El Remate, Guatemala
We wake up early (5am) to the sounds of two roosters competing for the loudest/longest wakeup call. I haven’t checked the rooster manual lately but i’m pretty sure one call does the trick and seem to recall something about sunrise being involved. These guys got a way early start and went strong after the sun was up. Thanks... needed a bit of writing time.
As we roll out of bed with the sun we are reminded of the supernatural surroundings we pulled into last night. Our “campground” is nothing more than a 15x20’ grassy space cleared between a gate and a steep hillside/cliff with 169 stairs switchbacking up to the baños and eating area at the top of the hill. The caretakers have also carved two other niches into the cliff where tent-campers can nestle into the jungle at various elevations.
Beneath us the thick grass feels like shag carpet that was laid down before our arrival. It's soft and squishy and clearly the guy who rolled the padding did a horrible job. Every few feet theres an air bubble that you cant resist pressing down with your toes only to watch it slowly puff up with again. I feel like i should start at the center and roll each bubble out toward the edges like when we applied our window tint. Around the trees the workers didn’t want to waste carpet so they simply rolled half way up the tree. Their work is impeccable as i cant find the seams and have yet to step on a tack, but the result feels something like living in a dr suess book or playing in a padded room. Fun, but maybe a bit eerie- at least for someone who grew up in the land of kudzu and knows how fast vegetation can grow. Another day here without moving and we could be under one of those mounds of grass with someone poking at us from the other side...
A walk to the top of the cliff shows a few structures. A place for tents under a canopy, the bathroom/shower area and a kitchen. All painstakingly built by hand and all seemingly without the a single nail (save the one holding up the roll of toilet paper). Every board is cinched to the next with a random array of string, cord and wire. An simple technique that also appears to pay dividends when needing a place to store spoons, machetes, etc within arms reach. The tent platform structure is a bit more finished and uses a lath made of branches and rocks that is then stuccoed/adobed over on the inside. Cant say i remember seeing this in any of my structures classes- but it appears to work.
I finish my quick walk around playing building inspector, take an “invigorating” shower of water straight from the mountain stream (or so it seemed), and return down the slick steps to our padded room for breakfast. Jen had prepared a pasilla chile breakfast quesadilla topped with our belizean hot sauce was truly perfect.
We sit and watch the parade of children, pigs and roosters walk up and down the street outside our gate and a few locals come up to the bus to say hello and welcome us to “paradiso”. A small kid later comes up to sit on the mat, watch us and proceeds to clean up the bus (which after yesterdays drive is a bit less than tidy). We cant talk Doug into stopping until every inch of the interior is spotless and he then takes to sweeping off karma as though it will get a jump on the eventual shedding that will come. Once he’s finally given us the seal of acceptable cleanliness we fire up the bus and head back to town in hopes of some internet time before deciding on our next destination.
We had figured on driving further into the depths of Guatemalan mountains right after breakfast but we struggle to muster another long day of driving. In order to stay on fairly decent roads to the pacific we have to drive far south and back up and across country... and it seems exhausting each time we look at a map.
Once we make the decision to stay, the remainder of our day is spent as quiet and lazy as the town that surrounds us (if you don’t factor in the tour busses passing through). Lounging by the lake and eating a picnic lunch while the skies clear and the sun finally breaks through. We couldn’t help but lay on the dock, watch the clouds drift overhead and soak up the first real sunshine we’d seen in days while a pelican on the pole beside us stretches his wings to do the same.