Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Fear & Loathing in Chichicastenango

So maybe not loathing, but definitely fear.......

Chichicastenango is a small town in the mountains, about an hour north of Panajachel. My reasoning for suggesting an overnight visit was that on Sundays (and to a lesser extent on Thursdays) the town turns into a huge handicraft market, radiating out from the main church steps. Vendors travel from all over the region to set up their stalls the night before, apparently an event in itself. Sounded good to me.

We stayed at the Hotel Pop Wuj, down the hill from the main action. This is where our problems started, as around the corner was a local chapter office of AA. Normally this wouldn't be a problem at all, but it is when it appears to be a cover for a bar. Drunk men were all over the place when we were heading back after dinner on the Saturday night, including one guy sobbing in the gutter. We stopped and tried to think of how we could help with limited Spanish, but it soon became clear that he was drunk, and wobbled off into the distance. We were then followed for the rest of the short distance back to our hotel (by a different fellow). Speed walking back to the hotel while attempting to look nonchalant on very uneven cobbled roads is really not that easy.

Finally, vegan options in Chichi were non-existent (as we had expected). Our hopes of adapting something at the one place we knew had vegetarian options were quickly dashed, as they had sadly already closed for the night (we had Gallo Pinto there the next day, which was so tasty and fresh). After scouring restaurant menus for over an hour, we finally found vegetable pasta at a small restaurant that was decorated like a Swiss chalet.

It was fascinating to see the Sunday market itself, particularly around the church steps. I did start to feel after a few minutes however that we were intruding on a significant event for local people. We took to the back streets of the market to see if things were different there, but happened to stumble into "meat alley" - chickens being sold (dead or alive), and even kittens for sale, tied up with ropes around their necks.

Next stop: Antigua.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Panajachel/Lago de Atitlan

I had been a little worried about the border crossing from Mexico into Guatemala on T's behalf, as I had read a recent article by an Australian woman saying that she had been sent back to Mexico City to obtain a visa before being allowed to enter (despite this being contrary to all other sources of information). I needn't have worried though, as apart from having to stand outside the immigration office in the outrageously hot sunshine, everything went smoothly for this Australian and New Zealander, largely due to the help of a very kind American-Mexican couple from San Cristobal, also heading to Lago de Atitlan.

Panajachel is the largest village on the shores of Lake Atitlan, and we stayed at a simple guesthouse named Posada Monte Rosa. We enjoyed several meals at the vegetarian Bombay Cafe (including vegan brownies for dessert!), drinks at the Sunset Cafe overlooking the lake and zipping around by boat to the villages of San Pedro La Laguna, San Marcos La Laguna and Santiago Atitlan.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

San Cristobal

It was a winding and bumpy overnight bus journey to San Cristobal, but it was worth it for the cooler temperature, almost stormy, and beautiful scenery. We walked around an art and craft market, ate chocolate and caramel churros, climbed the hill to the Iglesia de San Cristobal and organised our onward journey to Guatemala.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Oaxaca II

Some additional Oaxacan highlights:

+ People watching with a Sol from the Cafe del Jardins in the Zocalo. I did this solo for a few hours one afternoon while T was sleeping off his decidedly nasty case of food poisoning.

+ Walking the cobbled streets and eating rose petal ice cream (dairy free of course!)

+ Being directed to a market by William at our bed and breakfast La Casa de Mis Recuerdos to find the best mexican hot chocolate made with water rather than milk.

+ Visiting Mayordomo to watch chocolate being made and sampling some more chocolate caliente con agua.

+ Eating vegan mexican sandwiches on fresh homemade bread at Casa del Angel.

+ Staying our last night in the Paloma room at La Casa de Mis Recuerdos. It is one of the nicest places I have ever stayed. Breakfast was included, and Conchita was able to organise for ours to be vegan, which was fresh fruit, coffee, churros and empanadas with avocade, spinach and squash flowers. If you are in Oaxaca, I would highly recommend staying here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009


T and I happened to arrived in Oaxaca a few days before the Guelaguetza festival. Everyone seemed to be in great spirits leading up to the festival, with lots of dancing practice happening in parks, parades being held and fireworks being let off at any (and every) opportunity, including at 7 am in the morning. After T recovered from his food poisoning, we also enjoyed the Mezcal festival, where for about US$1 you could enjoy as many mezcal samples as you could drink. It was very merry to say the least.