Tuesday, July 16 Antigua, Guatemala

(Click here for corresponding map of Guatemala)

Last time I left off, I was in Antigua, Guatemala (1 on map) . I’ve done so much since, and I realize that if I don’t keep up with these weekly posts, I’ll never catch up. So here goes…….

Spent the early part of the day at a museum on the outskirts of town. Quite a good museum in 3 parts: Coffee museum, Mayan Music, and Village Life. I went on the guided tours even though they were entirely in Spanish. I understood quite a bit and went back through to reread all the display information in English. They had life-size dioramas of different aspects of life in the mountain villages—a shop, food market, going to church, etc.

It was a beautiful day so I walked around to get a few pictures I had not been able to take before, then sat in the park watching the ladies chase tourists to sell their cloth.

Wednesday, July 17 Panajachel, Guatemala (2 on map)

Panajachel is the main town on Lake Atitlan, a gorgeous volcanic lake. It was actually formed in a collapsed volcano, and from the shore you can clearly see two other volcanoes across the lake. In the 70’s this became a hippie hang-out and I can see why. It is truly beautiful, the water clear blue. I took the early morning bus here and arrived about noon and checked into the hotel. At the time the only room they had for one person was a wooden shack-like room with a foam bed. I took it. I later found out that the double rooms with big beds and private baths were only a bit more so I changed. It was a beautiful log-cabin like room with a great porch, all for about $11.00!

The city is on spread out going up hill from the lake. I spent the afternoon walking down the hill and exploring the village. I bought a few things from the roadside vendors as the items were different from what I saw in Antigua.

Not much else to do here. I based myself in Pana to get to a large market the next day. It rained all evening so I decided to stay in and read.

Thursday, July 18 Chichicastenango, Guatemala (3 on map)

Caught an early morning shuttle van to this big market town. The driver took all the twisty roads quite fast all while staring at his girlfriend and not the road. He understood English when I bought my ticket, but seemed to not understand it when I and other passengers asked him to be careful. Thankfully we got there safely.

Chichi is famous for their large Thursday and Sunday markets, and I must say it was huge! I wandered around taking in all the bright colors and cool things to buy. If you even so much as pause at a booth the seller will pull out more items to look at and engage you in bargaining. I am a sucker for markets and ended up getting many of my Christmas gifts and some cool stuff for me as well. It’s hard to get away when you ask a price so I used my strategies I learned in Africa. I walked all around the market and stopped when I saw other gringos bargaining so I could get a feel for prices. The colors and textures are so rich and beautiful, I wanted everything! After buying quite a few items it occurred to me that I will be carrying round this stuff for 6 more weeks. OOPS!

At the end of the market is an old church that is still used today. The steps had people praying, chanting, and waving incense, similar to what used to be done at the Mayan temples. Inside the aisle was lined with pine needles and offerings of corn, candles, liquor, and flowers were everywhere. Individuals would leave their offerings and squat to say their prayer or chant. The church was dark and the smoke from the candles added to the mystical effect. I sat here for an hour just taking it all in, feeling like I was a part of something traditional and special.

After the market, I headed back to Pana to retrieve my bags. I went to the lake to catch a boat to San Pedro, a village on the opposite side of the lake. The captain wouldn’t go until he filled the boat, but then he overfilled the boat! It went so slowly and stayed close to shore due to the weight of us passengers and our backpacks (maybe I bought too much in Chichi?). San Pedro is a small village once again on a hillside, but most of the tourist stuff is right at shore so I didn’t have far to go to get a great hotel room in a brand new hotel with a gorgeous view of the lake from my balcony all for $5.00! Had dinner by the lake and enjoyed the view.

Friday, July 19 San Pedro, Guatemala (4 on map)

I went exploring the village in morning. Got lost and ended up being lead around by some schoolgirls who showed me the back paths and their house as well. During our conversation I found out that students are in school now as this is their “winter”. It’s the rainy season and cooler, therefore winter. I wondered why I had seen so many students in Antigua!

The village is mostly dirt paths winding up the hillside. There are two main roads and docks, otherwise it’s all small paths. In the middle of this village, after I found my way and said good-bye to the girls, I found an Italian restaurant, solar pools, and an Internet place in the middle of the local homes and maize fields. It’s as if there is this hidden tourist part away from the main dock.

I spent the remainder of the day in a chair on the balcony with a book.

Saturday, July 20 San Pedro, Guatemala

Really didn’t feel well this morning and had a low fever, so I decided not to visit another lake village as I had planned. I rested most of the morning and went for a walk to explore the other half of the village that I missed yesterday. Ended up in someone’s corn field and again had to be lead out by kids.

In the late afternoon I went to the Solar Pools. It is a series of outdoor cement tubs filled with solar heated water in a great garden. It was very relaxing, and then all of a sudden the sky broke open and it poured! I stayed anyway—as did everyone there—and it was even better in the rain. I haven’t felt cleaner on this trip than after 2 hours in the Solar Pools! Afterwards I went with 2 other people I met to the little Italian restaurant/shack and had good dinner. It continued to pour rain the entire time.

Since all of this was inside the village I had brought a flashlight. Good thing as the paths were completely flooded! There was no possible way to stay completely dry so we tried to avoid the mud puddles instead. Of course, in my trying to avoid a puddle, I tripped on a tree root and fell face first into it! So much for being clean. By the time we reached the hotel, I was ready for a hot shower, but the hotel only had cold water. Oh, well.

I spent the remainder of the evening on the balcony watching the storm and talking with other travelers.

Sunday, July 21 Quetzalastenango, Guatemala (5 on map)

I left early on the boat back to Pana to catch a bus to my next stop. Turned out I had to take 3 busses, and ran from one to the next to make the connections. It was a beautiful ride through the mountains. Quetzalstenango or Xela (Shay-lah) for short is the second largest city in Guatemala and is in the western mountains. Many people come here to study Spanish instead of Antigua because it’s total immersion here—not much English spoken at all.

I got myself to the hotel I chose, Casa Argentina, after a bunch of walking with my pack and all that crap I bought at the market. I am staying at a place that is a hotel and travel agency, and all the money is used in programs with street children in Xela. It’s a little further from things but I like the idea of it.

I walked around awhile to orient myself and everything was shut tight for Sunday! Not many people out on the street, and those that were were dressed in their best. I spent the evening talking to other travelers on the deck.

It is absolutely freezing here compared to what I have experienced so far. I had on ALL my clothes when I was sitting outside. Apparently the sun rarely comes thorough the clouds here and is stays this way most nights.

Monday, July 22, Quetzalastenango, Guatemala

I decided to mail some of my purchases home to save my back. At the post office I got the stuff weighed and boxed and labeled and realized I forgot all my money at the hotel. I spent a great portion of the morning running around doing this, finding a supermarket, and getting info on the surrounding area.

I wanted to take a day trip out of town as there is not much to see and do here, but since I had a few errands it would have been too late. Instead I walked around watching Guatemalans go about their daily life in the city, found a few shops, located a cool performing arts center, and sat in the park.

Tomorrow I will go to a village called Zunil to see a weaving cooperative and a few other site, then to a natural hotsprings nearby, all as a day trip. The it’s onto an entire other part of the country if I can get here in one day on busses. On Sunday I go back to Antigua to join a Shuttle and taking trip on Monday. I will be sailing in the Caribbean from a town in Guatemala to Honduras on a 36’ sailboat. Looking forward to it!