Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Latin America trek: Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala

On the first day of the first journey of 2014, I am operating on minimal sleep. It's a terrible and regular habit: the night before the flight I obsess over final details and still pending plans, and I never get a solid rest before the voyage on the plane. I managed a mere three hours of kip followed by a couple of catnaps on the 13-hour Sydney to Los Angeles leg. Arriving in the Californian morning, I then powered through the rest of the daylight hours to beat the jetlag—ignore the body's pleas for sleep and push through till dark. Then crash. That will reset the body clock. All of this means about four hours of sleep in 52.

This trip will see a week in Cuba, four in Mexico, and one more in Guatemala. I want to catch Fidel's Cuba before it is lost to the gradual changes the more moderate Castro brother, Raúl, is introducing since being handed the leadership. Mexico is at any time a wealth of treasures, and I have wanted to return since my memories—or rather, one memory—of straddling my father's shoulders at two years old in a Mexican souvenir shop, looking down into the bin at a punched out set of bongos. Somehow Mexico imprinted on me, with latent echoes of mariachis, piñatas and the skeletal iconography of Santa Muerta—Saint Death. And where Mexico's Yucatán peninsula bleeds into Guatemala is the world of the Maya, still here after the end of 2012 and home to colossal, ancient pyramids. I have a mission there: to reach the 2000-year-old Mayan murals of San Bartolo, hidden in the Guatemalan jungle until their chance discovery in 2001.

These things have waited a long time. But they can wait one more night. I'm going to bed.

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