Tuesday, February 24, 2009

the flatest piece of dirt we could find


When camping fell through for the weekend we decided it was monday night or bust, Palo was determined that we not push it off and push it off and then not do it (which easily could have happened). So we exictedly planned our meals, collected and prepared our food.

Anneliese made an awesome camp stove, it is a series of stainless steel chain rings wired, not welded, together with four kickstands bolted on as legs. The kickstands are particularly ingenious because they fold down flat against the chain rings, drastically increasing the portability of the stove. The Guatemalan way is rubbing off on all of us.


Erin and i didn´t realize it, but the others left in a rush to beat the dark leaving us behind to collect all the things still left. We grabbed all of the remaining items, stuffed them into bags not-quite-big-enough and sauntered up the hill.


My camera decided to shut down just as we started up, thankfully Erin had her (much nicer) camera to fill the gap. Here´s some of what we saw along the way.



On the way up to Carlos´ farm (where we´d be camping) we passed a series of these strange swaths chiseled out of the mountain side. Most of them looked as if they were designed for a truck to back into and they had unfamiliar pipes and tubing systems exposed. We weren´t sure if it was some sort of agricultural something-or-other or what. (We found out on the way back down that they were supposed to be house lots of a failed fancy housing project called Bella Vista).



After about 25 minutes Erin and i came upon Carlos´ finca (farm). I should have realized, but somehow dind´t put together that his farm would be one of the steeply sloped, seemingly impossible, mountainside plots. Everyone here uses slash and burn and plants row after row of the same crop. Who knows if they use pesticides, i´m guessing most can´t afford it. The dirt looks like it is going to blow away, it looks like the dust on the beaten roads or the trampled soccer fields. Permaculture could do wonders here.

Eventually we came across our comrades, they had scoped out the flatest possible spot on the whole mountain. I was impressed by their sleuthing. Technically this was not Carlos´land, but the neighbors are friendly and didn´t seem to mind.



The camera can´t do justice to the breathtaking view that we enjoyed for 16 hours, the cloudy skies also don´t help.

Below is Itzapa, at night we could also see Chimaltenango, Paramos and the light pollution from Antigua behind a neighboring mountain.


We didn´t waste any time getting a fire started, as it would be dark soon and we were eager to get some good coals going for dinner. Anneliese´s camping stove folded out beautifully and impressed us all for the whole evening.



Three of us went scavenging for wood while the other two got the fire started. It was slim pickings, but we managed to scrounge enough for the evening. We even found a nice log to sit on.



We enjoyed the fire for a few minutes while we waited for the tortilla pan (just a flat sheet of metal) to heat up. All of our food was laid out on a cloth, Ivy handed me a random piece of plywood and i rigged up a table to start the food prep.



I spent the next 45 miuntes scooping out beans and cheese and smuchsing them between tortillas (tortillas here are tiny compared to what we´re used to in the states, i´d guess because its all done between small palms). Anneliese had the prescience to stick a tin foil covered pepper into the coals- it was the perfect addition to our quesadillas. They were... so... gooood...



Next on the menu were the much anticpated angelitas (literally little angels, but we´d called them marshmallows). These little angels were far from small, in fact, they were the hugest marshmallows any of us had ever seen (a big part of the excitement).



I realize the picture isn´t the best, but if Palo´s excitement doesn´t convince you of the montsrous glory of our air inflated sugar pillows, perhaps this will- cut in half they were still larger than the normal US marshmallow.

Palo was excited to stick his marshmallow between two Chikys, a native brand of cookie that is already half covered in chocolate. He claimed it was exactly like a smore, but even more convenient. This inspired Erin to stick her giantic sugar cloud between two pieces of hannukah gelt (not actually gelt, but close enough).


Oops, camera strap.


But by far the highlight of the dessert menu, the pi├Ęce de r├ęsistance, were the banana boats. For those unfamiliar with a banana boat it´s a banana stuffed full of marshmallow and chocolate wrapped in tin foil and left in the coals to melt into one giant pile of deliciousness.
I was first introduced to banana boats at Church of the Brethren camp in 8th grade. I had since forgotten about them, but was very happy to be re-introduced.



Ohhh so good!



Ivy and Palo took turns serenading us. They are both really talented musicians and play in a ton of bands back in the states.

When it came time to crash we all sardined together on a salvaged tarp Chris had laid out. It was cold and we were happy to cram together to share body heat. Hopped up on sugar we giggled our way to sleep like a bunch of 4th graders at a slumber party. We were pretty punchy and everything was really funny.



Out of the necessity of the cold i cocooned inside my sleeping bag, head covered and all. It turned out to be a good move because it sprinkled throughout the night and i stayed warm and dry. My sleeping bag was not so lucky.

We woke up to the rising sun, doing its best to light the sky for us despite competition from some grumpy clouds.



Some of us had trouble getting out of bed. (Oh soooo classy).



Palo made a fire from the remains of the previous night´s, using some fairly wet wood, which is not easy. I thought it best not to trouble him with the precise knowledge of how i put it out the night before.



We ate the leftover fruit for breakfast. Roasted pineapple was a big hit.


Past the sunsrise the morning view was pretty murky.



And just like i learned in boy scouts my bag was a whole foot and a half off the ground. You know, for the bears.

(I was never in boy scouts)



Our walk back was really nice, all down hill, and we brought the blue skies with us. If we´d have been going uphill i would have had to take off my sweatshirt, but we weren´t and it was just right. We passed plenty of curious Itzapans on their way to work. We wondered what they thought of the groggy, dirty gringos.



Unfortunately we returned to a padlocked door, something none of us other than Palo had experienced. I was flabbergasted. Mostly becuase i really, really, needed to use the facilities.

Waiting was not an option.



I didn´t realze how much i looked like spiderman until i saw these photos. Ah, childhood dream fulfilled.

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