From Huehue I made a gruelling ride towards Chajul, in Quiche province. I didn’t quite make Chajul, deciding to stop in the bigger town of Nebaj. I faced some quite steep climbs along the way but it was the amount of climbing that did for me that day.
Nebaj and Chajul, together with San Juan Cotzal, are the three main towns that comprise the heart of this area known as the Ixil Triangle. It’s an isolated area and not hard to see why, as Nebaj is protected by a ring of mountains that I had to climb/stagger over before dropping steeply into the valley below.
Chajul is at the end of the main road and when I got there the following day it was obvious that the town felt quite isolated (though it’s only 20 km from Nebaj). My reason for coming here was to visit the Asociacion Chajulense, a group of indigenous Ixil people that has developed a number of interesting projects to preserve their customs and language. Even having checked their website for information, I wasn’t exactly sure what I’d find. The ‘eco-tourist’ posada sounded like it would be a good place to stay at, so I headed there first. Or tried to, getting lost along the way. When locals directed me along a dirt track, I figured that perhaps things weren’t going to be quite as advertised…and so it proved. “Hot water, internet, tv, parking, cafeteria” it advertised. They had one out of five…
Still, I wasn’t really complaining. I wanted to see what else they had going. The website showed a variety of operations: a coffee export co-operative; honey exports (both organic & Fair Trade); women’s association; promoting women’s and children’s education; radio station; textiles; running the ‘eco-tourist’ lodge that also acts as an education/workshop site.
When I wandered into the village I happened by the office, so popped in to have a look and arrange something for the following day. I had a quick chat with Miguel, the manager, but it became clear that seeing much of the Asociacion`s activities would be unlikely. Coffee production within the Asociacion is scattered quite some distance from Chajul, at least a 2-hour drive. Miguel told me that a meeting had just finished of some of the honey producers. Miguel looked busy so I suggested coming back the next morning. I thought that the posada, being part of the Asociacion, would be a good place to get info, but again, I didn`t see anyone around who was able to help.
The next morning I came back but was out of luck. Miguel wasn’t around, even though I waited around for a few minutes. No one else seemed able to help either. I was on my way out when Miguel did drop by, but he told me it was his last day before vacation and he was very busy. So I left it at that, thanked him for his time and headed back to the posada. By this time I’d sampled village life and was happy to get on the bike and head back to Nebaj.
That’s the way it goes sometimes…despite my lack of success in this Fair Trade visit, my short time in the village was fascinating. It was a shame that things didn’t work out with the Asociacion. But I got to see their office and the village itself, more about which I’ll post up next. I also posted a short video taken outside the office, reflecting on my lack of success this time around…