Monday, May 19, 2014


May 15, 2014

Crops on the Side of Pacaya Volcano
As my bus to Tikal didn’t leave until 6:30 in the evening, I found myself with an extra day in Antigua.  Antigua itself not being all that exciting, I elected to spend the morning climbing the Pacaya Volcano.  A van picked me up at about 6:30 AM and we set off for Pacaya.  We drove back over the hill towards Guatemala City and then took a side road up the mountainside to San Francisco de Pacaya, where we picked up our guide, Irving.  In 2009, an eruption spewed so much rock into the air that the weight of it, falling on the roofs, caused most of the houses in the town to collapse.  Irving had survived by hiding under a table while hot rocks rained down.  All of that year’s crops were destroyed.  The town was rebuilt thanks to foreign aid.

Our Guide, Irivng, with One of the Horses
Summit of Pacaya Volcano
We continued up the mountain to the Pacaya Volcano National Park.  A horde of little boys with horses assaulted us in the parking lot, offering to rent us a steed for the ascent.  They followed us half way up the mountain before they admitted we were fit enough to walk.  The path was very steep and the volcanic soil was loose and sandy.  Our guide proceeded at a very fast pace, but he did stop often to show us something of the local flora.  While I stayed at the front of the pack, the 2000 meter elevation made it an effort for me to do so.  The park featured well maintained trails with rest stops and vendors had carried basins full of drinks up the mountain on their heads to sell to the hikers.  I bought a bag of water when the altitude started to get to me.  It was very beautiful and green, but visibility was very limited.  When we reached the summit, there was no view at all.  All we could see in the crater were clouds.
View into the Crater

Me in the Crater
We climbed down into the crater.  There had been an eruption just a couple of months before and the lava was still warm.  It was misty and the fierce wind was frigid.  It was nice to hunker down next to the warm rocks.  We toasted marshmallows and even roasted peppers over one of the vents.  I was afraid I would melt the soles of my shoes.  We were followed by several hungry dogs who became instant friends with anyone who had food.  Coming back down was much easier once we climbed back out of the crater, although that first bit up the side of the crater was the steepest part of all.  The wind was blowing so hard that it was difficult to keep my balance as I picked my way across the uneven lava on the floor of the crater to the bottom of the slope.  Back at the visitor center, we rested and had cups of coffee and snacks before piling back into the van for the return trip to Antigua.  I met a couple from Spain who had been working in Tulum and were on their way to another job in San Cristobal.  Later in the year, they planned to come to California to work in the medical marijuana harvest.  I had no idea there even was such a thing, even though their destination was only about 20 miles from my home.
The Floor of the Crater
Roasting a Pepper over Lava

Hungry Dog
 We arrived back in Antigua just after noon, which gave me time to finish packing and check out of my room by 1:00.  I had a lot of time to kill, so I went to get lunch.  Authentic Guatemalan cuisine had proved elusive.  When I asked what the typical food might be, I was told that it was fast food fried chicken.  This did, indeed, seem to be the case as there were chicken restaurants everywhere.  I ate fried chicken at the local Burger King, which was also very popular.  The chicken was only very lightly breaded and then fried to a dark brown color.  It was served with French fries.  It was cheap, tasty, and filling, but I couldn’t help but think it rather sad that fast food had more or less eliminated the local fare.

"Harley Davidson" Bus
After lunch, I left my bag at the hotel and wandered across town to glance at the crafts market on my way to the bus station.  The local people made everything imaginable out of colorful woven textiles.  They were very pretty, but bulky and heavy.  I wasn’t interested in buying anything, so I mostly avoided the market with its pushy vendors.  The buses in Guatemala had impressed me and I wanted to take some photographs.  Like their counterparts in El Salvador, the Guatemalan “chicken” buses are old U.S. school buses, painted in bright colors and designs.  Unlike the Salvadoran ones that had more patches than original steel, the Guatemalan ones were nicely maintained and had been dressed up with shiny chrome trim.  One of them even proclaimed itself to be a Harley Davidson.  Nearby the bus station, I located a post office.  I stopped to send a post card to my stamp collecting uncle.  I think it was the first post office I had seen on my entire journey.

Religious Floats Behind Bars
One cannot help but notice that a large portion of the real estate in Antigua is covered with ruined churches and convents.  This hardly seemed like the highest and best use of the property.  As near as I could figure, the church must not have had the money or reason to clear away the rubble soon after the earthquake.  Now, the ruins are too much a part of the history and allure of the city to consider removing them.  The church has, however, made creative use of some sites.  I came across one ruin, surrounded by an intact wall, where parade floats for religious processions were stored.  All that walking, with my heavy day pack on my back, had made me thirsty.  When I got back to the Parque Central, I stopped into a café and had a banano licuada.  A licuada is a sort of a smoothie made without much ice.  Fruit is blended with milk, water or fruit juice.  The local bananas in Guatemala are very small and are called “bananos.”  I hung out in the café, using the internet, for an hour or more before returning to the hotel to wait for my ride to the bus station.  On the way back to the hotel, I stopped and got a haircut.  The woman who cut my hair was very interesting and had traveled many places.  She and I chatted for almost an hour after she was finished cutting my hair.  At 40 quetzals (about $5), it was the most expensive haircut I’d had in months, but was well worth it for the Spanish conversation practice.

The van was supposed to pick me up at 6:30, but hadn’t shown by 7:00.  Just as I was starting to worry, a woman who worked at the travel agency down the street (not the one who had booked my trip) came down to invite me to wait in her office.  There were three other people waiting there, too.  By the time the van came and we had collected the other passengers, it was nearly 8:00.  My bus left at 10:00.  We made fairly good time getting into Guatemala City.  I was the second to last one to be dropped off.  Driving around Guatemala City after dark was kind of creepy.  It looked like Beirut.  The Linea Dorada station, where we dropped off a group of noisy teenagers, was in a particularly bad part of town.  I was taking the ADN bus line.  The station was quite small and had an armed guard with an automatic weapon at the door.  He searched our carry-on luggage before we were allowed on the bus.  The bus station had a tall stack of tires in the middle of the floor and other freight leaning against the walls.  There was nowhere to purchase anything to eat, so I was glad that my greasy fried chicken lunch had left me without much appetite.

                                                                                              May 16, 2014

Agricultural Inspection Station (Taken on Return, Not at 4:30 am)
The ADN (Autobuses Del Norte) bus line was a strange combination of luxury and hardship.  The coach was an older first class coach with just three seats across.  The seats were wide and had foot and leg rests, which would have made it easy to sleep if the shock absorbers had been up to the task of smoothing out the incredibly bumpy roads.  In both El Salvador and Guatemala, speed limits were enforced by the use of speed bumps or “tumulos” as they were called.  We passed over pairs of them each time we entered and exited a town.  In some towns, there were signs cautioning drivers about the existence of tumulos, but no actual tumulos.  I was exhausted and had hardly been able to stay awake long enough to get on the bus, but still only managed to doze on and off all night because it was raining cats and dogs and the roads felt like jeep trails.  The bus did not have a restroom.  I was pretty desperate by the time we stopped to use the facilities at a state border inspection station at 4:30 in the morning.  The toilets there had no running water.  We had to dip water out of a barrel to get them to flush.  From that point until we reached Santa Elena at 7:00, we stopped every half an hour or so.  At one stop by the side of the road in the middle of a pasture, the driver could not restart the bus.  He and the conductor worked on the engine in the rain for half an hour before they could get it to idle again.  It occurred to me that we were sitting ducks if someone wanted to rob us.  Fortunately, no one molested us and we still managed to arrive at Santa Elena on time. 

In Santa Elena, I was met by Cesar, who would later be our tour driver for the day.  He took me to my
Casa Amelia
The Island of Flores

hotel, Casa Amelia, on the island of Flores to drop off my luggage.  The hotel staff was very accommodating.  Even though check-in time wasn’t until 3:00, they let me have my room early.  I had 45 minutes, so I was able to take a shower and put on clean clothes, which went a long way towards reviving me.  The hotel was pretty basic, but had a nice location on the edge of the lake with a pretty restaurant overlooking the water.  Best of all, there was plenty of hot water.  The island of Flores is in the middle of Lake Peten Itza.  It was almost completely jammed with hotels and restaurants to the extent that it felt more like Venice than Guatemala.  Unlike Venice, however, prices were reasonable.  My hotel was under $30 and I got a very nice dinner including a tamarind margarita (highly recommended) for 45 quetzals (about $6.)  The island was joined to the mainland town of Santa Elena by a causeway.  There were restaurants, banks and movie theaters at the foot of the causeway.  Like Lago Atitlan, the level of the water in Lago Peten Itza had risen.  While I didn’t see any sunken houses, I did see soccer pitches full of water and docks just under the surface.

Causeway to Flores
Immense Ceiba Tree

Cesar picked me up again about 8:30 and we headed off towards Tikal.  It was raining.  Tikal is 60 km from Santa Elena.  There is an airport in Santa Elena and it is possible to avoid the long bus ride by flying there from Antigua, although it is very expensive to do so.  The Peten region of Guatemala was largely uninhabited between the fall of the Mayan empire and about 50 years ago.  The government has done a good job of attracting settlers in recent years, but the roads are still notoriously bad.  It took us most of two hours to cover 60 km.  The Peten region contains rolling hills alternating between jungle and pasture.  Many of the settlers are ranchers and they have contributed to the deforestation of the region.  They clear the land by burning the forest and we saw evidence of recent fires.  From Tikal northward, including huge swathes of Mexico and Belize, is all National Park.  There, the jungle is impressively tall, unlike the low jungle prevalent in the Yucatan.  Like the Yucatan, the area is all limestone.
The Coati Mundi Were Quite Bold

Tikal was very impressive.  Having already visited Uxmal, Chichen Itza, Tulum, and Monte Alban, I was prepared to be bored.  There was nothing boring about Tikal.  Our guide, Nixon (I’m sure I’ve got the spelling wrong.  Sorry.), was very knowledgeable about the flora and fauna, as well as the archaeology.  He entertained us with information about the plants and animals as we hiked out to the ruins.  We saw plenty of animals.  I had hoped to see more exotic birds, but the rain had them all sheltering out of sight.  We did see a weaver bird and one toucan that refused to be photographed.  We had better luck with mammals.  We saw spider monkeys, a gray fox, and several coati mundi.  We also saw a mammal sized tarantula and a parade of leaf cutter ants.  I was surprised at how large the spider monkeys were.  For some reason, I had thought they were smaller and more, uh, spidery.  These were pretty robust.


The ruins at Tikal just went on and on.  There are four impressive pyramids and many, many groupings of lower buildings.  The pyramids are taller and steeper than those at other sites.  I have heard that you can no longer climb the pyramids in Mexico, but Tikal was still very accessible.  From the top of pyramid number 4, we had a wonderful view of the forest canopy, as well as the other three tall buildings.  The tall trees supported a lush growth of air plants and orchids.  Everything was virulently green.  In the misty light, the place had a definite Indiana Jones vibe to it.  The site is quite large and we trouped over most of it.  By the end of the day we were all wiped out from early rising and climbing up and down pyramids.  While the Mayans were little people, most of the “staircases” had actually been designed as amphitheater seats and the steps were tall.  A couple of the pyramids had wooden staircases built to ease access.  I counted 103 steps on one and 196 on pyramid number four.  The view was worth every step.

Restaurant at Casa Amelia
Our tour lasted until 2:30 and then we repaired to a nearby hotel where we had a nice lunch of chicken in a mushroom wine sauce.  The only things Guatemalan about the meal were the Mozo beer (very dark and tasty) and the basket of tortillas on the side.  The rain had kept things relatively cool, but I was thoroughly damp from both the rain outside and condensation inside my rain jacket.  I felt like everything I owned was wet.  After lunch, we had another long drive back to Flores.  I wanted to go out and explore the island, but I was exhausted and it was still raining.  I took a nap instead, rising only long enough to eat a barbecued chicken sandwich for dinner in the hotel restaurant.  I might have lingered on the terrace long enough for a second tamarind margarita if it hadn’t been so chilly.  I hoped that the sun would come out in the morning.

May 17, 2014

Casa Amelia Roof Terrace
Part of the Malecon Was Flooded
Having gone to bed early the night before, I got up at 6:00 AM to give myself time to explore Flores before leaving at 10:00.  Breakfast was included with my room, so I had a nice meal of scrambled eggs, toast, whole black beans and fruit, accompanied by a cup of good coffee.  It was still quite overcast, but the rain had stopped and it was warmer on the terrace than it had been the night before.  After breakfast, I climbed up to the roof terrace, hoping to get some interesting photos.  The terrace itself was cheerful, with lots of colorful Adirondack chairs and bougainvilla.  There was a nice view of the lake, but Flores was much more attractive from street level.  From above, all I could see were rusty roofs and power lines.  I climbed back down and went for a walk around the malecon circling the island.  The malecon was nicely constructed with a pretty wall and planters full of flowers.  Unfortunately, sections of it had been inundated.  In places, the entire road was under several inches of water.  All the docks and landings were under water.  Water taxis still waited to shuttle people over to the mainland, but they didn’t have any takers.  Flores had the abandoned air of a tourist town during the off season.  After walking around the island, I returned to the hotel and tried, unsuccessfully, to use the internet.  While there were three networks operating in the hotel, all were so slow that I couldn’t stay connected long enough to accomplish anything.
All of the Docks Were Submerged

On the Way to Rio Dulce
My ride showed up promptly at 10:00 AM.  My driver was Osvaldo and his girlfriend accompanied us.  There was one other passenger, a woman from Quebec, going to Rio Dulce.  It took us four and a half hours to make the drive.  Most of it was over the same road we had traversed on the way from Guatemala City.  It was nice to be able to see the scenery, since I had passed through in the dark the first time.  The countryside alternated between jungle covered hills and cattle ranches where the trees had been cleared.  When I first came to Mayan territory nearly 25 years earlier, people were still living in the traditional Mayan huts built with wooden poles and roofed with palm thatch at a characteristic 60 degree pitch.  The standard of living has improved since then.  While some of the huts were still standing, most were now being used as out buildings.  These days, people mostly live in concrete block houses with zinc roofs.  Unlike in El Salvador, most families seemed to own a car or truck.  These vehicles were clearly prized and were sheltered under every sort of covering imaginable.  The roads must be hard on tires because there were signs advertising tire repairs everywhere.  There were more “pinchazo” (puncture) shops than fried chicken restaurants.
My Room at Vinas del Lago
Vinas del Lago
Bald Headed Parrot
Angry Monkey
Wild Agouti
Grass Growing on the Dock
We got to Rio Dulce at 2:30 in the afternoon.  I stayed at Vinas del Lago.  The town of Rio Dulce is on Lake Izabal near where the river begins.  The hotel consisted of a block of rooms, a large palapa housing the lobby, a pretty swimming pool, another palapa containing the restaurant, and pretty gardens leading down to a dock on the lake.  This was the first dock I had ever seen that had grass growing on it, but at least it was above the water level.  The gardens were lush with tropical plants and flowers.  I felt like I was in a botanical garden in Hawaii or something.  The hotel also had a sad little zoo.  The animals seemed well fed, but their enclosures were small and they didn’t look very happy.  They had spider monkeys and the type of monkeys (Capuchin, maybe?) that I thought were spider monkeys.  They had raccoons, agoutis,  coati mundi, turtles, and lots of birds.  One parrot seemed desperate for company and followed me around his cage.  Another particularly sad parrot had pulled all the feathers out of his head.  The toucans were beautiful and it was fun to watch them eating bananas with their ridiculously long beaks.  They would grab a piece of fruit with the tip of their beaks and then open wide and toss the fruit down their throats.  Right next to the zoo, I saw a wild agouti noisily eating a nut. 

View from the Restaurant
There was absolutely nothing in the part of Rio Dulce where I was staying except a few hotels, each with its own restaurant.  I ate a late lunch of chips, guacamole and beer at the hotel’s restaurant.  Prices were rather high.  That snack cost me more than the previous night’s dinner and margarita.  After lunch, I went for a walk to see if I couldn’t locate another place to get dinner.  I also wanted to check out the marinas.  Nothing was accessible from the road.  I saw a couple of marinas, but they were behind tall locked gates.   There did not appear to be any bars or restaurants catering to yachties, nor did I see anyone fitting that description.  Rio Dulce may be the safest place in all of the Caribbean to spend the hurricane season, but it seemed to me that it would be awfully boring.  One road circled the town.  Besides the hotels, there were a few of the usual small stores selling chips and sodas and recharging cell phones and a fruit stand or two.  Most of the buildings were private dwellings.  The local industry seemed to be the fabrication of rustic teak furniture.  My hotel featured such furniture and it weighed a ton.  After my walk, I returned to the hotel and napped until a noisy tour group invaded the hotel.  The hotel was rectangular with rooms facing out on both sides.  My room was at the front, next to the lobby.  People tended to congregate and converse loudly in front of my room before going their separate ways.  They woke me up, but I wasn’t hungry enough to want to go eat expensive, boring food.  I lounged for a few hours and then went to bed early.  A tour group of teenagers arrived late, made noise all night and then got up early.  I wanted to kill them.

May 18, 2014

Castillo San Felipe
The only good thing about the group of teenagers with whom I shared the hotel, was that their launch left at 8:00 AM.  Once they were gone, I was able to have a pleasant breakfast in the hotel restaurant and enjoy the coffee and the view.  The plants and birds were amazing.  Lago Izabal felt like a giant tropical garden.  My launch was supposed to arrive at 9:00, but I had been warned that it might be 9:15 or 9:30 before it got there.  When it hadn’t shown by 9:45, I started to worry.  A couple of hotel employees who were fishing on the dock tried to help by calling a launch for me, but it wasn’t the right one and I had already paid.  When I showed them the voucher, they told me that I needed to go to the public dock.  I had been told that they would come to the hotel, but got concerned.  I went up to reception and had them call Osvaldo, who said he’d come and get me.  As soon as I hung up, of course, the launch showed up and I had to run back down to the dock.  I was the last person they collected and the panga was packed.

El Golfete
Water Lilies
We set off across the lake at high speed.  The first place we passed was the Castillo de San Felipe.  There was a pretty little castle on a point, surrounded by a grassy park where people were picknicking.  Lago Izabal pinched in slightly and then opened out into El Golfete.  Just before El Golfete, there was a massive bridge across the water.  The town of Rio Dulce proper is located is located on the west side of the bridge.  The marinas catering to cruising boats were clustered around the south end of El Golfete.  There were also some nice hotels across the river.  That part of the area looked much more happening than where I stayed.  The first stop we made was at Isla de los Aves where thousands of cormorants and egrets roosted in the mangroves.  From there, it took us nearly an hour to buzz across El Golfete.  Towards the north end, we passed Isla Quemado (Burned Island), which was a darn strange name for an island so completely covered with greenery.  Apparently, the vegetation had been burned off so that it could be farmed at some time in the past, but the jungle had completely reclaimed the island.  Past that, we came to a wide stretch of water lilies.  Little girls in cayucos paddled out to our launch to try to sell us souvenirs.  Though I didn’t see any frogs, I saw enough similar items to make me suspect that the purse made from a taxidermied frog I received at the Christmas gift exchange in Barra de Navidad had originated from that spot. 
Young Souvenir Vendor in El Golfete

Once we left El Golfete, we entered the gorge of the Rio Dulce proper.  Tall limestone cliffs shrouded in greenery flanked the river on both sides.  We stopped for drinks and the restroom at a thermal pool where a hot spring flowed into the river.  It was as warm as a hot tub.  Past that was El Pintado, a stretch of cliffs, bare of vegetation, where both nature and humans have painted the stone.  Most of the gorge was completely draped with layer upon layer of greenery.  We saw toucans in the trees.  Mayan style huts on stilts dotted the waterway.  Locals zoomed by in cayucos overpowered by big outboards or paddled sedately.  After a few miles, the river opened out again and we could see the Caribbean in the distance.  Livingston was around the corner to the west.
Thermal Pool in Rio Dulce

This Jungle Cruise was Not Disneyland


The Mouth of the Rio Dulce

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I had a very moving experience in Livingston and it colored my experience of the place to such a degree that it is hard for me to express how I felt about it.  First, I need to back up a bit.  When you read tour brochures about Livingston, they always highlight the uniqueness of the Garifuna culture.  When you get there, however, everything that you see is Guatemalan.  Guatemalans and Garifuna live separately.  Guatemalans own all the  restaurants, hotels and businesses.  The only Garifuna owned business in Livingston is a bar and music venue.  I don’t mean to disparage the Guatemalans in any way.  They work hard and have their own economic challenges.  They do not, however, employ any Garifuna.  It was simply difficult for me to watch the effective apartheid operating there.
Philip, the Garifuna Leader

I got off the boat with a gaggle of Italian, English, German and Canadian tourists and started up the shops, street.  A gray haired black man greeted us and asked if we were interested in learning about Garifuna culture.  People started peeling away, right and left.  I was curious and started up a conversation with him.  He had lived for a time in Berkeley and we reminisced a bit about the 80’s music scene there.  Soon, I was the only person still walking with him.  My guide, who was named Philip, turned out to be the leader of the Garifuna community in Livingston.  He walked me through the touristy part of town and into the poorest community I have ever seen.  There was no employment for these people.  They lived communally off what they could raise themselves and what relatives working outside Guatemala could send them.  What little they had was repeatedly ravaged by hurricanes.  Hardly a building was intact.  People were still living in houses whose collapse appeared imminent.  I bought coconut bread freshly baked over a wood fire.  Philip walked me around town, greeting everyone and introducing me to many people in the community.  Unfortunately, the Garifuna museum was closed because it was Sunday.
Pigs Roamed Freely

This Hurricane Ravaged House Was Still Inhabited

The Garifuna were treated as second class citizens by Guatemala.  They felt somewhat more positive about Belize.  Livingston is only 45 minutes from Belize by boat.  As a child, Philip had gone to school in Belize, which explained his good English.  Some Garifuna from Belize were visiting for the weekend to play a lively tournament of dominoes.  The Belize team was winning.

Philip told me that the Garifuna are unique in that they were never enslaved.  They had never lost either their language or their identity.  Originally Carib people from the Island of St. Vincent, they had been forcibly relocated to Guatemala by the British, who just couldn’t bring themselves to massacre all the women and children after killing the warriors.  They had lived an isolated existence in Livingston, which is accessible only by boat, until the tourist industry brought Guatemalans to the area.  As the Garifuna never had any capital, they were (and still are) unable to take advantage of the tourist bonanza.

School and Community Center

Garifuna Music Venue in Livingston
I was disappointed to learn that the Garifuna found yachties to be elitist.  Since we had not yet made it through the canal, I didn’t know if cruisers on the Atlantic side were somehow different from the ones on the Pacific side, but I suspect that the problem is simply mutual ignorance of each other’s ways.  Time and time again, I have seen cruisers assisting local communities.  Why not the Garifuna?  If you find yourself in Livingston, I urge you to seek out and speak with Philip and maybe donate a little to his food bank project.  You will be rewarded with a rich experience.  Visiting the Garifuna in their community will not cost you much.  They have nothing to sell you.  If you are sick of tortillas, pick up some hot, yeasty coconut bread.  The Garifuna hate tortillas.

Eventually, Philip deposited me at a restaurant on the main drag where I had an overpriced fish lunch.  I soon met one of the other guys from our bunch who stopped and had a drink while I ate.  He tried to buy lunch for the Garifuna man who had directed him there, but the fellow insisted that the prices were too high and portions too small.  He was much happier when my friend gave him 20 quetzals (about $2.50) to go buy a plate of rice somewhere cheaper.  After lunch, we strolled back to the dock and had just enough time to use the restrooms (3 quetzals and the biggest industry in town) before catching the launch back to Rio Dulce.

Mayan Style Huts

The Mountains Towards Honduras

On the way back, out boatman stopped to buy live crabs from a fisherman in El Golfete.  The fishermen sink their crab pots to the bottom of the lake and mark them with soda bottle buoys.  The crabs were small, but lively.  Our boatman bought 20 of them.  Then he cranked up the big outboard and we blasted back up to Rio Dulce.  We dropped most of the passengers in Rio Dulce proper, but my Canadian friend was staying at an Australian owned hotel called the Kangaroo, which was built on stilts over the mangroves a short way up a tributary stream.  It looked like a very interesting place to stay.  There was a cruising boat nestled up to the dock.  That tributary would be a fabulous hurricane hideout.  I was the last passenger to be returned to my hotel.  I worked on my blog, ate a boring, overpriced hamburger for dinner and retired early.

1 comment:

  1. Rene, this is Mark Schneider on SV Wendaway. Do you remember Tina, who you met in La Cruz and sailed with you along with Carlos? I am considering her as crew on my boat. Can you please email me at monkeyleaf [at] outlook [dot] com. Many thanks!