Seven days

Tonina

Pyramid (Photo credit: NCReedplayer)

1.

Determined to get public bus to C—. Walked around shopping for things (film, sunscreen, hat), and then prepared for canyon. Looked for bus until a business man who spoke English walked with me to find the bus. Finally, a salesman was able to help, and try to sell some ‘health’ supplement: ‘I used to get really bad constipation until…’. Ok. Eventually found the bus, got off too soon, got on another one and made it to the collectivo. Had some kind of corn and cocoa drink. Found the river, which is wide and languid, and fronted by terraced restaurants. On the river there were groups of boys swimming and diving, and people sitting by the river. In the canyon was a shrine in an alcove to the Virgin. We saw an alligator, and the dam wall. On the way back the driver gave fuel to another boat. Smoke from the fields. Walked many blocks from the collectivo depot in T—. Ate at a vegetarian restaurant, soy hamburger and milk and mango drink.

2.

Woke up early. Walked into the sun to a market. Walked to the end and watched a young boy selling bunches of coriander and radishes from off of a tarpaulin on the ground, and spraying the vegetables with water. Two older boys sat on up-ended crates. I bought a bunch of watercress, radishes, an onion, tomato and avocado. Collected my bag and checked out. Walked again across the city into the area where men start pointing and yelling at you. Asked man where bus station is. At S— walked around in circles for a while trying to find hostel, met a German girl doing the same, but we parted, she was searching for a 60 peso a night hostel, which sounded too good to be true. Or too unreliable to be good. Checked into hostel. Prepared tuna and salad. Found the main tourist drag, followed it to the end and up a hill to a church. That day the air was mountainous, laced with smoke and chill, and dogs barking up from the valleys. Behind the church was a view of a farming valley, two giggling girls asked for their photo. Ate a spinach quiche in a cheap European bakery. Went online, met my roommate who went off to talk to some Australian boys.

3.

Free breakfast. Decided to go to indigenous villages on a tour, which I’d read was the most ‘sensitive’ way to visit them. My room mate came in and announced she was going to T— by collectivo. I told her my plans and she said, Oh no, everyone says they just take a collectivo, save the tours for places you can’t get to. The other roommate said she’d read in her guidebook that Wednesday was a bad luck day and nothing doing. I’d had enough of being lonely, so I canceled the tour booking and went off with the roommate to find a collectivo to O—. Beside the road through the mountains I remember, little wooden houses and pigs wandering. We bought boxes of cut fruit, queso fresco and tortillas. We were the only tourists so noone was there to sell us anything. Many women wore indigenous clothes: skirt to the calves, specific local top and wide sash around the waist. We wolfed down the cheeses and tortillas in the taxi. T— is surrounded by rolling green hills and farmland. We climbed over the ruins and through the tunnels, looked at the cactus. At the top, the steps are so sheer and steep that falling would be like falling from the side of a cliff. B— climbed first and called after a while Don’t look down until you’re at the top. I looked down though, and had to stay on a landing until she coaxed me up. The wide valley was green and shining, and a large Mexican flag flew from a military base. The guide we met up there gave us a private tour of the tunnels sans illumination and demonstrated a particular discovery he’d made concerning shadows in the sunlight from small vents. We got a lift on the tray of a ute to the main road and started walking along the green verge with the guide. B— put out her thumb and a trio of teachers drove us and the guide back to town, back from their job teaching at an indigenous school an hour away, and gave us beers. We took the collectivo back in the dark, B— lectured me to be very cautious to let yourself alone with a strange man, such as the guide in the tunnels. We had a sope and quesadilla.

4.

Breakfast. A veteran traveler talked about theft during travel. Horse riding. Booked with my roommate, and went to look at market where she met a Canadian guy from previous hostel. Bought feather earrings. Reunited with him for the horses. Were driven on the tray of a ute to the horses, and an unimpressed, pink-faced pair of middle aged English people who’d just returned. Horse riding not for the faint hearted. We went up through some forest, and along a road through farmland. Indigenous women were washing clothes in a stream, harvesting greens and bunching the vegetables in the field with grass ties. Passed clothes stalls and saleswomen, and went to the famous church. From the doorway, the interior is dark and scattered with clumps of candlelight. Inside, there are no pews, the floor is carpeted with fresh pine needles, there are glass cases with statues of saints all around the walls and before them, tables laden with burning candles in glasses. A gang of men cleared a space in the floor and mopped and scraped off candle wax. People clear a space in the needles before a saint or in the middle, lay out a bottle of coke and a bottle of water, and rows of slender candles. Sometimes they smile at the tourists. An older women has her hand on the chicken, and a women seems to lead the ceremony as often as a man. They may wave the chicken over the flames and then they wring the neck, but we didn’t see this though we were late back to our guide. Towards the end everyone stopped talking, and it felt quite serene and safe to pass through the forest upright on a horse. Went to the market with the Canadian and he showed me how to make guacamole for 20 pesos or something similar. After some issues with change (noone will take a note), I bought peas, avocado, tomato, onion and queso fresco, regressed to the hostel and made a salad. Ate outside. Met my roommate and she offered me some of her salad.

Every morning, every night: the view from the girl’s dorm, the valley laid out in cloud or rivers of lights. The mountains.

5.

Free breakfast. Mamay, which is very sweet, soft and dense, and reminds me of something, but what. Hot footed to the tour office, met the tour, was assigned the seat next to the driver of the minivan. We drove. The driver put on marimba music. We came to sugar cane. A woman and a boy were filling in a pothole in the road. Many trucks passed simply laden with cane, piled at least a third over the cab roof, hanging out the back, roped down in two places. In one field men worked, the cane was in small piles. Piles of smoke in the sky. We had two hours at E— cascade. The river was blue and clear, the mud pale. Climbed to the cascade, the top lookout is sodden with spray. Went down and swam in the river, which was deliciously cool and clear. The driver took us to a restaurant, I had a fish fillet with rice, beans and salad, and then talked to some Israeli boys who’d eaten their sandwiches outside. We looked at a lake, and saw a marker of the division with Guatemala. Drove to four other lakes, wooded. One had a pile of logs on the shore. Drove back. My friend said he’d come.

6.

Woke up early to wash my hair. Free breakfast. Frijoles. Shopped with my roommate in the market, bought a heart shaped neck lace and a coffee table cover embroidered with Mexican animals. We parted, I went to buy an embroidered shirt I’d liked in a shop. Had soup and lasagna at a popular vegetarian restaurant. Found and took collectivo from market to Z—. Relieved to see two tourists get off a previous taxi. But when I got there I was the only tourist. Sat in a church service full of indigenous women in embroidered purple shawls. The male preacher asked them to read from a book. I left and some children asked me for a peso for their schooling. I really left. Walked through back streets to the tourist street. Read in hostel, noone in the dorm. Walked to downtown late and looked in the doorway of a few bars, and sat on a chair. My friend never came.

7.

Hotcakes. Went with my roommate and a friend of another roommate to C—. The church was full of tourists and not much doing otherwise. I left them and went back to S—, collected bag and took bus to P—. Along the road, clusters of houses and dirt yards, corn patches, small fires. Ladies sitting in shops with flattened chickens on barbeques, I think they must take out the ribcage. When it was dark, through doorways I could see televisions on, and groups of men talking by the side of the road. The moon was full and the tops of the mountains were like islands floating in white haze. I shared a taxi with two Italian ladies to a cabana strip. So now I’m in a cabana in the jungle. The windows are just mesh, the air is warm and ‘mouldy’ as my friend calls it, I can hear insects scraping, and jungle music from a loudspeaker somewhere in all the trees. Out in the dark somewhere is the bathroom, I can hear the road and a dog barking, and some other little animal sounds. No rain. On the bus, I was thinking about how this is all of life, and life on this planet is all of life. The small blue dot.

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