Monthly Archives: March 2007

Guatemala City

Oh man… another adventure today. First, the taxi driver I hired didn’t know where the Museo Popol Vuh was, even after asking another taxi driver where it was. I had a bad feeling about this. I also discovered that the taxis in Guatemala City aren’t metered. If I was smart I would have negotiated a fare and made sure he knew where he was going before stepping into the cab. If I was even smarter I would have hired one of the pimped out rice-boy taxis I saw. So this loser takes me to the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología (MUNAE) instead, another museo I wanted to go to but not the one I asked for. Instead of letting him take me to Museo Popol Vuh, I have him let me off here. Probably a good idea. I did end up at Museo Popol Vuh later, with a more reliable taxi driver. The MUNAE is a state-run museo while the Museo Popol Vuh is on a university campus and privately-run. I found the MUNAE to be more interesting. It’s certainly bigger, with a good sized collection of stelae from various Mayan sites like Dos Pilas, Kaminaljuyu, and Uaxactun. The Museo Popol Vuh had a special exhibition on cacao (kakaw) but I found the collection pretty meager. I was fooled by the slickness of the special exhibition website.

After the museos I decided to take the city bus into Zona 1 to the Mercado Central, the Parque Central, and the main cathedral. Not so many tourists in this park of the city, even in the mercado. The buses weren’t that hard to figure out, even after losing my Spanish phrase book. On the way to Zona 1 I passed by the US embassy, yet another US embassy set up like a fortress.

I managed to leave Zona 1 during rush hour, which meant I would ride a jam packed bus back to the hotel. The bus was so jam packed I was one of three guys hanging onto the rear door for a good portion of the ride. There’s nothing like traveling like a local.

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Volcan de Pacaya

I had a bit of an adventure last night. After finding out I could arrange for a tour of Volcan de Pacaya through an outfitter in Antigua I made the journey to that town via the famous Chicken Buses after a bit of anxiety with my nonexistent Spanish language skills. I arrived in Antigua a couple of hours before my tour was to begin so I wandered the markets. I need to get better with my bargaining skills. I seem to have lost them after the trip to China last year.

Our tour started late by 30 or so minutes due to some mix-up with a couple of German university students that’s not worth getting into. The ride from Antigua to the base of the volcan took about an hour and on the ride I chatted with one of the Germans and three physician assistant students from North Carolina who were in Guatemala for a 2-week intensive medical Spanish course. The hike up the volcan was pretty strenuous, the trail covered in fine grit as well as horse droppings. Once we got as high as we would, the view was spectacular! We walked over a cooled lava field that was warm in spots, indicating we weren’t too far above a recent flow.

Then, before we knew it, dusk arrived and the sky became dark fast, which allowed us to see the glow of the lava oozing from the peak. Then we realized we would have to walk down the volcan in the dark. A few of us had flashlights and headlamps but the journey was slow going. Fortunately, we had an excellent guide, Arturo. As I told one of the North Carolinian gals that experience ranked as a medium on my danger scale. Oh, and it figures after my first full day in Guatemala I lose my Spanish phrase book.

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