Are We Too Old to Be Climbing Volcanoes?

The weight of my backpack at 5:00 AM was brutal: 9 liters of water, 1 sleeping bag, and sundry other camping bits and bobs. And I was one of the lucky ones. Dan carried all that plus an old school (read: heavy) four-person tent.

Even at this hour, it was steamy. Under the weight of my pack, I was glazed in sweat before we reached the crossroads for the chicken bus to the trail head. I looked around at the young, energetic faces – mostly in their early 20s – and wondered, “Am I too old to be doing this?

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An Ode to Barber Shops Around the World

Ah, the local barber. A ritual, a comfort of home.

Not so for me. Every haircut is a new adventure: a different country, a new language and yet another man with scissors (or God forbid, clippers) who has his own ideas about style.

During a recent ear-lowering interlude in Leon, Nicaragua, it struck me that barber shops are less about haircuts and more about history and culture.

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Livingston: The Other Side of Guatemala

Descendants of shipwrecked slaves from Nigeria; Jerry Garcia's rumored Caribbean seaside bungalow hideout; warrior dances (see video below) and turtle shell drums; echoes of an accented pigeon pidgin English that smacks of Jamaica; and a remarkable coconut seafood soup called tapado.

This is Livingston, home of the Garifuna. This is the other side of Guatemala.

Garifuna Music and Dancing - Livingston, Guatemala
A family affair at Rasta Mesa.

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The Only Gringos in Gracias

Honduras Football Fans - Gracias
Cheering on Honduras for the World Cup qualifier.

“Hola, Gringos!” a little Honduran girl calls out to us from the garden of the coffee plantation-cum-guest house on the edge of Gracias, Honduras where we awoke Saturday morning.

“Hola, ninos!” we offer in response.

Giggles all around. Little do we know what a prescient greeting it is.

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A Road Trip, Some Banditos, and a Dose of Fear

There we were at the dock in San Pedro bargaining for a boat to Santiago. The price seemed prohibitively high for a whimsical afternoon side trip on Lake Atitlan. Natasha, another traveler hoping to take the same boat, also questioned the price.

You know, I have a car here. We could drive. You can just give me some gas money.

Tuk Tuk Struggling Up the Hill - Lake Atitlan, Guatemala
Struggling up the hills near Lake Atitlan.

Sounded like a reasonable alternative.

Just as we turned to leave, the boat ticket salesman's voice rose, “Carretera. Banditos. Peligroso.” (Highway. Bandits. Dangerous.)

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Life Happened on the Way to the Piñata Factory

The other day we broke down in Guatemala City — in front of a piñata factory no less.

I helped push the stalled PT Cruiser whose motor had knocked, pinged and spoken of better days. Back then forward, we rolled the car out of traffic and into a parking lot.

Guatemala City is notorious for guns, violence, drugs, blighted neighborhoods and danger lurking around every corner. And there we were in a sketchy little parking lot in the middle of the city at dusk.

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