Simply returned from 9 days in Guatemala, and thought I might jot down some observations and impressions of the place. Having no prior data, I had few expectations though I’ll admit that I had some biases based mostly on its location nestled beside Mexico.I now perceive why Central America typically and to some extent Guatemala is so fashionable with Individuals and particularly retirees. First, the local weather is nice and really extra accommodating than Florida, as its elevation above sea degree supplies a extra temperate local weather and fewer humidity, a minimum of throughout its dry season. Second, the persons are pleasant and hard-working. Third, the price of residing is cheap. Fourth, within the case of neighbors Belize, Costa Rica, and Panama, English is spoken in all places (not true in Guatemala).Amongst my greatest surprises (although I knew Guatemala was a poor nation) was the truth that the roads are horrendous, and the driving is even worse. Between the spectacular topography (owing to mountains fashioned eons in the past by earthquakes and volcanoes) and the truth that the overwhelming majority of roads are both cobblestone or dust, journey across the nation ain’t straightforward. And there’s no railroad or mass transit of any form, in all probability due to the topography, until you rely the 1000’s of “chicken buses” the locals take to get round. (Rooster buses are yellow college buses from the USA which have been artistically and uniquely painted and used to move folks and all kinds of cargo, together with livestock, therefore the identify.) It was not shocking to study that Guatemala ranks 116 in paved roads with a mere 4,700 kilometers (lower than 3,000 miles) of paved roads, behind Western Sahara and earlier than Tunisia.One other large shock, which I discovered by inquiring about sending postcards was the truth that two years in the past, the nation abolished its nationwide postal system, so if you wish to ship mail, you want both a personal courier or DHL. Tooling round small villages I seen most haven’t any road indicators, so you need to surprise how the mail each obtained delivered even when the publish workplace existed. No road indicators inform me that each one exercise in many of the nation may be very native the place everybody is aware of everybody else.In all probability my greatest shock was to study that there isn’t a system of public schooling in Guatemala, that means kids can solely attend colleges if their mother and father pays to ship them privately.Probably the most fascinating little bit of historical past I discovered was concerning the relationship between Belize (previously British Honduras) and Guatemala. In keeping with our information, centuries in the past, England was granted permission to reap lumber (Mahogany) from Guatemala in return for promising to construct roads in Guatemala, however apparently not solely did not construct roads, however occupied extra land than their permission allowed, and stored it, which later grew to become generally known as British Honduras. To keep away from a confrontation, England granted that occupied territory its independence and it grew to become generally known as Belize. Immediately Guatemala intends to enchantment to the United Nations to both get better that territory or a minimum of be compensated for its improper appropriation by England. Time will inform if they can prevail.Should you resolve to go to Guatemala, remember that journey there carries vital dangers, so your journey ought to be supervised by an expert tour information, a minimum of in a gaggle format, or extra ideally, a personal tour information (as we did). There isn’t a public transportation, there are few street and road indicators, details about all the pieces is scarce, and YOU MUST SPEAK SPANISH to get wherever or do something!We visited 4 areas: Guatemala Metropolis (the Capital Metropolis for the reason that 1700s and the place the main airport resides), Tikal (the place essentially the most vital settlement of the traditional Mayan civilization resides), Antigua (the well-preserved former capital of Guatemala again within the 1500s, when it was dominated by Spain, later moved to Guatemala Metropolis after being decimated by an earthquake) and Lake Atitlan (an impressive venue fashioned within the valley of a number of volcanoes).These areas give you a mix of Spanish (and Catholic) historical past within the nation, historical past of the Mayan civilization and a few spectacular websites of pure magnificence. When you have time, go to Chichicastenango (no, that is not Pinky Tuscadero’s child sister) if you find yourself within the neighborhood of Lake Atitlan, touted because the oldest and largest open air market in Central America.Moreover, we loved visiting a espresso plantation close to Antigua. I used to be stunned to study that Guatemalan espresso is taken into account the world’s third highest quality, behind Ethiopian and Kenyan, though you’d by no means comprehend it as they produce it in comparatively small portions. By the way in which, the locals aren’t espresso drinkers. Their chocolate can also be thought-about very top quality, although chocolate’s origin is outwardly Brazil. By the way in which, the meals nearly in all places we visited was flavorful and freshly ready. Numerous contemporary fruit, together with papaya, pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, berries, and veggies, and avocados are served virtually at each meal. The staples of the Guatemalan weight loss program embody corn, rice and beans.My recommendation is to focus your go to on the 2 predominant areas of Antigua (for tradition and historical past) and Lake Atitlan (for pure magnificence). Tikal is billed as a serious attraction given its historic significance as the middle of the traditional Mayan civilization, and its out there websites are spectacular. Nonetheless, remember that solely about 20% of these artifacts and tombs have been disinterred as of this writing, so you will not see most of what archeologists consider lies buried beneath the floor. That was a little bit of a disappointment. Moreover, visiting there would require a brief flight or a protracted bus experience as Tikal is situated effectively north and east of the opposite two main sights talked about. You’ll in all probability must fly into Guatemala Metropolis, however know that it affords little attraction and my recommendation can be to spend as little time there as potential.Each time I go away the USA I all the time return with a terrific appreciation of many issues we take as a right right here: phrases like administration, group, effectivity, transparency, disclosure, communication all carry better that means for me now. The Guatemalans are hard-working, expert, and gifted folks, however given the dire state of its roadways and communications infrastructure and the truth that they haven’t any public or free schooling system, suffice it to say they face a difficult future.In case you surprise concerning the title of this essay, you must know that “Pinchazo” is a Spanish phrase that has many meanings, together with flat (as in tire) and sharp ache (as within the form one experiences after many hours of touring on cobblestone roads). It appeared that each mile or so, touring on the main highways we noticed indicators studying “Pinchazo.” Not shocking for the reason that roads are so unhealthy. Our information advised us that not solely do they wash their vehicles day by day there, however they’ve their breaks checked each couple of weeks!