Diary 4 and the highlands, I now see the central
But I stop right out side town to make some photos of a mirror lake. The fare part have a bit of mist right over the surface. The trees are filled with bromeliads, and it is a beautiful place. I head on, and it is upwards through mainly pines and generally rather dry.
Here are no towns at all, just small villages with old clay huts, and some are solitude. Some grow onions, beans and alike on small but well keep fields. I have the sun in my face, and fail to capture the awesome landscape. Might be a good thing, and I get way too many photos anyway.
I just have to stop in the little town of Aguacatán, where time seems to have stopped 50 years ago - or is it 150? Most women are warring traditional Mayan dresses, and the men are cowboy-dressed. I make a loop around the church, the market and a few streets. They are defiantly not use to strangers around here!
Outside town, a lot of vegetables are grown. I see no tractors at all, but people are weeding by hand, and ploughing by ox. I continues on the great RN-7W, one of the most scenic roads I have driven - as far as I can recall. It is so tempting to stop all the time and make pictures, but I try to limit, as I get too many, and no use of them. The first part of the day, I drive around in 1800-2000 metres height.
It start to clear-up, and even more motives reveals themselves. Despite I know the huge sceneries fails, I try it anyway: They are just too magnificent. I pass a valley with a river - might be Rio Blanco, and more vegetables are grown. It is winter, and not that many fields are green.
But at the same time, huge cacti appears. Her are both Cereus and different Opuntias. They are only found as long as it remains around 1200 metres. Many are used for fences, and form huge walls over the ridges. In one of the villages here, the clay huts are painted green - all of them! The next little town produces baskets of stiff grass. And a lot of them!
I meet and passes a lot old Mercedes Benzs trucks. They might produce a lot of black smoke, but they still drive. I gain height again, and the looks back through the valleys are great. Well, they are great forwards as well, but I still faces the sun. I'm back in the scattered pine forest, but here are still a few settlements.
I meet another low area, almost down at 800 metres, but here are no cacti. in some areas, the road is only one lane, and gravel-slides have covered the other half. I pass the river down here, bye a huge new bridge. I think the locals get to pay, but they don't charge me.
I keep following RN-7W, but without warning, it turns into a rather rough gravelroad for 40 kilometres. Some parts are really torn up, and huge rocks are exposed. It does take some of my attention from the surroundings. Back at 1400 metres, I meet a little town, and the sealing is back. I shift to road CA-14 for the last 14 kilometres.
Then I reach the large town of Cobán at one, and do a bit of driving around - as one have to do that. Here are tunnels to help left turns, only one-way roads and roadwork and cops, directing the traffic - kind of. Accordantly to my GPS, I live in Diagonal Street. I get a nice room taking up the entire second floor of the hotel along with my balcony. It is just above 1300 metres, and should not be that cold.
My plan was actually to head on to Semuc Champey right away, but 70 kilometres, two hours each way do not sound that tempting by now. Later I learn; the road is real bad, and I skip it. The orchid garden of Orquigona is more accessible. It is just outside town, and on the last bit of a gravel road, I follow a Swiss van! I have a long chat with the young couple, doing USA to Colombia by sleeper-van. They build it at home, and got it shipped to here.
At four, I tear myself loose, and get a guided tour in this fantastic garden. A cemented staircase leads around a forest, where all the trees are covered in numerous orchids. It was founded by Oscar Archila E., and five orchids are named after him. I see genera and types I have newer seen before, and a lot of them are actually flowering. I just wished my guide spoke English, or I Spanish. But he got the Latin names right, even on non-orchids.
Here are the Belize national flower; the Black Orchid, and it is almost black. Guatemala's national flower is a huge white one. 75% of the native orchids are minute - real minute, and I really like these tiny wonders. Despite the lack of light, I make a lot of photos. They go into the special slideshow: Orquigona
The sun have vanished, and it is getting quite chill. I got my jacket before the tour, and could do with shoes too. I head back to Cobán, and spend the last hour of daylight - but no sun, to see the old part of town. Here are a few nice colonial buildings, a busy trading area and a lot of people. The central square have a construction, I haven't seen before, nor understand. As it get real dark, I get a great tasting burritos at a little local place at the square. Awesome mountain road RN-7W, Orquigona and Copán.
8. I sleep great - and a bit too long perhaps? I am in for yet another long drive, and the first part is back the great way I came yesterday; RN-7W. Although, it is mainly the real crappy gravelroad and the dull part.... The mountains seems a bit misty from my balcony, but it clears up fast. The distance is 184 kilometres, the estimate three hours.
Well, if the road was better and the views worse. I pass the trash-yard on the steep mountain side, the small and rather remote villages and the great views once more. I catch-up with a military pick-up, filled with tough looking soldiers. Not sure if I can pass, but I trick them, when we have to let a oncoming truck pass. Eat my dust! And there are plenty to go around...
After 120 kilometres, I turn into a "new" road at the 1200 meter cactus height. It crosses the huge Rio Chixoy, and I stop right away to get a picture of the river and the huge cacti. Before long, a young man approaches me, and I'm kicked out. They have apparently a real secret gravel-dig going on here.
I gain a bit of height, and turn into a new flattened area. The man working there, is more than happy to let me photo: He actually insist on me taking more. He is going to make a café here, and it might be a great idea, should here be any customers.
I head on through another great looking part of Guatemala. It is dry, but I have left the 1200 metres for higher ground, and the cacti are gone. Here are some Yucca, but I doubt they are native. I pass a single mountain wall, which must consist of gravel. It is eroded by water in a great looking way.
I head through Santa Cruz del Quiche for now, as the next town have its Saturday market, and I would like to see it. Quiche have a huge gorge on one side of town, covered in pine trees. The next little town have a big lake - and pines.
I reach Chichiastenango half pass one, but is seems like the market is still on. I find a place to park, and head for the hotel. I can only get a double room, and for 200Q. He recommend another hotel, round the corner: Double room, 50Q - €6. I take two nights, as it look nice and my Quiche hotel is expensive.
Chichiastenango is a lovely little town, with lots of old buildings and so much alive. It have a colourful painted city gate, doubling as a bridge. The little policeman (he can look into a normal car, without bending down!) stop the traffic, and a huge truck with bricks, squeezes around the corner. He drive straight, and then back up the corner. It works!
I head towards where I think the Saturday market is, but here are just so many motives! The Mayan have commend to town for sure, and here must be additional stalls everywhere. I find the usual market hall, and it is nicely light and real neat.
Then I find the Saturday market in the big basketball hall. It is fantastic! Here are so much fresh vegetables and fruits. The light is a bit tricky, and my pictures do not justify the experience. Anyway, we get some good laughs and smiles exchanged.
Out on the market, I find some almost black tortillas. They taste normal, and are made out of black corn. One line of shops are for the tourists (today, it is only me and the two Dutch, I met in Rio Dulce), and they all look forward for tomorrow, when a lot of tourists will arrival. A single shop have what look like old objects - or well made fakes. I finally find my Mayan souvenir; an jade axe.
I see the white church, the black corn and the colourful paintings on the museum. I do so many circles around the square and all around the markets. Some ask, if I have seen the graveyard, and I figure I better. It is found on another hill, on the other side of the clay-town. There are still adobe clay brick houses within the town, and this low part of town have nothing else.
The graveyard is real colourful, with mainly large monuments. And it does offer a good view to the other hill side. I walk back to the living, and find new alleys and angles. At a little shuttle station, a brand new laundry have been build - in concrete alone. Here are room for at least 16 women at one time.
Then I find the factory, making all the real nice and colourful masks and other wooden cuttings. It is huge! I would love to have a bunch of these masks at home, but no chance I carry them there. This time, I enters the little museum, as I passed earlier. Here are not many objects, but some nice clay-works and jade art.
In another corner of town, a little dead-end street houses only butchers - and dogs. Jolly fellows, the butchers, while the dogs are fast asleep. Some shops sell DVDs and they sure have a lot of them on racks - without cover. I pass a large barbershop, and they have a pool table inside. Great idea for other barbers.
black clouds are pulling up in the north, and the temperature drops. People
are beginning to wait for busses home, while the locals are closing down
their shops. I start looking for dinner - first at the place I spotted
earlier. But they can't make a burritos without meat. On my way back to the
car for my jacket, I find a nice place, serving me an overpriced breakfast.
I doubt I find Wi-Fi, but the work have to be done anyway. 350 photos does
not delete themselves... Here are several internet cafés and I spend an hour
on RN-7W and Chichiastenango.