Once again, all great adventures must come to an end – and what another amazing adventure it was! After exploring the underwater beauty of Utila, witnessing the incredible cloud formations of Hurrican Dean, trekking through Central America on the public bus system, evading Dengue Fever, climbing the active Volcan Pacaya, and experiencing all of these things with some extraordinary people whom I met along the way has made this one unforgettable journey!
I spent my last week in Antigua wandering through the cobblestone streets taking photos while contemplating the Volcan Pacaya Challenge. I was reluctant to climb the Volcan after one of the reputable guides in Antigua informed me that “nobody had died this year, making it a safe climb.” His words lacked the reassurance I was looking for but I continued to meet others that had climbed the smoky beast without incidents. It was coming down to my last couple days in Antigua and I knew I had to make a decision quickly. I spent the last few nights in La Sala searching for answers but after several drinks and spicy hot salsa music, they simply did not come. The tequila unfortunately numbed out the possibility of any guidance I was seeking. Finally, it came down to my last day and as I was sitting on the rooftop terrace of Umma Gumma starring Pacaya down it hit me, the words, “you can’t get out of this life alive.” Not sure where they came from but the words felt significant. I repeated aloud “you can’t get out of this life alive” and I knew in that moment as I stared down the smoky beast (which didn’t look so beastly anymore) that the challenge was on!
I quickly found the guide whose words scared me earlier, booked a time, and several hours later we began the one and a half hour trek up Pacaya. During the beginning of the climb, I felt my anxiety rise but it diminished immediately after I repeated my calming mantra “you can’t get out of this life alive.” The guide looked at me funny and said “como” and I returned a polite “nada” with a confident smile. My mantra worked splendidly because I was no longer afraid to perish! I understood that it wasn’t Pacaya that I was initially afraid of – it was the “inevitable” idea of death itself. As I continued to climb, I felt stronger, confident, more aware and clear that I would no longer let the idea of something “inevitable,” which created my debilitating fear, get in the way of a profound experience again!
When we reached the top, or the upper base of Pacaya, I witnessed rivers of lava and gaseous emissions several feet away with a calm that I’ve not experienced in some time. Like the Anaconda from the Amazon jungle, I became at one and at peace with the smoky beast which had become my magnificent beauty!
I want to thank all of you for joining me on this amazing adventure! I also want to thank the many that made this possible and have supported me throughout the years. I want to give special thanks to my Mom, Dad, VSA arts of Michigan, and Nick at thedetroiter.com for allowing me to share my journey with you!
There will be a photo exhibition of the Aventura de Centro America during the month of December, 2007 at Johansson Charles Gallery at 1345 Division Street in Detroit’s Eastern Market. I look forward to seeing you all muy pronto!
The roar of jet engines overhead got me out of my desk chair quickly and out to my rooftop deck. While the two military craft swiftly buzzing the Grand Prix went swiftly out of sight, I was treated to another – silent, fluttering, it could have been a leaf rustled up from the jets’ wake, but this was alive – a Monarch Butterfly adrift in the blue sky on its pilgrimage south. And out of the blue, quite literally, another materialized. The pair danced about one another, spiraling helixically, and slowly fluttered out of my sight.
As the jets are power and speed, these fragile creatures are persistence and perseverance. Their journey ahead – to Mexico! – seems unimaginable on those tiny, paper thin wings. This third or fourth generation of the Monarchs born in this year will outlive their forebears many fold, long enough to make the trip south, hibernate, and come back to give birth to the first of next year’s generation and start the cycle all over again. (Learn more here and here.)
I’ve been fortunate these last two years to catch a glimpse of this amazing migration on two excursions of my own – brief, precious gifts of time away from our daily routines given to me by my companion. She’s successfully convinced me to take this annual pause and I’m grateful for it. Each year we’ve stayed near Lake Huron around this time and as the butterflies make their way along the shoreline, funneling towards Point Pelee before making the majority of their travel en masse. She and I had just returned from this year’s excursion (to the tip of the thumb this time – and likely a tale to be told at a later date), where we’d seen them again, and the appearance of these two over my roof in Detroit is a reminder of just how impressive their feat of travel is, here only a fraction of their way along.
The cycle of this unique journey and the particular generation of Monarch’s each year adapted to make it, mirrors their lifecycle – a metamorphosis. And as they are particularly attuned to the cycle of seasons, so in less direct ways are we. As the light of summer fades and night grows longer, we observe cycles of our own – we return to school, in general things that were more quiet ramp up with the coming of September. Within an ongoing cycle of repetition, new developments make their way into the mix. I think of my own, new mini-cycle – this annual brief get-away, as a new pattern introduced into a larger cycle, and slowly altering it in some way.
With that and thoughts of fall around the corner, we turn to the art season, (which hardly seemed to taper for the summer!) which returns in full swing this week. Already it’s a large field filled with new faces and those more familiar, and plenty of new spaces to accompany those we’ve been accustomed to finding on our own cycles of exhibition viewing. They’ll all be opening their doors and offering their own particular take on human creativity – a cycle that emerged as long as we could contemplate what we were and what it’s all about, anyway.
This web-magazine too, is at the beginning of another annual cycle – put in motion now five years previous. With this comes many things that have been here before, and there are many things about to come, as we metamorphosize on this journey.
But I’ll share more about the future and the start of year six soon. In the meantime, I hope you all have another moment to pause, to celebrate the beauty of these cycles we are a part of and those that we create, and feel renewed, refreshed, and ready for your journeys to come. Safe travels. – Nick Sousanis
I took the 9AM bus out of San Salvador to Guatemala City direct for 10 bucks. From there, I caught a public bus for $.65 to Antigua, an incredibly beautiful colonial town perched between three volcanoes. Within 30 minutes after arriving, I fell in love with Antigua. The colors, volcanic landscape, cobble stone calles, ruins, bars, restaurants, cafes and Mayan culture make Antigua one of the most beautiful towns I’ve experienced.
I spent my first couple hours walking through the calles of Antigua and stumbled upon Umma Gumma, a warm, friendly three story hostel with a roof-top terrace offering killer views of the volcanoes. I snagged one of the few private rooms with a private bath for 10 bucks per night. I knew that Umma Gumma would be the perfect home for the next week or so to explore and photograph this amazing town.
After settling in, I spent much of the day moving through the cobble stone streets capturing its beauty with my trusty Nikon. The more I see of this city the more I love it! I later discovered La Sala, an attractive candle lit bar run by Yvonne and Julio that transforms into a Salsa bar during the evening. I ordered an incredible tasting Quesadilla topped with fresh diced tomato and guacamole before testing out my salsa moves. Overall, great food, great conversation with people all over the world however I might need to take a salsa class or two, which are offered all over the city!
In the next day or two I plan on investigating climbing Volcan Pacaya, the only active volcano near Antigua. Pacaya would be the ultimate adventure because there have been incidents of climbers getting seriously hurt and even killed by unexpected eruptions, which is why it’s important to get the latest info from a reputable guide company here. If all looks good, I will take the Pacaya challenge and share it in the next chapter of the Aventura de Centro America!
Here are some beautiful fotos of Antigua and its people. I have also included one foto of me with a bonita senorita who actually works in a farmacia here. Her pants matched my T1 logo and I couldn’t resist the opportunity to plug Theatre 1 through thedetroiter.com!
Gracias Amigos for joining me in Antigua! Hasta lluego!
Spent the day traveling to San Salvador with mi amigo Luke from Copan Ruinas. We jumped a bus to Latrada, transferred to another at Santa Rosa, from there it was a straight shot to the border of El Salvador, all for 5 bucks. Not bad for 6 hours of travel. From there we literally walked across the border while being greeted by friendly Salvadoran guards and policia. No passport stamp required just a “welcome to El Salvador"! Next, we jumped on a bus, which took 3 hours to reach San Salvador for less than 2 bucks. 7 dollars overall! The last bus played Bob Seger, Billy Joel, Stevie Nicks and the likes of the 60s, 70s and 80s while cruising through the mountains of El Salvador.
The plan is to make a quick stop in El Salvador to visit a friend from the states and then head to Guatemala to explore Mayan culture.
I ended up having an interesting stay at Casa de Huespedes Santa Fe, the house that I lived in while in San Salvador. I was greeted by Celia, the friendly animated host and her son Marcello. I was also immediately greeted by three giant cockroaches in mi room and I mean giant! Celia quickly moved in and squashed them with her feet while only wearing socks. It appeared to be a frequent occurrence for her.
I spent my first day talking with locals and was impressed by how approachable people are here. For example, while attempting to exchange money at the bank, I learned the exchange from Honduran to Salvadoran currency was nearly half than what it was in Honduras, which meant significant cash loss but when Rodolfo, a guy that overheard my conversation with the teller offered to help me find a good rate. We jumped into his car and we went to a nearby bus terminal where the rate was somewhat closer to what it was in Honduras. After making the currency exchange, Rodolfo wanted to show me San Salvador’s mall, which seems to be as important to Salvadorans as it is to our teen culture in the US. We ended up visiting his casa where he presented t-shirts that he sells, which were not to my liking. After a nice chat, he dropped me at Celia’s casa where I chilled the rest of the evening.
I continued to miss mi amiga in San Salvador so I decided to visit the El Centro, the busy, noisy, smelly city center of San Salvador. I quickly learned that this wasn’t a good idea according to three policias that told me I was in danger carrying my camera out in the open. I didn’t think it would be a problem during the day around so many people however I listened to the advice and after taking some fotos I hopped a bus back to Celia’s safe haven.
Carrying cameras around San Salvador especially the El Centro is heavily discouraged since it makes tourists a major target. I was informed that in the middle of the day around some of the busiest areas and on public buses of San Salvador, muggings occur usually by gun point and the muggers are not afraid to shoot anyone who doesn’t comply with their demands. In addition to that danger, El Centro has some of the worst pollution from exhaust fumes that I’ve ever experienced anywhere. I actually found it difficult to breathe at times. People here were more stand-offish – few allowed me to photograph them, which was an unusual feeling for this part of the world. I felt people continually looking at me and my camera, which enhanced the paranoia I already had begun to feel from the earlier warnings.
The El Centro is interesting but it is important to not do it alone.
Well, it appeared that I wasn’t going to meet up with mi amiga so I planned on taking the morning bus to Guatemala!
The photo above is of Enrique, an armed guard or some call them vigilantes who patroled the neighborhood I stayed in. Vigilantes are everywhere in San Salvador to protect homes, banks and businesses. Despite the large gun and policia-military fatigues, Enrique and I became friends and the day I left for Guatemala, I reached out to shake his hand and he gave me a big hug instead.
Muchas Gracias mi Amigos!