3 March 2015
Today we catch a Chicken Bus back up the hill to Sololá to see the local markets that are held twice a week. People come from all the surrounding villages to trade their wares – sometimes there are live animals but we only saw the occasional chicken this time. There are other famous markets at Chichicastenango but apparently these have become very touristy, so we were very pleased to be able to see truly local markets.
You can buy anything you like there:
It was absolutely fabulous for photography (particularly with a strong zoom so that you didn’t offend anyone). There were so many fantastically embroidered outfits as well as the usual market fare. I was particularly interested to see the different men’s outfits because we had heard yesterday that during the Civil War when they could be killed simply for wearing them. Women were usually at home so they were safe but in many areas the men’s outfits had all but disappeared.
Coming back on the bus was more crowded than going up: I had my knees up to my chin on the wheel arch with Gill beside me and a little old lady from the market perched on the end of the seat. As we slip and slide around the corners we held on tight to avoid shunting her off the seat all together.
We had to check out of our rooms by 1.00pm but we weren’t leaving for our homestay until 4.45pm so had a few hours to fill in. Anne, Gill and I ate the bread rolls and avocado that we had bought at the market in the hotel restaurant (ordering a limonada to go with it). We then trod the streets again on little missions: bargaining for a cushion cover for Anne; finding a pharmacy for plasters for Gill; a ceramics store for drawer knobs for Anne; and I bought a Reggae-man hat (complete with dreadlocks) for Hugo’s birthday – which will be on Caye Caulker and he is keen to visit the reggae bar for his birthday. Then we head down to the lake and find a café on stilts over the water – the wind has picked up and it is quite cool so we have a cup of tea.
At 4.45 a shuttle comes to pick us up and take us to a neighbouring village San Jorge de la Laguna, about 10 minutes away, for our homestay. In the main square we are met by our host families and go off in pairs. Gill and I go with Ana and Felix – both are 60 and have been hosting Intrepid groups for 5 years. They mostly speak Kachquichel with some Spanish. Thankfully their grandson comes and talks with us: he speaks quite good English learned from school but also from running a stall at the lookout point that we had stopped at to take a photo of the lake on the way down to Panajachel. We were shown our room and taken to the kitchen where things were a little awkward for a while but we were offered their homemade tea or coffee. Ana does weaving and we see her workroom and some of her work. Felix is a tailor and makes bags and all sorts of items (including for export).
We had brought balloons, pens, paper, stickers etc for children and were somewhat dismayed to discover that even the grandchildren were older. Hubert is the youngest at 10. But we also had postcards and photos and were able to show them a bit about NZ and our family (my Spanish was getting a real workout). We met Therese, their oldest daughter, who is a cook (and preparing dinner for us) and discovered that it was her 40th birthday that day – so the balloons turned out to be perfect (particularly as they had Happy Birthday on them). Hubert loved them and even Ana had a look of pure delight as she accidentally let one blow all around the kitchen. Therese has 6 children (10-19) but her husband died 4 years ago. We see a family photo: there are lots of brothers and sisters mostly living close by but a couple of brothers living elsewhere for work. It is lovely to be part of the extended family life with different members coming and going most of the evening. Nicky (12) is doing her Spanish homework, Hubert is annoying her as any younger brother does; an older brother introduces himself and then heads off to some other function. We are also entertained by their 2 dogs: Milo and Spike (a 2 month old puppy).
Before dinner Ana takes us off to dress us in local costume (made by her), so we are suitably dressed for dinner.
We learn a little Kakchiquel:
Matiox – thank you (soft -osh ending)
Matiox cha jun way – thank you for the food
Utz a petik – welcome
Sak’ar – good morning
Shka’qij – good evening (there was no way I could pronounce this no matter how much I tried)
Utz a wach – how are you
Utz matiox – I am well
It is fascinating to listen to them speaking: there are lots of guttural clicking/swallowing sounds but it is very melodious. Dinner is delicious and simple: chicken and rice in a tomato sauce with home made tortillas. They are very surprised to hear that tortillas aren’t a big part of our diet as they have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We get the impression that chicken is a special treat for them and everyone just has a small piece. We talk with them a bit more after dinner but then it is made clear that we are free to go to bed whenever we want.
We learn later that we have the boys’ bedroom – they sleep next door when there are guests. The beds are wood slats with a thin straw mattress topped with a candlewick bedspread (as an undersheet) and 2 ‘horse-hair-like’ blankets but no sheets.
For this and other similar trips see:
Peregrine Adventures Travel Destinations (Comfort and independent tours)
Geckos Adventures Deals for South & Central America (for 18 to 30s)
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