Diary 5 I just head on.
It is a short drive back; only 25 kilometres. I pass two canyons, both filled with clouds and pines, but the sun soon burns it away - well the clouds does, not the pines. I stop at the mirror lake of San Sebastian Lemoa El Quiche for a single photo, then drive through Santa Cruz del Quiche, which seems to be on the other end as well. I will have to find out, what that is about - on the way back.
I drive straight to the K'umarcaaj ruins (Q U Markaj), which I wouldn't have found, if it was not for the GPS persistence. Deep in the Spanish moss overgrown pine- and taxum trees, a little bumpy parking-lot is found. None are here, but I do a little stroll around in the forest. It is still rather chill, here at 2000 metres height, but the sun warms real nice, in the few clearings.
The area is located on a real steep mountain top, and I look straight into the canopy of 40 meter trees. Some men show up, and at eight, I get my ticket and enter the unlocked area. I guess I won't be expecting many tourists - if any. The 30 constructions is rather un-excavated, and only the ball-field is reconstructed.
Besides from the blue starlings, squirrels, wood-pickers and other birds, here are two Mayan families, chanting and offering to the ancient sights. And to judge from the sod on the brick-walls, they have been doing that for a long time. The offerings are from beer over flowers in bundles to pine needles and lots of colourful candles, burned in a big fire.
Some insane person is shouting real loud, in the edge of the secret area, and besides from being insane, he is Catholic. I try to reason with him: God hear and see all, you don't have to shout, but it does not work. Then I ask him to leave or eat his book, and it works, despite I talk Danish. Well, I do use my deep growling voice, and and he do look frighten, before he runs. I get big smiles, when I return to the secret area, and the low Mayan chanting continues, along with the birds song.
I do several loops around the top, and a bit down from the mountain top, a cave is found. Like so many other places in the area, fires have been burned here recently. Besides from the Spanish Moss, many other, rather small Bromeliads are found in the trees - and on the ground. While I leave, other Mayan families are arriving. The constructions themselves are not impressive, but the forest and the praying Mayans made it a real great visit.
I head a bit back, and find a place for the car outside the centre of Santa Cruz del Quiche. Apparently, they have their marketsday on Sundays, and it is HUGE! I walk to the centre of town, with the church, square and endless stalls with mainly colourful fabric.
Here are thousands of traditional dressed Mayans, but only one pale (and I am not that pale anymore). Fare from all want their picture taken, and I approach them carefully and with with respect. Unfortunately, those asking for a photo of me, are not traditional dressed in general. But most have a smart-phone. Some, which I ask for a photo might say yes, but look down or away. And then, when I thanks them, they light up in a big smile - while I take the second photo. Well, that was the plan.
I stand on the top of the huge church stairs, and get some group photos, before I enter the endless lines of shops, stalls and sidewalk shops. Behind me, a mass is on. Besides from all the colourful fabric, here are a lot of farm products, and no souvenirs at all. I guess they have gone to Chichiastenango. I can't figure how they avoid tourists with a colourful display like this?
I spend many hours walking around this enchanting place, and I keep finding new streets and alleys. Here are everything from old broken down machinery over confetti to live cocks. Plastic ware, cosmetic, meat and black corn, fresh tomatoes and dried fish, wooden tools, warm dishes, bananas, candyfloss, eggs, shoos, hammocks, smart-phones, quails, DVDs, candles, onions, fresh bread, cowboy hats, weaved stuff, shoo-shiners and repairs and every thing else, you can think of.
When I'm overloaded with motives and smiles, I head "home" to Chichiastenango, which is busy just the same way, except here, it is all about souvenirs and alike. I can't recognise the town from yesterday, as it is another set of streets, which are market today. I do some loops in the "new" areas, and find a beetroot pie - which so much look like a layer-cake? Well, it does go well with the tea. It turns chill at five, and I get my jacket, before I head out to find dinner. K'umarcaaj ruins and Santa Cruz del Quiche market .
10. It is a cold and drizzling morning, and I intend to avoid it by crossing over the mountains. It is only 80 kilometres to my next sight, but partly by a steep mountain road. The first part is through mist and drizzle, and I skip the photos, and add heat to the car.
Within the town, actually on the bridge/arch, I meet a
guy with a goat with its muffler around the neck. Guess it will supply the
town-people with fresh goat-milk. Right outside
I pass several pick-ups, loaded with pigs.
Compared to the former mountains highlands, this is a significantly more develop part of the country. Mainly modern houses, lot of small industries and "progressive". I try to make some pictures of the farmed and forest mountain sides, but I generally only get the billboards and road signs. It seems to be a limestone mountain, up here at 2600 metres.
I drive through some small towns, but they are too modern to make me stop. The fields outside town are in general dormant. I start the drive down the mountain, and it turns into mainly pine trees. I try to capture the steep, green mountains sides - and fails. Then it goes real steep downwards ,on a real twisted road. I manages to stop a single time on the narrow road, before I meet the first town.
The towns here collect a vehicle tax, but only €1-2. Then I reach the lakeside of Lago de Atitlán, and it is sure pretty. I follow it for a bit, to get to the town of San Pedro La Laguna. It is found on the steep mountainside, and a true maze to navigate. Each corner have a police officer, some direct me against the one-way directions, and my GPS get confused.
I end up in a maze of truly narrow alleys, with 90 degree turns, unsuitable for pick-ups. I get around all, but barely. I finally find a place to ditch the car, and make a stroll around town. It have its share of not only tourist places, but actually some backpackers. I find the place I considered to sleep, but I do not like the way their horses are treated.
On the way round town, I see the women doing their laundry at the seaside. The water is in general real clear, but here, it is white for 15 metres out in the lake. It is, by the way, located in 1560 metres height, and it is a bit nippy in the shade. Here are several small piers, servicing boats, bringing both locals and tourists to the other lake-side towns.
I find the little, but crowded market and the main street. I try to capture the locals, and their shops, but they all are hiding in the deep shade. The central park is real nice, but practically empty. When I feel, I have seen the most, I finish up with a cup of latte at the lakeside.
Not far away, I find another little cosy village San Juan La Laguna, familiar with back-packers as well, but again; not spoiled in any way. I drop the car, and do some more walking. After I have seen both streets and the pier, I find lunch at a local place. Way better, and a third of the price, compared with the tourist places. Then I head on along the lake. Several stretches are un-sealed, and real dusty.
The next little town is San Marcos La Laguna, and I start looking for a hotel right away, as I had not planned to sleep here. I park in front of the church, but is Catholic, so they like to charge me for each hour. I find one cosy back-packet place at the lake side, and settle in. A walk through town is soon done, and the trail down to the pier, is the main tourist path with shops and cafés. I head out the roads from town, but they do not offer more than great lake-views, and I seen my share by now.
I had hope it would be possible to walk along the lake side, but it is either steep rocks or private lots. I am back a bit early, and make tea, do some laundry and start working. The sun vanish at four, and it does get a bit chill. I am probably spoiled by now, but this have not been the most intensive adventure day. Down to and around Lago de Atitlán.
11. I start the day with yet one more lake-side-town, this time it is Panajachel, 10 kilometres on the other side of the lake. But I bring the car, and that make it a 80 kilometres drive. And a great tour it is. Up through the steep mountainside, and then around the huge crater, just to work my way down again. It is a thousand meters up to the pines and barren limestone. The views down to the lake are great, although a bit misty at first.
I pass a few minor villages, unknown to tourism. On the backside of the crater, I meet the farmland. It is mainly vegetables on the fields now, and it is too dry for corn and alike. There are money enough in vegetables for them to be artificially watered. The fields are so clean; not a single strain of weed can be found.
Within the villages, some cows and pigs are found, along with hens. Huge piles of firewood are piled op in some places, selling to their neighbours. I see some women carrying huge bags of corn up a steep slope - glad it isn't me: It had been embarrassing.
This area have quite some men, dressed in traditional clothing. Brodereded shirt, weaved jacket in one pattern, striped trousers in another colours and a third pattern for the rather brown shirt. The rest is in real bright colours. And when it get warmer through the day, they drop the trousers. I fail to get a picture of that...
As I drive down to the lake once again, I see some skyscrapers. It is a large resort, build out of the town. I drive all the way down to the lake-side in Panajachel, and see all the empty restaurants and some boats. The river is dry, but a great source for building material. Many teams are finding sand and rocks here. The water in the lake is crystal clear here, and I see the water-plants and a sleeping fish.
I drive back up to the town, one kilometre up the mountain side. It seems totally untouched by tourism. Here is a little market with the usual stuff, and huge bags of raw chocolate. It is noon, and I get a huge sandwich with everything they had, except animals. I get a glass of chocolate-juice - or what you can call it. Slimy parts of beans, swimming round in water. Well, it does taste good.
I see the central church, and it is something else: Real interesting. Inside, it look real great. Not much of the usual decorations, but some huge cloths in green, dominating the airspace. I find a little shop, selling homemade chocolate, and she cook me a little cup of a great chocolate-milk. We have a long chat, while I enjoy it.
I do several more loops, and end in the only street, leading down to the water. And this is where the tourists are supposed to be. It is one kilometre of souvenir shops and restaurants - on each side. I have a few look, and here are some nice things. Their weavings are fantastic, the colours so bright - and the prices so low. I had not planned to spend this much time here, but besides from the last street, it is a real nice town.
I set off for Antigua, 80 kilometres north of here. It is once again up through the lovely forests in the steep mountainside, and across the farmland. I stop at a suspension bridge and a few other great look-outs. The road is in general great, although some stretches are more pot-holes than sealing. Then it turns gravel, and lead right through the river? Well, I been through worse.
I just have to stop in Patzún: It is just a little town, but it have a huge, yellow palace. I just missed the market - and then here is not much else to see. I arrival in Antigua just before dark, but when I finally find my hotel, way up a hillside, on a narrow foot-trail, there are none there. I head back to town to find a restaurant. I find several, among post-art-shops, and they have prices to match. I find one around the corner, offering me a great Spaghetti Afredo, and tossing in a bowl of great broccoli soup and a garlic bread.
Home again, I am still alone, but the garden door is
open, and I sit in the winter-garden. Later, a young Guatemalan man
arrivals, but he is a guest too. We settle in in each one room, and hope for
the best. I just wished I knew where the bathroom was, had a towel and the
password for the router, which I can see. Well, the lovely family is back later,
and I get settled in.
The volcano edge, Panajachel and