travelogue – Is Guatemala safe?

I am often asked if countries like Bolivia are “safe”.

To me they feel very “safe” for the tourist.

The real danger in life is motor vehicles. Your odds are good if you stay out of motor vehicles.

The risk of street violence, it seems to me, is worse in Toronto or other large North American cities.

One night down the street from my hostel in South Beach, Miami a rapper (or his loyal posse) initiated a shoot out at 5:30AM.

With any luck the American taxpayer will pay for his incarceration for up to 10 years. And the rapper gains some street cred.

Rolling Stone: Young Jeezy Arrested in Shooting

Next travelogue on this trip >> South Beach, Miami

the Final 4 – in Chess

It’s March Madness. The NCAA basketball playoffs begin. For many sports fans this is the biggest and best event of the sitting-on-the-couch-drinking-beer sport year.

More interesting to me than baseketball is the Final 4 in chess. Is this the year that lowly Miami Dade Community College takes it all?

The team is made up of Cuban refugees and immigrants. They already upset Harvard in December and are gearing up for this year’s Final 4 next month in Dallas.

A front page story on the underdogs upstarts appeared in The Wall Street Journal’s Weekend Edition, March 4-5, 2006.

The perennial University chess superpowers are worried about the t-shirt and flipflop clad Cubans.

Miami Dade College link

travelogue – Xela, Guatemala

The most dramatic region of Guatemala is the Western Highlands: towering stands of pine, and every town and village tells a story.

Xela (shay-la) is the jumping off point for Highland adventures. It is also the home of the most important trekking organization in Central America, Quetzaltrekkers — a charity which raises funds by leading hikes.


More than that, Xela is a unique, unforgettable city with a surprise on every street.

vegetables Argentina hostel

See more photos of fascinating Xela by jumping to flickr.

I did get in some hiking. 🙂

cloud view


travelogue – Santiaguito volcano, Guatemala

A 5AM start from Xela (Quetzaltenango) got us to the top of the Santamaría volcano (3,772m) by about 10AM.

I had no big expectations. Volcano climbing is my least favourite hiking. An unrelenting steep slog.

Happy to relax at the top, our guide hurried us to a lower viewpoint. In front of our eyes, completely unexpectedly, we watched another volcano, Santiaguito, 1,200m below, explode! Wow!

It was like watching Mt. St. Helen’s erupt on TV. But there was no sound. Perhaps the wind pushed it away. We were lucky to get a gap in the clouds at just the right time. But it seems eruption plumes of several kms are a regular occurrence here.

Watching a volcano erupt from above is likely not possible anywhere else in the world!

Wikipedia on Santamaría and Santiaguito volcanos.

More details on our volcano climb in the next post >> Xela, Guatemala

Diet Coke – nectar of the Gods

<img soft drinkCurrently the fourth most-popular carbonated soft drink in the world — Diet Coke is #1 with me.

Coke tinkers with the basic formula trying to strike the right balance of saccharin, aspartame, cyclamates, sucralose and acesulfame potassium.

None of the special flavoured variations have won me over yet, but keep trying!

Diet Coke – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia