Feeling a little antsy about the virus and hearing of the border closing, we are keen to get to San Marcos asap. We left Lanquin gas station at 8am, just in time to sneak through the first part of the road works, but were stopped for a half hour at the next. Climbing out of the valley was slow going, as everyone passed us, I can hear Tim wishing we had a more powerful engine, but he road is sealed and we’re moving, the Guatemalan roads are so slow due to the speed bumps and endless mountain ranges, we pulled into Coban at noon, with the intention of grabbing a bite of lunch and filling the truck with food and getting out quickly. We knew that San Marcos was a small village and we weren’t sure how long we’ll be there so we wanted to stock up with as much as we could. We bumped into to the lovely French couple we’d met for the first time in Santo Christobal, Mexico, again in Hopkins, Belize and now here in Coban. Tim was getting anxious to be on the road, the afternoon was slipping away & there weren’t very many great options up the road for camping. As it worked out we ended up driving until nearly dark. We ended up asking a lovely older lady for permission to park in the front yard of a church/community centre. She seemed to understand me and brought me to the man who owns the property & instantly welcomed us to stay in any part we liked and offered the use of the ‘out house’. Later a younger couple with a baby, passing by came over to chat for a half hour, insisting we were very welcome and quite safe. Sadly the ground was covered in garbage, the river was too far below to walk down to, but the road was quiet after dark and all was well. The kids tired from the drive climbed into bed and watched a movie.
Back on the road early the next morning we set our sights on the town of ChiChicastenango or ‘Chichi’ for short. Other travellers before us have reported to have spent the night in a dusty carpark on the main road, again next to a police station. Guatemala doesn’t really have many official ‘camprgounds’ as camping just isn’t part of their culture, so we aim to arrive early enough to get a feel for the place. My feelings about this place is that we are sitting ducks! There are lots of people cutting across this large dusty dirt patch, tuk-tuk’s taking short cuts and young people learning to drive. I asked permission from a policeman who didn’t appear to understand a word I said, but moving on wasn’t an option, so we stayed put. To be safe Tim put Jaxon’s bike inside the cab for the night, as I was sure it wouldn’t be there in the morning, then at dark we pulled the ladder up and locked the door. Tim wasn’t so worried, and as it turned out, nobody bothered us.
Chichi is famous for it’s, sprawling & vibrant market that’s packed full of tourists and locals alike. Leaving the truck we walked 10 mins up to check it out for ourselves. I love markets and wandering through the endless rows of pop up stalls selling the most incredible colourful Mayan textiles, traditional wooden handcrafts, carved jade, silver jewellery is lots of fun, but not so much for the kids. Chichi’s market is one of the largest outdoor markets in Latin America. Not only Guatemala’s biggest market, but it’s also historic, a main trading centre since before the conquistadors arrived in the Americas hundreds of years ago. People bus in from miles around to shop for any and everything, colourful fabrics are piled up high, tablecloths, place sets and wool blankets. Embroidered cushion covers and traditional clothing. Pottery, incense and candles, medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables, coffee and various other souvenirs are sold amongst the chaos, smoke and smells.
The kids were getting hungry, following the delicious smells we found somewhere to eat. Jaxon was getting grumpy as people were constantly grabbing at Stitch’s ears (on his hat), and it didn’t help with the women in the food court area thought he was cute and wanted to get photos of him. Fascinated with their blonde hair, Charley clammed up and flatly refused to have her photo taken. Jax on the other hand did soften enough to sit for a photo. These ladies were giggling like school girls and wanted us to take photos of them with our phones, not cameras.
I could have stayed there all day, wandering amongst the stalls and soaking it all in. Shooting from the hip, I tried to discreetly snap a few people pics, they aren’t perfect and in one photo you can see a girl watching me photograph the old lady.
We still had a good six hours drive ahead of us, but that was delayed another hour when Bruce stalled. He started up ok and idled no problem, but as we started for the road he stalled, thankfully there and not on the road. Being at altitude and cooling at night the diesel was pulled back into the tanks leaving air in the lines. We had to lift the cab, slowly pour 3 cups of diesel into the filter, then prime the heck out of it till he started up again. Have to remember to release the pressure from the tanks at the end of the day.