BootsnAll Travel Network

Edwin's Blog, how's that for a title!

Quit my job and roadtripped across the US, traveled in Central America, cycled the Pacific Coast, got a new job (and worked for 10 months), now I'm back roadtripping up to Alaska!

One more thing

March 24th, 2006

Wanted to give a shout out to Nicole and Amy, both celebrating birthdays this weekend.  Feliz Cumpleanos!  And more cool stuff about ticks…

Ticks are the leading carriers of diseases to humans in the United States, second only to mosquitoes worldwide. It is not the tick bite but the toxins or organisms in the tick’s saliva transmitted through the bite that cause disease.

Ticks are arthropods, like spiders. There are more than 800 species of ticks throughout the world. They are responsible for carrying such diseases as Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Lyme disease, babesiosis (Texas fever), ehrlichiosis, and tularemia (also transmitted via rabbits), as well as Colorado tick fever and Powassan (a form of encephalitis).

In addition to disease transmission, ticks can also cause tick paralysis. This condition occurs when neurotoxins in the tick saliva make you ill; cause paralysis of the body; and in extreme cases, can stop you from breathing in extreme cases.

Two groups of ticks are important to humans because of the diseases they can transmit:

  • Hard ticks have a tough back plate or scutum that defines their appearance. The hard ticks tend to attach and feed for hours to days. Disease transmission usually occurs near the end of a meal, as the tick becomes full of blood. Some of the more common hard ticks are these:
    • American dog tick
    • Wood tick
    • Deer tick (they carry Lyme disease)
    • Lone star tick
  • Soft ticks have more rounded bodies and do not have the hard scutum found in hard ticks. These ticks usually feed for less than 1 hour. Disease transmission can occur in less than a minute. The bite of some of these ticks produces intensely painful reactions. Two common soft ticks found in the United States are the Pajaroello tick and spinose ear tick.
  • Outbreaks of tick-related illnesses follow seasonal patterns as ticks evolve from larvae to adults. They hide in low brush to hitch a ride on a potential host. Ticks require a “blood meal” to grow and survive, and they are not very particular upon whom or what they feed. If these freeloaders don’t find a host, they may die.
    • Once a tick finds a host—such as you, your pet, a deer, a rabbit—and finds a suitable site for attachment, the tick begins to burrow with its mouthparts into exposed skin. Tick mouthparts are barbed, which helps to secure them to the host.
    • Often the tick secrets “cementum” to more firmly anchor its mouthparts and head to the host. Ticks may secrete or regurgitate small amounts of saliva that contain neurotoxins. These nerve poisons cleverly prevent you from feeling the pain and irritation of the bite. You may never notice the tick feeding on you. The saliva may contain a blood thinner to make it easier for the tick to get its blood meal.

Okay, now I’m really going now, hopefully I can find internet access at my next destination, I doubt it, but check back next Monday for my Tick update!  Yeah, right on man, ticks SUCK.  (another bad pun intended)…


HATE is such an angry word

March 24th, 2006

After 5 days of hiking over 100 km through the hot, sweltering jungle of El Peten to see the ancient preclassic Mayan ruins of El Mirador, and after over 100 mosquito, tick and flea bites all over my legs, face, neck, wrists, arms and hands, I can say that I have almost survived this trek. But I am not out of the woods yet, pun intended. I guess this would be a good time to say that guides have gotten a bad rep over the last 3 years because they did not bring enough food and water supplies for their clients, or in some cases, they pull out their machetes to demand more money or whatever. Just a few weeks ago, an American named Eli related this story to me about a group that experienced the guide from hell. So during day 2 when Markus, Kirk and I were being driven hard through the jungle at a demanding pace and all of our things were on the mules behind us on the trail, we had a momentary thought of “We are in the middle of nowhere and we don’t have any of our supplies with us.” But now back in civilization, I am glad to report that we made it back safely and our guides were excellent and we were well taken care of.

After wearing the same shirt and same pants for 6 days (but I did change my socks and underwear!), the stickiness of my body sweat combined with sunscreen and inspect repellent spray and repellent lotion, made for one dirty and smelly guy. Combine that with 2 other dudes wearing hiking shoes for that period, and when you take us together as we take off our shoes and socks in our hotel room after our excursion, LOOK OUT, biohazard zone! We found the best hotel we could in Flores with AC, a pool, hot showers and cable TV. We’re splurging and we deserve it. I had my scoop of chocolate ice cream last night, and my pancakes this morning. All seems pretty good.

But there is something I just have to say. There are not many things I hate in this world. That is such a strong and aggressive word, “HATE.” But I can now say that after one week of putting up with this, with passion and full of scorn, I declare war and HATE towards mosquitoes and ticks. The ironic thing is that this is the best season to hike El Mirador, as the rainy season just brings them out in droves.  But I still have had my fair share of these blood sucking agents of disease and marks all over my body.  And unfortunately, despite being back in luxury accomodations, we didn’t quite manage to rid ourselves of all jungle creatures.  As I type this I am keeping a close eye on my little friend, TICK, attached to my stomach and getting bigger and bigger.  I tried to drown it out in a hot shower and now after spending some time on the internet, it shows that I should remove it as soon as it is discovered.  Well great.  I thought it would just have its fill and detach itself from my body when it is full.  Man I wish I knew more about this things BEFORE it happens.  So I’m done with this internet, I’m heading back to our room to see if I can find some tweezers.  Sheesh.  I better not get some stupid disease or infection or tick paralysis.  I’ll be back in Xela in another 8 days and should have a full detailed trip report about El Mirador.  Or maybe you’ll see me back in Portland sooner because I’ve developed a severe reaction to whatever I’m carrying in my body.  Maybe this is some super undiscovered new breed species of tick and I have little ticks traveling all throughout my body and I’ll slowly transform into a tick.  Wow, too many horror movies I guess.  Okay, I’m outta here, me and my little friend TICK, which I HATE.


Sunday market trip to Chichi

March 20th, 2006

While I am spending the week hiking to the Mayan ruins of El Mirador north of Tikal, please enjoy some pics of previous weeks in and around Xela. A big thanks to my bud Yuhwen from Chicago, who has generously let me use her card reader to upload these photos. Check back each day as I’ll have other photos and trips posted to this blog.

Today is a recap of my visit to Chichitenango, home of one of the biggest crafts and vendor markets in Central America. Every Sunday and Thursday the town is transformed into hundreds of vendors and stalls selling everything from livestock, food, fabrics, masks and other crafts.

On one Sunday I had signed up with my school, Sakribal, to go with a maestro and another student, Chelsia, to the market. We were supposed to leave at 7am, but by 7:15 when no one had shown up, I decided to go on my own. Fortunately the day before, I ran into another acquaintance from another school, and she had mentioned that her school was also going. So I figured I could try to find her and hitch a ride…


I stowed away on this bus with students from Xelas Maya. On this week they had almost 100 students in the school, and about 40 took the trip to Chichi.


Bus stop with a view.


Another view of the countryside around and below.


Walking through the market to the Mayan ceremonial ground. I was accompanied by 6 other students and 2 maestros from the school. Otherwise there are independent guides hanging around the town offering their services to tourists for a small fee.


Hiking up to get to the ceremonial site.


The ritual site for Mayans, combining Christian beliefs with indigenous ones.


Offering alcohol and other gifts.


Lots of handcarved masks.


The place can get very crowded, watch your pockets and wallet!


Offering beautiful materials.


More beautiful fabrics for scarfs, blankets, ponchos and more.


Rows and rows of vendors.


Hot sweet milk with rice for only 25 cents.


I also tried a local meal… fried chicken, fried papas, salad, tortillas, beans and a gaseous (soda pop). Not bad for about $3.


A shot from the street.


One more look at the colors of the fabrics before heading back on the bus and back to Xela.


Explicit Photos

March 18th, 2006

> You are forewarned. Do not scroll down if you are
> easily offended or just had something to eat, or are
> about to eat something. Very very very very
> explicit photos, Rated X for Xtreme resemblence to
> something you shouldn’t eat!
> A few weeks back in my first homestay, one of my
> blog posts decribed a breakfast that I received that
> was basically a bowl of frijoles negros, boiled
> platanos and cream. One or two bites and I could
> take no more. So when my host mom wasn’t looking
> (which is easy to do because she rarely ate with me
> — actually, she NEVER ate with me at breakfast), I
> found a plastic tumbler and and dumped the food
> stuff in there. I took it to my room to smuggle it
> out later, but it ended up being two days later. Oh
> where, oh where could I dump this beautiful
> breakfast? The pics need no explanation, here they
> are without further ado.
> IMG_4477.JPG
> IMG_4480.JPG
> IMG_4528.JPG
> IMG_4529.JPG
> IMG_4530.JPG
> IMG_4531.JPG
> #img7#
> ———————————
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Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

March 17th, 2006

Hope you have at least one piece of green on today, cause today is the time to celebrate St Patrick’s Day! It’s not a big deal down here in Guatemala, but it is important to at least acknowledge St. Patrick on this Friday, March 17th. For those that have been raised in the public schools or on the Star Trek version of the history of St. Patrick, you have been misled by the corporate marketing machines of McDonald’s, General Motors and Enron.

Saint Patrick is not named after ESPN anchor Dan Patrick. And he is not named after Volcano Patrick, only biggest volcano on Jupiter that has yet to be discovered because he haven’t managed to land a man there yet. Saint Patrick is named after his father, Saint Patrick Luis the Terrible IV. A renowned and legendary pirate known the world over, his son, SPLT V took up his father’s trade and carried on the family name and tradition as his forefathers before him.

However, one day the political climate changed and with it, the the old days when Vikings traded salts, pelts and oil for currency had moved on to a more streamlined and efficient means of economy. SPLT V soon found himself out of work when an embargo was placed on foreign built ships. The pirate collective, once his friends and close brotherhood of warriors, chose to reject any of his efforts to maintain ties. So, with his Japanese built vessle, he sailed around the world 6 times with his family, before finally ending up in modern day Guatemala.

Here, he met the local natives and introduced the exotic spice, “canela”, to add flavor to their mosh, eggs, frijoles negros and cup o noodles. Word spread about this incredible condiment, and since Ebay had not been invented yet, rulers from nearby villages and from further away sent their representatives to negotiate with Saint Patrick on setting up trade routes and exchanges. Saint Patrick really enjoyed his new found status of acceptance, and instead of retorting back to his old pirate ways of plunder and pillage, he shared in his wisdom and skill with no need for favors returned. Unfortunately, the collective heard about his generosity and were angered by this. Why would a pirate go soft and have a change of heart? With that, they set up a bounty on him. Years of eluding bounty hunters finally caught up to him, when Saint Patrick was captured by the most famous hunter of all, Jango Fett. The discovery of these new lands made headlines in Europe and other populated
areas, and consequently, opened up the possibilities for other kings’ explorers to claim land for their rulers. As an unintended consequence, these lands were soon overrun with other conquerers such as Spanish conquistador Pedro Alvador. So although Saint Patrick is known around these parts for intruducing cinnamon to the locals, he is also known as the man who brought in the foreign invaders, and thus, any celebration for him is not done with big fanfare or in the honorary tradition of other countries.

Well, maybe in another parallel universe anyways. Please check back each day beginning this Monday at 12pm as I’ll have entries actually related to my travels posted to this blog, but in the meantime, enjoy your personal celebration of St. Patrick’s Day, whether it be with green beer, a viewing of the classic “Leprechan 5 in Space” or indulging in Shepard’s Pie, Irish Dancing and music at Kell’s.

 Postnote:  for some reason my entries for next week may post all at once over the weekend and may not pop up each day at 12pm as planned.  If this happens, just pretend that each entry has appeared at 12pm each day.  Or if you are just so super bored at work or whatever, you can read them all in one sitting.  I should have interent access again next week on Saturday to post my trip report from my hike to El Mirador.


Traveler Profile: Meet David

March 16th, 2006

I hung out with the Yale TGIF’s (Thank God I’m a Forester), Caroline and Bridgid in San Marcos, and after dinner we chatted with a fellow American, David.


David is a middle aged guy from Colorado, and has spent the last few weeks in Guatemala, Honduras,  El Salvador and Nicaragua.  The following are this thoughts and may or may not be the truth, but they are his feelings about the people and places he has traveled to.  Pretty fascinating guy, so I thought I’d share with you the most striking parts of our conversation.


– When he travels, he tries to keep his feet washing to a minimum.  Whether or not  he changes his socks every other day, or every other week, I do not know.  He does this so that when he is in a crowded bus or train compartment, if he wants some privacy, all he needs to do is take off his shoes.  The putrid odor of his feet are usually enough to get people away from him.  I am not  going to include his picture, so just in case you run into a traveler with really horrible foot odor, you might as well as him if his name is David.


– He doesn’t care much for India or most of the people.  He says folks that travel to and through India either love it or hate it.  He believes their society is corrupted by money.  You can’t trust anybody because they’re just trying to rip you off or take your money.  Kids, mothers, fathers, men, women, pets, cows and everything else in between poop and pee in public everywhere.  Sanitation is a huge problem.  (Sidenote:  my friend Shirley once told me  that there is a certain smell about  India that you can never forget…could it be the public bathroom odor she is referring to?). 


– David adds that he knows a guy who manages a factory in India.  They make radiator caps for cars.  The failure rate is 6 parts per million.  Million.  But the the European automobile manufacturers rejected a shipmet because of the high fecal bacterial count once the boxes were opened.


– More India.  Electricity is not reliable, so refrigeration is a problem and you should probably eat vegetarian when you go there, since the chances of eating spoiled meat are high.


– He recounted an experience with trying to use the public buses in India.  Another Swiss guy was stuck in some town for 3 days, as transportation officials stated that all the buses and trains are full.  But David discovered that it is all a sham.  This particular town had this thing going where they steer all the foreigners and tourists away from the public transportation and towards private cabs and similar services.  This way the charge will be higher and everyone gets a kickback.


–  He doesn’t like dogs because they won’t leave you alone.  He prefers cats.


– He had his bag slashed in Guatemala.  On the bus.  His bag was in the overhead rack and they still got to it.  They didn’t take anything important, but he did have to spend some money to fix his bag and jacket.  He is the 5th person I’ve met that has had his/her bag slashed.


– Out of the four countries he has visited, he feels most unsafe in Guatemala, especially walking around at night.  He prefers to hike volcanoes and go to the natural areas without a guide, just on his own, but in Guatemala it is just about mandatory because of all the armed robberies that have occured on mountain trails.  He also says that in El Salvador, there is not one tree left in the  entire country (I’ve heard this from many people).


– In Phoenix, his brother puts the legs of his baby’s crib inside glass jars.  That way, scorpions can’t climb up the glass and into the crib.


One of the greatest aspects of traveling is meeting other fellow travelers, swapping tales and stories and seeing what makes them tick.  David is certainly one character that I had a fun evening with.  For those of you that have been to India or have lived there, feel free to respond.


Photo Tour of more Food

March 14th, 2006

While I am physically and mentally restoring my senses at the lake, please enjoy the following photos. Food is always on my mind, especially since I survived my first month on little to eat! But now that I am at the lake, I have carte blanche as far as what I care to eat! More tomorrow!


My stash of candy from home. When this was taken, I had alread eaten half of what I brought. Today, most of them are now extinct. Only one Take 5, one BabyRuth and the gum remain. Conservation efforts have been slow as the Bush administration believes that we’ll find more of these gems somewhere in Alaska, but we’ll just have to exploit, er I mean explore, it more.


The fresh icecream man!! For 1 Quetzel, or about 20 cents, I can get my wafer cone made fresh. I described this in a previous post, so here is the proof. It is totally portable and he can push it practically anywhere, but he’s main spot is in front of Parque Central.


The magician at work.


Tricks of the trade. He has his big metallic cylinder, which is placed on top of ice. He pours in some liquid cream and some flavoring, then takes about 2 minutes to swirl the cylinder around the ice, which freezes the sides and then freezes the liquid into a smooth ice cream.


For another Queztel you can upgrade to a waffle cone.


During our 30 minute morning break from classes, a local lady comes in with her home cooked food. Everything from tortillas with eggs and black beans (gee, where have I seen this before) to hamburgers, empanadas, cakes and more.


We hang outside in front of the school on the tiny sidewalk. Right on schedule our fruit lady is there every morning at 10:30.


Across the street from Parque Central are numerous food vendors selling a lot of great fried foods.


Corn on the cob! But just be sure that you let the lady know not to SMOOTHER it in mayonaise and mustard before it’s too late!


This vendor rocks, he has his system down and watching him perform his taco making ability is reminisent of Tom Cruise in “Cocktail” doing all those fancy bottle tricks. Okay, not as good but it is still fun to watch him make the tacos.


Renewal at Lake Atitlan

March 13th, 2006

I am dirty, grimey, tired, sore, and I’m loving it. I just enjoyed a huge serving of Indian food for just over $3. Fabulous soup, wheat bread, salad, rice, steamed veggies, mashed potatoes and a small glass of fresh lemonade. My body needed it. All the starch and the veggies. Because once again, my stomach was afflicted with the “Rejection” bug for most of the morning today.

Great, great hike. Beautiful weather all 3 days. Saturday’s highlight was cramming into a small sauna sweat lodge and dousing myself with cold and warm water. Sunday was a chicken feast at “Don Pedro’s” home. And today was a swim in the lake after all that hiking. I am definitely tired. Decided not to go back to Xela today. If I did, then I would have signed up for the full moon hike up Santa Maria for tomorrow evening. But my body needs a rest. And what better place than at Lake Atitlan?

Tonight I am in San Pedro. I fit in perfectly well here, because I am so dirty and have little money. Many of the gringos and foreigners here come here for the Spanish schools, the cheap food, cheap booze, cheap accomodation and because you can be unshaven, unclean and not have showered for a few days. I fit that description, so I guess this must be my place. A few months back I paid $9 to store my backpack at the Amtrak Union Station in Chicago for 5 hours. Here, for $2, I have a basic room with a bed and a door for my overnight rest. For $5 more, I could have upgraded to a more luxurious dormitory at another place, “Hotel Mikaso,” right on the lake with a rooftop terrace overlooking the whole area. But I need my $5 to treat myself to a good old American breakfast tomorrow — at a Thai restaurant. After breakfast, the plan is to take the lancha (small motorboat) across the lake to San Marcos, the spiritual and yoga capital for this area. But with the full moon on tap for
tomorrow, I’m a little worried about getting a room, since many month long workshops and such begin according to the lunar calendar. Maybe next time I’m down here I can try that out.

Woke up this morning at 4:10, where we packed up our bags and started hiking on the road at 4:40 under a setting moon (is that the right word? set??) and as the stars faded away to reveal the beginnings of dawn. We made our way to a viewpoint, where we had hot tea and started cooking oatmeal. And waited for the sun to climb over the peaks and fill the sky with light. Our view was over the lake just above San Juan Laguna, and after we had our fill of breakfast and the warmth of the sun, we hiked over to another viewpoint, and then down down down to San Juan. Many in our group developed blisters and hot spots on their feet. Fortunately I came away unscathed, except for sore leg muscles and shoulders. But I am definitely tired. And need to get back my step in time for next weekend, as Markus, Kirk and I plan to get to Tikal in one day/night, and then hire a local guide to get us to the El Mirador ruins. That’s the plan anyways.

And my plan is to bid y’all a good night. Check my page tomorrow, as I’ll have some pics of my favorite subject, FOOD, from prior weeks in Xela. Time to go relax now, although the food and accomodations are cheap, internet is expensive!!


A Weekend Hike

March 10th, 2006

I’m off early tomorrow morning for my weekend hike, my last week of school has gone by very fast and I’ve enjoyed staying with my new family and hanging out with my friends from school. Wednesday night was clubbing night at the only gay bar, dancing to the likes of Queen, Culture Club, Cyndi Lauper and I can’t remember the group that sings Y-M-C-A (is there any gay dance club that doesn’t play that song?). Then it was up to Kokolocos for merenge (sp?) and a different kind of flava. My stomach ache has gone away and I am ready for tomorrow’s hike? I spent this afternoon checking out a local art exhibit, and I thought I’d share some of the pieces for this weekend. There are a few other pictures sprinkled in there as well. Check back Monday for another post, I may or may not stay at the Lake as it looks like hiking El Mirador may be sooner instead of later. Enjoy the weekend!

The art exhibit is from the “Escuela Humberto Gravitar”. A private art school with students of all ages, these pieces are watercolor, acrylics, oils and other medium formats.












Chinese buffet restaurants are everywhere in the world. This one we found charges you more if you DON’T finish all the food on your plate!


This is the religious time of year, and this march from the church featured little boys and little girls carrying the showpieces.



A Memory Card Reader! Here are some pics…

March 9th, 2006

My replacement memory card reader still has not come, looks more doubtful as each day passes, but one of my amigas, Yuhen from Chicago, let me borrow her reader so I can finally upload some pics! Thanks for all your comments regarding the trip to Momostenango, and Mel your comment under “New Home, New Food” made my stomach rumble and caused it to begin a labor strike / protest against the real food I’ve been eating down here. Because once again my pobre (poor) stomach has been inflicted with the Curse. For the past few days I have attempted to convince myself and all of you readers that I can handle black beans, eggs and tortillas, but not just all at once. Well, it looks like I will now only be able to eat one at a time and not with the others, because this morning for the 4th morning in a row it was eggs, black beans and bread/tortillas.

My body finally said “Enough.” So in the later morning during my class, I had a horrible stomach ache, which I still have as a write this. I am just glad that I am here, close to modern restrooms (still can’t put anything in the toilets, though), instead of hiking up a mountain or volcano. I am hopeful that my body can recuperate in time for Saturday’s 3-day trek. When I sit down tomorrow morning for breakfast with those black beans and eggs and tortillas looking at me, I will just have to pass. Because my stomach can’t take anymore punishment and my body needs its water.

But at least my lunch kicked ass! Soup, grilled tortillas with melted cheese, cucumber and red pepper salad, watermelon and a sweet mandarin drink. Here are the pics of my new home and some of the food I’ve eaten the past few days!


My room actually has a closet with shelves! And no bed bugs!!! It is spartan and small, but with a bed, desk, chair and a place to put things on a shelf, I love it!


My bed, with actually SHEETS that are soft and comfortable. I don’t need to sleep in my sleeping bag and can actually enjoy sleeping in a warm environment.


I have an outlet to charge my camera battery, and even a calendar hanging on the wall. Such luxury! (compared to my previous homestay)


This picture was taken looking from the dining area into the central courtyard. The closed door ahead is to my bedroom, the open door is for another bedroom that my father’s sister is currently using this week with her two daughters, and on the right next to my room is another door for my small bathroom. The house is quite spacious, and my family could host more students but Olga, the school director, is quite strict about having more than one student per household (but having more than one student is quite the norm despite her rule).


The dining room. The glass of juice is freshly squeezed mango mixed with water, sooo goooood.


Chicken broth rice soup, a little out of focus because I was trying to be quick in taking my picture without being noticed.


Lunch this week. Actual meat? And veggies? And a wonderful sauce? I definitely have been missing out.


Breakfast mush and a roll. I actually like mush, which is a sweetened cream of wheat kind of hot breakfast.


Chicken pasta soup.


My lunch today, yum yum yum.


My mom, (I can’t believe I forgot her name, so embarrassing) and her daughters in law Andrea (the really tall 5 year old) and Jemena, who will turn 3 on Saturday.

I will upload the rest of my pictures into my future emails, so while I still wait around for my replacement at least I’ll have the opportunity to post my pics from my hikes and other activities. And before I go, here’s a quick shout out to Angela, celebrating her birthday today. Welcome to the 30’s amiga, they are not as bad as you might think! Feliz cumpleaos!