What a great group we have. All were on time and we had loaded up the van and were on the road right on 7:30 am. The first hour or so was on windy roads down the mountain and lots of scenic views. After a quick stop for breakfast around 9 we carried on to the border. What fun! Our trusty driver, Ramon, gathered all our passports and the 300 pesos required to leave Mexico and had them stamped while we waited in the van. He drove us a little further and we unloaded everything, walked across "no man's land" and into Guatemala. There we attracted money changers. Just stand there. They'll show up. They weren't giving a great rate so most of us just changed $20 worth. Next we handed all our passports and the 10 quetzal entry fee to Rafa who handed them in and we just stood around watching people. Apparently this Mexico / Guatemala border is a happening place.
Next we loaded our stuff into another van driven by Glen and headed off again. About 3 pm we stopped for lunch at a diner where a soccer match was being watched by some very dedicated fans on the tv. Their team was winning :)
We were rerouted around a couple of areas where landslides had destroyed the road but otherwise the road was really good. I'm not sure if that's damage from the recent earthquake. Soon we started climbing mountains again and the views were magnificent. No one else seemed interested in stopping for photos so I just tried taking them out the window. Stupid trees kept getting in the way. hehe
Once it got dark we really started getting bored and started singing corny songs. Bruce shared some more of his wisdoms that had us cracking up. It was really foggy and I admired Glen's driving skills on those hairpin turns.
Panajachel is an interesting town with lots of alleys and narrow side streets. Our driver, Glen, is amazing at navigating the streets and managed to get that huge van up a street so narrow I'm not sure my Aveo would fit.
After settling in, Rafa quickly showed us around in the dark and we went for dinner after 9 pm. I just had chicken soup. It was cold, late and soup sounded good. It was. I've converted a few of the other water drinkers to lemonade without sugar. We're often required to repeat that as apparently it's very unusual but it's so refreshing. They use real limes in water and their limes are MUXH nicer than ours.
It's still cold and we're so looking forward to some warmth tomorrow. Again, I'm sleeping under wool blankets.
Theresa and I went for a walk down to Lake Attitlan and oohed aahed over the beauty of it before finding a cute little restaurant that ended up serving organic food. I had one amazing omelet with bean sprouts on it and she had banana pancakes. Yum! We sat in the sun and soon peeled off our jackets. Ahhhh warmth!
We met the others and Glen drove us to Chichicastenango. I finally asked if we could stop and take a photo of the view. All agreed. YAY.
The indigenous people from all around come every Sunday to sell their wares at the Chichcastenango market. Each group has it's own style of dress. They're all very similar but there are differences. If a girl marries someone from another tribe, she has to get new clothes.
Chichi is a HUGE market with so much stuff and we got lost more than once. I managed to get lots of photos of colourful people in addtion to bargaining and buying a few things. I really wanted a shot of some of the old ladies cradling chickens but never managed. They're very shy so one must be sneaky about it. A zoom lens doesn't help when there are so many people to get in the way.
When we went to get back on the van 3 hours later a group of girls followed us trying to sell us table cloths. One admired my silly little dollar store zipper wallet thingy with "Canada" on it so I gave it to her. Now I have nothing to put my money in. Oh well. I've got pockets.
Many in the group are fascinated by the chicken buses. Because of the size of the group, Rafa was able to get a private bus so we didn't have to ride in them. It IS much more comfortable but everyone needs to experience a chicken bus once. Most of them will be in Antigua for 3 days so I suggested they take one to the women weaver's project on their own. More adventure!
On the way back Rafa said if we wanted to see the Nature reserve Glen could drop us off or we wouldn't make it as it was getting late. Nicole and I were the only takers. We saw all of 2 or 3 butterflies, some racoon like creatures in a cage and a squirrel monkey far off in the distance which was rather disapointing so we decided to do the trail walk. Well. That was an adventure. Nicole coaxed me across one bridge suspended on wires with slats you could easily slip through and then we realized there were more. ARGHH! Finally the trail ended at the lake. By then it was after 5 and I was concerned about it getting dark. I don't think Nicole understood how DARK the jungle gets. We started back and she noticed a trail going down that she figured should end up at a hotel. Ummm okay. Luckily she was right and we got to bypass 3 of the four wire bridges. PHEW. We started walking towards the road and came upon a tuk tuk dropping someone off so asked if he'd take us back to Panajachel. 10Q pp. Cool. That was a fun ride!
Back at the hotel I messed around on the computer for an hour and then met the others for dinner. Tonight was nachos. It was time. They were absolutely awesome and some of the best guacamole I've ever tasted.
It's interesting watching them close up shop around here. The restaurants take all the bulbs out of their outside fixtures. All the stalls lining the streets pack everything up so the place looks completely different at night. We always manage to find the alley to our hotel though as it's got a "tattoo and piercings" sign right beside it.