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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.

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
(Pronounced: Ketz-all-ten-AHN-goh, Gwah-te-MAH-lah)

Xela, Guatemala
(Pronounced: SHAY-lah, Gwah-te-MAH-lah)

The capital of the Maya
Currency Conversion Site 

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

Leaving Huehuetenango we make our way to the capital of the Maya culture, Xela.

After a leisurely morning, we grabbed a 20 Quetzales taxi on the street and had him take us to the bus station. A 10 minute drive through convoluted streets, this was a wise decision for us, rather than taking a bus packed with passengers.

 

It can get hectic at these bus stations. Be aware of your gear and personal belongings, go slow and be alert to your surroundings.

Vendors are selling food items to passengers who are boarding for their journey, bright and gleaming individually-owned busses decorated outlandishly, and destinations written at the very top. All of this can be distracting.

 

Once again our gear gets transported on the roof.

Tip: place your clothes, books, or other items you don't want wet into plastic bags in the event of rain.

Arriving at the bus station, men were yelling ‘Xela! Xela! Xela!' anxious to grab our bags and then throw them up on the roof. Since it was the second time that we encountered this bedlam at the bus station, we were familiar with all the chaos. Thank God they tied our luggage down tightly because we were in for the ride of our lives.

 

What great service.

Food, drink and snacks are brought right to our seats. In our travels, we have seen this throughout the world. At most stops vendors will board the bus offering their wares, sometimes staying on until the next stop. At this point they catch a bus going in the opposite direction and start selling their items to new passengers once again.

After about 4 stops which lasted almost 10 minutes each, we literally ‘hit the road.’

 

This is rugged country. No guard rails here!

 The driver drove switch-back curves like a bat out of Hades! We were hanging on for dear life as the bus swerved from side to side, with people shifting in their seats smashing into their seat-mates. When we passed other vehicles on the road, we just prayed.

Honest.

In the front of the bus were signs in Spanish Dios Nos Acompane - God be with us and Guiame Senor - Guide me Lord. Of course there was a crucifix with a rosary hanging from it and all kinds of colorful stickers of Guardian Angels. Don’t know how it would have gone if those blessings were not there!

 

After being dropped off at the bus stop in Xela, to our surprise, there really aren't any posted directions, no taxis waiting, no signs for the next bus or where it might be going. We found other bus stops in Guatemala to be the same. 

Grabbing a local to help us out, he proudly practices his English with us, recommending that we get a taxi to the Parque Centroamerica (30 Q's). This is where we drop off the guys and go hunting for a hotel.

Flora Inn is a solid choice - clean, convenient, close to town, internet available in the room, cable TV on a flat screen, good beds and all for the current price of about $28USD a night.

Notice the incline of the sidewalk in front of our hotel. Yes, this is a mountain town!

 

 

A closer look at Guatemalan money.

The cell phone provider we use in Mexico is Telcel and their footprint online shows that they cover Guatemala, however, we discover that we cannot connect with each other by cell phone. If we wanted to do so throughout the country of Guatemala, we would have to buy a local Sims card with a local number and utilize their service: TIGO.

This was a disappointment to us, as we believed that we had thought this through before we left Mexico.

 

Wandering around that evening, we find that we are in the midst of a 3 day festival. Frankincense was burning and and processions filled the streets.

The woman in front of these children is moderating the speed of this religious float. There is a rhythm that is taught through experience, a sort of walking and swaying at the same time and occasional repeated steps. The children are carrying the full weight of this devotional altar, guided and protected by the adults that surround them.

It is a privilege to partake in this ceremony and to carry the special altars.

It was an honor to witness it.

 

Local Guatemalan cuisine for dinner.

As was our custom in new locations, we went down to see the vendors at the Parque Centroamerica. It's dinner time and we want to see what's cookin'.

We had ribs with grilled potatoes, black beans, grilled plantain, marinated cabbage, hot spicy vegetables and these thick blue corn tortillas. At 20 Q's a person, about $2.50 USD, it was a very good deal and tasty too!

 

A Mayan Mama making fresh tortillas.

We found vendors here to be quite friendly probably because they are used to the number of national and foreign students who come to Xela for Spanish school. Xela is a university town, with one large state university (San Carlos de Guatemala), and six private universities.

Many of the Mayan women wear these highly laced and decorated aprons - like you see the woman above wearing - some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. Notice in the center of the photo the blue bowl that is filled with masa dough to make corn tortillas.

The Adventurer's Guide to Guatemala

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

This little piggie went to market...

A common sight in Latin America is to see whole animals roasted and displayed fully. The meat is shredded and used for tacos or other meal items.

Awesome!

 

Fresh, fresh, fresh.

Everything is newly made: corn tortillas, roasted pork, cut onions, cheese and salsa.

Here you find the roasted pork from the previous photo on small tacos being kept warm on the large pan below them.

 

Candied apples purchased in the marketplace. These kids are lovin' it!

Latins have a sweet tooth, and these well-behaved children are content with their dipped apples.

 

For ease of eating, mangos are cut and placed on sticks. Strawberries dipped in chocolate with sprinkles are also on sticks for leisurely enjoyment.

 

A native delight.

Elote with crema, queso and hot sauce. All over Central America and Mexico you will find this tasty treat.

Notice again the front panel of this Maya woman's apron. Lace and stitchery adorn the under apron, with the practical blue checked apron at her waist.

 

Apples and marshmallows dipped in chocolate for sale.

You can find just about anything you want at these nightly food markets. People come out from all over town for the socializing as well as for dinner! Chocolate is a bargain in this area, coming ground, in bars or bricks. Be sure to buy some.

 

Parque Centroamerica is down this street in the center of the photo. Our hotel is the pink building on the left, so you can see how convenient it is located to the city's activities. Ask for a weekly or monthly price to get an even better bargain.

In Pre-Columbian times Quetzaltenango was a city that the Mam Maya people called Xelajú (Shay-la-HOO). The city was said to have already been over 300 years old when the Spanish first arrived.

Central Mexican Indians allied themselves with Conquistador Pedro de Alvarado who defeated and killed the Maya, thereby conquering the city for Spain in the 1520's. The city was renamed using the Nahuatl word 'Quetzaltenango', which means 'the place of the quetzal bird' which is the national bird of Guatemala.

Centuries later among the locals, the city is still known as Xela, and some proudly but unofficially consider it to be the capital of the Maya culture.

  It's a beautiful city located high up in the Sierra Madres, at an elevation of 2,200 meters, surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, laced with narrow, cobblestone streets built for walking.

 

A colorful sign advertises an international Jazz concert with musicians from the USA, Italy, Spain and Mexico performing.

Because of the large student population, Xela is dotted with coffee shops, billiard halls and bars. Modern banks, grocery stores, hotels, internet cafes, bakeries, movie theaters and restaurants are abundant. There is also an active night life with clubs and free concerts in public areas.

The estimated population of 300,000 is about 65% indigenous or Amerindian, 32% Mestizo or ladino, and 3% European.

 

An enclosed area filled with restaurants, language schools, internet cafes, coffee shops and with architecture reminiscent of Europe.

 

Much Belle Époque architecture can be found throughout the city, a reminder of a bygone era.

The classical, neoclassical and Italian renaissance styles are evident in the buildings which have been built during the past century and the beginning of the 20th, with volcanic stones by artistic Quetzalteco masons.

 

Xela Municipal Palace to the left in this photo.

The first Sunday of each month, the Quetzaltecos install the artisans' market here in the central park where handcrafts from Xela and surrounding villages are displayed. If you are here during the Sunday Market, be sure to come to this center and view these artists' exhibits.

 

Sitting on volcanic stones in Parque Centroamerica.

It's a little cooler here in Xela, as you can tell by our layered clothing. Mornings and evenings were chilly but the day was filled with sunshine. The vendor markets where we ate local cuisine at astounding prices are behind us.

 

A day market in the streets. This vendor shows her fresh produce.

Day markets are filled with a different sort of activity than the night ones, with piles of food and baskets filled with fruits and vegetables. 

 

Billy with a local Guatemalan boy.

Trucks haul in food and items for sale. People visit and purchase food for their families or restaurants. It's also a social connection time for everyone.

 

A woman cuts her watermelon with a huge knife while the melon sits on her lap. She will sell these melons whole or by the slice.

Papayas, cantaloupes, pineapples, and bananas are all for sale with crates and baskets over flowing. Prices are reasonable and products are first rate.

 

Bought in individual 'to go' bags, a mixture of fruit.

Guatemalans love their lace, and you will see women of all ages dressed with intricate lace blouses or lace decorated dresses and aprons. In the States, this sort of lace easily sells for $20 or more per yard. Notice the woman in the center of the photo with the maroon lace blouse and the white lace trim. Women go to market wearing their finest.

Our time in Xela was very limited. We're headed onto our next stop, Panajachel at Lake Atitlan!

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

**

2nd class buses serve all of Xela and will leave at regularly posted times, but if you load your things on the bus, do not get off. The driver decides when it is time to go and he will leave whether you are boarded or not. 

Buses at the main terminal make other stops prior to leaving town. Some destination cities and times are listed below.

Guatemala City & Antigua - Every 15-30 minutes 3am-5pm, you change buses in Chimaltenango.

 Panajachel - 9am-5pm Leaves hourly. This is the bus to the lake.

San Pedro la Laguna - 11:30, 12pm,1pm, 2pm,4pm

San Marcos - 4am-8pm Frequent

Huehuetenango - 4am-6pm Freguent.

La Mesilla border with Mexico at 7am, 8am, 10am, 2:15pm

Retalhuleu & Champerico - 4:30am-7:30pm

Santa Cruz del Quiché - Leaves hourly, 8am-4:30pm

Coatapeque and Mexico border at Tecún Umán - 5am-7pm

 

 

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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