So, our last week we were able to do one more big thing like we had hoped! Julio (Luis's grandfather) took us to Quetzaltenango (Ket-sal-teh-naan-go)! It is on the western side of Guatemala and took us 4 hours to get there.
We went for two days and had to get up at 4 in the morning because that's when Julio wanted to leave. Another uncle of Luis's went with us, Julio's nephew and Luis's aunt Julita. His name was Max, it was a little weird calling him Max and hearing the name for those two days, kept on thinking of my dog Max!
Well, we left bright and early... actually it wasn't bright, it was very dark. I don't know why people say that because when it's early it's usually dark, not bright. I know I'm rambling. Back to the point!
Julio drove there and... well... let's just say I didn't think I was going to survive. My whole life I've never gotten carsick. I can go on car rides and read a book, watch a movie, do whatever, and I have NEVER gotten sick. I was sick on this car ride. While I didn't actually throw up, I was nauseous the whole ride and clinging to the back seat with all my strength. Once the ride was over, Luis had to pry my hands off of the seat! I was not only nauseous but sore from clenching my body the entire trip.
Julio is 81 years old, and I should say for his age he is one of the better drivers but he is still 81. His driving lacks quick reflexes and there is no medium. He is either driving extremely slow or extremely fast, he slams on his breaks seemingly for no reason, he either ignores pot holes and speed bumps and we hit our heads on the ceiling of the car, or he swerves none to gently to avoid them and we get slammed into the sides of the car. This drive to Quetzaltenango had serious speed bumps, potholes, and curves. We were driving up and down mountains and through canyons. The ride would not have been an easy one no matter who was driving but not just anyone was driving it.
After our harrowing drive through the mountains we ended up first in Huehuetenango (whey-whey-teh-naan-go). Huehuetenango is 6,237 feet above sea level so it is actually one of the colder places in Guatemala.
*Side note: I am forever amazed at the different terrain in Guatemala, there are beaches, mountains, plains, cold weather, warm weather, jungle, and so much more. And it's all within the size of New England!
We got there and checked in to our hotel, a very large bedroom with two beds and Luis and I paid 200 Quetzales which with the conversion rate (8 Quetzales=1 U.S. dollar) would be 25.00 U.S. dollars! Never would you find such a cheap price for such an amazing room!
After checking in we ate lunch, I had plain pasta noodles with a little butter (my stomach was still queasy from the drive) and Luis had a yummy looking club sandwich. Simple things you could get anywhere in the U.S. almost always tend to taste better here! After lunch we made our way to a set of ruins called Zaculeu (sa-coo-lei-oo). We got lost several times along the way but Julio and Max were not afraid to stop and ask for directions. I've actually noticed that most men here aren't afraid to stop and ask for directions when they're lost, hmm... So we get pointed in the right direction and all of a sudden, BAM! There they are! Right smack dab in the middle of the city.
Not at all like Tikal where you have to drive an hour from the closest town and then walk even longer than that to get to the pyramids.
We park and I get told again to not speak English so we can get the native rate. 5 Quetzales for natives and 50 Quetzales for foreigners! 50 quetzales is only $6 but the difference amazed me! So much more expensive for foreigners, good thing we have Luis's family to play hardball and pass me (white skinned, green eyes, & red hair) as a native! Hahahaha...
|The person was stuffed in there!|
You could see their broken bones.
Here is the one picture I got inside the museum, I wasn't even taking pictures of the artifacts! I was taking a picture of a picture...
|A picture of the Zaculeu Ruins, don't mind the flash... I didn't|
get a chance to take the photo again!
Finally the pictures...
|Look at the bottom most step. Can you see the slant? Guess they weren't |
lucky enough to have the right technology!
|Look closely on the top! There we are!|
|I don't want to be a sacrifice!!!|
|PLEASE! Not a sacrifice!|
|Enjoying the warm weather and the ancient ruins.|
Luis, Julio, Max, and Julita.
After the ruins we went back to the hotel. I was emotionally and physically exhausted from getting up early and the drive there so it was only natural to take a nap. Once refreshed we walked around the town of Huehuetenango. The feel was calm and very similar to the little island of Flores (near Tikal). While walking around the market everyone either had a small portable TV or radio and everything, I mean EVERYTHING, was tuned to a soccer game. The only thing on TV was covering the soccer game! And it was a good one :). After that we all went back to the hotel and crashed for the night.
The next day we spent in the clouds... literally! We drove 5,000 feet up a mountain to get to an overlook. We were 11,675 feet above sea level! There was a mini replica of Zaculeu and a gorgeous view of Huehuetenango and farther. As we were up there we were level with the clouds and two or three clouds went right through us, enveloping us in white mist. When you're up that high you can tell how fast the clouds move. Once inside what seemed to be a large cloud, it passed by us within 1 or 2 minutes! If you stared only at the clouds you felt like you were flying, a pretty amazing feeling!
Our Day in the Clouds!
|Can you see all the roads? All the switchbacks we had to climb to get 11,000 feet above sea level!|
other pictures? This is us in Do as we say!
After driving down the mountain we stopped in a little town called Chantla. Chantla is famous for a silver Virgin Mary, so we stopped at the Catholic church it was in and while there we got to listen to an indigenous women say her prayers in a native language! It was so different than spanish. It sounded more like an African language, very choppy, clicky, but fluid.
Right outside the catholic church was a market full of food so we walked around that for a little bit. Luis and I bought this coconut candy that I decided is my favorite typical Guatemalan candy. Yum!
Then after Chantla LUIS took over driving. Yay!! Luis got to drive in Guatemala and I got to have a nice drive to Quetzaltenango! We drove to visit the new Mormon Temple there and it was very beautiful! We didn't spend any time there but it was very cool to see it. It was built on top a huge hill that overlooks the whole city of Quetzaltenango. Quetzaltenango is actually the second biggest city in Guatemala and is very similar to Guatemala City. Beautiful and crowded!
Julio had to make it home for a meeting so we ended up leaving shortly after that. Julio drove until it got dark, we stopped for dinner in Tec'pan (near the Iximche ruins), and Luis took over driving again. Pat on the back for Luis, he drove all the way into Guatemala City (where the driving is the worst!) and did great!
On Saturday we ate dinner with Luis's Cousin Velvet and her family. We played Rockband with her son for a while and then Luis's Aunt and great grandma Graciela and another cousin (Moi) came over for a small dinner. We had fun talking and laughing (most of them there spoke English!). Luis's great grandma still talks to me in Spanish but usually someone just translates and I pretend I understand her in the moment.
I have to tell you about Luis's great grandma, she is an amazing woman! She is 98 years old, had 13 children, and 71 grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was married for 58 years and her husband passed away many, many years ago. The wrinkles on her face are around her eyes and mouth proving she has laughed and loved through life. She still laughs nonstop, dances, and tells outrageous jokes and lies. She is the most spry 98 year old I have ever met and I hope to have her joy of life and be just like her when I'm 98 years old!
What a great way to close our time here in Guatemala! So many places we didn't get to go to but that means we just HAVE to come back!!!