It is a hot waterfall cascading into a deliciously cool, clean river. We clambered atop the falls and lounged around in the bath-tub temperature pools before descending to the river, where we got pummelled by streams of hot water massaging our heads and shoulders. ¡Que rico! Hot springs! I love `em!

Our next destination was the jewel of our trip: Finca Tatin, a haven hidden in the watery wonderland of Rio Dulce; a proper get-away-from-it-all laid back lodge with cabins immersed deep in the jungle, the river providing the only access. There, we met up with Brooke, the other artist who is working in the mountains near the Mexican border, with her husband Ian and their mate Greg. We experienced a very special day kayaking around the Manatee Biotopo reserve, intrepidly exploring inlets and hidden lagoons in the mangroves, moving through tunnels of green, the greenness so bright and intense in the sun it almost hurt the eyes, the tropical plants growing wildly, crazily, forming impenetrable walls all around us. We had two wonderful days together, and then we all had to go our separate ways. It has been very special being part of such a great team, and despite the great distances between our placements, we have managed to get together several times and share ideas, experiences and good times.

We parted in Livingston, which is a pretty little town only accessible by water, mainly populated by black Garifunas. The vibe is Carribean and laid back; its differences setting it apart from the rest of Guatemala. From there I took a boat to Belize, the day the tropical storms hit. I hooked up with some Dutch wanderers and we spent a rainy day and night on the beach enjoying ourselves despite the torrential downpours. Not quite the Carribean beach experience I have been dreaming about since I arrived here 10 months ago!

The next destination was another jewel in the trip: Tikal, magical world of the Maya, where towering temples rise out of the jungle, flocks of toucans and parrots flitting between the trees, howler monkeys filling the air with their screeching cries. I loved Tikal. It was so wonderful to finally see the ancient stones and to imagine how it would have looked with the feathered and bejewelled Mayan nobility populating the city; a city which is now shrouded in greenery and mist, where nature has reclaimed the workings of man.

Flores is the main base from which most tourists visit Tikal. Situated on an island with gorgeous views across the water, it is a lovely little town with very friendly local people, surprisingly unspoilt given how much tourism passes through there. I really liked Flores and had a great time hanging out with my new Dutch pals for a couple of days. From there I stopped off at Finca Ixobel, an eco-farm renowned for its great organic food, beautiful setting and relaxing atmosphere. I stayed in a fantastic tree-house, in a beautiful foresty field, the only occupant, where I felt like I was lost in the woods. I swam in the pond at twilight, and watched the stars twinkling their light into the darkening sky while I bathed in the refreshing water..


At 9:21 am, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mad ass grasshopper that is...

Me like...


At 12:35 pm, Blogger Martin said...

Like a bit of jungle me - and the Mayan temples look impressive - tho' the thought of them drenched in human sacrificial blood and still-beating hearts might put me off just a smidge...


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