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Last Week in Xela, Part 1

Quetzaltenango, GuatemalaVolcanic Steam Sauna (10/26)Outside of Xela there are a couple of areas that promote natural hot baths or volcanic steam saunas. Two weeks ago I went to the hot baths with a few other students and was under-whelmed to say the least. The hot baths were essentially narrow, dark and dingy concrete building with [...]

Quetzaltenango, Guatemala

Volcanic Steam Sauna (10/26)
Outside of Xela there are a couple of areas that promote natural hot baths or volcanic steam saunas. Two weeks ago I went to the hot baths with a few other students and was under-whelmed to say the least. The hot baths were essentially narrow, dark and dingy concrete building with old tiled baths piping in hot volcanic water. Nothing too spectacular and nothing like the hot spring of Hierva El Agua. Based on the hot baths I wasn’t holding out too much hope for the sauna’s but kept an open mind.


There are two places to go near Xela for natural volcanic saunas; Los Cumbres and Las Fuentes Georginas. Well, Las Fuentes Georginas was an option until it was destroyed in a mud slide from Tropical Storm Agatha about three months ago. I arrived at the saunas with eleven others from school and was immediately relieved. The saunas were part of a small spa on the side of a mountain overlooking a valley and was not one of many dilapidated concrete buildings on the side of a dusty road. I hopped into the sauna and sweated away the next hour. With nothing much to do but sit and sweat my mind just rambled from one thought to the next. Here are some of the random thoughts that crossed my mind.

[1 minute] Holy $h!t it’s hot in here!
[5 minutes] How much of this ‘liquid’ on my skin is from me sweating and how much of it is steam condensation?
[15 minutes] It’s much hotter on the right side than the left side of this sauna for no particular reason. Especially since the steam vent is on the left side.
Heat really does rise. If I stick my hand in the air by the ceiling I can feel a drastic temperature change.
[25 minutes] How many beers would I have to drink before being wasted in here? Would the word ‘beer’ even need to be plural?
[After more time than should have been spent] Interesting…my skin is peeling off.
Oh look! My chin has turned into a constant waterfall of water and sweat
Ooooooo…My belly button has turned into a miniature hot tub.
I’m getting woozy. I think I should get out now.

I’ve seen a lot of signs translated from Spanish to English. Most of them have some type of spelling or grammatical error on them, however, the sign outside of the sauna takes the prize for the worst (or best) Spanish to English translation I’ve seen yet. My guess is the person translating was drinking while translating as this sign starts making less and less sense the further down you read. The picture I took of the sign can be hard to read so I’ve re-typed the sign letter for letter below.

From Quetzaltenango 2010-10
RULES TO USE THE SAUNA

1. People with cardiac problems can not use this service, ask your doctor first.
2. Please, before coming in, take a bath.
3. Do not use soap inside the sauna
4. Use two towels or another clothe, one for sit for safety and hygiene, and another one to dry your self.
5. After every sweating period take a bath with cold water.
6. Do not drink alcohol inside the sauna.
7. Do not fall a sleep inside the sauna.
8. We do not make us responsible, for your things. Check out all your things before leaving.
9. The entrance of a single person is not alowed by security as much hers as of the company.
10. It takes its precautions when lawering of the bunks.
11. It deposits the sweepings in its place
12. It maintains cosed the door of sauna
13. Time on wateh 1 hous, opposite case will receive surplus to him.

THE SAUNA IS HEALTH ENJOY IT!!!

I’m still trying to figure out what ‘rule’ 10 and 11 were trying to tell me.

El Baul and Minerva Market (10/28)
Thursday morning began at 6:00 am. I was hiking up El Baul in the morning and was meeting my Spanish teacher, Paola, and two students, Nikolena and Julian at 6:30 in the central square of Xela. El Baul is one of the surrounding peaks of Xela that I hadn’t yet climbed. The climb was easy and only takes 45-60 minutes to reach the top. I was pleasantly surprised to find that for the first time it didn’t feel like the altitude created any problems climbing up-hill…just in time for me to return to an altitude much closer to sea-level next week.

On top of El Baul there was a park with one of the best slides I’ve ever been on. I’m not sure how long it actually was but you pick up some serious speed going down. Especially, if you use an old, plastic milk carton.

From Quetzaltenango 2010-10

Without much else to do on the top we walked back down and by 9:00 am Paola and I were on our way to Minerva market. The purpose of the trip was for Paola and I to buy some Halloween costumes. Every Friday the school throws a party with some type of theme and tomorrows theme is Halloween. The parties have to end by 11:00 pm or the neighbors get pissy with the school so the party is really the ‘pregame’ for a night of bar hopping and clubbing.

I love the markets in Guatemala. I don’t have a better word for them than ‘raw’. There are fruits and vegetables strewn across the street. Dead chickens, ducks and cows hanging from stalls with baskets of chicken feet in front of them. Women with goats screaming, “Leche Fresca!” Woman balancing whatever they are trying to peddle on top of their heads. Piles of random clothes and shoes selling for 1 quetzal. Old school buses speeding by spraying the air with thick clouds of diesel exhaust. I still don’t know what to compare the smell of thousands of pounds of unrefrigerated meat to. I wouldn’t call the smell repulsive, but it’s not exactly perfume either.

From Quetzaltenango 2010-10

In the end my costume for the party was decided for me since the only thing big enough for me that I found was a clown suit. I also found a great hat. I’m tired of my scalp being sunburned so I’ve recently been searching for a decent hat in the markets. I found a great Driving Cap and I liked the final negotiated price of 25 quetzals ($3.00).

New photos have been added to the end of the Quetzaltenango photo album.

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Filed under: Cubicle Ditcher, Guatemala

About the Author:

Sam Langley left a comfortable and profitable job with an insurance company in the USA to travel the world. He has been going for years, and has not stopped yet. Keep up with his travels on his blog at Cubicle Ditcher. has written 147 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.