Friday, February 3, 2012

Maya Pedal site back up

Maya Pedal's website is back up. If you got here accidentally looking for them, the address is:

To contact Maya Pedal:

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Maya Pedal's website is down

I'm sorry to say that i don't know what's going on with Maya Pedal's website. I'll try to find out, and as soon as i know i'll post it.

For the time being, you can contact Maya Pedal at:

If you don't hear from them, try emailing me and i'll see what i can do.

Friday, May 1, 2009

changing websites

Hi all,

many apologies for the slowdown in updates- i'm back in the states working full time and just haven't had the time to catch up, but more soon i promise.

This blog will be transitioning to the official Maya Pedal Volunteer blog, my personal blog will continue at this address:

Please let anyone you know who reads this know that the site has changed.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

the unlikely zapatista


After 14 hours of sleep, or what felt like it, we awoke to a new day with a new character: Eric. Before i launch, i just... man, the whole time i was there i was blown away by the revolving cast of Characters. Characters with a capital C. The weirdest and most fascinating people i've ever met. Outside of art school.

Anyway, Eric was a Zapatista disguised as a gringo. A Texas native, he had the drawl and everything that came with it, including a refined sense of rebellion. If you've never been to texas, the place is covered with sayings like "Don't mess with Texas" (a clever anti-litter slogan that seems to have shed any of its former good intentions to become the unofficial state motto). I don't know if Libertarianism has a home state, but if i had to guess one it would be texas. Eric represented texas in a peculiar way, he was definitely a rough and tumble don't-F-with-me kind of guy, but with a strange liberal bent. He was all about standing in solidarity with the oppressed, alternative energy & appropriate technology and, of course, fighting the Man. When America's second civil war comes Eric will be our Che Guevara.

Eric was just passing through on his way back to the states from CACITA which is a center for appropriate technology in Oaxaca Mexico (apparently no website for them, but here's some photos on an Italian blog). CACITA is a lot like Maya Pedal but broader in its scope- they do solar ovens, composting toilets, natural building, etc. Supposedly the place is run by a guy named Dracula. A little high strung from what i've heard. Kind of creepy sometimes too.

This dracula character likes to claim that he came up with the bike machine designs he totes up in mexico. We showed Carlos and he immediately got on the phone to give dracula a stern talking to. Turns out dracula was one of Carlos' students years ago. Funny how that works.

Eric wasn't with us for long, but he was wildly entertaining and could talk up a storm. His stories were consistently fascinating and hilarious, though some of the girls didn't always agree. In his two or three days we managed to get him out to Carlos' farm, whacking away machete in hand. He was really into it- it was the highlight of his trip he said. Which includes dracula-time.

So on a sleepy tuesday morning, in which clouds took the title in "clouds vs. sun," we piled into Carlos' truck as per usual and made our rumbling ascent.

When we got there, for wahtever reason, Carlos' truck just couldn't make it up the hill. Maybe too many people? Though that didn't seem likely. He backed it all the way down and came all the way up. Twice.

His family and i got out to see if lighter was better. I guess it must have been.

We got right to it and cleared out a pretty big chunk of land right quick. Sarah and Eric were both pretty fast. Carlos, of course, is a machine.

I know its terrible, but i'm going to go ahead and say out loud that i'm sorry i missed the "burn" portion of farming with Carlos. I really like setting things on fire, and though jungle would certainly not be my first choice, what fire enthusiast could turn up being in the middle of one that big?

Somewhere in the morning some unknown, or perhaps arbitrary, quota of hacking had been accomplished and Carlos decided it was time for a tour. I think this was mostly in honor of Eric who would be leaving shortly.

So we snaked our way up the dusty mountain until we got to top. Turns out, Carlos owns the whole mountain top.

Along the way he just grabs this tree and whacks a chunk out of it, drink he says, and pours a surprising amount of water into Sarah's mouth. I was next. It tasted very much like tree.

The prize of the hike were the two water pumps. One was on Carlos' land, operable only by hand. The other was just next door on his neighbor's property- a bici bomba that Carlos had built and installed.

Eric and Sarah were shining with glee. I'd guess that neither one of them has ever been so excited about water before in their lives. Which might be part of what prompted Eric to drink some of it, that and his i-can-take-anything way of doing things. Given my poor history with the local water i wasn't going to touch it, but how could i get showed up in front of Carlos? I couldn't.

We wandered off the mountain a different way then we came up. We went by a series of huts in a sad state of dilapidation, cobbled together from branches and leaves. I was fascinated by them and wanted to know their story. Turns out Carlos hires several workers to tend to his farm, they live there in the huts.

While we were out there we also saw this little shed which got me missing the tent platform that i used to sleep in during the summers in upstate NY.

Monday, March 30, 2009

asleep on top of a volcanoe

As we lingered on the top of the volcano we heard another rumbling, this time mistaking it for the volcano. But it was an actual plane this time. And it flew so close overhead that some of the taller hikers might have been able to reach up and touch it.
Good thing it was just a dinky four seater.

I didn't time well the lapse between button pushing and picture taking on the camera i was using. Just a before and after.

As the sunrise waned from spectacularity so too did our interest. Will suggested we move down to a lower part of the volcano to watch the vent erupt.

And, of course, along the way more beautiful sights.

We found a nice spot on the lower side of the volcano to overlook the vent. And despite the end of sunrise the shadows on the other side of the volcano were no less amazing then they were 30 minutes prior.

While we waited for the vent to blow I glanced around and spotted some distant neighbors who looked as if they might just float off into the clouds. It was unreal how high up we were, what felt most unreal about it was that we could see everything. There were no trees or buildings to obstruct our view. There weren't even any mountains or volcanoes to get in the way- we were the tallest thing for miles. Part of what was so amazing about it was that we could see the horizon in 360 degrees, and from our vantage point you could easily spin around and see the horizon curving. I've never seen the roundness of the earth more clearly.

Pretty exhausted we all promptly fell asleep while waiting for plumes of ash and smoke. Minutes passed and, again, Will called us all to attention.

After the satisfying of our need for geological glory we all passed out for real. Even Will.

Three hours later, sunburned and exhausted, but deeply satisfied and excited we began to collect ourselves and move (slowly) toward leaving.
When i awoke on the top of the summit there was a pair of lacy hot pink underwear just chillin next to me. It was definitely not there when i fell asleep. My comrades claim innocence.
I'm just sorry i didn't have the presence of mind to photo document it. I think disgust clouded my snap-happy instincts.

It was interesting to head back down during the day and see our path illuminated. We could see now just exaclty how far it was that we had to go, whereas in the night it was always unclear, even during the last hour.

Ther were all kinds of people on the path, several times groups of rowdy teenage boys would whir past us whooping and calling names at each other. Being caught in their clouds of dust (from the incredibly worn down and bone dry dirt path) was less than fun. We all ended up feeling like we should have brought dust masks along. Seriously. Seriously Dusty. SD.

Even though it took significantly less time to get down than up- it was easier going with gravity, and easier heading toward more oxygen- it felt just as long. Maybe because we were ready to be done. Ready to be in bed.

On the way down we saw this funny little hut made out of trash. Perhaps it was a message in response to the nearby trashcan debacle- there was one trashcan on the entire trail, without a single piece of trash inside, but surrounded by 25 square feet of trash.

Several truck bed rides later we arrived at Will's apartment, sweaty, tired, and dropping in our tracks. Sleep never sounded so good.

And so concludes the most epic weekend of my life.

*I would like to note that my scavenger hunt for batteries proved futile and, therefore, my camera useless. As a result, all of the awesome pictures from the climb are the gracious gift of Erin K. Parsons. Given with her specific permission to be used here on this blog, not available for reprint or distribution without the express consent of said party. Fees may be paid in choco-bananas. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Hansel and Gretel

Through the night we climbed a very dark, very ambigious path towards the top of a volcanoe that i was sure we would never reach (it looked sooooo far away). The walking didn´t feel like it should be that hard, but the lack of oxygen ensured that it was. We crept like turtles. One. Step. At. A. Time.

Erin and i continually were accused of "going to fast." We started the climb a little behind schedule and were determined not to miss the sunrise. Eventually we parted ways with the others, by the summit we were about 15-20 mins ahead.

All the way there were issues with the flashlights, at least in team speedy. Erin´s light kept going out and by about 3/4 of the way up it was driving her (and by association, me) bonkers. Granted it was like 4:30 in the morning.

There was a strange phenomenon that occurres while climbing worth noting. The path was varied, it split in many directions, there were many false paths as well. Unlike in the states, there are no path markers- these trails are not blazed. There were, however, some unexpected path markers that proved to be invaluable. Almost all of the way up the mountain the path is littered with trash. Mostly soda bottles. And some horse poop too. These ironic trail markers, for hours, showed us the correctness of our course and gave us the confidence to keep trekking. Having never appreciated litter even once in my life, i was strangely grateful for the plastic white pebbles that delivered us from the wood.

When the slight glow of day began to emerge i handed Erin my working light and pressed on alone through the dawning day. I was especially determined not to miss the sunrise. And as a spectacular orange glow began to grow on the horizon i hastened my step.

It was maybe only 15 more minutes to the top and i got there just in time. The whole horizon was simmering with a firey glow, like a gas stove set low. Not having seen or heard any other hikers on the whole of the climb, i was convinced we would have the volcanoe top to ourselves. Didn´t factor in the people who climbed it yesterday.

At the top it was tent city. The uniform shape and color of the tents on the bare rock gave the look of mussels clustered on the sea floor.

There were people everywhere, maybe 150 or more. There were loudly announcing the day, starting fires frying tortillas. It was an odd scene.

I was desperately hungry and thirsty and this point, but all that i could find was bare bread and the water, of course, was far too cold. (to give context if i had worn heavy winter wear i would have been comfortable). So i waited for the others, with my dry bread, until Erin arrived.

We were very excited.

We took turns getting each other´s "epic" shots, because, of course, we were feeling quite epic.

(That´s a volcano errupting four hours away in Antigua in the background)

Will made the really good point that our innermost layer would be sweaty and, therefore, in the cold of the summit excellent for channeling cold. We all brought fresh shirts, which had to be changed fast.

Literally, just in time for the actual appearance of the sun the rest of the crew arrived. Equally exhausted but very ver pleased to be at the top. We wrapped ourselves in blankets and perched high on a rock. The view was absolutely spectacular. It was, without a doubt, the most incredible thing i have ever seen.

Behind us we heard a sound like an airplane. In fact, we were so sure it was an airplane none of us turned around to see what it was. Will, however, knew better. It was the erupting of a vent further down on the side of the volcanoe. It was the same vent that we saw erupt on our way to the hot springs.

When turned around i noticed something else, equally spectacular,behind us.

It was as if we were standing on top of the pyramids.

It was as if we were on top of the world.