I'm staying here in Todos Santos Cuchumatan Monday and Tuesday night , right up high in the Cuchumatanes mountains and about the most remote , undeveloped and traditional place I have visited so far on my whole trip. To get here from Huehue its more than a couple of hours up a very winding and bumpy dirt track of a road which leads ever higher and higher up into the mountains. The scenery was really amazing at the start but towards the end of the journey as we got higher and neared Todos Santos , the mist had really rolled in and visibility was terrible ... a little unnerving given the steep drops at the side of the road but still the driver had of course seen (or not seen as the case may be) it all before and we arrived safely , allbeit to a wet, dark and muddy village.
The Mayan "Mam" people in Todos Santos still adhere to a really traditional way of life - all the men dress the same in stripy red trousers , a stripy purple & white shirt and hat , whilst the women wear the same blue/purple coloured blouses. Todos Santos is most famous for its Nov 1st festival and drunken horse race - the riders have to guzzle down as much beer a possible throughout the day and still stay on their horse - which every year results in total drunken carnage including tragically the serious injury and sometimes even death of the participants. We wandered around the village to get some orientation and came across a little language school which also had some good information about local hikes into the hills and also showed some relevant and interesting movies about Guatemalan life in the evenings.
Not sure I could survive spending 2-3 weeks studying Spanish in Todos Santos (apparently there were only 2 students at the school) - think I would really go crazy with boredom. Paid a short visit to an interesting little museum in the town with lots of historical Mayan artifacts representing the Mam peoples way of life over the last century or so. The whole town of Todos Santos seems to shut down by around 8pm - as with Momo there was a serious lack of open restaurants or bars in the evening , but at least we found one open and pleasant enough little comedor listed in the lonely planet and enjoyed the ubiquitous Guatemalan dish of chicken/rice/beans/tortillas, before an early and rather cold Monday night. On the second day , Tuesday , in Todos Santos we grabbed breakfast in a pleasant little panaderia overlooking the church and plaza , visited the small market and then took a short hike for a couple of hours up into the hills to "Las Letras" (which are stone letters spelling "Todos Santos") , which gave some great views over the town and the surrounding Cuchumatanes mountains.
Wandered around the town some more to take some photos , went to see the interesting local cemetery and then also the rather hideous dump of rubbish not too far from the centre of town which we had seen from the hills ... frequented by vultures and unfortunately a real blot on the beautiful landscape... here , environmental concerns seems to be a luxury for richer countries to worry about. On Tuesday evening we went to the language school to see one of their films , called Radio Qman Txun , which was a fascinating film all about life here in Todos Santos during the run up to the last Guatemalan elections in 2003 (democracy is still in its infancy in Guatemala following the end of the civil war in 1996). Early start planned for tomorrow , Wednesday , get the bus down to Quiche and Chichicastenango.