[ Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Guatemala ]
Buenas noches, Transglobalistas.
After my biliary ordeal in Sayaxche and El Remate, I returned to the road refreshed and energized. Birgit and Marco started their journey to El Salvador, and I set out on another improvised route—at long last southward and generally in the direction of Antigua.
The segment between El Remate and Fray Bartolomé only took me five days, but what days they were!
I spent most of the time on rough stone and gravel roads which appeared to pass through uninhabited areas on my various maps. They also appeared more or less flat. Ha! You’d think I’d have learned better than that by this point in my cycling career, but noooOOOO.
The upside was that there were numerous unmapped Q’eqchi’ settlements along the way. The third day was a blistering Sunday, and I rode from village to village, chatting with Q’eqchi’ men (primarily) who were doing what men (primarily) do in many places on the planet on a Sunday afternoon. Which is to say they were in sitting in front of their village tienda—in various stages of inebriation—communally drinking massive quantities of cheap cerveza and animatedly discussing sports, politics, each other, and the local goings-on (aka gossip).
In each new locale my presence drew surprise, questions, and offers of conversation and adult refreshments. I took them up on all offers except the beer (learned that lesson the hard way, and repeatedly, in Mongolia, but that’s another tale for another day).
By mid-afternoon I had arrived in another large, unmapped village, this one with a central water well with a rope and a bucket and a line of locals waiting to fill their various containers. The homes were typical: wooden slat walls with thatched roofs. There were a couple of cement buildings—like the central tienda where the men were drinking their beer—but most were traditional, dotting the sides of the surrounding hills. There were the usual chickens, turkeys, and village dogs running about, along with a larger-than-usual assortment of larger-than-usual pigs, and young men and women riding up and down the road and hills on horseback. Motorcycles were the primary transport, though, and there were lots of tuk-tuks taking locals between villages. Kids were knocking coconuts out of trees, bananas and oranges were everywhere, and plenty of other fruits I don’t yet know the names of.
Pretty picturesque, in other words. So of course I decided to stay the night, if I could.
And I could. Of course I could. That’s just how it works.
So I spoke to the men, and this time shared a beer with them. (Just one.) They gave me enthusiastic permission, then started with the usual questions, which went on for a couple of hours. I asked a few in turn. Like: do you ever see gringos here? Tourists of any kind? Travelers? They laughed, then confirmed there were absolutely no gringos who ever came this way. Ever. They weren’t on the way to anywhere, and they were fine with that.
The whole point was made rather emphatically. And repeatedly.
So imagine my surprise when—not fifteen minutes later—I saw a young girl leading a tall, very white, very European man out of one home and down the street to another. The gentleman seemed mildly overwhelmed, following gingerly behind her.
I looked a surprised “WTF?!?” at my new friends and nodded in the gringo’s direction. They laughed again.
“Oh, he doesn’t count. That guy’s an anthropologist from France, here to study us for a few weeks.”
Well then. I guess I do still know how to pick ‘em. (And to you, Monsieur Anthropologue: YOU’RE AN AMATEUR, BUDDY! Toss your books, buy a bike, give me a call. I’ll steer you in the right direction. 😉 )
And that, my friends, was only one day out of five—each as wonderful as the next. I’ll put small overviews of the other encounters in the image captions, where possible.
I hope you enjoy the images.
Until next time, and as always,
Take care of each other, and yourselves,
Your friendly wandering Transglobalist,