President and Sister Bautista invited us, along with the Flakes, to spend the day touring the ruins of Zaculeu near Huehuetenango and then driving home via Quiche for some breathtaking scenery.
We have the park almost to ourselves and begin with an explanation of the history of the ruins. This was the capital of the post classic Mam kingdom. In 1525 this Mam refuge was plagued by disputes between the Mam people and the K'iche.' The Spanish conquistadores arrived and allied with the Mexicans and the K'iche' warriors to starve the Mam into surrendering after months of fighting.
The mounds are the real ruins. The cement buildings are in dispute. They are not the original buildings and not considered to be an accurate representation of what this area would have looked like according to Mayan tradition. They were reconstructed by a fruit company that held an economic stranglehold on the community and the people here regard the reconstruction with a dim view.
Part of the authentic ruins
A ball court where a life and death ball game was played
Looking at the center of the photo above, you can see the man who is also in the photo below at the fire pit. He is performing a Mayan ritual with incense and much ceremony, but we're told by our guide this is not the original pagan Mayan ritual. Anciently, this ritual was used for positive purposes. Now we are told it is partially good, but combined with witchcraft, not unlike voodoo. So....maybe this guy is putting a curse on his ex-wife?
What is said to be a combination palace and temple.
Food vendors as we are leaving the park. They make this sausage smell very good, but we don't take a chance with street food.
Centro in Huehuetenango, the motorcycle capital of Guatemala. They buzz around like annoying flies, cutting into traffic in every which way, completely ignoring the rules of traffic. We have seen as many as five people on one of them at times.
The roads are pretty smooth today and suffice quite nicely if they actually remain on the mountains. We passed several spots where the pavement had given way and crumbled down the steep mountainsides. At points in the road the remainder of the road was barely one lane wide.
The other road hazard here is the all too frequent derrumbe, or landslide. These landslides are common here, especially during the rainy season and the Bautistas tell us they never get cleaned up. Drivers just use one lane of traffic after they occur. These huge bolders are enough to crush a car or send one down the mountainside if you are driving past when they occur.
Today's drive was incredibly beautiful and for us, impossible to photograph the landscapes and do any justice to them. There were layers upon layers of mountains in the background combined with aldeas (villages) along the mountainsides, terraced agriculture on even the steepest mountains, and homes at the very base of the deep gorges.