I wake to my camera alarm in my pitch-black room, at 3:40AM. There are signs posted telling guests, for their safety, it’s prohibited to leave the hotel property after 9pm. Panthers, jaguars, and pumas hunt here, so I can understand why. It seems I’m the only one awake at the hotel at this hour. It’s a chilly morning, and having my sandals on feels good. With my flashlight, I make my way across the unlit property toward the information booth. There’s actually no connection to a power grid out here, thankfully, because it makes it another of those rare nights where the Milky Way Galaxy is overwhelmingly bright. It turns out, I’m not alone, when I spot guards with shotguns paroling the parking lot.

Photo Album of Guatemala / Álbum de Fotos de Guatemala
Photo Album of Ciapas, Mexico / Álbum de Fotos de Chiapas, Mexico

    I use Alberto’s flashlight as a beacon. While waiting for the rest of the group, two young people walk up from the darkness, and inquire about the price of the tour. I meet Adrian from the Netherlands and Geyser from Finland. We begin hike into the jungle and in 20 minutes we reach the base of Temple IV, the tallest Mayan pyramid in Central America. We climb 70 meters of wooden stairs to reach the top for a view to the east of Temples I, II, and III as the sun rises over the jungle canopy, directly between them.
    At 4:30 a large fog rolls in, covering the canopy and us on the pyramid. By 5:00 the fog had cleared for us to witness the sunrise. Howler monkeys begin their loud vocalizing. Three temples are the only structures I can see from above the canopy. I sit where Mayan Kings, Architects, and Astrologers once sat, 2,500 years ago, watching the same sunrise to the east, directly between pyramids piercing through the trees. We descend to the jungle floor. The stairway is necessary because everything below this photo looks like a steep mountainside.

View from Temple IV (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

View from Temple IV; in order from left to right, Temple I, II, and II (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Top of Temple IV, ~10 meters that has been excavated (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

    As we near our next set of ruins, the howler monkeys we began hearing at sunrise begin their calls again. I’m told by the guide to go down a path that says “No Pasar” (Do Not Pass) and he and the rest will catch up. I start my camera’s recorder.

Howler Monkeys (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Leaf-cutter ant mound (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Excuse me, I see some vines that need climbing (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Mortar-making chamber. Wood was laid down, then limestone on top. After lighting the wood from the hole, it heated the limestone, breaking it down to powder. This powder was mixed with water and sand, and cured for 30 days before use. (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Limestone food storage cellar (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Inside the food storage cellar (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Toucan (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Mundo Perdido (Lost World) (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Cajones de Caballo (horse balls), unripened. The sap can be used as a glue (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

A “strangler” fig tree (Genus Ficus) (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Temple through the trees (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

600+ year old cedar tree (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Covered temple (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Model of the 7 temples that are currently being restored (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Restoration crew at work (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

The first three steps of this temple have been restored. Notice the deterioration of the fourth (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

One of the restored 7 temples; notice the white mortar (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

A group of coatis forage past us (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Coati (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Temple V (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Probably the steepest stairway I’ve encountered (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

View from the top (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Distant temple (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Back on the ground (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Photo of a poster showing how well-covered the ruins were (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Another one (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Can’t forget the closeups of the ruins (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Ruins (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Ruins (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Can you see the carved face in Temple 5? (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

2,500+ year old petrified wood (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Ruins (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Panorama of the main court (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Temple I (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Construction (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Carved face (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Temple II (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Temple II (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Weathered exterior (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

Sacred tree (unknown) (Tikal, Guatemala 11/16/2010)

    After 6 hours exploring the Tikal ruins, I’m beginning to get hungry. The ruins are also filling with tourists, so it’s the perfect time to sit down with Adrian at the Jaguar restaurant to have lunch. We share some interesting conversation about money, politics, and addiction. I remember I need to check my email about my friend Marcin and Magda, who will be leaving Guatemala soon. Indeed I have a message, telling me they are on Lake Atitlan, where I had just come from, and will be staying another night. If I were to come, they would stay another night beyond that to have a chance at hanging out again. Adrian had given me the good-bad news that the northwest border crossing into Mexico is for foot traffic only, and that there is no vehicle ferry to take my bike across. It seems I’m going back south, so why not stop at Lake Atitlan on my way.
    I rush, and by 11:30 I have my gear packed and I’m on the road southward. I hadn’t planned how long it would take, and I end up a few hours short, coming into Guatemala City at nightfall. I give my CS friend, Luis, a call and he says I can stay with him. It’s been a fast-paced 6 hour driving day, and I’m beat. I turn down Luis’s offer to go out.
    I rise early Wednesday morning and hop on the road. I ride a few of the same beautiful windy roads from last week. My approach to Lake Atitlan appears to be a route I haven’t taken before, even though there is only one area to enter Panajachel. I wonder why I haven’t ran into this washed away bridge either of the past 2 times taking this road. I recall in my email correspondence with La Iguana Perdida, when I was planning my route the first time going to Lake Atitlan, and I was told there was a water crossing from a downed bridge. My dirt road adventure must have bypassed it, and my exodus must have taken the clear path around this road. Well, I’m glad I found it.

I love these signs (Guatemala 11/17/2010)

Water crossing meter (Guatemala 11/17/2010)

Mudslide damage while descending toward Panajachel (Guatemala 11/17/2010)

    I arrive early, and wait for a luancha to leave for San Pedro la Laguna, where Marcin and Magda are staying. It’s early, so I wait ~20 minutes for enough people going to San Pedro to show up, before we set off. I get to San Pedro, and easily find Hotel San Fransisco. A private room here with private bath is $25 quetzales (~$3 USD) per night. We take a quick walk to a small restaurant where I enjoy veggie burritos, which come out suspiciously quick. No sooner than leaving, my stomach starts to rumble. We continue on toward the docks and get a launcha to San Marcus.
    On the way, we see the famed cliff diving spot on the San Marcus mountainside. We hike through town and up the hill toward the cliff. Asking around, we find our way along the shore and eventually up the cliff-side. It takes some convincing, but I finally get Marcin to jump with me from the 10 meter platform.

Hike to cliff dive (San Marcus La Laguna, Guatemala 11/17/2010)

With a running start from the cliff (San Marcus La Laguna, Guatemala 11/17/2010)

And numb hands (San Marcus La Laguna, Guatemala 11/17/2010)

Yeah (San Marcus La Laguna, Guatemala 11/17/2010)

Our dinner guest (San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala 11/17/2010)

Scary wiring. Yes, that wire not connected is the ground (San Pedro La Laguna, Guatemala 11/17/2010)

    My stomach ache hasn’t gotten better, so share a beer with Marcin and Magda and lie down for the night. The next morning we leave the hotel early. We part in front of the hotel, and as I head down to the dock, they hurry to the church to catch a chicken bus to El Salvador.
    The launcha to Santa Cruz fills quickly and I leave San Pedro for Santa Cruz. I find when I make it there, I’m once again surrounded by familiar faces, as I enter La Iguana Perdida. I book a night’s stay, but this time with the more economical dorm bed, at $30 quetzales per night. It seems like business has kicked up. I see more guests than I did last week. There’s the same lax atmosphere, tasty food, and mix of interesting people.

    I stay 2 more nights than I expect, at La Iguana Perdida. It has a way of doing that to you. On my last day, I take a brief walk through downtown Panajachel for clothes shopping, what I haven’t done in years, and kerosene buying at the ferreteria, for a light show later this evening. My $9 quetzales buys me a rum bottle full of kerosene with clear plastic tape sealing the opening. On my way to the docs, I stop at a lakeside restaurant for what sounds like a good lunch special before heading back to Santa Cruz.

Perfect setting (Panajachel, Guatemala 11/20/2010)

    There’s a large amount of guest for dinner at La Iguana Perdida. When it gets this big, the family-style dinner table doesn’t work, and it falls back to sitting wherever you can. It’s a former employee’s (Otto) last night, and a surprise piñata has been bought. It’s dress-up night, which really means cross-dressing. After a lively drag show, I light my poi wicks with the kerosene I obtained earlier. It’s been a while for some, and for others it’s their first encounter with fire poi. I get a huge response from the crowd after a very fun performance. The night ends with piñata bashing and a midnight swim in the lake.

Uno (Santa Cruz, Guatemala 11/20/2010)

Dos (Santa Cruz, Guatemala 11/20/2010)

Tres (Santa Cruz, Guatemala 11/20/2010)

    Sunday morning I wake up and set the daily driving goal to be San Cristobal de las Casas, Ciapas, Mexico. However, when I get to my bike, I find a flat rear tire. I mix a batch of soapy water and turn on my compressor. The leak is quickly found; coming from a crack near the nipple on the rim. Inspecting further, I find multiple cracks around the rim!

Crack, other photos here, here, and here (Panajachel, Guatemala 11/20/2010)

    I’m was hoping to just epoxy seal the leaking spoke, until I noticed the others. I spend the next two hours removing and tubing my wheel. I strip my bike of all weight on the rear to get it to stay in the air, remove the wheel, break the bead with the kickstand, take out the valve stem, insert a tube, seat the bead with my compressor and the soapy water from earlier, then mount the wheel and clean up.

Stripped (Panajachel, Guatemala 11/21/2010)

Bead breaker (Panajachel, Guatemala 11/21/2010)

    The drive is a cautious one, as I’m not sure how stable my rim is. When I get to S. Cristobal de L.C. I’ll have internet and can let woody from woody’s wheel works, who made my wheel set, know what going on, and ask for his advice. I end up making it to just past the border before sunset, a mere 2 hours from my expected destination. It’s convenient because the Banjercito is closed, and I need to inquire about my vehicle permit. The next morning I’m informed my permit I got in Matamoros a month ago is the valid permit I should use.
    I get on my way northwest-ward. An hour into the drive, through lush pine forests that are reminiscent of Arkansas, I come to a long line of cars, trucks, and buses. I cruise to the front to find protesters creating two blockades in the main road, with bricks, logs, and themselves, holding signs and handing out papers describing their cause. Here is the original Spanish version and my quick translation (any corrections are appreciated):

Sindicato Nacional De Trabajadores De La Educación
Coordinadora Nacional De Los Trabajadores De La Educación
Coordinadora Estatual De Los Trabajadores De La Educación En Chiapas
Bloque Demonstrático Magisterial De Chiapas
Sección VII NEI
Coordinadora Regional Tojolabal

A Los Medios Masivios De Comunicación
A Los Organizaciones Sociales
A Los Profesores y Profesoras del Bloque Democratico
A Los Organismos Defensores de los Derechos Humanos
A La Sociedad En General

Nosotros los profesores y profesoras de la region Tojolabel plantados desde el 16 de Noviembre de 2010 hacemos del conocimiento de la sociedad en general que nuestro movimiento expresado mediante la toma de la jefatura de zonas de supervision 705, las margaritas y el bloqueo de los accesos principales de los municipios circunvecinos:

– Respeto a la subcomision mixta regional y la instalacion inmediata de la misma para la emision de convocatorias de cambios de adscripcion de supervisores y directores tecnicos.
– Rechazamos la unilateralidad del jefe de zonas de supervision.
– Repudiamos la inposicion en la ubicación de los supervisores y directores tecnicos sin el consenzo de la parte sindical.
– Desconocimiento inmediato del jefe de zonas de supervision Hermelindo Rodriguez Velasco por demonstrar poca o nula capacidad para conducir los destinos de la region ademas por mostrar una actitud despota y mostrarse cerrado al dialogo para solucionar la problemática de la region.
– Exigimos al secretario general de gobierno del estado y al secretario de la educacion estatal la solucion imediata a nuestra demandas.

Estas demandas son sinonimos de defensa de la educacion publica ya que los personajes arriba señalados (Algunos directores tecnicos, algunos supervisores, jefe de zonas) son los personeros y operadores politicos del charrismo sindical (En el magisterio los charros son conocidos por su actitud entreguista a los patrones o jefes traicionando los acuerdos de base construidos en asambleas) los cuales estan de acuerdo con la privatizacion de la educacion, el desmantelamiento de la educacion publica; estos personajes no mencionan nada sobre la reforma laboral cuyo objectivo es la eliminacion de las jornadas de 8 horas, trayendo consigo la contratacion y subcontratacion pero sobre todo la perdida de la estabilidad laboral.

Las autoridades educativas no mencionan nada de eso toda vez que son personas indiferentes a las necesidades de la sociedad, personas que incluso han logrado su plaza de directivo por hacer el trabajo sucio del estado corrompiendo y traicionando hondamente el verdadero sentido y la filosofia de la educacion, estos mismos (charros) han olvidado el bien comun, el bien vivir del pueblo, porque solo se preocupan por ellos mismos sin importar que la larga afecten a la sociedad en general (si esto no es cierto que demuestren lo contrario, respetando los acuerdos regionales construidos en las asambleas de base).

Nosotros y nosotras, profesores del bloque democratico de la region Tojolabal- las margaritas tenemos bien claro que la imposicion de estos personajes significa el avance paulatino de la privatizacion de la educacion por ellos es necesario marcarles el alto para no tener que lamentar en un futuro la imposicion de reformas que afectan a la sociedad en general.

Ofrecemos disculpas a los afectados y a la vez pedirles su apoyo y comprension por estes acciones, por que no nos dejan otra alternativa, al mismo tiempo invitamos a la sociedad a sumarse a este movimiento en contra del enemigo comun que es la burguesia anquilosada en los espacios de poder del estado.

Luchando Unidos Y Organizados Venceremos
Coordinadora Regional Tojolabal
En La Defensa De Nuestra Derechos Y Conquistas, Por La Defensa De La Education Publica
!Ni Un Paso Atrás!
Ser Pueblo, Estar Con El Pueblo, Luchar Por El Pueblo


National Union of Education Workers
National Coordinator of Education Workers
Estatual Coordinator Workers’ Education in Chiapas
Teacher’s Block Demonstration of Chiapas
Section VII NEI
Tojolabal Regional Coordinator

To The Mass Media Communications
To The Social Organizations
To The Teachers Of The Democratic Block
To The Human Rights Defenders
To The Society In General

We the teachers of the Tojolabel region standing from November 16, 2010, inform the society at large that our movement is expressed by taking the leadership supervision zone 705, margaritas (*don’t know translation*) and blocking the main access surrounding municipalities:

– Respect for the Joint Subcommittee on regional and immediate installation of the same for the issuance of calls for change in assignment of supervisors and technical directors.
– Reject the unilateralism of the chief areas of supervision.
– We reject the imposition on the location of supervisors and technical directors without the consent of the association.
– Immediate ignorance of the chief areas of supervision by Hermelindo Rodriguez Velasco, who demonstrates little or no ability to lead the destiny of the region, also displaying a despotic attitude and closing dialogue to solve the problems of the region.
– We urge to the state government secretary general and to the secretary of the state education the immediate solution to our demands.

These demands are synonymous with defense of public education since the characters mentioned above (some coaches, some supervisors, head of zones) are the representatives and politicians of the small labor union operators association (The teacher’s labor union are known for their servile attitude to employers or bosses, betraying the basic agreements built into assemblies) which are in accordance with the privatization of education, dismantling of public education; these characters do not mention anything about the labor reform whose objective is the elimination of 8 hour days, bringing the recruitment, but especially the loss of job stability.

Education authorities do not mention anything like that since they are people indifferent to the needs of society, people have even made their place as manager to do the dirty work of the state, deeply corrupting and betraying the true meaning and philosophy of education. These same (cowboys) have forgotten the common good, the good life of the people, they only care about themselves no matter what eventually affect society in general (if this is not the contrary, respect regional agreements in the basis of assemblies).

We, teachers of the region’s democratic block of Tojolabal- margaritas (*don’t know translation*) have made clear that the imposition of these characters means the gradual progress of the privatization of the education. It is necessary for them to stop the imposition of reforms that affect society in general, to avoid regret in the future.

We apologize to those affected and also ask for your support and understanding our actions that leave us no alternative, at the same time we invite the society to join this movement against the common enemy, the bourgeoisie stuck in the spaces of state power.

United and organized fighting shal defeat them
Tojolabal Regional Coordinator
In Defense of Our Rights and conquer, Defense Of Public Education
!Not One Step Back!
Be people, be with the people, fighting for the people

Looking back toward the road block (El Porvenir, Chapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

    I drive around the first blockade before stopping at the second to ask some guys about why they are protesting. This is where I’m handed the above paper. I wish them luck and approach the second blockade. I ask if I may pass through, and without much effort, a log is kicked off a brick and a man holds up the large cloth sign draping across the road, so I may go under it. I easily hop the log and am back on the road. I reach San Cristobal de las Casas at 11, and navigate to Casa Jardin Hotel.

Downtown Street (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

Lobby parking (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

$70 pesos, and WiFi (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

My room (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

    I write an email and quickly get a reply from Woody, about the rims. My confidence is renewed as he says I should be fine to drive it, but should keep an eye on the cracks. I’d rather not have any down time or deal with shipping a wheel, so I decide to wait until I reach Denver, when I return to the US, to have it repaired. I’m assured by Woody that I’ll be taken care of when I arrive.
    I take a quick stroll around downtown and notice an organic vegetarian buffet begins in a particular restaurant at 1:30. I hold off on eating for another hour, and I’m glad I do. All this for $80 pesos ($6.60 USD)!

Old door (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

Menu (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

Starters (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

Main (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)

Desert! (San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico 11/22/2010)
Kyle Gabriel

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