Xela


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Published: August 12th 2002
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A first class bus took us from San Cristobal to the Guatemalan border. No signs in English, Spanish and no indication of what to do. Taking a wild guess Reena and I wandered over to the Mexican migration office. I tried to ask the stern, and blatantly bored official behind the counter what I needed to do. One word was uttered, "passporte". Handed over the passport, lost my tourist card and received another stamp. After this a taxi was needed to get to the Guatemalan border. Walked through a gate, and over to the Guatemalan migration office, the guys in the this office were much more friendly, when I said that I was to learn Spanish in Quezaltenango and needed 60 days, they very kindly gave me ninety. Only 30 pesos in "fees".

The buses in Guatemala are a step down from those in Mexico. Ex-American school buses, that I've begun to call Chicken Buses, I think I saw it on a poster or flyer and it seems very apt. There isn't enough room for my legs inside a seat and people sit 6 abreast. But the conductors, drivers and passengers of the buses are really friendly and ready to help at any point.

At 3pm, two 3hr chicken bus rides later we arrived in Quezaltenango, Guatemala's second city. Quezaltenango, it's taken a lot of practice just to say the name. To most of the inhabitants it's known by the indigenous name of Xela. Pronounced something like Zshaela. The city has a relaxed feel, the number of tourists is at a minimum, but the city has an international reputation for the quality of it's Spanish schools. There both very cheap, $125 for a week, 5hrs of one on one tuition, some other activities and a home stay with a Guatemalan family. I plan to finally take my Spanish lessons here.

Booked into another really cheap hotel, Q45 for a double room, about £4.50 - not as cheap as south east Asia according to Reena. The cheap hotel was run by a collection of tiny ladies all in traditional costume, it was extremely clean. We were promised hot water. The hot water was actually lukewarm (again), in the highlands the temperature is actually quite cold and so a hot shower would be really nice.

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