We left Huehuetenango on a narrow dirt road for Sacapulas, about 35 miles away. These miles turned out to be some of the toughest riding of the trip, but certainly amongst the most scenic. There were some very steep climbs as we crept along the Chuchumantes Mountains, through small farming villages and corn fields. We wound our way through the pine trees and caught amazing views of the land all around us. The locals were friendly and encouraging, the few passing cars and trucks added layers of road dust to our bodies and bikes.
When we reached Sacapulas, we were tired and sore. So far, we have yet to camp in Guatemala because the hotels have been so economical and after a day of cycling in the mountains, a bed and a shower sound oh so nice. We were aiming for the Sunday market at Chichicastenango, but we had some extra time to spend so we decided to stay an extra night in Sacapulas and take a side trip to the small mountain town of Nebaj. We caught a couple rides out to the town and caught some great views from high up of the surrounding mountains. We descended into Nebaj and after a short time in town trying to decide which hike to take, we were approached by the local guide, Gaspar. I am not normally into taking guided tours but I felt like I had something to learn, so we went for it. This tour turned out to be much more educational than scenic. Gaspar led us to a number of grave sites from Guatemalaís 36-year civil war which took a toll of more than 200,000 civilians, mostly indigenous men. He showed us the mass graves of some of the 10,000 from this area that perished during their fight with the military. Decaying wooden crosses were piled near the mass burials of the unidentified. Both his parents were killed in the 80ís and he fled to Mexico with more than 100,000 other refugees for some time before returning to make work as a guide. Much of the killing occurred in the 70ís and 80ís in the name of anti-communism and suppression of indigenous groups fighting for equality in a very unequal country. What is particularly interesting to me is that much of these atrocities and human rights violations happened under the leadership of a president who is currently running for re-election. After our tour we wandered around the town center and I snapped a few photos of the local women in their traditional colorful dress.
We caught a ride back to Sacapulas and the next day we back on the bikes and on our way to Santa Cruz del Quiche. On the way out of town I started to wonder if today was even tougher than the ride to Sacapulas. We pushed ourselves uphill on the unforgiving mountains in the hot sun for about 20 miles before finally getting a break in the climbing. The only plus was the now paved road and of course the wonderful views. We spent the night in Quiche, the largest city since Huehuetenango and got some well needed rest in our cozy hotel. Though I didnít get much time to explore the town, I did get to savor the tasty and inexpensive fried chicken and French fries offered at one of the many stands located in the main plaza. After a night in Quiche, we made the short but challenging ride into Chichicastenango and treated ourselves to a nice hotel for the two nights we planned on staying. And here we are.
Tomorrow is the famous indigenous market that brings vendors and tourists from all over. Wooden masks, embroidered cloths, and other clothing are amongst the many crafts offered. From my short time spent at the market 3 years ago, I remember a colorful and lively place. I look forward to more photo opportunities than good buys. The clouds have decided to open up on us here in the mountains so hopefully the spirit of the market will not be drowned out with the rain.
Peace and Love,