Adiós El Salvador y Hola Guatemala!
My exit from El Salvador wasn’t as smooth as I had planned, having missed my bus from Santa Ana to the Guatemalan border. As fate would have it, Penelope, an English/Australian couple (who had also missed the bus) and I were saved by the kindest, most selfless woman I’d ever met. Her mother was a passenger on the bus we had just missed and had organised for the bus driver to wait at the border for us before heading into Guatemala City. She then proceeded to drive all of us to the border herself so we could continue on our way as originally planned! This was just one of about ten instances of locals being incredibly helpful in El Salvador. We caught up with the bus, passed through a very, very basic immigration check and a few hours later we were in Antigua, Guatemala!
The most noticeable change from El Salvador to Guatemala was the cooler climate, I was no longer covered in sweat every moment of the day and my nipples had stopped melting off every morning. Penelope and I were super keen to climb Volcano Acatenango, but we were both coming off the tail end of a bad cold and decided hiking up to almost 4000m above sea level might not be a great idea with snot running out of our nostrils like an open tap. We spent a couple of days in Antigua, then decided to visit the surrounding towns before returning to climb Acatenango when we were fit and healthy. First on the list was Xela, Quetzaltenango!
Xela City, Quetzaltenango
We arrived in Xela having had many recommendations to stay in Casa Seibel. We didn’t have our shit together and hadn’t made a booking – we rocked up and discovered that they were full up! Luckily we were advised to walk a few metres up the road to Kasa Kiwi! The owner, Mark, is from New Zealand (hence the name of the hostel) and is a seriously cool dude. Super chilled, helpful and always up for a chat. The best thing about rooftop hostels? They make for a great place to launch the drone! Here’s a quick video of the sun setting over Xela city, and my first effort at shooting low light footage!
For dinner we went to La Esquina Asiatica restaurant (partnered with Kasa Kiwi and Casa Seibel) and had amazing pad Thai and dumplings. In Central America I hear you say?? Yeah I wasn’t sure at first but you must go here if you’re into your Thai food! We asked the owner if there were any cool sights to see in Xela and she recommended the local cemetery! While it’s not the first thing that comes to mind when visiting a new city, it was actually a really nice walk – if not a bit gloomy at times.
Fuentes Georginas Hot Springs, Zunil
The following morning Mark had organised a 4WD to pick us up and take us to the hot springs. It costed about $15 and took only half an hour. As we came across the first pools we were pretty disappointed. The pools we very busy with lots of people playing, screaming and playing loud music (I sound like a geriatric old fart!) We got the tip from Mark that there was another group of pools a little further down the mountain. With an additional fee of 25Q, we had a very quiet, private group of pools to ourselves. The water was suuuuper hot and really clear, minus the sulphur smell of previous hot springs we had been to. The word must have got around about the secret pools as we were soon joined by another 6 or so people – still better than school kids!
We had heard from heaps of travelers about the Chimaltenango markets, and with Penelope being a souvenir fiend there was no way we weren’t going to go. We traveled from Xela for about 3 hours on public chicken buses and dumped our bags at one of the nearby hotels for 10Q each (they had obviously done this before!). The market was similar to most Central American markets except it was about 10 times the size! The souvenirs and craft work here was also slightly different from the run of the mill bracelets, necklaces and coin purses. There were just rows and rows of tapestries, blankets, pillows and more. I couldn’t walk through the whole market without buying something, so I bought two pairs of shorts – short being the key word here. As it turned out they were not shorts for males, but that’s never stopped me before (I’m actually wearing them as I write this)!
A long afternoon was brought to an end with another long ride on a chicken bus, this time we were headed to a sleepy little hippie town on the edge of Lake Atitlán known as San Marcos for some much needed R&R. It was time to chill out, relax and not move for a few days!