Our first city we visited was Chiquimula, somewhat of a transit hub so we passed right through, but it will forever be remembered as the cheapest place to buy cigars. I bought about 40 hand rolled, Guatemalan cigars for $2, $0.05 a piece. We spent one night in Quetzaltepeque, at a hotel for $6 a night that included a bottle of drinkable water, a bar of soap, a roll of toilet paper, and all our bedding and a towel. It was another small, untouristy town but with really friendly locals that me and Guy befriended in Central Park by hanging a hammock and lazing in the crossfire of some boys playing soccer. They were all really curious about us, and asked lots of questions in between laughing at our broken spanish answers and showing off their soccer ball juggling skills. When it got later and all the kids returned home, only one older boy stuck around to offer us bread from his parents bakery, and two elderly men, one with a pistol in his belt, stopped by to ask almost all the same questions as the boys just had. We had to leave the park at 11pm when some police came by and told us we were no longer in the right place at the right time, obviously skeptical of some long-haired blonde guy and gringa smoking cigars alone in a hammock. I was a little relieved to return to our hotel since just a few hours before, a massive cockroach had flown accross the park and landed on my right shoulder, so heavily that I thought it was someone putting their hand on me but when I looked over my shoulder, just saw his long tentacles dabbling over my neck.
We were in Guatemala again, after a couple day visit to El Salvador, going straight through the sprawl of Guatemala city to charming Antigua. We stayed at the Yellow House Hostel, one of the cheaper choices in a plethora of options, with an amazing roof-top patio with views of all the surrounding volcanoes. We hiked the popular Volcan Pacaya, and after a three hour hike through hot, new lava rocks, the lava flow we reached served as the perfect place to roast marshmellows.
The market that you have to walk through from the bus terminal to get into town was one of the best markets I shopped at, full of hidden treasures to find. The way the Mayan people adorn themselves in delicately embroidered clothing makes everything very colourful, with their round eyes as their most prominent facial feature; they have big, bright eyes with black eyelashes that grow straight out from their perfectly curved eyelids. I saw one Mayan woman walking around town selling scarves who was totally albino, and I couldn’t help but stare since it was the most strange but beautiful sight to see someone who looked exactly like all the other Mayan women, but farer than everyone else even including the palest, European complexions.
I spent a few days on Lago Atitlan, and wished I could have just lived there for a few weeks. Its a very serene, peaceful lake surrounded by huge mountains, and even though its predominantly populated by indigeous Mayan, a lot of tourists move there in search of a yoga-esqe, meditative retreat. I really enjoyed interacting with the easy-going locals, my favourite being a 7 year old girl who barely spoke spanish, so instead spent her time teaching me words in her Mayan dialect, forgetting about the 10 pounds of merchandise she carried around on her head that she was supposed to be trying to sell to me. Many people believe the lake has some sort of healing power, and I think that if you believe it does, then it certainly has the capacity to heal you in whatever way you want.