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North of Quetzaltenango

08 Feb
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St Francisco el Alto

I left at 7 00 am to St Francisco el Alto with a local bus from the terminal. One hour for Q7 brings you to this village located up on the hill, from where probably got its name. The Friday market is considered the largest and the most authentic in the entire Guatemala. It is definitely the largest and you can tell it right away because you are absolutely crammed like never before. Rows of stalls are on each side and in the middle of the streets and the traffic jam is continuously. Obviously shooting with a tripod looks a little ridiculous in these conditions but I was able to squeeze some stable shots, using the tables of the stalls, or bags of corn and so on. The bus drops you kind of in the middle of the square from where you have to climb streets to go to the church and further on, on top of the hill where is the animal market. This market is extremely large. They sell everything, like in Vietnam and such, but unfortunately, no matter that there were women dressed in beautiful costumes, in the market there were mainly men dressed in jeans and with baseball caps, with T shirts that spelled “I am proud to be an American”. On top of a store that was selling embroideries and posters there were hanging the three major hopes of the Guatemalans: one poster with Jesus, one poster with Mary and one poster with the American Flag. Here when you say that you come from the US you are perceived as an angel coming from Paradise, way different than in France. The market was in full swing and I was able to shoot lots of footage with the animals and close up to some interesting women. I left from there to go to the church and there were more streets full of stalls and when I arrived at the church, there were mainly the textiles that in this market were not great. I went to the church and bought one textile mainly because the woman kept coming after me and kept discounting it. I wanted to stay more in the vegetable market and I walked the entire range of stalls but it was so crowded that I gave up after about 2.5 hours of hassle. This was the last market and to sum up the experience I can tell that the best markets are the vegetable ones that are happening in streets with no stalls, or better like in Zunil, in an open space. For shooting these are real eye candy. The rest are OK but you have to work a lot and you do not get the same sense of color. From SF El Alto I was supposed to visit 3 more places.

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San Andres de Xecul

Totonicapan is at 30 minutes by chicken bus and from there to return to SF and go to other two places. I had to skip Toto because it was obviously, even for my senses late, and I went directly to San Andres de Xecul that has a yellow church painted with multicolor angles, a unique church like this all the others having white facades. I took a bus that brought me to Moreria in 15 minutes, right near Quatro Caminos and from there I took another bus for 10 minutes, 3km, to San Andres. The church looked very interesting but I did not have the feeling that the painter smoked too much as it says in Lonely Planet. It is for sure very different that the other and interesting both inside and outside and worth a detour. The buses from there leave every 15 minutes to Xela and I took one that brought me in 45 minutes to terminal Minerva and from there with a minibus to Parque Central. On the way, right before Xela, the bus was stopped by police who asked all the local men to get off the bus and show some ids. They got back in the bus without any incident. Obviously I did not make a reservation for getting back to Antigua because I did not know what hour I will be back. With all this transport and the roads being continuously revamped is hard to predict. So I went to the agency who told me that the bus they had for 2 pm is delayed and will come at 4 pm and in any case I have to connect with another bus in Los Encountros that is coming from San Cristobal , Mexico. Muy complicado! He advised me to go myself to Transporte Alamo, 15 minute of walking and get a bus there, primera classe at 2:30pm. It sounded better and I went to my hotel, I got my backpack, passed quickly by the post office and walked the 15 minutes and arrived at the terminal for Alamo at 2:25pm, but I was able to get in the bus. I chatted the first part of the road with a couple from Norway and at 6:20pm we arrived in Chimaltenango, where me the Norway guys got off to get a chicken bus for Antigua because the bus was going to Guatemala City. The chicken buses for Antigua were so full that the second who came did not even stop a rare event in the bus business. The idea is to put as many people can fit regardless if the live or die of asphyxiation. They are many are come very often and we fit in the third bus and in 40 minutes we got to Antigua.

Friday Night Antigua was in full swing, so I dropped my bag in the first hotel I saw, Posada de Dona Angelina, OK but not great by any standards and I left directly to the center to find travel agency to but my Copan ticket. But as I said Antigua was in full swing and businesses were closed. I was desperate, so I entered a food store in front of Iglesia de la Merced, to ask if they know any agency opened, and it happened that one the women from the store to work in an agency. She started to cal everybody and eventually found out that there were no seats. We tried to find a private car to bring me to Copan and the next day to Rio Dulce for $125 and amazingly nobody wanted to go, no matter that she tried many. A round trip to Copan on private car costs $100 leaving at 5:00am. After one hour, hungry and thirsty, I gave up and I made a reservation for the next day with a minibus, no matter that she charged way more that the regular service. I went to a restaurant near the Iglesia de la Merced, called Hector Castro, opened 4 months ago and kept by this guy who speaks fluently English and Spanish. It is absolutely great and I highly recommend it. After that I went to the Internet but I was so tired that I gave up and went for a good sleep.

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Posted by on February 8, 2008 in Blog, Guatemala

 

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