The Wildest Horse Race In The World

Trip Start Sep 29, 2007
Trip End Dec 20, 2010

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Flag of Guatemala  ,
Thursday, November 1, 2007

We were very excited to be heading up to Todos Santos for the drunken horse race and werenīt quite sure what we were getting ourselves in for. Our Adrenalis Tours shuttle left at 6:00am and low and behold, it was full of chirpy Americans dressed immaculately and sponsored by a range of outdoor specialist stores. I put the ipod headphones in my ears and didnīt come out until the bollock talking had calmed down. The drive from Xela to Hue Hue then on to Todos Santos was long (5 hours) but very beautiful landscapes passed us as we climbed up in altitude then down a bone shaking unpaved road and passed villages shrouded in cloud.

We were dropped at the entrance to town and walked with the locals towards the festival. We felt entirely blessed to be here and witness this special day for this village which is nestled far away in the hills. We immediately noticed the special dress worn in this area, it was unlike any we had seen before. These are indigenous Indians of Guatemala. The menīs clothing consisted of red and white pinstripe pants which had been carefully woven using thick, durable material. They wore a light blue shirt with a turquoise or blue woven collar and snap buttons then a shoulder bag that matched the collar and a very tough safari type hat with a blue strip of woven material around the band or a large white cowboy hat. Some of the men had on horse riding covers over the pants that was made from a black felt. The women wore turquoise or blue blouses and high waisted skirts with strips of ribbon weaved in and out of their long plaits. We followed the masses into town as pick up trucks packed with people passed us. The outfits worn appeared to be made fresh and new for the day.

We were killing for a coffee so we asked at a little store where they appeared to be selling dough nuts. The young girl at the counter instructed us to come inside and i think they realized we were speaking English so they led us upstairs. We were seated at the family dining table whilst many generations of women were busy working around us doing dishes, shaping tortillas, making our coffee (cafe con leche) and looking after children. The home was simple and comfortable and again we felt blessed to have been invited in. The papa of the family brought the shy 11 year old son in and sat him down at the table to practice his English with us (mama is a Spanish teacher). The children here do not see westerners very often. We had a small chat with him then left to join the rest of the celebrations in the village.

On the way in we passed some bars where cerveza (beer) was being guzzled. Some of the men have been up dancing and drinking all  night and were now swaying around and dancing and singing. Some were already passed out in the mud or in the middle of the street. Thatīs what this festival is about. It was raining so i bought an umbrella, there was lots of mud making the horse race Even more exciting. There was marimba bands and we recorded a couple of men playing guitar and singing. There were two large ferris wheels set up which proved to be a massive hit. There was a church with bands on and elaborately dressed people of all ages dancing and wearing traditional masks of animals and strange faces and carrying instruments and props. There was fair ground type food including chips, fried chicken and hot dogs and arcade games plus the normal con artist and roulette type games. We had a delicious mango and boysenberry sorbet ice-cream for 2 quetzales each. We waited on a rooftop from where the whole fiesta could be observed and appreciated and took some awesome photos. This was a feast for the eyes, very colourful. We thought the race would come through the main  village and a couple of horses passed us with slumped over drunken riders still drinking. After a couple of hours waiting for the race we went for a walk and  discovered the race was being held in another area so we hightailed it down there for the start of the race.

There were lots of spectators on a hill and on rooftops surrounding the track. we squeezed our way in to the front, track side and stood in mud up to our ankles, The riderīs wearing bright hats would whip the horses and yell out as they raced from one end of the course to another, fairly well tanked on beer. Some would be just hanging on and sometimes they would fall off and a horse would be running empty of itīs rider. Hectic and chaotic. This race was so much fun as mud would fly up at our faces and the powerful hooves and us were only separated by a thin wooden barricade. There were not many tourists here and some freaked out a bit. We then changed angles by going up the top of the hill to watch the rest of the racing. A wild donkey got loose from itīs posting and ran into the crowd right where we had just been standing. It was whipped until it behaved. Our bus was leaving so we had to leave early but were kind of glad as the men were dropping like flies and it would be getting very loose in town from this point onwards. The bus back took forever and i was terribly sick with a cold which had been building for awhile.

I spent the night in a nightmarish, hot, fever with a crazy body chill. I have some cold medication and some Vicks vaporub from home. Yesterday i had woken up with a swollen  throat and tongue. The cold is bad so i am resting and only going to go to Spanish school. I am hoping we donīt have to share our dorm room with anyone tonite. Hopefully i am okay to do the diving course in Honduras.
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