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Published: November 8th 2009
Our time in Guatemala was dominated by independence Day - the whole country seemed to be celebrating for days on end, which was a good thing as we got involved in all sorts of festivities. It was a relatively quick border crossing only 3 hours or so. The Mexican border post was relatively calm and efficient. Two miles down the road its a different story at the Guatemalan border post, its all hustle and bustle with loads of market stalls hiding the official huts. Once formalities are completed and the barrier is lifted there is no mistaking the fact that you have entered a new country. There are market stalls everywhere, people milling around and hoards of tuk-tuks - getting out is like negotiating an obstacle course. But its all very vibrant and the place feels alive and has a buzz to it. Instantly we are riding through enormous, jagged, green mountain peaks, it all feels very tropical. The roadsides are busy with people in traditional dress herding along flocks of goats or carrying large bundles of wood or just generally walking form A to B.
They have obviously done a lot of work on the roads in the last
few years and we are zipping along a dual carriage-way with perfect new tarmac. However, we have learnt by now that perfect new tarmac probably means that a few miles down the road it will suddenly stop and there will be several miles of dirt and gravel along with the tarmac-road making machine. Sure enough this is what happens only on this occasion we have climbed up into thick fog and the tarmac stops just round a nice sweeping bend so even if it hadn't been foggy there would have been no warning. We come round the bend to find Aaron upside down in the ditch with all the locals clustered round him waiting to see what will happen next. Luckily bike and rider were un-harmed.
The first night is at Panajachel on Lake Atitlan. The next day the fog has disappeared and as we climb up back up the hillside there are great views back to the deep blue lake surrounded by 3 perfectly shaped volcanoes. On this day the mist stayed with us all the way to the bottom and there was no hint of any volcanoes. As its Sunday we head to Chichicastenango and its famous
Sunday market which is all hustle, bustle and colour. All the people from the local villages come to town to sell their wares wearing their traditional costumes. For the ladies this is an embroidered blouse - when I say embroidered I mean embroidered, every inch of fabric is covered in the most vibrant mixture of colours imaginable. Each village has its own pattern so there are flowery blouses, geometric designs, stripes, zigzags etc. etc. The men seem to be dressed as cowboys only their trousers are multi-coloured embroidered strips and they also wear a little wrap around pinnies. The main market is for food and supplies for locals but they have cottoned onto all the tourists visiting and anyone with a white face is considered fair game and you constantly have 2 or 3 little ladies following you round trying to sell you textiles, masks, potions and anything else they think you can't possible live without. Its all very light hearted and friendly, you can wander for hours and still see new things.
The little church in the square is interesting. Outside its a typical white washed colonial church with the steps full of colourfully dressed flower sellers. Inside,
despite the alter and religious paintings it dosen't feel like a church. It feel like a Mayan shrine with straw on the floor and little clusters of candles/offerings seemly randomly places on the floor but apparently placed in specific spots according to who your ancestors were. Although the statues were of the Virgin Mary there was definitely a lot of Pachamama (Mother Earth) worship going on in there. It was a nice place with a nice feel, the sort of place you could sit for an hour contemplating.
It was after this that we couldn't move for Independence Day celebrations (literally in one case!) and spent two days celebrating with the country - see next entry.
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