We arrived in Guatemala City one day ahead of most of our group, so those of us there did a day tour of the city. We got to view and visit The Ixchel Textile Museum, The Guatemala Relief Map, which was constructed in the early 1900’s, see the National Palace at the City Square, and visit Casa Mima (a house museum from the late 1800’s). Each were fascinating! There is so much history, religion and architectural history in Guatemala. We ended Day One with a wonderful dinner at a local steakhouse.
The next day (with the entire group), we loaded our bus bright and early and headed to Chichicastanengo. It was maybe a 3-4 hour bus ride. We enjoyed some beautiful scenery and arrived at our hotel around noon. We had a quick lunch above the local market and then it was off to see the sites and shop at the local market. We visited a couple of churches and then part of the group took a walking tour to Ceremonial Hill, the Mask Factory and a view of the cemetery. The rest of us did a little shopping at the market (which was huge). It was crowded and full of vendors selling their goods. Everything from live chickens and fruit, clothing and jewelry, drums and flutes, table linens and so much more. The bargaining was fun! We all left with a few too many items!
When we finished our daily outing we checked into our hotel, The Santo Tomas. It had a gorgeous little courtyard and the rooms were quaint. They all had fireplaces and they came and lit them for us every night, which was nice as it was actually quite chilly.
The following morning the adventure began………..How did the Gilligan song go??? A three hour cruise?? Well, we were under the impression that we had a 2 1/2 hour bus ride (fortunately tour bus, not chicken bus) up to our destination in Uspantan. We soon discovered the meaning of Chichi time. It took 5 hours to get there! Uspantan is a medium size village way up in the mountains north of Chichicastanengo. The bus ride was an adventure of one way roads, road construction, switchbacks, dirt roads one-lane uphill turns with trucks in both directions, and some very fancy driving by our bus driver around corners in small towns that were obviously not designed for a full size bus.
The highlight of the day was arrival at Uspantan at the home of a local, Solomon Hernandez. There were about 500 school children and their teachers and families lined up out front to greet us! The bus ride was more than worth the ride of the hugs, kisses and goodwill that flowed for several hours while each child was called up and given a package of school supplies and a snack. We also enjoyed a nice lunch provided by the Hernandez family in their home. Thank you Jim for buying out the local ice cream cart and providing all the children with an ice cream cone treat! After a few hours it was back on the bus for the downhill ride back to our hotel.
I only wish that my photos could do some justice to the bus ride up to Uspatan. You might notice in the slideshow (prior to arriving at the school) that there are many locals who couldn’t help but notice us going by. Many came out of their homes and businesses as if they’ve never seen a tour bus before! Also, you might notice in one of the photos, the cow in the middle of the road. He refused to move for about 10 minutes! Please just use your imagination and know that a little prayer helped to bring us all home safely!
Enjoy our first couple of days! More to come……….
*Please give the slideshow a couple minutes to load prior to viewing. Slideshow is approx. 6-7 minutes long and music will repeat.
Please excuse the typos on the slideshow. I do know that it is 2011 and the correct spelling of Uspantan.