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Saturday, 5 November 2011

TODOS SANTOS.. Mayan Skach Koyl

I learn that a special shuttle has been arranged by the tour company that also runs my lodging. Q200 (about $25) will get me to Todas Santos http://www.wikipedia/wiki/todas_santos/ and back.

Todas Santos Cuchumatan in the municipality of Huehuetenago sits in the Sierra de los Cuchumatan mountains at an elevation of 2500 metres.

To get to Todas Santos will take a four hour bus ride.

The inflatable neck pillow I have taken with me is pretty useless except to use as a back support. The seat backs are low and I have nothing to rest my head and neck on. I keep hoping that no one else will share my already cramped double seat space as I need all the comfort my long frame will allow. While I want to experience all the trip, I am tired and want to rest a bit in the beginning.

It is 6:00 am as we all gather to fill the small bus. We are 16 people in total where we should be 21. Five of the group have not shown up nursing sleep from a long night of playing at bars I suppose the night before.There are frantic phone calls by the driver as we wait.

Waiting is fine in Guatemala where time sometimes seems to stand still. So we wait some more. Then that decision and the waiting is over as we leave 30 minutes late. Being late is common place in Guatemala. Being late is accepted. Waiting is part of life.

Morning light is creeping into view as the still empty streets whiz by my sleepy eyes.

People wait on corners for some other bus to take them to other directions and places to be. We pass a market of vendors busy preparing their goods for sales to come. They look weary and their day is just about to begin.

The road twists and turns and meanders. A road plan here that was never planned. The direction the road takes seems to have been catered to the whims and notions of people without that plan and they all seem to connect to some other road or places unheard of.

We stop somewhere for that leg stretch, for some people to smoke and yes for the bano (bathroom) break.

I am amazed, as the altitude we sit at, is nearly 4000 metres. The air is thin and cold but refreshing.

I look about and the view reminds me of something. The landscape triggers memories of a life I knew of as a boy in north Wales. The landscape is stark, with open windswept low vegetation, a barren land with cloud covered memories. I feel as if I am in Wales, my birthplace.

Halfway we stop in Huehuetenango and pick up to two extra travelers.


Huehuetenago is better know as Huehue pronounced (wheywhey).
Huehue is a maze of avenidas (avenues) and calle's (streets) with no planned pattern. Colonial style buildings and other structures with no pattern or regular architectural plan connected in an offset assortment.

I notice that the driver keeps stopping at the side of the road and speaks to passersby. He does it three or maybe four times. It makes me wonder, then I realize he is asking for directions from Huehue to Todas Santos. It is not a comforting thought as the driver keeps stopping and asks people at the sides of the road for directions. I can only chuckle at his malady, which here seems normal.

We arrive in Todas Santos and there is no formal place to park. The road is wet and muddy from recent drizzle and rain. The bus pulls into tight space at the side of a gas station.

We disembark and all take our separate ways following the ever growing crowd of people as it slowly sweeps and glides down through and into the town centre. Mud and rain puddles are everywhere and we walk to avoid getting our feet wet. It is raining a light drizzle, the kind that wets you without you knowing it.

This event in Todas Santos happens once a year and coincides with what is known as the day of the dead. It is a very different horse race than I am used to and called in the Mam dialect "skach koyl. There are some 23 Maya dialects in Guatemala and Mam is spoken in the regions of San Marcos and Huehuetenango by close to 500,000 people.


All saints day where kites are flown to honour the ancestors. Where people gather in cemeteries to celebrate there dead families and friends.

Riders in all stages of drunkenness compete in the horse race at Todas Santos. The riders are very colourful in their lavish and brightly coloured outfits.

They are also very very drunk.

The town is very very drunk in a five day long celebration that honours the lives of the dead. For one week before the infamous race of Todos Santos it is customary for everyone in the town to get drunk. They drink all day and all night long, yes all week long and yes everyone is very very drunk.

I spoke to several horses and riders.

The horses seem to communicate better and without a language or perhaps a language of their own. The horses are smaller than what I am used to as we could stare endlessly into each others eyes.

Todos Santos an event not to be missed.
If you only visit Guatemala for a short time.... please take the time to experience Todos Santos..

Todos Santos in a land like no other.

With new friendships made and adventures happening safely, in a place called the "land of eternal spring", Guatemala.