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New Cruiser: Expeditions

The travels of an all aluminum Land Cruiser and its owners…

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Todos Santos, Guatemalan Highlands

Written by Raenelle on Wednesday, January 7, 2004
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We eagerly set off for Todos Santos high high high off in the Guatemala highlands. We were eager to get away from the tourist trap places and head off to the small town that we randomly picked off the map. We drove up and up and up to about 3,700m elevation. We took a wrong turn for about half and hour and were rewarded with the most spectacular scenery – flat landscapes with huge rocks, shrouded in fog. We found the right road to Todos Santos and arrived in the late afternoon.

Highlands open terrainTodos Santos is a traditional small highland town. The residents are all indiginous, they speak their own language, ‘Mum’, and all wear their traditional indian clothing. It was an amazing place – so impressive to see a culture that is still so much alive in such an isolated little pocket of the country. To think that they have preserved their own customs, culture, clothing, food, language etc, and they still observe the Maya calander. We rented a room in a little guest house and walked through town (one narrow street with a few shops and food stands). We met Manuel who owned a pharmacy, and we chatted to him for a while. He was having a problem with his house – it seemed that water was leaking up through the floor – and he was not very happy because it was a new house, only 5 months old. When he heard that Robin was an engineer (a ‘water’ engineer), he told us his problem and invited us over to his house later in the evening for coffee and some tamales.

We accepted the invitation, counting our lucky stars for the opportunity to spend some time with some locals and returned to Manuel’s pharmacy at 5.30pm. We walked about 1km along a winding track down aTodos Santos little valley, across a river, and half way up the other side of the valley to Manuel’s house. His sister-in-law and her baby son walked with us. We were soon at Manuel’s home, and Robin went around the house with Manuel to ‘assess’ the water problem he was having, while I stayed in the warm house chatting to Manuel’s wife and sister-in-law in my broken Spanish! The house was very smoky from the wood fire that was being used to cook tamales and brew coffee in the kitchen. After having a cup of coffee, Manuel insisted that we stay and have some tamales before we leave. Tamales are a corn and meat dish wrapped in a banana leaf and steamed in a large pot. There was a big discussion that took place between Manuel and his wife in their native tongue, following which a couple of tamales appeared before us on the table. We thought nothing of it, ate the tamales, thanked the family for their hospitality, and began walking back to our room.

Well, by the time we got back to the room, both Robin and I were feeling a little queezy. Yes, you guessed it – there’s a reason why I went into the details of dinner! The long and the short of it is that Robin was violently sick all night long, and he spent the next day recovering in bed … after which he was good as new and up to his usual tricks. I was not as sick as him, but I also spent a day in bed, and whenever I tried to eat something in the following three days, my stomach didn’t feel too happy! We think that the meat in the tamales was not cooked properly and since I didn’t really have much meat in my tamale, that’s probably why I didn’t get very sick. In the big discussion between Manuel and his wife, we think she was telling him that the tamales were not ready to eat yet, but he was in a rush to give us some food before we left. None of Manuel’s family ate with us …. ! Anyways, this has been the only illness we’ve had on this whole trip, so we can’t complain!

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