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Sat Mar 09 2013: Hot Springs and Chicken Buses!

We met Craig and Chihiro at our Spanish school in Xela and got along really well. They're also two wandering souls who have travelled much of the world together and by themselves, so we had a great time comparing notes. They were going to visit Las Fuentes Georginas hot springs outside of Xela on the weekend, so they invited us to come along!

We boarded a Chicken Bus with a whole bunch of indigenous women!

The primary mode of public transportation in Guatemala is a Chicken Bus. Not Pollo Autobus, they actually call it a Chicken Bus. It's usually a retired American school bus that's failed safety and emissions tests. We play a game of Rate The Chicken Bus as we pass them. We boo and hiss at the ones that still have the yellow paint showing and very little decorations and cheer the buses that are multi-coloured and are blinged out with chrome and additional foglights.

This is actually a poor example of a Chicken Bus. Not decorated enough...

We're on our way to the town of Zunil, at the base of the hills where the hot springs are located. Along the way we pass many farms and workers in the field.

Patchwork of farmland outside the town of Zunil

Workers harvesting green onions

From Zunil, we negotiated a truck ride up to the hillside spa. It's a narrow, twisty road and we regretted not bringing the bikes, but we wanted to be social and spend the day with Craig and Chihiro. What started out as a simple trip to a hot springs actually turned out to be an agricultural tour.

Thoroughly enjoying riding in the back of a truck!

Taken from the back of the moving truck!

As we climbed higher, the farmland started to resemble a colourful quilt

Surprised to see how far up the tracts of farmland extend up the sides of the hill

Some of the tracts must have been almost vertical!

We weren't the only ones enjoying the view

I think we got a very skewed view of agriculture in Guatemala, because when I did some research later on, I was surprised to learn that the country cannot grow enough crops to feed their own population, having to import grains and other foods. Although we were travelling through fertile lands, there is a large swath of the country to the north called the Dry Corridor, which receives very little rainfall and is prone to chronic drought.

Arriving at Las Fuentes Georginas

The air up here is misty as we pay the foreigner prices (double what the locals pay) to enter what looks to be a very exclusive spa. Well-fed locals hang out at the pools that are fed by thermal springs from the Zunil volcano. They're joined by a busload of college kids from the US. Although it's a very picturesque site with relaxing hot waters, it's not probably something regular Guatemalans are able to visit. In Zunil, there are dirty bath houses with small concrete basins that are fed thermal hot water from hoses. These are types of luxuries that that the regular townsfolk treat themselves to.

Nice lookouts at the Fuentes Georginas spa

The main pool, temperature must be about 40C

Neda confirms it: 40C!

After a while you get used to the heat

Neda doesn't want to leave

Last look at Las Fuentes Georginas

Having a good time back in Xela. Having dinner in our new favorite restaurant
owned by a Singaporean woman, specializing in all Asian cuisine!

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