Guatemala: hike around Nebaj (Cuchumatan Mountains)

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Ok, I’m jumping the gun a bit with my backlog of posts I should be getting on top of, but here is an update that I really wanted to get up.

A few days ago we got back from a brilliant 3 days up in the Cuchumatan mountains around Nebaj in the province of Quiché, Guatemala.

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Danielle & I headed of with our guide Asinto from Guias Ixil in Nebaj and spent 3 days hiking 40km up, down & around exploring the small Ixil Mayan communities whilst trying to get our heads around Asinto’s explanations in Spanish about the brutal Guatemalan civil war that he fought in.

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The folks up in these parts, especially the women and children, came across as quite reserved/apprehensive at first. We couldn’t work out why, especially after having found that most people in Guatemala are quite open and up for a chat. Later we heard that there had been a few incidents of foreigners “adopting” children (basically stealing them) which ended up with some unfortunate tourists being murdered after picking up one family’s little kid whilst walking through one of the communities.

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Also, I’d say that the civil war has left a lot of the indigenous people up here quite suspicious of strangers.

Most people are subsistence farmers as far as I could tell and fortunately for us we didn’t come across anyone who tried to sell us anything! There are chickens, roosters, turkeys, dogs, cats, pigs and all the baby versions of these running around the place.

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The women by far have the most interesting garb – purple, green and yellow pom-pommed hair braids, huipiles (blouses/dresses) and rebozos (shawls).

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Most of the dads & sons seem to leave in the morning for work in town, or farm, or head out into the forest to log trees and collect wood.

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The first day was some of the best hiking because we ended up walking from a hot sunny day up in to a thick fog on top of a mountain. It was beautiful.

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The second night we stayed with a family and ended up putting on a bit of show to about 20 kids who had gathered around staring at Danielle and I through the kitchen door.
What to do? I showed them how to make fart sounds with their arm pits, and we exchanged different whistling techniques and sound fx. It was one of the best cultural exchanges I have had! 🙂

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There seems to be a rather massive evangelical church presence up here too.
Both nights we tried to buy a beer or 2 and ended up having to go to the edge of each community to find the one family who sold alcohol. It was a little weird, but a lot of fun to be one of the outcasts drinking in the little watering hole.
With so many people living in cramped wooden houses with dirt floors I couldn’t see how it was ok for there to be so many reasonably sized churches built out of concrete/cinder blocks that had hard floors and electricity (to power the “jam session” that was blasted over the PA across the whole town & valley).
I have no idea what the medical facilities are like up there but we saw/met a lot of people with bad coughs and kids that didn’t look too healthy (one family had 3 kids who were all covered in what looked like hives, red eyes and sniffling noses). I felt really sorry for these little guys (especially when one of them nearly poked his eye out whilst trying to climb a tree).
It just seemed that the little money that is up there is kind of going into the wrong places (but i ain’t judgin’!).

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Our time up in the mountains was fantastic and I’d really suggest to anyone who is going near Nebaj to take a few days and go explore!

The Photos

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The Route


View Larger Map

GPS track file (GPX)
http://adamteale.com/gps/Hike_CuchumataneMountains.gpx

Mexico.

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I love Mexico.

Upon arriving in Mexico some 4 months ago I really had no idea what we would be about to experience.
The only references I had were from movies like Desperado & Nacho Libre, and I think I had seen The Mexican.

The history? Ha, I had no idea. I remember learning something about a fair chunk of the USA once being owned by Mexico. And maybe Aztecs & Mayans had something to do with Mexico too.

The food? Ha, yep nachos, burritos and Corona beer.

The music? Ha, mariachi of course.

The geography? Ha, desert. But I at least knew it was the country south of the USA, somewhere. Cancun?

The people? Ha, dudes with big mustaches sporting sombreros sitting around playing guitar.

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Mexico pretty much has it all.

When we crossed the border from San Ysidro into Tijuana I was slightly apprehensive after all the warning we’d had from people on the US side. Apparently we were going to either be killed or robbed by the narco folks within minutes. But after entering Mexico the only thing that looked like it was going to kill us was the heat. One day it reached 47C or so and you can see in the 3rd episode of Planet Kapow that we were wasted. We managed to spend a night camping under the stars with some friends we’d made in Ensenada, we swam at some beautiful beaches, and ate some tasty tasty food. Tacos pescados to be exact. Yummo!

There was a lot to see in Baja California but due to the heat it was just too damn hard to make the effort. I’ll come back to Baja one day, once I have learnt to surf, and will spend some months cruising the coastline in search of the perfect taco pescado, and of course the perfect wave.

A month or so in we attempted to reach a farm out in Yepachi, Chihuahua, to work on a farm for a few weeks. We were going to learn about Organic farming and hopefully pickup some Spanish. Instead we spent 24 hours or so lost out in the Chihuahuan’ wilderness getting chased by bulls, drinking water off the sides of mountains, and spooning during the cold night. We ended up walking 40km or so eventually deciding that we would postpone the farming idea until sometime later.

But it all worked out beautifully.

After the farm fail we got on the first bus we could to the city of Chihuahua where our love affair with Mexico started to fire. We befriended some students who took us out for drinks and tried to teach us how to dance in their kitchen until 4am.

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And Mexico only got better.

We found ourselves in beautiful Unesco heritage listed cities in the order of Durango-Zacatecas-Guanajuato, each one somehow out-awesomeing the last one, had coffees and beers around many beautiful city plazas, tried to learn spanish at a Spanish language school, found even more ways to eat cheese and tortillas (my favourite ended up being the quesadillas we had at a street eat in Puerto Vallarta), we road horses up the mountains around Real de Catorce, we climbed volcanoes that had grown out of some poor man’s farm around 50 years ago, we stood awe struck taking in the vastness of one of the biggest canyons in the world Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon), we experienced the spectacle & might that is Luche Libre wrestling in Mexico City, we walked with The Dead during the dia del muerte festival (Day of the Dead), we scaled ancient pyramids and tried to fathom the design & engineering of ancient ruined cities, we froze our asses off and drank delicious hot chocolate up in the mountains of Oaxaca, we got dumped by the heavy world renowned surf of Puerto Escondido and hungout at beautiful seaside villages like Zipolite & Mazunte, and we continued to dig deeper into the history of country with more revolutions than a rotary engine.

And after the whole 4 months or so we never saw one burrito or plate of nachos, and never had any direct run-ins with any of the narcos.

But probably the thing I have enjoyed the most about Mexico has been the hospitality and overall kindness of the people.
No matter where in Mexico we were people would be patient enough to decipher our slowly progressing attempts at the Spanish language, and with a sense of humour, would help us out.

Mexico is beautiful.

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Photos: Mexico update

¡Finalmente, estan unos fotos aqui!

It appears that I have been shooting far more video that photos, so there isn’t a terrible a lot going on here.
One thing that I’ve noticed since being in Mexico is the changes in scenery. First desert, then forest, then really hot desert, then jungle, then meadows (riviera feel), then mountains, then swamp land, then really high mountains covered in pine trees, and now canyons (currently in Creel, Chihuahua state)!

We have barely scratched the surface. Mexico es muy grande.

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work done. resuscitation begins.

What’s the best thing you can do after doing mental hours in the vfx world and not seeing your friends and family for weeks on end?

There are probably many options out there. One of them is to let your friends do all the hard work and book a nice little house up in the Blue Mountains in a little town called Mt Victoria and cook tasty food and let you eat it and then drag you along on bush walks.

Fresh air, sunlight & good friends are truly amazing things.

So I finally got to test out my new camera, the Canon 550D (a.k.a the Rebel T2i) or as it is affectionately known in Japan, the “Kiss X4”.

I am sticking with 550D.
(I just need some black electrical tape to cover the red “Kiss” logo on the front of the camera.)

This camera is impressing me so far, and I think a fair amount of that impressiveness is coming from the “Tamron SP AF17-50mm f2.8 XR DiII VC” lens I was recommended.

Anyway enough gas bagging, here are some pics I punched through Lightroom 3 and put up on Flickr. Yes I know the grading is over the top and has killed all the nice dynamic range in the original image, lots to learn!

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IndoNeville – a trip through Java, Indonesia

A month ago I’d not have imagined I’d be typing up a blog entry from Indonesia amongst travels with one of my best friends.

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Whilst on the “Dude, Where’s my jakkayarn?” tour from Bangkok to Singapore ride I was lucky to catch Liam on iChat and after a few minutes managed to convince him to come on an adventure to somewhere in Asia. It turned out that NIN were going to playing in Singapore around the same time I was going to be there, so it didn’t take much to get Liam over!


View Indoneville in a larger map

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Our brainstorming ended us up with an idea to go to the island of Java, Indonesia. So after a few days with the flu in Singapore we managed to get a ticket with Air Asia to Bandung – the fourth largest city in Java (or was it Indonesia?). Cool temperature, lots of smiles, lots of motorcycles, and I think Bandung is surrounded by mountains but can’t make them out for all the smoggy air.

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There are so many rice fields.

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A big reason for coming here to Java is to try to see some active volcanoes, ideally some lava. It looks like Gunung Bromo will be one stop, and maybe Gunung Semuru.

“Garut! Garut! Garut!”

We left Bandung the next day one a little bus to a place called Garut and then to a nearby place callled Cipanas. The bus ride was amazing. Impressive mountains and rice fields all the way.
It took 2-3 hours to cover the 60km or so to Garut and Cipanas.

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Cipanas is known for it’s hot springs and nearby volcanic sites like Gunung Telagabodas. We decided it was going to be a days effort to go check out the crater and it seems like there will be more possibly cooler volcanoes along the way. So we bused it last night from Garut to Tasik Malaya – an over packed night time rollercoaster ride!

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We’ve been really lucky so far to get from place to place. It’s very affordable and everyone we’ve met so far has been very friendly and some have been curious about if we are scared of the bombings. I just tell them Liam is a terrorist and we all seem to laugh, except Liam.

Yogyakarta is cool. There are lots of places to check out in the city and within 50-100km. And if you are into it there is a lot of Batik art.

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We were fortunate to meet some folks from Sumatra who showed us the sites of Gunung Merapi and the ancient Hindu temples at/of Prambanan.

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The next day Neville and I headed out to Borobudur.

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Staying at the Loseman Anda – 40,000RP / night close to the Tugu train station.

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Yogya to Malang – train 1.30am, RP150,000. Was late. Good seats, blankets, pillows.

Malang to Cemorro Lawang via Probolinggo – blue microlet from train station to Arjosari bus station – RP2500pp.
Arjosyro to Probolinggo (Bayuangga) – RP23000pp.
Probolinggo 2 Cemorro Lawang -RP50000pp but normally RP25000pp.
Jeep to lookout RP350,000 4people.

Then we  Gunung Bromo – what an amazing place to see. A neighbourhood of volcanoes living in one massive crater. A pricey place to stay – The Lava View hotel – 400,000RP/night but it was highly recommended and stares straight out to Bromo.

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We then took a killer over night bus from Probolinggo (paid an extra 25,000RP to get on the comfortable bus but we didnt end up on it) to Denpasar Bali. Poor Nevs and I were squashed up the baack of the bus in between the toilet, luggage and some guys on their way home for Ramadan. It was pretty uncomfortable so we ended up getting on another bus mid ferry ride across to Bali – the bus we were meant to be on!

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The rest of the week we went to Aussie invested Kuta beach, then up to Ubud.

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Some prices of the fares we took from Yogya(karta) to Denpasar Bali:
Yogya to Malang – train 1.30am, RP150,000. Was late. Good seats, blankets, pillows.
Malang to Cemorro Lawang via Probolinggo – blue microlet from train station to Arjosari bus station – RP2500pp.
Arjosyro to Probolinggo (Bayuangga) – RP23000pp.
Probolinggo 2 Cemorro Lawang -RP50000pp but normally RP25000pp.
Jeep to lookout RP350,000 4people.
Cemorro Lawang to Probolinggo minivan – RP25000pp
Probolinggo (Bayuangga) to Denpasar AC bus overnight – RP125,000pp