Panajachel, Chichicastenango and Antigua
Up early ready for a big day! Craig, the Australian we met yesterday on our Lake Atitlan tour was there to farewell us. He told me that he had already told his girlfriend that they were coming to Townsville to visit. We piled into the minibus-it was the same driver and some of the people from yesterday were on the bus too. I don't think that it would take long until you made friends you kept seeing in other places. After climbing up mountains and along winding roads we arrived at Chichicastenango, our driver parked in a garage where it was bumper to bumper mini vans, luckily we could leave our back packs on the bus because he was there all day and they would be safe (a BIG consideration). We were meet by official guides complete with ID and special vests offering to takes us around, for a price. We decided on one and bargained 150 Quetsalas for us both for the day ($30 Australian). Mario turned out to be a wonderful and knowledgable
guide who also became our porter holding all our purchases.
First stop San Tomas Hotel, a tranquil oasis with beautiful gardens and brilliantly coloured Macaws under umbrellas. If I ever return to Chichi I will stay there.
He introduced us to 'the best stalls'. A lady was selling woven goods and we learned from Marco the one tablecloth was a Mayan Story, with the sun in the middle, corn around the side as well as Suns in each corner. This lady was Mayan (Quichė- pronounced Quich eh) and she had travelled over two hours to get to the market and would return to her village after the markets. She spoke no Spanish, just Quichė her native Mayan tongue. Most of the sellers at this market had little or no Spanish and were native Mayan. The other tablecloth was a Chichicastenango one with mountain patterns in it. Beautiful and both were natural dyed and handwoven.
We found the lovely cafė Hazel went to last year and sat on the balcony sipping coffee, and enjoying the bird's eye view of the market. We also could use their toilet because these are almost non existent here, also this one was free. Mario then took us to the vegetable market. I was being squashed and bumped as we entered and I was very glad that Mario was leading us, and that I didn't have my backpack on. We went up to the mezzanine which had a great view of this massive market, the smell of Roma tomatoes filled the air and it was amazing watching ladies with babies in slings on their backs doing business.
He introduced us to his friend he was learning English with. She had a traditional blouse and belt stall. I so wanted to buy a belt woven of silk with exquisite birds on it, but money and bag weight dictate my purchases.
Marco then took us to the Santo Tomas church and we sat in a pew while he explained how the Spanish destroyed the Mayan altar which was there and built their church on top. Now the Mayan priests have altars in the church and make offerings, white things for purity, and red things for blood and sacrifice, candles are burned too. At the new Mayan Altar at the base of the steps incense is burnt.
Next was a woodcarver who also had Maximon (pronounced Mash i mon) in his house. The effigy looked quite spanish and our guide gave him an offering of a cigarette to smoke, because this god smoked and drank. the masks he carved were exquisite and so one is coming home with me. This purchase meant a visit to the ATM, the first one didn't have any money in it, but we were lucky at the next one.
Lunch was at another restaurant with a toilet; most important! Back into the markets one last time before getting on our mini bus back to Antigua. Confusion reigned supreme when we getting on our bus, we had to change buses, they were all crammed into a parking area, no one knew where they were going, communication difficulties between tourists and bus drivers added to it all with names being mispronounced etc etc, I even think Simon, or was it Simone? was left behind.ars
Our trip back was uneventful, which is always good. It was a wonderful weekend of beautiful sites and special places.
The markets that we visited have been going for hundreds if not thousands of years where local people come twice a week to trade their wares.