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Sun Sep 15 2013: Guatemalan Independence Day

We are headed back to the town of Coban to see if we can catch some Independence Day celebrations!

Flag features the national bird, a Quetzal, holding a scroll with the date of independence from Spain

It's a funny thing trying to time motorcycle travel in the Central American rainy season. Because the rain falls in the early afternoon and overnight, you can't leave too early in the morning or the roads will still be wet. But you can't leave too late or you risk run into developing rain clouds.

So we're timing our departure from Lanquin late enough that the dirt roads will be dry from the morning sun, but we'll still have time to arrive in Coban before rains start up again.

Gene: "What happened?"
Neda: "Dunno. I just found it like this..."

Impromptu Guatemalan group ride!

These guys were all going into town to celebrate. Lots of honking and waving from every truck we passed!

The old and the new in Coban: Cathedral and a... um, flying saucer...

Preparing for the 2248 Winter Olympics

Every year, on September 14th - the day before Independence Day - a torch is lit in Antigua, the old capital city of Guatemala. Runners from all over Guatemala light their own torches from this one and begin running back to their home town, passing the torch to other runners who continue until they reach their destination by the 15th. It's a pretty cool Independence Day tradition and I'm glad we caught a glimpse of it!

I have a big sign on my photographic equipment that reads, "HamCam"...

Drummers dressed in the national colours

Locals checking out the festivities

Women's parade celebrating Independence Day

El Calvario church, popular tourist spot in Coban

130 steps above the city sits El Cavario church, where we caught a great view of Coban from up high. Most of the religious ceremonies in the city are performed here. Legend has it that a Mayan hunter saw two jaguars sleeping in this spot. He didn't kill them, but left them alone and when he returned the next day, he saw a vision of Christ at the same spot.

Church staff prepare for the fiesta with an old-fashioned smoke machine

Virgin Mary and child inside El Calvario

These girls were all dressed the same, they were getting ready to carry a parade float down all 130 steps to the city.

Devotion candles lit outside the church

Takin' a break...

The Guatemalans know how to carry on having a party. We only lasted a couple of hours walking around town listening to marching bands and watching dancers and seeing religious ceremonies being performed. When we got back to our hotel, the afternoon rains kicked in, but that didn't stop the party - music, cars honking and fireworks carried on until the late hours of the night. Awesome!

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