Posted by: Jack | November 8, 2007

Guatemala – Cobán

Waking up this morning we were happy to see that the skies had cleared and the air had warmed. Having failed to connect with United the previous day, the morning’s goal was to do whatever it takes to instruct the airport to hold onto my bag until I could retrieve it. It took numerous attempts but I finally got in touch with a English-speaking CSR in the states and got it taken care of. Although I was no closer to having my pack, it was such a relief to have done all I could do, allowing me to forget about the whole ordeal.

Having decided that this trip would happen without my pack, the next goal was to purchase some clothes. In a town like Cobán this isn’t quite as simple as heading over to the nearest Kohl’s, but it can be a whole lot cheaper. Throughout most of the country, the most common locale for shopping of all kinds is the street market. You can find just about anything you want — not necessarily at the level of quality desired — and a whole lot of stuff you absolutely don’t want. Food is extremely fresh, having generally been harvested/prepared in the last 24 hours. Many items are so fresh that they are still quite alive. Bags and baskets of live chickens or turkeys are carried around like produce.

But I just needed some basics. After a much needed stop at the bank to get some quetzales (local money), we set out first looking for footwear; my flip-flops certainly wouldn’t suffice for the upcoming hikes. I was pretty excited to find huge selections of new tennis shoes at about $8…until I tried on a pair. You know those terrible plastic frisbees that are generally used to promote company logos; the kind that just flips over when you throw it? These shoes were the footwear equivalent. But, I picked a pair and decided they would have to do. I also found some surprisingly excellent moisture-wicking socks, a Puma (apparently only producer of sporting apparel in Guatemala) jersey-ish shirt, a tooth brush, deodorant and some underwear. In total: $13.

Buying underwear was a bit of a gamble as the market offered expensive boxers or really cheap briefs. Now I haven’t worn briefs in nearly ten years but without the ability to try things on, I didn’t want to risk picking up some terribly fitting boxers. So I figured I would go with a three pack of gaudy briefs and searched around for my size. Returning to the hotel to change, I promptly realized that there is a bit of a discrepancy in how sizes are measured down there. Pulling on a pair I found that size 30 is intended for someone with far less than a 30 inch waist. Furthermore, while I hesitate to use the word “bikini”, these briefs didn’t really offer a lot of coverage. Luckily the shopkeep was willing to swap straight-up for a larger size which I found a little more accommodating while still a bit on the skimpy side.
With supplies taken care of we sat down at Santa Arita for my first traditional Guatemalan breakfast: terrible coffee, scrambled eggs, a scoop of black beans, a bit of cream and a pile of tortillas. It’s sort of satisfying but by the fourth or fifth breakfast, the blandness starts to get to you.

We checked out of the hotel and found the local MicroBus (the kind of buses hotels use to shuttle customers to airports) terminal (a drive way in the middle of the market) and bought a ride to Lanquin. The bus was packed until people were forced to put their heads through windows. Just as we were heading out of town, we drove by a naked guy walking casually down the street. Aside from myself and one other American on the bus, no one seemed to take notice.

A couple of hours later we arrived in Lanquin and, joining the other young American tourists on the bus, grabbed a ride in the back of a pick up truck to Las Marias, a small hotel on the Cahabón River. This ride on an unimproved road was a welcome little adventure. We were encouraged to remain standing in the back in order to enjoy the view as the truck bounced along the tightly winding curves. The scenery was pretty intense and before too long we were running right alongside the river.

Green Line on Progress Map

Next: Semuc Champey to Cahabón

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Responses

  1. Great narrative and helpful progress map of another incredible adventure, Jackson! Looking forward to the next entries!

    Love,
    Mom

  2. […] Next: Cobán to Semuc Champey […]


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