When we started, we didn't have an itinerary
beyond "Spend two months in Guanduras eating fruit and speaking Spanish." After we arrived in Guatemala City, we looked at the map and scanned country highlights. "Let's head towards Peten first to avoid the rainy season, going via Cobán. That should take a week or two, right? Then head towards Honduras. Three weeks in Honduras sound good? Then we can sweep back through the highlands, going through Antigua, then a week in Atitlan, a week in Xela and maybe a week at the end along the pacific coast. And if we decide to spend some extra time in Atitlan or Xela or something, we'll have a buffer."
It's buffer time now, and we followed the plan quite well. Even though we never planned more than 5 days ahead (and that was just signing up for a diving course), we spent exactly three weeks in Honduras and exactly a week in Atitlan. We'll be back in Boulder in two weeks and have seen most of what we wanted to see. But I'd rather have too much time in a fantastic country than too little. If we'd constructed an itinerary first and then bought tickets to fit that, we probably wouldn't have budgeted time for hanging around a friendly hotel all day in case the bathroom needs a visit. I wonder if U.S. customs has the power to deport our bacteria and amœbæ at the border...
We have spent the last four days in Quetzaltenango (aka Xela) like a weekend. We can sleep in, then walk a few steps to the kitchen which is well stocked with our market vegetable purchases, not to mention granola and Boulder-made soy milk. We can walk around and find specialty stores, pay 25 cents an hour for Internet, have our choice of tasty cheap bread, and catch a good movie at 8. We can go for a pleasant hike, take a wrong turn, walk with a long-term visitor, chat with locals, pet a cow, investigate a Mayan altar next to a corn field, and find the attraction: Los Vahos, volcanic vent saunas, only $2.50 a person. Xela is an attractive place to visit -- lovely mountains, neat town, plenty of services -- but it's not a tourist town. 150,000 Guatemalans are here going about their daily business, which for the most part doesn't involve catering to people who are in town for two days to see something famous.
I can see why so many foreigners stay in Xela for quite a while. It feels like home, just without all the people I know. But you guys can wait for a couple weeks, right? Anyone in desperate need of a post card should notify me ASAP.