Adios Guatamala

Adios Guatamala
By sv Prairie SeaShell on 28 Jan, 2011 8:29 PM

Our last weekend found us on a trip to Lake Atitlan, Panajachel and Chichastenango.

Guatemala Our Last Weekend

Chicken BusOur last weekend found us on a trip to Lake Atitlan, Panajachel and Chichastenango. Again, there were not enough students for a private bus, so we did public transit (aka Chicken bus) for an hour or so, then on to a microbus, then on to a 4 wheel drive pick up truck down to the lake.
We had to stand in the back of the pick up truck down to the lake, about an hour and a half ride, but fortunately our truck wasn't quite as loaded down as this one. It was an exciting ride, holding on with one hand and trying to take photos of the spectacular scenery

These little golf cart type vehicles are called Tuk Tuks's, Guatemalas version of Mazatlan's pulmonias

Our first stop at the lake was at San Pedro for a quick coffee, then we took a launcha to Santiago for breakfast and a visit to San Simon
Although the religion of majority in Guatemala is Catholic, with a little influence from the Mayan religions, there are some communities that the Catholic Church will no longer condone.

Reason being, the residents of these communities still worship San Simon. This saint appears to be a plastic manequin, the people bring him food, clothes, liquor and cigarettes and pray to him to do harm to their enemies ...

Someone had just brought San Simon some cigarettes, so his attendant was lighting it for him !

In one of the other communities where we visited with San Simon, this effiagy had no arms or legs. The story goes that San Simon arrived in the town when all the men were out working in the fields, San Simon took their women, so when the men returned from the fields, they cut off San Simon's arms and legs as punishment for taking their women.

Since San Simon is not welcome in the catholic churches, he moves from house to house once a year, and there may well be a different story at every house!
We toured the town with a stop at the church which was built circa 1572. Inside the church was decorated with a special kite, un barrilete, that the Mayans believe send and receive messages from the spirits of their dead

Outside the church, we watched a few children playing in the court yard and quickly discovered they were lighting firecrackers. Sure hope they don't blow their fingers off !!

Back to the launcha and on to our next stop San Antoinio. The docks were a little questionable, they were temporary ones, as the permanent docks were under water, along with the Art Gallery. It had been an extremely severe rainy season this year and the water level in the lake had still not subsided.

San Antonio is a town built on the slopes of the lake, very fertile soil, with huge fields of onions.

These guys were just returning from the onion patches.
There was also a women's textile co-operative here, and Stacey, our Student Co-ordinator from ICA got all done up in the traditional Guatemalan dress. The women tell us it doesn't take long to get dressed in the morning, but I think it looks very complicated. The skirts are made of a circular piece of fabric, you step into the middle of it and wrap it around many times, then secure it with a woven belt.
 So many colors and styles to choose from.

And SO many vendors following you around on the street, begging you to buy a scarf or two. I had already bought a few beaded christmas tree decorations from a little girl who wasn't TOO pushy, but the ladies just wouldn't give up. They were even wraping scarves around Don's neck...trying to hide his chest hair I think! They made it a little difficult to enjoy the view around the lake.
Last stop for the day was Panajachel where we stayed at a very nice local hotel. Once again, we had the very nicest and biggest room.

Wandered thru the streets, booth after booth of touristy stuff, then stopped for a beer while we watched the sunset, then had supper with the gang and called it a night.
While we had breakfast the next morning we watched a felllow taking his goats for a walk. Not sure if he just wanted us to pay him for taking a picture, or if he wanted to sell fresh goat's milk.

Next, we took the launcha to a small village where we had to take another pick up truck back up to the highway. Fortunately it wasn't as steep, or as long as the trip down to the lake, because this time, our pick up was over loaded, and Don had to sit on the tailgate, with very little to hold on to. While we waited for our bus, I admired the local fashion show.
Our last stop of the weekend was at the artisan market at Chichicastenango. The market took up about 6 city blocks, most of the wares being sold were of the tourist variety.

It appeared there were tour busses arriving here from the lake resorts, dropping off customers who were anxious to spend all of their Quetzals before returning home.

Again, most of the booths were selling exactly the same stuff, and it was shoulder to shoulder people, making it difficult to shop. I did find one booth that had some leather tooled pictures, and the booth wasn't crowded ... the attendent was too busy talking on his cell phone to make a sale.

However, a young boy from another booth close by was anxious to make a sale. He had obviously heard me trying to talk to the boy on the phone, and this boy tracked me down in the market about 20 minutes later with exactly what I had asked for.

Now, of course, he thought I was willing to pay any price, so he quoted me a riduclous price which I turned down. Told him what my best price was, he turned me down three times before he accepted ... now that was a dedicated sales person.
We arrived back in Xela around 6:00pm, our adventures over, it was time to pack to go home to Calgary ... or so I thought. I had no sooner stepped out of the shower and Sonia was at the door inviting us out for dinner.

It was her brother and sister-in-laws 18th wedding anniversary, and of course we had to go to the party with her. It was a wonderful dinner with all the family, aunts, uncles, cousins etc and they even had a little going away gift for us ... a book called "Nostalgia Guatemalteca" which we will cherish always!
Next morning, our taxi arrived right on time at 3:30 in the morning to take us to the bus station, which didn't even open till 4:00. Our 4:00 scheduled departure didn't happen until about 4:30, and then about 2 hours later, we were stopped on the side of the road ... we had run out of gas.

We had to wait about 2 1/2 hours for a pick up truck to come from Xela with a 50 gallon tank of diesel. After the driver of the pick up and our driver finished pumping the gas, we were off again and a half hour down the road we were at the gas station. Now why didn't they send a pick up from this gas station instead of from the one in Xela?

Ademas, no more problems and we arrived in Guatemala City and the hotel still had lots of room for us. Dropped off the luggage and took a taxi to the Museo Popol Vuh. This museum houses the Mayan Bible as well as many other artifacts dating back as far as 1500.
Adios Guatemala!

It's off to the airport, one more stop in Dallas then home to Calgary ... and the snow!

We had a great trip, toured the country from North to South and East to West, and I think we learned a little Spanish as well. Now the big test will come when we return to Mexico in January ... will we remember what we have learned?


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