Saturday, January 19, 2013

Three Nights in Todos Santos?

We left Nabaj in the Ixil Triangle on a sunny day after two days of rain. We had considered spending another day in Nabaj - good food, good transportation, friendly locals - but the plan was to head to Todos Santos for two days of hiking, then to head out after catching the famous Saturday morning market.

But we had some apprehensions. Would Todos Santos at over 8000 ft be too cold? And what about the hotels? The second best hotel in Totos Santos was described by one guidebook as a place a seasoned travel could last 2 nights, others maybe 1 night - the best hotel in town has just 2 rooms. And would we be welcome in Todos Santos. In 2000, an angry mob killed a Japanese tourist.

So, do we extend Nabaj or cut short Todos Santos or skip Todos Santos and head directly to Mexico?

We stick to the plan. And it's a van to Sacapulas, a van to Huehuetenango, and then an epic 40 km bus ride up to the high plains at over 12,000 ft and then down to Todos Santos. Great views from the bus of sheep grazing on the high plains, bullocks pulling plows, and men making adobe. Not to mention that more than a few men and boys on the bus are wearing the traditional costume of denim shirts with bright, colored collars, straw hats with blue bands, and red stripped trousers.

One of the two rooms at Casa Familiar, the best hotel in town was free and we took it. We did check out the 2nd best hotel in town and decided the guide books were right. Three nights for us? No way.

However, our room at Case Familiar was cold and drafty; we had to use a towel and a tablecloth to plug the gaps in the facing leaky doorways; the staff seemed indifferent. The whole town gave us a weird vibe. Can't say exactly what. Maybe our expectations became our reality.

So no hike to San Juan, no hike to El Torre, no Saturday market. We left the next morning after a short walk on the path/road to San Juan. The walk was good; scenic and good for the legs and lungs as it was up, up, up. Many new homes in Todos Santo look pretty prosperous these days it seemed to us. Probably from folks working in the US sending money back. More than one home had an American flag painted on the cornice. The men in town, all in costume, were out in force working on a road improvement project. Very colorful. No photos. They did not seem friendly (or unfriendly); just ignored us. That's fine. You can see photos of Todos Santos here.

Then down to Huehuetenango on the 1:30 bus and a room at the Krystal - a real hotel for a change.

Up early the next morning for another full day's journey to Tuxtla-Gutierrez, Mexico featuring a beautiful ride down the canyon from Huehue to La Messilla with coffee plantations and vistas.

From the bus terminal in La Mesilla, it's 15 minute walk down to the border. Because we left Todos Santos two days early, we had an unplanned excess of Guatemalan quetzales which we changed into Mexican pesos at the border; exited Guatemala with no hassle; then a taxi for 5kms to Mexican Immigration. This time no trouble with Mexican immigration officials.

Caught a collective van to Comitan, then immediately into another collective van to Tuxtla-Gutierrez, arriving at 3PM or so. The van rides were a bit hot and stuffy for me. I miss those drafty chicken buses. haha.

Near the border, the van passed through an impressive military checkpoint. They had their own gates, speed bumps, and luggage scanners!

It took us a while to find hotel as fútbol fans had filled the best budget options, but we got a room at Hotel Fernandos. Whew! Enough of long travel days, its time to enjoy Mexico!

A chilly breakfast on the balcony of Casa Familiar in Todos Santos.
Todos Santos, Guatemala

Todos Santos is in a valley. This is the view from above.
Todos Santos, Guatemala

On the hills above Todos Santos, the remnants of the traditional harvest of corn, squash, and beans.
Todos Santos, Guatemala

And chowing down on some huge Chinese Restaurant portions in Huehuetenango.
Chinese Restaurant! - Huehuetenango, Guatemala

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