Wednesday, August 31

Journal: Sunday August 21

(Note: I am gradudally putting up pictures from my trip on the Guatemala Pictures page on my website. Please be patient as I get everything up. There's quite a lot of them.)

So far on the journey to Irtra, much of the drive has been through various things like sugarcane fields, palm trees, coconut trees, pineapples, and other
tropical-like things. About halfway into our trip, we had to stop at a government agricultural checkpoint, which someone last night called a "fruit check." Since agriculture is Guatemala's big industry, they don't want fruits to pass through that might have bugs or possible diseases. Thus, when we were stopped and when the people saw that we had apples, they took the apples. This seems kind of odd to me, that they would check the fruit but not ensure that the milk or beef was made properly.

At one point, we passed through a town that had an amateur bicycle race going on, with full police escorts on several sides to protect the riders.

We passed through another town that was having a different, and much more sobering, activity going on. We passed by a funeral procession. There was a pickup leading the procession of about 40 or so people. Behind the pickup truck was 2 costumed people, maybe representing Catholic priests or witch doctors. We could only see the back of them. Then there was a small pine-boxed coffin, the size of a small child or baby.

Soon after that we reached Irtra, which was where the water park was. I should say that the water park and hotel we stayed at were very nice in their landscaping an were meticulously manicured. There was an amusement park as well, but there was a separate fee for that. Anyway, the entire trip from when we left Guatemala City to when we got to Irtra only took about 2 and a half hours. The people that came over Saturday night said it might take 3 hours or more, so we made good time.

We stopped at the hotel to get information. While my Dad was inside doing that, my Mom and I stayed outside in the front area of the hotel, and looked around. The atmosphere was very pleasant, like a tropical feel. This tropical sensation continued when we got back to the hotel that night. The front of the hotel check-in area had a porch that was made out of smooth, large tiles. The front also had several large tropical trees in it, and some seating areas. You could hear birds nearby. It was very pleasant.

We had lots of fun at the water park, though it seemed more for kids than adults. There was quite a few kids slides and play areas. Adults could choose between the Lazy River, a wave pool, and 2 water slides. The slides were good ones though, going fast and having good twists and turns. Perhaps not as much as you might see at a water park in the States, but fun all the same.

In one part of the park, there was some netting set up over some lily pads. The idea being to hold onto the netting and cross over the lily pads. Many people tried this, and there were many loud splashes as they fell in the water. A few people made it across though, or at least made it to the next lily pad. I tried 3 different times and out of all of them, only made it passed the first lily pad. I had a slight advantage since my Dad went in the water and held the lily pad. But, when you're hanging from the netting and your feet slip off the lily pad faster than you can get a foothold, it's not much of an advantage. It was fun though. We got several pictures of my attempts and my splashing as I fell in the water.

The first time I tried, I thought maybe I could grab the furthest ropes from me and swing out over the lily pad, then step on the pad and go to the next like that. Well, suffice it to say, my plan didn't work. I barely got both feet on the pad before my limbs were going every which way, but the right way, and I let go. The second and third times were slightly better, but like I say, I never made it to the second pad. There were 4 pads in all that you had to cross. My Dad, though it was helpful to have someone down there telling me to step forward, twice told me to step forward and there was nothing but water to step on. Most times when this happened, I plummeted into the water, but a few times I managed to put a foot back on the pad or the starting point.

We hit a slide, the wave pool and the Lazy River before lunch and had lunch at around noon. The wave pool was interesting, since again there were tiles on the bottom of it, but mainly because the pool was the same depth nearly all the way through: about 3 or 4 feet. Even in the area where the waves were being produced, it was still shallow. After lunch, I think, though they disagree, that my parents broke some of the cardinal rules of water parks. Granted, they're my parents and may have become slower or less active in their respective ages, but still, these are things that you should not do at a water park: sleep and drink coffee. I can understand the sleeping thing, which my Dad did. My Mom and I talked while he slept. Anyway, people sleep at water parks I figure, on the sand or in lawn chairs, so though it still seems to break a cardinal rule as something you don't do at a water park, it's excusable. But having coffee? They tried to argue with me about this saying that I do the same thing with my sodas. However, coffee seems to be one of those, "Let's sit down, relax, and have a cup," drinks. Or, one that you are purposely still while drinking; you don't have to think. Soda, at least, you can carry around with you and remain active whiled drinking. In other words, you don't see people at Starbucks, or other coffee shops, playing basketball while they drink coffee. No, you see them sitting down reading a paper or munching on a muffin.

Anyway, these activities seemed to go against normal water park activities. After the coffee though, we had ice cream bars, which was welcome, but by this point, we had been in non-water activity for about 90 minutes or more, so I was ready to get back in it. So we did by means of water balloon fights. They had small structures set up and you could pay a small fee to get a bucket of water balloons, and then "shoot" them at each other through elastic mechanisms. It was very fun. And, I don't mind saying that I hit the other structure where my Dad was, several times, though I never got the balloon inside the structure.

We went down a few more slides after that and then left. By this point, it was about 5 and it was beginning to thunder. It wasn't clear if they were closing the park because of possible storms, or because it was closing time. Whatever the case, one of the water falls shut off as we were walking by, which was a sure sign that things were closing.

We went to our rooms and checked in. After we changed and had a short break, we went off to find a nearby Jacuzzi and soak for awhile. The Jacuzzi was pretty big and there was no one else in it. Again, there were tiles on the floor and all inside the Jacuzzi. It felt good, sort of, on my sun burns to soak. I had gotten burned a little early last week when I went with a friend to Six Flags back in Texas, but on Friday when we went to the hot springs, I really was burned in many places. Some of the most painful have been on my shoulders, upper back and upper arms. Particularly noticeable when trying to sleep. So, soaking in that fairly warm Jacuzzi water was quite good.

After that we went back to our rooms to change and get ready to go to dinner in one of the many dining rooms at the hotel we were at. The dining rooms were within easy walking distance. They were quite nice. I had a burrito and small tamales, called chuchitos, which were made of masa flour, potatoes and butter. They were quite good. I got a cup of cheso to dip my burrito and chuchitos in.

After dinner we walked around the courtyard area a little and then returned to my room. Due to whatever policy the hotel has and for whatever reason, even though there were two good sized beds in a single room, they limited rooms to 2 people, so we had to get 2 rooms. Thus, I got my own room, which had benefits as well. However, these are basic rooms: no TV, no Cable or other entertainment. There was the standard desk, side table with lamp and phone, and an open closet, but it was pretty much, What you see is what you get. Also, the hotel is moderately priced for Guatemalan people, which means that since things are inexpensive in Guatemala, compared to U.S. prices anyway, we got a good deal. My Mother said that the hotel would equal a Disney hotel in its quality. Consider how much you might pay at a Disney hotel. Now consider that we paid about $40 per room. In the States, that would get you a moderate motel and that's about it. So it was quite good.

We returned to my room and played Spades with 3 people (which can be done) for a little while before we split up for the night.

Odios for now.

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