Monthly Archive for January, 2008

Guatemala, Day 5 – Panajachel, Quetzaltenango

Recently I went on a trip to Guatemala. This is Day 5 of my 9 Day account.

We are up early again, like 6 am. Dammit. I am really hung over. Jesus is the MAN of San Pedro.We rush down to the lakeside to catch the ferry, but we are not the last to arrive. The cigarette-smoking couple from Urquizu is joining us. Again. Small world. We catch the first of the four ferry trips we will take today, this time to San Pedro. As we arrive, locals wash their laundry (and themselves) at the water by the base of the town. Men fish on handmade canoes (pictured below). The town is built right into the mountainside, which means more climbing. We stop halfway up to the town at a coffeeshop. I take shots of locals and local scenery, while my friend wanders on his own.

After about an hour, we take the next ferry to Santiago Here, the women all wear striking purple dresses (pictured). Santiago is also built into the mountainside, which means, you guessed it, more climbing. Local kids offer to take us to some idol for a few pennies, but it sounds like a shady scam, so we pass. On the way back down, we hit up a local taco stand for some awesome tacos, but they make me wonder if we have taken our life into our hands. We descend back to the lake and catch the next ferry just in time.

The next ferry takes us to San Antonio Palopo (pictured left). Three Mayan kids join us for the ride, and they are cute but camera-shy. In their culture, its like stealing your soul or something to have your picture taken. Oh well. Palopo is a dump. In retrospect, it would have been far better to spend more time in San Pedro and, to a lesser extent, Santiago. Even Panajachel, which is by far the most developed village.

The fourth ferry takes us for the last time to Panajachel. We catch the shuttle to Quetzaltenango (Xela). We arrive there at night, and eat at Alba Mar. The chilaquiles are pretty good – its a turkey cheese and tomato base soup. Afterwards, we crash at the hotel and play some chess. We learn that we can’t catch a bus to Chichicastenango except at 7am, which leads us to conclude that we should leave Xela a day early and spend it at Chichi. Which means a 7 am bus tomorrow. Which means another early morning. Awesome.

Guatemala, Day 4 – The Volcano

Recently I went on a trip to Guatemala. This is Day 4 of my 9 Day account.

Perspective

We are up at an inhumane hour in order to catch the 6 a.m. bus to Pacaya. Awesome, a 1.5 hour bus ride with the annoying couple that smoked next to use at Urquizu. We arrive at the base of the PacayaThe Descent Volcano, where children try to sell us walking sticks for a couple quetzales. No one bites. We begin the ascent, which is way more difficult than we thought. We practically run up the first leg, ignorant of how much further we have to go. The climb is a total bitch, and with little sleep, I am dragging ass. Once at the top, we descend to approach the lava. We traverse a jagged expanse of cooled lava. The rocks are uneven and shift about; a misstep could mean a serious gash, or worse.

liquid-hot-magma.jpgFinally, we get to the LIQUID HOT MAG-MA. I’d say it more often if I wasn’t gasping for breath. We snap a few pictures and warm ourselves by the lava flow. A vulcanologist (I’ve always wanted to use thatGuatemalan Macgyver word) boils water by putting a teakettle on the ground. One of the eerie things about the volcano is a persistent “clinking sound,” one that could only be likened to the distant sound of many panes of very thin glass being shattered.

We return to the summit and begin the descent, which is thankfully much easier than the ascent. I slip on some gravel and bang my knee, hard. We make the journey back to Antigua and have lunch at La Escudilla. The food is ok, but not Urquizu good. We stroll into some churches after and prepare for the shuttle to Panajachel.
La Escuidilla, AntiguaAntigua ChurchAntigua Arch

At 4 p.m. we depart Antigua. The driver is an absolute lunatic, speeding through hair-pin turns with unguarded ravines to either side of us. We are all bounced around in the bus as this madman passes trucks around blind curves. I am furious; my friend is unaffected. The drive takes a lot out of me, and I need aspirin to calm down and relieve my headache.

At Panajachel, we eat a decent seafood dinner at Casablanca. Curiously, there are posters of Sikh gurus and other Indian art adorning the walls. Afterwards, we get drunk at Pana Rock Cafe. The live music is great and the singer looks just like Santana. I walk home beneath more stars than I have ever seen. I lay out by the pool outside my hotel room before crashing, taking in the sky.