We departed Antigua early in the morning with plans to hike Volcan Pacaya. Well under a half day’s drive from Antigua we planned to get there early enough to hike to the summit before the clouds set in. Fast forward 3 hours and a number of U turns later we still had no idea where the hell we were. As we lovingly discussed with each other how we would revise our plans we decided that our chances to summit were quickly evaporating. Instead of waiting around to hike the following day we followed our standard break glass in case of emergency procedure. When all else fails and we continue to be grumpy, we move on. For us, a change of scenery will almost always reverse the flow of karma and result in a change in mood. We decided to make our way to the black sand beaches of Monterrico on Guatemala’s southern coast.
Monterrico is an isthmus which requires, to our surprise, a short 20 minute ferry ride. If the Statin Island ferry is what comes to mind, you’re way off. When I first saw the boat, outfitted with a 15 horse power motor I thought we were in the wrong place. However, as I looked up river and saw the same size boat carrying a transport truck twice the size of our van I felt a bit better. Buoyancy is a deceptively strong force. We cruised safely through the canal and rolled our van off into the tiny little town of Monterrico. The fact that our van didn’t sink was taken as a sign that maybe the gods were starting to turn in our favor. Within the first twenty minutes in town karma found us a free place to camp and Jeremy and Paula, a UK couple driving the Panam in a 1999 Eurovan, whom we had met previously in San Pedro. The fact that they were quick to suggest that we use the chance encounter as an excuse to saddle up to the bar, even though it wasn’t quite noon yet, was a tell tale sign we would be getting along. Later on, while watching the sun set over the Pacific, with cold beers in our hands and getting to know our new friends we felt a world away from the hectic manner in which we had begun the day. We gave karma a chance to change our fate and she came through.
We woke up the following morning before the sun for our 5:00 boat tour. We had previously made arrangements for a sunrise tour of the adjacent mangrove forrest through a community turtle hatchery. Not knowing many details we still weren’t quite sure what to expect. When we arrived at the turtle hatchery we were pleasantly surprised to be met by only our guide and no other eager tourists. The guide took us through town to the docks where we boarded a small punting boat no bigger than your average canoe. The boat was propelled through the estuary silently using a 10 foot long pole that simply pushed off the shallow ground. As darkness slowly transitioned to light we were treated to a beautiful sunrise over the surrounding volcanos. Off in the distance we could see Volcan Fuego spewing ash into the air. Although this was a sight we had originally planned on viewing from the summit of Pacaya we were happy to have traded it for where we were.
When we feel antsy in a place we’re enjoying we remind ourselves of the advice given to us by a fellow traveler, never leave a place you like in the hopes of finding something better. Conversely, if we feel a bad vibe or continuously find ourselves quick to be upset we move on. It surprises me that it is actually more difficult to force ourselves to leave when we’re unhappy. Part of it is stubbornness. Moving on sometimes feels like giving up and I always want to think we can turn the ship around. The other part of it is a bit more subtle. When I get a run of bad luck and I start to feel signs of depression sometimes my mind actually wants to relish in it. Sometimes it feels good to simply feel sorry for myself. This however very rarely leads to the situation changing course and very often only adds momentum to the sadness. So we learn to recognize the signs early on. We help each other observe our own behavior as it’s always easier from the outside looking in. And when we realize our state needs to be changed, we move on. We try to give karma an opportunity to start pushing the momentum in the opposite direction.