Uspantán to el Entronque de Nebaj

Mud bricks, tile roofs, dividing fences made of piled wood for the cooking fire. Pigs tethered between close-set houses. Fences of vertical sticks tied together with twine. Men in dark clothing with dark faces beneath pale straw cowboy hats. If they wear white hats, they must be the ‘good guys’.

Pickup trucks with wire frames, open air and cold local transport. Full of faces, people standing, holding onto the frame as the truck careens around corners.

Fields of maize climb the mouths of ravines; in the open spaces rich, dark, tilled soil. Cloud forest rims the fields, mist coming right down to the field edges. Are there Quetzales hiding in those trees?

The van driving in front of ours is full. Six men and boys ride on top, three more hang off the rear ladder. I am warm and safe inside. It is good being built small though even so my legs are much longer than the guatemaltecans beside me. But basically I fit comfortably.

We drive the packed dirt of the mountainside above a chasm of a valley. It is a dramatically beautiful terrain. Villages come and go, just houses hugging the road, above and below. Beyond the houses the mountain drops sheerly away. Tiny tiendas all with the same limited assortment of necessaries. Saddled horse tethered to a tree, grazes and waits. Horses are the most useful form of transport to and from these fields.

Far across the valley a large slip bisects a road which looks like ours must from a distance – clinging precariously to the mountainside. This is the nature of the road through the Cuchumatanes linking Uspantán and Sacapulas.

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