10.14.2008 - 10.18.2008
After staying in San Cristobal quite a lot longer than we originally planned, we finally were able to get ourselves to Guatemala (Guate) – a month late, but who’s counting!? The trip from San Cristobal was a beautiful bumpy 8 hour drive ride through green mountains, active and dormant volcanoes covered by jungles and forest that intermingle on the slopes. We arrived in beautiful Quetzaltenango (otherwise known as Xela) in the western part of Guate around 4:00 pm on Sunday. The zocalo was filled with people, music, food, balloons – you name it. We quickly found out that it’s their patron saints, La Virgen del Rosario, celebration. What perfect timing!
We searched a bit for a place to stay we found a nice, quiet hotel with private rooms for 25 quetzales per person - which is a little over $3. We waited out the afternoon rains that often hit Xela around that time, and headed out into the zocalo. Walking into the crowd, I felt like a giant. Almost all of the people from Xela are of indigenous blood and are most adorably short, with skin the color of the earth. They have a deeper indigenous look about them and are friendlier than the people in southeastern Mexico.
The town is picturesque, with its Spanish and German style buildings that give an almost gothic and mysterious feel to the place. We fell in love with it immediately. The fair was a smorgasbord of colors, flavors and sounds. We ate, and ate, and ate some more as we stopped every so often to listen to a local marimba band and danced and digested, only to go and eat more. The food here is fabulous. We already love it here and don’t think we will be leaving after the originally planned overnight trip.
The next day, we headed to a pretty hill town about 10 kilometers from Xela called Zunil. It was market day, so there was a ton of vendors in the market, but the rains kept the energy a little low. After, we hitched a ride to the hot springs of Las Georginas and spent a few hours relaxing in the thermal, sulfurous waters, set in the middle of the jungle in the gorgeous hills that overlooked Guatemala’s largest volcano, Volcan Santa Maria. The water was incredibly hot and we couldn’t stand being in there for more than 2 – 3 minutes at a time, but it was so relaxing and such a peaceful and calm spot, that we dunked ourselves in and out as often as we could stand it. Each time, coming out more relaxed than the last.
Natural Hot Springs (on an active volcano...)
After a couple of hours, we met our driver, Marcos, and headed back to Zunil, where we caught a chicken bus (wildly painted, old school buses used to transport anything including people, food, animals and yes, chickens, from one place to the next) to the next town. There, we hitched a ride on the back of a pick-up, froze with the cold wind, into Xela. We had worked up an appetite and headed to a Guatemalan restaurant where we tried everything the owner, Dona Lucia suggested. It was all fabulous, full of flavor and everything that came out was more delicious than the last. I didn’t think that after Mexico I would be so fulfilled with food, but I was wrong. Guatemalan food is beyond tempting!
I have a rough cold today after the hot-cold-hot-cold changes from yesterday and I’m laying in bed, in my brightly colored room, drinking fresh squeezed orange juice out of a plastic bag and resting to get better.
All is well in my world. I sincerely hope all is well in yours. Until next time! Adios