'Guat-ever!!!' travel blog

Well Saturday started like most others, delicious fresh fruit for breakfast and pleasant company. However, it turned a bit sad as everyone started to leave the house, the family had packed up getting ready to move to their own apartment, Vicky moved out to a new homestay and Anna was getting packed up and ready to go to Monterico for the day.

The way the homestay payment system works, is that you pay the school and you are guaranteed six days at the house with 3 meals. The seventh day you are on your own to find food. You can stay there without any problem.

If I had stayed around the house for lunch on Saturday, they would have charged the school an extra day of payment, so I decided that I was getting ready and doing some computer work etc. and hanging out around Antigua until my mini van shuttle left for Chichicastinango at 4 PM.

As the saying goes, the best laid plans...

I being my mother's son, was early, 3:15 at the school, to meet the minivan. I went to the ice cream parlor right next door to keep an eye open for the tourist van. Well 4 o'clock came and went, and continued to go. Iliana a teacher at the school that I know happened to be working at the school and she called the company, supposedly it was on its way.

Finally the van did arrive at about 4:20 and I got in to see only two other passengers. This usually means in Guatemalan culture that another 15 passengers can easily be loaded into the van designated for 12 people. Well I get seated and off we drive. He continues to the highway, this was a miracle in the making, 3 of us all the way just outside of Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlán turnoff. We stopped. what was happening? We waited. We waited. Another van shows up and I was told, since I was going to Chichi I was to get out and go to the other van. I was the only passenger in that one with a driver and a co-pilot. This can be a unnerving situation for most travelers. What was happening? We drove for about 20 to 30 minutes on some back roads and I then saw the sign for Chichicastinango. They dropped me off directly in front of my hotel door!

The hotel I decided to stay in was the Mayan Inn. It totes itself as being "a museum in every room". It was built as one of the first tourist destinations in Guatemala and it was built by Cook, one of the founders for Cook's travel-but don't quote me on that, I could be wrong.

I was greeted at the desk with open arms and shown to my beautiful room. Two single beds, a table with two comfortable looking chairs, situated in front of a beautiful, tiled fireplace. I had a corner room with two huge windows overlooking part of town and the next-door neighbors yard.

I had arrived at 6:45 PM, and dinner was to begin service at 7 PM. There were a family of local Mayan children coming to show local costumes and dancing before dinner was to begin. The youngest being 2 1/2 years old the oldest being about 16. They dutifully performed and then several of the Americans in the group decideHd to take many photos, none of mine turned out clearly, so I was a little disappointed however. After killing time in Antigua for so many hours and too many coffee shops, I only wanted a light dinner and had soup and salad and a beer, of course after dinner I went to the bar, got a nightcap to take back to my room, where I pushed the buzzer and a man arrived at my door to light my fireplace for the evening, it was my responsibility, of course, to keep it stoked for the rest of the night. What an enjoyable, relaxing, and pampering experience!

The next morning I rose early and head for breakfast with copious amounts of coffee, of course, and then off to the market.

Most of what was on offer I had already seen somewhere else in Guatemala and I was a little disappointed. However I did come across a few items and haggled for good price… My Spanish isn't as good as I thought. I thought we had agreed on 145 quetzales, we had agreed on 240 quetzales!! She felt sorry for my mistake, and gave it to me for 200. And it came with a free plastic bag!

After my first purchase, I seemed to have gotten an entourage, many children, wanting me to buy whatever they started pulling out of their bags to sell. One persistent entrepreneur, Diego, 12 years old, seemed to be most persistent. He followed me for several blocks and I did end up buying a few things from him. He then pointed out a shoe store, and I told him I didn't need shoes but he replied, "para mi", meaning, "for me!"I did say no, however when he pointed at soccer balls, I did buy him one, but he promised to share with his brothers and sister. Someone later said I had "target" on my back!!

Since Diego seemed to want to become my personal guide through the marketplace, I asked him where the bank was, he led me to the machine so I was able to afford more stuff, and then he took me inside the fruit and vegetable building where they sell everything under the sun that is in season. What a sea of humanity and craziness.

Diego took me to meet his mother at her stall, selling other goods, and I spoke in Spanglish to say that she had a very good son(tough skin engaged). He continued to lead me through the rest of the market, which actually turned out to be quite helpful because I know I would've gotten lost about 1000 times. He then asked if I needed to go back to the hotel, by this time is a gotten more crowded and I was getting a bit claustrophobic and he led me right back to where I was staying. Keep in mind, that the "entrepreneur "in him was trying to sell me stuff the whole time! I gave him a few more quetzales and he was on his way to continue his day's work.

I took a respite in the hotel gardens, took some photos, and was guided around by the owner once again. You can tell the owner of the Mayan Inn truly loves his hotel and his work. Especially talking about all the antiques, plants and history of the place.

After a bit of a break, I decided to head out once again to the market and try my luck with finding a few more souvenirs.

I ran into several of the students from school who had become overwhelmed by the crowds and the narrow streets. I was amazed at how busy it had become in such a short time. We made our way to a restaurant and had coffee and a bite to eat. It was a welcome break from the insanity.

After a while, I headed back to the hotel, the owner said I could check out whenever since my minivan wasn't picking me up till 2 PM. I checked it at 1:35 and sat on the bench in the office to wait. I expected to wait a good half hour or more when a man walks through the door wanting Darren fancy another Guatemalan miracle it was 1:45. I had to get into a tuk tuk, a Central American three wheeled covered moped that will sit as many people as a Guatemalan tuk tuk driver can fit in!! They jokingly said that it was my ride back to Antigua!-- that was fine with me! We headed across town, as getting a minivan into that part of town to the hotel would have been madness on market day. The van actually left at 2:05 full with 14 people.

On the way home we passed several half ton trucks with at least 14 people sitting, standing, hanging on, riding bumpers going to and from Chichicastenango-- this is a common Guatemalan occurrence! I saw a model truck in the marketplace with three Guatemalan dolls in the back and I jokingly said only 3! I see up to 15 in the back most often!

I arrived safe and sound back in Antiqua at my hotel, my home for the next two nights and day before heading home to Toronto on Tuesday.

What can one say, an experience of a lifetime!



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