In the rural department of Rabinal everyone seems to carry a machete, including the bus drivers, which is a trifle alarming at first. On the road to the Quixal power station you pass teenage Poqomchi Maya boys venturing with their knifes into the greenery; on the drive back, as the light fails and the fog rolls in, our tire pops. We put on a spare, which promptly pops too, so we put the first tire back on and hope for the best. The Maya kids find this very funny; Giovani the taxi driver, who speaks both Poqomchi and Spanish, tells me they were laughing at how little air we were driving on.
Climbing the Cerro Cayup hill to the ruins of a fortified Achí Maya city, I immediately take a wrong turn, but some six-year-olds on horses set me right. Beside the trail I run into a toothless old campesino using his machete to cut firewood. A thick bundle of sticks is tied to his back. I say "Buenos días" to him and his dog; he smiles gummily and wishes me a good journey. Coming down, I pass an entire machete-wielding family with a horse and three mongrel dogs, the last of which immediately bound up and try their best to bark ferociously. The mother imposes discipline by striking the flat of her knife against the dirt. "¡Malcriados!" she shouts at the dogs, meaning "badly raised," but you get that in Spanish it's a much better epithet.
My hotel in Rabinal is right across from an evangelical church. They have a full choir accompanied by drums, bass, keyboard, and electric guitar, and play late into the night; I can't make out the words through the door, but I've heard enough happy-Jesus music on the local radio to get the idea. The sad thing is that the band is pretty tight, better than plenty I've heard.