Yesterday I trekked to the famed town of Chichicastenango, from Antigua, Guatemala, the town where I've been living for the better part of a week. I rose at dawn, ate a hearty breakfast at my hotel and headed to Chichi via mini-bus.
The bus drove and drove and drove. Our piloto was very nice but drove exceptionally slow for no known reason. The German family who was also riding in the bus clucked their tongues disapprovingly and commented on our piloto's poor driving skills loudly and brutally, not realizing my companion understood everything they were saying and shared their opinion. Half asleep, I idly watched the rolling hills and beautiful scenery unfold around me.
A little over three hours later, we disembarked. I straightened my legs and stretched my arms toward the sun. We were here.
I'll be honest: I didn't like what I saw. I didn't like the Chichicastenango market.
The guide book describes it as charm personified, but I was glad that we had only opted to do a half-day trip here instead of staying the night like the guide book suggested. I didn't find it charming.
The market, which happens every Thursday and Sunday, was "authentic" enough -- whatever that is supposed to mean. Locals clad in traditional Mayan or Guatemalan garb peddled their wares at stalls or on street corners, bag filled with merchandise asking to be purchased. A group of women made slapping noises as they flattened corn and flour pancakes in preparation to become tortillas. Another group of ladies in the street sold live chickens and turkeys. This among rows upon rows of clothing and jewelry shops.
I'm not sure what I was expecting. I'm not sure why I didn't like the atmosphere of the market. Maybe there were too many people, too much chaos when I was looking for peace. Maybe it was because I was irritated to have driven three hours for something I could have found in Antigua, five minutes down the road from my hotel. It could have been that I was concentrating so hard on not getting pickpocketed (the guide book warns that thieves work over-time on market days) that I couldn't fully enjoy the experience. I don't know. But I know that I was a lot happier when I ascended a hill and had this quiet view on the city.
I was told that traditional Mayan ceremonies were performed up here. We weren't disappointed. Three women chanted around a fire, intermittently jumping across it and spitting what appeared to be liquor, procured from what could have been a Jack Daniel's bottle, into the blaze.
We came across this beautiful cemetery in the distance, while searching for lunch.
And then, lunch. Pictures speak louder than words, so all I'll say was that it was stupendous. And filling. And as easy on the pocket as it is on the eyes: only about $6 USD, including bread and an accompanying tomato soup.
The funny thing is that the thing the town is known most for is the thing I liked the least.
Has that ever happened to you?