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Chichicastenango market mayhem

December 2, 2012

We left Nebaj yesterday so that we could spend Saturday night in Chichicastenango and then go to the famous Sunday market today.  To get here we first took a micro (public minibus) to Santa Cruz del Quiche, a rather uncomfortable journey of about two and a half hours.  It wasn't uncomfortable because of the crazy speed that we whipped round corners or bounced over speed bumps - although this was plenty crazy - but rather because of the insane number of people crammed into the vehicle.  Although it had seats for roughly 10 passengers, at times there were about 30 people crammed inside, so many that the guy who collected the fares and put luggage on the roof ended up spending part of the journey up on the roof himself.  We probably would have been better off in a chicken bus, so this is the option we took for the next part of the journey from Santa Cruz del Quiche to Chichicastenango, which thankfully was a mere half an hour trip.

We checked into a wonderful little guesthouse, Posada el Arco, where we had a large, nicely decorated room with a working fireplace and warm showers, both of which we made good use of.  We also enjoyed the extensive garden at the posada, with lots of exotic flowers and fruit trees (including lime, orange, and avocado).

Sierra and Bethany at Posada el Arco, Chichicastenango

We spent this morning at the Chichicastenango Sunday market, along with about a zillion other tourists and some locals.  This was quite a bracing change after Nebaj, where there were barely any tourists.  At times, it was a struggle to squeeze through the narrow gaps between stalls, thronged with a mass of tightly packed bodies gradually moving in one direction and then another.  Despite the hoards, we managed to successfully buy a few presents for people.  We were even able to bargain on all the things we bought.  After five months in places where nothing seems to have a fixed price, we're finally getting the hang of settling on a price well below the first price given.  We're probably still paying over the odds, but we figure that if we're paying a reasonable price for something, paying more than a local might really doesn't matter.

In the afternoon we took a private shuttle minibus to Antigua.  Although the vehicle we rode in was essentially identical to the vehicle we rode in between Nebaj and Santa Cruz del Quiche, the differences between a private shuttle and public micro are the price (about five times as much), the number of passengers (everyone gets their own seat), there is no stopping along the way to jam more passengers in, and the driver will stop if anyone needs to use the toilet.  However, both private shuttles and public micros drive at alarming speeds, so they have that in common.  We made it to Antigua safe and sound, so we're now snugly ensconced in our room at Posada Dona Luisa, where the girls are taking turns reading a story to each other.