11.04.2012 23 °C
Happy Easter Everyone - hope you have all enjoyed the long weekend with family and friends.
Moving on from Ross's last blog, we made a quick exit from our sickly Mexican border hotel to the Guatemalan immigration which was surprisingly easy-going. The border crossing was strange - in the middle of a traditional Guatemala market full of locals going about their business, colourful, happy and chaotic, our tuk-tuk navigated through the crowds in the soaring heat to the main bus terminal and what a sight this was....huge American-style school buses that had been colourfully decorated, bling-like...these fun looking beasts are known as chicken buses and we soon learnt why! We boarded the bus to 'Xela' - pronounced Shay-Lah, while we watched a small, agile guy run up and down the ladders swinging our backpacks on the roof -' were we to see these again?' a valid question on our minds, based on the bad press of these buses. Yet it was all good fun, after a few heckles from the agile lad (who was still on the roof at the time), the driver revved up the beast while blaring out 'Rhythm is a Dancer'. The lad was on and off the roof lugging local luggage throughout the whole journey, still smiling, while we were huddled up with the locals - poor Ross was next to a Mother who just slipped her boob out to signify 'feeding time' and used him as a pillow for her arm.
The scenery was breathtaking and we certainly 'knew' we had entered Guatemala - lush, green, jungle-clad mountains all around, volcanoes in the background; and land-slides ahead - a common problem here, but not for our driver - he seemed to enjoy the challenge! We climbed about 1000m towards Xela, where we were dumped on a highway while we waited with four local men to usher us to the next chicken bus for another 1300m upwards to Xela City. This is supposed to be the third largest City in Guatemala, but the place is no more than a small village / town, small but perfectly formed with a main square influenced by 1930's German architecture - very Gothic...we liked it, mainly because it reminded us of the wonderful European architecture that we have learned to appreciate ever-more since our word trip began. We arrived at the start of Semana Santa season - Easter; and being a strong Roman Catholic & Evangelical dominated religious culture, we were promised plenty of celebrations, fiestas and processions. In reality, it was all rather sombre and the processions were surprisingly serious - see photo's!
Our highlight of our time in Xela was a visit to one of three active volcanoes in the area - Santiaguito. We took a 2 hour hike to a viewing point - stunning scenery along the way, great exercise in the alpine-like climate, and we witnessed four volcanic eruptions which was spectacular. No lava present (the last time it expelled lava was approximately 100 years ago - so it is due to to do so again). But we heard the rumbles and the photo's show what we saw (we actually have some film footage, but I haven't quite got to grips with downloading film to the laptop!)
We were very happy to be leaving Xela on day 6 - it was far too long to be spent in such a small town but we were stuck until the Easter celebrations were over. We took a bumpy, scenic ride to Lake Atitlan (Guatemala's answer to the Lake District), where we are currently based - San Marcos, to be precise - a hippy hangout complete with dream catchers hanging all around. We will be here for a couple more days, when Ross will update you with our next adventures.
Love to all,
Ross & Charlie