Central America | Guatemala | Highlands | Lake Atitlan – Lago Atitlan and Chichicastenango
I woke up early in San Lucas and caught a chicken bus to Santiago. I am practically an alien or estranjera in these parts, everyone stares at me. I then took a boat to San Pedro and met some Brits along the way. We hung out in San Pedro for the day and I headed back to Panajachel for the evening and night.
The best part of travelling is meeting other travellers along the way. On the boat to Panajachel, I met a nice dutch girl and two Italians. The dutch girl was already staying at a decent place in Panajachel and we were both glad to have found another single traveller, so I took her suggestion and stayed in my first hostel. It was $6.50 a night, other than the salsa disco next door which played music full board until 3 am, it was fine.
We all met up for a lovely meal from Uruguay and I had my glass of good red wine. Simple pleasures mean so much when you are travelling with the basics. (I am dying for a Trader Joes turkey sausage and gorgonzola cheese.)
Sunday, I went to Chichicastenango for the famous market only to be disappointed and somewhat annoyed. The indigenous people were rude to tourists, the worst of the bunch being the 80 year old women who have no problem punching and barrelling they way through you. The begging children are like flies, they dont stop. There are so many tourists, it was a bit much.
There were two interesting parts that I did enjoy, the most interesting of which was visiting the church. Pagan rituals are still practiced in the catholic church by the indians. Cameras are completely forbidden, and, there are men walking around to make sure you dont take pictures. I of course got caught in my efforts. Outside of the church, 3 little old indian women dressed in their tradition garb were swinging clouds of smoke of incense, making incantations. Inside, there were 3 figurines about 10 ft high each, surrounded by plumes of feathers and trinkets, and people would swing incense and crawl up to the figurine on their knees, saying incantations, bending over and over, praying incessantly. They would bring gifts or vices to the figures, I just sat and watched the encounter because it was like nothing I have ever seen in my life. The entire church was filled with smoke and candles.
Second, in the middle of the market, there is an eating area for the indigenous people. They have pots and cauldrons of food, women are making their tortillas on hot metal placed over a fire and the indians come in to eat. The tourists do not go in this area because it holds no interest to them. I, on the other hand, couldnt help myself and walked down each aisle. I wanted a tamale, hoping that I will find a good Guatemalan tamale somewhere in this country (no luck yet, they suck). I asked a woman if I could eat a tamale, she just stared at me. EVERYONE was staring at me. What was I doing in this area, the forbidden zone? I am starting to feel like an alien. 🙂 Keep in mind that many of these indians dont speak spanish as they have their own language (there are at least 22 distinct indian languages in Guatemala), so communication can be difficult. I sat down and ate my shitty tamale, enjoying the culture, wondering if this was going to make me deathly ill. The little indian girl stared at my directly across the table, she finally asked me my name in spanish. We talked and she just smiled and smiled after that, then ran behind her mom.
Another little indian girl was begging then asked what I was doing. I told her I was washing my hands (with my handi wipe), I asked if she wanted me to wash her hands too. She smiled and nodded yes. I washed her dirty hands and afterwards she turned them over and over as if she just got new shoes. Gifts come in all sizes around here.
Life outside of Antigua is very hard. I am very grateful to be here and not living in a shack.