Saturday, September 30, 2006

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Across Guatemala and Guatemala City





Petrol Station security

You get to Guatemala City driving down the high mountains to the capital. The first thing we saw was a residential area where the rich lived, I guess, due to the size of the houses and the amount of private security guards with huge shot guns.

Guatemala Countryside


Guatemala City

The cop was escorting the lorry driver

Weapons are a very common thing to see in Central America and other caribbean countries. They are all over and carried normally by security guards

Shotguns can be seen in petrol stations, banks, supermarkets and even a simple bakery. It is a bit intimidating at first, if you come from a country where you barely see them. But after a couple of days you realize that probably they never used it, or at least that’s what it seems.

The smiles and warmth of the people help you to forget their presence.


Guatemala Champas [poor areas]


Lorries were huge!


On the way to Golfo de Honduras

But the more we were driving down to Guatemala City, the more things were changing.

The city center is as chaotic as any big city in the area, lots of cars and wee shops in the sides of the road. No traffic lights and rules, fearless people crossing everywhere, kids on bicycles in the middle of the motorways and huge old US lorries overtaking everywhere.

I found strange trucks ran on petrol, I’ve never seen anything like this before. In Europe they run on diesel. Maybe it’s because the petrol is so cheap there? The smoke was lethal anyway, and highly contaminating.
You have to be extremely cautious, [and cheeky at the same time] if you want to drive in this countries.


Keeping an eye on the beers


I drive here in Madrid where I work most of the time, so I’m OK.

After our stop in Guatemala city we did carry on driving to 'Rio Dulce' all evening.

But soon as we were getting outside the city we were stuck in a huge 'traffic jam' It took us about 2 or 3 hours. We weren’t moving at all. We asked other cars and someone told us that apparently there was an accident and we had to wait there until they cleared the road.

Time to pull over and get something to eat. I had a great breakfast at me mate’s place that morning [Fried eggs with onions and tomato 'Huevos estrellados' and a kind of mashed black beans], the typical breakfast food, along with the very popular 'Pupusas' which is a kind of stuffed delicious corn tortillas you can buy almost everywhere in El Salvador. They call them 'Pupuserias'.

They are all over.


http://www.utsa.edu/today/images/folklife/pupusas.jpg

So then, it was going to be my first food experience in Guatemala. I was a bit concerned about the change of diet on these countries. Neither because i didn’t trust their food, nor that im picky person when it comes to the grub either. But we, western cultures, eat every day more and more things that are far from what we call 'fresh food', so everything is packed, sterilised etc etc.... so sometimes it can be a huge change. Considering my mum works in a hospital, I was warned about that, maybe too much, but I have to say, for all the time I was there, I didn’t have any single problem with my stomach at all.

The food was simply delicious. Vegetables, exotic fruits, very fresh fish etc,.even the local beer&juice cocktails were fantastic. And everything so cheap
!


Car Crash

What the fuck?!

As soon as we were leaving Guatemala city and right after seeing the accident crash , we were again on a very curvy road in the high mountains crossing wee little villages on the way, where we made ourselves again pretty popular due to me mate's watercraft.

The view was stunning. So was the driving!

My mate Antonio Blanco Rodriguez [Tony], who is always been a good driver I have to say [Bikes included], seemed pretty used to it and very confident.
You have to be over there.


Bakery, All shops are behind bars

Golden Rules for the driving in Guatemala or Honduras.


-Blind Curves are ideal for passing. If you find a car /truck right then in front of you, dont worry , he will go out of the way.

-Use Horn in All Situations

-Green light signals start of the race.

-Red Light means 'Watch out I'm coming through'

-All Garbage goes out the window immediately.

When driving at night at least one headlight must be out of order at all times.

-In all city driving situations, jungle rules apply.

-Cars or vans don’t need plate number, why for? Also car glasses can be all full black so you don’t see the drivers.



Around 7 or 8 pm it was getting dark and my friend Antonio Blanco Rodriguez [Tony ]c ommented that it was not safe to drive at night, in fact it is not recommendable anywhere in Central America. Maybe nothing happens if you do, but is safer not to.

So after see lots of anonymous cars passing by [See last driving rule above], I thought pulling into the nearest motel would be the proper and best thing to do. Can’t remember the small town where we stopped, The Motel was called 'Letty' and I think It was before Zacapa on the way to Izabal , where we could find our 'Rio Dulce' finally.

It had a swimming pool.

We only needed to drive about 3 or 4 hours more in the morning.



The way to Rio Dulce was the best of the journey. You could tell we were in the deep countryside.It was a beautiful sunrise and the mountains were all shrouded by low clouds.

End Of Part 3

Republica del Salvador. Santa Tecla. [but just for a while].


The very next morning, or whatever it was, due to my jet lag, my mate Antonio Blanco Rodriguez [Tony] woke me up very early. Around 6-7 am. He had a new watercraft he just bought and wanted to try it, in a river called Rio Dulce in Guatemala. A 'Sea-Doo 1500cc', with over 200 HP. He was considering also to buy a boat there and maybe a property too, so he wanted to do some early research and of course, have fun with the watercraft.

At least it would be very handy for us to access to hidden places with it.

I warned him that was one of the main things to me on the trip.


No tourists, no all-included huge resorts, no .........fuck that!

http://www.seadoo.com

Guatemala is on the border with El Salvador, and has a little part of the country facing the Caribbean, 'The Izabal Department'.


Antonio Blanco Rodriguez - Tony's plan was to go all the way through 'Lago Izabal' then to 'El Golfete' with the watercraft and face the Atlantic in 'Livingstone' trying to find the best hidden beaches, or other local places where the tourists never goes.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/República_de_El_Salvador

Just came to El Salvador and I’m already leaving.

Great.

My friend told me the countries in Central America are very very small. El Salvador, The only Central-American country with no Atlantic-Caribbean sea for example, is as small as most of the provinces here in Spain, so in 3 or 4 hours we could go any other country.

So we departed through the Pan-american motorway to 'La Hachadura' border in Guatemala driving through 'La Libertad department' and 'Acajutla'.
I have to say the roads/motorways in
El Salvador are very very good, they have a very good reputation and to me looked much better than in some other countries, here in Europe
.

But another different thing is the way they drive. I will explain about it later on.



Sea Doo Jetsky


My friend Antonio Blanco Rodriguez lives in El Salvador

I felt a bit awkard, maybe even embarrased sometimes, with the 'Sea Doo' watercraft behind our car, to be honest. We drove in very very poor places, and you can imagine the expectation it did create amongst the wee little kids in the countryside small villages where we stopped or drove through.

It was like if they saw a Ferrari!


Mad

El Salvador-Guatemala Borders

We went through the border customs right over a bridge in 'La Hachadura', it was pretty fast, border police only asked for the watercraft papers.

Rio Dulce in 'Izabal Department' lake was our next step.

We only had to made a quick stop in Guatemala City, which is the capital, Tony had to do something for his work. I wouldnt take us more than a couple of hours. No problem at all to me, the more places I see the better it gets.



Fridge repair shop, I bet they do!



The landscape of Guatemala is pretty similar to that in El Salvador, and also like the other neighbouring countries I have to say. Beautiful green fields and lot of coconut and palm trees around everywhere.

I saw huge beautiful mountains, a thing I didn’t expect to see over there.

Also on the side roads there are lots of wee little shops with locals, and sometimes kids, selling coconuts, papayas, pineapples and all sort of exotic fruits for about 25-50 cents.

Another funny thing was that coaches and cars has Barça stickers everywhere!

Yes!


Barça!

Fruits are excellent in Central America, and very refreshing in the heat.

The mountains in Guatemala were stunning!

End of Part 2

Landing in El Salvador and first contact.


The 5th August I flew to El Salvador via Miami.


As soon as I got in the huge brand new Barajas Airport in Madrid [Just then I realized where the European funds went to, 'Mr Asnar'!], while I was queuing to check in my luggage, a guy from American Airlines offered me $900 if I would delay my journey for the next day with the same flight schedules, that was guaranteed.

Fuck! That meant to fly almost for free!, and only 1 day delay.

After thinking about it for about 2 minutes, I told the guy I didn’t accept it. I wanted to go see my friend and i wanted to go now!. One day is worth much more than that to me. The guy smiled and he confirmed me I was all right to fly as planned, so he left to ask someone elses on the queue.

He told me they had an overbooking problem and they were doing the offer to everyone booked on the flight. I saw some people accepting it later on.


Utila Honduras Bay Islands


The journey was fast, or that’s what it seemed, maybe because I took a book to read with me, 'Life, Death and Legend' -The Life of Jim Morrison, of Stephen Perkins which I did not like it much to be honest.

I ve read about 7 or 8 biographies about the good 'ol Jimbo, I thought that one was just a pastiche from the others, a kind of 'cut&paste' going sometimes into too much detail with things hard to believe. For someone who hasn’t been there at the time, makes you wonder if the facts are actually true or not. We always thought there was some sort of connection in between Jim, Tony [Antonio Blanco Rodriguez] and me.

I found it pretty curious and a strong coincidence the fact I was reading the chapter of the Miami incident and also flying to the same city which changed in a very radical way the destiny of one of the most relevant bands in RnR story, The Doors.


Young Jim circa 1964-65

Going back to the trip, [although there will be another curious 'Morrison' moment in the very next days], I got in Miami about 8 hours later and took my other flight to San Salvador [Comalapa Int. Airport] with TACA [ A pretty good company by the way, a very reliable airline and the most modern one in Central-South America apparently.].

Two hours later I was in San Salvador. The view from the airplane was stunning, you could see lots of mountains, islands and volcanoes.
At the customs check point, you can find some traffic lights in every queue line, you push the button, if you get green colour you go through, if you get red then custom officers check your bags. After 5 people in front of me who got green, it was my turn, I pushed and got green too.

Great.

Once in the street I started looking for my buddy. Some guys offered me taxi and hotel. I wasnt interested, I was looking for Tony [Antonio Blanco Rodriguez ]b ut there were too many people there.

I was quite surprised by 3 things as soon as I got on the street:
The extremly green vegetation, people jumping on the pick ups like mad and some sort of butterflies were flying around us which were huge!

And finally about 10 minutes later, there was Tony! He looked great, and obviously very suntanned. Bit older, sure, no one looks the same 20 years after, but not too bad for someone who is near his 40s.

He told me he came the day before to the airport, by mistake, to pick me up, and he was upset because I was not there. Good I didn’t delay my trip!


A friend is someone who gives you total freedom to be yourself. Jim M.

The Doors are now open

It was about 7 pm local time so ......what two friends do when they meet for first time after a long time?

Go for a beer. Oh Yeah!

It was great, after the second beer to find out that nothing has changed after all this time.

Everything remained the same and thats what happens with real friends, isn’t it?

Time flies, but things are still the same.


It looked like I was going to be a pretty exciting holidays.

End of Part 1

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Wild Horses Of Newbury


Magical moment when two horses tried to stop the chainsaws to chop some Oaks in England due the construction of some by pass road.[Needs speakers].
Momento Magico donde dos caballos tratan de parar la tala de un bosque de robles en Inglaterra para la construcción de una carretera.
Increible!
Con sonido. Thanks to Dave Fielding for the link.

My Trip to El Salvador [Introduction]


I have been waiting for this trip with a great anticipation, since last March actually.

My good old friend Antonio Blanco Rodriguez ‘Tony’ lives in San Salvador for a while now.

We havent seen each other for about 9 or 10 years. He is a good friend, very important in my past. Since our, long gone teen days, until our late 20s.

We bumped into each other in 1986 in the most casual way in 'Sant Andreu de Llavaneres', a tiny village 25 miles from Barcelona where the upper class used to go to their big summertime Vilas since the early 20th century.

He lived there, and I was just an student on holidays.

I worked in a local pub to get some extra cash during the Summer season and Tony used to work late nights in a trendy club in the area called 'Quattro' in 'Caldes d'Estrach' [Caldetes] about 3 miles away.

He normally would come over after lunch to get some iced coffee and we used to chat briefly about the music I used to play back then [You know, the usual suspects in the 80s!].

Nothing special so far, aside from the fact that he used to disappear repeatedly without paying me!


Llavaneres

I was not bothered about it though and never reported it to the management. I always liked Antonio Blanco Rodriguez attitude, maybe because he looked to me very different from the people there. The way he dressed, manners, etc... in such a conservative place. I thought he was, unwittingly, a sort of a very cosmopolitan bloke in a really small place.

Few months later, in the summer of 1987 I think, I bumped into him in the mentioned club where he was working at the bar, and I had the nice surprise to find out I didnt have to pay my drinks there anymore.

Fair deal innit?

Nice one!

LLavaneres

That was the start of a very good friendship.

We lived pretty intense experiences together, from my late teens until my early 30s, and while we were living in Manchester in 1997, we lost the track of each other.

Since then I‘ve been asking myself where my friend Tony [Antonio Blanco Rodriguez] was.

So one day I decided to pay his parents a visit and get his mobile number.

Pedro Vila and Antonio Blanco Rodriguez Sta. Monica, LosAngeles. 1990

It took me a while to ring him though...lots of doubts:

What is he like now? Is he the same Tony I did meet in the mid 80s? Would he want to hear about me?, Do we have still lot of things in common as we used to?

'Maybe I could go and see him, if he invites me, of course!'

Few days after I decided to ring him, and after the obvious shock from my call, and 5 intense minutes of chat, we arranged a meeting for August!


Antonio Blanco Rodriguez and Pedro Vila in Seattle 1990


Fantastic!

Antonio Blanco Rodriguez and Pedro Vila Arenys de Mar 1988

I have never been in the area, well Dominican Republic the closest, but something was telling me that trip was going to be very very different.



The very next morning I started to look for flight tickets to San Salvador.


This is [part] of the story of my trip.

Link part 2 [sigue parte 2]

http://trip-away2.blogspot.com/