Peace and Quiet... Maybe Not.

Trip Start May 01, 2010
Trip End May 01, 2011

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Where I stayed
La Paz

Flag of Guatemala  , Sololá,
Saturday, May 22, 2010

After a week of intense Spanish lessons, being ill and sharing a house with a screaming brat we were looking forward to reaching Lake Atitlan, finding a sports bar and watching the Champions League final with a beer or six… and that's exactly what we did.

The place we stayed was called San Marco, a very hippyish village on the lake, it offered amazing views of the lake and from the pier you could see all three volcanoes looming in the distance (see photo). We had a nice relaxing time there and decided that on the 2nd day we would visit the famous markets at Chichicastenango – we decided that we would make the journey there and back by,  the even more famous, 'chicken buses’.

In the morning we got the 7am boat to Panajachel, the lake’s main town and from there found a chicken bus heading in our general direction.

The chicken buses ("camionetas") are basically ex U.S. school buses donated or sold to Central America by the States – they are manufactured by Ford and have 8.5 litre engines and spew dirty black smoke out of the exhausts, absolute monsters they are! To add to this they are decorated and modified in the most amazing ways. At one point we were sat in a bus with flames painted all down the sides, in the front it said ‘Henrietta’ (all the buses have names), there were purposeless flashing lights inside, stencils of Jesus Christ everywhere and 3 people to each seat.  The driver was throwing it around every corner while playing relaxing Latino folk music out of the home stereo bookshelf speakers attached to a car stereo complete with exposed wires hanging over the head of a man who had fallen asleep with a machete in his hand.

On the whole trip we were to ride on a further 5 of these, each leg of the journey cost around 3 Guatemalan Quetzales (25p) and each bus is as unique and strange as the last with the driver’s choice in music equally random – one bus was playing house music!

The markets were actually less of a highlight than the journey there – a seemingly endless catacomb of market stalls selling all kinds of merchandise although mainly dominated by Mayan crafts, mostly textiles and jewellery. Rach bought a little bracelet the colours of the Guatemalan flag and I bought an old skool Casio wristwatch with alarm and stopwatch for 50 Quetzals (4).

The most exciting moment was when we nearly got in the way of an unusual Mayan procession coming out of a large white church – there were people dressed in ornate robes holding strange scepters and 6 people carrying an effigy of a white bearded man, some guy at the head of the procession was launching fireworks out a blue pipe right into the crowd, one such firework detonated right by me and, as I wasn’t expecting it, nearly had a heart attack (He jumped and screamed like a girl!).

Tomorrow we will  be heading to Copan, Honduras our fourth country in as many weeks.
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