Two days: a day trip each to San Francisco and Fuentes Georginas. Somehow that doesn't capture how much we laughed in those two days. Friday is market day in San Francisco, so two friends and I made our way to the Xela market to catch a bus. More impressively, we made our way across the Xela market, a seemingly endless corridor of stalls selling fruits, veggies, chicken feet, shoes, clothes, and odd assortments of electronics. The narrow pathway wending its way between vendors is filled beyond capacity by people shopping, and is trodden to a lengthy mud pit to be navigated with care. Emerging from the market is possibly more startling - the shouts get louder and are combined with the movement of chicken busses as we try to find one headed in the right direction. An hour later, of driving quickly (and frequently on the wrong side of the road) up into the hills with nine people in our row of seats, we hop off our neon painted school bus in San Francisco.
After lunch, we headed back towards Xela. Once more, we threaded our way across the market. This time, though, we walked slowly and searched for our favorite vegetables for dinner. We also found a strange green fruit that the woman told us needed to be cracked against a table (the next morning I had a lot of fun smashing it, but we decided it was a rather odd flavor). Cramming back into a minibus, really an overcrowded minivan, we wound up back in downtown. That night was one of the free concerts as part of the Xela jazz festival. Walking to the theatre in the evening I felt something I hadn't in several months: conspicuously underdressed. Girls walked in in black dresses and heels, accompanied by men in ties. I sat in my jeans and hoodie, admiring the theatre, a building that could've been found on Broadway. It was something of a shock, after weeks alternating between pop music and marimbas, to hear live jazz. Beautiful. And an interesting combination of English songs I didn't know and spanish songs I did. To my swing friends, I didn't charleston in the aisle but I think the guy sitting in front of me got tired of my kicking his chair when I couldn't quite sit still.
And day two: not wanting to climb a volcano just to find a cloud blocking the view, we decided to visit Zunil and the hot springs. We caught another chicken bus and headed up into the hills on the opposite side of town. A few towns later we hop off the bus in Zunil. We wander up into the plaza and admire the church, and then start trying to find a pickup driver to take us the 8km up to Fuentes Georginas. A brief bit of bargaining later and I'm hanging onto the side of the pickup truck, snapping photos over the edge of the road of the view of the valley. We bump up and up towards the clouds. Fuentes Georginas reminds me of the hot springs in Idaho. There are a few pools, and some beautiful cabins to have picnics in, and a changing room, and you arrive feeling like you're in the middle of nowhere to find more people than you can imagine wanting to take the effort to get there. It was perfect for a cloudy day. We swam and talked and soaked up the warmth for hours. At the far end of the upper pool was the incoming water, and sitting on the rocks with the hot water running over my shoulders was my favorite place, to the chagrin of my friends who are both far more warm-blooded than I am.
Happily drying off, very relaxed, we congratulated ourselves on a great adventure. Sitting at the cafe we ate lunch and contemplated walking back down into Zunil, despite the cloudburst that poured rain for a few minutes. The walk started as relaxing as the hot springs. We took photos of the clouds caught in the trees. We talked about our respective travels. And then it started to rain again. We had rain coats. It didn't last long. Smiles remained. Then it rained again. At this point we started discussing catching a ride in the next car to pass us. But the next few came during a lull and we persevered in our walk, happy to be outside. The next time it rained, it didn't stop. This time it continued to pour. And the road started to run with little rivers. Our laughter switched from "this is fun" to "this is funny..." And then it hailed. The hail didn't last long, but the road rivers were getting larger. We picked our way through the bushes on the edge of the road. I gave up and waded through the ankle deep muddy swirls (it took two days for my shoes to dry out). Eventually, after we were thoroughly soaked, a car passed us and stopped. I opened the door, already thanking the driver profusely, to realize that the three of us, all dripping water, needed to fit in the one remaining seat in the back. I crowded in, trying not to soak the man next to me, and the other two followed, the three of us all sitting on top of each other. The family who had picked us up laughed heartily at our story and at the sight of us, two girls and a 6'5" boy crammed into the car looking like drowned rats and trying to take a selfie to remember the moment but struggling to use our phones with our cold wet fingers.
The family dropped us in Zunil, laughing one last time as we struggled to untangle ourselves enough to open the door. We ran across the street and started trying to figure out where to catch a bus. While asking the boys on the corner about busses to Xela, we saw a family waving to us from a pickup waiting in traffic. We step into the street and they offer us a ride. In retrospect, the bus would've cost Q5, roughly $0.65, and had a roof. In retrospect, it might have been more comfortable. But where is the adventure in that? Instead, we climb into the back of the pick up truck, standing in a puddle that swished whenever the car bounced, and hold on to the sides to stay on our feet. It starts raining harder. In the bus behind us the driver can be seen laughing at us. My hands go numb as I cling to the metal railing. The wind drives the rain into our faces like ice shards. We look at each other and laugh. How did we end up here? 40 minutes later we get to the edge of the city and realize we don't know where they're going to drop us off. Finally, we recognize a corner close to the town center, and shortly thereafter the driver stops and we jump down shouting thank you. Cold. Shivering. Soaked to the skin. Still laughing at the absurdity. It would've been a good moment for another dip in the hot springs. Instead we settle for lukewarm showers and hot chocolate and wrap up in our new blankets.
Two days, two adventures, two friends.
To the fish and the tallest: Thanks for a beautiful few days of fun. I hope there is less hail but just as much laughter in the rest of your travels. Thanks for reminding me that if you just start walking it'll all work out in the end. Buen viaje! Love from the weaver.