Thursday, March 09, 2006

The Day the Monkey Peed on Me

My first post from Guatemala! I'll be doing lots of backdating, since it's much easier to write posts longhand and type them up in batches when I get to a computer, and I'll be making lots of typos, since Spanish keyboards take some getting used to.

So - Wednesdays flights went just fine. I arrived in Guatemala City right on schedule, sailed through customs and into Scott's arms. We taxied back to the apartment where he's been staying and made rice and beans for dinner.

A few impressions of the city - I was surprised at how dark it was flying in, how unlit. There was a sprinkling of orange lights, but nothing like the blaring whites when you fly over the East coast. I hope that means I'll get to see some stars while I'm down here. The drive through the city was congested with cars and pollution. All the walls are painted in bright colors, and there aren't many signs. Instead, store names and advertisements are painted directly onto the walls.

Up at 4:15, in a taxi by 5, on a flight to Tikal by 6. At our hotel, La Casa de Don David, shortly after 8. We checked in, hopped on 2 of the hotel's old beat-up mountain bikes, and rode a mile down the road to a bioreserve. We passed kids and horses and a pickup trick with about 10 Guatemalan men crammed in the back. We chatted with Edwin, the man who worked at the reserve for a little while. He was sitting at a table with animal skulls: two tapirs and a tepescuintle (more about that animal later). And there were a bunch of glass bottles filled with formeldahyde and reptiles and insects: a bunch of snakes, a huge spider, some sort of horned beetle called elephantito for "little elephant". There was a squirrel which was upside-down in its jar for some reason.
After preparing ourselves for the beasts we might encouter within, we started down the path into the jungle. It was green. There were all kinds of exotic trees with large leaves and funny bark. We hiked up a big hill and were suddenly rewarded by a miradore - a beautiful view of the road we had come in on, the surrounding hills and the big blue lake. It was sunny and warm and there were cool breezes; it felt good to be there.
On our way down, I felt what I thought was collected rainwater falling from the top of a tree. This seemed strange, since the rest of teh forest was completely dry. I looked up and realized that it was actually a monkey urinating from the treetops. We backed up, and Scott discovered the rest of the family on another branch overlooking the trail. They were howler monkeys, five adults and a baby, and their continued urination and defecation in our general direction made no secret of the fact that they were anxious for us to get on our way. But their lack of accuracy meant that our curiosity outlasted their bladders, so eventually they all sulked off to find another, more private branch. They have the most amazing tails. I think the best part of the encounter was watching them move through the trees. They're very graceful, almost catlike.
We also saw a lizard, a pair of woodpeckers, and a big flock of noisy black and white birds whose name we can't remember.
We got back to the hotel around 1 and went to the Don Juan (!) restaurant across the street. I wanted to get tepescuintle, an edible jungle rodent that I had read about in the guidebook, but they were all out. So Scott and I split the two other local specialties - venison and whitefish. (It was his first time eating venison! Funny, because for me it's not a foreign food at all. It reminds me of Minnesota and dinner at my grandma's house.) We lingered over the meal and returned to the hotel to a much needed siesta. I woke up before Scott and have come out to the hammock to write. I have no idea what time it is. the afternoon light is diffused by all the green leaves around me. The more I listen, the more birds I hear. In the distance, across the lawn, I can see a man trimming the hedges and the topiary with a machete. We might go for a swim later on. Or I might just lie here and watch the birds. This is a beautiful vacation.


Sister said...

Sister - before I went to El Salvador Mom told me not to go running through the jungle barefoot, that was one of the three rules she gave me. Well, there aren't any jungles in E.S. Glad that you have found them though!
- M

peekp said...

I imagine it is easier to stuff a live squirrell into a jar headfirst...