Beach Trip

 Posted by May Wright at 4:56 am  Guatemala
Jul 062015

Saturday morning, I left for Monterrico, Guatemala – a beach town. While the beach is not overly hyped up, I was curious about it and the nature reserve nearby. I also thought it would be cool to visit the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean in the same summer. (I’ll be on the coast of Maine later on). It turned out to be a great choice.

The drive from Antigua to Monterrico is marvelous. You roll down the hills and mountains of higher altitude Antigua down what’s called the pacific slope. The scenery is constantly changing: from coffee plantations, sugarcane, to coconut trees, and yellow flowering hanging sponge plants (did you know those long tubular sponges were plants!?). With the windows open, you can definitely sense the change in air quality as well: hotter and more humid. I was excited by all there was to see along the road as we approached the coast: colorful plants and flowers, thatch roofed houses, dogs and chickens on the dirt yards, people outside doing laundry or cooking, piles burning, coca cola logos painted on shop exteriors … it’s a colorful exciting ride.

Once we arrived in Monterrico, the driver dropped the others at their hotels and the driver and I made a few more stops to find a suitable room for me. Having heard that Monterrico was hot, I wanted a room with air conditioning. We found a suitable room at El Mangle and I haggled the price down to a more reasonable level and got them to throw in breakfast. Score! I hate haggling! I then set out to walk the beach before the sun became unbearable. The black sand was already pretty warm, but once you get to the wet part it’s not so bad. I thought I would walk through the water along the coast. I did do it, but from time to time I had to stop and just hold my ground to not get sucked into the ocean. The waves are so powerful, it’s actually a little scary. I thought I could kneel down to get wet, but the water turned me over and, I had to stand back up. At that point, I had black sand ALL OVER me.

On my walk, a local Guatemalan guy stopped me. We had met briefly at the hotel earlier, and he came over to chat. Sender is a very interesting guy. More interesting than I will share here, but he spent part of his life in Los Angeles, so his English is very good. I got to visit with him more over ceviche and beer at the local restaurant hangout. This place was packed and everyone was facing a TV (maybe 20 inches? Definitely not big enough for everyone to see), watching the Argentina vs. Chile futbol match. It seems like the guy knows a lot of people around town because he was chatting with several different groups that were there and also the staff.

I left to find a hammock for a short nap and then ended up at my hotel pool. (It seems like there are pools everywhere here by the way. I guess that’s the only way to survive the heat. That and cold beer). A middle aged man got into the pool, and I asked him, “Como estas?” “Bien y usted” “bien.” Silence for a while, and then commenced 2 hours of visiting with Marcelo, an Italian, in Guatemala on business. He designs machinery for sugar production. He is quite a talker, and I enjoy listening to him. His Spanish is very… Italian. He was my breakfast and morning walk companion on Sunday as well.

Sender had told me about a volleyball game going on at Johnny’s place, one of the hotels on the beach, so I went to check it out. I joined in and it was luckily a decent match. I’m probably about mediocre, and it’s embarrassing when everyone else is really good. These guys I played with were alright – I’m sure they’re more of soccer enthusiasts. One poor guy was pretty terrible. His friends laughed from the sidelines, and I couldn’t help but laugh along with them. I think latin guys – no, probably all guys – like to tease one another. It’s funny I can usually tell what’s going on even if I can’t understand their fast Spanish. We played as the sky turned pink and finally dark, and I ended the evening with a pina colada and a nice conversation with Sender on a rooftop patio.

I had thought to go out later in the evening, but I needed my sleep for a Sunday morning 5am boat tour of the nature reserve. Laying in bed going to sleep, you can hear the powerful waves crashing. They are so monstrous it sounds like thunder!

The nature reserve tour was alright. It was pretty although the water didn’t smell too great. Apparently when it rains, it’s not so stinky because the water becomes more fresh or “dulce” as they say in Spanish. Our guide used a pole to propel us down the river, telling us about the mangroves, these trees that grow on the water with a complex network of roots that extend into the water. Really unusual plants… if I understood the Spanish correctly, those trees are the ones they use to match thatched roofs in the area.

When the tour was over at about 7:30, I went to have breakfast at the hotel: typical breakfast of ham and scrambled eggs, a sausage link, fried plantain, black beans, friend tortillas, fresh tortilla, and coffee. Marcelo joined me and we ate on the patio facing the ocean. We took a walk and braved the ocean waves. I was able to enjoy swimming since I had someone else around to see me if the ocean indeed did suck me in.

After rinsing off copious amounts of sand and freshening up, I visited with a family at the hotel pool. I had seen them the day before at the restaurant where they were watching the game.  The guy has Guatemalan family, but grew up in the US.  He’s a clean cut big guy with tattoos on his arms, so he looked pretty tough, but he turned out to be super nice. His wife was Guatemalan. The family now lives in Guatemala City.

From there I took a walk down the main street to enjoy the sights of the town. I bought a coconut for 5 quetzals (less than $1) and drank its water. I returned to my favored hammock and took a much needed nap. I noticed a girl in the hammock next to me doing some online shopping from her phone, and we started to talk. N’dege is French Canadian, here in Guatemala leading volunteer groups in construction work.  We ended up having lunch together and will likely meet again in Antigua because she already had plans to stay at Yellowhouse! Small world!

After lunch I returned to El Mangle once more to retrieve my things for the shuttle ride home. As I waited for the shuttle, a group of the wait staff from the hotel/restaurant took a break and kicked a futbol around in the street to my entertainment. It’s amazing to me what they can do with a futbol… and in flip flops too! One guy was playing latino music from his phone in his pocket. It just felt so central America!

At home, we have 3 new guests in the house, 2 of which speak no Spanish: Will, Michelle, and Eville.  It looks like I will be serving as translator for the next 2 weeks! I’m glad to do it to keep practicing though. I probably have been speaking and thinking too much English this weekend! Back to Spanish!

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