Sunday, February 3, 2013

El primero fin de semana en Guatemala

3 febrero

Buenas tardes!

Had a long but wonderful day yesterday.  A group of about 12 of us including two guides who work here met at school at 5 am and headed out to a small town nearby to start our epic hike.  We arrived just before dawn and our guide, Kevin, gave us a summary of the route.

We started up a steep mountain road that from what I can tell, is the main route between Xecam (where we started) and a pueblo (small town) on top of the first big hill.  We walked steadily up for an hour or more and watched the sun come up over the hills and the valley where Xela is.  We passed a few pairs and triplets of guys walking down and a couple walking up carrying tools or bundles of thin firewood on their backs.

At the top, the road plateaued to the pueblo, which is basically one road lined with houses, a few tiendas (small shops which are on almost every block here), and a green space that serves as a market.  We arrived at the start of the day so lots of families, mostly moms with young children, were walking around and getting things or setting up to sell goods for the day.  I think we made a bit of a spectacle as a big group of english speakers traipsing through the center of town.  The countryside around the town was beautiful.  The hills are covered in square fields, mostly of potatoes there.  It's amazing how they are able to work and irrigate fields that are very steeply sloped.

We stopped for (second) breakfast just outside the pueblo - Mariah and I had split quite the provisions: tortillas, an avocado, and Oaxacan cheese, which is like a hybrid of string cheese and that bubbletape gum that was popular in elementary school.

The next section of the hike was very long.  For 3 or 4 hours, we followed a trail in the Zunil preserve called the Trail of the Seven Crosses because you pass 7 stone and metal crosses along the way.  Each are 3-4 km apart.  I believe they were placed to demarcate between two states during the Guatemalan Civil War in the 1960s but I need to read more about it.  It had gorgeous views of Lake Atitlan and the volcano Santa Maria.

We finally summited around 11:30 and stopped again for some food.  The way down was also very steep and strenuous but we finally arrive at our destination - Los Fuentes Georginas (hot springs) - at about 2:30.  We ate pretty ravenously at the cafe there and then lounged in the very hot hot springs until 5.  It felt great!  Altogether, we walked around 20 km.

We arrived back in Xela with muddy clothes over wet, sufur-y bathing suits.  I took a nap and then met up with some of the other students for a quick dinner at, of all things, a very nice French restaurant in town.  It was a great day!

Today has flown by.  Slept in til about 8 and met up with a group of UNC and UVAers for breakfast at another nice cafe.  We then went to a yoga class at Xela Yoga House.  Apparently there are usually only 2 or 3 students who come to the Sunday am advanced class but we showed up in a drove, much to the ponytailed teacher's chagrin.  He made sure we knew that we were getting in to something extremely special and difficult before starting the class with a reminder to rid ourselves of any competitive spirit.  He then proceded to critique our positioning and remind us constantly that he was going out of his way to make the class slower and easier for all of us beginners there.  It was quite ridiculous but also awesome.  The class was in fact challenging and very long and definitely a great workout.  I of course bought a pass for an unlimited month for 100 Quetzales, which is about $15.  For comparison, that's about how much 1-2 individual yoga classes cost in the US.  I figure it will be nice to get my butt kicked a few times a week amidst the tortilla and other carbs galore I've been eating.

After class, we wandered around an artisan market in el Parque Central, which was overwhelming!  So many nice wool and other woven goods.  Mariah and I each bought small but beautiful area rugs from a really nice and not at all pushy vendor. We bought some "enchiladas," which were actually a crispy tortilla covered with beets, cabbage, salsa, tomatoes, and a carrot salad.  Muy ricos!!

Tomorrow I'll start with a new teacher in the mornings.  Hopefully I will like him or her as much as Monica.  I keep forgetting to bring my USB to upload pictures I will try again tomorrow.  My homework for tonight is to write a letter to friends and family in Spanish about my daily routine here in Guatemala.  I've basically described it but I'll post it here as well if any of you want practice reading Spanish!


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