Guate-up, Guate-down

So what to say about Guatemala so far? Well, did I write I love the up-and-downs? I better do as that´s what Guatemala is: Up and down! Not only talking about geography which leads me up to 3000 metres above sea level and drops me down to 1500 to the Lake Atitlán where I´m right now. There´s a huge climb almost every day and with it my body is exposed to a change of temperature of more than 20 degrees Celsius sometimes: On the peaks it´s wintery cold, I´m wearing long pants, T-Shirt, long sleeves, Pullover and down jacket and still shiver. But as soon as I´m back at the bottom of the mountain, just on the other side, I must be careful to not getting burned by the sun. (Today maybe I might not have been careful enough…).

But there´s also the mental up and down: Since I crossed the border I hear people calling me “Gringa”. Gringa here, Gringa there, Gringa shouted at me from adults, children and trees even. Another Italian cyclist once told me that this is not the nicest way to call an US American. So after 2 days I started to feel a bit uncomfortable because wherever I appeared I heard people talking about me by hearing that word. And as the Gringos have plenty of money – that´s just a fact here – I always pay twice, 3 times, 10 times more than the locals do. For fresh orange juice, for apples, for bread, for the entrance to the Maya site… for everything! I can´t help but how can I feel welcome here? I tried but I just couldn´t. Until I decided to give freedom and voice to my inner frustration about this behaviour and to tell 2 teenagers at the gas station. “Oh no!”, they said, “Gringo just means ´tourist´ and most of the time people use it in a very positive way! They are happy that someone from far comes to visit Guatemala and that´s why the shout ´Gringo, Gringo!!´ It´s like giving alarm so that everybody can take notice!” Well, as soon as I heard that I realised, that people mostly have a bright smile on their face when they call me Gringa. And I feel very comfortable with it – peak!

But still I pay a lot more than the locals: valley. And when 2 days ago I urgently needed water people didn’t want to fill up my gallon for a few Quetzales because they think that Gringos must buy the expensive bottles: valley. They sometimes wanted to be payed for a picture I wanted to take of them: valley. But of course: Ther´s still those who treat you as a very welcome guest, try to make your stay as pleasant as possible, give you a lift with their cars when your wheel is broken and even offer you a fresh beer for the ride: peak, peak, peak!

Valley: I imported some extremely aggressive bed bugs in my sleeping-bag from Mexico. They almost kill me at night! My legs are bitten over and over and swollen and just hurt. And one more valley is the fact that yesterday I finished my last good German tube! The valves broke, 2 times, 2 days in a row! Man if only I wouldn´t already know that most of the cheap tubes will break right there with the load I carry! Am I thinking black if expecting a lot of repairs in future? Valley. Definitely!

But tomorrow I will climb up again, don´t worry. Next destination: Guatemala Antigua. More or less 800m of pure and steep uphill is waiting! So, you see, next peak is already to in line. And if the washing saloon did a good job with my sleeping-bag and if I did a good job with the tube-stuff today I will maybe have some peak-feeling in the next days. Let´s hope so!


Panajachel (am Lago Atitlán), Guatemala (Zelt auf Zeltplatz)

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