In the morning Bill and I took a stroll down to the village of Santa Catarina del Palopo. It's very small and typical of the villages around the lake.
We walked out to the pier, passing a few souvenir-sellers. The women were not just sitting around waiting for tourists. They were actively working on creating more cloth on hand looms.
I bought a water bottle holder/coozie from one of the vendors. Bill and I consulted for a minute or two to get the best color combination possible. It's amazing how many intricate designs the women produce using the weaving method above. It's not good for the knees and most of the women who weave start as children. Here's a typical display of cloth for sale,
Walking along the narrow cobbled street we heard the sound of pat-pat-pat-pat coming from a little storefront. All the stores have open fronts that are secured by roll-down steel doors when they're closed. We walked up to investigate the sounds and found a group of women making blue corn tortillas and cooking them on a grill. I bought a bag for less than a dollar--they were still hot off the griddle. Started eating one of them as soon as it cooled enough to touch. Delicious!
We headed into Panajachel so Bill and Merrie could go to their noon Spanish classes. My job while they attended the one-hour class was to go to the market to buy a list of fruit and veggies. I wanted to buy a basic cell phone so I could get in touch with Bill in case we got separated. And right in front of the market I found a cell phone "store".
The display on the table gave me two choices--a couple of basic phone models for 100 quetzales (about $13) or a simple smart phone for 400 Q, I went with basic. The young man on the phone asked for my passport, did the paperwork, and activated the phone with Claro Central in around 20 minutes while i crouched on the little stool.
A note on money: a dollar equals a little less than 8 quetzales. The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala. For purposes of the blog when I quote a price (which will be seldom) I'll use dollars. Once you get a supply of quetzales from an ATM or by changing money at the bank it's easier to think in quetzales than to do the mental arithmetic for a dollar conversion.
Let's return to the flat tire and blowout that happened Sunday on the way to the lake. Here's my rental car. Note the low-rider profile of the tires and the tinted windows. The dark tint is for privacy and security. Rich Guatemalans and of course gringos can ride around and talk on their iPhones without worrying about someone grabbing it along the street. The tint is so dark that sunglasses aren't needed even on the brightest day. And you can leave small stuff in the car and not worry that someone's going to see it, break your window, and steal your goods.
Driving at night? Forget about it, if possible. Even the front window has a slight tint. The side windows are so dark that at night you can't see which way a curve bends until you're into it. The tiny mountain road that's cut into the hillside going to Santa Catarina has no striping or reflectors. Caution is the watchword driving at night, slow and easy. Not many vehicles venture out in the evenings.
Before leaving for the market I used Bill's phone to call the car rental place at the airport. I told my sad story of the tire and the man at the airport told me the insurance doesn't cover tire damage and it would cost me $155 for the tire. And I had to get one exactly like the wide, low-profile tires on the car. Thus began my odyssey to find a tire and get it mounted on the rim. Little did I know then how much time and effort it would take to locate a tire in the little town of Panajachel 6 kilometers away from the house. Getting a tire, having it mounted, getting the rim repaired where I dinged it in two places--the process became a sub-text for my visit. I found a used tire in the exact same size, miraculously, thanks to the accumulated wisdom of the gringo community, tapped by Bill. Here's where we found the tire:
The tire cost $44 and I was darned lucky to find one to match the weird ones on the rental car. The young guy threw the tire in the trunk and off we went up the street to a tire mechanic to change out the ruined tire for the new/used one. It didn't take long for the tire changing experts to remove the bad tire an mount the good one. The shop was immaculate, every tool in its place. Here's a shot to prove it:
When the mounting was done we discovered that a couple of dents I'd made in the rim going over speed bumps with my under-inflated tire kept the tire from holding air. Chapter two: getting the rim repaired. Tire saga to be continued on Tuesday, promised for 10 AM that morning.
After marketing and the pursuit of the tire I was worn out. We returned to Bill's house, stowed the produce, and Merrie pulled together dinner. Bill and I began to work on some tunes for the Open Mic on Wednesday and our gig at Chinita's Restaurant on Thursday night.