At the Purcari Winery in the village of Purcari, Moldova. Photo taken December 7, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Tiraspol, Transnistria...the country that doesn't exist.

Where are they going next? Northern Moldova. Arrive December 11th.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

From the border to Quetzaltenango (Xela)

Okay, when we left you in yesterday's post we had just departed from the border circus. From there, we had two choices. There's a northern route to Xela, and southern route.

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.

Yesterday's drive.

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!

15 comments:

  1. I wonder if the school kids were having a Mardi Gras parade for Fat Tuesday. Beautiful scenery.

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    1. We asked about this after and you are right that is exactly what they were celebrating.

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  2. gorgeous pictures....good luck on the $ situation..maybe you can find a walmart lol and get cash back after buying a pack of gum? We don't use any ATMS here we use the walmart or windixie they give cash back and it costs nothing..

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    1. Not so easy Elaine. First off, it is a very much a cash society here so very few places take debit or credit cards. Second, you won't find very many Walmarts and if you do, American and Canadain debit cards won't work in their stores, only their Guatemalan cards do and from asking around there is no cash back done here.

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  3. Those wining roads and traffic would sure keep you busy trying to find you way around.

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  4. How were the people in general? Open and nice? I know you just got there, but anything on police or transit cops?

    Looks great so far. I can't wait to see more.

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    1. So far very friendly and helpful. No problem with the police. Hardly saw any the day we drove here. We have seen a number police driving around the city since then though.

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  5. Looks like a great place, be careful on those hills. Hope you all have a great time. Sam & Donna..

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  6. The kids were dressed for Carnival/Mardi Gras I am sure. We had a couple parades of school kids here yesterday for the same thing at Lake Atitlan.

    The buses are mostly US school busses. Here in Panajachel some haven't been painted yet and still have the name of the school district on the side.

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    1. Thanks Mike, that is exactly what it was for. We have seen some of the unpainted school buses here as well now.

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  7. I look forward to hearing your overall impressions as you guys seem to be pretty level headed.

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    1. First impressions have been great. We are looking forward to seeing more of what this area has to offer. If it is anything like what we have seen so far I can definitely see us coming back another year to explore more of Guatemala.

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  8. Annnnnnddddddd were IN! Good job on the roads! Don't think Caballito would like those elevation climbs either. Score on the hostel!

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    1. We were certainly happy to have the little blue car with us and not the Sherman. The hostel is pretty basic but it has everything we need and the people we are meeting are super nice and friendly. A real United Nations place here.

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