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Day 9- Solola Market and Pana
Adventures in Guatemala

Mixco\'s mountaintop location aided in its defenseMixco\'s mountaintop location aided in its defense (Philip Flood)
Tuesday, June 16 - After a nice breakfast at the La Laterna, we went to the front desk to inquire about getting a cab to take us to Solola. Tuesday is market day in Solola, and we were looking forward to seeing a non-tourist market. The owner of the Dos Mundos was working the front desk, and he told us a cab would cost 50Q each way. If we wanted to have a cab wait while we went to the market, there would be an additional 25Q charge. He asked if we wanted that cab, and we told him we did.

The cab we got was a transport car used by the hotel, and the driver was an employee of the hotel, Jaime. Jaime explained the rates to us one more time, and we were on our way. It is a short drive to Solola. It is the next town up the road from Pana on the way to the Pan American highway.

Just outside of Pana, there is a nice waterfall right next to the road. Jaime stopped and let us get pictures. We also saw the entrance to the Nature Reserve, which Jorge had told us was worth a visit if we have the time.

We arrived in Solola, and Jaime asked whether we wanted him to walk along with us, or just wait in the car. We opted to have him come along, and we were glad we did.

The Solola market is clearly intended for locals. You can buy chickens, both alive and dead, beads from the Czech Republic used to weave jewelry, thread for embroidering, all manner of fruits and vegetables, clothes by the pound from the United States, shoes, and anything else you might need. It is busy, crowded, and has distinctive smells, especially around the fish stands.

While getting out of he car, I somehow managed to twist my back. I am sure I just aggravated the injury from the Chilasco tumble, but the pain was really intense. We sat down on a bench in the park, and waited for Jaime to park the car and meet us.

While we waited, we were approached by a Mayan vendor. We have now learned that we should not ever pay more than 60% of the starting price. This vendor had very nice aprons. She started at 100Q. When she finally hit 60Q, we bought one. Jaime had parked the car and had met up with us, just as we were closing the deal. He approved of the 60Q price.

We had hoped to find some woven material by the yard (or meter), but the only pieces would could find were about 2 feet wide, and Sheree was looking for something closer the standard 45" width we find at fabric stores. We wanted something at least 36" wide. We later learned that the narrower widths are made by hand on back strap looms, and the wider pieces we wanted are made on pedal looms. We did find one piece we considered, but we could not get a price in the range we were willing to pay. I thought we could get better deals at Nim-Pot if we still wanted something. In general, the costs of raw materials seem extraordinarily high in Guatemala, compared with the price of a finished good. People really do seem to work for close to nothing.

We enjoyed the chaos of the market. I had a water bottle in my pocket, on top of my wallet, and having it there did give me some sense of security from pickpockets.

After a while, we happened upon a jewelry stand. The starting prices were excellent, but when we inquired about getting a quantity discount, we got even better prices.

The Solola square has a very nice church adjacent to it, and also has a beautiful train station on one side of it. Unfortunately, Guatemala got rid of its trains, so the station now serves other purposes.

Jaime had led us around the church at the start of our visit to the market. It has an old stone baptismal font from colonial times. The windows are very nice, with a modern design.

Jaime left to get the car and told us to meet him at the corner. We had a little bit of a hard time getting out of the market, but eventually exited to the square. They were only two corners where we could meet, and after watching traffic, we decided only one made sense.

Jaime eventually rounded the corner in the Toyota, and picked us up. He dropped us at the hotel, and I overtipped, paying 200Q for what was contracted as a 125Q trip. I explained to Jaime that the rest was for his excellent services as a guide. We had great conversations with Jaime to and from Solola. He talked of how he liked President Obama, and we even kicked around a couple of economics and labor issues. This was not our first instance of having positive reactions toward President Obama expressed to us. It seems that the Guatemalans we met tended to view him as a compassionate man of the people, who really does care about the plight of the common man.

After dropping our purchases off at our room at Dos Mundos, we headed out to lunch. We decided to try Casablanca, based on a recommendation from Alfredo. The outside is a wild collage of brightly colored murals, so we were expecting an eclectic, trendy, fairly inexpensive menu. But, inside, the restaurant is clearly a fine dining venue, with white tablecloths, tasteful music, and well-dressed servers. The menu was a little pricey, but we found good lunch dishes for about 50Q each. I had a Hawaiian toast - ham, pineapple and cheese on a thick slice of toast. Sheree had a Chile con carne. The food was great, and we got out for under $20.

We walked around the upper end of Santander, and did not see much of interest. Directly across from Casablanca was a place called "Posh Bead Shop," which Sheree believed she had seen on the Internet. We went in and wandered around. The inventory was very well organized, but the prices were not clearly marked, so we assume they are negotiable. The owner was busy with a tour guide, working out a bounty deal, so we did not get a chance to price anything.

We walked down Santander and stopped in a couple of larger jewelry shops. In the first, three European girls in swimming garb were unable to make a deal on the piece they wanted. The next shop we visited, right across from Guajimbo offered us good prices and we will likely go back. A little further down the street we found a store with a nice selection of wine, including the Sarmiento we had bought in Guatemala City and enjoyed during the visit to the Verapaz. We picked up two more bottles.

At the third jewelry store, we hit pay dirt. We found nice multi-strand necklaces which we negotiated down to a great price. Likewise, we got great prices on earrings and bracelets. We continued adding to our collection, and when we were done we dropped off the purchases at our room. We reached our room just as the afternoon rain hit. I played guitar for a while, working on chords for one song I had written while on the trip and for another that I had finished.

I was able to get ice for my little beer cooler from La Lanterna, so I may actually finish this twelve pack before we head out to Antigua.

Around 5 PM, we left the hotel and headed toward the lake, to the Sunset Bar. It was a cloudy evening, but it was still beautiful in its own way. We had one beer and one margarita each, along with and order of nachos and a plate of fajitas. It started to rain lightly while we were finishing our dinner.

We left the restaurant and decided to head up Santander to the Internet café, to see if there was any word from Jorge. Right out in front of the Internet Café, we once again ran into the Los Cazadores de la Chupacabra. They had taken our suggestion, and had decided to visit Lake Atitlan. They said they would be staying a couple nights and they indicated they were planning to visit the Chichicastenango market on Thursday.

There was still no word from Jorge, and knowing the itinerary of the Caravan tour, we figured that we would not get a chance to see him.

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