Nebaj is far-far away from everywhere. It's a Mayan village (town?) situated at 1,900 meters above sea level, is one of three towns comprising the Ixil Triangle (Nebaj, Chajul and Cotzal). The Ixiles, as people from the region are called, are one of the smallest ethnic groups in Central America. Aside from their award winning weaving, they are immersed in their pre-Columbian culture. The town, settled on the top of mountain and surrounded with forests, is constantly covered with smooth cloud, that makes you feeling like it's a bit rainy all the time. Actually it's kind of fog.
Mayan ppl of Nebaj look different from "valley" Guatemalans - they have round flat faces and their skin more olive-yellow in comparation to pitchy and mocca skin of citizens of Atitlan or Antiqua. Indigena women wear huipiles (one-piece pullovers) in complex geometrical designs in greens, yellows, reds and oranges and red "corte" (skirt). But the hightlight is cinta (woved head scarf) with big green pompoms. This grass-green color is a magore in Nebaj.
We arrived at 6PM that felt like night, as it was pretty dark, cloudy and cold there. One of these guys which business is bringing tourists to hotels, caught us even before we step out of the bus. He took us to shabby hotel for season workers, which was cheap. Yeah, it was cheap. We got big cold room with minimal furniture. Hot water was promised (sure!) but didn't exsist. Hot water is always issue in Guatemala. No one is trying to lie the guest - I think Guatemailans hardly understand what does it mean "hot water". Their "warm" begins right after ice melting.
We left our backpacks in the room and went to buy something to eat and look around.
Everything in the town was intensively colored with psychodelic colors, but town appeared gray.
Night time isn't the best to learn a new place. It was not that late, but humid darkness made the village lifeless. We couldn't find any comidor. There were only few hot dog stands that definately could attract kids under 5 thanks to rich decor and lightning; but we were not about snacks. Our persistent research was rewarded: we entered into gloomy side street and saw the wide-open barn-style gate, painted in light blue. Poster on the gate contained long Spanish text and our keen eyes immediatelly caught 2 magic words "comida corriente". We entered into the yard. All across the courtyard, drowning in darkness, we saw the owners family dining. They stopped eating and examined us with perplexity. After long discussion (they spoke Spanish and we - English) they pointed us to the table near the gate and we set down. The table was covered with sticky oilcloth. Soon, they brought us a rubber steak with half-edible rice. Tea appeared chamomile (I do not drink chamomile tea) and Andre drunk also mine, as he didn't mind chamomile.
Satisfied with fact of act of dinner we returned to the hotel.
Round-faced Catarina (hotel owner) said that 1st bus leaves at 7AM and then the next comes at 10AM. We planned a long way to do, so we decided to leave early and asked her to awake us at 5AM. Night came with even more fog and rain. It was too cold to bath with mystic agua caliente in outdoor public shower; also Andre got fever - so we just went to sleep.
Some time later, when we finally warmed up and asleep...
... the room door swung open with a thud and we had heard the tramp of tiny feet and ringing voice - Catharina's children made fun, running through dark rooms. Probably they didn't recognise that room wasn't empty. Later we asked ourselves why we didn't lock the room for a night? I really dont know why - I guess it wasn't door lock there? Andre muffled growl from under the blanket something unwelcome in Spanish and the children raced off further along the balcony.
- Here I need to explain that hotel was built around the patio. Family lived at the ground floor, and the second floor was used as a guesthouse. Long balcony encircled the entire building from the inside. This balcony, actually serves as a corridor where from guests entered their rooms.
Rest of the night passed without incidents.
I can't say I really know Nebaj as we just slept there a night. So, please, don't make conclusions - everything that written here is only our own impressions.
Probably we expected too much.
We didn't see in Nebaj neither outstanding artisans (except of impressive green pompons), nor extreme hospitality, which was promised in tourist broshures. Locals were busy with own everyday tasks, keepinng stern faces so typical for all mountain inhabitants around the world. Life is too hard, and it seems they saved energy for better propose then emotions.
THE NEXT MORNING - OH, MAN... WHAT A MORNING!
Oh, man... what a day it was...
We planned to continue our trip from there, but Andre got a fever - so we doubt for a while to leave or to stay for a day or so. Finally we decided that staying in these conditions can only make worth and moved anyway.
We got up at 5AM meaning to catch the 1st bus in 7AM.
The previous part of our trip was passing much lower - and weather there was very nice and warm. We were not ready to this gray freezing morning. Huge cloud was "sitting" on the town. People, animals and cars were floating across the fog. Groups of people where staying here and there on the streets.
We arrived the Bus Station and no one there knew anything about our bus. It remembers once again "you must speak Spanish in Central America!".
Soon some chicken-buses arrived from the neighbour Chahul. Buses were full with passengers: round-faced women who carried kids and luggage, men in especially high hats caressing machetes in their hands; one man kept a turkey in the bag.
Another bus arrived with woods on the roof. People jumped out and unloaded woods on the ground right there, near the bus.
Then some indigena women begun to drag huge bundles of firewood on their backs. There were women of all ages - from girls to mature ladies. Old woman gave a fruit (looked like a wrinkled cucumber. no idea what was it!) to the child - to keep him busy meantime she was caressing woods. Child was biting and spitting at his grandmother (mother?) green rind.
Soon they finished transportation, kindled fire in the corner of the square and begun to prepare breakfast.
Rural people in this region speak Ixil language and they look more alike Mexicans then alike Guatemalan from the central part of country. Watching of real-life could be attractive, if we would not be leaving this morning.
After 1.5 hrs of waiting we understood that we missed the bus - or, probably, the bus missed Nebaj.
Next one sounds as a legend. We felt confused: people said that the next (hypothetic!) bus supposed to ride around 8am, but it never enters into the terminal - just passing in the town (The Flying Dutchman??)
The conversation sound like that:
" it maybe will pass there"
"there..." (hand-waving in the direction of inner streets)
"do u know when?"
"mmm... oh, maybe in some time it will pass there""
We left the terminal and went to hunt the bus. We have seen group of local ppl in the junction - two streets forward
and we joined them.
It was nasty weather, we staid under drizzling rain with heavy equipment on the back and Andre was ill. The bus didn't appear also at 8AM. In some time a minibus arrived and stopped in light distance from waiting point. People rush to take the place, but minibus was overpacked already at arriving. I think it took about 25-30 passengers (instead of norm of 10). It became colder and poor Andre looked really bad (even he said he was OK).
We could do anything else but waiting. We were single "white ppl" in this company, indigena , used to these hard conditions, were waiting with patience, not vasting energy on emotions. I hoped that they knew what they are waiting for.
About 9am we have seen a lorry and some ppl near. I run to ask a driver about direction and he luckely went to Sacapulas. Aborigens were sceptical about our ability to survive this trip (about 8C, rain, wind in uncovered lorry), but let us to join. With hours of delay we finally moved down from Nebaj...