Guatemala is nothing what I’ve expected. It is just beautiful and people so far been nothing but friendly. My first impression after crossing the border was wow this is not a poor country. Compare to Chiapas it looked very wealthy. The houses were concrete and big, roads are in perfect state, all looked really, really good. I was confused and I still am how does it work, why they seems to be even more expensive than Mexico, why they currency is so strong? Hopefully I will learn more about Guatemala during my stay here.
I crossed the border at La Mesilla. A small village on south. You take a shuttle bus to the border, pay 300 pesos for leaving Mexico, walk through the border of Guatemala, get ripped off by paying 20 pesos for a stamp allowing you to stay 90 days, and take another shuttle bus to your final destination. The border is a funny place. Kind of market, kind of open, full of men with a small bags with money where you can exchange your remaining pesos into quetzal. We had them in Poland during the communist time. For example if you had a desire to buy western goods you needed a western currency. It’s a long story why, but these goods were only available in special shops called Pewex where sales was only in US dollars. I as a kid desperately wanted a Barbie doll but…that time the government totally controlled an exchange rate undervalue dollars and an amount that could be exchanged by individual. We Polish are very clever nation so in response to that restriction an entire black market of street-corner money exchangers had appeared. I had my Barbie, cinkciarz – money exchanger man made some money, a shop with western goods had a sale, but idea of socialism somehow has been destroyed. Oh well…
This is a bid of different story but the border experience reminded me of those times. Generally the whole Mexico experience has reminded me my childhood a lot. This Guatemalan’s money exchangers are probably legal, but definitely a rate depended on their mood and an official exchange rate is only an indication. I’ve got 200Q just so I can pay for hostel, taxi and some food if needed.
I did not have any reservation in Xela. That’s a new thing for me, but more you travel more you trust all will work out and usually it does. I like to have freedom when I get to a new place to choose where I’m going to stay – location, feel of the place is crucial. I had some recommendation and idea and I actually I’ve ended up with one of them.
My stomach was poorly but manageable. It’s my fault as I totally ignored an initial symptoms and continued to eat as normal. However a morning after my arrival my stomach has collapsed and unbelievable pain hunted me through the whole morning. I think it was a fact I literally had nothing in my digestion system. I know you probably don’t want to read about this part of my experience but just in case:) It’s all good now. Rice diet, drops, one day in bed helped a lot so yesterday I was ready for an adventure!!!
Brooke from Brooklyn and myself has decided to take a day trip to Chichicastenango. I though it’s a town next to Xela, but when I got to a bus Brook explained it’s 1,5-2 hours journey. 100km on a chicken bus! The ones in Guatemala are gorgeous!!! They look like the school buses, but painted in vibrant colours with lights, names and quotes on them. Ever since I saw one I wanted to experienced them. So far we I’ve learnt that one sit is for three people not like you would think just for two. Oh no! On the way back we had a luxury version as there was a flat tv on the front, so unintentionally I watched Rambo for the first time in my life. Why? why? why? I need hours of meditation to come down after that:)
Chichicastenango is famous for Thursday and Sunday market especially for local crafts. I could not believe the beauty of cloths and fabrics. They are not for special occasion, women here are wearing them on a daily basis. Here are some pictures where you can admire colours especially. All hand-made! If you ever get a chance to come over here, please don’t forget a spare suitcase as I can ensure you want to buy all. Luckily I’m a traveller so I was very sensible with my purchases. I don’t want to carry too much on my poor back:)