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Dave and Jan's travels, day 225:

30th December
After leaving Antigua, we headed to the El Salvadorean border to get our car a renewed thirty day permit. A long and uneventful journey took us to the town of Quetzaltenango, in the heart of the region in south-west Guatemala known as the highlands. The purpose of this was to meet Pete and Clare, whom some of you know, and those that do will be surprised to hear that this passed without a hitch.

Quetzaltenango is actually Guatemala's second city (90,000 inhabitants to Guatemala City's 3,000,000), and a nice enough place to pass a couple of days, except for the architecture, which is, in a word, crap. The central square is a reasonably pleasing suntrap, but the rest is pretty tatty.

In the nearby hills lurks a spot known as Fuentes Georgina. This is a natural hot spring in which many locals pass a relaxing afternoon amid sulphourous steam. We did likewise, as the pictures at the right show. We also popped into the nearby village of Zunil, where we became embroiled in a spectacular traffic jam involving a number of pickup trucks, all overloaded in different and creative fashions, sharing one bridge that really should have been reserved for pedestrians. Add to that the ongoing concrete work, which meant hod carriers passing up and down, and this was an amusing affair.

From there, we moved on to Chichicastenango, a tourist destination famed for its biweekly sprawling markets. These days about fifty percent of the market is aimed at tourists, but the other fifty percent is the traditional locals' market. One easy way to tell which bit you're in is to count turkeys. More than ten in eyeshot and you are probably in the locals' bit.

The local communities remain strong, their vigour most colourfully demonstrated by the continuing general use of traditional dress. We've seen this a lot in Guatemala amongst women, but in Chichi for the first time we saw men dressed likewise. We have heaps of photos, some of which appear at the side, which best convey the sense of colour and vibrancy that this market provides.

Also, whilst staying at Chichi, we mounted a day trip to some ruins near to the local state capital of Quiche. I mention this mainly for completeness: whilst the ruins provided a nice spot for a picnic, I wouldn't want to give anyone the impression that there was actually any information about the former inhabitants, or indeed anything to see other than a few grassy mounds and a little man collecting money from tourists. Given that this lot resides at the end of a fifteen mile cart track, it was more of an experience than a spectacle.


   (click thumbnails for a larger picture)

Fuentes Georgina

The market, Chichicastenango

Jan and friends, Chichicastenango