Wednesday, March 01, 2006


Yesdterday afternoon, Colleen, Betsy and the 2 germans from Nuremberg met outside school at 2:30 with intention to go to Fuentes Georginas, a hot spring [spa[ nestled between 2 volvanos, Zunil and Santo Tomas.

We walked to a corner and hopped on the first bus with the sign for Zunil in the window. It had orange racing stripes, big chrome rims and gold rods horizontally parallel along the techo (roof). We haggled with the conductor guy, who charged us 4 quetzales (rought 50-60 cents) becasue the lonely planet guide said it would only cost us 25 cents. I think it{s pretty stupid tohaggle becaseu its so cheap to begin with and . . . its serously only pennies and they culd use more than us affluent gringos!

Anyway, we paid 4 quetzales and rode along for about 20 minutes stopping periodically to let on and off a series fo quipu clad women, some with baskets and shawls on their heads. I said buenos dias to the lady sitting next to me but nothing else. 2 little girls sharing an ice cream laughed at me when I missed a clump of sunscreen that I was rubbing into my face. They got off in Zone 3.

Finally we got off the bus at a bridge crossing a river into the 6000 person town called Zunil. As we stepped onto the bridge, a patch of sun illumiated a woman hurrying by. She began dumping her bag of trash into the river. Corn husks, old toilet paper, and a big green plastic thing cascaded through the air and plopped into the roaring river beneath. Just then a truck stopped and offered us a ride to go to the hot springs. We quickly accepted their offer after realizing that bargainin would have only saved us about 30 cents each. We hopped in the back of the blue pickup sharing the space with 3 indiginous women and their 8 sacs stuffed with lettuce, onions and brocolli. We entered town, took a right, and entere3d a plaza. Some village folks laughed as the truck rolled into the marketplace with 5 gringos. Perhpas they thought the same joke that I did. . . .ahh, gringos for sale at marketplace. WE stopped and everyone got out (except me) and i helped the driver push the vegetable sacks out of the pickup.

Everyone else hopped onto th epickup and we began heading up through the town, past a pristine white church and onto the narrow road up the side of the mountain. We stopped for a fellow with a gigantic machete and his friend carrying 5 pcv pipes. We drove by gardens: lettuce, cabbage, beans, corn all planted in little squares looking like a patchwork quilt.
20 minutes and 8 kilometers later, rain drops began falling as we approached the top of the mountain. 5 minutes later, after negotiating our return trip in the same truck and then walking past 7 villas,3 people and a small restaurant, pebble sized hail balls began falling from the sky! WE quickly changed, put our things in a broken wooden locker and then jumped into the welcoming, warm thermal pools. For the next hour we swam around, found hot spots with protection from the hail-rain and generally enjoyed the warmest water we´ll have for the next month.
5:00 approaced and we knew we needed yto be back in Zunil by 6 if we wanted to get back to Xela for the night. The rain kept falling and we lept from the pool, got our stuff and attemped to dry ourselves as best we could without towels. Though glad to be wearing various forms of fleece, I knew my jeans were bound to get soaked.
We quickly stopped at the restaurant for m&ms, fake doritos and beer, then we headed for the pickup. Betsy and the German lady sat in the cab with our backpacks, while colleen myself and the german guy began braving the elements in the flatbed. After trying, unsuccessfully, to stay dry under colleens travel towel, I stood up, held on the the top bars surrounding the flatbed and practiced scream therapy for the entire rapid, wet and scary ride down the mountain. When we got to town, we hopped right onto another chicken bus. It left without Colleen, but we shouted ¨Espere, espere (wait, wait)´ and, lcukily for her, they did. She got on and we all began ringing out our clothing. I shivered all the way back to Xela and only began warming up when I stopped for a hot cheese filled corn pancake on the street. Though the bus dropped us off far from school, the necessary (and thankfully dry) walk was fun to experience because we got to see a different part of the city. This was my first ¨¨wuthentic¨Guatemalan experience.


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