Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Eco Tourism at Monterrico

Well, all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. With that in mind, I took a couple of weekends off with my fellow students to take in some of the sights of Guatemala and grab the chance to recharge. Playa de Monterrico is on the Pacific coast. It was pleasantly hot, the black volcanic sandy beaches were almost deserted and stretched out as far as the eye could see. While the sea and it's undercurrent were a little dangerous, it was worth it for the waves some of the biggest and most exhilarating I have ever seen. Just hanging out, drinking and eating tender coconut was what just what the doctor ordered.

The majestic leatherback turtle lays its eggs on this beach and the locals are keen on capitalising on this. For 10 pence, you can buy a turtle to race it down the beach. Sadly, this is what passes as "eco tourism" in this part of the world. I found a bucket full of floundering newly hatched turtles at the hotel. The staff just couldn't understand what the fuss was about as the turtles were for the tourists! I protested but to no avail. Not only is this so cruel, the turtles were kept in the bucket for at least 24 hours. This practise guarantees their death once released. A new born turtle is equipped with a yolk sack under it's shell. This is it's fuel source to break through the shell, dig itself out of the sand, make it's way down the beach, into the crashing waves and beyond. Should you see practises that seem to be outside the range of normal animal behaviour please don't be part of it.

The countryside of San Juan

Thankfully, a more relaxed pace here in the countryside. My new EspaƱol teacher Alba, didn't push me as hard and I got to enjoy a few afternoons off! This was spent with my family harvesting Nisperos, a fruit that has made San Juan famous. Felipe's family have a few acres of agricultural land just outside of town, and for more than thirty years his family have been harvest this delicous fruit. In more bountiful years there is a European export market.

In the mornings at 6AM, I could be found kicking a ball around the local football pitch with the boys Bladimir and Paulo or going for a jog/walk with dad - Felipe was was a runner of some repute in his hayday judging by pictures I saw. This was a great opportunity for me to see first hand how even the roadside boasts an array of edible flowers and vegetables. Felipe could name them all while I took pictures and recorded their Spanish names. However, after just a few weeks it was still difficult to communicate effectively and surviving on such small mealtime rations will always be a challenge for me.