Xela, Guatemala (a.k.a., Quetzaltenango) lies at 8,000 feet in the heart of the country’s
highlands and at the center of its Mayan population. Xela (pronounced shay-lah) is a great base from which to explore a huge array of nearby sites and activities. However, at
that altitude, I’m wary of doing anything that requires more exertion than sampling some of the country’s great coffee in a café or watching others exert themselves in a game of fútbol. Still, the possibility of a trip to a rural village that boasts the most colorful church in all of Central America prompted me to get trade my café chair for a bike to ride to San Andrés Xecul.
Fortunately, there were only a few steep patches, and the friendly people in the village (one little boy kept pointing at us and saying “Gringos, Mama!”), a nice sugary Roja from a local tienda, and the Technicolor church made it worth the occasional gasp for oxygen. Our guide from Altiplano Tours was merciful: “Poco a poco. It’s not a race.” Poco a poco, little by little, became the mantra of our trip and as I think about it, that’s a pretty useful phrase for most of life.