Double D Change Machines
Trip Start Aug 09, 2009
108Trip End Oct 23, 2009
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No agenda is holding me back until tomorrow afternoon when I meet my travel buddy in Quetzaltanango. That mouthful to pronounce is called Xela by the locals and is pronounced Shayla. This tongue twister name translates as Land of the Quetzals, and I know you are at chair's edge as to what a quetzal is so I will save you the anxiousness of wondering...it's the brightly colored national bird and the name of the currency as well.
And yes, this is the same friend who likes to rock the boat but I think we should be safe in Xela since it lies a few thousand feet above sea level in the Guatemalan highlands with no water taxis.
We are joining a three day hike through the highlands to a large lake though and I will definitely be staying on the shore in the highly unlikely event he should choose water transportation.
Antigua is about 30 miles and 200 years removed from Guatemala City. Like most travelers I just avoid Guatemala City and headed right on over here for the peace, quiet and safer streets. Since Antigua totally sucks off the tourism tit, it has been restored to its colonial splendor and lacks all of the cheap signs, massive bundles of electrical wires, grime, and decay of most Central American cities. The place dates back to the 1500s when it was at one time the capital but a major 1773 earthquake largely destroyed it. Luckily for us modern day travelers seeking something different, the ruins are still scattered about the city and are open to some exploration.
I wandered into two such ruins...The Santa Clara Convent dates back to 1715 but it was destroyed in 1717 by an earthquake
This entire city holds my attention for hours and I wander aimlessly up and down the streets looking at the architecture and taking in the street life. This is one of those places where walking down the same street five times means finding five different new things each time. The pastel stucco facades may look plain but that is typical for Central America. Behind those wooden doors are large landscaped courtyards with a house built around them. Homes are turned inward rather than outwards towards the noisy street.
One thing is constant though from street to street and that is the traditionally dressed people hawking fabrics and jewelry on the sidewalks. Walking ten feet is about impossible without someone hitting me up to buy crap that is probably made in some Chinese sweatshop
My short investigation revealed the actual price is usually 40 to 60 times one dolluh so in Antiglish saying "one" just means that the once mighty greenback is accepted. I almost want to hold one of them to the dolluh price they quote and see if I walk away at that price with some piece of fabric that will be absolutely useless back home. Just by turning to walk away the price drops by a quarter without any actual negotiations on the buyer's part. Actually starting to walk away gives an even nicer discount in the 70% range. But much like the food on Tiger Airways, I had no intention of buying anything and didn't go past my allotted time to see how low they will go.
The street touts may turn up the heat on unsuspecting tourists but the weather up here in the highlands cools everyone else down. High 70s during the day is such a nice change from the heat and humidity of Tikal, Guatemala back in August or even the Outback a few days ago. Just being able to walk around without turning into a stinking sweaty mess after ten minutes is awesome. Xela should be even more temperate.
Even though things are cool I needed to buy some water and found a convenience type store tucked away in one of those hundred year old buildings
I didn't walk away though because she needed the sale as much as I needed the water. While squinting at me she pursed her lips and reached right into her DD bra. I thought maybe something had slipped down in there but to my surprise she produced nine 10 Quetzal notes. I don't know how long they had been riding around inside that massive crack but they sure were soggy and warm. I need to spend those first or else I am going to have to give them a tick dip or something. Makes me wonder if I should keep them separated from my other cash or what.
Moms are always right...don't ever put your fingers in your mouth after touching money because only it knows where it has been
Despite sweaty lingerie cash registers, Antigua is a mainstream tourist type place but also attracts a fairly sizeable backpacker type crowd. I am actually surprised by the amount of Americans down here since we are pretty rare outside the big European capitals. Most here are like me and just looking for something different. Others seem to enjoy smoking a fattie or two and they lounge around fried. As much as I have seen this around the world, I still don't understand it. Why do people spend a month somewhere getting so baked from something other than the sun they won't even remember where they were?
The flight down here is only three hours from Atlanta and I got to thinking about that. Fly three hours west of ATL and it's the same old same old but fly three hours south and it's an entirely different country and culture. My friends back home act like I am just at the end of the world in Guatemala but in reality I am closer than a flight to LA which no one considers far. Maybe exotic but definitely not far.
I can't believe I have gone from Adelaide to Antigua
I am really looking forward to hiking 3 days starting Saturday and I'll see what I can find all day in Xela. I wonder if they have the same cash storage systems in their stores as well. I don't know...we'll see soon enough after the chicken bus gets me there.