March 2013
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Month March 2013

Walking Dead tonight

WBD #1 and I had a protracted discussion about tonight’s TWD season finale, just ended.  I happen to disagree with some of her calls, mainly because I think her logic is nearly impeccable and therefore unlikely. And secondly because it’s acceptable. I think we’re going to be dealt the unacceptable.

She’s going to Facebook this for feedback, so if you see this first, go there.

But first, a tribute. George A Romero’s Night of the Living Dead


WBD’s call:

1) Glen dies. Foreshadowed by his marriage to Maggie and Hershel’s comment about how *his anger will get him killed* Because they got married either him or Maggie need to go and Maggie stands to come back hard from Glen’s death where-as Glen doesn’t have much to gain.

2) Maggie kills the Governor. Retribution for Glen, and for what the Governor did to her. And WBD thinks Maggie’s pregnant.

3) The camp acquires Milton. A perfect fit in Rick’s group’s talent gap.

4) Daryl and Martinez go toe-to-toe after the Governor is killed. They need some kind of interaction after their bond outside the warehouse.

6) Daryl kills Martinez. Retribution for Merle. Martinez loses direction after the Governor dies and is softened from him and Daryl’s previous moment, Daryl’s still seeing red.

7) Rick gives Andrea Woodbury. They don’t want her and Rick doesn’t want to grow the group. Rick and his group move on from the prison.

My call:

1) Daryl is in blind rage after Merle’s death. It’s the only good retribution story we have right now. And if he pulls it off it’s too pat. He takes on too much and it gets him killed.

2) Hershel’s killed. I don’t know how but since WBD doesn’t have any walker deaths in her scenario I’ll go death-by-walker.

3) Another shock death or two. Glen and Carol. Unless Carol, as sweet as she is, doesn’t get it on with Daryl then she’s wasting oxygen. Glen and Maggie can’t continue, it’s over, and Maggie has way too much potential whereas Glen’s tapped out.

4) Milton kills the Governor.

5) Michonne kills Andrea. Yeh!

6) Two camps, Rick’s and Woodbury can’t coexist and Rick isn’t taking on the whole lot. Which presents a problem. This problem is resolved by Rick’s group moving on from the prison on the pretext that too much loss has happened there.

7) Tyreese kills Martinez.

Neither of us could figure out what’s up with Carl.

Finales de la Semana Santa

About 200,000 people attend Holy Week in Antigua. The town has a population of 35,000.

Yesterday, Good Friday, was the final procession. It started at 4:00 am and was still, incredibly slowly, parting vast crowds at midnight.

Claudia tells me that Jesus died at 3:00 pm so instead of the purple gowns the anda bearers wore, and the purple awnings hanging from the buildings, everything somehow, somewhere, changed to black. It’s very likely, but I don’t know, that there was a massive change over of the people involved, although logistically if this was the case it must have been a challenge.

There were two andas, the first for Jesus and the second for his Mom, as Claudia put it, which somehow came across strongly but unsurprisingly.

By luck we found ourselves almost at the front of the crowd in Parque Central after dark. We waited for a hour or two, listening to the beating of drums in the distance.

Hundreds of black hooded men and black veiled women respectively protected and bore the weight of Jesus and Mary’s andas.

Apologies for the poor photo’s.


Hooded men first

Swinging large burners of scented charcoal


The first, Jesus’s, anda

It rounded a corner of the Parque in front of us. Occasionally it stops.


Then, about fifteen minutes later, Mary’s

The day crowd and the volcano

Ride update:

The bike parts missed the flight two Fridays ago, then, when they finally got on the plane they got stuck here in Guatemala waiting for commerce to resume after Holy Week. There should be a significant update on Tuesday night. Meanwhile, ready to go as usual and trying hard to stay relaxed.

Last day at school and two bus trips

Friday was the last day of school.

I got a diploma, haha


But I dodged the ceremony, against the wishes of WBD #2. I pulled this off by asking my teacher Merle to go on a bus trip to a nearby Mayan village I hadn’t been to. San Antonio is about a half hour trip and I reckoned by the time we were back the grad ceremony would be over. This worked perfectly and was totally OK with Merle.

We swopped gifts. After some consultation I was told cash is king and gave Merle some Quetzales in a Mayan-made card and envelope. Merle made me a strange card and gave me what I wanted, a back-up Mayan textile wallet.

The card she made me’s crazy since I show up in sweat-stained T-shirts


I’ll miss Merle – sharp as a whip, zany in a good way. A devout Catholic, she raises two boys with her husband in the largely Mayan village of San Andreas.

I took a short video of her yesterday to remember her by. Here she’s scolding me, haha


So off we go and here she’s being zany asking where the San Antonio bus waits. Notice how the lady is thinking, whoa


Here she asks the bus driver when he leaves.


On we go and the bus waits while a fellow stands up front and does an interesting thing (see the video below). The fellow stood in front of us, introduced himself. He was carrying a large pot of candies. He then walked up the isle and gave us each two. Everyone (except me) knew what was coming and despite that graciously accepted them.

He then returned to the front and explained that he was once a robber (ladrone) which is the main thing here outside of not being a robber. He explained at great length that he saw how terrible he had been, but now he saw the terribleness of himself and how industriously he’s working to live a righteous life and we should buy the candies.

Here’s the guy on the bus doing his thing


Here’s the interesting thing:

1) everyone accepted the candies, before he started in on us

2) the Mayan passengers have all heard this before, maybe everyday

3) they listened politely and intently, no dissenters

4) they all bought the candies when he came around to either collect them, or accept 1 Quetzal.

5) Merle say the Mayans go along with this because it’s not a heist, it’s a philosophy and the immediate picture isn’t the point.

The Mayans keep their ways a secret, but here’s an example of their thoughtfulness. When they graft onto rootstock, they apply the new graft under a new moon at perigee because, obviously, the most important thing is that moisture from the root stock flows with maximum advantage into the new growth, and the greater gravitational attraction of a that moon gives it a very small edge. They know it’s tiny, but tiny still helps.

Arriving at San Antonio, off the tourist map, the bus stop. Anything not very old is cinder block construction. Same as Mexico, but done best by the Hopi of Arizona, who’ve taken cider block to a higher place altogether. As usual, they don’t clip the rebar when they’ve finished the build.


Then a walk into town


Past a washing tank


From the second story of a market there was a loudspeaker instructing school girls how to get organized for the procession, among other things


Down in the church square the girls were lining up, being measured for shoulder height with a pole across their shoulders. The following two photos are intentionally shot from behind. The Mayans don’t like to be photographed and you generally have to ask


The young boys had already started up a street with their anda


Yesterday Claudia and I went to San Felipe to see the display


So ends a busy week.

This morning I downloaded more software for Basecamp. I’ve found that no two maps have all the answers. One GPS map is strong in one area, another in another. It makes route building a little more complicated but as of now I have a series of route options plugged in and we’ll see which way the wind takes me.

The final parts come into Guatemala City Tuesday. Then a couple of days of re-building.

Everything else is ready for a quick shakedown.

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The highlight of Holy Week in Antigua is the Procession. Preceding it are 5 Processions over 5 weeks.

Briefly the Procession is two groups of men carrying andas over a route between churches that winds through the streets of Antigua, over (and destroying) the beautiful flower and dyed sawdust carpets for a few miles.

The carpets

An anda

Tens of thousands of people watch from the sides of the streets, it’s the event of the year, and it’s a good idea to pick a spot a couple of hours in advance. If you’re tall you’re in luck. I’ve a few not-so-tall friends so out of tact I’ve avoided mentioning the most glaring truth about Guatemaltecas other than their good nature when unarmed. The average height is 1.65 meters. This is about .17 meters short of less than, er, a fair deal. This explains why I have to take the pictures of the militia at a bit of a distance and crop the photo hard. If I crouched down for a shot of a guy with a shotgun that might not end well. But a bit of height’s a huge advantage in a crowd so I had a great view and Claudia’s (shortish) studying for an English exam the next day so no problem.

Basically the Procession’s an opportunity for Antiguans, who’ve sinned in the preceding year, to shoulder the load of an anda, as Jesus (if you like) did with the cross. They have to pay some money. For this, they’re totally absolved of their sins. Piece of cake.

It may not look like it but 86 men carry two andas, a few hundred yards apart, total 172 men. They switch men every block or so because there are more than 172 sinning men in Antigua. This is interesting to know because then you can do the math given Antigua has a population of 35,000 and let’s guess 40 change-overs. It’s a whopping percentage of sinners. But it’s all relative. Hopefully the sins here are, on average, no greater than forgetting to take out the garbage. But if this was home, West Van, it would be the entire male population out there the percentage might be a bit higher.

So I have my spot in the crowd – it’s a great spot because the street here is narrow.

Here are a few photo’s and some short videos.

Walking early downtown

It gets crazier as various groups and camps position themselves


Views are at a premium. This kid was almost the only gringo I saw all day. The tourists for some reason avoided all this. Maybe because it was fairly intense. Their loss.

So, rather than pics, a few short videos of what happens next. The sounds and movement are much more impressive.

First, the incense

then the anda comes into view

and closer

and then it’s here

After, the Guatemaltecas hung around the various parks

Last to leave are the beautiful, thoughtful, Mayans

I wondered about the chaotic mess that used to be wonderful carpets but soon that was dealt with too

I could try to describe all the activities but it would fall far short of doing this day justice, so best to not try.


El Calvario

We headed south early, away from the crowds to the very southern edge of town, towards the volcano

Far south, the walled town opens up to grand avenues

Until you arrive at El Calvario

The yellow and white are as vivid as La Merced. It’s spread out low in an enclosed courtyard

After reading Elizabeth Bell’s story, the history is comparatively unremarkable. But the location is precise and at the end of the distance from itself to San Francisco church at 1322 steps – the distance Jesus took (if you like) on the way to his crucifixion. It was built in 1618 or 1619, destroyed by an earthquake in 1717 and rebuilt 3 years later. Needless to say it’s beautiful.

We had a late breakfast at the foot of these deep gardens (also a plant nursery) at Vivero de le Escalonia and if you ever come here, this is as good as the food can be in Guatemala.

Oh Claudia stop with that already


We were talking about food and I’d forgotten to mention to her that after school yesterday (I’d gone to the village of San Bartolo, which is actually attached to Antigua and is just a ten minute walk from the school building) and had pepain de pollo for lunch. She was horrified I did that. I hadn’t thought it was a big deal. It looks like this

The problem with this dish and with the another ubiquitous dish, chili rellino, is that this is public market, or roadside, food. This doesn’t work for Claudia. But it works for me. For a couple of reasons. I’m no great foody but if you haven’t eaten a carrot or any vegetable really down here somewhere you haven’t lived. Like oranges and cantaloupe the produce explodes with flavour. Everything roadside or in a market is fresh, except maybe the meat. It may not be safe is the problem as you know and this complex subject is for another post. But one thing worth mentioning is that Helge told me he doesn’t get sick because he brushes his teeth in the tap water. Well Marty took that advice and he looked like he nearly killed himself vomiting. And Bill, his sidecar ballast and navigator, after the same advice, started the whole huge drama over again the day after Marty recovered. Amazing really. My turn soon I guess. I’ll take photos.

Here’s a typical but safe-looking market set-up

And this section of the market is nearly all food stalls

Tomorrow is another long walk after an early start, so an early crash.


Tour update

I’m getting some email heat about not being out on the road.

I’m two weeks late. The plan was for six weeks at school in Antigua and now it’s eight.

Well today Taz told me, when I visited Lucinda, that the shipment of parts had been returned to the L.A. dealer because the crate was insufficiently strong. You can imagine my reaction. The final parts list was written weeks ago. I won’t bore you with details but it’s been, er, a bit difficult.

So we’re looking at about two more weeks before getting back on the road. The route is planned. Gear has been sorted. And I continue to go to school five days a week. I have a friend, Claudia Josephine, an aristocratic Guatemalan girl, who wants to improve her english as I want to improve my spanish, and I’ve asked the staff at my hotel to never speak english to me. So the extra couple of weeks has been valuable. And my previously broken body has appreciated the extra time.

So what’s first when I’m out of here? The sea. In 56 years I’ve never been far from it. It has a (not inexplicable) hold on me and the route there from here is uncommon and perhaps a little challenging. There’s little or nothing down there except for black sand, incredible heat and vampire bats. Perfect.



Arming up

The definitive book on the architectural history of Antigua was written by Elizabeth Bell, a University professor in Guatemala City. She’s lived here for 44 years.

Last night, a concert at the beautiful Compania de Jesus. Bell says the Monastery was planned by two Jesuits in 1607 and functionally completed in 1626. Like all the building here it’s been tested by the various earthquakes and has of course failed. It survived the quake of 1717 but took serious damage in 1751, was abandoned after the quake of 1773 and became a textile factory in 1865. But the quake of 1976 did it in and what you see below is a simple facade, literally propped up by/with funds from the government and UNESCO. In my opinion it wasn’t designed to seduce like La Merced, nearly everyone’s favourite. It seems to have been designed to scare. It’s power makes it my favourite in Antigua.

Here it is with a sound stage in front of it. My little point-and-shoot does odd things and in this case makes it look small. It’s huge as you’ll see in the following video.

Antigua is now officially crazy, with ten days to go before it explodes with the final procession. I’m not posting the various forms of madness because apparently it gets more intense, so we’ll wait before taking final photos.

Anyway some things come in from out of Guatemala. Last night, at Compania de Jesus, a band with the marketing disaster of a name McNally Smith Fusion played to a rapt local audience, who couldn’t figure them out at all, sat in chairs and didn’t move an inch all night. But the band was good.


Today the town continues to arm up. On top of the local forces the army and special elite force are moving in.


I chatted with these two guys for a while about nothing in particular so I could soften them up for a photo. Easier said than done because they’re all looking a bit tense
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Around the central park (Parque Central) is an elite force. Not only is the gear completely different but so are the individuals, who have the air of being completely on their game.

A few things

Today started with school kids in the streets again. The theme seemed to be school athletics. The teachers were maintaining control from scooters. And the huge speakers were pumping out Guatemalan rock. It’s Lent, so the festival spirit is everywhere.


Like yesterday, this was happening outside of my Spanish school. So back inside the conversation turned to music. I tend to pepper poor Merle with questions and here is what I extracted:

The most popular western male musician is Elton John.

The most popular western female musician is Whitney Houston

The most popular group is Air Supply. Well this was a bit of a shock. Who?? I went to YouTube to check them out and they’re like ABBA but with even less attitude.

The most popular Spanish-speaking musician in Central America is Ricardo Arjona. Merle said his name with reverence. Here’s Ricardo. He was taking a pee at the time by the looks of things. Oh well.


I’m rambling.

After school I head off to the Contessa, a little inside-terrace cafe for lunch

Inside about 100 feet there are tables around a fountain with the Guatemalan equivalent of a crow. They’re everywhere, behaving like crows
P1040570The thing about the Contessa and this building is that at one time the Count was away doing Count things and came home to find his wife, the Contessa had been having an affair. This story goes back 200 years. He found the hombre malo and walled him up, alive, in the building. Such is legend. Until 1976, when an earthquake came through town, levelled 3000 buildings, killing 23,000 and lo-and-behold, an upright skeleton was found behind a broken wall right in the courtyard where I have lunch. So keep a chisel in your back pocket I guess.

On my walk home someone had taken a shotgun to the gates of a Hotel. A warning maybe. Or jealousy again. The owner looked scared.

And since we’re on the subject of guns and stuff, here’s the end of the story of the Russian rider in the previous post.

I’ve no comment on whether the crash was his fault or not. But by the guy’s account, when he saw the truck veer left, in his mind cutting him off, he assumed they were bandidos and he was in serious trouble. So as he went down, suspecting the worst, rolled as he fell and reached for the weapon he keeps in his jacket pocket. This is his weapon of choice