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
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.
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
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.
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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.
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.
incline of the sidewalk in front of our hotel. Yes, this
is a mountain town!
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
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.
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.
a privilege to partake in this ceremony and to carry the
was an honor to witness it.
Local Guatemalan cuisine for dinner.
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'.
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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!
Mayan Mama making fresh tortillas.
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
Xela is a university town, with one large state
university (San Carlos de Guatemala), and six private
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
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Don’t go to
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little piggie went to market...
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.
Fresh, fresh, fresh.
Everything is newly made: corn tortillas, roasted pork, cut onions, cheese and salsa.
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.
ease of eating, mangos are cut and placed on sticks.
Strawberries dipped in chocolate with sprinkles are also
on sticks for leisurely enjoyment.
with crema, queso and hot sauce. All over Central
America and Mexico you will find this tasty treat.
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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.
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.
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
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.
colorful sign advertises an international Jazz concert
with musicians from the USA, Italy, Spain and Mexico
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.
estimated population of 300,000 is about 65% indigenous or Amerindian, 32% Mestizo or ladino, and 3% European.
enclosed area filled with restaurants, language schools,
internet cafes, coffee shops and with architecture
reminiscent of Europe.
Belle Époque architecture can be found throughout the
city, a reminder of a bygone era.
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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
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'
Sitting on volcanic stones in Parque Centroamerica.
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
market in the streets. This vendor shows her fresh
markets are filled with a different sort of activity
than the night ones, with piles of food and baskets
filled with fruits and vegetables.
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.
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.
time in Xela was very limited. We're headed onto our
more information, stories and photos of Guatemala,
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.
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.
- 9am-5pm Leaves hourly. This is the bus to the lake.
Pedro la Laguna - 11:30, 12pm,1pm, 2pm,4pm
Marcos - 4am-8pm Frequent
Huehuetenango - 4am-6pm Freguent.
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