The trip began in Guatemala City. The view from our hotel window gave us a look at this volcano. It's a very quiet city. The guidebooks that my travel companion Phyllis and I read gave stern warnings about safety and pickpockets but happily, we found the city to be safe and the people were generally too busy to take notice of two wayward travellers.
The guidebooks were very accurate when it came to dining suggestions. The food was fairly good. Being that we were very, very careful not to eat any salad greens or fruit, our meals lacked freshness. By following all the guidelines neither of us had any tummy troubles for the entire time we were there. A very nice restaurant meal could be had for ten to fifteen dollars.
The first excursion was to the city of Antiqua. Up til an earthquake in 1773 this was the capitol of the country. The church is one of the few structures pre-dating that time. The bridge over the street connects the two buildings which made up a convent. This span allowed the cloisterred nuns to get from one side to the other while staying out of the public's view. Antiqua is considered a national treasure and is being carefully conserved by the government.
This picture was taken on the grounds of Casa Santa Domingo. It was built around the ruins of an old monastery. On the grounds are a variety of museums - Spanish colonial art and a glass museum among them. We were there on a beautiful day. Our visit was during the rainy season. Every afternoon we were there the sky would open up and pour for two hours or so. We coped with it very nicely by spending the rainy hours in museums or cafes.
We stopped at a jade factory. Guatemalan Jade comes in a wide variety of colors including many shades of green, black and lilac. The skull picture is blurry, but you can see the teeth have been embellished with jade beads. Even today, rural Guatemalan men view dental ornamentation as a status symbol. Gold teeth are highly desired these days.
After Antiqua, our group got back in the bus to ride the Pan-American highway to the city of Chichicastenango. This was the part of the trip to which I was most looking forward. A market is held there twice a week and I was really excited about seeing all of the woven goods they would have for sale. But it almost did not happen! Earlier this summer Hurricaine Agatha dumped countless inches of water on this area. The result has been landslides all along the highway. Our way was blocked and the driver and tour guide conferred with the head office and it was decided that we go around the landslide via some back roads. This ended up being the most interesting part of the whole trip.
We got an up close look at the agriculture of Guatemala. Every inch of space is used to grow crops. Every plot is tended perfectly, not a weed in sight. The houses are modest and seemed to lack amenities such as running water or electricity. All the local children came out to take a look at the cars winding their way up the mountain road. After an hour or so, we came to a complete standstill. Two public buses were stuck ahead of us, unable to pass each other on the narrow dirt-turned-to-mud road. Public buses in Guatemala are, by the way, old American school bsses which are always over-full - three adults to each seat, some people standing and cargo lashed to the top. They are called, for a reason I do not know, chicken usses. Our bus, along with most of the other vehicles turned around and went back down the mountain. By this time it was past 6:00 which is dusk there. The Pan-American highway had just been cleared of the landslide which had been the problem in the first place. Being that darkness was falling, our bus was given a police escort to Chichicastenango. This was a precaution against theives who have been known to ambush tourist groups to rob them. We got to the Mayan Inn about 10:00 pm. Tomorrow I will post about the second half of the trip.