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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

         

Huehuetenango, Guatemala
(Pronounced: WHAY-whay-ten-AHN-goh, Gwah-te-MAH-lah)
Currency Conversion Site 

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Leaving Comitan, Chiapas, Mexico, we make our way to Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Crossing country borders can be a bit disorderly and baffling. When leaving one country and entering another, be sure to get the proper exit stamps in your passport. This is important because without the exit stamps, technically, you have never left that country, and upon re-entering you could have problems. After the exit stamps, get your entry visas into the new destination country and get local currency as soon as you can.

Normally, entering new countries entails being jostled around by bus drivers, taxi drivers, officials on both sides of the border, people shouting to you to help you with your luggage (causing distraction and taking your possessions if you are not attentive) and paying higher prices for just about everything because you don't yet know the local value of items or services. If you have been traveling for any length of time, you can add fatigue and/or hunger to your list which contributes to the confusion.

Being clear-headed and knowing where you want to go is helpful. 

Leaving Comitan, Mexico, we got up early to take the 8:50 a.m. bus from the OCC station to Cuatemoc, a border town between Mexico and Guatemala. We paid 64 Pesos each for the 1.5 hour trip, and once we arrived at the border, we crossed the street to get stamped out of Mexico. Once properly stamped, we then returned across that same street to catch a taxi to take us into the country of Guatemala.

For 10 Pesos each our taxi dropped us off at the customs place where we received a free 90 day visa. Next stop? The bus station, supposedly 200 meters just up the road, to catch a bus to Huehuetenango, Guatemala, our destination for the day.

 

Properly stamped and fully jostled, we make our way to the bus station.

Here I am with all my gear and carrying our food bag. I've got way too much stuff!

Looking back, we would recommend at this point to hire a tuk-tuk or 3-wheeled taxi to take you both to a bank to get local currency and then to the bus station. Two hundred meters turned out to be an uphill climb with some unanticipated twists and turns along the way.

 

This is a flatter section of the road we walked, and banks are located along this street, about half-way to the bus station. For about 10 Pesos each, save time and effort and take the taxi!

 

I'm relieved to be relieved of my baggage!

Which is what we ended up doing. These 3-wheeled taxis run up and down from the customs area to the bus station. They know why you are here, and it's worth the meager price rather than walk.

 

Heaving our backpacks onto the top of the roof of our bus. Glad there are no electronics in there!

From the moment the taxi dropped us off at the bus station, men are shouting over and over 'Huehuetenango! Huehuetenango!' At first all this commotion felt assaulting and having strangers grab our gear and irreverently throwing them atop this tin can had us hesitating. But moments later, when we gathered our wits, we realized that they do lash the bags down once everyone's belongings are up on the roof.

Order within seeming chaos: a Guatemalan custom.

 

Freed of both the weight of our packs and the disarray of our surroundings, we now relax!

Our plan on these buses is to get comfortable right away and many times we sit in different seats to give us both more room. After more than 3 decades of partnership, there is no need to cram ourselves in right next to each other on every bus ride. A little breathing room is valued!

Since we didn't get to those banks before boarding this bus, we had no Quetzales, the Guatemalan currency. No worries, 40 Pesos each bought us tickets to HueHue. I'm sure the price would have been much less had we purchased in local funds.

 

Here's a closer look at one Quetzales coins. When we were in Guatemala, the exchange was about 8 Q's to $1USD.

For some reason the bus we took would not take us to El Centro but rather, dropped us off in what seemed to us to be a stranded location. The locals on the bus couldn't understand why we were being ousted either, but off we go.  From this location we paid another 5 Mexican Pesos each to get to the center of town.

New tourists are in town, and everyone wants to make a Quetzal!

 

You can see by the upper left portion of this map that we are in the Guatemalan State of Huehuetenango. With the exception of Guatemala City most cities in this country are small.

 

The Main Plaza

When this area was a Mam Mayan settlement before the Spanish conquered it in the 1500's, the Mam name was Xinabahul. When Gonzalo de Alvarado made allies with the local Nahua and over took the area, he gave the name Huehuetenango to this town. As you know, conquerors will often rename cities they overtake to make the subjugation of previous occupants complete. Many times those who are subjugated will keep the previous name among themselves as a mild form of rebellion. This is still what happens in Guatemala, all these years later.

In the Nahuatl language, tenango means 'place of' and you will see many cities in this country bearing tenango in their names. Huehuetenango means 'place of the ancestors.'

 

Cathedral at the Main Plaza

The Mam language is still spoken today by more than 40,000 people in the Huehuetenango, Quetzaltenango, San Marcos and Retalhuleu areas. Huehuetenango is bisected by the highest mountains in Central America, the Sierra de Los Cuchamatanes.

 

Another view of the same Plaza.

As was our pattern, we left the boys off here guarding our belongings, while we ladies went out shopping for hotel rooms. This was our first stop in Guatemala, and it took us a few moments to realize that Huehue, as all Guatemalan cities, was laid out in a grid pattern with avenidas running one way and calles the other.

Initially, we couldn't find street signs at all, and when we did, the names of the streets and hotel addresses seemed mind boggling as in: 4a Av. 1-45 Zona 1 or 2 C 6-67.

Eventually we realized that we were looking at 4th Avenue and 2nd Street.

The Adventurer's Guide to Guatemala

Don’t go to Guatemala without this book! Take advantage of what we know. Click here

 

Friendly bank guard

From time to time we hear from our readers about how frightened they are that guards with guns are seen on the streets of Mexico and Central America. We have been traveling the world since 1991 and guards such as this are all over the globe. Their job is to protect the bank and keep the streets in order. Most are friendly to tourists and native civilians.

Our stay in Huehue is planned for only 2 nights, so after we got settled in, we hit the streets to see what we could find.

 

Fresh Fruit stands!

Fruits in the tropics are tasty, abundant and very affordable. These 'to-go' bags have a mixture of papaya, pineapple, and watermelon and sell for about $0.50 US each. Grapes, small plums and nectarines are behind me and pre-peeled oranges are on the table in the left of the photo. Peeling them beforehand prevents less compost-style garbage on the streets.

Notice the child asleep against the wall with blankets covering him.

 

We're in coffee country!

Huehue's chief export is coffee and we will have the luxury of tasting Guatemalan coffee all throughout the country. We stopped into this little cafe and ordered delicious lattes and cappuccinos.

What a treat!

 

This Mayan woman carries her child on her back in traditional fashion. She wears a selection of woven clothing made in her village. Her skirt is a wrap-around style that allows ease for walking, is completely modest, and will still fit her if she becomes pregnant.

She is also carrying 2 machetes and was about to board a bus. No metal detectors here!

 

Mangoes!

Native to southern Asia, this delicious fruit has been cultivated, praised and even idolized since the 4th and 5th century B.C. Taken on voyages to Malaya and east Asia by Buddhist monks, the Persians are said to have taken them to East Africa about the 10th century A.D. It was commonly grown in the East Indies, and the Portuguese brought it to West Africa and Brazil in the 16th century. 

First planted in Barbados in 1742, it reached Jamaica in 1782, and early in the 19th century, it reached Mexico.

Some mangoes are eaten green, like in Thailand, and there are fibrous mangoes used for juicing and sweet, pulpy mangoes used for desserts.

 

What a face!

There are lots of ways to eat corn, and some cultures use the sweet kernels in desserts. This corn on the cob has a popsicle stick through the cob and the corn is laden with crema and strawberry syrup. 

 

Found under a cabbage leaf?

Children are often brought to market while the parents sell their goods. So here is this beautiful, well-fed child, eating a mango, with her feet on guavas, surrounded by cabbages, cucumbers, onions and jalapenos!

 

Another happy child and a proud mother.

Mayans are known for their decoratively embroidered blouses called huipiles. Elaborate designs and patterns may convey the wearer's village, her marital status and personal beliefs.

This woman is also wearing a hand woven skirt, a hand embroidered huipil, and 2 aprons. The top apron is functional for money and items like carrying her cell phone. The underlying apron is reflective of personal and village style.

 

A new meaning to the term 'bucket list.'

One of the many things I have come to appreciate about native peoples is how efficiently they carry items. It is very common - not silly in the slightest - to be seen carrying cloth, vessels of water, foodstuffs, and in this case, buckets on top of their heads.

To our 'sophisticated' eye, she looks ridiculous, wacky, or zany, and we might feel embarrassed for her lack of a cultured lifestyle.

But look closer.

What she has for sale is prominently displayed on her head. Both of her arms are free to display the choices she offers to her clients. She does not have to place her wares on the dirty (sometimes muddy) street where someone might run by and snatch her goods, or where she might scatter or forget them. Since her hands are free, she can make change easily when her items are purchased. And in carrying her merchandise in a balanced manner, she does not stress out the muscles of her back or slip a disc.

Honestly, I envy their mental and emotional freedom to do be so practical.

Can you imagine walking the streets of your own home town with a pile of buckets on your head? I'm sure your country club membership would come into question!

 

Stunning and colorful flowers of Guatemala, native Maya woman on her cell phone.

We decided to visit the ‘big’ market here in town specifically to see the locals in their native dress. Unlike in San Cristobal, where the Maya hide from the camera, in Huehue people are very friendly, eager to chat and laugh, and love to have their photo taken with you or by themselves. No one hides from the camera and no one demands to be paid.

Notice the decorated, hand dyed and crocheted scarf this woman wears, and her different style of huipil with geometric designs and gold threads.

There are coconuts for sale in the basket in the left of this photo.
 

This vendor has quite a setup. A wheel barrel, crate and fruit and he's open for business anywhere.

There are different styles of vendors at markets. There are the ones that go to the same location each market day and set up shop on their blankets or plastic tarps. In this manner, if you like the vendor's product, you know exactly where to find them each week. They emphasize stability, dependability, quality and are building a reputation. 

Then there is the 'moveable feast' type like this man. If no traffic is coming to him, he goes to the traffic to sell. He might have less goods or less variety, but he emphasizes freshness and opportunity for better pricing. Next week he might be selling nuts, coffee beans, bananas, oranges or strawberries.

Today he is selling types of mangoes, with his 'on special' items in the plastic bags.

 

Having a tough day fella?

I can't tell you how many times I have wondered 'What is this child's story here?' This young man sits on the steps in the market place - maybe for a rest, maybe because he hasn't had any luck selling his plastic bags that morning, maybe because he is hungry and is discouraged.

Regardless of the fantasy I might build around him, there is no disputing that he reflects unhappiness. His canvas tote bag is filled with plastic bags that he must sell, and if his tale is like other native children's, what he sells pays for his meals of the day.

 

WOW!

It's not what you think...

In Guatemalan custom, students in college dress up in the colors that reflect their studies, each color for a different college: Engineer, Accounting, Law, Dentistry... All of the costumes have the same design with hoods and long sleeves. They wander the streets with their tin cans hoping to collect money for their graduating papers or their school supplies. They are covered from head to toe for anonymity and to keep the playing field fair for the gathering of funds.

Fresh pastries are being sold in the baskets on the right.

 

The Casa Blanca Hotel and Restaurant

This restaurant was recommended for a good upscale meal, so we thought we'd give it a try.

 

Cheers! And buen provecho!

Here's a photo of our full meal with filet mignon for 46 Q’s, Pollo Mediteraneo for 52 and Chicken Fajitas for 38. A lovely bottle of Chilean wine for 125 Q’s and and an outstanding zamora agua fresca.

 

This mountainous terrain map only shows the Guatemalan State of Huehuetenango. Volcanoes in Guatemala are spread throughout the country’s highlands, totaling over 30 that dot the countryside.

We continue our 105 Day Adventure with the bus ride of our lives to our next destination, the city of Quetzaltenango.

 

For real Guatemalan flavor with indigenous people wearing native dress go to Mercado del Democracia - 10 blocks north of Parque Centroamerica, 1a calle, zone 3.

For more information, stories and photos of Guatemala, click here

 

About the Authors

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their popular website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible.

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