By dint of not getting fired for 18 consecutive months, I've earned a major promotion. You should no longer address me as "Third Secretary and Vice-Consul." That's right, your humble servant is now a "Second Secretary and Vice-Consul." I'm a little hazy on the hierarchy, but I think next is "Ambassador Plenipotentiary" or maybe "Senator for Life."
More thorough updates on recent adventures coming soon.
Monday, September 25, 2006
Sunday, September 10, 2006
The editorial staff would first like to apologize for another extended break in the publication schedule. We know there is a lot of detritus on the internet you could be wasting your time with, and appreciate your dedication in coming back here from time to time.
Our most recent expedition in Guatemala took us to the Cuevas de Candelaria, which is Spanish for "Caves of Candelaria." The area north of Cobán is pure limestone, and it makes for some amazing landscapes. As reported earlier, there are some amazing cave formations in the region. Our deep inside sources reported that Candelaria, another ninety minutes past Cobán, was the best. Even though we're just barely past the halfway point in our two years in Guatemala, your correspondent is already counting up the three-day weekends we have left and prioritizing which unexplored corners of the region merit a valuable long weekend away. We decided the caves would be worth it, even though the agenda for Labor Day weekend wound up being: Saturday - drive; Sunday - see caves; Monday - drive back. Because your correspondent and his wife both have fully acclimated to the insane driving style of Guatemala, we arrived early and managed to have alittle extra time for relaxation on Saturday.
We stayed at a eco-tourism facility in what might as well be signposted "Middle of Nowhere, Guatemala." Instead, the actual sign read, "Candelaria Ecological and Touristic Complex -- Right 100 meters." There was no road to the right, only cow pasture and jungle. It turns out that the most accurate sign might have read, "Candelaria Ecological and Touristic Complex -- Park Your Car in the Rancher's Driveway, and Start Walking Into the Jungle Here." The walk surely seemed longer than it was, because we were prepared for the Middle of Nowhere, carrying food and wine to last for the long weekend, along with your standard clothes, toiletries, and Boggle. Of course, we arrived at the front gate to find that no outside food or drink would be allowed on the premises. In perhaps not our finest diplomatic hour, we stuffed the wine and other provisions in our packs, choosing to violate their rules rather than walk all the way back to the car. This turned out to be wise, because the food was unsurprisingly expensive and of modest quality, and more crucially, they wouldn't serve you at all outside of the appointed breakfast, lunch and dinner hours. And they had apparently purloined all their silverware (at least they stole it from state sponsors of terrorism).
In any case, we had a fine time relaxing in the gardens surrounding the surprisingly nice accomodations, although to avoid being reprimanded for drinking contraband wine we had to spend a little more time inside than might have been ideal. The clean air was fantastic, and the peace and quite interrupted only by bird calls and the rattling dice preceding each time I crushed Katherine at Boggle. (To be fair, she crushed me at card games, but those are a lot quieter, other than my whimpering.)
So all that is prelude to the actual caves. Unlike the caves in Lanquin, there was no electric lighting and no boardwalks interupting the beauty of the caverns. There were a number of natural "windows," letting in light filtered through the foliage outside. While impressive, your correspondent wasn't sure they were that much cooler than the caves at Lanquin -- but in the afternoon we hiked in to another "ecological and touristic complex" where they offered tours tubing through about a mile-long stretch of river running through the caves. For reasons that I though were obvious, I did not bring the camera on the river-tubing portion of the trip. Apparently not everyone feels this way about taking their camera near water, since our pre-teen local guides asked us why we didn't have a camera along. So, again, you'll have to excuse this writer's lack of flair for capturing the breathtaking, uh, awesomeness of the sights deep inside an underground river where the light would slip in through a small opening far above. You would think that after having a week to think about it, I could do better than that.