Xela

Trip Start Jul 31, 2005
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51
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Trip End Feb 18, 2007


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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Monday, June 26, 2006

We think borders are fascinating places, even if they tend to be a little hectic. Especially when you transverse a border by land, and go from one distinct culture, to another, in a matter of minutes.
The Mexico-Guatemala border is no less fascinating than any other borders we've crossed by land. We go from relatively modern and reasonably well organised Mexico, to much more chaotic, and noticeably poorer Guatemala, by simply walking across a bridge over the Suchiate river.
We walk through the Guatemalan town of Tecun Uman, and when we reach the centre, hop on a Chicken Bus to our desired destination of Xela.

Chicken buses, for those who don't know, are Guatemala's main form of public transport. They are actually old school buses from the US, which have been painted all sorts of bright colours, and get their name chicken bus from the live cargo that usually accompanies some of the passengers. Of course, being designed for sort distances, and young children, they don't exactly come which much leg room. A long journey in one, can be fairly uncomfortable, especially as the bus conductor makes sure he squeezes at least 3 adults on a seat designed for two children. Still, they are an authentic Guatemalan experience and are bloody cheap, we paid about 2 US for a 5 hour ride.

We eventually arrive in our destination of Xela, a pleasant highland town, with cobblestone streets and interesting neoclassical architecture. One of the interesting things around the parque central in Xela, is a shopping arcade which has been 50 percent restored and we really mean 50 percent restored. The right hand side of the building looks glorious, there's a demarcation line above the arch in the middle the arcade and the left hand side is dilapidated. We never did find out the reason for this!

In order to get to our next destination Antigua, we decide that we can't just yet face another long stint in a Chicken Bus, so we decide to take a more comfortable tourist shuttle. This extra comfort came at a price, 25 dollars for a three hour trip where it would have cost just a few dollars, but taken about 6 hours on a Chicken Bus.

The route from Xela to Antigua, crosses the central mountain region of Guatemala, this region often gets badly effected by flooding and land slides in the rainy season (which happens to be now). Our bus had to take several detours because bridges had been washed away, or because the road had been covered with a land slide.

About an hour outside of Antigua, it started pissing it down, some of the heaviest rain we've seen for a long time. When we arrive in Antigua, the roads look more like rivers, with deep and fast flowing water, gushing down the narrow colonial streets.
The hostel we wanted is full, so the owner shows us a room a few doors down in an extremely basic and fairly grubby guest house. With the deluge still occurring outside, this isn't a time to be fussy, so we just take it.

That evening we don the waterproofs, and head out to explore the town which will be our home for at least the next month. Charming Antigua!
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