Chris' 1994  R100GS/PDChris' new bike, a 1996 F650 ULTIMATE JOURNEY Erin's 1997  F650
Living a Dream . . . 2 Live-N-Ride

Mar 10, 2003.-- Guatemala, 3 years and 10 months, 139,000kms

Credit to in the Markets

-- Story by Erin --

Sat, Mar 8th: After a night of heavy rain and an over-cast morning, we did not expect to see the quetzals again for sunrise, but we did!!! They were back in the same tree, looking as resplendent as ever! They even hung around while we ate breakfast. Along with the Quetzals, we saw many other very colorful birds. Being sufficiently satisfied with our bird spotting, we decided to head west across more steep mountains with very rocky, dirt roads to the village of Nebaj. The trip is only about 120km, but it took us 4.5-hours to ride – the road was fairly rough, with some Cambodia-style bridges, several patches of deep bull-dust (many in steeply banked switchback with rocks hidden under the surface!), and even a pass at 2,600 meters. The views were well worth it though, and the town of Nebaj is a very fascinating culturally.

Nebaj is a small village in the Ixil Triangle. This area is almost exclusively populated by indigenous people who make their living cultivating the steep hillsides with vegetables and fruit, while also making some of the best and most interesting weavings in Guatemala. Many people lost their lives in this area during the civil war with many brutal killings committed by government soldiers against the indian people.

We arrive tired and dirty from the rough road, but are immediately energized by the flourish of color worn by the women and young girls and the friendliness of the people. We find a nice, cheap hostel, which is housed in a big old single-level colonial house. They have a big courtyard inside, which is perfect for parking our bike. One of the family, a rather short young man (even for indigenous standards) named Alejandro, immediately greets us and shows us around with a big smile on his face. After a nice long rest, we wander out for dinner. Along the way, we find in the plaza an interesting outdoor concert playing folk music on a big wooden antique xylophone, which takes 3 men, a flute and someone on the bongo drums. In the background, other men and women are burning some kind of scented wood for incense, while other sit at a distance enjoying the whole atmosphere.

We find dinner at a surprisingly good and inexpensive "Gringo" restaurant. It has a fine ambiance, lots of news and entertainment magazines, and good ol’ standards, like stroganoff, pasta with pesto sauce and BBQ chicken. We are joined at dinner by an interesting Canadian couple who has traveled the world, including working for a few years in Nigeria, another young Canadian man and a young Belgian fellow.

Sunday, Mar 9th: We get up early, pack our things and head out to shop in the famous Sunday market of Nebaj. We are hurrying because we also want to go to the famous market of Chichicastenango later in the day. It’s a cold, brisk morning so we put on our fleeces and try to stay in the sun to stay warm. The plaza and side streets are jam packed with locals selling everything from meat to shoelaces to hand stitched costumes. The market is vivid with color and activity as people go about doing their weekly shopping. Of course each street has its specialty, so down one way you see colorfully dressed women lined up holding basket selling baby chicks. Down another way you see men in stalls sewing everything imaginable. Down another you see an endless row of butchers selling animal parts. Here Chris finds a nice big sheepskin for his motorcycle seat. He buys this from a friendly butcher who only charges him $4, which unfortunately includes the smell of the fresh kill.

When all is said and paid for, we’ve purchased one colorful head wrap with pom-poms, a lovely antique weaving and one freshly made Guatemalan sheepskin cover. We rush back to pack it all on the bikes, and off we go down the mountain, round twisty bends, through deep bull-dust on our way to Chichi to shop all over again.

Chris is patient with all this shopping as he knows I’ve been told about and looking forward to buying the textiles here for some time. We arrive in Chichi at about 1pm, prime shopping time. We stop at a gas station to get our bearings and decide what to do next: find a hotel and drop our gear, or just park the bikes, shop and head to Antigua. We decide to park the bikes in the gas station next to all the other tourist buses that have come in for the day.

Here too is a colorful market and many times bigger than most others in Central America. It not only covers the plaza but many side streets as well. In this area not just the women dress up in ornate costumes, but the men do as well. Their jackets are heavily and colorfully embroidered and they wear black breeches of black cloth with a woven sash and embroidered kerchief on their head.

Shopping is easy as we bargain our way into buying a bedspread, machete for Chris, and two sets of hand woven place mats with napkins. Fully shopped out for the day, we squeeze our new purchases onto the bikes and ride off into the sunset, literally, to the famous city of Antigua Guatemala, or just Antigua like the locals call it.


The road from Coban to Nebaj


In the towns, the roads were paved, but they were also used for the local Saturday markets

They made the trucks go around, but insisted we drive through.

The bridges brought back memories of Cambodia

Only these were longer

Erin blazing through the powder, with a bald rear tire

The Sunday market in Nebaj

We bought a head-piece from her, like the one she is wearing for Q75 ~ $10

The market in Chichicastenango had a bigger selection of Artesanias

...along with more stalls of beautiful weavings

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