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Published: February 7th 2006
Loaded and ready to go
Ready to tackle an Indiana Jones style bridge
Two weeks after ChiChi I toke a further three-day break, this time in Xela. A little deflated from poor quality, disorganised, incorrect and unstructured teaching, I've decided to return to private study and maybe resume somewhere else in a few months time, only when I'm confident about the standard of teaching. Still keen to teach English, and realising there was plenty of interest in San Pedro, myself and the boss of my Spanish School have joined together to offer an English teaching programme as part of the school, hence why it's only a break.
A windy roads links San Pedro and Xela which our adrenalin filled Chicken bus driver used to test his ability to weave through gaps as he manically overtoke vehicles on blind bends. The ticket collector hanged out of the door to assist in the slowing down of the vehicle being over-taken. If a car appeared from the other direction a quick swoop back across was necessary.
A ginger-bearded American was talking endlessly at a Dutch girl about his views on everything from his life-story to his travelling precious stone salesman lifestyle. He seemed to be just talking, taking both roles in the conversations, pre-empting responses, more
interested that someone was listening, or pretending to, than whether they actually had anything to say. A sign of loneliness that I frequently see, especially in travellers, a desperation to talk and talk beyond the point of interest to the listener. I do it myself quite frequently and it makes me feel better to just talk sometimes, although I probably have the same affect.
The American had been travelling for four years in Latin America, buying and selling jewellary. He was interesting but the way he felt he was more interesting than he actually was made him irritating too (wow! 4 x 'he' and 1x 'him' in a sentence, must be some kind of record) On arrival in Xela, the Dutch girl and I headed to a hostel and the American went off to find more ears to his slightly half-baked philospical and religous ideas.
Later in the day I wondered around town a bit, checking it out. Xela has much more of a Latin feel to it, with it's residents in leather jackets, fast-food joints lining the streets, traffic, colonial parts and electronic stores. The main plaza is attractive with half of a church at it's centre and
a full church behind it.
The whole city seems to need of a lick of paint feel to it, with lone pillars and slightly decayed buildings. Set in a valley, the town is good as a base but has little appeal to me both in terms of sights and passing time, just having the advantages and disadvantages of any other city.
In the afternoon I visited the truly bizarre Museo de Historia Natural. It seems like random plants and stuffed animals have been dropped into glass cases in a random way combined with old drink cans, foreign currencies and pre-columbian artifacts. A multi-purpose dumping ground of anything old, hoping it will be interesting. The whole randomness of the Museo is actually where it succeeds, although I think this is accidental. Several animal feotuses are stored in jars and stuff animals stand in cages (unnecessary? I couldn't see them being much of a threat) These being the main attractions. Apparently a human feotus is also in there, but I missed that (fortunately or unforunately? I don't know which).
Afterwards I went from book store to book store hoping for a equivalent of Waterstones but instead finding tiny liberias filled with
Splitting the town in two
religious books. I was searching for books for English students to use as a guide. After coming across several with numerous basic grammatical errors, spelling mistakes (e.g. Good by) and expressions not used post-war, I was becoming a little disencouraged. Fortunately I found one good 2nd book store and I purchased four books for small change.
Early the next morning myself and another English guy, Ben, headed off to the so-called 'Guatemalan Pompeii'. Not the easiest place to get to, we needed; two buses, a pick-up truck, an Indiana Jones style bridge and half an hour of walking to reach it. Including around a bit of main road which had completely collasped during a mud-slide. The journey there was fun and interesting, going through El Nueva Palmar before reaching the old one. The new town had a football match going on. One goalmouth had a bit of a trench to it, which I imagined would help the goalkeeper with all of the low shots drifting towards him. He was quite a large fellow, so maybe he always kept goal at that end.
A series of mudslides in the 1990s had re-directed the river to create a 30m deep ravine through the centre of town (and half the church into two!). The old church now has a river running through it with an approxiamate 30m gap from one-half to the other. Most of the other buildings had been taken over by vegetation. However the area was still busy with locals collecting wood and bananas. Heavily loaded, they needed to walk across more, scarier, Indiana Jones' bridges swinging from side to side with each step. It's a really interesting trip and seems a little off the tourist radar despite being in the guide-books.
On the way back we managed to squeezed six of us onto the bar off the back of the pick-up truck returning to the main road.
For the second time that day a guy asked us whether we spoke English in England. This question always puzzles me some what, as even in Spanish I am 'Ingles' and the language is called 'Ingles', it would seem a bit odd if we didn't. Maybe he was just being polite before launching into his basic grasp of the language. Or was thinking it was like Spain where Basque and Catalan is also spoken. I guess the UK has Wales, where they speak Welsh, but then I always say I'm from England not the UK.
After another crowded Chicken bus back we stopped near the hot springs on the way back. From Zital a guy gave us a lift up to the nearby themal baths in his truck. Ben was sitting in the centre of the back, posing for a photo, before suddenly getting slammed into the front. Fortunately for me I was holding on, he was a little bruised but OK. Our driver had crashed into the back of an Italian guy's rental car. Despite little obvious damage the Italian guy was furious, threatening to call the police. We were a little puzzled how this happened as there were no other vehicles about, and the road was quite straight and flat at this point. Our driver laughed off the threats (must of been his fault) and we drove on. From then onwards we stood-up to get a little more fore-warning of any future problems.
The road ascended through thick fog with volcanoes occasionally visible in the distance.
The thermal baths themselves are well developed and are beautiful to sit in, with a variety of temperatures available dependent on how far you sit from the source. We bumped into some other guys we had got chatting to in Xela and negotiated a lift back with their tour bus. A really good day overall.
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