Antiqua was mostly just an overnight rest stop at this point, we’d be back in a few days to have a good look at the city. Today we drove off early in a van heading to the lakeside town of Panajachel. To break up the trip, and because it’s worth visiting, we were stopping at the town of Chichicastenango. On Thursday’s and Sunday’s the town centre is taken over by a bustling craft market so we’d be going in for a bit of a shopping experience.
Arriving at the congested streets of Chichicastenango we were given general directions and then left to find our own way through the market. The narrow streets leading to the central square were all lined with stalls selling everything from shoes and clothing to tourist crafts such as wooden masks and all number of woven items such as table runners, placemats and rugs. Walking mostly randomly we passed the food section in the covered center of the square; fried chicken, soups, tortillas and fresher meats and fish all combining to assault the senses. Lunch was taken with Mark, Amy, Joe and Matt at a fried chicken stall and it tasted great and cost little which is always a good combination.
Wandering the market
Matt tucks into lunch
On to shopping. Keryn had a few things in mind and we walked around checking out rugs, masks, table mats and fridge magnets. After visiting a large number of stalls, most more than once, we settled on the likely cheapest prices and purchased a few things. I spent only a little bit of money getting a photo of three local guys on the steps of Iglesia El Calvario while Keryn was haggling over an old wooden mask. For me the market was interesting but the two churches on the square more photogenic, Iglesia de Santo Thomãs especially attractive with scented wood being burnt on the lower steps and flower sellers congregating to the edges. Near the end of our visit two older men stood at the entrance to the Church swinging large pots of incense, adding to the atmosphere. For three hours we walked, haggled, purchased and took photographs and the time flew by.
The three Amigos
Incense outside Iglesia de Santo Thomãs
The market path
At the agreed time we were back at the van, everyone discussing their purchases and looks at their photos. This continued for the hours drive to Panajachel until everyone started dozing off. The road was now narrow and windy as it picked its way over ridges and through valleys down to Lago de Atitlán. The constant heavy rain in the evenings meant that the road was liable to slips and we stopped in a queue of traffic while one such mass of earth was removed from the road. It seemed to me that the road was the cause of the slips, the earthworks clearing much of the vegetation holding the dirt in place. Still, we arrived in one piece and were lucky to have a patient and careful driver who negotiated the traffic and corners very well.
Stopping at a lookout point on the road we got our first view of Lago de Atitlán and Panajachel way below us on the lake edge. The panorama was quite stunning, the lake surrounded by volcanoes and mountains and appearing quite magical even while covered in a grey and murky cloud cover. It took no time at all for us to be driving down the main street, all restaurants and tourist stores. Our hotel, K’amal B’ey, was situated a short drive back from the lake shore down an alleyway, peaceful away from the bars and restaurants.
Lago de Atitlán
Keryn and had a quick walk along the lake shore and up the main street to get our bearings and then returned to the hotel for a rest. The evening meal was taken at a pizza restaurant on the main street and was nice but perhaps a bit much in both cost and volume. It started the evening downpour as we sat eating, only clearing up a little by the time we were returning to the hotel.
Evening on the lake shore