Thursday, November 17, 2011

A lot of firsts...after two years

I’m too lazy to write this in Spanish and English and since more than half of my friends don’t speak Spanish, I will write this entry in English.

I can’t believe that it’s been two years since I left Guatemala. I still remember my last sunset while I was riding the bus to the Honduran border.
I guess I’ve been lucky so far. I’ve never  had a bad experience. I never have been robbed. I’ve only lost one camera but now I have two. Here are some thoughts I came up with. Some of you might have read some of these before but maybe this time is an elaborated version of them. I don’t know. Whatever. Read them if you want. Don’t read them if you don’t want to.

I still have the last words I heard from my dad the day I left in my head, it was maybe 4.45 the morning of November 14th of 2009, he said to me “I’m never going to see you again”. I didn’t want to believe those words. But they became true 6 months later.

I saw someone posted on facebook a photo of her travels and that she didn’t remember how many kilometers and what dates. For me it’s the opposite. I remember every single kilometer. I try to remember every date because every single kilometer has been special to me.

Hitchhiking for the first time outside of Guatemala: the first ride was a bus from Puerto Cortes to San Pedro Sula in Honduras. Something I thought it was impossible to do but later I did the same in Turkey, in the Turkish – Greek border and in Belize. And also a taxi in Portugal.

Eating for the first time the food of kings in Honduras, I have to be thankful to my friend Dario for introducing me to baleadas.

Meeting my friend Rachel in Tegucigalpa, she recommended me to stay with some friends of her . I left Honduras with a new sister, Ting. I would later meet with Rachel again, this time in Belgium and she signed my book exactly 18 months later. 

I think that my best ride of my hitchhiking career happened when I was leaving León going to Granada. It was short, maybe less than 5 kilometers and it took about an hour. It was a horsecart.

Taking a 5 hour ferry in the biggest lake in Central America and being witness of one of the most striking sunsets I have ever seen.

Finding out that Costa Rica was a really expensive country: paying 8$ for a really shithole of a hostel  after getting stuck at 8 in the evening in the town of Liberia. And 3$ for hanging my own hammock (which by the way was only 3$ in Nicaragua).

Meeting up with my friend Dan in Lake Tahoe and him being the first person I have ever asked “qué hora es?” in a country different than Guatemala. Later we would add Czech, Estonia and Germany.

Having no really a way how to get to or a place to stay in San Francisco and endep up not only finding a ride but a couch and spending a lovely Christmas with Mike and Kelly aboard S/V Isabella anchored in the San Francisco bay.

Going to New Orleans, first acting like a tourist and only hanging out around Bourbon St. with my cousin Paula but later going back again for Mardi Gras and acting a like a local with my friend Katrina and her friends, staying as far away from Bourbon street as possible. Later those days, meeting up with Krystin and having delivered a letter from my lovely mum and the laptop that is the last gift I have from my dad and that has been my loyal travel companion for almost a year.

Having a awesome surprise from my cousin Paula: taking me to a liquor store and looking into the cooler and noticing that they sell GALLO!!! (Guatemalan beer in case you don’t know).

Living for 2,5 months in Jacksonville and working in the Burrito Gallery and Uptown Market. Having an awesome relief working as a dishwasher after coming from an stressing job in one of Central America’s biggest Holding Groups.

My first road trip: driving almost 1000 kilometers with my friend Megan. From Asheville to Ann Arbor.

Going to my first music festival. For free.

Meeting my friends Tim and Mandy after almost two years and staying with them for a few days in lovely Antwerpen. Twice.

Hitchhiking for the first time in Europe: Utrecht – Münster with my brother Edy. The first ride was with a guy who spoke perfect Spanish because he volunteered for a year in Nicaragua for a year. Second ride with a British guy with a Dutch girlfriend. Third ride with a Dutch – Brazilian girl that lived in Germany and final ride to Münster in a VW Bus with a couple with a lovely baby.

Spending my first birthday outside of Guatemala. The first part in Bocholt with my friends Christina, Christian and Hugo. The second half of it, in Münster with my friend Alice and her friends watching Germany win against Ghana inside a pool.

Watching the Germany – England world cup match in the Hamburg fanpark, Germany’s second biggest.

Sadly being in two countries in less than 24 hours. I wish I could have spent more time in Malmö with my friend Frida.

Rocking in one of Europe’s biggest music festivals: Roskilde. Two years in a row.

Staying for the first time in squat and discovering that København is a dumpster diving paradise.

Staying for the first time in a nomadbase in Amsterdam. Meeting some of the most amazing people I have ever met and going with them to walk alongside the canals finally deciding (as a joke) to hitchhike a boat and  finding out (to our amazement) that it worked and spent 6 hours cruising the canals.

Paying my respects at the graves of Miguel Angel Asturias and Jim Morrison in the Cimetière du Père Lachaise.

Having the most expensive elote asado (grilled corn) of my life in Paris. It was 2€ but in Guatemala it's only about 0,35€ I saw the guy selling them and I just had a moment of nostalgia and couldn’t help buy it.

Meeting with some of the lovely people I met in Casa Robino and meeting some more in Casa Bonita in Lyon. All of us were going to the hitchiker’s gathering. En route to Barcelona I spent my first night in a petrol station with one of the best  friends I have ever had, mio fratello Federico.

There’s a band based in Barcelona, Barrio Candela, the lead singer is from Xela. Freshly arrived in Barcelona, relaxing in Plaça de Catalonya I overheard them. Then saw them played and talked to Sativo. He’s friends with my friend Edy.

Feeling the closest I have ever felt to Latin America when I went to Lisboa. The people there are just lovely. Our last ride dropped us off just 3 streets from Casa Amarela, the squat where the pregathering was held. We didn’t find it, it was 3 in the morning. We had to sleep in the entrance of an apartment building.

Where you are traveling without a plan you have to improvise, like the time I went to Lake Bled in Slovenia with my friend Katrín. Night caught us without a place to sleep so we slept in the laundry room of a campsite near Lesce.

For several years Berlin was the icon of the Cold War. Now I was there! In Alexanderplatz there is a clock with several cities from around the world in it. I was reading the names and to my surprise I found Guatemala Stadt!

I never thought that I was going to travel for this long; I thought that after the States I was going back to Guatemala. I left Guatemala with some 400$. Worked a few months in the States to make a little money to come to Europe. When I arrived here I wanted to learn how to travel cheap (I’m still learning although I have improved significantly).  I had about 100€ left, no place to stay, no job, no return ticket and no worries. The powerful winds took me to Prague where I spent the next 3,5 months. It was my first time working in a hostel, conclusion: AWESOME!

Czech is the country with the cheapest beer that I have ever been. 1€ a pint! No wonder I barely remember my first month! After that I realize that I was not going anywhere if I didn’t start saving. So I did. Not only did I start saving, Marcelo, one of my colleagues at the hostel, helped find another job: posing nude (art school. not porn you perverts!). Yeah, laugh. You would say it’s an easy job but trust when I say it’s not. Not when there’s a super hot Czech girl standing naked next to you. Not easy at all.

Watching the transition from summer to autumn to winter in Prague. Later I was also able to see Wien  in winter (first time there was in summertime). That winter was one of the coldest winters in past 20 (?) years. I had to wear long johns every single fucking day. Not sexy

The astronomical clock in market square in Prague do something every hour on the hour. I was told some dolls dance around? Wouldn’t know. I rarely went to the center and the few times I was there in time for the show I found more amusing to watch the people’s faces than what was actually happening with the clock.

First time in Poland. Poland is the second country to where I have been to more cities. First stop was Wrocław. Then would follow Kraków, Christmas in Rybnik and Newyears in Szczawa.

Falling in love in Kraków.

Through CS I met Joachim and we agreed that we were going to travel to Turkey together. We met in Cluj-Caravanserai, the nomadbase in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. From there we had over a thousand kilometers to go. My first long distance hitchhiking was from Lisboa to Augsburg, during the summer. This time was winter, and like I said before, one of the coldest in the past years. The first night stuck in the middle of Romania I had to use Joachim’s survival blanket. From Bucareşti to Istanbul it took us three days without spending one single cent. Sleeping in Turkish restaurants on Bulgaria and an abandoned hotel in the Turkish side of the border with Bulgaria. The truck driver were really nice, they waited for me for 1 hour in Bulgarian border while they let me into the country. That’s the moment I started to despise border guards.  

Travel tip: get a good sleeping bag, it’s worth it. If you don’t have the money, like it’s my case, go to Roskilde festival. I found my new sleeping bag inside a tent, it’s a sweet -13C sleeping bag and still has the price tag. By the way, I also found a belt, a leatherman, a beautiful amount of alcohol. Luke and I didn’t have to spend money on alcohol in DK.

After some fucked up things that happened to me in Czech and Poland arriving in Turkey I felt like home. No one was staring at me. I was just one me! Well, they were staring at us but for a different reason: coming from Poland, Romania and Bulgaria where the temperature was really low we got into a nice and warm Turkey, about 15C, for them it was cold. For us… lovely. It was flipflop (jandals, sorry Keegan) time again.

Joachim and I were the only foreigners during most of what I call the horny camel festival It was in the Aegen region of Turkey, soufh of Izmir and not far from Şirince, which is a lovely town. Combining Mediterranean architecture with Muslim details. Lovely.

At this point I truly began to see a trend: crossing borders at night and getting stuck in them. This was no difference but Turkish and Greek immigration were nice. Turkish was a lot nicer though. The officer found us a ride on a bus to the Greek side. There after crossing we found ourselves without a ride and without a place to sleep. After sleeping inside a small Greek Orthodox chapel we found what it turned into my longest ride with the same driver: from the Turkish – Greek border to Ljubljana. And what made things better was that Vincent became our friend.

Confirming Aldous Huxley’s words about Lake Atitlán when he compared it to Lake Como: "Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing". I couldn't agree more.

When I was going from Italy to Switzerland, I found a ride near Como. Edgar was going to Frankfurt but  I was going to Zürich. He was going to drive us into CH but the he missed an exit and dropped in Zürich zentrum. The motorway from Italy goes either through the Gotthard pass connecting the Italian speaking part of Switzerland with the German speaking part.  The pass was closed because of the winter so we took the Sankt Gotthard tunnel (over 16 kilometers long). It took me 15 minutes to figure out that Edgar was asking us if it was our first time riding inside the tunnel. This tunnel is the third longest in the world after Norway’s Lærdal tunnel (24,5 km) and China’s Zhongnanshantunnel (18 km)

Speding the last days in Europe (so I thought) with my friend Wim (we met in Lyon the year prior) and his girlfriend Katrien. Lovely way to spend some time. Perfect last hitchhiking. I met some of their friends. Mira made the best pomme frites I have ever tried.

Seeing my mum after 15 long months of travels! After coming from Norway when I was younger, I didn’t tell my parents the date I was coming back. My friends picked me up at the airport, we went out to get drunk and I showed up around 2 in the morning, drunk… “hello, I’m back!”. My mum almost had a stroke, so I promised her that I was never going to do that. This time she knew all my moves: I called her as soon as I found a hotspot in Playa del Carmen. Called her on the phone from Chetumal. From a café in Xela. From my friend’s mobile from Antigua.

Paying a visit to my father’s grave. I told him that I was happy. He kept telling me “I want you to be happy”. Dad, I miss so much but I know you know that I’m happy.

Hitched my third bus going to the Belize – Mexico border. The first was in 2009 in Honduras. The second was in Turkey more than a year later. This one was on my way to Cancún to catch the flight back to Europe.

The longest distance hitchhiked alone was when I went from Brussel Airport to Kraków in three days. The first day I was aiming to get as far as Köln or Frankfurt but I didn’t even make it close to the border. The following day was different as I was finally out of Belgium and practically crossed Germany. This was the first time I was stuck in the same place for the most hours, I was in that petrol station for 12 hours, but 6 were used to sleep.

Falling out of love in Kraków and feeling absolutely good about it. Luke became the date I took to Roskilde and we had a blast! We were the only two collecting bottles while drinking! I thought all tent in general were waterproof but I found out the hard way that mine wasn’t. I had to change socks three times in one night. I met again with Omar whom I saw very randomly in January when I was in Istanbul.

I missed three times Iron Maiden play: twice in Mexico and once in Costa Rica. For this or that reason I didn’t’ go. I thought that I would never see them play. I saw them in Roskilde and what made me enjoy even more their music is that it was for free; well, almost. Money spent on trip from Prague to Roskilde: `~6€. So in total “the ticket” was that, 6 fucking €!!!

Maria’s mum is such a lovely lady. She became my mum for the few days I stayed with them in Kościerzyna. She was really worried when I had food poisoning. She even told me that if I wanted to stay she could find me people to teach them Spanish. When I left Estonia I would have loved to visit them again but it was out of the way and Kirsty had to take the plane to England.

I was finally able to go to Estonia. In 2010 was one of the places I considered going after Germany but I found the Clown & Bard which was closer to Germany (the place I was at the moment). When I left Prague I didn’t even considered going to -30C. So this was the time for Estonia: summer. Long sunny days, cheap beer and of course, beautiful women.. After talking for 5 minutes to my new colleagues I knew I was in the right place. I wasn’t wrong. Working in the AlurHostel is one of the most fucking awesome things I have ever done. Estonian are such amazing people. Rauno gave me a ride last year from Puttgarden and a year later he gave me a job. Meel and I hitchhiked from Augustów to Pärnu. I stayed with him and his family for the weekend. His mum gave me a jumper and his sister wrote in my book the poem she wrote some time ago. Erko who without hesitating opened the doors of Uus Maailm to a complete and ramdom stanger that just showed up with his bags and asked if he could crash there. The answer was “you won’t crash here, you will sleep here but you have to sing ABBA”.

The little over two months I spent in Tallinn were just, amazing. Tallinn is a lovely city. Very medieval. Estonia is on the Baltics but to me (and further reading I did confirmed that) it’s more closely related to Scandinavia. I will return to Estonia, that’s for sure. But perhaps in springtime and leave (if I manage) at the end of summertime. In Tallinn I also learnt that destiny, if it really exists, SUCKS and I don’t like it but the time spent there is unforgettable. I met lovely people there. Made some good friends. Hopefully we will meet sometime somewhere. Actually, one of them, Sonya is coming to Berlin at the moment I’m writing these lines.

Getting to Riga with one camera and leaving with two. My crappy Kodak digital (but with it I took several amazing photos) and the awesome “new” Fujica ST701 from 1971. Paldies Jim!

While I was in Riga I couldn’t find a place to crash in Kaunas so I thought “I’m going to try to get to Warszawa”. I stayed. I don’t regret it , actually I wished I could have stayed more time. Hanging out with Dominyka was awesome

When I left Poland in June I thought I was never going back. This was the second time after I left. I spent for amazing days, I even had a party thrown in my honor, well, half of the party was for me, the other half, for the organizer, Ami. No new town this time, just Warszawa, Kraków and Wrocław. Kraków became the only city that I have had the opportunity to see in all four season. I arrived for the first time in the winter, when Mateusz saved me from sleeping in the train station. Went back in the spring and left at the beginning if summer. And this time, the last time for a while, was autumn. I went to Prague again. Prague and Kraków are the two places that seems I can’t be too far away. This time Marcelo’s “what the fuck are you doing here?” welcome was replaced by Joe’s big hug that he even made me fall. And also Joe and George made sure I was drunk the entire time and the only times I went out was to get some food from the Chinese restaurant near the JzP metro station.

Arthur is the manager in one of Berlin’s hostels, the Aloha Hostel. We met in Tallinn last August. Now I was staying with him in the hostel. The hostel is one of the coolest I have ever been. The walls are covered with graffiti. 
The staff is very international: Brazil, Italy, Spain, England, Lithuania and now… Guatemala!

The first time I went to Hamburg I didn’t go out at night. I’m not the kind of person that goes into a pub by himself. This time it was different. I was headbanging with my friends Anni, Ina and Kirsty in a pub or club in Sankt Pauli and then again in some bands concerts.

Now, I’m laying in bed, in the staff room finishing writing this entry. I still can’t believe it has been two years. So many kilometers but I remember every single one. So many people, but every single one of them has been special and I keep the memories like it happened yesterday. I soon will be leaving this place. Going to a different place. 

You will know in due time… 

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