The Move to Panajachel
We decided that if we were going to get serious about shopping, we needed to move back over to Panajachel from our guesthouse in San Pedro. Panajachel is well known as “a place where ‘Hitmen’ take ‘vacation’”. One old hitman that we met was writing his memoirs and promised to write us into the story which was something we were fine with, as long as we weren’t a ‘hit’!
Someone had suggested a place they knew of not too far from ‘downtown’. Following the directions down the paths, we found the house with a fenced-in compound and a cement block grouping of four rooms. The rooms were basic with a door, one window with shutters, a bed, table, and chair. Two of the other rooms were already occupied by other travelers. There was a mama dog and her pups, but nobody could get near her as she would bark like crazy and keep her distance. Good security for the compound! After hearing the terms, we accepted and began to move in.
This is when we met “Tie-Dye Ron”, someone we would share dozens of wild adventures with. To describe Ron brings to mind an oversized hobbit. An Arkansas ‘Hip-billy” (by the way, I just coined that term of a combination of hillbilly and hippie, you’re welcome.) A cheery man of considerable girth, his long hair was more matted than dreadlocked, and his normally bare feet were hairy. A big smile revealed some missing teeth, and his eyes were kind.
As his moniker implied, “Tie-Dye Ron” was indeed a master tie-dye artist. He was giving lessons to several foreign students, in exchange for money or barter. Welcoming us to our new digs he showed us some of his latest dyes. His mix of colors was so vibrant in contrast with each other, and his designs were not what we have seen in a typical tie-dye artist. We hit it off right away.
Todd, the Healer
Our other neighbor was Todd, a nice young man that was working on a ‘traveler’s medical kit’. It was a nice presentation in a beautiful Guatemalan bag with natural remedies. He saw that I could draw, and asked if I would make a booklet for him illustrating various acupressure points to relieve some issues like upset stomach, headaches, etc. We still have part of that kit and our copy of the little booklet. The information we learned from it has served us well!
Not long after we had landed at this compound we heard Ron start yelling that someone stole his wallet! He had an idea that it was a young Guatemalan boy that had just been to his room and said he wanted to buy a tie-dye. Ron had just packed his bag and his passport bag was on top with his wallet in it. The kid suddenly said he needed to run home and get money.
After he left, Ron noticed the passport bag was now open and empty. So off we went to try and track the kid down. Running down the jungle path in the direction the boy had gone, we amazingly caught up with him! We brought him back to Ron’s place. Ron then threw the boy on the bed, and with his full girth and making a scary monster of a face lay on top of him and screamed, “Where is my wallet?”
The boy said, “I don’t have it! I don’t have it!”
Ron kept insisting that he did as the whole neighborhood peered through the window until Ron slammed the shutter closed.
“I don’t have it! I don’t have it!” the boy insisted.
Ron turned to me and said, “It’s not the money that concerns me, it’s my ID!“
I looked at the kid and said, “He just wants his passport back.”
The kid then says, “There was no passport!”
That was when we confirmed he had taken it because Ron didn’t have a passport!
“Well let’s go find where you ditched it!” We held on to him as we guided him back up the path to where we found him.
“Where did you throw it?!” Ron shook him again.
“I don’t know. Over there somewhere!”
“Let’s go find it then!” Ron, never letting go helped guide him to where the kid said.
“Over here somewhere.” He indicated that he needed to climb through a barbed-wire fence to get to it, but Ron wasn’t letting go. I climbed over the fence and held onto the kid as he climbed through, I wasn’t letting go either.
Ron climbed over and grabbed the kid who was hoping to find a weak moment to escape, but that wasn’t happening. The fence ploy didn’t work as he hoped, so back to the trail. We exchanged the kid as we all climbed back over or through the fence. Then the boy ‘amazingly’ found the wallet, right under a big rock where it ‘just happened to be’. Ron put the wallet in his pocket.
He then shook the boy and with a deep, snarling growl warned him that he should never be seen in or around our compound again, or else! Letting the boy go he turned to me, all smiles, and said, “I don’t reckon we’ll see him again!” Counting the money, Ron said laughingly, “Yep, it’s all still here, plus ten extra dollars!”
In any event, this was not the last time Ron had been robbed in Panajachel. One evening, after rinsing his new tie-dyes, he hung them out on the clothesline to dry. Consequently, someone snuck into the compound and stole his whole batch of new dyes right off of the line. Understandably, Ron was upset to the point the whole village beat down the jungle with flashlights looking for the culprit!
Shortly, a policeman came to Ron and told him the boy that had done the dastardly deed had been caught! A rich resort owner’s son was the culprit. This was troublesome as Ron is a Gringo and the kid was a minor. The policeman said, “I don’t know what to do, so you decide. Do we lock him up or turn him loose?”
In that case, Ron said, “If it’s my choice, I want $100 and an apology!”
The policeman said, “ Well, if you get $100, I want $100, too!”
“Okay! Sounds good to me!” Ron said.
So the police called the family and demanded, “$200 for the kid.” Of course, the family paid for the kid and both the policeman and Ron were happy.
The kid never did apologize.
To be self-sufficient when we first started traveling we brought everything; sleeping bags, a tent, pots, pans, a cooker, etc. Carrying way more than we needed. Our packs weighed way too much most certainly, up to the limit of what the pack was rated for. Wherever we landed, we were home. It was like Hermione’s purse from Harry Potter. If somebody needed something it was likely we had it. This continued like this for as long as we were living out of our packs for the next several years!
Guatemala is a hot country! The compound was protected by dogs that barked at any strangers at night, so we slept with the door and the window open. Our valuables were tucked away in a safe spot that was difficult to get to. For this reason, we felt safe from thieves On the other hand, not all thieves are human!
Our Kitchen and a Thief
Trying to save what money we could, we seldom ate out. Donna set up a small kitchen with our portable camp stove. Making rice to go along with the Avocado Kid’s delicious avocados, we also made pasta and vegetable stews. It was always tasty as Donna is a great cook! Ron was often invited to dinner. I think the landlord’s dog thought it was tasty, too. Sometimes at night as we slept, the dog would sneak into the rooms to find whatever tasty treat he could find. He had snuck into the room and taken a candy bar from one neighbor. We had the dinner dishes cleaned more than once.
An Abundance of ‘The Kind’
Now that we were settled into our little bungalow, we thought it would be a good idea to buy a bag of the herbal substance, “the kind”. Panajachel was pretty relaxed about these things as long as you didn’t cause trouble. In fact, the herb was about the least potent drug you could easily buy there! So we found someone that said they could get us a bag for about $75. Okay, that sounded reasonable. When he came back with it we were surprised to find that the bag was considerably larger than we had anticipated. It was garbage bag-sized, one kilo! No seeds and stems either! It was all nice buds!
Ron got a kilo the same day I got ours so we suddenly had about five lbs. between us. Then all the gringo kids kept coming over and trading Ron two pounds for a tee-shirt on their way back to the states. The last thing we needed was more weed but as Ron said “Two pounds for a tie-dye was just such a great deal!”
I never realized the stash kept multiplying, so we must have had 15 lbs! There was a lot of smoking going on as we rolled big Cheech & Chong joints. We didn’t want to start selling, that’s not our thing. If you were visiting our place, you needed to be rolling or smoking, no slacking! We had several people that did their very best to help smoke it all up.
Donna was occasionally even putting it in the food with the regular spices. Once, a French couple was staying there that insisted you couldn’t get super stoned by eating cannabis so we cooked it extra stout to make a point. They were completely wasted for twenty-four hours, hehe.
Uh Oh, We might be in Trouble!
We had a big pot of unspiked spaghetti that we couldn’t finish and sure enough, one night, the dog snuck in and cleaned it out! Donna was not happy and said, “I’m going to fix that male dog that keeps sneaking in and eating our food. Tonight we’re going to make a pot of spaghetti and spike it good!” It was some tasty spaghetti and all things considered, we were all pretty buzzed with it. That night we snickered to ourselves as we fell asleep knowing full well that the male dog was going to eat the spiked spaghetti.
Suddenly it was morning and our neighbor, Todd, was knocking on the window. “Hey, wake up! Did you spike a bowl of spaghetti and leave it out for the dog?”
We giggled and said, “Yes we did!”
“Boneless Chicken Ranch”
“Well, the male dog didn’t get it, mama dog did, and all the puppies that were nursing are floppily stoned!” Todd said.
While we had slept, Ron had heard the spaghetti being eaten out of an old VW hubcap we had put it in and realized it was mama dog so he threw it out over the fence. Apparently, the pigs, chickens, and puppies could still get through the fence.
The following day the landlord, Mr. Ke, woke up to what appeared to be, as Ron aptly likened the scene to an old Far Side cartoon, a “Boneless Chicken Ranch” with all the animals just laying around staring into oblivion. Mr. Ke went to see Todd and said, “I have a dilemma, my animals are sick. Do I just let them ride this out, and put them out of their misery, or spend my life savings on a vet?”
That was when Todd knocked on our window.
Getting up, we threw some clothes on and ran outside. Todd had gone back over to explain to Mr. Ke that the dogs were just really stoned, that they would be okay by tomorrow, to which Mr. Ke nervously laughed. He was truly relieved that it wasn’t something more serious. The poor little puppies kept trying to stand up but would flop right over. Mama dog was just laid out, immobile.
As a result, the mama dog who normally ran off scared now let us pet her lovingly as we soothingly cooed that it was going to be all right. After some time they were all fine again and mama dog was no longer scared of people and would even come to say hello and be petted. It was extraordinary healing for that poor scared dog. Notably, the family never looked at us the same again. As Ron told us later, “If we threw any scraps to the animals the whole family would run out on the porch, and I would yell out, ‘no mota it’s ok’!”