By the way, the city is officially called Quetzaltenango. But the locals call it Xela (Shay-la) which goes back to the name of the city before the Spanish arrived in the 1500's. Because Quetzaltenango is a bit of a mouthful, we are going to call it Xela from now on as well!
We chose the northern route. It was 125 kms (77 miles) from Tapachula, so we had already done 30 kms or so by the time we got to the border.
The first thing that we've noticed about Guatemala is how green and lush everything is. Absolutely beautiful. The road was in great shape, recently paved in most areas...but VERY twisty, curvy, and steep! Not recommended for anything bigger than a van. Sherman would not have been happy!
First thing we saw was a sign advertising Canada Dry ginger ale!
Nicely paved road, with green lush vegetation everywhere!
Typical Guatemalan "chicken" bus.
These "chicken" buses are said to be old American school buses. I'm not sure how much of that is true, however if it is true then most of them have been nicely fixed up. Paint jobs, chrome trim, and you can tell that the engines seem much more powerful than a typical school bus. They would have to be to get up these steep roads!
This section of road was under repair. We're pretty sure there was nothing but a steep drop off here!
Some kind of school procession. All the kids seemed to be dressed like it was Halloween!
Yes, that is a cloud!
You'll notice the cloud in the above pic. That's because this road goes from 900 feet altitude at the border up to over 8,000 feet...in a distance of about 80 kms (50 miles)! It is quite steep in sections and the little blue car did most of the drive in second gear! Then, you would get stuck behind trucks that were just crawling and have a hard time passing them. And the other drivers are nuts! Not only do you have to watch yourself, but the other drivers speeding dowhill in the opposite direction or trying to pass a truck crawling dowhill in first gear.
Hey, we get to go downhill for a change! Do you think the sign is showing how steep it is?!
See our road on the far right? Beautiful scenery!
The city of San Pedro is a bit of a nightmare. Didn't take any photos going through there because we were too busy trying to follow traffic that might be headed in the same direction as us! Hardly any signs, and we only made two wrong turns but we quickly corrected them. Then, we came to a town that was having a fiesta!
The truck on the right is parked. There was a transport trailer and a chicken bus trying to get through behind us! Good luck to them!
Getting close to Xela.
We made it into Xela. Got here close to 1:00pm. So it took us over four hours to do 95 kms (57 miles)!
Our GPS doesn't work here, so we were going by some maps that we had on the desktop of Ruth's little laptop. Managed pretty good and got ourselves to the Casa Argentina Hostel where we got a small room with it's own private bathroom and shower for 450 quetzales ($60) for the week for the two of us.
Next, we had to find some cash! We have pesos, but our quetzales we running pretty low because we really only had enough to cross the border. We tried two ATM's at the central plaza but we couldn't get them to work with our Canadian "chip" debit card. We'll try some other ones today and if we're not lucky we'll have to come up with a plan B!