June 14, 2006

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Retalhuleu: Easily one of the most forgettable towns in Guatemala.

Retalhuleu, or Reu (ray-oo) as it's commonly called, is about 50km from Xela and is the capital city of Guatemala's similarly named department. Contrary to what my guidebook says, the city of Reu is neither clean nor attractive. Maybe things have changed that much in the three or four years since it's been updated, but the place is a freakin' zoo.

I stepped off the bus this afternoon and began to melt. And by melt I mean sweat. Coming from Xela I was in full winter gear (heavy socks, long pants, fleece, and so on), and completely unprepared for the hot and humid conditions of the Pacific Slope. The radical difference in temperature was amazing.

Huge palms trees line many of the roads entering town, reminding me very much of California. That memory quickly dissolved though as I nearly got clipped by a dozen speeding tuk tuk's gunning down the street. A quite, relaxed town this is not.

I walked around the tienda-filled city waiting for someone to ask me what I was looking for, to which I would have happily replied, "a reason to be here." …But it never happened.

The guidebook was correct on one thing though, tourists are something of a curiosity in Reu—which would probably explain why I was being hissed at by so many of the women in the market that I walked through (the equivalent of a North American catcall). It's always entertaining—unless it's from the men (which happened much too frequently in Antigua, where I think it's just about the only city in Guatemala where you can almost step out of the closet).

It should say something about the town when I spent over four hours in a chicken bus to get there and back, but only stayed for an hour.

About the only thing I found of interest in Reu was the town's cathedral, which boasts the very first (and rather unusual) wooden ceiling I've seen inside such a structure. Even the chandeliers were made of wood.

If traveling by car, this is a good place to grab a street taco, drink a blended fruit smoothie, check out the cathedral, fill 'er up, and then push on.


Andy's post about my recent theft, as well as his comment on this site.

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