Had a great and eventful weekend just passed, to Quetzaltenango (more commonly known as Xela..pronouned shay-la) with a Canadian friend Roya
. We took the launcha across the lake to the Gringotown of Panajachel from where, after 28 days I had my first chicken bus experience. What is a chicken bus I hear you ask? Ok, well imagine the old American yellow school buses, that's right, 13 rows of seats with enough space for 2 (small!) children on each of the seats...ok good, so the bus is painted in the bright colours of the drivers choice with 'God protects my bus' written all over the windscreen and the walls inside and crucifixes everywhere!..following? Ok, so its now time to reflect on the jokes of how many people can you fit in a mini at any one time...well think the same, but with about 50 Guatemalans and a bus...Guatemalans are short right, but when you have 2 and yourself on one seat and more standing and filling up the aisle with someones backside in your face you get the picture! :) When you see the speed at which the buses go and the manner in which these guys drive you realise the trust in god thing! So we stood in the pounding rain in Pana for a while (Mr smart guy here without a raincoat!) waiting for a bus to Xela..no bus! So more buses go by and I ask in my best spanish if there is a bus or not...well it turned out that we had to catch one bus to one place and then we'd be fine for another bus to Xela...great! So the next bus that comes we jump on...Rule 1...do not trust Guatemalan bus drivers...it turned out the bus wasn't going all the way to the change point (as he'd said) so we ended up having to change again and then again..but after that happy days and we were away
! So Xela was ok, the second biggest in Guatemala where I origianlly planned to study, but as a city it was more expensive and there wasn't really that much there for me. We walked the main square and market and I bartered for a raincaot with the worst barterer in the world ("How much is it"?, 100Q, "Ok Ill give you 50Q", No not possible...90Q, "How about 55Q" No not possible...name your price amigo, "ok 60Q", no amigo 90Q...its like come on now sweet heart, get involved in the action and do your worst! So eventually on Sunday after a good meal and a few drinks we barter a taxi to the main chicken bus station...a filthy dirty rat pit with guys all like "Hey amigo, where you go!". (So remember Rule 1)..."Vamos a San Pedro La Laguna".."aqui aqui" is the reply with the guy holding my arm to which I politely tell him to "please leave my arm alone good Sir!" :) and we jump on..I ask a local lady on the bus where the bus is going and apparently this particualar bus was bound for the big smoke of Guatemala city! Eventually we would have been able to get to SP but I guess 13 hours later! So we don't take any notice of these guys any longer and we go it alone...I see a bus...it has San Pedro and San Marcos written on the front..could this really be the one! We jump on and I ask, "Is this the bus to San Pedro" Result at last, a local with the response I want to hear! So we pay the 10Q fair and 1 1/2 hours later we stumble into San Pedro...not in fact San Pedro La Laguna as I should have stated, but another San Pedro in San Marcos District, which is in fact half the way to Mexico
! Wayhay..happy days! Rule 2: Always read a map to be sure of namesake places in any one country Rule 3: Always get on the right bus! So we take a beer in the market town of San Pedro as one always does when faced with a real problem and three hours later we're checking back into the same hostel in Xela for another night. The night was good, and I got shot...yes I got shot..it reminded me of the younger days of cruising through Tenby with an irish guy in the front taking pot shots at the legs of unsuspecting tourists..well I did indeed recieve my Karma and was hit in the chest by 3 kids going past in a 4x4..Il catch up with them one day for their just desserts!
So I'm in Antigua Guatemala now with 8 of the group from SP. Yesterday we climbed Volcan Pacaya, one of the most active volcanoes in Central America and saw some great lava flow, the guide said it was one of the best trips in 20 years. The lava was flowing slowly and viscously (word?) over a sharp ridge and bit molten pieces were breaking off. The guide was encouraging us to take pictures quick and then we "Vamos rapido!". not a bad point as 5 mins later big chucks of molten rock were rolling down the point where I was happily snapping away. At one stage a massive piece of rock peeled off the flow and started to roll at tremendous speed down the hill...just at that point 2 or 3 local cow farmers were unsupectingly walking perpendicular to the volcano and you've never seen anyone run as fast..Ben Johnson would have been proud..no drugs needed here
! (check out the video soon!). So it was a quality trip! I'm staying at a hostel in Antigua called the Black Cat with the other guys...it's basically a club 18-30 hostel that organises bar crawls with rules like 1) You must complete the bar crawl in one group 2) No-one leaves unless its to hit the hay with someone else from the crawl. Justifiably this is not why I'm here in Guatemala, although in the past these have been good fun, but I do plenty enough of bar crawling with the lads in Cardiff so its pretty old news!
So I leave tomorrow to Tikal, the best Mayan ruins in Central America (its on one of the starts to the Star Wars movies) to hopefully catch and amazing sunrise over the rainforest!
So for now I bid you all hasta whenever next,
Hope all the birthday celebrations went well for September,
All the best,
One month exactly and the dream that was my time in good old San Pedro La Laguna is finally at an end!..and am I sad to leave I hear you ask? Well the town of SP is, to be honest a bit of a shit-hole, but you really can't get more of a spectacular location as it sits under the looming shadow of Volcan SP on the clear crystal waters of Lake Atitlan, surrounded by craggy mountains, lush green hills and 2 more almighty volcanoes. When you take into account that the massive Lake itself sits in the crater of an ancient volcano itself you do truly realise the beauty of the spot and the wonder of nature. Every day I made a concious effort to paddle out to the middle of the Lake by kayak to just sit in the sun and listen...to the sweet sound of nothing but the lapping water against the side of the kayak!..(but to be fair, the exercise also helped in the prevention of man boobage from the consumption of too much of the local booze Gallo the previous evenings! :)