Pondering of Pig’s Milk

This blog entry about the events of Monday, November 26, 2007 was originally posted on November 30, 2007.

DAY 7:  After a nice day of leisure in Flores, our traveler’s quartet was fully rested for the seven-hour southbound ride to Semuc Champey, a national park known for its waterfalls, caves, and pools in the middle of the jungle.  We were all making headway to the Guatemalan sites in the south, and Semuc Champey served as the perfect stopping point in the middle to break up the trip.  The Berkeleys, Camilla and I collectively opted to take a tourist minivan with a trustworthy travel agency who did our laundry for us.

We were picked up by a friendly Guatemalan named Victor who met us at our hotel in Flores that morning.  We picked up four more people in town before heading on the road:  Matt, from Wales; Bonnie from Whistler, Canada; and two American-born Israelis, Sean and Nogah from Boston and New York respectively, who exuded the funny stoner type.  The eight of us swapped travelers’ tales and tips — where we’d been, and our anecdotes of pickpockets and robberies — as the bucolic Guatemalan scenery whizzed by.  Lush greenery, little market stalls and indigenous people were common sights on the other side of the window.  Sooner than we thought, the minibus stopped at some riverside village (picture above).

“I think we have to cross the river,” Matt said.

“Actually this is Semuc Champey,” Sean joked.

“It just took a lot less longer than we thought,” Nogah added.

A small ferry took vehicles across the river, from tractors to big truck full of Guatemalan soldiers, and we simply waited with the others for our turn.  In no time, we drove onto the transport and were safely brought to the other side.

We continued down the road, Victor at the helm, driving like a pro.  Not surprisingly, each of us at some point fell into the trance of staring out the window.  Looking out at the scenery going by in a meditative state, we couldn’t help but ponder some of the mysteries of life.

“Do pigs suckle their young?” Camilla asked the group.

“Suckle?  Isn’t it the other way around?  Piglets suckle their mother?” I wondered.

“I don’t know,” she said.  “I mean, why don’t we drink pig’s milk [like we do with other mammals, like cows, sheep and goats]?  Not that I want to or anything.”

“Because that’s disgusting,” I answered.

“That sounds horrible,” Bonnie seconded.

“I don’t even eat bacon,” Nogah chimed in.

“That’s a good question though,” Sean said.

“Maybe it’s because the animals that we do drink milk from have hair… fur,” I hypothesized.

“But a wild boar has hair,” said Camilla.

“Well you don’t see me drinking boar’s milk,” I said.

“Stop staring at the pig’s tits,” one of the Israeli-Americans butt in.

We drove on, passing more villages, staring out the window and dozing off with our mouths open — at least I did.  We did a quick pitstop at the junction of Raxruja and Sayaxche, where three young girls approached our parked vehicle with offers of banana empanadas. 

“Cuanto es?” I asked in my basic, yet functional Spanish.

“Uno quetzal.”

“Uno por uno?”


I held out a single Quetzal coin and the three girls playfully fought for it, reaching to get it first.  One lucky girl snagged it and gave me my pastry.  The tasty Guatemalan treat settled in my stomach until the roads got more and more mountainous and therefore more motion-sickness inducing.  Victor, a master driver, took our roller coaster of a minivan up big hills, down undulating roads, and around treacherous mountain curves.  He was really hauling ass too, screeching tires as he weaved in and out of the oncoming passing lane.

About five and a half hours later, we arrived ih the major city of Coban, a Guatemalan city big enough for some familiar international brands.  “I haven’t seen the golden arches in a while,” Bonnie said, noticing them down the road.

“Let’s go,” I suggested.  “It’ll be ironic.”  Besides, what’s a road trip without at least one trip to Mickey D’s, if not for use of its bathroom?

“Pollo nuggets!” Bonnie said excitedly. 

“Restaurante ou auto-mac?” Victor asked.

“Restaurante por el baño,” I answered.  For me, it was more than just that; as I’ve mentioned before on The Blog, I make it a point to sample a McDonald’s in each country I go, to see the little differences.  This time, with my affinity for puns, I ordered the numero seis combo, the “McNifica” (magnifica, magnificent), which was pretty much a Royale with Cheese.

“Tastes the same,” Bonnie said as she sat down with me and the Israelis in the sitting area by the PlayPlace.  “I feel dirty after that Big Mac,” she said.  “Like I cheated on this country.”  She was fine with the overall Guatemalan McDonald’s experience for “the bathroom’s are immaculate!  You don’t see that back home.”  Adding to that nicety, an employee held the door open for us when we entered and exited the establishment — with a smile too nonetheless.

Meanwhile, across the parking lot at the Plaza Magdalena, the Berkeleys tried to use their ATM card (with no luck) and Camilla sought out a vegetarian option that Ronald McDonald could not provide.  She did in fact find one, at the supermarket in the mall, which was more or less your typical Western shopping mall with a food court and Christmas tree to bring in the holiday shopping cheer (regardless of the fact that pines don’t actually grow in the tropics).

COBAN WAS A PICKUP POINT for more travelers headed on our way back into the jungle: an Israeli couple and a pair of Polish girls, Aga and Joanna.  Victor drove us out of the city and back onto the motion-sickness mountain roads.  Fortunately for Camilla, she bought a yogurt drink to coat her stomach.

“You know there’s actually forty percent pig’s milk in there,” Nogah said.

“At least forty percent,” Bonnie seconded.

“That’s why it’s pink,” Camilla said.

Gradually the villages outside the window became less frequent and we were completely engulfed by the tropical hilly jungle.  “Looks like we’re in the middle of nowhere,” Bonnie said.

“We are in the middle of nowhere,” I told her.  “There’s a dinosaur at the end of this road.”

Of course there wasn’t, but instead we found Batman, or rather, a boy dressed up in a Batman t-shirt complete with a silkscreened utility belt.  Victor picked him up for the ride to the junction town of Lanquin“Tu es Batman?” I asked him.


“Que es tu nombre?  Es Bruce Wayne?”  He smiled.

Batman accompanied us to El Retiro, a big backpacker ranch about 10 kms away from Semuc Champey, where we dropped off the four Israelis and the lone Canadian.  The rest of us opted to go the extra mile to a place closer to the park entrance — which was easier said than done; the last leg of the day-long journey involved switching over to a 4WD pick-up truck to get us up and down the rocky road ahead.  At first it was fun; we laughed as we held onto the bars, shifting around like loose cargo, and me hanging off the back to see where we were going.  But soon came a downpour of rain, a rain that didn’t let up and leaked through the protective tarp.  Cramped, we felt like a can of sardines, if you’ll excuse that cliché.

“Who’s idea was this?”

We hoped it would all be worth it in the end when we arrived at the Las Marias lodge, but it turned out to be a less-than-stellar experience — not just because the stars failed to come out that night with all the storm clouds, but because our tiny double room came with some unexpected visitors.

“There’s a spider!” Camilla cried, seeing the two-inch pest on the wall, right near by backpack.  I opened up my bag, ignoring the spider, until I realized it was gone. 

“Shit, I think it’s in my bag.”  I searched and searched for it, but eventually found it on the floor in the corner.  We doused it in 98% DEET Off! bug spray and it stopped moving.

“You better hope it’s not a brown recluse,” Jim said, referring to the deadly spider found in the tropics.  “It’s supposed to be the deadliest spider.”

“You’re going to have to protect me,” Camilla said to me.  “I hate bugs.”

“I’m trying to think of a more miserable experience,” I said to Camilla.

“Yeah, this is pretty bad,” she said.  “I’m too old for this shit.”

Bugs aside, the evening was sort of a bust with the relentless downpour putting a damper on any enjoyment of being in the outdoors.  Indoors in the big common area was a drag too; the dim, buzzing florescent ceiling lamps sucked the life out of us — at least until nine, when the electricity was turned off.

Luckily the power was still running in our room before we settled in our bed.  We moved the bed away from the walls to prevent critters from jumping in with us.  I pulled the frame away from the back wall, only to reveal something worse than a spider.

“Is that a scorpion?!” Camilla cried.  If we’d not moved the bed, it would have been right in the area where my head would have been.

We called the boss of the lodge, Jhonny, to come to the rescue.  He walked over to the room, explaining in Spanish how scorpions are no big deal — it’s the jungle after all — and that they were usually small… “Oh, es grande!” he exclaimed when he saw it.  Tail extended, it was about six inches long.  Using a wooden snake toy, Jhonny simulated an actual snake attack against the scorpion, crushing its body to the floor, and then crushing its venom-producing stingerHe held it up for us to see.

That night, Camilla and I shared the double bed, each wrapped up tightly in our individual sleep-sheet cocoons to keep anything and everything away from our bodies.  Perhaps we survived the night because we had sprayed a ring of DEET around the bed frame in hopes of keeping the scorpions and deadly spiders away.  “A scorpion sting is supposed to be amongst the most painful experiences you can ever have,” I told Camilla.  A thousand times more painful than having to drink a bottle of pig’s milk I reckoned, but I wasn’t willing to find out.

Next entry: Slick Shoes

Previous entry: Little Caesar’s Apocalypto

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Comments for “Pondering of Pig's Milk”

  • I’m catching up slowly but surely…  Post me comments, and continue to spread the word…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  02:44 PM

  • spiders and scorpions, oh my!  nasty.  the pastry looked yummy though.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  11/30  at  11:28 PM

  • Camilla, baby, and all else who may be “pondering pig’s milk” I see you’re finding your way just fine…best of wishes on this journey.  B.  I wanna try some piggy milk…get a sample, I’ll down it for a peso.  xo

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/01  at  01:14 AM

  • Hi! I am a long-time friend of Camilla’s. I just read through many of your adventures together - I was so excited to see photos and to know where she is in the world. Tell her I miss her, and I hope the rest of the trip is splendid! Blessings - Dana

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/01  at  04:53 AM

  • i dunno which is more extreme, swimming w/ the sharks or sleeping w/ scorpions…or drinking pig’s milkshake

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/01  at  09:37 PM

  • i dunno che rivada….but that pig milkshake brings all the boys to the yard, damn right, it’s better than urs…

    i gotta scorpion….in my pants…OH!

    Posted by markyt  on  12/01  at  09:42 PM

  • Shake out your shoes - that’s what you’re supposed to do when you’re in a place with them… ew - they give me the shivers. Glad you got rid of it.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  02:59 AM

  • It’s impressive that you guys were able to sleep. Those pics were so creepy, I’ll be shaking out my own sheets tonight…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  03:53 AM

  • OMG, thank God I wasn’t on that trip. Would have died right after seeing the spider!!!!

    Scarriest images ever…
    Well, have fun and take care!

    Posted by Carina Fuller  on  12/02  at  02:18 PM

  • There’s no chance i’d have been able to sleep after that.

    Amazing blog so far, Erik.  I really am loving it.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/02  at  03:02 PM

  • Oh… Oh my God…

    Posted by sara  on  12/02  at  04:54 PM

  • Great Oden’s Raven!  a Scorpion!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/03  at  04:51 PM

  • I’m living vicariously through your travel adventures again…im slowly catching up with your entries. Somehow though i don’t think the pigs milk idea is going to take off anytime soon. =) Keep having fun.

    Posted by Tezza  on  12/04  at  11:23 AM

  • Scorponox looks like he was more than meets the eye.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/05  at  01:15 PM

  • Crazy scorpion and spiders experience man..I would have sprayed myself with DEET after seeing that in my room..Keep up the good work bro, slowly catching up..Be safe

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This blog post is one of thirty-nine travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: The Central American Eviction Tour* (*with jaunt to Colombia)," which chronicled a six-week journey through Central America, with a jaunt to Bogota, Colombia.

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Slick Shoes

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Little Caesar’s Apocalypto


Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

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The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

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1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.

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