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6th September 2015

6 - 10 September: Guatemala

Once arrived in Antigua I settle  a bit down as I will stay here for a couple of days. I meet Pat and we have dinner together and talk about our plans and how we will manage things as we will probably be traveling together for the next few weeks. We both will cross with the sailboat "Stahlratte“ from Panama to Cartagena beginning of October.

The evening is quiet in Antigua. Probably mainly because the election of a new president on Sunday. But probably also because it is not allowed to sell any alcohol from Saturday afternoon on until the end of the election. But as usual rules are not taken that strictly in all places. We can order a mug of beer but have to hide it under the chair and have a napkin around our glasses.

After having seen hundreds of pictures of the candidates hanging on walls, trees, houses I am informed by now that most of them are either probably corrupt (the main problem after having talked to different locals) or being in business with the drug families – or even both. Although the Guatemalans can elect their president directly the most corrupt or the most rich candidates are still the favorites. They have the possibility to go to the people and promise them important things like new roofs for their houses, electricity for the village and give them presents like bags full of food or similar nice things. And of course the people still get blended by this sort of election-promises. Now as there are a lot of the people not able to read or write they just have pictures of the candidates and the people just have to make a cross over the picture of the person they want to have elected. In a country that is not very modern yet quite a clever thing.To be sure that nobody can cheat they have to put the forefinger into ink after having elected.
 
However Sunday we see when driving to the volcano many roadblocks that prevent by a party hired buses from bringing “bought” voters from remote areas to the village. Also we see in the news in the evening that many election bureaus were unable to check in all individuals to the election deadline, for whatever reason. So definitely not everything fine during that elections. But the surprise now: for the runoff election in October (since no candidate has achieved the necessary 50%) have made it the comedian Jimmy Moralesand Sandra Torres (ex-wife of a former president). One may be curious to see who will win the race in October. 
 
Just in the stars however, is also how much will turn to the better for the poor people in that country – no matter who wins.
 
On Sunday we meet early to climb up the volcano Pacaya. “we” means the guide from the adventure tour, Katarina from New Zealand, Pat and me. After a rumpy 1.5hours drive in one of these tiny buses we come to the starting point and walk the appr. 3km up towards the volcano. What usually is no problem for me but today quite a hard one as it is the first day during my trip that I don’t feel well. My stomach is giving away everything quite quickly and I don’t dare to eat something and only drink some water. But as we are not really rushing I can follow and make it to the “top”. Means to the border of the last lavafield. Next to our tour guide there is a local guide coming with us and he tells many interesting things about the history of this volcano. The last major eruption was in May 2012, even though currently flows no more lava you still can see quite some smoke and there are even some “hot spots” where we can grill Marshmallows ;-) 
Although not a very long tour but still exciting and after all my first "real" volcano -though probably not my last on this trip ....
 
The next two days I spend in Antiguawatching the many beautiful buildings and the even more numerousmostly but unfortunately still destroyed churchesAfter the last big earthquake in 1773in which Antigua has been almost completely destroyedthe Spaniards had decided to move the capital to present-day Guatemala City 
 
But my favorite activity is still to watch the people in everyday lifemost of all on the marketJust funnywhat's going on - and in Antigua"thanks" to the many Spanish students' from allover the world - I do not even attract attention to the locals. The local market in Antigua is even that huge that I almost get lost strolling around the hundreds of market stands:bakers come after butchers, fruit-stand, clothes, shoes, electronics,tourist junk ... .. an incredible variety of colourssmells and sounds ...just lovely ;-)
 
The last day I spend with the preparations the get on the road again: motorcycle check, wash the sheep-skin, get all the luggage in order again, etc.
 
I'm really glad I will have now a companion through the Central American countries. It makes everything easier: one person can always remain at the bikes while the other takes care of the hostel search, customs formalities and so on. The constant fear for my belongings on the bike is off the table for the moment. Of course that also means a change in travel habits: no longer just stay wherever you like, stay as long as you like.But as Pat seems just as uncomplicated as me, I’m quite sure it will be no problem for both of us. So tomorrow Thursday morning we will definitely head towards El Tunco in El Salvador where it has good and cheap hostels since it is a well-known destination for surfers from all over the world ......
 
I look forward to the new, unknown country and am curious whether El Salvador will surprise me as positively as Mexico and Guatemala did – from which I -  in case I have not yet mentioned - have of course seen again too little.

I did not my mind up yet which of these two vehicles will be my next.