It's Friday, time for the weekly market in Solala, the town 9 kilometers up the steep and windy road from Panajachel. We decided to go for a look.
We were down at the jetty early, waiting for a passing lancha/ boat. We saw one come around the rocks from San Marcos and Dan gave it a wave. As it got closer, we saw it was a small boat, which was sitting quite low in the water although it seemed almost empty. They pulled up, shouting 'Pana?' and we nodded and jumped in. It turns out we had hitched a ride with three carpenters heading to work and the boat was full of tools and at the prow,a table with a saw (a circular saw?) Anyway, not a public boat that stops at every village!
Anu had room to do a bit of exploring among the life jackets and 30 minutes later we arrived in Pana. Dan had the 40 Quetzales (4 euro) ready for the fare, and although it was not a public lancha, he gave this to the captain when we climbed out. He thanked us and as we walked away we heard them all laugh with delight! With 40 Quetzales he could buy them all breakfast. No doubt a nice start to his day!
We walked up to the main street, and not sure where the bus to Solola left from, I stopped two police officers, armed and in very cool black uniforms, to ask. It turned out to be just a few metres away. So we jumped on board our first chicken bus of the day and soon were on our way up the hill, taking in the beautiful views of the lake as we went. Solola is a different world, and a very busy place on market day, as everyone comes from the neighbouring villages to buy and sell. A traffic warden told me the market was 11 blocks up hill but we could take a bus from just around the corner for a Quetzal each. (10 cent!) We got on that bus and as we walked down the aisle, every head turned and we were greeted by all with the, by now, usual words 'Que lindo! Que bonito!' All admiration for the little blonde baby!
The majority of the people on the bus were wearing traditional clothes, in different colours depending on which village they are from. We got off at the market and walked into madness. Rows and rows of stalls and tables selling everything from fruit and veg, to toys, wooden kitchen implements, cloth, and the machetes so many of the men carry. We were pushed along by the crowds, with little chance to stop and of the hundreds of people there, we were the only tourists. At one point we ended up walking along a row that had stall after stall of meat. Plucked chickens hanging from hooks, pigs feet lined up, an array of innards... The smell was so strong that by the time we passed butcher number 5, I was ready to pass out!
Needless to say, we just went for a few onions, avocados and the like. In San Marcos, San Pedro or Panajachel, the more touristy towns, people stop us all the time to talk to Anu or ask about her, but often women or children when passing us will smile and touch her hand or foot. (She hasn't had shoes or socks on since we left Europe!) It really is an amazing experience to travel with a baby in countries like this. The people in Guatemala are lovely, I knew that from my first visit, but now we see it from a different perspective.
Back down to Pana we went, again in a chicken bus, though this time without people sitting three to a seat made to carry two American kids to school, and of course, we couldn't walk down Calle Santander without stopping at some of the many, many stalls. This time I gave in and bought adorable baby shoes made from the typical colourful traditional cloth. Then a stop at a French cafe for cappuccinos and crepes, before getting on a lancha home. Travelling in the afternoon when there is more wind and the lake is a bit rougher means the journey takes longer, which means it's harder to entertain a restless baby, but in Santa Cruz two women got on who took over the babysitting role for us. She played with their backpacks, mobile phones, necklaces, while Dan and I sat back and enjoyed admiring all the fabulous houses and villas that line the cliffs and lake shore.
We met a few gringos on board, (though technically gringo refers to Anericans, and two of these were from the UK), one man said he'd been here three years, the other, an older man, told us he hadn't been home in 13. Oh, the envy!