Saturday, June 23, 2012
Friday, June 15, 2012
We cross the border into Guatemala with some change in our pockets and no plan. The heat is oppressive, and I'm squinting in the bright sun looking like the classic lost tourist. Luckily, a sweet girl takes us under her wing at the immigration office and gives us some direction. 'Take a bus to Huehue' she says. OK. We hop on the back of a 'tuc-tuc', or motor-bike taxi, and our 10-year-old driver hauls us up the dusty road to the bus terminal. The 'terminal' is no more than a dirt parking lot with an old, decorated 1970s school bus spewing out clouds of diesel fumes. The driver shouts 'Huehue! Huehue!'. And off we go.
The bus follows a winding canyon and gradually climbs up into the severe landscape. Farmers and families in traditional dress pile in along the way. The air cools, and out the window, we see young women weaving in front of their homes. The jungly scenery is stunning, but worry kicks in as we realize that we don't know anything about Huehue or where we're going to sleep (or where we can exchange money on a Sunday night). The bus dumps us off in another 'terminal', this time a paved parking lot littered with garbage and stray dogs. Where is everyone? Businesses are closed, and there is zero evidence of any kind of tourist industry. And it's getting dark. We harness our panic-energy and use it to bring focus to the task at hand. Survival mode! Without too much trouble, we find a place to rest our heads in the center of town. Thank goodness we speak Spanish.
After a grim first impression, the town comes to life in a new way on Monday morning. The neighborhood mercado gives us insight into the local foods and textiles. I buy a sphere of soap made from ashes and lard, and Kenny does some internet research so we can plan the next two days. Thanks, Kenny!
We end up taking a bus even higher into the sky on our way to the mountain village of Todos Santos (8,000 ft). There are several boxes of baby chickens in the back seat chirping and sqeaking. Looking back at Huehue, we just see the tops of clouds. The bus reaches a plateau on top of the ridge with an idyllic landscape of rolling fields, streams, and... snow? Yes. It's freezing cold. We descend slightly on the other side of the ridge into a valley with vegetable farms along the steep slopes. The first thing we notice about the village is that everyone wears the same clothes.
Here's Kenny modeling the outfit that all of the men and boys wear in Todos Santos. The women also have a uniform, but it's not quite as flashy.
Our trip into Guatemala was brief but exhilerating. Although I didn't think it was possible, it was even more chaotic and colorful than Mexico! We definitely want to come back and take more time to explore.
In our short time in San Cristobal de Las Casas, Chiapas, we scoped out the local produce at the mercado. All of the fruits and veggies were mishapen and covered in dirt as if they came fresh from someone's backyard. Kenny found kale, black mustard seeds, and fresh black beans (a vibrant purple color --shucked from their pods before our eyes). They also had several unfamiliar species of avocado.