Published: September 16th 2010September 15th 2010
Friday 10th of September
We are staying with a Guatemalan family today and we've got a 3 hour bus ride to Panachachel where they live. Its on our way to San cristobal so it should break the journey up more than anything. we went to the supermarket and bought rice, beans, pasta, salt, pepper and flour as a wee thank you for putting us up. I bought some sweets for kids if they have any as we don't really know what we're getting ourselves into to be honest.
We left Antigua at 12.30 and drove over the roads that were closed earlier on in the week and the devastation was plain to see. Landslides had cut off most parts of the duel carriageway and there were rocks the size of cars blocking other parts so we were restricted to one way traffic for miles at times.
The scenery was beautiful and the hill climbs fantastic but we were constantly distracted by gaping holes in the cliff faces where 40 or 50 tons of soil has suddenly slipped. Not to mention our driver who had a death wish!! Over taking even if there was a vehicle coming the over way. He
constantly drove down the other dual carriageway when there was a traffic jam ahead!! It was tense to say the least and all we could do was sit a giggle nervously along with the rest of the passengers.
Don't get me wrong, he wasn't travelling at high speeds, he just couldn't be arsed with traffic jams.
It works a treat as he queue jumped us onto the slip road that would take us to Panajachel saving us about a hour. It was a false dawn though because as we approached Panajachel things got worse. The road, which was now normal single each way traffic, had disappeared on one side down the cliff to the point we were teetering on the edge. We are dodging yet more massive stones and mud. At one point we were at a standstill for thirty minutes. They struggle when it comes to traffic management as its a free for all. There's no traffic lights nor traffic officials to help keep the traffic moving so its basically pandemonium. Our driver did well to just go balls out and go for it!! By now the horn on our bus was red hot!!!
We made it too Panajachel
eventually and we all breathed a big sigh of relief. We are getting used to it now though and i must admit as it makes the journey entertaining! I cant wait to sit on a bus in Aberdeen and think back on these moments.
Panachachel is a lovely little village on the banks of lake itchilan which boasts fantastic views and has boats that take you to the famous town of San Pedro or San Jorge. There only one main street here and that's where you'll find the shops and its easy to haggle good prices for souveniers and clothing. Situated on this vast lake which is shadowed by san pedro volcano. We hung about for an hour to wait for our car ride to our mayan family stay. We're heading back on the road way we came in on but only for 5 miles until turned downhill very steeply until we arrived at our digs. Aye, this is going to be an experience all right!! Horse's, dogs, cats and chickens and children roam the streets.
We are both a bit nervous as our driver informs us that the family dont speak english and very little Spanish.
They only spoke Kaqchikel, which is a mayan dialect!! well, we asked for it!!
Anyway things went ok as we were shown our room. quite basic but clean. The building had 4 large rooms in which 3 other families lived and they all shared a shower and toilet! Marcelia, 32, and her husband were in the middle of building a new house on top of the building that we were staying in and it looked like it'll be nice when completed. She was well chuffed with her groceries we had bought for her. The lollipops went down a treat with the kids and even the neighbours kids got a few between them, to see their cute little faces light up really hit home that this part of the world is borderline third world.
Marcelia has two daughters called Ingri (8) and Danieletta (2).
Her husband, Francisco, was at work and wasnt due home till 10pm. We struggled to begin with and We had a wee walk for 20 minutes around the clifftops and returned to help
marcelia in the kitchen with our dinner. The kitchen was basically a wooden shed with an aga type solid top cooker with a
flue reaching up and out the corrugated iron roof. We are now chopping vegetables and trying to communicate via a piece of paper which gave us a list of the basic words. The rest of communication was mostly by sign language and hand gestures. We did ok.
Marceila showed us how to make corn tortillas which was fun and she also showed us how to make a chilli and lime dip which was nice. She made us a cup of traditional corn drink which tasted weird to say the least!! It was made from maize, water and sugar and was ok but got a bit sickly after the second cup. The whole time she was cooking and rushing about she had her two year old strapped to her back with a home made sling barely tied to her back. She was dressed in lovely traditional Mayan hand woven clothes made from bright reds, greens and blues.
She was amazing to watch as she fairly buzzed about getting things done without any worries of Danieletta on her back. With no further ado she cut up a chicken, freshly killed the day before, and popped it into a casserole dish with some
San Pedro Volcano
bay leaves and tomatoes and stuck it on the solid top stove. I was on fanning duties which meant me keeping the flames hot by fanning the underneath of the wood. Jill set the table and kept Ingri ammused with drawings and games on the laptop.
We sat down for tea and it was delicious. Savoury rice, flour tortillas and chicken casserole. Basic cooking i agree but it tasted full of flavours.
We helped tidy up and did the dishes and at that point her hubby, Francisco, arrived home from work. Cool!! he spoke very good english and he was very chatty and was obviously loving the english practice. He helped fill in the gaps from the previous 3 hours of us trying to speak to Marcelia and it all made sense. He runs the company that organises the home stays with families. He has another 12 families doing the same kind of stays that we are doing. His company is a non profitable operation as he puts all the money back into the community to help educate people on sanitization and enviromental issues such as waste control and hygiene. I really liked Francisco and we talked for a good
while about the uk, mexico and guatemala until it was late and he reminded me that breakfast will on the table at 6.30am. Its a shame i wasnt allowed to take any photo's of the family and the house. The reason being that mayan's believe that getting your photo taken steals your soul and is bad luck.
Our bus picks us up at 7.30 and we've to walk uphill for 300 meters to catch it so we said our goodnights and hauled off to our room and slept fully clothed in our Sleeping bag liners!
There are more photos below