Ride The Flavour (en)

In Guatemala, say hello to the Mayans !

Feb. 27th | 0 comments

Friday, February 7. We arrive at Hachadura, last city of El Salvador before the border. Our passport did not get stamped when we left El Salvador, we crossed a small bridge and then, within less than 30 seconds, we got the immigration stamp of Guatemala…. Never before had we crossed a border so quickly: in less than 5 minutes, we had officially changed country!

We put away our passports and immediately get back in the saddle. We actually do not feel like riding, our motivation does not go higher than the chainset. But we still manage to put 85km behind us, and eventually the reward happens to be worth the effort: we discover the Rancho Linda Maria, a beautiful open property, which stretches along a powerful stream of clear water. We wash our clothes in the current, close to the bank, then go further in and clean our body in the stormy water. It is a renaissance, as it is each time a bath ends a long period of dubious hygiene 😉

Back on dry land, we meet a group of Guatemalans already free from their working week. They invite us to their table and then follows an effervescent hour, maintained by the fire of an unbroken discussion. At some point we ask them what they exactly mean when they say “Gringo”. Since we entered El Salvador, this word has been daily shot at us on (children in particular would not miss a single opportunity!), it was high time to understand the message…

“Gringos are Americans”, explains Mario, “So you’re actually no Gringos, but you’re blond-haired and have blue eyes… for the people here, you can only be American.
– But it is quite derogatory, isn’t it?
-Oh yes, it is… We do not like the Americans here. Only children say it innocently.”

After these revelations, we were rather relieved to be Europeans, we could now say serenely: ‘no somos Gringos’. But all the same, the barbs have not stopped, our hair remained blond and our eyes blue…

The next day, our mental batteries are 100% recharged. We pass by Escuintla and reach Antigua. We had only heard good things about Antigua, and it is indeed a pretty colonial town. But in truth there were so many tourists and so many shops dedicated to tourists that we found it difficult to appreciate its authenticity. Eventually, the sight of the small booths of tostadas in front of the beautiful La Merced church will probably be our strongest memory.

Fortunately, the authentic quickly caught up with us! Let’s travel in time and space, we are now in the ruins of Iximche, next to Tecpan. The ruins themselves are not of the most explicit but the visit suddenly turned into an extraordinary experience. We have been invited into the circle of a ritual inherited from the purest Maya tradition: an “agradecimento”, aimed to thank the ancestors…


Today is a special day of the Mayan calendar, the day of the ancestors. Behind the ruins of Iximche, a group of Guatemalans and their two spiritual guides are ready to initiate the “agradecimento”: all work in the education field and, as a new semester is about to begin, they want to thank the ancestors for the job entrusted to them. The ritual takes place around a sacred fire (through which the ancestors, omniscient, can communicate and show the way to the living, and which spiritual guides are supposed to be able to interpret), and in the Mayan language, the Tzutujil.

After a never-ending tirade (absolutely incomprehensible to us, if there is a need to clarify… we have never been good at Tzutujil at school), the spiritual guides finally lit the sacred fire. One of them then comes toward us, seated slightly behind, and hands us candles. It was an invitation; we were going to get into the circle. A few seconds later, we had joined them around the fire.

We then receive a bouquet of flowers and aromatic herbs. The spiritual guides then use it to purify everyone of us one after another: they sweep our body from head to toe, delivering prayers at the same time, prayers to the ancestors so that they protect us. Once freed from any negative energy (and inflated with positive energy), we embrace the bunch 3~4 times and drop it off at the edge of the fire.

The ceremony goes on for another hour… We keep thanking the ancestors by burning candles in the fire, we drink alcohol (100% natural as everything that is used in the ritual) to their health, and we smoke together to maintain a spirit of sharing. Alcohol and cigarettes, the soul is healthy, the body a little less!

But all this remains good natured, and during the whole ceremony, we keep our minds wide open. But as the ritual comes to its end, our naivety collapses: we witness the sacrifice of a cock. They make it drink alcohol so that it stands quiet, one of the spiritual guides then takes it between both hands and waves it in front of each member of the group (fortunately not in front of us). Finally, the two of them hold the cock, twist its head and tear it from the body. They turn the geyser towards the fire but it is too late, their shirts are stained with blood. The body keeps struggling without understanding that it is already dead, his blood dries up, and within two minutes, he gets plucked and thrown into pieces in the fire.

The sacrifice ends our reverie. Before leaving, we ask:
“Why have you sacrificed this cock? What does it mean for you?
– This cock is the offering of a life in appreciation of the life that is given to us. We respect all forms of life, all are part of the Madre Tierra and all are as important as each other. But as we cannot sacrifice a human, we sacrifice an animal.”

This murder left a bitter taste in the mouth. We were able to put a face on these beliefs that require sacrifices as offerings and our vision is clear: this face is hideous.

Our route then takes us to Panajachel, on the banks of Lake Atitlán, and the impurities embedded in our pupils since we had left Iximché are swept away by the landscape that we have in front of us.


From Antigua, hitchhiking became our new means of transportation. The bike is now a luxury that we can no longer afford… We had long planned to meet up with friends in California around March 7. At that time, our schedule was formal: “doable if we maintain an average of 50km per day”. But precisely, these 50 miles were certainly overestimated… Our world tour would have turned into a huge time trial. So we decided to ride slower and really take the time to explore… And we are actually glad that we made this decision: each country has deserved at least the time that we gave to it.

We will ride again in the U.S., so be it. And in the meantime, thumbs up!



Panajachel – San Pedro – San Marco – Quezaltenango – Huehuetenango

It is in Huehuetenango that we spent our last night in Guatemala. It is also in Huehuetenango that we lived the most improbable meeting in our trip. After dinner, we ask the manager if we can set up our tent in his restaurant for the night. “No problem, we just need to wait for this group to leave, and then we’ll close.”

1 hour passes…

2 hours pass…

Leo is watching a movie, Damien is writing. The group is using Corona (Mexican beer) as fuel and seems unstoppable. We are tired, we have only one desire: lie down, put our feet at the bottom of the sleeping bag and close our eyes. Instead they hammer us with their laughter. We have hair-trigger nerves. Hate springs from our eyes whenever we cast a glance at them. We would like them to be far, very far from us. But one of them, Jorge, does the exact opposite: he walks towards us and this is how the most powerful reversal of the situation ever witnessed happened!

We begin to talk, his kindness loosens us up little by little… before the coup de grâce come. The last tumor of irritation dies by the purity of his generosity: he invites us to sleep in his home, and he offers us to grab a beer and join them. The next hour is the exact opposite of the previous two. Fatigue gets lost in the handshakes and the discussions that we share. Once hated, these two couples have become the most charming Guatemalans.

It is 1 a.m. when we finally lie down. In a bed. And with a smile.

Jorge, you can brag about having played with our nerves… and we’re actually thankful that you have! Thanks also for the caps 🙂


The next day, Thursday, February 13, we arrive at La Mesilla, spend our last Quetzales (the currency of Guatemala) and cross the border.

We left Central America, we are now in Mexico!

To be continued…

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